Category Archives: brown

Iraq five years on: End the Occupation – Fight for a socialist solution

By Paddy Meehan, Socialist Youth Regional Organiser

In 2003 Bush’s top commanders met to discuss the invasion and occupation of Iraq. They concluded then it would take four years to “normalise” the country. Yet from this March, US and British troops will have been in Iraq for five years with no end in sight to the conflict.

Bush’s intention is to dump the mess of Iraq onto his successor. It is estimated that the war and occupation of Iraq has claimed the lives of  over one million Iraqis and 4,000 US troops. No US presidential candidate has committed themselves to a complete withdrawal from Iraq. Both Republicans and Democrats represent the interests of companies like Haliburton and Blackwater who have made billions of dollars from the suffering and destruction in Iraq.

The US mission to ‘stabilise’ Iraq has failed miserably as 70% of Iraqi’s are without access to adequate water supplies and in total 4.6 million people have been forced to leave their homes. Living standards in Iraq are getting worse despite contracts of over $20 billion being paid to companies to rebuild Iraq. The US Congressional hearings in February 2007 stated that $10 billion was either “wasted or mismanaged” in Iraq. Along with this hardship, Iraq is descending into sectarian war. US forces lean on different ethnic and religious groups attempting to keep their control of the country. The Sunni Awakening Councils are being recruited extensively into the police and army. This is an attempt to challenge the control of Shia militias such as the Mehdi army by backing sections of the Sunni forces. But the real outcome is a fracturing of the police and army along religious lines, which can increase the likelihood of civil war.

US imperialism’s divide and rule strategy is directly contributing to the increasing sectarian divisions. Imperialism has no progressive role to play in the future of Iraq, and the longer the occupying armies remain the greater the chances of civil war and a break up of the country.   Socialist Youth and the Socialist Party believe that a united movement of working class Iraqis of all ethnic and religious backgrounds could drive out the occupying armies. A struggle by such a movement of the working class against imperialism and for a socialist solution is the only way to guarantee freedom, democracy and a decent life for all.

On 15 March thousands will protest around the world against the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the north Socialist Youth is aimimg to collect 5,000 signatures before the anniversary to show the opposition to the war. If you can help collect signatures or can build support for the protest please contact Socialist Youth at socialist.youth@btconnect.com or 02890232962.

In the south Socialist Youth will be participating in protests and also organising a series of “Resistance” meetings around the country at which young people can discuss political issues like the occupation of Iraq, climate change and socialism. You can find out more about Socialist Youth’s “Resistance” and anti-war activities by visiting socialistyouth.wordpress.com or phone us at 01 6772592.

Dublin: Join Socialist Youth on the anti-war demo on Saturday 15th March, 1pm Parnell Square, Dublin. more info – www.bebo.com/Socialist-Youth.

Belfast: Join the Socialist Youth contingent on the protest, Sat 15th March, 2pm Arts College, York St. (beside St Ann’s Cathedral)

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Campaigning against the Occupation of Iraq

To mark the 5th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq, Socialist Youth is building for a protest on 15 March in Belfast. SY members have been energetically campaigning outside schools and on the streets with an aim of collecting 5,000 signatures of young people against the occupation of Iraq. The Socialist spoke to SY members Leontia Madden and Conor Barr about how their campaign is going so far.

“Over the past five years the arguments of the anti-war movement have been proved correct. Many young people today may not be too sure of all the facts and figures, but when we get talking to them they have strong feelings against the war” said Leontia. Conor added “The war for oil is a terrible example of capitalism’s constant drive for profits. Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, all for natural resources.

“We get young people to sign our petition outside schools across Belfast to demonstrate the opposition which exists but also to raise awareness of what is going on in Iraq. We have received an excellent response with most people signing the petitions and buying our very popular anti-Bush badge. The important thing is we get to speak face to face with people on stalls to put forward a socialist solution.” said Conor, who has been organising very successful stalls at his technical college.

Leontia, a school student from North Belfast said “There is still a feeling of anger against Bush and Blair. But with the occupation lasting five years and no end to the conflict in sight people want to do something more than just sign a petition. We’re holding public meetings in the run-up to the anniversary to explain what is going on in Iraq now and how a socialist solution can be found. As well as this, we want to give an opportunity to people to show their opposition by protesting on 15 March.”

Public Meeting: End the Occupation of Iraq
4.30pm Wednesday 13th Feb. SY Offices, 13 Lombard Street, Belfast

PROTEST against the occupation
2pm Sat 15th March, Arts College, York St, Belfast

North: Young workers must Fight Low Pay

From The Socialist (September 2007)

Another year, another supposed increase in the minimum wage. From the 1st October the politicians will be praising themselves for an increase of 3% across the minimum wage rates. They will conveniently forget that inflation is running between 5% and 6% and this ‘increase’ in real terms represents a cut for low-paid workers.

New Labour’s recent threat to break the minimum wage up on a regional basis and lower it in Northern Ireland to £4.80 is a real threat for the future. If the Government tries to pit worker against worker based on where they live, only a joint campaign across Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales can defeat these attacks.

Even the pitifully low minimum wage is still being flouted by many employers. Since 1997 there has only been one successful criminal prosecution for paying under the minimum wage. The likelihood of getting caught and the small compensation companies have to pay mean it is more profitable for some to ignore the legislation. Workers taking action and naming and shaming employers are the best ways of forcing bosses to pay up.

Scandalously apprentices aged under 18 have been treated like slave labour by employers due to exemptions in the minimum wage. Reg Empey, Minister for Employment and Learning, has introduced a new ‘Training for Success’ plan which is designed to force apprentices to work for nothing. According to the Minister apprentices will be “required to be in employment” but will still be exempt from the minimum wage with no guarantee of a trade at the end of it. This is slave labour for bosses.

A 17 year old worker doing the same work as someone a few months older can legally be paid £1.20 an hour less. If you compare a 17 year old to a 22 year old worker the gap widens to £2.12 an hour for doing exactly the same work. In 2001, the Socialist Party’s End Low Pay Campaign succeeded in getting a motion to abolish youth exemptions passed through the Assembly. But the politicians have done nothing to act on this and will continue to do so unless pressure is put on them by young workers.

Socialist Youth’s Fight Back! Campaign will be holding meetings and protests to organise young workers to fight for our rights. If you are a young low paid worker or feeling unfairly treated at work then get in contact with us today at 02890232962 or 07876146473.

North: No cut in the Minimum Wage

From The Socialist

Gordon Brown has announced he wishes to cut the minimum wage in Northern Ireland from £5.35 to £4.80 an hour. This is another attempt to lower wages, particularly those of young workers.

New Labour has announced a cut in the minimum wage, which they claim will allow them to increase it in London to meet higher living costs. However their real aim is to scrap the minimum wage. Recently Brown brought ‘Lord’ Digby Jones into the government. Previously he was head of the Confederation of British Industry (bosses organisation) and constantly opposed any increase in the minimum wage. We know whose views Gordon would rather listen to!

No cut in the Minimum Wage This shameless pandering to the demands of big business over the rights of workers comes at a time when companies are making record profits. Tesco made £2.54 billion in profits alone last year yet this has meant no pay increase for the workers who produced this vast fortune. The reality of living on the minimum wage for young workers is in contrast to the bosses’ obscene profits. “It is hard enough as it is,” a young cleaner told the Socialist, “A drop in the minimum wage is going in the wrong direction. You need more than one job just to pay for the increasing rent.”

This cut is also a threat to workers earning slightly more than the minimum wage. A young worker in the Co-op supermarket explained – “any reduction in the minimum wage affects us too because it gives our company an excuse to try and lower wages”.

The Northern Irish Assembly has done nothing to stop attacks on young workers. Instead they have gone on the offensive against classroom assistants’ pay and conditions.

Young workers need to get organised now to fight this and other attacks. A mass movement of low paid workers in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales is the only way that Brown and his business cronies will back down. The trade union movement needs to launch a campaign, including the use of industrial action, against these attacks. If this attack is introduced, Socialist Youth will be looking for information on employers who implement it in order to organise action to stop any cuts in workers’ pay.

However we need to get active now to stop any cut. If you are a young worker interested in getting active, then get in contact with the Fight Back! Campaign on 02890232962.

Socialist Youth’s Fight Back! Campaign demands:

– No cut in the Minimum Wage.

 

– £8 an hour Minimum Wage immediately.

– Scrap the Youth Exemptions

‘Strategic failure’ in Iraq and Afghanistan

End the Occupation Now

Editorial from The Socialist

Bush still claims that Iraq under US and British military occupation is making progress towards a stable, democratic society. In reality, the situation is catastrophic.

For most Iraqis, things are much worse than under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. There are severe shortages of fresh water, electric power and even fuel. Reconstruction of the shattered cities is a sick joke. Every day, hundreds die as a result of the US-British occupation, the insurgency, the sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shia, and sheer gangsterism.

Bush, Blair and now Brown claim they are fighting to establish democracy in Iraq. Yet a section of Iraq’s parliamentary representatives, mainly Sunni, are currently boycotting parliament. There is no agreement on concrete details of new laws to rehabilitate some Sunnis (excluded from public jobs as former supporters of Saddam) or to share out the oil between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish areas. In any case, how can there be democracy under military occupation? Currently, the US is holding thousands of prisoners, without any right to legal process.

‘Surge’

Bush claims that security in Iraq has improved as a result of the ‘surge’, the dispatch of an additional 30,000 US forces to Iraq. The US clampdown in Baghdad and parts of the mostly Sunni Anbar province, however, has simply pushed the conflict to other regions. Recently, for instance, there have been horrific bomb attacks in the majority Kurdish city of Kirkuk.

Bush still claims that the situation can be stabilised by next spring. But it was recently reported that Bush’s director of central intelligence, General Michael Hayden, warned the administration that “the inability” of the Iraqi government of al-Maliki to govern, “seems irreversible”.

Hayden could not see “any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around”. Top US military commanders, moreover, have warned that stabilising Iraq, even if achievable, will take much longer than Bush imagines.

Bush is more and more isolated politically. A number of leading Republicans are calling for a timetable for withdrawal of troops. The midterm elections last November were an overwhelming vote against Bush’s Iraq policy. Since then US popular support for withdrawal from Iraq has strengthened. Significantly, over 50% of military families favour withdrawal.

The Democrats, the second party of US big business, now have a majority in Congress. But while passing symbolic resolutions calling for a timetable for withdrawal, they duck the real issue. In the most cowardly way, they refuse to cut off funding for Bush’s military adventure.

A former head of the National Security Agency, retired General William Odon, called for “a flat refusal [by the Democrats] to appropriate money to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion”. He also said that the Democrats should warn Bush that if he tries to continue the war, “impeachment proceedings will proceed in the House of Representatives”.

Despite US imperialism’s overwhelming military power, Bush’s military adventure in Iraq has only served to demonstrate the limits of US power. US imperialism has been defeated in Iraq.

This was starkly pointed out in recent editorials in the New York Times, one of the most authoritative journals of the US ruling class: “It is frighteningly clear that Mr Bush’s plan is to stay the course as long as he is president and dump the mess on his successor. Whatever his cause was, it is lost.” (The Road Home, 8 July 2007)

“Keeping troops in Iraq,” comments the New York Times, “will only make things worse.” The priority, they say in another editorial (13 July) is “the need to develop an orderly plan to extricate American troops from a lost cause and reposition them in ways that can genuinely protect our national interests.”

Even if US leaders were to adopt such an exit strategy, however, it would be extremely difficult for them to extract their forces without a humiliating rout. As it is, Bush, for his own political reasons, is likely to prolong the agony, inflicting an even more severe defeat on US imperialism. Moreover, the likely implosion of Iraq will intensify the crisis throughout the whole Middle East region.

Here, Gordon Brown continues the Blair policy of clinging to US imperialism’s coat-tails. British forces in Iraq, mainly in the southern, oil-rich province of Basra, have been reduced from 7,000 at their peak to 5,500 currently. However, conflict in the province is more intense than ever, and British forces can hardly leave their base without suffering serious casualties.

Last weekend, two junior ministers, Douglas Alexander, the development secretary, and Mark Malloch Brown, the new Foreign Office minister, commented that the British government should keep its distance from the Bush administration. Britain and the US should not be “joined at the hip”, commented Malloch Brown.

Brown’s new foreign secretary, David Miliband, was quick to insist that there would be “no change” in the relationship between Britain and the US.

Like the US, British imperialism is facing a “strategic failure in Iraq”, according to a senior British military commander. British troops in Iraq are now suffering a higher rate of fatal casualties in proportion to their numbers than their US counterparts.

British forces (currently 7,000) also face a second “strategic failure in Afghanistan”. Taliban forces have become stronger, while the western-sponsored government of Hamid Karzai faces the real possibility of collapse.

In a recent debate in the House of Lords, Lord Inge, former chief of Britain’s defence staff, warned that “the situation in Afghanistan is much worse than many people recognise. We need to face up to that issue, the consequences of strategic failure in Afghanistan and what that would mean for Nato… We need to recognise the situation – in my view, and I have recently been in Afghanistan – is much, much more serious than people want to recognise.”

British and US forces should be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan immediately. The horrendous situation in Iraq can only be made worse by continued imperialist occupation. Resolving the conflicts has to be the task of the Iraqi people.

In the socialist’s view, progress will depend on the re-emergence of working-class forces that can cut across sectarian and nationalist divisions and build united organisations to defend people against violent attacks, political repression and economic exploitation.

Editorial from The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

For recent a campaign leaflet on this issue by Socialist Youth see: www.indymedia.ie/attachments/jul2007/iraq__resistance.pdf

Britain: Brown’s political coronation – new face, same agenda

From The Socialist (England & Wales)

London has become a tax haven for the world’s billionaires. One British hedge fund manager put it clearly: “I think the super-rich want to have two homes, one in New York and one in London, but if they’re based in New York, they would pay a lot more tax than here.”

Gordon Brown - by SuzThe thousand richest people in Britain own half the country’s liquid assets. In the last five years of New Labour government they have seen their wealth increase by 79%, to an average of £70 million per head (excluding first and second homes!).

Meanwhile twelve million people live below the poverty line. Public services are being decimated.

Average mortgage payments have increased by £1,500 in the last year, while food prices increased by at least 6%. The government is demanding public-sector workers accept effective pay cuts.

No wonder Britain’s workers have the longest working hours in Europe, struggling to make ends meet while a few at the top drown in an orgy of unimaginable excess.

This is Britain under Blair. Add in the nightmarish occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and it is no wonder that New Labour were humiliated in this year’s elections and only 22% of the population believe Blair did ‘a good job’.

Millions of workers will greet his departure this week with relief.

Brown, however, will be more of the same. He has spent the last six weeks emphasising the continuity between himself and Blair; promising to increase ‘reform’ (read destruction) of public services.

As chancellor he has been directly responsible both for attacks on public sector pay and the tax-free bonanza being enjoyed by the super-rich.

Brown has also used his pre-coronation period to pose as being even tougher on ‘terror’ than Blair.

He has not, however, indicated any change in Britain’s imperialist foreign policy, which is responsible for making Britain a target.

His proposal to increase the length of time individuals can be held without charge beyond the current, already draconian, 28 days will not effectively combat terrorism, but it will further undermine democratic rights.

Undermining democratic rights

Just as was the case with the Prevention of Terrorism Act (legislation that was supposed to thwart the IRA), the vast majority arrested will be innocent. Under the PTA only 1% of those arrested were convicted of any crime.

Brown’s ‘coronation’ campaign, designed to show that he can out-Blair Blair, has had some effect.

Despite Tory attempts to portray him as a closet socialist, voters on average now consider him to be only minutely ‘left of the centre-ground’ – the ‘centre-ground’ being the standard anti-working class, pro-big business, pro-privatisation policies being pursued by all the establishment parties.

However, Blair is seen as being considerably to the right of ‘centre’.

Despite Brown’s efforts to prove otherwise, there are working-class voters hoping that Brown will act in their interests, or at least slow the pace of New Labour’s attacks. It is this that has led to the small ‘Brown bounce’, which has increased New Labour’s miserable rating by about 3%. Experience of Brown as prime minister will destroy these desperate hopes.

If a feeling rapidly develops that ‘nothing has changed’ a Brown government could quickly face an explosion of all the accumulated discontent of the working class, in the form of industrial action, which the trade union leaders would be powerless to hold back.

One factor in how rapidly events will develop is the timing of the next world economic crisis, which would be likely to hit Britain, now a giant casino for the world’s hedge fund gamblers, particularly hard. Even if the economy continues to grow for a couple more years, and it takes a bit longer for the paint to completely flake off Brown’s ‘respray’ of New Labour, he will still face an increased willingness of the working class to struggle.

New workers’ party

A foretaste of this may come within days, delivered by the postal workers, if their union, the CWU, goes ahead with a strike to defend pay and conditions.

As Brown and Cameron fight a battle to be the best representative of big business, the need for a mass party that stands up for the working class is overwhelming. Some activists continue to hope that New Labour can be ‘reclaimed’ by the working class.

Yet this is shown again to be utopian by Brown’s coronation. He was nominated by 313 of 355 MPs, with left MP John McDonnell unable to win enough parliamentary support even to get on the ballot paper.

Instead a contest is taking place for the virtually powerless position of deputy leader. Even if a left-wing candidate was elected they would be unable to do more than whisper in Brown’s ear.

However, there is no possibility of this happening. All six deputy leadership candidates nominated Brown for leader, revealing that, far from representing workers’ interests, their priorities lie first and foremost with furthering their own careers.

In the hope of winning ordinary trade unionists’ backing, some have made attacks on the obscene wealth at the top of British society.

However, even Jon Cruddas MP, who has gone furthest – stating the obvious truth that New Labour has ignored the working class and lost five million voters as a result – was quick to deny that he supported any concrete increase in taxation of the rich.

Since 1997 more than £100 million of trade union members’ money has been paid to New Labour. The majority of national trade union leaders continue to argue that this is to influence New Labour. This will be just as utopian under Brown as it was under Blair.

The majority of even those MPs directly sponsored by trade unions have voted against the most minimal of the trade unions’ demands.

A majority of them even opposed, for example, the introduction of a Trade Union Freedom Bill which would repeal some of the worst aspects of Thatcher’s anti-trade union laws.

The Campaign for a New Workers’ Party, fighting for the breaking of the link between the trade unions and New Labour, and the establishment of a new mass party of the working class, will be crucial under Brown’s reign.

Wealth gap widens

The wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has more than trebled under Brown’s stewardship. They had an income between them of £360 billion in 2006, which was £59 billion more than the previous year, an increase of 20%.

Britain’s 54 billionaires last year paid only £14.7 million tax – just 0.1% of their incomes! The poorest fifth of the population pay nearly 10% of their income in direct taxes, and another 28% in indirect taxation.

Corporation tax on companies since 1997 has been cut from 33p to 28p.

Warmonger

Being known as ‘Mr Prudent’ hasn’t stopped Gordon Brown wasting £76 billion of public funds on a replacement for the Trident nuclear missile programme.

He has also dug deep (£7.4 billion up to April 2007) to finance the bloody wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Privatisation

Brown has made it absolutely clear he will continue with Blair’s privatising policies.

He will accelerate ‘reform’ in the NHS, and has earmarked another £50 million worth of public assets for privatisation.

£5 billion annually is currently handed over to private contractors, for treatment centres, GP services, etc.

Attacks on public sector

Many public-sector workers are raging at Brown’s 2% wage limit, effectively a pay cut. Other battles are looming, such as against Royal Mail plans to axe 40,000 jobs and close a further 2,500 post offices.

200,000 civil servants were forced to take strike action on 1 May against huge job cuts, privatisation and pay cuts. Brown has spear-headed the attacks on the civil service. In 2004 he announced the axing of 104,000 civil service jobs.

Public sector occupational pensions have been attacked. Many face having to work longer, pay more in contributions and receive smaller pensions.

Pensions

In 1997 Brown gave big business the green light to cut workers’ occupational pension schemes. Companies also took massive ‘pension holidays’ – they stopped paying employers’ contributions – saving them £4,000 a worker every year.

A top UK company director can retire at 60 on a final-salary pension of £3 million. Whereas a majority of UK workers face retirement at 65 or later on inadequate pensions; a single person’s state pension is a paltry £84.25 a week.

Brown’s own pension will more than double when he becomes prime minister, to £123,000 a year.