The money is there! & Not in our name

 The money is there!

After weeks of refusing to speak to public sector unions about pay, the government has now agreed to have "intensive" talks (only) with the RCN nurses’ leader, Pat Cullen.  She, by the way, says she is absolutely fine with this - while explaining how she is not prepared to negotiate “in public”...

    One might ask, in passing, why not in public, since the NHS is (apparently!) “public” and the majority of the “public” is right behind the nurses and the rest of the NHS staff on strike.

    Yes, and why not in front of the same “heroic” staff - “her” union members - who worked tirelessly through the deathly chaos which the under-invested and crumbling NHS was thrust into by the government’s mismanagement of the Covid pandemic?!

    Anyway, these latest “talks” do not mean that the government is backing down.  Ministers say that union leaders must suspend strikes first, if they want officials to negotiate with them...  So for now, the 48-hour nurses' strike planned for 1 March has been called off.  And the teachers’ union has been told by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan that there will be no talks unless it too, suspends strikes called for 2, 15 and 16 March.

    But what's on offer?  Newspapers reported that Sunak was "exploring" a 5% pay rise for public sector workers, which of course is well below inflation, still running at 10.1% (CPI) and 13.4% (RPI), respectively.  This, when nurses’ real pay has fallen by 20% since 2010 and teachers’ real pay has fallen by 23%!  As for junior doctors, their real pay has fallen by over 25% since 2008!  No wonder 98% of them voted to strike, on a 77.5% turnout!

    The government's decision to engage in talks - perhaps conveniently - has coincided with the news that public sector finances showed a “surprise” surplus of £5.4bn, as opposed to an expected deficit of £7.8bn...  Of course, much more is needed to pay workers and to improve services.  But it can easily be found - for instance in the pockets of the likes of BP, Shell and Centrica, who have all just registered huge, unprecedented, super-profits...

    Instead, Sunak and Hunt still speak - outrageously - about a “closed treasury purse” claiming that any increase in pay for nurses and ambulance workers has to mean a cut in the funds going to patient care!  Yes, when the money is clearly there - in its billions!  However, to get hold of it, workers have always had only one effective weapon – the strike!  And the more general it is, the better.

 Not in our name

This week it will be one year exactly since the beginning of full-scale war in Ukraine.  To mark this - and to underline who its real protagonists and beneficiaries are - US President Biden went first to Kyiv and then to Poland.

    He described this war as a war “for freedom and democracy”, being conducted by Ukrainians on behalf of the “rest of us” - in NATO countries and the “free world” - pledging that the US was 100% behind it and that it would go on for as long as it took to defeat Putin’s Russian army.  Or, conversely, one might add, as long as the weapons and military hardware manufacturers are able to profit from it, freely...  And for that, there certainly is no conceivable end in sight...  The demand for US and EU weapons is exponential.

    At precisely the same time, President Putin was making his “state of the nation” speech in Moscow.  Unsurprisingly, he pointed the finger of blame for this war, which he insists is “local” and not expansive, at the USA and its NATO puppets.  So at least there is agreement between the US leaders and the Russian leaders on this point.

    Biden said he wants to see Putin’s military forces weakened, although he did not admit that he wants to see the Russian economy (and its satellites) opened up fully in the interests of US companies...

    But he was quite open about the fact that he wants Zelensky’s regime in Kyiv to carry on to the bitter end, as a US proxy, suffering all the death and destruction involved, while “encouraged” by billions in military aid, the only beneficiaries of which are ghoulish arms’ merchants.

    Yes.  The Ukrainian and Russian soldiers - not to mention the tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians caught and killed in the cross fire - are being used as cannon fodder in the great and cynical games of US and European imperialism.  While British politicians too, vie stridently with each other to appear the most zealous in their support for the war.

    So it was just to be expected that in this obscene celebration, Boris Johnson would shout for fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine to escalate the conflict further - and that he’d be joined in this death-mongering by Liz Truss, in her first Common’s intervention since being kicked out of Downing Street.

    The working class, whether in Britain, the USA, or indeed in any part of the world - including Ukraine and Russia - cannot possibly support this carnage.  All the more so, when it is being cheered on by our sworn class enemies.