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Catalyst #15 (Summer 2006)

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Taking Health Care Back!

The recent months have seen an acceleration of cuts in the NHS which have been covered fairly comprehensively in the capitalist media. They have totalled at least 8,000 so far, with observers estimating far more to come. All over the country people are being informed that their local health services are to be reduced in some way. Workers are being laid off, trainee health workers are being informed that there may be no jobs available for them when they qualify, and the wider public are bracing themselves for ever longer waiting lists. Look a bit closer and you will see a raft of pro-market reforms that amount to privatisation by stealth accompanying the cutbacks, including PFI schemes, outsourcing and switches to foundation status.

It is in the best interests of workers in the health service to be active in struggles against these developments, but we need to be careful that our activity is not hijacked by those with other agendas. The right wing press is happy to publicise the cuts whilst sending out the message that what is needed is more privatisation. The left and the trade unions want to use official anti-cuts and anti-privatisation campaigns as a way of appearing active and bolstering their own power without having to involve the grassroots membership, or indeed do anything remotely effectual. There is nothing sacred about a nationalised NHS, indeed the way it is being run at the moment - layoffs, outsourcing, cuts, mergers - is entirely in keeping with how a private company is run. What we should be interested in defending is not some abstract principle of nationalisation but working class living standards.

The NHS, to an extent is not run as a normal capitalist concern (a principle that is being rapidly eroded) which was an improvement in living standards won through struggle. It provides jobs, and free healthcare at the point of use. The extent that health workers are losing their jobs and patients are finding it harder and harder to be treated without having to go private, the British establishment is moving towards the US model in which healthcare is seen purely as an opportunity for profit and where doctors are known to check whether someone can afford treatment before saving their life.

As Anarcho-syndicalists we don't recognise a distinction between economic and political issues and this is a perfect example of how health workers and the wider working class that depends upon them are united in a common interest. We should be pushing for maximum cooperation, solidarity and collective action between health workers whose jobs are under threat and the wider working class whose health is similarly threatened, in order to defend our jobs and living standards.

We should also, as always, be seeking to retain control of our own struggles and not allow them to be hijacked by politicians or trade union bureaucrats. At the same time we should remember that all value in our society, including the resources used in the NHS, is created by the working class, and that our ultimate goal is a society in which we have taken back what is ours and everything, including healthcare, is free.

Tyranny in the Middle East

On the 12th of July the Lebanese militia group Hezbollah executed a raid on an Israeli army patrol in northern Israel, killing a number of Israeli soldiers and capturing two others. The raid occurred whilst other Israeli units continued their attacks on targets in the Gaza Strip following the abduction of an Israeli soldier by Hamas. During Israel's incursions into the Gaza Strip they demolished bridges, Gaza's main power station and killed approximately 50 civilians. The attack by Hezbollah was used as a pretext for the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) to unleash an orgy of destruction and death upon the Lebanese people.

Under the pretext of purportedly seeking to destroy Hezbollah guerrillas in South Lebanon, the Israeli army have killed an ever increasing number of people, the vast majority of those being Lebanese civilians, and made another half a million civilians homeless as they flee their homes in panic. While around 60 Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets fired into Haifa and other Israeli cities by Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, meaning Party of God, were established around 1982 as a resistance force against the Israeli army in South Lebanon. They advocate the establishment of an Islamic Republic similar to that established in Iran in 1979 which brutally crushed the revolutionary Iranian workers movement in order to maintain capitalist relations of production.

Whilst claiming to want to destroy Hezbollah, Israel's acts of terrorism against the civilian population in Lebanon are unlikely to do little but bolster recruits to the guerrilla group, strengthen nationalist sentiments against Israel and reproduce this most tragic of conflicts. While publicly deploring the attacks within its territories the IDF and Israeli ruling class welcomes such attacks. Not only do these attacks give them a justification to continue their rabid assaults on the civilian populations of Lebanon and Palestine but more importantly they enable the Israeli ruling class to consolidate their position of power over the Israeli people. As always war between states and proto-states only ever undermines and disrupts the progress of the class struggle. It veils and distracts the real conflict between employer and worker leaders and led and oppressors and the oppressed and attempts to strengthen the artificial and destructive division between people of different races, nationalities and religions. The winner on every occasion is the capitalist state of Israel and the reactionary Islamic nationalism of Hamas and Hezbollah, beneath these twin evils it is always the workers or all creeds that suffer and perish.

The only way to find a lasting and meaningful peace in the region is for the workers of Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Iran and all countries in the region to unite in struggle against their own leaders. Only in confronting the hierarchical economic and political systems that are buttressed by this nationalist war can the people ever hope to find a solution. The actions of terrorists and guerrillas can never bring down the Israeli state, that is the task of the Israeli and Palestinian workers whose labour the Israeli war machine is built upon. Despite the seeming hopelessness of the situation there are glimmers of light within the conflict zone, numerous Israeli soldiers have deserted in recent years, refusing to involve themselves in the bloodbath, whilst groups of Israeli's and Palestinians have organised cross border mutual aid and support. However in the absence of a united proletariat in the region, an event which becomes more and more unlikely as people are forced to look to troops and militias for their supposed defence, it seems that the area will continue to slide into a quagmire of hostile fanaticism and bloody nationalism.

Such an arrangement has only ever and will only ever benefit the forces of reaction and the existing class hierarchy in the region. Even with the ceasefire in effect and both sides claiming victory, the workers are left with rubble for homes and family to bury.

Class Struggle Not Social Partnership!

The collective nature of the British trade union movement is gradually disappearing. Where as in the past unions saw strength through unity as the means to confront the boss class, increasingly unions are now turning to the idea of union rights enshrined in law as the way to protect workers. These changes date back to the 1980's when union leaders, faced with rapid economic change, collapsing membership and a hostile Thatcher government, decided to abandon "outdated" notions such as class struggle and replacing capitalism with some form of socialism, in favour of social partnership.

The union's social partnership dream, under which union leaders would sit down with management and help run the economy, was treated with contempt by Thatcher. The unions however clung to the idea until it became clear that the Blair government had the same distain for the unions as their Tory predecessors. This left an increasingly irrelevant union leadership with the stark choice of either attempting the difficult task of trying to adapt to economic change and rebuild workplace organisation or meekly accepting what was on offer under Labour, which amounted to not much more than representing workers under the Labour Governments workplace rights policies.

With hopes of running the economy long gone, the last 10 years has saw unions increasingly warm to the Labour Government rights agenda. The idea of the unions as independent workers organisations that should resist any attempt at government interference has long gone and union leaders now beg for greater state regulation not less. The idea being that with government backed workplace rights in place to protect workers collective strength and strike action is no longer needed.

The only problem with the union's new workplace strategy is that it based on the idea that the state will intercede to protect workers rights. This is nonsense, the reality is that the state always has and always will act in the interest of capitalism. And nothing has change under Labour. Behind all the gloss, all our much heralded new rights at work amount to little more than a fig leave of respectability to hide the continued rise in capitalist exploitation that has taken place under Labour. The last 10 years have saw growing inequality and job security, worsening terms and conditions, and ever longer working hours, all during a period of relatively economic prosperity when workers have traditional made gains.

The unions increasing dependence on socalled rights has only further undermined was little is left collective organisation. The unions are now beginning to resemble advisory bodies whose main role is to advise members about their rights. This is a form of trade unionism that sees members as individual clients, whose role in the union does not go much beyond stumping up their subs in return for union help in times of trouble. This form of client trade unionism reduces members to passive individual consumers of union rights. With the idea of workers coming together and collectively solving their own problems a thing of the past and the unions being reduced to little more than an advisor at the end of the phone, the union's workplace presence is withering away.

As a result in the public sector, where management pay lip service to workers rights, the unions have been able to maintain membership but have been proved virtually useless in stopping privatisation. In the private sector the unions are increasingly irrelevant and all our newfound rights have done nothing to stop the appalling exploitation of the weakest sections of society.

The answer to the decline of trade union power does not lie in pleading for more minor concessions from government in the form of rights but rather through workplace unity that will harnesses the economic power of workers in order to bring about a more just society. As such the long-term aim should be to bring workers together in order to forge a new alliance aimed at rebuilding an independent workers organisation that is capable of challenging both the power of the state the TUC and capitalist exploitation.

Mercadona Strike CNT-AIT

Barcelona members of the Spanish CNT who were fired by Mercadona a supermarket chain in spain continue their fight for the readmission of three fired CNT workers,improvements in conditions and for the CNT to be recognised by the company. The strikers have been out for more than 200 days after three workers were fired for being CNT militants. The bosses of the supermarket chain began the attack on CNT members after the CNT had been pushing for better conditions. The situation was unacceptable for the workers, Mercadona has hired scabs to try and break the strike, but the CNT workers have held firm with an indefinite strike. The management of Mercadona have also tried to pay off the CNT and its militants by offering the CNT three hundred thousand euros to end the strike and accept the dismissal of the workers. The workers on strike refused the offer.

How You Can Help!

Solidarity donations are urgently needed. Please send The Bank: La Caixa, Solidarity account: 2100-1183-35-0100505773 / Europe: IBAN: ES08 2100 1183 3501 0050 5773 / Rest of the world: BIC (Swift): CAIXESBBXXX 2100 1183 3501 0050 5773

The CNT is the Spanish Section of the International Workers Association.

Remembering the Spanish Revolution

The Spanish Revolution (1936-1939) broke out on the 18th July, 1936 in response to a fascist coup attempt under General Franco. The war lasted for three years and ended with Franco's victory, aided by fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. The revolution saw huge swathes of Spanish industry and agriculture socialised and run collectively by the workers and peasants

The coup was only smashed by the activity of the working class. The fascists made some headway in parts of the country but in Catalonia CNT (Anarcho-Syndicalist union) showed how to fight. They declared a general strike and took to the streets looking for arms which the government refused to give them. In the end they stormed the barracks, and took what they needed.

Militias were formed and these became units of a revolutionary army. This was no ordinary army. This was a revolutionary army with revolutionary principles. The militias liberated towns and villages which became under the control of those who worked the land and toiled in the factories.

After three long years of fighting fascists and dealing with the betrayals of the Stalinists the war ended leaving the fascists victorious and the working class defeated and the CNT smashed.

Spain showed us that freedom from capitalist exploitation is possible and the working class needs no state or bosses to free itself from slavery.

End The Slaughter - Troops Out Now!!

They keep coming, an ever increasing number of casualties from the war of terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, London, Madrid, New York and across the world. This has to end, the working class of the world is paying in blood for the imperialist ambitions of the bosses and the ruling elite.

The war of terror unleashed by the US/UK governments cannot be won. It must end now. It is upto us the working class to end this war.

About Catalyst

Catalyst is the quarterly freesheet of the Solidarity Federation. If you want to get hold of a copy, get in touch with your nearest SolFed local, or email catalyst@solfed.org.uk. If you would like to distribute Catalyst, please get in touch with the Catalyst collective.

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Catalyst #17 (July 2008)
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Catalyst #16 (Spring 2007)
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Catalyst #14 (Spring 2006)
Catalyst #14
Catalyst #13 (Summer 2005)
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Catalyst #12 (April 2005)
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