Dave Douglass asks if he is reading too much into what seems to be a steady and escalating drumbeat to potential war with Russia, which must inevitably involve nuclear weapons (Letters, April 12). Unfortunately, I don’t think so. I think we should all be very worried and for the reasons very clearly and powerfully described in his letter.
The Weekly Worker was kind enough to print a letter from myself (February 25 2016) about a BBC programme just shown called Inside the war room, where a number of former UK military, diplomatic and political luminaries war-gamed a scenario involving Russian provocations around the Baltic states.
The war-gamers knew perfectly well that the Russian Federation’s military and security conception includes use of all means necessary, including nuclear, to defend its territory and sovereignty. Part of this undoubtedly stems from the historic fear of the Russian state (and indeed people) of being encircled, invaded and subjugated - and, given the existential threat represented by Nazi Germany in World War II to both Russian people and state, with considerable justification.
Nato’s military doctrines of ‘forward defence’, developed in the cold war, is very much about taking the war to the enemy and not conceding an inch of territory. It is easy to see, and with considerable track record, how this ‘forward defence’ can easily become pre-emptive and aggressive. Nato explicitly includes the right and capability of its forces to use nuclear weapons to support and enhance the strike power of its conventional forces. It has produced generations of so-called battlefield and tactical nuclear weapons to supposedly fight and win a ‘conventional’ war and also strategic nuclear missiles capable of inflicting a devastating first strike on any other nuclear power.
President Trump’s threats of “fire and fury” are actually very much in line with some of his predecessors, I think of Truman, Nixon, Reagan and even the Democrat, James Carter, who implemented a major shift in US nuclear strategy to “take out” the Soviet leadership in a devastating nuclear first strike.
The war-gamers knew equally well that the Russian Federation’s stated response to any use of nuclear against either its people or territory, again stemming from history, would be met by a complete and massive intercontinental ballistic missile response: ie, Armageddon, as Ronald Reagan once thought was the quickest way to paradise on earth. Now, one can question the realism of such statements, but, despite the clarity of the Russian stated intention, the war-gamers decided nonetheless to explode a nuclear device over Russian territory in response to an ‘accidental’ nuclear attack on a US warship.
The war-gamers were then shocked (why?), as reports started to come in of a mass mobilisation of Russian ICBMs preparing for launch. Finally, a very late burst of sanity, as the war-gamers decided in the anxious half-hour window between launch and receipt that, in the event of the ICBMs actually being launched, they would not authorise mass retaliation (from Trident) from their graves - what would be the point of massacring millions of Russian citizens? True, good, but far too late. We can see the whole concept of nuclear deterrence failed repeatedly throughout this scenario, and these are people who are meant to believe in it.
The whole point of nuclear strategy and policy was meant to be ‘mutually assured destruction’ (MAD). If even top (former?) members of the British establishment do not believe in it, then we are in very dangerous times indeed. Should we really be reliant on rogue members of either establishment experiencing pangs of conscience about incinerating millions of innocent people or having enough sense and wit about them at just the right moment to stop either or both nuclear machinery rapidly escalating into full-scale nuclear war?
The trouble is the UK, US and Nato establishments simply do not believe that nuclear weapons can never be used. They have built up such a range and size of arsenals precisely so that they can be used. They don’t need to use nuclear weapons to (say) destroy nuclear facilities in (say) Iran or North Korea, but the actual use of nuclear is intended to provide a very big message - to threaten, intimidate and ultimately to wipe out.
The ‘anti-Semitism’ hysteria is intensifying. I suspect it has much to do with the hyenas positioning themselves for the next major Middle East war. The Syrian civil war is drawing to an end with an outcome favourable to the Russian/Iran/Assad/Hezbollah side. The US/Israeli/Saudi side is likely to try to undo this outcome, which may well require a major war.
The likely pretext for western military action this time will not be simply ‘humanitarian intervention’, but coming to the aid of Israel in order to ‘prevent another holocaust’. Those who demur will be branded as an ‘anti-Semites’. By trying to appease the accusers and accepting that their campaign of lies has a genuine basis and honest motive, Jeremy Corbyn is undermining his ability to oppose British involvement in an impending imperialist adventure.
On April 17, the eve of the independence celebrations, the Zimbabwe government announced the dismissal of all striking nurses. In an opaque statement the government tried to shift the blame to the workers, who are justly and legally fighting for their rights. The main reason for the dismissal was that the government views the action as political - hence the measures.
The nurses were on strike for over a week, demanding better working conditions, payment of overdue allowances and a review of their salaries, and all legal procedures relating to the strike were followed. The real reason for the dismissal was to instil fear in other civil servants - especially teachers, who are set to strike when schools open in May. In essence of this is the logic of class warfare, which must be met with equal force.
The post-Mugabe military-based coup government is intent on attacking workers to lay the basis for renewed investor confidence and protection of the interests of capitalists. They want to send a clear message that indeed Zimbabwe is open for business and they can guarantee massive profits for their masters. In contrast to the workers and poor masses living from hand to mouth, the bosses and their surrogates and can afford to charter planes for routine medical check-ups, whilst the masses die due to lack of medicine, proper facilities and money.
The Revolutionary Workers Group of Zimbabwe (RWG-Z) salutes the gallant nurses who fought a class war on behalf of other workers in government and generally against austerity and slave conditions. We further call for:
- The immediate and unconditional reinstatement of all dismissed nurses.
- An all-out strike and solidarity action to defeat the government.
- Payment of all outstanding allowances and timely payment of allowances.
- The opening of all books of the medical services for public view.
- Workers fight for a living wage and better working conditions through mass action controlled by ordinary workers.
- Against the ever rising prices and inflation we demand a sliding scale of wages
- Against unemployment and destitution we demand a sliding scale of working hours to provide decent jobs for all through massive public works programmes to provide housing, education and medical care for all.
- Organise the unorganised! Form unions of the unemployed as fully affiliated unions.
- Workers, take back your unions!
- Militant workers to form class-struggle caucuses in the unions to fight for this programme.
- The government must stop the attack on the vendors.
- Workers to form strike committees to lead the resistance to the growing attacks on the wages and working conditions and livelihood of the majority poor.
- Workers to form defence guards against state violence.
- A national strike committee to organise and plan for a general strike.
- For a workers’ government on the basis of the armed people to implement decisions that benefit the workers and the poor.
- Nationalisation under workers’ control of all companies without indemnification to the big shareholders.
- Land to be distributed to all poor peasants, together with a state bank to provide inputs to all small farmers.
- A workers’ state that defends workers, peasants and the poor masses against the local and foreign capitalists.
- An African socialist revolution as part of the international revolution that alone can guarantee a better life for all.
- A new world party of socialist revolution, based on the Transitional programme of 1938, to lead the revolution to end capitalism and open the road to socialism!
Revolutionary Workers Group
On April 20, Colombian human rights organisations in the south-west of the country denounced the mass arrests of leaders and human rights defenders in the departments of Nariño, Cauca and Valle del Cauca.
Human rights organisations have not been able to identify all of the 30 people who were detained in the operations due to the irregular circumstances under which the legal proceedings took place. Many belong to the Afro-Colombian organisation, Proceso de Comunidades Negras(Black Communities Process - PCN), which are active in defending human rights and those of black communities, as well as campaigning for peace, as they have already been victimised by the armed conflict in their territories.
The natural resources and strategic position of the south-western region of Colombia has made it a focal point of the armed conflict and a territory subject to constant dispute. For the residents and communities of the region, this has meant being subjected to all sorts of human rights violations - forced displacement, massacres and threats - and, in general, living under violent and militarised control of their territories.
Sara Liliana Quiñonez Valencia and her mother, Tulia Marys Valencia, two of the leaders who were detained, are from Tumaco, Nariño, one of the municipalities with the highest murder rates in the world. The PCN explained in a communiqué that Sara had served as president of the Afro-Colombian Community Council of Alto Mira and Frontera - a task which put her and her family’s life at risk. In 2015, Sara and her family were forcibly displaced after she received threats to her life, due to her work with the Community Council to defend and strengthen collective rights. She was forcibly displaced a second time in October 2017 when the leadership was threatened again. The communiqué also noted that two legal representatives of the Afro-Colombian Community Council of Alto Mira and Frontera, along with other leaders from the community, have been assassinated.
Among those who were arrested are former mayors of the city of Samaniego in Nariño, Harold Montufar Andrade, Pedro Dorado, Ricardo Dorado and Yamile Montenegro. Several of the other people detained had served as members of local governments and were active members of the social organisations in the region.
The social movement, Congreso de los Pueblos (People’s Congress), denounced the detentions of the activists and the context in which the operations occurred - when both the Ecuadorian and Colombian governments are making frenzied efforts to crack down on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) “dissident group” led by Alias ‘Guacho’, whose attacks and kidnappings in the past two weeks have put the two governments in an uncomfortable position.
The movement stated: “In response to the difficult situation in the border zone caused by the armed wing of the Sinaloa Cartel, commanded by Alias ‘Guacho’, the government is continuing with the criminalisation of social movements ... It is creating new judicial ‘false positives’ in its rush to respond to the recent criticisms from a sector of the right wing that on purpose uses fear and internal war as a campaign tool.”
The detentions of these activists is yet another instance of the government targeting those who defend human rights, fight for social justice and support the peace process. The detention of FARC member Jesús Santrich, the opening of an investigation in March on the links between the peasant senator, Alberto Castilla, and the insurgent group, ELN, and the jailing of dozens of innocent students, human rights defenders, peasants, miners and social leaders is further evidence of this.
The Dawn News
It has been reported in the media that Rugby Foodbank has handed out an increased number of emergency food parcels in Rugby in the last 12 months. This is not surprising, given the report from the Trussell Trust’s national network yesterday, which showed a UK-wide increase in food bank use.
In fact, The Trussell Trust charity’s report states that it provided record levels of food last year - a 13% increase, providing 1.3 million three-day food packages for people in crisis. Its report actually said the increase was driven by benefits claimants not being able to afford basic essentials. The managers of Rugby Foodbank believe the local need is due to people struggling with benefit payment complications, issues with universal credit and insecure work.
In particular, they cite the initial wait for universal credit payments, the lack of available statutory support and the inability of payments to cover the cost of living. Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has been saying for some time that the initial wait for universal credit is a major factor in claimants falling into rent arrears and food poverty. This is why we have been campaigning for Rugby borough council to offer claimants ‘nil income’ forms, thereby enabling them to avoid having to choose between food, rent and fuel.
However, in stark contrast to this evidence of increased poverty, Rugby’s Conservative MP, Mark Pawsey, has responded to this report from the Trussell Trust in a way that beggars belief. He is reported to have said that any household that is on universal credit will be able to access a full month’s payment as an advance within five days of applying. From our experience that is simply not happening, and claimants are still waiting up to 10 weeks for their first universal credit payment despite the changes that were announced in the autumn budget, which Mark Pawsey is no doubt referring to. Pawsey is simply repeating Tory government spin - he does not know what is happening on the ground.
Pawsey also says that, from February 2018, the initial seven-day waiting period has been removed, so that entitlement to universal credit starts on the very first day of the application. He may be right that the entitlement starts immediately, but that is no use to claimants if they have to wait 10 weeks for any actual money.
Pawsey says nothing about the food and rent poverty caused either by these 10-week delays or those weeks/months when claimants have their universal credit completely stopped through sanctions - a punishment for ‘offences’ that include missing a department for work and pensions appointment because of a hospital appointment or the serious illness of a partner/close relative. Once again, Tusc has evidence that this happens in Rugby on a regular basis.
Mark Pawsey sometimes lives in an ‘ivory tower’. He doesn’t understand how impossible it is for those on benefits to make ends meet. Universal credit was introduced as a way of saving billions of pounds from the welfare budget, but, in doing so, it has led to the advent of food banks, increased rent arrears and a number of evictions. It is time Pawsey actually saw for himself the suffering his own government is causing to those on low wages or benefits. He really does have no idea how much ordinary people are struggling.