Ukraine: nationalism, capitalism and human misery

The situation in Ukraine is alarming and seriously worrying for the prospects for peace in Europe and beyond.

The military intervention by Russian forces is, most frequently, being reported and analysed by the media as the crazed action of a megalomaniac and empire builder. The reality is, of course, much more complex.

The actions of the European Union, NATO, the United States and the government of Ukraine have contributed to this situation every bit as much as Putin’s government.

The conflict is being driven by competition between two capitalist blocs for Ukraine’s markets, natural resources and infrastructure. 

Neither will admit to that publicly. Instead, they, and their apologists, deliberately distract and confuse public understanding with talk of ‘defending democracy’, ‘self-defence’, the ‘freedom to choose alliances’ or ‘demilitarisation’ and ‘reclaiming national territory’.

The Russian air strikes and missile attacks together with the, almost decade long, armed attacks by the Ukrainian government against the Donbas region and their collaboration with neo-Nazi gangs has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and military alike and untold human misery.

Our support must be with the progressive forces in both countries who struggle against the twin evils of nationalism and capitalism and with all those opposed to this war.

To fully understand developments in Ukraine they must be seen and analysed in a class context, The European Union, NATO and Russian nationalism are predatory and deeply reactionary forces. We are currently seeing the consequences of that being played out across Ukraine at the cost of the lives of ordinary people and of the armed forces of both states. 

Unless there is an immediate military de-escalation, the closure of military bases on foreign soil, a return home of all troops and the dissolution of offensive military alliances like NATO, then ordinary people, Ukrainian and Russian alike, will be sucked further into the meat grinder of imperialist war.

Nationalism and competing capitalist interests are currently tearing Ukraine apart. The ‘winner’ will take the spoils of war. The losers, of those who survive, will be the ordinary working people of Ukraine and Russia, of Europe and beyond. 

The imperative for progressive people everywhere is to expose the true class nature of this conflict and redouble our efforts to overcome capitalism and nationalism as we strive to build a just and peaceful socialist society.

PETITION: Secure Emergency Surgery Services at Daisy Hill Hospital

Nicola Grant, the Workers Party representative in Newry /Armagh has spoken of “the considerable public concern over the possibility that emergency surgery may no longer be performed at Daisy Hill Hospital”. Now Nicola has launched a petition to focus public support.

“Local healthcare should always be safe, of the highest quality and be professionally delivered – but it must also be accessible”, she said.

“This ‘temporary ‘arrangement and any subsequent reconfiguration of services will mean local patients requiring urgent surgery could face a journey of over an hour to Craigavon”, Nicola added.

“We have heard promises of ‘temporary’ changes before and they have nearly always proven to be permanent”, she warned

Sign the petition to impress on the Southern Trust the Department of Health and the Health Minister the importance of retaining emergency surgery services at Daisy Hill

Supporting striking university staff

Veteran trade unionist and Workers Party North Belfast Representative Lily Kerr was joined by fellow Party members from across the city as they demonstrated their support for striking university staff outside the York Street campus this morning.

The staff are protesting in defence of their pensions and as part of their Four Fights on Pay, Casualisation, Equality, and Workload.

“I  endorse the recent comments of my colleague Patrick Lynn”, Lily said. “These strikes represent an important struggle against the constant drive to worsen workers’ pay and conditions, not just during their working lives, but afterwards as well”.

“The staff here should be inside the building where they belong, doing what they do best”, said Lily, “but they have been forced to take industrial action in support of just demands and their serious concerns about the future of third level education.”

“The Workers Party is proud to stand with them and support their struggle!” Lily added

Highlighting Poverty and Social Deprivation  

The Workers Party has held a protest outside the gates of Stormont to highlight the appalling levels of poverty, social deprivation and the effects the rising cost of living is having on families and children.  

Party spokesperson and veteran trade unionist Lily Kerr said,
” We hope this will send a strong message to all those who think that flags, border polls and sectarian headcounts will pay the bills or put food on the table”.  

Politics and the media are dominated daily by petty disputes over ‘who-said-what’, what flag to fly, what title to give someone and who’s going to be the First Minister”, she said  

Meanwhile, in the real world, families are going hungry, children are going without heat and workers, as well as those people on benefits, are forced to use food banks to try and make ends meet”

Northern Ireland has higher levels of multiple deprivation than the rest of the UK with over a third of the population living on or below the breadline.

Low pay and inadequate benefits lead to poverty and of heat and food lead to mental and physical ill health

Computers and internet access are unaffordable for many families.
People are struggling with rent and mortgage payments
Some people are losing their homes.25% of children live in poverty
Fuel poverty is a reality for thousands of local families                                                                                                   
Poverty is not inevitable”, Lily said. “It is a direct result of an economic system that values profit more than people”.Only a socialist society will consign poverty, deprivation and despair to history, but we must make immediate demands and see immediate changes to improve people’s lives, health and futures” she said  

Our immediate response to the current crisis is a call for:  
better jobs with better wages
a more flexible working environment
higher pay for low-income families
strengthen and simplify the benefits system
invest in public services
an immediate universal fuel allowance
more public affordable housing   .

Five Questions to End the Uncertainty

 “The uncertainty which has been created around the future of emergency surgery at Daisy Hill Hospital is adding to an already intolerable situation”. Nicola Grant of the Workers Party has said.

“Like many local people, I am seriously concerned that we are witnessing the downgrading of the hospital by stealth”, she said.

“I have written to the Southern Trust Board and posed  5 Questions which, if answered, would at least shed more light on Daisy Hill’s future and the services that will be available locally. It would also allow for a more informed and focussed discussion”.

The Five Questions

1. What is your long term vision for Daisy Hill? Do you have a plan that you are prepared to share with us?

2. How temporary is ‘temporary‘? When will you be proposing to review the current situation?

3  Are you committed to providing emergency surgery at Daisy Hill Hospital or have you already taken a decision to move it off site?

4  Are you prepared to publish details of your recruitment strategy to enlist additional surgeons?

5. What plans have you to conduct a public consultation exercise  to take the views of the public into account?

“We are talking about the very future of Daisy Hill and local hospital services”, Nicola said “the public has an unquestionable right to know exactly what is being planned, why and to have a meaningful involvement in those discussions”, she said

When is the time? Now is the time!

Attempts to block a Bill progressing integrated education have been slammed by veteran trade unionist and Workers Party representative in north Belfast, Lily Kerr.

“While the bill being discussed will not deliver a fully integrated and secular education system here, it does at least mark some progress in that direction “, Lily said.

Her comments come in the wake of news that the DUP are considering the use of a Petition of Concern to block the Bill’s progress and suggestions by others that ‘now is not the right time” to be promoting integrated education.

Opinion poll after opinion poll has demonstrated overwhelming support, in excess of 80%,  for integrated education.

“When is the right time?” asked Lily “Now is the right time” she said

The Bill currently being discussed by the Assembly would lead to the promotion, reform and the expansion of integrated education. It would increase the number of integrated school places and set targets for the number of children being educated in integrated schools.

“Segregation of children has never been right, It is not right now”, Lily concluded

University staff strike

Workers Party South Belfast spokesperson Patrick Lynn has expressed solidarity with the academic and academic-related staff at Queen’s University and Ulster University who have startted ten days of strike action.

The staff are protesting in defence of their pensions and as part of their Four Fights on Pay, Casualisation, Equality, and Workload.

“These strikes represent an important struggle against the constant drive to worsen workers’ pay and conditions, not just during their working lives, but afterwards as well”, Patrick said.

“Those responsible for managing the pension scheme have been repeatedly attemping to destroy the pensions that people have paid into, and worked in good faith in the expectation of receiving. These attempts are not motivated by financial concerns for a scheme with 92 billion pounds in assets, but are an ideological attack on the concept of defined benefit pensions”, he added.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association has for more than a decade driven down pay, which fell 17.6% in real terms between 2009 and 2019.

“The University sector is awash with cash and bonuses for Vice Chancellors and other managers responsible for attacking pay and conditions, for casualisation and systemic exploitation of the sector’s most vulnerable workers, and for the continuing outrageous gender pay gap across the UK’s higher education sector”, Patrick added.

“Workloads have risen massively, while pay has fallen, and now pensions are under attack, with a planned cut of up to 35% to guaranteed retirement income.

“The ruthlessness of the employers can also be seen in the threats to take up to 100% of pay every day work legally withdrawn as part of strike action is not undertaken.

“The Workers Party expresses its solidarity with the striking workers, and wishes them every success. They have fought off these attempts before, and we are confident they can do so again”, Patrick concluded.

@ucuatqub @UCU_Ulster

Plan the economy to help young people

Welcoming the participation of a number of local firms in this year’s Apprenticeship Week, Hugh Scullion, Workers Party Mid Ulster representative, has called for a “much more strategic approach to young people and employment – especially in apprentice ship schemes|

“The current ‘hit-and-miss’ and ‘now-and-again’ approach to careers and job opportunities creates the conditions for low pay, a lack of innovation and a widening of the gap between education and employment”, Hugh said

“There are currently almost 700 engineering job vacancies in the Mid Ulster area”, he said. “Unless we adopt a planned and centralised approach to matching young people with training, education and opportunities then events like Apprenticeship Week risk being seen as a one-of gimmick.

Young people and their futures are not well served by our current economic and political system. They are also treated as election fodder by the main political parties”, Hugh said.

Recognising and supporting the benefits which a planned socialist economy can deliver for young people, and for wider society, is the first step in securing all our futures”, Hugh concluded.

Support for positive parenting

Children must be protected and positive parenting encouraged”, says Eoin MacNeill Workers Party representative in East Belfast.

His comments come in the wake of a children’s charity report which argues for updated local legislation banning the smacking of children

“The physical and mental wellbeing of our children must be paramount”, Eoin said.

“I would like to see us adopt legislation similar to that in Scotland under which all forms of physical punishment of children are against the law with children having the same legal protection from assault as adults”, he said. 

People the priority – Socialism the answer

“We need to re-order our priorities and we need to do it now”, says Lily Kerr, Workers Party representative in North Belfast

“Politics and the media are dominated daily by petty disputes over ‘who-said-what’, what flag to fly, what title to give someone and who’s going to be the First Minister”, she said

“Meanwhile, in the real world, families are going hungry, children are going without heat and workers, as well as those people on benefits, are forced to use food banks to try and make ends meet”.

For as long as politics here is reduced versions of Orange and Green then ordinary working people will continue to be used as no more than sectarian cannon fodder.

“Rethinking our priorities means putting people first in a socialist society”, Lily said