March 24, 2021 - No. 21

All India Shutdown to Take Place March 26

All Out to Support the
Demands of Indian Farmers!

Workers' Resistance in Britain to Anti-Social Offensive
Workers Step Up Opposition to Widespread Use of "Fire and Rehire" Methods
Government's Disrespect for Health Workers

All India Shutdown to Take Place March 26

All Out to Support the Demands of Indian Farmers!

March 15, 2021. Women farmers at the Delhi-Tikri border, March 15, 2021

Protesting farmers in India have set a plan for a number of actions. On March 19 India-wide they marked Kheti Bachao, Mandi Bachao and the anniversary of the Landless Workers' struggle. March 23 is the commemoration of the martyrdom of Rajguru, Sukhdev and Bhagat Singh 90 years ago. On March 26, the farmers have called for an All-India shutdown. Transport unions representing over 14 million truck drivers have come out in support of the farmers' unions, threatening to halt the movement of supplies in certain states.

Women in their hundreds of thousands and youth have taken their place in the front ranks of the movement. A group of the sons and daughters of Punjabi farmers who are prominent singers, have written a new song, Kisan Anthem 2, which expresses the determination of farmers. The essence of their song is Victory or Death! Ya Jit Ke Jawange Ya Laashan Jaangiyan (Either we will go back victorious or our dead bodies will return).

Protest sites surrounding Delhi have become great teach-ins and universities for farmers and thousands of people. All matters that concern the people are discussed in full view of hundreds of thousands of people. Ordinary people are raising questions and participating in discussions. Plans for gaddi wapsi (removal from power) of the BJP are being discussed in the mahapanchayats (joint mass meetings of several villages).

March 13, 2021. Mahapanchayat in Rajasthan

Without doubt, this is an unprecedented mass movement the likes of which India has not seen since the brutal partition conducted by the British following which they imposed on the people the same British institutions which had oppressed them under the Raj -- this time with an Indian face. The result is that two-thirds of land holdings in India -- the lands the rulers covet today -- are each less than one hectare on which the farmers depend for their living. India reported a total of 296,438 suicides of indebted Indian farmers between 1995 and 2015. In 2019, 10,281 people who work in the farming sector committed suicide.

This mass movement has entered its ninth month. For more than four months, farmers in their hundreds of thousands have lived in encampments outside of Delhi. No amount of persecution, harassment, arrests and covert actions have deterred them or split their ranks.

Their level of organization is without precedent. They are feeding hundreds of thousands of people, providing them with sanitation, shelter and protection. The mass of the people rose independently, uplifting all who make up the majority of the Indian people, especially those pushed to the very lowest rungs of the social ladder who are crushed by oppression and exploitation. They have stamped on the course of the developments in India, and indeed the world, the imprint of their own demands.

Workers' Forum salutes their mighty achievement. Their striving to build in their own way a new society in place of the old one that is crushing them is focused, heroic, resilient and historic.

All Out to Build the New by Making the Claims Which Belong to the People
by Virtue of Being Human!
All Out to Support the Demands of Indian Farmers!

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Workers' Resistance in Britain to Anti-Social Offensive

Workers Step Up Opposition to Widespread Use of "Fire and Rehire" Methods

The method of "fire and rehire," where workers are re-contracted on unfavourable terms under threat of termination of employment, or in other cases forced to re-apply for their positions, has become a widespread phenomenon in Britain particularly over the past year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its use is now so extensive that opposition to it is being taken up by various unions, the Trade Union Central (TUC), and in Parliament.

Some one in 11 (nine per cent) of over 2,000 workers polled for the TUC last November had experienced the tactic in some form. The poll also found that this doubles (18 per cent) for workers aged 18 to 24 years old. Black and national minority workers were also disproportionately affected (15 per cent).

Fire and rehire is a method being used to marginalize workers and prevent workers from meaningfully expressing any kind of opposition to their conditions. It is akin to the overt rule by police powers.

The newspaper Workers' Weekly points out:

"Part and parcel of the anti-social offensive, a general disequilibrium exists in the social relation between those who work and those who employ them, the owners and controllers of business and the economy as a whole.

"This disequilibrium exists both at the level of society and in individual workplaces, where employment relations have become entirely one-sided, under the absolute control of the employer. Without equilibrium, there is social disruption and chaos. All that exists is the one-sided relation dominated by competing powerful interests.

"Imposition and arbitrariness are features of this situation and amount to a refusal by those in control to recognize the right of workers to negotiate collective agreements; as such, they amount to an attempt to render workers and their unions powerless to resist.

"Recognition of this right is a starting point for regaining an equilibrium in a workplace and contributes to bringing about an equilibrium in society as a whole. People have a right to an equilibrium at work and in general to be able to live and work with a degree of security and without a constant and increasing sense of anxiety."

The reason for this state of affairs is ultimately the highly efficient and sophisticated nature of the modern socialized economy and its fragmented ownership into privately-owned competing parts, showing up as a dwindling rate of return on investment for the owners of capital.

These owners claim their profit, or added-value, from the new value created by the working class. Modern business, in order to compete, invests large amounts of capital in automated machinery, computers, and other means of production, giving rise to an economy that is so productive that a vast social product, in the form of goods and services, is produced with relatively few workers contributing work-time compared to the past.

As a result, a given commodity typically holds far less new value than the pre-existing old value transferred to it by machinery and so on. In this way, increasing productivity has greatly reduced the amount of new value produced in relation to transferred-value, the social product, and the total invested capital.

In the present, powerful global oligarchies are driven by ever fiercer competition to maximize their claims on the new value produced by the working class to counter the falling rate of return, to the point that now they cannot countenance any opposition and are demanding total control of every aspect of the economy, politics and the social relation in which they stand with the workers they employ, altogether taking the form of the anti-social offensive.

It is therefore significant that the unions are stepping up resistance. The arrogance with which the owners of capital act with impunity through their offensive against the social interest and any pro-social arrangements calls into question their traditional and legal position of authority.

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Government's Disrespect for Health Workers

On March 4, following the British government's budget announcement, the Department for Health and Social Security (DHSC) revealed that it had recommended to the National Health Service (NHS) pay-review body only a one per cent lower than inflation increase for NHS staff for 2021-2022. The government says they will "wait for the response from the independent pay review bodies before we announce the pay settlement."

This decision follows an upsurge last year when the government attempted to split the ranks of the workers by giving an above-inflation pay rise to 900,000 public workers but not health workers.

In the days following the announcement there has been increasing opposition from health workers and their trade unions that this not only fails to recognize the contribution of all health workers during the pandemic, but also because the pay "increase" will amount to a cut in pay for NHS staff in real terms. In addition, the government has now frozen the pay of other public sector workers. To add insult to injury, all the caregivers and those playing a vital role in the pandemic have had their pay and conditions ignored as well.

"This Government offer is equivalent to one cup of coffee per week!" one of the unions pointed out.

The recommendation by the government to the Pay Review body covers some 1.5 million health staff in NHS England, Scotland, Wales and the north of Ireland. The recommendation does not cover over 160,000 staff who work for agencies, or who have contracted-out employment. It also does not cover an estimated 1.65 million staff working as carers in care homes and in adult social care. Doctors, dentists and very senior managers in the NHS have separate pay review arrangements.

The recommendation says that, during the pandemic, "the government announced a pause in public sector pay rises for all workforces, with an exception for employees with basic full-time equivalent salaries of £24,000 or under and for the NHS. In settling the DHSC and NHS budget, the government assumed a headline pay award of one per cent for NHS staff. Anything higher would require re-prioritization."

While the government claims that this is because COVID-19 "has placed a huge strain on both public and NHS finances," the real issue is its direction of using "both public and NHS finances" to pay the rich. The present and previous governments have cut NHS services and public services whilst contracting out more and more services to private corporations. During the pandemic, this has seen vast sums being paid out to private individuals and corporations, private interests which the government has been keen to include more and more in the health and social care system. This is the capital-centred prioritization that the government is following and which it is trying to justify over their lack of investment in the human resources of a publicly provided NHS service.

In the House of Commons, only Jeremy Corbyn, now an independent MP, highlighted the necessity to pay NHS staff properly and the outrageous payments to private corporations: "Nurses have seen us through this crisis and have saved many lives, yet they are offered a pay cut as a result of it. Some are already having to resort to food banks to survive, and a third are thinking of leaving the profession unless they get a decent pay rise. Surely to goodness, if £37 billion can be found to pay Serco for a failed track and trace system, the money must be available to pay NHS staff properly," Corbyn said on March 10.

According to the Minister of State for the DHSC, "every one per cent increase will cost the taxpayer £750 million." He indicated that the government is already planning further tax hikes and other ways of charging to pass the burden of the crisis onto the people, whilst they continue to pay the rich. They are also planning to push through further legislation on the NHS as set out in the government's NHS White Paper which has the same aim.

Health workers reject these self-serving arguments and continue to express their determination that solutions be implemented that can alleviate the crisis for the benefit of all.

(Photos: WW, A. Johannes)

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