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Issue #1659      October 8, 2014

Culture & Life

Scotland, Ukraine and the unemployed

Britain’s capitalists were seriously perturbed at the prospect of Scotland breaking away from the “United Kingdom” before the outcome of the recent referendum. They marshalled all their resources to campaign for a “No” vote: both the Tories and Labour argued for it, former Prime Ministers were trotted out, Rupert Murdoch and even Barack Obama weighed in, and of course a misleading scare campaign was indulged in to frighten voters with alarming depictions of what a “Yes” victory would mean for Scotland’s future prosperity.

In the end, as we know, the Scots voted to stay in the UK. And that, in my opinion, was actually the right decision. Although a vote in favour of independence would have had some psychological benefits, an independent Scotland would simply have been a very small capitalist country that would have struggled to be economically viable.

It is true that the Labour Party is stronger in Scotland than it is in England, but it is still a party of social democracy and will never challenge imperialism. To assume that an independent Scotland would be somehow more progressive and more democratic is to be naïve. To argue that without Scotland the UK would be “diminished” and consequently have less sway in NATO, for example, is equally unrealistic. Capitalist governments support one another on the basis of class, not land mass.

Supporters of the “Yes” vote argued that there were benefits that would accrue to the UK as a whole if they won. These included a weakening of the authority of the ruling class throughout Britain and a diminution of Britain’s status as a world power with a corresponding lessening of its influence in not just NATO but the UN, the G8, etc (where it is presently a prominent voice for reaction). However, these are changes that the British working class will achieve through nationwide struggle to change their government, not by manipulating the country’s borders.

While the Scots were debating the question of independence, the people of Ukraine were enmeshed in imperialist machinations to sever “once and for all” the country’s traditional ties to Russia and to actually turn it into a base for hostile military actions against its larger neighbour. The predominantly Russian-speaking eastern part of the country had to take up arms to protect itself from the attacks of the Kiev regime’s military.

The latter – a motley collection of reluctant conscripts, anti-Russian volunteers from Chechnya, the Middle East and Europe and a core of revived Ukrainian fascists (followers of the Hitlerite Stepan Bandera) – shelled villages in the east and carried out terror attacks by balaclava-wearing death squads on perceived enemies, usually pro-Russian activists or Communists. Over 800,000 Ukrainians fled to Russia to escape the attacks. The hundreds of thousands who remained were left without electricity or drinking water.

However, the anti-fascist militias, largely comprised of defectors from the Ukrainian army, gave Kiev’s forces such a sound drubbing that on September 5 they were obliged to accept the terms of a cease-fire negotiated in Minsk. Although this agreement recognised limited autonomy for the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republics”, prominent supporters of the pro-fascist, pro-NATO Kiev regime have already rejected any hopes of a federal structure for Ukraine, dooming the country to a renewed war as soon as Kiev feels able to undertake it.

In anticipation, the “Parliament” in Kiev (from which the deputies of the Left have been barred) ratified an “Association Agreement” that makes their part of Ukraine a very minor player in the EU, subject to severe economic and other constraints that will see it worse off than Greece. The parliament’s decisions were carried out before a chanting, yelling crowd of pro-fascists who cheered each reactionary decision, especially the one (shades of Nazi Germany) that sanctioned the vetting of a million government employees to purge the civil service of anyone suspected of pro-Russian or left-wing sympathies.

At the same time, the Russian-language newspaper Vesti in Kiev had its office raided by armed and masked members of the Ukrainian secret police and its computers seized. Simultaneously three left-wing cadres, one each from the Borotba (Struggle) Movement, the Ukrainian Communist Party and the Communist Youth, were arrested on trumped up charges of “terrorism”. The Borotba cadre, Vladislav Wojciechowski, was accused of being a member of the “Ukrainian Red Army” and of planning to blow up a hospital! (In Germany, of course, the Nazis accused the Communists of trying to burn down the Reichstag.)

Back in Britain, the Tory Minister of State for Employment, Esther McVey, has announced the introduction of “attitude tests” to ascertain whether unemployed people are “determined”, “bewildered” or “despondent” about taking a job. The tests are based on the fallacious assumption that the unemployed are out of work by choice; that they “don’t want to work” and are content to “live on the dole”. This belief is popular in Australia with well-paid conservative politicians who don’t actually know any young people who have been put through the hoops by Centrelink as it tries to harass them into giving up and dropping out altogether (into what though? Begging? A life of crime?).

These same views are behind the new British tests, which will be used to segregate the unemployed into those worth helping (assuming the job agency has any help it can give in the absence of actual jobs), and those who are just a drain on the government’s resources. The latter, as in Australia, will be harassed until they too give up and drop off the unemployment rolls and hence off the statistics, allowing the government to report a “drop” in the number of unemployed.

The inspiration for the new British tests comes from an Australian company called Ingeus, which was owned by Thérèse Rein (the wife of former PM Kevin Rudd), before she sold it off earlier this year for around $220 million.

And still there are people who continue to think the Labor Party is on the side of the workers!

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