Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 9 June 2008

9 June 2008

 100 soldiers dead, an unknown number of afghans, and how many more to come?

This week the death toll for British soldiers killed in Afghanistan reached 100, after another 3 young paratroopers were killed by a suicide bomber while on patrol.

Some newspapers printed all of the photos and names of those killed over the past 7 years. Most of them were killed in the last 2 years.

But did the MOD take the opportunity to apologise to the families and friends of the troops who have been killed and injured as a result of this horrific misadventure? Or to commit itself to withdrawing the British army, while admitting that it had only made matters worse for the population? And what about the (unknown) death toll of Afghan men, women and children?

No, there was no apology. Instead, Des Browne, the defence secretary, actually used the occasion to celebrate what he dares to call the "achievements" of the invasion. Of course it is understandable that relatives of the dead wish to believe that the soldiers have not died in vain. But that does not change the fact that they should never have been in Afghanistan in the first place. And that if the so-called "hearts and minds" operation has "achieved" anything, it is a polarisation of the population against the invaders.

Nevertheless, it is clear that a troop withdrawal is certainly not on the government's agenda, even if it should be. Commentators are saying that the British operation (involving 8,000 troops at present) is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and that the army is likely to remain active in Afghanistan for at least a decade to come. That does not change the fact that the working class has no interest whatsoever in supporting this intolerable war. Troops out now!

 We need wages which keep up with costs

Last Friday price of a barrel of crude oil went up to the record high of nearly $140. And whether it should be so directly linked or not, the price of petrol at the pump has been jumping up accordingly, as never before. So this last weekend the average price of a litre of unleaded had shot up to £1.16 and diesel to £1.30!

Truck drivers are protesting in Spain this week and a protest is scheduled here too. For once this is being reported with some sympathy, in contrast to how the fuel blockaders were lambasted 8 years ago, including by the TUC.

Then this Monday, it was reported that figures for so-called "factory gate" inflation showed an increase to 8.9%, the highest since comparable records began in 1986. This figure reflects the increase in prices of manufactured goods charged by producers. But by "producers" they do not mean the people who actually make the goods, that is the workers, but the owners of the factories. These owners explain that they are just passing on the higher cost of raw materials and fuel, to retailers, who in turn pass it on to consumers...

But there is one component in the cost of the goods which has not gone up! That is, the cost of the labour: workers' wages! Yet workers must pay the ever-rocketing cost of food, petrol, diesel, gas and electricity and public transport as well as the higher cost of manufactured goods!

So when are these increases going to be reflected in proportional pay rises? The sick joke is that when the bosses negotiate over pay they choose to use either the RPI (4.2%) or the government's chosen measure, the consumer price index which was only 3% last month!

On this basis, public sector workers were offered between 1.9% and 2.6%! Whether the public sector union leaders carry out their threat joining together for a "summer of strikes" over such pay cuts, remains to be seen. The workers involved can surely not do otherwise.

We all need to have wages which slide up with prices and which therefore cover the ever-increasing cost of living. After all, if we need to pay more to live, our labour must become more expensive. It is as simple as that.

The bosses have already put the prices up of the commodities they sell. But they haven't paid for the increase in the price of labour. This means they intend to make even higher profits for themselves out of this crisis and at workers' expense, when workers can least afford it. There is absolutely no reason to let them get away with it.

So yes, there should be a summer of strikes - and a winter of strikes too, if need be. But if, for once, we actually organise ourselves to strike all together, across all sectors, public and private, the pay rises we need could be achieved in a very short time!