|Volume 54 Number 1, January 13, 2024
Workers' Weekly Internet Edition: Article Index : ShareThis
Smashing the silence on their working conditions:
Junior Doctors Initiate Workers' Actions in the New Year
Demonstration in Yemen, January 12, 2024 denounces U.S./UK attack, stands with Palestinian people.
During the night of January 12, the United States and Britain engaged in an irresponsible use of force by launching military strikes in Yemen. They claim their aim is to stop the Yemeni resistance actions undertaken to impede shipping to Israel in the Red Sea so long as Israel's attacks on Gaza continue. The military strikes not only killed five people in Yemen, injuring another six, but pose the grave danger of broadening the war in the Middle East. Commenting on the attacks, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that Britain needed to send a "strong signal" that Houthi rebel attacks in the Red Sea cannot be carried out with "impunity".
The irresponsible attacks are no doubt also intended to threaten the people of Yemen to desist in providing material support for the Palestinian resistance. This will not happen. Hours after the attacks, in a statement on Friday, the Houthis Supreme Political Council stated that "all American-British interests have become legitimate targets for the Yemeni armed forces in response to their direct and declared aggression against the Republic of Yemen".
"The joy of the aggressors will not be long, and our hand will be the upper hand, God willing," the statement added.
Calling the strikes on Yemen "barbaric", the Houthis added that they will also continue targeting ships heading towards Israel for as long as its war on Gaza continues, and also threatened retaliation.
"The American and British enemy bears full responsibility for its criminal aggression against our Yemeni people, and it will not go unanswered and unpunished," Yahya Saree, the Houthis military spokesperson warned.
Yemen's government, put in place by Saudi Arabia in its US-backed war against that country, blamed the Houthis themselves for the UK and US strikes on the country, saying the rebels bore responsibility for dragging Yemen into an arena of military confrontation with its attacks in the Red Sea.
Iran has condemned what it called a clear violation of Yemen's sovereignty and Russia has called for an urgent meeting at the UN. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the joint US and UK bombing of multiple Houthi targets in Yemen, according to RT, accusing Washington and London of seeking to turn the Red Sea into a "bloodbath". The Turkish leader added that Ankara has learned from various intelligence channels that the Houthi forces were carrying out a "successful defence" against the US and UK.
Earlier, US President Joe Biden, who claims the actions of its navy in the Red sea and military attacks are to defend freedom of navigation, warned that he would "not hesitate" to take further action if necessary, Al Jazeera reported.
"These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation," Biden said of the attacks by air and sea.
Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder told Al Jazeera that the US military is closely monitoring the situation and has not seen any retaliatory attacks from the Houthis so far.
"Our goal here is to ensure this vital waterway [the Red Sea] is safe and secure for international shipping and mariners," he said.
In backing Rishi Sunak, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told reporters that his party is "fully supportive" of the military action. "It's clear that for some time now they [the Houthi rebels] have been carrying out attacks on shipping, commercial shipping in the Red Sea putting civilian lives at risk as disrupting international trade and traffic and shipping," he said. He added: "I want the prime minister to make a statement as soon as possible, but the principle of taking action against the Houthi rebels is really important."
The military intervention by Britain took place following an emergency Cabinet meeting on Thursday night, it was reported. Sunak also briefed Labour leader Keir Starmer and Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle, in lieu of following precedent of putting the decision before parliament and citing the urgency of the situation. But the government has faced criticism for not recalling MPs for an emergency sitting to debate the issue. Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader and independent MP described the strikes as "a reckless act of escalation", adding that it "is utterly disgraceful that Parliament has not even been consulted".
In a statement on Friday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the Houthis had ignored "repeated warnings from the international community" over their attacks in the Red Sea which "cannot stand" and therefore the UK had undertaken retaliatory strikes against the Iranian-backed rebel group.
"The United Kingdom will always stand up for freedom of navigation and the free flow of trade," Sunak said.
"We have therefore taken limited, necessary and proportionate action in self-defence alongside the United States, with non operational support from the Netherlands, Canada and Bahrain against targets tied to these attacks."
In the government's summary of its legal position on the strikes against the Houthis, it said that the action permitted under "international law to use force in such circumstances where acting in self-defence is the only feasible means to deal with an actual or imminent armed attack and where the force used is necessary and proportionate".
If the US, Britain and their NATO partners actually do want peace, it is clear that they should first and foremost refrain from the use of force and threatening the use of force and provide serious problems and conflicts with peaceful solutions. The refusal to find alternatives to the use of force shows their arguments do not merit consideration because they are self-serving, illogical and irrational. The peoples must set their own course based on their own interests and line of march to achieve them.
No to the Desperate US/UK Attack on Yemen!
Stand with the Palestinian People and the Resistance!
On December 29, 2023, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Yemen's capital Sanaa, in a massive rally to express solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The Yemeni people are continuing to stand with people across the world against the Gaza genocide, and their actions are a powerful statement that Israel must be stopped, that the genocide must be stopped. A further demonstration in Yemen on January 12 denounced the US/UK attack, standing with the Palestinian people.
These actions represent an indispensable factor in bringing the genocide to an end and shaming the US, Britain and other European powers, alongside the resistance of the Palestinian people themselves to the unconscionable consequences of the Israeli atrocities.
The attack on Yemen by US, UK and other forces is a dangerous escalation of the war in the Middle East. It is a direct consequence of their governments' support for Israel's three-month attack on Gaza and the Palestinian people more generally. We have argued throughout that this support is likely to lead to wider war throughout the region and this is now being borne out. This is the most dangerous time for more than two decades in the Middle East and the refusal of the western powers to condemn Israel's actions is threatening the further spread of war to Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere, and raising the spectre of nuclear weapons use.
Yemen has suffered a terrible war for much of the last decade, where Saudi Arabia - backed and supported by the British government - repeatedly bombed the country in opposition to the Yemeni Houthis. There is now a truce where the Houthis control large parts of Yemen. Even Saudi Arabia has now called for "restraint" and it is notable that these missile strikes have been carried out by western powers, with only Bahrain from the Middle East taking part.
The US has 57,000 military personnel in the Middle East in order to enforce its interests. It has invaded and occupied Iraq, bombed Syria, and intervened repeatedly in the region, which has become ever more unstable as a result. UK participation in this shocking attack was not even discussed in Parliament; MPs must now demand both a ceasefire and an end to this dangerous escalation.
The attack is on missile sites used by the Houthis, who have been attacking and disrupting shipping in the Red Sea in support of the Palestinians. Their actions reflect the levels of discontent across the Middle East at the genocidal attacks by Israel. The Houthis are allied to Iran and the danger is that war will spread there, with devastating consequences.
The Houthis have made clear that they will stop these attacks if there is a ceasefire in Gaza. The US and UK governments should be demanding that Israel stops its attacks and implements a ceasefire, rather than bombing a very poor country. These strikes make our protests here and calls for ceasefire even more vital.
Stop the War Coalition & Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
(12 Jan 2024)
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network
We, the undersigned organisations, strongly condemn the aggression by the United States and Britain against Yemen, a resilient nation that has been enduring nearly a decade of relentless Western-backed Saudi and Emirati aggression. This escalation is a shameful element of the Biden-led "Operation Prosperity Guardian". The Netherlands is complicit in this callous targeting of the Yemeni people in their sovereign waters.
The Yemeni people have acted with courage and steadfastness on behalf of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. These actions against the Yemeni people mirror a broader, repulsive wave of repression by the West of genuine humanitarian endeavours worldwide.
We resolutely denounce Dutch involvement in these acts, which undermine Yemeni sovereignty and works to advance militarisation and destabilisation of the Red Sea and the region around it. The Dutch complicity coincides with the trial at the International Court of Justice against the (alleged) perpetrator of genocide, waged by South Africa. Ironically, the Court resides in the "Palace of Peace" in the "City of Peace", The Hague, a city with a history of Dutch colonialism and imperialism.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte's statement, emphasising the importance of free trade, further exacerbates these historical wounds. Referencing the Dutch East India Company and West India Company in his statement, responsible for centuries of atrocities, through this Rutte justifies current aggression in support of settler colonialism and genocide.
This glaring contradiction highlights how the Western-constructed "International order" contributes to global strife. Our collective efforts are to dismantle the Zionist, imperialist and capitalist systems that are the root cause of war, oppression and exploitation. Inspired by our liberated South African counterparts, who challenge Western-backed occupation, we must usher in an era where colonisers face consequences, and the colonised world breaks free from its chains.
We reiterate our support for all the people's resistance confronting the imperialist enemy, and continue to struggle for an end to the Israeli genocide, the liberation of Palestine from the river to the sea, the right of return and the right to resistance.
We will march today in The Hague in support of Yemeni and South African efforts to end Western imperial violence, injustice and colonialism, in Palestine and the rest of the world.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network (intl.)
Samidoun Netherlands (NL)
Revolutionaire Eenheid (NL)
Workers for Palestine (NL)
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(12 January 2024)
Between December 20 and January 9, tens of thousands of junior doctors in England took part in six days of strikes, the longest in NHS history.
The doctors, members of the British Medical Association (BMA), unanimously voted for the strikes following five weeks of negotiations with the government. These negotiations broke down early December, and the government has stated that it will not resume talks when industrial action has been called.
The NHS is suffering a crisis in retaining doctors, with many opting for better-paid jobs abroad or leaving the profession altogether in conditions of lack of investment, falling real-terms pay and plummeting morale. Those striking are demanding a 35% pay rise due to 15 years of real-term pay cuts. After nearly 15 months in dispute, the best that the government has offered is 3% on top of the 8% previously given. This does little to offset the erosion over many years of the doctors' claim on the value they create, and still amounts, the BMA points out, to a significant real-terms cut.
After talks broke down at the beginning of December, BMA junior doctors committee co-chairs Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi said in a statement :
"We have been clear from the outset of these talks that we needed to move at pace and if we did not have a credible offer, we would be forced to call strikes. After five weeks of intense talks, the Government was unable to present a credible offer on pay by the deadline. Instead, we were offered an additional 3%, unevenly spread across doctors' grades, which would still amount to pay cuts for many doctors this year. It is clear the Government is still not prepared to address the real-terms pay cut doctors have experienced since 2008.
"It is a great shame that even though the approach was more constructive, there was not enough on offer to shape a credible deal, which we hoped would end the dispute. Without enough progress by the deadline, we have no choice but to take action that demonstrates doctors are as determined as ever in reversing their pay cuts."
Though England has seen the largest such strikes, doctors in Wales are organising a 72-hour strike, and in the north of Ireland are being balloted for potential action. Meanwhile, junior doctors in Scotland have reached an agreement with the Scottish government.
Hospitals in England have postponed outpatient appointments and operations. It is reported that over 1.1 million appointments and treatments had already been cancelled over 2023 due to strike action. Nevertheless, the doctors are retaining public support in their struggle.
Other sections of health workers are also in action to defend themselves and safeguard the future of the health service. In particular, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that it is ready to launch a fresh battle over pay and working conditions, having been unable, narrowly, to meet the 50% legal threshold in a ballot last June. The RCN has warned that the government's latest 5% pay offer for the sector is "increasingly inadequate", and has called on its half a million members to demand an above-inflation pay rise for nurses, along with commitments over safe staffing levels. 
After striking for four days in April last year, the government's stance has hardened to one of declaring its offer "final".
Health workers have been coordinating their actions. Junior and senior doctors struck together for the first time in NHS history in September 23. At the same time, the government has enacted its new anti-strike legislation and has been considering imposing Minimum Service Levels that would require some doctors and nurses to work during strikes.
Nevertheless, to achieve some movement from the government, which had previously declared its outright refusal to move at all, is testament to the determination and persistence of the doctors, who know that, to safeguard the future of the health service, their pay and conditions must be in line with their dedication, commitment and work. They are determined that Enough is Enough! and that they must make their claims on society as doctors and for the sake of the health service.
In the court of public opinion, the doctors are undoubtedly winning . A fully-funded NHS providing care at the highest level that society can provide to all as of right is the will of the working class and people when they speak in their own name.
As Workers' Weekly wrote in September , the government has forced the issue of who decides. The struggle reveals that the solutions to the problems in the NHS lie with the health workers themselves. The fight they are taking up is as much to do with ending their marginalisation as it is immediately about pay, beginning with speaking out, smashing the silence on their working conditions - which are also the conditions of patients' care - and refusing to be ignored. They are aiming at a new situation where decision-making involves doctors, nurses and all health workers, along with communities and people as a whole, speaking and acting in their own name and as one, without the mechanisms of disempowerment blocking their direct decisions from being realised.
1. "Junior doctors in England announce new strike dates after Government fails to make credible offer to end the dispute", BMA press release, December 5, 2023
https://www.bma.org.uk/bma-media-centre/junior-doctors-in-england-announce-new-strike-dates-after-government-fails-to-make-credible-offer-to-end-the-dispute#:~:text=The strikes dates in England,on the 9th January 2024
2. "NHS nurses could strike again in the new year", Michael Savage, The Observer, December 3, 2023
"Nurses union is ready to strike again over pay in 2024, leader warns", Poppy Wood, inews, December 28, 2023
3. "Striking junior doctors in England say they still have public support", Denis Campbell, The Guardian, 20 December 20, 2023
4. "Consultants and Junior Doctors Hold Joint Strike Action", Workers' Weekly, September 23, 2023
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