National News

Snoopers’ charter passed on the quiet

THERESA May’s government last week enacted a Bill that gives Britain’s intelligence agencies and police the most sweeping surveillance powers in the western world, with hardly a protest because media attention has been diverted elsewhere.

The Investigatory Powers Act, passed on Thursday 17th November, legalises a whole range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services unmatched by any other country in western Europe or even the United States.

Police and intelligence agencies expected some opposition but none arose and the Government was not pressured into making any concessions.

The US whistle-blower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”

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Ukrainians speak at Marx House

by New Worker correspondent

TWO YOUNG Ukrainians, one a journalist and the other a lawyer who acted as interpreter, addressed a packed meeting in the Marx Memorial Library last Friday evening on living conditions in Ukraine today.

They reported that the economy is in a state of chaos, with soaring prices and rents that exceed the total income of pensioners. Levels of poverty and absolute destitution are rising fast

The current government that was brought to power by an illegal coup in February 2014 is tied to the neo-liberal policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

They described its policies as “social genocide”. “All the reforms that have been conducted in Ukraine during recent years were aimed exclusively at the liquidation of the socialist gains and the restoration of capitalism,” the journalist said.

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ID to be required for NHS care?

PEOPLE throughout Britain requiring hospital treatment and other NHS services may in future be required to show that they are British citizens and entitled to free treatment.

Some NHS trusts are already screening patients to prevent what the Government calls abuse of the NHS by coming to Britain to seek free medical treatment. Visitors to this country are entitled to free treatment in an emergency.

Patients may have to show two forms of identification — one with a picture of themselves, usually a passport or driving licence, and an official document or bill that would confirm their home address.

Health Minister Chris Wormald told a Commons committee that it was a controversial move but already happened in some NHS trusts. The NHS has “a lot further to go” in reclaiming money for treating foreign visitors, he said.

Committee chairperson Meg Hillier raised concerns that some British residents might not have passports or other identification.

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Stop the tax dodgers

REBECCA Long-Bailey, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, last week joined unions in calling on the Government to close an aggressive tax avoidance scheme used by temporary recruitment agencies that is costing the Treasury hundreds of millions of pounds every year.

Research by Guardian journalists revealed that these agencies use contrived financial arrangements to cut national insurance bills for employers who use their services.

The scheme exploits VAT rules designed to help very small businesses. Guardian undercover footage shows Patrick Griffin of Premier Payco, a provider of the schemes, outlining how workers’ contracts are transferred from a single employment agency into a web of thousands of tiny companies, to benefit from an accumulation of small tax breaks, and how each of the companies is ostensibly run by overseas directors.

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Scottish Political News

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

Rail News

SOMETIMES the more febrile critics of the Scottish National Party (SNP) make overblown claims that the SNP is fascist. Clear evidence that, despite all the bigotry from their supporters, they are not fascist in the strictest sense of the word can be seen from the striking fact that the SNP government does not emulate Mussolini and make Scottish trains run on time.

The man responsible is Transport Minister Humza Yousaf, who claimed “not to be a transport expert.” He has a brilliant strategy for resolving the crisis resulting from the SNP Government’s decision to award the ScotRail contract to the Dutch company Abellio — he plans to start “monitoring the situation closely” and expects “improvements to happen and happen immediately.”

Yousaf has even been forced to raise the vague possibility of taking the railways back into public ownership, a policy that the SNP raised before the 2014 Referendum. Just weeks after their defeat they handed the £7 billion contract to the Dutch State railway company. Even the Dutch thought they were cowboys — Abellio lost the bus and rail contract for Limburg for carrying out industrial espionage against a rival bidder. Nevertheless, they were deemed deserving by the SNP.

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Doleful News

by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

SINCE 1934 the SNP has been whining that Scotland has been unfairly dominated by the English. The establishment of the Scottish Parliament has done nothing to stop their bleating. One would have thought, therefore, that they would welcome with open arms plans for a transfer of control over a £2.7 billion budget from London to Edinburgh.

But no. Nicola Sturgeon has recently declined to take responsibility for the delivery of 11 benefits that were supposed to be transferred next year. Instead she has demanded that the Tory Government delays the handover of these powers until 2020 so that the very same Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that is routinely denounced as tight-fisted and heartless will carry on as normal.

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by our Scottish political affairs correspondent

THE SNP MSP for Midlothian, Colin Beattie, earned his 15 minutes of fame by winning the hard fought prize for putting down the most trivial and ill-informed motion in the Scottish Parliament.

It read in full: “The Parliament notes with concern Mondelez International’s recent decision to widen the gaps between the segments of the iconic Swiss chocolate bar, Toblerone, in the UK; understands that this was made in order to allay rising costs for numerous ingredients; believes that this is emblematic of the devastating consequences that Brexit could bring; offers its condolences to those mourning this change to the bar; calls on the UK Government to take speedy action to rectify the change, but wishes the company the best possible success with the lighter bar.”

Everybody but Beattie knows that it is a regular rip-off for manufacturers to reduce the weight of their products to avoid putting up the prices and has nothing whatsoever to do with Brexit. One hopes that the SNP Chief Whip will discipline him for attacking SNP health policies on reducing the consumption of sugar.

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Don’t cut disabled benefits again!

by New Worker correspondent

SCORES of members and supporters of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) braved the dark, cold, wind and teeming rain last Wednesday evening to gather on Old Palace Yard — just across the road from the Houses of Parliament — to call on MPs to drop plans for further drastic cuts to disability benefits.

The next day, 17th November, the House of Commons passed a cross-party motion to delay and review the proposed implementation of the ESA (employment support allowance) cut of £29-per-week to new claimants of the ESA Work Related Activity Group (WRAG).

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Teachers say invest, don’t cut

by New Worker correspondent

TEACHERS, pupils and parents braved severe wet weather on Thursday night, 17th November to deliver a message to the Government with a rally in Whitehall opposite Downing Street followed by a meeting in the nearby Emanuel Centre.

The message they delivered to the Government in the week before the Autumn Budget Statement is that: “Every child deserves the best,” and to invest in education instead of bringing in a new round of cuts.

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Sisters Uncut block Waterloo Bridge

by New Worker correspondent

WOMEN’S rights activists from Sisters Uncut last Saturday (19th November) closed Waterloo Bridge in both directions as part of a protest at the constant cutting of funding for women’s refuges from domestic violence.

The protest began with a rally in Trafalgar Square with a solemn reading of a very long list of women who have died in Britain in the last year from domestic violence

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International News

The rich get even richer


THE RICHEST 10 per cent control 89 per cent of the world’s wealth. Meanwhile, the top one per cent have more wealth than the poorest half of the world’s adults.

As global crises of climate change, forced migration and conflict continue to heat up, battering the planet’s most vulnerable, the age-old story remains true: the world’s rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer, and the trend is only expected to continue, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The Global Wealth Report 2016 from the Credit Suisse Research Institute finds that wealth inequality is on the rise, with the bottom poorest half of the world’s adults in control of less wealth than the top one per cent. Meanwhile, the richest 10 per cent of the world enjoyed a boost from the 2008 financial crisis and now own a whopping 89 per cent of all assets.

Vast wealth inequality is a familiar story but the levels of economic disparity in 2016 remain shocking.

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What people cannot understand about Aleppo


AT A TIME when the situation in Aleppo is again in the spotlight of global media, rebels continue to shell the western part of the city, killing civilians. Pierre le Corf, founder of an NGO [non-governmental organisation] called “We are super-heroes” that’s been working in Aleppo for the past nine months, told Sputnik France about the situation in the besieged city.

Many Western media outlets, including Agence France-Presse, have expressed concern over the resumption of the bombing of eastern Aleppo last week. Recently, United Nations (UN) Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that he fears a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Aleppo. “We are running out of time, we are running against time,” de Mistura said after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem.

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Russia quits the ‘International Criminal Court’


RUSSIA has decided to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC) because of the court’s “incompetence”. Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin notified United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon that Russia will no longer participate in the ICC. Later the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the court “did not justify hopes assigned to it,” and failed to act as a “truly independent authoritative body of international justice.”

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Syria and Donbas: two sections of a united front against imperialism

by Alexey Albu

The writer is a coordinator of the banned Ukrainian Marxist organization Union Borotba (Struggle), who participated in a recent international solidarity delegation to Syria. Albu is a former regional deputy of the Odessa region and survivor of the 2nd May, 2014, neo-Nazi massacre at the Odessa House of Trade Unions. He is currently living in political exile in Russia and the Lugansk People’s Republic.

THE MOVEMENT of people adhering to communist views around the world is vast — but the political spectrum within this movement is also vast. The construction of a new, more just society without war, destruction, poverty and exploitation is the dream of hundreds of millions of people around the world. However, views on how to build this new society are all very different.

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The meaning of the 2016 US Presidential Election

by the Editors of Marxism-Leninism Today (US)

TO-DATE, much of the liberal and Left commentary has focused on President-elect Donald Trump and the danger that his ascension to the White House portends.

Although that is a matter of great and serious concern, it should not overshadow the meaning of the election — what the election says about the two-party system and the mood of the electorate. Without a class analysis, without an understanding of what the vote expresses and a diagnosis of the condition of the institutions of succession, future results will be even more disappointing.

The Election

Donald Trump won the US presidential election by winning enough popular votes in several key US states to enable him to accumulate the most votes in the Electoral College, the peculiar US institution devised as a bulwark against too much direct democracy. Trump did not garner the votes of most citizens, most “eligible” voters or even most voters; that victory belonged to his opponent. Of course winning the Electoral College and not the popular vote is not an entirely uncommon outcome. Trump’s party — the Republican Party — kept its majority in both houses of Congress.

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In Soviet times there was no war against the people

DURING the times of the USSR, police patrols did not carry batons, handcuffs and pistols with them. In the USSR there was no such thing as riot police, nor were there any private security firms. There were no security guards in stores, schools or hospitals. There were no code locks and no entry phones on doors.

Entrance to the Moscow City Council was free for everyone and one did not have to have a pass. Yet property and their owners require security. In the modern world, entrepreneurs have to protect their children because they can be kidnapped for the purpose of ransom. In modern-day Russia, police officers wear flak jackets, batons, handcuffs and even machine guns.

In modern-day Russia, schools have become fortresses. The number of security guards in shopping malls can be larger than the number of shoppers. Yet, all these security measures do not guarantee security.

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