The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 2nd July, 1999

Editorial - Turkey on trial. & Good times.
Lead Story - Peace process on the edge.
Feature - London workers priced out of housing market.
International - Bloodbath if Ocalan dies.
British News - PFI passport fiasco.


Turkey on trial

PROTESTS will mushroom throughout the world if the reactionary Turkish state continues to insist upon carrying out the execution of Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).

 And the demonstrations of opposition will not be confined to Kurdish exiles and PKK supporters. Many others will also be there to expose and condemn the hypocrisy of a Nato member state threatening to execute the leader of a people it has itself oppressed.

 It is breath-taking hypocrisy since Nato is currently pretending to be the upholder of "humanitarian" causes and a "defender" of the Kosovan Albanians in particular.

 Nato exposes itself by its double standards. Turkey, because it is of strategic importance to the Nato alliance, is indulged and allowed to continue oppressing the Kurdish population. Turkey does not even recognise the Kurds as a people -- it refers to them as "mountain Turks" and denies them their own language and culture.

 Now Ocalan is being treated as a common criminal. He is accused of being responsible for all the deaths that have occurred in the struggle between the Kurds and the Turkish state -- including the many thousands of Kurds killed by Turkish forces.

 We give our support to the protests and add our voices to those demanding that the death sentence on Abdullah Ocalan be lifted. We also call for Ocalan to be given the status of a political prisoner and afforded humane conditions.

 Above all the Turkish state needs to recognise that progress can only be made by engaging in talks with the PKK to seek a just resolution of the problems -- talks which Ocalan has already offered to take part in. Continued oppression will not stop Kurdish resistance and it can only harm the whole of Turkey both nationally and internationally.

Good times

LONDON and the South East of England is experiencing a boom in house prices which is being interpreted by bourgeoise economic pundits as a sign of growing prosperity and a return to "good times".

 This may well be the case if you are rich enough to be able to afford the high-priced properties and it's even better news if you have the money to exploit the situation by buying up premises for renting to others.

 This so-called "good time" is a very bad time for the majority of people, especially young people, who are being driven out of places they grew up in because of the sky-high prices and forced into the hands of private landlords.

 The boom is causing new housing estates to be built across southern England on formerly green sites while in inner city areas in the Midlands, the North and some parts of London, housing blight and decay has set in.

 This is all part of the madness of capitalism which is driven along by the chase for profits. Meanwhile the need for rational planning is brushed aside and the needs of people are ignored.

 And the "good times", which are briefly back for some, are worsening by the day for everyone else.

 Spectacular job losses have been announced in recent weeks. This has not shown up in the official figures because the service sector is still able to absorb many of the redundant workers.

 But the new jobs are not the same as the old jobs. The unemployment register only counts the number of people signing on. It doesn't reveal the low wages of newly found jobs, nor if they have comparable hours and working conditions.

 Manufacturing industry continues to decline. Apprenticeships are as rare as snow in July and job security Is a thing of the past.

 Besides, it is ridiculous to think that economic prosperity has arrived because a relatively small number of well-heeled, trendy go-getters are gentrifying Notting Hill and Islington and some better-off couples are looking to join the green-wellie set on the South Downs.

 To see the truth we need to look at the devastated industries of the North East, the high unemployment figures in Liverpool, Bradford and Manchester. We need to ask why it is that the "good times" have not brought a boom in wages or any let-up in the long working hours most people suffer in order to meet the exorbitant housing costs created by the "good times".

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Lead Story

Peace process on the edge

by Steve Lawton

THROUGHOUT the last five years of painstaking progress in the Irish peace process, from the first IRA ceasefire to the Good Friday Agreement, nothing was guaranteed from one day to the next.It turned out to be a major leap forward quietly created by the Hume-Adams initiative.

 Frequently, advances have been a matter of grinding through intractable issues and then clawing back from setbacks. Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlem said, as we went to press, that progress amounted to three steps forward and two steps back.

 One of those backward steps was Unionist intransigence creating the decommissioning tactical block. That Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) demand, that the IRA hand over its weapons before Sinn Fein becomes part of the Northern Ireland Executive, conveniently ignores Loyalist terror which has risen of late.

 And decommissioning was not, in any case, envisaged as a precondition for the Assembly.

 The other step back was the British government acquiescence in that Unionist intransigence. It created periods of inertia and indecision that allowed Loyalist and Orange Order reaction to fester.

 Hence, the Garvaghy Road impasse, among others. Such is the defence by its residents and the international profile of this situation, that the Orange Order march has been banned from Garvaghy Road.

 The peace process has created an expectation that, sooner rather than later, both Protestants and Catholics, Unionists and Nationalists, Loyalists and Republicans can begin to find common ground in their everyday lives.

 But this would only be achieved through a concerted effort to develop a balance of political, legal and social representation between all the people of the north. At the same time, structures would be put in place to begin to draw north and south tentatively together on key issues.

 Republican campaigning is having lasting effects, gathering community and electoral strength in the north and making headway in the south. From this understanding comes the demand for changes at street level, and that institutions listen and act upon it.

 The European and US pressures, again with President Clinton making a positive intervention, have been powerful in support of the process. Not only has the profile of injustices to Catholics and Nationalists been given a growing international profile, but moves have been underway to address the sharp economic disparities reinforcing the divided communities.

 Loyalist terror, RUC collusion, Unionist stalling, Orange Order threats and disregard for Catholic religious culture will, if not stopped, scupper all advances.

 Commissions and institutions cannot function meaningfully in that context. If there is no British demilitarisation, no normalisation of life a ssociated with civic, social and economic life in peace, no control of Loyalist paramilitary terror, no proper redress of injustices and human rights abuses, no decent jobs and housing all round, and no reconstructed RUC, then the process will reverse.

The Republican movementand Sinn Fein have long adopted strategies which will ensure that the struggle for the long term objective of a united Ireland remains in sight. It fortifies the present level of campaigning, as the next generation takes its place in this phase of the struggle.

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London workers priced out of housing market

by Caroline Colebrook

THE RECENT boom in property prices in London -- coupled with a chronic shortage of affordable rented homes -- is pricing many essential workers out of london.

 This is threatening a breakdown of many vital services: health, education, transport and so on, according to a report published last week by the London Housing Federation.

 There are vast swathes of the capital where, nurses, teachers, rail workers, shop staffand postal workers cannot afford to buy or rent.

 The average weekly rent for a two-bedroom London flat is £274, an increase of 53 per cent since 1991.

 And the average price of a home for first time buyers is between £97,000 and £126,000 for a terraced house. This gives a monthly mortgage repayment of between £524 to over £700.

 Speaking for the federation, Sue Ellenby said: "London can't work without key workes like nurses, teaches, Tube drivers, postmen and shop staff.

 "Many of them are struggling to live on salaries which would seem comfortable anywhere else in the country.

 "This is a problem unique to London, where social housing is in great demand. Thousands of Londoners are forced to live in inadequate accommodation or travel long distances to get to work which costs money and time."

 The top salary for a nurse is £l8,500 after five year's experience and mortgage lenders will not normally lend a home-buyer more than three times their annual salary.

 London councils have a total of 178,000 families waiting for council homes. There are many, many more in temporary accommodation.

 In the past 18 years, London has lost thousands of council homes through the Tory right to buy policy and the selling off of estates.

 During that time there has been a 60 percent drop in government funding towards council housing from £643 million to £253 million.

 The number of new homes being built has also slowed from 34,000 in 1979 to 12,000 in 1996. The Tories blocked all council house construction, leaving only housing associations able to raise funds on the financial markets to put up social housing.

 The London Housing Federation has called for more funding for social housing.

 It has also called fora Londonwide planning authority for housing under the new Greater London Authority and mayor.

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Bloodbath if Ocalan dies

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent

KURDISH GUERRILLA leader Abdullah Ocalan was condemned to death on Tuesday by a Turkish court on charges of treason and rebellion. Ocalan was tried in the prison island of Imrali where he's been held since he was seized by Turkish agents in Kenya last February. He responded calmly to the verdict. "I do not accept this charge of treason," he told the judges before the sentence was read out. "I believe I have struggled for the unity of this land and for a free life."

 The verdict was a foregone conclusion as was the sentence. It was greeted with jubilation by Turkish fascists who've been baying for blood from the day Ocalan was taken. But across Europe the Kurdish community was out on the streets in protest.

 In London hundreds of Kurds and their supporters brought the centre of the capital to a stand-still when they staged a sit-in in the middle of Oxford Circus. Similar protests took place in Moscow, Paris, Athens, and Nicosia.

 But in Germany, the home for over half a million Kurdish immigrants, the protests took a more violent turn with fire-bomb attacks on Turkish restaurants and travel agencies. In Berlin three masked men tossed Molotov cocktails into a bar in a Turkish restaurant and Turkish offices were attacked in Munchengladbach, Bremen and Stuttgart.

 Ocalan had no doubt about the outcome of his trial and he warned the Turks that his death would lead to a bloodbath. In an interview with the Rome daily La Republica last week conducted through his lawyers he said: "If capital punishment is inflicted there will be negative consequences, a lot of blood will flow and the blood could lead to a military coup d'etat."

 "Everyone must be aware that the PKK is not just me, but a large political organisation," Ocalan said. "The struggle will will not end with me. If they think the problems will end with me, they are making a big mistake...I am already 50, so I am not so far from death...if I knew that my death had some meaning for peace I would kill myself."

 In court the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) appeared drugged and confused. He said that if his life was spared and greater cultural freedom granted to his people he would call on the guerrillas to lay down their arms. But he also warned that if he was hanged the conflict would intensify and thousands of guerrillas would take their revenge.

 European governments are calling on Turkey to show clemency, fearful of the violent backlash from Europe's Kurdish community that would follow Ocalan's death. The European Commission has called for the sentence to be commuted and the Council of Europe, which Turkey is a member, urged Ankara not to spoil what it called its "good record" by executing the Kurdish leader.

 Whether these appeals are heeded remains to be seen. The death sentence is mandatory for treason in Turkey. The case now goes automatically to a higher court for review. If the sentence is upheld the death penalty then must be approved by the Turkish parliament and the president of the republic. Ocalan's lawyers are going to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights whose jurisdiction has been accepted by the Turks.

 No-one has been executed in Turkey since 1984 and many Turkish judges are opposed to capital punishment. Even the presiding judge at the Ocalan trial expressed his doubts when the court closed. "In general I'm opposed to carrying out the death penalty," he told reporters before they left the court-room.

 Turkish President Suleyman Demirel has also said that if the case does go before the European Court of Human Rights and it ruled against the death sentence, Turkey would abide by its decision.

 Western observers claim the "trial" was conducted fairly though some quibble about the manner of the proceedings and the threats and harassment of Ocalan's defence team.

 Natural justice demands that Ocalan is recognised as a guerrilla leader and given political prisoner status. The status of guerrilla leader is recognised in practice by the Nato powers when it suits them as can be seen by the way they treat with the leaders of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" rebels in what is still legally a province of Yugoslavia.

 Ultimately Ocalan's life will depend on legal appeals and mass protests in Turkey and throughout the world. The appeals process could take months. The protests have only just begun.

  Turkey's leading human rights activist Akin Birdal has been forced to resign from the Turkish Human Rights Association (MD) following his conviction on charges of sedition. Under Turkish law no-one can be a member of any association if convicted of sedition.

 Birdal, who headed the MD since 1992, was convicted of "openly inciting public enmity and hatred by pointing out racial and social differences" and jailed for two years. Two separate one year sentences were handed down for speeches made in 1995 and 1996 in which he called for talks to resolve the Kurdish conflict.

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