Editorial - Cold comfort & Oppression in Peru
Lead Story - More homes and jobs. Not Law 'n' Order.
Homelessness reveals government failure and capitalism's barbarity.
Feature - Peace process advances in Angola
International - South Korean workers continue campaign against anti-union laws
British News - Victory for Glacier workers
A GLANCE through the New Year newspapers shows two contrasting seasonal images -- features pages displaying the fashionable gear being worn this winter on the ski slopes of Klosters and Biarritz, and news pages reporting the political argy-bargy over how cold it has to be before extra cold weather payments can be paid to sections of those on low incomes. Campaigners have argued that the �8.50 cold weather payment, which is only paid to some income support claimants when the weather has been freezing for seven consecutive days, should take account of the effect of cold winds as well as air temperature. Well, of course it should. Even Tory politicians have not had the gall to disagree with the principle of the argument. But it's all a bit like trying to help an accident victim who is bleeding to death from a major wound and arguing about whether to apply a one inch sticking plaster or a slightly larger No one in a rich country like Britain should die from the cold, no one should have to choose between spending money on heating and buying nourishing food, no one should have to go to bed in the daytime in order to keep warm, no one should suffer ill health because it is winter again. We need to demand more than just the inclusion of a windchill factor in calculating extra payments for cold weather. For a start, the Tories' policy of levying VAT on domestic fuel should be done away with completely. Scrapping this appalling tax on such a vital commodity would help everyone, including those on income support who do not qualify for cold weather payments, those who fail by a slim margin to qualify for income support and the millions of low paid and part-time workers. The State Retirement Pension should be increased forthwith for all pensioners, without a means test. The planned cuts in lone parents' benefits should be reversed and all benefits and pensions should take into account the extra costs we all face in the winter months. And the money? This must come from increasing direct taxation at the top income level. The very wealthy minority have had tax handout after tax handout since the Tories came to power in 1979. This has to be ended and the trend reversed. After all this rich elite will spend more than �8.50 on their designer aid-goggles alone when they jet off for their winter holidays on the piste. *********************** Oppression in PeruCAPITALIST leaders around the world have condemned the takeover of the Japanese embassy in Peru's capital Lima on 17 December by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). These leaders, as we'd expect, describe what happened as an act of terrorism. In reality it is the Peruvian govemment led by Alberto Fujimori and the imperialists themselves who are: responsible for the present situation. The MRTA is one of several revolutionary organisations in Peru. The ruling regime all these organisations are struggling against is, for the mass of the peoples, one of oppression, grinding poverty and exploitation. Over half the population lives below the poverty line. Peru's acceptance of neoliberal policies has inevitably led it into the clutches of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the tranmational companies of the leading imperialist powers. The result is such high levels of unemployment that a Reuter report of last month estimated that 80 per cent of Peru's workforce was either jobless or under-employed. Millions of Peruvians have virtually no access to health care. Fujimori's support in the polls is falling and active opposition is growing. To protect the interests of the country's tiny wealthy elite the Fujimori govemment has used the military to suppress anti- government and revolutionary activity and there are, as a result, thousands of political prisoners in Peruvian jails. Ending the inhumane treatment of these prisoners has been the focus of the MRTA's demands. It is also a demand of the Peruvian Communist Party (Shining Path) who have campaigned for prisoners, including their own leader Abimael Guzman, to be treated humanely and accorded political status. These demands are just and should be supported by all progressive people throughout the world. Whatever happens at the Japanese embassy in Lima, the Fujimori regime will stand condemned. Those politicians who say that "terrorist" demands should never be given in to must not be allowed to use this as a pretext to deny basic rights and decent treatment to thousands of prisoners in Peru.
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More homes and jobs. Not Law 'n' Order
Homelessness reveals government failure and capitalism's barbarity.
LABOUR leader Tony Blair's interview on homelessness in last week's edition of The Big Issue was met with such a barrage of party political point scoring that the serious problem of tackling homelessness was virtually swept aside. Most newspaper articles about the interview concentrated on Tony Blair's agreement with the idea of "zero tolerance" policies -- an idea practised in New York for clamping down on all forms of crime in specific areas. This effectively diverted media discussion away from the problems facing homeless people and into the well-worn debate on law 'n order. Some newspaper articles were quite misleading. For instance The Guardian said, "He suggests beggars should be removed from the streets: 'You wouldn't say it's satisfactory to leave them where they are"': This gives the impression that Blair was advocating some form of police crackdown. But in fact the preceding sentence in the interview, which the paper did not quote, said: "It's important not to just take someone from one area and dump them in another, but to make sure the facilities are there so that people can be dealt with properly, given a roof over their heads". When asked by the interviewer what specific tkings a Labour government would do for homeless people he talked of Labour's proposals to provide work for 250,000 young people and he said Labour would "release the local authorities' capital receipts, that are tied up at present, on a phased basis so they can actually build homes for people". But he did not pledge a full return to council house building to provide new, affordable housing under local authority ownership and control, reversing the policy of the Tories. Nor did he say Labour would restore the right to claim unemployment benefit to 16 and l7year-olds, also scrapped by the Tories. These are demands the Labour leadetship must be pressed to adopt. Though Tony Blair did speak of Labour's plans to "rebuild the National Health Service", he did not give any clear indication of increasing the funding for Care in the Community and proper health care for those among the homeless who suffer from mental health problems. The Tories are patting themselves on the back for making more shelters available to homeless people at this time of severe weather. But this is not a solution -- the homeless need homes and jobs not temporary shelters and Victorian-style charity. Nordoes it conceal the Tories' dreadful record over the last 18 years during which time the gap between rich and poor has got wider and wider and their legislation to privatise housing and cut public spending has made the problem of homelessness worse. Above all it is the system of capitalism itself which creates extremes of wealth and poverty and a society which tolerates the sight of people trying to find shelter in the doorways of shops groaning with every luxury imaginable. The real answer to homelessness, poverty and unemployment is socialism and the building of a society which will have "zero tolerance" for the crime of capitalism and its exploitation of the many by the few.
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Peace process advances in Angola
by Yin Yongjian in Luanda
THE warring parties in Angola made great strides during 1996 in furthering the peace process in the war-plagued country. It was the second year for the implementation of the Lusaka Peace Accord. The achievements are seen mainly in the assembly of the militiamen of the former rebel National union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), the handover of their weapons and the formation of a new unified army. UNITA began to assemble its men on 20 November 1995, the firn anniversary of the signing of the Lusaka Peace Accord. By 26 November this year, UNITA soldiers, gathered In 15 assembly points set up across the country by the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM), reached 68,740; 5,740 more than the figure provided in the Lusaka agreement. UNITA has also assembled 3,130 of its 5,000 police force.
police withdrawalAt the same time, the Angolan government had assembled all its quick reaction policemen and withdrawn some of its troops to their barracks. The UNITA soldiers and policemen encamped in the assembly points have surrendered all of their light and heavy weapons, in addition to over 2,000 tons of ammunition, of which 1 ,500 tons has been destroyed. Meanwhile, over 660 UNITA soldiers under the age of 18 have been civilianised. More than 18,080 former UNITA rebels have been enrolled ill the unified Angolan army. Nine UNITA generals have arrived in the capital of Luanda to take the posts of deputy defence minister, deputy chief of the general staff of the armed forces and deputy chief of stafl` of the army respectively. Besides, a total of 539 prisoners of war have been released by the two warring factions, of which 369 are former UNITA rebels. Thc military obstacles to peace in Angola have been removed on the whole and the peace process in the southern African country will soon enter into the political stage, said Blondin Beye, the United Nations Special Envoy in Angola, at a meeting of the Angola Peace Joint Commission on 21 November. During the "political stage", the following political issues will be solved -- the position of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi in the govemrnent, the establishment of local governments, UNITA's admission into the parliament, and the formation of a new government of national unity. difficult solutionsObservers here believe that the solution of these political issues is as difficult as that of the military ones, and Savimbi's position in the new government will be a thorny one. The Angolan government once came up with a proposal that the UNITA chief be appointed the second vice-presidentof Angola, but UNITA rejected it. UNITA proposed that Savimbi be appointed Angola's opposition leader, which was rejected by the government. Negotiations are being held between the two sides on this critical issue, which observers believe, might have influence on the peace process in Angola. Although there are many difficulties on the way forward, the prospects of the peace process in Angola are rosy, observers say. Both Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi have expressed their will to solve the problems of Angola by political means instead of by war. They believe that most of the outstanding issues will be resolved before UNAVEM condudes its mission in February next year. The peace process in Angola seems irrevocable. Xinhua
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South Korean workers continue campaign against anti-union laws
by Steve Lawton
SOUTH Korean workers' have continued their strike action which began on 26 December against the introduction of new labour laws threatening security of employment. President Kim Young Sam used a secret session of the National Assembly on Boxing Day to pass the laws, but the growing response to this stealthy attack on workers has led to a crackdown on leaders of the general strike. President of the illegal Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) Kwon Young-Il, said that over 200,000 workers nationwide from the car, shipbuilding and public service sectors had taken action from Monday. As a result the government has begun a process of wholesale summonsing against trade union leaders. If union leaders defy the summonses they face arrest. By Tuesday evening hundreds of union leaders including Kwon Young-Il had been summonsed. And as we go to press, they were expected to be arrested. The head office of the 500,000 member KCTU was twice visited by police and fearing an imminent government raid to confiscate computers and documents, evasive action was taken. But union leaders and workers are not intimidated. Kwon Young-Il said: "The KCTU will maintain the struggle until the government makes an official commitment to reopen the parliamentary discussions involving the trade union representatives for a re-amendment of the labour law." Appealling for international trade union solidarity, Kwon Young-Il called upon the "international trade union movement" to investigate the new anti-worker, anti-union labour law." Unions, official and unofficial, are planning ahead for further action if the government does not back down. TUC general secretary John Monks wrote in protest to the south Korean Ambassador in London and called for a halt to the imminent arrests on Tuesday.
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Victory for Glacier workers
ALL 103 of the workers at the Glacier factory in Glasgow have been reinstated in their jobs with full continuity of employment they started back to work last Tuesday. They had been sacked by the company, which is part of the giant Turner and Newall motor parts firm, for refusing to accept a new wages and conditions package. Workers said the new working practices would be unsafe. The dispute was sparked when a young worker was advised by shop stewards not to comply with an order to do two jobs that were not safe. The workers occupied the factory for two months and were prepared to sit it out right through Christmas.
dealBut on Christmas Eve the management at last came to the negotiating table and a deal was hammered out that was acceptable to the workforce. Management had been trying to marginalise the AEEU trade union structure at the plant. The new package that management attempted to impose involved the workers being more "flexible" and productive, a reduction of absenteeism and a reduction in canteen costs. AEEU chief negotiator Danny Carrigan told the New Worker that some compromises had been made. A joint declaration was issued, accepting some flexibility and agreeing to Iook into the reasons for absenteeism and whether economies could be made in the canteen. "The workforce was reasonably satisfied with the deal," said Danny Canigan. "But the important thing is that there will be no more unilateral attempts to impose new wages and conditions. Everything will be subject to consultation and agreement with the workers. "This is a vindication of the stance taken by the workers." The factory occupation had won a lot of support both locally and nationwide. Last month a 3,000 strong demonstration marched through Glasgow in support of the workers which included many trades union banners. Messages of support came from Labour MP Tony Benn, from miners' leader Arthur Scargill and from Ken Cameron, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union. [New Communist Party home page]