The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 10th August 2001

Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.

Editorial - Soft soap.
Lead Story - Historic IRA arms move.
Feature - Rail guards' C2C strike digs in.
International - Palestinian resistance hits Israeli defence ministry.
British News - Manufacturing recession now official.
More news and Diary


Soft soap

BRITISH manufacturing is in recession, and that's now 'official'. But we are still having the wool pulled over our eyes by pro-capitalist economists, media hacks and politicians in an effort to gloss over the fundamental truth -- that we are not just entering a temporary recession but are heading into the stormy waters of a deepening capitalist crisis that is afflicting every continent on earth.

 And so we are jellied along with charts and figures trying to kid us that things are not really bad because the recession is only in the manufacturing sector which makes up just 17 per cent of the economy these days. Therefore, they say, around 70 per cent of the economy is in the service sector which is not being hit.

 What a nonsense argument this is. Not only is manufacturing industry at the very heart of the economy as a creator of wealth but it is impossible to isolate one part of the economy from the other sectors. The different parts of the economy do not exist in separate compartments.

 It is obvious that the closure or scaling-down of manufacturing plants will have a huge impact on the economy as a whole and that job losses in manufacturing will have a knock-on effect on jobs in the service

 We have seen this all before. Workers that are "shaken out" of manufacturing jobs, whether they take early retirement, join the dole queue or find less well paid jobs elsewhere, are all worse off. Thousands go from earning a full-time wage to the income provided by pensions, benefits and the low wages of jobs these workers would not have chosen otherwise.

 Inevitably these changes affect local shopkeepers, they affect local councils who lose business rates from plants that shut down, colleges lose courses in engineering and other industly-related studies, subsidiary industries that supplied parts and services to the big plant are often put out of business and a whole downward spiral gets underway.

 On top of all that the recession, wherever it begins, helps to drive wages down across the board. Those still in work are threatened by the clouds of unemployment around them and made to feel vulnerable to pressure from the boss and those looking for work find themselves in a take-it-or-leave-it climate. Eventually the government uses the benefits system to force people into accepting low paid work.

 We are also told other lies such as the myth that the wise management of the govemment will head-off the worst effects of recession. They pretend that making cuts in interest rates will rescue manufacturing and keep confidence high both at home and abroad.

 But the trouble is every country does the same thing once the troubles begin and the supposed help this is supposed to give to the pound is very short-lived. And we can already see that one effect of lowering interest rates is to push up house prices in many places to such a degree that public sector workers like nurses can't afford to rent or buy a home at all. Many are driven out of their jobs or are forced to travel long distances to work every day.

 Of course the government is not offering to significantly increase public sector wages to meet these rising costs nor is it pledging to restore affordable, council-owned housing as a national policy.

 We can be sure that worsening problems will only bring forth a further lie -- that the recession is just one of those things that happens from time to time, like bad weather and influenza. And like an epidemic of flu, it will be said to come from somewhere else in the world and that nothing can be done about it.

 Yet capitalism and its recurring slumps and intractable problems are created by human beings not supernatural forces. It is inflicted on the majority of the world's people for the sole purpose of enabling a minority of rich capitalists to live lives of luxury and idleness. It is driven by its own economic forces which make it unresponsive to reason and control.

 The immediate need is for the working class to unite in the trade unions and fight together to defend wages, conditions and jobs. The unity of workers is itself a force for change and a necessity in these times.

 At the same time we need to carry on the fight for socialism which is the only system that can bring these horrors to an end and provide stability, peace and prosperity for everyone.

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Lead Story

Historic IRA arms move

by Steve Lawton

CANADIAN General John de Chastelain, chairman of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), was satisfied last Monday that the Irish Republican Army will "put IRA arms completely and verifiably beyond use."

 "This is a hugely historical breakthrough", Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said; while SDLP leader John Hume cautiously welcomed the commission statement: "We look forward to IICD reports of further significant developments and want to see all armed groups make real progress..."

 Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble, while admitting the position was "significant", remained insistent that the IRA must declare immediately (ie, as we go to press) that they will begin actual destruction of weapons immediately.

 David Trimble called the move nothing more than "preparatory procedural steps". The UUP council met and decided it would not respond until the IRA acted. At the same time hardline Trimble rival Geoffrey Donaldson said it was a "delaying tactic" and that the IRA must now "move quickly" to show they mean it.

 But Sim Ftin chief negotiator Martin McGuiness rounded on the UUP leader for "hindering" and "minimising and diluting the potential" of the Good Friday Agreement.

 He said David Trimble had made a "grievous error of judgement" and that this was, of all his errors over the last three years, the "greatest mistake of all".

 While Gerry Adams pointed out that the IRA doesn't lightly make its decisions. He said there was "very firm proof of the IRA's ability and commitment to keeping its promises. When, how and all the other technical questions should be left to the IICD to sort out."

 The IICD statement came just prior to the deadline set by British-Irish 'The Way Forward' proposals, borne of Weston Park talks in which parties to the Good Friday Agreement met to head off the looming collapse of the northern Ireland Assembly.

 After decades of republican resistance to British occupying forces, it is clear how deeply the fears must run behind the public theatre unionists have made, in a one-sided way, of the IRA weapons factor.

 Since the IRA first declared a ceasefire, its very cautious approach to the issue of arms has been one of the most significant political stages in its difficult transition away from a war footing. Now, it is formally declaring that the silence becomes the non-existence of its guns -- a major psychological leap.

 The IRA's position, Gerry Adams said, should be supported "especially so when viewed against the backdrop of loyalist killings, the almost daily attacks on Catholics, with the unionist leaderships working to undermine the Good Friday Agreement and a British Government which has broken past commitments."

 Sinn Fein north Belfast councillor Margaret McClenaghan spoke of the recent local loyalist violence: "Six car loads of loyalists, shouting UFF [Ulster Freedom Fighter] and anti-Catholic slogans, attacked houses on the Crumlin Road with bricks and paint bombs... homes were seriously damaged and a number of people have had to be taken to hospital."

 She said "time has long since past when unionists and loyalists can pretend that north Belfast, and indeed the whole of the north of Ireland, is not being held to ransom by this orchestrated anti-Catholic pogrom."

 The IRA has demonstrated a ceasefire normality after four years. Even the Financial Times (8.7.01) editorial acknowledged that the IRA "remains disciplined" and "has broadly done what it said it would do."

 It said "unionists must therefore put aside any doubts, accept General de Chastelain's judgement and re-engage constructively with the agenda set out in... the statement by the British and Irish Governments."

 The IRA is committing itself in the context of the Good Friday Agreement. Gerry Adams said last Monday that Sinn Fein now looked to a positive UUP response on this and other matters, not least the illegal ban preventing Sinn Fein from taking up cross-border ministerial duties.

 If by Sunday a new first and deputy minister have not been elected -- the six week interim from David Trimbble's resignation as First Minister on July 1 having expired -- the British Government must then consider suspension of the institutions or call new elections.

 Essential to the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, republicans and nationalists argue, is the restructuring ofthe RUC into a cross-community accepted policing service; British troop withdrawal and demilitarisation; stabilising the half-functioning political institutions; giving real bite to various rights commissions; producing a Bill of Rights and setting out a new criminaljustice system; and halting sectarian attacks.

 How these issues are addressed defines the changes in the role of the IRA, and not through a singular tactical insistence on decommissioning.

 Whether the British Government gets back to Good Friday Agreement basics in the light of the IRA's position, remains to be seen. Yet it is now clear that unionist opposition to this IRA move must mean anti-Agreement opposition to the entire process.

 The Anglo-Irish proposals suggest the British and Irish Governments want to proceed more forthrightly. If so, unionism will have to be more decisively lent on if they fail to grasp this especially tantalising prospect of renewed confidence.

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Rail guards' C2C strike digs in

by Trevor Southchurch

GUARDS on the C2C Shoeburyness-Fenchurch Street mainline continue to wage a determined battle with rail bosses over cuts and attacks on safety as the company prepares to introduce driver only trains.

 Last Wednesday and Thursday Rail, Marine and Transport union (RMT) members turned earlier 24-hour actions into the first 48-hour response to the latest failed talks. Derrick Marr, RMT officer, said: "We've got a lot of public support, but we're a long way off any agreement."

 RMT leader Bob Crow, just prior to the two-day strike, slammed C2C management for seeking to undermine safety still further with plans to cover the guards' absence: "This is a despicable way of addressing this dispute." He said they were "flagrantly flying in the face of safety by bringing in untrained managers with no proper route knowledge to carry out a key safety role."

 Management insisted that passengers (note, not customers this time) were not at risk because managers trained as guards were not yet being brought in. The official made it obvious what it was about: "We are trying to pre-empt the possibility of another strike."

 Strike breaking as it is otherwise known as, not safety, is clearly uppermost in their minds. Millions of pounds are believed to have already been spent in this preparation work.

 This provocation, among other dubious tactics that question the conduct of RMT negotiators and what was and was not agreed to, has simply escalated the dispute. At the end of July, the usual scare tactics were employed by C2C, by sending letters to warn strikers that they are jeopardising their future.

 The company alleges that RMT's decline in union membership is the real reason for these actions. The day after the 18 July strike, C2C attacked RMT in more forthright terms as possessing a "1970s militant trade union dinosaur mentality"


 But the real dinosaurs are to be found in charge of the near clapped out slam-door 50-year old trains which are still in service, despite the long overdue new rolling stock only now, at Iast, coming onto the tracks.

 These have been full of technical faults for the last few years. The profit (and often incompetent) dinosaurs are actually impeding the advance of new, safe transport systems when they fail to plan for changes in safety and employment. Such is capitalism.

 The trend to reducing rail staff in favour of supposedly cost-effective technological methods -- by reducing ticket collectors and station staff generally -- has contributed to putting commuters and remaining staff at risk from personal attack. Proof of that was the eventual introduction of a private security firm on the C2C line, as with other lines.

 At Barking station, for instance, there were regular boasts on billboards of how they had reduced crime for the benefit of commuters -- crime that had risen with the reduction in rail staff. The guards issue is directly related to the overall rundown, greater risk, stress and death that the industry -- and people who use it -- suffer.

 The Southend Rail Travellers' Association is now lobbying C2C to resolve the dispute. Derrick Marr said: "The company is infamous for taking people on temporary contracts. There is no trust in the management at all. Everyone is in agreement that it is a lot safer with a guard than without."

  First Great Eastern, also serving Essex, running from Liverpool Street to Southend Victoria, has just been named as one of the worst in the country for overcrowding, reflecting a London-wide trend.

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Palestinian resistance hits Israeli defence ministry

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent

A PALESTINIAN guerrilla opened fire on Israeli soldiers outside the Israeli Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv last Sunday in a daring drive-by attack in the heart of the Zionist entity.

 Ten Israeli troops were injured and one settler killed outside the ministry complex. One Palestinian fighter was fatally wounded in the exchange of fire but his comrade escaped.

 Fighting is continuing throughout the occupied territories with Israeli death squads trying to murder leaders of Yasser Arafat's Fateh movement and the Islamic resistance.

 On Monday Israel troops shelled several Arab towns and Palestinian teenagers responded by ambushing an Israeli military vehicles in the West Bank. In Jordan an Israeli businessman was shot dead by the Islamic resistance - accused of being an agent of the Israeeli intelligence service Mossad. And an Israeli settler was killed and several others wounded in other clashes during a week of spiralling violence.

 Israeli Premier General Sharon is in Turkey holding talks with his only ally in the region. But the Turks have little or no influence on the Arabs and in any case they are little more than American pawns.

 Efforts to restore the so-called Mitchell plan cease-fire have ground to a halt. The Sharon government has rejected European Union initiatives and it says it will never accept international observers -- currently the major demand of the Arafat leadership.

Israeli Labour party leaders, junior members in Sharon's coalition, seem more favourable to some sort of international presence, preferably an extension of the existing CIA monitors who operate inside the "autonomous" Palestinian zones. But Sharon's hard-line Likud bloc, which relies on fanatical Arab-hating settler support is dead set against any formal international observer force in the occupied territories. They claim this is because it would be ineffectual and biased against them. The real reason is that any force sanctioned by the United Nations could not recognise the illegal Zionist annexation of Arab Jerusalem and its environs and therefore would have the right to "observe" in areas the Zionists think they've seized forever.

 The Palestinian Authority has warned that Tel Aviv's current stand poses grave dangers to the region and the Chairman of the Political Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, stressed this week that the intifada will not stop, regardless of pressure and that the Palestinian people are ready to continue the fight for years to come.

 Sharon clearly hopes he can out-gun the resistance with his killer commandos and cow the Palestinian people with tanks and helicopter gunships. The Palestinians are determined to prove him wrong. Nearly 600 Arabs have been killed since the uprising began ten months ago. The resistance has killed around 130 Israelis during the same period.

  Ower 10,000 Israeli peace campaigners gathered near the Israeli Defence Ministry in Tel Aviv Saturday night demanding the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.

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British News

Manufacturing recession now official

by Daphne Liddle

TRADE union and business leaders last week called for Government help to Britain's failing manufacturing sector after official figures revealed that industry is now definitely in recession.

 The figures from the Office for National Statistics show that although manufacturing output rose by 0.3 per cent in June, it had fallen by two per cent over the second quarter of the year. This is the biggest drop for over a decade.

 Manufacturing output fell by 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of this year and it is the two consecutive quarters of negative growth that confirm a recession.

 There have also been indications that the economic slowdown is even hitting the service sector, which the Government has counted on to offset bad news from manufacturing industry.

 The purchasing managers' survey of service sector companies shows that overall activity had fallen to a two-year low in July. Most economists had expected it to rise.

 The growing down turn is already affecting jobs. The Confederation of British Industry has estimated that some 29,000 industrial jobs are likely to be lost. But it seems these figures are modest compared to other estimates.

 A CBI survey shows that companies in the south-east of England are gloomiest about future prospects with new technology industries likely to be hardest hit.

 In America, dotcom companies have made around 125,000 redundant and economists estimate that some 50 per cent of British jobs in this sector could go.

 Over 100,000 manufacturing jobs have already been cut since the start of the year and that another 250,000 are at risk.

 The TUC has called for a £1 billion rescue package for manufacturing, warning that other parts of the economy will soon be affected.

 Peter Booth, national manufacturing sector organiser for the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "Government must encourage investment by improving capital allowances and corporate Britain must concentrate less on its own pay and more on making long term investment decisions.

 "Today's dismal figures show the clear need for a rethink and a step change. Over the last three years the TGWU has consistently called for lower interest rates.

 "Whilst recent cuts have been very welcome they are just not enough. We must now see action to boost investment to tackle productivity.

 "The Government should take action to improve capital allowances for all new machinery, equipment and research and development.

 "They should introduce emergency legislation on information and consultation to give British workers the same rights as their European counterparts and remove the stigma of British workers being cheap, quick and easy to sack when companies are considering closure or rationalisation."

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