The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 10th September 2004

NCPB members at the Burston rally

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Shadow boxing between Blair and Brown

by Daphne Liddle

Tony Blair last Tuesday promised to announce a Cabinet reshuffle this weekend and the media have been full of speculation over the outcome.

 Most political correspondents are portraying this as an intensifying battle between the pro-Blair and pro-brown factions within New Labour.

 But the search for significant policy differences between any of them is very dry. It is all down to personalities and who is friends with whom.

 Andrew Smith, said to be a Brownite, anticipated the reshuffle by resigning his post at the Department of Work and Pensions on Monday, denying Blair the chance to sack him.

 He could also be motivated by the looming crises in that department, from which no leader stands much chance of emerging with credit.

 First there is a huge gap in the funds to provide pensions; private and occupational pensions have been collapsing and the state means-tested tax credit top-ups are horrendously expensive to administer.

 The obvious solution is to raise the basic state pension significantly but both Blair and Brown are firmly opposed to this, insisting that risky private pensions must take over as state pensions dwindle.

The only other option is to raise the pension age but this will be very, very unpopular.
The Tories and Liberal Democrats know this and are taking advantage by promising to raise the basic pension rate and even restore the link with earnings.

 This is an easy promise for parties unlikely to be in power but in case any voters are fooled, both say they intend to fund this through further massive privatisations.

 The DWP is also facing a huge battle with its own workforce over job cuts and pay, which has been building throughout the year.

 And the next Secretary for Work and Pensions will be expected to try to cut incapacity benefit spending by forcing the chronically ill and disabled into work. This has been tried many times. It does not work, it involves harassing and bullying sick and vulnerable people and whoever does it becomes very unpopular.

 Former Health Secretary Alan Milburn has returned to the fray – unsullied by any direct link or responsibility for Blair’s monumental mistake over the Iraq war.

 He is described as a Blairite and may well find himself given some other post that requires dirty work on behalf of the leader.

 The pundits have predicted that Milburn may be made Labour Party chair, displacing the current chair, the Brownite Ian McCartney.

 Even discredited former press secretary Alastair Campbell is rumoured to be seeking to get back into the fray through standing in a general election to become an MP.

The Blairites include Peter Mandelson, David Miliband, Stephen Byers, John Reid, Alan Johnson, Tessa Jowell, Charles Clarke and Campbell.

 The Brownites include Nick Brown, Ed Balls, Andrew Smith, Alistair Darling, Jack Straw, Gavyn Hughes, Douglas Alexander and Geoffrey Robinson. Any decent Cabinet-maker would avoid the lot.

  Blair and Brown are said to be in dispute over Brown’s level of influence on the reshuffle, with Blair saying, in effect, that he is answerable to no one.

 The people he really is answerable to, the organised working class in the shape of the trade unions, seem to be weakening in their resolve to get rid of Blair and Brown and their ruling class policies. This is inexcusable in current circumstances where they could succeed.

  Meanwhile Iraq never goes away. Press rumours say that Blair is being pressed by his closest aides to admit mistakes over Iraq. If he did, it is such a big mistake he would have to resign.

 And recent polls indicate that Blair would lose any referendum on Europe because he is now so unpopular with the electorate. The campaign for a yes vote is calling on him to step aside because he is a liability to their prospects.
But then his best friend Bush would be quite happy to see a no vote and Europe, a rival economic power to the United States, thrown into political chaos.


Bloodbath in Beslan

A WEEK OF TERROR by Chechen separatist gangs, starting with the destruction of two Russian airliners in flight, a suicide bombing in Moscow and cumulating in the massacre of hundreds of school children, parents and teachers in the Caucasus, has plunged Russia into a state of grief, shock and anger. Russian President Vladimir Putin has, so far, resisted calls to unleash his army in Chechnya for another bloody campaign against the rebels or anyone else who gets in their way.

But Putin hasn’t been helped by those Western politicians in the service of American imperialism who in order to justify their calls for the Kremlin to simply cave in to the warlords’ demands have been eager to pin the blame for the tragedy in Beslan on the troops who stormed the school. No matter how incompetent the local Russian forces surrounding the school may have been the responsibility for the slaughter lies totally with the gunmen who seized it in the first place.

American imperialism doesn’t have the slightest concern for the human rights of the Chechens or anyone else for that matter. It’s oil they want: the oil that Chechnya produces and the Caspian Sea oil and gas the big oil corporations hope to divert through new pipelines to Turkey that bypass the Russian Caucasus. Two former Soviet republics, Georgia and Azerbaijan are already in America’s pocket. If Chechnya were to fall into the American orbit the rest of the Caucasus could soon follow.

In the Soviet era the peoples of the USSR lived in harmony. Soviet justice freed the peoples of the Czarist Empire from bondage and oppression. Soviet power transformed poor provinces like Chechnya into modern republics with hospitals, factories, schools and universities. Soviet rule gave the people work, health and education. A new world was born.

Now that has gone – destroyed by the revisionists and traitors in the old Communist Party who paved the way for Gorbachov and betrayed the hopes and dreams of generations of workers and peasants.

Putin serves the interests of a new Russian bourgeoisie that seeks a great power status equal to the immense natural resources and population of Russian Federation. This has put them into conflict with American imperialism that hopes to plunder all the former Soviet republics including the biggest, Russia itself. The Chechen rebels are just pawns in a greater game.

Gangsters, oligarchs and warlords call the shots throughout Russia but the greatest criminals were those who brought the Soviet Union to its knees without a shot being fired. Gorbachov and his kind succeeded where Hitler and his legions failed. The price is being paid by all the peoples of the former Soviet Union.

 It still goes on today. Incapable of giving a lead to the working people Gorbachov’s heirs in both wings of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation claim the mantle of the Party of Lenin and Stalin but do the bidding of Putin and the oligarchs and enrich themselves in the process. They certainly don’t want to see the restoration of Soviet power.

In 1999 the Russian Communist Workers’ Party bluntly stated that: “The cause of the bloody tragedies taking place is the ruling regime and its policy of restoring capitalism in Russia. To put a stop to these tragedies, the power of the anti-popular forces has to be smashed at every level, from Yeltsin to Mashkadov. The workers must re-establish the real power of the people in the shape of Soviets”.

Only the return of Soviet power can end the tragedy in Chechnya and all the other parts of the Russian Federation. Genuine communists in Russia have limited resources and they are divided over tactics. But this they can all agree with.

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