The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 10th September, 1999

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Editorial - Hypocracy and cant.
Lead Story - Terror sweeps East Timor.
Feature - Soaring house prices put families on the streets.
International - Mitchell's mission to mediate in Irish peace review begins.
British News - Family tax credits will undermine wages.


Hypocracy and cant

 THE Prime Minister's call for parents and teachers to  create "a new national moral purpose for this new  generation" is the most sickening hypocrisy. It is a  moral crusade launched by a leader who has the blood of Yugoslavs still fresh on his hands and who supports  the cruel sanctions that are every day squeezing the life out of Iraqi children.

  Of course, there's nothing unusual about this -- the  leaders of all imperialist countries make pious statements  about morality while they continue to oppress and wage  war against other peoples and those they regard as needing  to be brought into line.

  But in this instance there is hypocrisy about the very issue Blair has chosen to pontificate about -- that of anti-social behaviour carried out by children and young people and recent reports about babies being born to parents under the age of consent.

  As usual with the Blairite camp they are hoping to use words in place of resources, exhortation in place of caring policies and when little comes of it all they will pin the blame on parents and teachers for failing to exercise  proper moral guidance.

  The reality is that only a week or so ago government minister Stephen Byers was busy announcing a weakening of the maximum working hours regulations. As a result workers who can be "persuaded" by the boss to opt out of the directive will have no protection from the  government against pressures to work longer than 48 hours a week.

  Yet surely the working of excessively long hours by  parents is against the interests of children and militates against the kind of family life that Blair says he wants to promote.

  Furthermore, at the end of July another of Blair's ministers, Alistair Darling, was signalling the government's intention to undertake a fundamental "reform" of the welfare system.

  Since the government has no intention of reforming the tax system to make the rich pay and since it is anxious to cut social spending overall, this can only mean more means-testing, more efforts to drive employed workers into the hands of the big, private finance companies and renewed attacks on the principal of universality for pensions and statutory benefits.

 This will serve to increase levels of anxiety and insecuty and make many families who are just above the very low income support level even worse off.

  Children and young people who frequently commit anti-social acts or who seek solace in drug-taking or having underage sexual experiences are not immoral -- they are victims of a mean and uncaring society which offers them little or nothing.

 This is not some wishy-washy liberal-minded excuse for delinquency. Between 1995 and 1996 12,500 children were expelled from school. The number of school exclusions has risen dramatically since the Tories introduced market-place competition into education which suggests that some exclusions have more to do with schools trying to look good than with children being too "difficult" to teach.

 All too often excluded children just slip out of sight. They are thus deprived of their statutory right to education and adult care.

 And why should we be surprised that children become bored? Year-upon-year cutbacks in local government spending have cut the opening hours of public libraries, seen the selling-off of many school playing fields, stretched the resources of social services departments to the limit, done away with non-voluntary youth services, cut back on extra mural activities at school and left public facilities for sports underfunded.

 Our children need more than hypocritical lessons in morals and marriage. They need love, care and education and they need to feel that society values and wants them. This means they should have the prospect of decent jobs and housing when they leave school -- basic needs which all too often are not on their horizon.

 Above all the government might consider what lessons it is teaching the young -- things like; how to drop bombs from a great height on unarmed civilians; how to be proud of having enough nuclear weaponry to obliterate whole continents; how to make sanctions really bite; how to extract interest payments from the world's poorest people -- clearly someone needs a moral crusade!

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Lead Story

Terror sweeps East Timor

PRO-INDONESIAN militiamen, backed by some units of the Indonesian army, unleashed a wave of terror following the decisive vote in favour of independence last week.

 The mainly Catholic East Timorese opted by 78.5 per cent in a 97 per cent turn-out for independence from Indonesia, which controls the western part of the island, and seized the former Portuguese colony in 1975. They imposed a brutal occupation leading to the death of 200,000 people, a third of the population of East Timor.

 The Indonesian governor has proclaimed martial law and imposed a curfew but many of his troops seem unable or unwilling to rein in the gunmen, who are now in control of large parts of the country.

 Thousands have fled the capital, Dili, while the militias ransack and torch shops and offices unchecked. Refugees talk of thousands killed and large-scale looting.

 Militiamen are driving through the city centre in stolen UN vehicles and the water, power and telephone lines are all down. Many buildings are ablaze including the university. UN personnel, Red Cross workers, diplomats, journalists and the Catholic Bishop Belo and the clergy have been attacked and forced to flee Bill. The head of the UN Mission, Ian Martin, said the situation was "really complete anarchy".

 Australia has said it will send 2,000 troops to restore order if they get a UN mandate. Canada, New Zealand and Malaysia are also expected to send troops if the UN sanctions a peace-keeping force.

Indonesian ships blacked

 Australian dockers are blacking Indonesian ships and their union is calling on other unions to do the same. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA), backed by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, announced the decision on Tuesday, to pressurise Indonesia into taking action to stop the bloodshed.

 Australian dockers will now refuse to load or unload cargo from any Indonesian ships until the crisis is resolved until further notice. MUA Action National Secretary Paddy Crumlin is calling on the Australian government and businesses to support the action. "I would hope they would be as morally outraged as any other free thinking individual in the world today and be suppoaive of people taking action," he said.

imperialism's hand

 No-one knows why the Muslim militias, only set up this year after Indonesia agreed to a referendum, are playing their hand so late in the day.

 Some believe they think they can either scuttle the pro-independence movement now or force the East Timorese to make signifiicant concessions in return for peace.

 Others suspect that the militias have the backing of reactionary Indonesian generals involved in a behind-the-scenes power struggle in Djakarta.


 But the sluggish UN response to this bloody defiance to one of their own referendums -- unlike the speed shown when imperialism wanted the UN cover for its aggression against Iraq and Yugoslavia -- shows that the hidden hand of the West is once again at work.

 For over 20 years Anglo-American imperialism propped up the Suharto dictatorship and the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. They could have forced General Suharto to accept "democracy" any time during his long harsh rule.

 Only when the Indonesian masses took to the streets last year did the West respond forcing him to step down in favour of more "liberal" but equally servile successors.

 It is clear that the imperialist powers headed by the United States are balancing their larger economic and political interests in Indonesia against the national sovereignty of East Timor and that their motive is to try and extract advantages from both of them.

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Soaring house prices put families on the streets

by Caroline Colebrook

LONDON councils are reporting that soaring house prices have led to a sharp rise in the number of homeless families applying for emergency accommodation in the capital.

 Mortgage companies are now more keen to repossess houses where the buyers have got into difficulties with repayments because they can make so much money reselling the properties.

 According to the Nationwide building society, London house prices rose 2.5 per cent in August alone and are now 9.8 per cent higher than at this time last year.

 The prices are being driven up by high land prices and planning delays preventing the construction of new houses.

 The trend is expected to continue for some months yet until, according to Nationwide spokesperson David Parry: "We expect that house price inflation will ripple out as workers begin to be priced out of living in London and look to commute further afield."

 Already London Boroughs are placing their homeless families in accommodation outside London to save costs.

 But instead of investing in building the thousands more council homes that are needed, London boroughs, mainly Labour controlled, are still selling off council homes and transferring whole estates to the private sector.

 And they are even trying to do away with the term "council house" and replace it with "community home".

 The reason given is an attempt to reverse the deepening unpopularity of publicly owned estates.

 Ministers say they are worried that the estates are becoming "dumping zones" for social problems and that there is a stigma attached to living on them.

 "The truth is that for some people their postcode alone is enough to put off employers," said an official from the Department of the Environment.

 The real reason for the change is more likely to be to further obscure who actually owns and administers the homes.

 A few years ago they introduced the term "social housing" to include both council and housing association housing.

 If the government now refers to all comparatively low rental housing as "community housing", it can continue invisibly to run down the total council housing stock, completing the work begun by the Tories.

 Housing associations, trusts and other similar bodies such as housing schemes funded by the private finance initiative, cannot offer tenants the same security as council housing.

 In the final analysis they are all privately owned and subject to market forces. They must make profits or go bankrupt.

 And the real reason for the perceived unpopularity of council housing is the desperately neglected state it has been allowed to deteriorate into under the Tories.

 Council rents are artificially inflated because housing benefit for low income tenants is still funded from them rather than from general taxation -- forcing the slightly better-off tenants to subsidise those who are really poor.

 It suits current Labour government policies to keep this so the council estates appear to be poor economic prospects on paper and they can justify transferring more of them to the private sector.

 And with property prices rising so rapidly, the private sector is more than willing to gobble them up. It knows that any protection of rent levels for existing tenants will fade with time and that new tenants will have to make do with short-term contracts and "market level" rents.

 London is not the only place currently suffering a steep rise in homelessness. According to a report released last week by the Countryside Agency and Centrepoint -- the young people's housing charity -- youth homelessness is growing in rural areas because of a shortage of low-cost housing.

 Rural authorities have also sold off their council homes. Private rents are now sky high and low income young people in rural areas face competition from secend-home owners, and tourists.

 Government limits on housing benefit for the under 25s are also a cause of homelessness.

 And rural areas lack the emergency accommodation for the young homeless that London and other cities have.

 The situation is forcing young homeless people to migrate from rural areas into the cities where, the report says, they are disoriented and susceptible to drugs, violence and prostitution.

 Research by Centrepoint says that some young people are sleeping in tents, on playing fields, in cars and vans and under motorway bridges. Many are "sofa surfing" on floors and couches of friends.

 Centrepoint chief executive Victor Adebowale said: "Our work in Devon and across the country highlights the problems of poverty, low wages and the lack of affordable housing.

 "Time and again we find that help, advice and housing simply isn't there when young people need it most, for example when family support breaks down and when they are thrown out of home."

 Countryside Agency chairperson Ewen Cameron said the right to buy council houses has been "disastrous" for rural areas, removing 91,000 council homes from the rental market.

 The Highlands and Islands of Scotland have seen one of the sharpest rises in homelessness -- a rise by 130 per cent in the last 10 years, compared to 71 per cent for Scotland as a whole.

 Orkney is the worst affected. In 1986-87 only 14 households applied for council help as homeless or about to become homeless. Last year that figure had risen to 105, an increase of 650 percent.

 The housing charity Shelter said that the problem in the Highlands and Islands is due to a lack of appropriate accommodation. This shortage is greatly exacerbated by the prevalence of second homes and holiday homes in the region, pushing prices beyond the reach of local people.

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Mitchell's mission to mediate in Irish peace review begins

By Steve Lawton

GEORGE Mitchell, former Democrat Senator appointed by United States President Bill Clinton to mediate in the northern Ireland peace process, returned to Stormont Castle, Belfast on Monday to begin "an intensive implementation review" of the Good Friday Agreement.

 And the failure of implementation for the past 18 months is at the heart of Mitchell's mission, as he met separately all the parties to the Agreement. Generally welcomed, he did however predictably encounter some opposition from anti-Agreement unionist parties.

 One unionist, Robert McCartney, leader of the UK Unionist Party, suggested Senator Mitchell was "dispirited". The Senator's spokesperson, in a statement, wittily replied: "The Senator was in good form all day. But, if there was a moment when he became dispirited, it was probably at the prospect of having to listen to Robert McCartney."

 In fact, if anything could have been dispiriting, it would be Senator Mitchell's alarming realisation -- expressed in his interview on ITV last Sunday -- that the Northern Ireland Office was leaking in a systematic way to undermine the peace process, while supposedly a key department of the British government.

 Following Sinn Fein vice-president Pat Docherty's meeting with the US facilitator, as he has described himself, he said: "It is Sinn Fein's view that the review can be successful," but "This requires that the two governments fulfil their responsibilities. The British government in particular, must defend the agreement."

 The former Senate majority leader set out the key principles for a resolution of this crisis which all parties to the process had agreed on 25 June.

 In his statement he stressed the review's remit: "an inclusive executive exercising devolved power; decommissioning of all paramilitary arms by May 2000; decommissioning to be carried out in a manner determined by the International Commission on Decommissioning ... This will be its only focus."

 The qualifier is critical. There is to be no renegotiation of the Agreement which continues to command cross community support. Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, outlined the Republican position on Monday and he was specific about how they saw the review.

 Drawing on the Good Friday Agreement he said it "allows for two distinct formats for review". That is, in a nutshell, "aspects of the agreement" may be reviewed "under the chairmanship of the British government or the two governments", while review of the Agreement as a whole requires independent chairmanship of both governments and the parties involved.

 He said it should examine "the specific area of non-implementation ...within the terms of the agreement" But if the review moves beyond the non-implementation issue, then the agreement as a whole must be reviewed, he said.

 "It cannot simply focus on issues whose implementation the UUP (Ulster Unionist Party) are dissatisfted with. It cannot become a cover for the renegotiation of the agreement."

 That the June principles Senator Mitchell bases the review on -- jointly put forward by the Irish Premier Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- should be the starting point, identifies where the central problem, and its solution, lies.

 The ball, Gerry Adams says, is in Britain's court. "Despite the negative approach of unionism towards the Good Friday Agreement, it is our view that the primary responsibility for the failure to implement it in key areas lies with the British government."

 To date, therefore, there are no institutions in place, the Northern Ireland Assembly is powerless and, crucially, political, social and economic discrimination against the nationalist and Catholic communities as violent and entrenched as ever.

 Gerry Adams identifies the factors: Far higher unemployment among Catholics compared to Protestants, nationalist communities under sectarian unionist-Orange Order siege, repressive legislation strengthened not repealed, an unchanged Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the British government failure to "fulfil even the minimal requirement to publish a meaningful demilitarisation strategy."

 As we go to press, the report of the Policing Commission headed by Chris Patten is due to be published, amid speculation that major changes are to the RUC are afoot. This, in Gerry Adams view, will be a "huge test" of the British government's resolve. "Only a new police service and an end to the RUC will be satisfactory", he warned.

 The central importance of the expected far-reaching report on policing, led to the adjournment of review talks from Wednesday until next Monday. It will allow parties time to digest its contents, while Senator Mitchell enters discussions with Tony Blair.

 This report is of crucial importance in an atmosphere of increasingly sinister allegations regarding the RUC's connection with the murder of solicitors Pat Finucane and, most recently, Rosemary Nelson.

 On Tuesday Gerry Adams was blunt about how nationalists saw the RUC: "Nationalists in the north are not anti-police. On the contrary, we want to be policed ...(but they) want a police service they can trust respect and join. But the RUC is not that police service.

 "Our experience of that force is as part of a complex system of repression which routinely violates our human and civil rights."

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British News

Family tax credits will undermine wages

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown has been playing Father Christmas this week, appearing on television and writing in a number of national dailies, in some cases alongside Tony Blair as the two launch the Working Families Tax Credit.

 This, they claim, will halt the polarisation of wealth in Britain in which the poor have been getting poorer and the rich richer for the past two decades.

They say it will lift out of poverty the one third of all children in Britain who are now born into poverty.

 It is an allowance, paid by the Inland Revenue and via wage packets, to families who have at least one adult working member.

 It should guarantee every working family an income of at least £10,000 a year, or £200 a week. It will also provide a subsidy of £70 a week towards childcare expenses for working mothers.

 Tory leader William Hague has complained it will throw a heavy burden of administration on Britain's bosses.

 But as Gordon Brown pointed out, Britain's bosses are certainly not complaining. By putting the money into wage packets it becomes as plain as day this is a top up for criminally low wages and is a subsidy on bosses' wages bills.

 It will be paid for by better off workers through their income tax and by all of us who pay Value Added Tax on nearly everything we buy. It is a very big boost for skinflint bosses at our expense.

 And the pressure is being stepped up on those out of work to now accept any job whatsoever.

 "Work now pays; now go to work," said Mr Brown. "For the first time ever, work will always pay more than benefits.

 The penalties for those who refuse a particular job will be stepped up. Currently young people between 18 and 24 can lose six weeks' benefit for refusing a job or a place on a New Deal scheme.

 Under the new scheme they can lose six months' benefit. This will throw more into homelessness, begging and stealing.

 Or they face being forced into the worst jobs, the ones with short term contracts where they are obliged first to sign a piece of paper waiving their statutory rights to sick pay, holidays or protection under the new maximum hours regulations.

 Britain's bosses can now be as awful as they like and still be assured of a constant supply of job applicants.

 The new WFTC will do nothing at all for children from families that do not have a full-time worker -- for whatever reason.

 Mr Brown says the WFTC will lift 1.5 million families out of poverty. In the next breath he claims there are a million unfilled job vacancies. That leaves at least half a million with no prospect of a job.

 In reality, it is a lot more. The official statistics do not show the full extent of unemployment by a long chalk.

 And most of the job vacancies are in the southeast of England. They are low-paid "Mac jobs" with awful conditions and hours. They are not suitable for those who have the responsibility to bring up children alone.

 Even with a £70 credit, there is no childcare available for someone whose only job prospect is working in a burger bar until l am or so.

 And many of the poorest families are in those areas of the north that have been devastated by the closure of coal mines, shipyards and so on.

 These families do not have the resources to move to London where the jobs are, especially with house prices and rents rocketing in the capital.

 The sums available look generous. But families will lose some of the value of the tax credits because housing benefit will be cut in accordance with their increase in total income.

 Also the WFTC will diminish as a worker's wage increases. This will be a real disincentive to gain higher wages and will undermine the support of trade unions and the labour movement. This is the real poverty trap.

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