The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 1st October, 1999

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Editorial - Dreamworld.
Lead Story - Blair's spell of deceit.
Feature - Unison wins holiday pay for nurses.
International - Galloway reaches Marocco!
British News - £15 million council cuts give lie to Blair's pledge on poverty.



BLAIR'S keynote speech at last week's Labour Party Conference reeked of the "one nation" politics that used to be peddled by the Tory party.

 But whereas the Tories used to falsely declare that we already were one nation with a common national interest, Blair just puts this rubbish forward as an achievable goal even though he has no intention of opposing the capitalist system that creates class division in the first place.

 Old Tories' "one nation" and New Labour's "new nation" are the same fraud -- a great pretence that we are not a class divided society anymore and that class struggle is therefore an outdated and unnecessary hangover from the past.

 In one sense Blair is right. Class division and class struggle are undesirable hangovers from the past. But this state of affairs doesn't continue because the Left are a bunch of old fashioned dogmatists fighting yesterday's battles.

 Class struggle is not a political idea that only exists in the minds of socialists -- it is the hard and brutish reality of all capitalist societies. Struggle is inevitable since the system is based upon the exploitation of labour by capital and the primary aim of the exploiters is to squeeze an ever increasing rate of profit out of the majority who have to work in order to live. The Labour right are not denying this reality because they are ignorant. Nor are they trying to portray socialists and trade unionists as out of date relics simply to attract even more upwardly thrusting trendies into Labour's ranks. The real purpose is to demoralise and disarm one side of the class struggle -- the side of the working class.

 If this wasn't the case we would not have heard Chancellor Gordon Brown calling yet again for wage restraint, the pensioners would not need marches and demonstrations in order to get the link with earnings restored and the great tranche of Tory anti-union legislation would not still be a shackle round the working class.

 This reality makes Labour's platform slogan, "For the many not the few", look like a gigantic mickey take. Labour's right-wing, who presumably decided to use these words, are in practice working for the few at the expense of the many.

 In Blair's conference dreamworld an equitable society can be achieved simply by launching a few more training schemes, making everyone who isn't actually bed-ridden attend a job centre interview, fobbing pensioners off with a one-off cold weather payment and getting the NHS into hock with PFI schemes.

 And this is supposed to give us hope, to rub out the fundamental inequalities caused by capitalism?

 Perhaps it is possible to believe the class struggle is just an unnecessary and antiquated idea if you see the world from London's Milbank Tower. It certainly doesn't look like that from the ground-level view df the Skychefs picket line at Faggs Road in Feltham. Nor has it looked like that from the pickets outside the Critchley works at Magnets, on the Liverpool Dockside or at Hillingdon Hospital.

 It is also clear that Blair would not have devoted so many words to selling this false picture of Britain if the struggle to defend working class interests was not loud enough to be a cause of concern to him and his right-wing clique.

 The bourgeolse media might have largely ignored the pensioners' march a fortnight ago. It might have blanked the thousands who marched on the conference last Sunday and it might have only bothered to report the hunting lobby instead. But reported or not, Blair knew of these protests and demonstrations. He knows too that many members of the Labour Party shared the demonstrators' concerns and that Labour MPs spoke up at these events.

 Let's keep on being a cause for concern. We need to stand together -- the unions, the Labour Party left, the peace movement, the pensioners and all progressive organisations and wage the fight both inside and outside the conference halls of Britain.

 And let no one get away with dubbing socialism as "old" -- it is the way ahead, the ideology for the future. It is the class collaborationists who are reall out of date -- it is this bunch in their designer suits and dresses who represent the outdated, the old nation of haves and have nots and the creaking system of capitalism under which most of this world goes to bed hungry.

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Lead Story

Blair's spell of deceit

By Daphne Liddle

THE LABOUR Party conference in Bournemouth last week marked the party's centenary with a dazzling array of speeches and predictions designed to enrapture the delegates and bemuse the wider audience.

 We had promises of an end to poverty, of full employment, a smack on the wrists for the big banks, visions of going forward to a land of truly equal opportunities and freedom for all. Tony Blair virtually told them that dreams really can come true.

 It was probably quite intoxicating for all except those who arestill fighting cuts to local services, cuts to schools, cuts to hospitals, those waiting for buses, trains, hospital appointments, jobs, for full trade union rights and so on.

 But in spite of all the tricks with mirrors, a few real gains have been made behind the scenes in hard bargaining by union leaders and a Labour leadership that wanted at all costs to keep controversy off the conference floor and feared losing some crucial votes.

Protest rally

 Several thousand protesters, who marched on the conference centre after a rally in a local park on Sunday, certainly had not teen taken in by the Disney-type fantasy hype.

 They included the Liverpool dockers and the Magnet workers from Darlington and their demands included the restoration of full trade union rights, raising the minimum wage to £5 an hour with no exemptions and the restoration of the link between average earnings and pensions.

 Trainloads came from Glasgow, from Manchester and five from London. A group of mature New Communist Party members on one of these London trains engaged their travelling companions, mostly young people, in some serious political debate, resulting in a large sale of copies of the New Worker.

Concessions to unions

 Before the conference began, ministers had made some important concessions to trade union leaders in order to avoid a defeat for Tony Blair on the floor of the conference.

 Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers agreed that his White Paper on plans to reduce the monopoly of the Post Office on letter delivery from £1 to 50p will now have to be submitted to the new Post Office regulator, instead of coming into force immediately.

 This was particularly embarrassing for junior minister Alan Johnson who used to be general secretary of the Communication Workers' Union and had changed sides as an MP to back the government plan.

 Stephen Byers also made concessions on the European working time directive. Just before it was enacted at the end of the last parliamentary session, he had added clauses that watered down its effect excluding most white collar workers who are not paid by the hour and whose overtime working is not usually measured.

 Now he will issue guidelines that these exemptions apply only to most senior managers and the guidelines will have some legal force.

 And the government was forced to negotiate with Balpa, the airline pilot's union, which is resolutely opposed to the proposed privatisation of air traffic control.


 On the conference floor itself, although the Labour leadership had tried to rule out debate on the many branch resolutions about the Private Finance Initiative, a debate was forced and the vote was firmly against PFI.


 Chancellor Gordon Brown pledged full employment with a big increase in the New Deal scheme which forces the unemployed to accept jobs with poor wages and conditions or face losing benefits.

 He made the pledge as if the scheme has been working perfectly in all areas in providing employment. But it has not created a single new job. It has just forced people into low paid ones or taken them off the unemployed register by putting them in training schemes.

 In areas where cuts to traditional heavy industries like mining and shipbuilding have destroyed thousands of jobs and hundreds of communities, the New Deal has had hardly any impact on joblessness.

 The only prospects for young people in these places is to leave their homes and join the army of burger-bar and pizza-joint waiters in London and the south-east, where homes are now way out of the price range of the low-paid or unemployed.

 The press made much of Mr Brown's attack on the banks. But for those who were hoping for some spark of real socialism, some curbing of their profit-hungry wrecking of the Third World, their exploitation of workers around the globe, there was only disappointment.

 He was slapping the high street banks on the wrist over their increases in charges to customers. This is hardly going to worry them.

Pensions and welfare

 Pensioners' champion Barbara Castle won a lot of support, including from major unions, in her speech calling for the restoration of the link between average earnings and pensions, which she herself had introduced as a Labour Cabinet minister in the 1970s.

 The government is claiming that the restoration of the link will cost £8 billion extra by the yeat 2010 and £30 billion by 2050 -- though everyone knows that trying to predict population trends that far ahead is pure guesswork.

 Barbara Castle pointed out that a single pensioner has lost the equivalent of £30,000 since the link was scrapped 20 years ago.

 She warned Labour against continuing with Tory policies that will create two tiers of pensioners.

 "We will have divided our people into those who can afford to go into a private scheme or are lucky enough to have an occupational scheme on the one hand, and on the other, the poor, dependent on the safety net of a minimum income guarantee which in turn depends on the moods and generosity of the taxpayer."

 She warned that this year, pensioners will see only a 72 pence-a-week rise -- "a fair price for a bag of peanuts" -- from the annual uprating which is linked to prices. If it was linked to earnings it would be four per cent.

 "Imagine," she said, "that gap widening all the time between those who have contributed in the hope and belief they were not going to be given care or a pension as charity but as something they earned."

 She urged delegates not to vote for the welfare package being presented by Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling -- but in vain, it was passed anyway.

 But Mr Darling is calling for yet another national debate and overhaul of welfare services -- more cuts to the most vulnerable from the government that "wants to end poverty".

 He is also planning to curb payment of a key disability benefit by clawing back contributory Incapacity Benefit from people with occupational pensions. This measure was dropped by the previous Tory government as too extreme.


 Education Secretary David Blunkett called for more action against truanting and against the exclusion of some pupils from schools.

 But at the same time the government is continuing to make cuts to staffing levels so that schools cannot give fair treatment to both ordinary students who want to study and to the minority who are disruptive and need special attention.

 And of course the league tables will remain, forcing schools to chase ever higher and higher exam ratings.

 The party's promises on class sizes now, it seems, only apply to infant classes.

Party structure

 In its 100th year, the Labour Party is proposing yet more changes to its branches in a renewed attack on the party's own activists and foot soldiers.

 They are accused of being small bands of left-wingers who exclude others, who fail to recruit because of over reliance on jargon and being overly bureaucratic, of being poor at fundraising and incompetent at electioneering.

 The hard workers of the party do not deserve this. Many branches do consist of small groups of left-wingers because it is they who are prepared to do the work. Most are delighted at the prospect of new recruits.

 They distinguish themselves from their leadership in their lack of personal ambition and willingness to put themselves out for the good of society as a whole and not just for themselves.

 A consultation document has been written by Ian McCartney MP entitled 21st Century Party: members the key to our future.

 The labour movement will be greatly damaged if the Labour Party's best people allow themselves to be discouraged and driven out by the Blairites.

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Unison wins holiday pay for nurses

by Caroline Colebrook

THIS HEALTH workers' union Unison last week won a legal battle to guarantee holiday pay for nurses under the European working time directive.

 The union took legal action against hospital trusts that failed to give adequate holiday pay to nurses when the working time directive came into force last October.

 The legislation is complex. Previously the NHS's 500,000 nurses' holiday pay was based on basic shift pay, disregarding higher rates paid to them for working nightshifts and at weekends.

 Unison realised that the directive meant that nurses are now entitled to an annual four weeks' holiday on normal pay.

 Peter Doyle, Unison's North West officer, said: "I understand that no trusts followed the directive, so the union decided to test the law.

 "It is very telling that the trusts agreed to our demands before the hearing started.

 "A grade D nurse should get an extra £350-£400. I am really pleased for them."

 Meanwhile all unions representing nurses have put in a claim for a "substantial" general pay rise for next spring.

 They point out that nurses will be enticed into other jobs unless the pay award makes it more attractive to stay in nursing.

 They say that businesses ranging from airlines to sandwich shops are offering pay rates at least as good as NHS terms for skilled staff nurses.

 The chairperson of the joint union negotiating team for nurses, Maggie Dunn, said: "Our message is that the staff are just not going to be there to deliver the progressive patient care agenda that the government has come forward with."

 And she reminded employers that 85 per cent of NHS trusts are already reporting problems in recruiting nurses in at least one speciality.

 The unions say there is a general misapprehension that all nurses had a big pay rise earlier this year. The reality is that most got just 4.7 per cent while the lowest paid, newly qualified got the larger rise of up to 12 per cent.

 Maggie Dunn said that London sandwich bars were advertising for trainee managers at a starting salary off £15,000 a year. A grade E nurse is paid between £15,395 and £17,830, although a London weighting of £2,995 is also payable.

 Christine Hancock, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Experienced nurses are good value for a range of other jobs. They get on well with customers, they are intelligent and numerate and they don't panic in an emergency.

 "And from the nurses' point of view, other employers treat their staff better."

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Galloway reaches Marocco!

by Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

THE Big Ben to Baghdad bus convoy taking medical aid to Iraq arrived in Morocco on Monday. The convoy, sponsored by the Mariam Appeal, set out from Westminster three weeks ago with 18 British volunteers led by campaigning Labour MP George Galloway.

 George, who was welcomed by the Moroccan National Committee of Support for the Iraqi People, said on arrival in Tangiers that "there is no Arab country that extended Iraq stronger support than Morocco". He recalled that over a million Iraqis died during and since the Gulf War. What is worse, he said, is that this tragic situation still prevails due to the embargo imposed on Iraq and the repeated American and British air-raids.

 The convoy is organised by the Mariam Appeal, named after Mariam Hamza, the four-year old Iraqi leukaemia patient brought to Britain for treatment last year in a blaze of publicity. Sponsored by the Emergency Committee on Iraq, the appeal has won wide support from the British labour and peace movement.

 There is an epidemic in Iraq, with a seven to tenfold increase in diagnosed cancers. The number of children born with deformities has tripled since the Gulf War. Few doubt that this is linked to the Anglo-American use of depleted uranium tipped weapons during the Gulf War and in the continuing aggression against the defiant Arab country.

 Over 930,000 depleted uranium tipped tank shells were fired by the imperialists during the invasion of Iraq in 1991. The resulting blizzard of uranium dust has entered the water and food chain, and ultimately, the people of Iraq, with devastating consequences.

 George Galloway, who has consistently campaigned for peace in the Gulf, repeated the campaign's demand for an end to the blockade and an end to the bombings.

 The convoy reached Morocco via France and Spain, stopping in Paris and Madrid for solidarity rallies as well as halting at other towns along the route to highlight the appalling plight of the Iraqi people facing famine and disease because of the Western blockade.

 The bus will continue its drive through Arab north Africa visiting Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt before passing over to Jordan for the last stretch to Baghdad. The convoy expects to arrive in the Iraqi capital on 5 November.

 Mariam, who was treated initially by specialist doctors in Glasgow, is now being cared for in a Baghdad hospital with the support of the Appeal. She is in full remission from her leukaemia, her weight is back to normal and her hair has regrown.

 Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad, the Appeal's medical scientific director said recently that "the saving of Mariam Hamza shows what can be done by the dedicated heroes of the Iraqi Health Service if the sanctions did not starve them of the possibility of doing so."

  * Twenty-two formations of Anglo-American warplanes carried out 60 raids on Iraq last Saturday flying from bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait American and RAF warplanes launched nine other attacks from bases in Turkey.

 Iraqi air-defences forced the raiders to flee. Since 17 December 1998 and up to 25 September 1999 the US air-force and the RAF have carried out 12,857 sorties over Iraq, of which 10,436 came from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and 2,421 from Turkey.

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British News

£15 million council cuts give lie to Blair's pledge on poverty

HAMMERSMITH and Fulham council last week told union representatives of its workforce that the council will have to cut a further £15 million from the budget in the millennium year.

This comes on top of a 21.5 per cent cut in spending by the London borough since 1990.

 Instead of a new era of wellbeing and prosperity, the year 2000 will see the most vulnerable sections of the community, the elderly and the infirm affected most by the magnitude of the cuts.

 The GMB general union is launching "Hammersmith Bridge", a campaign to unite local people, unions and councillors of Hammersmith and Fulham against the cuts that directly affect local services and people.

 A spokesperson for the GMB branch Fulham One said: "Much of the blame for the cuts must be laid at the door of central government the New Labour government.

 "The council is trying to reduce central funding with the growing needs of an older community and all the care that they require and deserve.

 "But then again, local councillors awarding themselves a 67 per cent pay rise hasn't helped the people who work for and rely on the services provided by the borough.

 "They did not vote Labour to see services privatised and local people thrown out of work."

 Bert Schouwenburg, GMB regional organiser for Hammersmith and Fulham, speaking from the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, said: "These cuts are making a nonsense of the Prime Minister's wish to eradicate poverty from the country within a decade.

 "Chancellor Brown's plan for full employment will not help the aged and infirm. They need help from Hammersmith and Fulham councillors."

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