The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 11th August 2000

If you find these articles from the New Worker Online interesting and useful them why not subscribe to our print edition with lots more news, features, and photos?

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 - Nuclear danger.
Lead Story - Labour's grand NHS plan.
Feature - Genocide in our name.
International - Arafat in new summit bid.
British News - Campaign to defend council housing.

Editorial

Nuclear danger

CONGRATULATIONS to the peace campaigners who protested at the start of this month against the Trident nuclear weapon system based at Faslane in Scotland. These resident activists have once again focused attention on Britain's fleet of death -- its main arsenal of genocidal destruction.

 The enormous cost of purchasing this nuclear system from the United States in the first place and the year-upon-year expense of maintaining, arming, staffing and equipping it has always been borne by the workers of this country. Yet none of us benefits in any way from this obscenity.

 We used to be told, during the years of the Cold War, that Polaris and the later upgraded Trident systems were needed to defend Britain from a Soviet attack. That was never the truth. The purpose of these nuclear submarine fleets was to try and achieve a US-led Nato arsenal capable of striking first in a nuclear exchange and overwhelming the nuclear defences of the former Soviet Union.

 Trident, with its US-designed targeting system was never an independent British weapon but was always intended to be used at the bchest of the United States in conjunction with nuclear-armed Cruise missiles and the US Trident fleet in a co-ordinated military attack.

 In effect, Trident was a weapon system designed to threaten and defeat socialism and to setback the advances of working people throughout the world. By using anti-Soviet lies and propaganda and flying in the face of the mounting peace campaigns, the working classes of Britain, the United States and France were forced into paying for a totally self-defeating nuclear arms race.

 But the truth will always out. The Cold War lies of Western politicians were al last exposed when the counter-rcvolution in the Soviet Union removed the main plank of the West's arguments for keeping the arms race going -- and yet still the major nuclear arsenals, including Trident, continued to flourish.

 The reasons for this apparent insanity lie in the imperialist nature of the Western governments. The possession of nuclear forces capable of wreaking global destruction is seen by the imperialist leaders as a visible measure of their military might, the ultimate threat in the quest to control as much of the world as possible.

 These arsenals also give comfort to the very rich who live in constant fear of the poor and the masses of people they exploit and destroy. And it maintains their own national bourgeoise elite's position in the pecking order of imperialist countries.

 Of course those countries which are supposed to do as the big powers say -- which is everyone else -- are now posed as a potential threat to world peace. What is actually threatened when a medium or small country resists the will of imperialism in any way is the constant in-flow of dollars, francs, pounds and D-marks to the west.

 As with the Cold War lies, the concept of "rogue states" has been invented to justify a further jacking-up of the West's nuclear capabilities.

 The supposed danger from this list of developing world, which have issued no military threats to the West, is being used now to destroy the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and provide the United States, assisted by Britain, with a free hand to create a new star wars-type nuclear capacity that will span the globe. The danger of nuclear war has lurched nearer.

 Unfortunately Cold War propaganda led many peace campaigners to assume the danger of nuclear war was over when the Soviet Union collapsed. Nothing could be further from the truth -- the threat of war always came from the imperialist camp and sadly that has not gone away.

Today's world needs the peace campaigns to grow once more. We need to expose the real threat to peace and the particular dangers in the attacks upon the ADM Treaty.

 This past week has seen the 55th anniversaries of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- the first use of nuclear weapons. That event must also be the last time nuclear weapons were used -- it's up to us to join the fight for peace now!

 Back to index



Lead Story

Labour's grand NHS plan

by Daphne Liddle

PRIME Minister Tony Blair last month unveiled the Government's five-year Grand Plan to transform the National Heaith Service -- and in doing so vastly increase the role of the private sector.

 He has promised to recruit 7,500 more consultants within the five years, an extra 2,000 general practitioners and some 20,000 extra nurses and 6,750 therapists.

 We are promised 7,000 extra beds, 100 "hospital projects" and an "NHS modernisation agency".

 There are going to he new contracts for doctors and nurses at all levels, better pay, better training and more choice for patients with redress if operations are cancelled. And those waiting lists will be cut.

 If all this sounds too good to be true, remember next year is likely to be an election year. We have campaigned for more spending on the NHS and if these promises are delivered we will not complain.

 But we are concerned. It all sounds marvellous until we start doing some sums and comparing the Grand Plan with what is actually happening on the wards and in the GP surgeries.

 This week saw the opening of a brand new hospital in Dartford, Kent. But is not an NHS hospital. It is a hospital built and owned by the private sector and rented b the NHS under the private finance initiative.

 It is the first of many being built around che country under this scheme and the Government has made it clear that this is the future of the NHS. There is nothing in the grand plan about capital provision for buildings to be actually owned by the NHS.

 They are all to he done away with as old hat and replaced by the spanking new privately owned hospitals that are only rented by the NHS.

 The Dartford hospital looks marvellous but it has 30 per cent fewer beds than the two old hospitals it replaces -- and around 20 per cent less staff.

 The private builders decided the number of beds -- not the doctors -- on the basis of what would be most profitable. And this again is to be the pattern throughout the country.

 So what of the 7,000 extra beds promised? A Dartford hospital manager explained to an interviewer that in the new NHS there will be lots more beds "out there in the community" and "in people's homes". Oh well!

 Some of these "extra" beds already exist -- in private hospitals. The Grand Plan envisages using these a lot more to help reduce operation waiting lists.

 This will provide an endless transfusion of taxpayers' money into the private health sector. Itis hardly the most economic and efficient way to provide healthcare for the nation.

 The Grand Plan talks about providing intermediate care for the elderly after operations.

 The reality is that this will mean elderly patients being shipped off to already existing private nursing homes to free up beds during winter crises, to forestall embarrassing pictures of patients sleeping on trolleys in casualty departments for long periods because there are no beds.

 Patients who have just had major surgery or other procedures do need high quality convalescent care. But NHS money would go further to provide more of it if the private sector did not have to have its cut to promote profits.

 As NHS hospitals are being closed all around, we are told repeatedly that we need bigger, more centralised hospitals. Now it seems the far smaller, less equipped private hospitals are OK.

 We have already discovered that the Government has precious little power over the privatised bus and rail companies. Services are deteriorating while watchdogs are ignored and fat cats grow fatter.

 When the nuts and bolts of the NHS have been transferred to the private sector through PFI and by other means, the Government will have little or no control over the number of beds or anything else much. The banks will make those decisions.

 Cleaning and catering staff in the PFI hospitals will be employed by the private sector owners. Their pay and conditions will be beyond Government control.

 And the service these can provide will depend on how many of them there are, how skilled they are and the budgets they have. There will he a direct clash becween the needs of the patients and the need to make profits. Guess which will win.

 GP surgeries are currently undergoing transformations into primary care groups, then primary care trusts. These will put most health services to the community under the direct control of the GPs.

 Only the whole programme is being delayed through lack of funding at the moment.

 There are some other small print aspects of the Grand Plan that are worrying. Once the private sector is in control of the nuts and bolts of the NHS and the GPs are in control of community services, that doesn't have the local health authorities much to do.

 And so they are likely to dissappear -- and the NHS will no longer be accountable to the electorate.

 And if it should happen that the Grand Plan does not deliver all the wonderful promises, who will you complain to?

 The Grand Plan includes the abolition of 152 community health councils in England. These were established in 1974 to act as the patient's friend and advocate, as well as having scrutiny and inspection roles. Oh well!

 The Grand Plan is of course all based on the extra budget that Chancellor Gordon Brown had put aside through his "prudent" economising and control of the economy.

 Is that funding safe? Rocketing house prices have just started to crash -- just like they did in the late 80s, just before that last big recession. Manufacturing industry is in dire straits and the trade gap is yawning.

 Could it be that after the next election there might be an economic crisis and the Grand Plan budget will have to be slashed! With the private sector in control of the nuts and bolts, what sort of NHS will we really have in five year's time?

Back to index



Feature

Genocide in our name

by Renee Sams

HUNDREDS of demonstrators threw themselves down in Whitehall last Monday, stopping the Westminster traffic for more than an hour in a protest marking the tenth anniversary of the imposition of sanctions against Iraq.

 As fast as police dragged them away others laid down again in their place. This led to four arrests.

 Among those dragged off the street by police was Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for the southeast region.

 She said she was prepared to be arrested if it was a way of getting the issue raised.

 "Half a million children have died as a direct result of economic sanctions on Iraq," she said. "It is strategically redundant."

 Dressed in black and carrying lilies, the demonstration marched down Whitehall in a peaceful protest calling on the Government to lift the sanctions against Iraq.

 More than 4,000 children are dying in Iraq every month for want of food, medicine and other essentials because of the sanctions. Many hundreds of thousands of children have died.

 And in addition to sanctions, Iraq is also still subjected to daily bombing raids by the United States and Britain. Targets are essential parts of the countrv's infrastructure such as food factories and water treatment plants.

 The protest was organiscd by Voices in the Wilderness to say that ten years of suffering is enough. One of the organisers, Nadje al-Ali of Women in Black said the demonstration had been successful in attracting media attention.

 She has relatives living in Iraq and said: "We are calling for the Government to lift the sanctions. The oil for food programme is not sufficient.

 "Even if we lifted sanctions tomorrow, it would take generations to undo what has been done ."

premium

 They pointed out that in February the Unites Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Iraq, Hans von Sponek, resigned from his post in protest at what the sanctions are doing to the people of Iraq.

 His predecessor, Dennis Halliday, had also resigned in protest in 1998, saying: "We are destroying an entire society. It is as simple as that. It is illegal and immoral."

 The protesters in Whitehall were prepared to break the law and stop the traffic in Whitehall by holding a "die-in" to highlight the far greater crime being carried out in our name.

 On the previous day protester David Rolstone from west Wales had climbed the Millennium Wheel to draw attention to the effects of the sanctions.

Back to index



International

Arafat in new summit bid

by Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

PALESTINIAN President Yasser Arafat is moving to salvage the American peace initiative, calling for another peace summit in the United States later this month.

 Last Tuesday the Palestinian leader said that it could take place following Clinton's Democratic National Convention which ends on 17 August and he hinted that it has already got the blessing of the White House.

 "US President Bill Clinton said a new summit could take place after the Democratic convention," Arafat told the Arab media during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

 In Tel Aviv the response was cool. The beleaguered Labour led coalition is breaking up following the humiliating failure of Labour veteran Shimon Peres to win the presidential ballot in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. Premier Barak told his cabinet last Sunday that it was " too soon" to talk about a new summit. "It's not clear yet if the Palestinians are ready for a breakthrough," he said.

 But leading Israeli daily Haarerz reports that Clinton has told Barak he would host a new summit if Israel and the Palestinians submitted proposals in advance which would lead to agreement.

 Clinton and the Democrats would clearly like a major diplomatic triumph on the eve of the US presidential elections. Clinton gets his Nobel prize. His successor, Al Gore, gets the boost which could put him into the Oval Office. Barak also wants a filip for his own chances in the next Israeli election but what's in for Arafat?

 Well, veteran Democratic politician and former president Jimmy Carter may have given a clue to Clinton's thinking in an article he wrote in the New York Times. Carter, who presided over the first Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt back in 1978, basically called for a further interim agreement while putting the thorny question of Jerusalem on the back-burner.

 This would certainly suit Yasser Arafat, not to mention Barak. Another Israeli pull-back based on Barak's plan, leaving Israel in occupation but not annexation of "Greater Jerusalem"; a trade-off of some land in the Negev in return for other parts of the West Bank; Palestinian legal access to the Islamic shrines in Arab Jerusalem and a very limited return of a fraction of the Palestinians to Israel, has already been put on the table.

 In fact it differs little from the old "Allon Plan" Labour presented in the early Seventies and the refugee return -- solely on the basis of reuniting families -- goes back to an offer made by Israel in the early fifties by a previous Labour-led government to allow 100,000 Palestinians the right to return. As a further enticement Arafat would get international recognition of Palestinian independence.

 US imperialism is still not ready or willing to recognize the legitimate rights of the four million or so Palestinian refugees. On the other hand it as not as committed to a "final settlement" as it appears to be -- at least not in the short-tenn. A continuing "peace process" -- one which could span another generation would suit the strategic aims of America in the region.

 What they don't want is a resurgence of Islamic or Arab nationalism which could happen if the whole process falls and confrontation begins. That prospect is also concentrating minds in Washington and Tel Aviv.

Back to index



British News

Campaign to defend council housing

THIS CAMPAIGN to stop the privatisation of council housing throughout Britain is building fast with several major events this summer and a quarterly four-page newsletter, Defend Council Housing.

 Southwark Tenants' Association (south London) and the public sector union Unison jointly organised a conference in a Peckham School on 1 July. This was followed by a lobby of Parliament on 19 July.

 There are also leaflets, explaining the four big myths on housing transfer. The first is that "stock transfer is not privatisation".

 The campaign explains that privatisation of public services is the transfer for the main control and running of those services from the public sector, via elected MPs and councillors to the private sector via unelected boardrooms of businesses and banks -- removing all public accountability.

 This is because financial lenders will get involved in housing transfer only if they are sure, they will he free from public accountability in order to maximise profit.

 The second myth is that "social landlords" provide "not for profit" public housing. The campaigm points out that housing associations and the new housing companies are businesses.

 The bulk of housing associations' funding comes from high loans from banks and financial institutians which have to he paid back with interest.

 That is why housing association rents are almost always higher than council rents, in many cases up to double.

 There is also no evidence that they provide a better service. A recent report from the Housing Corporation fund that in key landlord functions services from housing associations are deteriorating.

 The third myth is that "you can stay with the council in an armslength company". These companies allow the council to keep ownership but transfer management to private associations.

 In effect these will he no different to private companies because the banks have made it clear that a condition of borrowing will be that the new companies are "independent" with lenders and "experts" in the driving seat -- not councillors or tenants.

 The fourth myth is that there is no alternative to transfer. There is money available to provide high quality, low-cost housing.

 The national repairs bill is estimated to be £19 billion. The Government is prepared to set aside £12 billion to write off council housing debts to facilitate transfer.

 In addition another £10 billion has been syphoned off from council rents to pay housing benefits, instead of this coming from general taxation. That money should be used to improve council housing.

 There is some cause for optimism that the campaign to defend council housing could be successful. The 8 June issue of to allow councils to borrow for housing repairs and capital expenditure are set to be included in a Green Paper on local government controls, councils could finance extra borrowing to pay for urgent repairs -- a move which could lead councils to reconsider their stock transfer."

 Thirty-eight MPs have already signed an early day motion expressing alarm at the Housing Green Paper's aim of transferring 200,000 homes per year over the next ten years and encouraging private finance initiative schemes.

 This Government was not elected with a mandate to privatise council housing. In the run up to the next election it is vital that defending council housing is made a big campaigning issue.

 * For further information and campaigning materials, contact Defend Council Housing, c/o Haggeston Community Centre, 179 Haggerston Road, London E8 4JA, phone/fax 020 7275 9994.
 


Back to index
To the New Communist Party Page