The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 12th October 2001

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Editorial - Stop the war.
Lead Story - Halt the bombing!
Feature - Peace protests around Britain.
International - Afghanistan - the British connection.
British News - Good riddance to Railtrack.
More news and Diary


Stop the war

 THE most urgent and important task we face  today is to demand an immediate ceasefire in  imperialism's war on the people's of Central  Asia and to bring this war to a swift end.

  Like all capitalist wars, it will bring untold misery and suffering to millions of working class and  oppressed people throughout the world and will  benefit no one -- apart that is from the rich clique  who always pick out a fat Profit from the bones of  war and death.

  Already, in the space of just over a week there has  been loss of life and many injuries following the  bombing raids on Afghanistan. Blood has been  spilled in the protest demonstrations in neighbouring Pakistan, the Zionist regime has stepped up its  oppression of the Palestinians, and renewed threats are being made against Iraq.

  Workers in the United States, Britain and other  Nato countries have not been told what the war is  going to cost. But you don't have to be a defence  analyst to know that it will run into many billions -- and you don't have to be an economist tto know  that the belt-tightening and hardship will ultimately  be borne by the working class.

  Tax increases to pay for the war will nor be levied  on the rich who pay the highest rate of direct income  tax but will almost certainly squeeze the poorest  people through rises in indirect taxes such as VAT and excise duty.

  The working class will suffer in other ways. The  recession, which was well underway before the  events of 11 September, is causing large-scale job  cuts on both sides of the Atlantic. This has created  deserts of high unemployment in which many  young people are left with little option but to enlist in the armed forces. Certainly an imperialist war is not in the interests of these young workers.

  The US tells the world over and over again that  the purpose of the war is to stamp out "terrorism".  Even if this could be believed it would seem pretty  rich coming from a state that has itself used and  sponsored terrorism in its desire to defeat socialism and the forces of progress, liberation and anti imperialism everywhere.

 But of course these stated war aims are not believable. While it is certainly true that the US and its allies want Osama bin Laden "dead or alive", they also want to end the day with Afghanistan firmly under imperialist control. The new world order programme of US big business wants this strategically key central Asian state to open a new gateway to the oil-rich Caucasus and the belly of Russia.

 A US catspaw government in Afghanistan would raise anger in the Islamic republics along its northern border, fire Russia to defend itself, destabilise Pakistan and rekindle anti-American clericalism in Iran. The dangers to world peace are obvious.

 It goes without saying that self-determination for the people of Afghanistan is definitely not part of Washington's plan for Central Asia.

 In addition, the Washington hawks are increasingly turning their eyes on Iraq. There is no doubt the US leadership wants Saddam Hussein's head to sit on a plate next to bin Laden's. These imperialist criminals who have already murdered millions of Iraqis would quickly find a pretext for a new war against Iraq if the military planners could only be sure that a second front would not overstretch the US in terms of American lives. These monstrous plans must be opposed everywhere.

 In Britain, as in many other countries, the movement for peace is growing and strengthening. Each demonstration is larger than the one before and local anti-war groups are springing up in towns and cities throughout Britain.

 The threat to peace is grave. The demand for peace needs to shake Downing Street and be heard in Washington. No to War!

 Back to index

Lead Story

Halt the bombing!

by our Arab affairs correspondent

UNITED STATES imperialism. has unleashed its war machine against Afghanistan launching wave after wave of air attacks throughout the week. The anti-Taleban Northern Alliance is trying to advance in the north, beefed up by new military hardware from Russia.

 But the Taleban remain defiant and Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Islamic order blamed for September's devastating terror attacks on Washington and New York, has given an equally defiant message to his supporters on Arab TV.

 The attack began on Sunday with a volley of Cruise missiles fired from US warships and the Royal Navy, rapidly followed by air raids on all major Afghan towns. Some 70 Afghans have died so far, mostly civilians. Angry anti-American demonstrations in many Muslim countries have been put down with violence and some Third World countries are already expressing their opposition to this new demonstration of imperialist might.

Air terror

 American warplanes rule the skies over Afghanistan, whose air-defences -- largely anti-aircraft guns -- are unablle to hit high-flying aircraft. But the Taleban know that when the snow comes in mid-October the Americans will have to fly lower or gamble on a land invasion against seasoned fighters who know the lie of the land.

 The Americans have also been dropping small amounts of "food aid" -- a cosmetic exercise designed to fool woorld opinion. These parcels are being burnt by angry Afghans. "The Americans are killing us and attacking us, and we don't need this food," an Afghan official dedared.

 Imperialist hopes that the Taleban regime would crumble within days have proved false. Attempts to cobble together a new front between the Northern Alliance, other mujahadeen leaders and the ex-king of Afghanistan have so far failed.

 The Northern Alliance -- properly the United Front of Afghanistan -- is still talking about a big push to taake Kabul during a lull in the air-war. Russia has sent them a dozen new helicopter gunships and a Russian defence analyst in Moscow said this week that between 1,000 to 2,000 Russian troops were already in Alliance held territory providing technical assistance and instruction.

 Pavel Felgenhauer, in Moscow, also claimed that Russian soldiers were helping to transport tanks and heavy equipment over the Pyandzh river from Tajikistan into Afghanistan while other military advisers are manning heavy equipment presumably artillery -- in the Alliance enclave just 30 km from the Afghan capital. The Russian Defence Ministry has denied these claims.

Defiant call

 In Kabul the Taleban leadership have said their leader, Mullah Omar, and Osama bin Laden were still alive. They've gone on to lift all restraints on the Saudi Islamic rebel who has called on his supporters, and all Muslims, to join in a Holy War against the United States.

 On the day war broke out bin Laden released a filmed statement via a leading Arab Gulf television network. "Here is the United States. It was filled with terror from its north to its south and from its east to its west. Praise be to God.

 "What the United States tastes today is a very small thing compared to what we have tasted for tens of years... and in a speech rich with Islamic and Arab metaphor he concluded "As for the United States, I tell it and its people these few words; I swear by Almighty God who raised the heavens without pillars that neither the United States nor he who lives in the United States will enjoy security before we can see it as a reality in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Mohammed, may God's peace and blessing be upon him."

PFLP calls for Arab solidarity

 Solidarity with Afghanistan is spreading far beyond the traditional Islamic community. One leading Palestinian resistance movement has warned that American targets may go far beyond the hills of Afghanistan declaring that "peace and security cannot be imposed by brute force and aggression".

 The Popular Front for the Liberation ofPalestine (PFLP) "calls on the world community in general, and the American administration in particular, to take practical steps to stop Zionist state terrorism, which is being practised in the most ugly fashion; to provide temporary international protection for our people; to compel Israel to implement the resolutions of international law that deal with the Palestinian issue; and to end the practice of using double standards in dealing with international problems.

"The PFLP also calls upon all the fraternal Arab countries and on the states of the Islamic world not to remain idle as the American aggressive war, that began yesterday, is waged against the people of Afghanistan, with the threat that it will be expanded to include other countries in the region. The PFLP calls on them not to provide any facilities for the operation of the war".

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Peace protests around Britain

THE BEGINNING of the bombing of Afghanistan by United States and British forces last weekend prompted an upsurge in anti-war protests and activities all around Britain.

 Many are being organised by peace groups that came into being through opposition to the wars against Iraq and Yugoslavia or support for the cause of the Palestinian people. These struggles are all inextricably linked.


  Our New Worker correspondent in Colchester reports that 62 supporters of peace held a meeting last Friday at Friends House in Colchester.

  Among the speeches some statements opposing the war were read out from relatives of those who had died in the terror attack on New York.

  Other speakers raised the question of the Middle East and the role of Israel.

  The meeting agreed to take part in a vigil for peace in Colchester and a coach is to be organised for the London peace demonstration on Saturday.


  The Greater Manchester Coalition Against Sanctions and War sent us the following report:

 The Coalition Against Sanctions and War on Iraq is a secular organisation that was set up in 1997 to actively campaign against and expose the sanctions policy on Iraq which is killing approximately 5,000 children a month.

  We also campaign against the almost daily bombing of Iraq and the destruction that causes.

  Since 1997, in Manchester we have organised many activities and events, such as lobbying of members of Parliament, candlelight vigils, leaflets and petitioning, conferences, regular public meetings and demonstrations.

  At coalition events we always show just what the effects of sanctions and war are on the civilian population of Iraq. This includes the youth, women, disabled and other sections of Iraqi society.

  We have been able to achieve this through speakers at our events from members of the Iraqi community, humanitarian relief workers and campaigning activists from a wide range of organisations.

  At present we are currently working to develop our links with schools and communities inside Iraq and the Middle East as a whole, because the human suffering in Iraq will naturally have its effects upon people in neighbouring countries.

  In this growing climate towards war, where Iraq is still being bombed on an almost daily basis, the coalition would like to inform people that on Saturday 10 November we will be holding a day conference in Liverpool.

  This is so that we can come together to hear speakers such as Felicity Arbuthnot. She is a freelance journalist and regular visitor to Iraq.

  The conference will be held at the Liverpool dockers' CASA Club (29, Hope Street, near Lime Street Railway Station) from 11 am to 5pm. A light lunch will be provided. Entrance fee will be £3.50 (employed), £2 unemployed or free for those affected by asylum/immigration laws. The conference is open to all. Stalls are available on request for a donation of £5 to cover costs.

  For more information contact the coalition either at or write to us at The Coalition Against sanctions and War on Iraq, c/o Bridge 5 Mill, 22a Beswick Street, Ancoats, Greater Manchester.


  In York's Parliament Street members of York Green Party, the Socialist Alliance and the city's Quaker community gathered at the fountain and lit candles. Then they stood quietly, watched by a solitary policeman, holding placards bearing anti-war slogans.

 Protester Joyce Pickard said: "As long as the bombing goes on, we will stand up and be counted."

  Joyce Smith of the Anglian Pacifist Fellowship said: "Afghan lives are as important as American lives lost in the attacks on the World Trade Centre. The suffering of the Afghan people will not be helped by the bombing."


 Socialists, CND members and children were among the mostly silent anti-war protesters who gathered in Bradford's Centenary Square to declare their opposition to the bombing of Afghanistan.

 The lecturers' union Natfhe banner was present as the group leafleted passers by. Pro-war people hurled some insults and one of these was escorted from the scene by one of the three policemen present.

 The leaflets advertised a public meeting on Wednesday 10 October, addressed by Bradford Green Councillor David Ford, Labour Councillor Muktar Ali and others.


  A number of Labour MPs joined a CND protest outside the House of Commons, including Tam Dalyell, Alan Simpson and Bob Marshall Andrews. Former MP Tony Benn was also there.

 He said he could understand the anger of the Americans after the terrorist attacks and their need to take some action.

 But, he said: "We have torn up the Charter of the United Nations. This is not the international community -- it's the two richest countries in the world bombing the poorest."

 The Stop the War Coalition also held a protest rally in Trafalgar Square. A speaker for the coalition said: "These attacks are acts of war wholly outside all legal, democratic and civilised norms. They will outrage people across the globe."


 Nearly 100 protesters gathered in Edinburgh's Royal Mile, carrying banners saying, "We mourn all victims of violence worldwide" and "Terror is no antidote to terror". Mick Napier from the Stop the War Coalition said they had gathered to commemorate "those dead and those about to die".


  in Glasgow six people were arrested after a demonstration at a Ministry of Defence building in Brown Street. Reports say that three men and a woman climbed on to a ledge outside Kentigern House at 3.50pm and were arrested at 6.30pm. Police said another two protesters on the ground were also arrested.

  Those who had scaled the first floor of the building unfurled a banner saying, "What do the dead eat?"

  A spokesperson for the Faslane Peace camp, who was present, said: "Bush and Blair are nothing short of murderers themselves. If they have proof against Osama bin Laden they should bnng him to trial through the international law courts."

  More than 400 protesters, including students, city workers and community groups also descended on George Square in Glasgow for a two-hour vigil.

  MSP Tommy Sheridan told the rally: "Missiles are not the answer. If you really want to tackle hatred and injustice you have to start a war on poverty in every corner of the world."


 Human rights activist Aamer Anwar also condemned the "retaliation" against Afghanistan. He said: "The Government says it does not want the destruction of the World Trade Centre to lead to a racist backlash against Muslims but they have contributed to such an atmosphere by virtually equating Islam with irrational violence."


 A series of meetings involving Green Party members, the Socialist Alliance, Globalise Resistance, CND and members of the New Communist Party and Communist Party of Britain has organised a peace vigil.

 It will be held this Friday evening at Blackheath Royal Standard near to the home of the local MP, Nick Raynsford. There will also be coaches to the big CND demonstration in London on Saturday 13 October.

 There were also major demonstrations in Birmingham and Cardiff.

Back to index


Afghanistan - the British connection

by Sean Kelly

IN recent weeks, much has been written about CIA backing for the Afghan Mujihadeen in the 1980's. Less is known about the British connection, and in particular, the training and arming of what became known as the "Afghan Arabs" who now form the backbone of the groups linked to Osama bin Laden.

 Until the mid 80's, the CIA was supplying clandestinely obtained weapons of Soviet bloc origin, obtained via third parties such as Israel. These included obselete Russian made surface to air missiles.

 In 1984, the House Intelligence Committee approved $50 million for covert aid to the Mujihadeen, as a result of which the CIA was able to purchase more up to date surface to air missiles from Oelikon of Switzerland and Shorts of Belfast.

 After this initial priyment, the Reagan administration was able to increase the funding until by the time of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, the total was in excess of $3.5 billion.

 Shorts supplied the 'Blowpipe' hand held optiFally guided missile to the British Army until it was replaced by the 'Javelin' in 1991. The operator steered the missile via a wire and a joystick operated with the thumb.

 The 'Blowpipe' was itself considered obselete compared to the self-guided American made 'Stinger', but it proved effective in the Falklands war and was to shift the balance of forces in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

 Daud Rams, a Mig 21 pilot with the Afghan airforce who later defected stated "The Blowpipe missile didn't present as serious a problem to fighter aircraft as Stinger. Both Stinger and Blowpipe were real problems for helicopters, but we were more concerned with Stinger".

 British members of Parliament were prohibited form tabling written questions concerning 'Blowpipe' as late as 1989. However on the June 26, 1987, the then Foreign Secretary, Geoffrey Howe was repeatedly challenged by Labour MP's to confirm whether the CIA and MI6 had collaborated to supply "Hundreds" of Blowpipe missiles to the Afghans. Howe was goaded into admitting that "Most MP's will thank goodness that modern weapons are getting through to them".

 The main problem with 'Blowpipe' was that the heavy weapon required considerable training to be effective. The CIA and MI6 maintained secret training camps in Saudi Arabia and Oman. Over 10 000 "Afghan Arabs" had graduated from these camps by the end of the conflict.

 British training was provided by KMS ltd, a Jersey registered company based in London. KMS employed ex-members of the Special Air Services and were heavily involved in helping the Sultan of Oman repress Marxist rebels in the Dhafur province.

 It was there that the mercenaries amended the SAS motto "Who dares Wins" to "Who Pays Wins". It was also in Oman that the name KMS came about, from 'Keenie Meenie Services', based on the local phrase for "under the counter".

 KMS was first euposed by Time Out magasine in 1978. Much later the London Daily News was to describe it as "no ordinary security company". Indeed, in 1978 it was linked to Nicaraguan bomb outrages by David Leigh and Paul Lashmar in The Observer newspaper.

 This was strenuously denied by Major David Walker who then ran the company. However docuements which came to light during the "lrangate" congressional enquiries show that the company was paid $110 000 to supply helicopter pilots to the Contras.

 George Foulkes, Labour foreign affairs spokesman said "Mrs Thatcher expresses outrage at terrorism wherever it is to be found. It is total hypocrisy to say this and then turn a blind eye to a sabotage operation run from the UK".

 Walker was recorded meeting William Clasey of the CIA and Colonel Oliver North. Walker was introduced to North by an old university chum, John Lehman, US Navy Secretary 1981 to 1987. Telephone records at ihe Pentagon exposed during the "Iran Contra affair" show that Walker was in regular contact with Lehman.

 On November 22, 1987 the London Observer's Simon de Bruxelles published a secret proposal from KMS to the CIA headed 'Confidential'. The three page document now makes very interesting reading. The report proposes sending small teams of ex-SAS instructors into Afghanistan in order to train rebels in "demolition, sabotage, reconnaissance and para-medecine".

 It went on to state that "KMS has been training special forces and unconventional units for over 10 years. The Company's proven success in all theatres, South America, Africa, Middle and Far East is unrivalled.

 The Company's instructors are drawn from special forces and elite regiments of the British Army. [The] Existing system for training in Pakistan has a number of disadvantages, not least the requirement to train over 50 per cent Pakistani students on courses".

 The report suggests sending three man teams into Afghanistan to train small, specially selected groups of Mujihadeen."

 This imposes difficult living conditions and poor logistic support on the instructors, but pays dividends many times over in the quality of training passed on.

 The instructors will have a broad base of experience in unconventional warfare skills but will expect to teach two main skills to start with: demolition and sabotage, and paramedical aid".

 It went on; "The cost of a three-man team for one year will be £160,000. This includes management visits, air fares to Pakistan and some equipment."

 A US intelligence source confirmed to the Observer "David Walker and KMS are involved in authorised covert operations... Afghanistan and Pakistan are areas in which KMS is probably involved".

Back to index

British News

Good riddance to Railtrack

by Daphne Liddle

PASSENGERS and rail workers alike reacted with joy last week to the news that the Government has finally wound up the ailing Railtrack and has, for the time being at least, taken Britain's railways, stations and signals back under Government control.

 The move follows pressure from the Treasury, which lost patience with Railtrack's continual demands for more and more taxpayers' money while failing to deliver even basic safety, never mind an acceptable service.

  Chancellor Gordon Brown had flatly refused any more Government money to bail out the collapsed company. He pointed out this would jeopardise Government plans for schools and hospitals.

  The Treasury says the alteration of the structure of Railtrack into a non profit-making trust will not be a drain on public finances. The trust will have to take on the current £4.5 billion debt amassed by Railtrack, to be covered in due course by revenues from the train operating companies.

  Nevertheless, the Government will ensure the trust has enough reserves to function and the £30 billion that the Government has already pledged for improving the rail network will stand. This means that work on upgrading the West Coast Mainline, construction the Channel Tunnel rail link and some other projects already in progress will continue.

 The prospects of projects yet to be started are not so certain.

 The new body is likely to be owned by the train operating companies, passenger groups and the unions, along with the Strategic Rail Authority. The trust is expected to take control of Railtrack's massive £150 million a month overspends, investing revenues and not paying dividends.

  A Treasury spokesperson said: "It had an increasing mountain of debt that was never going to be fundable, given what the regulator would allow."

  The two main Government watchdogs on the performance of the railways, rail regulator Tom Winsor and the Strategic Rail Authority will be merged.

  Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers said: "For Railtrack there will be no bailout, no last-minute rescue paid for by the taxpayer. Our action today will see the end of Railtrack.

  "In my judgement, the time had come to take back the track and put the interests of the travelling public first.

  "But this is only one part of a fundamental restructuring of the rail industry. I intend to rationalise the present system of regulation to provide a more united approach, with stronger strategic direction while stopping the day-to-day interference in the industry."

 Rail unions have welcomed the move. Mick Rix, general secretary of the drivers' union Aslef, said: "If this is to be a return to some measure ofpubiic control, that would be a welcome first step towards the radical restructuring the railway needs."

  And a spokesperson for the RMT transport union said: "We believe there should be a return to public ownership. The industry should never have been privatised in the first place. The whole saga has been a scandal."

  The change should not lead to any job cuts except at top management level. Trains will continue to run as normal.

  Meanwhile the Railtrack board and the shareholders are furious. Railtrack chief executive Stephen Marshall has resigned, complaining that the Government has treated it very badly.

  Shares in Railtrack cost £3.60 at privatisation in 1996 and rose to nearly £18 in 1998 before falling again due to fears that it would not be able to raise money needed for the massive improvements to the rail network.

  At the close of trading on  Friday share stood at £2.77 but shareholders are unlikely to get much for them.

  Professor Stuart Cole from the Transport Research Centre at the University of Glamorgan said: "At the end of the day everyone who invests in the stock market knows the risks they are taking. And just as those who sold at £18 will have done well, so those who now have shares have lost money."

  The halfway step towards renationalisation follows years of pressure from unions, passengers and others. Even capitalists need a functioning, efficient transport system for themselves, their goods and their workers. And even they could see that Railtrack's demands on taxpayers' money had become a bottomless pit and a drain on all.

  But the move will also send a powerful signal to future investors in privatised utilities. Already shares in Jarvis, Balfour Beatty, Carrillion and other construction companies used by Railtrack have fallen.

 The Government must also be aware of the message this sends to the companies waiting to get involved in the London Underground public private partnership (partial privatisation). Many are the same companies involved with Railtrack.

  Finance experts say the private sector is unlikely to be rushing forward to lend money to the new trust to fund future major projects. One said: "The private sector has had its hand bitten off, it won't be putting out the other one in a hurry."

  Meanwhile, interviews of passengers at Leeds City station on the morning the news broke produced the following comments:
 * "It was an absurd idea to set Railtrack up in the first place and I was horrified at its safety record."

 * "Safety first should have been Railtrack's driving force all along and it wasn't. So it's splendid news that it's to be succeeded by a non-profit-making company which will put safety before profits."

 * "Something had to be done."

 * "Best news for a long time."

 * "Good riddance to Railtrack."

 Of course, there are no guarantees that the new trust will be able to resolve all the problems of our rail network. Even capitalist pundits, writing in the London Evening Standard, acknowledge this will take an awful lot of money and a "20-year plan". And there are no guarantees this Labour government will not try to re-privatise it at some stage. And it is still not full renationalisation.

 But it is a big step in the right direction that will send a big message to capitalism in Britain and the world.

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