The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 12th November, 1999

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Editorial - Truth will out. & Abolish the Lords.
Lead Story - Brown's boost for the bosses.
Feature - NHS accused of ageism.
International - Hero's welcome for Galloway in Baghdad!
British News - Irish peace review in balance.


Truth will out

IN the weeks and months leading up to the war against Yugoslavia, Nato's propaganda campaign spared no effort in telling the world that the Yugoslav government was carrying out systematic "ethnic cleansing" of Kosovan Albanians and alleged that it was murdering civilians in cold blood.

 This lie was the pretext for starting the war. It was repeated every day to justify the relentless bombing and to divert attention away from Nato's own murderous crimes.

 There is no doubt that fighting between Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) separatists and Yugoslav forces caused casualties and deaths on both sides -- including civilians caught in the crossfire.

 Pro-Nato media hacks then presented the corpses as victims of "Serb terror", and refugees, made homeless and fearful by the fighting and Nato bombing, were said to be fleeing from genocidal massacres.

 But the truth will out. After four months of investigation and searching, the expected mass graves and the supposed ten thousand or more victims have not been found. Less than a quarter of that number of bodies have been discovered -- a number consistent with reports of the fighting between KLA and Yugoslav forces in what was effectively a civil war in the Kosovo province.

 One of the rumours claimed the Trebca lead and zinc mine near Mitrovica contained 700 bodies. The War Crimes Tribunal, set up by the United Nations in 1993, sent in heavy earth moving equipment to look for the human remains -- nothing at all was found, not a single body!

 Another site in Liubenic was claimed to be a mass grave for 350 people -- only seven bodies were found there.

 So far, despite search visits to the area by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), UN War Crimes Tribunal teams, and the constant presence of the Kosovo Force (KFOR), no evidence of genocide or mass killings has emerged.

 Nothing can bring back the dead victims of Nato's bombing. But since It is now apparent that the war was launched on the basis of lies and rumours, the demand should be raised in Washington, London and all the Nato capitals for the restoration of Kosovo to the Yugoslav authorities, for the lifting of all restrictions on that country's trade and economy and for reparations to be paid for the colossal damage done.

Abolish the Lords

THE departure of the majority of hereditary peers from the House of Lords is a long-overdue and welcome development. But this half-measure has raised the question of how the empty seats are going to be filled.

 If the new breed of non-aristocratic members are appointed the second chamber will become a kind of quango -- a house of patronage inhabited by political creeps. If the new members are elected the second chamber will become a constitutional rival to the House of Commons with equal claims to represent the electorate.

 The answer is surely to abolish the second chamber altogether. We don't need a House of Lords, whether it is stuffed with belted Earls or the appointed great and good, to act as a restraining hand on the elected Commons.

 It is the ruling class which wants this means of slowing down any legislation it doesn't like and which so distrusts even the feeble bourgeoise democracy we have.

 Yes, last week the Lords did take up a good position over the government's disgraceful plans regarding incapacity benefit. But this doesn't mean the working class has found a new champion -- it simply shows the need to loudly raise our own voices against Blair's mean and lousy policies and to step up the pressure from within the labour movement -- a movement the Blairites need but don't deserve.

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Lead Story

Brown's boost for the bosses

By Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown last week delighted Britain's bosses with his capitalist-friendly pre-Budget measures.

 All in all he gave very little away and those who will benefit
most are the business community.

 His pledges are being made now, just before the annual Queen's Speech, for implementation at the traditional budget time next April.

 He has promised cuts in capital gains tax and tax breaks to create an American-style enterprise economy.

 He has also dropped the annual six-per-cent-above-inflation rise in petrol duty in favour of making decisions annually.

 This has all been welcomed by Britain's capitalists. Adair Turner of the Confederation of British Industry described the budget as "prudent and businesslike".

 Mr Brown claims he is seeking to eliminate child poverty within two decades.

 It sounds wonderful but there was little in this pre-Budget that had any relevance to it except perhaps yet another declaration to cut down on benefit fraud.

 Politicians call on this tactic over and over again while there is very little hard evidence on what levels of benefit fraud really are.

 All that happens is that extra bureaucracy is introduced which make it ever harder and more complicated for genuine claimants to get their entitlements.

 This will make some children a lot poorer -- at least temporarily.

 Mr Brown also made a sop to the pensioners -- an acknowledgement of the growing strength of their movement.

 He will give free television licences to the over-75s. And he has confirmed his promise to give all pensioner households an extra £100 towards heating bills this winter and said this will happen every year.

 It is welcome as far as it goes but he has refused to add any increase to the price-indexed rise in the basic state pension of 75 pence due next year.

 He has totally ignored demands to restore the link between pensions and average earnings.

 He hopes to divide the pensioners with generous-sounding sops while continuing the Tory policy of allowing the basic state pension to wither so that we are all forced to seek private pensions -- those of us who can afford it that is.

 Sally Greengross, director general of Age Concern, said: "While we welcome the concessions, we are certain that Britain's pensioners would rather have a decent pension increase in their pockets."

 And north London pensioner activist Len Aldis told the New Worker: "The concession of TV licences to the over-75s is to be welcomed. It is in line with one of our demands.

 "But within the next year or two, perhaps by the next budget, we are looking forward to further concessions and perhaps lowering the age from 75.

 "Licence fees of around £100 are hard for pensioners and the TV is often their window on the world, especially lone pensioners.

 "But Gordon Brown has got his war chest, let him use it. We must keep campaigning for our other demands.

 "The 75 pence rise is a scandal. And Brown has done nothing about restoring the value of the State Earnings Related Pension (Serps).

 "He has also done nothing to restore the link between pensions and average earnings -- he has not even mentioned it. So there is plenty of campaigning to carry on with."

 All other price index-linked benefits including Income Support will also rise by the outrageous 75 pence.

 Mr Brown is to extend the "New Deal" on jobs to the over 25s and threatens to make some long-term unemployed sign on every day "to cut down on fraud".

 He says the government will do its bit by ensuring that there are job opportunities which is a foolish pledge for anyone trying to run a capitalist economy.

 But the quality of the jobs is not mentioned. Most new jobs now are not in industry butin the service sector where wages are low, conditions and hours bad and job security very low.

 Mr Brown has promised to ring-fence increases in fuel tax to be spent on transport and new cigarette taxes to be spent on the health service.

 That still leaves him with a nice big "war chest" of surplus revenue to spend on a real war chest -- to replace all those bombs and shells that have been dropped on Iraq and Yugoslavia with brand new, state of the art jobs.

 And the seriously rich are basking in even more tax breaks than Mrs Thatcher gave them.

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NHS accused of ageism

by Caroline Colebrook

THE NATIONAL Health Service is giving a second class service at all levels to pensioners, according to a report, Turning Your Back on us: Older People and fhe NHS, published last week by the lobby group Age Concern.

 The report says that elderly patients are routinely being refused treatments such as breast cancer screening and heart transplants and being forced to turn to the private sector for care they had expected from the NHS.

 It also claims that the elderly are often subjected to rudeness from NHS staff.

 The group is calling on the government to make it illegal for doctors to refuse treatment or give different treatment to anyone simply because of their age.

 And it has called on the government to investigate the full extent of age discrimination in the NHS and force health authorities and hospital trusts to declare when they use age barriers.

Age Concern director general Sally Greengross said: "The government must act now to halt the epidemic of ageism in the NHS.

 "The problem lies not only with issues of local or national policy but also with the attitude of the health professional.

 "This report presents loudly and clearly the voices of older people who say they feel 'fobbed off', under-valued and even abused by the NHS because of their age.

 "All older people should be entitled to top quality care wherever they live, on the basis of clinical need. The government must take the necessary steps to outlaw ageism in the NHS.

 "The first step would be to fulfil its pre-election promise to conduct its own thorough investigation of NHS policies and practices which discriminate against older people."

 The report was based on a Gallup survey which revealed that one in 20 people over 65 had been refused treatment by the NHS.

 It found that women over 65 are not routinely screened for breast cancer even though 63 per cent of all deaths from the disease are among women in this age group.

It also claimed evidence of a national policy to refuse heart transplants to the over-sixties and that 20 per cent of coronary care units have an age-related admissions policy. Yet two thirds of those treated for heart attacks are over 65.

 Leonard Wilson from Swindon was told he needed a new heart but that it was likely nothing would be done because he was over 60.

 He said: "I remain angry and unhappy about what is happening to me. If I was 59, would I have been treated?

 "On what basis has 60 been chosen as the cut-off point? And who is making these decisions? We hear that life expectancy for men is 85. That's another 20 years from now."

 More than 10 per cent of those who contacted Age Concern after they had been interviewed for the survey were reluctant to give their personal details because they feared further discrimination.

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Hero's welcome for Galloway in Baghdad!

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent

GEORGE GALLOWAY, the campaigning Glasgow Labour MP, received a hero's welcome in Baghdad as he arrived in the now famous big red bus at the end of the mercy mission launched by the Mariam Appeal.

 The double-decker London bus arrived in the Iraqi capital last Saturday evening completing an epic two-month journey which began in London last September. The bus, carrying medical aid to blockaded Iraq, travelled through France and Spain, then through Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Jordan to reach its goal, Baghdad. Now it's in the capital of the defiant Arab country under air and economic attack from Anglo-American imperialism.

 All along the journey the bus stopped for rallies to mobilise public opinion against the brutal blockade which has led to the death of over a million Iraqis since 1990.

 Last Sunday thousands of Iraqis packed the Great Conference Hall in Baghdad to welcome Galloway and the volunteers who came with him. Deputy premier Tariq Aziz called him "a true friend of the Iraqi people" in his welcome. The Iraqi minister stressed that his country would not accept any UN resolution that fell short of the total lifting of sanctions nor would it accept the Anglo-Dutch proposal currently tabled at the UN Security Council.

 This proposal calls for a conditional suspension of sanctions if Iraq allows the return of weapons inspectors and puts its oil revenues under UN control.

 Galloway slammed the sanctions regime in an address to the Iraqi parliament on Monday.

 "You know better than me the gravity of this great crime, one of the great crimes of the 20th century that has been committed against Iraq," he declared, apologising forBritain's shameful role in maintaining the deadly blockade which has brought famine and disease to millions, a crime he compared to Poi Pot's genecide in Cambodia.

 "Genocide means killing someone not for what he has done but because of who and what he is. Everyone of the one million dead in Iraq under the embargo was killed ... because they are Iraqis. This is genocide," he said.

 As for the so-called Iraqi opposition in exile, he said they were nothing more than "a few hundred paid slaves sitting in London and Washington".

 Britain and the United States were "trying to break this country because they want to install a slave government in Baghdad. But this, the Iraqi people with their ancient culture, would never accept, he said.

 The "Big Ben to Baghdad" bus is the focus of the Mariam Appeal, the international charity named after Mariam Hamza who was rushed to Scotland for emergency leukemia treatment in May 1998.

 On his second day in Iraq George went to the children's hospital in Baghdad and visited the leukaemia ward. Mariam Hamza was the first child he visited.

 She initially responded well to treatment and entered a period of remission. Now her condition has worsened. The five-year-old girl is now suffering from neurological disorders such as blindness, seizure and weakness.

 Back at Galloway's hotel Iraqi parents and their children queued to ask him to help them get treatment which Iraq cannot provide because the sanctions regime bars the import of vital medicines and medical equipment.

 Over the past two months George and the Mariam Appeal volunteers have worked to raise the question of the suffering of the Iraqi people everywhere they went. Last week in Jordan, Galloway said "World countries must work to lift the unjust embargo on Iraq which leads to the death of more than 84,000 Iraqi children per year at a rate of one child every six minutes."

  Iraq and Yugoslavia have pledged to work together to resist the United States and its Western allies following a meeting between Yugoslav Foreign Trade Minister Borislav Vukovich and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad this week. "We are with you... and both Baghdad and Belgrade are fighting imperialism," Saddam told the Yugoslav minister.

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British News

Irish peace review in balance

by Steve Lawton

TEN weeks on into discussions conducted by former Senator George Mitchell with parties to the Good Friday Agreement -- principally the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and Sinn Fein -- and a significant movement forward hangs in the balance.

 The logjam of Unionist insistence that the Irish Republican Army hand over its weapons before Sinn Fein takes office lies at the heart of the current impasse, the solution of which will enable most other key features of change charted in the Agreement to fall into place.

 But both Sinn Fein and the Ulster Unionists alike thought the media's intense speculation was "unhelpful". Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey rebutted the latest one that the IRA is ready to decommission its arms. He didn't want to "speculate about speculation."

 But while rumour mongering is rife, the newly shuffled-in Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson told a gathering of the Ireland Fund of Great Britain in the Banqueting House, London last Tuesday that "the peace process is indeed at a very crucial stage. I believe now that we have it in our grasp to map out the series of steps and changes capable of achieving an unbreakable peace."

 That seemed to be a fraction more knowing, over a couple of days since his speech to the annual conference of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) last weekend. There he said: "These talks might, just might bring the compromise that secures a peaceful, democratic future for generations to come."

 In his speech he praised the efforts of John Hume and Seamus Mallon as leaders of the SDLP which had been the "rock of democratic nationalism", and equally gave due regard to the roles of both UUP leader David Trimble and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

 Recognising the role played by SinnFein leader Gerry Adams in going the "distance" he has it the process, Mandelson said the Sinn Fein leader "has argued con sistently that the differences between unionist, nationalist, loyalist and republican can only be resolved by inclusive political dialogue and shared responsibility. Without them we would not have the realistic hope that the Good Friday Agreement gives us.

 There is an environment beginning to shape up demonstrating confidence in certain sections that progress will continue. But much will hinge on how the highly sensitive issues of Orange Order parades, the several crucial inquiries, commission findings and implementation, as well as demilitarisation are resolved.

 Small indications point in the right direction. The Centre for Cross-Border Studies, which aims to examine how real co-operation and strategic development between north and south can be achieved, was set up at Queens University, Armagh last Monday. Local councils are deepening cross-border co-operation.

 In the context of a solution to decommissioning, the setting up of the Northern Ireland Assembly Executive with Sinn Fein fully represented alongside the unionists and other parties, and the creation of the north-south bodies, the deep-lying issues of injustice, inequality, poverty, human rights abuse and job disrimination will then be under the spotlight.

 John Hume, in his party speech, noted how much had already changed, not least that meetings between David Trimble and Gerry Adams "have become an almost everyday occurrence."

 And on the stumbling block of decommissioning he said the issue had been given "dispropordonate significance" but that it indicated a "lack of trust". He said: "Building trust is a necessary condition forits resolution. And for that reason the developing engagement among the parLies at the Mitchell review is deeply important."

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