The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 12th December 2003

Comrade Ri Si Hong from the Workers Party of Korea with NCP Chair Alex Kempshall at the 14th Congress of the NCPB last weekend

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by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown last Wednesday made his regular pre-budget statement, which, reading between the lines, admits that Government borrowing has rocketed way beyond his predictions – and a lot of that money has gone on the illegal war against Iraq.

Nevertheless he put on a show of optimism, pointing out that economic growth is doing well enough to cover the rise of £17 billion rise in Government borrowing, taking it to £37 billion, the highest since 1997 and £10 billion more than he predicted.
total so far

He set aside another £800 million to spend on occupying Iraq, Afghanistan and “the war on terror”, bringing the total so far to £6.3 billion.

 He is putting this country very deeply in debt in order to please the American warmongers, on the strength of an economy that appears strong now – but which is based on unprecedented levels of personal debt in Britain that cannot be sustained forever.

 This country is now very vulnerable to an inevitable global economic downturn.

 This comes at a time when many political commentators have been predicting that Brown is likely to replace Blair as Prime Minister early in the New Year.

  Next month Blair faces the publication of the results of the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly as well as the House of Commons vote on the Bill to increase student tuition fees.
will resign

Blair has already said that he will resign if the Bill is not passed, giving those who want to see the back of him a powerful incentive to vote against it.

 So far at least 150 Labour MPs are committed to opposing the Bill. Liberal and Tory MPs are also likely to oppose it for different reasons.

 Blair and Education Secretary Charles Clarke are trying to win round the Labour rebels over the Christmas break but with little success so far..

 It seems as though Blair may at last have realised that he has now become an electoral liability for the Labour Party – his recent minor health scares that could give him a chance to quit with dignity “on health grounds”.

But he and Brown are determined the pro-American, pro-war, pro-privatisation policies will remain unchanged. Hence they are preparing for a smooth change of leadership to Brown.

 These efforts to stitch up the succession will not go unchallenged. Britain’s ruling class is deeply divided.

 Pro-European forces are deeply alarmed at the growing aggression and militarism of the United States and its drive to control the world’s productive powers, in the name of  the “war on terror”.

 This is why the major European powers, including France and Germany did not back the invasion of Iraq, even though they had supported the attacks on Afghanistan and the US interventions in the Balkans.

 This stand played a crucial role in denying the United States a United Nations mandate for the invasion – something Bush and Blair had not expected.

 Their decision to go ahead with the invasion without the authority of the UN put them at odds, not only with peace and progressive movements but also with many bourgeois liberals who had backed them until that point.
tipped the scales

In Britain it tipped the scales and set the majority against the war. Blair’s defiance of public opinion and international legality fatally injured his political career.

 The pro-European part of the mainstream press – papers like the Independent and the Mirror – backed the peace movement and, along with the BBC, have supplied a continual succession of embarrassing revelations surrounding Blair’s manipulations and machinations to make a bogus case for the war.

 Those pro-European elements of the ruling class that want rid of Blair will not go away. They will be putting all the pressure they can in January to make sure he goes.
burnt bridges

They won’t want Brown either. The pre-budget statement said nothing at all about Europe. Brown’s economic assessments put Britain further away from joining the euro than ever. Blair and Brown, in their subservience to Bush, have burnt their bridges with Europe.

 There will be a battle over Blair’s succession and no outcome is guaranteed.

 The working class will be no better off with Brown than with Blair but we need to go further than the pro-European sector of the ruling class. They are just as much in favour of increased privatisation and maximum exploitation as their pro-American enemies.

The organised working class, the trade unions, peace and progressive movements have an opportunity now to use the division in the ruling class to press for a genuinely socialist leadership for the Labour government – one that will ensure Labour will be re-elected at the next general election.

 Allowing the Tories back does not bear thinking about. 


Blair’s dismal record

THE “SEASON OF GOODWILL” is approaching so we can expect the usual platitudes from our rulers about “peace and goodwill” and the wonderful paradise that is Blair’s Britain today. And, of course, it is a paradise for the exploiters of the parasitical bourgeoisie who live off our backs. There’s plenty for the rich in Blair’s new world.

But the latest report from the Rowntree Foundation show that millions of workers and their families are languishing in abject poverty. Though there has been a marginal drop in the numbers below the official poverty line, this is largely due to the fact that more people are in work than before.

According to data prepared for the Rowntree Foundation, the number of people living on low incomes, defined as 60 per cent of median weekly income which currently stands at £114 for a single person and £273 for a couple with two children, dropped by a million last year. But it also revealed that 12.5 million people were still below this miserable threshold and that Britain has proportionately more poor people than any other member of the European Union except for Greece and Portugal. Conditions have worsened in the North East of England and London has the highest proportion of people living in poverty in the whole country.

One of the authors of the report stated that: “There is still a long way to go before the number of people living in low-income households reaches the level of 20 years ago. But the reduction in poverty levels to below those of the 1990s is a notable milestone and suggests real progress.”

Some “milestone”. What “progress”?

What an indictment of Blair’s Labour government that it cannot even restore workers’ basic living standards to the level they once had during the last Labour government in the 1970s.

This is a Government that is more concerned about the rights of the rural rich to continue hunting foxes than with eradicating poverty. This is a Blair leadership that will spend billions on arms and wars but does little or nothing to restore our crumbling health service or pay the elderly a decent pension.This is in one of the richest countries in the world. This is a Government happy to scapegoat asylum-seekers to divert working people from their problems – problems due entirely to the capitalist system. This is a  Government that wages war against the people of Iraq in partnership with American imperialism while turning its back on the millions who voted it into office.This is Blair’s Christmas.

The Labour back-bench revolt over student “top-up” fees and the simmering discontent over Iraq and the European Union open up the prospect of Blair’s defeat in Parliament next month. Blair himself has said his leadership is on the line.

The Prime Minister must be held to that promise if the Government is defeated and the peace and labour movement as a whole must mobilise now to stop a cosmetic change at the top that alters nothing.

 We must ensure that Blair is not replaced by Gordon Brown or another from his “New Labour” clique. And above all we must fight for a Labour leadership and government that will bring the troops back from Iraq and meet the just demands of the trade union movement.

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