The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 12th February, 1999

Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

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Editorial - Forward to the future.
Lead Story - Labour betrays refugees.
Feature - Rover future uncertain.
International - Hussein's last farwell.
British News - Lone parents hit again.


Forward to the future

 THE Republican campaign to topple United States President Bill Clinton by legalistic means is as long running, and about as tacky, as the average American soap opera.

 It began years ago with the Whitewater allegations. When this campaign failed to nail the President and his wife the spotlight turned to the emerging stories about Clinton's extra-marital goings on and ended with the toe curling revelations about his Oval Office affair with Monica Lewinsky.

 There is no doubt that this expensive and tedious business has nothing to do with any real concern about the President's morals or the integrity of the Constitution. The motive is to bring down a President who, despite leading the cruel onslaught against Iraq and his undoubted full commitment to the interests of US imperialism in every corner of the world, is still regarded by a section of the American ruling class as bad news.

 This ultra conservative element want the lowest possible tax levels for the benefit of the rich even when this means slashing public spending to the point where welfare provision virtually disappears -- to turn the clock back decades.

 Clinton and the Democrats, on the other hand, cannot ignore the votes they get from working class Americans who, despite the Democrats being yet another pro-boss, capitalist party, still look to it for some protection.

 Clinton's policy of health reform, which would go some way to protecting the millions of Americans who cannot afford private health insurance, is the last straw for those currently backing the drive to impeach or criminalise Clinton over the Lewinsky affair.

 Clintongate, whether it makes us yawn or laugh, is something we should not ignore since it shows us which way the forces that drive capitalism are heading. And that is backwards as far as the majority of people are concerned.

 This is because the wealthy capitalist class are, as Marx explained, constantly faced with the tendency under capitalism for the rate of profit to fall. There are no benign solutions -- all they can do is increase exploitation by cutting labour costs, push back wages and conditions and take more and more in tax breaks out of the public purse. And even then the problem will not go away.

 For many rich Americans this ceaseless desire for more and more at the expense of those who make the wealth in the first place has led to the desperate measure ofimpeaching a President who is, like all US Presidents, one of their own.

 And because capitalists are in competition with one another and the fact that no capitalist country can escape the forces that drive the system, there is a massive effort being made throughout the capitalist world to slash welfare provision and social spending.

 In Europe it is being carried out under the umbrella of the Maastricht conditions for creating a single currency -a programme the capitalists of Europe would want to carry out whether the EU existed or not.

 In Britain it has been the policy of succeeding governments fortwenty years. For years the real value of the state retirement pension has been eroded and the threat of means testing seems to be always lurking around the comer. There is no doubt that full privatisation of pensions would be made compulsory if it wasn't for the fact that we are such a low wage economy that it cannot be achieved.

 The drive to cut social spending is largely fuelled by the economic crisis. But it has been helped by the collapse of the former Soviet Union and socialist Europe. The capitalist leaders no longer have to take account of neighbouring countries with socialist governments providing their citizens with high quality free health care, free education, affordable housing,jobs for all and universal and adequate pensions and benefits.

 Without such neighbours, the slashed social budgets of the capitalist world can be made to appear normal.

 Yet the capitalist class still asserts that socialism is old fashioned and finished while their system represents all that is new. But all that calls itself "new", like "New Labour" -- is not new at all -- mostly it's just mutton dressed as lamb.

 Socialism is the truly modern idea that offers progress for humanity and a future for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.

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Lead Story

Labour betrays refugees

by Daphne Liddle
 WHEN THE current Labour govenment was in opposition, one of its firmest pledges was to do away with the unjust and racist Tory Immigration and Asylum Acts of 1993 and 1996 as a matter of priority.

 Now in their second year in office they have produced a new Immigration and Asylum Bill. But far from improving the situation, this Bill will make things even harder for genuine refugees and deny them any rights to welfare benefits.

 In fact the new Bill is simply a continuation of the process begun under the Tories and linked to similar legislation in other European Community countries to turn Europe into a fortress against any influx of immigrants or refugees from outside.

 At the same time the effects of world imperialism and the global crisis of capitalism continue to wreak havoc in the Third World and nearer to home in the Balkans producing ever larger tides of refugees and displaced persons.

 There has been a steady rise in asylum applicants to Britain but this is small beer compared to those arriving in other countries. Most Third World refugees only make it as far as the next safe country, leaving governments already much poorer than any in Europe to cope with far larger refugee problems.

 But you would not think this to read most of the press in Britain. You would think that this country alone had been specially targeted by thousands of feckless wasters who want to come here to sponge off our "generous" welfare system. And the impression given is that most or all asylum seekers are bogus.

 Some papers base this on the fact that very few win full asylum. But that is because it is so very hard to achieve this under current Tory laws, which insist that asylum seekers must declare themselves as soon as they arrive. Most have no way of knowing this is what they are supposed to do and tread with care and caution in a new country until their only opportunity has gone by.

 But the press scare stories about Britain being swamped with bogus asylum seekers create a climate of public opinion where the government can get away with the most draconian and inhuman legislation.

 Now Home Secretary Jack Straw will speed up the deportation of those who fail to convince our courts quickly that they are genuine. He says the system will be "firmer, faster and fairer" -- and he speaks of refugees as though they are assumed to be bogus.

 None are entitled to legal aid but there are charities which do help refugees with legal advice and one or two humanitarian MPs who work very hard to help those in serious danger.

 The Tories first tried to deny welfare benefits to refugees in 1996 but received a setback in a test case in court where a judge ruled that no one in our society should be left totally without any means of subsistence. Asylum applicants of course are not allowed to seek work in this country until their cases are sorted out.

 Now Jack Straw is saying that the responsibility for housing, feeding and clothing refugees should be thrown entirely on local authorities. He will also create an Asylum Seekers' Allowance -- at pocket money level.

 Local authorities have already been carrying the burden for the past few years and this has led some to become very overburdened -- especially London boroughs near Heathrow air terminal, those near the Waterloo Eurostar terminal and of course Dover.

 The cost of providing decent accommodation and subsistence for refugees would be a drop in the ocean spread nationally. Last year there were 46,000 applications for asylum.

 But if it is thrown entirely onto a few cash-strapped local authorities, very hard decisions will have to be made in council chambers, which will be forced to cut back on vital services to local people in order to prevent the refugees starving and freezing in the

 And decisions like this will breed nothing but resentment against the refugees and fuel racism. Jack Straw should be aware of this.

 He has said that as a matter of last resort he may compel some local authorities outside London and Kent to take a share of refugees. This will scatter refugees around the country, isolating them among largely hostile local communities and cutting them off from interpreter services and any friends who may have come with them.

 The procedure for examining asylum seekers' cases does indeed need to be speeded up. But it is too slow because the procedure is too bureaucratic and the Home Office is poorly organised and under-staffed.

 The process of creeping fascism has not gone away just because we've had a change of government. That is because the ruling class is still in charge. whoever is sitting on the front benches in the House of Commons. It will take a revolution, not an election, to change that.

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Rover future uncertain
by Caroline Colebrook
 WORKERS at the Rover plant in Longbridge are holding their breath waiting to see if the parent company is about to close the factory, after splits and changes at the head of BMW last weekend.

 The Rover plant has been losing money for a long time and last December BMW asked for and got an agreement from the workforce to accept a package of 2,500 redundancies and changes in working terms and conditions in return for a £1.7 billion investment to restructure and save the plant.

 Even as the workers voted in favour of this plan, the company was refusing to give any guarantees that it would save the plant.

 BMW was also demanding significant financial aid from the British government.

 Since then the creeping global economic crisis has led to further big downturns in the motor trade.

 Both Ford and Rover are on a four-day week. Ford is to close for three weeks at Easter and Volvo has pulled out of car manufacture in Britain altogether, selling its Ayrshire plant to rival Fords.

 BMW chairperson Bernd Pischetsreider came under severe criticism from his backers, especially his second in charge Wolfgang Reitzle, for allowing Rover to run so long making losses.

 Reitzle was in favour of closing the Longbridge plant, at the cost of 14,000 jobs.

 Last weekend saw a heated meeting of the BMW board which ended with both these men resigning. The chair passed to Joachim Milberg who is now reviewing his predecessor's strategy before making any decisions.

 Meanwhile Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers has visited Longbridge. He has assured BMW that the government is prepared to offer financial assistance to help BMW modernise Longbridge.

wild card

 But there is another wild card in the pack. BMW itself has became a target for possible takeover, so any decision made by Milberg may be very short-lived.

The unions at Rover, who have been so compliant out of desperation to keep the plant open, can do very little.

 The whole crisis at Rover is an epitome of what is happening to capitalist manufacturing globally.

 Over the past few weeks, the government and the media have been trying to pretend the current crisis of over-production has gone away and that Britain has largely escaped unscathed.

 But what is happening in the motor industry is giving the game away. The industry is teetering on the brink of collapse because export markets have vanished. They have vanished because throughout the crisis-ridden Far East, Latin America and elsewhere no one can afford to buy new imported cars.

 Those countries worst affected by the crisis are now winning a bigger share of world markets because their currencies have been devalued.

 Last week the government reported that official figures show that British manufacturing industry continued to decline throughout the 1990s, as it did through the 1980s.

 The figures show that Tory monetarist policies in the 1980s cost two million jobs and resulted in a 15 per cent drop in production.

 The slide has continued as the coal fields have been closed down and Britain's economy has been drawn closer to Europe.

 Capitalist economists are looking for all sorts of weird explanations and refusing to face the fact that the system itself is the cause and the only answer is socialism.

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Hussein's last farwell
By Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent
 THE GREAT and the good from all over the Arab world and beyond gathered in the Jordanian capital of Amman this week to pay their last respects to King Hussein who died last Sunday.

 Tony Blair and other European politicians rubbed shoulders with oil princes and Arab presidents at the funeral on Monday. American President Bill Clinton and three past US presidents, Ford, Carter and Bush, led a delegation only rivalled by that of Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel, who came with the Israeli President Ezer Weizman, opposition Labour leader Ehud Barak, two former premiers, other rival politicians, Israel's MOSSAD spy chief, the Chief Rabbi and the spiritual leader of the Druze community.

 Jordan was the creation of British imperialism following the carve-up of the Turkish empire by Britain and France after the First World War. Hussein's grandfather Abdullah, one of the sons of the Allies' Arab ally Sherif Hussein of Mecca, was given the territory, under British "protection", as a pay-off in 1925.

Jordan became fully independent in 1946 though still closely allied to British imperialism -- an alliance which continues in spirit to this day though in practical terms Jordan is now under the wing of the Americans.

 But this "protection" was always one-sided. Britain used Jordan, with its British-officered army led by Glubb Pasha, as an imperial staging post until 1946. Though imperialist support has proved crucial in keeping the king on his throne Britain was incapable, and the United States unwilling, to restore the West Bank to Jordanian control after it was seized by Israel in the 1967 war.

 In the wider Arab context Hussein quelled popular demands for Arab unity with Nasser's Egypt in the fifties and opposed the Palestinian resistance for many years -- his troops killing thousands in the Black September of 1970 when the king moved to disarm the Palestinian guerrillas operating in Jordan.

 Though he took the principled stand in diplomatically backing Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War he scurried to do the West's bidding afterwards signing an unpopular peace treaty with Israel in its wake.

 King Hussein was not a great Arab leader though his 46 year old reign was no mean achievement and the fact that every Arab country was represented by their leader or deputy showed that he had mended his fences with all of them in the last years of his life.

Hussein's last act was to dismiss his brother Hassan as Crown Prince and restore the succession to Abdullah, the son from his British first wife, Tony Gardiner. The Western media said this divided the royal family though it is well-known that Hassan's appointment in 1965 when Abdullah was a boy was done to safeguard the throne in the event of an assassination.

 The new King Abdullah, who they say speaks better English than he does Arabic, has had his blessing from Clinton and Madeleine Albright. But the real significance of the funeral, reflecting the real status of Jordan in the eyes of imperialism, was that it didn't lead to any important talks amongst the chief mourners.

 The only controversy came, predictably, from the Israeli camp. When the king's death was announced on Sunday Israeli premier Netanyahu had to deny reports that he "wasn't welcome" at the funeral.

 Because it's election time in Israel Netanyahu had to bring along opposition politicians who despise him including Labour leader Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Mordecai who both want his job -- as well as Leah Rabin, the widow of assassinated premier Yitzhak Rabin, who blamed Netanyahu for inciting the settler hatred which led to her husband's death.

 Netanyahu told a disbelieving media there would be a settlement with Syria this year. And the inevitable row erupted after Israeli President Ezer Weizman shook hands with one of the leaders of the Palestinian resistance.

 Nayef Hawatmeh, the leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), was in the palace talking to Israeli Arab MPs when Weizman and his escort entered the room. Weizman shook hands with everyone including the Palestinian leader, and started talking about the need for a comprehensive peace.

 According to the president's office Hawatmeh greeted Weizman and told him "You are exerting great efforts for the sake of peace and you are making peace,". Weizman then said he was ready to meet "foes before friends until reconciliation is maintained between the Israelis and the Palestinians".

 Hawatmeh told the Arab press that he said "The problem is yours," and called for the end to the occupation, the return of the Golan and south Lebanon, an end to the settlements and the return of the Palestinian refugees. Weizman then said that obstacle was the extremism of Israeli rightists.

 As the Israeli president left he bumped into Netanyahu and his foreign minister General Sharon who said they knew he had just greeted a man whose hands had shed the blood of Israelis. And Weizman told them "your hands are also responsible for killing Palestinians,".

 And so the "mourners" leave Amman and the caravan moves on.

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British News

Lone parents hit again
 THE GOVERNMENT last week unveiled its reforms to the benefits system and they are even tougher than expected.

 Lone parents and the disabled will be forced to attend not just one interview but regular interviews aimed at "focusing their minds" towards getting jobs.

This is all part of what Labour calls its new approach to welfare in which people must no longer ask: "What can you do for me?" but: "What can I do for myself!"

 In reality it is all a continuation of the Tory policy of dismantling state welfare and is related to the European Union targets for reducing public spending.

 The Bill means that all claimants of working age will have to attend regular interviews until they find a job, or it is decided they cannot find work.

 If they do not attend the interviews their benefits will be cut off.

 Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "We will see people as often as it takes. I was amazed to find that many people receive benefits still for years at a time without anyone returning to see if they are still entitled to them."

 He did not say where all the new jobs would come from with the bank of England predicting zero growth for the next year.

 Not did he say how the Benefits Agency and the Department of Employment are to fit in all these interviews with a staffing level which is overworked and over-stretched coping with its existing workload.

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