The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 12th March, 1999

 

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 - Banana split.
Lead Story - Brown's spoonful of sugar.
Feature - Rail engineers - the struggle continues.
International - End the "game plan" crisis in the Irish peace process.
British News - British army Nazis exposed.

Editorial

Banana split

 THE banana trade row between the United States and the European Union shows the World Trade Organisation for what it is -- a body dominated by the richest countries and a servant of imperialism. The United States, the most powerful nation of all, blatantly treats it as its cats paw.

 Most of the time the wealthy members of the WTO gang-up to impose their self-serving rules on poorer countries. Now the rich club members are fighting among themselves.

 This trans-Atlantic trade skirmish also highlights the enormous power of the giant American-based fruit growing companies who are pushing Washington to act on their behalf. Since all capitalist governments act in the interests of their own capitalist class, Washington's tariff threats should surprise no one. And if the EU retaliates in kind, a trade war could develop.

 Underlying the whole business is the deepening capitalist crisis. And one feature of this is a speeding up of the process of big fish swallowing smaller ones. The resulting huge monopolies have even greater wealth and power concentrated in their corporate hands.

 But for all their power they are still driven to seek ever increasing profits, new markets, new sources of raw materials and lower labour costs -- none can stand still, it's either fight on up or slip back down.

 They scramble to penetrate and control the world's markets -- markets which because of the crisis of overproduction cannot absorb all the goods produced. There are no Queensbury Rules for the economic fighting that results.

 The banana row also reveals what lies beneath the disagreements within the British ruling class over entry into European Monetary Union and ultimately full integration into a single European state.

 The Tory Euro-sceptics want the benefits of being part of the EU but recognise that this must spell the end of their cherished idea of having a special relationship with the US and, they hope, basking in its economic sunshine. The two blocs must inevitably be rivals in an increasingly unstable system.

 Certainly the cosy friendship that is supposed to exist between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton did not stop the US from issuing threats that would seriously damage the wool len industry in Scotland. The dominant section of the ruling class, that has chosen the European path, will see this as evidence of the weakness of relying on Uncle Sam.

 But for us, the working class, the whole business just underlines the bankruptcy of the capitalist system. Our class is not served by any capitalists be they American, European or British. They are all hell bent on exploiting us for their own gain.

 We can all see that both sides in the current dispute over bananas are shedding gallons of crocodile tears about the jobs and livelihoods that are threatened. Europe has suddenly become concerned about plantation workers in the Caribbean, weavers in Scotland and cheesemakers in Italy, while Washington is wringing its hands over the plight of Central and South American agricultural labourers.

 It's all hypocrisy -- the workers that end up paying for this crisis with their jobs, whichever side of the pond they're on, are of no more concern to the politicians of the capitalist world today than they were yesterday. The real name of the game is the big money at stake and winning the political arm-wrestling match.

 Such struggles will increase as the giant companies set their sights on becoming global monopolies and as recession spreads across the capitalist world.

 This in turn will bring more unemployment as the new monopolies "rationalise" their staff, higher prices because they no longer have to worry about rivals under-cutting them and of course, no choice. As with all mergers and buy-outs, the effect is to destroy competition -- something the apologists for capitalism hold up as a virtue. Capitalism cannot even deliver its own cherished ideas.

 The majority of the world's people are the victims of capitalism, not its beneficiaries. For us the way ahead lies in winning the struggle for socialism and the creation of a new social system in which exploitation is outlawed and in which production is geared to people's needs.

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Lead Story

Brown's spoonful of sugar

by Caroline Colebrook
 
 CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown's budget is a masterpiece of public relations -- it appears to be much more generous than it actually is.

 It does get many things right and is far better than any budget we could expect from the Tories. But when we look not just at what he has done but what he has failed to do, the advances are smaller than they first seemed and are totally inadequate to meet public sector needs.

 Pensioners do comparatively well but not well enough. The basic state pension is still set to decline relative to average earnings.

 Mr Brown has linked guaranteed minimum income of £170 a week to earnings but that will affect only those who have only the basic state pension and need an Income Support top-up to survive. It is that top-up bit that will be earnings related.

 There are some small but welcome tax changes for pensioners and a very welcome increase in the winter heating allowance to £100 a year per pensioner household. That will make a real difference to those who have problems keeping warm.

 Child Benefit is to be increased and will not be subject to tax. That is good compared to the Tory policy of letting it "wither on the vine" and vanish.

 The scrapping of the married couple's tax allowance, to be replaced by working families' tax credit will help low paid young families. And it does in a small way recognise that those who a rearing the coming generation are making a vital contribution to society and deserve the support of society.

 But families could lose more than they gain if they are smokers or car users.

 The increase in petrol tax is a mixed blessing. Atmospheric pollution levels do demand that we promote the use of public transport where possible rather than private car use.

 But some families, especially those in rural areas, are really dependent on their cars. It is right in this respect that the licence tax changes should encourage the use of smaller cars.

 But the petrol tax is an indirect tax that will affect all car owners, no matter what their income or their needs. It could also lead to increased costs of food transport and therefore food prices.

 It is not enough to promise that the money will be used to improve public transport to rural areas in the future. The need is now.

 Without full renationalisation of all public transport, the government has little power to deliver improvements. This need not cost the nation a fortune as most of the private train and bus companies are working on fixed term franchises which will expire in due course anyway. The government only needs to refuse to renew them.

 There is some extra money for the NHS, mainly targeted at accident and emergency units. This is desperately needed but it will be nowhere near enough to reopen the dozens of casualty units that have been lost over recent years in the London area, let alone the whole country.

 Some money has been granted for schools, to be targeted mainly at spending on books and computers. It is good but not nearly enough.

 By introducing a ten pence starting rate for income tax, Mr Brown has shifted some wealth from the well paid working class to the poorest workers but, apart from an increase in National Insurance contributions, he has left the seriously rich alone.

 And the main gainers are all in work. Apart from pensioners, there is nothing in the budget for those who, for whatever reason, cannot work: those with disabilities, carers, the unemployed, the homeless and so on. They remain excluded.

 It is not the fault of those without jobs that industrial decline and year upon year of spending cuts means there are now a lot fewer jobs to go round.

 And of course although the new family credit scheme will put money directly into the hands of workers, it will indirectly transfer it afterwards to the hands of greedy bosses by allowing them to get away with paying lower wages.

 There is a definite element in this budget of pushing people into any old jobs, however low paid or awful.

 The City has welcomed the budget, there is much in it for big business with a ten per cent starting rate for corporation tax.

 And of course there is a mighty question mark over the whole budget -- the global recession that is gathering strength outside these shores.

 Mr Brown expects us to be hit a bit. He has allowed fora rise of 250,000 in unemployment. But he is basing all his sums on the assumption that, compared to the last 20 years, the costs of benefits and unemployment benefit in particular will remain low.

 In a capitalist world, this is a very foolish assumption.
 

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Feature

Rail engineers - the struggle continues
 
A trackworker update
 
 RAIL TRACK  repair workers who are members of the RMT transport union have heen in dispute for almost 12 months with the various maintenance companies I'ormcd from the spiteful Tory privatisalions of April 1996.

 The latest state of play in the dispute, on 1 March 1999, is as follows:

 Jarvis workers, who maintain tracks other than the West Coast Main Line in North West England, have recently humiliated their macho management to such an extent that their late February one-week total stoppage was called off.

 This followed Jarvis bosses begging them to return to work and negotiating on improved offer. They also amazingly gave each of the several thousand workers a £300 lump sum after only three days "out", above and beyond no loss of basic weekly wages.

 Scottish workers on First Engineering, angered in autumn 1998 by the mass suspension of hundreds of strikers were further provoked by abuses of disciplinary procedures up to Christmas.

 They rejected RMT recommendations to accept the company offer and are soon to consider new offers.

 Developments in the two companies have vindicated the firm opposition to privatisation and to the anti-union tactics of the privatised companies in collusion with the parent company, Railtrack.

 First Engineering workers have developed a good spirit now. Among other things they demand that management drop plans to "psychometrically test" workers in "safely critical" areas.

 They cannot understand First Engineering's sudden concern over safety when a few years ago they tried to sack safety representative Joe Morrison for refusing to wash his hands in a bucket of cold, dirty water when out on a job. The worker who suggest it is the management who need psychometric testing.

 Balfour Beatty workers, who maintain the East Coast Mail Line, remain angry over last year's stitch up of another safety representative and York RMT assistant secretary Barry McDonald. They are demanding improved offers.

 Workers in the south-east under Amec are being urged to stand firm against their very nasty management.

 Centrac, which operates heavy plant on-track machines in the north of England has sought to solve its probletn's by throwing taxpayers' money at them.

 Several "relayer" gangs have been made redundant with large pay-outs under established redundancy arrangements.

 It is rumoured that this company, which is owned by construction giant Tarmac, is going to be merged with GTRM, also owned by Tarmac, to give the company a plant capacity of its own as it competes for contract work nationwide.

 Turning to GTRM, which currently maintains much of the Midlands rail network and the West Coast Main L,ine, the situation of the RMT members here is interesting.

 A ballot is planned for later this month on GTRM's latest "final offer". Mass meetings of all members are planned at Warrington, Wolverhampton, Norwich, London and other places to mobilise a mass rejection for this offer to match the 96 per cent rejection of the previous GTRM package.

lose allowances

 If the package is accepted, works department members stand to lose over £30 a week bonuses. Permanent way staff also stand to lose allowances, Sunday rates, quality time off and rostering arrangements.

 Right-wing elements on the GTRM company council recently said it would be "hard luck" for those who might lose out on the package.

 The RMT executive holds the key to the future of this debate now. Members working for all the privateer companies are full of fight and strong, principled leadership is vital.

 Everyone who calls themselves a socialist should now rally around the RMT in the next rounds of the battle.

 The issue of privatisation and the alternative of socialist control and public ownership of the railways must be raised at every opportunity.

 We have nothing to lose but our chains if we fight but our trains to lose if we don't.

 Please send donations and messages of support -- and many thanks to all -- to RMT Infrastructure Engineers' Dispute Hardship Fund, National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, Unity House, 205 Euston Road, London NW 12BL.

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International

End the "game plan" crisis in the Irish peace process
by Steve Lawton
 
 UNIONISTS' dangerous tactical gambits against Sinn Fein are reaching a decisive stage, with the 10 March deadline originally agreed for the setting up of the Northern Ireland executive and other structures, now put back by the British Government to 29 March.

 Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams MP met with Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble for nearly an hour and a half at Stormont last Tuesday, and a further meeting to break the stalemate over the handover of IRA weapons (decommissioning) is due as we got to press.

 Progress was "limited" and Gerry Adams repeated that the peace process was in a state of "crisis" still.

 Opposite Parliament the Irish Campaigns Network organised a symbolic protest to mark the 10 March failure of the British government to carry out the transfer of powers to northern Ireland.

 Protestors held a huge banner up which said "Implement the Good Friday Agreement -- 2,119,549 people in Ireland voted for it".

 Something unionists still fail to acknowledge as they attempt to derail the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland Assembly by insisting Sinn Fein cannot take up its two mandated executive positions until it "persuades" the IRA to begin decommissioning.

 Gerry Adams said, in an article published in the New York based Irish Voice this week: "Let us be clear about one thing. The unionist game plan is not only about renegotiating the Good Friday Agreement and minimising, diluting and delaying the changes upon which it is predicated.

 "The game plan also envisages the expulsion of Sinn Fein from the political process and the collapse of the peace process. Those who subscribe to this scenario, including elements within the British establishment -- though not the leadership of Tony Blair and Mo Mowlem, hold to the old failed policies which seek the defeat of republicanism and nationalists and particularly the IRA.

 Gerry Adams said they are "trying to force the IRA back to war" but, "for those who believe the peace process is war by another means", the objective is to "bring togetherwhat they consider to be more compliant elements of nationalism with mainstream unionism and the union is saved once again."

 As ever, the question comes back to the British and Irish governments. "Will he [David Trimble] push it to the point of collapsing the agreement?

 "Yes, if the two governments let him. And given the failure to keep to commitments on the formation of the [Northern Ireland Assembly] executive... London and Dublin will have to exert themselves in the weeks ahead with a greater focus than hitherto if the agreement is to be saved."

 He said on Monday that the deadline shift was directly a result of giving in to the UUP leader David Trimble and its veto, even if temporarily, as in the past.

 This increasing uncertainty and inertia has led to allegations by the Garda/RUC that there is a risk to Gerry Adams's safely, supposedly from an unidentified republican group.

 Continuity IRA, the only republican group not declaring a ceasefire, have denied any involvement. But whatever the source of the threat, republicans and nationalists are in no doubt what the continuing source of threat is to their communities.

 As Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said over a week ago: "The guns and bombs of the IRA are silent. Yet there is more talk about the guns and bombs that are silent than there is about the guns and bombs of the loyalist death squads which are still being used against the nationalist community."

 Death threats levelled at Catholic taxi drivers comes from the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), according to Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly who said their campaign of "intimidation" was "common knowledge".

 In particular too, as the Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlem realises, any delay beyond that new line in the sand -- 2 April marks the anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement -- risks serious consequences and complications once the European elections and the marching season gets underway.

 Already, Loyalists marking the 250 days siege of the nationalist community of Garvaghy Road in Portadown, from which the Orange Order has been prevented from marching through, held a rally as we went to press.

 In effect, all the treaties and structures about to be set in motion will come to nought unless the executive presence of Sinn Fein's two mandated positions are duly recognised, as the referendum overwhelmingly dedared, thus discounting any preconditions.

 Discussions between Sinn Fein and the UUP, as we go to press, established a means to move forward. Next week, parties to the peace process will be guests of President Clinton to celebrate St Patrick's Day.

  Camden Irish Centre in Murray Street, London NWI is the venue for the launch of the Friends of Garvaghy Road solidarity committee. Monday 15 March, 7.30pm.

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British News

British army Nazis exposed
by Daphne Liddle
 
SPECIAL Branch officers, MI5 officers and military police last week raided 14 addresses and made a number of arrests after Searchlight antifascist magazine had revealed the identities of over a dozen active neo-Nazis who were also serving soldiers in the Parachute and Kings regiments and the Territorial Army.

 The soldiers concerned were members of the fascist terror outfit C18. Others were members of the British Movement and the National Socialist Movement. Most had strong links with the Uster Loyalist Volunteer Force.

 They had joined the Parachute Regiment, the King's Own Regiment and the TA in order to acquire weapons training and access to weapons.

 One used his military training to construct letter bombs which he used in a racist terror campaign and later served a prison sentence for this.

 They also attempted to recruit other soldiers into their Fascist organisations and brought many along to fascist public activities.

 Searchlight photographers provided evidence of many of these serving soldiers engaged in public activities with C18, many of them connected to Irish issues.

 Nick Lowles, newly-appointed joint editor of Searchlight, told the New Worker that as soon as the March edition of the magazine hit the streets, he had furious army top brass on the phone to him complaining in no uncertain terms about how damaging the revelations were to the reputation of the army, especially now it is trying to win more black and ethnic minority recruits.

 The army claimed it had had these neo-Nazis under surveillance and was about to act soon anyway. Searchlight was sceptical. It had supplied enough evidence for them to act many months ago but no move was made until the story was made public.

 Some 25 years ago, Searchlight revealed that fascist outfits had been engaged in joint military exercises with the TA in Epping Forest, east London and Savernake Forest in Wiltshire. last Friday, the Royal Green Jackets were out in Woolwich shopping centre,south-east London, offering the "king's shilling" to recruit local unemployed youth,just a few yards away from a regular weekly New Worker sales pitch.

 A group of black youths who had been approached by the recruiting sergeant told the New Worker they had no intention of joining up. "First they beat you up, then they shoot you dead, then they say case closed," they explained.

 And a New Worker seller was able to sell extra copies of Searchlight, with its front page exposure of the fascists in the army, on the strength of the nearby army presence.
 

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