The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 13th November, 1998

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Editorial - Peace and bread!
Lead Story - No to new war on Iraq.
Feature - Tube plans no-staff stations to save cash.
International - Basques call for support in peace process.
British News - Heading for a "serious crisis" - Sinn Fein Youth.


Peace and bread!

 LAST week the 80th anniversary of the ending of the First World War was marked by numerous features in the papers and on TV. Surviving veterans were interviewed, the military tactics debated, the abilities of the generals questioned, the horror of the trenches deplored and the dead honoured.

 But in all of these words, the real nature of that war was hardly mentioned and the cause of the tragedy which engulfed many millions of people was not explained.

 Yet socialists of the time understood what was happening and spoke out. In 1914, V I Lenin denounced the war and explained its nature. "The present war is an imperialist war", he said. "This is its main characteristic...

"Imperialism is a state of capitalism, when, having fulfilled all that is possible for it, makes a turn towards decay...

 "... The struggle is going on for the distribution of the remaining pieces of territory. This is the historic task of capitalism. How long this epoch will last, we cannot say. There may be several such wars."

 The workers, who formed the bulk of the participating armies on both sides, had no reason to fight each other. The war was fought at the bidding of the rival capitalist classes.

 When it was over the surviving workers returned to the same poor conditions they had left in 1914. And greater poverty was to come.

 Unemployment in Britain rose from 2.5 per cent in 1919 to 16.5 per cent by 1922 and a catastrophic 22 per cent by 1932. Men who had marched into battle across the fields of France and Belgium were to march again -- in the Hunger Marches of the 1930s.

 In Germany, the depression and the terms of the post-war Treaty of Versailles led to mass unemployment and soaring inflation.

 On all sides the many had sacrificed for the few and yet still the working people were forced to struggle for their survival and within one generation the world was again threatened by another devastating war.

 But it wasn't like this for the workers of Russia. Joseph Stalin wrote of the period: "The country was groaning under the burden of the imperialist war and economic ruin. The weary, long-suffering front had no strength left to carry on the fight...

 " ... What were the Bolsheviks doing at that time? The Bolsheviks were preparing for insurrection. They believed that the seizure of power by the proletariat was the only way out of the deadlock of war and economic ruin.

 "In their opinion, a break with imperialism and the liberation of Russia from its claws would be inconceivable without such an insurrection. They summoned the Congress of Soviets which they considered the sole successor to Power in the land. First, revolution -- then peace!"

 And this was the other aspect of the First World War which the media has drawn a veil over -- the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917. This was the turning point of the war -- the beginning of its end -- the victory of the Russian working class.

 That victory had the most profound impact on the history of this century. It proved that imperialism could be defeated. It lit a torch of hope for workers in every country and it offered friendship to the countless millions throughout the world fighting for freedom from colonial rule.

 It created a new world, a place on the earth where the working class held state power -- a place imperialism feared. And the strength of that state was to prove decisive in the Second World War in securing the defeat of fascism, itself a monster born of decaying capitalism's desperation.

 The events of 1914-18 taught us a great many things. The most important lesson has been the exposing of capitalism as the driving force for war. Peace therefore cannot be regarded as just an idealist notion that springs into people's minds -- it is a basic human need that is at the very heart of working class struggle -- it cannot be separated from the fight to overcome capitalism.

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Lead Story

No to new war on Iraq

by Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent
 UN WEAPONS inspectors are being flown out of Iraq as British and American imperialism steps up its threat against the defiant Arab country. United States warships, loaded with Cruise missiles, are steaming towards frontline firing positions in the Gulf. RAF Tornados in the puppet state of Kuwait are on stand-by as a continuous stream of threats against Iraq pour out of London and Washington.

 But British and American efforts to drum up Arab support for a new onslaught against Iraq have drawn a blank while support amongst Nato allies is luke-warm at the best.

end blockade now

 Iraq suspended all co-operation with the UNSCOM weapons inspectors on the 31 October and Baghdad has said this will stand until the Security Council gives a time-table for the end to the criminal blockade which has led to deaths of over a million Iraqi civilians -- many of them women and children.

 UN sanctions were imposed in 1990 following the Iraqi intervention in Kuwait. After the Gulf War in 1991 Iraq agreed to disarm under UN supervision in return for an end to the blockade.

 The inspections were expected to last 15 days. Now eight years later Iraq is saying enough is enough.

 Iraq's ruling Revolutionary Command Council said: "Iraq had shown more flexibility and patience and dealt diplomatically with attempts and contacts in a way which we could expect that they would lead to the lifting of the unjust embargo, but disappointingly enough, the embargo remains in place.

US lies

 "Events of this year have revealed two serious additional facts: first the American lies about the presidential sites which could have led to a destructive war and when the truth was revealed to the whole world, the US was not punished for its lies and no step taken towards lifting the embargo.

 "Secondly the filthy game played by Unscom and its chief (Butler) in collaboration with the US concerning allegations that Iraq had weaponised VX (nerve gas). When the truth appeared through neutral labs in France and Switzerland. the Unscom chief did not admit the fact. He went on asking Iraq for what he termed as further clarifications with the aim of procrastination and distorting facts. No deterrent measures have been taken against Butler for his lies and manipulation with facts.".

 American Defence Secretary William Cohen and his British counter-part George Robertson have both been touring the Middie East to try and get some Arab endorsement for a new war against Iraq. All they got was the blessing of the puppet Sultan of Kuwait -- which could have been obtained with a phone-call -- and strong calls for caution from America's two top Arab regional partners, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

former Irish PM peace call

 Ireland's former premier Albert Reynolds, in Iraq heading a joint Anglo-Irish parliamentary delegation, told the press that he is convinced that the Saddam Hussein government is ready to reach a settlement so as to avoid threats of military action.

 Reynolds called on Britain and the United States to stop threatening force and start negotiating in order to reach a solution to the renewed crisis.

 The former Irish leader, who arrived in Baghdad last Saturday with the parliamentary delegation, called on US President Clinton and Tony Blair to pursue dialogue and discussions together with an early end to the sanctions imposed on Baghdad. He proposed the end of sanctions on the import of medicine and said he would raise this with UN officials.

China's stand

 Dialogue, consultation and mutual trust building were the only ways to solve the question of Iraq, People's China stressed at the United Nations last week.

 Qin, the Chinese representative on the Security Council, said the Council should seriously reflect on the root causes of the problems. He said Iraq should fulfill its obligations to the UN in a comprehensive manner and the Council should make a fair, objective assessment of Iraq's compliance.

 China was of the view that regarding some weapons files, conditions were already ripe to move from the present monitoring phase to the long-term monitoring phase. But regrettably, the Security Council had been unable to make such a decision.

 The Chinese representative said a comprehensive review of the issues, as proposed by the UN Secretary-General, was a way out of the present impasse and he urged all sides concerned to exercise restraint and to try and resolve their differences through dialogue and co-operation and refrain from any actions that might sharpen the conflict.

no UN agreement

 At the UN Security Council three out the Big Five veto-powers -- People's China, France and Russia -- are blocking all Anglo-American attempts to rubber-stamp air raids against Iraq. Washington and London now claim that they don't need further UN sanction to bomb Iraq. Always true because the imperialists think they can do what they like these days. Arab defiance and the world-wide peace movement must prove them wrong.

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Tube plans no-staff stations to save cash
by Caroline Colebrook
THOUSANDS of jobs on the London Underground are under threat from drastic new cash saving plans being considered by the management that could leave some stations with no regular staff at all.

 The plans were revealed last week in a leaked memo from Hugh Sumner, the director of passenger services, to the London Underground Board.

 They say that passenger safety would be protected by closed circuit television and "help points" including panic buttons and direct line telephone links to control centres. These centres could be miles away.
Regular station staff would be replaced by small mobile teams ready to go anywhere as needed.

 Tickets could be bought by phone before travel or from automatic machines or local shops. They could even be replaced altogether by smart-card technology.

 The plans are due to be implemented over the next few months but they have not yet been discussed with the unions.

 But LU management is planning to cut staff now, in preparation for the sell-off of parts of the Tube. Some of these will be transferred to the private sector and some will be lost altogether.

 The unions, not surprisingly, have reacted angrily. Bob Crow, assistant general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said that if LU tried to implement these plans, the workcrs would respond with strike action "which would make previous stoppages seem like a vicar's tea party".

 And he warned that the plans would endanger passenger safety. "These plans mean widespread job cuts. There is ahsolutely no doubt about that at all."

 Bob Crow said the proposals amount to the biggest shake up of LU structure since the "Company Plan" in the early nineties. The Tube lost some 5,000 jobs then.

 He said: "Passengers will be put at risk. People want to see more uniformed staff on the stations, not fewer. If you are being mugged, what is the use of a button in the wall?"

 A spokesperson for LU claimed that "automation and new ways of working could mean reductions in the total number of staff but that does not mean redundancy."

 He spoke of using staff "in a more imaginative way", making more available for station duties with fewer behind the scenes.

 The law dictates that the big, below-ground central London stations must have a prescribed level of staffing for safety reasons.

 It is the small, suburban, above-ground stations that are likely to he left with no staff.

 The LU spokesperson said: "There may be some fairly quiet stations where we don't need to have the presence we have at the moment."

* Railtrack chief executive Gerald Corbett last week warned that if rail services are not cut back, there is no chance of running trains on time.

 He said passengers have to make a choice and either have more trains and more delays or fewer services with more punctuality.

 He said this resulted from the "rail renaissance" which has seen a seven per cent increase in the number of passengers to 800 million journeys a year.

 Mr Corbett said: "We should look at putting trains out of the timetable. In certain parts of the country it is quite crowded, especially out of London Paddington and the Birmingham-Coventry corridor. If we took trains out the performance would improve."

 This hardly squares with declared government policy for trying to reduce traffic congestion and pollution by encouraging people to use public transport.

 He also claimed that reducing government subsidy to the privatised rail companies was forcing the operators to maximise their profits over short, seven-year franchises by cramming as many passengers as possible on to trains and cutting costs.

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Basques call for support in peace process

TWO REPRESENTATIVES of the Basque nationalist groups were in London last Tuesday to call on the British government and British labour movement and all progressives for support in their efforts to negotiate a peace process with the Spanish government.

 They are calling particularly on people in Britain and Ireland because they see the current peace process in the occupied north of Ireland as a model which gives them hope of resolving their long struggle for independence in a peaceful and political way.

 They hope that those involved in the Irish peace process will be able to persuade Spanish Prime Minister Aznar that the solution to their long and violent struggle lies not in increased security measures but in increased democracy, free debate and political dialogue -- with the Basque people given the final say in determining their own future.

 The Basque country has its own parliament and there are a number of different nationalist parties and groups who have pursued their aims by different means.

 The Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), like the IRA, has fought an armed struggle against the oppressive Spanish regime since the end of the France fascist regime 20 years ago.

 The Spanish government has violently and viciously outlawed and oppressed all forms of Basque nationalism.

 The vast majority of these groups have come together and signed the Lizarra Agreement to try to initiate a peace process like that in the north of Ireland and ETA, a signatory to the agreement has declared a ceasefire.

 Initially the Spanish government refused to talk but now Premier Aznar has said he will talk with Basque nationalists. They see this happening within two weeks or so.

 But they are worried that his agenda seems to consist only of increasing security measures, the decommissioning of ETA arms and of the possible release of political prisoners.

 The Basques, who recently elected a significant majority of nationalist MPs to their parliament want a lot more.

 Pernando Barrena, a national executive member of the party Herri Batasuna, told a press conference in London: "Basque society wants a new political scenario working towards peace.

 "We are calling on the Spanish government to grasp this historical opportunity and we are calling on the people of Britain to support us in this."

 He said that the role played by Tony Blair in the peace process in the north of Ireland was recognised and called on Mr Blair to contact Mr Aznar and encourage him to follow suit.

 And Pernando Barrena called on British and Irish political parties, trade unions, peace groups and so on to write to Mr Blair urging him to do this.

 A programme of similar press conferences was also being held in Rome, Brussels, Lisbon, Paris and Berlin.

 "We cannot miss the train that will take the Basque people to freedom and long lasting peace," he said. "But we feel the Spanish government is not ready yet to deal with the potential peace process.

 "It is only looking at security measures and the lessons of the last 20 years are that this conflict cannot be resolved by security measures. There must be a political solution that deals with the roots of the problem."

 When asked whether his party was aiming for devolution, autonomy, federation or outright independence,he replied that the various signatories to the Lizarra Agreement have differing views on this.

 He made it clear that these would be long-term goals to be worked towards through peaceful political negotiation.

 But before that could happen, the Basque people need a whole new political scenario where they can debate these issues openly. They want talks with no exclusions and where any topic can be put on the agenda.

 "Most of all, we want the Basques to have the last word on the future of their country."

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British News

Heading for a "serious crisis" - Sinn Fein Youth
by Theo Russell
 SINN Fein Youth held a public meeting in London last week as part of a national tour which will include Troops Out branches and political, student, ethnic minority and Irish community organisations. SFY was only launched recently and held its first highly successful conference in Dublin.

 SFY National Co-ordinator Eoin O'Broin gave a graphic and detailed overview of the current situation in Ireland and in particular the crisis towards which the peace process appears to be headed.

 O'Broin pointed out that SFY was among those most critical of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), realising it could not on its own guarantee peace or end partition, but following the lengthy party debate and consultation process the organisation accepted it as a vehicle for struggle which "would add to the arsenal of Sinn Fein's struggle".

 The current block on implementing the GFA over the issue of de-commissioning was, O'Broin said, "a red Herring". The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), led by David Trimble, had tried, without success, to have de-commissioning built in to the agreement.

 In reality the "rejectionists" in and outside the UUP are not interested in an IRA weapons handover, but in preventing any sharing of power with any nationalist party, and will use any means to block the agreement.

 Even though a majority of the UUP's supporters and members had supported the Good Friday Agreement in the referendum, O'Broin said, powerful elements, including MPs with their eyes on Trimble's job, are stuck in an ideological mode of supremacy and preserving their power in the north of Ireland.

 What was disturbing, he said, was the failure of Blair and Mowlam to intervene and put pressure on Trimble to push ahead with implementing the agreement. He described the current situation as "the most serious crisis in this process since the IRA cessation in 1994". O'Broin also covered the other main areas of the GFA.

 Reform of the RUC: although 2,000 submissions have been made to the commission on policing it is possible that the commission may present its recommendations as early as Christmas -- not nearly enough time for them to be processed properly.

 Tony Blair has apparently stated that the RUC will not be disbanded, and is pressuring the commission -- chaired by ex-Hong Kong governor and Tory Chris Patten -- to wind up as quickly as possible.

 An RUC officer who is not a member of the commission is attending meetings of the commission as a "liaison" person. O'Broin said that SFY do not realistically see the commission resolving the crucial problem of policing in the six counties "Patten will probably not be the end of this issue".

 De-militarisation: It's not happening. Millions are being spent on upgrading and building new bases. The closure of Whiterock, one of the biggest bases in West Belfast, was widely publicised, but its replacement by a brand new base which took three years to build was not in the news.

 Army and RUC patrols were being stepped up in rural areas. Huge new masts are being erected in Belfast to transmit CCTV video images.

 O'Broin said that when Sinn Fein raised these issues with Northern Ireland Office officials they were often unaware they were happening, suggesting they were being carried out by "securocrats" independently.

 He described the situation not as one of de-militarisation, but "rationalisation and remilitarisation", which was undermining the nationalist population's confidence in the peace process.

 On the equality agenda: dealing with jobs, housing, language and cultural identity - no progress whatsoever has taken place because of the delay in establishing the Northern Ireland Executive and the All-Ireland bodies.

 In one area however major progress had been made -- the release of prisoners. Although some problem areas remain, O'Broin expected the vast majority to be released by next Easter.

 The meeting, which was held at the London Irish Centre in Camden, was well attended with members of youth and student organisations present.

 In the lively discussion, it was noted that while the National Union of Students Charter has articles supporting anti-imperialist struggles and opposing police ill-treatment, the influence of the mainstream Labour leadership and the Northern Ireland branches meant that these principles weren't applied when it came to Ireland.

 O'Broin said that in the current young generation in Ireland "there's a very widely felt belief that partition will end in our life time, for the first time in a long period of republican history".

 Sinn Fein Youth was attracting young people "not just from traditional republican families", and in some areas of the Irish Republic Sinn Fein had captured 25 per cent of the youth vote.

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