1. Lead Story.
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONG
THE FIVE HUNDRED Merseyside dock workers, locked out 14 months ago for refusing to cross a picket line, will be marching through central London this Saturday.
They will be joined by the striking Hillingdon hospital workers, postal workers, the Magnet strikers, pensioners and many others including campaigners against the Job Seekers Allowance, the racist Asylum and Immigration Act and other trade unionists.
The dock workers' struggle, now into its second year, has won wide support in Britain and abroad. It is a struggle notonly to gain justice for the 500 sacked workers - it is a principled stand against the unwelcome return of casualisation in the docks, bad hours, bad conditions and low pay.
Workers in many parts of Britain and in many other countries have taken up the fight against low pay, worsening conditions and public spending cuts, which makes this march of working class solidarity all the more important.
In Scotland skilled workers at the Glacier RPB engineering factory in Glasgow are into the fifth week of a round-the-clock sit-in.
The action is in protest at the sacking of 103 workers who refused to accept unsafe working practices at the plant and changes in their contracts.
The giant T&N motor components firm which owns the factory has said it has no plans to evict the workers. It is possible the sit-incould go on over Christmas.
AEEU convener at the plant Bemie Kilkie said, "I don't care how long it takes, we are in the right and will keep fighting till we get our jobs back."
Last week saw a walkout of staff at London's University College Hospitals in support of their pay claim. The action was supported by 300 nurses, porters, domestic and clerical staff.
A 24-hourstrike also took Place in east London when 200 staff employed by the Tower Hamlets Healthcare Trust took action in defence of their 6.5 per cent Day claim.
Bank workers have threatened a half-day strike on Christmas Eve if they are forced to work throughout the afternoon. Bank workers' union Bifu general secretary Ed Sweeney said, "Bank staff deserve a Christmas break like other workers. They want time to join their families and enjoy Christmas".
At the end of last month seven of Scotland's universities were effectively closed when members of eight separate unions joined forces in a work to rule action against an insulting 1.5 per cent Day offer.
There is no doubt that workers in many different industries and from all parts of Britain are getting increasingly angry at the bosses' efforts to worsen working conditions, push workers around and attack wages. The Merseyside dock workers, Hillingdon hospital workers and Glacier plant workers are proving that locking workers out or sacking them does not stop the struggle. These workers are determined to maintain their fight for justice not just for themselves but for other workers as well. They should have our solidarity in these struggles.
A peaceful New Year
ONE thing we can be sure of is that the Tories will not let their internal rows or fingertip hold on office cause them to give up on their own class interest. They will fight even harder to push through as much of their programme as they can in the time they have left.
The government has dragged its feet over peace talks on Ireland ever since the SDLP and Sinn Fein took the initiative for a peace process to begin. It is most unlikely the government will want to make any positive move now -- in what could be its last session in power.
Furthermore, the Tories' parliamentary weakness has obliged them to rely on Ulster Unionist votes in the House of Commons. Though it's true John Major can't afford to upset the Unionists, the government is hardly being forced into a position it doesn't want.
Despite saying they didn't want any "undue or unnecessary delay" to starting peace talks, the government has not accepted the proposals put to them last week by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and SDLP leader John Hume.
The British govemment has sidestepped its own rejection of the Sinn Fein/SDLP initiative and retumed to blaming the IRA and making it look as if the ball is in the IRA's court. The constant carping about the IRA and whether or not it will order a new ceasefire, totally ignores the fact that it is Britain which is occupying the north of Ireland and it is Britain which is the problem.
It is abundantly clear that the British govemment does not want "peace" talks -- it is only interested in "surrender" talks.
And so it seems we shall start yet another New Year without so much as a timetable set out for the long-awaited all-party talks.
None of this is surprising. British imperialism will cling to its last colony for as long as it can. The govemment has been put under pressure in the last yeat or so. This has come from the courageous initiatives of Sinn Fein and the SDLP who have not wavered in their demands for a peace process, from the Clinton administration in the United States and from the people of Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant, who have made it abundantly clear that they want a peaceful settlement.
What is most needed now is a stepping up of pressure from inside Britain itself. The British working class, the peace movement and all progressive people should add theirvoices to the demand for all-party talks in Ireland -- talks which must include Sinn Fein.
Above all there needs tobe a vigorous campaign for Britain to withdraw from Ireland and forthe right of the Irish people to determine their own affairs.
This is our cause too. British imperialism oppresses the working class of Britain as well as in Ireland. Our class can never advance, never achieve victory, while imperialism holds sway over our nearest neighbours.
The New Year offers us all an opportunity to raise our voices in the struggle for Ireland by giving our full support to the 25th Bloody Sunday March to be held in London on 25 January 1997. This event commemorates the 25th anniversary of the killing of 14 people peacefully demonstrating for civil rights in Derry.
The march will be an opportunity to add to the pressure on Major's weakened government and show our solidarity for peace, justice and anti-imperialist struggle.
Money well spent?
IT'S a disgrace that in one of the world's richest countries the capital's tube network is in a dangerous state of disrepair, people in some parts of the country have to queue for standpipe water in the summer, many school buildings are crumbling and doctors as well as patients feel compelled to protest at the run down state of the National Health Service.
While the govemment talks of a "feel good factor" millions of workers fear for their jobs and worry for their children's future.
The public environment is run down and shabby and every aspect of public service is tainted by the grubby, money grabbing ethos of the market place.
Single parents, the unemployed and, now it seems, disabled war pensioners, are targets for public spending cuts.
We are expected to swallow the argument that the country can't afford any more and will almost certainly have to make even deeper cuts in social spending.
And yet if it runs its course, the Trident nuclear weapons system, which we do not need at all, will cost us £40 billion and every year so-called defence spending will cost around £20 billion. Scrapping Trident -- now that would make us "feel good"!
Kazakhstan regime welcomes oil companies and attacks workers
by Bill Doares
THE pro capitalist regime in the farmer Soviet republic of Kazakhastan has rolled out the red carpet for United States oil monopolies.
The growth of US investment in the Central Asian country has been accompaniedd by the banning of unions, strikes and picket lines and the jailing, beating and firing of labour activists.
But the regime of Nursultan Nazarbaev has been unable to crush a growing strike movement that is challenging privatisation and "market reform".
According to Pyotr Khalov, a leader of the Workers' Solidarity Movement (RDS), the strikers' raise clear political demands: an end to privatisation and the return of property to the people, political power to be in the hands of workers' Soviets and the restoration of the USSR.
The financial columns of US newspapers carry glowing reports of the huge profits to be made out of Kazakhstan's vast oil reserves.
But the attacks on the rights of labour have been ignored by the corporate news media, which so diligently seeks out "human rights violations" in countries less subservient to US monopoly capital.
The regime launched its anti-labour offensive after mass demonstrations erupted across Kazakhstan on 17 March. That was the anniversary of the 1991 referendum in which a great majority of people in all the former Soviet republics voted to "preserve the Soviet Union as a socialist state".
The dissolution of the USSR by the Gorbachov-Yeltsin regime was a flagrant disregard of that popular mandate.
May 1 International Workers' Day rallies were banned. On 8 June, police commandos attacked a congress of the Workers' Solidarity Movement (RDS) at a mine near the industrial centre of Ust-Kamenogorsk.
The workers later reassembled in secret but the RDS was banned. RDS activists D Danielevski, A Medvedev and Kazakhstan Workers' Movement leader Islamov were fired from their jobs and jailed repeatedly.
Medvedev, an elected deputy from Ust-Kamenogorsk, was expelled from parliament on the pretext that he had met with voters from outside his district. Svintsov, a workers' leader in the Karaganda coal mines was framed on charges of extorting money from businessmen.
Medvedev and Danieleveski are strike committee leaders in Ust-Kamenogorsk and members of the All-Union Communist Party -- Bolshevik (AUCP-B).
The regime banned celebrations ofthe 7 November anniversary of the 1917 socialist revolution.
On 17 November police attacked a protest in the capital of Alma-Ata against the extension of Nazarbaev's term to the year 2000. After that a new wave of arrests was launched against leaders of the RDS,the KazakhstanWorkers' Movement and the labour movement Azamat.
All this is fine with the bosses at Mobil and Chevron, who dominate a censortium now building a 1.5 billion dollar pipeline from Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil fields to the new port to be built on the Russian Black Sea.
British, Italian and Russian oil companies are also involved in the deal.
Chevron alone hopes to pump 700,000 barrels of crude a day out of Tengiz by the year 2000. Incidentally, Mobil and Chevron between them have eliminated tens of thousands of jobs in the US during the past decade.
Before the 1917 Revolution, Kazakhstan was an oppressed and impoverished colony of the Russian Tsar.
While Western and Russian capitalists plundered the country's mineral wealth, brutally exploiting mine workers, most Kazakh people were nomads or peasants labouring under the whip of Tsarist tax collectors and feudal lords.
Iliteracy was 98 percent. Women were treated as slaves.Popular uprisings, like the 1916 Turgai rebellion against forced labour for the Tsar's army, were drowned in blood.
The Bolshevik Revolution changed all that Socialist power turned Kazakhstan into a land of new cities, modern industry and mechanised state and collective farms, free health care, universal literacy, free higher education and mote doctors and scientists per capita than in western Europe.
The freeing of women from feudal bondage ranks among the greatest achievements of Soviet power.
'When new schools were established, including mobile schools for nomads, it was required that women make up half the student body. By 1975, half of the country's 640,000 specialists were women. Two women, Manshuk Mametova and Aliya Moldagulova, were among the 448 Kazakhs who became Heroes of the Soviet Union, the USSR's highest military honour, during the war against Hitler.
Today, capitalist restoration threatens to destroy all that was built under socialism.
While Western firms get richer off Kazakhstan's oil wealth, the republic's industrial production has dropped 44 per cent since the USSR was desrroyed Soviet-built industrial cities now stand silent; their workers left with no income.
Collective and state farms have been forcibly privatised and half the country's cattle have died.
Socialism brought electrification and central heating to Kazakhstan. In mid November, cuts in electricity, gas and telephone services led to a three-day rebellion in the city of Chimkent.
Young people broke windows, older people blocked traffic and thousands took to the streets, according to news reports. Spontaneous uprisings have also broken out in Alma Ata.
All the former Soviet republics are in deep social crisis.
In a 27 November letter to prime minister Chemomyrdin, Russia's economics minister Yevgeni Yasin warned that Russia faced the "abyss of a long depression". He said the collapse of Russia's tax base is caused not by companies refusing to pay taxes but by a massive drop in production.
The International Monetary Fund demands that Russia raise money by selling its gold reserves.
A 26 November poll taken by the newspaper Isvestia found that only 22 percent of Russia's workers are getting paid in full and on time. Sixteen per cent are not working at all.
On 28 November, fist fights broke out in the Russian Duma over an attempted vote of no confidence in the government
Left wing members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), which holds the largest bloc of seats, accused CPRF leader and former presidential candidate Gennady Zyuganov of sabotaging the motion.
Meanwhile, General Alexander Lebed who now postures as a nationalist alternative to Boris Yeltsin, spent two weeks in the US quietly meeting with businessmen.
The past five years have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe into the hands of Western capitalists.
A striking feature of the crisis in the former USSR is that Russia's new capitalist class has not yet produced any serious opposition to this wholesale plunder. Only the revolutionary intervention of the working class can defend the Soviet Union's industrial and technological base from that great destroyer -- the world capitalist market.
(Protests against the suppression of the labour movement in Kazakhstan should be faxed to President of the Republic Nursultan Nazarbaev on 7 327 63 76 33.)
4) British news
Government backs down over Gulf War syndrome
by Caroline Colebrook
THE GOVERNMENT last week announced a new research programme into illnesses relating to the Gulf War after years of insisting that 'Gulf war syndrome" does not exist.
Making the announcement last Tuesday, Armed Forces Minister Nicholas Soames blamed civil servants for misleading Parliament.
He said the government wanted to be totally open about information on Gulf War syndrome and insisted that ministers had "not knowingly" misled the Commons.
And he said that any civil servants who were discovered to have given false information to ministers would be dismissed.
He did not mention the fact that the govemment has a strong motive to play down the existence of the syndrome -- if it is firmly established, there could be a very big compensation bill to meet.
The government's refusal to recognise the syndrome began to change last year when evidence mounted of abnormalities among children born to Gulf War veterans.
The research programme will involve three studies to look into the cases of 18,000 British service personnel. The British government is footing the £1.3 million bill for two of the studies and the United States government is paying for the other.
Each study will examine the medical records of 6,000 personnel, half of whom did serve in the Gulf and the other half a control group.
They will be looking to see if Gulf veterans are suffering more ill health and reproductive problems than if they had not served in the Gulf.
Dr Goran Jamal of the Institute of Neurological Sciences at Glasgow University called for a further commitment to study various chemicals used by the troops, especially organo- phosphate pesticides and pyrodostigmine, given to help them cope better with nerve gas.
Veterans have reported a very wide range of health problems: headaches, memory loss, fatigue, sleep disorders, musculo-skeletal complaints and birth defects This has led Professor Alan Magregor, who heads the Medical Research Council scientific advisory committee, to talk not of Gulf War syndrome but of Gulf War illnesses.
Not all the effects are physiological. One study of nearly 700,000 Gulf veterans found an increased mortality due to a rise inroad traffic accidents, violence, drugs and alcohol -- typical of the psychological aftermath affecting US veterans of that country's war against Vietnam.
This would indicate a wide range of separate illnesses with a wide range of causes. Theories about the causes have included over-exposure to depleted Uraniurn,said to have been used by US artillery; over-exposure to insecticides; or to the smoke from burning oil wells; and the harmful "cocktail" of vaccinations given to the troops.
In 1993 the Ministry of Defence took a frrst look at the various illnesses suffered by veterans and reported "no common denominator" linking them, other than service in the Gulf.
Meanwhile in the US, thousands of veterans were showing similar symptoms.
Dr Jamal believes the key is likely to lie with the use of organo-phosphate insecticides, because French veterans have not thrown up a single case of Gulf War syndrome, and their troops were never exposed to organo-phosphates.
If this is the cause, itcould have wide-ranging repercussions, because these chemicals are used in sheep dips and in anti-flea sprays for domestic pets.
The campaigners for recognition of the syndrome and for proper treatment and compensation seem slowly to be winning their way, as the scientific evidence mounts.
This is all the more reason for progressives to press for compensation for the civilian population of the Gulf region -- the real victims.
5) International news
Czech miners strike, others on the brink
fron Postmark Praha
AS 6,000 north Moravian miners at four pits took strike action last week over pit closures the temperature was rising elsewhere on the industrial front.
By the end of the week rail and teaching union leaders together with power workers in south Bohernia had joined the miners' national leadership in predicting further strikes if their warnings on pay and government policy were not heeded.
Messages of support for the miners' action came from other pits in the coalfield; from workers at the nearby Valcoven plechu sheet-rolling mill at Liskovec, from the building workers' union Stavba, from the leaders of the Bohemian and Moravian Council of Trade Unions and the local communists.
The Frydek-Mystek district committee of the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia OKSCM) said that the miners' struggle was a just one. Submission to the dictates of the Intemational Monetary Fund would only lead to even greater energy dependency for the Czech Republic, with all that this entailed in terms of prices and a further fall in living standards.
Some right-wing trade unionists say that the striking miners are only fighting for higher redundancy pay. But this was dismissed by the local communist MP Jaroslav Gongol. What was at stake, he said, was nothing less than the future of the coal industry in the region.
The one-hour warning strike by the miners was only the beginning, miners' leader Cyril Zapletal told the communist daily Halo Noviny. The miners were angry, he said, because industry minister Vladimir Dlouhy had broken a promise to invite them to take part in the discussion for plans for the industry's future.
In fact no state policy on fuel and energy has been formulated. Statements by coalfield boss Ivan Dzida that the Paskov pits -among the most modern in the country -- would have to close had aggravated the situation. With local unemployment high and further pit closures likely, the miners felt they had nothing to lose by striking.
The government should act to save the situation Zapletal said. Other European governments supported their coal industries from the state budget but the Czech government refuses to invest in the industry.
If the government persisted in its present policies the union was ready to call all Its 30,000 members out in the Karvina coalfield. January would be the critical month he told the social- democrat daily Pravo.
Meanwhile teachers in Moravia, Silesia and Prague are preparing for a one-day Day strike next month. The Moravian and Silesian teachers went on strike alert last week and a conference of their regional organisation on 12 December is expected to endorse the proposed action, if their demands on pay are not met. Most basic and secondary schools in the region have already declared their support.
Education minister Ivan Pilip dismissed the strike call as "a local affair" but the militancy of all teachers is high following provocative statements ofthe labour minister. He claimed that teachers already earn above-average wages when perks and other payments are taken into account. But this itself concedes that the basic rate is inadequate. Government plans to offer increases of 12.5 per cent -- 3 to 4 per cent above the rate of inflation -- will not radically improve the situation.
The communists and social-democrats are backing the teachers. But the Social-Democratic chair of parliament's budget commince again broke ranks to vote against a communist proposal to increase the 1997 allocation for education so that teachers' pay could he raised on a par with increases planned for other public sector employees.
Leaders of the largest rail union, the 100,000 strong OSZ, have accused Czech Railways managemcnt of trying to provoke a strike following a meeting of the tripartite Council for Social Dialogue.
The meeting, attended by rail boss Rudolf Mladek, transport minister Martin Riman and OSZ leader Jaromir Dusek ended with Dusek saying that strike action was now more likely.
Management was violating industrial relations procedures at every level and had still not formulated a policy for the network, he said. Track, buildings and rolling stock were falling into disrepair.
And on 5 December workers at the Temelin nuclear power station went on strike alert.
Management had offered them just 6 per cent for next Year -- well below the expected inflation-rate. It also wants to take away the workers cheap electricity concession.