The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 13th February, 1998

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Editorial - Who wants war?
Lead Story - No to new war against Iraq.
Feature - Rebuilding local democracy.
International -No Sinn Fein, no just settlement.
British News - BSE delayed action cost 60,000 extra cases.

Editorial

 Who wants war?

CLINTON, Blair and Albright have been singing from the same hymn sheet for months. They are making a concerted effort to convince their own voters and as many governments as possible that their war threats against Iraq are justified.

 But in Britain the opinion polls show that today there is less support for military action against Iraq than there was at the time of the previous onslaught in 1991. So the singing is getting louder and more voices are being dragged into the chorus line.

 Last week the Defence Secretary George Robertson had his solo spot in the House of Commons. He told MPs that he believes Saddam Hussein has amassed large quantities of a deadly toxin, originally developed in the 1950s by the United States, called Agent 15. How does George Robertson know this? He says military intelligence told him!

 It's the same tune the world has heard from United States Defence Secretary, William Cohen, who has spent the past few weeks giving one blood-chilling announcement after another about Saddam Hussein's supposed arsenal of weapons. Each public performance adds to the list -anthrax, plague, VX, mustard gas and so on.

 Like Robertson, his sources are given as military intelligence, Israeli intelligence and the suspicions of UNSCOM inspectors.

 But the UN inspectors have based their case for remaining in Iraq on the fact that after seven years of searching they have not yet found the huge weapon stocks, factories and laboratories they say they are looking for.

 And if western militaty intelligence knows the answers why don't they tell the UNSCOM inspectorate and bring their days of searching to an end?

 There are three possible explanations. Military intelligence doesn't have any answers -- after all, their sources are often cited as just the dubious accounts of Iraqi defectors.

 Secondly, that no one wants to find the alleged Iraqi arsenals because that would be game-over -- sanctions, which conveniently keep most of Iraq's oil off the market at a time of low demand and low prices, might have to be lifted.

 Thirdly, that Iraq does not have large stockpiles of these weapons at all and the whole exercise is based on an imperialist fabrication.

 In any case, millions of people around the world know better than to trust the words that come out of Washington and Downing Street. Time and again United States administrations have opened the way to war by setting up their target or by feigning the role of humanitarian peacekeeper -- like some kind of international Robocop.

 The lessons learned in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Bosnia, Libya and Iran have not been forgotten.

 There is also widespread anger in the developing world at the West's blatant double standards and hypocrisy. After all, some UN resolutions are elevated and used to browbeat Iraq while others, like Resolution 242, that condemns Israel's continued occupation of Palestinian territory captured in the Six Day War, are totally ignored.

 Nor should it ever be forgotten that both Britain and the United States are so weighed down with nuclear weapons of mass destruction that they could wipe-out the whole of humanity in one afternoon.

 But the warmongers think they have got this covered in the hymn sheet. Their own holocaust weapons are, they assure us, in safe and sane hands, whereas Saddam Hussein is "flaky", "power-crazy" and "monstrous". Apparently, imperialism can have any amount of weapons of mass destruction, but the developing world is only allowed to have the outdated military hardware the West wants to sell off.

 Saddam Hussein has to be attacked, they tell us, because he poses a great threat to his neighbours.

 How odd then that Saddam Hussein's next door neighbour, the King of Jordan, came to London last week and said he would not support an attack against Iraq. Even pro-American Saudi Arabia doesn't want to take part in Washington's plan. And the Palestinians are burning British, Israeli and American flags in the streets.

 In fact none of Iraq's neighbours have asked for US, British or United Nations help. And though the US says it is only acting in support of UN resolutions, the UN Secretary General seems more concerned to find a peaceful solution.

Who is spoiling for war? Who is insane?

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Lead Story

No to new war against Iraq.

Blair and Clinton must be stopped.
by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent
 
BRITISH and AMERICAN forces are poised to unleash mass bombing of Iraq regardless of diplomatic efforts to end the crisis peacefully or the mounting protests from the peace movements in western Europe and the United States.

 Russia, France, People's China and most of the Arabs have now publicly declared their opposition to an Anglo-American attack. And Iraq has said it has accepted a Russian-Arab League sponsored plan which would allow the UN inspectors access to the presidential sites so far withheld.

 In Washington and London Blair and Clinton are trying to stoke up war-fever to justify another round of terror bombing. But their quest for allies to provide an "international" justification for new aggression has largely drawn a blank. The right-wing governments in Canada and Australia have pledged token military support, which together with the political support of Portugal, Spain and Germany, is not much to show for so much diplomatic lobbying and cajoling.
 

China against
 

 Chinese Vice-Premierand Foreign Minister Qian Qichen stressed that People's China is opposed to the use of force against Iraq. In a telephone call to US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright he stressed that Chinese President Jiang Zemin was "deeply concerned" about the current crisis.

 China is calling on all sides to use restraint -- for Iraq to agree to discuss with the UN Special Commission on the entry of the inspection teams and implement the relevant UN Security Council resolutions while recognising the state sovereignty, national dignity and security concerns of Iraq, which is a member of the United Nations.

 And China echoed Moscow's fears of a wider conflict if Iraq is attacked again. "It will result in heavy human casualties, heighten regional tension and even trigger more serious conflicts," the Foreign Ministry said in Beijing.
 

peace calls
 

 British and American imperialism's efforts to drum up a new anti-Iraq coalition in the Middle East have collapsed. Despite strenuous arm-twisting by Albright and Foreign Minister Robin Cook not one Arab leader, apart from the puppet Sultan of Kuwait, has endorsed American threats to bomb Iraq within the next week or so.

 Two key pro-Western Arab kingdoms have come outagainst a new war. The King of Saudi Arabia said he would not allow Western forces to use their bases on his soil to hit Iraq and King Hussein of Jordan, in London for talks with Tony Blair, said: "I don't think I would support action that would affect the people of Iraq. The people have suffered enough".

 The Iraqi foreign minister has had more talks with the Egyptian and Syrian governments and there are growing signs that the Arab world is closing ranks around Iraq in its defence of national sovereignty.

 Arab efforts to defuse the crisis are centring around the Secretary-General of the Arab League Esmat Abdel Maguid, who is working with France and Russia to resolve the inspections issue peacefully.

 Iraq has repeatedly declared that it has no banned weapons and Baghdad is demanding the end to the brutal blockade which has led to the deaths of over 1.5 million people through lack of food and medicines since 1990.

 "The use of force will never, never and I repeat never solve the problem", Abdel Maguid stressed at his Cairo Headquarters. And the leading Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram (The Pyramids), which normally reflects the thinking of the government declared in an editorial that "the American position towards Iraq cannot be described as anything but coercive, aggressive, unwise and uncaring about the lives of Iraqis, who are unnecessarily subjected to sanctions and humiliation".

 In Tehran the Iranian Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani accused Washington of trying to divert the American public away from their internal political crisis and the failure of the US sponsored Middle East "peace process" to confrontation in the Gulf.
 

lift sanctions
 

 The central issue is the Iraqi demand for a speedy end to the devastating blockade. For seven years the UN inspectors have roamed across the country without completing their mission which would allow the lifting of UN sanctions.

They're not interested in a token increase in the oil-for-food agreement which allows a pitiful amount of food and medicines into the country while giving the lion's share of the oil revenues generated to the Kuwaitis, the Kurdish "safe-haven" and the UN inspectorate.

 The demand to inspect the presidential palaces is seen in Iraq, and throughout the Arab world, as yet another provocation designed to prolong the agony of the Iraqi people by British and American imperialism.

 Now Iraq is calling on the Arabs to tally and stop the war. A tough Arab position would lessen the possibility of an American attack, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said in a statement issued in Baghdad last weekend. And he warned that the military threat is aimed at overthrowing the Iraqi government lather than enforcing the UN resolutions as Washington claims.
 

count-down to war
 

 But the count-down for war has already begun. Some 3,000 US troops have been earmarked for Kuwait and the 24th Marine Expeditionary Uniton board the US carrier Guam will join the Anglo-American armada in the Gulf within days.

 This force includes some 20 other American warships including the aircraft carriers Nimirz and George Washington.

 A third American aircraft carrier Independent entered the Gulf last week with 75 warplanes and a battle group that includes a cruiser, a destroyer and a submarine.

 The United States now has more than 150 strike warplanes and dozens of support aircraft aboard the trio of carriers, as well as 175 other tactical planes at bases in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain. Six Stealth bombers are already in Kuwait and a further six are expected to join them and anothersix B-52 bombers are going to join the eight already at the US base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. And this is complemented by RAF Tornado fighter-bombers which are arriving in Kuwait to join British naval might already in Gulf waters.
 

peace demands grow
 

 Throughout the world the campaign to stop the war is growing. Demonstrations are taking place throughout the Arab and Muslim world in solidarity with Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government.

 A group of Russian MP's led by nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky has flown to Baghdad to deliver medical supplies and show solidarity with the Iraqi people. All this week American peace campaigners have held protests in major cities across the United States including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Washington, Chicago and Boston. And in Rome people demonstrated outside the American embassy against the bombing and for an end to the blockade.

 Eight Labour MP's together with CND, pacifist and church leaders have sent an open letter to Tony Blair urging the government to reject military action against Iraq and instead pursue a negotiated solution which can meet with agreement with all members of the UN Security Council and other states in the Middle East. And at this moment protest meetings and demonstrations are being organised to try and stop another catastrophe.

 The demand must be no bombing, Lift the sanctions now!
 

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Feature

Rebuilding local democracy.
by Caroline Colebrook
 
TONY BLAIR last Monday gave his official backing to proposals for a complete restructuring of local government in a speech to the Labour Party's local government conference in Scarborough.

 The proposals include directly elected mayors with more powers, local elections at weekends and polling stations in local shopping centres.
They are contained in a green paper which says that voting turnout at local elections must be improved. Currently it is running at an average of around 40 per cent and the turn-out in some local polls is as low as six per cent.

 The paper also says that councillors' accountability to the electorate must be increased.

 But it is hardly surprising that interest in local elections has waned after the Tory regime gradually took more and more power away from local government -- and especially control of the purse strings -- at the same time as making drastic cuts to central government grants to local authorities.

 Local councillors have been reduced to what is little more than a lower management role, supervising the cuts that central government has made with little or no power to amend or ameliorate.

 They have been forced to play the front-of-stage role and take all the blame for the cuts. Those who tried to stand out against this have been dubbed "loony left" and removed either by Tory surcharging laws or from within by "New Labour" spin doctors.

 Tony Blair has hinted that some of the financial restrictions on local authorities may be eased.

 He told the conference: "We are modernising our party. We are modernising government. We are modernising Britain. We must modernise local government."

 Many ideas have been floated to increase the turn-out at local elections, including putting polling stations in the middle of shopping centres, workplaces, supermarkets, railway stations and hospitals and using electronic voting systems.

 This is certainly an improvement on the Tory practise of transferring more and more power from elected local authorities to unelected quangos.

 But the possibility of electronic voting from home is being considered, with "citizens' juries", cyber debates, and focus groups to pass instant verdicts on local policies and local referendums.

 A lot of these ideas would depend on "techno-democracy" in which voters make known their views on various issues.

 But this would surely disenfranchise those citizens who do not want to or cannot afford to plug into the new computer age.

 And going over to a system where people are encouraged to stay inside their own homes, isolated from their neighbours and face to face discussion, will leave the electorate more and more under the influence only of the ruling class-controlled mass media.

 It is part of the same trend as postal voting in internal Labour Party affairs and now in more and more trade unions. It prevents voters or members from hearing and discussing all points of view, including those at variance with the leaderships.

 The green paper says it wants to encourage more public involvement in debate and decision-making and of course that is an aim we would all support.

 But the methods suggested are subtly geared to make sure the powers of the media have maximum influence and dissenters are so marginalised most voters will be unaware of their existence.

 Other ideas are to reduce the number and role of council committees in big towns and cities and to replace them with a directly elected mayor who would work with a small team or "cabinet" of leading councillors while the rest are relegated to being "back-bench" councillors.

 This is supposed to make local government more visible, accountable and less liable to corruption.

 But the practise of having directly elected mayors in the United States does not give rise to any hopes that this measure will in any way lessen corruption.

 The danger is that elections will be more and more about personalities and how they are presented in the media rather than about political issues.

 We do need changes to give back to local authorities some of the powers they had before 1979 and we need to encourage more active participation by working class people in all aspects of political life.

 But this means people talking to each other, going to meetings, marches, collecting petition signatures, writing to the councillors and MPs, taking joint action and learning just what a powerful force they can be together -not sitting isolated from each other in their sitting rooms pushing buttons.
 

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International

No Sinn Fein, no just settlement.

by Steve Lawton
 
STORMONT Castle is heating up as Ulster Unionists, claiming that the IRA were involved in the recent separate unclaimed killings of two loyalists in Belfast, called for Sinn Fein's expulsion from multi-party talks -- a tactic flatly rejected by the party's president Gerry Adams MP, who described the accusation as "reprehensible" and "spurious".

 In Belfast last Tuesday, Gerry Adams rebutted the idea that the murders put Sinn Fein's position at the talks in jeopardy. He said: "Sinn Fein has no involvement or responsibility whatsoever for this [latest] killing."

 He went on: "I happen to know this man's family. They were neighbours of mine. I know [Brendan Campbell's] grandmother. I regret that he has been killed and I know the effect this has on the families involved."

 Sinn Fein are at the talks, he said, "on the basis of our electoral mandate" and "regardless of what indictments are brought against us, we will defend the rights of the electorate and the mandate that we have and the analysis and the strategy that we pursue."

 The double standards were evident again in that Unionists were quick off the mark in condemning Sinn Fein -- when no group has yet claimed responsibility -- but were conveniently ignoring the many more Catholics that have been murdered by loyalists.

 People will see this as a "conspiracy of silence", Gerry Adams said. And not least because the origin of the Unionist allegation is an unsubstantiated link to the IRA made by the RUC several weeks ago.

 Seven people, described as IRA suspects, are being questioned by the RUC as we go to press. And northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlem, speaking in the House of Commons last Wednesday, agreed with Unionist MPs that Sinn Fein would be expelled from talks if they were proved to be responsible for the killings.

 She appealed last Tuesday for "any scrap of evidence" to be passed to the RUC for investigation. But the contradiction here is glaring.

 Given that the British government have just unveiled their consultation document for reforming the RUC -- a set of proposals called Your Voice, Your Choice and rejected in any case by Sinn Fein and the SDLP -- what credibility is there in relying on a "police force" that is regarded as untenable in present conditions?

 SDLP chief negotiator Seamus Mallon MP said the paper, launched last Tuesday by Mo Mowlem, was "superficial" and "concentrates not on solving the policing problem but on peripheral issues." And Sinn Fein's opposite number Martin McGuinness MP, dismissed it because the RUC "cannot be reformed" and must be "replaced."

 He said they showed "no respect" for nationalist and Catholic communities, and the "idea that political parties would be elected to run the RUC is a nonstarter because it would mean that unionists would dominate such a body and, in effect, have control over the RUC."

 The assessment Sinn Fein have consistently made that sabotage of talks from within by the Ulster Unionists while co-ordinated from outside through loyalist killings, is painfully obvious. It has led to the growing climate of threats and violence, just as the RUC and British troops continue to create the protective, frequently encouraging, environment in which the political settlement can be scuppered.

 when British Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke to Senators and Congressmen in Washington on 5 February, during a visit to affirm the British government's support for genecidal action in Iraq, he told them that they had brought Sinn Fein into the process "after long years of IRA terrorism" and that "the men of violence" must be kept to the "path of democratic politics".

 Blair was seen as delivering a pre-emptive strike in the event of continued support in the US for Sinn Fein if the IRA ceasefire came to an end, even though he was ostensibly speaking of all parties to the conflict. And incidentally, it's an odd parallel for Iraqis to note that Blair should seemingly be so concerned to achieve peace in Ireland while planning mass-murder in Iraq.

 The deaths and increasing tension created by the unionist-loyalist attack on the peace process is being exacerbated by discord between Sinn Fein and the SDLP over the present northern Ireland assembly proposals by the British and Irish governments. Sinn Fein, however, will not be diverted" allowing the hand of the Unionists to be strengthened.

 As Sinn Fein have maintained, the talks process represents a phase in the republican struggle for Ireland to shed itself of British military and political occupation and to create a single nation.

 And Tony Blair, when he gave to himself the right to declare that the problem of Ireland cannot be solved in his lifetime, must not be allowed to compound his indifference by allowing death and mayhem to take centre stage, betraying expectations, and overseeing the slide of the peace process into the dark ages.
 

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British News

BSE delayed action cost 60,000 extra cases.
 
 NEW EVIDENCE came to light last week that a government scientist had identified what is now known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) 14 months before it was officially recognised.

 And there are claims that some 60,000 cases -- around a third of the total -- could have been prevented if the government had taken action earlier to prevent the spread of the disease.

 According to reports, due to be screened in the BBC2 programme Mad Cows and Englishmen next Sunday, pathologist Carol Richardson first spotted that the deterioration of the brain cells of a cow that had died from an unknown illness, matched that of a typical sheep with the disease scrapie. This was in September 1985.

 She described the condition as bovine scrapie. And her colleague Dr Gerald Wells, when he looked at the slides of brain tissue, not only confirmed her conclusion but strengthened it.

 They both worked at the government Central Vetinary laboratory in Weybridge, Surrey.

 But they failed to make any official notification of the new disease. Even later, when the first case was notified in November 1986, after an outbreak in Kent, Dr Wells did not mention his earlier case.

 Then it took another seven months, until June 1987, before the scientists informed ministers of the disease.

 Even then, communication between the Weybridge laboratory and another in Edinburgh, where samples had been sent for tests, was hampered because both laboratories were facing the possibility of government spending cuts and the government had in effect set them as rivals to each other, chasing the same pot of inadequate funding.

 The Tory government's first reaction to the news that this fatal nervous disease had jumped from one species to another, as a result of the cows being fed meal that contained material from dead diseased sheep, was to try to prevent a public panic.

 This led many people to think the interests of the farmers and agri-business was being put higher on the agenda than those of consumers. But the government did bring in a ban on the further feeding of diseased sheep offal to cows.

 Within a few years the disease had exploded among Britain's cattle population and over 170,000 cases were notified.

 There have probably been many more cases than this. Even before 1985, there were a number of cases of mystery illness among cattle that now seem likely to have been BSE.

 And the disease has a long incubation period so many apparently fit cattle that were incubating the disease will have been slaughtered and entered the food chain.

 In recent research, Professor Roy Anderson of Oxford University found evidence that people were exposed to the disease as early as 1980.

 Around 54,000 infected animals were slaughtered for human consumption between 1980 and 1985.

 Meanwhile the Tory government was trying to reassure people that their scientists had told them there was no evidence of humans being able to catch the disease from eating diseased beef.

 Agriculture minister John Gummer fed a beef burger to his reluctant four-year-old daughter in front of TV cameras to reassure the nation.

 But the ministers either did not or would not grasp the vital difference between the scientists' pronouncements that "there is no evidence it is not safe" and "there is evidence that it is safe".

 There was no evidence either way because research had only just begun. But it was not long before the new BSE-Linked strain of the human brain condition Creutzfeld-Jakob's Disease (CJD) emerged and there was definite evidence that the disease could affect humans.

 The government had to act. Commercial pressures came into play as other governments began to take action against British beef imports.

 The European Union had to ban it or the rest of the world would have banned all European beef.

 Now we can only wait to see how many cases of the new CJD will emerge over the next 10 to 15 years. It may bejust a handful or it may be an epidemic.

  The Meat and Livestock Commission last week warned that intensive Livestock production, excessive use of antibiotics and consumer demand for ready prepared meals have contributed to a rise in food poisoning.

 It pointed to many opportunities for contamination throughout the food chain and warned that animals kept in high densities make it easy for bacteria to spread rapidly.

 The over use of antibiotics and other drugs administered to combat these infections can lead to resistant strains of bacteria, like salmonella typhimurium and listeria.

 a Workers at Mitsubishi and BI technologies in Fife, Scotland may have been fed with mince contaminated with the potentially deadly E-coli 0157 bacterium in their canteen dinners.

 Fife council's environmental health services have been informed by the Scottish Office that a small quantity of suspect meat, supplied by McLay Quality Foods of Glasgow, was delivered to the caterers serving their canteens.
 

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