The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 13th March, 1998

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Workers of all countries, unite!


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Editorial - Dragon slaying
Lead Story - Roisin is free!
Feature - Rail privatisation rip-off.
International - New threat of war in Balkans.
British News -Low paid women subsidise NHS.

Editorial

 Dragon slaying

MOST rich tycoons claim they got to the top of the tree by hard work and enterprise. But of course they did no such thing -- they only made serious money when they began employing other people to work for them. The more workers they employ the richer they become.

 By turning the truth on its head in this way the capitalist class not only bestows upon itself virtues it does not have but it gives that greedy bunch of parasites an opportunity to peddle another lie -- that the poor must be poor because they lack enterprise and are lazy, even though they do all the work.

 In the same way, the capitalists collectively peddle similar lies to clothe the imperialist powers in fake shining armour and to denigrate and abuse those they oppress.

 For decades during the Cold War we had to listen to imperialist propaganda attacking the socialist countries. This was done both to undermine socialist ideas and to justify a colossal, wasteful military build-up that threatened the very existence of life on Earth.

 The foreign policies of the United Sates, Britain and the other major capitalist countries aimed to contain socialism and bring about its defeat wherever it could. Throughout the world, the West gave backing and support to those national leaders who could be relied upon to support capitalism and virulently oppose communism -- however disastrous this was for the people they ruled.

 And so the West, at best turned a blind eye and at worst assisted, the likes of Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines, the Apartheid regime in South Africa, General Mobutu, death squads in Central and South America, Somoza in Nicaragua, Zionist bigots in Israel, the Shah of Persia and many other reactionary dictators and regimes around the world.

 Since the counter revolution in the former Soviet Union that country and the countries of eastern Europe have not gone into political limbo but have thrown in their lot with the imperialist camp -- a development that has brought poverty and misery to millions.

 The developing world has lost the friendship and support of the former socialist blee and is exposed to the big-power bullying of the leading imperialist power -- the United States.

 US imperialism's interests are the same as they have always been -- but now without the restraint of the Soviet Union to weigh the balance. Its interests are to exercise as much control as it can over the world's natural resources, controlling prices, distribution and the flow of goods, to penetrate as many markets as it can and to dominate economically, politically and culturally. The purpose is to make the richest capitalists even richer.

 Along the way it wants to obliterate socialist ideas and unravel or defeat the remaining countries of socialism. And it wants every country to tremble at its military might and acknowledge the top dog position of US capital. It regards the countries of the world as vassal states. Those who resist are to be taught a lesson.

 This bullying and rapacious intent needs to be covered in respectable clothing. And so imperialism dens the shining armour of the defender of "democracy", "human rights" and "international law". Its propaganda machines pick up the politicians words designed to monsterise those leaders and peoples it currently wants to punish.

 We see today that the heat of propaganda has been slightly turned down on Saddam Hussein only to be turned up full once again on Slobodan Milosovich as the US and European capitalists return to their unfinished task of breaking up what remains of Yugoslavia.

 But for all the military might and economic clout of the United States and the other major powers, the class struggle, nationally and internationally, will not, and cannot, cease. The ideas of socialism are gaining ground, particularly in Asia, and the socialist countries show the superiority of these ideas by continuing to advance despite the hostility they face from outside.

 Nor can capital rest -- the class struggle is waged in the heartlands of imperialism as well.

 We have no interest in joining crusades against the monsters dreamt up by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and their ilk. There is only one monster we need to overcome -- the monster of capitalism.

 Workers of all countries unite!

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Lead Story

Roisin is free!

by Daphne Liddle
 
IRISH political prisoner Roisin McAliskey is now free. This has brought great relief to her friends and supporters throughout the world.

 But their joy is tempered by the very serious mental injuries that have been inflicted by the British state on this innocent young woman.

 Home Secretary Jack Straw announced late last Monday that he had decided not to grant the request of the German government that Roisin be extradited to face charges ofinvolvement in a bombing incident.

 He claims he made the decision on purely health grounds. An independent Home Office psychiatrist has interviewed Roisin and confirmed that her condition is real. The implication is that she might have been putting it on to avoid the charges.

 There is also an implication that she has not been formally cleared of the charges, though the evidence behind them is very weak.

 Roisin has plenty of witnesses to back her claim that she was in her home town of Coalisland in the occupied north of Ireland when the bombing took place. She has never been to Germany.

 Wednesday's papers carried reports that the Germans now want her to be tried in Britain. This is misleading. The German federal prosecutor's office may have said something along these lines but the German government itself made no such request.

 It is a huge relief to Roisin's family and supporters that she will not be extradited. The German legal process grinds slowly and it could have taken several years, probably spent in detention, for the case to be concluded.

 Roisin's ordeal began in November 1996 when offices of the Xoyal Ulster Constabulary arrested her and took her to Castlereagh holding centre where she was questioned non-stop for six days.

 One of the officers involved had also been present at a traumatic event in her childhood -an attempt on the life of her mother Bernadette McAliskey, the republican politician.

 Unidentified gunmen burst into the family home, held Roisin and her sister Deidre at gunpoint while they fired nine bullets into their mother at point blank range.

 RUC officers arrived so quickly the family inferred they must have known in advance of the raid.

 By a miracle Bernadette survived but her daughters were traumatised.

 Then in November 1996, the RUC officers used the memory of this horror to put pressure on Roisin, now pregnant, to confess to involvement in terrorism.

 After six days Roisin was transferred to Britain where she was held in the maximum security unit in Belmarsh, a men's prison, and later Holloway.

 Last May Roisin described her time in Belmarsh as "the most horrific of all".

 "That's when I swore I was going to lose the baby. They brought me here, to an all-male prison and put me in a cell so disgusting that I vomited.

"The mattress was soiled and the toilet was stinking and encrusted with dirt, pubic hair and toe-nail clippings."

 She was subjected to 75 strip searches. "You never get used to the humiliation of the strip search," she said. "At Belmarsh they make you bend over and they search every orifice. If your legs aren't far enough apart they push them."

 A high-profile campaign, backed by Amnesty International, led to her transfer to the Holloway women's prison and a slight relaxation in her security status. This meant she could sometimes talk to other prisoners for the first time.

 As the birth of her baby approached, the Tory government tormented her with the prospect that it would be taken from her at birth.

 Then there was a general election and a change of government.

 She was released into the custody of the Whittington Hospital for the birth of her baby. For the first time her mother and her partner, Sean Cotter, could be with her to give comfort and support.

 But her ordeal was far from over. Since the birth of her daughter Loinnir, Roisin and the baby have been held at the Maudesley Hospital in south London.

 This hospital has a special unit for mothers with severe depression and other mental problems.

 It is hardly surprising that Roisin was in need of such help. But the prospect of extradition to Germany and being held in custody there possibly for years while they case was processed, accelerated the deterioration of her mental condition.

 Now we hope she will have the chance to recover. It could take a long time. She will remain in the hospital for now, she is too ill to be discharged.

 Meanwhile unionist politicians and the right-wing press in this country are howling with anger, falsely alleging that Jack Straw has stopped the extradition in order to appease republicans.

 Jack Straw and Mo Mowlam are insisting the decision to release her is on medical and not political grounds. Unfortunately the charges against Roisin have not been dropped even though she is now free.

 The political act was not Jack Straw's decision but the manner of Roisin's arrest in the first place. It was an act of terror and intimidation against the republican community of the north of Ireland.

 * FUASCAILT, the Irish political prisoners campaign group, has welcomed the Home secretary's decision.

 But it also said in a press statement last Monday that there should be an investigation into the events at Castlereagh interrogation centre that so severely affected Roisin.

 Fuascailt hopes that Roisin, her partner and baby will now be allowed to commence a normal family life together without fear of harassment or threats from the crown security forces. "We wish Roisin a speedy recovery".
 

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Feature

Rail privatisation rip-off.
 
by Caroline Colebrook
 
 THE TORIES were so anxious to privatise British Rail quickly that they sold off the train lessing companies for £700 million less than they were worth, according to a report issued by the National Audit Office last week.

 In January 1996, the sales raised £1.8 billion for the government. Now the NAO calculates that they would have been worth around £2.5 billion to the buyers.

 This is borne out by the fact that three of those companies -Porterhouse, Eversholt and Angel -- were resold within two years at a profit of nearly £1 billion to the bus company Stagecoach and the transnational Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which owns the Midland Bankand the Royal Bank of Scotland.

 The Porterbrook company was sold to Stagecoach at a £400 million profit just eight months after privatisation.

 One of the Porterbrook dirertors -- former British Rail manager Sandy Anderson -- made a profit for himself of around £33 million, which has since grown to £40 million because of the rise in value of Stagecoach shares.

 Four other directors and 49 staff invested £150,000 and enjoyed a combined profit of £50.4 million.

 The BR managers who bought Eversholt for £400,000 sold the company on for £57.2 million. Managing director Andre Jukes made £15.9 million in profits.

 Two other directors each made £11.6 million and 66 staff made nearly a quarter ofa million each.

 The Japanese Nomura company made a profit of £330 million from buying the Angel company and then selling it on.

 The Angel chairperson John Prideaux made £15 million and two other directors made £3.4 million each.

 But the NAO saves its severest criticisms not for the profiteers themselves but for the former Department of Transport headed at the time by Sir George Young.

 The Department was accused of failing to make a thorough valuation of the rolling stock companies (roscos) before inviting bids, contrary to the recommendation of the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

 The Department claimed itwas impossible to make a proper evaluation because there was nothing in the private sector with which these companies could be compared.

 But the NAO has calculated that the real value of all the companies to the government was £2.9 million but that they were sold for £700 million less than that.

 The failure to raise more was blamed on the timing of the sale. The Tories rushed it through to clear the decks for the privatisation of Railtrack, the company that now owns all the track and signalling equipment, which was sold for £1.9 billion.

 They claimed to be under pressure from bidders to get a move on because of concern over Labour's stated opposition to the privatisation and the approaching general election.

 The report also criticises the Department of Transport for failing to include clauses for clawing back excessive profits later.

 Meanwhile Railtrack has come under further criticism for its track maintenance record.

 Just two weeks ago the Health and Safety Executive delivered a stern warning that it would start prosecutions if maintenance was not improved.

 Parts of the 11,000-mile network had been found to be unsafe and there have been some derailments.

 But Railtrack's response, within 48 hours, was to warn companies bidding for work that itwants to save £80 million on its annual repair bill.

 The company says it will change its strategy for Southeast after all bids for a new three year contract were rejected as too expensive.

 The existing contractors will have their contracts extended until October until the new system is ready. This will break the work down into smaller packages.

Railtrack says this will get "better value for money". It says the new method will "not lead to any reduction in quality or safety".

 But critics say it is just this contracting out of work, which is then further divided up and subcontracted, that leads to unskilled and inexperienced small firms  doing the work. And they says that Railtrack's system of inspection is not up to scratch.

 It is impossible to make cuts in track maintenance and generate profits for a whole chain of contrating and subcontracting  companies without compromising safety for passengers and rail workers.

 Railtrack says it is spending £300 million on maintenance this year but the HSE says this is not enough to make up the backlog of £177 million in maintenance expenditure which has been called for by the rail regulator John Swift.

 The revelations that track maintenance is seriously under par come at an awkward moment for Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott because he is currently negotiating with Railtrack for a rescue package for the much delayed Channel Tunnel rail link.

 It is high time he was reminded of the promises his party made when in opposition to renationalise British Rail when the Tories were planning to sell it off.

 At the time he and most politically aware people knew the Tories were rushing to sell it quickly, effectively giving away a real profits bonanza for their favoured friends.

 Now the NAO has produced the hard evidence but it cannot come as a surprise to Prescott.

 Privatisation has been one big swindle.

 The NAO is now looking into other privatisations, especially the electricity industry and the outcome is Likely to be similar.

 We must demand that Prescott and Blair put renationalisation back on their agenda. If they claim they have no money, most workers would say the fat cats who have been profiteering from these privatisations deserve no compensation.

 They have already had their bonanza at our expense. We want our stolen property back.

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International

New threat of war in Balkans.

THE CRISIS in the Balkans has heightened following Anglo-American demands for Yugoslav restraint in Kosovo and Albanian calls for Western intervention on behalf of the Albanian minority in Serbia.

 But in the troubled Kosovo province there is an uneasy calm following the Serbian police crack-down on the "Kosovo Liberation Front" responsible for attacks on Serbs, Montenegrins and even Albanians considered to be collaborators by the separatists.

 According to the Serbian Interior Ministry, the police killed 40 members of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" including their leader, Adem Jassari, in a big sweep against the Albanian separatists who are fighting for independence or union with Albania in a province which is has a 90 per cent Albanian majority.

 Serbia, which together with Montenegro comprises what's left of Yugoslavia, wrested Kosovo from the Turks in the Balkan Wars prior to the First World War. It has remained part of Serbia ever since, apart from periods during the world wars when Serbia was under occupation by Germany and its allies. Under Marshal Tito's federal socialist constitution Kosovo was granted autonomous status in 1974. This was suspended in 1989 when the old Yugoslavia broke up under Western pressure.

 Tension has risen recently following the non-implementation of an education agreement between Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevich and Ibrahim Rugova, the leader of the Kosovan Albanians.

 And it's been tension that Washington has been eager to exploit. US special envoy to the Balkans, Robert Gelbard, accused the Serbians of using "brutal, disproportionate and overwhelming force" in their drive against the para-military group which Belgrade holds responsible for 200 attacks since 1991 and the deaths of 9 policemen and 24 civilians.

 This followed equally belligerent and anti-Yugoslav remarks by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, currently touring western Europe, predictably echoed by the British, German and French leaders.

 Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States -- four out of the five in the Balkan "Contact Group" are now threatening to freeze all of Serbia's foreign assets unless it calls off the police campaign and begins talks on reviving Kosovo's autonomous status. But the fifth member, Russia, has distanced itself from their renewed hostility to the Yugoslavs.

 In Belgrade, the Yugoslav federal capital and the capital of Serbia there is mounting anger at what is seen as yet another drive to fragment the region and breakup the remaining federation.

 While no Serb denies the ethnic composition of the province, which was once part of the feudal Serbian kingdom, they bitterly point out that the rights of every community in the former Yugoslavia is upheld by the West except for themselves.

 The Serbian majority in Bosnia foughta bitter war simply to preserve their own share. The Serbian minority in Croatia was herded out in an "ethnic cleansing" rarely recalled by Western politicians.

 Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevich, who led Serbia during the last Yugoslav crisis, has long been seen as a thorn in the flesh by the West. The Americans and their allies have backed every Serb opposition movement against him from the monarchists to the extreme nationalists. And they have always encouraged the Kosovans and the counter-revolutionary regimes in Albania in their anti-Serb actions.

 But Milosevich can count on substantial support far beyond the ranks of his own supporters at home on this issue. The lesson of the past few years is that there can be no resolution to the problems of the Balkans unless the demands of the Serbs are treated at least as equally as those of the other peoples in the former Yugoslavia.

 The fate of the Croat Serbs has still to be resolved and the partition of Bosnia still denies the Bosnian Serbs the right to join the new Yugoslav federation. The Serbians will be in no mood to see a further erosion of their sovereignty over Kosovo while nothing is done to address the legitimate claims of the wider Serb community.
 

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British News

Low paid women subsidise NHS
 
 THE NATIONAL Health Service could face a bill of up to £l billion from tens of thousands of women employees in equal pay claims according to a statement from the general union MSF last Wednesday.

 Or, to put it another way, the NHS is benefiting by that much from employing women at cheaper rates than men workers doing equivalent types of work.

 The MSF officials told government ministers at a conference in Winchester that recent tribunal rulings mean that the current pay NHS structure will have to be changed completely -- and there will have to be an end to local wage bargaining.

 The alternative will be to face a flood of new equal pay claims across the whole public sector for equal pay for work of equal value.

 The MSF has made this challenge on the basis of advice from Lord Lester QC following recent decisions of the European Court of Justice that mean women NHS workers can claim equal pay across the entire service, not just as now, within trusts or authorities.

 The implications are that if a senior woman nurse's work can be proved to be of equal value to that of another male employee -- for example a doctor working for a different trust -- she can claim equal pay.

 This ruling will also halt the trend among many trusts now to "de-skill" certain jobs, in other words to get someone with fewer qualifications and on lower pay to take over work currently done only by doctors.

If they have to pay the same rate for the job whoever does if it is more likely to be done by someone with the full qualifications necessary. And senior nurses will have more incentive to get those qualifications and the higher pay.

 Speaking for the MSF, Roger Kilne said: "The implications of Lord Lester's advice are mega".

 The NHS would have to have one pay system for all workers, including doctors, nurses, managers and executives.

 The MSF is currently preparing hundreds of cases based on the success of the 10-year struggle of speech therapist Pam Enderby after a European Court ruled that her work was of equal value to that of (mainly male) clinical psychologists and pharmacists.

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