The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 14th December 2001

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Editorial - Troops out!
Lead Story - Massacre at the Post Office.
Feature - European hospitals "compete for NHS patients".
International - "Lift the lid on state collusion" - Adams demands.
British News - Blunket's "British test" sparks outrage.
More news and Diary

Editorial

Troops out!

AMERICA and Britain reveal more each day of the extent of their arrogance and deceit. It was bad enough that the events of 11 September should have been used as a pretext to wage war against Afghanistan.

 This was a gross exercise in big-power bullying in which the United States just asserted that if the government of Afghanistan failed to extradite Osama bin Laden the US would wage war against this poorest of all countries.

 Negotiations over matters of extradition of persons from one country to another are certainly not conducted in this fashion. But normal diplomacy, international legality and respect are obviously not deemed necessary for the mighty "God is on our side United Slates". And it is impossible not to notice the unspoken racist attitudes that lurk beneath this arrogance.

 The imperialist powers' war policy never did have the ring of truth about it. It was always a strategy for imperialism to exercise long-term control over the whole region of central Asia.

 This has become absolutely clear now that the Taleban government has fallen. The Anglo-American war machine shows no sign of pulling back -- indeed President Bush wants British and other European troops to stay on the ground in Afghanistan.

 The primary concern of US imperialism is to orchestrate the horse-trading between the local leaders in order to achieve a government that will be in step with Washington -- a government just strong enough to hold itself together but too weak to resist the regional designs of imperialism.

 At the same time the hunt for bin Laden goes on since this is the pretext for the whole Anglo-American enterprise. Almost certainly that hunt will last for as long as a pretext is needed.

 Blair has not said if more British troops will be sent into Afghanistan or if they will stay on as "peacekeepers".

 We say, the British government should not be drawn any further into this appalling tragedy and the British forces already in central Asia should be brought home now.

 Hands Off Afghanistan !

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Lead Story

Massacre at the Post Office

by Caroline Colebrook

JOHN ROBERTS, head of the state-owned Consignia (formerly known as the Post Office), stunned and angered postal workers and the public last Tuesday when he announced plans to cut up to 30,000 jobs over the next 18 months.

 A cut this big -- around 20 per cent of the entire workforce -- must inevitably lead to a huge reduction in the level of service and changes to the whole structure of the organisation.

 Robert's announcement follows a giant cut of 10,000 jobs in the past year.

 The Communication Workers' Union reacted immediately to promise to defend jobs and services, with strike action if need be.

 CWU deputy general secretary John Keggie said: "If they are talking 30,000 jobs then, apart from being disappointed, they will be told it's not on. If they try to impose them, they will face appropriate industrial action."

 The union is already balloting for strike action over a pay claim and warned that the job cuts announcement, which had been sprung on the CWU as a surprise, could jeopardise a co-operation agreement hammered out in negotiations over the previous 48 hours.

 A leaked Consignia memo earlier this year had suggested that 15,000 jobs might go in the effort to achieve savings of £1.2 billion.

leaked hints

 There have also been leaked hints at dramatic cuts in services: reducing domestic deliveries to just one a day; asking people to pay if they want a guaranteed delivery before 9.30am and in some cases expecting people to pick up their mail from sorting offices.

 Such cuts would obviously hit the most vulnerable hardest those with mobility probletns; those living in remote areas and those depending on the arrival of a giro for their household spending money.

 The need for these dramatic cuts arises from Government pressure and a European Union drive to increase competition.

 John Roberts told a House of Commons committee he hoped the cuts would be achieved from natural wastage and voluntary redundancies and the privatisation of contracts for cleaning and catering.

 This would obviously lead to cuts in jobs, wages and conditions for those workers.

 He also talked about plans to make Parcelforce drivers self-employed and to privatise the maintenance of the fleet of 40,000 postal vans.

 It became obvious that the cuts are part and parcel of the privatisation process when Martin O'Neill, Labour chairperson of the all-party Commons trade and industry committee, said: "The Post Office, Consignia, is now having to face the reality of acting like a private company albeit with a public shareholder.

 "They are not as efficient as they should be. They are losing substantial amounts of money and they are having to take decisions that would have been anathema even two years ago."

 The outrage provoked by the job losses announcement -- and on a day when unemployment figures rose by some 48,000 -- indicates that this decision is still anathema as far as most people are concerned.

back-tracked

 The next day John Roberts back-tracked a little, saying that no final decision has yet been taken about the exact number of job cuts and his comments about 30,000 redundancies had been "speculative".

 He said there was "no firm figure" and the unions would be "fully consulted".

 * Other job cuts announced last week include 4,000 at the cable company NTL, 1,500 at the computer company ICL, 200 security personnel at Manchester Airport and British Airways is considering another 10,000 more job cuts.

 The current official figure for those out of work is 959,000.

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Feature

European hospitals "compete for NHS patients"

by Caroline Colebrook

THE GOVERNMENT last week announced that patients waiting more than six months for life saving heart surgery can opt to have their operations in private hospitals or abroad.

 And they claim Lhat European hospitals are "queuing up" to treat NHS patients under the Government scheme to cut waiting lists. They claim this competition will mean they will get good deals.

 One example is Greece's new Interbalkan Medical Centre in Thessaloniki, which is hoping to win thousands of NHS patients.

 An English company, Operations Abroad, with its foundations in the travel insurance business, has been appointed as agents for the hospital and is already bidding for one of the pilot programmes developed by the Department of Health.

 But the business heads who have put all this together have failed to consider that going abroad, for most working class people, involves a certain amount or stress and anxiety.

 Will seriously ill patients be able to cope with the change in climate? What about visitors? What about aftercare?

 Operations Abroad claims they are doing a "total care package, including the return flight". But that still leaves many unanswered questions.

 Many suspect that going abroad for an operation will be favoured more by middle class patients who are more accustomed to travel and whose families can afford to go with them.

 Taking very seriously ill people thousands of miles to totally strange surroundings is not a best option. It is a desperate, stop-gap measure to reduce waiting lists.

 Conrmenting recently in the Nursing Times on the problems of GPs being able to refer patients to hospitals a long way away, practice nurse Sara Stanton said: "What happens to followup care once these patients have had their treatment? Who will provide the dressings and for how long?

 "And what happens if someone needs re-admission? It is easy to contact your local hospital, but what if the hospital is hundreds of miles away?"

 Shipping patients here and there is no substitute for providing proper hospitals and healthcare facilities where they live and can use them easily.

 The waiting lists are so long because the NHS has lost so many hospitals and beds over the last two decades.

 The big problem with the NHS, from the capitalist point of view, was that it did not provide enough opportunities for making profits and the private healthcare sector was very small. Who would pay for healthcare if the NHS provision was adequate?

 So they had to run down the NHS, to create long waiting lists that would give people an incentive to pay to jump the queue.

 Not enough were doing this so they found new ways to make profits out of the NHS with the private finance initiative. They also forced hospitals to put ancillary services out to private tender -- allowing capitalism to profit from cutting the jobs, wages and conditions of these workers.

 Now, sending patients to private care in Britain and abroad provides even more opportunities for profit, more opportuniLies for tax-payers' money to disappear into black holes instead of being invested in hospital buildings and equipment and in doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.

 So long as extra profits can be squeezed by keeping waiting lists long, the capitalists have every incentive to keep them long.

 Patients will suffer and health service workers will suffer from the transfer of the work they do to the private sector.

 Currently cancer patients in Scotland are facing five-month waits for surgery. Some are dying who would have been saved, according to claims by Glasgow family doctors.

 The Royal College of Surgeons last week reported that the NHS is "short of nearly 3,000 surgeons".

 This sorry state of affairs is the result of the deliberate starving of the NHS of funds for decades.

 And now what funds there are to be used to bolster the private sector instead of being invested directly in the NHS where they will provide much more value for money.

 The health service unions are opposed to all these back door forms of privatisation. The boutgeois press is attacking them for standing in the way of ill people getting treatment -- in the private sector or abroad as may be.

 But the waiting lists would be cut faster if the money were invested directly in the NHS. We must support the union campaign.

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International

"Lift the lid on state collusion" - Adams demands

by Theo Russell

SINN FEIN PRESIDENT Gerry Adams last week accused the British government of being "directly involved in an orchestrated cover-up of the state-sponsored murder of dozens of nationalists" in the north of Ireland.

 Adams warned Prime Minister Tony Blair that pressure for a full and independent inquiry into British state collusion with Loyalist pararmilitaries would mount until the full truth is out.

 He also rejected claims of bias on Sinn Feins part, pointing out that the party was also supporting enquiries into the deaths of loyalist Billy Wright and two RUC officers, and was not seeking prison sentences for the individuals involved.

 Adams' speech comes after fresh revelations by former British Army agent Brian Nelson that he had key knowledge of the murder of at ]east eight nationalists. Adams said that admissions given by Nelson and another former agent, Billy Stobie. were the tip of a very large iceberg.

 "Collusion between the British state and loyalists spanned all of their organlsations - the RUC, Ulster Defence Regiment/Royal Irish Regiment. MI5, UDA, UVF, Ulster Resistance and, of course. the British Army through their Force Research Unit."

 "This was not just a few bad apples." Adams said, "it was a structured strategy. These killings were part of British Army policy." But he also stressed that "none of our demands have been that anyone needs necessarily to serve one day in prison."

 Sinn Fein is also supporting campaigns by the families of two RUC officers and into the deaths of a British judge and his wife. and of Billy Wright, the loyalist killed by the INLA in Long Kesh prison.

 While seeking to uncover the truth about Britain's war against Irish republicans. Sinn Fein is also seeking to promote reconcilliation on all sides in order to consolidate the peace process.

 Rut as Adams pointed out the British government is still going to extraordinary lengths to protect its former agents, even though former Tory minister Tom King described Brian Nelson at a trial in 1992 as "a valuable agent," and the prime minister John Major had personally met with the trial judge at the time. Nelson's 800 page statement to the trial was never made public.

 As further evidence for Sinn Fein's impartiality, Adams quoted from the Amnesty International report 'Political Killings in Northern Ireland': "Brian Nelson's military handlers, who allegedly provided information which assisted in targeting some individuals for murder, were not charged with any offence."

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British News

Blunket's "British test" sparks outrage

by Daphne Liddle

HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett last week plunged into political controversy when he tried to anticipate the report of a
government-commissioned inquiry into race disturbances in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley earlier this year, by calling for ethnic communities to make more effort to integrate into British society and to learn to speak English.

 The inquiry, headed by Portner Nottingham City Council chief executive Tom Cantle, spread the blame for the race disturbances far and wide.

 It found that in some areas white and immigrant communities live "parallel lives" separated in housing, in schools and in cultural
activities.

 It is this separation that gives rise to ignorance mutual mistrust and jealousy over central and local government improvement grant. Each community is convinced the other is getting a better deal when in reality they are both suffering extreme deprivation.

 Tom Cantle said: "I was aware of course tha people live in separate areas. But when physical separation of housing is compounded by a complete lack or contact though education, through social and cultural networks, through any other contact at all, then it does become a complete and absolute separation parallel lives -- no contact with one community to another."

 One of the inquiry team Ahtsham Ali, of the Halifax based Himmat project, said he was surprised by the "horrendous poverty" and disaffection in white communities in Burnley and Oldham.

 And David Hey of the Dewsbury-based Muslim community-based group, the Salfia Association, described some white working class communities as "rudderless ships".

 Many of these while working class communities have suffered economic collapse as Britain's manufacturing base has been run down and mines have been closed.

 The report also blamed a wide diversity of projects and initiatives aimed at improving the situation but which lacked consistency, were often dropped prematurely and ended by creating tnore confusion. It blamed police forces Forgiving low priority Lo community initiatives.

 The extreme separation of communities outlined in the report has come about over many decades for many reasons which include racist housing policies practised in The Past by some local authorities and immigrants feeling more secure among their own community.

 In the past, efforts to integrate culturally have been rebuffed by the white community. For example, West Indians arriving in Britain in the 1950s anti 1960s were not often made welcome among while Christian congregations -- and so set up their own churches.

 Blunkett's remarks give the impression that the immigrants are largely responsible for the separation because of their refusal to integrate.

 This view panders to the misconceptions of many white racists -- that anything bad that happens to immigrrant communities is their own fault for refusing to integrate.

 Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union was quick to respond. He told Radio Four's Today programme: "I think what we are seeing here is the long-established principle of politicians a spot of bother, you blame the victim, get your retaliation in first!"
 

 "It seems to me that our Home Secretary has managed to declare war on judges, the police, the House of Lords and on his own side in the Labour Party.

 "For the moment I say to our Home Secretary, "please just calm down, you've got a lot of friends. Don't make enemies'."

 Others expressed concern that Blunkett's remarks would give comfort to the extreme right wing. Rhiad Ahmad, the deputy mayor of Oldham, said that if Asian Britons lived in single race ghettos, it is because of poverty and deprivation, not self-segregation.

 "I can visualise the British National Party putting up election material at the next election quoting words from Mr Blunkett," he said.

 And indeed the BNP has declared that it wouid use Mr Blunkett's  remarks in its electoral campaigning literature.

 The Cantle report did blame the BNP for exploiting the alienation among the white working class in Oldham, Bradford and Burnley.

 But it did not point out that the immediate cause of the riots was a series of marches in those towns announced by the National Front with the deliberate intent to stir race riots.

 The NF, being very short of members, did not even bother to turn up at all these announced marches. It relied on the news of its intentions to bring all the local white racist extremists out of the woodwork to gather and start trouble.

 Local police forces were to blame for allowing these racists to parade through immigrant areas, intimidating and assaulting local people, without hindrance.

 It is no wonder the local Asian communities felt they were under attack with no one to defend them but themselves and that youths from those communities came out to fight the racists and the police.

 The Cantle report is right to point out that ethnic separation and the poverty and deprivation of both Asian and White communities is at the root of the problem.

 The report accuses a wide range of bodies for this. Blunkett chose to pick the immigrant communities to blame for failing to integrate. This approach will only make matters worse.

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