The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 14th May, 1999

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Editorial - NO to NATO terror. & Sham democracy.
Lead Story - Ceasefire now!
Feature - Scots Parliament divided over student fees.
International - Major new campaign on siege of the Garvaghy Road.
British News - Peace protests on the rise in Britain.


NO to NATO terror

AT THE start of Nato's undeclared war against Yugoslavia the military and political leaders of the Alliance claimed the air strikes were to be launched against military objectives and that Nato's high-tech planes and weapons were capable of pinpointing these targets.

 Since then Nato has had to admit it has "mistakenly" killed and injured many unarmed civilians including train and bus passengers, Kosovan refugees, and people in their homes and public buildings. It has even managed to miss by miles and destroy properly in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.

 The latest so-called "mistake" was the destruction of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade in which four diplomats and journalists were killed and others injured as well as the damaging of the Greek Consulate in the city of Nis.

 Nato's explanation of the bombing of the Chinese Embassy beggars belief -- that the pilots were working on duff information supplied by the CIA. Can anyone really believe this?

 Whatever the truth about this outrage it has rightly been condemned throughout the world and has provoked an outcry of protest ranging from street marches in every continent to the international forum of the United Nations.

 Furthermore this latest crime has followed news reports showing that Nato has been dropping anti-personnel weapons designed to kill and maim. Nato can no longer pretend it is just targeting airfields, weapons stores, tanks and the like -- it is loading its planes with devices designed specifically for terror. Deaths caused by bombs spewing out shards of shrapnel cannot be described as "mistakes" or "collateral damage" -- this is cold-blooded murder!

 We should be told when and why Nato changed its war strategy to one of terror bombing -- if indeed this is a change and not just a planned new phase of the war. We should not hold our breath for an explanation. After all British MPs were not allowed to vote on the war in the first place and have not been asked to debate the policy of carrying on with the bombing in the light of the military campaign's obvious failure after 50 days of relentless assault.

 Neither the return of the three captured US soldiers to America nor the Yugoslav offer to reduce its troops in Kosovo have met with any positive response from Nato.

 Nato can be stopped and must be stopped from continuing with its bone-headed and murderous war. The demand for an immediate end to the bombing is gaining support and the public protests are strengthening as each day passes. Let us step up the pressure, build the forces for peace and struggle to end Nato's campaign of terror.

Sham democracy

ONE of the features of the recent Scottish and Welsh elections was the introduction of a form of propertional representation. It, or a similar variety of PR, is soon to be used in the elections for the European Parliament.

 It is often argued, including by some people on the left, that this is a more democratic form of voting since it gives a better chance to small Parties and allows people an opportunity to express a range of preferences.

 In the Scottish and Welsh elections the small parties did not do any better than usual. But in both cases there was a drift towards the centre-right. The result opened the door to possible coalitions and horse-trading.

 Of course this was not just the result of PR -- there was in some places a low turnout and some movement away from Labour -- not surprising given the government's current pro-war stance and the resentment at Millbank Tower's input into the selection procedures. But PR would have tended towards this outcome since that is its real purpose.

 The EU elections will use PR because that is the system used in most EU countries. In those countries coalitions are common and the politics of the centre-right predominate. This is not more democratic than the opportunity to elect strong majority governments with no one else to blame for failing to implement promises -- it is the road to weak governments always looking over their shoulder at coalition partners.

 PR is less democracy not more and serves the interests of the bourgeoisie rather than the working class.

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Lead Story

Ceasefire now!

by Andy Brooks

MILLIONS have taken to the streets across the world this week to show their anger and outrage at Nato's bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. And while the protests continue the demand for an immediate cease-fire is being heard.

Chinese fury

 Angry protests in Beijing and throughout People's China was matched by Chinese diplomats at the United Nations. Following emergency talks with Russian envoy Viktor Chernomyrdin in Beijing both Powers told the Security Council that they would not back any new initiative unless it called for an immediate end to the bombing.

 China also put its contacts with the United States on hold demanding a full apology, explanation and compensation for the death and destruction rained down on their embassy by Nato's missiles.

Russian warning

 In the Kremlin President Yeltsin sacked his entire government as he fights for his own political survival. The Russian leader faces impeachment in parliament, the Duma, and his choice for prime minister is certain to be thrown out. But Yeltsin also warned the West that Russia would quit the peace effort if Nato continued to ignore the Kremlin's proposals.

 Moscow and Beijing are calling for an immediate end to the war and that any peace-keeping force for Kosovo must be under the direction of the United Nations, not Nato. Chernomyrdin has proposed that Chinese troops take part in the UN force -- an idea which has found favour in Beijing.

Nato disarray

 American deputy foreign minister Strobe Talbott is in Moscow now for talks and French President Chirac is also expected in the Russian capital. But the focus is on Germany and the prospect of a Green Party revolt against the war which could bring down the social-democrat led coalition and force fresh elections.

 German Chancellor Schroeder has flown to China to discuss peace plans while US sources claim Berlin is holdi ng talks with Italy about ending the war. Italian President Luigi Scalfaro has already called for a bombing halt "because we are very worried to see that the raids are apparently moving away from military targets and are being directed to civilian targets".

 And in London Tony Blair is coming under fire from the Tory and Liberal opposition over the conduct of the war and the fact that Nato has failed to crush Yugoslavia after eight weeks of continuous bombing.

 Though the Tory and Liberal Democrat leaders maintain full support for Nato's aggression and currently argue that the answer is a ground invasion they know that the US Congress has ruled that out and there is no question of Britain or any other European state attempting to take on the Yugoslavs without the might of the United States behind them.

 The muted criticism of Blair's government reflects the open opposition from retired senior officers in the correspondence columns of the ruling class's newspapers.

 And in Washington Clinton's Republican opposition is already talking about "Clinton's war" -again a mirror of increasing doubts to the wisdom of the campaign within America's ruling circles.

 But the major pressure on the West's warmongers and militarists is peace movement which is growing in Britain and overseas. Everyone must step up their efforts to get mass support for the campaign. Demand an immediate ceasefire! Stop the bombing now!

  Thursday 20 May 6.30pm Picket the Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, London.

  Sunday 23 May. Bring Peace to Yugoslavia benefit concert. Hackney Empire, Mare St, London E8.

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Scots Parliament divided over student fees

by Caroline Colebrook

LAST WEEK'S historic elections Tor the first Scottish Parliament in 300 years have left Labour with the most MP's but no overall majority. And negotiations for a working coalition are already hung up on the issue of student fees.

 Just two weeks ago, the Student Loan Company reported that almost half of Scotland's graduates cannot yet afford to repay their student loans.

 It said that a record number of 452,000 have applied to defer payment during the current financial year, 25 per cent up on last year.

 A spokesperson for the National Union of Students said: "It is a worrying situation because there is a perception that graduates go straight into high-paid jobs. The reality is that a lot are not well paid, despite being teachers or nurses."

 The introduction of student tuition fees last year will see this problem get even worse in the future unless they are abolished.

 The Liberal Democrats and the Scots Nationalists have taken up the cause of the students and are calling for the abolition of tuition fees.

 Speaking for the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon said: "Growing numbers of students are racing a big debt burden when they graduate, and some will have no chance of ever escaping it.

 "The imposition of tuition fees brings the problem into even sharper focus."

 The opposition to student fees in Scotland is running high. The country has a tradition of free education and tuition fees discourage students from poorer backgrounds from entering higher education.

 Currently Scots Labour leader Donald Dewar is trying to negotiate some sort of coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats.

 Jim Wallace, the leader of the Scottish Lib-Dems, has pledged that the abolition of student fees is a non-negotiable condition for coalition.

 But if Donald Dewar goes along with this it will create a situation where Scottish students do not have to pay tuition fees while their fellow students from England and Wales do have to, creating another "Scottish anomaly".

 University administrators have warned this will create a nightmare and cause tensions on university campuses throughout Britain.

 The Scottish universities are already complaining it would leave them with significantly less funding than their English and Welsh counterparts.

 The gap is seen as likely to grow because universities are hoping to increase student fees from the basic £1,000 a year over the next decade.

 SNP leader Alex Salmond has been taunting Donald Dewar that he is controlled by "puppet master" Tony Blair on the issue of student fees.

 Meanwhile Scottish student leaders are demanding not only the abolition of tuition fees but the reintroduction of maintenance grants.

 Dr Ian Graham-Bryce, convener of the Committee of Scottish Higher Education Principals, argues that the current six per cent decrease in applications to Scottish universities and colleges is more likely to arise from the ending of the grants system and its "rapid replacement by a clear dependency on a loans culture" than from the imposition of tuition fees.

 We can only hope that the new Scottish Parliament does bow to overwhelming popular pressure and abolish the tuition fees -- and reintroduce grants.

 If that leads to an anomaly it will increase pressure for the same measures in England and Wales and for free access to higher education to become once again a right.

 If Britain has enough money to throw away on bombing Belgrade (each cruise missile costs £650,000 and each "smart" bomb £10,000) it can certainly afford to invest in the future, in young people, and restore free higher education.

 And if the Scottish Parliament can set that restoration in process, then all power to it.

 * Thousands of students throughout Britain are refusing to pay their tuition fees and so risking being thrown off their courses.

 The Campaign for Free Education held its annual conference in Sheffield this month and says the issue has sparked a resurgcnce of student activism.

 Speaking for the CFE, Kate Buckell said: "We have seen more student action in the last four months than in the last four years and it's all over tuition fees.

 "Most universities have students who haven't paid, some have hundreds. For some it's a political act, for others it's a case of prioritising debts."

 Students at Sussex University are currently in occupation after a threat to expel 89 first-year students who refuse to pay the fees.

 There have seen similar actions at Oxford, Sheffield, UCL and Goldsmiths. Some universities are saying they will refuse to enrol non-paying students next year.

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Major new campaign on siege of the Garvaghy Road

by Theo Russell

A NEW solidarity campaign, the Friends of the Garvaghy Road, was launched at a meeting in London st the weekend attended by 300 people.

 The campaign aims to build links with the people of the Garvaghy Road in Portadown, Northern Ireland, who have been under siege by Orange Order thugs since last July. A similar campaign is already up and nrnning in both parts of Ireland.

 An important part of the new campaign will be to build solidarity with and support for this community from all sections of society in Britain, including MPs, councillors, human rights activists, trades unionists, and all religious persuasions. The organisers point to the links between the Orange Order and Combat 18, who provided stewards at an Apprentice Boys march in London last year.

 Also at the weekend, the Lawrence family's lawyer, Imran Khan, travelled to the Garvaghy Road to speak at a public meeting. This summer the Friends of the Garvaghy Road will be organising a delegation to Portadown, which it is hoped will be representative of as many communities in Britain as possible.

 The main speaker at the launch, Brendan MacCionnaith of the Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition, said that a major part of developing international solidarity is an education process, "especially in Britain", about the sectarian nature of Orangeism.

 "Sectarianism and racism", he said, "are two sides of the same coin. The Orange Order may appear ridiculous, but people can identify with the racism of the Ku Klux Klan".

 It was equally important, he said, to support the campaigns for justice for Robert Hamill, beaten to death while an RUC unit looked on, and for an independent enquiry into Rosemary Nelson's assassination.

 MacCionnaith voiced his doubts about David Trimble's belated decision to meet with representatives of the Garvaghy Road's residents (Trimble is the area's MP but has up to now totally ignored the ongoing crisis in Portadown).

 "In the past 4 years the Residents Coalition have been involved in many sets of talks through various intermediaries, none of which has led to a permanent resolution of the problem", he pointed out.

 In 1996 a deal on the match route was struck, but on the day of the march itself the Orange Order, David Trimble, Ian Paisley and the RUC's Ronnie Flanagan all denied any agreement.

 In 1997, shortly after the Labour government came to power, a deal was mediated by the leaders of four churches, but leaked official documents show that a calculated and cynical decision had already been taken by Mo Mowlam, the RUC Chief Constable, and the British Army General Officer Commanding, to push the march through the Garvaghy Road regardless of the consequences.

 "It was not Tony Blair, the Army or the RUC who stopped the march in 1998", said MacCionnaith, "but the deaths of the three Quinn children and the actions of the Orange Order". (The Quinns died when their house was petrol-bombed at the height of the Drumcree crisis last summer).

 MacCionnaith pointed out that the effective wall of media silence over the Garvaghy Road crisis also applies to the harassment, attacks and intimidation of Catholics and nationalists by loyalists and the RUC across Northern Ireland. And, he said, that was the case in the Irish Republic as well as in Britain.

 In the past year only one member of the Dublin parliament has visited the Garvaghy Road, and a request from the Residents Coalition for an all-party delegation to visit has received no response.

 The launch of the new campaign comes at a time when the nationalist residents of Portadown and elsewhere in Northern Ireland are bracing themselves for new confrontations and violence in the summer "marching season" -- a period in which, as Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness warned at his party's Ard Fheis in Dublin last weekend, "the enemies of the Good Friday Agreement are planning to apply the coup de grace to the peace process."

 Jeremy Hardy, speaking on behalf ofthe Robert Hamill Campaign, ended the meeting saying that "the problem of sectarianism began in Portadown, where the Orange Order was founded, and it will end there. Unless the British government faces them down, there will never be peace in Ireland".

 The Friends ofthe Garvaghy Road can be contacted at: BM Box 5519, London WCIN 3XX; Tel/Fax: 0181 442 8778; or

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British News

Peace protests on the rise in Britain

by Roger Fletcher and Renee Sams

ALL AROUND Britain the outrage at what Nato is doing to Yugoslavia in our name is mounting rapidly. Here we report just two major events, space does not permit us to cover the whole spectrum of protest in detail.

 Roger Fletcher reports on last Saturday's march through central London:

ESTIMATES put the numbers on the march at around 15,000 to 17,000. But last Saturday's anti-war march, from the Embankment to a rally in Hyde Park, was certainly the largest London demonstration of its kind for many years.

 Its size totally refuted the media-generated myth of a nation wholly behind this latest manifestation of "New World Order".

 And there was evidence throughout the length of the march of a growing realisation of what this "order" implies.

 Not only were there pictures of crushed and fragmented bodies, but also the concentric "targets" pinned on marchers' backs with the added slogan "You could be next".

 There were posters condemning US and British imperialism and placards that contrasted resources available for military action with lack of resources for education, health and social facilities.

 And there was one poster inviting people to join the US airforce and visit -- with a list of some 20 countries bombed by the USAF since 1945.

 Saturday's march was a sign that despite an almost total media blackout on any signs of opposition to the Nato aggression against Yugoslavia, people are learning a great deal very quickly.

 The ruling class, who control the mass media, are getting into greater difficulties the more they twist and turn.

 Once called "terminological inexactitudes" by Winston Churchill and more recently "being economical with the truth" by a government representative during the Peter Wright espionage trial, these discontinuities do not go unnoticed.

 Last Friday night Gerry Adams asked "Why active bombs on Yugoslavia are acceptable, but the silent guns of the IRA are not?"

 At the rally in Hyde Park, Labour MPs Tony Benn and Jeremy Corbyn spoke of the lack of democracy, how our government engages in attacks on countries like Iraq and Yugoslavia without consulting Parliament.

 The National Union of Journalists' banner was prominent on the march and NUJ general secretary John Foster expressed outrage at the bombing of Yugoslav journalists at the television centre in Belgrade because it was putting out information in a way that Nato does not approve.

 Sales of the New Worker have been increasing steadily on recent peace demos as people are eager to read E-mail letters and bulletins direct from Belgrade that cannot get through by any other means, thanks to the Nato news and information blockade.

Rennee Sams reports on the mass meeting in Central Hall on Wednesday 5 May:

THIS meeting, with a massive turn out, was organised by the Campaign for Media Accuracy and Freedom of the Press against the bombing of the Balkans and the media's distorted coverage of the terrible effects of the bombing in the Balkans.

 Several speakers noted that not only was the Nato coverage biased, it contained downright lies as well.

 The power of the media is enormous and behind it is the underlying assumption that what Nato is doing is absolutely "right and proper.

 Labour MP Tam Dalyell recalled the unbalanced reporting that had happened before in the Gulf War. Government ministers made allegations of atrocities but could not give factual details when pressed.

 "I think the whole business is profoundly unreal," he said.

 He cited the cruise missiles used against Iraq in 1994 and again in 1998. He visited the region and was taken to the Almeria in Baghdad where a cruise missile had landed.

 Mr Dalyell said he had been absolutely shocked at the numbers of dead and wounded -- old people, women and children.

 "It's a terrible sight" he said, "but this is what cruise missiles do. There are no such things as smart weapons."

 Jeremy Corbyn MP commented on the number of Nato heads of government who are "having great difficulty in sustaining their positions supporting this action".

 He said that Tony Blair has gone out of his way to praise those from the new Nato countries who stood up against their own parliaments and public opinion.

 "Unfortunately in Britain Mr Blair does not have that problem because under constitution -- or lack of a constitution -- Parliament does not have a right to decide whether or not British troops or planes should go into action."

 "The media works from an assumption that it is light and proper for Nato to play and aggressive role and to demonise the Serbs and Milosovich. They used the same ploy in Iraq as they demonised Saddam Hussein."

 The next speaker, from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, spoke of the efforts of military spokespersons to use words and phrases that tend "to produce a particular view of the war" -- phrases like "collateral damage", "bombs seduced off target" and "regrettable casuaties".

 Alice Mahon MP reminded the meeting that all communities in the area are suffering and that includes the Serbs even though, according to TV reporting is seems as though "Serbian suffering is somehow less than that of Kosovars".

 Tony Benn MP pointed out that "democracy does not work without information".

 "Our best instrument." he said, "is information. And although the national dailies and TV are owned by big corporations who are in support of the war, and the powers that be have stopped post from Yugoslavia, the Internet is still working and pouring out information on what is happening."

 He noted that the mass protest outside the BBC the previous week had not been reported.

 "The destruction of Yugoslavia," he said, "has been central to the western powers for many years. But I would never have believed that the party of which I have been a member since I was 16 would tear up the United Nations Charter."

 Refugees, he said, "are being used to justify the war" and he called on journalists to write the truth."

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