The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 14th September 2001

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Editorial - New danger.
Lead Story - Bush stokes war fears.
Feature - PCS screens strike set to spread.
International - Attacks on the United States.
British News - Privatisation battle deferred.
More news and Diary

Editorial

New danger

WE are deeply saddened to learn of the thousands of United States workers killed and injured in the events of last Tuesday in New York and Washington. We send our heartfelt sympathy to the many American workers who are bereaved, to those who are suffering and to those who are working in dangerous conditions around the clock to rescue others.

 At this time it is not known who carried out these attacks on the major centres of US finance capital and US military power. It is though clear that the motive was to strike at the heart of US imperialism as a reaction to US foreign and military policies. Millions of poor and oppressed people around the world hold the imperialist powers, especially the US, responsible for widespread poverty, inequality, war and oppression.

 There is now a grave new danger emerging. The US Presidency is in the hands of the most right-wing and reactionary elements of the American ruling class. The administration's immediate response has been to talk of punishment and to put the armed forces on alert.

 There is talk from American pundits of so-called "rogue states" being dragged into the frame and racist, anti-Arab sentiments being expressed. The emotions of this week could be used to justify attacks on any state the US leadership wants to cuff and the already serious situation in the Middle East made many times worse.

 Progressive Americans are also expressing fears that Bush will now use the events to infringe the civil rights of many American citizens -- socialists, communists, peace activists,, and American Arabs, Muslims, Latinos, and political activists from the Black communities.

 The British government has rightly expressed its condolences to the American people. Unfortunately it has also talked ofits close alliance with the US state and is echoing the line coming out of Washington. There is an urgent need for the labour and peace movements of Britain to speak out against British involvement or support for US war plans that can only end in even more civilian casualties and even greater dangers.

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Lead Story

Bush stokes war fears

by our Arab affairs correspondent

AMERICA is reeling from a day of air-terror, which has devastated New York and left the Pentagon in flames.

 While two hijacked planes crashed into New York's World Trade Center, a third dived down on the Pentagon in Washington -- the hub of US imperialism s war-machine.

 The attacks, which have left thousands dead, sent share prices plummeting across the world while gold and oil soared.

 The United States is only now coming to terms with Tuesday's stunning assault on the symbols of American wealth and might.

 The film of the hijacked aircraft smashing into the 110-storey twin towers of the World Trade Center and their complete collapse within hours matched by scenes of the Pentagon ablaze have flashed round the world.

 Governments were quick to send their condolences to the United States and condemn the instigators including virtually all the Arab leaders including the Palestinians.

 Palestinian President Yasser Arafat expressed his shock at this "unbelievable and terrible" attack and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) issued repeated denials of involvement following a bogus claim made to the Arab Gulf media soon after the attacks.

 The DFLP and the Popular Front for the Liberation ofPalestine (PFLP) have made it clear they had no hand in the attacks. DFLP Central Committee member Ali Badwan said, "Our policy calls for focusing Palestinian efforts against the Israeli occupation forces and the armed Zionist settlers.

 "We are not concerned with any actions outside the Palestinian territories. Our legitimate struggle is directed against the Israeli enemy and the settler cliques".

 And a PFLP leader said "Naturally the United States' position regarding our conflict with Israel is totally biased in favour of Israel but we have nothing to do with these aircraft attacks because our military battle is against the Zionist enemy".

 Maher al Taher, a member of the PFLP Politburo, added "We, as nationalist Palestinian forces, are launching our struggle on our land against the Zionist aggressors".

 Iraq was the exception. That Arab country faces daily Anglo-American air-raids and a cruel blockade, which has claimed the lives of over a million and a half civilians through medical, and food shortages.

 "The American rulers... practiced great harshness against humanity until the situation exploded," was how one front-page editorial of a major daily, Al Iraq, put it. "The attacks against US Federal buildings were a natural reaction to the American rulers' hegemony, deception and foolishness" 'This was echoed in other Iraqi papers and their radio and television.

 And on the Arab street, in the slums and the refugee camps, many felt that the Americans were at last tasting the violence, destruction and death so long inflicted on them by US imperialism and its regional puppets. Some took to the streets to rejoice. Others pointed out that the root cause of the violence was American policies in the Middle East.

 Sheikh Yassin, the leader of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood Hamas told the press that "no doubt this is a result of the injustice the US practices against the weak in the world".

 And a representative of Islamic Jehad (Holy War) in Gaza said: "What has happened in the United States today is the consequence of American policies in this region."

 No-one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but Washington is already pointing the finger at Osama Bin Laden, the Saudi businessman, who heads a militant Islamic order based in Afghanistan blamed for previous attacks on US installations.

 But the leader of the militant Islamic sect has denied all involvement in the attacks. According to Iran's Islamic Republican News Agency: "A leading Pakistani Urdu-language daily quoted him as saying in an exclusive statement issued to the paper through one of his aides that the attack was a reaction from the world's oppressed people against their oppressors.

 The statement, in Arabic, was read out for the paper by an unnamed representative of bin Laden.

 When told that most of the victims were innocent, bin Laden's aide said, "Muslims who are being killed in Palestine every day are also innocent. Why is their innocence not being taken into consideration?"

 He said the United States has been supplying arms to Israel against the Palestinians and that innocent people in Palestine are being killed daily with missiles provided by the United States.

 "The struggling Palestinians are being bombarded with US F-16 planes. There is no power to hold the United States responsible for this" he said.

 He vowed to continue to work to help the suppressed people of Palestine and rid them of Jewish subjugation.

 Osama said that although he did not have atomic bombs and missiles yet his conviction and resolve is as strong and unshakeable as rocks.

 "The United States will not be able to achieve its goal by eliminating me, because there are hundreds of Osamas now" he was quoted as saying.

 The Arab millionaire added that US hostility towards Taliban was not due to his presence, rather they want to set up their bases in this country and find Taliban an impediment in their way.
 
 Osama also rejected his involvement in the attack on Afghan commander, Ahmed Shah Masood, and offered his good offices for reconciliation between the warring factions of that country.

 He said that he was tired of the fighting in Afghanistan. "If this war comes to an end, we will be in a position to assist our oppressed brethren in Kashmir and Afghanistan," he added.

 Osama bin Laden heads a militant Islamic order, Al-Qaeda (The Base) which has considerable influence with the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.

 Bin Laden, who made a fortune in the construction industry in Saudi Arabia, comes from the puritanical, fundamentalist Arabian Islamic tradition.

 In 1980 he went to Afghanistan to support the anti-communist rebels and set up a militia with CIA support. But he broke with US imperialism after the Americans sent troops to Saudi Arabia in the prelude to the Gulf War of 1991.

 Al Qaeda wants all foreign troops out of Arabia and the Zionists out of Palestine. The US government says Al Qaeda militants are responsible for waves of attacks on Americans in recent years.

 President Bush is vowing vengeance and no-one knows when US imperialism will lash out. But the Palestinians fear that they, as usual, will bear the brunt of imperialism's anger. General Sharon, the Israeli premier, is posing as chief mourner to stake his claim for more backing in his own terror war against the Palestinian Arabs.

 This week he sent the troops into the Palestinian city of Jenin, in a foray, which has left more dead on both sides. The timing was clearly aimed at scuppering any hope of any early meeting between Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

 Resistance is continuing unabated with further bombings deep inside the Zionist entity and armed clashes between Palestinian guerrillas and Israeli army and Zionist settler gangs every day.

 The "hawks" in Sharon's coalition Cabinet -- virtually all of them as far as the Palestinians are concerned" -- are pushing for the re-occupation ofthe autonomous zones to drive Arafat back into exile and smash the regular Palestinian police and the resistance militias.

 It is a recipe for war. The brutal treatment of the Palestinian Arabs and the denial of their legitimate nghts since 1948 by Israel and its imperialist masters have been the root-cause of all the tension in the Middle East.

 Imperialism, which plunders the oil riches of the region, believes that the only way cheap crude oil supplies can be guaranteed is by keeping all the Arabs weak and divided and the Palestinians in the gutter.

 The consequences of this policy has been six major Middle East wars and a state of almost continuous conflict and most of the victims were Arabs. Now the conflict is spreading far beyond the parameters set by imperialism and the confines of the Middle East.

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Feature

PCS screens strike set to spread

by Daphne Liddle

THE ALL-OUT strike involving civil servants in the Employment Service and Benefits Agency offices in Brent and Streatham over safety screens is set to spread to another 50 offices which are currently balloting.

 The results should be known within three weeks and then: "This strike will really be big," PCS Streatham branch secretary Jackie Dutton told the New Worker.

 The dispute concerns Government plans to merge the functions of the Employment Service which deals with the unemployed seeking work and the Benefits Agency which deals with benefits for many different kinds of claimants including single parents and those on Incapacity Benefit.

 These "one-stop" offices will be called Jobcentre Plus and the scheme is to be tested out in the 50 Pathfinder pilot offices. The PCS civil service union has no problem in supporting the scheme as such. It is the Government intention to remove safety screens from the staff who deliver benefits and benefit decisions that has sparked the dispute.

 The Government claims that open-plan offices will create a friendlier atmosphere and reduce the incidence of violence. But, as the union points out, "The facts show a different picture".

 The union says: "We firmly believe that staff will be put at risk if management plans are introduced.

 "The client group will be different -- clients claiming Incapacity Benefit will make their claims in Jobcentre plus offices.

 "The vast majority of these clients pose no threat to our staff. But this client group contains some of the most desperate in society.

 "BA staff report high levels of incidents from members of the public claiming these benefits. Social Fund Payments -- hardship and other last resort payments may be made from unscreened offices.

 "Again, these affect the most needy and desperate people in society and therefore increase the risk of assault on our staff.

 "There also remain problems with the training available to staff being inadequate and lack of proper access and escape routes in office design."

 At Streatham office early on Monday morning the picket line was active, as it has been so far for every day of the strike for over a week now.

 Very few ordinary members of staff entered the building but a number of managers, roped in from other nearby offices, swept past in their cars. They are being offered handsome financial rewards to act as scabs.

 Meanwhile the union is conducting a strike support levy of its members to help with the costs of strike pay.

NCP Central Committee statement on Civil Service strike

THE Central Committee of the New Communist Party of Britain congratulates the 400 Public and Commercial Service (PCS) union members currently taking indefinite strike action in the Government's new flagship Department of Work and Pensions.

 The dispute at the Streatham and Brent pilot offices of the new Jobcentre Plus was triggered by the removal of security screens protecting staff from assault. Attacks on benefits staff has doubled during the last year to 5,000.

 The background to the dispute is the government's proposal to bnng access to all benefits and programme delivery into one department. This is part of wider attack on all benefit claimants by which their entitlement to benefit is reduced whilst at the same time forcing them into low paid employment.

 The refurbishment of benefit offices, and the removal of screens, is an ideological attack on claimants, which gives the impression of a 'caring' government but at the same time intensifying the attacks on their rights.

 The only real solution is the reform of the benefits system, and the scrapping of the New Deal programme, in favour of benefit entitlement as a right with no means testing.

 Whilst the government continues its attacks on unemployed and disabled workers then it is correct to support the legitimate demands of benefit and employment staff for adequate safety measures.

 The dispute is intensifying with the PCS union correctly extending the strike to include another 2,000 workers. A victory in this dispute concerning health and safety will have far-reaching affects on future battles with the employer on staffing, grading and pay.

 The Central Committee expresses its support and solidarity to those PCS union members taking action, and encourages all party organisations to assist their campaign.

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International

Attacks on the United States

by International Action Center - New York

Statement from the International Action Center on Events of September 11, 2001.

This statement was written from New York City.

Everyone here has been deeply affected by today's events. The International Action Center extends its most heartfelt sympathies and condolences to all those who have lost loved ones today as well as the thousands of workers who were in lower Manhattan today.

While at this moment thousands of families are in mourning for the death and injuries of loved ones, the Bush administration is taking advantage of the tragic human toll to strengthen the forces of repression while intensifying the Pentagon's war drive, especially in the Middle East.

Arab and Muslim peoples in the United States are reporting that they are facing racist harassment in their communities, on their jobs and at mosques. Anti-Arab racism is a poison that should be repudiated. We call on all people who oppose racism to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Arab-American community in the face of this reactionary frenzy.

After the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the U.S. government and media were quick to speculate that Arab and Islamic organizations were responsible; but as everyone now knows, extreme right-wing Army veteran Timothy McVeigh was to blame.

New War Danger

The International Action Center urges all anti-war activists and progressive people to remain on the highest alert in opposing the Bush administration and the Pentagon's plans to use this crisis as the springboard for a new round of aggression in the Third World, especially against the people of the Middle East.

In August 1998, the Pentagon delivered murderous cruise missile air strikes against a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan without any evidence, supposedly in retaliation for the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. The cruise missiles destroyed the Al Shifa Pharmaceutical factory that provided most of Sudan's medicines. Thousands of African people perished as a direct result of the Pentagon's bombing.

President Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada in the Caribbean shortly after a truck bomb exploded at a U.S. Marine Corps base in Lebanon in 1983. Under Bush senior, over 2,000 Panamanians were killed in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve in 1989 under the pretext of the war on drugs.

In 1986, after pointing a finger at Syria, Iran and several Palestinian organizations for an explosion at a discothèque in Germany, U.S. aircraft bombed Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya. Hundreds of civilians, including children, died in their sleep as the U.S. Air Force carried out this night-time sneak attack.

We ask activists and the people of this country to be ready to protest new Pentagon aggression in the coming period.

The Bush administration will use this current crisis as a means to justify a further expansion of the Pentagon's war budget at the expense of money for housing, education, health care, jobs and other human needs.

Danger of More State Repression

Throughout the country, the military, FBI and local police authorities are now sealing off large urban areas, blockading bridges, tunnels and roads, and mobilizing a massive presence of police and the National Guard. All this reveals an advanced stage of planning for domestic
repression that can be used against the progressive and labor movements, and the Black, Latino, Asian, Arab and other oppressed communities.

All the more reason to resist the current efforts to strengthen police measures under cover of the present crisis.

Build Solidarity

The people of New York City and the country cannot allow the Bush administration and the Pentagon to play on their genuine feelings of shock and disbelief to stir reaction and strengthen the forces of repression. This will not help the working and oppressed people of this or any country.

The only way to respond to today's events is to extend solidarity to the families and friends of those who perished or who were injured at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; build global solidarity with people around the world struggling against war, poverty and exploitation; and deepen the movement to protest new Pentagon aggression.

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British News

Privatisation battle deferred

by Caroline Colebrook

THE TUC conference in Brighten scheduled for this week was abandoned on Wednesday morning as a mark of respect after the attacks on New York and Washington on Tuesday.

 But in the run-up to the conference and in its opening statements, the trade unions drew up their battle lines against the rising tide of privatisation and issued important declarations on other matters like racism.

  On the Monday, trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt received a very cool reception as she tried to placate the growing opposition to further privatisation by promising some complex measures which she claimed would give extra protection to workers whose jobs were transferred from the public to the private sector.

  The delegates sat in silence as she gave an account of her roots as a party activist and praised former party leaders Neil Kinnock and John Smith.

  She described the Labour Party as "pro-business" and declared that there is no quick fix for the problems of manufacturing. She called on the unions to solve this problem of capitalism by increasing productivity.

 She avoided the contentious topics of private finance in schools and hospitals.

 Then she promised a reform of the Tupe rules, which govern the terms and conditions of the transfer of jobs from the public sector to the private, saying that public sector pensions would be better protected.

 So far many workers who have been transferred have lost significant pension entitlement while privateer bosses have plundered pension funds.

 This promise cut little ice. Dave Prentis, general secretary of the giant public sector union Unison, said: "The improvements were welcome but they don't go far enough. What we want is a categorical assurance that public sector workers will have mirror-image pensions guaranteeing they will be no worse off when they reach the end oftheir working lives."

 It is thought that much of Blair's speech, which he would have delivered on Tuesday, would have been placatory, trying to convince the unions that he is not totally obsessed with privatisation.

  Government plans for further privatisations, especially in health and education, came mider fire from the unions before the conference started when the GMB general union published the result of a poll conducted for it by MORI.

 It warned that if Labour continued with the policy, its lead in opinion polls would be cut by 10 points. In an election, this would be likely to cost Labour some 60 of its most marginal seats, including that of Education Secretary Estelle Morris.

 GMB general secretary John Edmonds warned that the issue is threatening to "crack the foundations" of the Labour Party.

 Health workers belonging to Unison had threatened industrial action over private finance initiative schemes at three hospitals: Roehampton in southwest London, Havering in Essex and Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire.

  Ancillary workers -- cleaners mainainance and catering staff -- had been told they would keep their NHS employment contracts even if the services were transferred to the private sector.

  But this condition has deterred bidders for the PFI contracts who know only too well that their profits are in jeopardy if they have to honour NHS employment terms and conditions.

 Negotiations on these deals are now suspended with a threat of strike action if the promises to the workers are not kept.

Corporate greed

  Another big debate this week would have been an emergency motion over escalating job losses at the same time that company directors are still awarding themselves massive pay-offs and bonuses.

  The resolution condemned Marconi for its total lack of prior consultation over 2,000 new redundancies, of which 600 would be in Britain, in addition to 6,000 announced previously.

  It described chairperson Lord Simpson's £1 million pay-off as corporate greed and it called for immediate intervention by the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure the survival of Marconi.

  Roger Lyons, general secretary of the MSF general union, said: "Lord Simpson was once a golden boy of British business and reaped rich rewards for his success.

  "Now his shine has tarnished, thousands of skilled people have been sacrificed for his failure -- he must surely have to share the pain."

  He called for Government action to stop executives of failing companies being awarded "lottery-sized" pay-offs while workers had to face £53 a week on the dole.

Racism

 Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, who chaired the TUC conference, used his opening speech at the weekend to condemn Government policy on asylum seekers.

  In particular he attacked thr voucher system. He said: "It is demeaning and it stigmatises it is an indictment on a society which prides itself on the principles of social justice."

  Delegates unanimously approved a motion condemning Government Ministers for failing to send out "positive messages" about asylum seekers and criticising the endemic racism, which blights communities.

  The TUC agreed to step up its efforts to block the activities of the neo-Nazi British National Party, which provoked racist disturbances earlier this year.

  The TUC is changing its own rules, making a requirement for all affiliates to combat racism in line with the statutory requirements for the public sector arising from the McPherson report.

 And many unions are hurrying to amend their own rules after criticism from the Commission for Racial Equality that only 40 per cent of unions are actively implementing race equality policies.

  A TUC task force reported that racism and abuse against ethnic minorities in the workplace are still common.

Equal pay

 The TUC condemned the continuing gap between men and women's average pay, especially in the finance sector where it can be as high as 55 per cent.

 A "secretive workplace culture" was blamed for this, which leads to women in this sector being paid on average £250,000 less than their male counterparts over their working lifetime, even though they are doing the same or similar work.

  Roger Lyons said: "This is daylight robbery, on a par with the pensions mis-selling scandal, which has an enormous effect on an individual's wealth."

  He attacked employers for promoting secrecy about pay in the finance sector. "This lack of openness effectively prevents women from enjoying the equal pay to which they are entitled under the law.

  "Reward systems are deliberately complex and employees are actively discouraged from discussing their salary and conditions with colleagues."

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