The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 16th November 2001

If you find these articles from the New Worker Online interesting and useful them why not subscribe to our print edition with lots more news, features, and photos?

Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.

Editorial - Global reaction.
Lead Story - Hands off Afghanistan!
Feature - Safety screen strike to escalate.
International - Hardline Unionists fail to scupper Irish peace.
British News - Anti-terror law anger.
More news and Diary


Global reaction

THE leaders of the Anglo-US war against Afghanistan are no doubt pleased to see the Taleban forces leave Kabul. They may not be quite so happy that the Northern Alliance forces ignored Bush and entered the city as soon as they could.

 The imperialist camp hoped to make use of the Northern Alliance while calling the political shots itself. It does not want the Northern Alliance pressing home its advantage as that could take the end-game initiative away from Washington.

 But Bush might have to learn that this is the price to be paid for waging a war five miles up in the sky while leaving others to do the fighting and dying on the ground.

 The imperialist response has been swift as the big powers manoeuvre to regain the offensive. There is talk about "peacekeeping forces" going into Kabul and a belated mention of using the services of the United Nations.

 More British troops are being flown out to the region, Bush is continuing the air war and Prime Minister Blair made it clear that "our job is not yet done by any means."

 We're supposed to believe this only refers to the unfinished business of capturing or killing bin Laden. This is not, and never was, the sole objective of this war. If it were, the effort would have been largely channelled into intelligence gathering and a diplomatic offensive in the region rather than day and night bombing for weeks for end.

 Imperialism is far more exercised by the strategic significance of Afghanistan and the new posability thrown upy the events of 11 September, of spreading US influence and power right into the heart of central Asia and in completing the imperialist circle around Russia and the former Soviet Republics.

 Ironically, it was the US that once aided the Taleban (and bin Laden too) and Russia that has recently had friendly relations with the Northern Alliance. A Northern Alliance government in Kabul would seriously cut across Washington's hidden agenda and help Russia to keep a buffer in the south.

 The imperialists might also take note of a warning given m last Wednesday's Daily Mirror by former Soviet Colonel Vladimir Ivanov. He wrote: "When our troops went into Kabul at Christmas 1979, it took less than an hour to grab the presidential palace.

 "We then spent the next 10 years seeking in vain to control the country."

  No one should think this war is over. It is  continuing and will continue until the calls for peace become a deafening roar throughout the imperialist heartlands and every corner of the earth.

 Back to index

Lead Story

Hands off Afghanistan!

by our Middle East affairs correspondent

THE Northern Alliance is sweeping across Afghanistan following the capture of Mazar-e-Sharif last week and the Taleban is in full retreat.

 Alliance fighters have taken over the capital. Kabul and they now control some 70 per cent of the provinces of Afghanistan. But US terror bombing continues against the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar and the Taleban leaders have vowed to fight on.

 The Taleban collapse began last week when they pulled out of the strategic northern town which has been besieged by the Alliance for the past three years.

 This rapidly became a general retreat by the mainly Pathan based Taleban from all the non-Pathan provinces including Kabul. Reports of fighting in Kandahar suggest that Taleban leader Mullah Omar has lost control and a power-struggle is now going on amongst the Pathan war-lords over the succession.

 Though the Pentagon was quick to claim that the Alliance's success was due to the four weeks of imperialist bombing the White House was less than pleased at their move into Kabul.

 Last weekend President Bush publicly warned them not to enter the capital and the ex-king's men say this was accepted by the Alliance leadership. But once they realised the Taleban were pulling out Alliance commanders moved in regardless -- possibly with the covert blessing of the Kremlin.

 The Northern Alliance -- officially the United Front of Afghanistan -- is the rump of the old mujahadeen governnment which was overthrown in 1996 by the then Pakistani-backed Taleban student movement. Since then they've relied on the less than covert aid from Russia, Iran and India to retain control in the far north.

 Russian leader Vladimir Putin is having summit talks with Bush at his Texas farm this week and Afghanistan is top of the agenda. American imperialism had been, and still is, lobbying for a "broad-based" interim administration to replace the Taleban.

 Everyone knows that what this really means is the imposition of a bunch of stooges headed by the aged ex-king which would rubber-stamp US plans to run their Central Asian oil pipeline across their land.

 The Alliance has other plans. Their official head, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was the internationally recognised Afghan president when the mujahadeen were in power. His old government is still recognised by many countries and his diplomats have kept their seats at the United Nations.

 Now Rabbani has stolen the march on the Americans. Mis militia was the first to move into Kabul and his men have taken over the key interior and defence ministries.

 Whether Rabbani can keep the Alliance warlords in check remains to be seen. His last government fell when the warlords starting fighting amongst themselves over the spoils.

 This week General Dostum's men and the Massoud family's militia have been on their best behaviour in a conscious effort to win international credit and put the civilians at ease in the cities they have taken. Even so, some old scores are being bloodily settled and a blind-eye is being turned to the looting of public buildings and relief agency stores.

 The Alliance advance has been welcomed in Russia and Iran. Iran has its own plans for an "interim administration" which would also be broadly based except that it would exciude the Taleban and any Pakistani influence.

 Iran supports one of the mainly Shia Muslim militias who are now in control of the city of Herat and the Shia quarter of Kabul. They've long wanted to see the back of Taleban but they are equally opposed to any US presence in Afghanistan.

 The main loser is Pakistan, which has lost all influence in the country. Pakistan's military rulers are also facing mounting anger from the pro-Taleban Pathans in the North West Territories and the mass of the people who want a speedy return to elected government.

 But imperialism is still determined to impose its will on the Afghan people. The bombing continues and Britain is planning to send several thousand troops to Kabul as part of a "peace-keeping" force that no Afghan faction has requested or wants.

 The Afghan people must be allowed to determine their own future without imperialist interference. Thousands of innocent civilians have been slaughtered by indiscriminate terror bombing. Many more will die in the future if this war isn't stopped. We must demand an immediate end to the bombing. We must demand that no British troops are sent to Afghanistan!

Back to index


Safety screen strike to escalate

by Caroline Colebrook

THE PCS civil service union last week began balloting over 60,000 employees of the Employment Service and Benefits Agency to join the all-out strike already involving the staff at some 57 "pathfinder" offices in the long-running dispute over safety screens.

 The strike began with just two offices, Brent and Streatham some two months ago. The others joined the strike on 22 October after all the "pathfinder" offices had been balloted.

 These offices had been selected to pilot a new Government scheme to combine the roles of job centre and benefits agency -- with a view to putting more pressure on long-term benefit claimants such as those with disabilities and single parents, to seek work and stop claiming benefit.

 The Government decided the new offices would not have safely screens to protect staff from claimants, even though these offices would be dealing with decisions on whether people were entitled to benefit.

 The union has pointed out the growing number of assaults and violent incidents in benefits offices.

 On 26 October a serious incident involving a baseball bat happened at Welwyn Garden City at a job centre not known for violent incidents.

 A male claimant was told he was being sanctioned for leaving his job voluntarily and so not entitled to benefit. He had to wait an hour for a Benefits Agency visiting officer to arrive and tell him he was not entitled to a hardship payment either.

 The man had no previous record of violence but he was understandably angered. The laws denying benefit to those who leave their jobs without being sacked are an unseen shackle of the capitalist system to keep workers tied to awful jobs.

 But the civil servants do not make the laws. They are made by politicians under pressure from those who use the media to clamour about "benefit cheats" and complain about Government money being spent on "wasters" and "cheats".

 Few realise the current harsh ness of the rules until they meet them face to face. The counter staff do not make the decisions but they have to impart them to the claimants -- and take the full force of their reactions.

 In this case the claimant punched a member of staff, left the office and came back with a baseball bat, smashing computers and a security door.

 He found access to a kitchen area which he ransacked in search of a knife and did a lot of damage before being arrested by police.

 No life-threatening injuries were sustained in this case but staff were left in a state of shock.

 A leaked management report on the incident said the "BA district manager has decided to stop hardship interviews on job centre premises and to ensure such interviews are conducted in a screened environment on BA premises".

 If the manager here recognises the needs for screens -- in a place where violence seemed unlikely -- why not everywhere?

 But instead of listening sympathetically to the genuine grievances of its cmplovees, the management has tried to break the strike, recruiting managers from around the country to act as scabs, with bribes of enhanced overtime pay and being put up in luxury hotels.

 Management have also attempted to intimidate picket lines and members of the unions and the press taking pictures. One female photographer was as saulted by management who seem unaware that there is no legal way to stop any body taking pictures in a public place.

  Central Committee statement -- NCPB, 11th November 2001:

 During the current situation, as American and British imperialism continue their attacks throughout the world, the fight to build a broad-based movement against the war is of paramount importance.

 Inevitably workers -- whether Afghan, Iraqi or British -- will pay the price for the unleashed aggression of capitalism.

 The campaign against the war must be built in the communities, factories and housing estates. We condemn, therefore, the decision of the National Executive Committee of the Public and Commercial Services Union to ban the elected national officers of PCS from speaking out against the war.

 As the costs of the war escalate, increasing the profits of the arms industry, it is working people who will pay the price. We will face cuts in social services but pay the price in higher taxation, and it is entirely right that PCS officers should speak out in the interests of their members against this war.

 We support the initiative taken by Civil Servants Against the War. In particular we endorse that support given to CSAW by national officers of PCS, in defiance of the NEC decisions. We encourage party members active in PCS to promote and support the activities of CSAW.

 NCP Central Committee statement in support of the PCS Civil Servants Against the War initiative and against the gagging order passed by the two dominant right-wing blocs on the NEC.

Back to index


Hardline Unionists fail to scupper Irish peace

by Steve Lawton

IRA guns go from silence to a first act of verifiably being put beyond use. Groundbreaking enough to bring unionism back on board, despite desperate hardline unionist efforts to scupper the re-election of First Minister David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP).

 The Assembly several times suspended by the British state was prevented from serious collapse by an electoral adjustment to elect David Trimble following his previous resignation.

 He considered the IRA action on arms was finally sufficient, with provisos on decommissioning continuing, for him to condescend to return. Anti-Good Friday Agreement unionists disagreed.

 David Trimble was initially voted down at the beginning of November by a margin of one caused by the defection of two of his own UUP members to the anti-Good Friday Agreement UUP camp that occurred despite a tactical move by the Women's Coalition to 're-designate' a vote to the UUP pro-Trimble camp.

 But a further manouevre from northern Ireland Secretary John Reid salvaged things. He extended the deadline on elections before suspension would automatically take effect, by allowing the Alliance Party to re-designate its five votes. A second bite at the cherry ensured a cross-community majority for Trimble.

 That gave him his job back on November 6, supported by the nationalist vote of Sinn Fein and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). Of 99 votes cast, 70 members voted in favour: out of 60 unionist votes, 31 voted in favour, while all 38 nationalist votes were cast in favour. There has to be a majority within in each community.

 The DUP, who had originaily been crowing over David Trimble's discomfort, were soon furious. But it was the UUP leaders' action of recklessly resigning in the first place, to push the IRA, which gave hardliners their opportunity. In any case, it will never satisfy the anti-Agreement diehards, whatever the IRA do. At the UUP leaders press conference scuffles broke out.

 As Education Minister and Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness put it: "They [the DUP] enjoyed themselves yesterday. They didn't enjoy themselves today and that resulted in the unseemly scenes we have witnessed." He characterised the DUP as "yesterday's party".

 The SDLP leader was elected with the new Deputy First Minister, who is also the new leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP), Mark Durkan.

 John Hume and Seamus Mallon (former deputy to Hume), both retired from political office and leadership of the SDLP. The SDLP now hopes to revitalise its slipping performance at grassroots and electoral levels.

 British northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said that there will now be no need for further Assembly elections until May 2003. In the meantime, he intends to look afresh at some of the Assembly proceedures in the light of the Trimble election fiasco.

 The DUP, having failed in court once to stop the election, is heading back to try to get a ruling forcing an early election date. Their claim is that the election manouevre created a "rigging system".

 Such pleading does, of course, ignore the fact that if it wasn't for the cross-community voting system, and it was on a straight majority, Trimble would have been home and dry easily.

 Meanwhile, the streets of north Belfast witness more mayhem and death. The loyalist organised terror tactics around Holy Cross Primary School has led to an Ulster Young Militant activist the youth wing of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) --- being killed when a pipe bomb went off in his hands.

 Local Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly rebutted accusations that Glen Branagh's death was caused by a nationalist confrontation with loyalists. That incident immediately escalated into attacks on young Catholics in the Fortwilliam area.

 This has been the pattern of behaviour, centred on the Ardoyne Road, for the last three months. Sinn Fein have long accused the UDA of orchestrating the daily intimidations and abuse of school girls, as they and their parents run the gauntlet of loyalist bigotry. It is far from being a local matter.

 The fact that this continues as persistent hardline unionist efforts are made to destabilise the peace process, demonstrates the attempt to use dirty methods to change what over 70 per cent of the people, unionist and nationalist, voted in favour of as enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

 British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the aftermath of the election, said: "The people of northern Ireland can now look forward to a sustained period of stable government."

 That will depend on what happens over policing, British demilitarisation, cross-border inclusiveness, economic development of the worst off, adherence to human and equality rights and the shutting down of loyalist paramilitaries.

Back to index

British News

Anti-terror law anger

by Daphne Liddle

HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett last week faced a barrage of criticism after he unveiled his new anti-terror Bill in the wake of the 11 September attacks on the United States.

 The proposals to detain foreign nationals, suspected of terrorist links, indefinitely without trial raised the most concern. They will breach the European Convention on Human Rights, which was adopted into British law two years ago.

 The relevant clause in these emergency measures allows for such detentions to be reviewed every six months. But the evidence would be presented behind closed doors by the intelligence services.

 It would be impossible to present an effective defence in such circumstances and the chances of completely innocent people being held are high. It is most likely that the Government would use this measure to detain exile political activists from countries like Turkey at the behest of their governments.

 The proposed Bill would outlaw incitement to religious hatred, using "threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up hatred against a group of people because of their religious belief (or lack of religious belief)". Those found guilty could face up to seven years in prison.

 This one will depend entirely on how it is used. We have been reassured it will not be used against comedians, for example like Dave Allen, or the Father Ted TV programme, both of which used to poke gentle fun at the Pope and the Catholic Church.

 We would like to think it would be used to protect the children attending the Holy Cross School in the Ardoyne. But the RUC there seems to have no intention of enforcing existing legislation against threatening behaviourand breach of the peace.

 It should be used against anyone who incites violence and hatred on a religious basis, and not against those of us who argue for rationalism and against superstition. But it leaves an awful lot open to interpretation.

 The new Bill will give airport police more powers to stop, detain and question travellers, though the existing powers in this area are fairly sweeping. Can we bet it will be used disproportionately against black and Asian travellers?

 The Bill creates a new offence of hoax threats to use dangerous substances like disease germs, acid and so on to cause chaos and disruption.

 It would outlaw aiding a foreign power to develop weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, nuclear, biological or radiological. Can we bet it will contain small print to prevent us charging the Government with aiding the United States and other imperialist powers in this manner?

 The new Bill would outlaw giving out any information on the civil nuclear industry, for example details of nuclear sites, transportation and so on.

 It would become a criminal offence to withhold information that would help the authorities prevent terrorist attacks. This could be open to very wide interpretation.

 It would give the intelligence services wider powers for "information gathering" -- as if they needed anyone's permission.

 The Bill would outlaw the use of hand and face coverings -- such as hoods or face paint -- in certain public order situations, if asked by a police officer to remove them.

 It would enable future anti-terrorist legislation passed by the European Union ministers to become law in Britain without having to be ratified at Westminster.

 And it would allow the seizing of assets of foreign nationals suspected of supporting terrorism. A few years ago, the funds of the Anti-Apartheid movement could have fallen foul of this clause.

 This Bill is already causing great concern and alarm, notonly on the left but among a broad political spectrum. MPs must be challenged and pressure must be put for them to oppose these measures. Even in bourgeois terms, they are indefensible.

Back to index
To the New Communist Party Page