The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 17th October, 1997

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Editorial - Silent Killers.
Lead Story - What will the children learn in the nick?
Feature - Council tax rebates given back.
International - Fighting talk at the Cuban congress.
British News - £300m to stave off NHS winter crisis.


 Silent Killers

THE reporting of wars is almost always a one-sided affair aimed at demonising "the enemy" and rallying morale and support at home.

 The Malvinas War (Falklands) was a prime example in which the media correspondents at the frontline were hand-picked for the job. And, even then, their reports would not have been broadcast or published if they had fallen foul of the Ministry of Defence. Freelance journalists would not have been welcome -- even if they had been able to get to the South Atlantic under their own steam.

 Of course, all war reporting is distorted by the fact that correspondents are sent to just one side of the lines -obviously, where you stand with your camera determines the picture you get. The victims of "your" side's bomb and mortar attacks are therefore seldom seen.

 But at least, even with such one-sided reports, we are made aware that a war is taking place. We know people are bleeding, dying and suffering and our common sense tells us, even if we do not see it, that this is happening on both sides of the line.

 In the world today there are numerous wars taking place that we hardly see or hear about at all. In these wars there are no loud explosions of bombs and guns and no daily casualty lists broadcast around the world. Here the victims die in the quietness of their home or in a hospital bed. Here death comes silently.

 The victims are more likely to be children or old people than soldiers, sailors or airmen. The sick, the disabled, the poor and the weak are the frontline casualties. These are the silent wars waged with the weapons of blockade and sanctions.

 Our country takes part in these cruel practices which are responsible for widespread hunger, disease and death -and yet our leaders beat their chests and proclaim themselves to be upholders of human rights and champions of justice!

 The weapon of economic sanctions and blockade is not new. But in the modern world, in which cities and countries count their populations in millions, it has become a weapon of slow and agonising mass destruction -- it creeps slowly from privation to genocide.

 The bullying practice is carried out by the militarily powerful -- it is the cudgel of the leading capitalist countries, including Britain, and its purpose is to control the world's wealth and natural riches and to suppress all resistance to these imperialist aims.

 During the years of the Cold War it was used against socialist countries. From the time of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia in 1917 the West imposed trade and other restrictions against the fledgeling socialist state. This was compounded by wars of intervention and every manner of hostile propaganda and political intrigue.

 Cuba suffered a US-led blockade in the wake of its socialist revolution in 1959 -- it is still going on almost 40 years later and has been intensified by the United States Helms-Burton Law passed in 1996.

 Vietnam endured the cruellest of wars, in which nearly two million of its people were killed. Despite the devastation brought about by United States bombing of Vietnam's cities, the napalming of its citizens and systematic defoliation of its countryside, it was then subjected to years of economic exclusion orchestrated by its former tormentor -- the United States.

 The counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union intensified the effects of sanctions and blockades as Russia and its former socialist neighbours moved into the imperialist camp. Long-standing trade agreements were broken and solidarity with the rest of the socialist world came to an end.

 It also enabled imperialism to increase its intj midation of every country that dared to lift its head -- sanctions led to war and war led to further sanctions. Few report on the warfare of sanctions -- the war correspondents pack up and go home when the tanks and guns pull back.

 Libya was put on the West's economic hit list. After the Gulf War Iraq was, and still is, blockaded. The break-up of Yugoslavia was assisted by western sanctions against Serbia -- and so it goes on.

 Iraq, though it has met to the letter every demand made by the United Nations, continues to suffer a barbarous blockade that has already killed over a million of its children and thousands of adults.

 The War against Iraq is only over for the Coalition armies of the West -- it is not over for the children of Iraq. The majority of people in the West would not want these crimes to be committed in their name. Our task is to tell people what is happening and to protest and protest until it is stopped!

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Lead Story

What will the children learn in the nick?

 COURTS will get new powers to remand children as young as 12 in secure units if Home Secretary Jack Straw's latest plan becomes law. His proposals, unveiled last Wednesday, could be included in the Crime and Disorder Bill due to go before the House of Commons later in the year.

 At present magistrates have to take the advice of social services when deciding if a child under 15 can remain free while waiting for a court hearing. Most children are not detained.

 Under the new rules a court would be able to send a young person straight to a secure unit if they have committed three or more offences.

 At least the wait inside may be shorter. Jack Straw's plan also includes measures designed to speed up the legal process by fining lawyers who are deemed to have dragged their feet on a case.

 There is undoubtedly a lot of public concern about juvenile crime and anti-social behaviour. In some areas, especially in our inner-cities, it is certainly a problem that has to be addressed.

 The understandable anxiety and anger felt by people on the receiving end of unruly youngsters in their locality was regularly a feature of Tory party conferences and for years the emphasis was on toughening up the law and clamping down on young offenders.

 There seemed to be hope that the Labour government would adopt more positive policies. After all Tony Blair said his government would not simply be tough on crime but tough on the causes of crime.

 So far the Labour Home Secretary and the government have not implemented this new approach. Remanding more children in custody is hardly dealing with the problem -- it is simply sweeping children off the streets. And it is definitely not tackling the causes of crime.

 Jack Straw explained that he was concerned the child offenders would continue to carry out crimes while their cases were waiting to be heard. He said: "If they are under 15 they know that if they keep their offending persistent but not very serious they can carry on with impunity".


 But surely it is an indictment of capitalist society that so many young people are so alienated from it in the first place and that the best response the adults can make is to lock the children away. What does Jack Straw think the children will gain or learn from being banged up? Presumably it is meant to deter offenders. That argument used to be used to justify the laws, the birch, even hanging.

 What our young people need most is to feel they have a place in society, that they have a good future with a proper job, the prospect of having a home when they grow up, and that society cares about them and is willing to help them.

 Far too many children and young people grow up feeling society has thrust them on the scrap heap before they've hardly set out. They fear they will be unemployed, impoverished and pushed around by an increasingly oppressive welfare system. Above all they feel society does not care, so why should they care about society.

 It's high time that instead of creating more secure units our government restored decent funding to our schools, our social services, the youth services and the environment of our inner-cities.

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Council tax rebates given back.

By Caroline Colebrook

TWO LOCAL authorities, forced by central government to reduce their level of council tax and cut services, have round that a significant number of the tax payers have given their rebates back to the authorities with strict instructions that the money should be spent on schools, care homes for the elderly and libraries.

 So far Somerset County Council has received £30,000 and Oxfordshire £10,000 from locals who were quite adamant that they meant it when they voted for a council that would raise council tax rather than cut essential services.

 Local authority officials have described the phenomenon as a "unique" display of generosity.

 Both counties were ordered to reduce council tax bills after setting budgets above spending guidelines.

 The residents who have returned the money have been quite specific about how they want it spent, and the local authorities say they will abide by this.

 Others have sent cheques directly to schools and care homes.
Christopher Thompson, who lives near Yeovil in Somerset, said: "Like many others, I'm very worried about schools and social services. I felt in a moral way that I should return my £30 rebate.

 "It's a modest gesture but I find it totally illogical to he told when you're worried about education that you should he paying less."

 And George Limburn of Taunton, also in Somerset, returned his £30 rebate saying: "This is not a question of party politics, it's a question of supporting a service that's starved.

 "I simply thought it was my duty to do this. You can't keep screaming about the state of things and not put your money where your mouth is."

 Somerset county was told it could not exceed spending limits of £280 million, although it needed a further £3.3 million to save 90 teaching jobs and 125 care home places.

 After the cap was imposed the council had to send out new bills, reduced on average by 40p a week.

 Chris Clarke, leader of the Liberal Democrat-controlled Somerset County Council, said: "it's roughly equivalent to a Mars bar or daily newspaper, and I'm sure that many would rather give up their tabloid and put the money towards teachers."

 He reported that people regarded the rebates as absurd. "They couldn't believe they were being forced to accept refunds while suffering the loss of teaching jobs and care home places."

 Oxford County Council was forced to cut its budget by £6 million an average of £28 per council tax payer. Chris Gray, treasurer of the hung council, said: "People are writing in saying things like 'I'm very upset we could be losing our library. This is my rebate which I hope will help to stop the closure.'

 "It's a way of people giving their support. It seems a small amount but is a lot for a voluntary donation and the idea is gathering momentum."

 The amounts returned by these people obviously do not amount to a fraction of the sums these local authorities really need.

 But nevertheless they are a significant gesture. The figures in dicate that around a thousand people in Somerset and several hundred in Oxfordshire look the trouble to return this money.

 For everyone that took the trouble there are probably many more who thought about it but never got round to it.

 They confound those cynics who say that no government that raises taxes can win support in today's political climate.

 And in doing so they show that both the Tory and Labour chancellors have misjudged the mood of the people in keeping such a tight rein on local spending levels.

 But problems of public sector underfunding call only be properly addressed by a change in government policy to increase taxation on the rich.

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Fighting talk at the Cuban congress.

 CUBAN Ieader Fidel Castro vowed to push ahead policies for the island's economic recovery despite the tightened United States embargo when he opened the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in Havana last week.

 The American economic embargo which has been stepped up in recent years made it more difficult for Cuba to survive the changes following the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, Castro said.

 But the Cuban people, he said, didn't bow to US pressure. Instead they meet the challenge with a series of solutions.

 Fidel Castro, the first secretary of the Communist Party, made his opening to over 1,500 delegates to the 5th Party Congress.

 In a seven-hour speech, he reviewed what happened inside and outside Cuba over the past six years since the last Congress in 199l, covering the Party's work to keep the economy going.

 The disintegration of the Soviet Union and the east European socialist bloc, Castro said, ended the supply of energy and raw materials and deprived Cuba of markets for their goods.

 Cuba's manufacturing sector was paralysed and the economy was plunged into a severe crisis, he noted, adding that it's gross domestic product (GDP) sank 34 percent between 1991 and 1994.

 Then a series of new government policies led by the Party came to the rescue reversing the downward trend in 1994 and boosting GDP growth to a projected 2-3 per cent this year.

 The measures included expanding the tourism sector, encouraging foreign capital inflow, allowing Cuban citizens to keep hard currencies and casing restrictions on self-employment.

 Castro condemned continued American hostility, which he said was responsible for 20 recent cases of sabotage. Over the last five months a Miami-based Cuban exile group, the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) had organised a series of bomb attacks on hotels in Havana.

 "All these explosions were organised by the Cuban American Foundation and we know enough about this and we are absolutely sure and we can categorically affirm it. There is no doubt," Castro declared. The Cuban leader said that all the acts of sabotage were "organised and supplied" from the United States and reiterated Cuba's demand that Washington act to stop such attacks.

 The document titled "The Party of Unity, Democracy and the Human Rights We Defend" which had been discussed by 6.5 million Cubans was endorsed by Congress and a new leadership was elected.

 The Congress ended on 10 October and on it's close the new central committee paid homage to Ernesto "Che" Guevara together with the people of Havana.

 President Fidel Castro together with General Raul Castro, first and second secretaries of the Communist Party of Cuba, together with other members of the new Political Bureau kept the first guard of honour around the coffins of Che and six of his comrades who were with him in Bolivia.

 The new Central Committee formed a guard of honour for a minute around the seven coffins draped in the flags of Cuba, Bolivia and Peru, placed at the foot of the monument to Jose Marti in the Plaza of the Revolution. Xinhua report.

  * Che Guevara and six guerrillas were captured on 8 October 1967 by Bolivian army troops and executed the following day. His remains were recently returned to Cuba. The seven coffins will be taken to the city of Santa Clara on 17 October through the route the Cuban rebels took in 1959 and they will be laid to rest in the city's Plaza of the Revolution.

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British News

£300m to stave off NHS winter crisis.
by Daphne Liddle

 THE GOVERNMENT last Tuesday announced that it would provide an extra £300 million for the National Health Service to try to avert another crisis this winter. The British Medical Association has estimated that £500 million is needed.

 This is £50 million more than had been expected and has been scraped together by raiding other government departments. More than half has been taken from the Ministry of Defence budget.

 Health service trade unions, doctors and trust managers have all welcomed the extra cash, intended to tide the NHS over until next April when and extra £1.2 billion -- announced in last June's budget -- will come on stream.

 The money will be targeted at three priorities. Firstly, it will fund more nurses to be employed at peak times to help hospitals cope with rising numbers of medical emergencies and to provide services for extra hours.

 Secondly, it will pay for more care at home and more nursing home places to end "bed blocking" by elderly patients ready for discharge but who have nowhere to go.

 And thirdly, it will be used to reduce the need for people to be admitted to hospital by providing more nursing and therapy for people in their own homes.

 Health Secretary Frank Dobson said the money would enable hospitals to continue to provide services seven days a week, not just five.

 But he added that this was "not just Elastoplast for the winter" but about "modernising the NHS".

 And some of the new ideas emerging are worrying. Birmingham Health Authority has just been told it can plan on spending £250 million to reorganise its health services to provide "bedless" hospitals.

 In future the provision will be "walk-in-walk-out'' services and day-case surgery.

 In many cases this may well be a good thing. If new surgery techniques can make operations quicker and easier many patients will welcome this.

 Many will recover more quickly i n the familiar surroundings of their own homes.

 But it is dangerous to presume that these techniques will advance so much that traditional hospitals will no longer be needed.

 And sending people to recover in their own homes presumes they have support from family or friends and places a big responsibility on them.

 We must oppose pressure being put on family members -usually women -- to give up their ownjobs and act as unpaid, untrained nurses, while the NHS is cutting nurses' jobs.

 Day surgery may be appropriate for young people in general good health, who can be met and driven home in a car by family members.

 But the majority of NHS patients are elderly. It takes them a bit longer to recover from any health set back. They are more often hard up and have to use public transport to make the journey to and from hospital.

 We must call for the increased provision of day-care services to be an addition to existing services, not a substitute.

 But the fact that the government has round a little extra cash for the NHS marks a small but important precedent.

 For once, a vital service is no longer being told it must comply with Tory budget targets. This is a result of popular pressure.

 It is not a big result -- Labour is still refusing to even think of raising taxes for the very rich -which they must do if our vital services are not to he further butchered.

 Nor has Trident been cancelled. That could fund around 500 hospitals.

 But it shows that change is possible and that putting pressure on Labour is worthwhile.

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