The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 18th May 2001

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Editorial - Tax the Rich
Lead Story -Labour and Tory Manifestos Launched.
Feature - RMT Ballots for Delayed Action on Guards' Role.
International - Condemn Zionist Aggression!
British News - New British Nuke Test Exposure Claims.


Tax the Rich

SO, the Tories want large cuts in income tax--well there's a turn up for the books. That's what Tory politicians have wanted for as long as any voter can remember. And of course they do since the Tories represent big business and the wealthy and it is this rich set which stands to make fortunes out of cuts in direct taxation.

 On the other hand, most people who have to earn their bread by working gain very little from income tax cuts and of course those on the lowest incomes gain nothing at all. That's the reality even if we do as the Tories want and only look at the issue of taxes in isolation from everything else.

 But everyone knows there are two sides to a budget sheet and that tax cuts have to be paid for out of government outgoings. And since the Tories are not calling for Trident nuclear weapons to be scrapped or any other deep cutbacks in our colossal and obscene "defence" budget, it can only mean the plan would involve making savage cuts in social spending such as the health and education services or from pensions and benefits. In other words we all get to suffer in order to help the rich get richer.

 Flippin 'eck, we're still reeling from the major cutbacks caused by the huge income tax cuts brought in by the Thatcher government. We haven't forgotten that it was a Tory government that robbed the pensioners of the link with earnings, it was the Tories that started the closures of local hospitals and cut the number of wards and NHS beds and it was the Tories that pushed local councils into year-upon-year cutbacks in spending which affected everything from library opening hours to dimmer streets and the selling off of playing fields.

 We say 'No' to any more of this. What is needed is a programme to restore our ravaged local services and facilities, to restore the link between earnings and pensions, to fund a first class health service throughout Britain (including the restoration of dental treatment on the NHS for all and free eye tests), to stop discriminating against working class young people by charging them college tuition fees, to attract (and keep) more teachers and nurses by improving pay and conditions and to start once again building and redeveloping decent, affordable homes under democratic local authority control and ownership.

 To achieve this there should be a system of progressive income tax introduced in which those with the most pay the most. In short the rich should pay much more--the tax burden has to be shifted from the shoulders of the worldng class onto those of the wealthy who can well afford to pay.

 The rich will no doubt tell us through their army of toadies that the sky will fall if their taxes rise. We say that everything these parasites have is produced by workers--there would be no bankers and tycoons pushing invisible money back and forth in the City of London if it were not for the labour of those who do everything for them and provide every morsel they eat and every stitch on their back.

 Nor would there be any assets to buy and sell or profits to divi out to shareholders if billions of workers here and throughout the world did not work to turn raw materials into Products and to keep the whole trade of the world moving. Even the computers used by the City traders to make their deals are made and serviced by workers.

 Of course in a socialist society the wealth produced is not the private property of a minority of so-called "owners" and can be used to benefit everyone. But for as long as we live under the barbarous system of capitalism the only way to get any justice at all is through direct taxation of incomes.

 At the same time there are taxes that should be cut or scrapped altogether--indirect taxes such as VAT. These are paid by everybody at the same rate whenever they go shopping or use services regardless of whether they are the richest or the poorest in the land and are patently unfair hitting the poor hardest of all. We notice the Tories are saying nothing about these taxes.

 Keep the Tories out -- vote Labour!

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Lead Story

 Labour and Tory Manifestos Launched

by Daphne Liddle

TORY leader William Hague was forced to end an electioneering walkabout in Wolverhampton after he was confronted by an angry crowd.

 The Tories also provoked anger in Wales by trying to produce a bi-lingual edition of their manifesto that was full of translation errors and spelling mistakes in the Welsh language parts.

 Even the front cover of Time for Common Sense in Wales was full of obvious errors.

 On Wednesday Labour launched its manifesto--with programmes covering the next ten years and assuming they will win the coming election and the next as well.

 The manifesto pledged that Labour would not put up income tax, allowing the rich off the hook again.

 The Tories however have pledged massive cuts in taxes--though they seem to disagree with each other on whether it will be £20 million or £8 million. Either way, public services would have to be butchered.

 Labour continues to promise a referendum on joining the European Single Currency--an issue which will loom very large once the election is done and dusted.

 Labour has promised to spend a lot more on health and education but has also promised sweeping changes in all public services.

 This almost certainly means a lot more privatisation by different routes. The electorate have already seen large sums spent on these vital services with little discernible improvement at the point of delivery. Too much of the money is being siphoned off along the way through back-door privatisation schemes like PFI.

 Labour promises to bring in a new pension credit to push the privatisation of pension provision along further while allowing the basic state pension--the only reliable form of pension--to wither.

 The manifesto promises to review the voting system in Britain in line with the Jenkins report on proportional representation. This would bring Britain into line with other European countries in a more closely integrated Europe but it would not increase democracy for the working class.

 The Tory press has shown its hostility to trade unionism by singling out the RMT transport union for a bout of old fashioned red scaremongering, accusing the leadership of sinister hidden agendas because it has the courage to stand up for the interests and safety, not only of its members but of the travelling public.

 The Tories are calling for some transport strikes to be outlawed.

 The Tories remain the most dedicated enemies of the organised working class.

 London Mayor Ken Livingstone, expelled by Labour a year ago, emphasised the importance of continuing to vote Labour, saying that a Tory victory would be "an unmitigated disaster".

 Since the 1997 Labour election victory, trade union membership has begun to grow again and there is a shift to the left emerging within the movement.

 Given another Labour victory the unions are likely to be in a better position to challenge the right-wing Blair clique at the top of that party and exact some useful reforms.

 But real change for the benefit of the working class will take a lot more than just voting--it will take a socialist revolution.

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RMT Ballots for Delayed Action on Guards' Role

by Caroline Colebrook

THE RMT transport union is currently conducting a poll of its members working for the train operating companies calling for strike action against changes in the railway rule book.

 The result of the ballot is expected in the week beginning 21 May, giving time for a statutory seven-days notice and a first one-day strike before election day, 7 June.

 The dispute has been running forr two years over attempts to alter the respective roles of guards and drivers on trains in the event of a train accident or breakdown.

 The aim of the train operating companies is to downgrade the importance of the guards by passing many of their responsibilities to drivers and thus enabling them eventually to make guards redundant and save money.

 The dispute therefore concerns both jobs and safety.

 The RMT says the changes would mean that guards' safety responsibilities would be virtually eclipsed by ticket inspection and customer services (selling refreshments) duties.

 The change was first proposed in 1997 and then implemented two years later. Then the union won a five to one majority in favour of strike action involving the employees of 18 train companies.

 But threats of court action by train operators meant the strikes never went ahead. The train operators then assumed the matter was settled.

 But the technological changes that have further undermined the role of the guards mean the issue has surfaced again.

 Two train companies, Thameslink and West Anglia Great Northern, have already done away with guards altogether and so would be unaffected by the strike.

 o Connex, the French-owned train company operating commuter routes in south London, is to withdraw from its franchise to run South Central two years early after failing to win a renewal of the franchise.

 The Strategic Rail Authority has awarded a 20-year franchise to run those routes to Govia, a joint venture between Go-Ahead, which runs Thameslink, and SNCF, the French state-owned rail network.

 Connex has faced mounting criticism from passengers who will be relieved to see it go. But handing the franchise to another private concern for 20 years could leave them far worse off. It is no substitute for renationalisation.

 Connex says it is quitting in June 2001 rather than May 2003 when its licence expires to avoid being involved in pay negotiations later this summer and having to fork out for new winter uniforms for staff later this year.

 The company will continue to operate Conner South East running commuter lines serving the Kent commuter belt.

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Condemn Zionist Aggression!

by our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

GUN BATTLES rage throughout occupied Palestine this week as the Arabs mark the anniversary of the end of old Palestine and the establishment of Israel based on Arab land and Arab blood.

 Millions of Palestinian Arabs at home or in the diaspora marked the Palestinian Catastrophe on Tuesday 15 May. On that day 53 years ago the Zionist entity was established in blood and nearly a million Palestinians were driven from their homes in the conflict which began in 1948 and continues to this day.

 In the Arab world it was marked by protests and solidarity demonstrations. In occupied Palestine the Zionists once again unleashed their army in another vain attempt to crush the spirit of resistance.

 Tens of thousands of young Palestinians marched in the streets of the West Bank and Gaza Strip demanding the right of some four million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now called Israel.

 "No right of return - no peace" was one of the slogans. And at noon the sirens sounded and three minutes silence was observed for the 200,000 Palestinian Arab martyrs who gave their lives defending their rights. Afterwards Palestinian President Yasser Arafat denounced Israel for trying to "kill justice with tanks, rockets and helicopter gunships". And the veteran Palestinian leader slated the West for "hypocrisy, double standards and silence in face of overwhelming oppression against the Palestinians".

 Arafat stressed that a just and lasting peace in the Middle East would not come with Israel's total withdrawal from all the territories occupied in 1967 including Arab East Jerusalem as well as the implementation of the right of return for the refugees in accordance with UN resolution 194.

 But on the streets it was also business as usual for the Israeli army and the Zionist settler gangs. Last Monday five Palestinian policemen were killed by Israeli fire - what Israel later called a "mistake" and two more Arabs were murdered by the Zionists. More Arabs died in clashes during the week while the Palestinian militias killed an Israeli settler and wounded many more in resistance actions.

 Arafat called the murderous attack on his Palestinian Authority police a "dirty assassination act, immoral and non-military" and demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to halt the brutal criminal acts of the Zionists against his people.

 Israeli army chief, General Shaul Mofaz made a belated admission on Wednesday that his men could have opened fire incorrectly. "If it appears that an error was made, we will not be ashamed to admit our mistake," he said. Needless to say no apology let alone compensation has been forthcoming from Tel Aviv.

 In the Egyptian capital, Cairo, Arafat made another call for an international summit to discuss the findings of the international panel headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.

 "The commission was set up by the Sharm el Sheikh summit and that summit must reconvene to discuss the commission's report," Arafat declared. But there's not much chance of that. The Mitchell report called on Israel to halt all new settler building on stolen Arab land but Tel Aviv has rejected the demand for a freeze on the expansion of Jewish settlements.

 Israeli raids into Palestinian "autonomous" areas are increasing on the orders of General Sharon, the reactionary Israeli premier who believes he can drown the uprising in Arab blood.

 Anger is spreading throughout the Arab and Muslim world.

 The Arab League issued a statement at the beginning of the week holding Israel responsible for the violence and stressing that the current Sharon administration was a war government rather than a government of peace.

 The Arab League called on the sponsors of the UN and Middle East "peace process" along with the European Union and People's China to move swiftly to halt Israeli aggression and ensure international protection for the Palestinians.

 This was echoed by Abdul Wahid Balqaziz, the Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, in a similar appeal.

 In Washington the Bush administration does nothing, thinking like Sharon, that the uprising will burn itself out, and that the Arabs will soon come crawling on their knees to the imperialists and Zionists.

 That's been their hope and prayer for 53 years. But the torch of resistance lit in 1948 has been picked up by generation after generation, and its flames will rage until the Palestinians win.

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British News

New British Nuke Test Exposure Claims

by Steve Lawton

EVIDENCE that Commonwealth forces personnel were deliberately used as guinea pigs during the British nuclear test programme in the 1950s, has been conclusively identified in the Australian National Archives in Canberra, claims Sue Rabbit Roff, senior research fellow of Dundee University's medical education school.

 Until last week, this had been persistently denied by the governments of Britain and Australia. Now, the British Ministry of Defence has admitted that special tests in the wake of nuclear explosions were carried out using stationed forces, but they were not guinea pigs and were exposed to a "very low level" of radiation, the MoD

 The Australian and New Zealand governments, in discussions with the British government, are considering what course of action to take. Australia's foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer said: "I think where a clear connection can be made between servicemen and women suffering as a result of the tests and what happened during those tests, of course the federal government would look at those questions."

 For both Australia and Britain, there is also the wider issue of how the test fallout affected the lives, communities and environment of Australia, especially in respect of its aboriginal population--something rarely acknowledged. Campaigns to get recognition of this have been long fought and must eventually be brought into the equation.

 Following several years of Investigation and campaigning, Professor Roff said last week that documents obtained from the Canberra archive revealed that servicemen were "used directly for clothing trial experiments to see what sort of clothing would be more protective to men in a nuclear war situation."

 This required the men to "crawl and walk through ground zero some hours and days after the detonation of nuclear and atomic weapons at Maralinga." Maralinga, south Australia and the Monte Bello islands off western Australia, were subjected to extensive blasts: three tests on the islands and nine at Maralinga allbetween 1952 and 1957. Maralinga was officially closed in 1967.

 More than 20,000 British personnel, besides other Commonwealth forces were subjected, in total, to 31 nuclear tests, including over Christmas Island (Kiribati today). Testing there went on until 1962. The priority was for capitalism to show the Soviet Union who was master, so everything else was a relative side issue beside the capitalists' determination to defeat socialism at any cost.

 According to Australian reports of other documents made available, at least 76 victims were involved, with 26 receiving more than the official "maximum permissible exposure". The October 1956 documents list the involvement also of senior officers, from Major-General down and affects British, Australian and New Zealand forces.

 Professor Roff argued: "This puts the lie to the British Government's claim that they never used humans for guinea pig type experiments in nuclear weapons trials in Australia--a claim they made very strongly and ferociously in the Court at Strasbourg in 1997."

 Servicemen who had then brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights failed to win their case. On the basis of what is now being presented, the result would likely be very different.

 The men were chosen from 250 British, Australian and New Zealand military and non-military personnel. "The object was to discover what types of clothing would give the best protection against radioactive contamination in conditions of warfare", she said. But, as has since often been said, there is in fact no known safe level of exposure.

 Other documents reveal the nature of preparations for the alleged deliberate exposures. A 4 February 1958 proposal from C A Adams, British atomic tests director, suggests that prior to exposure blood tests should be undertaken.

 He said there were two reasons for that: "The UK has a responsibility under the agreement with Australia for radiological safety at the range. In the first instance we wish to exclude people with existing pathological conditions from the range." But the real 'concern' came next "In the second, we wish to be able to demonstrate that this has been done in any case in which a claim for damage is made."

 In a letter which has also surfaced, Air Vice Marshal F.A Daley, head of medical services, said he "noted with regret" that despite exposure information being made available by service personnel, it was not generally entered on the official record forms which had nonetheless been specifically produced for the tests.

 It has long been argued, with extensive testimony of surviving forces' personnel from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, that right from the immediate aftermath of the nuclear tests, they were dying--and the nuclear vets' compelling case, as so many have since died, is now overwhelming.

 In a report published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (Sept-Oct 1997), Professor Roff built her case around British Nuclear Test Veterans Association members, in particular its chairperson Ken McGinley.

 A taste of the horrors should suffice. He describes what happened to him three days after one test: "I awoke to find my face, neck, hands, and upper area of my chest covered in large water blisters...tears streamed down my cheeks." Weeks later, after some medication, his right leg became paralysed. He suffered chronic nausea and insomnia. His tonsils were removed, he had an ulcer operation and the blast, he said, made him sterile.

 He said at the time: "There's embarrassment that we have unintentionally rewritten the history of the British nuclear test programme." Perhaps now, so-called national security concerns will cease to be used as a cover for inaction--it would benefit the vets and the Labour government.

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