The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 18th October 1996
1) Lead story - Shift the burden. Make the rich pay.
2) Editorial - Britain out of Ireland.
3) Feature - Exclusion of black pupils at crisis level.
4) International news - Austria's social democrats trounced in Euro poll.
5) British news - victory for casual workers.
1) Lead story
Shift the burden - Make the rich pay
THE QUEEN'S speech at the re-opening of Parliament this week will unveil the next round of Tory attacks on the working class. With a budget due next month and a general election likely in the early part of next year, the Government will almost certainly focus on further ways to cut public spending.
Social Security Secretary Peter Lilley has already announced some of his agenda for the next Parliament. He told last week's Conservative Party conference that he intends to step up his crackdown on benefit fraud, including the introduction of computerised cross-checking of benefit claims with tax and VAT returns.
There were no headlines about a crackdown on Income Tax fraud, big business fraud or political sleaze.
He also said he will launch a pilot scheme called Parent Plus which he claims will help up to 100,000 unemployed single parents return to work. He does not say where these jobs are to be found or what kind of work they would be.
But we do know that one third of these year-long pilot schemes would be run by the private sector, further extending the process of privatisation in the civil service.
According to a report in last Thursday's Scotsman, some of the companies bidding for the private Parent Plus schemes have been told their contractsare likely to be extended to five years. This would ensure that an incoming Labour government would have great difficulty in rolling-back these latest privatisations.
fallen into line
But Labour leader Tony Blair is also falling into line with Peter Lilley by saying he too will tighten up on social security. His plan is to oblige claimants to take any work opening that is on offer or risk losing their benefits. He has larded this with talk of social morality and family values.
This idea has far more to do with capitalist values than social morality or helping families -- it is simply designed to coerce people off the unemployment register and into rotten low paid jobs that no one wants. It is a classic example of the way a mean-spirited, low-paying benefits system is used to prop up low-paying mean-spirited employers -- and ensuring that profits and dividends continue to rise.
Flying a kite for the Labour leadership is right wing MP Frank Field. He has come up with a whole package of ideas to overhaul social spending and taxation.
Mr Field said: "The aim is to guarantee universal welfare coverage by combining state, private and mutual aid provision."
Contrary to earlier statement's from Labour, Mr Field' s proposals do involve extra taxation - especially through increases in National Insuclnce contributions.
But it does follow what has sadly become a Labour tradition of helping some of the very poorest people a little by increasing taxation on higher paid workers and the middle strata -- it will affect those earning more than £15,000 a year.
Frank Field's ideas are also unacceptable because they would encourage the trend to shift welfare provision further into the realm of the private sector. It would encourage private pensions, student loans instead of grants and a form of workfare.
All the plans rumbling around the Labour and Tory front benches are based on the view that public spending has got to be reduced and that this must be achieved by squeezing the working class -again.
What they do not say is that there is an alternative -- to reverse the trend of the past 17 years and make the rich pay!
The wealthy are not workers earning £15,000 plus. They are the big shareholders, bankers, leading industrialists, large landowners and City financiers who comprise the capitalist class.
None of the proposals talk of helping the lowest income groups by cutting, or abolishing, VAT on goods and services -- which everyone has to pay regardless of income. None propose increas ing direct taxation on the highest income band or corporation tax or capital gains tax.
kicked into touch
Frank Field's plan needs to be kicked into touch before it gets any further. We need to raise discussion within the labour movement on the issue of taxation and public spending and win support for a policy of progressive: taxation that will roll-back the burden on working people and end the long period of special treatment that the Tories have afforded to the rich.
Britain out of Ireland
THE BREAKDOWN of the IRA's ceasefire eight months ago has revived the spectacle of aghast British politicians uttering loud condemnations of violence into TV and press corps microphones.
What utter humbug it is to be all the time bemoaning absence of peace whilst steadfastly rejecting any realistic measures that could bring the peace process back to life.
It is patently obvious that there can never be peace until talks are held which include all the parties. The British government can talk to the Irish Government. It can talk to the Unionist parties. But no real progress can be made until the nationalist community of the north of Ireland is included and until Sinn Fein is sitting at the peace talks table.
Sinn Fein is not only willing to take part in talks, it, together with the SDLP, initiated the peace process in the first place. And it is not Sinn Fein which has tried to strangle the peace process by making unrealistic demands on other parties a prerequisite for talks.
It's the British government which has dragged out the peace process and put obstacles in the path of all-party talks. It is the British government which has moved the goalposts. An example of this was the change of tune sung by Westminster over last May's election. The British government said any party which secured an electoral mandate would be included in all-party talks. But despite Sinn Fein doing well in the election it was still excluded.
Right from the start the British government poured cold water on the peace proposals -- saying that the IRA ceasefire would have to be permanent before talks could begin. Then it raised the demand that paramilitary organisations should hand in all their weapons first. Of course that did not apply to the other armed group in northern Ireland -- the British Army. It was then quite clear that Britain was not the least bit interested in "peace" talks, all it wanted was "surrender" talks.
Many British people want genuine peace and do not agree with continuing the colonial policy of successive British governments. To mollify such public opinion we are told that northern Ireland should remain under British rule in order to protect the people of northern Ireland from an orgy of sectarian blood-letting that it claims would follow a British withdrawal.
This arrogant, imperialist excuse is used throughout the world to try and justify big-power oppression and intervention. The "knight in shining armour" excuse was used by the United States when it invaded Somalia, it was used by the US-led coalition that attacked Iraq, it was used to justify Nato bomb attacks on Serbia and it is used toj ustify the US military presence in the south of Korea.
It is always nothing but a fig-leaf to disguise the desire of an imperialist power to continue exercising military and political control over what it regards as its own domain.
The imperialist argument ignores the fact that the conflict in Ireland stems from British colonial rule and will only be finally ended when that rule is over.
Religious differences have been used to divide the people of northern Ireland. But the fundamental factor which divides the communities is Britain itself.
The only basis for loyalist demands and the violence of armed loyalist organisations is to preserve the union with Britain British withdrawal would remove the basis for that violence. The working class people of the north of Ireland would then find their own way to peace and could begin to build a class unity so long denied to them.
It is not for us in Britain to tell the Irish people how they should conduct their struggle for liberation. Our task is to demand that the people of northern Ireland should have the right to determine their own lives and future.
We should give our full support to restoring the peace process and to demand that peace talks are on an all-party basis.
But above all, as citizens of an occupying power we have a clear responsibility to step up the demand for Britain to withdraw from Ireland and to bring to an end the suffering that colonial rule has created.
Exclusion of black pupils at crisis level
by Caroline Colebrook
THE, NUMBERS of black children excluded from school has reached crisis proportions in some areas, according to a report published last week by London University's Institute of Education.
But the report shows that three quarters of these children are being excluded for their attitude rather than for violence or bullying.
Black pupils from families of Caribbean origin are being exeluded at six times the rate of white pupils. The problem is worse for boys but black girls are also suffering disproportionately, according to David Gillborn, the compiler of the report.
Herman Ousely, the chairperson of the Commission for Racial Equality, has called for urgent govemment action to establish a new code of practice.
He said there has been a conspiracy of silence over the matter and pointed to the additional health and education costs.
The total number of permanent exclusions -- equivalent to expulsion --has risen rapidly since the introduction of league tables for schools and what the Tories call parental choice. The reasons given for exclusions are wide ranging and illdefined. Dr Gillborn's findings show that the widely publicised cases where teaching unions are backing teachers in expelling violent pupils for thcirown and their pupils' safety, are very exceptional.
Official figures show that physical aggression or bullying was the reason for only 27 per cent of exclusions. Most were for constantly refusing to comply with school rules, verbal abuse or insolence.
The report said: "In some areas, it is no exception to say that the exclusion of black young people has reached crisis proportions.
"In less than a full academic year, more than one in 10 of Nottingharn's black secondary pupils were involved in exclusion procedures.
"About one in 40 white children were involved during the same period (1989-90)".
Black children were over-represented in each of 12 London boroughs in a 1994 survey. I In Nottinghamshire: recently teachers threatened to strike rather than accept the reinstatement of unruly white pupils back into the classroom after exclusion for violent behaviour.
But Dr Gillborn found that nationally, only one in 20 exclusions were overturned by the school governors, the local education authority or appeal panels.
In many cases, parents are persuaded to withdraw their children before formal exclusion, so the true figures could be worse, he pointed out.
'It is possible that exclusions might be used more freely to remove troublesome or over- demanding pupils," he said.
'At a time of scarce resources, schools may increasingly be deciding that they are unable to afford the time and material costs demanded by certain pupils whom they may previously retained."
Only one third of excluded primary pupils and one in six secondary pupils return to mainstream schooling. Nearly 40 per cent end up with just a few hours home tuition each week and a quarter are sent to pupil referral units.
3) International news
Austria's social democrats trounced in Euro poll
by Steve Lawton
AUSTRIA's elections to take up the 21 allocated seats in the European Parliament, have revealed popular discontent with both the ruling Social Democrats' austerity measures implemented earlier thisyear, and the way the impending Euro pean monetary union is proceeding.
The polls were concluded earlier this week and art the first since Austria joined the European Union. It showed the biggest and most decisive shift to the extreme right Freedom Party (formerly the League of Independents), led by Jorg Haider, which secured 27.6 per cent of the vote -- a 5.6 per cent increase on last December's elections.
This was compounded by the conservative Peoples Party (29.6 per cent of the vote from last year's 28 per cent) which helped to relegate the Social Democrats to second position with 29.1 per cent -- a heavy fall from last year's 38 per cent.
The clutch of seats divides accordingly: Peoples Party (seven); Social Democrats (six) and Freedom Party (six). The Greens (6.8 per cent) and Liberals (4.2 per cent) gained one seat each.
Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, putting a brave face on the result, said this has no significant bearing on the governments position despite the fact this represents one of their worst setbacks for many dccatles.
But it is clear that the l0-year old Social Democrat-led coalition with the Peoples Party, is now under serious strain however much the polls are: interprcted as merely a recoverable protest vote.
And even though Vranitzky conceded on Austrian television last Sunday evening that he had suffered a defeat, he maintained that the coalition would remain unchanged.
But Haider aims to change things in Europe. There is talk of "negotiations" involving Sir James Goldsmith's Referendum Party among others as part of his plan for a "Europe of fatherlands that gives power to the people". It should be recalled that Haider and his ilk have harboured some odd notions of what Europe is about. Among their claims during the Freedom Party's "No" campaign in the referendum two years ago, was the idea that if Austria joined Europe, the country's pure Alpine water would be piped straight to Brussels while Spanish yoghurt with lice in it would flood Austria.
Like other European countries aiming to meet the criteria for the European Single Currency, Vranitzky has slashed public spending -- welfare was cut and taxes went up. So now, workers are having second thoughts. They are worried that bankruptcies, redundancies and closures will now be the consequence of their membership. The government cannot easily play down the European eIection results. The referendum on 12 June 1994 for the European Community saw an 80 per cent turn out. Over 66 per cent of them voted to go in, while nearly 34 per cent voted against.
The referendum was preceded by several years build-up in which the tide at first ran against membership. And prominent among the concerns in the very early 1990s was loss of jobs to European countries. But by the referendum this fear had been turned over by the government to represent a golden economic opportunity and the end to Austria's "isolation". Bur it soon became evident that Austria's economic and financial input into the EC would be substantial. And the country's neutrality -- established by the State Treaty of 1955 during the Cold War -- Ieft defence measures on a shoestring budget, which European defence requirements upon Austria's entry have raised.
5) British news
victory for casual workers
AN APPEAL Court ruling last week means that hundreds of thousands of casuaI workers on short-term contracts are entitled to sick pay.
The ruling came in the case of Sally Brown, a care worker who had worked nine months for the Granta Housing Society on a series of one-day contracts.
She was refused statutory sick pay when she injured her back on the job in June 1992 and was off work for nearly six months.
Ms Brown was backed by the Child Poverty Action Group and was represented in court by Cherie Booth, wife of Labour leader Tony Blair.
Ms Booth argued successfully that Sally Brown had continuity of employment and was therefore entitled to sick pay. The employers argued that she had ceased to be an employee on the day she did not come to work
The ruling will have far reaching benefits for many on similar contracts, including supply teachers, agency nurses, care assistant, shop and hotel staff.
It means that they can now afford to take a day off if they are ill -- and this will bring benefits to their fellow workers and all they come into contact with, because a worker forced to carry on working when ill can spread contrigious illnesses like flu to others.
Trade unions have welcomed the ruling, but warn that unscrupulous employers will still try to get round it.
TUC representative Sarah Veale said: "Enforcing it is very difficult. Some employers will try to alter their contracts to get round it, or they will ignore it and hope that the employees don't realise that this decision applies to them."
Many employers already break the law by refusing to give statutory sick pay to their regular staff.
The National Association of Citizens' Advice Bureaux OVACAB) is asked for help in about a dozen cases a month.
A NACAB representative said: "This could be lust the tip of the iceberg".
In one recent case a Liverpool man who had worked for the same company for 30 years was refused sick pay. The employers refused to pay up even when the local MP wrote to them. The worker was awarded money only after a hearing before a commissioner from the Department of Social Security. After the hearing, the company was given 90 days to pay up or make an appeal. It paid up on the 90th day.
In another case, a worker who had been employed foreightyears was refused statutory sick pay for taking a day off after surgery because the operation 'had not been urgent".
Workers at one firm were sent a note saying they would be sacked if they were on statutory sick pay for six weeks.