The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 18th December, 1998

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Editorial - Who pays, who gains?
Lead Story - Baghdad bombed.
Feature - Judge rules long-term healthcare a human right.
International - Russian workers take over Tula plant.
British News - Far East crisis making cracks in Potteries.


Who pays, who gains?

 THE Government's latest proposal for retirement pensions purports to be a way of helping the poor and keeping many future pensioners off means-tested benefits. But in reality the plan would provide a lot of new business for the major insurance companies and other financial service providers -- a boost in fact for the rich.

 It says it wants to "target" resources at people earning £9000 a year or less while putting pressure on "middle earners" to contribute to private pension or "stakeholder" schemes. The government also wants to give firms greater powers to force workers into joining occupational pension schemes at work.

 The plans are yet another attack on workers' pockets -- after all, since when did £9000 a year become a "middle income"? That's £187 a week (gross) -- well below the average wage. The idea of "targeting" resources is not a plan for the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor but a means of screwing more money out of workers who are slightly better off or just above the poverty line. It is their pay packets that are really being targeted.

 What's more, in the very week these plans were announced we learned that another 5,000 jobs have just been lost. We are in a recession that is getting worse every day. And the government, which wants us to take out private pensions schemes, which in a recession could themselves be insecure, has done nothing to tackle low pay and has imposed a wage freeze on public sector workers.

 If the government's plan sought to target profits by demanding the bosses increase their share of National Insurance contributions we would welcome it. But a plan which takes more from working people's wages is simple tackling the problem of poverty in old age by spreading the misery and hardship out over a working lifetime.

 And though the government has not gone so far as to make private pensions compulsory (which is what the City of London wants), it is still piling on the pressure by telling us that the state pension will dwindle over the years to the point where many workers would need to claim means-tested benefits in their old age.

This is said as if the dwindling of the state retirement pension was some unavoidable natural disaster. Far from being natural, the refusal of successive governments to restore the link between the state pension and average earnings has been a deliberate policy to cut public spending and roll-back the advances working people have fought for and won over the years.

 The government, the City and big business are fond of using the argument that Britain has an ageing population. People are living longer and therefore drawing their pensions for longer. But Britain is also a very rich country. It thinks nothing of launching aircraft carriers and modern war planes at the drop of a hat in support of US and British imperial interests. It thinks nothing of spending millions to maintain Trident nuclear weapons, buying Cruise missiles from the Americans and ensuring Britain is among the leading military powers.

 Furthermore, Britain continues to let the wealthy off the hook by favouring them with low direct income tax rates so that the vast fortunes of private wealth remain in private hands.

 We don't have to accept the government's arguments. The demand for a universal, national state retirement pension that is linked to average earnings needs to be pressed harder than ever.

 Young workers, who are now having their arms twisted to take out private pensions, and today's pensioners, have a common interest in fighting these government plans. Pensioners, trade unionists, old and young need to stand together in the struggle facing us all.

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Lead Story

Baghdad bombed

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent
ANGLO-AMERICAN imperialism has launched massive air-raids against Iraq. The capital, Baghdad, came under fire at 10.10 London time Wednesday night. Eighteen RAF Tornados based in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia backed by Royal Navy warships in the Gulf are supporting the US onslaught.

 Russia has called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and Baghdad has accused the UNSCOM boss, Richard Butler, of creating the crisis to provoke a Western attack.

 US President Bill Clinton spoke to Tony Blair for fifteen minutes on the phone Tuesday to co-ordinate their next moves and US forces in the Gulf are now on high alert following what they claim is evidence of imminent "terrorist" action against Americans in the region.

 The new crisis follows the recent refusal of Iraq's ruling Arab Socialist Renaissance Party (Baath) to allow the weapons inspectors into their Party Headquarters in the capital, Baghdad.

 They say the UN remit does not cover civilian non-governmental offices and the attempt to enter the Baath Party Centre was yet another provocation ordered by chief weapons inspector Richard Butler, who they have long argued should be replaced.

 Butler gave the UN a hostile report against Iraq accusing the Saddam Hussein government of backtracking on the November agreement to allow the inspectors full access to complete their mission. It was, the Iraqis say, of "evil intent" and a "litany of lies".

 The entire 120-strong UNSCOM staff were pulled out of Iraq before dawn Wednesday and flown to Bahrain and the other 400 UN personnel monitoring the oil-for-food programme have been ordered home.

 But Russia, which leads the opposition to new aggression against Iraq on the Security Council, has questioned the speed of the evacuation and accused Butler of exceeding his authority by ordering the inspectors out. Nor does the Kremlin accept the British and American claim that they already have UN sanction to bomb Iraq on the say-so of their own UNSCOM placeman -- a Russian view backed by two other members of the UN Big Five, France and People's China.

 At the Security Council Russia, China and France tried to head off war. But Blair and Clinton were ready to defy international opinion and the fighting has begun.

 The new Gulf conflict comes at time when the Clinton presidency is under threat of impeachment at home and follows the shambles of Clinton's weekend visit to Israel and the Palestinian "autonomous" zone in Gaza. Many Arabs fear that Clinton has whipped up the crisis to try and defer Republican moves to remove him from office over the Lewinsky scandal. Others suspect that the Americans want a demonstration of military might following Clinton's failed MidEast trip to show the Arabs who's boss in the region.

 Though Clinton got the red carpet treatment from President Arafat and the Palestine National Council, the Palestinian parliament which agreed to vote out anti-Israeli parts of their charter or constitution he got nothing out of Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu.

 Netanyahu is still stalling on Wye deal. He will not or cannot get his hard-line coalition of fanatical Zionists and Arab-hating setlers to endorse the agreement. Clinton wasn't prepared to force him to do it or go for an early election -- though that looks inevitable in the longer term. And the US leader wants to pre-empt any Arab backlash by making another example of the Arab country which continues to defy Western imperialism in the region.

 The United States has more than 20 warships and some 200 warplanes in the region, including 70 aboard the aircraft carrier Enterprise. Eight of the warships, packed with Cruise missiles, are now in the northern part of the Gulf, well within range of Baghdad. The American armada has over 300 Cruise missiles plus others which can be launched from B-52 long-range bombers stationed on the British Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. And the attack is backed by the RAF Tornado squadron in Kuwait.

 Iraq has been the victim of a criminal Western blockade for over eight years. Over a million of her people, many women and children, have died through food shortages and lack of food. The blockade remains solely at the insistence of British and American imperialism who want to bring Iraq to it knees so that its vast oil-wealth can be used or stock-piled exclusively for the big oil corporations of the world.

 In Britain peace activists are organising protests against the war. They must have the full support of the labour movement.

 ** There will be an immediate peace demonstration opposite 10 Downing Street at 6pm Thursday.

 ** The Emergency Committee on Iraq will also be organising an immediate protest. Contact: 0171-219 2874; Fax: 0171-219 2879; E-mail: George.Galloway@

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Judge rules long-term healthcare a human right
by Caroline Colebrook
 A LONDON High Court judge last week ruled that the National Health Service has a duly to provide long-term health care to those who are disabled and need constant nursing care.

 This will have enormous implications for health authorities, which have been cutting back and closing long-term health care homes and transferring the burden to local authority social services.

 The local authorities have been charging those who call afford it for the care but if it is to be provided by the NHS it will be free.

 Mr Justice Hidden was ruling in a case brought by Pamela Coughlan, who was paralysed from the waist down following a road accident in 1971, against the North and East Devon health authority.


 The authority had planned to close Marden House in Exeter where Ms Coughlan lived with two other severely disabled patients. They had been promised a "home for life" when they were moved there in 1993.

 The house had 17 independent flats for the severely disabled.

 The judge ruled that the promise could only be broken if there were compelling circumstances, which there were not. And he ruled that general nursing care was the sole responsibility of the NHS.

 He said that nursing care could never be classed as social care and that health service guidelines published in 1995 had not changed that situation.


 Mr Justice Mardcn said the health authority had acted "unfairly and irrationally" in reaching its decision and that if the Human Rights Act incorporating the European Human Rights Convention into English law had been in force, there would have been a breach of her rights to respect for her home.

 Ms Coughlan's solicitor, Nicola Mackintosh, welcomed the ruling, saying: "it has very wide implications. This is a true victory For disabled people all over the country and confirms that health care must still he provided free of charge under the NHS."

 She said that health authorities, including the North and East Devon, had been under a misunderstanding that their responsibilities for nursing care in nursing homes had now become the responsibility of social services.

 " If right," she said, " that would have meant that people placed in nursing homes would have been means-tested and charged for the nursing care they had previously been entitled to free under the NHS.

 "That is what has been happening in Devon and other health authority areas around the country and will now have to end following today's judgement."

 Nurses also welcomed the ruling. Liz Jenkins, assistant general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said it would be a "huge boost to patients needing long-term care".

 But she added that the implications are "enormous" and the need for a long-term funding strategy "more urgent than ever".

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Russian workers take over Tula plant

by a Russian correspondent
 THE MACHINE-BUILDING plant has always been the centre of life and the only way to get their living for thousands of workers in Yasnogorsk, a town in Tula region close to Moscow. The plant is in operation and its production is being sold despite the crisis.

 Nevertheless for more than 10 months the workers have not been paid. Many times they applied to the regional administration, composed in the majority by members of Zyuganov's Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), and to the governor of the Tula region, CPRF protege Vasili Starodubtsev.

 There was no result. The authorities have always been loyal to bourgeois law and the owners of the plant. In the beginning of December the workers lost their patience, organised a general meeting of all employees and elected a new plant administration.

 When the bosses refused to recognise the results of the meeting the workers took over the plant. A workers committee was set up that now controls the new administration, production, selling, finance and wages.

 But all the bank accounts of the factory were blocked by the authorities and the owners. Later two members of the new factory administration were arrested. That provoked a real social explosion in Yasnogorsk.

 Workers detained members of the old management and forced them to sign papers recognising the workers committee. The committee threatened to blockade the nearby railway unless the two arrested workers directors were freed. Local police and the town administration were forced into working with the factory committee. In some cases individuals were dismissed and replaced by those chosen by the workers' organisation.

 "This is a revolution" they believe. Almost half the population of the town marched down to blockade the railway and only the deployment of special police units sent by the regional administration stopped them from paralysing one of the main railway lines in Russia. But they failed to regain control of the town which remains under workers' control.

 And in northern Russia over 12 thousand teachers have blocked the main rail line in the North. They haven't been paid for five months and they want their wages now. The strike committee leaders say the teachers have nothing to lose and they will never leave the railway until they get their money.

 The local authorities tried to persuade them to stop the protest and when that failed threatened to set the police on them. but all in vain.

 The deputy governor of the region recognises that the authorities can do nothing and warns that mass social unrest is quite possible in the near future. The struggle is far from over.

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British News

Far East crisis making cracks in Potteries
HANLEY, the biggest of the five Staffordshire Pottery towns, was devastated last week by the decision of the Royal Doulton china factory to cut a total of 1,200 jobs -- 1,000 of them in Britain.

 Around 500 of these jobs will no this month and this marks the third swathe of job losses from the company which is suffering from a dramatic fall in sales to the Far East.

 In addition, the market in this country is now becoming flooded with very cheap china from Japan.

 With a recession coming on, fewer people are willing to splash out on the expensive, high-quality Royal Doulton products. There have already been more than 4,000 job losses over the last 18 months and the "lucky" ones who still have a job have suffered cuts in the working week and a pay freeze.

 The pottery industry of Staffordshire now employs around 20,000 workers compared to 50,000 20 yeas ago. A typical wage for a semi-skilled employee is £12,500 a year.

 Geoffrey Bagnall, general secretary of the Ceramics and Allied Trades Union, compared what is happening in the potteries to the "metal-bashing" that happened in the Midlands 20 years ago.

 The cuts will devastate many families. This is an industry where traditionally whole families work in the same trade and skills are passed from one generation to another.

 There is very little other employment in the area since the coalfields were closed down.

  Welsh steel workers reacted angrily last week at the British Steel plant in Port Talbot after another 855 job cuts were announced.

 Employees under threat of redundancy accused their union leaders, from the ISTC, of colluding with manages in precluding long-serving staff from joining new "teams" who will run the production lines in favour of younger workers.

 ** A further 490 jobs are to go at British Steel's Llanwern plant.

 The Engineering Employers' Federation last week said that almost half the manufactures in the West Midlands are laying off staff because of falling orders.

 ** Massive job losses are rise about to strike the chemical industry as the British drugs group Zeneca last week unveiled plans to merge with Swedish rival Astra.

 This is Likely to cost around 6.000 jobs in the two countries as the company research and development headquartes is relocated to Sweden.

 ** And City of London experts say that the crisis now sweeping through there could lead to up to 80.000 job losses.

 ** GEC last week announced plans to cut 1,400 jobs in the defence sector.

 ** And stationery producer David S Smith is planning to cut 400 jobs.

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