The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 21st December 2007

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by our Arab Affairs Correspondent

sent its forces into northern Iraq this week to hit bases of the guerrilla wing of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) which is fighting for independence in Turkish Kurdistan. The Americans claim they had no prior knowledge of the raid which coincided with a visit to Baghdad by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Turkish forces claim they have inflicted heavy losses on PKK guerrillas in northern Iraq in punitive attacks and air-raids over the past few days. The Turks says their troops crossed into northern Iraq on Tuesday and that the military had dealt a “heavy blow” to Kurdish rebels based there. They have now withdrawn but Turkish guns are continuing to pound Kurdish villages across the border and their air force is repeatedly targeting alleged PKK bases in the northern Iraqi autonomous Kurdish region. The Turks deny PKK claims of civilian casualties and say their forces are operating in sparsely-populated areas. But the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says some 1,800 people have fled because of the bombardment.

The PKK confirmed that their positions were bombed by the Turkish air force on Sunday. “An air strike by scores of warplanes and artillery attacks took place against PKK positions,” the rebel movement said in a statement, adding that the raid followed a month of reconnaissance flights by US planes. 

The Iraqi puppet regime issued a mealy-mouthed statement saying it understood Turkey’s security concerns but unilateral action was unacceptable. But Masoud Barzani, the head of the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region, was furious and he cancelled a meeting with Rice in protest at the incursion, which he said could only have taken place with US approval because the Americans control Iraq’s air-space. This is the first time the US-backed Kurdish leader has refused an audience with a top American emissary.


“The Kurdish people are angry with the American administration because protecting the sky of Kurdistan is their responsibility,” Barzani said. “If Turkey had not received a green light from the United States, it would not have been able to commit these crimes. It would not have been able to kill those civilians”.

The rebel Kurdish Workers‘ Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984, maintains a network of rear-bases in the rugged Qandil mountains near where the borders of Iraq, Iran and Turkey meet. Over 37,000 people have died in the conflict, mainly Kurdish victims of Turkish punitive raids in the 1990s, which destroyed thousands of village in largely Kurdish eastern Turkey.

Turkey has long accused the feudal Kurdish chiefs, who run Iraqi Kurdistan under American protection, of providing a safe-haven for PKK bases. There is, indeed, considerable support in Iraqi Kurdistan for their Turkish cousins. The two big Iraqi Kurdish factions, led by the Talabani family and the Barzani clan, don’t deny it. But they say the PKK camps in their areas are not used for cross-border operations and the PKK maintain that all attacks against the Turkish military are carried out by underground units inside Turkey.

In Baghdad Rice said the United States, Turkey and Iraq shared a common interest in stopping Kurdish rebel activities though also cautioned the parties against actions that could destabilise northern Iraq — the only part of the country that isn’t under direct American occupation.

It doesn’t look good in the rest of Iraq either. The puppet regime plans to cut food rations and subsidies by almost 50 per cent because of insufficient funds and spiraling inflation. Almost 10 million Iraqis rely on rationing which allowed Iraqis to buy subsidised sugar, flour, rice, powdered milk, cooking oil, tea, beans, baby milk, soap and detergent.

The puppet regime now plans to reduce the list of subsidised items to just five basic food items, flour, sugar, rice, oil, and infant milk. Up to eight million Iraqis still require immediate emergency aid, with nearly half this number living in “absolute poverty” according to Oxfam. Unemployment hovers around 70 per cent and all the regime can offer posts are jobs in the puppet army or the local police. And even that has back-fired as the results of training have not turned out as the occupiers hoped.


Another year older and deeper in debt

WESTERN governments are seriously worried about the prospects of a worldwide capitalist recession. They are terrified that people will stop spending because interest rates are too high so they are trying to bring down interest rates paid by consumers by making vast sums of taxpayers’ money available to banks to “ease the credit crunch”.

The main cause of the credit crunch has been the American sub-prime lending catastrophe, which saw banks from all around the world drawn into backing a scheme to persuade low-paid American workers to take out mortgages they could not afford to buy their own homes. It went wrong because there were thousands and thousands of defaulters – who are now homeless – and so many repossessed houses that the bottom fell out of the market and they could not be resold except at a huge loss.

This hit so many world banks so hard they became much more cautious about lending to each other and raised the interest rates on loans between banks. This in turn raised the rates that high street banks and finance companies charged to consumers.

In their turn the consumers were deterred from taking out new debts and cut back on spending – resulting in lower house prices and less high street spending.

Reduced demand threateneds to put high street shop chains out of business and the factories and farms that supply their goods.

But what happened with the sub-prime crash is only an extreme example of what has been going on more slowly in most western countries. It was a couple of years ago that personal debt in Britain rose above the one trillion pounds mark; there are similar patterns of debt in Australia, Canada and, to a lesser but growing extent, Europe.

The Bank of England and the US Federal Reserve made small cuts to their interest rates to try to loosen up the inter-bank loan rates – but with no impact at all.

Then last Wednesday 12th December a group of major western national banks – the Bank of England, the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the national banks of Canada and Switzerland – got together and injected £50 billion worth of credit into the international banking system in an effort to get high street banks to ease their credit terms and get consumers buying again.

In global terms £50 billion was not so much – a couple of months ago we heard that the Bank of England had put up over £40 billion to bale out Northern Rock – just one deeply troubled bank among many. But the move was a precedent and an indication of just how worried western governments are about a possible recession. Then the European Central Bank added 348.67 billion euros (£249 billion) to the pot.

Western capitalism has been using consumer deficit spending – persuading workers to part with wages that have not yet been paid and go into debt – to keep the wheels of western capitalism turning for a couple of decades now. It has been a deliberate policy to encourage and pressure workers to take on more and more debt. It has benefited capitalists by ensuring a market for their commodities and by ensuring workers willingly undertake longer hours to pay off the debts – and so generate more surplus value.

It has made workers’ lives hell. Debt brings stress and anxiety along with embarrassment, long working hours and children left to look after themselves.

And the western governments want us even more in debt. They also want house prices to continue rising, even though most workers now have little hope of ever buying one. The best they can hope for is to rent a place from one of the buy-to-let private speculators – back to the worst of Victorian landlordism.

But there are limits; we cannot cope with further debt. By pressuring us into more debt they are creating the conditions for more bad debts collapses like the US sub-prime crash.

One way or another, capitalism cannot escape a crash – it is in the nature of the system. The only alternative is socialism.

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