The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 2nd December 2005

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by Daphne Liddle

PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair is looking more isolated and beleaguered than ever after clashing with Gordon Brown over future policy on pensions, clashing with the White House over the leak that Bush wanted to bomb the Aljazeera office in Qatar and at odds with European leaders over the EU budget.

To add to his woes, the bereaved families of troops killed in Iraq are calling for a new inquiry into the decision to invade Iraq – which has growing support from MPs of all parties.

 And, according to former welfare reform minister Frank Field, Blair’s health “will not stand another feud with Brown”. The next day Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett publicly urged Blair to step down “to give Gordon Brown time to settle in”.

 The biggest clash – this week – has been with Brown over future policies on pensions. The long-awaited Adair Turner report on the pensions issue was published last Wednesday – recommending raising the general retirement age in stages to 69 and restoring the link between average earnings and the level of the basic state pension.

The first rise of age eligibility, to 67, would come into force in 2020 – affecting everyone born after 1955, or aged up to 50 now.
all their lives

The average length of life may be growing but even this rise will ensure that many workers never live to draw any of the pension they have been paying for all their lives. Countless others will only get a year or two for retirement after a life-time of toil.

Lower-paid and manual workers will fare worst as recent statistics confirm that income and class have a huge impact on general health and life expectancy.

 But even before the Turner report was published, Brown had made it known the Treasury would not fund many of the recommendations in it – including restoring the link between the state pension and earnings. Brown prefers to continue with the clumsy means-tested pension credit system.
But Blair is backing the recommendations of the Turner report, as he announced to the Confederation of British Industry annual conference in Islington this week – after shifting from the main venue to a hall across the street because of a peaceful and successful Greenpeace protest on the roof of the conference hall against proposals to revive nuclear power.

 The day before Brown had addressed the CBI conference, propitiating them by rejecting the agreement signed last month between the public sector unions and Trade and Industry Secretary Alan Johnson which defending the current age 60 retirement for public sector workers like nurses and teachers.

Never have Blair and Brown been so openly at odds on actual policies – and neither is supporting working class demands to defend the right to a decent pension after a lifetime of hard work.

President Chirac of France last week blamed the Blair-Brown war of succession for the failure of the European Union to finalise an EU budget agreement during Britain’s six-month presidency of the EU.

 Blair is now trying to defend himself by attacking the only people who can force his resignation – his own party. Labour chief whip Hilary Armstrong has threatened backbench rebel MPs with expulsion from the party.

 And Blair wants to change the party constitution to cut the power of the unions at the next party conference in 2006.

 John McDonnell MP, of the Labour Representation Committee, is calling for a fight-back. He said: “Labour’s historic commitment to tackling poverty and inequality has been junked as New Labour refuses to restore decent pensions, threatens to cut the earnings-tax credit link, promotes a work until you drop retirement age and now demands a two per cent pay policy.

 “To prevent any organised opposition within Labour Party structures to this final assault on our party, New Labour is planning to force through the 2006 Labour Party Conference a reorganisation which excludes party members and trade unions from any meaningful role in the policy making and management of the party.

 “The time has come to recognise before it is too late the seriousness of this threat to the very existence of our party and the welfare state.

 “Immediately our task is to mobilise a coordinated campaign across the trade union movement and Labour Party… We refuse to lie down and let them destroy our party.”


Nuclear waste

  Nuclear power is back on the agenda. The Government is conducting an energy review and Tony Blair’s aides insist that no decision has been made. But it is clear that the entirely bogus public debate is intended to steam-roller public opinion behind an immensely costly renovation and expansion of the British nuclear energy industry.
Playing on public concern about climate change, the nuclear fuel lobby deliberately ignores the hidden costs of nuclear power and never talks about its dangers. They would have us believe that nuclear power is safe, clean and cheap hoping that people will now have forgotten the partial core melt-down at the American Three Mile Island power station in 1979 and the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union in 1986.

There are, of course, other options such as the promotion of energy conservation and promoting non-nuclear greener energy sources.  More Government funding for scientific research and international co-operation is needed to develop renewable energy sources such as, solar and tidal power along with energy conservation to reduce dependency on oil, coal and natural gas.

Nuclear fusion may also provide a safer alternative in the future. Experimental fusion power generators have been built but so far not one continuously generates more energy than it uses.

Though the coal industry is now virtually dead Britain still has vast coal reserves that a planned economy could again develop. Though British North Sea oil and gas reserves were plundered during the Thatcher era, oil remains one of the cheapest sources of energy despite recent price increases. Petrol at the pump would be cheaper than soft drinks if it wasn’t for the 47.10p tax duty and the 17.5 per cent VAT levied on every litre in Britain.

The New Communist Party’s position, laid down at the Sixth Congress in 1987, is clear. We are opposed to the construction of any more nuclear fission power stations and we want the phasing out of all the existing nuclear fission plants. We want more resources devoted to developing technology for power generation by nuclear fusion and the development of an integrated energy policy which uses the massive resources of oil, natural gas and coal and devotes much greater resources into the research of new technological applications of these existing sources of energy.

Like all scientific discoveries nuclear energy has both creative and destructive potential depending on the class that controls it. In People’s China and Democratic Korea nuclear research serves the people. In the West it serves the capitalists and their war-machine.

In Britain nuclear power was essentially a spin-off from the drive to produce atomic weapons. Calder Hall, the world’s first nuclear power station was designed for the maximum production of weapons-grade plutonium with the heat for electricity production very much a by-product.

The problems and dangers associated with nuclear fission are qualitatively different from anything else known to humanity. Plutonium, a radioactive element with a half-life of 24,000 years made in nuclear fission reactors from uranium, is the most toxic substance in the world. Waste reprocessing at the Sellafield nuclear power station made the Irish Sea the most radioactive in the world. Radioactive waste is produced. stored or dumped in the oceans but it cannot be disposed of. Future generations will inevitably pay a high price when they eventually have to tackle the problem.

This is the crux of the matter. Capitalism simply cannot be trusted with nuclear fission. It is far too dangerous.

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