The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 21st April 2000

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Editorial - Distant thunder. & Striking back.
Lead Story - Striking back in Washington.
Feature - What has happened to play?
International - Israel preparing to scuttle out of Lebanon.
British News - Straw accused over asylum hysteria.

Editorial

Distant thunder

REPORTS from the teams searching the Kosovo area of Yugoslavia for evidence of mass killings show that the Nato-inspired propaganda stories were wildly exaggerated.


 Bodies have been found -- as would be expected following a period of civil fighting and Nato bombing but evidence of mass murders allegedly committed by Serb forces has not been found.

 It is clear that if the Nato leaders had genuinely wanted to save lives and end the conflict they would have used their influence to stop the flow of arms to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and pledged to uphold the severeignty of Yugoslavia.

 But that was the last thing they wanted to do. Nato, imperialism's armed force, has all along wanted to see Yugoslavia broken up to satisfy the economic and political aims of the United States, Britain, Germany and others.

 It was obvious that the KLA, even with outside support, was not able to break Kosovo away from Yugoslavia on its own. That's why Nato decided to intervene directly. To justify such a course of action it had to bombard us with a stream of harrowing horror stories portraying President Milosevich and the Yugoslav forces as the cruelest monsters seen in Europe since Hitler.

 Nato's bombing war was not as successful as it hoped. It managed to force outside troops onto Yugoslav soil, but it has failed to create an independent Kosovo and it has failed to break Yugoslavia's sovereignty in the area.

 Also, the imperialist plan to break up Yugoslavia is in any case incomplete -- Montenegro has, from the West's point of view, still to be detached.

 It was always just a matter of time before the imperialist powers started to wind up the propaganda machine again and find some pretext or another for "helping" Montenegtan bourgeois separatists.

 This process is underway and the danger of another Balkan tragedy can already be heard like the sound of distant thunder from an approaching storm.

 The fraudster has been on the doorstep before and the lies are easier to see -- this time the forces for peace should stop Nato before the bomb-doors are opened!

******************

Striking back

THE massive demonstration in Washington DC last week thrust the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and multi-national corporations under the spotlight of the world's press. And the publicity these bodies got was far from the kind of media coverage they wanted.

 The demonstrators were there to expose these organisations, which represent the interests of the leading banks and international finance and corporate business, and to reveal them as the bringers of poverty and death to the developing world and as the exploiters of toiling people everywhere.

 The huge demonstration was made up of many groups raising different issues -- the demand to cancel third world debt, activists calling for a cleaner and safer environment, anti-poverty campaigners, trade unionists and workers' organisations, students, anti-racist organisations and many others.

 What made this demonstration so effective and so alarming to the United States authorities, was the very fact that so many campaigns had come together, had focused upon the meeting of finance ministers and identified a common enemy in "global capitalism" -- imperialism.

 The links of human suffering had been made. The cause of so much of the world's misery had been targeted and capitalism itself had been condemned.

 US state power was brought to bear on the protesters with all the brutality we would expect. But the demonstrators got the message across to the world -- we salute them!

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Lead Story

Striking back in Washington

by Steve Lawton

ONCE, the lion's share of the world economic cake could be carved-up by Western big business in quiet seclusion, troubled only by how best to hide the truth of more corporate killing.

 Now they're getting noticed, but not in the way they have been used to or much like: Six months after the 'Seattle siege' of the World Trade Organisation, tens of thousands marched and demonstrated in Washington last weekend to demand drastic changes to the role of financial institutions that are deepening the wealth divide.

 While around 12,000 attended a rally near the White House to hear international rights campaigners and trade union leaders, a big contingent of trade unionists, environmentalists, student alliance and other protest groups, marched in the rain to the World Bank building as Group of Seven top capitalist nations' finance ministers met.

 Clashes with the huge police presence, estimated to cost $6m in operations since Seattle, led to over 600 early arrests. The coalition force Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ) reported: "Dozens of people were treated for lacerations, pepper-spray, tear gas, and other injuries at makeshift clinics set up in the streets." The National Guard were also brought in.

 In all some 1,300 protesters, according to the Washington Post, had been arrested by last Tuesday, packing local jails. Officers were brought in from many cities to prepare themselves for future actions on their own patch.

 MGJ said last Monday that legal reps had been blocked from getting to more than a few dozen activists, despite some urgent medical needs.

 Their legal team have been getting evidence from those subsequently released, who are frequently dumped in remote locations: "Widespread racist and anti-gay language, intimidation and physical beatings are being used by marshals in an effort to curtail the solidarity and restrict the protesters constitutionally protected rights."

 The FBI tried to shut down MGJ's radio station, but quick demo action foiled them.

 Trade unionists had no doubt it was time to act. "I live 30 miles from the Mexican border," Southern Arizona steelworkers' leader Ian Robertson, in an AFLCIO report explained, "where they live on wooden pallets made from the maquiladoras [dangerous and intensely exploitative border zone industries] where they work." Blaming IMF-World Bank greed, he went on: "In three nights, nine children died from the cold or were asphyxiated trying to keep warm."

 Whether from Ohio or Quito, Ecuador, student activists were of a mind in their opposition to the strangulation of the developing world that attaches a debt-tag to its peoples from the day they are born and thereby prematurely die.

 The IMF, World Bank and WTO are increasingly seen as secret, unaccountable, robber killer institutions of the West. Anti-debt coalition Jubilee 2000 estimate that in the first three months of this year some 3.5 million children had died directly due to the debt crisis.

 Chancellor Gordon Brown apparently thinks such campaigners are unwittingly pitting themselves against the poor. Yet what does he have concretely to offer? Slow-acting, tip-of-the-iceberg debt relief for the very worst hit nations, the so-called HIPC's -- Heavily Indebted Poorest Countries.

 President Fidel Castro, at the historic but largely ignored four day South Summit in Havana which concluded the day before the Washington protests, pointed out the bare fact of what that amounts to a negligible 8.3 per cent of developing countries' total debt.

 When it comes to the conceited demands for 'transparency' in developing countries' handling of their finances, the same yardstick would be better applied to Brown's paltry and cynical offering. Clearly, in this he fails miserably.

 Combined with the tremendous damage done by the crisis of capitalism in Asian countries and their markets, in Russia, Japan and elsewhere, the result has led steelworker and student alike to conclude that something more is required than the usual reform talk every time there is a crisis.

 The South Summit (G77) of 133 developing nations including China (August 1999), which met for the first time since 1967, officially endorsed the protest mobilisation in Washington. The Summit represented a landmark setting to work for unity and economic self-defence against US-led corporate domination and profiteering.

 That spirit is hardening. It's expressed in sharper terms than the final declaration by Fidel and some other delegates, notably Malaysian Prime Minister Mohamed Mahathir. Fidel agrees with the Mobilization for Global Justice: the IMF should be scrapped.

 Developing countries' toughening position is the reason why the Summit was treated as a trifle, and why no connection between Havana and Washington was made in the media here. Actually, it's better that activists tell us what's what.

 Bolivian machinist Oscar Olivera was a leader in the resistance to the privatisation of his nation's water supply. Several have been killed since martial law was declared in Cochabamba on 8 April, as a mass uprising scuppered Bechtel's and other corporate plans to steeply increase water charges. Bechtel is based in San Francisco. He hid for four days to avoid arrest, the AFL-CIO reported, before escaping to the US.

 "The people have recaptured their dignity, their capacity to organise themselves -- and most important of all, the people are no longer scared," Oscar told applauding thousands in Washington.

 At the South Summit therefore, Fidel was quite reasonable and measured when he called for corporate-driven genocide to be given the Nuremburg trial treatment: Hang capitalism, build for development and socialism.

 * The US trade union federation AFL-CIO reported a membership rise, according to federal labour statistics, of 265,000 in 1999 -- the biggest increase in over 20 years. It jumped from 16.21 million to 16.48 million last year. Nearly half of that rise -- 112,493 -- was in the private sector. The biggest single acts of organisation last year were California home health workers (75,000) and Puerto Rican public employees (65,000).

 The AFL-CIO said unionisation ofworkers is moving into an upward trend, overcoming its 20 year decline, and currently standing at 13.9 per cent of the total workforce. Union federation calculations suggest that "at least" 600,000 workers organised unions in 1999, a 25 per cent increase on 1998.

 The growth is the result of greater demands by workers for a decisive voice in the struggle for better wages, benefits and conditions. Wages, the federation said, "still lag far behind 1970s levels, fuelling the growing gap between wealthy and working Americans."

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Feature

What has happened to play?

by Caroline Colebrook

EDUCATION Secretary David BlunketL is considering ending the testing of seven-year-olds after mounting concern from parents that it is causing excessive pressure. There have been reports of children crying with anxiety over the tests.

 He said he would seriously consider changing the system if it could be proved that the complaints are true.

 Ian Anderson, the father of a seven-year-old had, told a BBC Radio Four Today programme: "It seems a lot of time is being used in school, because there is so much pressure on the teachers to get good scores in the tests, simply preparing children for the tests, that is time that could be better used in other ways."

 He asked: "Are our children being educated or are they being taught to pass tests?"

 Mr Anderson said his child had suffered stress related problems after bringing home homework "clearly designed" to prepare for the English assessment.

 David Blunkett responded: "if we could show that the assessment was actually pulling children at seven under pressure in the way you are describing across the country, and we could not organise for teachers to do it as part of the normal class work without putting pupils under test conditions, then I would very seriously consider changing it."

 He went on to imply that some parents were responsible for pressurising their children to do well in the tests.

 Teachers have also warned Mr Blunkett that Labour's promised after-hours lessons for children who are struggling to cope are turning schools into "factory farms".

 The Government has introduced early morning booster classes for low achievers, after school homework clubs and summer schools for those who fall behind in English and maths.

 David Blunkett has even talked of a "learning day" that would mirror the nine-to-five hours of traditional office workers.

 The teachers, members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, speaking at their annual conference last week, warned this will produce an educational production line producing a generation of stressed and unhappy children.

 Pat Bennet who teaches in a primary school in Lambeth, south London, said: "Children are coming into school at 8.30am for their booster classes, they stay after school for homework clubs, and during the school holidays they come in for more learning.

 "I feel really sorry for these children. They must be so stressed out."

 And Hank Roberts who teaches at a Wembly comprehensive in north-west London said: "What has happened to play? What has happened to childhood?

 "We work the longest hours in Europe yet we put up with it. This Government now wants teachers and pupils to work longer hours. They want results at any cost."

 The union also warned that the demands of the national curriculum and more technical equip ment means space for children is being eroded. This leaves them uncomfortable and unable to learn properly.
 The ATL says that some playgrounds are so overcrowded that children are unable to run about freely.

 Another Lambeth teacher, Wendy Stevens, said: "It may sound comical but what's cruel to pigs is cruel to children.

 "It causes fights in the classroom when children bang into one another. It gets to the stage where you have to put on your best Joyce Grenfell voice and say to some innocent but longlegged child: "Could you please try to put your legs behind your ears, dear?"

 The ATL conference also criticised Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector of schools, for adding to the pressure that contributed to the suicide of primary school teacher Pamela Relf.

 In an emergency motion the union accused Mr Woodhead of allowing Ofsted inspectors to put too much pressure on staff during routine visits.

 It expressed regret at the death of Pamela Relf "as a result of Ofsted-induced stress".

 Ms Relf left a note saying: "I am now finding the stress of my job too much. The pace of work and the long days are more than I can do."

 David Blunkett also last week gave a warning to his junior minister to avoid making definite pledges on cutting class sizes in the run-up to the coming local elections.

 Labour was elected in 1997 with a firm pledge to reduce class sizes to under 30. Since then the Government has concentrated on achieving this in the first years primary schools which have seen numbers of oversized classes cut from 485,000 to 177,000.

 Slightly older children aged eight to 11 have yet to benefit from this drive. Some 38 percent are still taught in classes of more than 30.

 And secondary schools have seen class sizes rise slightly as continuing cuts have forced schools to cut the number of teachers.

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International

Israel preparing to scuttle out of Lebanon

By Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

ISRAEL has formally told the UN that it will withdraw all its forces from southern Lebanon by July. But there's been no let up by the Lebanese resistance, which has vowed to fight on until the last Israeli soldier leaves the last inch of Lebanese soil.

 Lebanese national resistance units pounded Israeli outposts and those of their "South Lebanon Army" quisiings this week. Israel responded by with air and artillery attacks on nearby Lebanese villages.

 When Israeli premier Ehud Barak won the elections last year he pledged to end the occupation of southern Lebanon by July 2000. The Israeli public have been long sick of the costly Lebanese conflict which began in 1978 and the Labour leader owes his election victory to the mobilisation of the growing peace movement in his country.

 An evacuation plan was drawn up earlier this year. And this week the Israeli envoy at the United Nations, Yehuda Lancry, informed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, that the withdrawal will be completed "in one phase" by 7 July.

 Lebanese Prime Minister Salim al Hoss was jubilant. He said the Israeli evacuation was "a resounding victory for Lebanon and its heroic resistance. It was a "crushing defeat" for Israel.

 Words are one thing, deeds another, particularly in Tel Aviv. Given Barak's track record -- stalling the Palestinians, refusing to seriously make peace with Syria -- few Arabs were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

 Now it really does seem that the Israeli leader is bowing to the inevitable.

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British News

Straw accused over asylum hysteria

by Daphne Liddle

BILL MORRIS, the general secretary of the giant Transport and General Workers' Union, last week accused Home Secretary Jack Straw and Prime Minister Tony Blair of "giving life to racists" in its treatment of asylum-seekers in Britain.

 He was speaking in an article in the Independent on the eve of the TUC Black workers' conference in Southport.

 He wanted that the Government's attitude to asylum-seekers was "playing a hostile tune for black Britons".

 The Government, a year after the publication of the McPheson report, claims it is now tackling institutionalised racism in Britain.

 But Mr Morris said that black Britons would reserve judgement on the Government's response to McPherson in the light of the Home Office policy towards asylum-seeekers and the Government proposal, now dropped, to introduced £10,000 visa bonds to be imposed on visitors from the Indian sub-continent.

 Mr Morris said: "The United Nations has charged the Tories with whipping up racial intolerance. But the Home Secretary and the Home Office team must accept responsibility for creating the environment in which this is acceptable.

 "The mood music is playing a hostile tune for Black Britons. But it is the Home Office and indeed the minister who are playing their part in the orchestra.

 "By heralding measure after measure to stop people entering Britain, the Home Office has given life to the racists."

 He was particularly critical of the inhumane system of giving refugees just £30-worth of food vouchers a week to live on plus £10 in cash.

 This is a lot less than the minimum poverty threshold. Refugees are forbidden to work while waiting for judgement on their cases.

 So they cannot survive without help from charities or else resorting to begging or petty crime to live.

 This in turn fuels the xenophobic hysteria against them being whipped up by the right-wing press.

 He said many Government measures, such as the restriction of the right to trial by jury, will affect low-income black communities proportionately more than white.

 "But worse even than the content of these proposals has been the climate of fear and loathing that the Home Office has allowed to fester," he said.

 He said: "It is time to reclaim Labour as the party of civil rights" and warned the Government not to try to outdo the Tories.

 "You will never come up with an immigration policy that will be acceptable to Ann Widdecombe and her xenophobic colleagues. We should not even try."

 Bill Morris's words were backed up by black Labour MP Diane Abbott who told the BBC radio Four programme Today: "I told the Prime Minister in a private meeting this week that as a child of economic migrants, I took personal exception to a minister constantly talking about bogus asylum-seekers and economic migrants as if they are some sort of parasite."

 She suggested two reasons why the Government was dismissive of complaints like hers: "One, they believe that black voters, like Labour heartland voters perhaps, have nowhere else to go.

 "And also, for Jack himself, although Jack's personal commitment to race relations is quite strong, where the interests of good race relations clashes with the prejudices of middle England, middle England wins every time."

 And at the TUC Black workers' conference, the new head-in-waiting of the Commission for Racial Equality Gurbux Singh, condemned both Labour and Tory politicians for their inflammatory remarks on asylum seekers.

 He attacked "the way the issue of asylum-seekers has been used to foster racial tension and hatred.

 "Political parties have a responsibility to look at what they say and how they say it."

 Mr Singh went on to list a number of recent instances of racist violence.

 Meanwhile the Tories have continued unashamed with their use of the race card to whip up hatred of asylum seekers with a proposal to put all of them in detention camps.

 He also proposed a "removals agency" to ensure that those refused asylum are thrown out of the country at once.

 Hague, Straw and Blair continue to bandy about the term bogus-asylum seeker. Successive Tory and Labour governments have made it more and more difficult for refugees to prove before the courts that they are genuine.

 Yet when they fail in this they are described as bogus, implying that they are fraudulent.

 In stark contrast, the Home Office is now preparing for a flood of white refugees from Zimbabwe -- mostly former large scale landowners from very wealthy backgrounds.

 These people are not expected to have to go through the £30 food voucher system but will have their cases fast-tracked and given permission to stay.

 Extra staff have already been sent to the British consular department in Harare where 14,500 British passport holders have already registered and another 20,000 are expected to do so in the next few weeks.

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