The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 2nd February 2001

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Editorial - Half truth.
Lead Story - Victory for Scots pensioners.
Feature - Rally against council housing sell-off.
International - Libyan jailed for Lockerbie bombing.
British News - Solid backing for tube strike.


Half truth

THE recent public commemoration of the Holecaust and the Holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum are very important and welcome events which serve to honour the millions who died and suffered in that unspeakable horror as well as to inform those too young to remember.

 Especially important were the numerous voices speaking out against anti-semitism and all forms of racism and xenophobia.

 Sadly, but not surprisingly, the speeches and accounts most widely reported in the media failed to expose and condemn the system of capitalism which spawned and unleashed Nazi fascism. The great and the good and the bourgeoise media could not manage to point a finger at the vile system they all support.

 It is undoubtedly true that this enormous crime against humanity was perpetrated in a climate of anti-semitism and abhorrent racism -- inhuman attitudes deliberately fostered by the Nazis and the German ruling class. And it is also true that anti-semitism was deeply rooted throughout Europe -- Nazi propaganda did not have to createe anti-semitism in Germany it only had to encourage the monster to come out of the shadows where the new regime could make it seem respectable and even "patriotic".

 But to leave it at that is to subscribe to the "good guy, bad guy" view of history. It does not explain why the German capitalist class opted for fascism, war and open terror at that time. It does not explain that it was not the existence of racist ideas on their own which led to fascism and ultimately the Holocaust, but the ruling class of finance capitalists which wanted war and territorial expansion.

 It was this class which used fascism to advance its aims and which systematically elevated racism -- and particularly anti-semitism -- in order to find an excuse for wholesale theft and super exploitation of a whole section of the population and to provide a convenient "internal enemy" on which the attention of the people could be focused.

 Nazi propaganda peddled the lie that it was the Jews which were to blame for people's ills. They asserted that it was the Jews which bled the country dry. This lie was told then, as it still is by Nazis today, in order to conceal the real exploiters and parasites -- the capitalist class as a whole. It ensured that capitalism was not blamed while millions of innocent Jews, most of whom were working class, were persecuted.

 Also hidden from view in the recent commemorative events was the crude money-making involved in the system of Nazi death camps and work camps.

 The work camps were used to provide the cheapest and most exploited labour of all -- slaves that did not even have to be adequately sustained and who could literally be worked to death.

 The death camps too extracted every thing it was possible to take from a human being -- even when they were dead. The camp records detail the hideous inventories of this trade which didn't stop at robbing people of every possession but which sold the fillings from their teeth, the hair from their heads and even the processed products that could be made from bones.

 The very gas used for the mass murder of the camps was haggled over by the capitalist companies. This included I G Farben whose subsidiary Degesch, produced Zyklon B.

 The leading German bankers, manufacturers and other big capitalists made a great deal of money from the war itself and from forced labour and the camp system in general. Their fortunes were in Reich Marks which were scrapped after the war and the fall of the Reich. But the leading capitalists continued to flourish and the successors of some are still leaders in the field today.

 Yes; we should all learn from the Holocaust. We should learn to struggle against every form of racism and racial intolerance. But we should also learn that it was capitalism which backed Hitler, it is capitalism which resorts to unleashing fascism when it cannot rule in the old way and it was capitalism which created the gas chambers of Auschwitz -- these are the lessons of history.

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Lead Story

Victory for Scots pensioners

by Daphne Liddle

PENSIONERS living in Scotland can look forward to completely free personal residential and nursing care when they need it after April 2002.

 Henry McLeish, the First Minister of the Scottish Executive made the pledge last week after being forced to make a definite commitment by the coalition of Labour and Liberal Democrat Members of the Scottish Parliament.

 The proposal follows the recommendations of the Royal Commission for Long Term Care for the Elderly chaired by Sir Stewart Sutherland.

 Tony Blair had asked Henry McLeish to keep the whole matter under wraps until after the next general election -- knowing that his own government will come under very strong pressure to follow Scotland's example.

 But the Scottish Parliament demanded a firm commitment at once that the Sutherland recommendations will be implemented in full.

 Liberal Democrat members of the coalition had made firm promises on the issue to their pensioner constituents who were accusing them of back-tracking and selling out too cheaply to their coalition partners.

 They demanded clarification from McLeish and he accused them of arguing over semantics and "dancing on pinheads".

 He then said: "We are embarking on a process which will have as its final destination the implementation of free personal care. I cannot be more explicit."

 Margaret Smith, who chairs the health committee which had backed Sutherland in full, said McLeish has now "put it beyond doubt" that the executive was unequivocally committed to introducing free personal care.

 This will resolve the ridiculous distinction between nursing care (free from the NHS) and personal care (provided by social services or care homes and to be paid for on a means-tested basis) which has been raised by Westminster governments since the Tories abolished free care for the elderly.

 And it will leave pensioners in England and Wales justifiably angry that they will still be expected to pay.

 In the past this has meant that those who have had to go into full-time residential care or a nursing home have been forced to hand over their savings and sell their homes to pay for it.

 The system is means tested. If pensioners have less than £16,000 total in savings (including the value of their home if they own it) they get some help from local authorities in paying for their care costs.

 Only if they have less than £10,000 in savings do they get full help. Any pension they have goes to help pay for care costs with a little doled out to them from this as weekly pocket money.

 There are some exceptions for those who have partners still living in the family home or being supported by joint pensions.

 But in many cases where a daughter or son has remained at home to look after their parent, when that parent needs to go into full-time care, the house must be sold and the carer must find another home if they can.

 The elderly in Scotland are now free from this degrading prospect and the pressure on the Westminster Parliament is going to be very strong.
Speaking on behalf of Age Concern, Andy Allsop said: "If the Department of Health continues to dig in then they have a real fight on their hands.

 "What has happened in Scotland totally undermines the Government's argument that the division between nursing care and personal care cannot be breached."

 The Sutherland commission said it would cost £1.3 billion to extend free care to 225,000 pensioners across Britain. Chancellor Gordon Brown has said this is too expensive.

 Mary Marshall, a member of the co-alition, said it is now "inevitable" that Westminster will also have to introduce free care. She said: "The injustice of one set of people receiving free care and not another will have to be resolved."

 And Labour MP David Hinchcliffe, who chairs the House of Commons Social Scrvices Committee, said: "I would like to see the Government looking at amending the Health and Social Care Bill.

 "Otherwise I can see people being bused over to Scotland for free care."

 * The Scottish Parliament has already broken with Westminster policy over the introduction of student tuition fees last year and a decision to give teachers a 21 per cent pay rise.

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Rally against council housing sell-off

by Renee Sams

THE GOVERNMENT is now poised to undertake its largest privatisation bonanza, the sale of the remainder of this country's council housing stock, worth £30 billion. And the property sharks are ready and waiting.

 Thousands of tenants, council workers and trade unionists are up in arms and on Wednesday last week came together in a massive rally and lobby of Parliament in protest.

 They had one demand -- Stop be Sell-Off!

 Central Hall, Westminster, was decorated with banners of tenants' organisations from Glasgow to Southend, from Liverpool, Leicester and from London, Haringey, Tower Hamlets, Brent and Southwark; alongside banners from the GMB general union, Unison local government union and Ucatt construction union.

 The Government plans to transfer housing stock to the private sector at the rate of 20,000 council houses a year. The Green Paper, misleadingly entitled "A decent home for all", lays out the options for local authorities on housing, stressing "voluntary transfer" with the so-called arms length companies.

 City bankers are eager to lay their hands on all this property but they don't want to take on the housing debts that have accumulated over 20 years of Tory cuts.

 So the Government is offering up to £12 billion to pay them off -- but this option is only for councils prepared to hand over their housing stock to private landlords.

 On the platform, Tony Benn MP recalled: "Fifty five years ago I was in this very hall and heard Aneurin Bevan, Minister in the Clement Attlee post-war Labour government, announce plans for the biggest council house building project ever.

 "Those plans gave people safety and security and this is what we are now defending."

 Between 1945 abd 1969 over four million homes were built, owned and let by council authorities -- some 59 per cent of this country's total housing stock.

 But during the Thatcher era, the Tories set out to popularise the idea of the "house-owning democracy" and stopped local councils from building homes for people.

 On home-owners, Tony Benn was clear: "Most of them are really home buyers," he said, "tied to a mortgage and if they lose their jobs, they lose the roof over their heads.

 "Only council housing can help people and provide security." He blamed privatisation for "destroying the heart of democracy".

 Tony Benn has a long memory and he reminded his audience of the days before "municipal" became a dirty word.

 Then, there were municipal museums, hospitals, housing, theatres and even an airport -all municipal -- and people were proud of it.

 Many people benefited from municipal facilities with affordable prices.

 A pilot during the Second World War, Tony Benn actually learned to fly at Birmingham municipal airport.

 The London Borough of Hackney has already sold off some of its council housing stock and Victoria Nixon described the plight of council tenants who were conned into accepting the transfer to "HARCA".

 They were told, she said, that the company would refurbish the estate and that repairs would be done promptly. They were promised that their ideas and what they needed for the estate would be listened to.

 HARCA pays low wages to its staff and there is a big turnover of employees who are very unhappy with the situation.

 It has turned out a "total disaster"; what tenants were told was "manifestly untrue" as HARCA cannot carry out the repairs or finish refurbishing the run-down estate as there is not enough money in the kitty.

 It now appears rents will have to go up if anything is to be done. This is in spite of millions of pounds of Government money paid to assist the transfer of the housing stock to the private sector by Paying off "overhanging" debts.

 Housing minister Chris Mullin produced figures showing local authority house building fell from 78,537 in 1980 to 83 in 1999.

 The loss of jobs from direct labour organisations totals 173,000 since 1980 and if the transfer to the private sector continues, there will be a lot more as the Government forces councils to accept "outsourcing" and contract labour.

 By refusing to let councils borrow from banks and insisting on strict public spending controls, councils are forced to resort to private finance initiative (PFI) deals.

 The cost for tenants will be higher rents and service charges and there are examples. From 1995-1999 rent rises in transferred housing has been as high as 53.4 per cent -- which would be catastrophic for many households.

 Ucatt general secretary George Brumwell explained that cuts in funding and controls on fund raising for councils represent "the end of democratic accountability in social housing".

 Social housing is in crisis with a £19 billion backlog of repairs and improvements desperately needed.

 "Every year some 100,000 families are made homeless," said Mr Brumwell. "They have no chance of buying a home. Young people with low-paidjobs cannot afford private rents."

 He pointed out: "Poor housing leads to poor health and bad housing leads to a system that fails to give children a fair start educationally. This can add up to £2 billion extra costs to the NHS for poor housing-related illness.

 "The link between decent housing and life chances is obvious. Affordable social housing is absolutely fundamental. The public sector has stood the test of time."

 Other speakers pointed out that the privatisation of the railways and other public services has not brought any benefits for working people. It is always private profit before public need.

 The campaign to resist the sell-off has already met with success and tenants in 44 councils have said no to privatisation.

 One council that has refused to sell is the London Borough of Southwark, one of the biggest in England and Wales.

 Piers Corbyn who lives in that borough told the rally that their success was due to having "one clear line" for their campaign and everyone was united behind

 He was sure we will win the fight for council housing and he called for people to be given a real choice. He noted that the Government had plenty of money to subsidise the privateers and he asked: "Why couldn't that money be given to councils so they could use it to improve and repair their council housing stock?" And he added: "Stop the privatisation and invest in council housing."

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Libyan jailed for Lockerbie bombing

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent

A LIBYAN Arab has been jailed for life and another acquitted by the Scottish High Court sitting in Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. The court was in session for 85 days. The special court held on neutral ground, under Scottish law and without ajury, considered 10,232 pages of testimony from 235 witnesses.

 Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was found guilty of murder by unanimous verdict of the panel of judges in the Lockerbie trial. The other accused, Lamen Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was acquitted and is now free to return home.

 The judges recommended that al-Megrahi serve a minimum of 20 years in prison for the sabotage of Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 Decemberl988.

 All 259 passengers and crew died along with 11 people on the ground. Both men protested their innocence at the trial and al-Megrahis lawyers are going to appeal.

 Ali al-Megrahi was an aviation security chief for Libyan intelligence and formerly director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Libya. He will be held at Camp Zeist until his appeal is heard. Under Scottish law the only basis would be to demonstrate a miscarriage of justice.

 The Libyan government has always denied any involvement in the bombing and Tripoli is now insisting that all remaining economic sanctions should be lifted At the United Nations the Libyan representative, Abuzed Dorda said, "Libya as a state had nothing to do with this case.

 But the Americans show no signs of lifting the pressure. In Washington the Bush administration described the verdict as "a victory for an international effort" and an "indictment of a member of the Libyan intelligence services... the government of Libya must take responsibility".

 What the trial left unanswered is the motives for the bombing though there was plenty of unfounded speculation. The Western powers over the years have claimed that the bombing was either in revenge for the US bombing of Libya in 1986, the US downing of an Iranian passenger plane in the 80s, or the action of one of the Palestinian resistance movements. What none of them have attempted to answer is why no organisation has ever claimed responsibility for the destruction of the Pan Am flight.

 * The Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled, who left Britain 30 years ago from a cell at Ealing police station after the abortive hijacking of an Israeli airliner, returned to a triumphant welcome in the House of Commons on 24 January.

 There she spoke at a huge rally to launch the transformation of the Emergency Committee on Iraq -- headed by George Galloway MP -- into the Emergency Committee on Iraq and Palestine.

 Her seven-day visa was granted after intensive discussions between Galloway and the government and the campaigning Labour MP later praised the exceptional co-operation shown by his bitter opponent within the government -- Peter Hain MP, the foreign office miniister responsible for Iraq policy.

 Galloway told the meeting that there is "linkage" and always had been between the Iraq and Palestinian issues and that the launch of the renamed campaign would mean a stepping up in both the quantity and quality of pro-Palestinian work in Britain.

 "This is our duty... to respond to the intifada and to the almost certain victory of the war criminal Sharon," Galloway declared.

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British News

Solid backing for tube strike

by Caroline Colebrook

LONDON Underground workers voted by a massive 3,953 votes to 700 in favour of a rolling programme of strike action against the partial privatisation of the Tube -- which will compromise safety.

 The ballot was organised by the train drivers' union Aslef and rail union RMT after a long campaign to persuade the Government to change its mind over its private-public-partnership (PPP) proposals.

 Their opposition is backed by a report from the Health and Safety Executive which says the plans for the break up of London Underground will confuse lines of command and responsibility for who does what, especially in time of crisis.

 The sell-off is also opposed by Bob Kiley, the newly appointed transport commissioner for London on the grounds that PPP will cost Londoners a lot more, be less efficient and less safe.

 The unions have set strike dates for the 5, 12 and 19 of February and even LU management admit the support is expected to be so solid the network will come to a complete halt.

 Talks this week broke down after LU management sought a court injunction to stop the strike. LU claims the strike ballot is illegal because the RMT union failed to tell them exactly which workers and where would be taking action.

 The union says this detail is no longer legally needed. In any case LU has a full list of all its employees who are RMT members because dues are deducted from wages. And the union cannot give full details of who would have been working where on the strike days because many workers can be directed from one place to another and do not always know where LU will send them each day until they arrive.

 But the court upheld the views of the bosses. This will only make the workers more angry and more determined to strike.

 RMT assistant general secretary Bob Crow said: "Our members have said loud and clear that they are not prepared to sit back and see London Underground go the way of the national rail network with all the disastrous consequences that has had for passengers and employees alike."

 Aslef general secretary Mick Rix said the drivers would be "striking on behalf of all the travelling public".

 "Safety must come first and must be seen to come first or there will be a collapse in public confidence in the Tube."

 They warned that if the strike is not settled by the end of the current three-week programme, more drastic strike action measures will happen.

 The LU workers have backing from other unions including the Fire Brigades Union. FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist said his members "fully shared the safety concerns".

 Campaigners opposing the Tube sell-off last week held a protest picket outside the officers of Balfour Beatty, the construction company named, along with Railtrack, as possibly facing corporate manslaughter charges over the Hatfield rail crash.

 It is one of the companies to which the Government is considering selling parts of the Tube.

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