But it falls a long way short of whatis really needed The water industry should not just be subject to regulation -it should be restored to public ownership and democratic control.
The Labour government's approach to the water industry is much as we would have expected -- regulation in lieu of renationalisation. It makes things a little better but doesn't tackle the fundamental problem.
Contrary to what some on the left were arguing during the election campaign, there is a considerable difference between the Labour and Conservative parties and between the new Labour government and the previous Conservative governments.
The Tories are the direct agents of the capitalist ruling class. The Labour Party on the other hand was born out of the working class and, despite its right-wing leadership, it is susceptible to pressure from the organised working class movement that it remains organisationally linked to.
There have already been some advances made -- the lifting of the ban on unions at GCHQ, the planned abolition of the internal market in the NHS, the reduction in VAT on domestic fuel, the intention to scrap the assisted schools places scheme, the scrapping of the nursery voucher scheme and so on.
It is important to note that every one of these gains has been fought for and is the result of working class pressure -- they are not unsolicited gifts from 10 Downing Street.
The struggle for trade union recognition at GCHQ has been relentlessly fought for years. Thousands of trade unionists have taken part in the solidarity marches through Cheltenham each year and the movement has never let the issue slip away.
The Tories' NHS "reforms" have been strongly opposed throughout the labour movement and in the local communities, at least part of the message seems to have got through.
The teachers' unions and many parents have struggled against large classes, the re-introduction of selection in education and against stupid ideas like the nursery vouchers scheme. All of the advances so far are the fruit of struggle and show that pressure can be successfully exerted on a Labour government, even one that is under right wing leadership.
The winning of a Labour government with a huge majority is a step forward for our class. It makes it possible for us to achieve desperately needed reforms -provided the pressure from the movement is strong.
This pressure will have to include criticising and opposing various anti-working class measures the right wing leaders will almost certainly try to foist upon us -- that includes their stated intention to integrate Britain into the European state, the EU single currency and any efforts to further undermine universal pensions and benefits and attacks on social spending.
But while the winning of a Labour government under working class pressure can bring some reforms and is an advance, it will not bring us a socialist society.
State power cannot be wrested away from the capitalist class through parliamentary elections. That would be the case even if the Labour Party was packed full of left wing MPs. A bourgeoise parliamentary system can only provide reforms within the framework of the capitalist society it is designed to uphold.
There can be no sitting back on the laurels of election victory. The real fight is still to come -- the struggle for the working class to hold the reins of state power, for revolution and not just reform.
We do not want bigger crumbs from the tables of the wealthy. We want the table set for everyone.
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The victorious rebel leader is expected to announce a new government at any moment. And the new state radio station Voice of Congo announced: "The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) has gained full control of the situation in Kinshasa."
Leaders of Kabila's alliance, the radio subsequently said, were "in consultation with political personalities, notably Etienne Tshisekedi", acknowledged to be the key opposition figure during Mobuto's reign.
Rebel Troops arrived at Kinshasa last Saturday -- home to five million people -- and restored order after defeated government soldiers had gone on a looting rampage. President Kabila initially remained in his Lubumbashi stronghold -- second city to Kinshasa.
Mobuto fled 24 hours earlier, closely followed by the Prime Minister Likulia Bolongo, putting an end to 32 years of dictatorship. But Mobuto's army chief General Mahele Lieko wasn't so lucky. His own troops killed him leavmg the elite 1,000-strong presidential guards leaderless.
Kabila ordered the remnants of Mobuto's army to give up their weapons at specified locations. He said soldiers surrendering would be "treated well". The radio broadcast said: "Mobuto has fled in exile. So are the generals. So who are you fighting for?" Kabila called for "all the forces" to be united around him to establish national unity and reconciliation.
Despite Kabila's repeatedly broadcast message that criminal acts in the city would be punished, it was nevertheless clear thats sense of release from years of poverty and hardship had led many to attack and loot the homes of the rich. Congolese poor have an average yearly income of $150, while the country is bursting with rich natural resources.
One Kabila official said that Mobuto's regime of brainwashing had to be broken. He said: "We must reawaken the population politically. This our first duty. The aim is to avoid the possibility in the future that any one man can confiscate power."
Financial advisor of the rebel alliance forces Mawampanga Mwana Nanga, reaffirmed their pledge to hold elections within a was "definitely" the case that the President had declared that it would take place "within 12 months".
Speaking of the transitional period to the election, the finance expert said political figures rather than parties would be represented in the interim administration to govern 47 million people.
International recognition for President Kabila's triumph has been swift. Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi announced at a public rally that his government would accept Kabila's mandate and Tanzania President Banjamin Mkapa declared his administration will co-operate with Kabila.
The Angolan government expects to establish formal state relations with the Republic of Congo, and is prepared for friendly relations of co-operation and development in mutual support to ensure a settled atmosphere of peace and stability in the region.
South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and other leaders met President Kabila as part of the long term efforts at a peaceful solution to the crisis. Mbeki said after talks: "It is important during this transitional period that the people should enjoy democratic rights and democratic freedom. The approach of the Alliance to this question", he said, "is indeed that. It is itself an alliance of democratic forces."
And in Egypt a foreign ministry official said in recognition of Kabila, that the "people have made the strongest efforts to realise the aspirations of African peoples for progress and prosperity." Iranian foreign ministry official Mahmoud Mohammadi hoped the new government would address the hardships the people had suffered under Mobuto.
The Organisation of African Unity's (OAU) Secretary-General Salim Ahmed Salim in a message said: "Mr Kabila and the AFDL have won the civil war and the challenge before them now is to win and consolidate the peace.
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THE HIGH point of the annual conference of the PTC civil service union, held in Blackpool last week, was when joint general secretary John Sheldon announccd the end of the ban on trade unions at the government intelligence establishment al GCHQ in Cheltenham.
He read out a fax message from Foreign Secretary Robin Cook confirming that it had been lifted.
Mr Sheldon shouted "Yes!" and punched his fist in the air. All the delegates rose to their feet and applauded for more than five minutes.
Then he added that the PTC would link up with the existing GCHQ staff federation.
But the GCHQ workers still have some way to go to full trade union rights because the government is insisting on a no-strike clause in the agreement -- and the union leadership is going along with this in order not to upset the new Labour government.
Other high points of the conference included the debate on the proposed merger with the Civil and Public Services Association. The right-wing dominated union leadership had sought to use the merger as a vehicle for a hidden agenda to downgrade the annual conference in its powers and to make it one every two years instead of an annual event. National Executive Committee elections were also to become biennial instead of annual.
The left of the union successfully moved a wide range of amendments to the proposed aims and conditions protecting the annual conference and maintaining its authority as the supreme power in the union.
The leadership continually argued that the changes were necessary to meet CPSA demands. But contact between the rank and file of both unions is already strong enough for delegates to refute that claim with confidence.
The CPSA is meeting this week, as we go to press and we know that the union's rank and file have tabled very similar motions to protect the annual conference and its powers. The decisions of the PTC conference will strengthen their hand.
In moving the final amended motion on the merger, John Sheldon complained that the amendments would make the merger more difficult and were in effect wrecking amendments.
Some broad left delegates voted against the merger altogether, but it was carried decisively.
Motion 188, which demanded a further delegate conference to consider the final draft of the rule book forthe merged union before the final vote on the merger, was also carried.
The other joint general secretary, Clive Brooke, was censured by conference for launching a private company giving tax advice, in competition with the Inland Revenue.
The censure motion called on him to wind up "Simpletax" and apologise to PTC members for "insensitive profiteering" -- at a time when members are subject to massive job cuts and was passed overwhelmingly.
Sheldon was unsuccessful in persuading conference to support the incorporation of the strike-breaking CMA "union" into the PTC.
The PTC leadership was also censured for suspending funds to its Defence Group during a dispute last year.
Motions calling for the restoration of national pay bargaining and critical of the public sector pay freeze were carried.
But a broad left motion calling for a £6-an-hour minimum wage and a reduction in working hours was rejected.
Other motions critical of the Private Finance Initiative and calling for the ending of downgrading and casualisation were carried.
Conference supported a call for the repeal of all anti-trade union legislation and the removal of market forces from the public sector and the return ofall privatised assets to Public ownership, despite opposition from the leadership.
A motion attacking the Job Seekers' Allowance and calling for a proper social security system was passed.
And the PTC agreed to affiliate to the Trade Union Friends of Searchlight --the anti-fascist magazine.
Dermot Hudson of the Inland Revenue South-West London valuation branch moved a motion calling for the union's withdrawal from the "Investing in people" scheme which was carried despite right-wing opposition.
At the Inland Revenue Group conference a motion censuring the Group Executive Committee for its conduct of the 1996 pay ballot was carried.
A call for industrial action over Valuation Office job cuts was supported. It was agreed to hold a special delegate conference in the autumn on tax self-assessment.
The atmosphere at conference was buoyant and optimistic after the general election defeat of the Tories. The leadership of the union was arguing that demands on the new Labour government should be muted to improve relations between the party and the unions.
But most delegates supported the view that: "If we can't demand a better deal now, we'll never be able to".
And cohesion within the union, merged just two years ago from the NUCPS and IRSF, was much greater and the conference conducted much more smoothly than last year.
The right-wing leadership had a tough conference and spent a lot of time on the defensive, as the rank and file came together to press left demands.
Currently prospects of a good merger with the CPSA -- and that with a more democratic consitution -- seem high but not guaranteed without a lot of struggle yet to come.
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FOLLOWING Prime Minister Tony Blair's speech last Wednesday and subsequent discussions with northern Irish party leaders, British officials met at Stormont in Belfast with Sinn Fein for the first time under the new Labour government.
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuiness said as talks began, that "there is a very strong desire to break the impasse". The talks proceed as we go to press.
And at an earlier press conference, foreign secretary Robin Cook echoed the government's position that Sinn Fein would be a part of the formal peace process if the IRA agree to a "credible ceasefire".
But West Belfast MP and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams responded by calling upon the British government to make this explicit. He said the British government "should state clearly that Sinn Fein will join the negotiations immediately following an unequivocal restoration of the IRA cessation of August 1994."
During a visit to the House of Commons on Monday, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said he wanted talks to be "innovative" and "imaginative."
He said: "We have had talks with the British government before and we have been over this ground in the past." But time is of the essence, and the Sinn Fein leader was anxious that all the issues should be laid out "fairly speedily".
And as far as president of Sinn Fein Gerry Adams was concerned, it was again the case that real progress will only succeed with commitment from all the parties involved.
He said: "We have a responsibility. So has Mr Blair. So have all the other political leaders. So have the Irish government. The first thing that is required are real and meaningful negotiations which deal with the substantive issues that surround the conflict in our country.
"We would like to think that the majority that Mr Blair has will empower him to play a leadership role, along with the Irish government in bringing that about."
As with so many bizarre acts conducted by the British state against Sinn Fein, so there was another spectacle as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness challenged the Speakers' ban which, imposed on Sinn Fein MPs, prevents them from taking their Parliamentary seats unless they swear the oath of allegiance to the queen.
The farcical contortions of what Gerry Adams called the "unilateral and arbitrary subversion of Parliamentary rules", led to their challenge of this latest "arrogant" and "anti-democratic" act.
Sinn Fein's leaders were eventually admitted to use the Commons' facilities but their passes were revoked at the end of the Queen's Speech.
Gerry Adams commented that Britain may once have ruled the waves, now it is reduced to waiving the rules." He said: "Even in terms of its own democracy, the British Parliament is prepared to subvert its own rules. Why can't they accept that the people of northern Ireland are prepared to vote for Sinn Fein?"
Indeed, launching their local election manifesto in Belfast and fielding 96 candidates, Sinn Fein's chairman Mitchell McLaughlin was confident that they would see a "continuing surge" in their support.
He said: "We will campaign for an end to discrimination, an end to repression and for the conditions for real peace through real negotiations and a future as equals."
With details unknown as we went to press, he pointed out that: "Nationalists came out in their greatest numbers ever at the Westminster elections two weeks ago. By coming out in a similar fashion on Wednesday and voting Sinn Fein in the same numbers, they will change the political map of the Six Counties forever.
On the eve of the Stormont meeting, it was announced that northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlam is to fly to Washington to update President Clinton on developments ahead of his scheduled visit to London at the end of May.
Co-Chair's of the Congressional Ad Hoc Committee for Irish affairs have requested that President Clinton make the Irish peace process number one priority.
Emphasising that the talks, which formally resume on 3 June, could be a "turning point in the quest for peace in Ireland", the co-chairs called on the President "to continue the US role of honest broker in the peace process."
They continued: "We believe that the President can provide the leadership needed to encourage an IRA ceasefire and the immediate start of all-party talks free of any preconditions."
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This warning was made last week at the annual conference of the Royal College of Nursing in Harrogate.
Conference was told that cutting these jobs would be a "tragic waste" because children often find school nurses the only person they can turn to when suffering depression or abuse.
The school nurses are employed community health trusts which hope to save hundreds of thousands of pounds by making them redundant.
The deprived inner city borough of Tower Hamlets is due to lose half its 30 school nurses and a similar prospect faces south Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdon and parts of Suffolk.
Delegate Sandra Rote, speaking in support of an emergency resolution, said that cutting school nurses is a false economy because they can prevent many long term behaviour and mental health problems.
"People have this image of Nitty Norah" she said, "but a lot of our work is helping teenagers with sex education and we can talk to them about depression, drug abuse, eating disorders and areas they can't discuss with parents or teachers."
Earlier in the week, new Health Secretary Frank Dobson warned the conference not to expect any generous pay deals from the new Labour government.
"We have to live within our means." he said.
But the union general secretary Christine Hancock warned Frank Dobson that low pay is leading to a shortage of nurses that is becoming one of the greatest threat to the NHS.
Frank Dobson did promise a return to national wage bargaining, new guidelines to stamp out violence against nurses, and improved recruitment.
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