The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 24th August 2007

Cuts hampered response to hotel blaze

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by our Arab Affairs correspondent

Shia militias
are targetting British military bases and the joint coordination centre in Basra as they vie for control of southern Iraq while the British expeditionary force pulls back to its base at the airport. The sprawling  presidential palace; Basra International Airport to the west; the joint coordination centre at the police headquarters at the centre of the city and some other British camps have all come under Katyusha rocket, mortar and small arms fire.

But the Army has dismissed claims by Muqtada al-Sadr that British troops were retreating from Iraq in defeat, and accused the radical Shia cleric and his followers of trying to “create the false impression that they were driving us out” – claims that the leader of the Mahdi Army now says he never made.

In an interview with the Independent, Al Sadr reportedly said: “The British have given up and know they will be leaving Iraq soon. They are retreating because of the resistance they have faced. Without that they would have stayed for much longer, there is no doubt.”

But Sheikh Ahmed al-Shibani, the official spokesman for Al Sadr’s office in Najaf, denied that Al Sadr had ever spoken to the British daily.

“The interview published by the paper was fabricated and groundless. His Eminence has never granted this paper any interviews,” Shibani said. “We will sue any newspaper, TV station or web site that publishes fabricated news about His Eminence Muqtada al-Sadr or his office,” Shibani declared.


No British casualties have been reported this week but the turf war between the supporters of maverick Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr and pro-American Shia “Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council” is clearly intensifying. The puppet governor of the southern Al Muthanna province was killed in the provincial capital, Samawah, when his motorcade was bombed last Monday. The governor of al Diwaniyah province, half way between Basra and Baghdad, was killed in a similar roadside bomb attack last week.

Back in the capital tens of thousands of Sadr supporters took to the streets on Monday to vent their anger at the American forces’ savage raids on Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold in the Baghdad slums. 

The demonstration began in the early morning. Holding Iraqi flags, posters condemning the presence of occupiers and pictures of martyred Iraqi civilians, protesters chanted slogans against American imperialism, the Zionist regime and all the occupiers. They condemned the US attacks, which included air raids by the American forces on the Shia neighbourhood. The protest was the greatest popular demonstration in Baghdad in the last two months.

The Americans are increasingly turning to their air power to try and crush what is increasingly looking like a national uprising against the imperialist occupation. And while they have total air superiority they are paying a heavy price for it. Fourteen US soldiers were killed when their helicopter gunship went down in northern Iraq on Wednesday.

The Americans claim that the Black Hawk helicopter, carrying 10 soldiers and four crew members, crashed because of a “mechanical malfunction” but the resistance media say it was due to heavy ground fire. The Americans have lost 107 helicopters since the war began in March 2003. They admit that 42 were shot down by the resistance. Eighteen fixed-wing aircraft have also been lost over the same period.

fuelled by US

Meanwhile representatives of Iraq’s Shia and Sunni Muslim communities will meet in Finland next week in an attempt to end the sectarian bloodshed that many believe is fuelled by US imperialism as part of a plan to partition the country into three weak, sectarian statelets.

The main sponsor of the conference is the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), a non-profit crisis mediation organisation founded and headed by former Finnish social-democratic president Martti Ahtisaari in 2000. Ahtisaari has been involved in a number of international mediation efforts and he is currently the UN’s special envoy for Kosovo.

The Finnish government has been supporting the CMI in organising the conference but it will not be involved in the talks and Ahtisaari will not be attending the meeting. Nor have the participants’ names been revealed though the CMI says  that “ key influential figures” are expected to attend.

Finland, together with neighbouring Norway and Sweden, refused to support the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003.


The class struggle is not a tea party

THE WEALTH GAP in Britain is now widening so much that the mass media are no longer pretending that the class system is just history. In 1997 New Labour came to power promising to close that gap. Prime Minister Gordon Brown in his former role as Chancellor pledged to end child poverty within a few years. Ten years have gone and the gap has grown significantly.

 According to figures released a few weeks ago by the Joseph Rowntree Trust the highest one per cent of earners’ share of the national income is up by three per cent and the top one thousandth are now as far above the rest of us as they were in 1937. The proportion of Britain’s wealth held by the richest 10 per cent has risen from 47 per cent to 54 per cent over the last 10 years, while child poverty – both absolute and relative – is rising.

 And it’s going to get worse; wage growth has fallen to its lowest rate for four years while retail inflation has been rising. Working hours are increasing but workers are not getting much benefit from the overtime pay because it is all going to pay off debts – mortgages, credit cards and bank loans.

 Mortgage interest rates have been rising, forcing many home-buyers to resort to using their credit cards to but the weekly food shopping.

 Housing costs, especially in London, are so high that young low paid workers, many of them immigrants, are forced into desperate measures. Houses are let and sub let to large numbers with overcrowding and “hot-bedding” on the rise. A new phenomenon of renting out sofas as a sleeping place at about £50 a week is catching on in the capital. The young workers use the sofas only for sleeping, eat all their meals in small restaurants and the little leisure and recreation they have is spent on the streets, in cafés and in bars.

 Last week’s exam results revealed a marked difference in pass rates between those who attended comprehensive schools and those who attended private or selective schools – more evidence of the widening class divide. The wealthy can expect to live around 10 to 12 years longer than the poor.

 The Government continually claims to be tackling the problem but it continues to grow. That is because it is the ruling class agenda to become richer and richer – whatever party is sitting on the front benches in the Palace of Westminster.

 Only one force has the strength and the will to stop them and that is the organised working class – the trade unions and the labour movement. But in Britain this force has been seriously weakened ever since the defeat of the miners’ strike and the passing of the Tory anti-union laws. Furthermore the morale and confidence of the class to fight for its own interests has been undermined by poverty trap benefits – benefits paid to low paid workers which are cut when they get a pay rise – by rising debt levels and internationally by the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 It is no use for the working class to expect the ruling class to change this situation out of the goodness of its heart – it has none. Whether we feel we have the stomach for it or not, we must get up off our knees and fight back; there is no alternative. We must demand our union leaders use their latent power and stop having polite cups of tea with the bosses.

 We must remember the days of proper all-out strikes that really did bring bosses to their knees, when the best union leaders were honoured by being vilified in the furious ruling class press. We must remember that the wealth gap was at its smallest when trade unions were strongest. But we must also remember that the political struggle for working class power is even more important than the purely economic struggle.

 Perhaps we should remember a quote from Mao Zedong: “A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

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