The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 2nd April, 1999

Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.

Editorial - End NATO's war.
Lead Story - Halt NATO's Balkan war.
Feature - Worker's rights threatened.
International - Irish peace talks on the brink.
British News - 12 million trapped in poverty.


End NATO's war

 MILITARY experts, Politicians and other so-called experts are putting forward many different versions of the aims of Nato's murderous war against Yugoslavia.

 Despite the fact that Kosovo has been a part of historic Serbia, they arrogantly talk of: The partitioning of Kosovo; the introduction of Nato ground troops; even more devastating bombing raids; the setting up of a separate state of Kosovo; a Nato protectorate for Kosovo and some think the whole war is utter folly and extremely dangerous.

 Either the leaders of Nato have no idea what they are doing or the United States has not yet passed on the next page of the hymn sheet to its coat-tailing allies.

 What is abundantly clear is that the original stated aim of the war -- to help the Kosovan Albanians -- has only succeeded in bringing terrible suffering to all the people of Yugoslavia, including those living in Kosovo. The relentless air attacks of the past week have benefited no one -- except, of course, the leading weapons manufacturers in the US.

 The air raids have been followed by a stream of refugees. It is not surprising that the devastation of night-upon-night and now round-the-clock bombing should lead to widespread homelessness and fear. Yet, this obvious fact is being denied by western propagandists who want to put all the blame on the Belgrade government in order to justify even further attacks.

 Of course, it is undoubtedly true that fighting is taking place in Kosovo between Yugoslav forces and the Western-backed Kosovan Liberation Army. And since the KLA has been encouraged and armed by the Western powers it is reasonable for the Yugoslav government to regard the KLA as de facto Nato ground troops.

 The prostitutes of the capitalist media have maintained a daily barrage of horror stories from Kosovo. They relate harrowing stories of Kosovan men being shot by Yugoslav troops -- there is no suggestion that many of these men were almost certainly KLA fighters or that the KLA has been operating from Kosovan villages and effectively using the Kosovan people as human shields.

 Nor do we hear of the Serbian victims of the KLA or indeed the Kosovans killed by the KLA because they do not support the separatist cause.

 And what of the wider implications of this war? Is it now part of Nato's remit to intervene wherever it chooses in separatist struggles by taking military action against sovereign states on behalf of minorities seeking to break away?

 This appalling development, which must be vigorously challenged, exposes Nato for what it is and what it has always been -- the military arm of western capitalism. Fifty years ago when Nato was founded this meant being the launch pad of the Cold War. Today it means waging war on behalf of western big business and in pursuit of US imperialism's strategic and political aims.

 One thing is certain -- Nato's war has nothing to do with humanitarian concerns. If that was the case the longstanding suffering of the dispossessed Palestinians would be of concern... The treatment of the Kurds in Turkey would be of concern.

 And who are the leading forces of Nato to sit in moral judgement anyway?

 Was it not the US that drowned Vietnam in Napalm and Agent Orange, who backed Pinochet in Chile and the Contras in central America, who supported Ferdinand Marcos, Suharto and the Shah of Iran? Was it not the Western powers who bombed Baghdad, imposed sanctions on country after country? Was it not the US who invaded Panama, Grenada and Somalia and waged war on the people of Korea, Vietnam and Laos? And was it not the US who first developed and used the atomic bomb?

 Millions of people around the world are not impressed by these credentials and are demonstrating against this barbarous war on Yugoslavia.

 There is such widespread international opposition to Nato's murderous war that the United States and its British lackeys didn't even try to get approval from the United Nations. They knew they would be rebuffed by the General Assembly and they knew they'd come up against opposition on the Security Council.

 And so the UN, which was the favoured vehicle for imperialist bullying in the years immediately following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, has been pushed aside -- Nato is now the main means of big power aggression and war.

 There is even disquiet within the Nato alliance -- both Greece and Italy have expressed concern at the bombing of a sovereign state which has not threatened any other country.

 We need to step up the pressure on our own government to end this war now -- join the protests, NO TO NATO MURDER! STOP THE WAR!

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Lead Story

Halt NATO's Balkan war

by Andy Brooks
 NATO LEADERS have ordered all-out bombing of Yugoslavia as the war in the Balkans enters its second week. Russian premier Yevgeny Primakov has returned to Moscow empty-handed after the West spurned his mediation efforts. And Yugoslavia remains defiant in the face of waves of missile attacks and air-raids by the US air-force and the RAF.

 Nato generals now admit that they've failed to smash the Yugoslav defences. Western politicians now talk of the need for a ground invasion. Russia has ordered part of its Black Sea Fleet back into the Eastern Mediterranean and all over the world there are growing protests at imperialism's new war in Europe.

 In Yugoslavia the people are rallying behind their leadership defying the bombing to demonstrate their defiance in Belgrade and their solidarity with the armed forces defending their skies and their independence.

 Yugoslav air-defence units claim to have downed seven Western warplanes and three helicopters. The Americans admit only to the loss of one of their Stealth fighters -- and then only after the wreckage was shown to the media.

 In the Yugoslav province of Kosovo the federal army has gone on the offensive routing the Nato auxiliaries of the "Kosovo Liberation Army". And there, thousands of civilians are fleeing to safety in Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

 Russian and Chinese calls for a cease-fire at the UN Security Council were blocked by America, Britain, France and their allies. And hopes for an early end to the war were dashed this week when Russian premier Yevgeny Primakov was given the brush-off in Bonn when he tabled Yugoslav peace feelers to the German leadership and the rest of the Atlantic Alliance.

 Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevich told the Russians that he was ready to reduce the number of troops in Kosovo in return for an end to the bombing, the evacuation of the Nato force in Macedonia and the end to Nato support to the Kosovan rebels. "We are ready to defend our country to the very end," Milosevich warned. "It is not the first time Yugoslavia has had to defend itself and its right to sovereignty, territorial integrity and national pride,".

 The West's answer was to step up the bombing which the Russians say has claimed over a thousand lives already, dismissing the Yugoslav offer as falling "far short of what must be done" to end the fighting.
 In Washington President Clinton seems determined to escalate with the slavish backing of Tony Blair and the Germans. But fear of a widening regional war is stretching the loyalty of some of America's other allies. Greece is calling for negotiations and Italy's communist bloc in parliament is threatening to pull the rug from under the Democratic Left coalition unless the government moves to try and stop the bombing.

 But only mass pressure from the peace movement in Europe and across the world can stop the Balkan war. In Britain some Labour MPs including the veteran Tony Benn and George Galloway are speaking out. Labour peer, Hugh Jenkins, resigned the Labour Whip in the Lords in protest at what he called the "criminal barbarity" of the bombing.

 Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond broke the ruling class consensus in a television address when he condemned the bombing as counter-productive, and said it was an action of dubious legality and "unpardonable folly ". And even some Tories are breaking ranks to speak out against the madness.

 More and more people in Britain must be speak out against the war. It can and must he stopped.

  Join the 24-hour picket outside Downing St. Mass pickets every night from 6.00 -- 7.30pm

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Worker's rights threatened
by Caroline Colebrook
THIS THURSDAY 1 April the minimum wage legislation came into force but even before it did, the government was considering a bitter April fool's joke -- new measures to withdraw its protection from millions of workers employed by small firms.

 The implementation was accompanied by a barrage of scaremongering articles in the capitalist press claiming the minimum wage would cost up to 80,000 jobs throughout Britain.

 The proposals being considered by the government also include removing unfair dismissal rights from small company employees and cutting the maximum compensation from £50,000 to £10,000.

 They are also thinking of curbing workers' access rights to industrial tribunals and removing small firms from the working time legislation as well as the minimum wage.

 This could affect around five million employees of firms with fewer than 20 workers.

 The protection given in the Fairness at Work legislation against unfair dismissal during a legal strike has already been cut to just four weeks.

 TUC general secretary John Monks has written to Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers calling for assurances that none of these "alarming" changes will be implemented.

 He said the measures were "totally unacceptable" and "a licence to exploit". He said the measures would "favour the worst employers who would undercut the better ones".

 A recent survey found that more than two million workers should get a pay rise from Thursday up to £3.60 an hour for adults and £3.00 for those under 22.

 The lowest paid include hotel staff, care workers, waiters, hairdressers, bar staff, cleaners, homeworkers and piece-rate workers.
A very high proportion of these work for small firms of the kind that the government is thinking of exempting from the legislation.

 Already there are big loopholes. For example, the £3.60 an hour will include money given as tips and shared out through the payroll and bonus pay.

left out

 It exempts au-pairs, anyone in the fist year of an apprenticeship, students on sandwich courses, the self-employed and those in the armed forces.

 This will encourage unscrupulous bosses to change the status of workers to self-employed, to whom they will sub-contract the work or employ on a daily contract basis. Such workers have no protection from any legislation.

This is why government legislation is no substitute for sound trade union organisation to exert the workers' own collective power.

 The one thing the legislation does do is to give every low paid worker more reason to join their appropriate union and use its strength to prevent bosses exploiting loopholes.

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Irish peace talks on the brink
by Steve Lawton
WHEN Republicans commemorate the 1916 Easter Rising in two days time, the outcome of crucial talks at Stormont and Hillsborough Castle, Belfast to bring the Good Friday Agreement into force, will surely be clear if there is no adjournment.

 Discussions involving all parties to the agreement -- unionist, nationalist and republican, the Irish and British governments were focusing intently on resolving the long running principle unionist demand that the IRA hand over their weapons before Sinn Fein is given ministerial power.

 Sinn Fein chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said they were "frustrated" Tuesday night that this decommissioning block was still being maintained by leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) David Trimble. He hoped, speaking on Radio Four's Today programme the following morning as he arrived at the talks, that the thread would be picked up.

 Sinn Fein had, he said, "presented an idea of partnership" on a "range of outstanding issues" between Sinn Fein, the UUP and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). On Wednesaday morning the Irish Republican Army issued a statement. Restating its commitment to a united Ireland, it declared: "The IRA wants to see a permanent peace in this country."

 While pointing out that the history of conflict lay with British involcement, it explained that it had maintained two "prolonged cessations of military operations".

 The IRA had "contributed in a real and meaningful way to the creation of a climate facilitating the search fora durable peace settlement IRA guns are silent." That point has been noted, since no referrence was made this time to decommissioning.

 By tea time both British and Irish Premiers suggested the essentials of a plan was in place, Bertie Ahern argued that dates and timing were the issue. Trimble's rhetoric was more subdued despite sticking to the "letter" of his position on decommissioning.

 The fact that this is a single if highly volatile obstacle is a far cry from the tough and often touch-and-go process to reach agreement in the first place.

 And once over 70 per cent of referendum votes in the north and south of Ireland were cast in favour of its implementation, it seemed that the underlying shift for change from both nationalists and unionists was underway, despite serious problems that will remain for sometime yet.

 The elections to the shadow Northern Ireland Assembly confirmed the popular mandate nationalists have to be represented in the Assembly. And behind all the manoeuvring, in the working class communities -- Catholic and Protestant -- jobs are a basic motive for change.

 The two Sinn Fein positions on the Executive -- which are expected to be taken up by its president Gerry Adams MP and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP -- were not arrived at with preconditions either in the Agreement or in the elections to the Assembly.

 The backcloth of daily terror meted out to Catholics and nationalists, the worst yet being the murder of solicitor Rosemary Nelson, is so endemic that this "way of life" has to be eradicated for there to be any meaningful progress. The fully constituted Assembly is a political means to press that need.

 BBC news Wednesday morning interviewed Sinn Fein councillor James McCarry who, with his family, were luckily physically unscathed by an explosive device thrown through his front room window last Monday.

 Sinn Fein councillor John O'Dowd, in whose ward Rosemary Nelson lived, was insistent: "People are asking, why is there only debate about the silent guns? Republican guns are silent. We're being told to go back and renegotiate something that's already been voted upon."

 And the IRA have just given a clear indication of their intent by revealing the whereabouts of nine victims of earlier IRA actions. While, in the Bloody Sunday inquiry, controversy has arisen over one ot those shot in the 1972 British Army killing of 14 civil rights marchers.

 According to forensic scientists from Britain, the US, Switzerland and Canada, Jim Wray was shot point blank at least twice while already wounded face down on the ground. His family solicitor is calling for a "murder charge".

 * A draft resolution by the human rights sub-committee of the United States House of Representatives, which specifically opposes RUC involvement in the inquiry into Rosemary Nelson's death, is go through the International Affairs Committee (IAC) before being voted upon in the House.

 It is thought the State Department is trying to undermine it. IAC chairperson Ben Gilman said he viewed the RUC's involvement as "problematic and deeply disturbing".

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British News

12 million trapped in poverty
by Daphne Liddle
 ALMOST one quarter of the population of Britain and two out of every five children are living in poverty according an official Treasury report published last Tuesday.

 The report, entitled Tackling Poverty and Extending Opportunity, was the result of six months research by the government's Social Exclusion Unit.

 Poverty is defined as living in a household with less than half of average earnings.

 The report showed that 15 per cent of families can be toppled into poverty just by having a child.

 It showed that most of those born into poverty are likely to remain poor all their lives and that poverty goes from generation to generation with little chance of escape.

 Fewer than 20 per cent of men in the bottom fifth of the earnings distribution for their age group at 25 progress into the top half by the time they are 40.

 The report shows that the number of people living in poverty has tripled since 1979.

 The government believes that employment is the route to escape the poverty trap.

 Single parent families, the disabled and the unemployed over 50 feature highly in the poverty statistics. So the government is planning to further pile on the pressure to force these people into work.

 One the same day the report was launched, disabled people were demonstrating outside Parliament over the Welfare Reform Bill which includes cuts of £750 million in disability benefits.

 The measures will also put pressure on hard-pressed carers to find work as well as juggle the care of their disabled relatives.

 One women complained: "One moment carers are the nation's heroes, saving the government millions in nursing care costs. The next minute we are scroungers and have got to get another job as well as the one we're doing unpaid now."

 The main problem is of course that there just isn't much work and a big recession is on the way. In the first quarter of this year more than 11,000 companies have gone bankrupt, nearly 2,000 more than in the same period last year.

 This is a strong signal that the economy is slowing down. The government's plans do not address this. They plan to make the disabled and single parents even poorer by attacking their benefits in an attempt to force them into low-paid burger-bar type jobs.

 The sort of wages and the sort of job security given by such jobs are no escape from the poverty trap. Even if they can get a job, these people will still need benefits paid on top of their wages to bring them up to minimum living standards.

 And of course the levels of affordable childcare provision that would enable single parents to seek work are not in place.

 The report talks about children "learning to be poor" and becoming resigned to it, as though it were some fault of the mentality of the poor that the jobs with decent wages and conditions are just not there.

 The report also blames "Third world competition" in low skilled jobs.

 In other words the problem -- as we have said before -- is the capitalist system that plays off one lot of poor workers against another in order to exploit both more profitably.

 The answer is not cutting benefits, wringing hands, but socialism.

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