The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 25th May 2001

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Editorial - True colours.
Lead Story -Syria on red alert.
Feature - Burford remembers Leveller executions.
International - Jaruzelski trial splutters.
British News - Europe-wide solidarity among M&S workers.

Editorial

True colours

THE Tories are continuing to trail behind Labour in the opinion polls and can only console their supporters by saying the polls might be wrong. Of course the polls could be wrong. But even allowing for quite sizeable margins of error the picture still looks bleak for Hague.

 Perhaps it was a growing sense of desperation in the Tory camp that led to the sudden appearance of Thatcher on William Hague's platform last week. If so it was a rotten idea from their point of view and one which won't do their party any good.

 Indeed, since Thatcher used the occasion to drive a coach and horses through the fragile, stitched-together Tory policy on the single European currency by saying she would never agree to joining the Euro, the performance will certainly open-up the division in Tory ranks and push pro-Euro Tories into voting Lib-Dem or Labour.

 At the same time Thatcher's remarks will not attract the votes of those on the left who oppose Britain joining the Euro. Thatcher, Hague and the rest of the old Bruges Group reactionaries do not share our concerns about the capitalist nature of the European state nor the effects it has, and increasingly will have, upon the working class people of Europe.

 They represent a section of the ruling class with financial interests largely based in the United States rather than Europe along with right-wing nationalist and xenophobic elements and those unable to come to terms with the loss of Britain's empire.

 This Euro-sceptic wing of the Tory party has a difference of opinion with the pro-European Tories over what they think is the best path for the British capitalist class. And that, by the very nature of capitalism, has to be at the expense of labour whether we end up being paid in Euros, dollars or pounds.

 The New Communist Party wants to see the return of a Labour government on 7 June. But we certainly do not support everything Tony Blair and the current Labour Party leadership says and does. That is why it will also be our policy to campaign for a NO vote in any post election referendum on Britain's entry to the single currency.

 Thatcher's return to the stage was obviously intended to stir memories of past victories in order to rally the Tory faithful. But the mere sight of the blue suit and handbag also puts Hague on very shaky ground with the electorate at large since the Labour landslide in 1997 was essentially based on a widespread desire to get rid of the Tories and to end the years of Thatcher and Major.

 Hague's public pat on the back by Thatcher reminds everyone that William Hague is a protege of Thatcher and a close political ally. It will serve to stir many complacent Labour supporters into voting as the bad memories come flooding back -- the unforgivable callousness that led to the deaths of Bobby Sands and the Irish Hunger Strikers, the ruthless treatment of the miners, the sinking of the Belgrano, the anti-union laws and Tory politicians telling pensioners to wear extra woolies in the cold weather. All this and more comes to mind.

 There can be no doubt that it is in the interests of the working class to keep the Tories out -- not just in this election but permanently. And there is only one way to ensure that this happens -- to vote Labour, the only party that can form a govemment.

 Next to winning, the Tories want to cut Labour's majority right down so as to provide themselves with a springboard for future elections. With this in mind the Tories will be hoping that as many potential Labour votes as possible go astray. They will welcome the socialist protest votes and abstainers. They will be hoping for confusion on the left and disunity at the ballot box.

 Our Party has no illusions about bourgeois elections nor the right-wing social democrats around Blair. But we do maintain that the working class is best served by electing the only party that is linked to the trade unions and which is capable of taking office. Vote Labour!

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Lead Story

Syria on red alert

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent

SYRIAN FORCES are on a state of alert following the worst week of Israeli violence since the current Palestinian uprising began last year. And Palestinian leaders dismissed Tel Aviv's offer of a "cease-fire" as a trick to avoid meeting the minimum demands of the Mitchell commission.

 Gun-battles are raging across occupied Palestine this week following the devastating resistance bombing of the Israeli port of Netanya and Israeli air-force reprisal raids on Palestinian towns.

 Israeli premier General Sharon has called for a "truce" in response to the report made by the US-led Mitchell commission. But by ruling out a freeze on all further Zionist settlement on stolen Arab land - a key point in the Mitchell report -- he made the gesture meaningless.

 The Palestinians have accepted all the points made by commission headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.

 "We welcome the recommendations of the Mitchell report and we are willing to enforce it," Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator said on Monday.

 But by ruling out a settlement freeze and giving the green light to the further expansion of Zionist settlements Sharon has shown that all he's interested in is confrontation and war.

 In Damascus the armed forces are on alert following intelligence reports that Israel plans to launch a major strike against Syria and Lebanon. The Syrian government, according to the Gulf media, has made it clear that should this happen, Syria would strike back by rocketing Israeli cities including Tel Aviv.

Playing with fire

 This was stressed by the leader of the Lebanese Islamic resistance on Monday when he vowed to continue the fight to liberate the last area of Lebanon still occupied by Israel.

 "Threatening to attack Syrian targets and launch war will not scare the Syrian leadership," Hassan Nasrallah. the leader of Hezbullah (Party of God), dedared. "If Israelis are betting on scaring Syrian President Bashar al-Assad they are gambling and playing with fire." he said adding that "neither Syria nor its armed forces will accept insult or humiliation".

 The Hezbullah leader said his militia would fight on to drive the Zionists out of the Shebaa Farms, a 200-square-km area along the frontier still in Israeli hands.

 "We are running out of patience in the face of continued Israeli attacks on our national dignity. When we decide to punish the enemy for those crimes, no-one should blame us," he warned.

 And according to a report in a Kuwaiti daily, the resistance has already struck in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights hitting a Zionist cafe and causing many casualties.

 The Golan front has been quiet for many years as Syria strove for a negotiated settlement.

 No-one knows who carried out this attack or whether it heraids the beginning of a new campaign. But when Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al Shara was asked to comment he enigmatically replied "I cannot say it is the beginning but the rules of the game cannot be imposed by Israel".

 All the Arabs are rallying behind the Palestinians. Even the usually toothless Arab League agreed to call on its members to cut all political links with the Zionist entity - a move which applies mainly to Egypt and Jordan.

 Egypt, which signed a surrender peace with the Zionists in the 70s, now finds it difficult to defend. On Monday Egyptian MPs observed a minute's silence in honour of the Palestinian victims of Zionist atrocities.

 Egypt's leading paper Al-Ahram denounced Sharon this week. His government "does not seek a settlement but a death certificate for peace in the Middie East" it declared. The editorial added that ifthe Americans failed to make Israel implement the Mitchell proposals it would be responsible for "blowing up the peace process and for setting the entire region ablaze".

 Arab trade unions are calling for immediate international action to curb Israel and Radio Damascus, the voice ofthe Syrian government, pronounced the whole "peace process" dead and called on the Arabs to unite to confront Israeli threats and challenges.

China condemns Israel

 Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is bound for Moscow to try and get concrete Russian backing for his efforts to halt Zionist oppression. And People's China has called on the international community to take joint action to stop the spread of conflicts between Israel and Palestine to ease tension in the Middle East.

 Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said China was seriously concerned about the escalation of violence. China opposes terrorist and violent activities in any form and condemns Israel for its abusive use of force, which has resulted in major Palestinian casualties and material losses.

 The conflicts gravely threaten peace and stability in the region and China calls on Israel and Palestine to cherish the hard-won achievements on previous peace talks and resume the talks as soon as possible.

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Feature

Burford remembers Leveller executions

by Alex Kempshall

OVER a thousand people marched, under the slogan "Equality -- The Awkward Ideal", through the town of Burford, Oxfordshire, on Saturday 19th May to remember the anniversary of the execution of three of Cromwell's soldiers in Burford Churchyard in 1649.

 The three soldiers were part of the Levellers' movement that had given rise to a programme called The Agreement of the People and who demanded that there should be no further arrears of pay and that there should be a new Parliament. The most active body of Levellers was contacted at Burford by troops from London, loyal to Cromwell.

 Treacherously betrayed, the Levellers in Burford were surprised in the middle of the night and overwhelmed by superior numbers. The Levellers were confined in the church and three of their number executed against the church wall.

 Before the march, the rally which was chaired by Liz Davies -- was addressed by Jean Lambert (Green MEP), Frances Stewart (Professor of International Development, University of Oxford) and Tony Benn MP.

 Professor Frances Stewart, reflecting the slogan of the rally, said that global inequality is huge and worsening. To put it in perspective, she gave a number of examples:

 * The assets of the three richest people in the world are greater than all of the assets of the 49 least developed countries;

 * the assets of the two hundred richest people in the world are greater than 40 per cent of the combined income of all the people in the world;

 * an annual contribution of one per cent of the wealth of the richest 200 people would pay for primary education for all the world;

 * and the world food supply is enough to feed everybody on the planet if it was redistributed from those who have too much to those who have not enough.

 Pointing out that globalisation is making matters worse, Professor Stewart said that commodity prices in Africa had deteriorated so sharply over the last twenty years that the drop in prices had negated all the benefits that had been derived from all the aid given.

 She added that ever since the richest countries had agreed a target of 0.7 per cent foreign aid contribution, it had actually declined, with the average now standing at 0.3 per cent.

 Britain is one of the exceptions, where aid had actually increased, in a part due to the Labour Government. But the US - the worlds richest country - contributed just O.1 per cent of GDP.

 The Professor also warned that inequality is increasing in the richest countries where the wage levels of the unskilled or low-skilled workers are being eroded, whilst the incomes of the rich are increasing.

 This is occurring both through the actions of the multinationals and by the erosion of progressive taxation where taxes are being switched away from capital and onto workers.

 Professor Stewart pointed out that even though in most countries inequality is getting worse, on a global scale this is being offset by China, the most populous country in the world, where the distribution of wealth is more equal.

 She said from a global perspective the world doesn't have a mechanism for correcting inequality at a world level. To address this the Professor demanded that the institutions at a world level - the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - be democratised.

 Such a demand, the Professor said, linked the rally to the Levellers. While in 1649 they recognised the need for democracy in England, today we have to recognise the need for democracy at the global level, she said.

 Continuing on this theme, Tony Benn explained that democracy didn't really develop until people started organising: First there were the Tolpuddle Martyrs demanding trade union rights, then the Chartists, followed later by the Suffragettes who demanded equal rights.

 These struggles led to the social and political consequences of political democracy in which working people, he said. "could buy with our votes those things we could not afford individually", and which was the foundation of the "welfare state".

 He warned that the "welfare state" is in danger of being dismantled at the behest of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is seeking to privatise health and education because the budgets in these two areas are so enormous that if the multinational companies could get their hands on them they could enrich themselves enormously, but this would be at the expense of working people.

 He highlighted the current attacks on comprehensive education are a result ofthe establishment wanting to keep the working class uneducated, and not to think or to question their lot.

 Developing the call by Professor Stewart, Tony Benn emphasised that members to be elected to the United Nations should, in turn, elect the Security Council. Its international policy, he said, should be to control the multinationals, the WTO and the IMF.

 In conclusion, Tony Benn called upon people to get together after the general election - whomever they voted for - to fight against 'star wars', privatisation, for pensions linked to wages, for peace and justice and to do it together and internationally.

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International

Jaruzelski trial splutters

by Steve Lawton

GENERAL Wojciech Jaruzelski, now 78, has been put on trial in Warsaw for manslaughter, after years of threats and hounding, for allegedly ordering the shooting of 44 workers during anti-government strikes at three Baltic shipyards, including Gdansk, in December 1970. He had been defence minister for two years and Wladyslaw Gomulka was then Poland's leader.

 The background to this latest bating of former communist leaders, which includes eight senior military, political and police officials, is clear.

 At first, as eastern European socialist states fell, the Western-backed push was to make an example of them to discredit socialism, not only as a reality broken in their own countries, but as a warning to other socialist countries that their days were numbered. It was also an indirect incitement to overthrow communist party leadership in other countries.

 Erich Honecker, German Democratic Republic leader, along with many leading communists who had already suffered incarceration at the hands of the Nazis, were put on trial and he was forced into exile in Chile.

 Todor Zhivkov, the Bulgarian leader, was put under house arrest. Nicolae Ceasescu, president of Romania, was scandalously murdered without even the semblance of a trial. Many others, apart from those who had already sold out and made a smooth transition to lead a much diminished Azerbaijan or Kazakhstan, were meted out with various prison terms.

 Today, like Honecker (who has since passed away), Jaruzelski's health is declining, and his trial comes at the time that Yugoslavia's former leader Slobodan Milosovich has also to face so-called war crimes charges. And to arrive at that state of affairs, internal dissent has been encouraged and financed from the West.

 There is a persistent pattern in this. Imperialism is determined that no vestige of socialism is allowed to remain and they do not want any living reminders that things weren't as bad as they have been made out to be before the suicidal rush to capitalist markets. And where there were problems of development, capitalism has shown it is incapable of addressing it.

 The grass didn't turn out to be greener in the West, it was full of mines for millions in eastern European countries that have been gradually sucked into the Euro fold - unemployment, low wages, long hours, plagued by neo-Nazism, the vice trade, few rights, social and economic collapse, all capped by regional instability claiming untold lives.

 One of the three shipyards, Gdansk, is the so-called birthplace of the reactionary 'trade union' Solidarity. The strike in 1970 was supposedly in protest at price rises, food shortages and bad housing. Lech Walesa emerged from these events as leader. Yet today, what's left of Gdansk's workforce has led them to attack their former idol for losing thousands of their jobs amid a boom only for the newly rich.

 According to the New York Times, Jaruzelski's lawyers consider the charges "legal nonsense". They argued when he went through the preliminaries last week, that the decision to fire was taken by subordinates.

 Jaruzelski has long denied culpability, and has insisted that he would stand trial for the 1981 imposition of martial law, which he continues to defend. That decision was taken to protect the country from threatened destruction by Solidarity-led reaction.

 But it is the resurgence of left political forces in Poland that is really behind the trial, which will emerge in the forthcoming elections later this year where the Democratic Left is threatening the power of the reactionary anti-communist coalition of forces led by what's left of the Solidarity movement.

 And Jaruzelski has support. Former General Henryk Adamowicz said: "He saved Poland from a bloody cataclysm that could have ended up worse for everyone." Co-accused, General Tadeusz Tuczapski told the New York Times that charges were "absurd" because none gave any direct orders to shoot. "A trial is needed to show how the army really behaved, but now it is just intended to discredit communism," he concluded.

 According to the most recent polls, the majority of Polish people disagree with putting Jaruzelski on trial for the 1970 killings.

 Diehard reactionaries want the trial to deliver a message to communist leaders elsewhere in the world, but the trial itself has already begun to hit obstacles.

 Jaruzelski's two lawyers have just ceased to represent him. One on the grounds of old age, another apparently overwhelmed by the way the past, was being relived. It may be months before that is rectified. There will then be thousands of witnesses and testimony to deal with and Jaruzelski may not see it through.

 The whole escapade will serve to show, yet again, that a heavy price is always paid with the destruction of socialism and that socialism, wherever it takes root, is always under threat. The defence of socialism is therefore paramount as imperialism turns up the heat.

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British News

Europe-wide solidarity among M&S workers

by Renee Sams

THOUSANDS of French workers brought London's Baker Street and Oxford Street to a standstill last week as they marched past Marks and Spencer's headquarters and two of the company's biggest stores.

 They were demonstrating their anger over the contemptuous way they have been treated. They hissed and shouted "Shame!" as they passed the M&S head offices and their flagship stores.

 A large police presence cordoned off the entrances.

 TUC general secretary John Monks and GMB secretary John Edmonds braved the weather and joined the march, along with banners from the public sector union Unison, the GMB, MSF and TGWU general unions, the GPMU print union and the shopworkers' union Usdaw.

 All were united in expressing their solidarity with the French trade unionists.

 Despite cold wind and continuous rain, marchers from the threatened stores in France were joined by contingents from Belgium, Holland and Spain where stores are also under threat.

 They were all in good spirits and delighted to meet English workers.

 The decision of M&S to close stores in France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Germany and Portugal without any discussion with the unions or workforce has aroused concern, not only among workers throughout Europe but also in the trade union movement here.

 John Monks expressed his fear that this is an attempt by M&S to take British "easy hire and fire" rules to the continent and he demanded the withdrawal of the closure plans.

 He also commented on the way that M&S has shifted its clothing production overseas "causing the loss of thousands of British textile jobs".

 In 1998 M&S made record profits of over £l billion and the shops were renowned for their good quality garments.

 But, fearing a downward trend in profit which would not please the shareholders, the directors made a decision to switch to countries with the lowest labour costs in the world.

 They have abandoned their policy of quality goods and now their goods are little different to other garment stores in style or quality.

 Their long-standing customers have not been impressed, complaining of the lack of style and quality and have not returned in large numbers to shop at what was once their favourite store.

 Bernadette Sego, European secretary of the international retailers' union Uni, said: "It is intolerable that the company chose to treat their workers in such a shabby way."

 Other speakers also called for big companies to be made more aware of their social responsibilities and stressed there must be real discussion and real negotiation with the unions.

 A French trade unionist told the New Worker: "We feel we have been thrown away like a used tissue". He said he was incensed that workers can now be sacked by e-mail.

 The Confederation du Travail (CGT) said this is "intolerable" and it will fight to stop the company "sacrificing the men and women that made its wealth".

 M&S has already been fined in the French courts for failing to consult workers about the closures.

 The company is planning to close 18 stores in France, 10 in Spain, one in Luxemburg, two in Germany and seven in Belgium, with the loss of 4,500 jobs.

 Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, told the press: "M&S contributed to their own downfall by ditching goods 'made in Britain' and by going overseas for cheap replacements.

 "When they sacked their French workers with an e-mail, they faced a second consumer backlash that was also of their own making. The French know it this an unacceptable way for a multinational to behave.

 "Workers should not find out their factory is closing from the media or via announcements to the City. They should have a clear entitlement to information and consultation and a chance to input into the decision-making process affecting their future.

 "M&S have found to their cost that the culture of sacking British workers is not acceptable in Europe. British workers are cheaper and easier to sack than any other Europeans.

 "We have fewer rights in closure and redundancy situations than anywhere else in Europe."

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