The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 25th June, 1999

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Editorial - Blair plays weak.
Lead Story - Still no peace in the Balkans.
Feature - Tube workers rally against sell-off.
International - "Deadline absolute" in Irish peace process.
British News - Job prospects falling.

Editorial

Blair plays weak

THROUGHOUT the 11 week bombing of Yugoslavia Tony Blair was a leading hawk in the Nato camp. Not only had Britain been keen as mustard to send warplanes, troops and military hardware to the Adriatic -- costing around £41 million a day -- but towards the end of the bombing war it was Britain that was increasingly talking up the idea of launching a ground invasion.

 Blair is now asserting there should be no help given to Serbia's reconstruction while President Milosevich remains in power. In this he has even managed to sound tougher and less humane than the real leader of the imperialist alliance -- Bill Clinton, who has at least said there should be some basic humanitarian aid provided.

 It's not all as it seems though. Almost certainly Blair has been used by Nato to fly a few threatening kites in order to step up the pressure on Belgrade. But there has never been any doubt that Washington is calling the shots and designing Nato's strategy.

 Yet when it comes to British imperialism's desire to continue dominating Ireland -- by one means or another -- Blair can cast off his macho warrior mask and replace it with the helpless face of a would-be peacemonger whose good intentions are being held back by David Trimble and his ilk.

 Presumably, we are supposed to believe the tail is now wagging the dog and that the Unionists -- whose very existence comes from the womb of British imperialism -are suddenly in a position to hold the British ruling class to ransome.

 This is obvious nonsense. The British state is not weaker than its own coat-tailers. It is clear the Unionists are being allowed to obstruct the peace process to allow room for the British ruling class to move the goalposts.

 It has been clear for some time that British imperialism wants to bring the armed struggle in Ireland to an end. But it still wants to continue its economic and political domination of Ireland. British capital's interests must still be served.

 Britain also recognises that it cannot ignore or exclude the Nationalist community from the Northern Ireland Assembly or from Irish affairs in general in the north. But it would almost certainly prefer this community to be represented by the Social Democratic & Labour Party (SDLP) rather than by Sinn Fein which has a firm Republican stance.

 Thus the chosen area of disagreement is over decommissioning of weapons. It is an issue which is used to exert Pressure on Sinn Fiin and makes the SDLP appear to be the only Nationalist party which in practice can deliver the Agreement, the Assembly and lasting peace to the people of all communities who want it so badly.

 Imperialism now believes it can redesign the world to suit itself and decide which leaders and governments it wants. It has set its sights on ousting Saddam Hussein from Iraq, it openly declares it wants to oust Milosevich from Yugoslavia and the British ruling class -- though not necessarily supported by the US -- wants to minimise the role of Sinn Fein in the north of Ireland.

 Such arrogance flies in the face of all the cant and hypocrisy talked about "democracy". Election results in the countries concerned obviously count for nothing.

 Where Ireland is concerned there is a terrible danger in the present situation -- the imperialist-inspired brinkmanship could easily lead to the end of the peace process, even though it has the support of the vast majority of the people.

 It is vital that the decommissioning issue is countered firmly and returned to its box. It was never intended when the Agreement was drawn up to be a pre-condition or a first step.

 And it is absurd to focus on decommissioning Republican weapons when there is still no progress on the matter of the sectarian RUC, when little progress has been made to remove anti-Catholic discrimination and when Loyalist death squads are still carrying out sectarian killings.

 The most important thing is to get the Assembly up and running and working to build a more equitable society, a more just society and one in which the causes of fear and mistrust can be removed.

 And when it comes to the decommissioning of weapons it has to be made clear that the largest arsenal of all must be removed -- the weapons of the British Army.

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Lead Story

Still no peace in the Balkans

by Andy Brooks

TENS OF THOUSANDS of Nato troops are pouring into Kosovo while the last Yugoslav army units left ahead of schedule last weekend.

 Tens of thousands of Kosovan Serbs, Montenegrins and Romanies are fleeing from the terror gangs of the "Kosovo Liberation Army" despite the promises of fair treatment by the Nato commanders.

 And a hither to unknown movement called 'Macedonian Dawn" has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on Nato HQ in the Macedonia capital of Skopje on Monday.

 Three thousand more Russian troops are expected to join their contingent in the provincial capital of Kosovo, following talks with the West at the G-8 summit in Germany. But Moscow failed to win agreement for a distinct zone of control in the province which is still technically part of Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile the KFOR Nato-led forces are trying to restore order and rein in their auxiliaries, the "Kosovo Liberation Army" thugs, who are trying to drive all the non-Albanian minorities out.

 This week KFOR announced plans for the disarming of the "KLA" over 90-day period. This hasn't stopped them persecuting the Serbs often under the eyes of indifferent Nato troops. Thousands of Kosovan Serbs have fled to Serbia or Montenegro. Others have sought sanctuary in Christian monasteries and churches.

 Serbs, other minorities and ethnic Albanians branded "collaborators" by the "KLA" are under attack. Dozens have been killed, many more beaten and hounded out by vengeful terror-gangs.

 Others are determined to defend their rights. Some Serb refugees are already returning to Kosovo in organised columns. Serbs in the northern Kosovan town of Mitrovica have put barricades up in their quarter to defend themselves.

Promise

 Though the war is over the campaign against Yugoslavia continues. CLinton and Blair are dangling the promise of vast amounts of aid to Serbian politicians if they get rid of President Milosevich. If not they've vowed to block all but the narrowest UN humanitarian assistance to help Yugoslavia recover from 11 weeks of devastating bombing. They've already got some takers.

The Serbian Orthodox Church has called on Milosevich to resign -- to allow the formation of a government "more acceptable to the international community." Some reactionary Serbian politicians in the pay of the West may take the bait. Most Yugoslavs are resigned to years of the "Iraq" treatment from the imperialists accepting that recovery will only come from their own determination and hard work.

rebuilding now

 Serbian Premier Mirko Majanovich launched the reconstruction campaign on Tuesday. "We will reconstruct everything that has been destroyed and we will march forward," he told a rally to open the rebuilding of a sanatorium for lung diseases and other facilities in Surdulica destroyed by Nato bombing.

 He said he was convinced that those who were heroes in the country's defence would be heroes in its reconstruction.

 Help is also coming in from Yugoslavia's friends. Cuba has offered to send 2,000 doctors to Yugoslavia free-of-charge under the auspices of the United Nations.

new threats

 Belgrade has met the terms of the Kosovo peace deal in full. It has been largely ignored by Nato. Instead of an international force with "Nato at its core" KFOR is almost entirely Nato staffed.

 Kosovo has been divided into British, American, French Italian and German zones. Turkish troops arrive this week and the only non-Nato troops anticipated are the Russians, who had to kick the door in themselves by dashing to Pristina ahead of the rest Hungary's pro-Western leaders are already casting their greedy eyes on eastern Serbia, where a sizeable Hungarian minority have lived in peace up till now. The future of the Balkans looks bleak.

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Feature

Tube workers rally against sell-off

by Caroline Colebrook

HUNDREDS of London Underground workers rallied last Monday afternoon to protest at Labour government plans to sell-off part of the Tube network in a "public-private partnership" with Railtrack.

 The rally was organised by rail unions RMT and Aslef against an agreement announced the week before by deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, which will hand over the tracks, stations and signalling on three of the underground lines to Railtrack.

 The lines concerned -- the District, Circle and Metropolitan lines -- all run close to the surface and parts of them could be integrated with the British Rail network which is now owned and mismanaged by Railtrack.

 The rally came on the day that part of the Circle Line closed for urgent repairs, throwing the service into chaos.

 This is just one of many repair programmes which are going to cause similar closures and chaos for years to come to make good decades of neglect.

 The whole Tube network is in urgent need of £7 billion for repairs and renovation and the government claims this can only be raised through this "public-private partnership".

 But the rail unions and workers say there are many other options for raising the money. If the private sector is involved longterm costs will increase by £2 billion more than if the project was kept in public hands.

 Both taxpayers and passengers will end up paying more for the service -- fares are likely to rise by 30 per cent -- and Londoners will lose public control of the Tube at a time when they are just about to get a mayor.

 The authority of Che mayor will be undermined if the running of essential public transport services is given over to private enterprise before they are even elected.

 The buses and over-ground rail are already in private hands and the public are well aware of the deteriorating service and increasing fares this has brought.

 They do not want the same for Che Tube. Mayoral candidates realise this and most are opposing the sell-off of the Tube.

 It is no surprise that Ken Livingstone has come out strongly against the partial privatisation. But so has his Tory rival Geoffrey Archer.

 Gwyneth Dunwoody, Labour's chairperson of the Commons select committee for transport, has also strongly condemned the selloff and attended the rally.

 She told the protesters: "It would be infinitely preferable to allow London Underground to raise the money itself."

 RMT general secretary Jimmy Knapp said: "There is a high degree of public scepticism after the rail privatisation. Now they fear this government is about to make the same mistake."

 And he said there were other ways to raise the money, for example through government bonds or to turn London Underground into a public interest company in the same way as it has the Post office, allowing it to borrow in money markets.

 Speaking for Aslef, Mick Rix warned that Tube travellers are being "held to ransome".

 And Bob Crowe of the RMT warned the unions will ballot for strike action if the sell-off plans go ahead.

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International

"Deadline absolute" in Irish peace process

by Steve Lawton

EXPECTATIONS for next Wednesday's deadline set by Prime Minister Tony Blair to move the Irish peace process forward, have the air of another critical pass in the dangerously long-running British government indulgence of Unionist stalling.

 The outlook for activating devolved Northern Ireland Assembly powers and north-south stuctures, ifall fails now, is bleak if there is no breakthrough in the coming days of negotiations.

 Irish Premierr Bertie Ahern last Tuesday appeared to swing against the Unionists. He said unionism "should dispel the persistent doubts about its real willingness to enter into the inclusive partnership and other arrangements it signed up to under the agreement."

 And his foreign affairs minister David Andrews said he was determined that by 30 June "we will have completed the task of transferring powers to the new institutions."

 Alternatives to failure were not on the agenda, Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlem said. She was "serious" about the deadline: "That both Prime Ministers cancelled going to the summit in Rio I think is the best indication that this is very serious indeed."

 Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble, toughening his stand, has taken exception to Mowlem's role calling her integrity into question -- a veiled resignation demand which Tony Blair has dismissed.

 He has just brought back Jeffery Donaldson MP into their negotiating team. Sim Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said he was "instrumental in orchestrating active opposition to every aspect of the agreement from the release of prisoners to the equality agenda."

 Which is why Sinn Fein"s chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP, speaking on GMTV last Sunday, was blunt about Unionist tactics and the immediate prospects: "Don't fool yourself that it is about the issue of decommissioning (handoverof IRA weapons]. It's more than that -- they don't want to see a Fenian in the government.

 "It has been made very clear to all the political parties that if powers are not devolved to the north ofIreland by June 30, then I think that the deadline is absolute and I think we will see, first of all the fall of the executive."

 And last Tuesday he elaborated, that in the event of failure: "The Assembly should be closed, the Assembly members' wages should be stopped and it should be made quite clear to the rejectionist unionists that both governments are going to press on with the implementation of all the other aspects of the agreement dealing with equality, justice, policing."

 These are issues at the core of real change on the ground. The urgency of the situation has to be seen in this context. There is increasing violence against nationalistand Catholic communities, growing opposition to the oppressive role of the Royal UIster Constabulary (RUC), rising tension as the marching season gets underway, and the continued British military occupation.

 At least 1,300 additional British troops are to be sent to the north of Ireland, bringing it up to 17,000, in preparation for potential renewed clashes at Drumcree.

 Reactionary Loyalist forces are emboldened by this inertia. It could fully explode if the tacit signal for a "final push" against the Agreement was made by the failure of the British and irish governments to act now.

 Sim Fein councillor James McCarry, together with his family, were terrorised when, among many other attacks, their house was picketed and the doors kicked in over a week ago by the Loyalist death squad Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

 He was warned: you'll be dead by the Summer. Threats and attacks endured for years: 1997 - a failed car bomb attempt; 1998 - A Christmas card with a bullet in it. It's something that remains endemic to British occupation. Promised security arrangements, none has been forthcoming.

 In the light of the RUC coming closer to being publicly exposed as Linked to the murders of prominent lawyers Pat Finucane and Rosemary Nelson -- revealed on BBC Panorama's Careless Talk last Monday -- Sinn Fein's demand for the RUC's disbandment looks all the more compelling.

 Warnings by Sinn Fiin of a "summer of intimidation" in north Belfast apply elsewhere. And there is no sign of a breakthrough in the Orange Order demand to march down the nationalist Garvaghy Road of Portadown.

 The impactof Sim Fein's electoral gains is another factor. Consistently, the nationalist vote has grown, north and south, at local national and in the European elections. In the south Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail are now discussing alliances in a number of local authorities.

 If the British government doesn't deliver, more blood will be on Blair's hands.

  The Bloody Sunday inquiry is to appeal the High Court ruling in London which last week reversed its decision not to grant anonymity to 17 soldiers known to have used their weapons during the 1972 Bloody Sunday march. Lord Saville's inquiry has now been undermined twice by the High Court.

  The Parades Commission survey of 1,000 Catholics and Protestants, published last Monday, showed that 92 per cent believed the Orange Order should negotiate with the Parades Commission to solve issues like the Garvaghy Road.

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British News

Job prospects falling

by Daphne Liddle

THIS month's official unemployment figures, indicating a fall in the number without jobs, are misleading and mask a massive haemorrhage of manufacturing jobs.

 Scotland and Wales are being particularly hard hit according to a report last week from the employment services company Manpower.

 The survey of employment prospects for the third quarter of 1999, compared with a year ago, shows that employment confidence in Wales and Scotland has experienced its second biggest year-on-year fall in 30 years.

 The biggest fall was during the 1990 recession.

 Expectations of an increase in job prospects among Welsh employers have fallen by 22 per cent, compared with the same period in 1998.

 Some economists say that Wales has been particularly badly hit because so many of its industries depend on exports.

 Viv Ragg, the general manager of Manpower in Wales, said: "It looks like Welsh employers are taking an extremely cautious approach to employment in the future.

 "The relatively high concentration of export-focused businesses in the country, many of whom may be suffering from poor global economic conditions, could be adding to the decline in confidence.

 "It is clear from these figures that the economy, while not plummeting, is uneasy.

 "Employers are not confident about the future, which also means an uncertain future for employees too."

 Steel workers have been told that the recent merger between British Steel and Koninklijke Hoogovens of Holland will not lead to cutbacks.

 Then they were told that job losses would be kept as low as possible.

 The new company will be the third largest steel-maker in the world but the market for steel is in decline because of economic problems around the globe.

 The official unemployment figures were actually down by 6.500 last month in spite of swingeing job cuts in manufacturing industry around Britain.

 The new jobs have been almost all in the service sector and concentrated in the southeast. This means that unemployment has risen in real terms in the northeast of England, Scotland, the West Midlands and Wales.

 And the new Jobs have been mostly low-paid. Figures show a sharp decline in average annual earnings growth from 4.9 percent to 3.8 per cent between March and April and a particularly sharp decline in private sector earnings from five per cent to 3.7 per cent.

 The service sector is not immune from job losses either. Last week the Prudential Insurance company announced it was cutting a massive 4,000 jobs.

 Its door-to-door collection service has been farmed out to a Canadian out-sourcing company and this has cost 900 jobs.

 Most of the cuts will come in the company's UK Retail Financial Services, which has about 12,000 workers.

 The Post Office is cutting· around 800 senior management posts over the next few months as part of an overhaul designed to increase the corporation's business.

cuts

 It expects most of the necessary cuts to be met by voluntary redundancies and early retirement.

 Local authority jobs are still under threat. In Wales, the Rhondda Cynon Taff council is trying to stem an annual £5 million-a-year deficit by cutting 200 jobs.

 Trade unionists are fighting these cuts and have called for a day of action protest when they put their case to the Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Michael.

 The new Plaid Cymru administration has told union representatives there may be other ways to make the savings.

 Waste and inefficiency have been highlighted in a recent series of reports and the unions' suggestions for cost-cutting will be given serious consideration.

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