The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 25th August 2006

Victory salutes from the young!

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by our Arab Affairs Correspondent

In Iraq
and throughout the Arab world the masses have been celebrating Hezbollah’s victory in Lebanon. Solidarity with the fighting Lebanese resistance cut across sectarian divides in occupied Iraq, with the most militant Shia leaders openly supporting the south Lebanese resistance in its struggle against Washington and Tel Aviv.

The Iraqi resistance maintained its level of attacks against the Anglo-American occupation army and its lackeys during the conflict as the Americans raided their arsenals to rush military equipment to Israel. At the same time they were withdrawing forces from other parts of Iraq to beef up their garrisons in Baghdad, battling with partisans who already control the streets in large parts of the capital. 

As usual the imperialists are trying to promote civil strife to turn the violence away from the occupiers and onto the oppressed. Saddam Hussein has been wheeled out for another show trial and sectarian Shia militias linked to the puppet regime have gone on the rampage in Baghdad, attacking Sunni Muslims and provoking predictable reprisals.

But the Shia community as a whole showed their true temper when hundreds of thousands took to the streets on 4th August chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” in  a massive show of support for Hezbollah and the Lebanese people.

Bush burnt

The march and rally in Sadr City, the stronghold of maverick Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, passed off without violence while effigies of Bush, Blair and Israeli leader Ehud Olmert were burnt along with Israeli flags and the Stars and Stripes.

Al Sadr supporters trampled on US and Israeli flags painted on the main road leading to the rally but one of the slogans “Saddam and Bush, Two Faces of One Coin”  scrawled on the burning Bush effigy demonstrates the problems the resistance has in overcoming the divisions of the past.

Captive Iraqi president Saddam Hussein refused to recognise the illegal US-sponsored show trial when he faced new charges at its opening session in occupied Baghdad on Monday. The Baathist leader and six other members of his government are accused of “genocide” and “war crimes” during the “al Anfal” campaign against Kurdish separatists in the 1980s during the Iraq-Iran war.

Saddam Hussein remained defiant in court challenging its legitimacy,  as he had done at his previous trial and refusing to give his name, telling the stooge judge: “My name is known to Iraq and the world”.

 “This is the law of the occupation,” the Iraqi President observed, before introducing himself as the “President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces”.


When the chief judge told the Iraqi President that he was on “trial” for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and asked whether he was innocent or guilty, Saddam Hussein replied: “That would require volumes of books”. A plea of not guilty was formally submitted by the judge to allow the trial to continue.

Meanwhile, in the British occupied south, Basra oil workers returned to work on Wednesday after a one-day strike over pay that closed the main pipeline to Baghdad and brought oil exports to a standstill in the southern Iraqi province. Over 700 members of the General Union of Oil Workers in plants in Basra and Nassiriya, walked out in the protest action. The puppet Oil Ministry, has promised to meet the workers’ demands which include payment of arrears, profit sharing annual allowances and a rise in their basic rate. Workers in the oil industry have seen their wages eroded by inflation, now running at over 50 per cent and the union warns that if their demands are not implemented by Sunday the strike will resume.

Though Iraq is awash with oil, the partisan sabotage has crippled oil production in the northern and southern oil fields. Despite the fact that Iraq has the third largest oil reserves in the world, drivers have been lining up for hours, sometimes spending the whole night and forming mile-long queues outside petrol stations. Six weeks ago, Baghdad’s streets were jammed with traffic; now they are nearly empty because pumps have all but run dry.

Petrol now costs over $6 a gallon at the pump – when you can get it – and the costs of diesel, propane gas and kerosene have risen accordingly. Fares on public transport, which in Iraq means buses and taxis, have soared and the electricity is rarely on for more than four hours a day. Those who can afford it have bought domestic generators. Others are at the mercy of spivs who will sell power from their own commercial generators for as much as they can extort.

The war in Lebanon may be over for the moment but the struggle for freedom in Iraq continues.


New Labour nonsense

LABOUR’S STANDING has slumped and the Tories are now ahead according to the latest opinion poll commissioned by the Guardian. The poll, published on Tuesday, showed that support for Labour had dropped to 31 per cent, the lowest it’s been since 1987.   A large majority of voters seemed to put the blame on Blair’s policy of intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan for the latest airport terror threat and some 72 per cent, including 65 per cent of Labour voters, think government policy has made Britain more of a target for terrorists.

Only one per cent of voters believed the Government’s foreign policy has made Britain safer. The poll showed that former Labour supporters were switching to the Tories and Liberal Democrats in almost equal numbers, boosting Liberal Democratic support by five points to 22 per cent and putting the Tories ahead.

Labour is on the rocks. It’s running out of money. Some unions have jumped ship and the grass-roots organisation is moribund.    

None of this will come as any surprise to us. The Blair government’s participation in Bush’s invasion of Iraq and the despatch of British troops for combat duty in occupied Afghanistan, not to mention the slavish support for Israeli aggression in the Lebanon, has cost Labour dearly.

The continuation of Thatcherite policies, with ongoing privatisations of what’s left of the health service and the post office and the refusal to meet the demands of the unions for the repeal of the Tory labour laws and the restoration of free collective bargaining, has provoked a stampede out of the Labour Party.

And yet bizarrely enough Blair’s followers believe that the way to revive Labour’s flagging fortunes is to give the public more of what they’ve had to put up with for the past nine years.

Blairite MP Stephen Byers tells us that the answers to Labour’s woes is to abolish inheritance tax to show middle-class Labour voters that whoever succeeds Tony Blair is continuing the New Labour agenda.

He told the Tory Sunday Telegraph: “The danger for Labour in electoral terms has always been that when he departs from Downing Street voters will feel that the pragmatic and modernising approach of New Labour has gone with him”.

Inheritance tax, or death duty as it was once known, was first introduced in England and Wales in 1796. But is it more popularly associated with Lloyd George, who increased it in his 1909 “People’s Budget” to pay for the first pension scheme. Then most people saw it as a just method of raising tax and circulating money. The exceptions were the immensely wealthy landowners it was aimed at —  or rather their heirs – because it is a tax on an expectation which they have not yet received. The dead cannot lose and the heirs only lose part of what they do not yet possess.

Byers is right, of course, to point out that the colossal rise in house prices has put more estates into the frame under the current threshold which starts at £285,000. But even at this level inheritance tax only affects the top six per cent of all estates. The real problem is that the big landowners have devised all manner of methods to avoid paying it. The answer isn’t to simply do away with the tax altogether – which would mean the Treasury seeking other taxes to compensate for the £3.6 billion loss –  but to increase the threshold, which is going to rise to £325,000 in 2010 anyway and legislate to plug all the loopholes to ensure that the estates of immensely rich landowners are once again covered by this tax.

Trying to woo the well-to-do, who aren’t going to vote Labour anyway, is a pointless exercise. The only way to ensure a fourth Labour victory is to dump Blair and adopt a programme that meets the needs of the millions of working people that voted Labour in 1997 in the first place. The masses want the “welfare state” restored, they want affordable council housing and a health service worthy of a country that has the fourth biggest economy in the world. They want the restoration of the public sector as it was in 1979 with utilities you can trust and public transport that is safe and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to use. They want an end to foreign wars.

This isn’t a pipe-dream. We had it all in 1979 and it can all be paid for by restoring the income tax levels we had until the Tories came back. The rich can afford inheritance tax and they can easily afford super-tax as well. That’s the answer – not more nonsense from Byers.

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