The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 2nd May, 1997

It has been heartening for us to receive so much interest in our party, and our work during the election period has raised our profile and won new members.


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 - Join the fight!
Lead Story - After 18 years of Tory rule - One in three British children live in poverty
Feature - National firefighters' rally against the cuts. No backing down - strike agenda hardens.
International - Thousands demand new Bar-On enquiry in Israel.
British News - Outrage at racist election broadcast.



Editorial


Lang's Britain


AS THIS paper goes to press the election still awaits. But some things do not need a crystal ball to predict -we all know that whichever party wins we shall still be living in a capitalist society based on the exploitation of labour and driven by the demands of the capitalist ruling class for ever increasing private profits.

We are drilled from our earliest years to regard this state of affairs as normal -- the natural order of things.

People expect, and think it normal to spend the major part of every day, every week and every year at work. It's almost as if the average hours of work were controlled by the moon in the same way as the tides.

It is regarded as perfectly normal for people to spend their days building luxury homes for others to live in and for workers to toil day in day out over machines making goods they cannot afford to buy.

For all the claptrap about how wonderful capitalist democracy is, we know we are not in control. It is never the working people who decide to go to war. We do not demand that money is wasted building the weapons of global annihilation.

We know that if the owner of our place of work decides there is more money to be made by exploiting even cheaper labour somewhere else or from selling off the site itself, it's down the road for us.

When we lose our job we exist on a pittance and are then treated by the capitalist media as parasites and scroungers. But the real parasites who live off the fat of the land by exploiting our labour are hailed as pillars of society.

It is true that capitalism has brought considerable technological advance. But those achievements are owned and controlled by the capitalist class. The working class, when it benefits from this at all only does so indirectly.

New industrial and commercial technology that can eliminate a great many routine tasks could be of enormous benefit to society. But under capitalism it is only used to serve the interests of the employers.

Workers replaced by the technology do not benefit from shorter hours or longer holidays -- they simply get the sack.

Capitalist society is anything but normal and natural. It is a brutal wasteful and unjust society that breeds alienation, hopelessness, militarism and war.

But society doesn't have to be like that. There is a better way and we could have a better life. That way is socialism -- a society in which the natural resources, the means of production such as the factories, mines and machines, the transport system, the land,the banks and finance houses are brought into public ownership for the benefit of the majority of the people -- the working class.

Such a society would be run in the interests of the majority of the people, not as our society is run -- to advance the interests of a rich minority.

New technology would not mean poverty on the dole but increased leisure time without cuts in income and without loss of dignity.

Profits from production would be used to advance society. Some would be ploughed back into enterprises for research and development, for new and better equipment. Some would be used to build new factories and plants.

The fruits of our labour would also be used to provide a high standard of free education, a free and advanced health service, pensions, decent and affordable housing for all, childcare facilities, libraries, sporting facilities and opportunities for people that would lead to a flowering of culture.

No longer would society tolerate capitalist parasites squandering the profits we have made on private Leah jets, palatial yachts, gambling, and numerous houses around the world.

But to begin building a socialist society there needs to be a fundamental revolutionary change -- one which seizes state power from the capitalist class and places it in the hands of the working class.

The robber class will never give up their privileges, power and wealth just by popular demand.

Socialism can never be achieved simply by waiting for a bourgeois election and going out to put a cross on a piece of paper -- even if the candidates were progressive.

This is why we need a revolutionary party -- a new type of party such as the New Communist Party to fight in the interests of the working class today and to keep the flame of socialism burning bright.


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Lead Story


After 18 years of Tory rule - One in three British children live in poverty


A RECENT study by Eurostat, the European Union's statistics agency, found that one in three children in Britain is living in poverty. It puts Britain at the top of the European Union's child poverty league.

The unpublished report also suggests that out of all the EU countries, Britain has the largest number of adults living below the poverty line.

Eurostat's study covered all 12 EU member countries and measured incomes throughout the EU. It defines the poverty level as incomes that are below half of the net mean average -- Britain's poverty line is set at incomes of 123 a week or less (based on British government figures).

The report found that 32 per cent of British children live below that poverty line.

As the election campaigning drew to a close Chancellor Kenneth Clarke said: "It is a myth that the poor are getting poorer . .. this view is based on highly dubious statistics".

But his words have not only been refuted by the Eurostat study -- the Child Poverty Action Group claims that the Tories had been following a "strategy of inequality" for the past 18 years.

The CPAG says that real income of the poorest tenth of the population fell by 13 per cent over the last 18 years while the richest tenth saw their incomes rise by 65 per cent.

There are two main causes of poverty -- unemployment and low pay. Therefore it is clear that many more full-time jobs are needed and higher wages. And to win the struggle for better wages and conditions there needs to be stronger support for the trade unions and for the restoration of trade union rights.

Britain has long been a low wage economy -- we are famous for our low pay and rotten conditions. And the Tories have sought to keep it that way -- saying that any improvements in our standard of living would destroy Britain's competitiveness.

But how does this competitive edge benefit the majority of British people if it is based on keeping us poor and forcing one third of our children to live below the poverty line?

Clearly it is not "Britain" which benefits, but only the bosses and wealthy few who make fatter profits from keeping labour costs down.

It means, that whoever wins Thursday's election, the need for working class struggle day-by-day will continue. There is much to do.

In addition to the many battles that lie ahead for decent wages, for the restoration of public services and facilities there has to be support given to some of the specific issues that affect the wellbeing of our children.

Women workers need more full-time, permanent jobs and, just as importantly, the childcare facilities to enable them to take those jobs.

And yet the National Children' s Bureau has described the provision of childcare in Britain as a "patchwork". Most non-school childcare is covered by the private and voluntary sectors and is often too expensive for low paid parents to afford.

The real scandal ofthe Eurostat report is that while Britain records the highest level in the EU for child poverty it is to the forefront when it comes to so-called "defence" spending.

It is shameful that children suffer poverty while Trident nuclear weapons continue to exist and billions of pounds are poured into maintaining British imperialism's military might.
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Feature


National firefighters' rally against the cuts. No backing down - strike agenda hardens


by Steve Lawton

"THIS dispute is about jobs, members' health and safety. the safety of the public and 3 million in cuts over the last three years," Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Ken Cameron told a packed Chelmsford rally. "We're saying, not just in Essex, but nationally: enough is enough!"

From all corners of Britain, thousands of firefighters came to Admiral's Park and joined in a successful solidarity march and rally last Tuesday, during the fourth strike by the Essex brigade.

There was a sea of FBU banners from Scotland, the North East Manchester, the Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Merseyside, Lincolnshire, Devon, Derbyshire, Essex and London.

All the way into town, firefighters were received with encouragement and support. It was impossible not to notice them as they whistled and hooted their way through while, at regular intervals, they sounded their distinctive siren. And it was all given harmony by a veteran Essex piper.

As they reached the town centre the public expressed support. They thought the situation was "diabolical"; firefighters "deserve everything they need to do their job well"; and they must be "supported all the way".

When the march reached County Hall, during a full council session, it took some effort by Ken Cameron to make himself heard above the din of hooting and whistling.

Could this become Chelmsford's "Storming of the Bastille"? No, they just wanted to make sure councillors inside knew they were all here and that they meant business.

But if the councillors weren't listening, someone wanted a lot of police to listen. Several firefighters thought they hadn't seen so many out in force in all the years they had participated in such marches.

The parade pressed on into Central Park for a remarkable and uncompromising rally addressed by leading firefighters and a striking Liverpool docker. On 1 May it will be the 20th month in which the dockers received no pay defending their jobs.

Ken Cameron said: "How can you have a 45 per cent increase in calls, less firefighters and the public are not going to be put at risk? It's a direct lie." And cost? "In the last couple of weeks, half a million pounds has already been paid to the Ministry of Defence, for a third rate fire service - that's the economics of the madhouse."

Ken Cameron called on the council to return to discussions. "We want to talk, but there are certain conditions. We're not going to sit round a table and talk about one job going, or training budgets being slashed with firefighters lives being put at risk otherwise, the dispute goes on."

He attacked media views that the dispute was "badly timed" and the fact that Labour has been "embarrassed" by it "at the wrong time". He said: "I don't know why Labour should be embarrassed, because 82 per cent of the funding of the British fire service and in Essex comes from central govemment" He said it was a direct result of Major's policies.

Referring to a Labour victory, he said: "As we showed in 1977, our job, our responsibility as a trade union, is not towards any political party, it is to our members and our members' families."

Essex FBU secretary Keith Handscomb praised the many officers who risked their jobs to remain in the FBU which, he reminded everyone, consisted of many ranks. The mostly rural retained stations (where staffare not full-time but on call as needed) are also an important factor in the dispute.

Wickford Brigade retained FBU firefighter Jim Robertson told the rally: "I want you to know that a lot of the retained stations in this county are 1OO percent behind the dispute."

He said that "despite the stunts that have been pulled to try and get us to put our machines on the road, we're not going to put our pumps on the road when your pumps are off the road. I give you that guarantee."

Keith Handscomb explained that firefrghters had been in dispute last year and won a 69 per cent ballot which forced the county council to back down. He said the council promised to recruit 40 new firefighters this year in two stages to bring them up to Home Office minimum force levels.

"Well", he said, "20 or so of those recruits in training have been on the picket lines ever since. They've only been in it a few weeks, but they understand that they've got ajob because of this union, they've got a job today because we had a ballot for industrial action to defend them."

Keith Handscomb explained how they felt "cynical" about intentions to build two new stations "because the last station that opened this year was in Maldon. It took 32 years to get that built."

He said the 1.5 million cut and no-recruitment policy showed "they had forgotten the lesson we taught them last year". Countering jibes about "Essex man, Essex woman and loadsamoney", he said: "Take a look around here; they're on strike, they're losing pay, they're suffering and their families are suffering."

Derbyshire firefighters' leader Andy Brickles said: "This dispute is notjust about brigade cuts or cuts in services, it's about breaking the Fire Brigades Union."

Derbyshire firefighters had 13 strikes last year. The attacks, he: said, hit "first Derbyshire, then Merseyside and now Essex". He said Derbyshire firefighters have been out collecting and will add another 15,000 to the 20,000 already handed over. Calling for all firefighters to make a financial commitment to their Essex comrades, he said "If they take one of us on, they take us all on".

Keith Handscomb said that l2,500 had been collected from the public in the first three days of the dispute. He said: "Many of our officers have had 600 of their wages stopped in the first four strikes of this dispute."

Later that day, the Labour County CounciI leader Chris Pearson derided the rally as a publicity stunt. And Labour's shadow Treasury spokesperson Alistair Darling on the same day said: "The only way this dispute is going to be solved is through negotiation".

He went on: "We all have to live within the means available to us."

But as the firefighters continue to maintain a disciplined and carefully thought-out plan of action, the county council escalated the fourth strike into a lock-out.

FBU regional secretary Steve Brinkley explained to the New Worker "The county council informed Essex firefighters on Monday that if they're on strike during any part of a shift then the whole of that shift will be counted as a strike. Effectively, firefighters were locked-out from 6pm Monday night.

"They've actually put shutters up and told us we can't go into the stations. The county council is saying that from the beginning of the shift to the end of the last shift for which firefighters are on strike, they'll be locked out."

This will now be the standard response to firefighters' future actions, including one planned for 2 May and further strikes following that. So even if they wanted to volunteer -- as they did quite selflessly on 23 April despite the loss of a shift's pay - it's out of the question now. The council turned Tuesday's 24-hour strike into a 39-hour strike.

And since the breakdown in talks there has apparently been talk of new mediation efforts. "But", Steve Brinkley said, "the mediator's coming forward with the same proposal he put a fortnight ago, so from our point of view nothing's changed."

As far as Essex FBU secretary Keith Handscomb was concerned: "The council has played all the cards in its hand now. If it is not prepared to settle, they can either suspend us all or sack us." And Steve Brinkley was adamant: "We're not backing down, it's up to Essex county council to shift."

"Our last thought is this", Keith Handscomb told the rally, "we're made up of different shift systems, control room, retained, whole-time, we've got different ranks and different brigades - but we're all FBU members. Unity, unity, unity, let's win."

Donations to: Essex Firefighters' Hardship Fund, c/o Sean Walshe, 12 Riffhams Drive, Great Baddow, Chelmsford, Essex CM2 7DD.
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International


Thousands demand new Bar-On enquiry in Israel


by our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

OVER 50,000 Israelis have signed a petition calling for a state commission of inquiry into the Bar-On affair which is continuing to haunt the Netanyahu government, It's been signed by opposition Labour leader Shimon Peres and the list includes Leah Rabin, widow of the late premier Yitzhak Rabin and her son Yuval.

Peres is leading the demand for Netanyahu's resignation over the job-for-votes scandal and charges that the Israeli premier is guilty of fraud and breach of trust.

It's not been a good week for Benyamin Netanyahu. The Bar-On affair won't go away and international pressure is mounting against his government' s provocative move to start new Zionist settlements in Arab Jerusalem.

At the United Nations, the General Assembly voted 134-3 in favour of a demand for a halt to all construction on occupied Arab land and recommended an end to all forms of assistance for such activities.

Now as two of the three opposed were the United States and Israel nothing will come of the General Assembly vote: but it was a new indicator of Israel's growing isolation following the collapse of the peace process.

Where the Arabs go from here is another matter. A lot depends on how long Netanyahu's coalition will last. If it falls, fresh elections could lead to a Labour led alliance which is pledged to resume the peace-talks.

But much equally depends on the collective Arab response to the threat to Arab Jerusalem. And that has largely been confined to diplomatic protests and calls for the freezing of new Arab links with Tel Aviv.

American tactics have been simply to block all international protests and stall for time hoping that nothing will happen on the ground until the settlements are built. By that time, they calculate, the Palestinians will be powerless to do anything about it and the "peace process" will then move forward based on yet another Israeli "concrete fact".

But time stands still for no-one and resistance to Israeli rule in the occupied territories is increasing in tempo and violence. A Palestinian youth was shot dead by Israeli troops last weekend near Hebron .Two Israeli hitchhikers were stabbed to death in the West Bank by what the Israeli police suspect was the Islamic resistance.

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British News


Outrage at racist election broadcast


By Daphne Liddle

HUNDREDS of angry anti-racists protested outside the BBC's Broadcasting House last Friday night at the screening of the neo-Nazi British National Party's election broadcast.

It was the BNP's first ever election broadcast though BNP leader John Tyndall did appear in a similar 1970s broadcast for the National Front.

Last Friday's broadcast was shown by both the BBC and ITV but Channel Four refused to show it because of its offensive racist content.

It was a carefully constructed five-minute film that did not actually use racist terminology but the pictures shown -- of identifiable black people who had not given permission for their images to be shown in this way - conveyed exactly what was meant.

In this way the BBC and ITV could just about claim the film did not blatantly contravene the Race Relations Act.

But it certainly gave a misleading impression of the BNP as being merely in favour of "voluntary" repatriation of non-white immigrants and "stronger law and order measures".

This is rich coming from a party whose leaders have long criminal records and which is really strongly pro-Hitlerite, anti-trade union and anti-working class.

There is a danger that some people will have been taken in by it. It is unlikely to win more than a handful of votes for that party -- but at its current low level of support even that will be a relative boost and the BNP leadership will make much of it.

"It will have got them a few extra votes and the respectabihty of having an election broadcast," Tony Robson of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine told the New Worker, "but it will damage race relations by portraying black and Asian people as criminals and undesirables.

"The main concern though is about the BBC and ITV. Channel Four refused to show it without release papers from everyone portrayed in it. The BBC and ITV claimed they were legally bound to show it but that is not true, it is all convention and gentlemen's agreements.

"It was clearly in breach of section 22 of the Public Order Act on using the media to incite race hate.

"What were the motives of the TV companies in showing it? Was it ignorance, stupidity or are there one or two in the BBC and ITV hierarchies who sympathise with it?"

Labour candidate for Aldershot Terry Bridgeman last week took a principled stand and pulled out of a public question and answer session for local candidates in a local college hall when he learned he would be sharing the platform with a BNP speaker.

But his Tory opponent, Gerald Howarth, stayed "because we wanted to inform the people of our policies". The Liberal Democratic and UK Independence Party candidates also stayed.

But Howarth himself is a former member of both the Monday Club and the Halt Immigration Now Campaign, whose policies on the repatriation of immigrants were not far removed from those of the BNP.

There is speculation that if Labour wins the election, many of the more moderate Tories will lose their seats and be replaced within the Tory hierarchy with right-wingers such as Howarth, and the defeated Tory party moving significantly to the right.

Many former members of the notorious Federation of Conservative Students, disbanded in the early 80s by Norman Tebbit for embarrassing rowdiness and extreme right-wing views, are now working their way up through the party.

Many of the right-wing libertarian ideas they propagated in the early 80s, such as privatisations of the police, prisons, security services and so on, which were generally thought wildly ridiculous at the time, are now on the Tory policy agenda.

Nearly 2,000 people poured into Charlton Athletic Football Club two weeks ago to show their support for the third annual Red White and Black Anti-Racism Day.

Free invitations had been handed out to local residents, inviting them to take part in the celebrations before the club's match against Portsmouth.

Ex-Charlton and Chelsea star Paul Ellion helped Greenwich Mayor Janet Gillman and local Euro MP Richard Balfe release 1,500 red, white and black balloons to launch the day.

There followed a five-a-side mini football tournament involving local school children, face painting, music and entertainment.

The event was instigated when the football club moved back to its traditional ground at the Valley five years ago, to raise awareness about racism in the stands and within the local community.

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