The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 25th September, 1998

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Editorial - A new world?
Lead Story - Job losses mount as crisis deepens.
Feature - Pensioners call on Labour to deliver.
International - Russian workers call for October protest.
British News - CND demands real arms cuts.


A new world?

 A QUARTER of a century ago a capitalist-inspired propaganda campaign paved the way for a decade of union-bashing legislation. Constantly, the idea was spread through the media that the unions were too powerful and posed a serious threat to the economy. Strikes were condemned. They were said to be either part of some supposed Red plot aimed at bringing down the government or painted as disruptive walkouts called simply to give the workers a little holiday on strike pay.

 It was all rubbish. But it played a part in softening public opinion to accept the draconian shackling of organised labour under the Thatcher and Major governments.

 Today, the bosses can hardly use the same tactics -- no one would now believe the unions are an overpowerful force in need of control. But to keep up the attack on the working class a new line is being peddled.

 This seeks to portray the trade union movement, the left and the non-Blairite members of the Labour Party as out-of-date relics from a by-gone age who are still trying to fight the battles of yesterday.

 They would like us to believe that the class struggle itself is a thing of the past -- as old fashioned as a pint of Mild and Bitter and a packet of Woodbines.

 The trendy, upwardly-mobile set currently calling the shots in the Labour Party seem to have learned more than a few tricks from the Euro-communists. They use the same arguments -- pointing to the changes in production methods and the decline of the manufacturing sector In order to deny the historic role of the working class and the reality and significance of class struggle.

 Now, they tell us, we don't need struggle, strikes, demonstrations, head-on confrontations with capital or a strong trade union voice inside the Labour Party.

 According to this crowd, all we need in Blair's "New Britain" are partnerships between workers and bosses, rock-bottom minimum wages decided upon by the government of the day and lotsof re-training schemes for a manufacturing sector that continues to decline because of under-investment and a worldwide crisis of over-production.

 Yes, we know that the combined effect of modern technology and a declining manufacturing sector means there are relatively fewer people with hands-on at the point of production. And we also know that mote people now have white collar jobs. But working in the service sector, wearing a white shirt to work an having a monthly salary instead of a weekly wage packet doesn't transport a worker out of the working class.

 As the workforce at Barclaycard knows to its cost -- a white collar does not stop the P45 coming back in the post or give any say in company decision making. The conflict of interests between capital and labour has not gone away and while capitalism exists it will not go away.

 Class struggle in capitalist societies is there whether it is acknowledged by the bosses media or not. The capitalist class are certainly well aware of it and engage in that struggle consciously -- of course their efforts to keep up the rate of profit at the expense of the working class is never sneered at as an old fashioned practice but is applauded as showing good business sense and an admirable spirit of enterprise.

 It's only when the working class refuses to roll over and puts up a fight to defend its interests that its leaders are described as political dinosaurs living in the past.

 Anyway, why should we fall down and worship at the shrine of all things new as if life is one long fashion parade? There is a great deal to be learnt from the struggles of the past and the people who fought those battles.

 Last weekend's march and demonstration in London by thousands of pensioners was magnificent. And it couldn't have been more up-to-date with its timely demand for justice for pensioners today and for a secure, fulfilled retirement for all of us tomorrow and in the future.

 It is obviously too good for most of the media to report as it didn fit in with the current efforts to pretend that struggle is dead.

 The truth is the so-called "new" politics of Blair and "new" Labour are nothing but a new way of dressing up old-fashioned class-collaboration.

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Lead Story

Job losses mount as crisis deepens

by Daphne Liddle
 PRIME Minister Tony Blair last week admitted that his government cannot protect jobs from the "twists and turns of world markets".

 He was speaking in his own constituency to workers at the Fujitsu factory which is scheduled for closure, with a loss of 2,000 jobs, by Christmas because of the world-wide collapse in the price of computer memory chips.

 He promised to try to "help the hurt" by setting up rapid response units to deal with big factory closure plans. That may create a few jobs for members of the rapid response teams but they are unlikely to be able to stop factory closures or do anything except offer sympathy and advice on how to live on the dole -- and the people of the north-east already have more experience of this than they want.

 There cannot possibly be enough alternative jobs -- even low-paid ones -- to go round. Areas hit by big factory closures also experience job cut backs in local service industries and spending in the area plummets.

 Since Mr Blair's confession, another wave of job loss announcements has hit the headlines.

 The Ford motor company has decided to make drastic cuts in production of the Fiesta car at its main Dagenham and Cologne plants.

 This will mean four-day working at these plants. So far the company has said it will continue to pay full basic wages and put the 4,400 Dagenham workers affected on alternative work or retraining on the fifth day.

 Rover has also put 26,000 workers at Longbridge and Cowley on a four-day week.

 These decisions have not been affected by the high level of the pound -- the cut-backs are affecting European plants as much as British.

 Some 20,000 fuel stations across western Europe are due to close because of declining demand, according to Marketline International, a firm of market analysts.

 The giant Anglo-Dutch petrol transnational Shell is to close its London headquarters in the Strand, hitting the jobs of 2,000 office workers.

 The company blames a global economic slow-down and the low price of oil -- at a 25-year low in real terms. It also admitted it reacted too slowly in shutting down its over-extended assets in the Far East when that region was hit by economic disaster earlier this year.

 The Shell Centre on the south bank of the Thames will remain operational.

 The Canadian owned Northern Telecom known as Nortel, is to close two factories in Paignton, Devon and Maidenhead, Berkshire, with a total loss of 586 jobs.

 Once again the problem is world-wide over-production of information and communications technology equipment.

 The banking sector has also been hitas Barclaycard last Tuesday announced it will be cutting staff numbers by 1,100 over the next three years.

 It claims it has lost a lot of the credit card market to new banks being set up by Supermarkets such as Tesco.

endless layoffs

 North Western Trains, which serves Liverpool and Manchester, is cutting 200 jobs and increasing fares by 10 per cent in an effort to save £5 million a year.

 And Vickers has decided to close its tank factory in Leeds and switch tank manufacture to Newcastle-upon-Tyne because wages there are lower.

 The possibility of diversifying into non-military manufacture does not seem to have been considered.

 Currently the unemployment figures are comparatively good because these job losses are still in the pipe-line. In a month or two they will register in the statistics and government ministers will no longer be able to pretend there is no problem.

 These are all indications that the economic crash of the Far East is triggering a big recession here and the rest of the capitalist world.

 It is an absolutely classic case ofa capitalist crisis of overproduction and proves yet again that the capitalists cannot control their own system.

 There is only one solution and that is socialism.

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Pensioners call on Labour to deliver
by Renee Sams
AROUND 10,000 pensioners marched from the Embankment via Parliament Square to rally in Trafalgar Square last Saturday.

 They were demanding an increase in pensions and a restoration of the link between pension levels and average basic earnings.

 Pensioners from the length and breadth of the country; from Tyneside to Devon, the north-west and the Midlands. with a large contingent from Wales, accompanied by three bands, were obviously well received by the bystanders and many drivers sounding their horns in support.

 From the platform, veteran trade union leader Jack Jones recalled that the state pension was instituted 90 years ago to bring retired workers is this country into line with those in New Zealand and Australia.

 He said that he was glad to see a minimum pension of £75 for pensioners on benefits as proposed by the Blair government, but he stressed: "We want it for all pensioners"

 There are six million pensioners in this country and nearly three million of them have to claim income support. An improvement is urgently needed now -- "we want decent pensions in our time", he said.

 Jack told his audience that the TUC conference, last week, had passed a resolution calling for the restoration of the link between wages and pensions but that the media had totally ignored this, despite the fact that it was accepted unanimously.

 Messages of support for the campaign to restore the link were received from TUC general secretary John Monks and the leaderships of many unions, including the TGWU and GMB general unions, the Fire Brigades Union, the PCS civil service union, the National Union of Journalists, the rail drivers' union Aslef and the transport union RMT.

 The size of the march represents a swelling level of organisation within the pensioners movement and a growing impatience that the Labour government deliver their demands.

 But the media managed nearly to miss the event. It was given about five seconds of coverage on the early local TV news only.

 * Chris Daykin, a government advisor, last week admitted that privatisation of state pensions has many risks and is not a panacea.

 In a weekend lecture to the Faculty and Institute of Actuaries meeting in Dublin, he warned that all private systems carry risks in shifting future costs of pensions into funded schemes.

 He said that as populations age and begin to call on the funds that have built up "there is a danger that there may be significant disinvestment from market shares in the 2020s and 2030s as increasing numbers of people reach retirement age with access to funded complementary pensions."

 One option he proposed was that countries wanting to avert an old-age crisis might he able to raise the statutory retirement age regularly in recognition that people were living longer.

 He said the full benefit of that would only be felt if people stayed in work or were self-employed for longer.

 He did not say how this squared with the predictions of other economists of permanent high level unemployment, or say where all the extra jobs were to come from or how the economy would cope with the extra burden on benefits caused by elderly people being forced to work in their twilight years while young people with families are kept out of jobs.

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Russian workers call for October protest

 RUSSIAN UNIONS and opposition parties are calling for a massive day of protests on 7 October to get their back pay and save their jobs. Others warn that the new Primakov government will face a winter of strikes and demonstrations unless it responds to the needs of the masses.

 Mikhail Shmakov, the leader of Russia's Federation of Independent Trade Unions told a press conference last week that the situation in Russia had worsened "beyond our most horrible dreams".

"More and more firms are closing. Even those firms that were working well are beginning to stop paying wages," Shmakov said comparing the withholding of wages to modern slavery.

 Total wages owed to workers rose from 50 billion roubles ($4 billion) before the rouble devaluation to 80 billion ($7 billion) in September, while the purchasing power of the rouble has crashed.

 When asked if the October protest could turn violent Shmakov said, "They might, they might. We will do all that we can so that there will not be ... any spontaneous outbursts. But it will all depend on how much and how quickly circumstances will worsen for each individual.".

 There has been little enthusiasm amongst the workers for the new government -- the result of horse-trading in the Russian parliament the Duma, between the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) and the other anti-Yeltsin parties.

 Parliamentary communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, whose views differ little from those of Gorbochov and the other traitors, won cabinet posts for two of his men in the Primakov administration. They say they will continue the "reforms", the code-word for capitalist restoration, while ensuring social justice for Russia's millions.

 Others see it differently like trade union federation secretary Sergei Isayev who said: "During this month, workers have observed with open horror and mounting disgust how...under conditions of the complete impoverishment of the majority of the population, the branches of power have divided power amongst themselves,".

 When President Clinton was in Moscow recently to urge Boris Yeltsin to "stay the course of reforms" he also had a one-to-one meeting with Zyuganov and the ambitious officer turned politician, General Lebed.

 And miners' leaders warn that their members will continue their ongoing strikes and protests whatever happens in October.

 In Moscow the new premier, Yevgeny Primakov outlined the direction of his government confirming that "the course of reform" would be "preserved and continued". He clearly intended to reassure the army of spivs, profiteers, drug-lords and gangsters who run Russia today that their way of life was guaranteed.

 "We will not yield an inch in the principle of society's democratisation and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens," he told the German press, adding that there would be "considerable corrections in our reforms and these corrections will be orientated to the needs of the people".

 But he warned the unions that "social tension in the country has reached a dangerous limit" adding that "strikes and disobedience campaigns of the railway blockade type do not solve problems, but just aggravate the situation".

 Primakov says he will speedily tackle the problem of wage and pension arrears, tax collection and the restructuring of the economy. How he's going to do this and retain the spiv economy built by Yeltsin is the question everyone is asking -- like how long he'll last and how long can the chaos, crime and corruption continue?

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British News

CND demands real arms cuts.
by Simon Watson in Manchester
 THE CAMPAIGN for Nuclear Disarmament hit back at Britain's military build-up last weekend with demands that the government begins implementing its pre-election promises on peace, starting with a "no-first-use" policy on nuclear weapons.

 Speaking at its annual conference in Manchester, CND vice-chairperson Rae Street pointed to the strength of public opinion against nuclear weapons -- 59 per cent of the British population believe the country would be more secure without them and "even the Daily Express admitted 'CND was right all along' in a recent headline."

 Earlier, delegates held the first part of the conference "on location" at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, with a noisy and colourful demonstration against the launch of Britain's fourth Trident Submarine HMS Vengeance.

 Vice president Bruce Kent joined a group of "citizen-inspectors" who attempted to enter the base to see if technology associated with illegal weapons of mass destruction was inside.

 Not surprisingly, the Ministry of Defence preferred to keep its lethal secrets to itself.

 Seven peace protesters were arrested after trying to get over the perimeter fence.

 Back in Manchester, there was a substantial discussion around the government's strategic defence review (SDR) and CND's response to it ("it's the same old formula -- new added spin").

 Jeremy Corbyn MP summed it up as "an endless search for a justification for the vast level of military expenditure".

 The excuse for nuclear weapons has changed, he said, from the "Soviet threat" to "international terrorism", but the logic is still flawed. "You don't deal with terrorism by nuclear annihilation," he said.

 Nato is being expanded without any consultation with Parliament, using instead powers of "royal prerogative" and it represents "a massive promotion of the arms industry".

 Why cut social spending when you're spending £20 billion on Defence? The answer is to "tax the rich and axe Trident," Mr Corbyn said.

 This was backed up by Carol Naughton, joint vice-chair of CND. She spoke of the success of CND in getting Trident included in the SDR, and also of her sense of "anger and betrayal" at Labour's failure to produce positive disarmament proposals.

 There have been announcements of a reduction in the number of warheads carried by each Trident submarine from 96 to 48. But there will be a stockpile of 200 operational nuclear warheads.

 This means a threefold increase in Britain's capability compared with what it had with the Polaris submarines. Britain will increase its capability to hit three times as many targets from twice as far away, with much greater accuracy.

 Labour CND's Carol Turner added that despite claims, the SDR did not represent a cut in military spending and two new aircraft carriers will add £9 billion to the arms bill.

 Conference also re-affirmed its trade union links by supporting a motion on conversion of the arms industry to civilian production.

 Several speakers stressed the importance of a peace strategy that does not alienate workers in the defence sector and CND will update and popularise conversion plans in conjunction with the TGWU and MSF general unions and the IPMS senior civil service union.

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