The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 26th January 2001

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Editorial - Neck deep.
Lead Story - Rail bosses must face justice.
Feature - Blair must remove blocks to peace.
International - Voices raised against sanctions.
British News - Holocaust lessons still not learned.


Neck deep

RECESSION is on its way again. Here and in the United States workers are being laid off and some major firms, like the car giants and steel producers, are closing plants and concentrating production at fewer sites. In addition more and more people are facing short time working and other measures to cut labour costs.

 This may well serve to keep up the rate of profit for the owners and shareholders for now. But it will not resolve the contradiction that created the crisis in the first place.

 Putting more workers on the dole and cutting wage costs will only mean there will be less money in people's pockets and even fewer goods being bought. If consumers spend less the pressure will be on to make even further job and wage cuts. In this way the recession will get deeper and the crisis even more severe.

 For years the capitalist class has tried to get around this by pressing people to buy the things they can't afford on credit -- spending the wages we earn today and tomorrow's pay packet as well.

 But this doesn't work in the long term because there comes a point where people simply cannot take on any more debts. And when unemployment strikes the burden of personal debt turns hardship into utter misery and desperation.

 This time around millions of people are standing on the edge of the new recession already weighed down with crippling repayments to credit card companies, building societies, loan sharks, finance houses and other money lending agencies.

 Latest figures show that the people of Britain owe a colossal £657 billion -- an average of £14,000 per adult. The Credit Card Research Group says that credit card debt increased by £2 billion over last Christmas bringing the total debt of Britain's 23,500,000 credit card holders to a massive £35 billion.

 One survey claims that one in five people will still be paying for last Christmas in the summer and some will still be paying off the bills when next Christmas comes around.

 Of course in the shark-infested waters of a capitalist society there are always plenty of predators waiting to get a meal off those who are sinking under the weight of their debts. Adverts abound offering to "help" people manage their debts. Loan companies still scramble for new business and retail outlets increasingly offer special credit terms with "nothing to pay now".

 Many end up paying the minimum required interest charges over a very long period -- the old fashioned term "getting it on the never-never" is a pretty good description, and of course the original capital borrowed virtually never gets paid off.

 One of the problems with debt, whether it is the kind that cripples the under-developed countries or the personal debts of workers in Britain, is the power it gives to the lender and the capitalist class in general.

 Personal debt in working class families is a great source of anxiety and stress because failure to meet the minimum repayments eventually brings the bailiff, the County Court summons, the house repossession and the van calling round to take back the furniture.

 These fears tend to make workers compliant and easier to push around. A climate can easily develop of everyone keeping their heads down, noses to the grindstone and shoulders to the wheel. The boss gets more productivity while the workers give more sweat.

 What is needed now is for the rise in trade union membership to gather pace so that more and more workers can benefit from being part of a collective organisation that can fight in their interests. And, engaging in the struggle for higher wages and better conditions and insisting upon the properly negotiated rate for the job will not only reduce stress but will also help to lessen the problems of personal debt.

 Above all the system of capitalism itself has to be overthrown completely and replaced with a socialist society if these recurring catastrophes are to cease once and for all. Let us fight to end the capitalist cycles of mass unemployment, of people suddenly being thrust into poverty, of starvation in the under-developed world and outbreaks of capitalist-inspired warfare. Our fight is for socialism!

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Lead Story

Rail bosses must face justice

by Caroline Colebrook

THE GOVERNMENT announced last week that criminal charges may be brought against senior managers at Railtrack and at the civil engineering firm Balfour Beatty over the Hatfield rail crash last October in which four people died and 70 were injured.

 The Government also announced there would be no public inquiry into the crash because it is all too clear that a broken rail caused the accident.

 The decision whether or not to bring corporate manslaughter charges will rest with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). If they decide against, the Health and Safety Executive is likely to press lesser charges on breaches of health and safety regulations.

 If the corporale manslaughter charges do go ahead, this will be the first time that negligent bosses have faced such charges.

 An attempt was made after the Southall rail crash but the judge threw it out because it was not possible to pin-point individual managers within the companies involved who were guilty of criminal negligence.

 If the CPS does not bring charges, the victims of the crash will be cheated of justice. With no inquiry, there will not be any arena in which responsibility for the disaster can be determined and recorded.

 The preliminary investigation by the HSE has revealed a rail that was in such bad condition it crumbled into 300 pieces.

 Investigation manager Frank Hyland said: "The rail was in a very poor condition over and above what you would expect from normal wear and tear."

 And technical adviser Chris Wilby said he has never encountered worse track. " I had not seen track with so many pieces out of it. Some came out as a result of the derailment, but others were clearly out before."

 The rail had been recognised as in need of repair the January before the crash but Balfour Beatty, the engineering firm contracted by Railtrack to do rail maintenance on that stretch, had not got round to replacing it.

 Chris 'Wilby said that although Balfour Beatty had been the maintenance contractor, it had ultimately been Railtrack's responsibility to impose a speed restriction on that stretch of line until the replacement work had been done.

 If the train had been travelling at 20 miles and hour instead of 115 miles an hour the rail would probably not have shattered. Even if it had, there would probably have been no casualties.

 The deterioration of the track had been noted less than three months before the crash. The new replacement rail had been lying alongside the faulty track, waiting to be fitted as the ultrasonic testing exercise took place. But the renewal schedule was not brought forward.

 HSE chief rail inspector Vic Coleman said the industry had been alarmed because inspections had failed to detect rails on the point of breaking both at Hatfield and Mossend, just outside Glasgow, where a Virgin train was derailed in November.

 Railtrack has admitted that the condition of the Hatfield track was "wholly unacceptable" but claimed its emergency re-trailing programme since then should ensure that such an accident cannot happen again.

 No blame was attached to the driver of the train. She was a trainee driver with seven weeks experience. Technically she should not have been driving at that speed until she had 11 weeks experience but she did have a fully qualified instructor with her.

 When the Tories privatised British Rail, carving it up into separate bits and putting it in the hands of the profiteers, this sort of accident became inevitable.

 Railtrack tried to save money and increase profits by sacking thousands of skilled British Rail track engineers. In their place they employed a collection of sub-contractors with no experience or specialist skills in rail maintenance.

 It is time the Labour government put the interests of passengers and rail workers above the profiteers and renationalised our railways.

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Blair must remove blocks to peace

by Daphne Liddle

THE PEACE process in the north of Ireland has stalled because of obstruction by those who do not want change and do not want to honour their part in the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein representative Francie Molloy -- a member of the Northern Ireland General Assembly -- said last Saturday.

 He was addressing a crowd that packed north London's Carton Hall at the Bloody Sunday commemoration rally and meeting -- organised by the Troops Out Movement -- about the current Saville inquiry ink, the events of that massacre, now 29 years ago.

 "The present British government is covering up, destroying evidence and protecting the guilty," said Francie Malloy.

 "Is there any difference between the attitude of this government and the British government at the time?" he asked.

 "This time the croppies are not lying down. History has a habit of repeating itself and brutality ensures that Irish people arise in strength.

 "Bloody Sunday ensured that Irish people stood up and fought.

 "We will have our freedom! Freedom to walk around Portadown in peace and safety, freedom to learn the truth about Bloody Sunday and about the killing of Diarmuid Diarmuid O'Neill, freedom to work and live normal decent lives."

 He went on to describe how the system was designed by the British state to fence the Irish out and make them second class citizens in their own homes.

 The massacre of 14 peaceful protesters in Derry on Bloody Sunday "was a decision to teach us all a lesson". The troops were put into the north of Ireland to protect British interests in Ireland.

 Francie Molloy continued: "Earlier today in debate the question came up of why don't the British simply admit the killings were an error. It is because they would have to admit they are still doing the same thing today."

 He spoke of the hopes that had been engendered by Blair's vision just after the election of 1997 which moved things along well, resulting in the Good Friday Agreement. All parties had had to make significant concessions to secure it.

 "Then the 'securocrats' started to regain control," he said. "They put up road blocks to ensure there would be no further progress. But Blair can remove those road blocks. It is up to him to stand up and prove that the secureaucrats don't rule.

 "The Unionist veto is still in place and Blair needs to remove that or there will be no progress.

 "We need a clear commitment from the British government to honour the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. The GFA is not a republican document. The Government and the Unionists also signed it. Since then they have back-tracked.

 "We need recommitment but not renegotiation. The General Assembly needs to be there as of right -- not as something that Mandelson can dissolve on a whim."

 Francie Molloy said it was time to stop feeling sorry for "poor Trimble", undersiege from other Unionists. The more they are pandered to, the more they will demand.

He said: "It is time we were citizens in our own country. There must be no no-go areas for Catholics."

 Other speakers at the rally included John Kelly, who took part in the fateful Bloody Sunday march and witnessed his brother being shot and killed by British paratroopers; speakers from the Justice for Diarmuid O'Neill campaign and the Pat Finucane Centre; Martina Anderson; journalist and broadcaster Jeremy Hardy; MP John McDonnell and others.

 The final session was chaired by Jeremy Corbyn MP, who arrived hot foot from a demonstration in Grosvernor Square.

 As the rally drew to a close, many of those attending went straight on to a benefit social in Haringey that lasted most of the night.

 The next morning, a wet, cold and windy Sunday morning, a large party of those who had been at the rally gathered again in Whitehall, just opposite Downing Street for a protest picket.

 In spite of the cold and wet the picket was very noisy and left no one within earshot in any doubt that Irish people want the truth about what happened on Bloody Sunday and those responsible to be held to account.

 By this they do not mean just the squaddies who fired the shots but the senior figures in the military and in Government who made a deliberate policy of trying to intimidate the civil rights movement in the north of Ireland with death and terror -- up to an including Edward Heath, the Prime Minister at the time.

 Just last Monday, the Saville inquiry heard evidence from former Royal Engineer John McLaughlin that he heard troops being ordered to fire at people's backs.

 Francie Molloy led a delegation across Whitehall to try to deliver a letter to Mr Blair but was blocked by police and prevented from entering Downing Street to deliver it.

 The letter expressed alarm that the Saville inquiry was not public and independent as Blair had promised because of interference from civil servants, and from the Ministry of Defence.

 It also expressed deep concern over the destruction of evidence -- guns, photographs and so on by the MoDD, the anonymity granted to former soldiers and the public interest immunity certificates.

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Voices raised against sanctions

by New Worker correspondent

THE WELSH coalition to Stop the Sanctions -- Stop the bombing of Iraq went to London on Tuesday 16 January to join some 200 others in the rally called by Voices in the Wilderness outside Westminster Abbey and a march to the House of Commons.

 Our group consisted of David Morris, former MEP for Neath and CND Cymru's chair; CND Cymru vice-chair Labour county councillor Ray Davies; together with members of Cor Cochion Caerdydd (Cardiff Reds Choir).

 Tam Dalyell addressed the rally and spoke out passionately against the sanctions and the continued bombing of Iraq.

 He thanked the many anti-sanctions groups present and pledged to continue raising the issue on the floor of the House of Commons.

 Police were gathering in large numbers. Their photographer worked hard to ensure that all the key people had their pictures taken for the police records.

 In between speeches the London Samba band and Cor Cochion kept demonstrators spirits warm in the biting cold wind.

 With the speeches over, we assembled outside Westminster Abbey and prepared to march on the Houses of Parliament.

 Spirits were high. We knew that justice was on our side, that we were there to represent the 137 Iraqi children who die every day and will continue to die until we lift the sanctions.

 We were there representing the majority of British people who are appalled that a Labour government is carrying out such genocide.

 At the first opportunity, a section of the march sat down in the middle of the road leading from the Abbey to Parliament. Traffic came to a standstill. The Met were extremely well organised and they immediately blocked off the road.

 While most of the demonstration was moved on the police got rough with those who were sitting in the road. They picked up Ray Davies by his arms and legs and threw him and most of the demonstrators behind the police barricades, arresting the 10 or so who were left.

 Feeling bruised but unbowed they ran and caught up with the march which police halted at the road junction just beneath Big Ben. They were determined to prevent  the demonstration marching to the House of Commons.

 Five women from Bangor, North Wales, locked arms in pvc piping. They sat down in the road and again stopped the traffic, causing chaos on the highway.

 Four others joined them to give the circle strength. They all locked arms and legs and sang protest songs against Blair, Hain and the United States and the apparatus of war which was bringing so much suffering to the Iraqi people.

 The police seemed in no hurry to deal with them. First they gave their attention to the Samba band; pushing, punching and shoving the leader of the band.

 They managed to split the protesters into two groups, onto the road outside Parliament. But a significant number managed to make it to the Commons where public disorder arrests were made.

 When the march had been moved onto the pavetnent, the police came on to those who were locked together in the middle of the road.

 Their language was obscene and their tactics brutal. They tried to snatch Ray Davies from the middle of the lock but the circle held firm.

 The well-trained special police had particular orders and knew exactly what to do. They applied pressure to certain points on demonstrators' necks, causing excruciating pain and making arms and legs go numb. Ray Davies was dragged out, taken to the police van, had his details taken and was then released. His colleagues were not so lucky. They were badly roughed up and taken away.

 Ray Davies eventually rejoined the choir, trapped behind a police blockade of vehicles and rows of officers trying to prevent the banners being seen by passing traffic.

 They sang the African freedom song Senzenina (What have they done?), Gonna lay down my sword and shield, Biladi, the pan-Arab anthem, and others.

 At first they were prevented from leaving the blockade but were eventually allowed through. They felt battered but "with a warm feeling in our hearts that we had made our voices heard in the cause of peace for the long suffering Iraqi people."

 They said: "We will come back again and again and again. We will not go away until our Government stops this genecide."

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British News

Holocaust lessons still not learned

 SURVIVORS of the Kindertransport of the 1930s -- the movement that brought refugee Jewish children to Britain from Germany to escape Hitler's persecution -- gathered last Tuesday at Liverpool Street Station in east London.

 Some 10,000 Jewish children arrived by train at that station with very mixed feelings -- relief to have escaped the impending horrors of Nazi Germany, anxiety for their families left behind -- many never saw their parents again, and uncertainty about making their way in a new country.

 The event was one of many this week to mark the Holocaust remembrance day on 27 January -- the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by the Red Army.

 Most of the survivors are now pensioners but their memories remain fresh of their first impressions of Britain.

 The organisers of the event drew a sharp contrast between the way these refugee children were received and cared for by the Jewish community and by wider British society then and the way that refugee children are treated now by British society.

 Refugee children today face hostility and resentment after sensationalist stories in the press about "foreign scroungers" and "bogus" asylum seekers.

 The survivors last week made it clear that many of the lessons of the Holocaust have yet to be learnt.

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