The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 26th February, 1999

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Editorial - Whose freedom?
Lead Story - The Met must change.
Feature - Threat to all Scottish council housing.
International - Fears grow for Ocalan's life.
British News - Marchers show solidarity with Skychef workers.

Editorial

Whose freedom?

 THERE are moments when the timing of events fully exposes some of the not-so-secret agenda of the United States, Britain and the rest of the Nato pack.

 Last week was such a moment. Nato foreign ministers and diplomats spent the week cloistered together in Paris with representatives of the federal republic of Yugoslavia and the Kosovan separatists. They claimed the aim of the talks was to broker a peace agreement.

 In reality it was used as an opportunity to issue threats of air strikes against Yugoslavia if it didn't agree to letting Nato troops stomp all over part of its sovereign territory -- supposedly to "defend" the interests of the western-backed Kosovan separatists.

 While this was going on in Paris, veteran Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was kidnapped in Nairobi and taken under armed guard to Turkey where he will be put on trial. His arrest prompted a worldwide wave of protests from Kurdish people and their supporters.

 Nato leaders had nothing to say about this. Clearly Kosovan separatism has Nato's seal of approval while lifting the yoke of Turkish oppression from the Kurds does not.

 As far as the leaders of the capitalist world are concerned, the rights of pepple to determine their own affairs either through regional autonomy or full national sovereignty depends on whether or not it suits the interests of western imperialism.

 Nation state status gets the thumbs up when it's for Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and now Kosovo because imperialism wants Yugoslavia broken up. Divided into small bits it becomes weak, open to economic domination and obedient to the strategic designs of the big powers.

 But it s a different story when it comes to Turkey. Here is a country the imperialist leaders want to keep intact. They do not want to see the setting up of an autonomous area for Kurds, far less do they want the creation of a Kurdish state. Turkey is a Nato member in a strategically important area -- breaking it up is the very last thing Nato would allow.

 In a similar way the "sovereignty" of Kuwait is defended to the death, though it is merely a puppet of the United States, while the people of Palestine have their legitimate demands for a Palestinian state obstructed at every turn.

 Our Party fully supports the struggle of the Irish people for self-determination. This is objectively an anti-imperialist struggle against what is still a remnant of British colonial rule.

 We also support the Palestinians in their struggle for freedom from Israeli oppression and for the creation of a Palestinian state.

 Unfortunately some progressives try to apply some kind of abstract and uniform guiding principle to matters of self determination and nationalist demands for statehood. They proceed from the idea that all such demands should be supported as if they were all part of the same cause as the national liberation struggles that freed many countries in the post-war years from colonial rule.

 This idealist view leads some people into supporting the most reactionary nationalist demands and plays into the hands of imperialism.

 In fact there is no escape from the realities of class struggle. The important questions to ask are whose interests would be served and whether separatism would lead to liberation for the majority of the people or even greater enslavement to bigger powers?

 The large-scale break-up of the former Soviet Union has undoubtedly benefited giant western companies eager to plunder that country's natural mineral resources and it has benefited its home-grown capitalists and mafia gangs. But it has been a disaster for the majority of the people who have been plunged into poverty and hardship.

 The break-up of Yugoslavia is just as reactionary. It only serves imperialism, reactionaries in Albania and local bourgeois elements.

 Last week's Nato threats may have been put on hold but they have not gone away -- we need to raise our voices to protest against the threat, or use, of air strikes and bombing raids on Yugoslavia.

 We also need to add our voices to those of the Kurds in demanding firstly, that Abdullah Ocalan is afforded political prisoner status and humane treatment, and generally that the brutal repression of Kurdish people by the Turkish state is ended.

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Lead Story

The Met must change

by Daphne Liddle
 THE INQUIRY into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent police failure to pursue the culprits last Wednesday finally published its report.

 It is certainly a damning report on the incompetence and racism ofthe Metropolitan Police Force. The report makes 70 recommendations for changes.

 These include that the Met must confront and eradicate its institutionalised racism.

 Sir Paul Condon has been forced to admit after all that his force is blighted by institutionalised racism and he faces new calls to resign -- even though Home Secretary Jack Straw is calling on him to remain for the last ten months of his term of office to launch the deep changes hat are needed.

 Mr Straw says there is no one better to do the job. That may well be the case but it is a sorry admission to make.

 Sir Paul Condon after all is the man who tried to reassure the Lawrence family time and again that the investigation into their son's death was conducted properly, after a whitewash internal Met inquiry.

 He himself was part of the racist machine that tried to fob them off. Even now he is quibbling over the definition of institutionalised racism.

 The inquiry report gives him a definition that is obvious to most black people. Black Londoners were simply not getting a fair deal from the Met.

 They were many more times likely to be stopped on the street by police, more likely to be arrested, less likely to be believed, more likely to be injured or killed in custody and when victims of attack or murder, their cases were much less likely to be pursued to the arrest and conviction of the attackers.

 This does not mean that all London police are racist. But it does mean that until now those who were racist had nothing to fear in the way of discipline.

 Time and again courts awarded hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money in compensation to black Londoners who had been injured by police. Yet the officers involved were seldom sacked or disciplined.

 The report makes some important recommendations here: that racist police should be sacked and that officers guilty of crimes or gross breaches of discipline should remain liable for five years after they retire.

 This will prevent the escape hatch of early retirement by which dozens of seriously rotten police officers have escaped justice.

racist crime

 And the police must target racism and racist crime. We are glad to report that according to Gerry Gable, the recently retired editor of anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, this is already happening.

 He told the New Worker that the police are now feeding through intelligence on racist gangs to their local stations and some 600 arrests have been made in the last few months.

 The Prime Minister Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Sir Paul Condon and many other powerful people have been describing this report as a watershed in our society's attitude to racism.

 We shall have to wait and see. As Doreen Lawrence warned, there have been reports before, like Lord Scarman's in the early 80s, that appeared to be earthshaking, yet they were never implemented and things went on as before.

 The Met currently gives a message to young black people that however they behave, they are likely to be stopped, questioned and generally picked on. And the message to racists is that they can commit murder and get away with it.

 Perhaps that is why last Sunday another young black person was stabbed to death by unknown assailants in Lee Green, south east London just a couple of miles from where Stephen Lawrence died.

 Police say they do not know the motive but so far no other reason for the killing of Sheldon Anton Bobb except racism has emerged. They had better take this investigation seriously.

 Michael Mansfield, the barrister who has represented the Lawrence family at the inquiry, pointed out mat this exposure of the sordid details of the police racism would not have come out if the inquiry had not been granted and that was done by the Labour government as soon as it came to power. He said he very much doubted the Tories would ever have sanctioned it.

 We hope the inquiry does mark a watershed change for the better in race relations in Britain but we cannot take this for granted. We must continue to be vigilant and to campaign.

 And we must acknowledge that whatever colour we are, we owe a debt to the Lawrence family and their supporters for their courage and persistence in refusing to let the matter drop.
 

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Feature

Threat to all Scottish council housing
 
by Caroline Colebrook
 
 THE GOVERNMENT last week published a Green Paper on the future of "social housing" in Scotland. It will put pressure on local authorities to transfer all their council houses to "community partnerships".

 This arrangement will also involve borrowing large sums from the private sector to finance repairs and upgrading.

 A few years ago a report found that much council housing in Scotland was inadequate in keeping out the cold, meaning that tenants had to use excessive amounts of fuel to keep warm.

 The housing stock has also deteriorated from years of neglect under Tory governments when local authorities were limited on what they could spend on housing repairs.

Now Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar is finishing off what the Tories began by telling councils to step back from being large-scale landlords and to take a "strategic view" of housing management in both public and private sectors.

standard

 Around 30 per cent of Scotland's housing is rented and this includes 600,000 council homes. They have an estimated market value of £2 billion but that same sum will need to be spent to bring them up to standard.

 Strictly the Westminster government should not be spending money drawing up these plans and publishing a Green Paper because the power to enact any change will be transferred to the Scottish Parliament.

 But clearly Labour expects to dominate that parliamenL and would be likely to go ahead with these plans anyway.

 The Green Paper proposes a single regulatory body for all forms of "social housing" and a national framework for housing.

 It also deals with homelessness and the sale of privately owned homes.

 It would put the responsibility for surveying a house for sale onto the seller rather than the buyer.

 This change would save tentative buyers wasting money on houses to find themselves outbid by another buyer.

 But it could also present a risk to buyers as sellers would shop around for a survey or who would give a favourable and possibly misleading survey.

 There has been little opposition voiced to the Green Paper so far. Obviously it does not spell out the changes from secure tenancies for council tenants to assured tenancies for private or housing association housing.

 Nor does the Green Paper point out that housing associations or "partnerships" have to operate in the private sector and can be forced to charge "market" rents or go bankrupt.

 And of course the management committees of these partnerships cannot be voted out in local government elections.

homelessness

 On homelessness, Donald Dewar said: "Everyone in Scotland deserves a decent, secure and affordable home but too many individuals and households have been denied for too long.

 "The arrival of the Scottish parrliament presents an exciting opportunity to tackle this problem by developing radical housing policies. Our objective is to invest in modernisation, regenerate communities and empower tenants."

 The homeless charity Shelter said: "We are pleased that the Housing Minister has taken on board some of Shelter's concerns. Homelessness should be at the heart of any housing policy, a review of the causes of homelessness is well overdue."

breakdown

 The Green Paper quotes statistics from local authorities indicating that homelessness most often arises from the breakdown of a relationship or friendship.

 Shelter spokesperson Gavin Corbett said: "It is too simplistic to suggest that the main reason for people becoming homeless is because of relationship breakdowns or because family and friends are no longer willing to accommodate them.

 "This is often the immediate reason but masks the underlying causes of homelessness.

 "Shelter is concerned that many people are simply not able to receive help under present legislation. Any housing policy that does not address how to help those excluded from housing is bound to fail."
 

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International

Fears grow for Ocalan's life
By Our Middle East Affairs correspondent
 
 KURDISH WORKERS Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan has now been formally charged with treason by the Turkish authorities who are holding him in an island prison off Istanbul.

 The prison, cleared of all other inmates, is being readied for Ocalan's "trial" for treason and rebellion which the Turks say will start in April.

 But there are growing fears that Ocalan may not live to see the day. This week the Turkish media claimed that Ocalan was suffering from "a serious heart condition". This is pure invention. When he was in Italy in January Ocalan underwent a thorough medical examination and the diagnosis gave him the all clear.

 The Turks also claim that the Kurdish leader has signed a two page statement renouncing his past actions. Though no-one has seen it the PKK fear that such a statement could have been extracted from their leader through torture and drugs. And while he has been allowed access to one lawyer, his defence team have been threatened by members of the Turkish fascist Grey Wolves gang and denied police protection.

 Some 2,000 pro-Kurdish activists have been rounded up by police in Turkey since Ocalan's capture and three were shot by security forces tryng to quell pro-Kurdish demonstrations.

 According to the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD) the police have confirmed one death, that of a 17-year-old boy in the south-eastern province of Mardin, where police opened fire on a demonstration. The IHD report that 12 people had set themselves ablaze in pro-Ocalan protests and two had died from their bums.

 Most of the arrests targeted members of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP). HADEP said last Friday that 1,500 of its members had been arrested and a Turkish paper reported last weekend that a further 230 HADEP members were rounded up during a police raid on the party offices in Istanbul.

 The Turkish Bar Association has complained about the arrest of lawyers in recent days and the order to shoot issued to the Istanbul police to deal with pro-Kurd demonstrations.

 "In this dark situation, we pledge to continue to oppose the politics of violence and to defend peace and fraternity," the Association said. "And we repeat once again that the Kurdish question has not been solved by repression and will not be solved by repression,".

 Back in Greece anger at the socialist government's role in Ocalan's capture is growing. Three Greek ministers, including the Foreign Minister, were dismissed last week following charges of collusion with Turkey in parliament from the conservative and communist opposition ranks and from within the ruling PASOK (Pan Hellenic Socialist Party) bloc.

 Communist leader Aleka Paparigha has dismissed the official version of events in Kenya and in the Athens parliament she accused the government of turning Ocalan over to the Turks and called on the whole PASOK government to resign.

 "It is not possible for you not to know that all movements of the Greek government were being monitored by the US and other countries' secret services. Even a novice deputy could not make such a mistake. We believe that you did what you did having at least made known to the US government and to Burns (US ambassador in Athens) your actions." she said.

 "A plan is being implemented, with the business end of a gun on the temple, aiming at settling questions concerning Serbia, the Balkans, the Aegean Sea, Cyprus, etc., and the attitude of the government does not allow us to consider them as a non-participating factor. I don't know what you are thinking you will get in exchange. We, however, know that these actions will be paid by the Greek people and the neighbouring and friendly peoples".
 

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British News

Marchers show solidarity with Skychef workers
by Ann Rogers in Southall
 
OVER a thousand people marched through the main streets of Southall, west London, last Saturday in a massive demonstration of solidarity with 300 workers sacked by airport catering firm LSG Skychef for going on a one-day official strike.

 Banners came from many Transport & General Workers Union branches and regions as well as from public sector union Unison, transport union RMT, electricians' union EPIU, trades councils, the Indian Workers Association, the Hillingdon Hospital strikers, and a number of political parties including the NCP.

 TUC general secretary John Monks pledged the support of the TUC general council for the sacked workers. "We're going to win this dispute", he said and he urged the Skychef bosses to learn a lesson from management at Wembley-based electronics firm Rosti who have now reinstated activists fighting a battle for trade union recognition.

 A pledge of full support from Southern and Eastern Region TUC was brought by SERTUC chair Martin Gould.

 Feltham and Heston MP Alan Keen joined the march and a message of support from Southall MP Piara Khabra was passed on to the rally in Southall Park. Altogether some 200 MPs have expressed support for the strikers.

 TGWU general secrtary Bill Morris said the sacked workers had the backing of every member of the union. He thanked the local community for its support and said: "You are here today to say that not only do you support the workers at Skychef but also to strike a blow for decency, for dignity and for human rights". Regional TGWU officer Alan Green summed up the feelings of everyone at the rally when he said that the right to strike means nothing if striking workers are given the sack after just six hours of strike action.

 The point was well made from the platform that this struggle is a fight on behalf of all workers not just the sacked Skychef strikers, or other airport workers -- it is the business of every worker.

 Union representatives have already visited France and Germany to take the message of this dispute to trade unionists in Europe. This is important because the ultimate boss of LSG Skychef is the German airline Lufthansa.

 If Lufthansa get away with forcing Heathrow workers to suffer poorer working conditions by ruthless anti-union tactics and mass sackings the problem will not stop at Heathrow or be just a problem for British workers.

 Strikers' representatives expressed the disgust they felt at the methods used. They reminded the rally that dismissal notices were even sent to union members who were not at work at the time of the strike due to sickness. And they believe the pressure led to the premature death of one of their colleagues.

 The mood of the rally was one of determination. The point was made that Skychef bosses, who are no doubt hoping the march would be the climax of the struggle, must be quickly disillusioned. This march is not the end but the beginning of the victory.

 Bill Morris spelt it out: "I'll see you in Trafalgar Square"!
 

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