The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 26th May 2000

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Editorial - Britain's Vietnam?
Lead Story - Dig up and pay up!
Feature - UN agreement "just one small step".
International - Last exit from south Lebanon.
British News - Don't patronise us, say pensioners.

Editorial

Britain's Vietnam?

THE DEPLOYMENT of Royal Marines in Freetown, the re-arming of the Sierra Leone army and the despatch of "military advisers" shows that British imperialism has decided to intervene directly in this African civil war.

 Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain says the supply of 10,000 rifles to the Sierra Leone army is not a breach of the United Nations arms embargo designed to end the civil war, though it is difficult to see what else it is.

 The Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, talks about "winding down" the British military presence, but he refuses to set a date for their final withdrawal, or indeed, explain the purpose of their mission.

 But deeds speak louder than words and it's clear that British troops are in Sierra Leone to Prop up the government, drive the rebels from the diamond mines and ultimately drive them out of their own country.

 The bourgeois lie-machine is now in top gear. The rebel Revolutionary United Front is branded as a bunch of savages. Tame journalists posing as "military experts", tell us that the rebels will soon be defeated. Others claim that not only was the country better off under British colonialism but that this is the view of many of the Sierra Leonians today. Ominously we are also informed that the Sierra Leone army will not be ready for battle for another two months.

 There is no doubt that the Marines and the SAS pathfinder scouts will do what they are good at doing -- killing people -- and there can be little doubt that this is what will be required of them in the days to come. The Sierra Leone government can barely hold on to the capital at the moment, let alone mount an offensive on their own against the rebels.

 The Blair government, acting as a willing tool of British imperialism, doesn't even attempt to justify its actions any more. But two sinister unsaid principles underlie this new African intervention. The first is the right of a major western power to intervene directly in a regional conflict if asked to by a "government". This has to remain unstated because Britain and the other imperialist countries only recognise the sovereignty of others when they have to or when it suits them.

 It doesn't apply to the Arab countries whose territory is occupied by Israel to this day. It doesn't apply to People's China as far as the rebel province of Taiwan is concerned and it certainly didn't apply to Yugoslavia last year when Britain, America and the rest of the Nato pack bombarded the country in support of the rebels of the "Kosovo Liberation Army".

 The other unspoken principle is that Britain has a right to intervene in its former colonies -- a claim it did not dare assert during the hey-day of the non-aligned movement -- to protect its economic interests.

 This is blatant neo-colonialism. It is also war. We have to say over and over again that Britain has no right to intervene in the Sierra Leone civil war. The question of who rules that country is matter for the people who live there alone to decide.

 British intervention can only benefit the Anglo-American mineral companies and those Sierra Leonians who serve them. British guns cannot bring peace to the country. The only peace that British imperialism can impose on Sierra Leone is the peace of the grave. We have to demand the immediate withdrawal of all British forces from the country. Some Labour MPs and peace activists have taken a principled stand against this war. More, and more must speak out to try and halt it.

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Lead Story

Dig up and pay up!

by Daphne Liddle

FARMERS and environmentalists last week joined together to call for genetically modified crops sown by mistake to be dug up immediately before, they produce pollen, and for the farmers to be compensated.

 Hundreds of farmers in Britain, Sweden, France and Germany unwittingly planted the seeds over two spring seasons without any of the safeguards put in place for GM crops trial -- inadequate as these are.

 The seeds, supplied by the Advanta seed company, came from the Canadian prairies, from plants that were grown 800 metres away from GM crops. But cross pollination occured and the seeds that were sold as non-GM were tainted with GM characteristics.

 This in itself surely demonstrates that it is impossible to control the spread of GM crops once they have been allowed to flower and spread pollen around and that even under test conditions it is not safe to plant them.

 More than 22,000 acres of contaminated seed were harvested in Britain last year with a further 11,750 acres planted this year.

 Some of last year's crop is already thought to have entered the food chain -- in margarine, ice cream and chocolate. No one knows what the long-term effects of eating such products will be.

 The Swedish and French governments have already announced their intention to dig up the crops and destroy the seeds an quickly as possible and to compensate the farmers.

 And one English farmer, John Sanderson from Harleston, has already ploughed his crop of oilseed rape back into the ground. It had been just about to flower.

 The planting of these crops all over the country means that no crops grown anywhere near them can be sold as definitely GM free. This will cost farmers very dear.

 It has emerged that Government officials have failed to test imported crops for GM contamination.

 And the Government learned of the disastrous mistake on 17 April but did not inform farmers for over a month -- allowing the contaminated crops to grow on that much closer to pollination.

 Scottish farmers say they did not sow their crops until April and that if they had been told at once they would not have gone ahead with the planting.

 The-British government is trying to play down the whole disaster. The Ministry of Agriculture says it is "gathering legal advice and taking advice".

 It claims the contaminated food poses no risk to consumers -- how can it know? And the ministry claims the crops pose no threat to the environment.

 It seems as though the Government's message is that it is "too late to do anything so let's cross our fingers and hope the consequences are not too bad".

 Baroness Hayman, speaking for the Government on BBC two's Newsnight said the level of contamination was so low -- about one or two per cent -- that there was no need for the destruction of crops.

 This is missing the point. It is like saying that one or two escaped rabbits on the newly discovered continent of Australia would not possibly do any harm.

 Introducing rabbits to thatcontinent did untold damage to the native wildlife as they multiplied, driving out other species and they still remain a serious problem for Australian farmers.

 Some suspect the whole catastrophe has been engineered by the companies trying to promote GM crops to persuade us to accept them as a fait accompli.

 The environmental group Friends of the Earth says it has been given legal advice that Advanta could be liable for criminal charges.

 The Consumers' Association is calling on the Government to act "quickly and decisively" to mimimise the damage and prevent any more GM crops from entering the food chain.

 The association's director, Sheila McKechnie, said: "This scandal makes a mockery of the efforts that supermarkets and manufacturers have made to secure non-GM supplies. It was being grown in Britain all along and being used in our food."

 The world does not need GM seeds. They are being produced only with profit in mind and the future risks and dangers are not known. Once released into the wild it is extremely difficult to reverse the spread.

 The danger is that GM crops will hybridise with wild plants to produce weeds that cannot be controlled and may be very harmful.

 The Government must act now as quickly as possibly to limit the damage. The crops must be destroyed, the farmers compensated and the company responsible must be prosecuted by the Government and made to pay.

 Any other course of action could endanger future generations on this planet.

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Feature

UN agreement "just one small step"

by Caroline Colebrook

FIVE MAJOR nuclear powers, including Britain, last week made a pledge at the United Nations to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. But disarmament campaigners are not celebrating just yet.

 At the weekend around 120 anti-nuclear campaigners descended on the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE) at Aldermaston to protest at the illegality of nuclear weapons and draw attention to their continuing menace.

 The protest was organised by Trident Ploughshares 2000 and involved a mass sit-down outside the gates of Aldermaston which succeeded in halting all traffic in and out of the base for nearly an hour.

 Some 42 protestors were arrested and among them was Ray Davies, a veteran anti-nuclear campaigner, vice chairperson of CND Cymru and a Caerphilly county borough councillor, along with some members of the Cardiff Reds Choir (Cor Cochion Caerdydd).

 Ray Davies told the New Worker: "We concentrated on blocking the base and we were very successful. We crept through a cornfield, dashed across the road and completely closed the gates.

 "One of the women chained herself to the gate and the chain was passed around us so that it was difficult for the police to untangle us.

 "The police quoted Section 14, which says the whole area is a no-go area. Anybody could be arrested if they come within a two-mile radius of the base."

 Ray Davies told the police it was they, the Government and the Aldermaston establishment who are acting illegally. Nuclear weapons are illegal.

 He said to the police: "I am just back from a trip to Iraq and I have seen the effects of the sort of weapons they produce here.

 "I have seen the 1,000 children a month who are dying from the effects of depleted uranium weapons.

 "In Kosovo 100 children have already been listed as being killed after accidentally picking up unexploded cluster bombs."

 He told the police: "I am not doing this just for my children but for the children of Iraq and or Kosovo and of East Timor and children all around the world who should have the same rights to live in peace and security.

 "I am prepared keep doing this, even if it means going to prison, as long as I have breath left in my body."

 He and other protesters were taken to Reading police station but later released on bail.

 Ray Davies told the New Worker he was heartened by the number of young people involved in the protest and makeing a stand against the police and the Government.

 When asked about the new agreement by the super powers to eliminate their nuclear arsenals he replied: "It is a step in the right direction -- but just one small step.

 "There is no date given and there are no arrangments to meet again to discuss a deadline for disarmament.

 "This agreement is the result of campaigning, of non-violent direct action here in Britain and all around the world. This agreement would not have been reached without mass pressure. "There is still an awful lot of work to do. It is only oy protesting and campaigning vieorously that we'll do away with nuclear weapons.

 "Now is not the time to sit back. This agreement should galvanise us into further action."

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International

Last exit from south Lebanon

by our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

ISKAELI troops scuttled out of south Lebanon on Tuesday, taking their Arab qublings with them. In a panic move prompted by the collapse of their puppet "South Lebanon Army" (SLA) auxiliaries, the Israelis pulled out six weeks ahead of schedule.

 They were racing to the border while the Lebanese resistance advanced to the cheers of the villagers who have endured occupation and Israeli terror for 22 years.

 Stopping only to blow up fortifications and equipment to prevent the resistance or the Lehanese army using them, the hated Israeli army drove south and the Lebanese people hope they will never see them again.

 Lebanese villagers stormed the prison in the village of Khiam, freeing the 140 patriots jailed by the SLA on Israeli orders. Some had been inside for over ten years. And throughout what was once Israel's "security bell" villagers greeted the resistance and returning refugees with Lebanese flags and the yellow banners of the Hezbullah (Party of God) militia.

 "This is the first victory in 50 years of Arab-Israeli conflict," Hezbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declared in Beirut with a slight but understandable exaggeration.

 In Israel there is relief at what the people hope is the end of a conflict that claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli soldiers and a realisation that their much vaunted army was brought to its knees by the determination and courage of Lebanese guerrillas.

 "We have always wanted to leave Lebanon, but now itis happening we cannot escape the feeling that events are being forced on us," Israeli General Shaul Mofaz said in the Israeli border settlement of Kiryat Shimona on Tuesday. That too was an exaggeration.

 In the 70s, when Lebanon was torn apart by civil war, many Israeli leaders thought they could seize southern Lebanon for themselves. Tel Aviv ordered the troops in to back the Falange in the civil war, briefly occupying West Beirut and the whole of the south. But they were bombed out of Beirut and the rest of south Lebanon, apart from this border strip which has been the scene of continuous fighting with the resistance.

 "This tragedy is over," Labour Prime Minister Ehud Barak said on Israel Army radio on Tuesday. He won the election last year pledging to pull-out of Lebanon within a year. That promise he has at least kept. But it may not be the end of the story.

 Thousands of "SLA" men and their families are fleeing to Israel to escape the wrath of the partisans and the Lebanese govemment which has declared them traitors.

 Barak has granted them asylum-status but their long-term future is in doubt. They will demand Israeli citizenship as a reward for their loyal service -- they after all have nowhere else to go. But Israel has no further use for them.

 To use them as border guards would only be a further provecation to the Lebanese resistance -- an open invitation to carry the war over into Israel. And resettlement in other parts of Israel could anger fanatical Zionists opposed to all but Jewish settlement in the country.

 Tel Aviv hopes most of them will eventually be allowed to return to Lebanon. Some may want to go to America if they are let in. Most look like staying in Israel for a very long time.

 That's the least of Barak's problems. He's first of all got to ensure that the conflict with Lebanon is really over, and in the absence of any formalagreement with Beirut it depends on Israel giving up every inch of Lebanese soil.

 The Shebaa farms, an area on the tip of the border, is a potential new flash-point. Lebanese premier Saiim al-Hoss stressed on Monday that any pull-out that does not include them will be considered a redeployment and not a withdrawal. The Shebaa farms were Lebanese and Lebanon had the right to fight to regain them, he said. This is also the view of Hezbullah, which announced last weekend that the Shebaa farms had become a new focus for resistance action.

 Barak could have had a negotiated agreement if he had responded realistically to Syrian peace proposals. Syria, the main power-broker in Lebanon, with thousands of peace-keeping troops in the Bekaa Valley, insists that there can be no peace unless Israel gives up every inch of occupied Syrian territory as well. Barak still wants to retain part of the occupied Golan Heights, regardless of the dangers ahead. Maybe now he's having second thoughts.

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British News

Don't patronise us, say pensioners

by New Worker correspondents

MASSES of pensioners descended on Westminster from all over the country last Wednesday 17 May for a Day of Action. This was in support of their long-running campaign for the link between average earnings and pensions to be restored.

 The event coincided with a Government-staged "listening conference" -- a cosmetic exercise aimed at patronising pensioner activists, pretending to consult them and then ignoring them -- that did not go quite to plan.

 This conference kicked off in the new Queen Elizabeth conference hall in Westminster. The invited pensioners were taken into a large hall full of tables, each with seating for 10.

 The seats were all assigned beforehand and the pensioners directed exactly where to sit.

 They were told to introduce themselves to each other and to elect a "facilitator" and a "notetaker" at each table.

 The whole proceedings were continually interrupted by a wandering chairwoman with a microphone who went from table to table utterring meaningless phrases -- and photographers recording the event for the Government.

 Barbara Wiseman, a member of the New Communist Party central committee, was there representing the Brighten pensioners' movement. She was elected facilitator at her table.

 Each table was given a topic to discuss, such as transport, leisure, "happiness in the home" and so on.

 Barbara's table was given "work and learning". They first had to discuss what this meant but it soon emerged that most around the table perform a lot of voluntary social work.

 They readily agreed that if they asked to be paid for this they would soon be deemed too old and dismissed. Yet if they did not give this work free to the community, the system would soon collapse.

 Tom Morran, a leader of the pensioners' movement in Wales, reported that his wife had served in the army in the Second World War. After that she had retired from waged work to become a mother and run a household. Now her pension entitlement is a shameful £40 a week.

 The pensioners were informed that each table's spokesperson would have just two-and-a-half minutes to report their conclusions to the conference.

 During the lunch break MP Alan Howarth made the mistake of asking Barbara, in a very patronising way, if she was enjoying herself. She told him very clearly and plainly why she was not.

 Then followed a long speech by Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling -- about pensions. This was the very issue most pensioners had come to discuss but they were given no opportunity to discuss or reply to his speech.

 Then another six Government Ministers were trotted out to express party platitudes at length.

 Barbara sought the agreement of her table and when her time to report to the conference finally arrived, she laid into the structure and planning of the conference.

 "We don't need all these ministers," she told Mr Darling. "We are not satisfied with what has been done here today. The pensioners' campaign will continue."

 Pensioners in the room were unanimous in their support of the views she expressed. They were sickened that the Government was treating them like feeble minded idiots when most of those present are very experienced veteran campaigners who wanted a real debate about the basic state pension. Clearly that was the last thing Mr Darling wanted to allow.

 Outside the conference hall pensioner campaigners, organised by the London Pensioners' Forum, lobbied the meeting.

 They also lobbied the headquarters of the Department of Social Security and then went on to a meeting in the Grand Committee room of the House of Commons.

 Many were able to meet their MPs in the lobby to argue the case for restoring the link.

 Speaker Jeremy Corbyn MP said he felt humbled by the contribution made by the generation of pensioners present -- who had helped win the war against fascism and then gone on to win and build state welfare.

 Mr Corbyn called on younger generations to take up the struggle to defend what has been built.

 The pensioners campaign is certainly having an impact because Tory leader William Hague earlier this week pledged the Tories would raise the basic pension by £10 if elected.

 Examined more closely this pledge was pathetic. The £l0 was for a couple. A single pensioner would be lucky to see £5 and the extras introduced by Labour -- the £150 heating allowance and free TV licences for the over 75s -- would be abolished.

 It is true the pensioners would prefer to see the money put on the basic state pension. The increase will have to be much more than a measly £5 to even begin to restore pensions to the value level they were when the Tories broke the link in 1980.

 Clearly both Labour and Tory leaders still think they can bamboozle pensioners with conftdence tricks. But the pensioners movement is growing and strong. The politicians will learn in the end that they patronise pensioners at their peril.

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