The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 26th September, 1997

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Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

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Editorial - Lives before profits. & Bulwark for the right.
Lead Story - Liverpool dockers unite the globe.
Feature - Pensioners call for unity across generations.
International - Irish talks set to begin at last.
British News - Neo-Nazis thwarted.


 Lives before profits.

FOLLOWING the Clapham rail disaster in 1988, in which 35 people lost their lives, it was recommended that an automatic train protection system (ATP) be widely installed on Britain's trains. This was not done because of the cost.

 ATP, which is standard equipment in France, Germany and other European countries, stops trains going through a red light. Had the system been installed afier Clapham, later accidents like the crash at Watford junction and last week's high speed accident at Southall might well have been avoided.

 Deplorable though it is, we should not be surprised by the fact that in a profit-dominated, capitalist society, lives and safety get treated as just another factor in an economic equation.

 After Clapham it was apparent that the cost of installing ATP was divided by the average number of deaths on the railways. The cost of saving each life could then be calculated -- presumably a price too high for the government of the day to pay.

 Since the Clapham disaster, the Tory government has broken-up and sold-off what was formerly British Rail at bargain basement prices. This move, despite the continuing government subsidies, increased people's fears about rail safety. After all, there were now investors and shareholders all looking for a fat profit -- money that has to be squeezed out of the railways somewhere and somehow.

 The rail unions have welcomed the news that there is to be a public inquiry into the Southall crash. But they have made it clear that they want this inquiry to assess what effect the break-up and privatisation of the industry might have had on the accident.

 Then are a number of questions the inquiry should look into, including, whether or not privatisation held up the introduction of ATP on this line. It might also be fair to ask why the shunting of an empty goods train should have had signalling priority over an over-crowded inter-city express.

 We all need to know if privatisation has put ATP even further onto the back burner. We already know that an on board warning signal system on the affected inter-city train was not operating at the time of the crash and that there was only one driver in the cab. This must raise serious questions about levels of staffing and equipment maintenance.

 Whatever the inquiry concludes, the principle has to be established that safety must come first at all times and that people's lives and well-being must come before profits.

Bulwark for the right

THE invitation to Liberal-Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown to sit at Labour's Cabinet table was totally unnecessary given Labour's landslide victory in the election. The government hardly needed to court allies from the opposition benches.

 But as this paper wrote at the time, it was a measure to try and ensure the continuing dominance of Labour's right-wing -- a bulwark against the influence of the trade unions and the left of the Labour Party.

 But it's not all sweetness and light among the new bedfellows of the right. Labour minister Peter Mandelson gave a public slap on the wrist last week to delegates at the Liberal-Democrat conference who had the temerity to accuse Labour of sticking to Tory spending limits.

 The Lib-Dems, who have been openly debating the pros and cons of closer ties with Labour, need, it seems, to be wary of Labour's right wing who obviously think they can bully dissenting voices in the Lib-Dems in much the same way as they have tried to quell dissent in their own ranks.

 Not only does this show that Messrs Mandelson and Co are to the right of some members of the Liberal-Democrat party, but that they feel insecure enough to overreact to criticism.

 We should take heart from this because it reveals the anxiety of Labour's right -- that its roots in the party are too shallow to withstand a determined, class-conscious fight. Perhaps the Labour leaders are hoping to get some new allies on board before the winter storms bring another hospital crisis and before workers in the public sector show their anger at yet another pay freeze.

 Last weekend our magnificent pensioners went on the march for decent, universal,state pensions. This weekend the sacked Liverpool dockers will march on Merseyside. The pressure is growing -- let's give Blair, Mandelson and their new chum Ashdown plenty to worry about.

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Lead Story

Liverpool dockers unite the globe

by Daphne Liddle

 TRADE unionists from all over Britain and from ports all over the world will gather in Liverpool this Saturday for a march to mark the second anniversary of the Liverpool docks dispute.

 The dispute began in September 1995 when a small group of dockers employed by a sub contractor took strike action against a new pay and conditions package which would have taken them right back to the days of casual labour.

 They would have been on call to the employer 24-hours a day but there would be no guarantee they would get any hours of work at all in any particular week -- it would all depend on what the employer wanted and needed. And of course they would only get paid for hours actually worked.

 This was the face of things to come for this small group and for all other dockers in Liverpool and in the rest of the world - unless the workers made a stand and fought back.

 They mounted a picket and 350 other dockers, employed directly by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC), were sacked for refusing to cross.

 So began a dispute which has lasted two years and which has gone on to produce conferences and a unique day of strike action that, earlier this month, united dockers from around the world.

 Most of the dockers who joined in this action around the globe are fighting the same evil of casualisation and privatisation.

 So the greedy bosses in MDHC and their equivalents around the world have forced upon the dock workers of the world a degree of international unity that will mark a historic stage in the development of proletarian intemationalism.

 Ports closed for between four and 24 hours included Gothenburg in Sweden, Arhus and Copenhagen in Denmark, Amsterdam and Rotterdam in Holland, Antwerp in Belgium, Le Havre in France, Lisbon, Setubal and Sines in Portugal, Durban and Capetown in South Africa, Auckland in New Zealand, Sydney, Fremantle, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Bumie, Port Kembla and Newcastle in Australia, and St John, Vancouver, Quebec and Halifax in Canada.

 The entire west coast of the United States was closed down, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

 In Hamburg, Germany leaflets supporting the Liverpool dockers were given out.

 In Italy letters were sent to TUC general secretary John Monks (TUC) and to Tony Blair.

 In Japan Zenkoku Rowan (the All Japan Dockworkers' Federation) passed a strong resolution last week pledging action against major shipping lines.

 There were solidarity activities in Brazil and India and other forms ofindustrial action in Belfast and Deny in Ireland. The list is endless.

 In Britain solidarity action is outlawed but that did not stop 30 members of Reclaim the Streets from Picketing the house of Mersey Docks Chairman Gordon Waddell in West London from 7am to 11am.

 They displayed banners reading: "Injustice is not Anonymous, it has a Name and Address" and "Victory to the Dockers". There were no arrests, although police did move the group across the road. A sympathetic neighbour brought them tea on a tray. Mr Waddell had no comment to make.

 The group then went to Charles House, Regent Street, the offices of Drake International, where 13 protesters managed to enter the building and occupy the offices for over 30 minutes.

 Ten members of the London Support Group attended Sheerness (owned by MDHC) to picket on 8 September.

 Throughout all this unprecedented growth of solidarity, the great British media have remained totally silent.

 But the increase in pressure to negotiate will not go unnoticed by the MDHC, nor by the many shipping lines that have been badly hit financially by the solidarity actions.

 And the level of international support should shame the leadership of the TUC into putting its weight behind the global struggle against casualisation and against the anti-union laws which have prevented solidarity action in Britain.

 The pressure on Labour to repeal those laws should now become unrelenting. Without them in place the Liverpool dockers would probably have won their titanic struggle for reinstatement many months ago and their families would have been saved a great deal of hardship.

 And without the strait-jacket of the anti-union laws, companies would not dare try to impose these "modern working practices" from hell.

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Pensioners call for unity across generations

by New Worker correspondents

THOUSANDS of pensioners from all over Britain, with their friends and supporters converged on London last Saturday for the annual Pensions Day march, from the Embankment to Trafalgar Square.

 The march is timed to coincide with the first introduction of the Old Age Pension on 24 September 1908.

 And the cheif demand of the marchers and speakers at the rally in Trafalgar Square was for the government to restore the link between pension levels and average earnings -- abolished in 1979 by Margaret Thatcher.

 In a message to the marchers, Jack Jones Who is the general secretary of the National Pensioners' Convention, said: "Pensions Day 1997 celebrates the 89th anniversary of the introduction of the State Retirement Pension.

 "Today that pension is secured by National Insurance through the contributions of workers and employers.

 "This is the living contract between the generations, the young paying their tribute to Ihe older generation, who laid the basis for the wealth of modern times.

 "We have to defend that principle against the new moves to replace it with "every man for himself" philosophy.

 "We need to strengthen National Insurance extending its cover to all, especially to women and carers whose work is inadequately rewarded".

 Speakers at the rally included Barbara Castle, MPs Ken Livingstone, Tony Benn and Simon Hughes. GMB general union general secretary John Edmonds, Bruce Kent and Tony Day from Age Concern.

 Roger Warren-Evans, one of the event's organisers, told the marchers: "We need to call on all ages," to raise basic pension levels, and "we must have unity across the generations".

 And he went on to point out that today's younger generations "are in more danger than we ever were" of facing old age in real poverty. He also pointed out that private pensions are not what is needed.

 Jack Jones emphasised we need to keep up the publicity in the campaign to raise the basic state pension.

 John Edmonds pledged the support of his union in the fight to restore the link between the basic state pension and earnings And he criticised the government plans to introduce "stake-holder" (private enterprise) pensions for all by the year 2,000.

He said: "The basic state pension must he paid to everybody without any means-testing" or it would be the beginning of the end for universal benefits.

 Ken Livingstone pointed out that British pensions are now among the lowest in Europe, well below the value of those paid in France and Germany.

 Barbara Castle urged pensioners to call the government to account.

 And Tony Benn reminded the rally of what could be achieved if Trident was cancelled and the money spent on people's needs.

 Bruce Kent echoed this point and called for justice for pensioners.

 * The Trade Union Congress last Monday launched a campaign to encourage more women, especially those in low paid work to take out company or private pension schemes.

 Most women find their working lives interrupted by the need to care for children or elderly or sick relatives. They are more likely to be in low paid or part-time work.

 This means that few are involved in pension schemes and face an old age of real poverty, dependant on Income Support as the value of the basic state pension declines in comparision to other incomes.

 But women on very low pay -and men in similar work, short term, contract work with periods of unemployment -- find it hard enough to live today on their pay without putting aside large deductions into some commercial pension scheme.

It is right for the TUC to campaign for equal pension rights for part-timers and so on. But commercial pensions are always a gamble because the companies involved can go bankrupt, be subject to take-over, fraud and so on -- as the Maxwell pensioners discovered.

 And commercial pension schemes will always be most concerned to make a profit and that will have to come from the hard-earned contributions of the workers.

 So there can be no substitute for a good basic state pension that is not means-tested.

Some argue that this means paying state money to wealthy pensioners who do not need it, but when this happens it is recovered in taxes anyway.

 There is no other way to lift the threat of a poverty-stricken old age from today's young workers. And it is high time for younger workers to join their parents and grandparents in campaigning for this.

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Irish talks set to begin at last

by Steve Lawton
THE Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) led by David Trimble at last agreed, on Wednesday night as we go to press, to substantive peace talks at Stormont in Belfast, ending the present uncertainty caused by their provocative attitude to Sinn Fein.

 David Trimble said he was "comfortable with the wording" of an agreement, following discussions with northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlem, which will move the process forward to direct talks. UUP security spokesman Ken Maginniss said they were now satisfied over the issue of "disarmament and consent".

 Sinn Fein's chief negotiator Martin McGuinness said he was "very pleased" with this "significant breaktkrough", and that the Unionists had now agreed to talks beginning next week. He said the obstacle of the "unrealistic and unrealisable demand for decommissioning has been removed."

 So the stage ought to be set for progress, with recognition that a decommissioning body will be set up headed by a Canadian general, and the three-stranded talks will go ahead dealing with the future of Ireland, north-south relations and relations with Britain.

 A far cry from the first days genuinely all-party direct contact last Tuesday, which ended with the Unionists demanding Sinn Fein's expulsion. They came face-to-face with Sinn Fein for the first time in nearly 80 years, itself an achievement with the absurd purpose of declaiming them in a seven-page "indictment" as the "godfathers of terrorism".

 It was a 30-minute tired rehash of long-worn accusations delivered by the Ulster Unionists' security affairs spokesman Ken Maginnis. The document alleged: that the IRA is linked to Sinn Fein; that they're all "unreconstructed" murderers; that Sinn Fein is "committed to frustrating the objectives of the talks" while it continues to uphold "the philosophy of the armalite and the ballot box", and so on.

 The Unionists then played out their futile theatricals by marching out of multi-party talks without waiting for Sinn Fein's response. But Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was unimpressed: "This was hailed as the great showdown, the great challenge to Sinn Fein. But the leaders simply made their statement then scampered out of the room.

 "He didn't say anything and, had he listened to what I had to say, I made the point that every section of our people have suffered and that non of us have a monopoly on suffering." He said the attack on Sinn Fein was also directed at the Labour government in Britain and the SDLP led by John Hume.

There were some obvious contradictions which Sinn Fein pointed out in its defence. The Ulster Unionist Party were hypocritical, they said, in calling for Sinn Fein's expulsion considering that the UUP maintain links with the loyalist UVF and UDA.

 Gerry Adams' aide Richard McAuley pointed to Unionists who are currently sitting and working with Sinn Fein in local councils. "Reg Empey is one of their [Unionists] senior negotiators and has the gall to refuse to sit with Sinn Fein at Stormont. But he sits in Belfast City Hall with Sinn Fein and sits right next to a Sinn Fein member in sub-committee and they talk to each other."

 Trimble as good as presented the Labour Government with an ultimatum, clearly suggesting that it was a choice between the Unionists or Sinn Fein. But the gambit proved to be so much bluster. Trimble's talks with Premier Tony Blair are reflected in this desperate cat-and-mouse stunt hecause he was unable to pull the British government around to a Unionist position.

 By openly attacking the government's approach to the negotiating process and the acceptance of equal participation by Sinn Fein, he attempted to dictate the outcome before it had begun and to dictate how the Blair government should act.

 This clearly failed. Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlem said it had still been a step forward. "I hope and we aim to move forward towards substanive negotiations as soon as possible and today (Tuesday) is another step in that direction."


 Martin McGuinness attacked the Unionist claim that agreement could be reached without Sinn Fein. He said: "I think everybody acknowledges that if we are not in the talks then there is no prospect whatsoever of a settlement in this conflict."

He said that it was the efforts of Gerry Adams, SDLP leader John Hume and the Irish government -- all objects of the Unionist attack too -- which enabled talks to happen. Otherwise, he said, "there wouldn't have been a person sitting in that room today."

 Given the overwhelming degree of support in the Unionist own camp for all-inclusive talks it is doubtful now that they could continue to gain anything by using the sessions to "indict" Sinn Fein. David Trimble had alway kept his options open. He said earlier that: "Unionism will not be marginalised".

 Martin McGuinness said earlier: "let's make history together. Let's recognise that after so much suffering over the centuries, that it is now time for us to build a future for our children."

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British News

Neo-Nazis thwarted.

by Daphne Liddle
AN ATTEMPT by the Neo-Nazi British National Party (BNP) last Saturday to regroup and rally its forces after many recent set-backs was called off amid chaos in Stratford, east London.

 Recently the BNP has lost its headquarters in Welling Kent and its vote in local elections has dwindled to around two per cent in the east London areas it considers its strongholds.

 It has been riven by internal splits and clashes with other fascist outfits like Combat 18.

 But last May's general election saw a very slight upturn in its vote in some east London constituencies. So the BNP clutched at this straw to plan a campaign launch aimed at next year's local elections.

 It was originally planned for 6th September but postponed because anti-fascists caught wind of the event and planned a counter rally. That date also coincided with the funeral of the Princess of Wales and police told the BNP there would be no possibility of police protection on such a busy day.

 The BNP, in an attempt at secrecy, had refused to disclose the venue of the re-scheduled event, even to its own members in advance.

 Anti-fascists discovered the redirection point at Bow bus garage and, in a well co-ordinated joint operation between Searchlight anti-fascist magazine and the Anti-Nazi League, using mobile phones, BNP activists were tracked from Bow to the meeting venue, the Swan public house in Stratford.

 Immediately groups of anti-fascists, some ANL, some from other anti-fascist and anti-racist groups and some belonging to no particular organisation, began to converge there, by bus, tube. car and on foot.

 BNP leader John Tyndal was spotted approaching the Swan by a small group of anti-fascists. He was immediately surrounded by young people telling him what they thought of his policies of incitement to racist violence.

 In the heated altercation that followed, Tyndal fell to the floor and sustained a superficial scalp wound and extentive bruising.

 When ANL leaderr Julie Waterson arrived on the scene, she called on the anti-fascist youngsters to show restraint. "That's enough." she said, "let him alone now, let him get up," and they did.

 A large group of BNP leading members inside the Swan stayed exactly where they were and significantly failed to help their leader in his moment of trouble.

 Another two BNP members, Ian Dell and Richard Edmonds, who had been approaching the Swan behind Tyndal and were presumably in the role of bodyguards, took fright and ran when they saw their leader beset.

 They tried to seek refuge in another nearby pub which happened to be locked for renovation. They too were engaged in an altercation by young anti-fascists and, when it became heated, sustained some bruising.

 "At least they're alive, Stephen Lawrence isn't," said Julie Waterson, referring to the teenage victim of a racist killing.

 Local residents were at first bewildered, but as soon as they realised who, Tyndal was, they reacted angrily.

 "We don't want that Nazi scum here. Tell them to get out of Stratford," said one shopper.

 One young black deaf woman told the New Worker. "I'm always trying to get the members of our deaf group to take more interest in what is happening politically, this will cheer them up no end," -- as she took photos of Tyndal struggling to get up.

Another black youth grabbed his mobile phone to summon all his friends. "You must come. You'll never guess what's going down here" - he told them.

 Eventually police arrived in riot vans, sprang out and proceeded to chase and arrest any one who was foolish enough to run. One officer injured an ankle doing so and there were three arrests.

An ambulance was summoned for Tyndal but when approached by a young black paramedic, he declined treatment, claiming that his injuries were superficial.

 Then the police gathered him and other members of the BNP leadership into a police van to he taken, in the interests of public order, to an undisclosed destination.

 At this stage many of the BNP membership had still not arrived for their meeting. Some, unable to follow the redirections given them, never found it. And there was no one there to listen to the specially booked international speakers.

 Far from recovering from their misfortunes, the fascists are now more discredited and isolated than ever. And Tyndal must be wondering what his followers really think of him.

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