The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 27th November, 1998


Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.

Editorial - Cruise - we lose! & Arrogance!
Lead Story - Blair takes on the Lords.
Feature - Europe lifts British beef ban - but food agency postponed.
International - Kurds' hunger strike and worldwide protests.
British News - Union calls for RSI directive.


Cruise - we lose!

NURSES, teachers, civil servants, local government workers and countless other public sector workers were told by Chancellor Gordon Brown earlier this year that the freeze on their pay would go on.

 Britain's pensioners are still having to fight to get the link between pensions and average earnings restored and more and more of our hospitals, care homes and schools are being put in hock to financiers offering private finance initiative schemes (PFI).

 According to Gordon Brown this is all because the government has pledged to keep income tax down and public spending on a tight rein.

 And yet, in the last few weeks the government has stumped up at least £40 million to buy Trident missile spare parts from the United States which it admits it doesn't even need at the present time. It has agreed the deal in order to prop up the American producers and ensure the supply of spares into the future.

 Not only is this handout to US big business unnecessary at present -- it is unnecessary full stop! We don't want or need Trident at all!

 Then, almost before the ink was dry on the government's cheque for the Trident parts, we learned that Britain was buying, also from the United States, 64 Cruise missiles at a cost of £190 million largely to equip British hunter-killer submarines.

 What is it all for? Certainly it's not because Britain is facing some great military threat and needs to build up its defences -- its own Defence Review admitted that.

 The fact is, the British ruling class wants to carry on its role as America's first mate in a programme of policing the world on behalf of big business. If working class people, the poor and the oppressed of the world are to be lined up to pay for the deepening capitalist crisis, measures have also to be taken to suppress the inevitable dissent -- or so the capitalist class thinks.

 What's more, it is to be working class people in the heartlands of imperialism, like Britain and the United States, who will be expected to pay for the military hardware and other "defence" costs. We will pay with wage cuts and freezes, social spending cuts, attacks on pensions and benefits and the robbery of privatisations. We are to be sacrificed to sustain imperialism's continued attacks on fellow workers across the world.

 Our response should be to give no quarter in the struggle for peace or in the many battles to defend our public services, wages and economic interests. We should not be reasonable, we should not listen to those who say the country can't afford this and it can't afford that -- it can afford to spend fortunes on the means of war and day by day the very rich are getting richer.

THE open discussion going on in Britain and America about ways of helping Iraqi opposition groups shows there are no limits to imperialist arrogance.

 The debate shows it is the view of the big powers that they have a right to interfere in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries and decide who should govern.

 Sovereignty it seems is a very sacred principle when it comes to a US puppet state like Kuwait or the fragment states bitten away from Yugoslavia, but it as nothing at all when it comes to Iraq.

 The US tries to justify all its invasions, embargoes and interventions by claiming it is defending "democracy" and "freedom". But Washington's idea of democracy is that it only counts if it produces a government acceptable to Washington.

 And freedom is only freedom if it allows US capital a free-hand to do as it likes.

 For years the imperialist leaders have hoped the terrible suffering they were inflicting on the people of Iraq would lead to some kind of uprising against the Iraqi government. But this has not materialised. The Iraqi people know who is to blame. They know who sent the Cruise missiles, the Tornado jets and the bombs. They know who imposed the cruel sanctions against their country.

 So now the bringers of all that death and suffering want to try and impose a change by rallying the fragmented anti-Iraqi government groups into becoming proxy insurgents.

 This arrogance and hypocrisy should be condemned, the sanctions and war threats called off, and the people of Iraq allowed their real human rights -- to peace, food, health care and life.

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Lead Story

Blair takes on the Lords

by Daphne Liddle
 THE 1998 Queen's speech last Tuesday delivered a mixed bag of prospects of good and bad legislation and the promise of literally a battle royal over the reformation of the House of Lords.

 This legislation is long, long overdue. But it will not be easy for the government to get it through in one session if the peers dig in their heels.

 The Tory leadership has said it will not obstruct the legislation -- it could not do so and keep any shred of credibility as a party of democracy. Nevertheless William Hague is determined to nit-pick at the Bill and make a show of opposition.

 But in this battle the Tory leadership is a feeble irrelevance. This is a battle between the needs of British capitalists to merge in with the European Union and bring our constitution in line with the more modern European bourgeois democracies -- and a small landed section of the ruling class who hold their power through heredity, who cannot justify it by any reason but who are determined to try to hang on to it come what may.

 They are threatening to disrupt every other piece of legislation scheduled for this session of Parliament.

 This is why the Bill will not be presented until after the New Year, to allow other legislation to be got out of the way first.

 And this is why the Bill itself will be very plain and very short. It will be no longer than one sheet of paper, containing one clause to withdraw from the hereditary peers their rights to vote in the House of Lords, and another to give them to right to vote in ordinary elections and stand as candidates and seek public support like anyone else.

 The Lords and William Hague have found what they believe to be a weakness -- the lack of any substantial plans to put in the place of the existing House of Lords.

 Tony Blair is waiting for a Royal Commission to draft separate legislation on this later on.

 In the meantime only life peers will be able to vote in the Lords and life peers are traditionally selected by the Prime Minister.

 As the Lords have pointed out correctly, this gives Blair enormous power to fill this chamber with his cronies.


 Even so, even if the new House of Lords was stuffed with Peter Mandleson clones, it would still be more democratic than at present, stuffed as it is with people who are there simply there because some distant ancestor was a crony of Henry VIII or whoever.

 And Tony Blair has said that as the Bill is debated, a White Paper will be published giving details of government proposals for a modernised House of Lords -- and he will give up the sole right to create new life peers.

 He is also trying to divide the Lords by hinting he may make some hereditary peers into life peers.

 Of course once the House of Lords is abolished, the role of the Queen in Parliament will stand out even more as an undemocratic anachronism.
Getting rid of the monarchy must follow logically on this agenda at some stage -- the sooner the better.

Fairness at Work Bill

 Last minute lobbying by trade unions seems to have paid off in preventing too much of a slide towards the bosses in the Fairness at Work Bill, which they had thought all settled and a "done deal" after lengthy negotiations last spring, only to find that the Confederation of British Industry has spent the summer whispering in Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Mandelson's ear.

 Earlier this week, the unions had warned the Labour leadership they might cut off campaigning funds at the next general election if the government did not stick to its word.

 Nevertheless them is still a long way to go before the Bill is passed and no cause for complacency.

 The CBI had been lobbying Mr Mandleson to include a clause saying that workers must have a three-month minimum union membership to qualify to be counted in granting the right to trade union recognition in workplaces where most of the workforce want it.

 During the negotiations earlier in the year, the bosses had wanted to insist that in a workplace vote for union recognition, at least half of the whole workforce -- including management -- must actively vote in favour.

 Unions opposed this, pointing out that no government this century has been elected on an outright majority of all those entitled to vote.

 Eventually the figure agreed was 40 per cent of the workforce but that if more than 50 per cent are actually in a union, then recognition should be automatic.

 The Bill will cut the time workers have to be employed to qualify for unfair dismissal and redundancy rights from two to one years and give new parental leave and maternity leave entitlements.

 It is a step in the right direction but it still leaves workers in this country deprived of the basic right to strike without going through long and complex balloting procedures and with no rights to solidarity strikes.

 But new life is beginning to appear in the trade union movement This Bill will help morale and encourage the fight for full rights.


 Pensioners, the disabled and single parents have nothing to look forward to in this parliamentary session.

 Labour is set on continuing the work begun by the Tories in dismantling state welfare and leaving us all at the mercy of the market system.

 Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling is hoping to cut £750 million from disability benefits by making Incapacity Benefit even harder to claim than the Tories did.

 They tried but failed to prove many claimants were frauds by introducing stringent compulsory medical examinations.

 Now the disabled and single parents will be forced to attend interviews to assess their suitability to find jobs.

 The government says they will not be forced into work -- that would not be easy during a recession with jobs very hard to find for anyone.

 And all workers are going to be forced to take out second, private "stakeholder" pensions, at the mercy of the big finance markets.

 This will be virtually impossible for all those who cannot be sure of regular employment throughout their working life, in other words women who take time off to care for children or elderly relatives, the sick and disabled, those in casual trades such as construction -- but during a recession just about anybody.

 The state pension will be left to wither in value and those who retire with little or no other income will be forced to undergo the hassle of claiming means tested benefits. And of course the budget for such benefits will soar and many still will not get their entitlement and will die cold and hungry.

 The benefit rights of widows and widowers will be equalised -- by taking benefits away from widows and saving the government £500 million in the long term.

 Tax credits will be introduced for working families and the disabled -- allowing even more greedy bosses to get away with paying rock bottom wages to workers who are vulnerable.

National Health

 An NHS Bill will do away with market forces in the NHS, including fundholding GPs and competition between hospitals.

 New primary care groups will be established with groups of local doctors, clinics, nursing services and so on coming together to plan health services in their locality.


 There will also be measures to make it easier to deal with doctors whose standards of practice fall below acceptable levels.

 Unfortunately PFI will proceed unchecked, effectively giving the whole system over to the private sector in the long run.

 Other measures

 Other measures in the Queen's Speech include the equalisation of the right of consent at 16 for homosexuals and more protection for all young people up to 17 from sexual advances from adults in authority.

 There will be a Bill to give London its first directly elected mayor, with powers to tackle the capital's transport problems.

 There will be a new, even more draconian Immigration and Asylum Bill, an Electronic Commerce Bill and the National Insurance Contributions Agency will be merged with the Inland Revenue -- if they can ever get the privatised NI computer working again.

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Europe lifts British beef ban - but food agency postponed
by Caroline Colebrook
 EUROPEAN Agriculture ministers last week lifted the ban on the export of British beef -- throwing a much-needed lifeline to cattle farmers.

 But the government has delayed setting up the long promised agency to monitor food safety, claiming that there will not be enough time in the coming year for the necessary legislation.

The lifting of the ban will allow British farmers to start exporting beef again next spring, after completing a cull of all calves born to cows infected with BSE (mad cow disease).

 But farmers still face an uphill struggle to convince buyers that their product is as safe as any and to get back the share of world markets they once held.

 The BSE crisis is estimated to have cost Britain's meat industry around £4 billion. And of course it was the profit-hungry agri-business companies that were behind the business of feeding the remains of diseased sheep to cattle who caused the crisis.

 Whatever costs they have suffered are nothing to those who have since contracted the fatal BSE-related form of Creutzfeld Jakobs Disease (CJD). And since this is a disease with a long incubation period, no one knows how many cases are still to appear.

 So far at least 29 are known to have died, but since some doctors have been warned not to report it for fear of causing a panic, the real figure may be higher.

 Meanwhile in London the public inquiry into the BSE disaster has accumulated so much paperwork that engineers have been called in to strengthen the floors of Hercules House, the inquiry headquarters.

 So far the team has gathered 1,000 lever-arch files of original material and numerous duplicate copies.

 Former Tory minister Edwina Currie last week made a blistering attack on her own government's handling of the crisis as she was giving her evidence to the inquiry.

 She said the Ministry of Agriculture, Farming and Fisheries (MAFF) was "crass, incompetent, hostile, dangerous, and compounded problems instead of eradicating them."

 She said officials were "blockheadedly ignorant of good practice elsewhere".

 She lost her own post as a minister after giving public warnings about salmonella in eggs -- another unhealthy result of modern intensive farming methods.

 "Maff and producers took a dim view of my actions," she told the inquiry, "they regarded me as the problem and that if I were removed the issue would go away.

 She said she had issued the public warning in the public interest because salmonella cases were rising and she feared a major epidemic.

 Last week she told the BSE inquiry: "Despite a slaughter policy and some compensation, paid to poultry farmers, not to the victims, the level of infection is much the same now as it was then, at around 30,000 cases from salmonella phage-type four per annum.

 "Around 60 people a year die from salmonellosis. Thus more than 500 people have died of this condition since I left the Department of Health."

 Her evidence revealed the level of pressure brought on government ministers by vested interests to cover up these scandals.

 And they reveal the crying need for the food safety agency that was one of Labour's manifesto promises.

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Kurds' hunger strike and worldwide protests

 THE indefinite hunger strike in London community centres by 300 Kurds continues in support of the leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Ahdullah Ocalan, while protests have also taken place in Italy, Turkey, Russia, Germany and Romania.

 In Moscow, outside the Duma building, two Kurds covered themselves in petrol and set themselves ablaze in the early hours of the morning of 17 November. Police caught them in time, but one is critical.

 They left a letter attacking "imperia =list America, Israel and fascist Turkey" for its hounding of Ocalan, founder of the PKK, who has conducted a 20 year struggle in south eastern Turkey to demand self-rule.

 Ocalan was arrested in Rome where he is seeking political asylum, while Turkey is demanding his extradition. But complying with that has been made difficult because Italian law bars such proceedings where countries still have the death penalty.

 About 4,000 Kurds (Germany is home to over two million) took to the streets in Bonn opposed to Ocalan's extradition, and about 50 are on hunger strike.

 Thousands of Kurds from across Europe converged on Rome for a silent vigil and march which included many Italians. And in Romania's capital Bucharest 39 Kurdish refugees are on hunger strike among the 5,000-strong community of Kurds.

 But in Turkey the response has been a national clampdown with hundreds arrested. And in Belgium Kurdish offices in Brussels have been burnt down by far right Turkish ultra-nationalists. They are bracing themselves for more attacks.

 To date over 4,000 villages have been destroyed in southeast Turkey. Over three million Kurds have been displaced. The Kurdish community is calling for recognition of Ocalan's position as the legitimate leader of the Kurdish freedom struggle to enable diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the issue.

 The Italian Prime Minister is calling for a political initiative which the Kurdish community view as a first step in a fresh approach to the situation facing the Kurds.

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British News

Union calls for RSI directive
 JOHN EDMONDS, general secretary of the GMB general union, last week called for employers to make serious efforts to tackle RSI or face further European legislation.

 RSI -- repetitive strain injury -- is a painful and crippling condition caused by making the same movements over and over again in the course of doing a job. Keyboard operators are particularly prone to it if they are expected to work fast for long hours without breaks. If the workers try to soldier on and ignore the pain, it can do permanent damage.

 The Health and Safety Executive estimates that 1.2 million people suffer musculoskeletal injuries at work leading to 11 million working days lost.

Mr Edmonds timed his warning to coincide with the Institute of Directors (IoD) annual dinner.

 He said: "Unfortunately we seem to need new legislation to ensure that employers provide adequate care for their workers.

 "If the IoD were seriously concerned about extra bureaucracy then they would provide suitable protection on a voluntary basis.

 "Our experience shows they only call for voluntary guidelines so that they don't have to enforce them."

 The GMB is calling on the European Commission to initiate a European Directive on RSI and to aid the speedy implementation of legislation, the GMB has drafted a directive.

 This will be submitted to the EC by MEP Stephen Hughes and it is supported by the European Trades Union Confederation.

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