The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 27th March, 1998

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Editorial - British farce.
Lead Story - Work: It makes you sick.
Feature - Pensioners are taking action from Edinburgh to London.
International - US Cuban embargo law turns sour.
British News -"From darkness into dappled shade".


 British farce.

PRIME MINISTER Tony Blair, addressed the French National Assembly last week and left his French social democrat friends looking decidedly down in the mouth. But he delighted the French right-wing opposition who welcomed his speech with enthusiasm.

 The French right would have liked it even more if Blair had said Britain was going to change its position and enter the European Monetary Union in the first round. But despite this difference of opinion, the right were well pleased by Blair's speech with its clear support for large doses of laissez-faire capitalism and its lack of socialist content.

 He spoke of "ideals" rather than "ideology" -- as if Blairite politics have no ideological base. Bourgeois ideas, though seldom talked of as an ideology, are at the root of "New Labour" thinking.

 But Blair's remarks were not intended to explain his ideas -- they were more concerned to show how far away he is from Marxist ideas and socialism and how "safe" and acceptable he is as a member of the European Union's capitalist club.

 A large chunk of Blair's speech was devoted to peddling his message for centre-left parties -- to adopt what he calls a "third way" -- economic policies which are in between free market capitalism and capitalism with state intervention.

 There is nothing new about this. It has long been the holy grail for many social democrats who dream of keeping the capitalist system intact but with some safety nets in place to catch the most poverty stricken of its victims and reined-in enough to absorb the shocks of capitalism's recurring crises.

 It is of course a view of the world as seen from the capitalists' corner. The small. interventions wanted by the third-way brigade are motivated, not by "ideals" but by the fear of mounting discontent among the working class. Blair even referred in his speech to the problem of policies that could lead the public to "rebel" against the European Union.

 Looked at from the workers' corner the system has nothing to offer at all, with or without government intervention. We don't need a first way, a second way or a third way -- we don't need or want the system of capitalism at all.

 None of the capitalist models work as they are claimed to. We have all experienced (suffered) the neo-liberal monetarist model, sometimes referred to as Reaganomics, Thatcherism or supply-side economics. This sought to give capital a free rein, elevated the idea that the market place would find its own level and it rejected any government interference.

 It failed to prevent recession creeping around the capitalist world at the start of the nineties. It presided over a surge in monopolisation, the destruction of many small businesses and saw unemployment rocket in every capitalist country.

But most significantly, it didn't follow its own rules. Governments intervened all the time -- on the side of capital. The British government, for example, intervened to bring in anti-trade union laws so that labour was hamstrung in the market place.

 It intervened to carry out a widespread programme of privatisations in order to provide investments for capital and provide fresh areas for making private profit -- all at the expense of the majority of the people.

 It intervened to slash the higher rates of income tax to further enrich the wealthy at the expense of working people and opened the door to drastic public spending cuts.

 The social democratic model -- of capitalism with state intervention -- as followed in countries like Sweden and for a time by the post-war Labour government in Britain also failed the working class in the long term. Because capitalism held state power, the social democratic policies were unable to withstand the pressures created by the deepening crisis of capital.

 Industries and utilities that had been nationalised were sold cheaply back to private hands. Social services like the NHS and state education were attacked and eroded. Capitalism abandoned the social democratic model to suit its needs of the hour.

 The so-called "third way" is yet another attempt to enable capitalism to flourish in an increasingly crisis ridden world while retaining public consent. This is an increasing problem for the capitalist class who are driven to attack the working class more and more. They fear social unrest and they fear once again the spectre of communism -- haste the day!

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Lead Story

Work: It makes you sick.

by Daphne Liddle
 NEARLY two million workers in Britain suffer from illness or injury which they say has been caused by their work, according to a survey published last week by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

 And it says that almost 20 million working days a year are lost because of work-related sickness.

Back pain and repetitive strain injury are the most common work-related illnesses with stress as the next biggest problem.

 Around half a million people say it is so bad it makes them ill.

 Other common problems indude respiratory complaints like asthma, deafness, tinnitus, skin diseases and eye-strain.

 The survey of over 1 ,500 workers was backed up by interviews with their doctors. It showed that in 1995 an estimated 545,000 workers lost 19.5 million working days through work-related illness. This compares with 12.3 million days in 1990.

 The problem seems to be worse in Scotland where the amount of working time lost to work-related illness is 79 per cent higher than the average for Britain as a whole.

 In England, the North is worst affected.

 The survey showed a significant decline in workplace safety with the highest levels of workrelated illness in coal-mining, nursing, construction and teaching.

 Another survey published last week by the Nuffield Trust showed that the National Health Service loses E700 mi Ilion a year through staff sickness.

 If the levels were reduced to the average absence rates for industry, the NHS would save £140 million a year.

 Other surveys have shown that nurses and other health workers are increasingly likely to suffer attacks and assaults while at work -- from patients or their relatives who have had to wait a very long time for treatment, from people affected by drugs or drink and from psychiatric patients involved in under-funded and inadequate "care in the community".

 Their work also involves a lot of heavy Lifting of patients and back injuries are common among nurses.

 And dealing with those who are seriously ill or likely to die while staff levels, funding and resources are being cut at all levels -- and tty to meet government imposed targets --produces enormous stress and sometimes despair.

 Researchers found a consistent pattern of high sickness rates among health workers.

There were levels of "psychelogical disturbance, ranging from anxiety to chronic depression affecting between 20 and 50 per cent of all doctors, nurses and managers.

Nuffield Trust secretary John Wyn Owen said: "This state of affairs must impair health, reduce job satisfaction and ultimately compromise the ability to care for patients.

 "British Medical Association chairperson Dr Sandy Macara said: "This report recognises that working for the NHS can seriously damage your health."

 Another group of workers at risk are the cabin crews of airliners. A new report from the University of Strathclyde: shows they have to work long hours without proper breaks, breathe poor quality air for hours on end and are sometime slacking basic safety equipment such as gloves and aprons when dealing with sick passengers.

 Research showed that while pilots have a relatively spacious environment with good quality air conditioning, cabin crews -and passengers -- have to endure lower quality conditions Only the crews have to endure it day in, day out as long as they are at work.

 The study showed that 41 per cent of cabin crews never got a break during working hours -with shifts up to 10 hours at a time.

 The other 59 per cent got two rest breaks in the shift lasting an average of 11 minutes.

 Seventy-nine per cent work shifts on rotas that are juggled by airlines to squeeze the maximum legal amount of work out of the staff. And transport workers are excluded from the European Union working time directive.

 Round-the-clock working and frequent crossing of time zones disrupts sleep patterns, causing airline worker; to become drowsy at work and to suffer from digrsSvve problems and heart disease.

They are expected to clear meal trays, handle sickness disposal bags and administer first-aid to patients who may be bleeding or suffering from contagious illnesses, without adequate washing facilities or protective clothing.

 One flight attendant said: "At 30,000 feet in the air, cabin crew act as the fire department, paramedics, on-site bomb detectors and may have to deal with terrorists or hi-jackers.

 "In addition they routinely provide meals, refreshments, information and other facilities to travellers."

 Another said: "This is without doubt one of the dirtiest, most unhygienic environments to work in. We are serving food and drink, clearing meal trays, used hand towels, used sickness disposal bags, used nappies.

 "We also replenish toilet rolls and hand towels in dirty toilets. All of these duties are done without adequate cleaning and washing facilities or protective clothing.

 The Strathclyde report summed up the hazards cabin crews face: low humidity, ozone, airborne moulds, fungi, bacteria, dust, fibres and other pollutants liable to be found in the air conditioning systems.

 These leave staff prone to coughs, headaches, various infectious diseases, eye nose and throat complaints and the lethargy associated with sick building syndrome.

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Pensioners are taking action from Edinburgh to London.
by Caroline Colebrook & Ellen Coulton
 PENSIONERS throughout Britain are preparing, as we go to press for a mass lobby of Parliament and rally in Westminster this Thursday.

 And their main demand will be the restoration of the link between average male earnings and the state pension.

 This demand is part of the wider fight to defend the state pension as a universal benefit and the mainstay of support to those who are past retirement age.

 This fight is being fought on behalf of all of us, who will be pensioners one day -- if there is still a pension system left by then.

 In the meantime the campaign has been going forward in Scotland and London.

 The Greater London Forum for the Elderly held its 1Oth anniversary last Thursday, 19 March.

 With the recent addition of the City of London Forum they now have 33 London Forums affiliated.

 National Pensioners' Convention leader Jack Jones reminded the meeting the government's review of pensions is due for completion in June and that pressure should be put on MPs now that pensions must he linked to earnings.

 He said the government has already saved £11 billion since the link with earnings was dropped by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

 The meeting welcomed the idea of a new Greater London authority but there were strong reservations about the idea of a separately elected mayor.

 There was a well-received call from the floor for the abolition of the nearly £100 TV licence and electric and gas standing charges.

 But there was disgust that the Budget had contained no mention at all of pensions or housing.

 Meanwhile in Edinburgh, pensioners took to the street to converge on the Scottish Office to demand an immediate increase in basic state pensions: £80 for a single person and £130 fora couple.

 They demanded an immediate increase in their pension levels and security and dignity in retirement.

 Speaking on behalf of the Strathclyde Elderly Forum and the area's 400,000 pensioners, Nell McFadden said they are "the forgotten people in Britain".

 And she reminded the rally that Britain's pensioners fare very poorly compared to most of their European contemporaries.

 "We want to be up there at the top and not the poor relations of Europe," she said.

 And she called for a Ministry of Pensions to be part of the new Scottish Parliament. "Adequate means, enough," she said, "and we are not getting that. I want what I was promised.

 "If somebody had told me when I was 10 years old I would be out campaigning for a decent pension I wouldn't have believed them."

 The protesters had come form far and wide: from the vale of Leven, Clydebank, Dundee and Kirkaldy. They blew whistles and shook tambourines.

 John Crichton, leader of the Scottish Pensioners' Forum, urged the pensioners to put up a strong fight.

 He reported that he just had met Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar and told him the rise in pensions must be immediate because many of them would not be around if they had to wait for years. Mr Dewar had promised to take this lesson to London.

 "We are asking for a decent pension," said MrCrichton, "and we must keep fighting until we see it in our pension books and in our pockets.

 Falkirk West MP Dennis Canavan reminded the rally that it was the Tories who abolished the link between pensions and earnings and that it was now vital to convince the government to restore it.

 But be warned: "Don't just leave it to the politicians. It is important the ordinary man and woman stand up and fight for social justice."

 After this Thursday's mass rally and lobby of Parliament, on Wednesday 1 April there will be a lobby of parliament on behalf of carers, who save the state millions by spending their lives caring for spouses, relatives and friends who need full time care and attention. It will begin at St Stephen's Gate between 12 noon and 1.30pm.

 Then there will be another big march and rally of pensioners on Saturday 19 September. Full details later.

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US Cuban embargo law turns sour.

ON 12 March American officials marked the second anniversary of the "Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996" - better known as "Helms-Burton"-- which tightened the US economic embargo against Cuba, now 36 years old. The Helms-Burton Act is aimed at preventing companies from other countries investing in Cuba.

 But Mike McCurry, spokesperson for US President Bill Clinton, admitted that Helms-Burton "hasn't brought the peaceful changes in the Communist regime that the United States fervently desired".

 Even so, Michael Rannenberger, who heads the State Department's Cuban affairs office, assured Congress that the law is one of the "essential" methods for pressurising the government of Cuban President Fidel Castro. "We're closer than ever to a democratic transition in Cuba, because the Castro regime is weaker, more isolated because of multilateral efforts, and more subject to pressures," he claimed.
 Reality is different. At the beginning of March more than 50 US business leaders attended a conference with Cuban officials on investment opportunities in Cuba.

 The conference, which was organised by the Washington based lobby Alamar Associates with the authorisation of the US Treasury, started in Cancun. Mexico on 5 March and ended in Havana on 6 March.

 Participants included W Bradford Gary from the Medical Devices Manufacturers Association -- which represents 160 US companies -- and William Lane, a Washington representative of Caterpillar, a major manufacturer of heavy equipment.

 "The fundamental argument against the North American policy is that its only result has been to prejudice the interests of the United States." Cuban National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon told the business leaders. And Cuban government sources say President Castro expects the US to make a move soon to ease the embargo, possibly lifting restrictions on imports of food and medicine.

 The US government seems already to have given up Helms-Burton in the still-secret negotiations with other industrial countries on the Multilateral Agreementon Investment(MAI).

 The agreement -- pushed for by multinational corporations and called "the Constitution of a unified global economy" by World Trade Organisation (WTO) head Renato Ruggiero -- effectively eliminates all barriers to investment. It would prevent countries from imposing sanctions on investment for any reason except "fundamental security".

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British News

Black teacher defies racist terror campaign.

A YOUNG, black woman teacher in Catford, south London, has won the respect and solidarity of her local community, black and white, and of her profession for refusing to quit herjob after a sustained and horrific campaign of terror against her by a gang of racist thugs.

 The first attack against Alison Moore happened last month as she was leaving Sandhurst Junior school one evening.

 A gang of four teenage thugs set upon her and kicked and punched her unconscious. They screamed "black bitch" as she lost consciousness and it was only then she realised it was a racist attack.

 She came round undera hedge in excruciating pain, unable to move with several cracked ribs, internal bleeding and severe bruising.

 But she had her mobile phone to summon help from her headmistress. After six days she was released from hospital, still with a limp and in a lot of pain.

 Ten days later in the evening a racist threatening message was pushed through her letterbox while she was at the home she shares with her six-year-old daughter. It contained a death threat and told her not to go back to the school where she is the only black teacher.

 The police responded by installing new locks at her home and a panic button.

 And within days she had to use it as, unable to sleep properly through fear, she was disturbed by a sound in the middle of the night.

 She went down to her kitchen and saw the window had been forced open. The man who had done it just stood there menacingly in balaclava and gloves while she reached for the panic button.

 The police arrived quickly and found the outside of the house daubed with swastikas and NF (National Front) initials.

 Since then, Alison Moore has moved in with friends while she tries to find a new home. But she is refusing to quit her job.

 She said: "I realise that the people responsible for all of this are a minority.

 "My friends are of all nationalities. I don't look at colour. I look at who people are and I think others should do the same."

 She has admitted that, naturally, she is scared out of her wits.

 Nevertheless, with the support and encouragement of staff and pupils at her school and the National Union of Teachers, she went back to the school for a special assembly where she had arranged the music. The headmistress picked her up in a car for the journey.

 She said: "As we got near the school my teeth were chattering and I could hardly breathe for fright.

 "But I'm glad I did it, because the support from the children was so wonderful. They couldn't really get on with the assembly because the children kept stopping and turning round to wave and smile at me."
She has called for more spending on security at schools and says a surveillance camera might have caught her assailants at their first attack.

 And she called for schools to spend more time on teaching young children not to be racists and bullies.

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