The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 27th June 2008

CND support for Czech hunger strikers

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by our Arab Affairs Correspondent

don’t achieve much these days and last weekend’s conference of oil “producers and cosumers” in Saudi Arabia was no exception. Though it was billed as an attempt to stem the soaring price of oil, the imperialists got nothing out of it apart from a vague Saudi promise to produce more crude oil if the market needs it.

The Saudis quite rightly blamed market speculators for sending prices spiralling in recent months but Gordon Brown claimed surging demand from the developing world  rather than speculative pressures was driving up the price of oil which has almost doubled over the past year and nearly topped $140 a barrel on the spot market last week.

The Saudi stance was echoed by the head of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who said there was plenty of oil to supply the market.

Chakib Khelil, the Opec president and Algeria’s Minister for Energy and Mines said:

“We believe that the market is in equilibrium. The price is disconnected from fundamentals. It is not a problem of supply…we believe speculation, in its noble and not noble terms, has its impact.”

Khelil also blamed turbulence on the currency-market for recent oil hikes. “A lot of people are talking about the uncertainties about the reserves. But what about the uncertainties on the dollar?” he said.

But it’s other “uncertainties” that are rattling the market, like the violence in American-occupied Iraq and the continuing imperialist pressure on Iran, another major oil producer, to abandon its nuclear research programme.

new sanctions

The European Union  imposed new sanctions against Iran last week, including an asset freeze on its biggest bank, over its refusal to back down from its sovereign right to pursue a peaceful nuclear energy programme.  But the EU said the door remained open to possible talks over an international package of incentives for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment.

The new sanctions, coordinated with US imperialism at a summit earlier this month, will target companies and individuals that the imperialists claim are linked to Iranian nuclear and ballistic programmes. Companies  will be barred from entering or trading within the EU and individuals will be visa-banned from entering any of the EU’s member states.

Bank Melli Iran, the national bank of the Islamic Republic,  faces an asset freeze under the moves, while the visa bans would target “very senior experts” inside Iran’s nuclear and ballistic programmes. The EU  claims that the sanctions are based on measures agreed by the UN Security Council and that the the five permanent members of the Council plus Germany are still seeking an answer from Iran to their incentives offer.

US imperialism and the EU agreed this month they were ready to take additional steps aimed at Iranian banks. Iran insists its nuclear work is a peaceful programme, but the long-running dispute has sparked fears of military confrontation and helped push up oil prices to record highs. Iran’s oil minister has put its windfall crude export earnings at $6 billion per month and acting economy minister Hossein Samsami said over the weekend that existing sanctions were not having a major impact on the country’s economy.

Tehran papers say that Iran has withdrawn $75 billion from Europe this month to prevent the assets from being blocked, but Samsami played down such reports and insisted the situation was “as yet not serious.”

Meanwhile back in Iraq two American soldiers and two US government employees were killed on Tuesday in a bomb explosion inside a building of the district council office of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad. One of the slain civilians was a high-ranking official in the US State Department and the other worked for the US Defence ministry. Five other US troops and three of the local council members were also injured in the attack.

 These deaths bring the number of US troops killed in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to about 4,109, according to the latest Pentagon figures. There have been 4,419 coalition deaths — 4,109 Americans, 176 British, and 139 from other US allies — in the war in Iraq.  Some 436 mercenary “contractors” have also been killed since the invasion in 2003 and at least 30,247 US troops have been wounded in action, according to the Pentagon.



Legitimate demands

NOW NO ONE can deny that capitalism is in crisis. The artificial housing market bubble has burst, forcing up interest rates and pushing more and more working people deluded into the house-ownership myth into the mortgage poverty trap. Oil is hitting record prices due to the imperialist occupation of Iraq and the machinations of speculators on the stock market.

 Inflation is rising while the politicians line their own pockets and are expecting workers to accept poverty-line wages.

Gordon Brown’s government is sinking deeper and deeper into the morass of its own making. Current opinion polls give the Tories a 23-point lead over Labour which would give them a landslide victory if a general election was held today. But it won’t be and Brown has two years to restore Labour’s standing. It can be done but it won’t be helped by Brown’s half-baked plan to give poor unemployed parents a miserable £200 hand-out to take part in health and education programmes at specialist children’s centres. This “child development grant”, based on  the slimy American “workfare” model, will do nothing for “social mobility” nor will it go anywhere near winning back Labour’s traditional working class vote that the party needs if it is to have any hope of winning the next election.

The Prime Minister can drivel on about a “national crusade” to improve social mobility for as long as he likes but it’s all meaningless unless the Government accepts that only way to close the gap between the rich and the poor is by taxing those who can well afford it. Brown bleats about the health and education of working class kids but all he can come up with are these worthless pilot schemes that fail even to recognise the scale of the problems facing working people today in Britain.

The Child Poverty Action Group  charity rightly said  that the proposals lack “the language and bold policies to strike at the heart of the problem”. Chief executive Kate Green said Britain was “in the grip” of a “damaging culture of inequality” adding that “It is gross inequality that is the enemy of opportunity and social mobility. It is Britain’s exceptional gap between the richest and poorest that has created a gulf that can no longer be navigated.”

But the problems workers face cannot be solved by charity. Only social justice, which Labour once espoused, can tackle the poverty gap. That would mean restoring income tax to levels that existed in the 1970s to restore the National Health Service and give working people an education system they so richly deserve and this country can so  well afford.

For a start the Government must restore the link between the state pension and earnings to guarantee people a decent standard of living when they retire and abolish prescription charges in England, which has already been done in Wales and will come into effect in Scotland in 2011.

 Some two million pensioners live in poverty and the Government, by its own admission, accepts that 60 per cent of pensioners will eventually be forced to rely upon means tested benefits unless the link is restored.

A sense of urgency is sweeping the labour movement today. All but the most dogmatic and sectarian sections of the ultra-left now recognise the fact that if Labour falls it will be replaced by a thoroughly reactionary Tory administration. And that’s what will happen unless workers mobilise to put mass pressure on the Brown Government to force it to respond to the legitimate demands of the organised working class.
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