The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 27th August 2004

Iraq - the fight goes on!

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By our Arab Affairs correspondent

fighters are continuing to fend off American attacks around the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf while thousands of Shia faithful are marching to their holy city following a call from their supreme spiritual leader to "save the city and end the US siege on its holiest shrine".

Last week Mahdi Army militiamen stormed the central prison in al Amarah, a southern town on the banks of the river Tigris, and freed all the prisoners.

Across the country American-led imperialist forces, backed by puppet local auxiliaries, are fighting pitched battles on the outskirts of the towns and cities liberated in June and the partisans have stepped up their attacks on the oil installations and deep in the heart of the occupied capital Baghdad.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani returned to Iraq from London, following a heart operation, to rally the Shia community in defence of Najaf, where rebel Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, has vowed to defend to the death. Al Sistani returned to the southern provincial capital of Basra on Wednesday via Kuwait to urge all Iraqis to march on Najaf and halt the fighting. Al Sadr's rebel Mahdi Army is ready to hand over the keys of the shrine to al Sistani and the Shia Islamic council and they've declared a cease-fire in British occupied southern Iraq to welcome the Grand Ayatollah.

But puppet "defence minister" Hazim Sha'alan has been mouthing off his usual threats on behalf of his American masters. Last week he told the imperialist media that the Mahdi Army had surrendered to his men in Najaf. Now he's repeating the threat to storm the shrine unless they give in. No one takes Sha'alan's threats seriously. His 500-strong "crack" force has yet to be seen in action though the Americans are using them for rear line patrols in the parts of Najaf they have moved into.

Back in Baghdad, two puppet ministers narrowly escaped with their lives when their convoys were ambushed in two separate attacks in the heart of the capital. The puppet "environment" and "education" ministers were unhurt but five of their bodyguards were killed when their convoys were bombed on Tuesday.

Fighting continues in the Shia stronghold of Sadr City, a slum neighbourhood controlled by the Mahdi Army that the Americans claim to have subdued last week. The guerrillas are increasingly using Grad ground-to-ground missiles to devastating effect. The Grad is 6 metres long and it strikes with a force more than 18 times that of an ordinary rocket and every day resistance units are rocketing Saddam International Airport and the US "Green Zone" military compound where the puppet administration is located.

The Americans are now in a dilemma entirely of the own making. They've wanted al Sadr and his Mahdi Army out of the way for months. They clearly hoped he could be dealt with, once and for all, while al Sistani was in London. But they've neither been able to drive him out of Najaf or force him to submit to the authority of the puppet government.

If the Americans storm the holy mosque while the Grand Ayatollah is leading his followers to the shrine they'll trigger an upsurge far greater than the one they can't quell at the moment. If they don't the Americans face the prospect of al Sistani in charge of Najaf and al Sadr remaining with his reputation enhanced for defending the Shia shrines against the imperialists. Anglo-American imperialist dreams of elevating their puppet government on the international stage will be totally shattered. It's all bad news for Bush and Blair who dreamed of strutting on the world stage as "liberators" and conquerors.

The patriotic Iraqi resistance, which spans the entire spectrum of Iraqi political life from Islamic clerics and Baathists, to the patriotic communist movements, have shown once again that the imperialists are paper tigers and that ultimately it is people who decide the outcome of wars -- not guns and technology.


Blair backs down

So now the puppet "premier" of Iraq is not coming to Labour Party Conference after all. It only took a week of protests to force the Blairites to back down.
Labour CND and the other campaigning groups within the Labour Party can chalk this up as an advance but the major target is to change the Government's direction internationally and on the home front. That can only come by replacing the Blair & Brown camp with a leadership committed to advancing the demands of organised labour.

 The Iraqi resistance is fighting Anglo-American imperialism tooth and nail and the anti-war campaign is mobilising for new protests in the weeks to come. Communists have a crucial role in supporting the peace efforts and getting the communist message across to the millions who are taking to the streets to oppose the criminal occupation of Iraq.

Taxing the Rich

Modest proposals by a Blairite think-tank to raise the level of inheritance tax, or death duties as they were previously known, have provoked howls of outrage in the Tory press. The scheme, drawn up by the Institute for Public Policy Research, would start at a £263,000 threshold at 22 per cent followed by a 40 per cent band and raise the rate on estates worth more than £763,000 to 50 per cent bringing an extra £150 million a year to the Exchequer. Though this would mean that heirs of the very rich would pay more the new sliding scale would see the level of tax levied on estates falling in 87 per cent of cases.

Death duties have always been part of the progressive agenda. In 1848 the Communist Manifesto placed the abolition of property in land, heavy progressive or graduated income tax and the abolition of all right of inheritance as the top three demands in the battle for democracy. In 1905 Stalin said one of the first acts of the provisional revolutionary government that would sweep away Czarism must be "to abolish indirect taxes and introduce a progressive profits tax and progressive death duties".

In Britain it was seen as a money circulation scheme and painless and fair way to raise taxes to pay for social reforms. Death duties were first introduced by the Liberals in the 19th century. The Chancellor, Sir William Harcourt, famously quipped that "we are all socialists now" when he moved the proposal in his budget in 1894. The rich squealed with anger and they roared even louder when Liberal Chancellor Lloyd George doubled death duties in the 1909 "People's Budget".

The immensely wealthy call it robbery but death duties rob no one. The deceased have lost nothing as they have gone to a "better place" while their heirs are simply being taxed on unearned income they never had in the first place. The rich claim they seek to help their children but none of them argue for the abolition of wills or the automatic right of all offspring to an equal share of the estate.

What the rich really hate is that the essential principle of inheritance tax attacks hereditary wealth and the absolute right to private property.

 They would like to see death duties abolished altogether so that they could build dynasties on their piles of land and money like their ancestors did in the 18th and 19th century.

Whether the Government does adopt the Institute's proposals remains to be seen. What the labour movement must do is pile on the pressure for the restoration of progressive taxation to the levels we had in 1979. The homeless, the sick and the pensioners are crying out for assistance. The rich have got plenty of money. They can well afford to part with some of it.   

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