The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 28th April 2000

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Editorial - Ken for London.
Lead Story - United States threatens new arms race.
Feature - Air traffic sell-off sparks revolt
International - British Kurdish supporters on Turkish blacklist.
British News - More blows to motor industry.

Editorial

Ken for London

THE working class has suffered a sustained and long attack both at home and internationally. Working class consciousness has been deliberately undermined and the bosses have implemented tougher and more competitive practices designed to keep our heads down and our noses to the grindstone.

 The right-wing leaders of the Labour Party, supported by their House of Commons creeps, have judged that this is the climate in which to consolidate the gains they have already made and to push their class collaborationist policies as far as they can.

 But like Icarus, they are flying too near the sun. The shameful and anti-democratic measures used to prevent Ken Livingstone from winning the Labour Party ticket to stand for Mayor of London produced an angry response from Labour Party members, trade unionists and a great many Londoners of all parties and none.

 A win for Livingstone in the London election on 4 May will be a body blow to Blair and a setback to his authoritarian campaign. It will not be, and is not intended to be, an attack on the Labour Party or the labour movement -- on the contrary it will give heart to those who are resisting the leadership's right-wing onslaught.

 It is also vital to vote for Livingstone on the basis of his stated opposition to tube, privatisation -- the issue which, more than any other, caused Labour's bosses to panic. And even though there are other candidates who say they are against privatisation, Blair knows that Livingstone is the only one with that policy who has a real chance of winning.

 Livingstone could therefore scupper the expected City bonanza of another major public asset sell-off -- and that is good reason to vote for him next Thursday.

 "Creeping fascism" is the term that best describes life in capitalist Britain today -- a disease that's been advancing steadily over the last two decades.

 State authoritarianism has increased with the introduction of measures such as the Prevention of Tenorism Act (PTA), renewed threats to the jury system and the great swathe of anti-trade union laws.

 At the same time the programme of wholesale privatisation has removed democratic control and accountability from virtually all of the public utilities and services. Where once control of public services was in the hands of democratically elected governments and local councils, now it is largely left to unelected quangos, private business interests and government-appointed, but unelected, regulators.

 Privatisation In its various forms -- compulsory competitive tendering, Private Finance Initiatives, direct sell-offs of assets, public-private funding deals, opting out schemes for schools and hospitals and the introduction of private business money into education -- has robbed us financially and in terms of having our say in the services we pay for.

 While the election of London's mayor holds centre stage because it is for a new post in the capital city, there is also the election of the Greater London Assembly to consider and other local elections up and down the country.

 There is only one yardstick -- what course of action is in the best interests of the working class? In this respect it is essential not to slip backwards by giving any undeserved success to the Tories or to give them any grains of comfort at all -- that party of the ruling class turned the clock back decades when it was in power and launched the most vicious anti-working class attack since the war.

 We say, vote Livingstone for mayor, vote Dobson for the second preference, vote Labour for the Greater London Assembly Members, Labour for the GLA Party vote and Labour in all local elections outside of London.

 We also need to take more action thanjust going out to vote. The interests of the working class and the fightback against the process of creeping fascism demand positive action and greater participation in the labour movement.

 We can make our mark before polling day by stepping out on May Day and raising not only the demands of the moment but the banner of socialism and revolutionary change!

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Lead Story

United States threatens new arms race

by Andy Brooks

RUSSIA warned the United States this week that any breach of the existing Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty would undermine future disarmament talks.

 At a United Nations conference in New York Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stressed that the Kremlin would oppose any changes to the 1972 agreement and said Moscow would only consider further reductions in strategic offensive weapons if the ABM treaty was honoured.

 US imperialism wants to amend the treaty to allow it to set up a national missile defence system -- which they ludicrously claim they need to defend themselves from the supposed threat from Democratic Korea, Iraq and Iran, though none of these countries possess missiles which can reach the United States.

 The real motive is plainly to enhance US imperialism's first strike capability against Russia today or a resurgent Russia in the future, and People's China. And the immediate effect would be the collapse of all past nuclear disarmatnent agreements.

 Ivanov, addressing the UN review of the nuclear non-proliferattion treaty, warned of a "dangerous tendency" to undermine the existing strategic balance. "The collapse of the ABM treaty would, therefore, undermine the entirety of disarmament agreemcnts concluded over the last 30 years," he said.

 The Russian minister said Moscow was ready "to engage in the broadest consultations" with the United States on the ABM issue but the Kremlin has already threatened to walk outof the strategic arms reduction talks (START II) if Washington goes ahead with the national anti-missile defence deployment.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to hold his fist summit with US President Bill Clinton in Moscow this June. But the gulf between the United Stales, whose immense arsenal of nuclear weapons could destroy the world several times over, and Russia -- still the second biggest nuclear power despite its current weakness -- is immense.

 Earlier US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had told the UN conference that the proposed anti-missile system was only designed to prevent an attack from "rogue" states -- countries branded as enemies by Washington for daring to defy US imperialism. Its deployment would only require "minor amendments" to the ABM treaty she claimed.

 Few are ready to give her the benefit of the doubt. Even Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the UN who normally manages to comply with the demands of the White House, said that if this system is put in place it could spark off a new international arms race.

 The final decision will be made in Washington this autumn. Clinton can count on the support of Congress despite the estimated cost -- put at 60 billion dollars, and that is probably an underestimate.

 Clinton and his Democrats, in election year, clearly want the continued support of the US military-industrial complex which will be licking their lips at the prospect of more juicy contracts for the arms manufacturers.

 But what would follow goes far beyond Russian-American relations. If the whole package of disarmament treaties collapsed this would include the test-ban treaties and the non-proliferation treaty, which has been agreed by every country in the world apart from Israel, India, Pakistan and Cuba.

 A no-holds barred nuclear arms race between the United States and Russia would heighten tension all over the world and increase the likelihood of a nuclear exchange in a crisis.

 The peace movement in Britain, America and throughout the Western world must rally to mobilise public opinion against any attempt to reverse the limited gains made in the past and for genuine progress towards the scrapping of all these weapons of mass destruction.

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Feature

Air traffic sell-off sparks revolt

by Caroline Colebrook

THE LABOUR government is facing yet another large rebellion by back-bench MPs, this time over the £500 million plans to privatise the country's air traffic control system.

 Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has made a last-minute effort to reconcile the rebels but still more than 60 MPs are expected to vote against his plans for privatisation of the national air traffic control service (nats).

 Around 100 MPs have signed a Commons motion opposing the sell-off and reckon that if they can persuade another 20 to join their ranks, the Government could be forced to make concessions.

 They cannot hope to achieve a parliamentary majority against the sale but that size of the rebellion could not be ignored.

 Mr Prescott is reported to have become bad tempered with rebels after a futile effort "to knock heads together".

 He is even more upset by a report from the Commons Transpart Committee report which describes his plans for a public/private partnership as "the worst possible option".

 He claimed the committee had "failed to lake into account the unique set of safeguards for safely and public accountability" in the plans.

 One of the leading rebel MPs is Gavin Strang, who was Prescott's deputy. He has continued to voice concerns for passenger safety in Britain's increasingly crowded skies.

 He warned that the proposed sale of 51 per cent of nats to the private sector would give that sector "complete operational control" and assets could be sold on.

Mr Strang said: "It is time the Government listened to the concerns of pilots and the general aviation sector."

 Prescott has said that the privatisation will give the investment needed to enable nats to sell its expertise overseas and expand into other markets as global air traffic systems consolidate.

 The controversy over this measure is likely to provide one of the most heated debates in Parliament in the coming summer.

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International

British Kurdish supporters on Turkish blacklist

by the Kurdistan Information Centre

THE TURKISH newspaper, Sabah, has published a list of some 56 foreign nationals who have been barred from entering Turkey. The names include MPs, journalists, politicians and human rights activists.

 All have been banned because they have spoken out in support of a negotiated settlement of the Kurdish Question in Turkey and the practical necessity of including the Kurdish Worker's Party (PKK) because ofits major role in the conflict.

 The Turkish authorities allege that those named in its blacklist "work under the guise of human rights advocacy" in support of the PKK. There are two flaws in this assertion: firstly, the Kurdish issue is greater than being simply a malterofhuman rights and secondly, the Turkish state's attempt to marginalise the issue to that of a conflict between the State and the PKK is fundamentally erroneous.

 The Kurdish Question has been a fundamental problem in Turkey since the creation ofthe Turkish republic at the end of the First World War. Although the PKK's involvement over the past 20 years has been significant, the issue not only pre-dated the PKK's commencement of armed struggle in 1984 but affects every aspect of life and security for ethnic Kurds living in Turkey.

 Some ten thousand political prisoners languish in prison in Turkey. Thousands of Kurdish refugees continue to flee Turkey in search of political asylum in the West. More than a million Kurds live in exile in Europe and a further three million, burned and bombed out of their villages, have no homes to return nor any safeguards under Turkish law if they do.

 Despite calls from the democratic voice within the country for a general amnesty along with the call from the Kurdish political party HADEP for peaceful reconciliation and recognition of the PKK cease-fire, Turkey has, so far, failed to take even the tiniest step to effect constitutional reform or the long overdue amendments to articles in the penal code governing freedom of expression and a free press.

 The prohibition of foreign negotiators from being able to visit Turkey is any manifestation of Turkey's obstinate strategy in its special war designed to further silence debate on the vital issues.

 In light of Turkey's bid to join the European Union, such tactics can hardly he countenanced, particularly when the ban involves those European MPs and advocates who understand the Kurdish problem and are active in advancing practical democratic solutions towards a final resolution.

 They have been barred solely because they have called on the Turkish authorities to cease military oppression of the Kurds and for demanding that successive Turkish governments implement the changes necessary to bring Turkey in line with Europe and the conventions it has already signed.

 The Kurdish Question in Turkey is not simply a matter of "terrorism" as the Turkish State seeks to disguise it. The problem extends beyond human rights abuses and the infringement of Kurdish cultural and linguistic liberties. It is a deeply-rooted problem deriving from the Turkish Constitution which recognises only a single ethnic majority in the country, Turks, and the draconian laws which make any challenge of this assumption a crime. EU member states must urge Turkey to cease its shameful assault on the human rights community within and outside Turkey.

 What other country in the world which declares itself a "democracy" has acted like Turkey in this instance? Those blacklisted today are among Turkey's strongest partners to democratic reform. This ban and Turkey's practice of imprisoning the democratic voice at home must not be endorsed if Turkey is to be accepted into the European family and the international community.

 Those barred from entering Turkey include Lord Avebury and Estella Schmid.

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British News

More blows to motor industry

by Daphne Liddle

CAR WORKERS throughout Britain are feeling the shock waves this week after further indications that Fords may close Dagenham and BMW is not interested in giving time to a bid for Rover that could save jobs.

 The Government has been left impotent by the decisions of the giant transnational companies over which it has no control at all.

 Tony Blair last week held secret crisis talks with Jack Nasser, the global head of the Ford Motor company to try to urge him not to close Dagenham.

 Dagenham workers have recently been criticised by Ford management for their "dated outlook" but they have been among that company's most productive workers.

 In 1998 Dagenham was the most productive Ford plant in Europe, out-performing plants in Germany, Belgium and Spain.

 It ranked 11th in efficiency league tables covering 60 major car factories in Europe.

 But that very high productivity has contributed to its downfall. Currently European motor manufactunng as a whole can turn out 18 million cars a year hut call only sell 15 million.

 Car factories throughout Europe have been forced to cut hack production. The Dagenham workers have been on shortweek working for a long time now.

 The most cflicient production methods in the world are of little use when there is no market for the finished commodity -- that is the madness of capilalism.

 And, all other things being roughly equal between motor factories throughout Europe, it is the high value of the pound that makes cars made in Britain more difficult to sell abroad.

 The Government has been in talks with the unions at Fords, telling them the situation is serious and they must do everything to boost production.

 This is a sick joke after the workers at BMW-owned Rover just over a year ago accepted big job cuts and cuts in working terms and conditions in order to please BMW and secure the future of Rover -- only to be kicked in the teeth earlier this year with the news that BMW is to sell Rovers to the knackers (Alchemy) anyway.

 BMW last week ignored pleas from unions and from the Government to allow time for the bid for Rover from the Phoenix consortium to be prepared and said it wanted the planned sale to the Alchemy consortium to go ahead as quickly as possible.

 The Phoenix hid is headed by former Rover executive John Towers and aims to preserve car manufacturing at the Longbridge plant. Mr Towers said he hoped the company would eventually be owned by its workers and
managers.

 He has the moral support of the Government and the unions but as we go to press he is still looking For another £250 million backing -- and there would still be some job cuts.

 The Alchemy bid comes from a venture capital firm which is likely to asset strip the company with job losses estimated at 19,000.

 To add to the gloom in the motor industry, Peugeot last week announced that the continued strength of the pound is threatening jobs at its plants in the Midlands -- mainly the former Roules group.

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