The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 29th January, 1999

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Editorial - Making a killing.
Lead Story - Iraq demands justice now.
Feature - Railtrack's crumbling signal system.
International - New deal for Romanian miners.
British News - Public sector wants pay and job security - not praise.


Making a killing

 A WOMAN from southern Iraq described to journalists last week how she returned from shopping to find her house destroyed and her neighbours dead. She and those around her are the latest victims of United States air attacks on Iraq -- crimes fully backed by the British government.

 According to Clinton and Blair the air strikes are intended to protect United States and British warplanes as they carry out their patrols of the north and south no-fly zones over Iraq.

This occupation of Iraqi air-space was imposed after the 1991 Gulf War at the behest of US imperialism. The purpose is to keep Iraq under permanent threat of attack and to deprive Iraq of the right to exercise sovereignty over its own territory.

 Iraq is quite right and fully justified in sttuggling against this imposition.

 Criticism of US-British policy is widespread. The bombing raids carried out just before Christmas provoked angry demonstrations across the world. In Britain opinion polls showed that the long speeches in the House of Commons by Blair, Cook and Robertson were unconvincing -- nearly half said they did not agree with the air strikes. And the peace protests are growing.

 Much has been made of the recent meeting of Arab leaders because it more or less went along with what Washington wanted to hear -- some criticism of Iraq. But apart from the fact that this reflects imperialism's carrot-and-stick diplomacy in the region, it also ignores the widespread support for Iraq and for Saddam Hussein among the Arab masses.

 The US and British governments are becoming more and more isolated over their murderous policies towards Iraq. They are unable to muster a coalition force as they did in 1991 . They are unable to get backing from the whole UN Security Council and there are dissenting voices in the European Union.

 And why should they be supported? Washington's policies are ultimately designed to benefit Anglo-American oil companies, leading American banks and American-based big business by exercising military and political sway over a major oil-producing region at a time when imperialism considers it is as important to control the flow of oil as it is to control its price.

 Certainly the lying propaganda won't cut any ice. The arguments from Washington and London get more and more threadbare as they repeat over and over their unproven allegations about Iraq's supposed military threat to the region.
 For instance, the no-fly zones are said to be there to prevent Iraq attacking its neighbours. Yet the facts are that in the north of the country it is Iraq that has been repeatedly invaded by Turkish forces and not the other way around. Perhaps we should demand to know why the Anglo-American guardians of Iraqi air-space have done nothing whatsoever to stop the Turkish incursions.

 Whenever the US and Britain start gearing up for a new round of military strikes we are told yet again about Iraq's allegedly huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. But these supposed arsenals never seem to diminish, at least according to the politicians, however many raids are launched on Iraq. Furthermore, the only evidence that they exist at all seems to be the say-so of US intelligence services -- and of course all their sources of information are top secret!

 What we do know for certain is that, despite all the media hype, none of these alleged weapons were used during the Gulf War -- the very time they would have been of military use to Iraq.

 The fact that the United States and Britain have enough weapons of mass destruction to destroy humanity is never brought into question. Presumably the world is supposed to accept the argument that the vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the US and Britain are OK on the grounds that these are responsible and free democracies -- though not so free and democratic as to ask if we, the majority of the people, want to declare war or agree the use of nuclear weapons.

 And while British and American leaders pose before the world as champions of freedom, human rights and high moral principles, their rapacious policits, aimed at supporting the big corporations and wealthy elites of the leading capitalist states, wreak poverty, disease and death upon millions every day.

 While the children of Iraq lie dying from US bombs and US-led sanctions the degenerate ruling elite in the United States shows that it considers the gravest crime its President has committed is to have an affair and then fail to tell the nation all about it!

 Stop the bombing, stop the sanctions, end the suffering of the people of Iraq!

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Lead Story

Iraq demands justice now

by Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent
 IRAQI jets and ground defences challenged Anglo-American warplanes in both the northern and southern "no fly" zones for the fourth day running this week as President Saddam Hussein vowed revenge for the American attack on a residential area in Basra which killed at least 11 people and wounded 59 more. And Iraq says the Arab League's failure to show solidarity with the Iraqi people gave the Americans the green-light to step up their attacks.

 Last Sunday the Iraqi foreign minister stormed out of the Arab League foreign minister's conference in protest at the manoeuvres of the pro-American camp to block any Arab solidarity with the besieged Iraqi Arabs.

 Baghdad urged the Arabs to call for an end to the Western blockade and defy the sanctions regime themselves. Their response was "shameful" he said. The attack on Basra, which the United States initially denied but now bleats was a "mistake", followed the next day.

Iraqi defiance

 Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said on Tuesday that the Americans would be paid back for their attack on Basra. But he urged the people to be patient. "Your blood will not go in vain," he said. "Be patient, victory will be with those who are patient,". But he poured scorn on the Arab leaders who ignored the Iraqi people's plight and the demand from the Arab masses for action. They has opened their "ears to listen only to the voice of the devil" (meaning Clinton) while closing their minds to "the voice of right".

 The Iraqi leader's defiant stand was taken up by Vice President Yassin Ramadan on Wednesday when he vowed that "Iraq will continue to challenge with all its capabilities and means American and British planes which violate our air-space. Iraq holds the Security Council and the Arab rulers responsible for the dangers and damage Iraq is facing through these acts of aggression,".

 But Yassin Ramadan stressed that his country would "continue dialogue with any Arab government who wants dialogue within the context of Arab integration, unity and independence,".

 And this olive branch is not confined just to the Arabs. This week Iraq praised former enemy Iran for opposing the Anglo-American presence in the Gulf and offered to build on the tentative steps already taken towards reconciliation. At the same time deputy premier Tariq Aziz stated the government was ready to talk with the Kurdish factions which run the "safe-haven" in the north of the country.

 Iraq was "ready for a dialogue with the Kurdish leadership to achieve a peaceful and democratic settlement," he told a visiting Spanish left-wing delegation."

 Iraq recognises autonomous rule within the framework of the Republic of Iraq," he said referring to the 1974 autonomy agreement still in place which leaves Iraq as the only country which has recognised and granted Kurdish autonomy.

 Secret talks are believed to have already started with the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) which until recently supported Turkey's raids against the rival Kurdish Workers' Party which leads the resistance in Turkish Kurdistan.


 The Americans will doubtless be pleased that their move to sabotage the Arab League meeting, largely through the efforts of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt, have paid off. The blockade is still in place despite diplomatic efforts led by Russia, People's China and France at the United Nations to get it substantially lifted.

 But the Unscom monitoring teams -- kicked out by Baghdad after years of provocations -- are never going back and all that London and Washington can look forward to is steadily increasing confrontation in Iraqi skies which is stoking up anti-imperialist anger right across the Arab world.

  British MI6 intelligence officers also spied on Iraq posing as weapons inspectors according to a report in the London Independent newspaper.

 Earlier in the month US newspapers revealed that the CIA has penetrated the Unscom teams to spy on Iraq. Since 1991 220 members of the Ministry of Defence have worked with Unscom.

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Railtrack's crumbling signal system
by Caroline Colebrook
 SOME OF Railtrack's signalling equipment -- cables and signal boxes -- is so old and fragile that staff have been ordered not to touch it.

 The Health and Safety Executive last week ordered Railtrack to provide an immediate report for action and government ministers have ordered a full inquiry.

 Special notices had been stuck on 103 signal boxes, including some that serve Britain's busiest commuter lines, warning maintenance engineers from touching cables because they are in a dangerous condition.

 And leaked Railtrack papers disclosed "grave concern" over the condition of many cables. Some are between 25 and 30 years old.

 There are defective signal boxes at Peterborough, Leeds, Stafford, Tees Yard, Tottenham in north London, Dartford, Guildford and Healy Mills near Wakefield.

 The leaked internal report said that contractors can waive an inspection of equipment if it is so fragile that touching it would make it even more dangerous.

 Railtrack is claiming that passengers are not at risk "unless the wiring is disturbed." We refute any suggestion that the cables are unsafe," said a spokesperson. "There has never been a safety related incident because of cable degradation."

 But MPs are not happy with Railtrack's working practices. One signalling sub contractor made 150 workers redundant because railtrack was dragging its heels over improvement work.

 And Jimmy Knapp, general secretary of the RMT transport union, said: "It is only a matter of time before we have another disaster like the Clapham crash, caused by defective signalling." And he said there is a "glaringly obvious" conflict of interest between Railtrack's duty to the public and its obligations to its shareholders.

 He called on Railtrack to come clean and admit it is was spending less on maintenance than is necessary to keep the rail system operating safely.

 Last month Railtrack came under severe criticism from MPs who condemned the "very significant weaknesses" in its management of contractors it employed to replace and refurbish track and signal equipment."

 Rail regulator Chris Bolt ordered Railtrack to use more of the company's profits to be ploughed into maintenance and the replacement of the network infrastructure.

 Railtrack makes profits of more than £1.2 million a day. It says that this year it will invest more than £1.4 billion in its investment programme.

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New deal for Romanian miners
ROMANIAN miners called off their march on the capital last weekend following last minute talks between union leaders and the government on the road to Bucharest.

 Last week over 15,000 striking mines defied the police for five days in an increasingly violent protest for higher wages and no closures. The miners, led by Miron Cozma who was briefly jailed in 1997 for leading similar protests, were demanding a 35 per cent pay rise, big severance packages and an end to pit closures. Everywhere they went they received the support of the people forcing the government to mobilise the army and threaten a state of emergency.

 The march ended in bloody clashes with the police in the village of Costesti, some 160 km short of Bucharest, with the workers taking police hostages and beating up the provincial governor. All told some 190 people were injured during the five day protests -- mostly police.

 Full details of the deal which followed four hours of intense bargaining have not been released but the government has agreed to review the pit closure programme, consider bumping up redundancy money and keep two pits in the Jiu Valley going -- at least for the time being. Prime Minister Radu Vasile told reporters" "Neither the miners nor the government won. Only the country won because there will be peace,".

 Over 90,000 miners have lost their jobs since the counter-revolution in 1990 which overthrew the socialist system in Romania. Now the government wants 140 more pits, which they claim are unprofitable, to close.

 Miners leader Miron Cozma, who led the 1990 and 1991 protest which brought down the first anti-communist regimes, is branded in the government media as a "communist extremist". But support for his leadership goes far beyond the militant mining community.

 More and more realise that life was far better when the country was led by Nicolae Ceaucescu -- shot with his wife by traitors in 1989. More and more are focusing their anger against President Emil Constantinescu.

 Ominously for the regime protesters are taking up a new chant -- "Ceaucescu was better than Constantinescu!".

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British News

Public sector wants pay and job security - not praise
by Daphne Liddle
 PRIME Minister Tony Blair last week raised a hollow laugh from public sector workers when he told them with one breath that they should be praised for their commitment to the public good and then in -- almost -- the next breath made it clear that any pay rises would have to be paid for by cuts elsewhere in the system.

 Low pay levels are already causing crises in the teaching and nursing professions.

 A snapshot survey of hospital accident and emergency units throughout Britain last week found pensioners still facing waits of up to 28 hours on trolleys before being found a bed.

 Many of the hospitals had wards or sections of wards closed because they did not have enough nurses to staff them.

 Scottish teachers have been told they will get an 18 per cent pay rise, over the next three years. But there are strings.

 They will have to work longer hours in the schools -- in addition to the extra marking and lesson preparation they may do out of school.

 And they will have to give up some of their holiday time.

 This pay package presages similar pay rises in England and Wales but they are also likely to have strings and to be divisive as a few are selected for big rises as "super teachers" while the rest have to muddle along on low pay.

 There is also likely to be a stronger element of "pay by results" -- something impossible to measure except in the most crude way.

 University lectures throughout Britain are balloting for strike action over low pay levels. They are calling for a 10 per cent pay rise.

 The government is planning to create 100,000 more university places by the year 2002. The lecturers say: "We paid for the last expansion in univercities and we're not paying for the next one."

 They say they have been "systematically cheated and defrauded" out of decent salaries "while student numbers have soared."

 Civil servants and other public sector workers have been told that any pay rises must be earned by productivity increases -- in other words yet more job cuts.

 Yet they are currently suffering extreme levels of stress and overwork because there are not enough of them.

 One Inland Revenue officer told the New Worker: "We'd give anything for some more workers. The workload right now is astronomic and its going to get worse."

 Tony Blair's remarks were made at a ceremony for awarding the Citizen's Charter Mark.

 He said the country needs "wealth creators" -- he means capitalists, not workers -- "but the country also needs social entrepreneurs, the kind of people who apply management skills and market techniques to non-profit goals across the public sector.

 "We inherited an under-valued public service. It's absurd that we ever got into the position under the previous government where cutting the numbers of public servants was a goal in itself, where private was always best, where public service was demonised, not valued."

 This speech was obviously directed at managerial levels of public servants. For the rank and file, on the hospital wards, in the classrooms and in the offices, it is pay freeze as usual, just as it was under the Tories.

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