But the Cold War is far from over elsewhere in the world. Wherever socialism exists and wherever there are countries prepared to stand up to the imperialist "new world order", the West's Cold War offensive continues.
All of these countries, which are in the developing world, have to endure an endless stream of hostile propaganda, lies and smears.
Sometimes this propaganda onslaught is designed to try and justify other acts of western aggression --such as military interventions and sanctions. But the Cold War smears are also issued to discredit socialism in the eyes of the working c lass people currently living under capitalist regimes and to prevent any solidarity with those engaged in anti-imperialist struggle.
Not surprisingly, the recent visit of the Pope to socialist Cuba has been accompanied by a flurry of anti-communist jibes in the capitalist media.
This mostly consists of assertions about unspecified "human rights abuses", talk of the need for "reform of the system" and a presumption that Cuba lacks "democracy"
Of course the so-called experts and politicians who peddle this stuff don't really want to engage in a serious debate about any of this.
This is partly because they cannot support the claims they make and partly it is because a serious debate about democracy, human rights and accountability might expose the capitalist system and its Particular forms of government for what it really is -- a dictatorship of the capitalist class.
In Cuba the people's representatives in the government are truly accountable. After an election they continue to live and work in the locality they represent. They remain close to the people, they listen to the people and report back to them. Their representatives do not move out and move up -- there is no gravy train or career ladder waiting for them in Havana.
In addition there are two-way channels of communication between the government acid the various sectors of the people -- such as students, the women's movement, local councils, the youth movement and so on.
Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the United States has imposed a trade embargo on Cuba. The US has invaded Cuba. It has kept up an incessant barrage of propaganda. In recent years it has stepped up its economic attack by trying to Prevent other countries from trading with Cuba.
This has of course seriously harmed Cuba's economy and presented the country with enormous problems. Presumablv the purpose of this cruel embargo is to create discontent among the people and the eventual downfall of the socialist revolution.
But it is now nearly forty years on and the Cuban Revolution lives. The people of Cuba, like the people of Iraq, know it is the imperialist powers, led by the United States that cause such hardship.
The Cold War warriors can't stand the socialist democracy that has served the Cuban people so well for so long and enabled the people and the government to stand together.
They complain that the Cuban people are not bombarded at election time by a fistful of vying pro-capitalist parties. And why should they want to be?
Would a society that had freed itself from slavery vote for the return of the slave owners? Would the people of Britain want to return to the days of feudalism and live tied lives as serfs? No they would not. And no more do the people of Cuba want to return to the days of Batista and capitalist exploitation.
Odd that the Cold War propagandists fail to see the irony of writing all those smears about Cuban democracy while much of the rest of their news coverage is devoted to the latest undignified goings on in Washington.
Guess the Pope won't be getting an invitation to the White House
for a while!
But at the end of the talks on Wednesday, as we went to press, the Sinn Fein leader said the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) will have to negotiate directly, but that "in the meantime the Unionists' tactical refusal to talk to us is creating a vacuum which is being filled by loyalist killers."
Northern Ireland secretary Mo Mowlem said on Wednesday, that this stage had proved to be "a forum for positive engagement". She said talks were "biting on the key issues" and hoped it was possible "to take back to the people of northern Ireland a little more hope".
She said there had been no "direct engagement" but "engagement on ideas and points". But Sinn Fein took on board that both British and Irish governments had now formally reaffirmed previously agreed Framework Document positions.
Sinn Fein's submission to the Lancaster House stage of the process stated that the 'Heads of Agreement' document was a "mistake" that needs to be "rectified" because nationalists considered that, for one, "an assembly has been imposed as a fait accompli".
They said the issues can be ironed out, so long as live broad themes were dealt with: demilitarisation -- prisoner releases, ending the British military presence; equality -- rights, safeguards, justice issues; sovereignty -- domestic legislative and international treaty powers; constitutional status of the six counties; and new structures resulting from the resolution of both sovereignty and constitutional matters.
The hot potato of the northern Ireland assembly is sharply dismissed. Sinn Fein's document opposes it "particularly given the history of unionist abuse of power under the Stormont Parliament, and the contemporary evidence that this abuse would continue, most graphically illustrated in the experience of nationalist councillors in every unionist controlled district council."
And, in that respect, Sinn Fein is gaining grassroots support, most recently shown by the district by-election in the mid-Tyrone town of Omagh where their vote increased to make them the majority district party.
On the first day of talks, Gerry Adams had said: "The crisis has not been defused" despite the withdrawal of the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) - political wing of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA)-Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) -- just ahead of formal expulsion by the British and Irish governments.
Ultimately, this was down to the persistent refusal of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) to en gage in direct talks with Sinn Fein, and that "sends a potent signal" to loyalists "which at its most extreme Ieads to the killing of Catholics," he said. "The UUP cannot wash their hands of what is happening on the ground. It is they who have created the vacuum.
The UFF, which did not de dare an did to its ceasefire, conducted a campaign of terror against Catholics. They said, in a statement last Friday, that this was a "measured military responce" to "republican aggression", that is, the Irish National Liberation Anny (INLA)'s killing of Billy Wright, leading figure in the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) .
A callous view that drew predictahle condctnnation from nationalists, butalso formally froln the UDP. And Billy Wright's own father appealed two weeks ago for the killings to stop.
The UFF statetnctrt said they have now ended the attacks and the ceasefire is back in place, but after it, on the very same evening, there was another random killing (if a Catholic, Liarn Conway - who lived a stones throw from the local pub which loyalists raked with machine guns killing Eddie Treanor.
The local community has responded, not expecting any RUC help. by setting up barricades in the area. Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness MP said the UFF statement was "a spurious attempt to justify a litany of murders involving a number of loyalist gangs going back over an 18-month period during which 19 people, 14 of whom have been Catholics, were killed by loyalists."
The UFF statement came the day after a belated response -which Sinn FCin's Martin McGuinness says cost lives -from RUC chief Ronnie Flanagan pointing the finger at these loyalists. The Sinn Fein leader said this was the loyalists exercising their veto, traditionalists were concerned that the "killing machine will be turned on again."
Indeed. the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)'s statement to a Belfast newsroom last Tuesday, that they intend to continue random attacks; against nationalists -- and are now doing so -- emphasises how precarious the situation is now.
Getting down to substantive talks which cut off the lifeblood
feeding loyalist attacks - and the British government holds the key to
that -- will ensure an environment for progress as the talks move to Dublin,
and ever closer to the May deadline.
The three members of the Derbyshire National Union of Mineworkers have mounted a round-the-clock picket outside the home of Alan John Bowkett, chief executive of Berisford, the firm which owns Magnet Kitchens.
And they have invited Greenham Peace Camp veterans and the tunnelling eco-campaigner Swampy to join them outside the St Neott's home of Mr Bowkett.
One hundred and fifty Magnet Kitchen workers were sacked 18 months ago after going on strike in a long-running pay dispute. The company had refused them a pay increase in spite of them having already endured a three year pay freeze to help the company through bad times.
Now they are still fighting for reinstatement and for their pay rise. They have recently stepped up their campaign by picketing Magnet Kitchen showrooms throughout the country -- explaining to potential customers that currently the kitchen furniture is being produced by an untrained, unskilled scab workforce, leading to a significant drop in quality.
The strikers are members of the GMB, TGWU general unions, the AEEU engineering and electrical union and Ucatt, the construction union.
Then came the news that Bowkett had awarded himself a pay rise of £124,393 from £321,620 to £446,013 in the year to September 1997.
That increase could easily have funded the three percent increase in pay for the 150 workers.
The sacked workers and their supporters picketed Berisford's annual general meeting in London last week, supported by three comedians: Mark Steel, Mark Thomas and Jeremy Hardy.
They welcomed the news of the solidarity action being taken by the Derbyshire ex-miners.
GMB national secretary Phil Davies said: "Magnet's 200 stores have been picketed on a regular basis throughout the country to persuade the British public to boycott the company's products until the dispute is resolved.
"But this direct action influenced by the goings-on in Corrie [Coronation Street] has come as a big surprise to us all."
They were imitating the actions of eco-warriors camped on the front lawn of Councillor Alf Roberts againsta local building development in the long-running soap opera.
Ex-miner Terry Buckeraitis, a former member of Derbyshire NUM's executive, said: "If they could do it why not us? We decided we'd become eco-warriors.
"We got a lot of support during the 1984/85 miners' strike from trade unionists at Magnet and we know the hardship they and their families are now going through.
"This guy Bowkett just drives back and forth up the M1 to Darlington and his life-style is immune from what he has done to these workers and their families.
"We want him to sit down with the strikers -- and sort out a settlement. He's got to realise this issue is not going to go away. We want to cause embarrassment."
Police have warned the picketers that if they stay for too long
they could be prosecuted under new anti-stalking legislation.
While the US President's wife and his Democratic party machine go into top gear to rebuff allegations of adultery and sexual harassment in the White House Clinton used his State of the Union address to Congress to threaten Iraq again if Baghdad continues to deny access to the UN weapons team inspectors.
Russia has sent delegations to Iraq and France in a last-ditch move to end the crisis peace fully and Arab leaders are talking about a new Arab summit to discuss the collapse of the Middle East "peace process" and the growing tension in the Gulf.
Arab leaders, including those of Syria and Egypt, are now publicly
opposing American threats to hit Iraq -- threats which are backed by the
British government which has two aircraft carriers in the region.
But the Kremlin is lobbying hard to stop new Nato air-strikes warning the West that these would be "unacceptable and counter-productive". Russian deputy Foreign Minister Viktor Posuvalyuk is in Baghdad now trying to broker a new deal which would allow the inspectors to carry out their work while meeting Iraq's demand for a speedy end to the crippling Western blockade.
Last Sunday Iraq accused an American member of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) in charge of dismantling Iraqi weapons of mass destruction of telling lies to prolong the UN sanctions.
Richard Sebritzel, in charge of the biological file, has claimed that he has information which proves that Iraq was operating a secret plant for biological weapons in defiance of the UN-imposed embargo. But he has admitted that he has no tangible evidence to present to the UN Security Council.
Iraqi Major-General Hussam Muhammad Amin, director of the Iraqi UN-liaison teams said: "We are not astonished at such mean remarks from one of the US officials responsible for the prolonging of the UNSCOM mission. We challenge Sebritzel to provide any evidence of the alleged plant in the presence of the world's mass media"
But the Anglo-American military build-up continues relentlessly amid speculation that air raids could start within the next few weeks.
Tony Blair, speaking to the Arab newspaper Al-Hayat said: "We hope that diplomatic efforts to end the crisis will succeed. But we are not willing to rule out any option at this stage. We cannot and will not rule out the use of military force if Saddam refuses to change his options".
But underlying this crisis is the utter failure of recent US efforts to get the "peace process" back on track. The Americans have been unwilling to pressurise Israel into honouring the Oslo accords and their attempts to persuade the Palestinians to accept the crumbs offered by Tel Aviv have failed.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat wants a further 30 per cent Israeli pull-back From the West Bank. Israel's hard-line Netanyahu government will only consider 9.5 per cent, and that with strings attached. Separate meetings with Bill Clinton in the White House last week failed to reach agreement around the American plan for a staggered third-stage Israeli withdrawal linked to Palestinian collaboration with Israel's security services against the Islamic resistance.
Washington may now believe that the only way that it can restore
its prestige in the Middle East is by a new demonstration of military might
against a stricken foe. It's a desperate gamble.
Dockers' leader Jimmy Nolan issued a very brief statement saying that due to difficulties they found it impossible to go on.
No doubt the dockers are feeling disappointed they did not achieve their main aim of the reinstatement of their jobs.
But when they look at what they did achieve they have every reason to hold their heads high.
They took a stand against a growing tide of casualisation both in Britain and around the world.
And they united that struggle globally. They set up international conferences and they turned the internet into a weapon of worldwide working class solidarity.
They made trade union history with the first global dockers strike that involved solidarity action in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Japan, India and throughout Europe.
Many of the unions giving support are themselves involved in similar struggles against casualisation.
By using the internet, dockers around the world were able to organise effective boycotts of scab ships and shipping lines using the Liverpool docks -- tactics which will surely show the way for other disputes.
Dock workers in both Belfast and Dublin were united in solidarity with their cause.
Only in Britain were there no solidarity actions in the docks --partly because of anti-union laws and partly because of a total media blackout that meant hardly anyone in Britain was aware of the global strike.
The dockers gave inspiration to thousands and they lifted the profile of trade union struggle at a time when it was sorely needed.
Unfortunately the leadership of the mainstream trade union movement was too cowed by Tory anti-union laws to give them the backing that would have secured a swift victory.
But the courage and determination of the dockers and their families were strong enough to keep the struggle going through 28 months of severe hardship and a virtual media black out on the dispute.
Twice they rejected the settlement payments they have now accepted. The £28,000 payments may seem generous. But the dockers, who have not been in work or paying National Insurance contributions during the dispute, will not be eligible for Job Seekers' Allowance until that money is all but spent.
The dockers have gained very little for themselves in material terms by their heroic stand but they have advanced the cause of international working class solidarity dramatically and future generations of workers will benefit from their action.
Now we urge all trade unionists to step up the fight against the anti-union laws.
The Labour government clearly does not want to repeal these unjust laws but also clearly the Labour leadership does not necessarily have the last say.
Currently the Labour Party is looking to the unions to bail it out from a £4.5 million debt.
Some unions are already considering refusing the cash unless Prime Minister Blair fulfils his promises to legislate on workers' rights and are seeking private meetings the Trade and Industry Minister, Ian McCartney.
Now is the time to exert all possible pressure on union leaders to insist the anti-union laws are repealed.
On hearing the news of the settlement, one active member of the public sector union Unison in Liverpool said: "The movement did not do enough to support them or to fight the anti-trade union legislation. I keep thinking to myself, could I have done more?"
This was from a comrade who actually did a lot. But it is a question
for every trade union member and branch to ask themselves. It is not too
late to pay tribute to the Liverpool dockers by stepping up the fight against
the anti-union laws.