The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 30th May, 1997

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Editorial - War and Peace.
Lead Story - Legacy of fear.
Feature - Will Labour's council house policies need the need?.
International - France to change course?.
British News - New mum Roisin still on bail.


War and Peace

ACRES of land in north eastern France and Belgium are neither farmed nor lived on -- they are tended as vast war cemeteries and memorials to the dead of the First World War.

The carnage of that war was on such a scale that every town and village in Britain and much of Europe has some kind of war memorial to the fallen.

The vast majority of the dead and wounded, from both sides, were working class young men. When it was over those who had survived that horror of mud and death vowed it would be the war to end all wars.

But just a generation later the world was again embroiled in bloody conflict. And this time the death and suffering overtook the civilian populations as well as the armed combatants.

Why did the generation who came back from the First World War and the many who lost sons, husbands and brothers in that war, fail to establish a lasting peace?

It was certainly not because they forgot about the war -- far from it, the losses of that war were seared into the memories of millions.

The peace was lost because the fundamental cause of the First World War -- imperialism -- was not exposed and confronted. The struggle for peace was focused against the instruments of war rather than against imperialism -- the driving force of global and regional wars. And, since impetialism was allowed to hold sway, the world was plunged into the Second World War.

But it was very different in Russia The Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin were in no doubt about the nature of the First World War. At Berne in 1915 they wrote:

"The present war is of an imperialist character. This war is the outcome of the conditions of an epoch when capitalism has reached the highest stage of its development; when the greatest significance is attached not only to the export of commodities, but also to the export of capital; when the combination of production units in cartels, and the internationalisation of economic life, has assumed considerable dimensions; when the colonial politics have brought about an almost total apportionment of the globe among the colonial powers; when the productive forces of world capitalism have outgrown the limited boundaries of national and state divisions; when objective conditions for the realisation of socialism have perfectly ripened."

The Bolsheviks stood fully against that war which robbed workers of their lives to serve the interests of the Tsar and imperialism. This stance against the war was a vital element in the victory over the forces of capitalism in 1917.

Imperialism was held back by the advance of socialism. In response the western capitalist powers massed huge arsenals of nuclear weapons targeted against the socialist countries.

The imperialists launched and maintained an intense propaganda war against socialism and tried to justify its actions by standing the truth on its head, alleging that it was the socialist countries which threatened war and invasion.

In the West these Cold War lies succeeded in raising confusion and false consciousness among the people, including many who genuinely sought and worked for peace and nuclear disarmament.

So successful were these lies that after the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union the western peace movements shank in size, showing that many thought the danger of war was over.

In reality the loss ofthe Soviet Union means imperialism -- this bringer of death -- is now rampant. The balance of forces has gone and imperialism can flex its might across most of the globe. The peace movements are needed more than ever before.

Because the lessons of the two world wars were not learnt, the world has experienced a succession of regional, local and so-called civil wars. Covertly or openly the hand of imperialism is always them.

But at least the false arguments thatwere used to justify the nuclear arms race and Nato's military growth have been overtaken by events. And yet still Nato is expanding, still the nuclear forces am upgraded and deployed.

Our govemment is about to start a major defence review. We need to seize this moment to lift the campaign to scrap Britain's deadly Trident nuclear system and fight for Britain's 23 billion defence budget to be slashed and the money diverted into socially useful areas.

History shows that the threat of war will remain while imperialism exists -- that it is armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons is a lunacy that imperils the whole world!
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Lead Story

Legacy of fear

Straw slams Tories for Britain's crime figures.

PEOPLE in England and Wales are more afraid to walk the streets after dark than in any other industrialised country in the world.

This was one of the preliminary findings of an International Crime Victimisation Survey carried out last year by the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Britain's Home Office.

Fear of crime does not always match reality. A climate of unease can be stirred up by sensational media stories. But this latest report shows it's not all in the mind (or the tabloid press) -there is genuine cause for concern.

The survey questioned 20,000 people in 11 countries. It revealed that 30 per cent of people in England and Wales had been victims of crime over the past year. England and Wales's burglary and car crime rate is the highest of all the countries surveyed.

Scotland fared slightly better coming seventh in the league of countries.

Britain's new Home Secretary, Jack Straw, described the findings as "shocking" and said it showed "the record of complacency of the 18-year period of the Conservative administration... it is an indication of the scale of the problem that I and my colleagues have to tackle".

His Conservative predecessor, Michael Howard did his best to cast doubt on the findings by pointing to British police records which show crime levels have gone down in recent years. But a leading former Home Office criminologist, Michael Hough, said the ICVS's figures gave a more accurate picture than police statistics.

It is particularly embarrassing for the Tories who traditionally like to portray themselves as the party that is "tough on crime". Under the Tories the prison population has increased and Michael Howard's so-called criminal justice "reforms" have made Britain's judicial system increasingly authoritarian.

But it is not surprising that the deepening capitalist crisis, presided over for 18 years by Tory governments, have produced these clear signs of social distress and alienation.

Millions of people are out of work -- the scourge of unemployment is, and has been for 2 long time, particularly severe among young people.

At the same time the wealth of a small minority has greatly increased.

Social provision has been cut and cut and cut for years. This means fewer facilities for children and young people, a decline in affordable housing, run-down estates and in many localities social services run at skeleton staffing levels.

People in work are under pressure to work longer hours ane experience much greater stress Parents are not able to spend a much time with their children a they would like because of the increasing demands of their jobs.

What this report clearly show is that banging more people up for longer and longer does not reduce the incidence of crime.

If nothing is done about the high levels of unemployment especially among the under 25s; if poverty is not addressed; if our children feel that society doesn't want them, or value them, then anti-social behaviour will remain.

Prime Minister, Tony Blair talked during the election campaign about "tackling the cause of crime". And the new Labour government has said it will seek to get 250,000 young people off the unemployment register and into training and work.

But the underlying problem of the run down of manufacturing industry will remain and the long-term prospects are poor.

And if Labour continues to resist raising income tax at the top income level and rejects call to cut defence spending, the chances of halting the year-upon-year social spending cuts will be zero.

Given these constraints Jack Straw seems to be pressing on with some of the same policies as the previous government. He says he will step up the practice of electronically tagging offenders and imposing home curfews - this is despite warnings from penal reformers that these measures do not work.

But thankfully he has ditched the Tories' plan to abolish the right to trial by jury. He has also said he will stop imprisoning people for failing to pay fines.

Other measures include cutting back on police red tape and diverting resources to increasing police patrols in the community. As the world has witnessed with the restoration of capitalism in the former Soviet Union and eastern Europe, crime and capitalism go hand in hand. The deeper the crises of capitalism become the worse the social problems become.

Capitalism is after all a criminal and profoundly anti-social system that has to be overthrown and replaced with a socialist society in which everyone can flourish and belong.
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Will Labour's council house policies need the need?

by Caroline Colebrook

ONE OF the cardinal pledges in the Labour election manifesto was the release of the capital receipts from the sale of council housing -- accumulated under the Tory right-to-buy policy -- for local authorities to spend on desperately needed council house repairs and on building new council housing.

But now there are serious doubts about how much effect this 5 billion will have.

The problem is another of Labour's pledges -- to stick by Tory government spending plans for the next two years, and this includes big spending cuts.

In effect the 5 billion will only bring spending available to local authorities for housing to 1992 levels.

And following the Tory policy, Labour has committed itself to a 1.3 billion cut in housing investment by 1999.

This is a long way from the expected and much needed nationwide house building prognmme that should provide thousands of homes as well as jobs in the construction and allied trades.

It is generally accepted that 100,000 new homes will have to be built every year for the next few years to meet needs.

The Tories set up a quango, the Housing Corporation, to control local government spending on housing. In the year 1992-93, it was allowed to spend 2.4 billion.

Next year, with Labour following Tory planning, it will spend only 651 million -- a cut of 1.75 billion from 1992.

So that even if the full 5 billion from council house sale receipts were released -- and that is not certain --and if councils were allowed to spend 100 per cent of future receipts, instead of the 25 percent they are currently able to spend, that would give an extra 1.7 billion over the next five years.

This will allow the building of a maximum of 40,000 new homes a year -- less than half of what is needed.

And, as one local housing officer pointed out to the New Worker, there is little point in local authorities spending money building new houses if the right-to-buy stays on the statute books and they are immediately bought at well below cost price by tenants.

This would just be an open-ended windfall for the private sector which already has many schemes to help tenants buy their own house on borrowed money, knowing they can't lose whatever happens.

What is more likely -- unless enough pressure can be exerted on the Labour government -- is that local authorities will be encouraged to borrow money from the banks for council house repairs and that all forms of "partnerships" with housing associations, finance houses, the Private Finance Initiative and so on will be brought in to reduce the gap on building new homes.

In effect this means a continuation of the back-door privatisation of council housing and it must be opposed.

Currently housing associations are allowed to borrow far more than councils on the private market and are allowed to increase rents far higher.

This will encourage councils to use the housing associations as the actual builders of the new homes. But they will be owned by the private sector.

However well-intentioned the founders of housing associations may be, they must operate in market conditions and if they do not increase rents to market levels, they will go bankrupt.

And curtailing the number of new homes built will ensure there is always more demand than supply so market forces will always be pushing private rents up and up.

And housing association tenants do not enjoy the secure tenancies that go with council housing.

We must now call for a campaign to change Labour's spending policies to allow the long awaited and promised expansion in the building of real council homes -- with a landlord fully accountable to the local electorate.

And we must call for the end of the right-to-buy -- a policy which has done exactly what it was introduced to do: undermine the whole principle of council housing, forcing those in need of homes on to the mercy of the financial markets.

** Hilary Armstrong, Labour's new housing minister, last week said that the government will act soon to put the homeless back at the top of council waiting lists.

She said: "The government has consistently made clear its intention to restore a proper safety net for families and vulnerable individuals who are unintentionally homeless."

She added: "Homelessness is an affront to a civilised society. It is a problem that confronts us all, requiring a contribution from all sectors of society to ensure an effective and lasting solution."

And the New Worker hopes that the definition of "unintentionally homeless" will be broadened. Under the last Labour government it excluded families of workers on strike who had not been able to keep up with mortgage payments because of temporary loss of wages.
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France to change course?

by Steve Lawton

AS the waves of strikes and protests since late 1995 clearly warned, this year's French elections -- called early by President Jacques Chirac last Sunday -- hinge heavily upon the government's performance over welfare, employment and the threat posed by meeting the deadline for entry to the European Single Currency.

When it emerged that the Left forces, led by Lionel Jospin's Socialists (PS), had tipped the balance against the government's Republican Rally (RPR)-Union for French Democracy (UDF) showing in the first round, Prime Minister Juppe decided to resign last Monday.

Chirac's 464-seat National Assembly dominance has been severely shaken. The Gaullist RPR gained 15.59 (3,914,417) percent of the vote and coalition partners UDF polled 14.34 (3,600,473) percent. That alliance total of 29.93 per cent is the core of a centre-right majority of 36.45 percent.

But between the Socialist's 23.67 (5,942,696) percent of the vote and the Communist's (PCF) who polled 9.98 (2,506,682) percent of the vote -- together with other leftist groups -- their first stage success stands at 40.15 per cent.

French workers have seen their social programmes under mounting attack, so for Juppe and Chirac to go to the polls with promises of more spending cuts, it hardly seemed likely that would endear them to the French electorate.

The nonsense raised about bad electoral timing, given the government's determination to ignore public feeling and Chirac's reaffirmation that European convergence criteria must be met so don't let the left wreck it, clearly shows that it is the policies not the polling date that is at issue.

But militant action by trade unionists, who have long been battling against free market wrecking of jobs, labour protection and organisation, demonstrated that there was groundswell of public sympathy for protesters over the last two years. And because that draconian programme of cuts has remained, it has focused the public's mind on the consequences of a continuing austerity crackdown.

Key issues separate the Socialists from Chirac and Juppe. Jospin is calling for concrete action, as part of his "pact for change", to alleviate the official 12.8 percent unemployment rate by creating 700,000 jobs.

Jospin proposes a "prudent" but "humane" economic policy which limits France's budget deficit to three per cent of GNP by the end of this year, and on Europe, it includes easing up on the Euro-currency entry criteria; admitting Italy and establishing political control over the European central bank.

The Communist Party is opposed to the single currency plan and has said it will co-operate with Jospin if he sticks to his "pact" pledges.

And its leader Robert Hue said that rallying leftist forces have the "dynamism" to create a left majority this Sunday. If this proves to be so, it won't be just France that will benefit.

In Germany, the opposition Social Democrat leader Oscar Lafontaine, said that the first round results indicated that "economic and financial policies which raise unemployment through restrictive budgets and social spending cuts are condemned to failure."

Going to the polls 10 months ahead of schedule, the government was attempting to re-forge the centre-right. With the first round failing to achieve this, the right wing, as we go to press, is banking on success in the second round this Sunday.

Juppe's resignation, as the man most publicly identified with antiunion and welfare cutting policies -- while Chirac kept a lower profile, will help the right, it hopes to take the heat out of public reaction.

And on Tuesday Juppe quickly distanced himself from his own hardline advocacy of the European single currency criteria by declaring that it could be applied flexibly. The financial markets also downplayed earlier volatility, arguing that under the Socialists there will be no economic change -- the inferrence being, so why change the government.

The right will be calling for support from among those who didn't vote first time (31.69 per cent of the electorate), and will seek to switch fascist Front National (FN) votes (15.06 per cent or 3,782,427) to the centre-right coalition.

The left's significant advance, which by no means assures it of victory on Sunday, may well be buoyed by Ecologist votes. The Ecologists polled 6.86 (1,724,122) percent.

So Sunday's poll could well be a closer battle, but going on the RPR-UDFs two previous electonl performances, the right has clearly suffered very badly this time round It may be too steep a hill to climb. A victory for the left will greatly enhance confidence for change, perhaps in a way expected in Britain.

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British News

New mum Roisin still on bail

by Daphne Liddle

ROISIN McAliskey is still in hospital on conditional bail as we go to press, after giving birth last Monday to a healthy baby.

This follows grave concerns for the health of the young mother and her baby after being held as a high-security political prisoner for seven months, awaiting possible extradition to Germany on trumped up charges of being involved in terrorism.

Friends and supporters have campaigned throughout that Roisin should have been granted bail. The evidence against her is flimsy to say the least and she suffers from asthma.

She was held at first in the all male high security Belmarsh prison and then at Holloway.

At all times in prison she was treated asa high risk prisoner and had to be accompanied everywhere by two guards.

She has been subjected to the degrading and intimidating procedure of strip searching up to 100 times, though nothing has ever been found.

She was also isolated from all other prisoners.

It is hardly surprising that the stress induced by all this made for a very difficult pregnancy and aggravated her asthma.

Concerns for her health were very high last Friday when she was finally granted conditional bail and allowed to go to the Whittington hospital where her partner Sean Cotter and mother Bernadette McAliskey were able to be with her at last.

Even then, two police guards remained outside the delivery room door throughout.

In a press conference after the birth, Bernadette McAliskey praised the hospital staff for their care and spoke of her joy at Roisin's release to hospital to enjoy the birth of her daughter, named Loinnir.

Now the big question is will she be forced to return tojail or will she be granted further bail?

There is some evidence that the new Home Secretary, Jack Straw, is taking a slightly more compassionate line with Irish political prisoners than his Tory predecessor Michael Howard.

Two have already been transferred to finish their sentences in jails in the occupied north of Ireland where it is easier for their relatives to visit them.

This marks a strong contrast to the line of the Tory government, which responded the 1994 IRA ceasefire by making conditions for Irish political prisoners much worse as a way of putting pressure on the Irish nationalist community.

Roisin thanked her supporters in a letter to the Sinn Fein paper An Phoblact written from inside Holloway shortly before the birth of her daughter.

She said it makes an "overwhelming difference to know that people do care, especially when surrounded by people who don't".

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