The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 3rd October, 1997

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Editorial - Give and take.
Lead Story - Blair's Britain: More hard times ahead.
Feature - "Job creation, not job coercion".
International - Israel stumbles towards new Mid-East talks.
British News - Liverpool dockers solid after two years.

Editorial

 Give and take.

TONY BLAIR'S speech to last week's Labour Party conference in Brighton warned us that "hard choices" lie ahead on the road to a "modernised" Britain. He spoke of his aim to create "the giving age" in which we all have to put something into society.

 It beggars belief that this well-heeled politician should lecture his party and the mass of the people about "giving". Surely he must have some inkling that it is the majority of people -- the working class -- who spend their whole lives giving.

 This includes the daily toil of millions which enables Blair and his cronies to have food to eat, clothes to wear and homes to live in. The people Blair is addressing do not just put something into society, they are the makers and producers of everything society has.

 When we scrape away all the platitudes about "change" and "newness" and eventually get down to what the "giving age" is all about it becomes even more outrageous.

 It seems we get to give more to the insurance companies for private pensions, students and their families get to give money for their education and public sector workers get to give up any hopes they had of decent wages.

 All this giving, we're told, will somehow make us a more "compassionate" society. It will enable the government to focus Public funding on those who really need it most -- presumably the big finance corporations who run the pension schemes and the stinking rich who can carry on enjoying the tax benefits they gained under the Thatcher government.

 Blair is right when he says Labour was swept to power by a country yearning for change. But the change we want is not Blair's class collaborationist efforts to keep public spending within Tory limits and to sustain the rich at Tory tax levels.

 The Blair government says it will put money into our education service for computers in every classroom and repairs to the crumbling school buildings -- so far so good.

 But while it tries to distract us with this one-off injection of funding, the fundamental principle of education for all is being brazenly breached by removing student grants and forcing young people to pay for their tuition. There is no doubt that this measure will prevent many working class young people from receiving education after they / leave school -- except for government sponsored training schemes designed to keep them off the unemployment register.

 This is turning the clock back to the days before the Second World War when the universities were the sole preserve of the well-to-do. Blair's government pretends it is committed to "education, education and education". But it has shown that it is not committed to education for all and that is the principle we demand is restored.

 The conference speech also warned of another vital principle that is under threat -- the universal, national state retirement pension.

 This is a creeping threat which thrives on fear. The more people are encouraged to top-up the state pension with occupational or private schemes and the more politicians and economists cast doubt over the long-term future of the state pension, the more the change from state to private sector will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 Fighting to defend the principle of a universal state pension, linked to earnings, is therefore an urgent matter which the labour and progressive movement cannot afford to dilly-daily about.

 It is also an issue that affects us all, whatever our age, and one that demands united action. The pensioners' movement should not be left to fight on its own when it's struggle is on behalf of everybody.

 Blair has given his message. We have a message too -cut defence spending, scrap Trident, tax the rich and "give" us what we want -- a break -- from cutbacks, wage squeezes, attacks on public services and smug, pompous rhetoric!

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Lead Story

Blair's Britain: More hard times ahead

 TONY BLAIR'S keynote speech at last week's Labour Party Conference in Brighton claimed that Britain, under the leadership of the Labour Party, could become a "beacon for the world" in the next century.
 Such puffed-up media sound-bites dropped easily from the leader's tongue as he desperately tried to make the real message -- more public sector pay curbs, more public spending controls and less say for future conferences -- seem more palatable.

 The week got off to a bad start with delegates agreeing to the Partnership in Power document and other constitutional changes. This gives the party's national bodies and leadership more decision-making powers with less say for the party's annual conference.

 This is the most serious blow yet to democracy within the Labour Party. It prompted train drivers' leader Lew Adams to point out that the decision left Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown (now that he can sit at Cabinet meetings) with more say in Labour Party policy than many affiliated members of the Labour Party.

 But, as if to warn the Blairites not to get too carried away with their new-found power, the delegates chose not to elect Blair's spin-doctor and close associate, Peter Mandelson, onto the party's executive committee.

 Instead Ken Livingstone was elected and Dennis Skinner and Diane Abbott were re-elected with increased votes.

 Welcome though the executive election results might be, it's small consolation for the loss suffered by annual conference.

no better

 Things didn't get any better when the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, gave his speech. He appeared at first to be pledging the government to creating full employment. This was clearly not what he meant because full employment can only be achieved within a socialist society.

 But the confusion didn't last long as he soon explained that he was talking about "employment opportunity for all" -- not the same thing as jobs for all. So, we can't expect more real jobs in the manufacturing sector or a governmentjob creation programme. What we're offered is more job training schemes and workfare type projects.

 On the one hand the Chancellor tells us that more people will be able to find jobs if they are equipped with the skills needed in the modern age and that education and training are the keys to success.

On the other hand, he shows chat what the bosses are really looking for is a system of cash incentives from the government to take staff on.

 He is willing to oblige the bosses and says he plans to introduce a 10p starting rate of income tax next spring, a system of tax credits to pay some benefits through the pay packet of low income workers and a reform of national insurance contributions.

 All of these measures will assist the bosses to keep their wage costs down at the public's expense.

 And even all of this comes with a government warning -- we are supposed to hold our tongues and put up with the public sector pay freeze and tight controls over public spending.

 It means the government will press on with charging students for their tuition, keep to Tory spending limits and urge pay restraint across the board.

 Gordon Brown is going to be disappointed. There will not be a quiet acceptance of these policies. He should have taken note of the thousands who demonstrated outside the conference centre at the start of the week demanding a better deal for public sector workers, students, the unemployed and the public services.

 If last week was a sample of Blair's beacon to the world then we would strongly advise the world to take no notice!
 

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Feature

"Job creation, not job coercion"

By Caroline Colebrook
CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown last Monday pledged that Labour would provide "jobs for all" and a return to full employment.

 But on closer examination what he was actually promising was the opprtunity for all to apply for jobs and more investment in training rather than investment in job creation.

 Indeed Labour's promised "New Deal" is a long way from the original New Deal implemented by Franklin D Roosevelt in the United States in the 1930s to reduce unemployment by public spending to create jobs.

 Capitalism has since abandoned such Keynesian tactics -which are ineffective in the long term. And Labour's "New Deal" to get young unemployed people back to work quickly has been described as just another version of Workfare, the American scheme that forces the unemployed into low-paid jobs with poor conditions.

 If they do not take the jobs, benefits are withdrawn.

 And the results from the Tories' pilot version, Project Work, indicate that it will meet a lot of opposition.

 The £70-million scheme is now on the verge of collapse after protests all round the country.

 Demonstrators have occupied Job Centres and the premises of employers co-operating in the scheme in Nottingham, Bristol and Edinburgh.

 In Brighton some charities have pulled out of the scheme because of its compulsory nature.

 One co-ordinator of a screen printing project, Links TShirts, which offer work experience to people with learning difficulties and mental health problems, said they has been "press ganged" into Project Work.

 This seriously jeopardised the future of the workshop.

 There have been many errors in making placements. According to Alan Herbert of the Medway Unemployed Project, the task of painting the gates of a Napoleonic fort has been assigned 27 times.

 Rochester-upon-Medway City Council has boycoted the Project Work pilot scheme because of concerns about cheap labour.

 And one claimant was given a placement working with children as young as 12 without first being vetted.

claimed

 One independent think-tank has claimed that the "New Deal" is targeted at the wrong age group and that older people need just as much help in getting work.

 The "New Deal" will pay employers £60 a week to take on young people aged 18 to 24. But it is being urged to give employers £75 a week to take on older workers.

 Schemes like this will only encourage greedy employers to take on new employees only on these terms rather than on proper wages, and even to sack their existing staff for the prospects of cheap, subsidised labour.

 The civil servants administering these Workfare type schemes are not happy about forcing people into low-paid jobs -- a practice that must eventually undermine all workers' wages and conditions, including their own.

 One activist in the CPSA civil service union told the New Worker: "We don't want job coercion, we want job creation".

 And it seems that Gordon Brown's talk of "jobs for all" is just so much hot air. Under capitalism it can only be a dream. 0nly a socialist system can really guarantee jobs for all.
 

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International

Israel stumbles towards new Mid-East talks

by Our Middle-East Affairs Correspondent
 
THE ISRAELI government has freed the top leader of the Islamic resistance and released more funds to the Palestinian Authority's "autonomous" zone in gestures designed to pave the way for new peace talks with the Palestinians in New York next week. But the Netanyahu government's go ahead for even more zionist settlements in the occupied territories may doom the negotiations even before they formally begin.

Premier Benyamin Netanyahu has been under constant pressure from Washington and the Israeli Peace movement to return to a "peace process" he killed when his government refused to honour the Oslo deal and carry-out the phase-two partial pull-out from the West Bank.

 But this week's news amount to little more than gesture politics which have failed to appease the Israeli peace lobby, let alone the Palestinians.

 The release of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the religious leader of the  Islamic resistance movement Hamas responsible for the wave of suicide bomb attacks in Israeli cities, may be a big deal for Netanyahu. It cut little ice with the Palestinians.

 Sheikh Yassin was jailed some years ago for alleged resistance activity. But as his own supporters point out, he is a frail old man, blind and paralysed in all limbs, whose death in an Israeli dungeon could easily trigger another explosion of rage.

 As the release also involved the release of two Israeli agents in Jordan, it wasn't entirely a one-way deal. And Hamas and President Arafat's Palestinian leadership have condemned the transportation of the sheikh to Jordan, demanding that the old man be allowed to spend his final days in his home in Gaza.

 The other "concessions" -- the unfreezing of Palestinian Authority money and the easing of restrictions to allow a few thousand more Palestinians to return to their jobs in Israel -- deliberately avoid the central issues which are taking the region to crisis point.

 Netanyahu is encouraging further Zionist settlements on Arab land and his government still refuses to make any further withdrawals from the occupied territories, despite the Oslo agreement signed by the previous Labour government.

 The Israeli leader now talks about by-passing the second stage and going for a final settlement with the Palestinians within six months. How he can believe this possible beggars belief.

 Netanyahu's tactics, which are little more than reliance on brute force, seem simply to so frustrate the Arafat leadership that when he does offer "concessions" on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, the Palestinian leader will accept them out of sheer desperation.

 It's a dangerous gamble. Netanyahu's camp has published a "map" of a proposed final seltlement which would leave Israel in possession of the Jordan Valley, all the Zionist settlements in the occupied territories and what they call "Greater Jerusalem". The Palestinians are left with four separate cntons and groups of villages with an "autonomous" government under Israeli supervision, which in colonial days would have been called a "protectorate".

 While this appears madly generous to Netanyahu's hard-line Likud bloc and the Zionist settler fanatics who keep his government in power, it has attracted critisism even from the main-stream Labour opposition leaders who realise that no Palestinian leader can ever accept it.

 Netanyahu is facing intense pressure at home. Last Sunday the country was paralysed by a general strike called hy the Israeli Trade Union Federation Histradrut in protest at the government's anti -working class privatisation policies in general, and the current attack on workers pensions.

Over half a million workers stopped work for eight hours in a protest which shut down Tel Aviv's international airport, all other transport, government offices, banks, post offices, local authorities and schools, as well as all non-essential hospital work. And if agreement isn't reached now, the Histadrut warns that more strikes will follow.

 The Israel Peace Bloc, Gush Shalom, has also launched a campaign to boycott all the produce from the Zionist settlements in the occupied territories -- a new initiative designed to involve the Israeli people in concrete acts to undermine the fanatics and help the peace process.

Gush Shalom leader Uri Avnery said the boycott campaign was the way the Israeli people could defend themselves against the "small minority in Israel intent on imposing its will on the great majority. If you believe that settlement building is a danger to Israel and a step towards war, the way to avert it is very simple -- put settlement products back on the shelf".

 And a total halt to new settlements is the bottom line for the Palestinians. Arafat aide Marwan Kanafani told the Voice of Palestine radio in Gaza that: "There is no way that negotiations can continue without a solution to the Israeli settlement policy".

 

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British News

Liverpool dockers solid after two years.

by Brenda Lee in Liverpool

. THOUSANDS of people marched through Liverpool City Centre on Saturday 27 September to mark the second anniversary of the Liverpool dockers' dispute.

 There were scores of colourful banners from trade unions, trades councils and dockers' support groups from the length and breadth of Britain, marching behind the local Irish community's James Larkin Pipe Band.

 Also on the march were the Project Aerospace workers, the Hillingdon women, and port workers' representatives from America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, as well as prominent personalities John Hendy QC and journalist John Pilger.

 The rally outside St George's Hall was chaired hy Liverpool Port Shop Stewards' Committee chairperson Jimmy Nolan, who praised rank and file members, political groups and community organisations for their support.

 But he condemned the leaders of the TUC and Ihe Labour Party for not giving their backing. And he stressed the need for a representative democracy within the Labour Party.

 Secretary of the Port Shop Stewards' Jim Davies stressed the need for solidarity action in Britain and particularly on Merseyside. "If we were still in work and you were on strike, we'd be out there with you. You know that's true because we've done it.

 Dockers' shop steward Mike Carden is also on the Transport and General Workers' Union executive. He said: "My career will probably end in tears, but I've got to say this: "Bill Morris, you're a useless general secretary."

 Jimmy Nolan talked about almost total black out of the dispute by the country's mass media, "however, there is one shining star, our next speaker John Pilger".

 John Pilger criticised his fellow journalists for referring to the dockers and their supporters as dinosaurs.

 "This is the most modern, most relevant dispute in Britain," he said and he added that workers all over the world are suffering through what is called globalisation. "The Liverpool dockers are in the vanguard of the struggle against this."

 John Pilger's theme was continued by a French port worker who said: "So they call us dinosaurs. All I can say is that if it wasn't for the trade unions we would be living in a prehistoric age.

 "Your government says chat the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company (MDHC) is still a very profitable company. What they don't say is that it got £500 million from Brussels just before it sackcd the dockers."

 The first of the international speakers was Arnie Williamson of the American Longshoremen. He spoke of his union's commitment to the Liverpool dockers: "Every time we've received a fax from Jimmy Nolan asking us to take action, we've done it."

 The speaker from the Australian Maritime Workers' union said: "When I was here in February 96, you had a Tory government and we had a Labour government. Now the situation is reversed. The problem of both governments is they think they call manage cnpitalism better."

 Bjorn Bork, spoke for the Swedish port workers: "Some people who don't work at the ports ask me why we support Liverpool's dockers in Sweden.

 "I then have to give them a history lesson." And he explained how the Swedish port workers union was born out of the struggle against the very conditions that MDHC is trying to bring back.

 "There only has to be a change of two or three paragraphs in our labour laws for us to be in the same situation as British workers, so this is why we fight."

 Other speakers included former local MPs Eddie Loyden and Bob Parry who both attacked the current Labour and TUC leaderships for their failure to support the dockers.

 Three dockers' children spoke to the rally of their growing understanding of the dispute and determination to support their parents.

 The final speaker was Doreen McNally of the Women of the Waterfront. She called for solidarity action from other workers. She was critical of the TGWU leadership and said that when she sends her letter of complaint to Bill Morris it will enclose her application form for his job.

 Then she talked of the hardships of the dockers' families: "We're tired and our spirits have been lacerated but we're still united and we'll carry on.

 "The capitalists had better watch out, we've taught our children to fight."

 We cannot afford to leave it to the next generation to fight. The whole movement must unite around the dockers aad other workers in struggle. The government must be forced as an MDHC shareholder to intervene in this dispute to find a just settlement.

 Beyond that, it must repeal the anti-trade union laws, without which the dispute could have been settled long ago.

 * Kent police last Monday entered the port of Sheerness in Kent to evict Liverpool dockers and their supporters who had occupied cranes as a vessel was due to arrive.

 Outside the gate, 70 dockers and several hundred supporters maintained a picket in the face of massive police presence.

 Sheerness was targeted because it is owned by MDHC.

 And 20 members of the Reclaim the Streets group last Monday occupied the roof of the Department of Trade and Industry in London in solidarity with the Liverpool dockers, while 50 others entered the building.
 

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