The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 31st October, 2008

Theo Russell at the PCRF conference in Paris

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by our Arab Affairs Correspondent

SYRIA has called on the UN Security Council to condemn an American commando raid on a Syrian village near the Iraqi border last Sunday. The attack has been denounced by the Arab League, Iran and the puppet government of Iraq, which had no prior knowledge of the American action.

The Syrians say they will retaliate if there are any further incursions from US imperialism. Syria, according to Russian sources, is pressing Moscow for the speedy delivery of new missile defences. They are considering ordering more Russian arms in the future and an American school and a US cultural centre in Damascus were shut down on government orders on Tuesday.

In Damascus the Syrian Communist Party condemned and deplored the incursion, which they said had added a new brutal crime to the black record of American imperialism.

Nine civilians were killed, including three children, and 14 others wounded when four Apache helicopter gunships attacked a farm building in the village of Abu Kamal, a large transit and customs centre on the Syrian Iraqi border near the Iraqi town of Qaim, a resistance stronghold. American commandos then “cleared” the building which they later claimed was an Al Qaeda centre, killing an Arab they say was a senior Al Qaeda leader.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, in London for talks with the British government, called this  a “planned act” of “criminal and terrorist aggression”. The Americans knew “full well that we stand against al-Qaeda. They know full well we are trying to tighten our border with Iraq”, he declared. But all the victims were unarmed civilians and the Syrian minister vowed that “we would defend our territories” if it happened again.


What the Americans hoped to gain by this show of force in the dying embers of the Bush administration remains a mystery though many suspect its intention was to derail Syrian efforts towards rapprochement with the European Union and scupper the secret peace talks in Turkey, at least until the new administrations are in place after the elections in America and Israel.

But it has deeply embarrassed the puppet government in Iraq which has recently strengthened relations with Syria, an ally of Iran, which the sectarian Shia parties that dominate the government in Baghdad look to as their real protector. Puppet Iraqi premier Nuri al Maliki initially justified the murderous US raid on Monday. The next day he reversed his position, doubtless after an Iranian word in his ear, to denounce the raid and state that Iraq must not be used to stage attacks on other countries.

The Maliki regime is still stalling on the American “status of forces agreement” that would prolong the imperialist occupation of Iraq until 2011 and legally allow the Americans to use the whole country as a strategic base to threaten Syria and Iran. This latest US provocation has stiffened opposition to the deal which only has the guaranteed support of the pro-American feudal Kurdish factions that run the Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq.

The increasingly restless Shia leaders in Iraq are already looking to a future without the American army to keep the Baathist-led resistance at bay – when they believe they can stand on their own two feet, propped up by the Islamic Republic of Iran and supported by Arab states like Syria which have close ties with the Iranians.

 The Iranians, of course, know they could easily be the next target. But the Speaker of the Iranian parliament defiantly said that Washington should pay for its mischief in Syria and Pakistan. Ali Larijani said on Wednesday that the United States had repeatedly attacked Pakistan in the past two months on the pretext of anti-terrorism operations, killing tens of civilians. Larijani regretted that such moves are being repeated in the friendly country of Syria. Such measures are new adventurism in the region the consequences of which cannot be controlled by Washington, he warned.  



Here comes the bill

WE ALWAYS knew the capitalist class was going to try to make the workers pay for the current economic crisis. So few of us are surprised to learn that millions of pounds have been wiped off the value of workers’ pension funds. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has given billions of taxpayers’ money to bail out the bankers – but the pension funds have been left to “market forces”.

 The long-term sick and disabled this Monday faced changes to make it harder for them to claim benefits. As usual, this is being sold to us a measure to stop scroungers and at the same time a way of helping people back to work.

 They are going to help the long-term sick and disabled by threatening to cut off their benefits if they refuse to attend interviews with job advisers – unless they are terminally ill or severely disabled.

  When Incapacity Benefit was introduced in 1994, it too was trumpeted as a way of getting “scroungers” back to work. It replaced Invalidity Benefit and those who had to claim the new benefit faced humiliating examinations by Government doctors to prove they were incapable of work. But at the end of the exercise the vast majority of claimants were found to be absolutely genuine.

 And to some extent Invalidity Benefit had been used to hide soaring levels of unemployment in mining and other industrial communities where closures had thrown thousands on the dole. Those over 50 and in poor general health were unlikely to find another job at a time of high unemployment. It was easier for the Government to re-assign them as Invalidity Benefit claimants.

 The introduction of Incapacity Benefit made little difference to this. If the Government had really wanted to help people with mild disabilities into jobs they would have reintroduced the green card scheme, where such workers would be directed only to work that was not physically demanding.

 Now, 14 years later, we have another major change to the benefits system and once again unemployment is rising sharply. The Government has closed most of the Remploy factories and not reintroduced the green card scheme. So workers with mild or moderate disabilities will find it harder than ever to find an employer willing to take them on.

 And, as in 1994, there will not be enough civil servants to implement the various schemes that are supposed to help people into work. Gordon Brown a year or so ago was boasting that he was cutting over 100,000 civil service jobs.

 So once again, there will be very little real change except that some claimants will be moved from Incapacity Benefit or the new Employment and Support Allowance on to Job Seekers’ Allowance and will have their weekly income thereby reduced. The savings will help the Government to meet the costs of bailing out the filthy rich bankers.

 Single parents are another group who regularly feature in the firing line of Government attacks and here they are again. The Government is making changes to the way that single parents claim Child Maintenance – in theory to simplify the system and make sure that more of the money from absent parents reaches their own children.

 The changes follow in the wake of the collapse of the Child Support Agency that existed to save the Government money by forcing absent parents, usually fathers, to cough up more money in maintenance for their children and reduce the amount claimed in benefits by the parent who had custody of the children.

 In reality the scheme completely failed to find most of the reluctant fathers who did not wish to pay, so it focussed its forces on those who were in contact with their families and usually making contributions in any case. It generated animosity between separated parents and drove divided families further apart.

 Under the new scheme single parents will have to decide themselves whether to continue using the Child Support Agency or come to a private arrangement with the absent parent or do without child maintenance altogether.

 Children’s charities warn that many single parents will despair of trying to force the absent ex-partners to fork out and will miss out on money they are owed. It will result in many of them being more dependent on benefits and increase the total sum of child poverty.

 This will produce only crumbs towards the billions that the bankers’ bail out needs.

 So the rest will have to come from keeping a cap on workers’ wages – in both the public and private sectors – while the falling value of the pound pushes retail inflation higher than ever. That is what will happen unless the workers and the unions get angry enough to organise some proper all-out strikes that really will hit the bosses, instead of the one and two-day stoppages that, in the present climate, are little more than gestures and easily ignored.
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