THE catastrophic flooding in Mozambique is of such a scale that international help is needed immediately. The British government is no doubt right to be seeking out and underwriting the cost of helicopters and aircraft that are already in the region of south east Africa. But this does not provide Britain with an excuse for shilly-shallying about over the sending of British helicopters, other air transport and vital aid.
It is utterly ludicrous for ministers to argue that Mozambique is so far away that it would take too long for supplies to come directly from Britain.
It isn't true -- Hercules aircraft loaded with aid could be in Maputo within hours and even helicopters could be brought in by Antonov planes, naval carriers and British military facilities abroad.
Government minister Clare Short told the House of Commons last week that money wasn't the main issue -- the difficulties she described were largely logistical. But there clearly is an issue of money since this disaster has destroyed everything -- crops, animals, homes, railways, bridges, roads, power supplies, water supplies -- over a vast swathe of a country that was poor to begin with.
Countless thousands of people are now homeless and in urgent need of food, clean water, medical supplies and shelter. The restoration of the ruined infrastructure will take time and money and the flooded farmland will be out of production for the forseeable future. Without international aid there will be a tragedy of enormous proportions.
The rich western states have directly or indirectly lived off the back of Africa for centuries. The poverty of countries like Mozambique is the legacy of past European colonialism, of Imperialist-led neo-colonialism, of economic pressure from big international banking interests and covert interference that fuelled civil war. That western aid should be sent now is beyond question.
There should be no grumbling in the House of Commons over aid for Mozambique, whether that is in the immediate crisis of rescuing survivors from the rising waters or as the longer-term problems come to the fore. After all this government apparently thought nothing at all of spending millions upon millions for months on end m order to bomb Yugoslavia, and that enormous waste was not debated by the House at all!
Who gains, who pays?
WHENEVER the imperialist powers turn to warfare, bombing and the slow-death tactic of sanctions, there is always the expectation of money and profit in the minds of the powerful capitalist interests that lie behind it all.
While the leaders of the imperialist camp tell their own people
that the cause of their current war is just, humanitarian, and in the interests
of future peace, it is in reality nothing but a sordid attempt to penetrate
other countries' economies, control world markets
and prices, weaken states that don't behave like puppets ot Imperialism and to provide investment opportunities for the rich.
Most of the people in the imperialist heartlands have nothing to gain from any of this. We Just get to pay the bill for the war. And when the immediate fighting ends the cost of restoration is left for the victims to find.
In the Balkans the long years of western-imposed conflict has created many refugees -- people the Nato powers shamefully exploited in their propaganda campaign to start the bombing of Yugoslavia.
Now they have served their purpose the western governments want to wash then hands of the displaced Kosovans, Bosnians, Serbs and others, including the very people the Nato propagandists wrung their hands over Just a year ago.
When refugees, whether from Yugoslavia or the affected neighbouring
countries, arnve in Britain as asylum seekers the capitalist ruling class
gives nothing. The cost is put on local authorities for working
people to meet.'The most backward elements even exploit the situation to whistle up a storm of xenophobia and racism among the local people who are encouraged to blame the refugees for their own misfortunes.
The government went to war. The government bombed thousands of people's homes and brought catastrophe to the Balkans the government should therefore treat asylum seekers decently and should pay the full costs.
Back to index
CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown last week launched a new Government attack on the unemployed -- along much the same lines as the former Tory government.
He claims the official figures for unemployment, around 1.1 million, are roughly equal to the number of job vacancies in Britain, just over one million.
During a visit to an unemployment blackspot in east London last week, he said that almost all the unemployed could get jobs if they really made an effort.
And to help them he is launching a new initiative -- hit squads to descend on unemployment blackspots and to harry the unemployed into taking any work whatever.
The Govemment will even help out by lending the unemployed free mobile phones (funded by industry) so their personal advisers from the job centres can ring them up within minutes if a vacancy comes up.
There will also be some funding so the jobless can travel about seeking work and small grants so they can subsist between the cutting off of their benefits and the arrival of the first wage packet.
This sounds so much like Thatcher-style monetarism that Michael Portillo, in the House of Commons, was accusing Gordon Brown of rank hypocrisy in having campaigned against Thatcher's policies.
The policies of course just do not add up and will help very few.
For a start, although official figures put the number of unemployed at 1.1 million, this figure is produced using the Tory method of calculating the number of unemployed which Brown himself once exposed as extremely misleading.
The International Labour Organisation method of calculating puts the real figure at around 1.7 million.
Many of the job vacancies are in London and the south east. They are also for very low quality, low paid jobs.
Former miners and steelworkers from Wales, Scotland and the north of England cannot just upsticks, get on their Tebbit bikes, and head for the capital to seek jobs flipping burgers for tourists, because they would have nowhere to live.
House prices and rents in the south east are rising astronomically and the average private sector rent is now well above the average burger-bar wage.
Most burger-bar workers are students still living in their parents' homes or they could not afford to remain in the capital. With their student loan and low wage and parental help they can just about scrape by.
The queues for housing association homes or council housing are very, very long.
Many unemployment black spots are in old pit villages or degenerated industrial areas. Public transport in these places is abysmal.
If work is to be had beyond walking or cycling distance, it is only for those with cars because there is no other way of getting there. And people who have been unemployed for any length of time cannot afford to run cars.
Mr Brown's transport grants may get someone to an interview, but they are not enough to cover the cost of a car for daily travel.
Most Job Centre staff, already severely overworked, are probably wondering how they're going to find time to do all this extra personal advising and harrying.
The free mobile phones may give someone the edge in getting a new job within minutes of it being advertised. But if one unemployed person gets that job, another does not. The total number on the unemployed register stays the same.
This is the problem with all the job schemes of both Labour and Tory governments. Not one of them creates one single job.
And capitalism being capitalism, no government can guarantee jobs.
Gordon Brown may think he has solved the riddle of the universe as far as the economy is concerned but the Confederation of British Industry last week came to the very Marxist conclusion that the cycle of boom and bust is not a thing of the past.
The CBI warns that the high level of sterling is leading to a yawning trade gap -- last year it stood at £15.5 billion, a ten-year high. This is costing jobs in Britain.
There may be lots of low quality, fast food bar jobs on the market but every week brings more news of good quality, high paid jobs going down the drain. Last month the Anglo-Dutch giant company Unilever announced cut-backs of around 25,000 staff at its plants around the globe -- around ten per cent of its total workforce. In Britain the company employs 16,500 people at 27 locations.
This came just two days after the Norwich Union and CGU announced a merger that will cut 4,000 jobs in the insurance sector.
Banks have been announcing thousands of job cuts last month in spite of Government handouts of up to £70 million under a scheme to bring work to deprived areas. The Pearl and NPI insurance group is to cut 10 per centof its workforce.
And the defence giant British Aerospace also announced up to 2,500 job cuts, mainly at management level, in Scotland.
Brown's new initiative is not to help people find jobs but to coerce people into taking the very worst jobs or face losing their benefits.
This in turn will lower the general level of wages and undermine working class living standards. It is the same old class war of the bosses attacking the workers, using their friend Mr Brown to spearhead the attack.
Back to index
by Caroline Colebrook
MORE THAN 200,000 teachers are planning to leave the profession within the next ten years, according to an opinion poll conducted by the Guardian newspaper and published last week.
This number represents around half the total number of teachers in England and puts a huge question mark over all Government plans concerning education.
Many of the teachers are approaching retirement anyway -- some 40 per cent of the profession are aged over 40. But they are not being replaced by younger recruits and many who are younger are also planning to quit for another career.
They blame the heavy workload, stress and bureaucracy that now goes with teaching.
The survey conducted by ICM found a very high level of disaffection among younger teachers with more than a third of those under 35 planning to leave within ten years and 46 per cent within 15 years.
The survey said the worst problems are in primary schools which have endured the biggest changes since Labour came to power in 1997.
Nearly a third of primary teachers are expecting to quit within five years and more than half within ten years.
Secondary schools are not much better with more than a quarter of teachers expecting to quit within five years and half within ten years.
Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett can expect the problem to worsen with the introduction of performance related pay, which will put teachers in competition with each other and greatly increase stress in the profession.
Teaching unions warned that education faces disaster unless the Government addresses the needs of teachers.
Doug McAvoy, the general secretary of the National Union ofTeachers, warned the Government to take notice of the poll and said: "For the children's sake, we hope teachers won't leave the profession. But it is a measure of how far the Government has ignored teachers' concerns that so many wish to do so."
And Nigel de Gruchy, the general secretary of the National Association of School Masters and Union of Women Teachers, said: "More and more teachers will quit unless the Government acts to reduce the workload with a contract protecting staff from unlimited hours and ever-increasing demands."
The general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, Peter Smith, said: "Ministers have a potential crisis on their hands. Their challenge is to find a way of motivating the generation of teachers needed to replace those who can't wait to retire."
Meanwhile in Wales, teaching unions are uniting to put pressure on the National Assembly to show courage over the issue of teachers'pay.
The NUT, NASUWT, the National Association of Head Teachers, the Secondary Heads Association, the ATL, and the Welsh teaching union, Ucac, staged a joint press conference to urge the National Assembly to show its teeth when it comes to the issue of pay and conditions.
Performance related pay is due to be introduced next September. Some teachers will be eligible for an extra £2,000 a year if they pass a threshold of criteria, including the examination results of pupils.
A handful could earn over £30,000 under the terms and conditions which have been set by Whitehall.
The teaching unions in Wales are calling on the National Assembly to set different terms and conditions for the assessment of performance pay.
Secretary of NUT Cymru, Gethin Lewis said: "This is a chance for Rhodri Morgan's administration to show they have political backbone and are not willing to just toe the line of Millbank and Westminster and I speak for all of us when I say that."
Back to index
by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent
LEBANESE National Resistance fighters wiped out an Israeli army auxiliary patrol on Wednesday killing five members of the puppet "South Lebanon Army" (SLA) in the so-called "security belt" some 15 km north of the Israeli-Lebanon frontier.
The "SLA" jeep was rocked by a powerful roadside bomb planted in the road. The guerrillas then raked the jeep with machine-gun fire to finish them off. In Beirut, the Hezbullah (Party of God) resistance movement said its fighters had carried out the mission.
Things are not looking to good for Israeli premier Ehud Barak. When his Labour party won the elections last year he told the Israeli public that he would pull the troops out of Lebanon with or without an agreement by July 2000. He also said he would put talks with the Palestinians and the Syrians back on the fast track to end the Middle East conflict once and for all.
Barak has only himself and his own cabinet to blame. While the Palestinians and Syrians were ready to give the new Israeli government the benefit of the doubt Barak's negotiators have stubbornly refused to even meet the Arabs half-way in the talks.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is angry at Israel's nitpicking third-stage withdrawal from the West Bank -- which has still to be fully implemented. The Syrians are sticking to the principle of a total withdrawal for a total peace -- which means an Israeli evacuation from every inch of the occupied Golan Heights.
Barak no doubt hoped that the Arabs would kow-tow to the old Labour policy of half a carrot and plenty of stick. But the carrot -- partial withdrawal leaving Israel with the pick of the West Bank and Jerusalem plus parts of the Golan -- is unacceptable. And the Arabs have Lived under the Israeli stick for decades -- a few more months or years makes no difference now.
Israel has tried pounding Lebanon to no avail. But the mounting death toll is firing demands from the Israeli peace movement for Barak to keep his promise and just get out.
This year Israel admits to the loss of seven soldiers and 19 wounded in the fighting along with 12 "SLA" auxiliaries dead and another 12 injured in resistance actions. They managed to kill just five Lebanese partisans and the guerrillas, backed by the Lebanese people and supported by Syria and Iran, have long proved that they can keep up the fight.
Reports that Tel Aviv has put out tenders for the dismantling of army installations in the "security zone" coupled with Israeli press reports that Israel plans to dump the "SLA" militia in Turkish-occupied Cyprus after a withdrawal suggest that the countdown has begun.
Ehud Barak started his term of office talking about a "peace of the brave". Unfortunately his government has not shown the vision or realism yet to achieve
Now, with the Palestinian talks stalled and the Syrian track going nowhere all he can definitely guarantee is a unilateral pull-out from south Lebanon -- one which looks increasingly likely to take place to the echo of the guns of the Lebanese resistance.
Back to index
THE FEARS of environmentalists that their concerns would be side-lined at a major international conference on genetically modified food proved well founded.
The conference in Edinburgh last week was organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Cabinet Minister Dr Mo Mowlam was quick to deny that Prime Minister Tony Blair's admission that GM foods might have a potential for harm marked a Government U-turn on the issue.
Most of the speakers were scientists working on GM foods, many within huge corporations with vested interests.
Environmentalists like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Soil Association were relegated to discussion panels.
The agenda was firmly focused on direct risks to human health while the environmentalists wanted also to discuss the wider implications to the environment -- the possibility that untameable mutant weeds will be created or that creatures like the Monarch butterfly will become extinct.
Even on the question of risks to human health, there is so far little evidence one way or an other and what there is, is contradictory.
Dr Arpad Pusztai conducted a study of rats fed on GM potatoes which showed damage to their internal organs. But this has been refuted by other scientists who have done the same test.
The United States government came under heavy fire on the opening day of the conference from American lawyer Steve Druker, who accused it of a massive cover up on the safety of GM foods and of ignoring its own scientific advice.
He said the Food and Drug Administration, which licences GM foods in the US, had not only ignored its scientific advisers but "set shoddy safety standards".
He said the FDA had introduced a standard of proof known as "substantive equivalence" which assumed GM foods carry the same risks as traditional ones.
FDA scientists have expressed doubt on this policy but they have been by-passed to allow GM foods to be licensed wholesale in the US illegally. Thus GM food has been fed into the British market without proper safety checks.
The conference chairperson, Sir John Krebs called for a world body to police the development of GM foods. But current experience suggests that such a body would probably fall under the control of the major imperialist powers and add to their powers to exploit and control Third World countries.
Back to index
To the New Communist Party Page