The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 1st February 2002

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Workers of all countries, unite!

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Editorial - State of war.
Lead Story - Rail strike 'rock solid'.
Feature - Bloody Sunday: Who gave the orders?
International - Enron scandal.
British News - CBI attacks public service protection.


State of war

"THE WAR against terrorism is just beginning", said President Bush in his State of the Union speech last Tuesday. And he made it absolutely clear that this is far more than just carrying on with the search for Osama bin Laden and his associates. It is a declaration of war upon any state the United States ruling class wants to attack.

 It appears that all Washington has to do is assert that the countries it puts on its list of targets are "terrorists" or an harbouring "terrorists". So, riding on the back of the emotions aroused by the events of 11 September, the US government has written itself a blank cheque to do whatever it likes to whoever it likes.

 Bush's list of "rogue" or "outlaw" slates changes from time to time. But the latest version now includes: Iraq, Iran, Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Somalia. And of course the military action against Afghanistan is still going on.

 It apparently doesn't matter to the savages who draft US policy that the countries on the "outlaw" list did not carry out the 11 September attack on the United States nor had any hand in it whatsoever. And as for "harbouring terrorists" -- was it not the case that those said to have hijacked the planes had actually been living in the US in the run-up to the attack.

 Bush doesn't care about any of this. He has already moved the goalposts since he first announced the "war against terrorism" in the immediate aftermath of 11 September. The countries he rants against now were in Wachington's gunsights long before last September and the events of that month have simply provided the US with a pretext for aggression -- even if the arguments used are totally dishonest.

 All the accusations flung around by the US are supposed to be believed by the American public and the world at large. President Bush said: "The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons".

 Such lies beggar belief. Not one of the countries named by Bush has threatened the United States or any other state. These countries are not "stockpiling" weapons of mass destruction. Even years and years of United Nations' inspection failed to find any stocks of such weapons in Iraq and still the US repeated its scandalous claim.

 In reality the country with the largest arsenal of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is the United States itself. It is also the only country in the world to have used nuclear weapons and it is today pressing ahead with its "star wars" plan to militarise and monopolise space. It is trying to scrap the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and is determined to be unassailable as the most powerful nuclear state in the world.

 In the case of Somalia it seems that country's "great crime" was to bravely defend itself from earlier US aggression and, despite being a poor country, gave US much more of a fight than Washington bargained for.

 There are two issues in all of this. One is the bullying, murderous foreign policy of US imperialism which is now using the Twin Towers attack to cover Washington's ongoing strategy to achieve global domination and control -- it's a strategy that involves the suppression of any state that Washington cannot readily push around. And there is the desire to avenge 11 September and prevent any further attacks against America or Americans.

 For all the military and political might of the United States, it is unlikely to succeed in either of its aims. It will not be able to prevent further actions against the US because it fails to address the fact that it is years of US imperialist policies that have stirred enormous anger around the world. The very real grevances of millions of people demand justice and without that the United States will be widely hated -- some of that hatred will no doubt find expression in action.

 And the attempts to suppress other sovereign states will not be met with compliance but by a rising determination to resist -- not all of America's military objectives can be gained from 30,000 feet -- the US will find the price of its brutality is more than money, bombers and technology.

 Nor are the targeted countries alone. There is growing solidarity around the world, including among the working class within imperialist countries. In this we have a part to play. The opposition to imperialist wars and threats must echo from Downing Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. Workers of all countries unite!

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Lead Story

Rail strike 'rock solid'

by Caroline Colebrook

"WE ARE AS solid as a rock," Bob Crow told the New Worker during last week's 48-hour strike by employees of South West Trains (SWT) -- the third two-day stoppage in this dispute so far.

 The assistant general secretary of the RMT transport union continued: " Seventy three per cent of the workers are out and standing shoulder to shoulder."

 The long-running dispute concerns the low pay awards imposed on train guards and station staff by Stagecoach, the company that runs SWT compared to the rises offered to train drivers.

 RMT Waterloo branch secretary Greg Tucker told the New Worker. "The rail companies have played off one group of workers against another for long enough. Now we're fighting back."

 He was also delighted at the amount of support and solidarity the workers are receiving from the general public and passengers. He was particularly pleased that the pensioners' movement is supporting the strike.

 SWT management resorted to dirty tricks to try to break the strike. It transferred "retrained" managers and a group of scab new recruits to replace guards and try to run some trains. It claimed to have around one third of its usual 1,700 daily services.

 These scabs had only minimal training for a vital job. Greg Tucker said the company was "playing Russian Roulette with the safety of passengers".

 He added: "There were numerous incidents in the last strike, including trains leaving stations without the doors properly closed."

 SWT has also placed recruiting advertisements with a view to replacing all its striking staff with non-union workers.

 This prompted TUC general secretary John Monks to warn that such strike-breaking tactics would lead to a "desperate situation" on the railways.

 Bob Crow said that if SWT did try to sack 2,500 workers for striking, the TUC must give them its full backing. "The trade union movement must stand up," he said, "to these union-busting moves."

 John Monks supported the rail workers' call for a return to national bargaining. He said: "If we got back to relationships that were well ordered rather than clearly disordered, which is at the heart of the problem we've got now, we'd be in a lot better position."

 Meanwhile a rising tide of other rail disputes threatens to engulf the whole network throughout Britain. The ongoing dispute between Arriva trains and the RMT brought trains to a halt in the north of England last Thursday and Friday.

 Some 1,400 services were cancelled and the strike was estimated to have cost Arriva £7 million. Divisive pay rises were again the root of the problem.

 The union has also called a ballot for strike action on Silverlink trains in the south-east of England and on the Docklands Light railway.

 And the driver's union Aslef is still engaged in a dispute with ScotRail, where an unofficial overtime ban has been in place for three weeks. The union is now balloting for official 24-hour strikes.

 Both the RMT and Aslef are balloting for strike action on London Underground which would take effect in early March. Around a dozen other train companies are preparing for wage reviews and are reported to be increasingly worried" that strikes could spread.

 The mood of rail workers is growing increasingly militant. The Silverlink workers voted to reject a low pay offer in spite of an RMT recommendation to accept. Now they are balloting for strike action.

 So much as the rail bosses would like to pin this down to a handful of union "troublemakers" it is they themselves who have made the troubles by treating their workers shabbily and divisively and resorting to dirty tricks to smear and undermine the unions.

 And it shows that trade unionism is alive and kicking in Britain. The next scheduled 48-hour stoppage on SWT will be 12 and 13 February next week.

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Bloody Sunday: Who gave the orders?

by Daphne Liddle

"WE KNOW what happened, we were there, we saw it. What we need to know is why it happened, who gave the orders, what was the chain of command?" speaker Eamonn McCann told a packed London meeting last Sunday, called to commemorate the events of Bloody Sunday in Derry in January 1972.

 The meeting in Hammersmith Irish Centre was chaired by Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and it opened with Siobhan Maguire recounting the long history of Irish solidarity protest in Britain.

 She listed a number of atrocities committed against the nationalist community in the occupied north of Ireland by various "loyalist" paramilitaries before Bloody Sunday.

 Eamonn McCann pointed out that Bloody Sunday was unique. It was not an atrocity committed in the dead of night, petrol bombs hurled by unseen assailants or attacks in dark alleys.

 "This happened in the full light of day," he said, in full sight. We knew what had happened and who had done it. What we want from the Saville inquiry is not the truth about what happened to be told but not it to be acknowledged."

 He pointed out that the long campaign by the bereaved fami lies is not to hound 60-year-old former squaddies who happened to fire the shots that day but to uncover the chain of command: "Because it was a political atrocity as much as a military atrocity".

 Mr McCann said "The paras were brought in that day to do a job. They were hyped up to -- at the very least -- act in a way that would lead to innocent civilians being killed."

 He denounced the biased Widgery inquiry, set up by the Heath government shortly alter the killings, as "a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice".

 Eamonn McCann then reminded the meeting of British government policy in the months leading up to Bloody Sunday. Internment without trial had been introduced.

 The nationalist community in Derry had responded by setting up barricades to prevent their homes being raided and their young men being dragged away in the middle of the night and being held in internment camps without charge or trial.

 "Free Deny", the nogo area behind the barricades, was an affront to the British govern ment's belief in its right to rule.

 On 14 December 1971, just a month before Bloody Sunday, Home Secretary Reginald Maudlin had visited the army headquarters at Lisburn, County Antrim, and spoken with General Hughes and General Sir Robert Ford -- the two most senior officers in the north of Ireland.

 He had told them that the Government was determined to put an end to the no-go area and that they "might, at some stage have to be shooting innocent civilians" to do this.

 In November 1971, Heath had spoken publicly about plans to end the no-go area: "As for Londonderry, there may have to be operations including civilian casualties".

 "This was nora few squaddies running amok," said Eamonn McCann, "but doing everything that had been laid on them by their superiors."

 Eamonn McCann received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

 Former Labour MP Tony Benn stressed that the struggle was not between the Irish people and the British people but with the British government -- and that ordinary British workers were also victims of that government.

 "The sooner Britain is out of Ireland the better for all of us," he said.

 He paid credit to Tony Blair that the Good Friday Agreement had happened -- in contrast to the attitudes of former British governments, Labour and Tory -- and he praised the role of Mo Mowlem.

 Although there were many criticisms of some things she had done and said, she was a vast improvement on any of her predecessors and the peace process had moved forward under her influence.

 Michael McKinery of the families of the victims campaign spoke of the problems besetting the current Saville inquiry: the vital forensic evidence destroyed, including 29 army rifles and the fact that soldiers serving at the time have been excused giving evidence in person "because that would put them at risk of retaliation ".

 Mr McKinery said none of the families wanted to see any violence come to these men and have given many assurances. What they want is for these men to be there to answer questions about who gave them what orders.

 Derry Sinn Fein councillor Gerry O'hEara gave an account of his own experiences and those of a close friend, of being falsely accused of "riotous behaviour" by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and having to go on the run to Dublin, but returning to fight when they realised what was being done to their community shortly before Bloody Sunday.

 He said how even then they had thought through what would he needed to bring peace to the north of Ireland. "We had a pretty ambitious shopping list," he said, " but high on that list was a proper inquiry into Bloody Sunday and air acknowledgement of what had really happened."

 He repeated that no one wanted to get at the actual squaddies "who probably joined the army because they were unemployed and did not know any better". Some of the people they did want exposed were: "The Unionist business people -- some of whom are still there and still prospering -- who put pressure on the RUC and on the British government to smash Free Derry because it was hampering their trade -- 'even if it means shooting a few Paddies'."

 He said of the Saville inquiry: "If it doesn't tell us the mindset of the people who sat round a table and plotted this, it will have failed."

 And he called on the Queen to apologise for pinning medals on the officers who ordered the massacre.

 He went on to give an optimistic view of the peace process now underway, with Sinn Fein gaining electorally both in the Republic and in the occupied north.

 He described the Unionists as currently divided and leaderless and said: "Progress with the Unionist population is the key to reconciliation and reunification, we have to engage with the Unionists.

 "They know what is coming, this is why their organisations are now reduced to gangs of thugs. Once they engage in a dialogue with us, progress will be rapid. We must address the reasonable ones among them, the ones who see us as human beings and will talk with us."

 Labour MP John McDonnell wound up the speeches by pointing out that the long slow process of British withdrawal from Ireland is now underway. It is our job in the Labour movement in Britain to think of every way we possibly can to exert pressure to move this withdrawal along.

 "It's no good thinking we're almost there," he said, "We need to explain about the inevitability of a united Ireland and to help it come about."

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Enron scandal

THE COLLAPSE OF ENRON CORP, the biggest bankruptcy case in US history, took on another dimension of tragedy last week with the apparent suicide of a former vicechairman, who had opposed the company's financial practices that led to the collapse of the energy trading giant.

 J Clifford Baxter, 43, who resigned as vice-chairman of Enron Corp last May, killed himself with a gunshot inside his car in a suburb of Houston, police said.

 Baxter last spring had complained to Enron's management team, including the then chief executive officer Jeffrey Skilling, about the company's questionable accounting measures.

 Baxter joined Enron in 1991 and was chairman and CEO [Chief Executive Officer] of Enron North America before being made chief strategy officer. In October 2000, he was promoted to vice-chairman.

 Baxter was one of the 29 senior Enron executives named in a shareholder lawsuit seeking compensation of losses due to the collapse of the company.

 He sold more than 577,000 shares, the lawsuit said, worth $35.2 m over a three-year period before the bankruptcy.

 Enron said in a short statement that the company was "deeply saddened" by Baxter's tragic loss.

 A former Enron employee, who was laid off by the company in December, said the timing of Baxter's death has something to do with the investigation around Enron's collapse.

 His death came one day after the start of Congressional hearings on Enron's collapse and the role of its auditor, accounting firm Arthur Andersen. Hearings by the House Energy and Commerce Committee and another by the Senate last week were the first of nine scheduled over the next six weeks into Enron.

 Baxter was one of a handful of current and former Enron executives whose testimony is central to federal and congressional investigations.

 Congressional Investigators had contacted Baxter's lawyers and sought to interview Baxter.

 "It seemed to us that he was a pretty highly placed insider at Enron who had understood exactly what was wrong there," said Representative James C Greenwood, chairman of the House committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. "It adds to the depth of this tragedy."

 The political influence of the two firms came under renewed scrutiny on Friday, with the reporting that of the 248 Senators and Congressmen on Congressional committees investigating the firm, 212 received political donations from Enron and Andersen.

 The White House on Friday ordered a review of $70m in US government contracts with Enron and Andersen. The director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Mitchell Daniels, said that media reports of "potential irregularities" in work done by Enron and Andersen could "reflect poorly on ... their ability to provide quality work."

 White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan disclosed that the US government had more than 100 contracts worth about 70 million dollars with the two companies.

 Enron freely gave donations to both Democratic and Republican politicians, but the Bush administration has close ties to Enron and its chairman, Kenneth Lay. The company reportedly made some 623,000 dollars in contributions to Bush's campaigns since 1993 when he launched his political career as governor of Texas.

 In another development, Congress' top investigator said he will decide this week whether to take the Bush administration to court for withholding details about how it developed its controversial energy policy.

 "if we did go to court, it would be the first time in history that we would have ever taken a federal entity or official to court. We need to try to do everything we can to avoid it. But we' re committed to do our job," said David Walker, head of Congress' General Accounting Office.

 Congressional Democrats John Dingell and Henry Waxman released a letter on 25 January urging Walker, whose office is Congress' investigative arm, to file suit against the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. The two congressmen for nine months have been demanding identities of business leaders and lobbyists who met with Cheney's task force as it developed the energy plan.

 Waxman and Dingell wrote that task force details were vital to congressional consideration of energy policy, "particularly with recent questions concerning the influence of officials of Enron."

 The Houston-based Enron group filed the largest bankruptcy in US history on 2 December, hammering investors, destroying thousands of jobs and raising questions about its ties to Bush.

 So far, the collapse of the nation's seventh largest company has qualified as a financial scandal from the aggressive accounting practices that misled investors to the frantic shredding of Enron financial documents by Andersen.

 However, news coverage of the case has been fueled by the assumption that scandalous disclosures could follow because the company's money was so Intertwined with Washington power.

 "There are so many ties between Enron and the White House and the Congress that it's impossible to ignore," says Larry Satato, a University of Virginia political scientist.

Peoples Daily, Beijing.

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British News

CBI attacks public service protection

THE CONFEDERATION of British Industry last week circulated a confidential letter to Cabinet ministers rejecting proposals to introduce new legal employment protection for workers whose jobs are privatised.

 Last September the Labour leadership headed off a trade union revolt over the increasing privatisation of public services by promising this new legislation to protect the terms, wages and conditions of public sector workers whose jobs would be affected.

 Many unions are still dissatisfled with the Government's increasing rush to privatisation and are reducing donations to the Labour Party -- using the money instead in campaigns against privatisation.

 But the privateer bosses are not happy about any new legislation to protect workers and are piling on the pressure to make the Government renege on these promises.

 The CBI has said that "any legalistic or rule book protection of workers would slow down reform, strangle innovation and drive leading edge provides to leave the market."

 In other words it would hamper their profit making. The CBI wants a "code of conduct" instead, claiming this would fulfill the Government's promise to the unions.

 The unions, on the other hand, are insisting on legal protection. Speaking on behalf of the giant public sector union Unison, Malcolm Wing said: "We must have something that is legally enforceable, including a code with teeth and that means statutory backing."

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