The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 4th May 2001

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Editorial - Blitz.
Lead Story -May Day calls for change.
Feature - Debate with us, not about us says Morris.
International - International workers' day actions.
British News - Remembering Ireland's hunger strikers.



THE Presidency of George W Bush is unlikely to last longer than one term. After all, he only won the election after weeks of farcical shenanigans and even then he needed the deciding votes of five of the nine judges of the US Supreme Court.

 This is one reason why Bush and the reactionary elements he represents have set out to blitz their key projects forward in a ruthless effort to beat the countdown to the next election and to put US imperialism in a position to ride out the looming recession.

 In broad terms this agenda seeks to consolidate US power and extract the maximum advantage from US imperialism's present strength and dominant position over the entire non-socialist world before the current window of opportunity closes.

 On the basis of striking while it's ahead, the US ruling class is putting two fingers up to every international agreement that is not convenient for US big business and which puts limitations on US military supremacy.

 Bush began the blitz by announcing that the US will not be bound by the terms of the Kyoto agreement on the environment because making serious reductions in the production of carbon gases could damage the US economy. He really couldn't give a monkey's what the rest of the world thought about this.

 In the next breath he announced the Pentagon's plans to press ahead with "son of star wars" -- the so-called National Missile Defence system (NMD). This horrific project involves the militarisation of space and will lead to the destruction of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Misaile Treaty (ABM Treaty).

 This ratcheting up of military strength has nothing to do with "defence". It's purpose is to give the United States complete nuclear supremacy -- keeping its huge lead in the number of nuuclear weapons as well as developing the technology to eliminate any weapons launched by other states.

 This is putting the power of global destruction into the hands of the most reactionary, most barbarous, anti working class clique in the world. It is designed to threaten the socialist countries, to threaten those countries in the developing world that are strong enough to stand up to imperialism and, when the US deems it necessary, to threaten rival imperialist centres like Europe.

 As if that were not enough, Bush is now threatening to trash the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a treaty it has never implemented, to once again make sure the US is not restrained by any international obligation it does not want.

 Not surprisingly there is widespread opposition to all these plans, especially NMD, and a number of governments have spoken out. The British government is not among them. It is biding its time until Bush's visit to Europe before committing itself to full co-operation with Washington. Then Menwith Hill and Fylingdales will be offered to Bush on a plate.

 This is a dangerous and pivotal point which demands a vigorous fightback. The peace movement's campaign is gathering strength but needs to be bolstered much more. This struggle needs to be taken up by the labour movement and all progressive people and organisations.

 It is, after all, a class issue. The arsenals of the capitalist class are everywhere the means of capitalist state power. And what's more, it is we, the working class of every country, that ultimately pays the bill.

 Britain's enormous "defence" costs are hardly mentioned by politicians and the capitalist media. But the billions wasted on this big-power posturing would comfortably enable the link between average earnings and pensions to be restored. This money could make a world of difference to our NHS, to our schools and to our social and local services.

 Nor should anyone be complacent about the danger we are in. The nuclear weapons the West's leaders have are not dummies or paper fakes, they are real and live. Furthermore it should not be forgotten that the only country in the world to have so far used nuclear weapons was the United States!

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Lead Story

May Day calls for change

by Daphne Liddle

SEVERAL thousand people marched peacefully through London on May Day last Tuesday from Highbury Corner to Clarkenwell Green, many of them trade unionists with banners, along with people from the London Turkish and Kurdish communities proudly carrying their red flags in spite of the bitter cold and rain.

 But very few who were not there to see them are aware of this march. It has been totally ignored by all the media who have dwell at length on the May nay activities staged in London by the young anti-capitalists because there was a possibility of violence breaking out.

 The march to Clerkenwell Green was organised by the South East TUC and has taken place every May Day, on the exact day,for decades.

 Most of those on it were more mature than the youngsters attacking the bastions of global capitalism in London and throughout the world.

 But the feelings against capitalism and globalism -- international finance imperialism -- are just as strong.

 The two kinds of marchers are in no way rivals or antagonistic to each other. For a time, a large group of young protesters joined the socialist march and were welcomed.

 The media were not disappointed, there was some violence, damage and destruction in London's West End as the day wore on. One highly organised group had come along intent on it -- the Metropolitan Police force with its much publicised intention to show zero tolerance towards the anti-capitaliStS went out of its way to demonstrate truncheon wielding skills and the skills of boxing demonstrators into small crowded areas and not letting them move one way or another for hours and hours.

 The cold rain and lack of toilets meant maximum discomfort but the young people were not discouraged.

  A recent poll showed that more than 70 per cent of people in Britain are aware that big businesses are more powerful than our elected Government. This is a big advance in political awareness and the anti-globalisation movement can take a lot of the credit for this.

  But alas at the same time, most people are also convinced that there is little or nothing they can do about it and are resigned to it.

 Some also believe that capitalism can be changed by persuasion to realise the harm it is doing to the people of the Third World and to the planet and to become benign.

 But the law of capitalism is that only the most profitable survive and the benign go bankrupt and disappear.

 The young people who throw paint at banks and break the windows of American fast food chains are simply trying to draw attention to the faults in the system. They are not -- yet -- trying to overthrow it and replace it with a better system -- socialism.

  They have the courage to challenge, to refuse to let things go on as they are, to make a fuss but they do not yet have the confidence to really believe they can win.

 Yet there is a force which can challenge and defeat capitalism. It is the self-conscious, organised working class.

 The new methods of organising against capitalism, using the internet and so on are great at reachine the maximum number of people in the shortest time but success In the class struggle needs stronger organisation.

 The ease with which the police attacked and corralled the young protesters gave a vivid demonstration of how a tightly organised body of people will always be able to control a group of individuals who have come together simply as individuals because they agree on some issue.

 The police in Oxford Street are one of the capitalist state's mildest weapons available if ever the protesters pose a real threat to capitalism and the state is preparing many more stringent weapons.

 But the workers of the world have even greater potential power -- through their ability to deny the capitallists their profits by refusing to produce commodities and going on strike and through their greater numbers.

 Numbers are only effective if they exert their power in an organised way, in solidarity. This is something obvious to any worker engaged in industrial production where the final product can only happen if many workers work together in an organised way.

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Debate with us, not about us says Morris

by Caroline Colebrook

BILL MORRIS, general seeretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, spoke out strongly on the current very public divisions over race within the Tory party when he addressed the TUC Black Workers' Conference in Perth last Saturday.

 "The time has come for a grown up debate about race," he said, "about immigration and about how we manage immigration and social stability.

 "But Iet's be clear, for too long the debate has been about us. It is time for society to have a debate with us.

 "Recently Mr Hague described Britain as a foreign land. For too many of us, it is indeed a foreign land -- a foreign land where ordinary black families wake up almost every morning to listen to the radio to descriptions of themselves that they do not recognise.

 "They hear phrases like 'bogus', 'flooding', 'economic migrant'. They hear the Commission For Racial Equality, which was established by an Act of Parliament, described as a pressure group and told to go to hell."

 He reminded the conference that people with information technology skills are being recruited from India because of a chronic shortage in Britain, that every day thousands of doctors and nurses, born outside Britain, are saving lives day-in and day-out.

 And he pointed out that buses and trains would grind to a halt without the contributions of immigrants.

 The conference called for urgent action over the alarming number of black people dying in custody and for an end to these incidents being investigated by the police themselves.

 Cordell Pillay of the probation officers' union Napo blamed the prison service for the death of teenager Zahid Mubarck, who was brutally murdered by a racist cellmate the day before he was due for release.

 "His murder is an indictment of the whole prison system," said Ms Pillay, "if Zahid had been white, he would not have received a custodial sentence."

 And Colin Moses of the Prison Officers' Association wanted that many prison inmates convicted of racist crimes spend their time inside freely recruiting for racist and fascist organisations.

 The first ever fringe meeting at a TUC Black Workers' conference was organised by the IMF Wanted for Fraud campaign. It was set up by Glenroy Watson of the TUC race relations committee, an anti-racist and a trade union activist in the RMT transport union.

 The meeting was chaired by Martha Osamor of the TGWU and introduced by Roland Biosah of the PCS civil service union. Explo Nani-Kofi of the IMF Wanted For Fraud campaign called for stronger links between anti-globalisation campaigners in the developed countries and those in the Third World and for the leading role of Third World activists to be rccognised.

 He appealed to trade unionists to support the effort to expose the so-called debt as a fraud. "You cannot," he said, "beg a criminal, which the IMF clearly is, for forgiveness."

 Delegates at the conference passed a motion condemning the pharmaceutical multi-nationals for continuing to deny affordable medicines to fight the scourge of Aids to Third World countries.

 Gloria Mills of the public sector union Unison called for an end to "intellectual property rights" which allow the drug giants "to make millions out of the suffering of the sick and vulnerable"

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International workers' day actions

by Steve Lawton

AROUND the world workers have been celebrating, marching and demonstrating -- a big moment of people's globalisation --- marking 1st May.

 In France thousands marched in Paris, Marseille, Lesquin, Montpellier, Caen and Bordeaux, among other towns and cities, protesting at job losses and low pay.

 They stretched out along the banks of the river Seine carrying banners demanding pay increases, better training and an end to the shedding of labour. According to official figures, between 1993 and 1999 about 56 million people in all have been part of protests in Paris.

 Mass rallies in Athens, Greece and throughout the country focused on demands for a reversal of the government's erosion of social security and for a 35-hour week.

 Some 20,000 marchers in Istanbul, Turkey called for the government to come to terms with revolutionaries on hunger strike -- 20 of who have so far died -- in the notorious 'F-type' cells.

 In Berlin, Germany, 600 protesters were arrested during clashes with about 10,000 police who used water cannon and were left with two of their police vehicles burnt-out. Barricades were set up and ignited in eastern Berlin.

 Similar mayhem hit Hamburg -- streets were barricaded, cars smashed, street signs and phone boxes busted amid the noise of fireworks.

 Demonstrators had defied a legal ban on the May Day demonstration on the supposed grounds of security, yet a neo-Nazi rally by the National Democratic Party was permitted. They were attacked by anti-fascists.

 In Russia rallies and processions were staged across the country and in the former Republics, demanding their wages, pensions, jobs -- you name it, they've lost it since the demise of socialism in the former Soviet Union. Many marches went under the enduring banner of Joseph Stalin.

 There were clashes in several locations across Australia. Nationwide protests organised by the M1 alliance of trade unions, environmentalists, students and Christians rallied against global capitalism. Running battles took place through some cities.

 Outside Melbourne's stock exchange, the scene of many arrests, puppets of prime minister John Howard and Victoria state premier Steve Bracks were burnt.

 Protesters, who blockaded the exchange, chanted: "Human need, not corporate greed, shut the exchange down." School students stayed away from school on the first day of term to join the protests. And while celebrations dominated the nation's capital Canberra, hundreds blockaded the mining industry's offices there for the day.

 In Tiananmen Square, Bejing, in a bright display of optimism in their future, thousands turned out for what marks the start of a seven-day holiday festival for its people throughout the country.

 Hong Kong (HKSAR) held a reception to mark May Day in which HKSAR chief Tung Chee Hwa reviewed progress to date and pointed out that Hong Kong has fully recovered from the temporary impact of the rollercoaster Asia financial crisis. He said growth stands at 10.5 per cent with unemployment declining.

 That's not the case, however, in Singapore sharply demonstrating the contrasting paths of social development in Asia. The sharp economic chill rolling over Asia has led to the unprecedented step of the deputy premier Lee Hsien addressing 600,000 workers at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) in the National Stadium.

 He told them the US reccssion is slowing Singapore's economy down so they will have to accept lower wages to avoid job losses.

 The NTUC is in hock to the governing People's Action Party, but with the deputy premier claiming economic growth will be halved this year, job cuts are unlikely to be avoided -- workers' angry reaction to the recent Asia financial crisis could well be rekindled.

 In south Korea 20,000 workers were contronted by 15,000 riot police; thousands of trade unionists and unemployed workers marched through Taipei.

 In Jarkarta, Indonesia. thousands marched demanding wage increases and demanded that May Day be made a national holiday. Decked out in distinctive red-and-white headbands, they called for the IMF to be dissolved.

 The home of the IMF, the United States, saw many demonstrations and marches where that sentiment was reinforced. In Los Angeles, among other cities, police arrested over 100 anti-capitalist protesters chanting "down with the police state". Labour and immigrant rights featured strongly in many marches.

 And the home country of many of them across the Americas also saw big demonstrations. In Mexico many thousands protested in Mexico City at president Vicente Fox's plan to increase taxes on food and medicine by 15 per cent.

 That contrasted sharply with the tremendous outpouring of people in Havana, Cuba -- a beacon of socialism in the Third World where a huge demonstration took place in Revolution Square.

 While the great crowd held up puppets that mocked the capitalist world's leaders, president Fidel Castro railed against the US Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) plan as a major disaster for the Americas.

 He accused the US of annexing Latin America's economies (Cuba is excluded from the FTAA) and proposed that all countries involved hold a plebiscite before signing away their sovereignty.

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British News

Remembering Ireland's hunger strikers

by Theo Russell

THE crucial role of the 1981 H-Block hunger strike in transforming the Irish republican struggle was recalled at a major meeting in London last week, one of many commemoration events taking place throughout Ireland and Britain.

 Solidarity was extended to the current wave of hunger strikers in Turkey resisting a new prison regime, and the Irish republicans who died in English prisons in the 1970s were also recalled.

 Some of those who had taken part told the meeting of how the hunger strike, a response to a new British strategy to crush the republican movement, in fact strengthened it immeasurably, creating the basis for today's peace process.

 In Jim McVeigh's words: "We must remember 20 years on the sacrifices which have been made to get us to where we are."

 Ex-hunger striker Bernard Fox said: "There is no better recognition than the Good Friday Agreement itself that the struggle in Ireland was political." He spent 32 days on hunger strike in 1981, but has only recently spoken of the experience in public. "In this phase of the struggle," he said, "we have lost 383 volunteers on active service, and I count myself lucky."

 Before 1971 the republican prisoners in the north of Ireland had a military structure recognised by the British Army and government. But while the British were holding talks with the IRA -- even promising a withdrawal from Ireland -- a sophisticated new strategy to defeat them was being planned: "normalisation", "Ulsterisation" and criminalisation of the IRA.

 Its aim, Fox said, was "to go for the weakest link -- defenceless prisoners". Merlyn Rees, Labour Northern Ireland secretary, sent in the SAS to "squeeze the IRA like a tube of toothpaste'. (Fox pointed out that to this day he still has two bodyguards 24 hours a day).

 Another ex-hunger striker, Jim "Flash" McVeigh recalled that after 1976. new republican prisoners were treated as criminals, labelled "godfathers" and "bandits".

 But as a result of the struggle waged by a handful of very young prisoners, against the advice of the IRA itself. it was the "criminalisation" policy which ended up crushed.

 As the hunger strikers became an example for others to join the struggle, "they reinvigorated the IRA by inspiring a wave of new young recruits.'' McVeigh said.

 In the process the prisoners were transformed from people who became involved as a reaction to attacks by the Unionist state, loyalists and the British, into a group which was to make a major input into a new republican political strategy, destined to change the course of Irish history.

 As McVeigh succinctly put it, "What was intended to be a knacker's yard for republicans became a university for revolutionaries."

 Incredibly, the prisoners had little idea of the massive support developing outside, throughout Ireland, Britain and the world, assuming that what their families told them was simply encouragement. The realisation came only when until Bobby Sands was elected a Westminster MP, followed by two Irish TDs.

 After 1981 there was a vast improvement in conditions for republican POWs and the republican wings became virtual universities. Prisoners were now treated with respect, gained qualifications and produced art, literature and crafts, planned escapes, and above all, in Bernard Fox's words, "developed a political voice and decided we were out to win."

 Wallace Heaton and Ronnie McCartney recalled their experiences in English prisons in the mid-1970s, when Frank Stagg and Michael Gaughan fasted to death demanding repatriation to prisons in Ireland. Heaton took part in this hunger strike and described the efforts to break the Republican prisoners. who were "treated like dogs", kept in "strip cells" with nothing but thin cotton garments, a mattress, and no visits."

 McCartney said that in the 1970s "to be Irish in Britain was a crime itself" and reminded the meeting that "we should never forget that all those who died in prison in England and Ireland were individual people, unique. who had a choice to have a life".

 Peter Middleton, of the London Hunger Strike Commemoration Committee, spoke of the massive increase in confidence of the Irish community in Britain in the last 20 years, with the Irish now recognised as a minority in the census. He also paid tribute to the sacrifices being made by the hunger strikers against the fascist Turkish state, and spoke of the struggles being waged in Turkey, Kurdistan, Palestine and Mexico.

 Addressing himself to "supporters and progressive organisations in Britain". Middleton pointed out there are still five republican prisoners in Castlereagh prison in Belfast and urged those present to attend a black flag vigil of Maggie Thatcher's residence to remind her of her role in the hunger strikes.

 Turning to the nature of the current peace process, Jim McVeigh stressed that "our objectives have not changed all that's changed is our tactics. The Good Friday Agreement is not what we fought for but it has the potential to move us down the road, if we continue to battle to achieve our demands.

 "We dont want another declaration on the wall," he added, "we want to see the democratic socialist republic in our lifetimes."

 Both Mcveigh and Fox spoke of Sinn Fein's rapid growth in the Irish Republic, especially among the young, and predicted major advances for the party in the next local and general elections.

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