The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 5th April 2002

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Editorial - The brink of disaster.
Lead Story - Bush and Israel stand condemned.
Feature - Teachers vote to strike over pay and hours.
International - Irish poll and united Ireland pressure.
British News - A peace message for Blair and Bush.
More news and Diary


The brink of disaster

ISRAEL'S murderous policy of trying to crush the Palestinian uprising In a tide of blood and bullets will never succeed. The Palestinian people have suffered too much, fought too hard and for too long to abandon the struggle for justice now.

 This latest onslaught of colonial-style bullying and carnage will only serve to create greater popular resistance and more people willing to sacrifice their lives for the liberation of Palestine.

 But Israel's military occupation of West Bank cities and towns and the mounting death toll could set the whole Middle East region aflame and push the world at large deeper into economic crisis as oil prices rise and Iraqi and Iranian oil producers threaten to block supplies to the West.

 Israel's intensified war is already threatening the peace of neighbouring Lebanon and anger is risng throughout the Arab world.

 That anger is not exclusively reserved for Israel - the Arabs clearly understand that behind Israel is the hand of United States imperialism, aided and abeted by other western capitalist powers.

 Some pundits in the western media are trying to kid us that George Bush is in a quandary over the Middle East violence and cannot act to stay Israel's hand.

 What nonsense. Not only has the US given the green light to Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to press on with his war policy but millions of US dollars, arms and support provides Israel with the means to wage its war of oppression.

 The United States ruling class has long been willing to fund and support Israel in order to have a cat's paw in the Middle East. Often it masks this strategic and political purpose by pretending the government of the day is cautious of Israel because it is anxious not to upset the Jewish electorate in the US.

 This is a particularly shoddy excuse and one that is an insult to the many Jews in America and elsewhere who want to see peace In the Middle East and who do not subscribe to anti-Arab racism or Zionism.

 In any case, who'd believe US foreign policy was decided by the electorate, let alone one section of it. America, like Britain, is a country in which the capitalist class holds state power. The bourgeois democracy it praises itself for is designed to serve that capitalist state -- not to change it or dictate its actions. Foreign and military policres therefore reflect the interests of private wealth, private power and private profit.

 In the region of the Middle East the main concern of the imperialist powers is to have control over a steady flow of cheap oil. To ensure the maximum exploitation of this resource the US and its allies conspire to keep the producer countries in a subservient position by exercising political and military power.

 Imperialism wants to keep the Arab world divided. It wants to keep potentially strong states, like Iraq and Iran, weakened by devices such as sanctions, and in the case of Iraq, by constant threats of war or by actual war.

 It also wants a pro-American, non-Arab government in the Middle East that imperialism can use to maintain a permanent state of tension and conflict in the region -- that is the proxy role of Israel. And while American Presidents often pretend to act as peace brokers, they never allow their efforts to wholly succeed.

 The usual trick is to talk about peace without talking about justice. The rightful cause of the Palestinians is sometimes paid lip service to -- but bringing an end to Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the recognision of a sovereign Palestinian state is always for another day -- it's never on the table today.

 But the big powers of the capitalist West are not going to have it all their own way. The Palestinian blood being shed across the West Bank, the threat of a new war on Iraq, the US-led war in Afghanistan and the nuclear threats coming from Bush are beginning to threaten the cherished plans of the imperialist camp.

 Iraq and Iran are threatening the flow of oil. The recent Arab Summit saw Arab countries moving closer together -- even Iraq and Kuwait held hands of peace to each other. And throughout the world the peace movements are on the march again!

 Solidarity with the people of Palestine! No war on Iraq! Stop Israeli terror!

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Lead Story

Bush and Israel stand condemned

by our Arab Affairs Correspondent

ISRAELI TANKS are pounding Palestinian positions in every city in the West Bank. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat continues to defy them in the ruins of his compound in Ramallah and hundreds of Arabs are surrounded in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

 A Christian priest has been killed and at least six nuns wounded when their church was attacked by Israeli troops and the Arabs have accused the Zionists of shooting five Palestinian policemen after they surrendered.

 Israeli premier General Sharon has offered the Palestinian leader a one-way ticket into exile that Arafat has rejected with contempt saying he would rather be a martyr than leave Ramallah.

 But none of this has stopped the resistance which has struck again and again deep in the heart of the Zionist entity last week and the Lebanese resistance has renewed its offensive to drive the Zionists out of the occupied Shebaa Farms in southern Lebanon.

Stop Zionist terror

 Throughout the Arab world the masses are on the streets demanding action to stop Zionist terror in Palestine following an Arab summit in Beirut whose peace offer -- based in past UN resolutions -- has been rejected in Tel Aviv.

 But the summit saw renewed pledges of support for the Palestinian struggle and reconciliation between Iraq and Kuwait that has kicked the legs away from the imperialist plot for another Gulf War.

Israel wants war

 Egypt and Jordan -- the only Arab states to have signed peace treaties with Israel -- are under pressure on the street to break all ties with the Zionist regime. Huge pro-Palestinian demonstrations -- this time not quelled by the police -- are taking place in Egypt and President Mubarak is appealing to the UN and the European Union to rein Israel in before the whole region explodes.

 According to the Saudi daily Al Watarz, Tel Aviv is preparing to attack Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan with the secret blessing of the United States. The story is based on a European Union military report of secret Israeli plans to use the simmering conflict in southern Lebanon to launch a new war to retake southern Lebanon and Egypt's Sinai peninsular.

 It says Washington has given the Tel Aviv the green light now that its own plan to remove the Iraqi government and replace it with a puppet regime is on the rocks following the Iraqi-Kuwaiti reconciliation at the Arab summit last week.

International anger

 International pressure to stop the Israeli tanks is being fiercely resisted in Washington and London. Though Anglo-American imperialism continues to pay lip-service to the concern for Arafat's life they are continuing to defy the calls from the Arabs, the Third World and even their other allies in Europe for an unconditional cease-fire and the resumption of peace talks.

 And China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan has condemned "Israel's barbarous invasion" of the Palestinian territories in a telephone conversation with his Qatari counterpart.

 "China opposes and condemns Israel's barbarous invasion of the Palestinian territory, and calls on Israel to stop military actions immediately and to withdraw from the Palestinian territory," the Chinese minister declared.

New oil boycott call

 Iran is floating the idea of a new oil boycott against America to help the Palestinians and Iraq says it's ready to cut off all its own supplies and join in any concerted Arab or Muslim oil producers' embargo.

 Iraqi Acting foreign Minister Humam Abdel Khaliq said "Iraq expressed its readiness to cut off the oil supply to the United States, jointly with Iran and all those who decide to do so among the Muslim oil producers". Khaliq said he hoped that all the Arab oil producers would join the boycott to protest against the Israeli aggression.

 This was echoed by Syrian calls for the Arabs to reactivate the boycott against Israel and present a united stand to confront Zionism's barbarous aggression against the Palestinians.

 The daily Tishrin called on certain Arab states "which have relations with Israel" to break off these relations, reconsider the agreements signed with Tel Aviv and revive the Arab boycott office.

 "The Israeli war of extermination can't be confronted by declarations, denunciations and condemnations... it should be confronted by measures on the ground". And Al Baath [The Renaissance], the paper of the ruling Arab Socialist Renaissance Party warned, "the Zionist danger is targeting not only the Palestinians but also the Arab states and the Islamic states".

 Returning to the essence of the Palestinian cause and the unification of Arab ranks was the only way to confront the "Zionist racist project". The liberation of the occupied Arab territories would contribute to the liberation of all of humanity and consolidate peace and justice throughout the world.

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Teachers vote to strike over pay and hours

by Daphne Liddle

DELEGATES at the annual conference of the National Union of Teachers in Bournemouth last week voted for strike action over pay and working hours in defiance of the recommendations of their leadership.

 The conference produced the usual division between the leadership which tends to support "New Labour" and the more left wing activist delegates.

 But this year the divisions were not so entrenched as before. General secretary Doug McAvoy was no longer able to give uncritical support to the Blair government and much more ready to contemplate industrial action than previously.

 The delegates are demanding, with a large majority in favour, an all-round 10 per cent increase in pay, a doubling of the London weighting allowance and the abolition of performancc-related pay.

 This follows a very successful one-day strike by London teachers two weeks ago on the London weighting issue.

 Earlier in the conference they had also voted to resume the union's boycott of national tests and league tables and to refuse to stand in for absent colleagues.

 The delegates voted in favour of demanding a 35 hour week with a maximum of 22.5 hours of classroom teaching to allow time for class preparation and marking.

 Delegate after delegate pointed out that the Government is failing to deal with the drastic and worsening shortage of teachers.

 This is caused by a combination of low pay and excessive workload. The introduction of sats tests, league tables and performance-related pay has multiplied the weight of bureaucratic burdens on teachers.

 And the growing shortage of teachers is causing even bigger workloads to fall on those who remain.

 The delegates pointed out that all this leads to a reduction in the quality of education it is possible to deliver to school children.

 Shortages mean that pupils are taught by teachers who are not well qualified in the appropriate subjects but who are standing in on an emergency basis.

And the growth in the number of tests each pupil faces mean that "creativity in schools is being stifled and pupils tested to distraction" under a Government "obsessed by lunatic targets".

 Robert Palmer. a teacher from Medway in Kent told the conference: "Our education system is being strangled by the dead hand of Gradgrindism.

 "Is this it then? Is this all education is about, a series of hoops to jump through?

 "Is this why we became teachers, so we could teach to the test, hold the hoops for our pupils just a little hit higher every time?

 "Our message to Estelle Morris should be unequivocal -- league tables are for foothall clubs, not schools."

 NUT general secretary Doug McAvoy expressed doubts that the strike demand would he sustained in a national ballot at this stage.

 But he said the union would not be deterred from balloting for strike action "as a last resort".

 He said: "The Government is depriving thousands of pupils of their right to be properly educated." And he accused Education Secretary Estelle Morris of having "lost the plot".

 Speaking of the one-day action by London Leachers, he said: "The vast majority of the thousands who took part weren't dinosaurs, we're not dyed in the wool militants. They are young teachcrs. They marched that day with a pride in their professionalism."

 He added that "the vast majority of teachers know that industrial action is a means, not an end. Our campaigns should be conducted in such a way that we gain and keep the support of parents."

At another point he said: "It's not the teachers who strike who should be condemned. It's the Government and previous governments which, by ignoring the teacher shortage crisis unfolding before it deprives thousands of pupils of their right to be educated by properly qualified teachers.

 Terry Buckler, regional NUT secretary in the north-east of England, warned that pressures in the classroom are "near breaking point".

 "Teachers in the north-east are very fair-minded," he said, "but they get frustrated by the failure of the Government to listen.

 "Like everyone, they have a breaking point. I do hope the Government will listen and do everything in its power to look at the concerns and avoid it reaching that stage.

 "I think most teachers will be particularly happy that the conference has given a tremendous emphasis to professional unity as we are looking for teachers to work together and to have one union."

 The second largest teaching union, the NAS/UWT, which is involved in the unity process with the NUT, also held its conference last week in Scarborough.

 Most of the issues that concerned the NUT also concerned the NAS/UWT.

 But the Scarborough conference also called for more protection and safety at work for teachers, especially from violent pupils and teachers.

 Nigel de Gruchy, the retiring NAS/UWT general secretary, called for a change in the law to make a new offence of assault on a public servant -- which would also give added protection tto nurses, civil servants and local authority workers.

 He pointed out that local authority employers could press for prosecution in the most serious cases involving teachers.

 But the police and Crown Prosecution Service are reluctant to take on incidents unless they involve serious injury. Other incidents are treated simply as common assault.

 "Common assault upon a teacher is not regarded as any great thing," said Mr de Gruchy, "in the great scheme of things by many police forces around the country.

 "There is a very strong case that there should be a new offence created not just in relation to teachers but also in relation to nurses and a number of other public sector workers.

 "It should be a serious offence to assault any public servant in the course of his or her duties."

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Irish poll and united Ireland pressure

by Steve Lawton

AS Sinn Fein moves its campaigning up a gear with the Irish Repuhlic election date due imminently, party president Gerry Adams and chief negotiator Martin McGuinness made an official call last Monday for the first serious steps to he taken toward a united Ireland.

 At the annual 1916 Easter Rising commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetary, Dublin. Gerry Adams noted the advances made since the Good Friday Agreement came into force: the repeal of the Governement of Ireland Act, all Ireland institutions created, a degree of northern representation achieved and the unionist veto ended.

 Education minister Martin McGuinness speaking on the occasion of the 80th Easter Rising annniversary in Drumboe, County Donegal, said the countdown to a united Ireland had already begun. The Republicans' struggle was approaching its "end phase", he announced.

 But "while all of this represents progress there is still much to be done". Gerry Adams advised. "Republicans have always pointed out the obstacle to Irish unity posed by Britain, and that has not evaporated." Far from it, despite everything, British occupation remains entrenched.

 And while he found it "incredible" that for 40-odd years nothing approaching a policy process on Irish unity had emerged from the Dail (Irish Parliament). he said "Irish unitv must cease to be an abstraction and become a concrete proposition."

 To that end. Gerry Adams declared: "Here. today I am formally calling on all the parties to embark on a process of drawing up a Green Paper on Irish unity in consultation with all interested parties and groups.

 He said an "Alliance for Irish Unity" was needed for all "committed to that end." It was a call that specifically included the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and the need to break down barriers of distrust and fear that persist.

 It was also an overture to UUP leader David Trimble who has encouraged the idea of a referendum on Irish unity in the north since he expects it to be defeated. If that occurs, it can not become an issue again for a Sinn Fein's voice In the Irish Parliament -- took this 3 stage further bv inviting David Trimble to appear before them all to begin a dialogue on unity. With all other parties agreeing, he felt this would be a "first step" toward understanding "the tide of change sweeping across the whole island."

 In response to David Trirnble's referendum challenge. he said at an Easter Rising rally in Monaghan: "We have seen in recent times the beginning of a renewed debate on how Irish unity will be achieved.

welcome debate

 "Republicans welcome this debate and while others have dismissed David Trimble's call for a referendum in the Six Counties next year, we have said that it would provide an opportunitv to focus on the Irish unity debate."

 Sinn Fein have make no wild claims about great electoral success in the offing. Leaders have maintained an air of confidence -- fully borne out by recent poll results -- and they expect similar solid results again.

 Two weeks ago Gerry Adams was certain of one thing; that Caoimhghin O Caolain "will not walk back into Leinster House [Parliament] alone." In part, that will also due to Sinn Fein's opposition to the Nice Treaty (which consolidates the EU over the next 10 vears). It captured the mood in the referendum which secured a resounding 'No' vote.

 Although Sinn Fein has been attacked as an adjunct of a private army -- the IRA -- such scare tactics this far along the cease-fire road are wearing thin. It is more a barometer of Sinn Fein's growing influence and threat to other parties votes than any expectation of a 'takeover' in the Republic that is the issue at this stage.

 But at the heart of it all in the process of reconciliation across communities is how the social and economic divisions are handled. Sinn Fein has a progressive agenda in this respect and younger generations are appreciating this.

 But it is interesting to note that the Irish Republic's foreign affairs minister Brian Cowen also knows what the future is really about. In a speech to the British-Irish Inter-parliamentary body in Dublin on 15 March, he recognised the economic source of division, about which must has still to be done.

 Addressing "unionist concerns for the future" he identified adherence to the equality agenda of the Good Fridav Agreement and impartial tackling of "economic and social marginalisation" as central. He continued. "disadvantaged loyalist and nationalist areas have ultimately more in common than separates them."

 * Sinn Fein has video footage -- shown at a press conference following last Saturday's north Belfast disturbances -- which allegedly catches riot squad officers in the act of beating a Catholic woman with batons.

 They are planning to send it to the northern Ireland police ombudsman. The victim. Donna Miskimmon, said: "I was only trying to protect Christopher, my 15-year-old boy. There was no call for what happened."

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British News

A peace message for Blair and Bush

by Elizabeth Farrell

AROUND 10,000 took to the streets of London last Saturday in a giant demonstration against President Bush's so-called war on terrorism.

 The protest was organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmamentand supported by a wide range of groups, including the Stop the War Coalition, many Labour Party branches, trade unions, Palestinian organisations and political parties including the New Communist Party.

 The march also protested at the savage attacks being conducted by Israel against the Palestinian people and called on the British government to use its influence to urge Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop the violence immediately.

 The march took two hours to complete the route from Hyde Park to a mass rally in Trafalgar Square where more protesters were waiting to swell the ranks.

 Tam Dalyell MP spoke against the proposed new war on Iraq. "Talks with the Iraqi government will be the only way forward," he said, and pointed out the strong and growing opposition to such a war.

 "The West was prepared to talk with Iraq in the 1980s when it was pouring arms into the country in support of its war against Iran," he reminded the rally.

 Alice Mahon MP said: "If Britain backs Star Wars, we will be come a prime target. We have no interest in a new arms race. We must put more money into health, transport and education --- the things this government was elected to do."

 She also said she would oppose a war with Iraq and reported that 141 MPs have signed the Early Day Motion opposing such a war.

 A speaker from the Palestinian Right of Return organisation told the rally about the suffering of Palestinian refugees over the last 50 years and called for pressure to be exerted on the British government to stop supporting Sharon.

 Other speakers warned of the dangers of US imperialist ambitions to take over the world.

 CND vice-president Bruce Kent condemned the Israeli government. He called for the immediate protection of Palestinian civilians and for an end to military assistance to Israel.

 The imperialist governments were, he said, the real terrorists.
 "Take a message to Blair and Bush." he said, "don't start Star Wars. Peace depends on justice. Another world is possible."

 * More than 200 volunteers, including around 50 from Britain, have arrived at Ramallah and two refugee camps in Bethlehem to act as "human shields" for Palestinian families.

 The British contingent includes a nurse from Kent and students from Manchester.

 They have joined Americans and other Europeans dispersed among homes near to Yasser Arafat's headquarters and Israeli army tank formations near Bethlehem's Atar and Aida refugee camps.

 Israel has ordered all foreign volunteers and journalists to leave the area after a journalist was shot and wounded while reporting from Ramallah.

 American reporter Anthony Shadeed from the Boston Globe says he was shot in the back near the city's main square by a single sniper shot.

 Scottish lawyer Rory McMillan said he was in the Aida camp to offer non-violent resistance to any Israeli attempt to arrest Palestinians or threaten families.

 "I decided to use my Easter holidays," he said, "to come out with a group and dig up roadblocks and block tanks in the occupied territories.

 "There are 15 or more tanks close by and there's a general expectation they'll move in.

 "The soldiers don't use the streets. They move from house to house, blasting holes in the wall to get through. We're here in the hope they'll hold back if there's a foreign national."

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