The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 5th March, 1999

Greetings to all women in the struggle for peace equality and progess everywhere on
International Women's Day 1999!

Workers of all countries, unite!

Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.

Editorial - Sharing the crumbs.
Lead Story - Resistance kills Israeli general.
Feature - Nursing care should be free.
International - Schroeder bars coalition with PDS.
British News - Union recognision deal at Noons.


Sharing the crumbs

PROPOSALS from the Royal Commission looking into care for the elderly included the suggestion that the nursing and medical element of long-term care should be provided tree of charge to all who need it and that help with accommodation costs should, through means-testing, cover people with capital up to £60,000 instead of the present £16,000 figure.

 The recommendations met with the usual wail from the rich that the country won't be able to afford such measures. Out came the argument that with more people living longer the cost to the taxpayer would be too high to sustain.

 Well, that's how it looks to the very wealthy who don't even want to think about the possibility of increasing tax levels for those on top incomes. They aim to hang on to their huge fortunes by pressing governments into keeping taxes as low as possible and limiting social spending to whatever crumbs they deem can be afforded.

 Even then, it's the policy of the ruling class to ring fence so-called "defence" spending, which bolsters British imperialism as a world power, leaving the other government spending departments to fight over the remaining money.

 This is why libraries are closed, school buildings crumble into disrepair, public sector workers have their pay frozen year upon year whilst there is never the slightest problem in sending multi-million pound aircraft to threaten weaker countries and millions can be poured every year into keeping Trident nuclear submarines plying the oceans to protect us from a non-existent enemy.

 The truth is Britain is among the world's richest and most powerful countries and it can easily afford decent cam forits elderly citizens. The problem is that nearly all the wealth, that is created by the working class, is in private hands.

 Not content with living parasitically off our backs the wealthy want to make us tighten our belts even further by taking out private insurance schemes to fund our needs in later life. That, they think, is preferable to squeezing any more from their own deep pockets. This solution has the added benefit of boosting the profits of the giant insurance companies and other financial institutions -- so, the rich win twice over.

 But, the capitalist system is full of contradictions and one of those is that workers cannot afford the premiums on private pension, insurance and health care policies because the same capitalist bosses who want us to buy these schemes are also hell bent on keeping wages to the minimum -- not to mention those without a job at all.

 Capitalism can never meet the needs of society because it is driven solely by the capitalists' desire to make ever rising profits. It has no other purpose.

 Only a socialist society can lift us up from the floor scrambling for crumbs to a position where we collectively own the bakery. Then human needs will no longer be met from the left-overs but will be planned and adequately funded.

 But that fundamental change has still to be fought for and won and we have to also address ourselves to what can be achieved today.

 Capitalism will not give up anything without a fight -- but some reforms can be wrenched from its tight fist and the way to tackle it is through the taxation system.

 Over the last twenty years the levels of direct income tax have been slashed for top earners to such an extent that the burden of taxation has been lifted from the shoulders of the rich and put onto those of the poor -- both through the introduction of VAT and through spending cuts.

 We need to demand that these changes are put into reverse and a system of progressive taxation is introduced. This would mean those on the lowest incomes would pay no tax at all. The levels of tax would progressively increase so that those with most paid most. Working class people, including those in decent jobs, would have the tax burden reduced while the very wealthy would pay considerably more.

 We fully support the proposal in the Royal Commission report to provide free medical and nursing care for all who need it and call for proper state funding of all aspects of care for elderly people. We reject all suggestions of private insurance schemes and call for changes in the taxation policy of the government. The rich should be made to pay!

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Lead Story

Resistance kills Israeli general

by Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent
LEBANESE RESISTANCE forces killed Israel's commander in southern Lebanon last weekend triggering a new round of fierce fighting in the occupied border strip and putting the whole question of Israel's continued occupation top of the agenda in the run-up to the general election in May.

 Brigadier-General Erez Gerstein was killed along with four of his men in a road-side bomb attack on his convoy in southern Lebanon last Sunday. General Gerstein was the highest-ranking officer killed in south Lebanon in more than 16 years.

 The others killed included a military spokesman in occupied Lebanon, the officer responsible for the civilian administration, and a military correspondent from Israel Radio. The attack, by the Lebanese Hizbullah (Party of God) resistance, follows an ambush last week in which three Israeli officers were killed.

 But while the guns blaze in Lebanon a bigger political row is erupting in Israel fueled by the mounting public demand to end the conflict. In Tel Aviv peace demonstrators called for an immediate withdtawail. On the hustings Labourleader General Ehud Barak followed up with a pledge to bring the troops home within a year of taking office. And the Netanyahu government which ordered reprisal air-raids on Monday but called them off the next day is in disarray over the question.

 Benyamin Netanyahu, who is fighting for the retun of his hardline Zionist Likud bloc, responded to the Labour pledge by saying he too would end the conflict within a year -- followed almost immediately by a call from his own foreign minister. Genenl Ariel Sharon, to postpone the elections to form a national unity government to also pull the troops out of Lebanon.

 Sharon evidently failed to consult his boss. Netanyahu rejected the idea which not surprisingly has no takers with Labour either. Sharon, who draws much of his support from the Arab-hating settlers, is a noted hard-liner -- except on Lebanon. The architect of the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 when he was defence minister in a previous Likud administration, has long had second thoughts about remaining in the south. Recently he's called for a unilateral phased pull-out. Now he's moved to try and stem the swing to Labour in the election race.

 Netanyahu, of course, knows that it's impossible to stop the election. It would require a majority in the Knesset which he's not going to get given Labour's opposition.

 The Labour move tactically puts Likud on the spot. Labour want to bag the peace vote though their leaders are not prepared to go as far as the peace campaigners want on the question of the West Bank. Lebanon is a safer issue. No-one wants to stay -- not even Netanyahu these days -- and the only question is how to get out without losing face.

 For Israelis voting on 17 May will be a complex matter. At the moment Labour is slightly ahead of Likud in the opinion polls but the outcome will largely be decided by the strength of the smaller parties which both big blocks will court to form coalitions.

 When Likud won last time round Netanyahu said he would bring peace and security. Two years on with the peace talks stalled and the Lebanon war raging with a new intensity the Likud leader has got nothing to show for it. His strategy on Lebanon is based on two fallacies -- one that the Lebanese government and the resistance will eventually sign a separate peace with Israel without Syria and two, that Syria will make peace without the return of the Golan Heights.

 Labour says it can reach agreement with Syria. That remains to be seen. And resistance in Lebanon will continue until the last Israeli soldier goes.

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Nursing care should be free
by Caroline Colebrook
 THE LONG-awaited Royal Commission on long-term healthcare for the elderly last week reported that all necessary nursing care should be provided free of charge -- but that those in residential care homes should still be obliged to pay for accommodation costs on a means-tested basis.

 The results of this commission, which was ordered by Health Secretary Frank Dobson in December 1997, were pre-empted by a landmark court ruling earlier this year which said that the North and East Devon Health Authority must continue to provide free nursing care for life for a woman with severe disabilities living in a care home.

 The Royal Commission looked at many examples of healthcare provision across the world.

 The United States uses private insurance to meet the needs of the elderly both for care in their own homes and in residential nursing homes.

 But through low wages and job insecurity only a minority of people can afford good long-term care insurance and many of them lapse along the way.

 Not counting those who die before they can claim, around 50 per cent of policies lapse within five years and 75 per cent within 15 years.

 And the situation is complicated by those who are most likely to need to claim -- those who think they are likely to become ill -- being the majority of those who take out policies while these are the very people that insurance companies try to screen out.

 This ends up with those who need it most having least cover.

 The US has also pioneered "partnership" schemes involving the insurance companies working with the state Medicaid system to cover longer and more expensive terms of care.

 But the commission found, these have "failed the market test". In four states, with a combined elderly population of 7.2 million, only 30,000 of these policies were bought.

 The insurance industry regards long-term care insurance as its "riskiest product" because a high proportion of policy holders claim eventually and the costs are high.

 So the commission decided: "It seems prudent to conclude that public sources will continue to bear the larger proportion of the risk of long-term care."

 Germany has recently adopted a new system funded by a 1.7 per cent earnings tax which will rise to 2.4 per cent by 2040.

 Denmark provides free home help care to the one in five pensioners assessed as needing it. It is paid for from higher taxes but the Danes seem happy to pay.

 And the commission found that the concept of what is a sustainable system varied enormously from one country to another.

 It said: "It would appear that sustainability is a fairly elastic concept, or at least nationally specific. ...

 "In any country, perhaps people will be willing to support systems delivering good benefits and reluctant to prop up poor systems."

 New Zealand operates a means-tested system that penalises all who have more than £2,000 savings.

 All systems -- but particularly the private insurance-based schemes -- hit very hard at carers, who give up their own years as earners to provide free care at home to an elderly spouse or relative, only to see the house and other savings taken up in paying for extra nursing care.

 The report said: "In effect they pay twice, once by giving free care and then again by loss of inheritance.

 The commission was chaired by Sir Stewart Sutherland, Principal of Edinburgh University. Although it makes broad recommendations, it does not give a definite plan of action.


 Such a plan will take time to draw up and all seas of changes should be made before it is ever on the statute book.

 The recommendations are to charge means-tested "hotel" rates for those in long-term nursing home and residential care but that all nursing and health care provided by these homes must be free.

 Before the Thatcher years, elderly patients needing permanent nursing care were held in geriatric hospitals. Those in for longer than a few months handed over their pension hooks to cover their "board and lodging' and were given back a small sum for personal spending.

 In other words their basic pension entitlement was taken as being obviously enough to feed, clothe and house them.

 They were never expected to sell their homes to cover board and lodging costs but this will continue now as it did under the Tories.

 It is significant that now a single elderly person is expected to feed and accommodate themselves outside care homes for around £64 a week -- the basic states pension.

 Yet once they get into a residential home, where all sorts of economies of scale are possible, the price of their basic food and lodging -- without nursing care taken into account -- Suddenly escalates to around £350 a week, the average charge that local authorities ate prepared to pay to private homes to accommodate those whose have no savings or whose savings are spent.

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Schroeder bars coalition with PDS
By Xinhua
GERMAN CHANCELLOR Gerhard Schroeder reined in the leftist leader of his own Social Democrats on Tuesday by declaring a formal ban on any alliance with the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the main heir to the old East German Socialist Unity Party.

 "With me there will be no cooperation with the PDS in the Bundestag (parliament)," Schroeder told Social Democratic (SPD) parliamentary deputies at a meeting in Bonn.

 The Chancellor said there was still a gulf between the PDS and the SPD on major issues, including domestic security and economic, foreign and defence policy.

 Calls by the SPD chairman and German finance minister, Oskar Lafontaine, for the party to use the PDS as a normal coalition partner in the future had angered some SPD members, not to mention outrage from the conservatives.

 Lafontaine last weekend disavowed a 1994 Social Democrat declaration, which formally bars co-operation with the PDS, as "outdated" and "old hat".

 Despite the declaration the SPD has set up a "red-red" coalition with the PDS in the eastern Mecklenburg-West Pomeranian state and runs a de facto SPD-PDS coalition in Saxony-Anhalt.

 But hypocritical as it may appear, these governments were meant to be exceptions to SPD policy of always first seeking other possible partners in government at a regional state or federal level.

 At the local government level in eastern Germany there is frequent co-operation between the Social Democrats and the former communists. The conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) also works with the PDS in numerous local east German administrations.

 Schroeder insisted that the SPD should continue to decide on co-operation with the PDS on a case-by-case basis at local level.

 The PDS remains the third strongest political force in eastern Germany but has almost no support in the west. Nevertheless, some SPD leaders in eastern Germany warn that working with the PDS at any level will scare away moderates and mainly benefit the former communists in the long run. Saxony's SPD last weekend voted to bar future co-operation with the PDS at the state level.

 And criticism continues to rain down on Lafontaine's bid to forge closer ties with the PDS. The Social Democratic president of Germany's federal parliament, Wolfgang Thierse, said that PDS attempts to justify the Berlin Wall meant the party could not be considered as a federal coalition partner.

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British News

Union recognision deal at Noons
 MORE than 400 workers at Noons food factory in Southall, west London have won the right to be represented by general workers' union GMB.

 The recognition deal was signed last Wednesday by GMB general secretary John Edmonds and Noons managing director G K Noon. It means the union can negotiate on behalf of the workers on issues of pay, conditions and terms of employment.

 The Noons workforce fought a long and hard campaign last year to gain the right to union recognition. They were supported in their struggle by trade unionists in the GMB and many other unions, local people in west London, many Labour MPs, and labour movement organisations.

 The deal is one of the first to be signed following the publication of the government's Fairness at Work Bill.

 From the start, there was an overwhelming majority of workers at the plant who wanted to be represented by the union. There were never any doubt that a ballot would have easily achieved the percentage of "yes" votes required in the Bill.

 Management knew that when the new legislation came in the union would win if it brought forward a case for recognition.

 But while the legislation certainly helped, if was the determined effort and struggle undertaken by the Noon workers that ensured the battle was won.

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