The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 6th November, 1998

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Editorial - Eurofit.
Lead Story - Gordon Brown defies gravity.
Feature - Health market madness.
International - New Mid-East war threat.
British News - Convicted murderers welcomed back by army.

Editorial

Eurofit

  THE Asian economic crisis, which sprang from the  deepening worldwide capitalist crisis, has prodded the  leading capitalist states into speeding up a number of  planned reforms.

  But, being capitalist reforms, they are designed only to  advance and strengthen the capitalist class at the expense  of working people everywhere.

  On a world scale this includes the already-signalled  imposition of MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment) -- an unequal international trade and investment  policy; the growth of economic blocks such as the United  States-dominated North American Free Trade Area  (NAFTA); and the various self-serving proposals coming  from the meetings of the G7 group of leading capitalist  countries.

  The purpose is to legitimise the existing dictatorship of  the imperialist powers and put the entire non-socialist  world at the disposal of the leading capitalist players to do  with as they wish.

  In Europe the crisis has increased the pace of another capitalist reform -- the moves to create a single European state. This aims to strengthen the European capitalist class  with regards competition from other capitalist centres -- chiefly the United States. And a stronger European capitalist class also means the class struggle in Europe will intensify as anti-working class measures are increasingly applied.

  The conditioning process for this change has been going on for some time -- the profusion of European Union flags on public buildings, the elevation of European football, the opening of the Channel tunnel, the showbiz style launches of sample Euro banknotes and coins and even the apparently trivial decision to continue with the  Eurovision song contest for years and years despite its utter awfulness.

  For the British ruling class it has meant preparing us for a number of constitutional changes in order to make  Britain fit more comfortably into Europe.

  This includes allowing the media to do an about face and go from reporting Royalty stories in a sycophantic, awe struck manner, to being allowed to wallow in every  grubby little corner of their personal lives. Having shown the monarchy to have feet of clay it will be easier to win public approval for trimming the monarch's constitutional powers when the time comes.

  Labour's plan to reform the House of Lords is another part of the Eurofit scheme. Of course we want to see an end to the archaic House of Lords -- a body stuffed with  hereditary peers and Anglican bishops.

 But we should be  aware that the present proposals only represent another part of the capitalist reform package and that a progressive  process of change will only come about if working class pressure is applied.

  And now another part of the capitalist agenda is revealed as the spotlight falls on Roy Jenkin's document on electoral reform which advocates changing our voting system to one of proportional representation.

  This has long been a major plank of Liberal-Democrat policy and it is no surprise that Roy Jenkins should think  PR is a good idea. But in the past both Labour and Conservative parties have been totally opposed and paid little attention to the idea.

  But now, despite Labour's comfortable majority in  Parliament, a big debate is being stirred up and small cracks are appearing in both major parties on this issue.

  There are two main reasons why the ruling class may now want to change to proportional representation: Firstly they are dismayed by the size of Labour's election victory. Though they might be comforted by the right-wing nature of the present Labour Party leadership, they will be uneasy about a party with organised links to the trade union  movement having such a huge majority.

  These are of course the very reasons why our party urged voting Labour at the general election.

  Proportional representation, on the other hand, would tend towards smaller majorities -- governments would most likely be comprised of right or centre-right elements either as fragile governments, too weak to advance working class interests even if they wanted to, or as coalitions even further removed from the influence of organised  labour.

  The second reason is the Eurofit. Most of the EU countries have PR already and European capital requires Britain to be brought into line.

  Arguments that PR is more democratic because small parties may get a better chance of winning a few seats ignores the reality that it is winning a government that counts if we are to gain any reforms at all for the working class -- and to win socialism and real fundamental change we shall need a revolution!

  Back to index

Lead Story

Gordon Brown defies gravity

by Daphne Liddle
 
CHANCELLOR of the Exchequer Gordon Brown last Tuesday surprised the country in his pre-Budget report with his apparent confidence that this country will float through the coming global recession virtually unscathed.

 He claimed he expected economic growth in Britain to continue next year by no less than one per cent and would be back to at least 2.25 per cent by the new millennium.

 This was a slight downward revision on his original forecast made last year.

 He contemplated a shallow recession followed by a quick and "robust" recovery and planned some increases in spending on education and health.

 And he claims that all this is possible because he has kept to the tight fiscal policy and public spending rules he inherited from the discredited Tory govenunent.

 Mr Brown seems to believe that recessions are caused only by a lack of confidence among capitalists and that if all the "doom and gloom" merchants are ignored, everything will be all right.

 Recessions and depressions are caused by crises of over-production, when the capitalist world is stock-piled with goods the markets cannot absorb.

 This does not mean people do not need or want the goods -- millions live without even the basic necessities of life. But the poor and the exploited and underpaid victims of capitalism cannot afford to buy enough of the goods produced. Production therefore exceeds consumption.

 How does Brown think British exporters of goods or services are going to stay in business in this situation? Optimism won't pay their running costs or protect their workers from the dole queues.

 This is the craziness of the capitalist system, where production is geared only to making profit, not to meeting human needs.

 The Tory press has accused Mr Brown of whistling in the dark, if he thinks that Britain can escape the economic turmoil that is sweeping the rest of the world. But in doing so they admit without realising it that capitalism cannot be made to work, whatever policy the government follows.

 Mr Brown announced an extra £250 million for the National Health Service this winter. Without this we would have once again seen the disgraceful sight of accident and emergency patients accommodated on trolleys in hospital corridors awaiting a free bed that we witnessed two years ago under the Tories. Most NHS trusts are yet again in financial crisis as winter approaches.

 Last year the government forked out £300 billion to avert the same sort of crisis and just succeeded thanks to mild weather.
 

depends

 This year much still depends on the weather this winter and if it is severe this will increase pressure for emergency admissions.

 And a lot of Gordon Brown's predictions on public spending depend on his forecast that social security bills will fall. He expects savings from that guarter to reach £3.75 billion over the next three years.

 But if the coming recession throws thousands of workers out of their jobs -- as most economic forecasters expect -- the social security bill will rise.
 

hints

 But Brown's hints that this is where he intends to find his rabbit-out-of-the-hat money will bring a chill to the elderly, the disabled, single parents and other vulnerable groups.

 Earlier last week Social Security Secretary Alistair Darling was telling the disabled he was going to increase the pressure on disabled people to find jobs. Like single parents, they are going to be compelled to attend job interviews to assess what they could do.

 He didn't say where the jobs are going to come from in the middle of a recession.

 Last week Eddie George, governor of the Bank of England, was telling northerners that the sacrifice of their jobs was worth it to prevent inflation in the south.

 Now Mr Brown is indirectly telling the poorest and most vulnerable that they are going to have to pay for his policies.

 And they are not the only ones. Mr Brown is keeping his tight rein on all public spending. That means public sector workers are going to continue with wage levels that are declining in real terms and have done so for around a decade now.

 This is not acceptable, not while Britain's fat cats are still awarding themselves fantastic pay rises and the rich are getting ever richer.

 It is time to abandon Tory economic policies -- that even the Tories now recognise will not stop the coming recession, and start taxing the filthy rich.

 Industry and the unions are still calling for cuts in interest rates. This will help a little in the short term but will not have much effect on the coming storm.

 In the end itis the failed capitalism system that has to go. Socialism is the future.

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Feature

Health market madness
 
by Caroline Colebrook
 
 THE COST of operations under the National Health Service varies by as much as 600 per cent from one hospital trust to another, according to tables published last week.

 This is the effect of the market values, introduced by the Tories in 1991.

 The research found that the cost of vasectomies ranges from £148 to £1,000 and cataract surgery from £337 to £1,695. Hip replacement varies from £1,834 to £6,494 and appendectomy from £468 to £2,l08.

 Health Minister Alan Milbum said: "This new information reveals unexplained and unacceptable discrepancies in costs between hospitals."

 But wide differences were predieted by those who opposed the Tory changes to the NHS. They arise, at least in part, from the debt legacies each hospital trust inherited when it was set up.

 The land and the buildings the hospitals stand on was transferred from government Department of Health ownership to the ownership of the individual trusts but they were expected to pay for it on a mortgage basis.

 The costs of this land varied enormously from one part of the country to another. Generally speaking those trusts based in central London or other major town centres inherited bigger debt burdens than those out of town.

 And of course running costs for the hospitals also vary with the local cost of living. Again the London hospitals are the most burdened.

 It is not surprising then that the hospitals that charge most for their treatments are on the whole those based in London or other major urban centres.

 And some of the most expensive hospitals are those that specialise in very complex treatments, for example the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery. Liverpool, the United Leeds teaching Hospitals and the Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford.

Stephen Thornton. chief executive ofthe NHS Confederation, which represents the trusts, said the differences in the tables were misleading because of differences in accounting methods and the way in which hospital accountants apportion overhead costs to each operation.

 This is all the more reason to call on the Labour governnent to undo the damage done by the Tories and remove the ethics of the market-place from healthcare.

 NHS patients should get mom or less the same high standard of care wherever they live. This can only be done if resources are pooled and central planning is restored and the hospitals liberated from the ludicrous burdens of debt they now carry.

 Forcing them to compete on prices charged to health authorities or fund-holding doctors will not help the patients.

 It will force hospitals to cut back on care levels for patients who have no control over where they are treated. They wait long enough for treatment and are in no position to turn down an appointment and insist on going to some other hospital. Patients are not customers with choice and never have been.

  The week before the tables were published, the NHS Confederation warned that many hospitals will findit hard to cope this winter unless more money is made available.

 Last year Health Secretary Frank Dobson made an extra £300 million available and this combined with mild weather helped to prevent the scenes of the winter before -- the last under a Tory government -- with elderly patients waiting days on trolleys in hospital corridors for a free bed for them to be admitted.

 Around three quarters of trusts said they thought it very likely that patients in accident and emergency units will be delayed before being allocated a bed. And two thirds said that waiting times for some patients will be likely to rise.

 As we go to press. Chancellor Gordon Brown has just said he will make £250 million available to the NHS this winter.

*  An independent inquiry by the Health Advisory Service 2000 published last week into NHS care for elderly patients showed that their care does not match that of younger patients.

 The wards for them are more often in a state of disrepair with shortages of basic equipment and supplies. Junior nurses are often forced to do the work of more senior staff because of shortages.

 Food and drink are often of poor quality and staff do not have time to help patients who cannot feed themselves or need special diets.

 There is a lack of privacy for patients as they wash and use the toilet. Nursing staff are under heavy pressure with huge workloads.

 The report put forward a timetable for action, calling on hospital chief executives to ensure clean sheets and decent food and drink for all patients.

 Standards of care for the elderly should be published and monitored and delays on admission should end.
 

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International

New Mid-East war threat

by Our Middle East Afairs Correspondent
 
 SAUDI ARABIA has told the Americans that they will not allow Western troops to use their territory for any attack on Iraq while Arab diplomatic efforts are now in top gear to try and defuse the current crisis over the UN weapons inspectors. But Iraq remains defiant in the face of new Anglo-American threats of force unless Baghdad backs down.

 Iraq's frustration at the lack of progress towards the end of the crippling eight-year old lethal blockade of their country exploded again last week when they halted all co-operation with the UNSCOM arms inspectors.
 

obligations

 Iraq has made it clear that it has fulfilled all its obligations following the end of the Gulf War and unless progress is made in ending the criminal sanctions all UNSCOM activities will be frozen. The freeze will continue "until the United Nations looks at the issue in an honest and positive way, leading to Iraq's right to the lifting of the unjust sanctions".

 Iraq also wants the removal of UNSCOM boss Richard Butler and the restructuring of the inspectorate which they say has acted as a front for American and Israeli espionage.

 The Security Council has called on Baghdad to reverse its position but moves to sanction military action against Iraq are being blocked by Russia, France and People's China. This has not stopped the threats from British and American imperialism.

Following the American lead Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said in a Commons statement that "We remain ready to use all options. We have 12 Tornados already in the Gulf".
 

anger at West

 The Arab league is calling on Iraq to quickly respond to reach a compromise over the UNSCOM issue -- as has been done successfully in the past. But the underlying problem -- the fact that whatever Iraq does the blockade continues relentlessly -- has still to be tackled.

 And throughout the Arab world there is growing anger at the farcical Middle East "peace process" and the West's refusal to enforce their own brokered deals.

 Israel is still stalling on the "Wye Plantation" agreement which provides for a fnrther 13 percent pull-back from the West Bank in return for "security" arrangements with the "autonomous" Palestine National Authority.

 Israeli leader Benyamin Netanyahu seems determined to make Palestinian President Yasser Arafat dance the Seven Veils -- piling on demand after demand after formal negotiations have ended. The hard-line Israeli leader wants a hundred named Islamic militants arrested by Arafat's police, he wants unspecified new "guarantees". He wants this, he wants that.

 President Arafat has done his best scores of supporters of the Islamic resistance have been rounded up. He's agreed to give the CIA overlord powers in the "autonomous" zone. And some Israeli peace activists fear that Netanyahu's plan is simply to polarise Palestinian opinion so much that it erupts into civil war -- like it did in Lebanon in the Eighties -- allowing them to scrap the whole "process" in the confusion.
 

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British News

Convicted murderers welcomed back by army
 
 THE BRITISH Army has decided to welcome back into its ranks two Scots Guards after serving only three years of a life sentence for the murder of a Belfast teenager.

 Mark Wright and James Fisher were on patrol duty in the New Lodge area of north Belfast in September 1992 when the patrol stopped and searched 18-yearold Peter McBride.

 The search found he was carrying no weapons. There was an altercation and, after the search, McBride started to run away from the soldiers. Wright and Fisher shot him in the back.

 At their trial they pleaded that they thought he was carrying a "coffee-jar" bomb. But the judge at that court rightly dismissed this because they had just searched him.

 But when they were convicted various right-wing newspapers and celebrities campaigned on their behalf, claiming they had been guilty only of making a mistake while serving their country.

 Peter McBride's mother, Jean, said she was disgusted that they have not only been freed but welcomed back into the army. "It will let people see exactly what we are thought of in northern Ireland," she said.

 Sinn Fein councillor Mick Conlon said: "The decision by the British army shows a blatant disregard for the life of Peter McBride. It legitimises what in effect is a random and brutal killing. He was cruelly gunned down in cold blood."

And Paul O'Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre, which is a civil rights organisation, said: "A young man was searched and found to have nothing on him, and then chased.

 "He was shot dead as he was getting further away, and the message this decision sends to the nationalist community at this time could hardly be clearer."

 And even English mainstream journalists can see the implications of letting these murderers back into the army.

 Roy Greenslade wrote in the Guardian: "Soldiers dealing with unarmed civilians must obey the civil law. If not, then none of us is safe. To loose uniformed teenagers with guns on to our streets and tell them they have a right to kill is an open door to fascism. Yesterday's Army Board decision is therefore scandalous."

 This of course misses the point that the soldiers were not there as police but as part of an illegal army of occupation of part of another country, and engaged in a war to maintain that occupation.

 The republican community in the north of Ireland had expected these men to be released eventually as part of the release of all prisoners on both sides as the peace process continues.

 But these men were released quickly and separate to that process and it was hoped they would not be welcomed back into the army.

 Throughout the last 30 years British security forces have killed 400 residents of the occupied north of Ireland. Only four have ever been convicted and none have served more than six years.

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