The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 6th July 2001

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Editorial - Free Milosevich.
Lead Story - Renewed attack on the disabled.
Feature - TGWU warns Blair over privatisation.
International - End Unionist diktat, defend Irish peace.
British News - Downturn chill hits Yorkshire.

Editorial

Free Milosevich

FORMER Yugoslav head of state, Slobodan Milosevich, should be released from prison now! His detention in The Hague is illegal, his arrest the result of a bounty payment by the United States government and the proposed trial nothing but a travesty of justice.

 The truth is the last thing that will come out in this farce of a trial because if it did the leaders of the Nato states would find themselves standing in the dock.

 Not only did Nato launch a cruel bombing war against Yugoslavia in which thousands died and the infrastructure of the country was devastated but the United States and other Nato member states set the whole conflict going in the first place by covertly encouraging and assisting reactionary nationalist elements to break the country up.

 The Milosevich government sought to uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the country. This included the use of the country's armed forces to overcome the western-aided cessessionists and, like all civil wars, it cost military and civilian lives.

 When the Nato bombing stopped, the United States put their dollars to work helping the most US-tolerant opponents of the Milosevich government to scrape in at the election.

 Then the US pursued its revenge against those who had so staunchly defended their country from the ravages of western capital and its war-machine -- Nato. Milosevich was bought for cash --- a US bribe instead of the war reparations Nato should have paid in any case.

 And if this travesty of a trial is allowed to go on how could it possibly be considered valid? How could anyone believe the prosecution's evidence when it includes what the US says are its own intelligence intercepts? In the light of such a history of clandestine activity by CIA operatives and other external agents, how could any evidence be guaranteed to be untainted?

 Above all it is a calculated insult to set up an international war crimes tribunal -- the first since Nuremberg -- and bring before it a leader of a people that had, with tremendous heroism, fought the Nazis and stood along side the Allies in the partisan army during the Second World War.

 This court does not exist, as Nato claims, to punish war criminals and deter future war crimes. It is there to mete out revenge on those who defy the imperialist powers and to deter others from following that path.

 It will never be used to bring to justice those who ordered the spraying of Vietnam with Agent Orange, napalm and defoliant. It will not be used to punish the likes of Ariel Sharon for his part in the massacre of Palestinians. It will not put on trial those who order the relentless, daily assaults against Iraq. It is an imperialist court set up to serve imperialist interests.

 The court should be closed and Milosevich freed. The US, Britain and the rest of Nato should leave the sovereign people of Yugoslavia to run their own affairs, including their own justice system.

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Lead Story

Renewed attack on the disabled

by Daphne Liddle

INJURED and disabled workers will be forced to prove they really are unable to work on a regular basis or lose their benefit under new proposals outlined last Wednesday by Alistair Darling, the Work and Pensions Secretary.

 The move is driven by the Treasury which hopes to save a lot of money through cutting benefits to the most vulnerable people in the country.

 There has been a myth circulating in Government circles since the days in the 80s when Tory Peter Lilley was Social Security Secretary that a large proportion of people claiming to be disabled are frauds and a succession of Ministers have set out to try to show them up.

 Claimants receiving sickness benefit are paid at a slightly higher rate than the unemployed and it is this difference that the Treasury begrudges. The myth arose partly from the Government's own strategy in the 80s and 90s to cover up soaring unemployment figures by registering some of the older or less fit unemployed as sick.

 The Tories scrapped invalidity benefit and replaced it with incapacity benefit. To receive this a claimant has to pass the "all-work" test which means being examined by a Government doctor to prove that your incapacity is real. Previously a report from the claimant's family doctor was enough.

  The Government had problems finding enough doctors willing to do this dirty work and it cost more to operate than it saved because such a tiny proportion of claimants were disallowed.

  Nevertheless thousands of disabled people were forced through this humiliating process. Some, whose condition was plainly not likely to improve those in wheelchairs for example - were excused further tests.

 Others, whose conditions were not so obvious or were intermittent, like some types of mental illness, have had to endure these all-work tests on a regular basis.

 When Labour came to power in 1997, a new round of testing was introduced and again found very few frauds. Labour also put the incapacity benefit on a means tested basis.

  Now all claimants will face regular testing, in case they have recovered and kept it quiet from the powers that be.

  Under Mr Darling's plans, the benefit will be paid for a fixed period only. At the end of this period, there will be a fresh assessment and claimants who fall will be transferred to job seekers' allowance and forced to look for work.

 Currently incapacity benefit is paid at £69.50 a week while job seekers' allowance is at £53.05 a week.

 He said the Government is adopting a fresh approach because "we cannot allow people to be written off, or allow them to write themselves off".

  The real result will be that many vulnerable claimants will be forced over and over again through these humiliating and complex procedures to prove they are entitled to a pittance.

discouraged

 Some will be discouraged and perhaps this is the real motive behind the changes, to save money by making it so difficult to claim that the sick and disabled are put off. One claimant told the New Worker: "They might just as well tell us to crawl away and die".

 But there is some way to go before these changes are in operation. There is a big question over whether the benefits agency has enough staff to cope with the increased number of assessments this will mean or whether there are enough willing doctors.

  And there is likely to be strong opposition to the change from disabled groups and from the unions, not to mention Labour's own backbenchers. It is not an easy measure for them to defend to their constituents.

 The Blair clique has already had a few knock backs and been forced to tone down some policies. It could be this proposal will do yet more damage to its grip on the leadership of the Labour Party.

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Feature

TGWU warns Blair over privatisation

by Caroline Colebrook

BILL MORRIS, the general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, last week told the union's annual conference in Brighton he will not hesitate to point out the faults in Government policy.

 In particular he attacked Government proposals for a major "reform" of public services -- by privatisation. "We will defend our public services because our members need it," he said.

 He also outlined a series of employment rights the union is demanding. These include the right to secondary picketing and protection from dismissal at work.

 "Let us not forget, the first term Labour government was only the first. It was not the last word. In the trade union movement we have unfinished business yet to do to secure trade union rights."

  But he was quick to end press rumours that the TGWU is considering withdrawing its financial backing from Labour in favour of the Liberal Democrats.

 He said that although he was critical of the Government he also welcomed its achievements and insisted that Labour, in spite of its faults, "is the only card game in town".

 He continued: "As far as this union is concerned, I say today there will be no divorce and no separation. I say my party right or wrong but I reserve the right to tell my party when it's wrong.

 Meanwhile the Government has been forced to slow the rate of its mad dash to privatise the entire public sector after talks with union leaders the previous week revealed the strength of union opposition to the privatisation of members'jobs and opposition from within his own party.

 The union leaders reported that the meeting had resolved little and now Tony Blair wants to hold regular Downing Street meetings in an attempt to defuse the conflict.

  He has suggested meetings with union chiefs on a "semi-official basis" five or six times a year.

 Mr Blair has said he will press on with reforming the public sector but is now playing down the extent of the privatisation he plans and last week told the House of Commons that privatisation is only a small part of his plans for improving public services.

 This of course is ducking and diving. The Government still denies that Private Finance Initiative deals and Public Private Partnerships amount to privatisation when they definitely are backdoor methods of privatisation.

 He has said the private sector could "help" in the management of surgical units while the staff would continue to be employed by the NHS.

 This is still unacceptable. We have already seen that the bringing of business attitudes into the NHS has led to he cutting of the number of emergency care beds that "did not pay for themselves" because they were only in use a few times a year. The result has been desperately ill and dying patients being ferried hundreds of miles around the country in search of intensive care beds in times of crisis.

  But the unions are at last showing their strength and Blair is being forced to notice.

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International

End Unionist diktat, defend Irish peace

by Steve lawton

ATTEMPTS by unionists to dictate the terms of how decades of conflict in the north of Ireland should be settled, have once again been brought into sharp relief: On 1 July Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble resigned as First Minister of the devolved Legislative Assembly.

 He had long threatened this course of action, supposedly to put pressure on the IRA to begin actual destruction of its weapons. The deputy's positjon, held by the moderate nationalist SDLP's Seamus Mallon, automatically falls. David Trimble called on Sir Reg Empey to do his bidding in the interim.

 The chorus of disapproval of the IRA has now also been voiced by the Irish Premier Bertie Ahern and by Seamus Mallon. Perhaps he is still smarting from the SDLP's drubbing by Sin Fein in the general elections.

 There are now officially six intense weeks ahead for the British and Irish Governments to sort this out with the parties concerned. Prime ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern are due to engage in discussions next week.

 If that fails, British recourse to suspension of the Assembly and a return to direct rule, or to begin new elections, would further delay resolving nationalist grievances. It's hardly a signal to encourage calm as Protestant parades hit the streets and loyalists continue to attack Catholics with impunity.

 Canadian General John de Chastelain, head of the decommissioning body, duly delivered his latest report last weekend. But David Trimble was already sure that it would confirm the IRA had not acceded to his demands to begin destroying its weapons.

 He knew this because the IRA has by now clearly demonstrated that it does not respond to diktat. Even so, it has been capable of big shifts in order to preserve the broader framework of the Good Friday Agreement.

 Contrary to all the divining of the 'last word' from the Chastelain report that the IRA has failed to live up to its obligations, the IRA actually is acting in line with the Agreement, whereas the UUP is not.

 The unionist approach is transparent: Is there not a massive arms market throughout the world, or are IRA arms somehow finitely timelocked into a corner of the island of Ireland?

 Similarly, though unionists have a mental block in ever acknowledging its existence, loyalist paramilitary weapons are just as renewable. The point here, of course, is the big shadow of protection that British military occupation provides -- the unspoken underpinning of loyalist belligerence.

 The loyalist Ulster Freedom Fighters, while their leader Johnny Adair and now his lieutenant Gary Smith is in prison, are refusing to engage in decommissioning. And the Ulster Volunteer Force wants to see the IRA act first.

 The Chastelain report makes it clear that the IRA is positively engaged, in that it maintains the July 1997 ceasefire, has opened some arms dumps to inspectors, reaffirmed circumstances in which they would put weapons beyond use and, it said, that the IRA noted Chastelain's need to know how this will occur.

 The Agreement is a minimal requirement for progress. It has particular weight since it was popularly ratified in a cross community referendum which backed the document by over 70 per cent in May 1998.

 But the scene was set four years earlier when the IRA initiated its briefly interrupted ceasefire. It is the combination of those two linked conditions -- the Good Friday Agreement and the ceasefire -- that hardline unionism is battling.

 Together, it spells the end of the unionist veto in favour of a more collective approach to life, work and development across communities and boundaries. The process must, at some stage, begin to connect all of Ireland.

 This is the real bone of contention because unionism, with full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, is thereby prevented from ruling in the old way. Sinn Fein is an all-Ireland party and it is set to make further electoral gains in the Republic in the near future.

 But the strength of that unionist resistance is a direct reflection of the often two-faced political sharp-practise displayed by the British state. That is particularly shown in the mangling of the Patten policing commission proposals last year that have yet to be adequately addressed.

 The British military occupation and its political infrastructure has barely moved with the three-year-old Good Friday Agreement.

Loyalist paramilitaries are running amok while the RUC, as of old, fails to prevent the rising ride of anti-Catholic loyalist raiding and bombing. Republicans argue much of it involves tacit approval, if not collusion, between the RUC and loyalists.

 The persistent unionist accusation is made that while the IRA has guns it cannot abide being in the same government with Sinn Fein.

 Two of its ministers have long been illegally banned by unionists from attending cross-border ministerial meetings crucial to their remit as ministers. So Sinn Fein, in one way or another, has been prevented from maximising its participation that is its elected right in any case.

 It is not the IRA that is at issue, it is the unionist veto and the British Government's persistent stringing out and near sabotage of critical aspects of the process. A dangerous convergence of forces could emerge if the British Government prevaricates.

 If it aims to use unionism to limit the inexorable grassroots advance of Sinn Fein, by allowing hardline unionism to tear up the Good Friday Agreement in all but name, the British Government will be paving the way to the past.

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British News

Downturn chill hits Yorkshire

TWO MAJOR reports released last week indicate that engineering and manufacturing in Yorkshire and the northeast are facing increasingly gloomy prospects. The number of businesses failing in the region is climbing steadily.

 The Engineering Employers Federation in Yorkshire and the Humber reported widespread job cuts and falling orders among its 400 members.

 And the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) produced further evidence that manufacturing is facing difficult times and blames the strong pound for falling orders and employment levels.

 Meanwhile the Confederation of British Industry is calling on the Bank of England to cut borrowing rates again to head off a full blown recession.

 The Engineering Employers Federation has cut its growth forecasts. It now predicts just a one per cent increase in manufacturing growth this year, the cutting of 153,000 jobs of which 56,000 will be in engineering.

 EEF chief economist Stephen Radley said: "It's a mistake to believe the UK economy alone is powering ahead on all fronts.

  "The state of the world economy will further stifle growth. Services will dampen inflation, with oil prices coming down and consumer confidence will start to weaken once unemployment begins to increase."

 The EEF survey showed the sharpest reversals in electronics and electrical equipment.

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