The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 7th November 2003

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Lead

CHINOOK DOWN

by Elizabeth Farrell

SIXTEEN US soldiers were killed last week and 21 injured, when a Chinook transport helicopter was shot down – the third one since the war was declared “over” on 1 May.

It was the worst day for the US military since March. Local residents were celebrating. “Tonight we will have a double feast”, said one. “The first feast will be when we break our fast for Ramadan. The second will be in praise of those who struck down our American enemies.”

Armed attacks against US soldiers in Iraq are escalating and getting more organised every day. Twenty-three were killed in the first four days of the month alone.

And the Bush administration last week acknowledged for the first time the role of Saddam Hussein in the organised resistance. George W Bush said on Tuesday that he was “sure he’s trying to stir up trouble”, vowing that US troops will “get him”.

And on Monday Bush insisted that the United States would not run from its “vital mission in Iraq”.

“The enemy in Iraq believes that America will run”, he said in a speech to Alabama businessmen. “That’s why they’re willing to kill innocent civilians, relief workers, coalition troops. America will never run.”

havoc

Bush went on to say that Baath Party members, Saddam supporters and others were trying to create havoc and conditions that would force Anglo-American imperialism to leave the country. “I can’t tell you what he’s doing”, Bush said. “All I can tell you is that he’s not running Iraq. And all I can tell you, as well, there’s a lot of – some people who are upset by the fact that he’s no longer in power.”

But apart from the Shinook incident, eyewitnesses also report that a car bomb exploded in the al-Saydiah district of the capital, hours after another US soldiers was killed and a second wounded when there was an explosion next to them. Also, a soldier was killed on Monday in the northern town of Tikrit, in an attack with a home made bomb. Another was wounded.
  
On Monday three mortars landed in the centre of Baghdad, while on Tuesday huge explosions rocked the capital, with smoke rising from the US compound, a former presidential palace. Two mortars hit the supposedly heavily secured “green zone” surrounding the compound, the Pentagon admitted, wounding four people. An Iraqi guard at the complex commented: “There were a lot of soldiers running around, there was a lot of panic.”

brushed off

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld brushed off the accounts of celebrating Iraqis, saying: “We know that the overwhelming majority of the population of Iraq is in favour of the coalition.” And US civil administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer blamed foreign Islamic extremists for the increase in attacks. He insisted that the anti-American attacks were concentrated in the so-called “sunni-triangle” in the north of Iraq, in the past a stronghold of Saddam’s supporters. “It’s getting worse in the sense that as today we’ve seen, there the enemies of freedom are using more sophisticated techniques to attack our forces,” he said. Bremer demanded that Syria and Iran must “do a much better job of helping us seal that border and keeping terrorists out of Iraq.”

The attacks are clear evidence that the situation is worsening for Anglo-US imperialism every day – and that they cannot cope with the increasing resistance.

escalation

The escalation of attacks is believed to be linked to the recent distribution of Baath Party leaflets, declaring 1 November as a “resistance day” and revealing more attacks over the next three days. The leaflets called in the Iraqi people, mainly workers and students, to go on strikes and stay at home to avoid injuries.  

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Editorials

The Post Office dispute

THE UNNOFFICIAL postal strike that was spreading outwards from London last weekend seems settled for now, with Royal Mail staff back at work clearing the backlog.

 But the dispute is far from over. The Communication Workers’ Union has persuaded them to go back, pending negotiations at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas). That agreement to go back was hard won, under the worst conditions, with the Royal Mail threatening to sue the union if the talks failed. The management has engineered this whole dispute in an effort to break the union.

 Powerful parts of the ruling class in Britain have long wanted the Royal Mail privatised. Adam Crozier was brought in as chief executive to prepare the way with massive cost cutting and job cutting.

 He came from being head of the Football Association where he won himself a reputation for making drastic changes in a badly managed way that caused a lot of ill feeling and lost the FA the respect of many players and managers.

 Since he arrived at the Royal Mail, thousands of jobs have already gone; he wants to cut lots more. But most of all he wants to break the union and drive down wages and conditions for postal workers even lower than they already are.

 His strategy has been to create division by pitting one office against another with divisive performance bonuses and by continual arbitrary changes in working arrangements and conditions. He saw his chance recently when the CWU narrowly lost a ballot for a national strike for better pay. He saw this as a weakness and seized on it.

 At the same time, the London region workers took their perfectly legal strike action last month in support of improved London weighting. But as soon as they returned, Royal Mail managers, in a concerted campaign, began harassing union activists, changing their shifts, terms and conditions overnight.

 It was a deliberate provocation to engineer unofficial walkouts. The CWU, while sympathising with those workers who did walk out, advised against it. To do otherwise would be to walk into Crozier’s trap and allow him to sue the union to bankruptcy.

 Crozier was determined to catch the union out if he could. He wrote to all managers instructing them to spy on workers, eavesdrop on conversations, follow them into pubs, videotape them. He wanted to catch union officers backing the unofficial strikes that were spreading from office to office throughout southern England like wildfire.

 His McCarthyite tactics have enraged not only postal workers but also every trade unionist in Britain. He has threatened the workers that the very existence of the Royal Mail is at stake, that letter post will be replaced by e-mails or that it will be opened to private competition. This would allow commercial firms to cherry pick the most lucrative business services leaving the Royal Mail to provide only the most expensive rural and domestic services. These services would deteriorate and become more expensive.

 But last week’s walkouts showed above all just how much business in London is more dependent than ever on the postal service, in spite of electronic communications.

 Crozier is not going to give up easily. He will continue his campaign of provocation, division and humiliation against the union. There is more bitterness and anger to come. But his secret police tactics would be useless without the Thatcherite anti-union laws that make it illegal for union officers to support unofficial walkouts – however bad the provocation. The whole trade union movement needs to step up its campaign for the repeal of these iniquitous laws.

 Crozier’s union-busting tactics must be stopped. 

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