The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 7th December 2001

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Editorial - Join the protests.
Lead Story - US green light for bloodbath.
Feature - Screens strike widens.
International - Palestinians call for Geneva Convention to be applied.
British News - Union anger at NHS/Bupa deal.
More news and Diary


Join the protests

LEADING hawks in the United States are stepping up their efforts to widen the war.

 The tragic events of 11 September are no justification for the war against Afghanistan. But the imperialist murderers care nothing for the truth and nothing for the lives of people who are already suffering appalling hardship.

 This criminal clique in the US capitalist class now want to use the pretext of 11 September to attack Iraq, Somalia, and others that stand against imperialism.

 No doubt great lies will be dreamed up in the corridors of Washington to slander these countries -- all served up under the cover of unnamed intelligence sources. When the world's media have chewed the lies around a bit the hawks will declare that war is the only option.

 This is the biggest lie of all -- imperialist war is only a good option for capitalists -- it is always a catastrophe for the working class, for the poor and the oppressed peoples of the world.

 The war against Afghanistan has to be stopped, the bombing has to stop and plans for new wars have to be abandoned. Millions of people are joining the protests against these imperialist wars. The US and British flags are frequently burnt in massive demonstrations. And in the US and Britain the peace demonstrations are growing week by week and day by day.

 The world's poorest people are being bombed by the high-tech warplanes of the world's richest country. Refugees facing starvation and absolute destitution are being denied the most basic necessities of life because of the dislocation of war.

 Barefooted children in a land awaiting the snows of winter stare out of our TV screens and we know the US is still bombing the towns and cities these children have fled from and we know our government is still standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the bombers. How can we say nothing?

 Those images of poverty, injury and death are nothing new. US imperialism and its allies have been responsible for such scenes all around the world. US planes once sprayed fleeing children in Vietnam with napalm, they destroyed whole forests and tons of crops with defoliants, they set villages alight with flame-throwers. They bombed cities, ports and towns and strafed field-workers as they walked to work.

 In Korea the US-led forces flattened cities, slaughtered and maimed millions as imperialism tried to impose its will and presence on socialist Asia.

 Imperialist war is today the greatest threat to humanity. In Iraq the US bombs, tipped with depleted Uranium, killed when they fell and then killed again later when the DU dust caused the cancer rate to rocket. Iraqi children are also dying unnecessarily because of US-imposed sanctions.

 And throughout the world millions live in utter poverty because imperialism calls the shots on trade, on borrowing, on economic rights.

 And the US claims to be fighting "terrorism"! It claims to be surprised that it was attacked. It ought to know that almost everywhere else people may have been surprised but there was little need to ask why.

 Britain's government has also got its hands in the same blood bowl and is bringing shame home. We, like millions of decent, peace-loving Americans have to stand up and be counted at this time. We cannot stay silent while people die from cold and hunger as military brass write them off as so much collateral damage or just numbers on a civilian casualty list.

 Join the protests for peace! Say No to the war! Say No to the hawks!

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Lead Story

US green light for bloodbath

by our Arab affairs correspondent

AMERICAN IMPERIALISM has given Israel the green light to launch wave after wave of terror attacks against defenceless Palestinian civilians in another futile attempt to crush the resistance to their brutal occupation.

 Full of rage and hatred, the Sharon government is talking of general war, urged on by Zionist settler fanatics who are clamouring for the assassination of Yasser Arafat and the rest of the Palestinian leadership.

 Over 150 Palestinian civilians, including 60 children, were wounded in waves of air-attacks from Zionist helicopter gunships and warplanes this week in revenge for resistance actions in Jerusalem and Haifa which killed 25 Israelis and wounded hundreds more.

 With the full backing of Anglo-American imperialism General Sharon now talks of a continuing war against "terrorism" to crush the Palestinian resistance and President Arafat's autonomous Palestinian Authority ignoring the fact that Arafat has condemned the violence and in any case is powerless to stop the rising temper of the Palestinian people.

 Zionist Education Minister Limer Livnat said "The assassination of suspects have importance on their own, yet they are not enough," She added "We must topple a regime that supports terrorism and allows it to operate... first and foremost, we must understand that Arafat is the one who leads this terror. He cannot be a partner" -- words echoed by the other open Arab haters in the Sharon government.

 This has been too much for Sharon's Labour coalition partners to stomach. Shimon Peres, the more-or-less sidelined Foreign Minister, is threatening to pull out of the coalition and has distanced himself from the most rabid remarks of the government Labour props up.

 Whether Labour does remain in government remains to be seen. Peres will not risk a new election without some sort of understanding with Arafat -- in practice even more concessions -- to eenable him to win the peace lobby, the Israeli Arabs and Labour's Zionist supporters in a future poll.

 Another Afghanistan

 Throughout the Middle East there is a growing fear that the US and British imperialism, together with its Israeli and Turkish puppets, is preparing for a general offensive against the Arabs. Washington is full of talk of a major strike against Iraq to topple the Saddam Hussein government. The imperialists talk as if the Afghan war has been won; though it clearly is still going on, because they are already planning their next war.

 Though US Secretary of State Colin Powell is playing down the prospect of imminent attack he's demanding that Iraq allow the return of UN "weapons inspectors" and last week George Bush warned that Saddam Hussein would "find out" what would happen if he didn't comply.

 In London the Blair government has tried to damp down fears of a widening conflicting, mindful of the growing peace campaign not least within the ranks ofits own supporters. Blair's spokesman said enigmatically: "There is no evidence that implicates Iraq in the events of September 11. That said, we have always acknowledged that the fight against international terrorism will take two phases".

The war goes on

 And in Afghanistan US bombers are continuing to pound the Taleban stronghold of Kandahar while intriguing for the establishment of a puppet regime in Kabul. This week three US soldiers were killed and 19 more wounded in a B-52 raid which went wrong and the Taleban fighters claim to have killed other Americans in the fighting in the south.

 But the American focus has been on the talks that have just ended in Germany. The Northern Alliance and one of the Pathan [Pushtoon] chiefs close to the Western-favoured ex-king have agreed an interim administration. The lion's share of ministries have gone to the leaders of the Alliance though they did agree to accept Hamid Karzai, a leading Pathan chief from the south, as head of administration.

 They were dismissed by the former Taleban envoy to Pakistan as "puppets of America".

 "Any government imposed on the Afghans from abroad can't be accepted," Abdel Salam Zaeef declared. "This is not acceptable to the people of Afghanistan. This is only a puppet government... chosen by America and other foreign countries for their interests, not for the people of Afghanistan".

 Russia, which has already established a presence in Kabul, and Iran, which backs one of the Tajik militias in the Northern Alliance, will be working to ensure that the Alliance holds together and retains its direct control of the northern half of the country.

 According to some Moscow papers, Russian advisers were fighting on the front-line with the Alliance militias. Few think the war is over. One Russian expert predicts that Kandahar will soon surrender.

 The Taleban fighters will then retreat to their mountain village homes. In the spring the war will begin again.

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Screens strike widens

by Daphne Liddle

THE LONG-RUNNING allout strike by civil servants over safety screens in benefit offices is due to escalate after a national ballot of all Benefits Agency and Employment Service staff produced a narrow majority for increasing the pressure on the Government.

 The strike began over two months ago in the offices at Streatham in south London and Brent in north London where the Government was pioneering its new "pathfinder" offices. These combine the functions of job centres and benefit offices.

 The Government's idea is to put pressure on long-term benefit claimants -- single mothers, the disabled and so on -- to find jobs.

 The new offices are designed without safety screens for the scaff, even though they have the task of telling many claimants that they are not entitled to the benefits they had expected -- due to constant changes and cuts in benefit entitlements.

 Some of these claimants are long-term mentally ill and their reactions can be unpredictable.

 The PCS civil service union stresses that while the vast majorily of claimants are not violent, there has been a steady rise in the number of attacks on benefits staff and it is not safe for them to work without protective screens.

 The strike escalated a month ago to include 3,000 staff at all the 57 prospective "pathfinder" offices.

 But instead of negotiating with its workforce on their totally justifiable grievances, the Government bribed managers to act as scabs and embarked on a course of abuse and intimidation against the strikers and the union.

 They even assaulted one press photographer. And PCS members were outraged by an incident in the House of Commons where Secretary of State for Employment Alistair Darling cracked jokes about the safety of benefits agency staff.

 He remarked that the figure of 5,000 assaults on staff last year included verbal assaults "in which someone perhaps uses words that we would not use in the House, that can sometimes happen" -- implying that the union was making a fuss over nothing.

 The union cited a recent incident in the Birkenhead benefits office where a claimant threatened to shoot staff with a very realistic model gun. Armed police were called to deal with the incident

old fashioned office

 This happened in an old rashioned office where there are still strong -- bullet-proof-- screens. But it is close to the Wallasey "Pathfinder" Office, which has  no screens.

 "Imagine the same incident in an unscreened pathfinder office," says the union. "Imagine the genuine fear and panic as staff with no protection face an armed maniac."

 Now the union has called a two-day strike in 1.600 job centres and benefit offices throughout Britain.

 One PCS branch secretary involved in the dispute told the New Worker: "This result is very significant. This is a Government flagship project and, in spite of very heavy pressure, staff throughout the country are prepared to stand up and vote for action on safely. This will be the first national strike for a very long time.

 "There has been lots of propaganda against the strike but our members have stood up to this. We want a safe working environment and our staff are prepared to take action.

 "Hopefully management will now take note of the ballot and move forward to some real negotiations."

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Palestinians call for Geneva Convention to be applied

by Renee Sams

THE CONTINUAL escalation of Israeli aggression and acts of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories is of grave concern and at a press conference in London last Thursday, two human rights activists called for more publicity on the plight of the Palestinians.

 The press conference was hosted by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign and chaired by Tim Llewellyn.

 Arjon El Fassad from the Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights said: "We are not pleading, we are asking. The problem is that nobody wants to know. There is a conspiracy of silence on Israel's crimes.

 "The media are more interested in suicide bombers, but when it comes to what has caused these terrible acts, they are silent.

 "Yet we are not talking about politics, this is human rights."

 Raji Souriani of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights compared the situation in occupied Palestine with that in South Africa during apartheid.

 He pointed out that Israeli propaganda labels opponents of Israel's human rights violations as "anti-Jewish", anti-Semitic" or "pro-Arab".

 The media are also endeavouring "to dehumanise and demonise the Palestinians, portraying all 4.8 million Palestinians in Israel as being terrorists or not deserving human rights protection as Arabs or Muslims."

 Israel claims that an exclusively Jewish character to the state, to the exclusion of non-Jewish inhabitants is justifiable as are all methods to ensure they remain a majority.

 Both speakers pointed out that Israel occupies the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by force. This only causes violence and, they stressed, must be brought to an end.

 But until that happens, they argued, Israel as the occupying power, has a legal obligation to guarantee the safety and well-being of civilians living there.

 Palestinians began their second Intifada against Israel's 34 year illegal occupation of Palestinian lands following Ariel Sharon's provocative visit to the Dome of the Rock in occupied east Jerusalem on 28 September 2000.

 Between 29 September 2000 and 17 October 2001 some 760 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied territories and 13 within Israel. No less than 16,497 have been injured of whom 2,000 have been permanently disabled.

 Ambulances and paramedics have frequently been fired on while trying to help the injured.

 Three Palestinian physicians, a German doctor, three paramedics and three firefighters have been killed. Also 42 first-aid workers, including two physicians, have been injured.

 There have been many attacks on ambulances, which have been damaged by live ammunition and rubbercoated metal bullets as well as 221 reported cases of restrictions and denial of access to ambulances.

 As recently as Last October, Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his support for a viable Palestinian state.

 But the speakers emphasised that such a state cannot be established until Israel's occupation is ended.

 They also pointed out that "Blair has played an obstructive role and blocked measures being taken to force Israel to comply with international humanitarian law, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention."

 The speakers told the press conference that some years ago, the Israeli government suspended the question of Palestinian human rights because, they claimed, it would impede the peace process.

 Only now has some progress been made in bringing forward discussion of this issue, and then only under certain conditions.

 They have refused to have any non-government organisation representatives present and the discussion is to be held in camera.

 The Fourth Geneva Convention, which is central to international law, clearly states that the occupying power is prohibited from the transfer of its own people to the area concerned.

 This clause was added as a direct result of the experience of the Second World War.

 The Palestinians are asking why the world community is not imposing this recognised international law?

 The speakers are calling on MPs to put pressure on the Prime Minister and the Government to take action, not just words, to ensure that Israel respects the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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British News

Union anger at NHS/Bupa deal

by Caroline Colebrook

HEALTH Secretary Alan Milburn last week announced the signing of a "pathfinding" deal to buy the entire capacity of a private Bupa hospital -- the Redwood in Redhill, Surrey to take on NHS operations and help to clear the long NHS waiting lists.

 This came just two weeks after agreeing a deal with health service unions that the jobs, terms and conditions of ancillary workers in private finance initiative hospitals built, owned and run by the private sector and rented to the NHS would be protected at NHS levels.

 The announcement coincided with a mass union rally in central London to celebrate public sector workers and to protest at the rising tide of privatisation of public services.

 Dave Prentiss, general secretary of the giant public sector union Unison rewrote his speech in anger at Milburn's announcement.

 He said that negotiations with the health unions over the new deal had been "non-existent" and he told the rally: "We oppose vast profits being made by private companies running our services."

 The GMB general union ran a series of full page advertisements in most daily papers, saying "Nasty one, Alan" in contrast with the one the union ran a few days before saying "Nice one, Gordon", when Chancellor Gordon Brown agreed the NHS must continue to be funded from general taxation, even if taxation has to rise to do this.

 GMB general secretary John Edmonds commented: "We have the Chancellor pledging to protect public services, and yet here we have the Health Secretary saying he will place the NHS into the hands of the largest private sector company in the country.

 "It is clear that there are people in Downing Street and the Department of Health who care more for the well being of private health companies than they do for the well being of the people who elected them."

 Milburn also made it clear that the Redhill deal is not merely a short-term stop-gap measure to meet the waiting lists crisis. He boasted: "We have won our fight to get private companies running the NHS."

 He is now engaged in negotiations with a number of European healthcare companies about setting up offshoots in England, staffed by foreign doctors and nurses.

 And Bupa operations director Richard Jones said: "This is not a one-off deal with one Bupa hospital. Effectively it is a pilot project for something that could become a significant venture for Bupa in its own right."

 There has been uncertainty among both NHS and Bupa staff about their future jobs under this deal. It seems the Bupa staff are to remain and some staff will come from the NHS trust. Others will be recruited.

 But whereas PFI schemes meant the danger of the transfer of ancillary workers' jobs from the NHS to the private sector, this new deal transfers everything, including doctors' and nurses' work to the private sector.

 And, as ever, the only way the private sector can do the same operations more cheaply than the NHS and make a profit is to cut staff wages and conditions.

 Bupa is not noted for encoutaging trade unions among its workers.

 Milburn is claiming on the one hand that the deal is necessary because waiting lists must be reduced and building new NHS hospitals would take too long.

 But at the same time he is setting this up as a long-term policy to be expanded indefinitely. It cannot produce value for money for the taxpayer in the long-term.

 Milburn"s claims might ring more true if the Labour government had done its utmost to reverse the Tory policy of closing NHS hospitals. But is has done the opposite.

 Slowly it is continuing along the Tory path of undermining the whole principle of the NHS and opening up the health service as a profit bonanza for private companies.

 Government money spent directly by the NHS on-building new publicly-owned hospitals would provide far more hospital beds and reduce waiting lists more.

 The unions are fighting this increasing privatisation of the public sector. This fight must be supported and not allowed to fail.

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