The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 7th April 2006
Condoleezza Rice not welcome
Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition
Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker
& BROWN BOTH BAD NEWS
by Daphne Liddle
LORD Turner last week delivered his long awaited report on
Britain’s pensions crisis and sparked a battle of wills between
Chancellor Gordon Brown and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
By Wednesday it seemed as though Brown had backed down as was prepared
to accept 95 per cent of the Turner report’s recommendations – but
whichever of them wins, working people are going to face a bleak
future in retirement.
The report recommends raising the real level of the basic state pension
and restoring the link with average earnings in order to reduce the
necessity for means-tested top-ups.
But the pension level would still, on average, be only 17 per
cent of a retiree’s final salary – not enough to live on so some
means-tested top-ups will remain.
The pension age would be raised gradually to 69 by 2020; everyone
will have to pay more taxes to fund the higher state pension. Pension
spending is expected to rise from the current 6.2 per cent of gross
domestic product to 7.5 per cent by 2050.
Employers will be obliged to take part in a new private National
Pensions Saving Scheme (NPSS). Workers will be automatically enrolled
in it but they do have a choice to opt out.
Those employers who already operate a more generous pension
scheme will be exempted – though it is expected that most employers
will cut back to minimum standards.
Brown would have preferred not to restore the link between pensions and
earnings and to rely on means-tested pension credits to help the
poorest. His main complaint was that it would cost too much. He was
also opposed to raising direct taxes to pay for the state pension.
Since only 42 per cent of the working age population are
currently able to save anything for their retirement, it seems that
whatever happens, an awful lot of pensioners will be relying on the
basic state pension and the means-tested benefits.
The battle over the Turner report came after a week of
frustration for Brown as Blair claimed he needed to remain in the
premiership for at least another two years to complete his agenda of
We also saw two ardent Blairites, former Cabinet Ministers Alan
Milburn and Stephen Byers, warning that Brown would not automatically
succeed Blair. There were claims that Brown had withdrawn a £200
council tax discount for pensioners in order to damage Blair in the
coming local elections.
This was followed by news from Peter Hain that Blair and Brown
were “at odds” and a call from Ashok Kumar, a parliamentary aide to
International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, for Blair to step
aside quickly to make way for Brown. Hilary Benn then dissociated
himself from this call.
Next we heard that Blair had axed Brown from the party’s campaign
launch for the 4th May local elections.
The following day we heard that Brown and Blair would present a
united front at the launch – to refute claims of a deepening rift
The truth is that rank and file Labour members and the population
in general are getting more and more exasperated with the Blair-Brown
infighting. Both of them are bad news for working class interests.
It was in this atmosphere that the Labour Representation
Committee warned that Brown cannot count on an automatic move into
Blair’s shoes and that the chronic under-funding of pensions is likely
to lead to a serious leadership challenge. Let’s hope it does.
Labour is not expected to do well in the coming local elections and
there is a growing clamour for Blair to step down. The “loans for
peerages” scandal continues to rumble on and the police are now
officially investigating corruption claims.
The NHS financial crisis and jobs massacre is also continuing but
both Blair and Brown seem intent on pressing on with further private
sector involvement in health and education.
Repressive measures like the anti-terrorism Acts, the Identity
Cards Bill and a new secret police force are coming thick and fast.
And the death toll in Iraq is still rising. Over a hundred
British troops have died and the number injured or taken ill on active
service in occupied Iraq now totals 6,700. This is nearly as many as
the total number of British troops currently stationed there. Of those
casualties, around two thirds have been injured badly enough to have to
be sent home to Britain.
Blair and Brown are as bad as each other – they must both go to
make way for a more principled Labour leader. Only the trade unions and
the parliamentary Labour Party have the power to boot them out. For the
sake of the Labour Party, the country and world peace they must act now.
New war on terror or old class war?
IN THE SAME week that Home
Secretary Charles Clarke launched the new Serious and Organised Crime
Agency, his colleague, Defence Secretary John Reid, called for the
withdrawal of the Geneva conventions. In a speech last Monday, Reid
claimed that the Geneva conventions get in the way of the treatment of
prisoners; they prevent pre-emptive strikes and hamper intervention “to
stop a humanitarian crisis”. And these are things that the world’s
great powers claim they need to do these days in a changing world to
deal with the threat of international terrorists.
It’s all down to Bush’s myth of the “war on terror” a war that
can never end because it cannot be properly defined – a war that can
mean whatever you want it to mean and that you can wage on and on until
all opposition to US imperialism anywhere in the world is wiped out.
When Reid speaks of terrorists, he means people fighting on
behalf of poor countries, resisting the onslaught of imperialism by
whatever means they can. He does not literally mean those who terrorise
civilian populations because the governments of the United States and
Britain would be the guiltiest in history.
Reid is speaking for both Blair and Bush who are now embarrassed
at the international condemnation they are attracting after the illegal
invasion of Iraq, the torture camps at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and many
other places – and the future breaches of the Geneva conventions that
Bush and Blair are planning against Iran.
Terrorism is nothing new. The people who drew up the Geneva
conventions were well acquainted with violence and horror and terrorism
in all its forms. The conventions were an agreement among the world’s
powers to limit gratuitous violence and aggression, stem tit-for-tat
atrocities and set some ground rules for the treatment of prisoners of
war and civilian populations in time of war. They were formulated by
bourgeois liberal idealists on an
if-we-don’t-do-it-to-you-then-you-won’t-do-it-to-us basis. They were
always limited in scope and likely to be ignored when they got in the
way of rampant imperialism.
Reid is calling for all restraints which defend the poor and the
weak against the rich and powerful to be scrapped with the excuse that
people who oppose imperialism can now communicate with computers and
mobile phones. So what! That is a very thin excuse.
Back in Britain, the new Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) is
supposed to “make life hell” for the country’s most sophisticated and
brutal criminals – to combat the traffickers of drugs and people. It
has been described as Britain’s version of the FBI – but a couple of
years ago that description was applied to the National Criminal
Intelligence Service – which is now to be merged into Soca, along with
the National Crime Squad, senior officers from Customs, from the
immigration service and from the intelligence services. Soca will be
headed by former MI5 chief Stephen Lander.
The Police Federation has expressed concern that Soca is not a
police organisation but it will be equipped with police powers. It
blurs the boundaries between many different services and blurs
accountability and, according to Blair, it will adopt a “what works”
philosophy to disrupt criminal networks.
When they say it is Britain’s version of the FBI, we should
remember that the FBI was set up to combat organised crime yet, in its
first decades, ignored the Mafia in America to wage war on communism
We should also remember the situation in the occupied north of
Ireland where British state forces operating included the RUC, the
British Army, the Special Branch, MI5, MI6, army intelligence and
others. It led to rivalry, infighting, confusion and a loss of
accountability. It created the situation where collusion was possible –
the passing of British intelligence files on Sinn Féin
supporters was passed to loyalist death squads – a shoot-to-kill by
proxy policy. Long Kesh paved the way for Guantanamo and Belmarsh. Was
collusion just a pilot run for policing in Britain?
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