The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 9th October, 1998

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Editorial - War drums.
Lead Story - Pay the nurses.
Feature - MoD gives families marching orders.
International - Strikes and protests sweep Russia.
British News - Don't repeat the mistakes of the past, says Adams.


War drums

 SELF-STYLED "ethical" foreign secretarv, Robin Cook is at the forefront of Britain's pack of politicians, pundits and media hacks currently hounding and vilifying the Yugoslav government.

 These mouthpieces for the ruling class are hard at work waging a daily propaganda offensive designed to prepare public opinion at home for the possibility of war as well as signalling the seriousness of Nato's air-strike threats to the Yugoslav leadership in Belgrade.

 To justify this latest round of bullying and war preparations, the media is full of pictures and accounts of the suffering in the Kosovo province of Serbia. The Yugoslav army, police and political leaders are being painted as monstrous murderers responsible for atrocities and for the plight of refugees fleeing the fighting.

It is a tactic the imperialist powers have used time and again to deceive people into believing that western interference, aggression and undeclared wars against smaller and poorer countries are moral crusades whose only purpose is to save the victims of oppression and uphold the principles of democracy, peace and liberty. And as always, the leaders the West want to cuff are declared to be either insane or despotic tyrants.

 It is not difficult to set this propaganda up. Any conflict brings its terrible images of death and suffering -- on both sides of the line. If most of the on-the-spot news reports come from one side -- in this case from the side of the Kosovan Liberation Army (KLA) -- we shall mostly see pictures of KLA casualties, hear KLA opinions and see the effects of Yugoslav guns. The view from the other side is hardly ever seen or heard and is consequently ignored.

 But worse than all the distortion of news is the hypocritical, active involvement of western governments. The KLA is clearly not being funded, armed with modern weapons, clothed and fed by the local small farmers in the hills of Kosovo. Nor is Albania in a position to foot the bill. The KLA exists because Western interests want it to exist.

 The West now wants to intervene directly in the war because its KLA puppet army has been pushed back and is losing the fight. The West, far from being an impartial arbiter in the Balkans, has a clear agenda of wanting to see the former Yugoslavia broken up so that western capital can more easily swallow the small fragments. It also wants to snuff out any remaining flickers of socialism in Europe, however small the flame.

 Yugoslavia -- now always referred to in the western media as just Serbia (all they intend it to be) -- has not invaded foreign soil, it is simply defending the severeignty and integrity ofits own state. It did not start the present fighting or seek war. It has already suffered the piece-by-piece break-up of its territory and has been unfairly treated by the western-imposed settlement in Bosnia.

 The responsibility for the tragedy in Kosovo lies with imperialism and the capitalist vultures who saw their chance to close in on Yugoslavia when the former Soviet Union broke up.

 Unfortunately, the Kosovan situation has led some progressives to believe the KLA cause is a genuine national liberation struggle comparable with the fight for Irish self-determination.

 This is a mistaken and classless view. The struggle of the Irish people is contrary to the interests of British imperialism. Ireland is a sovereign state of which a part is still under colonial occupation by a foreign power. The cause of Ireland is undeniably the cause of liberation and justice.

 The KLA on the other hand is backed by imperialism and serves the interests of foreign governments, (including British imperialism) who aim to dominate the region by encouraging separatism and reactionary nationalism.

 When Ireland becomes free of the yoke of imperialism and the Irish people as a whole are able to decide their own path the country of Ireland will be stronger. When separatist groups succeed in breaking a country into Pieces at the behest of western imperialism the remainng parts are inevitably weaker. These are the class realities.

 We say, No to war against Yugoslavia! No to Nato threats! Hands off Yugoslavia!

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Lead Story

Pay the nurses

by Daphne Liddle
NURSING Unions are demanding a substantial pay rise -- up to 20 per cent -- next year to meet a crisis in the profession.

 According to a report published last week by public sector union Unison, entitled Paying the Price, one in five nurses is obliged to take a second job in order to have enough money to meet bills.

 And 70 per cent of nurses are thinking of quitting the job for something better paid. The report is based on a survey of more than 2,000 nurses.

 The unions have produced a water-tight claim for a big pay rise including figures showing that the starting salary of a registered nurse after training is generally 17 percent less than that of a newly qualified teacherand 20 per cent less than that of a newly qualified police constable.

 And the teaching profession itself is low paid to the point that it also has severe recruiting problems.

 The growing anger among nurses over pay levels increased after Health Secretary Frank Dobson, at the Labour Party conference, spoke of new government money going into the health service but none into nurses' pay packets.

 Glasgow midwife Carolyn Leckie said the Unison report gave an accurate picture of current nursing morale.

 "The climate is one of low morale," she said. "People feel underpaid and undervalued. The only thing stopping people leaving is the lack of suitable employment."

 As a single parent, she finds the low wage a particular hardship but cannot take a second job because of domestic responsibilities.

 She said: "The government has to address the issue of pay. If they don't people will vote with their feet. It is a crisis that the government ignores at its peril."

 Unison is demanding a substantial across-the-board pay rise and a restructuring of key grades so that lowest paid nurses start on £9,215 (compared with £8,315 now) and qualified staff nurses have a starting salary £14,225 (compared with £12,855) rising to £17,030.

 The pay demand arrived on the desks of the NHS top managers at the same time that the government was setting more targets for the service.

 Targets for the next three years, which apply both to the NHS and social service departments, include a cut of two per cent in the numbers of psychiatric patients re-admitted to hospital and an annual reduction of three per cent in the growth rate of emergency hospital admissions of people over 75.

 The top priority remains cutting waiting lists.

 The nursing unions have demanded that the increase in funding for the NHS as a whole of 5.7 per cent in real terms should be used in part to raise nurses wages. There is no longer any excuse not to pay nurses better.

 Nurses pay has been held down, along with that of other public sector workers, since the Tories started capping public sector pay in the early 80s and its value has dwindled as inflation has steadily risen above the capping level.

 Last year they were given a rise of 3.8 per cent but it was staged: two per cent in April and 1.8 per cent is still to be paid in December.

 Unison chief nursing officer Ma Icolm Wing said: "Despite the rewards of nursing in terms of high public esteem and job satisfaction, the daily reality is a cocktail of understaffed wards, pathetic pay and poor prospects.

 "For the health of the NHS, Unison appeals to the government to introduce a new pay system to stop the cycle of boom and bust in nurses' pay. Otherwise we will all pay the price."

 And he warned that "if the Prime Minister does not implement the award, or does it in stages, our quarrel is with the government."

 He said that nurses were sickened by the staged pay award. "The only effective remedy for their pay malaise is a significant increase paid in full without strings."

 Maggic Dunn, who chaired the nurses' joint union negotiating team, said: "This time the pay review body has a golden opportunity and so does the government to make that leap which will reward nurses, midwives and health visitors."

 And she added: "The only way the recruitment and retention crisis will be addressed is through a substantial pay award.

 "For two years now we have seen more people leaving the register of nurses, midwives and health visitors than joining it.

no career prospects

 "These nurses are working elsewhere and the reasons are that there are no career prospects and there isn't the starting salary.

 The Royal College of Nursing has estimated there are 8,000 vacant nursing posts and that 25 per cent of working nurses will be eligible for retirement, at age 55, by the year 2,000.

 The government has accepted that there is a severe nursing shortage and has said that 140,000 trained nurses have opted out of the NHS.

 But Andrew Foster, chairperson of the human resources policy group at the NHS Confederation says a substantial pay increase cannot be afforded.

 And yet the government is spending millions on Trident missiles and has recently commissioned two new giant aircraft carriers.

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MoD gives families marching orders
by Caroline Colebrook
 THE MINISTRY of Defence is forcing former members of the armed forces in Scotland from their homes, according to a report last week from the housing charity Shelter.

 Some families have been given just a few week's notice to leave their homes by the Defence Housing Executive, an agency acting on behalf of Crown Properties.

 The DHE was set up by the Tory government in 1995 when it sold off most MoD family accommodation in England and Wales. Homes in Scotland were excluded from the deal, apparently due to "legal issues limiting the duration of leases".

 The DHE claims the houses are needed for currently serving personnel, although many MoD homes have been standing empty for a long time.

 Around 100 families, throughout Scotland, may be affected. These are families who have been turned down for council housing because they have been deemed to be already adequately housed.

 Former RAF chef Christopher Mohan, with his wife and three year-old son are under notice of eviction.

 He left the RAF last January. "I contacted Aberdeenshire council before I came out," he said, "and they said there was no point in us applying for housing because we were adequately housed."

 The DHE told him there was no problem with the family staying in the house. Then a higher DHE office contacted him. "They said we should not have been told we could stay. There was obviously a lack of communication between offices."

 Mr Mohan is now a self-employeed taxi driver. He applied for housing benefit but his claim took nearly six months to process. During that time rent arrears built up.

 If he had been a tenant of a council, housing association or private landlord, no magistrate would have granted an eviction order while a housing benefit claim was still being sorted out.

 But the MoD does not give tenancies and those who live in its homes do not have any of the same legal protection as civilians.

 Serving military families do not pay rent, the home is provided as part of their wages. When they leave the forces, these families have no security of tenure.

 Many of those threatened with eviction are women who have separated from service husbands. They are also very vulnerable.

 Because they are living in Crown properties, they are not given tenancies and are not entitled to housing benefit.

 Shelter says there is no consistency in the way these families are treated by the DHE and the rules need to be made consistent and clear.

 David Gibb, speaking for Shelter, said: "I think there are a number of outstanding issues that remain unanswered which we will be seeking to get answered through parliamentary questions once Parliament restarts."

 He added that the DHE needs to make clear how many MoD properties are likely to be needed for future service personnel.

 "We also need to be told how many of these tenants are in receipt of housing benefit. Housing benefit is administered by local authorities and the housing benefit regulations are quite clear that benefit is not payable to Crown tenants but it is available to "irregular occupiers".

 "These are people who do not have a tenancy -- normally people who were in married quarters and there has been a breakdown in their relationship.

 "Although there is no housing benefit entitlement there is a voluntary scheme operated by the MoD, which the local authority can administer on the department's behalf.

 "Questions need to be answered on the level of advice and options people are given by their local authorities and individual DHE offices.

 "The real issue is about the difference between the official line and the reality of what's happening to people.

 "We also want to know what the DHE is planning to do with all these surplus houses."

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Strikes and protests sweep Russia

by Steve Lawton
THOUSANDS of workers took to the streets throughout Russia as we go to press, as part of a growing campaign of action to demand an estimated $14 billion [84 billion roubles] owed in back pay at pre-crisis rates. Now, even if they get it all restored, its value will be less than $6 billion.

 The action had been called by the 50-million strong Russian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR) and supported by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF) led by Gennadi Zyuganov.

 Union leader Gennady Khodokov said: "Russian workers have been deceived again and again, and we are not going to be robbed this time."

 Around 200,000 professionals in Moscow doing the bidding of the "robbers", many on five times the official average wage, have now been laid off as a result of the crisis.

 In a statement by the Central Russian Strike Movement Coordinating Council in Sovetskaya Rossiya, calling for nationwide protests, they called upon workers to form "legal organ's of working people's power in the centre and the provinces".

 In a prelude to Wednesday's actions, around 6,000 gathered in a park near Moscow's White House last Sunday to commemorate the 1993 massacre of its anti-Yeltsin defenders. There is a small permanent vigil near to the Miners' encampment.

 Among those present to remember the victims was General Albert Makashov, a serving Communist deputy in the Duma and one of the leaders of the October 1993 defence, who is calling, again, for the overthrow of the Yeltsin regime. Sensitive to the looming Russia-wide protests, 1,500 police were deployed at the rally.

 One angry protester shouted out that "Russia has been sold for some stinking greenbacks" and warned that she "would shoot anyone with dollars."

 But Prime Minister Yevgenny Primakov, who may not have heard that, made it clear he will continue to allow dollar currency circulation and will not nationalise the banks. According to the Russian Central Bank, there is about $l50 billion in US currency circulating in Russia.

 Although he says he will begin paying workers again, he still intends to continue with state privatisations and free market policies. At the same time he is faced with a new crisis in Chechenia following the recent kidnapping of communication workers -- three British and one New Zealander .

 Pay is the hot issue everywhere, closely followed by welfare payments. Vladivostok's ambulance workers have been on strike since the Sumner due to a 19-month backlog of wages. Teachers have been on strike since September in the Far East.

 During the Summer 3,500 scientists went on strike at one of the 10 former secret nuclear cities -- Arzamas 16. One of its more outspoken critics on nuclear leaks is facing trial from 20 October on a charge of treason for publishing a report for the Norwegian environmental group, the Bellona Foundation, exposing contamination in the Murmansk area by the nuclear fleet.

 There are active and decommissioned subs there and one was recently taken over by a submariner who, described as having gone crazy, killed eight of the Vepr's crew before killing himself. They've been called "floating Chernobyl's".

 The general fabric ofRussia is falling apart, along with its defence forces. The post office has stopped paying the railways for mail distribution. The rail ministry suspects sharp practice and refuses to transport the goods which are now accumulating in hundreds of cars along Russia's 17 Lines.

 Those who get wages are now forced to spend nearly all of it on food where once they spent about 60 per cent of it on food. According to Moscow's Institute of Socio-Economic Problems of the Population, basic foodstuffs shot up 500 per cent while luxury items increased slowly.

 Some predict a virtual famine is on its way. This year's harvest is poor -- it's projected to be about 40 per cent down on last year at around 50 million tonnes.

 Hospitals are being hit by the paralysis of economic activity and frozen banks. Russia is dependent on 82 per cent of its medicines from imports -- next to nothing is getting through now. That also means 22 million veterans entitled to free medicines are being denied their needs.

  The financial and overproduction crisis is hitting Russian oil pipeline deals. Production in Kazakhstan is being reduced by about two-thirds.

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British News

Don't repeat the mistakes of the past, says Adams
by Keith Bennett in Blackpool
SIMV FEIN President Gerry Adams MP last week called on the British labour movement not to repeat the mistakes of 30 years ago when they failed to respond to the peaceful civil rights campaign in the north of Ireland.

 Adams was speaking at a fringe briefing and press conference called by Sinn Fein during the Labour Party Conference in Blackpool, which he and his delegation were attending as guests.

 He said that, up until 1969, when British troops were deployed on the streets of the north of Ireland under a Labour government, Westminster had ignored the huge scale of repression and social injustice in the north, despite the efforts of then Belfast Republican Labour MP Gerry Fitt to bring them to wider attention.

 Adams told his audience that had the then British Labour government "done the decent thing" in 1969, by moving to engage with the Irish government and bring forward the unionists, then, despite all the difficulties, he was quite sure "we would now be living in a united Ireland".

 Likewise, the present peace process, which could be said to date from 1994, vindicated the stand taken by present MPs Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell, who had taken the initiative to invite the Sinn Fein leadership to visit the then Greater London Council a decade earlier.

 Had the Livingstone initiative met with an appropriate response from the British government, we would now have a democratic peace settlement in place.

 The fundamental lesson to be drawn from such events, Adams argued, was that the politics of "marginalisation, exclusion, demonisation and condernnation" do not work.

 And, while generously acknowledging the honourable exceptions, Adams was justifiably scathing about the overall record of British Labour with regard to Ireland.

 Even among the better elements, there was a tendency to "long distance internationalism", in support of the struggles in South Africa, Chile, Palestine, El Salvador or of the African Americans, all of which, the Sinn Fein leader stressed, were extremely worthy, but they did not go to the heart of British politics in the way that the Irish question has always done.

 He said that the only principled position for the movement here to take was to campaign for an Ireland inwhich the Irish people can organise their society in whatever way they want. This did not necessarily involve supporting Sinn Fein or even advocating a united Ireland.

 Adams stressed that he was not putting the onus on the British Labour Party to solve all the problems of the Irish people, but, he added, they could not avoid responsibility for continued intransigent unionist attitudes. He asked his audience if they could conceive of a situation in Britain where it would be allowed to picket a church or a synagogue for a year, as had been the case with the Catholic church at Harryville.

 Although it had been modified and made conditional by the terms of the Good Friday Agreement British policy was still to uphold the union, so it had yet to fundamentally break from the "sad chapters" of the British Labour Party and its previous governments, for example, the extreme repressive policies of Secretary of state Roy Mason and the callous visit to hunger striker Francis Hughes by Michael Foot's spokesman, Don Concanon.

 In contrast, Adams praised the "good and noble people" in the movement who had "done their best".

 And he paid tribute to Prime Minister Tony Blair. It had taken his and his government's imagination, and Secretary of State Mo Mowlam's courage, to get everyone out of the mess created by the last Tory government.

 From his dealings with the present government, Adams believed that as social democrats, they had no desire to uphold oppression.

 As we approach the new millenium, there was a need for activists to take the long view. The type of opportunities that Labour activists wanted the British people to enjoy, and the kind of new and inclusive society they wished to build here, were what the Irish people also wanted for themselves.

This ideal was contained in the 1916 Easter Rising Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which spoke of "cherishing all the children of the nation equally", and also embraced gender equality, for an Ireland where women constitute the majority of the population.

 Addressing the key question of decommissioning, Adams said that the matter was not one of guns but one of change.The problem was that the unionists had been in charge for so long that many of them could still not conceive of "having a Fenian about the place" in govemmental terms.

 Decommissioning, the Sinn Fein leader stressed, was not in his party's gift. The Irish Republican Army believed it had "done a mighty thing" by silencing its guns and he recalled the warning of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP's) Seamus Mallon, Deputy Chief Minister designate of the Northern Ireland Assembly, "don't kick the dog to see if it's asleep"

no preconditions

The Good Friday Agreement did not specify decommissioning as a precondition for movement on other fronts. And Sinn Fein had already gone beyond its obligations. There was nothing to specify that the party had to appoint a representative to liaise with the decommissioning body, "let alone someone with the stature and authority of Martin McGuiness."

 Adams said that the party leadership had sold the Good Friday Agreement to the rank-and-file, including the change to the party's constitution to enable elected representatives to take their seats in the Northern Ireland Assembly, on the basis that the unionist side would also give on their historic positions.

 "And, from our point of view, the most potent signal that the old days are finally over would be for a Sinn Fein minister from the Falls Road, or the Bogside, or from any other Republican area in the north, to take their place, alongside the representatives of other parties in the government of the north. That would signal that the old days of a Protestant state for a Protestant people really were over for good."

 Sinn Fein's position was clear: Ireland belongs to the people who live in Ireland, irrespective of where they came from.

 Adams informed the gathering that he had just had a meeting with Tony Blair. He had told the Prime Minister that it was his responsibility to defend and implement the Good Friday Agreement in its entirety and without the injection of new preconditions.

 The Sinn Fein President concluded his briefing by again reflecting on history.

 We were currently celebrating the 200th anniversary of the United Irishmen. In 1798, Irish revolutionaries were supporting their counterparts in France and America, and were, in turn, being supported by British progressives.

 Indeed, there had been such a constant thread throughout history. In the English Revolution of the 1640s, the Levellers had been executed for refusing to fight in Cromwell's armies in Ireland. And Irish workers had been to the fore in the leadership of the Chartists, the first modern working class movement.

 Sinn Fein wished to develop a "strategic engagement" and dialogue with the broadest possible range of progressive forces in Britain. "And when we get the new Ireland we're seeking, you'll be able to sit back and say you did something, that you contributed to something important in history."

  A large number of other fringe events on Ireland also took place during the Labour conference:

 * The Labour Party Irish Society organised a social evening with "great craic with funk traditional Irish band, Blackwater."

 * The trade union Unison hosted a discussion on equality and participation. Speakers represented civil liberty and community development groups, the trade union and women's movements, along with Patrick Yu from the Chinese Welfare Association in Belfast, representing the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities.

 * The Agreed Ireland Forum hosted speakers from Sinn Fein and the SDLP, along with Labour MP and Tory defector, Peter Temple-Morris, who, under the previous government had been one of the first Conservatives to open a dialogue with Sinn Fein.

 * The TUC and CBI organised a joint meeting on Northern Ireland -- A Peaceful Future, sponsored by TUC General Secretary John Monks.

 * The Labour Committee for Peace and Progress in Ireland gave a platform to speakers from the Progressive Unionist Party, Workers' Party and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

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