The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 9th November 2001

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Editorial - Slump and war.
Lead Story - Peace calls grow.
Feature - Homeless families may lose children.
International - Washington plots, Moscow crawls, Kabul burns.
British News - Pensioners demand better healthcare.
More news and Diary

Editorial

Slump and war

SLUMPS and wars are part and parcel of the capitalist system that continues to dominate our world. Humanity has suffered these miseries time and again. Now we are to experience slump and war occuring at the same time.

 And though both tragedies stem from the inexorable forces that drive capitalism, we are being sold the lie that the attacks on the United States are to blame for the slump.

 Yet well before 11 September the United States economy was sliding into recession. Across the world economies were in trouble and some countries -- like Argentina and Japan -- were strugggling to avoid major crises.

 The events of 11 September certainly added to the problems, especially with regard to tourism and the airline industries. But those events were not solely responsible fr the bankruptcy of Swiss Air and Sabena Airlines nor the massive layoffs threatened by British Airways. The airline business was already in a downturn and large-scale job cuts had been signalled long before.

 Last week Alan Greenspan, head of the US Federal Reserve, cut US interest rates to just two per cent (the lowest for 40 years). This has largely been done to keep Americans shopping and spending and the economy moving. But the cut hasn't happened because of 11 September -- it is the latest in a long line of interest rate cuts.

 In Japan, interest rates were reduced to nothing. This desperate measure aimed to encourage spending by giving savers no return on their money at all. Even then the economic uncertainty made people hold on to their money for fear of job losses and wage cuts.

 In Britain interest rates have also been steadily reduced, though they have not yet sunk as low as in the US. But the pattern and the cause is the same.

 The City and big business hope lower interest rates will allow us to consume even when we are broke. Credit cards and personal loans are being pushed at us all the time in TV ads, street hoardings and barrow loads of junk mail. No wonder the levels of personal debt are higher than ever. Even with low interest rates this cannot be sustained and will not save the rotten system.

 The politicians and economists keep telling us that consumer confidence is the key to keeping the slump away from our own front door. By saying this they are admitting that the problem is basically a crisis of overproduction in which there are too many goods being produced for the markets to absorb.

 That's not of course because people don't want the goods, it's because they can't afford them. And people can't afford the goods because in most of the world wages are low, unemployment is high and poverty is rampant.

 As Marx and Engels explained in the 19th century, and as we have learned from experiences in our own time, the capitalist class cannot resolve this contradiction. It will only save itself by increasing the exploitation and oppression of the working class.

 It means unemployment will soar -- a process that is already well under way, especially in the manufacturing sector. It means those still in work will be under pressure to accept worsening wages and conditions. It means social spending coming under attack as income tax revenues decline.

 And there are no prizes for guessing which class is going to pay for the imperialist's war against Afghanistan. Chancellor Gordon Brown has already told the bosses club -- the Confederation of British Industry -- that he will not increase direct incomee tax to pay for the war. That only leaves us. We will get to pay for it one way or another in higher national insurance contributions, or in indirect taxes or through cuts in services.

 In fact the poorer people are the more the capitalism system squeezes and the more it oppresses. So the people of the poorest country in the world, Afghanistan, get the very worst of all -- death and destruction from the bombs of the world's richest nations.

 We say, Stop the bombing now! Stop the war against Afghanistan! No to imperialism!

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Lead Story

Peace calls grow

by our Middle East affairs correspondent

IMPERIALIST TERROR has been unleashed against Afghanistan. Carpet bombing started last week. The biggest bombs in the American conventional arsenal, 15,000 pound "Daisy Cutters", are hitting Afghan civilian and military targets and US helicopter gunships have gone into action. Germany, Italy and Turkey have all pledged to send troops to back up the American onslaught and provide semi-cosmetic "international" support for Anglo-American imperialism.

 But though thousands of Afghans have been killed the imperialists are still no nearer the quick kill they talked about when the war began. The Afghan people are closing ranks around the Taleban leadership. Some members of the rebel Northern Alliance have changed sides. Thousands of Pakistanis are trying to cross the border to join the fight against imperialism and the Americans have failed to establish one base outside existing Northern Alliance enclaves.

Growing misgivings

 Third World demands for a bombing pause during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan have been rejected. Tony Blair continues his globe-trotting to try and hold the line for George Bush. But growing doubts about the wisdom of Washington's campaign are now being heard within the corridors of power.

 An American investigative journalist revealed this week that the American air-borne raid on Kandahar, hailed as a stunning success by the Pentagon was in fact a disaster.

 Seymour Hersh, a Pulitzer prize winner, writing in the New Yorker magazine, stated that a dozen Delta Force commandos were wounded - three badly - in the attempt to storm the house of Afghan leader Mullah Omar. The commandos were forced to flee under fire.

 A Delta Force officer said, according to Hersh - who's sources are usually reliable, that "It was like an ambush. The Taleban were fighting with light arms and either rocket-propelled grenades or mortars" adding that it "scared the crap out of everyone".

 Former Labour Cabinet Minister, Denis Healey and three other peers, publicly called for the bombing to end in a joint letter to The Times on Wednesday. They said: "The issue of the moment is whether the bombing in Afghanistan is wrong and should stop.

 "What are the disadvantages of continuing? More civilians killed; more discord in Pakistan which could end in fundamentalists getting power and with nuclear weapons at their disposal; possible overthrow of the Saudi and Egyptian regimes and a general flare-up in the Middle East.

 "The longer the bombing continues, the greater the danger, while leaving bin Laden untouched in his bomb-proof cave.

 "We hope our Prime Minister will join in persuading Washington to stop it."

 And maverick Labour MP Paul Marsden, who opposed the bombing in Parliament along with some other Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs plans to visit the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan shortly to see the plight of the victims of the war for himself.

 Marsden, angered at being compared to the pre-war appeasers of Hitler by Labour's Chief Whip, is opposed to the bombing, though he does give qualified support for an anti-terrorist campaign under "UN rules" and control.

Growing demand for peace

 In Britain anti-war protests are growing by the day. The organisers of the 18th November demonstration in London expect over 100,000 people to turn out on the day. Anglo-American imperialism is trying to crush the Afghans into the dust.

 Thousands of innocent civilians are dying. All over the world rallies and demonstrations are taking place to bring an end to this senseless cruelty. There must be a mass mobilisation for the 18th November and the protests must continue until this brutal war is stopped.

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Feature

Homeless families may lose children

by Caroline Colebrook

HOMElESS families are facing the prospect of having their children taken into care while the parents are forced on to the streets after a High Court ruling last May.

 The ruling says that councils have an obligation to house homeless children -- but not their parents.

 Since then many cash-strapped councils up and down the country have been starting the legal procedures to evict families who have been in temporary accommodation too long.

 In many cases the councils are claiming that the threatened famiLies have deliberately made themselves homeless -- but this description can cover a multitude of technicalities.

 In the past, when a long strike has meant workers losing their mortgage, the council has regarded them as intentionally homeless.

 In one of the current cases, a father sold the family house and disappeared with the money. The wife and children have been declared intentionally homeless.

 Another family has been designated intentionally homeless because they turned down an offer of a flat that was too small and too far away from the children's schools.

 The housing charity Shelter says: "We've dealt with a string of cases across the country in the last three months where social services are telling homeless families their children should be taken away and fostered or put in local authority care.

 "Councils are saying the only service they are obliged to provide is care for the children."

 Shelter has also pointed out that this is economic nonsense. It costs far more to look after children in care than it would to provide a home for the whole family.

 In none of these cases has there been any allegation that the parents are failing to care for their children adequately.

 But the desperate lack of affordable accommodation and the run down of council housing is at the root of the problem.

 The Children Act of 1989 places the interests of the children above all considerations in offering council services. This has been invoked by homeless families to gain accommodation.

 But last April the London Boroughs of Barnet and Lambeth challenged this in court and won the ruling that they are obliged only to house the children. Both councils are desperately short of accommodation for homeless families.

 One family in the West Country, with three children of six, 10 and 13, was evicted by their private landlord immediately after getting into rent arrears.

 Their local authority homeless persons' unit passed them on to social services, who declared that no help could be given to the family as a whole but suggested putting the children in care. The shocked family joined a group of travellers.

 In the east Midlands a young women with children aged six years and three months has been told by social services that the children should he taken into care after she was moved into a hostel for the homeless. She is still breast feeding the three-month-old.

 In south London, a family with four children has moved from one temporary accommodation to another for the last five years after the father's employer closed down.

 They say: "We turned down one tiny flat because it was miles away from the children's schools. The council has now said that if we become homeless again they will involve social services, which means taking the children."

 "The children don't know. I can't bear to tell them," said the mother. "My husband is now ill with extremely bad stress.

 "We spent five of the most important years of the kids' childhood just moving around and now this. You can't even rent privately because nobody wants to take you if you're on benefits."

 One young mother with children of 15 and 10, in a one bedroom hostel in north London, has received an eviction order for next week.

 She said: "The council has repeatedly told me they will take the children into care but they are offering nothing for me. I'm terribly frightened. It would be my very worst nightmare, and it's getting closer all the time.

 "I'm too terrified to tell the children what's going on. No one will help. I don't know what to do."

 Russell Campbell, the chief solicitor of Shelter, has said: "We will challenge individual cases where we can. As things stand, it's only a matter of time before family members will be separated."

 Karen Buck MP, a member of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee has expressed deep concern and says she hopes to change the law to plug the loophole so that once again the Children's Act will operate to keep families together.

 But it is no good Parliament passing a law if it does not equip local authorities with the means to house homeless families -- and that means defending existing council housing and then building a lot more.

 Slavish adherence to "market forces" is driving up the cost of homes and putting them out reach of ordinary families. Housing associations are mortgaged to the banks -- who really control their policies. This means rents affected by market forces and less security for tenants, who can all too easily find themselves out on the street and in need of emergency accommodation.

 Councils must be allowed to restore this country's vitally needed council housing stock.

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International

Washington plots, Moscow crawls, Kabul burns

by Jared Israel

ON October 17, the New York Times reported: "American pilots have for the first time been freed to choose their own targets and fire at will within specific zones around Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, senior Pentagon officials said today. United States commanders warned that none of the Kabul leadership's forces were immune from attack."

 Tell that to the Red Cross. While President Bush was exhorting school children to: "go out and mow a lawn or do somebody a favour to earn a dollar" to help the children of Afghanistan, and told them to send it directly to the White House to be turned over to a Red Cross fund." (Washington Post, October 17).

 US planes were bombing the Red Cross in Afghanistan: "US forces did not know that ICRC was using one or more of the warehouses," a Pentagon statement said. The Red Cross said each of five warehouses in its compound was marked on the roof with a large red cross. The raids occurred at about 1pm, in daylight, the agency said." (New York Times, October l7, 2001)

 This is strikingly reminiscent of US military crimes and justifications in the 1999 war against Yugoslavia. There too, buildings with red crosses on the roofs were bombed in daylight, though always by accident.

 If clearly marked Red Cross buildings are not safe in the bright light of day, then any structure, animal or person, with the bad luck to be situated in a 'fire at will' zone may be blown to pieces. And we will never hear about most such crimes because a) the US military is enforcing tight media control and b) most of the victims won't have the Public Relations clout of the International Red Cross. Here's a philosophical problem for you: if a child screams in pain but you are not there to hear it, is he or she actually wounded?

 Why isn't this terrorism? Because the US government says it's not. Instead, we are told, it is the unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of war, as if some natural process were in control, as if the US military command were helpless to prevent the occurrence of 'fire at will' zones.

 According to Washington, which has yet to present evidence that the WTC horror was in fact masterminded from Afghanistan, it has no choice but to bomb. Thousands of hours of media broadcasts and miles of newsprint support this claim, so who are we to ask for evidence?

 Government officials and the media say: "Bin Laden's terrorists are attacking us. We have no choice but to wage 'infinite war' to root out such terrorism."

 Elsewhere we have argued that this answer is either weak or crazy. But as more facts come to light, it becomes increasingly clear that this answer is a conscious lie.

 The proof lies in one word: Pakistan. Pakistan is a key supporting player in the infinite war, supposedly against terrorism.

 On the 16th, Secretary Colin Powell held a joint press conference in Islamabad with Gen. Pervez Musharraf, military dictator of Pakistan.

 Here's what the New, York Times reported: "The United States and Pakistan agreed today to work urgently for the creation of a new, broad-based government in Afghanistan that both sides said could include moderate elements ofthe Taliban movement whose present leadership is now a target for the American-led military campaign.

 "Secretary Powell said he had come to tell Pakistan that the United States -- long chastised here as having abandoned its cold war ally following the collapse of the Soviet Union -- was returning "to demonstrate our enduring commitment" to "a great Muslim nation." ...

 "The high praise heaped on Pakistan provided a curious sight: an American secretary of state standing next to a general in uniform who seized power in a military coup, and lauding his achievements.

 "Secretary Powell said the United States would also get more deeply involved -- if asked -- in resolving the longstanding and often violent conflict between Pakistan and India over Kashmir, a mainly Muslim territory claimed by both countries.

 "The American secretary's visit left no doubt that a far more robust American military and diplomatic initiative lies ahead in southern Asia, one that will require large expenditures, a re-examination of sanctions and other restrictive policies and, in general, a much deeper involvement in the region than President Bush anticipated when he came to office nine months ago.

intelligence

 Despite the reference in the excerpt above to Washington having abandoned Pakistan after the cold war, there is overwhelming evidence that Washington has actively supported the efforts of Pakistani intelligence, which guided the Taliban.

 The ties between the CIA and ISI are long standing and remain intimate: "Trained by the CIA and the French SDECE, the ISI 'ran' the mujahideen in their decade-long fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

 Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, who headed the ISl's Afghan bureau for four years until 1987, says in his book The Bear Trap that the agency funnelled US money and weapons to the mujahideen." (Sydney Morning Herald, 27 September 2001).

 For several days we have been commenting on Times of India' revelations about Lt-Gen. Mahmud Ahmad, head of Pakistani intelligence, the ISI.

 Apparently Lt-Gen. Ahmad was told to 'request' early retirement after India presented the FBI with proof that he had ordered an aide, who happened to be an international terrorist, to wire $100,000 to the leader of the alleged WTC hijackers.

 Now articles from the Wall Street Journal and the Pakistani newspaper, Dawn, posted at the end of this article, confirm the Times of India charges. Why hasn't our terrorism-fighting President commented?

 Lt-Gen Ahmad was not only the chief of Pakistani intelligence (ISI). He was also one of the main leaders of the military coup that put Pakistan's dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf in power.

 It is inconceivable that Gen. Musharraf did not know his intelligence organization was financing the WTC hijackers. And this is the man with whom Secretary of State Powell held a press conference October 16 in Islamabad.

 The bombing of Afghanistan is monstrous, not least of all because it is based on a lie, because Washington and Britain have not launched this war to fight terrorism. Because the goal is not to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

 This war brings together the sponsors of terrorist armies that have ravished Afghanistan, the Balkans and other areas: the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The true goal is to establish a powerful US presence in Central and Southern Asia.

 The New York Times said: "The American secretary's visit left no doubt that a far more robust American military and diplomatic initiative lies ahead in southern Asia."

 Get it? They are not in Afghanistan to knock out bin Laden. They are not there to destroy the Taliban. The immediate goals of bombing Afghanistan are a) to prepare the locals to have a proper attitude toward US domination and b) to send a message to any independent minded leaders in Iran, India, China and especially the former Soviet Republics, that those who defy the US will get bombed. What is the final goal?

'independent'

 The more long-term goal is to set up a '100 per cent independent' Afghan government dominated by the US and British foreign policy establishments. A lot of the day-to-day dominating of these independentists will be done by Pakistan under CIA and State Department direction.

 The 'independent' government will 'approve' a powerful US military presence, probably including a massive military base or bases, similar to Bondsteel in Kosovo.

 We have been sold a vicious little war, my friends. The terrorists will not be eliminated. They will be regrouped into a more effective force. The talk of keeping 'moderate Taliban' in the government is the tip-off. A 'moderate Taliban' is one who does what the US tells him to do.

 Washington plans to combine some of these moderates with moderate muhajedeen (i.e., terrorists) from the Northern Alliance, with the aim of creating a unified moderate terrorist apparatus modelled after the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

 Most Americans have scant knowledge of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). This is the fault of the mass media, which has simply not told us the truth about the KLA. For example, we have not been not told:
 * That the KLA drove most non-Albanians and anti-fascist Albanians from the Serbian province of Kosovo, properly called Kosovo and Metohia;

 * That the KLA is the proud descendant of the pro-Nazi Albanian groups that ruled Kosovo under German Nazi and Italian Fascist direction during the Second World War;

 * That the United Nations and Nato turned the KLA into the UN organisation called Kosovo Protection Corps, which has terrorized Kosovo and Metohia;

 * The KLA terror has included the destruction of about 100 Orthodox Christian churches.

 The crucial thing in terms of Afghanistan is this: after Nato used the terrorist KLA to consolidate its control of Kosovo, it unleashed the KLA, with reinforcements from Islamist terrorists from Chechnya, against neighbouring Macedonia.

 This despite the fact that the Macedonian government had done everything it could to please Washington, allowing Nato to use Macedonia as a rear base for attacking Yugoslavia.

 Washington and London plan to create a new terrorist apparatus to replace the incompetent Taliban. This terrorist force will be used to attack countries around Afghanistan, especially the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union, and to attack Russia.

 Washington has coupled the KLA terrorist assault on Macedonia with military 'aid' to that besieged state. In the same way, the attack from terrorists based in Afghanistan will be coupled with military aid to the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia. Washington likes to control both the attack and the victim's response, the better to determine the outcome of the struggle.

 The goal of this assault on the lands of the former Soviet Union is not small-time economic exploitation, as many on the Left think. Washington does not need to decimate Central Asia in order to control this or that natural resource, for example oil deposits, or to put through a pipeline or some other economic project. Washington is playing for vastly bigger stakes. The goals are 1) to reduce the nations of the former Soviet Union to US-controlled territories, helpless to protect any of their treasures, whether oil or gold or forests or land or people or natural gas and 2) to eliminate the potential threat that these former Soviet states might get together as a powerful political and military force and challenge Washington's ability to do the same thing all over the woild.

 A Russian reader informs us that politicians allied with president Putin have popularised a new slogan in Russia: "Better the US in Kazakhstan than the Taliban in Tartarstan."

 This is consistent with Putin's approach since 9-11, which has been to avoid challenging Washington. For example, he has accepted Washington's amazing self-definition as champion of the war on terror, even though everyone in Russia knows Washington has sponsored and continues to sponsor terrorist forces in the Balkans and covertly supports them in Chechnya and that it has openly threatened the former Soviet Republic of Belarus with a campaign of destabilization and terror. Moreover, Putin has not challenged Washington's version of the actual scenario on 9-11, even though the head of the Russian Air Force, Gen. Anatoli Kornukov, rejects Washington's claim that the US Air Force was unable to intercept any of the hijacked planes.

 Is Putin hopelessly misled? Does he actually believe he is going to play some imaginary Berlin card against Washington? Or is he just a traitor?

 Whatever Putin's intentions, his behaviour betrays not only Russia but the whole world, because everyone, including the American people, needs to hear the truth. And all of us, including ordinary people in the US, needs Russia to rally nations to resist Washington's attempt to transform the planet, as it has transformed the Balkans, into a terrorist-dominated hell.

 Washington could not carry out this truly crazy 'strategy' were it not for the betrayal of leaders, like Mr. Putin, who know the truth but tell their people lies. Because the truth is this: if the US Establishment takes over Afghanistan then it will not be long before the muhajedeen are in Tartarstan. And from there?

* Jared Israel writes for The Emperor's New Clothes.

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British News

Pensioners demand better healthcare

by Renee Sams

THOUSANDS of pensioners filled Central Hall, Westminster on Tuesday 6 November -- Health Action Day -- for a mass lobby of Parliament organised by the National Pensioners' Convention as part of an ongoing campaign to improve the delivery ofhealthcare services to older people.

 "This is an improvement that is now needed urgently," said Rodney Bickerstaffe, president of the NPC when opening the meeting. "There are so many stories of people not getting the treatment they need and some are dying before their time.

 A speaker for the MIS Support Federation -- an organisation set up to campaign for a comprehensive and adequately funded NHS -- noted that: "The people who have contributed most to the NHS have a right to care throughout their lives."

 He recalled how he had rejoiced at the election of this Labour government and had looked to them to "rescue the NHS from the state into which it had been allowed to drift."

 "Some things have been done," he admitted, "but it doesn't make up for 25 years of underfunding."

 This Government is now proposing agreements with private healthcare providers in a bid to shorten NHS waiting times.

 Under these agreements, MIS patients whose operations are cancelled or those on long waiting lists, could end up being treated privately.

 The NHS Support Federation sees this as useful in the short term. "But", the speaker warned, "It is an illusion to think that the private sector is the answer to all the problems in the longer term. It can only weaken the NHS.

 Private hospitals rely on NHS consultants to perform most of the work in the independent sector. There are 23,000 consultants in Britain and they receive the lion's share of NHS salary -- and there is no limit on their private work.

 If more NHS work is channelled into the private sector, more NHS doctors will want to takeup lucrative private contracts and the fear is that gradually a private sector provider could become the main supplier of a procedure such as hip replacement and use their market position to increase prices.

 Another issue of great concern is the Government's idea on long-term care of the elderly whereby people in nursing homes have to pay for bed or room and all personal care. Only actual nursing care will be free.

 The Government is also insisting that people must continue to pay towards their care -- which is just more means testing. They must pay the full rate if they have more than £18,000 in savings. Be low that there is a sliding scale where they pay part and the local authority pays part.

 It is forecast that the NHS will soon have enormous debts to pay to the private sector for the new hospitals being built under private finance initiative (PFI) schemes.

 Some £2 billion will be needed to pay for the leasing fees for the first wave of hospitals being built.

 These arrangements will continue for up to 330 years. By 2007 some £4.5 billion will have to be found to service these debts.

 Keith Sonnet, deputy general secretary of the public sector union Unison, called for comprehensive free care for all. He said: "We must send out the message that we are not prepared to put up with a sub-standard health service."

 Claire Rayner, who represents the Patients' Forum, pointed out that it has been shown that people are willing to pay more in taxes to ensure healthcare.

 She added: "This is not just for us but for our children, who will be needing care in the future."

 Veteran pensioners' campaigner Barbara Castle called for her "comrades in arms" to "stick to specific demands upon the Government".

 She stressed: "We need to abolish the means test". And she expressed concern that "those who have worked hard are now being penalised".

 "The elderly," she stressed, "must refuse to be licked. Lady Thatcher would not lie down and be walked all over and neither would I -- and neither should you.

 She called on pensioners to speak to their elected MPs and give them the facts -- use them. "Stop being victims," she said, "and become effectual citizens."

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