The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 9th May, 1997

We are almost recovered from the excitement of the election and May Day. There is a huge backlog of work to catch up on, so thanks for bearing with us.


Workers of all countries, unite!


Welcome To Our Weekly Digest Edition

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.


Editorial - A call for change.
Lead Story - Labour victory lifts gloom.
Feature - Bosses failing parent employees.
International - May Day in Brussels.
British News - Essex firefighters: no compromise, talks now!



Editorial


A call for change.


GONE AT LAST! The disastrous 18 years of Tory rule are over -- the Tories lie buried under Labour's historic, landslide victory in last week's general election.

The ignominious defeat of the government saw every Tory MP swept out of Scotland, Wales and virtually all the urban areas of England. Former Cabinet ministers were booted out of Parliament and John Major announced a leadership election for his own party.

The routed Tories immediately turned on each other. Some blamed the right-wing "Euro-sceptics" and others blamed the leadership for failing to maintain party discipline during the election campaign.

Of course the Tories' disunity damaged them. But it was not the main cause of their defeat. They were beaten because the government was discredited and detested -- the people voted for change.

Labour's right-wing leaders, on the other hand, want us to think the result was an endorsement of their class-collaborationist posture and the "reforms" of the Labour Party -- as if the whole country is excited by the idea of "New Labour".

But while that may have influenced some former Tory voters, it doesn't explain the scale of the landslide or the gains in seats by the Lib-Dems -- largely as a result of tactical voting to get the Tories out at all costs.

The Labour landslide of 1997 was even greater than that in 1945. It could not have been a clearer or more decisive result. It is almost certainly far more than Tony Blair either expected or wanted.

Now the Labour leadership has no excuse. There is nothing to stop the Labour government from implementing progressive changes and rolling back the anti-working class legislation of the past 18 years -- nothing that is but the right-wing leaders' own tendency to crawl to the capitalist ruling class.

We all know full well that Blair and his clique want to play along with the major thrusts of ruling class policy. They want Britain fully integrated into the European Union, they don't want re-nationalisation, they want to retain anti-union laws, they want to protect the wealthy from tax rises and they want to cut social spending.

But the Blairites are not going to get the smooth ride they had during the run-up to the election. The extent to which the right-wing agenda can be checked and progressive policies introduced will depend on the level of resistance from the organised working class and the pressure for change that is built up outside of Parliament.

Blair is no longer just an opposition leader surrounded by toadies in Millbank Tower. He now has a greatly enlarged Parliamentary Labour Party, including a number of Left MPs, and an electorate with expectations of better things.

The victory over the Tories must not be squandered. Blair has wasted no time in starting his programme and nor should we waste a moment in raising our demands.

These are too many to list here but they have to include the demand for progress in the peace process for Ireland. The obstacles to all-party talks have to be removed and the peace process got under way as soon as possible.

The Tories' racist Asylum Law should be scrapped and the unnecessary poverty and suffering of asylum seekers brought to an end.

The campaign against Trident nuclearweapons needs to be stepped up. The demand to scrap Trident still has considerable support within the Labour Party, despite the narrow reversal at the Labour Party conference.

None of the politicians who support Trident can give any sensible reason for its' retention and the money wasted on this weapons system is shameful and stupid.

Labour has said it will support the NHS. But it has been so severely ravaged under the Tories that it needs a massive transfusion of funds to bring it back to health. Labour has got to deliver on the health service and must not be allowed to get away with just tinkering around with existing budgets.

The people will of course expect Labour to carry out its election pledges on education and cutting VAT on domestic fuel. But these am only minimal improvements -- tiny crumbs for the working class.

The election victory has brought the smile back to Britain and has raised the morale of the labour and progressive movements. But no one has any illusions -- the struggle has just begun!
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Lead Story


Labour victory lifts gloom


LABOUR's historic landslide victory in last week's general election has given the incoming Labour government a massive 179 seat majority in the House of Commons. The superb result showed more than anything else the extent of the Tories' unpopularity and how determined the people were to get rid of them.

The crushing defeat of the Tories saw leading members of the out-going Cabinet losing their seats, including former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind and leadership wannabe Michael Portillo.

The Tories were totally wiped out in Scotland and Wales and in almost every urban conurbation in England. All they have left are some of the rural shires of England and the most affluent corners of suburbia -- the Lib-Dems retained their seats in the South West of England and made further gains in other areas of the country.

John Major quickly announced his intention to give up the leadership of the Conservative Party.

The Labour victory has undoubtedly raised expectations -there is a widespread desire for change. Such a huge landslide signals more than just a whim to change the faces on the front bench -- it is a demand for a political change that will lift the heavy burden off the backs of the working class and growing numberss of the middle strata.

But the driving force behind the Tory attacks on the working class is the crisis in the capitalist system itself. And we know that the Blair-led government has no intention of squaring up to the capitalist class. This means the fight for working class interests has to be taken beyond the ballot box and to the door of the new Labour government.

Tony Blair has said he will listen to the people. We have to see that he listens to the working class.

The new Prime Minister's anpointments to ministerial jobs indicate the struggles that lie ahead of us. Frank Feild's post as Social Security minister is ominous as he has been invited by Blair to engage in some "bold thinking". That means a major "reform" of the benefits system -- almost certainly geared to cutting social spending.

The new Chancellor, Gordon Brown has already raised interest rates by a small amount and handed to the Bank of England the right to decide on future changes to the base rate. This is clearly a move to pave the way for closer integration into the European Union and has delighted the City of London.

It is certainly not in the interests of the working class and has effectively removed a lever of fiscal adjustment from democratic control. After all, who voted for the bosses of the Bank of England?

Rises in interest rates will also hit mortgage payments and the many people on low incomes who have been forced to take on debts.

Getting rid ofthe Tories is an advance. But there can be no complacency about a Labour government -- especially one that is under right-wing leadership. If we are to defend our class interests the struggle must go on.
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Feature


Bosses failing parent employees


by Caroline Colebrook

ONLY THREE per cent of British employers currently offer parental leave that allows both men and women to spend time with their families at the birth of a new child, according to a survey by the independent think-tank, Demos, launched last Monday to coincide with Britain's first ever National Parenting Day.

This means that 97 per cent of bosses are doing nothing to help and are missing out on the benefits of parental leave schemes.

When asked why they did not make any provision for parental leave, 37 per cent said they had little demand from staff, 19 per cent said it was too expensive to provide paid leave and 18 per cent said the benefits did not justify the costs.

The small minority of bosses that do provide parental leave are mostly in the public sector and employ large proportions of women and have more women in management.

Furthermore the vast majority of firms say that parental leave will not figure on their boards' agendas in the next three years. Most said they would only start to think about it if there were some British or European Union legislation on it in the pipeline.

British men already work the longest hours in Europe. Yet another study showed that far from getting a cut in hours when a new baby is born, new fathers tend to work up to four times more paid overtime than childless men.

This is partly because they need the money but also because they are afraid their boss will see fatherhood as a problem.

Working mothers also feel under pressure not to let parenthood disrupt their working patterns in case their boss feels they are not up to the job.

Yet all the evidence on childcare shows that babies prosper best when both parents can give them time and attention without being under pressure or stress from overwork. Also statistics show that where fathers are allowed to take time off to become involved in caring for a new child, the relationship between the mother and father is less likely to end in divorce.

Traditionally the heaviest load of childcare falls on mothers but there is very little quality childcare provision for working mothers. Only those career women on very high salaries can afford a nanny.

Good creches and nurseries are very few and far between and the hours they operate do not suit today's longer working hours.

Primary schools finish at 3.30pm, hours before most working women are released, exhausted and under stress, to collect their children. There is practically no provision during school holidays for the young school children of working mothers. This leaves gaps that are filled friends, neighbours, grandparents and so on -- heroically doing their best to meet the needs and often for little or no material reward.

For single parents the effort is not worth the struggle. Too often, even if they can find childcare, the costs wipe out any benefit gained from being at work.

This is why three quarters of single mothers with children under five have no job.

Over half of all women with children under five work (53 per cent), 36 percent work part-time. Almost three quarters of women whose children are over five work.

There is an enormous need for quality childcare. Yet the National Children's Bureau describes the provision of childcare in Britain as a patchwork.

The nursery voucher scheme was supposed to help. But it provides only partial help for four year-olds that ends at 3.15pm every day.

If the new Labour government wants to help single mothers into work, and improve the health and welfare of the rising generation of workers, it will have to provide proper childcare for all who need it. And it will have to put some curbs on the hours of work that bosses can demand from new parents.

Parental leave should be a right with no loss of pay, job security or promotion prospects.

Even looked at from a purely monetary point of view, this will cost the country far less in the long term in benifits and so on.
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International


May Day in Brussels


THOUSANDS of Belgian communists and workers rallied to the call of the Belgian Workers' Party (PTB) for a militant celebration of workers' day. And the Free University of Brussels was packed for a May Day festival of international stalls, entertainments and seminars followed by a rally in the evening.

The rally was boosted by the presence of the fighting Clabecq steel workers and the Renault strikers. The overflow meeting heard Winnie Mandela, leader of the ANC's women's section, call for the rebirth of socialism.

"All over the world there is a growing disillusionment with capitalism, and its inability to address poverty and unemployment" she declared. "We must begin now to plant the seeds of socialism that will deliver a decent quality of life for all".

Belgian Workers' Party leader Ludo Martens delivered a withering attack on capitalism in Belgium and abroad and made the case for the communist alternative. And the evening ended with a rousing Internationale.

The festival was followed by three days of seminars supported by communist and workers' parties from around the worId. Speakers included Viktor Anpilov, the leader of the Russian Communist Workers' Party and representatives of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), the Russian Workers' and Peasants Party and Philippine communist leader Jose Maria Sisons.

Other delegations came from the Workers' Party of Korea, the Cuban Communist Party, together with representatives from communist movements in every continent.

The NCP was represented by general secretary Andy Brooks, and Alan Cumner from the central committee. The New Worker stall sold 170 worth of literature at the May Day festival.

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British News


Essex firefighters: no compromise, talks now!


by Steve Lawton

ESSEX firefighters continued their battle to reverse the county council's 15 million fire service cut by staging two more strikes since the national solidarity demonstration in Chelmsford on 29 April.

The 3 and 6 May actions bring the total number of strikes to seven with another, as we go to press, planned for 8 May and a further series of three strikes on 15, 16 and 17 May. On all occassions, it has been clear that public support remains high.

Frequently, whether out collecting for the firefighters' hardship fund, petitioning, or while off-duty, people have stopped to express support,

Since 1 May local elections a new administration has emerged with the Conservatives as the largest single group, but with no overall control. The Labour leader of the council Chris Pearson, who had led an intransigent position against the firefighters before the election, has lost his seat to the Tories.

The Conservative group have apparently offered to reduce the l.5 million cut to the fire service to 750,000. And they have offered guarantees on training. Tory county councillor for Castle Point Ray Howard said: "The offer is on the table and the unions are willing to consider it".

But, in fact firefighters are not willing to consider anything that compromises their own or the public's safety. For the FBU that means sticking to a reversal of the 1.5 million cut. The new leader of the council indicated on 7 May that the FBU must stop strike action before the council will sit down and discuss the issue. He says that they have something to offer, but will not declare what it is until the FBU ceases strike action.

FBU secretary Keith Handscomb said on BBC Essex Talk Live radio on 7 May that this view suggests that the leader is "carrying on with the same Lib/Lab pact so we're not sure things are changing".

Firefighters must consider, he said, whether "to trust these new people when in the past they have threatened to sack them and actually these threats still hang over us at this very moment."

The questioning of the FBU leader was noticeably more aggressive, as was the continual interuption of his answers. Constantly, the interviewer pressed for an admission that ending stnke action first was the answer.

But Keith Handscomb calmly persisted with what is so obviously self-evident. He was not prepared to compromise public safety or our own safety. "If the county council think they can have fewer firefighters this year than last year, I don't think the firefighters and control staff will accept that."

One firefighter didn't see why he had to "be put at more risk because the county council want to save money. How do you compromise on a firefighters' safety and place the Essex public at greater risk?"

As he turned the question back on the interviewer he said: "I'd ask you to put yourself in the position of sitting in front of firefighters and telling them just which particular area of their safety you'd like them to compromise on."

Another firefighter explained how two firefighters in Wales died because there weren't enough people to deal with a house fire. There weren't enough to deal with firefighting as well as search and rescue -- it was left to two firefighters. The brigade had been cut.

He said once the Essex County Council cutback bites, first jobs will go, then training. In Wales: "That fire brigade got a health and safety improvement notice saying that their training wasn't up to it because the officer in charge wasn't adequately trained to deal with the incident. That is going to happen to Essex."

Keith Handscomb appealed to the county council: "Let's meet today, the next strike doesn't start until 6pm Thursday -- there are two days in which we can talk."

* In Thurrock, 40 firefighters marched through Grays against the cuts.

The marchers were accompanied by a museum-piece fire engine to Thurrock's council offices on New Road.

Essex FBU western area secretary Paul Adams addressed the rally of firefighters and public and presented a 10,000-signature petition in support of fire fighters to the council. And that's beside the local county daily Evening Echo firefighter petition which has collected 35,000 signatures.

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