The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 10th March 2000

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Editorial - Livingstone for Mayor.
Lead Story - Livingstone sets Labour leaders spinning.
Feature - Asylum relief delayed.
International - Israel on the run.
British News - Call on Met to investigate race deaths.


Livingstone for Mayor

FROM the moment that Ken Livingstone announced his decision to stand as an independent candidate in the London Mayoral election the campaign to try and reduce his massive lead in the opinion polls began.

 This consists of efforts by the Right of the Labour Party and the Tories to revive the old Red Ken-bashing routine of the eighties and a less crude campaign targeted at the left and the labour movement based on two main themes -- that his candidature will split the movement and that he can't succeed without help from Labour Party activists and union cash.

 Blair's description of Livingstone as a "disaster for London" begs the question, "whose London is he talking about?" Livingstone could well prove to be a disaster for the City sharks impatiently circling around London's Underground waiting for fresh pickings from tube privatisation.

 But Livingstone is no disaster for the majority of Londoners who don't want the tube privatised and who are still angry and dismayed about the government's response to the Paddington rail crash.

 Different arguments are being used to target the labour movement. These aim to help Blair overcome the crisis he and his cronies created when they shamefully weighted Labour's electoral college against Ken Livingstone.

 Despite much tut-tutting about the way the internal Labour selection was carried out the Morning Star has nonetheless declared itself against Livingstone -- in other words it is backing Frank Dobson and Blair.

 Last Tuesday's Morning Star editorial quoted what Livingstone had said about the setting up of Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party. It sought to make Livingstone choke on his own words -- calling on Scargill to stay in the Labour Party and fight for change.

 Yet, the two situations are completely different. Scargill was forming a new party in permanent opposition to the Labour Party and was hoping to recruit members, including members of the Labour Party, into the SLP's ranks.

 Livingstone on the other hand is not setting up a separate party. He has been at pains to persuade his supporters in the Labour Party not to put themselves in danger of expulsion.

 If comparisons are to be made with the present situation it is not Arthur Scargill and his SLP we should be looking at but the case of Dennis Canavan, Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Falkirk West.

 He was given the thumbs-down from on high when he sought to stand as an MSP candidate in the seat he had long held as a Westminster MP. But he was a popular local MP. The high-handed treatment Dennis received angered the local Labour Party and electorate. When he stood as an independent candidate he won the seat comfortably.

 In both cases Canavan and Livingstone wanted to stay in the Labour Party and fight as Labour candidates. Both were on the receiving end of anti-democratic measures which confounded this aim as well as the clear wishes of a majority of Labour Party members and voters in their respective localities.

 Our Party is committed to the struggle to keep the link between the trade unions and the Labour Party strong. We also call for the maximum vote for Labour in elections -- the only way to keep the Tories out and elect a government that is organisationally linked to the working class movement.

 But that does not mean we support Blair and his right-wing followers nor do we support the Labour government when it carries through anti-working class policies either at home or abroad. Our criticisms are made loud and clear.

 We say: "The call for a democratic Labour Party has to be made throughout the movement along with support for Labour Party activists with mass support when they come into conflict with the Blair leadership."

 Clearly Canavan and Livingstone are in this position. We therefore urge all London electors to vote for Ken Livingstone in May.

 We also believe the recent events in Falkirk, in the London Mayoral selection procedure and in the shoddy election of Alun Michael in Wales highlight the fact that all bourgeois elections are fundamentally designed by and for the benefit of the capitalist ruling class. The limitations of bourgeois democracy are clear for all to see.

 For real change, for the creation of a socialist society the working class needs to seize state power through revolution guided by the principles of Marxism-Leninism,

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Lead Story

Livingstone sets Labour leaders spinning

by Daphne Liddle

THE LABOUR Party officially suspended the membership of Ken Livingstone after he announced his decision to stand as an independent candidate in the elections for a mayor of Greater London.

 The next day an opinion poll published in the Guardian gave Livingstone a 55 point lead over the official Labour Party candidate, Frank Dobson.

 Now the Millbank power house is internally divided with recriminations and accusations flying over their disastrously managed campaign to Stop Ken.

 In particular Labour Party general secretary Margaret McDonagh has come in for heavy criticism for misjudging the mood of Londoners and Ken Livingstone's resolve to stand his ground.

 The poll gave Ken Livingstone 68 per cent, Frank Dobson 13 per cent, Steve Norris the Tory candidate 11 per cent and Liberal Democrat Susan Kramer 11 per cent.

 The Millbank campaign against Ken Livingstone has been so blatant and unfair that everything the spin doctors have done to stop him has boosted him in the eyes of Londoners.

 He is a realist and aware that the giant poll lead is probably misleading: "I don't believe in these huge leads," he said. "They will melt away in what will be a pretty brutal campaign."

 He now faces an uphill task to raise funds for his campaign to match those of the three main parties -- around £450,000.

 His campaign has launched an appeal for funds. But even before this some £20,000 was reported to have been sent by wellwishers.

 He says he will spend the next two weeks putting people in place to run his election campaign and drawing up a manifesto. "I am starting with virtually nothing," he said.

 So far no Labour MPs have dared to support him openly and Millbank has wheeled out a succession of hacks to condemn his stand -- some of them former left-wingers.

 But some are still arguing that Ken should be the official Labour candidate after polling thousands more individual votes than Frank Dobson. He won 74,000 votes compared to Dobson's 24,000 yet the rigged electoral college system of voting gave Dobson the victory.

 Livingstone said: "Frank won because one trade union leader and one Co-op branch cast eight per cent of the total votes in Frank's favour without balloting their members.

massive pressure

 "Labour MPs' votes were given 1,000 times the weight of an individual party member and -- under massive pressure from the whips in a ballot that was not even secret -- most of them cast their votes for Frank."

 Ken Livingstone has repudiated any official tie up with any fringe groups such as Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party or the London Socialist Alliance. It is possible that if Livingstone wins, and that seems likely, the demand to restore his Labour Party membership will grow. With a massive public endorsement, it will be difficult for Millbank to refuse him.

 If elected there will be a limit on wha the can do. When Labour first created the post they made sure it came with a limited budget and remit but winning in itself will shatter the myth that the right-wing grip on the Labour leadership -- and some of the trade unions -- cannot be challenged.

This will give heart and encouragement to genuine socialists throughout the labour movement to renew their efforts to reclaim the movement for the working class.

 Livingstone's campaign will focus on the future of the London Underground.

 The Blair leadership wants it privatised -- in spite of the disaster that has brought to British Rail. Ken Livingstone wants to keep it in the public sector.

 Another mistake made by the Labour leadership is to try to scare voters with the " looney left" tag and references to when Livingstone was leader of the Greater London Council.

transport policy

 For most Londoners this was a good time when, for the only time in living memory, London had a transport policy that worked. Cheap fares led to an increase in the use ofpublic transport and a big reduction in traffic congestion.

 Also it was a time when money was spent on some of London's most needy, for example low cost holiday schemes for children from deprived areas funded through the Inner London Education Authority -- now sorely missed.

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Asylum relief delayed

by Caroline Colebrook

HOME Office plans to disperse refugees to local authorities throughout Britain to relieve pressure on Kent and the south-east have been delayed because not enough accommodation could be found.

 Immigration Minister Barbara Roche told the House of Commons last Monday that the operation, due to happen on 1 April, will now have to be phased in gradually as accommodation becomes available.

 The Home Office says there will be an announcement on the state of readiness of the plan to move 4,200 asylum seekers every month from April.

 And the Government has had to pledge an extra £10 million to help councils provide the accommodation and back-up services that the refugees will need.

 Sandy Bruce-Lockhart, leader of Kent County Council, said: "We were expecting on April 1 for the Government to take over the dispersal of asylum seekers which we are handling in Kent at the moment.

 "Clearly, if this is delayed we will be very disappointed but not, perhaps, entirely surprised."

 There has been a lot of pressure to move the refugees, mainly clustered around Dover, because of the strains on local authority resources.

 This has been exacerbated by parts of the right-wing press with alarmist tales of Kent and the south-east being swamped by fortune-seeking bogus refugees.

 Some local papers have made much of the fact that Kent County Council may have to raise council tax levels by £3 a year per household to cope with the needs of the refugees, who include 900 unaccompanied children.

 The London Borough of Hillingdon, which includes Heathrow Airport, is considering a similar rise in council tax.

 Many of those arriving are from the former Yugoslavia where the imperialist powers have fostered racist and nationalist clashes and where last year Nato bombed the country for three months causing homelessness, unemployment and thousands of casualties. And to make matters worse the shells Nato used were tipped with radio-active depleted uranium.

 In addition many Roma people have been driven out of eastern Europe after the fall of communism and the rise of unemployment followed by racism.

 Home Secretary Jack Straw's Immigration and Asylum Act will eventually take responsibility for looking after refugees away from local authorities and put it in the hands of the new National Asylum Support Service.

 Asylum seekers will have no choice about where they are sent throughout the country. They will not be eligible for any benefits but will be given food vouches to cover essential needs and £10 a week in cash.

 This is a reversal to the system set up first by the Tories but overturned in the courts.

 From Monday 3 April the new rules will apply to refugees who claim asylum at the port of entry -- around 40 per cent.

 But the remaining 60 per cent, those who wait until later and claim asylum once they are inside Britain, will remain the responsibility of the local authority.

 They will be able to claim a mixture of cash, social security and housing benefit and to remain in London and the south-east while their claims are considered.

 Barbara Roche told the Commons: "A phased implementation is the sensible course. The arrangements have been tested in simulated trials. Bringing port applicants into the scheme first will enable the National Asylum Support Service to deal with any teething difficulties before rolling out the scheme fully."

 She declared that the 40 per cent who claim asylum on arrival will be given accommodation "on a no-choice basis in cluster areas".

The Immigration and Asylum Act was amended on its passage through the Commons so that families with chi Idren will not be forced to exist on vouchers unless the Home Office can guarantee to settle their claims within six months.

 Meanwhile Glasgow City Council seems to have got its act together and is already accepting bus loads of refugees as part of an agreement between Scottish councils and 33 London boroughs.

 They are being offered accommodation in multi-story flats throughout the city and will be able to continue to receive cash benefits instead of the hated food vouchers, which humiliate and stigmatise.

 The Glasgow City deal is voluntary and outside the Government dispersal scheme. The terms and conditions under which the refugees are received will be governed by the Scottish Parliament because it comes under social work legislation.

 The deal will offer support on a three tier basis. The deputy project manager of Glasgow City Council, Brian O'Hara said: "We may end up with some people receiving support, others receiving support and accommodation, and others accommodation only and others nothing -- depending on the decision they receive from the National Asylum Support Service.

 The Glasgow City deal will help some 600 families. In all, Scotland is expected to take another 6,000 asylum seekers under the Government's dispersal scheme, eventually.

 The dispersal scheme will need an estimated 40-60,000 accommodation places a year.

 The cost of this would be easy to meet if spread evenly through income tax rather than falling on particular local authorities.

 Then there would be less need to disperse refugees in isolated clusters, far from interpreter services and the legal services they need to find their way through the maze of asylum laws.

 No doubt the right-wing press will continue to lament the total cost but will fail to mention that this is the cost of the undermining of communism in eastern Europe and imperialist attacks on Yugoslavia.

 Whatever the costs to income tax or council tax payers, the costs in terms of loss of home, friends, family and so on to the refugees themselves is impossible to calculate.

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Israel on the run

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent

LEBANESE partisans are stepping up their actions against the Israelis and their local stooges while back in Tel Aviv the Barak government has formally declared that it's getting out with or without an agreement with the Arabs.

 Two members of Israel's puppet "South Lebanon Army" (SLA) auxiliaries were killed and another wounded in Hezbullah (Party of God) guerrilla attacks this week to speed the Israelis on their way.

 Last Sunday the Israeli cabinet endorsed a July evacuation of the southern Lebanon "security zone" -- a decision greeted with jubilation by Hezbullah as "an official recognition of defeat of the Zionist invaders by the Lebanese people and its Islamic resistance".

 But Hezbullah warns that it will not cease fighting until the last Israeli soldier leaves the last inch of Lebanese soil.

 For Barak the humiliation of being chased out of Lebanon is easily outweighed by the political reward he hopes he'll get from the Israeli public who are sick of the war and the mounting casualty lists. Though this is of no comfort for the bunch of cut-throats in the "SLA" whose future looks exceedingly grim following a Tel Aviv Supreme Court decision last Monday to deny the 2,000-odd auxiliaries asylum in Israel after the guns fall silent.

 Now they are of no further use the fate of these Arab traitors is low on Barak's agenda. Hezbullah has made it clear what's in store for them if they stay behind -- withdrawing an earlier offer to pardon "repentant collaborators" and calling on other countries to deny them asylum should Israel request it.

 Barak's main problem is what happens after Lebanon. Hopes of a quick-fix deal with Syria have vanished because the Labour-led coalition will not concede to the only condition which will bring peace -- total withdrawal from occupied Syrian territory. So he's hoping to revive the Palestinian track of the "peace process".

 Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met this week to talk about a resumption of negotiations stalled when Israel refused to fully implement the agreed third-stage West Bank evacuation.

 President Arafat, whose patience with the Israelis has long been attacked by some quarters of Palestinian opinion, is on the political offensive now. He's again talking about declaring an independent Palestine by the end of the year. Arafat's said this before and always backed down under Israeli and American pressure. This time he seems to mean business.

 "This is the moment of truth," Arafat stated this week. "Israel should stop wasting time, stop playing with the agreement. We don't have lots of time. We have to implement the agreements".

 And the upsurge of violence in the Israeli Arab town of Taibeh is a warning of what the future may bring. Four members of the Palestinian resistance, believed to be members of the Islamic Palestinian Hamas movement, were killed following a 14 hour gun battle with Israeli security forces besieging the apartment block they were hiding in.

 The Israelis say the guerrillas were preparing explosives for a new bombing campaign in Israel. They claim the resistance has made a "strategic decision" to renew the armed struggle to disrupt the "peace process". But all the Arabs know that if the Palestinian returns to violence it is entirely due to the stubbornness and bad faith of the Israelis who don't even honour their own agreements.

 The fact that the battle took place in an Israeli Arab region, part of Palestine seized in 1948, where the Arabs theoretically "enjoy" the benefits of Israeli citizenship, is another warning to Barak and his ilk that the flames of Palestinian anger can no longer be confined to the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Time is definitely running out for Barak.

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British News

Call on Met to investigate race deaths

 THE FAMILY of two black men found hanged in separate incidents last week travelled from their home in Telford, Shropshire, to London to ask Home Secretary Jack Straw and the specialist race crimes unit at Scotland Yard to take over the investigation.

 The relatives of Harold "Errol" McGowan and his nephew Jason say they have lost confidence in their local force, the West Mercia Police, to find the killers.

 Errol McGowan died last July in suspicious circumstances. In his part time job as a pub bouncer he had angered a group of white racist thugs by refusing them admission to the pub.

 After that he was subjected to a sustained campaign of racist abuse, assaults and death threats. He reported this to the police a number of times.

 Yet when he was found hanged, in circumstances where it would have been most difficult to hang himself, West Mercia Police dismissed it as suicide.

 This was within a few months of the publication of the McPherson report.

 Errol's nephew Jason was not satisfied with the investigation and began his own inquiry. Then he came in for a campaign of racist threats and abuse.

 He was found hanged on New Year's day, also in very suspicious circumstances. West Mercia Police also tried to write this off as suicide until a national newspaper took up the issue.

 Local people were outraged that Telford was being portrayed as a race hate town with lynch mobs but it does not take large mobs to carry out vicious racist murders. Tiny groups of very nasty racists can occur anywhere.

 Scotland Yard's new race and violent crimes unit has offered to take over the investigation but West Mercia Police say they have appointed a new team of detectives and will continue the inquiry themselves but will seek advice from the Scotland Yard unit "when it is needed".

 Jack Straw has told the family he can only recommend to West Mercia that they hand over the investigation but the final decision is with the chief constable of West Mercia -- and he has said he will not change his mind.

 * A third Leeds United footballer has been arrested and questioned in connection with a racist attack in the city centre that left student Sarfraz Najeib seriously injured.

 Reserve team striker Tony Hackworth was questioned for 12 hours and then released on police bail.

 *French footballer Emmanuel Petit, who plays for Arsenal, was last week supported by two members of the rival Aston Villa management team when he told the Football Association, at a misconduct hearing, that an offensive gesture he made was in response to racist abuse from a small group of Aston Villa fans.

 Villa fist team coach Steve Harrison and goalkeeping coach Paul Barren both gave evidence at the hearing which backed up Petit's claim.

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