The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 1st September 2000

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Editorial - From steel to rust.
Lead Story - NHS faces another Winter crisis.
Feature - Black soldier "unlawfully" killed.
International - Israelis die in West bank raid.
British News - New warnings on BSE.


From steel to rust

THE sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk and the devastating fire in the Moscow telecommunications tower have once again focused national and international attention on the decaying state of Russia's infrastructure, the weakness of its economy and the ineptitude of its current leaders.

 The Russian press has published scathing attacks on Vladimir Putin and his government, the relatives of the dead submariners have bitterly expressed their anger at the government's handling of the situation and the Russian public at large has shown its dismay at the appalling state their country is in.

 The western media has shed a few crocodile tears but at the same time it has been rubbing its hands with pleasure at the sight of so many rusting hulks in Russia's naval ports and the evidence of a dramatic reduction in Russia's naval force.

 Like the Russian media, the western press has pointed the finger of blame at Putin and the top military brass.

 Putin and his cronies undoubtedly deserve criticism. But this blaming of individuals and governments only serves to turn people's eyes from the truth -- that Russia's backwards march to embrace capitalism has brought nothing but disaster to the country and the vast majority of its people.

 In the fifteen years since the traitor Gorbachov came to power the once super power Soviet Union has been broken up and state power has been handed on a plate to the emerging capitalist class. The rich oil and mineral reserves have fallen like ripe plums into the hands of western transnational companies, the country is in hock to the money-lenders of the IMF and World Bank and unemployment and poverty are widespread.

 Russia has suffered massive devaluations of its currency which has impoverished millions of pensioners and others living on fixed incomes and wiped out the value of people's savings. A shady dollar-based economy has mushroomed in which gangsters grow fat. Inevitably the crime rate has risen dramatically.

 Our media and politicians rejoiced at the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union. They bragged that now the people of that country had freedom, democracy and opportunity.

 But what did this really bring? It gave freedom to giant western oil companies to penetrate the Caspian, it gave freedom to transnational retailers to open up branches in Russian and east European cities and it gave freedom to Russia's new rich to get rid of socialist laws and restore the practice of exploiting workers.

 The new-found "democracy" is, as it is everywhere in the capitalist world, a means of allowing the capitalist class to rule with the swords of state power sheathed in their scabbards. We only have to look at the United States Congress, the House of Commons or the Russian Duma to see that the chambers are full of lawyers, economists, business people, Ivy League and Oxbridge graduates, the well-to-do and other lackeys of the ruling class.

 The opportunities of this restored capitalism are a sick joke for most Russians. Many workers and military personnel have experienced having to survive without wages at all, some have been paid in kind and had to hawk their factory's products around the market place, pensioners have been driven to selling their personal or household belongings and abandoned children are forced into begging or worse.

 All of this is the fruit of capitalism and a direct result of the country being thrown into the imperialist camp by the treacherous counter-revolutionaries who wormed their way into positions of power in the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union after it had become corrupted and distorted by revisionists and other self-serving elements.

 But in all class divided societies there is always class struggle. Russia, the former Soviet Republics and the countries of eastern Europe are no exception. The flame of socialism still burns as working people fight back. The spirit of the Soviet working class has not been crushed and the courage and heroism that defeated the Nazi war machine will be galvanised to win the class struggle once again.

 Capitalism belongs in the past along with the systems of slavery and feudalism. The time for change is long overdue -- only socialism can bring life to the hungry, hope to the exploited and oppressed and a future for all of humanity.

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Lead Story

NHS faces another Winter crisis

by Daphne Liddle

JUST A FEW weeks after Tony Blair announced his grand five-year plan for the National Health Service, signs of a new looming winter beds shortage are appearing up and down the country.

 In many places right now in high summer there is a desperate shortage of beds. Patients are being kept 12 hours or more on trolleys in accident and emergency units waiting for beds and others are having operations cancelled.

 In Wales more than half the principality's hospitals have bed occupancy rates of over 85 per cent -- leaving only a handful of beds for emergencies.

 But beds are not the only problem. Terry Morris, a member of the emergency pressures task group, said: "Beds are not the problem. The staff to look after the patients we put in the beds are much harder to find.

 "The problem facing the NHS is that we need more staff, and while recruiting abroad may help with some of the problem, the shortages can only really be addressed by training more doctors and nurses.

 "The money is going into training but it will take at least four years before we see the benefits on our wards."

 There is no flu epidemic to excuse the situation. There are simply not enough hospital beds or staff.

 A recent survey of 85 health authorities and 150 hospitals by the Press Association showed they were all on course to comply with the Government's 30 September deadline to draw up a winter action plan.

 But around half said they feared that social services would not be able to cope with demand and around a third were concerned they would run out of flu vaccine.

 They are concerned that the problem of "bed blocking" will arise again -- elderly patients no longer requiring acute care but unable to be discharged because they are still not fit enough to look after themselves and so filling up beds.

 In Tony Blairs' grand plan, all these elderly patients will be shipped off to residential care homes to receive convalescent care and free the beds for new patients.

 But the money does not seem to have got through to the various social service departments to cover the costs of this. And who knows if all the various independent and charity run care homes can cope with such an influx. Already they are failing to give adequate medical care.

 "Bed blocking" was never a problem before first the Tories and then Labour carried out swingeing hospital closure programmes, drastically cutting the total number of beds.

 What is needed is specialised NHS convalescent units where patients can be encouraged, not pressurised, into finding their feet again, under the eyes of specially trained nurses who can actswiftly in case of any relapse.

 Labour and Tory governments claimed not so many beds would be needed with new surgical techniques thatwould treat us all more or less as out-patients. They allowed no recovery time, expecting families to fill the gap and take on the work of skilled nurses in looking after patients in their own homes.

 Blair has announced the number of beds will rise under his new plan by about 7,000. Yet still wards and accidentand emergency units are being cut, many in accordance with the plans of finance companies who are building new hospitals under Private Finance Initiative deals.

 The total number of beds is still falling but Blair is fiddling the figures by counting the very beds in people's own homes and beds in private hospitals where some patients will be sent -- to the profit of the owners and the expense of the NHS.

Since the Labour government was elected in May 1997, it has claimed to be pumping new billions into the NHS. By now this should have ensured there are no more winter crises.

 But the figures are always exaggerated and what money does get to the NHS is swallowed up by the mounting debts ofthe hospital trusts.

 These were saddled with enormous debts as they came into existence -- debts for the very land the hospitals stand on. This was already owned by taxpayers but is being paid for again by taxpayers through the mortgages the trusts are chained to.

 And the PFI scam is another way of making the public pay again and again for what it now no longer owns but is in the hands of the banks and finance companies --who now make the decisions about bed numbers and staffing.

 The money should have gone into re-opening hospitals, into the pay of nurses and other health workers. If this had happened the money would have produced more beds, better staffing levels throughout the NHS, better nursing standards and better standards of cleanliness and catering.

 It really is time to demand that the NHS is renationalised so that its funding goes on patient care and not into profits for banks. This means the abolition of the trusts and the reconstruction of the NHS as one structure, not in competition with itself and accountable to the public through renewed local and regional health councils.

 This will wipe out masses of unnecessary bureaucracy and accounting and other money wasting, allowing the money to go where it is desperately needed.

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Black soldier "unlawfully" killed

by Caroline Colebrook

CHRISTOPHER Alder, a young black former paratrooper died in April 1998 choking in a pool of blood, his hands handcuffed behind him, while police looked on, joking. And last week a coroner's jury concluded he had been unlawfully killed.

 The eight jurors heard the circumstances in a 34-day hearing and twice saw a video recording with sound track showing the death of Mr Alder, a father of two.

 The official cause of death was postural asphyxia and the verdict of unlawful killing was greeted by cheers from campaigners in the public gallery -- followed by a minute's silence as a mark of respect for the dead man.

Five Humberside police officers have been suspended and are awaiting trial for misconduct in public office at a Crown Court.

 Christopher Alder had died within half an hour of leaving Hull Royal Infirmary. He had been taken there after striking his head on the ground during a scuffle outside a local nightclub.

 Police had been called because he became troublesome to medical staff and was arrested for a breach of the peace.

 They loaded him into the back of a van and by the time he was unloaded at the police station, he had collapsed.

 He was "partially dragged and partially carried" into the police station and dropped on the floor while officers discussed what to do with him.

 Arresting officer Nigel Dawson told Seargeat John Dunne: "He is right as rain. This is just a show."

 The sergeant then said: "Take him to hospital."

 PC Dawson replied: "That is where he came from. He kept doing a dying swan act falling off the trolley."

 Another constable was shown laughing at Mr Alder as he was put on the floor while PC Dawson said: "They don't show you this in the training video."

 It was 12 minutes before they realised something serious was wrong and that he was not breathing.

 The East Yorkshire coroner, Geoffrey Saul, had told the inquest jury not to be swayed by the campaign and that blame was not the issue.

 He had said: "No verdict should be framed in such a way to suggest criminal liability or civil liability.

 "You cannot use your verdict to suggest a criminal act."

 In a very long statement, Mr Saul told the jury they should not allow the evidence of the video to overshadow other evidence and said they had seen no evidence that "what happened that night had anything to do with the colour of Christopher's skin".

 This did not deter thejury from returning their unlawful killing verdict unanimously -- the evidence they had seen was conclusive.

 The dead man's sister, Janet Alder said, after the verdict: "Justice has been done. The inquest has been a very difficult time for the family.

 "Christopher's character was assassinated with suggestions of anabolic steroids, mental illness, drugs and panic attacks.

"I am sad because we've lost Christopher in such a way but happy to know that people are behind us and people believe what we are saying.

 "I would like every person in Britain to be able to see the video of my brother's last moments."

 Her solicitor, Ruth Bundy, called on the Crown Prosecution Service to re-examine the case and give consideration to other charges "including manslaughter".

 She said: "The visual picture of a black man left lying like a sack of potatoes on the custody suite floor at the police station speaks volumes about the attitude to colour."

 She also criticised Geoffrey Saul for his long, biased statement and the fact that Christopher Alder's clothes had been destroyed and those of the five police officers concerned before any forensic tests could be done.

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Israelis die in West bank raid

by Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

THREE ISRAELI soldiers were killed and nine others wounded in a night raid on an Islamic stronghold in the occupied West Bank last weekend. Three hundred Israeli troops, backed by helicopter gunships, stormed the village of Asira al Shamaliya near Nablus on Saturday night in an attempt to kill two leading members of the Islamic Resistance Movement -- Hamas.

 As flares lit the village the Israelis poured in to try and kill Mahmoud abu Hannoud and Nidal Daghlas who were in hiding. But as the Israelis began house-to-house searches calls from the loudspeakers of the Mosque were issued for people to defend their homes.

 But Abu Hannoud was not in his house. When he saw the Israelis advance he surprised the enemy raking them with machine-gun fire killing three and wounding many more. Nidal Daghlas was wounded by the Israelis, dragged out of his house and beaten to get him to talk. Abu Hannoud escaped to Nablus, under the control of Yasser Arafat's "autonomous" Palestinian Authority.

 He surrendered to the Palestinian police and has now been charged with "endangering Palestinian national interests".

 Israeli and Palestinian Authority police are now cracking down on known supporters of the Islamic resistance in the northern part of the occupied territories. Over 25 Palestinian students have been arrested by the Israelis and the Palestinian police have detained a further ten.

 Mahmoud abu Hannoud is one of Israel's most wanted men. A leading member of Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Kassam, he is believed to be the mastermind behind two suicide bomb attacks in Jerusalem in 1997 which killed 43 people, including five resistance fighters who sacrificed themselves in the attacks.

 An Israeli-Arab member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, said the Israelis were lucky they didn't kill abu Hannoud. His death, or even arrest, would have provoked an immediate bloody response from the Islamic resistance.

 "The Israeli public should be thankful," Ahmad Tibi said. "If he had been killed there would have been a string of attacks".

 But the raid, on the eve of US President Clinton's visit to Cairo to get the "peace process" going again, was clearly a blunder by the Barak government. The Israeli army has suffered yet another humiliation and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat gets another headache.

 No-one knows what Arafat will do. Tel Aviv has yet to formally ask for the guerrilla leader's extradition and the Palestinian Authority has made it plain that they won't do it anyway. It would have to be done "over our dead bodies" as one Palestinian security officer put it.

 But nor can Arafat let him go without endangering what's left of his "relationship" with the Barak administration.

 A senior Palestinian official has already denounced the raid as a provocation. The Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Palestinian Authority parliament, said the Israeli military operation was a "heinous act". Ahmed Qurei added that the raid took place just at the time when negotiations were going on between the Palestinian administration and the Israelis.

 The Israelis certainly want to question Abu Hannoud but they probably would prefer him to remain in a Palestinian jail. That too won't come easy.

 Over 70 Palestinian and other Arab lawyers have volunteered to defend him in the Palestinian court, and the prospect of Hamas appealing to the entire Arab world in an uncontrolled courtroom drama is the last thing President Arafat wants on his plate at this moment in time.

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British News

New warnings on BSE

SCIENTISTS last week raised new alarms that BSE -- bovine spongiform encephalitis or mad cow disease -- could still be in the food chain.

 Just as the Government and farmers were hoping the BSE crisis was abating, the scientists drew attention to new evidence that the disease can jump the species divide more readily than expected and that it can take a latent form -- with no obvious symptoms in the carrier.

 In a paper published last Tuesday, expert Professor John Collinge warned these findings had "important public health implications".

 It also means that many kinds of meat -- sheep, pigs and poultry -- could be affected as well as beef.

 The disease arose in the first place after the carcasses of dead diseased sheep, suffering from the brain disease scrapie, were processed into animal food and fed to cattle.

 But this kind of poisonous rubbish found its way into many different kinds of animal food.

 Professor Collinge says a "subclinical" form of the disease may have developed which could remain hidden. Animals thought to be healthy and incapable of acquiring BSE could theoretically pass the disease on to humans.

 So far only 70 people have died of the human form of this fatal disease -- the new variant CJD. Another nine are infected. This gives a rise of between 30 and 40 per cent a year.

 There have been two deaths in France and one in Ireland.

 Since the disease has a long incubation period any number of people could still develop the disease but the official figures so far, bad as they are, could be a lot worse.

 Professor Collinge found the rogue protein or "prion" can jump species much more easily than thought after his team of scientists at St Mary's Hospital, London, were able to infect mice with a form of scrapie that was thought to be indigenous to hamsters.

 The mice showed no symptoms, even though tests showed they had high levels of potentially lethal prions in their brains.

 The fear is that what was possible in mice and hamsters may be possible among other animals.

 Present cleaning and sterilisation techniques are failing to kill the disease and the Government must now ponder whether new measures are needed to prevent the illness getting into the human food chain.

 This could imply mass spot testing of apparently healthy animals.

 But the Department of Health says: "Current measures to protect public health from farm to healthcare were introduced on the basis that infection in animals and in people may be present in the absence of clinical diseases."

 And the Ministry of Agriculture said: "We believe the safeguards in place at the moment are adequate to deal with the issues Professor Collinge raises, but of course we will listen to what he has to say."

 The history of BSE surely indicates that complacency can lead to disaster.

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