The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 21st July 2000

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Editorial - Dirt cheap.
Lead Story - Brown's public spending spree.
Feature - Twelve years lost.
International - Camp David on the rocks.
British News - Anti-fascism cannot sleep.


Dirt cheap

ONE of the most disgusting and outrageous items of news to emerge last week was the concern raised by health expert Dr Robert Will who said new variant CJD (the human form of BSE) could have been partly caused by infected baby food and school dinners. This, he said, would explain why the disease has disproportionately affected the young.

 He pointed out that mechanically extracted meat, which could have contained remnants of spinal cord, were used in foods for babies and children during the 1980s.

 Thankfully the law today compels meat processors to discard such tissues as spinal cord. But that is small comfort to parents and young people who cannot know if they or their children have already been infected.

 As well as the problem of CJD, it is a scandal that such filthy food products were ever allowed to be sold and especially since the public was not made aware of the nauseating production methods used. And, even if people had known these gruesome details, parents have no choice in the ingredients of school dinners and are expected to put their trust in the schools, local authorities and regulatory bodies.

 This is a class issue on two levels. Firstly, the mechanically extracted meat that found its way into burgers, sausages and the like was cheaper and therefore more likely to be bought by people on low incomes and by cashed-strapped public bodies.

 Secondly, the pressure to squeeze more profits out of food processing by literally squeezing more "meat" out of carcasses is in keeping with the way the capitalist system works -- everything and everyone must be exploited for higher and higher profits at any cost. Regulation is eventually introduced when there is either a great outcry or when the problems start to affect the rich as well as the poor.

 The whole saga of adopting ghastly ideas such as feeding animal remains to livestock, the French scandal of feeding manure to livestock and the wastenothing meat processing practices, reveal a food and agriculture industry that is cut-throat in more ways than one.

 A major problem for the industry in the last thirty years or so has been the impact of the European Common Market and the Common Agricultural Policy. By going into Europe Britain has lost its old worldwide trading arrangements for food. The traditional suppliers of beef and lamb -- Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand and Australia -- have largely been replaced by European trading partners.

 Of course we can still buy meat from countries outside Europe but we can't avoid the EU tariffs on non-EU imports. This has meant food prices in Britain have risen to continental levels and the struggle to provide cheap food has led to extraordinary measures both in production and processing.

 Home grown produce has also been curtailed by EU measures to prevent the old problem of wine lakes and beef and butter mountains.

 Now set-aside fields are the name of the game. In the name of profit production is controlled, farm-gate prices are low to give wealthy, big-scale farmers an edge over their smaller competitors, retail prices remain high and producers feel driven to shave every last penny off their costs.

 Market-forces are not free but weighted to benefit big agri-business at the expense of consumers, small farmers, third world farmers and, as we now see, our childrens' health.

 We have every cause to be furious. We are being offered swill and scrapings for food -- we are being treated like dogs!

 When it comes to the EU we shall no doubt be told to go forward into closer union with Europe or risk losing out -- we need to look at the lessons of the food scandals and remember that there is a big wide world too!

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Lead Story

Brown's public spending spree

by Daphne Liddle

CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown last Tuesday treated the House of Commons to his long-awaited public spending review.

 Those who expected it to be the opening shot in Labour's campaign in the warm-up to the next general election were not disappointed.

 The review was clearly designed to reverse the problems that have recently beset Labour in the opinion polls.

 The figures add up to an increase in annual public spending from £195 billion last year to £212.1 billion next year, £229 billion in the year 2002-3, to £246 billion in 2003-4. By 2004, an extra £43 billion will be allocated to front line services with education and health getting the biggest boosts.

 This is to be welcomed as the beginning of a reversal of decades of public spending cuts.

 The Tories, naturally, howled about public spending gone mad and a "return to old Labour values". But the City of London hardly batted an eyelid and a spokesperson for the Financial Times pointed out on Television that public spending has been cut so far in recent years that the base level Brown is starting from is way below what even the Tories were spending.

 There is still a very long way to get back, in real terms, to spending levels in the 1980s, let alone the 70s.

 And Britain's capitalists: were also quietly confident that a good share of this public money will, thanks to the privatisation of so many public utilities and services, end up in their pockets.

 For example, spending on transport is to rise from £4.9 billion this year to £9.1 billion in 2003-4. Rail subsidies will double to more than £2 billion a year as the Government plans to spend £22.5 billion on road and rail improvements over the next three years.

 That should make the shareholders of Railtrack happy. The company will be able to go ahead with already agreed improvements to the West Coast line from London to Glasgow, finally build the Channel Tunnel rail link and the planned cross-London rail link -- and still have plenty of dividends for the shareholders.

 If Railtrack and the rest of the privatised rail companies were, justifiably, thrown out for failure to live up to their franchise contracts and British Rail restored, all that extra money could be spent on services. And the taxpayers would get back the income from ticket sales and so on.

 New subsidies for rural buses should improve some services -- and profits for the private shareholders.

 The extra spending on roads to relieve congestion will please the road haulage lobby. It seems this spending will be a good deal bigger than that allocated to upgrading the railways.

 The extra £13 billion allocated to health is more than overdue. But how much of that will end up clearing debts run up by hospital trusts; because they have been underfunded up to now?

 When the trusts were set up, they were saddled with debts for the very land the hospitals stood on. This is still a burden on health spending.

 Now many trusts are shackled to enormously expensive Private Finance Initiative deals. They are forced to buy drugs at inflated prices from giant transnational drug companies.

 And, with the current shortage of nurses, many trusts are being forced to pay through the nose for agency nurses.

 Some of this money must be translated into better pay for nurses and all health workers so tf,ey can be directly employed by the NHS and cut out the profit-

 Big increases in health spending have been announced before yet too little reaches the front lines. Hospital trusts are still facing debt crises and being forced to make drastic cuts to staffing and services that take a terrible toll in the quality of service to patients.

 The same is true in education. We are seeing schools and education authorities being harrassed by Government inspectors to bring in the private sector.

 Even defence industry companies are now fancying themselves as educationalists; because there is money to be made out of running schools. Are these sort of companies likely to put the extra money into better services for pupils, or to cut services even further and pocket the difference as profit?

 One much-needed allocation will be to "improve the life chances of children in care". We only hope it actually does this.

 Our public services need not only more funding, but public control and accountability over that money.

 The policy of privatisation, like the policy of spending cuts, must be reversed or taxpayers will never see value for their money.

 Money to be spent in regenerating run-down areas is to be welcomed. But there are still question marks over whether this increased spending will he enough to trigger special European Union funding for areas like South Wales -- funding that has to be matched by the home government before it is allocated.

 There is to be an extra £1.6 billion a year spent on social housing -- not council housing. This will go to housing associations and housing companies whose policies are dictated by the market and the banks.

 And there is of course one section of the population which has been entirely left out by this review -- the pensioners.

 Age Concern said: "Yet again, pensioners seem to be the last on the Government's shopping list."

 And pensioners' leader Jack Jones said the GovernmenL had missed a golden opportunity to restore the link between average earnings and the basic pension rate. If Labour really want to secure the next election they will have to show their elders a bit more respect.

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Twelve years lost

by Caroline Colebrook

MICHAEL Davis, Raphael Rowe and Randolph Johnson last week walked out of the Appeal Court as free men after twelve long years locked up for a series of crimes they did not commit.

 The three appeal judges, Lord Justice Mantell, Mr Justice Blofeld and Mrs Justice Rafferty, ruled that their original convictions were "unsafe" because of "material irregularities".

 They have not been declared innocent and will have to go through the formality of another trial to clear their names.

 The judges said: "For the better understanding of those who have listened to this judgement and of those who may report it hereafter this is not a finding of innocence. Far From it."

 But the convictions, to those who knew the case well, always were a transparent and racist travesty of justice.

 Raphael Rowe said: "The system allowed them to lock up innocent men. I was 19 years old when they put me in prison and I'm 32 now. 12 years of my life lost forever. I will never ever get those years back."

 The three were jailed after a series of three violcat robberies, one of which resulted in a death, committed in the early hours of 16th December 1988.

 The man who died, Peter Hurburgh, a hairdresser, had a heart attack after he was dragged from his car at gunpoint, tied up, beaten and doused in petrol.

 Another man, Thomas Napier, was stabbed when the three criminals broke into his father's house and demanded jewellery, cash, and car keys.

 But victims and witnesses said that, though masked, two of the assailants were white and one black.

 The police arrested and charged three black men.

 There was no forensic evidence at all against those arrested. The prosecution case rested almost entirely on one witness who later turned out to be a paid police informant - a man who himself had been a strong suspect at the begining of the investigation and who had a strong motive for making sure others got the blame.

 The three tried to appeal against their convictions in 1993 but their case was thrown out.

 Nevertheless the families and supporters kept up an unceasing campaign to win justice for the M25 Three.

 Last year the criminal cases review commission, set up after the travesties of the Guildford opened the case.

 New evidence came to light - namely that the cheif witness was a paid police informant. This had not been made known to the defence in the original trial and was the "material irregularity" that breached the European convention on human rights and made the convictions unsafe.

 Immediately after his release, Raphael Rowe told the press: "The only reason I am standing here is because my sister, family, supporters and friends have fought so long and hard to prove we are innocent.

 "Today they have done that. The victims said from the outset it was two white men and one black. They wern't listened to."

 And Michael Davis added: "The judges said there was a conspiracy by the police and witnesses. I want those policemen brought to book."

 The release of these innocent men is a great thing even if 12 years too late. But there are still other innocent victims of our institutionally racist justice system still languishing in jail.

 In particular, the case of Satpal Rain must now come to the top of the agenda. Satpal has spent over a decade behind bars fighting the legal system that locked him up for defending himself against a vicious racist attack in an Indian restaurant.

 In the struggle his assailant was wounded, taken to hospital but was drunk and aggressive and refused treatment. He later died.

 Satpal was charged with murder in a trial that was deeply racially biased. The judge refused translators for the chief witnesses, the Bengali waiters. Satpal should not have to wait any longer for his day of justice.

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Camp David on the rocks

by Our Middle East Affairs Correspondent

THE MIDDLE EAST summit is at breaking point, and as we go to press, the Palestinians and the Israelis are threatening to quit without any agreement. Bul Paleslinian President Yasser Arafat is coming under increasing pressure from the Americans to give and give.

 US President Bill Clinton, the host at the peace talks at the presidential hideaway of Camp David, posponed his visit to Japan on Wednesday in a last minute bid to squeeze more concessions from the Palestinians and prolong the talks which were on the verge of walkout.

 The Israelis, led by premier Ehud Barak, are believed to have spelt out terms which have been widely discussed by the Tel Aviv media -- no right of return for the refugees, no return of Arab Jerusalem, no return of the Jordan Valley, no dismantling of most of the zionist settlements in the occupied territories, no genuinly independent Palestinian Arab state.

 Arafat, cornered in Camp David, and in practice negotiating against Israel and the Americans, has only one card left -- the threat to unilaterally declare Palestinian independence in September coupled with the warning that unless there is some attempt to meet Palestinian demands a violent backlash will follow.

 In the occupied territories Palestinians are demonstrating against any surrender of Arab and Muslim rights to Arab Jerusalem illegally annexed by israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war -- and against any retreat on the rights of the millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel.

 This is being reflected across the Palestinian political spectrum from Hamas and the Islamic resistance to the progressive Palestinian resistance.

 The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, has warned Arafat that he could be overthrown if he budged to American and Israeli pressure on Jerusalem and the refugees.


 Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said last Monday that "Arafat must understand that he is not authorised to give away Muslim rights in Jerusalem or compromise the Palestinian refugees' right of return,". If he did it would be "political suicide".

 "His status hangs in the balance," Sheikh Yassin warned, "I'm sure the Palestinian people would discard him if he gave in to the Zionists,"

 This was also stressed by Mustafa al Barghouthi, leader of the Palestinian People's Party and the leaders of the two major progressive resistance movements.

 Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Abu Ali Mustafa has repeatedly stressed that his movement will not give up the fight for justice and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) says that any deal imposed by the Camp David talks will not be acceptable by or binding on the Palestinian people.

 Arafat, well aware of the rising temper back home even within his own Fateh movement, is said to have told Clinton that if he accepted what was on the table he would risk assassination. He's hanging on for another "interim" agreement which will give the Palestinians something while postponing the elusive "final" settlement. Clinton too is talking about a "framework" agreement which could cover this but the Americans and Israelis want another major concession from the Palestinians in return.

 Barak, who like Clinton, covets a Nobel Peace Prize to boost his party's re-election chances, wants the Palestinians to agree to Israel's formal annexation of ten per cent of the West Bank -- this is what all this talk of returning 90 per cent of the occupied territories means -- as his price for keeping Jerusalem and the refugees on the agenda.

 But Barak has already said Arab Jerusalem will never be returned to the Arabs and he has ruled out any right of return for the refugees so this is a poor bargain even for Arafat.

 Yasser Arafat can only hope that the Americans pull back from the brink and intervene to salvage the talks. If not the battle will return to the streets.

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British News

Anti-fascism cannot sleep

by Renee Sams and Dolly Shaer

"FASCISM never sleeps," trade union leader Rodney Bickerstaffe told those who had come last Saturday to the International Brigade's memorial ceremony in Jubilee Gardens on London's south bank -- now overshadowed by the London Eye with thousands of tourists queuing to ride on it.

 The general secretary of the giant public sector union Unison used the annual memorial event to draw attention to the situation in Austria.

 And he added that the situation with asylum seekers in this country "worries me beyond belief".

 Jack Jones, retired general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union and a veteran of the Spanish Civil War, paid tribute to Bill Alexander who was general secretary of the International Brigades Association For the past 30 years until he died last week, just before this comemmoration.

 Bill, who was in his 90th year, had been the last commander of the British Battalion that fought against Franco's fascist armies in the titanic struggle from 1936 to 1939.

 Some 2,200 men and women from Britain paid the supreme sacrifice in that struggle.

 Bill Alexander was also a veteran of the Battle of Cable Street, which stopped Oswald Moseley's fascists from parading through the East End of London.

 Like many other young people of that time, he had joined the Communist Party of Great Britain, disturbed by the Nazis rise to power in Germany and angered by the British government's policy of non-intervention.

 It was this policy that allowed enormous amounts of material support to be given to Franco by Mussolini's fascist government in Italy as well as by Nazi Germany.

 Bill arrived in Spain with other British volunteers soon after the battle of Jarama in which two thirds of the British battalion had been killed or wounded.

 Soon after, he was cited for bravery at the Battle of Belchite in September 1937. He was wounded in September 1938 and invalided out but went on to have a distinguished record in the Second World War.

 Jack Jones read a tribute from the Amigos in Spain and promised that. "We will keep the IBA going -- although there are relalively few of us left -- even to the last man."

 And he added: "We share that determination with the Friends of the International Brigades", many of whom were present at the ceremony.

 This organisation was founded after a discussion among four children of International Brigaders when they were in Spain for the Homage to the Brigades, organised by Los Amigos in 1996.

 The Friends were set up to keep alive the memory of those who gave their lives in Spain in that epic struggle against fascism on a European scale between 1936-38.

 They hold meetings on the various anniversaries and send out a newsletter, keeping people up to date with what is going on. There are Friends in most countries in Europe.

 Rodney Bickerstaffe last Saturday reminded the gathering that "Spain was a training ground for Hitler and Mussolini". And he wished there had been more men and women like Jack and Bill who had seen the danger signs of the 1930s.

 He stressed the importance of "keeping alive that knowledge of all of us" which forms the collective memory and is needed to "pass on the banner bright" to the next generation.

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