The New Worker

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Week commencing 22nd December 2000

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Editorial - Hollow victory.
Lead Story - Turkish protesters seize London Eye.
Feature - Hague insults Damilola family.
International - Mid-East talks while Palestine burns.
British News - A bleak new year for industry and jobs.


Hollow victory

JUST over a decade ago the tycoons, big bankers, transnational bosses and all the other exploiters of the capitalist world were busy writing epitaphs for socialism and rejoicing at what they claimed was the death of communism.

 The destruction of the Berlin Wall was celebrated, the collapse of Soviet state power was cheered and the new opportunities for imperialism were welcomed as the dawning of a new age -- the "New World Order" being the chosen term for the ensuing scramble for new markets, cheap raw materials and the plundering of assets.

 The capitalist world, deep in crisis, had indeed found a breathing space and the military might of imperialism had found itself free from the restraints applied by the old balance of power.

 And yet, the monster of imperialism knew even as it rejoiced that socialism was not dead -- it flourished in Democratic Korea, China, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba - they knew that the struggle of oppressed peoples the world over would continue. The class struggle, even in the heart of the capitalist world, could not end while capitalism existed.

 Some communist parties did indeed crumble into dust or transformed themselves into social democratic white elephants. But those which made, or had already made, a clean break with revisionist treachery -- the key that opened ihe door to counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union -- survived, strengthened by all that had been learnt.

 In the last ten years, the actions of rampant imperialism may not have been answered by the restraining hand of Soviet power. But criminal acts such as the carpet bombing of Iraq, and later the round-the-clock bombing of Yugoslavia, were certainly answered by mass protests across the world and a new spirit of anti-imperialist solidarity.

 Oppressed peoples are on their feet and fighting back. The people of Palestine are demanding justice and the crimes committed against them by the Zionists and their imperialist backers have sparked demonstrations by millions.

 For example, just a few weeks ago huge crowds gathered in West Bengal where an effigy of Clinton was set on fire. Millions of protesters have turned out in every continent and pressure is so strong in the Arab world that governments are being forced to listen. And United States, British and Israeli embassies have been targets of protest.

 In South America the popular movements against repression, exploitation and landlordism have gathered strength and impetus. In Columbia the growing support for FARC has wiped the gleeful smile off the faces of power in Washington and replaced it with a frown of anxiety.

 Poverty in the developing world is increasingly being seen for what it is -- a product of capitalism. A growing number of young, and not so young, people no longer think the answer to poverty is charity. Now they are demonstrating outside the meetings of the World Trade Organisation demanding imperialist trade stitch-ups are ended and calling for third world debts to be cancelled.

 In Britain, despite the dominant position of the right-wing in the Labour Party and much of the labour movement, the growing discontent over rail privatisation is gathering momentum. No one doubts that a majority of people want to see the railways renationalised. The strength of feeling on this issue has already had an effect on the government's thinking about the future of London Underground.

 Pensioners' protests too have been so sustained and vociferous that neither of the big parties can ignore the issue. The pensioners have not yet won their main demand -- to restore the link between pensions and average male earnings -- but they have made it clear they are not going to stop fighting until they win.

 Car workers hit by the threat of unemployment, as the first tremors of a new recession are lit, have not taken the news lying down. Last week they stormed the British head office of General Motors and this has been followed by a protest march through Luton.

 The imperialists who trumpeted victory a decade ago are certainly having to deal with a pretty lively corpse! And it is the workers and masses of the world who can 1 look to the New Year with optimism and new energy.

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Lead Story

Turkish protesters seize London Eye

TURKISH and Kurdish demonstrators hijacked the London Eye Wednesday afternoon to protest at the massacre of political prisoners in Turkey. Some 600 people were evacuated from the big wheel after 22 protesters took over two pods and threatened to set themselves alight.

 Earlier two protesters were dragged out of the public gallery in the House of Commons after they started chanting "Stop the massacres in Turkish prisons".

 In a separate protest supporters of the Kurdish resistance occupied the London offices of the European Commission, again in protest at Turkish state brutality in their iails.

 Istanbul's Umraniye prison was stormed in a pre-dawn raid backed by armoured cars, bulldozers and fire-engines. The prisoners barricaded themselves in their wards and resisted. Within hours other operations followed.

 Turkish security forces went into action last Tuesday storming into 20 prisons throughout the country to halt hunger strikes by political pnsoners and resistance fighters which began 61 days ago. The storming of the prisons was shown live on Turkish television. At least two policemen and 15 prisoners died in the fighting and the police have still to regain control in two of the jails. Many of the inmates chose to burn themselves alive rather than surrender.

 Resistance has been growing inside the prisons for some months. Some prisoners, 284 in total, had vowed to fast until death and 1,139 had gone on hunger-strike. Anger grew when the news of new prison reforms -- which would end the old barracks system and put prisoners in single or three-bed cells -- spread.

 The regime wants to move the political prisoners to new maximum security prisons and end the tradition barracks-type wards - which can hold up to a hundred inmates. Many of these wards have become strongholds of the resistance inside prison.

 The "reforms" -- linked to a plan for a mass amnesty of prisoners charged with criminal offences to lower the overall prison population -- have increased fears that inmates will be more vulnerable to ill-treatment. The prisoners fear that small cells will give the guards or the police the chance to torture them in private. Human rights groups confirm reports that torture is common in Turkish prisons.

 Turkish Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk justified the raids as a move to save the lives of the hunger-strikers, claiming that many of them had been forced to make the protest by "terrorist" organisations.

 "The initiatives to put an end to these protests continued to the very end. But, unfortunately, common sense did not prevail and the protest could not be ended with the consent of the inmates," Turk said.

 He asked the parents of the prisoners to "trust" the state. Without irony he said: "The target of this operation was to save your children and the state has extended a tender hand to them".

 Last year ten left-wing prisoners were killed when soldiers stormed an Ankara prison to quell a riot. And Islamic militants wounded 54 soldiers and held more than 100 prison guards hostage in a protest against moves to transfer them.

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Hague insults Damilola family

by Daphne Liddle

TORY leader William Hague sank to new depths of opportunist electioneering last week when he played the race card, saying that the McPherson report had led to a break down of law and order by lowering police morale.

 He went on to say the fatal attack on Damilola Taylor in Peckham, south London, was the result of a lack of policing due to MacPherson.

 When the Taylor family protested that Hague was using their son's tragic death as "a political football" Hague responded by saying he "would not be bullied" into silence on crime or police numbers.

 The McPherson inquiry two years ago into the police handling of the racist stabbing of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in April 1973 certainly did send shock waves through the police establishment as it unveiled a horrific catalogue of racism, incompetence, and corruption among the police who handled the murder investigation.

 It also uncovered a failure at the highest level in the Metropolitan Police Force to address the complaints of the Lawrence family or deal with the police who had failed the family.

 It was this failure which led the Mcpherson report to conclude that black people in Britain do not obtain the same level of service from the police force that a similarly placed white family would get and that they are entitled to.

 This is why the report concluded that the Met is institutionally racist. It does not mean that every police officer is racist but that the institution at the highest level did not deal with the racism in its ranks.

 It was not the Lawrence family or McPherson who created the problem. They simply highlighted the glaring failures that most black people, Irish, gypsies and striking workers were already well aware of but that well-heeled, white, middle England preferred to turn a blind eye to.

 Now Hague is trying to tap into this section of the population for support and blame the victims of racism for criticising the police. He is implying that racism is OK and its victims should just shut up and stop whining.

 Hague's remarks have shaken many of his Tory colleagues. One senior party member said: "He has a point but my view on Hague is that he tends to shoot from the hip. He doesn't sit down and work out the consequences of what he says. He has to learn about the responsibility of leadership and think out what he says so as not to give succour and comfort to a lot of people whom he shouldn't."

 Shadow foreign secretary Francis Maude made pointed remarks about people inside the Tory party spreading poison while former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath commented that Hague "seems to have got into a slight muddle".

 He went on: "My own position on race has been known all the time, ever since I sacked Enoch Powell. And nobody has ever questioned that. What the leader of our party has got to do now is to make it absolutely plain where does he stand in all of this."

 Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, accused Hague of breaking a pledge not to raise the issue of race to make political capital. The bishop, whose diocese includes Peckham, said that the McPherson report had transformed relations between the police and ethnic communities.

 He said that although there are now fewer police, their support from the community is greater and therefore they are getting better information on criminals.

 He also said it was foolish to link Damilola's death with a shortage of police: "With this particular crime we don't know what happened. It is very foolish to speculate."

 But it was Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, who brought out the growing similarities between Hague and Powell.

He compared Hague's remarks with Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech and warned that racists would interpret Hague's views as "permission to attack young black people".

 "Looking at this speech I recall the famous speech by Enoch Powell, the rivers of blood speech. I don't believe there has been another political speech that has done more damage to race relations than the speech which, sadly, Mr Hague has made this week," said Bill Morris.

 But Hague's speech is an indication of some of the thinking that lurks in the back rooms of the Tory party and is a dire warning to us that we must on no account allow the Tories to be elected at the coming general election.

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Mid-East talks while Palestine burns

by Our Middle East Affairs correspondent

PALESTINIAN and Israeli negotiating teams have arrived in the United States for talks to end the fighting and breath new life into the US-sponsored peace process.

 Neither side showed any signs of optimism when they arrived at the Belling Air Force Base on the outskirts of Washington. Not surprising given the mounting Arab death toll as the Israeli army and armed settler gangs continue their rampage throughout the occupied territories.

 The day the negotiators arrived in America two more Palestinians were killed -- one a 10 year-old boy shot in the head in the Gaza Strip and the other a Palestinian firefighter killed when an Israeli army jeep opened fire on his fire-engine in Gaza.

 The same day the Anglo-American imperialism showed its true colours again when they moved to kill the proposed UN international protection force at the UN Security Council.

 The proposed force, which would have operated throughout the occupied territories was backed by eight of the 15 Security Council members, one short of the number needed to get it passed.

 The United States said it would veto it anyway, if there was any likelihood of being carried. In the end the resolution's sponsors -- Bangladesh, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mali, Namibia and Tunisia and backed by People's China and Ukraine -- knew they would even get a symbolic victory when the Russians said they would join the Anglo-American abstention bloc.

 The other abstainers were Argentina, Canada, France and the Netherlands. All claimed such a move would endanger the current talks in Washington. That wasn't the view of the Palestinians.

 "The objection to a UN mission in the Palestinian territories will spur Israel to carry on its atrocities." Nabil Abu Redina, an adviser to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, declared. "The international community should protect the Palestinian people," he stressed. "The UN General Assembly should take into consideration the Security Council resolutions and international laws regarding protection for the Palestinians".

 Back in Tel Aviv rumours abound about a new "deal" for the Palestinians. Premier Ehud Barak, who is seeking a new mandate, they say, is prepared to make more concessions to Arafat to help the Israeli leader woo his domestic peace movement and get him re-elected in the polls set for 6 February.

 There's speculation of a greater Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and more direct control ofthe Islamic shrines in Jerusalem if Arafat agrees to end the fighting and accepts more years, if not decades, of Israeli occupation of large swathes of occupied Palestine.

 But there's no sign that Barak, or anyone else in the Israeli establishment, is prepared to meet the Arabs' legitimate demand for the Zionist entity to withdraw from every inch of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

 Barak's snap premiership election ploy has already paid-off - former Premier Benyamin Netanyahu of the extreme right-wing opposition Likud blee - has failed to get parliamentary approval to stand as a private citizen in the poll. This means Barak will face a Likud challenge under their current leader - the equally extreme but less popular General Sharon.

 But Baraks biggest problem is that it's not Arafat or the Israeli peaceniks he need to accommodate -- it is the Palestinian masses themselves. They're the ones defying the tanks and guns of the Zionists. They're the ones ready to fight and die for their freedom. They know what they want and they are determined to get it now.

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British News

A bleak new year for industry and jobs

THE ANNOUNCEMENT of the Vauxhall motor company's intention to close its Luton plant and axe 2,000 jobs two weeks ago has been followed by reverberations and echoes throughout British industry.

 Within days Tony Woodley, the Transport and General Workers' Union chief negotiator, was warning that Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port factory on Merseyside was also in danger of closure.

 Mr Woodley reported he had been told by Vauxhall's chief executive Nick Reilly last year that any plant closure in Britain could have "a domino effect".

 "I was told," he said, "that if Vauxhall closed one plant, it could hit production at another plant. I have no reason to believe that situation has changed."

 The Ellesmere Port workers will have to wait until February to know if their jobs are safe.

 Workers at Rolls Royce are also fighting for their jobs after the company threatened to relocate 1,300 key research and development jobs to Canada as the start of a total withdrawal from Britain.

 A consultative ballot among the 2,400 research staff at Ansty, near Coventry resulted in 85 per cent in favour of strike action. Full ballots are expected to be conducted by the MSI general union next year.

 John Wall, the union's national secretary, said: "There is no economic case for the job cuts in Britain and especially at Ansty." He added that members fear this decision means "the beginning of an exodus of Rolls Royce from Britain."

 TUC general secretary John Monks criticised the Government for failing to defend British jobs. In particular the ease with which workers in Britain can be sacked compared to their German counterparts where there are laws governing minimum notice periods and laying down the rights of works councils, which include unions, to information and consultation.

 Mr Monks said: "Trades unions simply do not understand why our members should be treated in this shoddy way, and why Labour rejects every opportunity to do the decent thing.

 "It is intolerable that British workers should have second class rights.

 "My message to the Prime Minister is clear. British workers are fed up with being kept in the dark and treated like mushrooms.

 The general downturn in motor manufacturing was also reflected last week in a decision by the German firm Mercedes Benz to drop 63 dealerships from its network of 156 outlets.

 The motor industry is one of the steel industry's major customers and with just about every motor manufacturer in the world currently cutting production, thousands of steel jobs are also threatened.

 The Llanwern steel works, owned by the Anglo-Dutch firm Corus, is now under serious threat. A company spokesperson said there has not yet been any decision to close the plant but confirmed that the firm's core business of carbon steel production is seeing substantial losses.

 "Some major action will be necessary," he said.

 If the plant is closed the effect on South Wales will be devastating and it will signal the end of the steel industry there.

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