Year 2000 No. 106, July 5, 2000

Britain Must Dissociate Itself from the NMD System of the US and End its Big Power Ambitions

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Britain Must Dissociate Itself from the NMD System of the US and End its Big Power Ambitions

News In Brief
Asbestos Diseases Are Killing More Workers
North East: On the Speakers at the Durham Miners’ Gala
Wales: Cancer Victims Face Delays
Scotland: Schools PFI Project to Pay the Rich

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Britain Must Dissociate Itself from the NMD System of the US and End its Big Power Ambitions

When North and South Korea held their Summit in Pyongyang and signed the Joint Declaration, Foreign Office Minister John Battle spoke of the "Korean and international efforts to ease tension on the Peninsula". He was being disingenuous about Britain’s role, not to mention that of US imperialism. British governments, ever since the end of the Korean War, have been the biggest champions of US policy in the Korean Peninsula, which has been to stock south Korea with troops and armaments, continually stage military exercises and do everything to increase tension on the peninsula.

Britain is at one with US imperialism in its calculated ravings about "rogue states", in which it is increasingly singling out North Korea, the DPRK. According to US imperialism and the British government, the danger to peace comes not from the strivings of imperialism and the big powers to carve up the world anew in the interests of globalisation, which is to say, the subjugation of all economies to the dictates of finance capital, and the contention of the big power blocs. No, according to them states which have been standing against this objective and dangerous development and refusing to succumb to big power dictates, particularly that of US imperialism, are the danger to world peace. In this connection, a great commotion is made about their supposed ability to develop "weapons of mass destruction", as though the US, Britain, the European Union and Japan were not militarising their economies and developing their aggressive military alliances. Although the countries of the European Union, when Bill Clinton visited Lisbon and Berlin last month, stated their opposition to the National Missile Defence (NMD) System of US imperialism, the so-called "son of Star Wars" after the Strategic Defence Initiative initiated under Ronald Reagan, they themselves are pursuing their own "strategic initiative", and building up the military profile of the Western European Union. A new arms race is accelerating.

Whoever dominates Europe may then move on to attempt the domination of Asia. The US is pursuing the path of organising war in East Asia to further its hegemonic plans, which if they unleash it will provide their final undoing. Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, stated US imperialist strategy while in Seoul on June 23, 2000, after the Inter-Korean Summit. "It is very clear that American forces on the peninsula have been and continue to be important for two reasons. One is the reason of deterrence because it is obvious that, while the summit is hopeful as I have said, not all issues have been resolved. And the other is basically for stability in the region. With the American forces that are also in Okinawa, there are forces here in the region that help provide stability; and neither of those reasons has changed. Therefore, any discussions of lowering numbers or withdrawal are not appropriate and are premature. ... I think it is very clear that the United States is a Pacific power as well as in an Atlantic power - that we have interests in Europe as well as in Asia, that our forces, when they are stationed somewhere, provide evidence of the American interest and, as the Foreign Minister said, have a role in providing a balance of power. The situation with North Korea, as we have said, while promising has not been resolved. We have alliance structures with the Koreans and a relationship with the Japanese, so it is essential that we fulfil our responsibilities. I think that is the general reason, and I think we don't put a time limit on our responsibilities or on pursuing our national interest," she said.

Within this scenario, the British government is pursuing its own big power ambitions. Its position was stated by the Defence Minister, Geoff Hoon, in the House of Commons on Monday. He said, referring to the NMD system and its effects on Britain, that the government "recognises US concerns about the threat [that supposedly motivates the US to pass the National Missile Defence Act] – specifically that posed in the short term by North Korea. That is why there is a differential reaction in Europe. Inevitably, North Korea could not threaten Europe in the short term. Our current assessment is that there is no significant threat to the UK from weapons of mass destruction. However, I must emphasise that we continue to monitor developments closely. Obviously, we must have regard to the protection of UK interests should such a threat emerge." This is an extremely bankrupt attempt to use the issue of North Korea to cover over the British government’s actual intentions and motivations.

The British government must dissociate itself from the NMD system of US imperialism, as well as from the militarisation of the European Union. The working class and all democratic people must demand that Britain end the militarisation of the economy and that the big power ambitions that the government is pursuing must be put a stop to.

Article Index

News In Brief

Asbestos Diseases Are Killing More Workers

The number of work-related deaths caused by asbestos is increasing, according to a new guide for union safety reps, Finding the Fatal Fibre, published yesterday.

Despite a ban on new uses of white asbestos which came into force last year, there is still a huge legacy of the fibre in workplaces across the country. Fatal illnesses caused by work are as a whole on the increase, but deaths following contact with asbestos is the fastest growing area. The number of people who are killed by asbestos-related diseases is 4,000 per year, which is more than are killed on the roads. It is estimated that in 10 years’ time, it will have become the largest single cause of mortality for men under the age of 65. That means the death toll from mesothelioma and asbestos-related diseases could reach one an hour.

By the year 2020, the number of people a year who are killed by the disease in Britain is predicted to rise to 10,000. Those affected are mainly builders, plumbers and shipyard workers, but teachers, children and nurses are believed to have been put at risk since asbestos was used in the construction of many schools and hospitals. Families of those who work with asbestos can also be affected if asbestos particles are brought into the home on clothes. It can take up to 40 years for symptoms to show.

The main diseases caused by asbestos inhalation are:

·  asbestosis – the scarring of lung tissue;

·  lung cancer;

·  mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the chest and lungs)

·  pleural diseases, which include fluid on the lungs.

TUC General Secretary John Monks said: "Asbestos has already been responsible for the deaths of many workers and it is going to go on killing people for many years to come. Despite the ban, there are still millions of tonnes of the fatal fibre lurking in walls and ceilings, pipes, boilers and brake laggings."

The guide published by the TUC gives the advice that safety reps should encourage employers to:

·  develop a register of asbestos in the workplace;

·  draw up an action plan to deal with asbestos including identifying and recording where asbestos is present, monitoring asbestos for deterioration, and specifying what will be done where asbestos is found;

·  inform the workplace, inspectors and emergency services about where the asbestos is and what will be done about it;

·  train workers to know what to do about asbestos.

The report underlines that a situation where workers are constantly at risk from accidents and work-related illnesses is not a thing of the past but is getting worse, despite countless reports, the setting up of the Health and Safety Executive, and other measures. At the same time as stepping up the fight against unsafe and unhealthy conditions of work, it is evident that workers have to ask and answer the question as to what must be done so that the well-being of the workers and of society as a whole is put as the central consideration.

Article Index


On the Speakers at the Durham Miners’ Gala

NUM Durham area secretary David Hopper, writing in the brochure for Saturday's Durham Miners' Gala, attacks Labour leader Tony Blair for not speaking at the traditional rally.

David Hopper says: "While the gala's support is growing and its appeal is becoming more widespread, the hierarchy of the so-called New Labour Party will not accept an invitation to address the biggest political event in the country. This trend was started by the leader of the Labour Party shortly after the 1984/85 miners' strike and has continued ever since. It appears that it is more important to address the captains of industry, the Women's Institute, or almost any assembly other than the Durham Miners' Gala and its working class supporters. I am not sure whether this is solely the decision of spin doctors, but it does show contempt, not only for the Durham miners, but also the tens of thousands of traditional Labour supporters who turn up at the event. I believe that New Labour is out of touch, has lost its values and will be deserted by traditional supporters."

He criticised New Labour for the 75p-a-week pensions increase and the "shambles" over the London mayoral election. "These people are totally out of touch with the reality of ordinary people's lives and the values ordinary people cherish."

Last year, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott spoke at the gala and was heckled. This will be the first year since New Labour was elected that John Prescott has not spoken, having been increasingly opposed.

Speakers on Saturday – the 116th gala – will include MPs Tony Benn and Alan Simpson, Rodney Bickerstaffe, General Secretary of UNISON, Inez McCormack, President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and journalist John Pilger. The speeches will be given at noon on the city's Racecourse following the traditional parade of banners and bands through the city's streets. Health and local government workers, as well as many other workers, will take part.

Article Index


Cancer Victims Face Delays

A shortage of lung specialists means a government pledge that everyone with suspected cancer will be seen within two weeks may not be met, experts have warned.

In Wales, targets to cut lung cancer deaths could also be missed due to the shortage, which is especially acute in some areas. Parts of Wales have figures which are far worse than the British average, with Wrexham recording just one chest physician for 200,000 patients. In the Bridgend area, the figure is one per 160,000, against a British average of 119,000 and a European average of 60,000. The legacy of mining, a high incidence of smoking and lack of fitness for surgery also complicate the situation.

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) said on Monday that the nationwide lung specialist shortage has reached emergency levels and patient care may soon be threatened.

The document Better Health Better Wales, dating from June 1997, set a target of reducing the number of men dying from lung cancer by 54 per cent by 2010, and the equivalent figure for women by 23 per cent.

Dr Ian Williamson, a consultant chest physician at the Royal Gwent Hospital, researched the Welsh figures for a report late last year. He said, "The incidence of lung cancer mortality can only be reduced if the disease is caught very early. It is extremely hard to do that without the staff and infrastructure in place."

The BMA Welsh Secretary, Dr Bob Broughton, said last night, "Yet again we have a UK shortage which is felt acutely here in Wales. Wales suffers from a historical under-provision of facilities and urgent investment in this and manpower needs to be put in place."

Article Index


Schools PFI Project to Pay the Rich

The newspaper, the Sunday Herald, carried an analysis last Sunday that the Glasgow Schools PFI project will cost nearly £35 million more than if the funding had been strictly from the public sector.

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