Year 2000 No. 64-5, April 6-7, 2000

Rover Workers and the Rest of the Working Class Must Take Centre Stage in Political Life

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Rover Workers and the Rest of the Working Class Must Take Centre Stage in Political Life

News In Brief:
Zimbabwe’s Parliament Declares Britain Responsible for Compensation

Ethiopian Government Steps Up Work to Alleviate Drought Crisis and Criticises International Response

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Rover Workers and the Rest of the Working Class Must Take Centre Stage in Political Life

Commentary by Birmingham Branch of RCPB(ML)

Many workers have been considering what to do in the present situation when the remnants of the traditional manufacturing base are being dismantled. The crisis in the car industry is also a consequence of capitalist overproduction where across Europe there are massive stocks of unsold cars.

In this situation, the prospects are for even more manufacturers to close plants and make more job cuts. The financial oligarchy and the transnational companies have abandoned any concern for the national economy and are shifting capital to where maximum capitalist profit can be made. They utilise national states for their own purposes, while governments also encourage inward investment in order to attempt to extricate the economy from crisis. But while this means that the financial oligarchy benefits to the maximum, it is only a factor for aggravating the capitalist crisis. The governments of the EU and other power blocs, big powers, and in particular the United States and Britain, are pursuing neo-liberal policies, squeezing out social programmes in order to finance the super-rich, while falsely claiming that these policies are of benefit to everyone and creating all kinds of illusions that these policies are for progress and denying that they are a continuation of the Thatcherite and Reaganite programme under present day circumstances. The "New Labour" government, carrying forward the neo-liberal agenda of the previous Conservative government, is implementing a programme that is both anti-worker and anti-social. Here we can see why the cuts in public spending and welfare reduction are still very much at the forefront of government’s priorities. Within these confined strategies, Brussels has worked out the necessary arrangements for EC economies to fall in line and had made it an imperative for currency convergence for EMU. Under these conditions, such programmes as private finance initiatives (PFI), social security reductions, abandonment of public housing schemes run by councils, opposition to public ownership of transport and industry, reductions of state pensions and other measures which facilitate the rich being paid, have become the order of the day.

In these circumstances, an alternative path towards social progress must be presented by the workers themselves and organised for. That is to say, workers must affirm their rights, the working class must put forward and fight for its pro-social programme and organise itself in itself and for itself. We have said that big capital has abandoned the national interest and utilises the state for its own narrow interests and will sell-out sovereignty to the highest bidder. The bourgeoisie is divided between those who see their interests lying in siding with Brussels and those similarly see their interests in alliance with Washington. This is reflected in a divide in the political life of the country, while the interests of the national economy and people’s well-being come nowhere. The working class therefore has to lead the situation away from this path and towards independence from big power blocs. The worker class has to constitute itself as the nation.

The Rover situation has seen thousands take to the streets. The workers want to end their marginalisation from the political life of the country and therefore will have to become political and fight for their interests, which are consistent with the general interests of society. Such actions as the conference called by The Campaign Against Euro-Federalism on Saturday, April 8, are being organised at this time of increased awareness and assertiveness by the working class who are entering the political arena on a new historical basis. Like the Chartists of the nineteenth century, workers can and will provide the new focus for politics of the 21st century. Workers representing the car industry are trying to sort out the future of car making; transport workers are looking for a properly funded and safe system; pensioners are looking towards how they can guarantee their rights for a pension based on a proper living wage; health workers are looking towards a properly funded health service; teachers, along with students, are looking for a modern complete education which is properly funded and free for all; people are looking that housing must be guaranteed as a right for everyone; national minorities, in common with the broad masses of the people, are demanding a complete end to racism.

The Rover crisis has brought out, not only that the interests of the monopoly capitalists of Germany, Britain and throughout the globe are diametrically opposed to the interests of the workers of all lands. It has also brought out that the government of Tony Blair is refusing to give a public guarantee for the well-being of the people, that while it is exhorting the workers that the class struggle is over and that they should look to the success of their bosses in the global marketplace, and is doing everything for the interests of big business, at the same time it is washing its hands of the welfare of the people. The Rover crisis is bringing home that the "Third Way", when shorn of all the disinformation and illusions with which it is embellished, is nothing but a programme for the implementation of the anti-social offensive against the people, serving the drive of the monopolies for domination and war, and for keeping the workers passive and depoliticised.

The workers, in alliance with and at the head of the broad masses of the people, are by their action dealing a refutation of this "Third Way". As they further develop and step up this action, they must become conscious of the need to take centre stage in political life, and to impose their solutions which will lead the way out of the crisis. The discussion as to this line of march must be stepped up and become more organised, as Rover workers and the rest of the working class wage the class struggle.

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News In Brief

Zimbabwe’s Parliament Declares Britain Responsible for Compensation

According to news agency reports, on Thursday, Zimbabwe's parliament voted on a constitutional amendment to make Britain liable for compensating owners of farms seized for redistribution to landless Zimbabweans, and said it would not accept responsibility if London refused. Many owners of the largest farms in Zimbabwe acquired them by dubious means during the period of British colonial rule or as a direct consequence of the colonial period. In the last few months, about 3,000 Zimbabweans, veterans of the liberation struggle against colonial rule, have occupied some 800 farms and demanded land redistribution. The British government has opposed the occupations.

The constitutional amendment states: "The former colonial power (Britain) has an obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement through a fund established for the purpose. If the former colonial power fails to pay compensation through such a fund the government of Zimbabwe has no obligation to pay compensation for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement."

A spokeswoman for the Department for International Development responded by saying, "We fully recognise the right of the people of Zimbabwe to draw up their own constitution, but equally, one sovereign and independent state cannot use its constitution to impose conditions on another. The British government does not accept that (Thursday's vote) imposes any obligations on the United Kingdom." She added that Britain had already made a "strong contribution" to land reform in Zimbabwe and had met all its obligations to that country.

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Ethiopian Government Steps Up Work to Alleviate Drought Crisis and Criticises International Response

The Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) of the Federal Government of Ethiopia is taking practical actions to fight the consequence of the drought which has lasted four years, and has been especially devastating over the last two years, not only in Ethiopia, but also to definite extents along the West/East axis of Africa from Mali to Kenya. The drought has especially affected crop production and livestock development through Ethiopia.

In a statement issued on April 5, the DPPC said that a total of over 930 thousand quintals of grain, pulses and supplementary food have been distributed since last January to people affected by food shortages in different parts of the country. Over 750,800 quintals of the relief food was taken directly from the Commission’s warehouse, while the rest came from various governmental organisations. The Commission said priority attention is being given during relief distribution for the pastoralists of Somali State and of the Bali, Borena and South Omo zones.

According to the Commission, the eruption of epidemics and health problems due to absence of water has considerably constrained efforts to overcome the crisis. A team of health experts drawn from the Ministry of Health and the state’s health bureau has been dispatched to the affected localities, along with consignments of medicines.

In its statement, the Commission stated that it "regretted that certain humanitarian organisations are engaged in disseminating misleading reports in the world media about the emerging drought situation in Somalia State". It said that such reports are spread for the furtherance of vested interests.

It is reported that a total of over 800,000 tons of relief food aid is needed to meet the food needs of over eight million people affected by the drought in Ethiopia. The number of people who are threatened by famine in the Horn of Africa is double that number. Speaking at the Africa-Europe summit in Cairo, the Ethiopian Foreign Minister criticised the European governments for their slow response to this impending humanitarian catastrophe.

The Ethiopian Ambassador to Britain, Dr Beyne Negewo, has said that the drought could be averted if the international community takes action, instead of politicising the drought. He said, "The drought is a natural disaster, which is affecting the whole region. The question is just to respond to the humanitarian needs that the Ethiopian people need at this time; people have to stop dying. We have to help the children."

Sir Bob Geldof, in an interview with the BBC, said that the international community should immediately respond to the situation before it assumes the dimensions of a disaster. He said that Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea was being used as an unfair excuse not to deliver emergency aid. He warned that if the situation does turn out to be a disaster, "blame will be laid squarely at the doors of those responsible," pointing the finger at the governments of the rich countries.

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