WORKERS' WEEKLY Vol. 29, No. 12, May 22-29, 1999

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Newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist)

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Article Index

No Invasion of Yugoslavia! Stop the Bombing! Condemn the Criminal Aggression of NATO and the Blair Government!

Agenda behind Tony Blair’s “Partnership” Fund Should Be Profoundly Understood and Rejected

Demonstrations against Aggression against Yugoslavia

Centenary of First International Peace Conference: Imperialism Still the Main Source of War

Message of Greetings from the Communist Ghadar Party of India to the 3rd Congress of RCPB(ML)

Rail Workers Strike

Workers and Politics
Workers at Rover Must Find A Way Out of Marginalisation

Letter to the Editor
More Funding Needed for Cancer Treatment


South London Area Meeting on NATO and Yugoslavia

“Stop the War” Meeting In Newcastle

Public Meeting in Milton Keynes on Kosova and Yugoslavia

TUC’s Millennial Challenge

Europe-Wide Demonstration against Unemployment, Job Insecurity, Social Exclusion and Racism

No Invasion of Yugoslavia! Stop the Bombing! Condemn the Criminal Aggression of NATO and the Blair Government!

BRITAIN IS NOW PLAYING A LEADING ROLE in the prosecution of the criminal war against Yugoslavia. This war is increasingly and without shame being aimed at civilian targets. It is cynically aimed at overthrowing the government of a well-constituted European sovereign state and being targeted at the people of the state.

The cause of the war is the aim of US imperialism to control the Balkan region in order to control Europe in its attempt to impose its grand strategy of a unipolar world. This brings it into contradiction with other big world powers. From Europe it reckons that it can further its ambitions to control Asia, in conjunction with its hegemonic strategy in that region itself, and end with global control. NATO is a crucial instrument in its plans for world domination. These aims are also sharpening the contradictions with the other imperialist powers, and most importantly with all the working and oppressed peoples of the world.

Britain has its own strategic aims in this region. With the collapse of the Eastern bloc at the beginning of this decade it has strengthened its links and ties in the region as well as the Middle East and other regions. As part of its plans, Britain aims both to participate in and strengthen Europe as a military entity as well as the NATO strategy. Tony Blair, with his programme of “Making Britain Great Again” is desperately trying to put a “humanitarian face” on these ambitions and paint heads of government such as Milosevic and Saddam Hussein as the darkest fascists. He has even gone to the lengths of claiming that the unrelenting bombing is being carried out for the salvation of the “values of civilisation”. But as events unfold in the Balkans, this “humanitarian face” is increasingly slipping. Tony Blair internationally is also increasingly being seen as spearheading the moves to escalate the war and invade Yugoslavia.

While NATO has agreed to enlarge its force in the Balkans from 28,000 to at least 48,000, it is the Labour government which is putting 12,000 troops on standby to go to Kosova. This would make Britain the single biggest contributor to the NATO operation, and is a sure sign that Blair is preparing for a ground invasion. “This is Blair’s war,” claimed one Ministry of Defence official. As one newspaper, the Financial Times, put it: “The British units being sent to join the NATO ‘peacekeeping force’ – the Paras, Marine and Gurkhas – are primarily known for their ruthlessness in battle, not their ability to rebuild ruined homes.” It is as part of preparing to step up the aggression that the US and Britain have succeeded in the manoeuvre of getting Slobodan Milosevic indicted as a “war criminal” at the United Nations tribunal for Yugoslavia.

It is essential that the workers and all democratic and peace-loving people in Britain utterly condemn the Blair government as an aggressor. It is the Labour government which should be indicted and removed from office. The more Blair is calling on the people to support aggression and war in the name of human rights and democracy, the more the “democracy” and “human rights” which Tony Blair champions will be exposed. It was in the “Paris Charter” of 1990 that the British government, along with other countries of the CSCE, all of them members of NATO, declared that any country which does not have a free market economy, “human rights” and a multiparty system cannot be considered to have the right to exist. It is now extremely clear what such a declaration entails – the denial of the sovereign rights of peoples. With the aggression against Yugoslavia, especially this right has been blasted out of existence, along with any possibility of the people exercising any of the “human rights” these “civilised values” are supposed to enshrine. Tony Blair further elaborated his “doctrine” in a speech in Chicago last month, which declares that states should be allowed to intervene in the internal affairs of other states, if “human rights” are at stake.

Workers and progressive people must denounce this systematic confusion and misleading of public opinion. They must use this occasion to strengthen their opposition to the national hatreds, Eurocentrism and the kind of “democracy” which can commit such aggression in the name of its people without any mandate from them and in opposition to its wishes. They must step up their struggle for democratic renewal and fundamental change, as well as building a united front in defence of democratic rights and human rights and against the aggressive and interventionist policy of the British government. No government which prosecutes such a ferocious and unjust war with such fraudulence and misinformation can be tolerated. It is the working class which must come forward and take the lead in this struggle.  

Article Index

Agenda behind Tony Blair’s “Partnership” Fund Should Be Profoundly Understood and Rejected

WHAT SHOULD THE RESPONSE OF THE WORKERS BE to Tony Blair’s announcement that a £5 million fund to help promote “partnership at work” is to be set up, and his warning that for “unions and employees, partnership means no going back to the old ways”? This was his theme at the Conference held by the TUC entitled “Partners for Progress – New Unionism in the Workplace” on May 24.

Of course, they should reject this latest attempt to get them to abandon their independent interests and forgo their rights.

But what is interesting, and the workers should take note of this, is that the response of both the media and of what is known as “militant trade unionism”, or “rank-and-fileism”, has been to focus on Tony Blair’s condemnation of what he called “the sense of ‘them’ and ‘us’” which according to him “was a disastrous legacy of early and mid 20th century politics”, particularly of the 1960s and ’70s. The conclusion of the advocates of “militant trade unionism” would then be that “us”, the working people, should not let our “fight-back” be undermined.

It is true that workers and other sections of the people should not allow their fight-back against the anti-social offensive to be undermined. But the fight-back will be undermined and will not be implemented should the workers not throw off illusions about the whole nature of New Labour and the programme of the Labour government. It must be grasped that it is not just that the Labour Party has adopted a Blairite set of ideas that have moved it to the “right”. If that were so, the tactic of putting pressure on the Labour Party to jettison Blairism and move it back to the “left” would have some sense. But, for instance, what has generally gone unreported is that Tony Blair in his speech spelled out the whole policy of “social partnership” and the “Third Way” with which the Labour Party has come to power precisely to steer society down the path of Thatcherism. By Thatcherism is meant the whole path of neo-liberalism, globalisation, privatisation, fiscal restraint and anti-workerism, anti-socialism. This is what is vital to focus on, proving that the workers must organise themselves not just for a “fight-back” but to change the whole direction of society.

Of course, social democracy is still social democracy, a doctrine to conciliate the class struggle. But look at how Tony Blair opened his speech to the Conference:

“There is an emerging consensus today about the economy which the political centre and centre-left are leading, in Britain and round the world. I have called it the Third Way, but in reality it is a modernised idea of social democracy. It seeks to distinguish itself from the old left and the new right. The old left – to be fair sometimes more in perception that reality – came to stand for: state interference in industry, high taxes, and often high borrowing too, over-heavy regulation, trade union power. The new right – established in part as an understandable reaction to the left – stood for laissez-fair economics, no role for Government in the economy, an absence even of minimum standards of workplace protection and trade unions treated, at best, as a tolerated evil.

“This new consensus, in the Third Way, does not seek to split the difference. Instead, it starts from a recognition of certain realities about the modern world: “(1) We live in a global economy, where financial irresponsibility by Governments leads to immediate punishment from the markets; (2) There is a technological revolution transforming the workplace and production; (3) Consumer tastes have become varied, highly demanding, expecting very high standards of quality and service; (4) The future for modern developed nations lies in the knowledge and information economy.”

From this it can be seen that it is not simply that social democracy has come full circle, in the sense that the Labour Party is not calling again for some kind of “social contract”. Such a variety of social democracy existed in the 1970s, when the “never-had-it-so-good” years of the 1960s went into crisis, that is, the social welfare state began to go into crisis and the bourgeoisie was seeking to unload the whole burden of the crisis onto the backs of the workers. In these circumstances, the role of social democracy was to claim that the workers should enter into a social contract, that they too should shoulder their share of the burden of the crisis and tone down their class struggle. This would be what Tony Blair calls “splitting the difference”.

Instead, Tony Blair wants a “modernised social democracy”, he is demanding a “new consensus” which the “political centre and centre-left” is leading. The “social partnership” as part of a “new economic consensus” that Tony Blair is calling for is not a contract between two different interests. It is the subordinating of all rights and interests to the aims of the monopolies in the global marketplace, a “partnership” where the workers are in harness to the success of their enterprise. As he says in his speech, today “management and labour have a mutual interest in a company’s success”. Tony Blair further spells this out:

“The partnership agreements we’re looking at here today are new. They’re innovative. They’re not yet bedded down in the fabric of British business. But I believe they are a significant step forward - a welcome move, which I believe, can bring real benefits to business: to employers and to employees.

“Partnership isn’t warm words. Partnership is about modernisation, about getting rid of old legacies in organisation. Partnership is about new practices - new working arrangements, new ways of doing things to secure success. Partnership is about quality, about focusing on the development of people and products to achieve the best. Partnership is about challenge, and about change - a new culture in companies, a culture based on co-operation, not conflict; based on trust, not tension.

“Partnership works best when it’s about real goals - part of a strategy for instance, for doubling the business. Or bringing employee relations into line with market repositioning. Or ending the often-meaningless ritual of annual wage squabbling. They’re tough objectives. But they’re worthwhile objectives.”

Workers should draw their own conclusions from these declarations. For our part, we would draw attention to the fact that global capitalism is now verging on all-out war for redivision of world territory, in conditions where the capitalist crisis is bringing about a severely falling rate of profit, when more and more the economy is being militarised, when every area of society, including education, health care and other social services have as their raison d’être not the needs of the people but as a source of profit for the rich. In such a context, “stakeholder economy”, “Third Way”, “social partnership”, while their elaboration is fantasy, are policies and weapons with which to create a whole social pressure and ideological offensive that workers and all sections of society should join with the magnates of industry to make business competitive in the global marketplace.

This is the aim of the “Make Britain Great Again” programme of Blair.

It is notable that in Blair’s call for partnership, his attention is focused on urging the workers and their organisations to abandon their independent interests and any programme for the benefit of society, and espouse the ideals of their employers, enterprises and exploiters. This is done “for Britain”, but that means, as Tony Blair rhapsodises at the end of his speech: “You are rising to the challenge of modernisation … you are part of the solution to achieving business success, not an obstacle to it.” Was not this precisely the call of the Major government and Thatcher before that?

Naturally Blair does not want to go back to the “bad old days” as he called them of the 60s and 70s. But what he is calling for goes beyond that. According to him, “Britain has an underdeveloped notion of social partnership. The rest of Europe has a highly developed sense, but its social partnership is not proving sufficiently adaptable to changes. We need to leapfrog over where the rest of Europe is, developing social partnership but doing it in a more dynamic and innovative way.” Thus Blair suspects the unions, despite the fact that they appear to be meekly following him in promoting partnership, do not accept this more dynamic and innovative social partnership wholeheartedly. He warns them, “Don’t use partnership as a disguise, either to get your foot in the door and start rowing about recruitment, or to go back to your old behaviour.” The TUC leaders must be bewildered about how they can do more. The answer is to follow “a genuine path of modernisation”. “Genuine modernisation” means adopting Blair’s agenda to Make Britain Great Again. “I see trade unions as a force for economic success.” And “the partnership agreements … are at the centre of this new agenda. Making partnership and success inextricably interwoven.”

The response the workers should give, of course, is not to go back to the 60s and 70s. It is not to go back to the traditions of “class against class” with illusions that the Labour Party can be an instrument of the working class, while keeping their aspirations to a better share of the pie through “the often-meaningless ritual of annual wage squabbling”. It is to go forward to the 21st century proclaiming that all rights should be recognised in a socialist Britain. It is to go forward to a society where the working class fulfils its ascendant role and establishes a society where the rights of all are guaranteed.

Tony Blair is saying that there is no alternative but for all the ills of society to continue, so workers should accept “partnership” and “flexibility” in order to make business successful. But the alternative is for the workers to fight for an end to the anti-social offensive and establish a society in which the superfluous exploiters are relieved of their property and the whole of the assets of society are socialised. Success will be measured in terms of fulfilment of human potential, and greatness in terms of how the needs of all human beings are met.

In rejecting the £5 million Partnership Fund to invest in the promotion of “innovative practices”, the workers should demand investment in social programmes, affirm the rights of their collectives, and strengthen their vision of a new and truly modern society.  

Article Index

Demonstrations against Aggression against Yugoslavia

ON Monday, May 17, from 6.00 pm onwards, about 500 people gathered at very short notice outside the Guildhall, in the City of London. They were expressing their anger and staunch opposition to the continued aggression by NATO against the sovereign nation of Yugoslavia. The focus of anger was the visit of Wesley Clark, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, for whom a banquet of honour had been prepared.

May 8 demonstration London

It seems this event had been planned a long time in advance by NATO’s warlords who thought they would have conquered Yugoslavia within a few weeks and then return to bask in triumph at the much-heralded 50th anniversary of NATO. In fact, had things gone to plan for NATO, this banquet would have been a victory celebration. The snag in the plan has been that though the bombing continues, Yugoslavia has remained defiant and sovereign, whilst in Britain and the United States and across all the nations under the sway of NATO, opposition and anger has been growing against NATO and its unabashed aggression against a sovereign nation and against the will of their own people. The most telling evidence of the growing opposition was this demonstration itself, preparations for which only began three days beforehand and yet so many people were mobilised in that time.

Only a small space was allowed at first behind the barriers erected by the police but as numbers swelled with more and more people arriving the space had to be expanded. But it was noticeable that the police presence also grew steadily throughout the demonstration until it looked like they were trying to equal in number those taking part in the demonstration. Then the cars carrying banquet guests began to arrive and the demonstrators shouted slogans and held placards saying, “NATO OUT - STOP THE BOMBING OF YUGOSLAVIA”, “Wesley Clarke: Warmonger! Go Home”, “NATO; aggressive domineering warmongering. Abolish NATO now!” and “STOP NATO’S WARMONGERING IN THE BALKANS”. There were also some more emotive cries of “Murderer!” and “How many kids have you killed today?”. At one point the whole mood intensified suddenly and it looked as though the barriers would be pushed over whilst the police started running to the centre of the crowd. A number of journalists also leapt across and began photographing. Then someone was arrested but it was not possible to discover whom, though it seemed likely that it was someone from the Serbian community. Certainly, there was no overt violence on the part of the demonstrators but the strength of feeling against the atrocities being committed by NATO was palpable.

During the demonstration nine copies of the most recent Workers’ Weeklywere sold.

The following Thursday, May 20, a picket was held of the Ministry of Defence, Whitehall, under the banner of “Call for Truth from the Ministry of Lies”. The demonstration protested against the misinformation in the media and against NATO’s attempts to force the media to repeat its claims uncritically. Nine copies of Workers’ Weekly were again sold.  

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Centenary of First International Peace Conference:

Imperialism Still the Main Source of War

This year marks the centennial of the First International Peace Conference held in The Hague in 1899. It is therefore in the midst of the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the Second World War that this event is being commemorated. Yet the occasion is being used to encourage international discussion on the three main themes of the 1899 conference, “the armament question, humanitarian law and laws of warfare and peaceful settlement of disputes”. From May18-19, “expert meetings” were held at The Hague, in the Netherlands, and further meetings are scheduled for June in Russia to prepare reports based on the discussions on these themes for consideration by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Labour government, one of the leading warmongers in NATO’s criminal war against Yugoslavia, has arrogantly submitted its own “comments” on the three themes first discussed at the 1899 conference.

The 1899 Hague Conference is generally considered to have achieved little, although it did eventually lead to the setting up of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which subsequently became the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1921. The conference was dominated by the big powers of the time, including Britain, and used to attempt to secure some advantage over their rivals in the inter-imperialist struggles that were eventually to lead to the First World War. The 1899 Conference did not and could not change the fact that it is the rivalries of the monopolies, backed by the big powers as they compete for new spheres of influence and strategic advantage, resources and markets, that inevitably lead to international conflict and war.

What then can be made of the warmongering Labour government’s comments on the issues of international humanitarian law and the peaceful settlement of disputes? Clearly the government views the occasion as another to present elements of its “ethical foreign policy”, and itself as one of the leading implementers of international law. But the facts show something entirely different. The fact is that NATO’s criminal aggression against Yugoslavia is the most flagrant contravention of international law and the United Nations Charter, as NATO has no mandate for its action. As part of NATO’s aggression the British government is raining down death and destruction on the civilian population of Yugoslavia, using weapons, such as cluster bombs, and methods that have specifically been prohibited by international law. And what “contribution to the international debate” on arms control and disarmament can be made by such a government, that controls one of the world’s leading nuclear arsenals, which encourages the export of armaments throughout the world and which is one of the leading warmongers in NATO?

Just as in 1899, when Britain and the other imperialist powers used the justification of the “white man’s burden” and “civilising mission” to justify their crimes and interference throughout the world, today too the big powers are trying to justify what is unjustifiable. Today the ideological offensive comes in the guise of “humanitarian concern” or the crusade to end the “fascism” of Milosevic. But the aim remains the same – to attempt to line the workers and people up behind a war that is being waged in the interests of the monopolies and oligopolies as they struggle for supremacy throughout the world. What is clear is that the lessons of history must be learnt. The workers and all democratic people must reject the lies and propaganda of the government and step up their actions against the war in Yugoslavia. At the same time, as we enter the 21st century, the question is how can the workers and people not just make their voices heard and views known, but enter centre stage to effect change? What must be considered is how to bring such a change in society and in the international arena so as to prevent such flagrant violations of international law by those who pose as its greatest defenders.  

Article Index

From the 3rd Congress of RCPB(ML)

Message of Greetings from the Communist Ghadar Party of India to the 3rd Congress of RCPB(ML)

Dear delegates and observers of the Third Congress of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist),
Dear comrades of the fraternal Marxist-Leninist parties, Dear comrades of the Presidium,

We bring revolutionary greetings from all the members of the Communist Ghadar Party of India, and from the entire working class and people of India, to this extremely important and historic Third Congress of your Party. It is a matter of immense joy and honour for us to be amongst you comrades, as you discuss and decide the course of action for your party in the coming period.

As you all know, the links between India and Britain have a very long history. The ruling class of our country has had a strategic alliance with the ruling class of your country for many years now. This alliance has been and continues to be to the detriment of the people of both India and Britain.

But comrades, the working class of Britain and the working class of India also have a strategic alliance. The strategic aim of our alliance is to dig the grave of this man-eating system of exploitation and oppression that the English bourgeoisie established, at home as well as abroad in alliance with the most reactionary forces, such as the Indian big bourgeoisie. We are united by our common political aim. Our two parties are united in our unswerving loyalty to Marxism-Leninism and proletarian internationalism. We can say with full confidence, comrades, that our alliance will outlast and triumph over the alliance of the retrogressive forces of our two countries, because we are fighting for social progress and history is on our side. There is no force on earth that can prevent us from smashing this capitalist system and ushering in the new socialist society in the twenty-first century!

We can never forget how your Party has always defended with rare courage and steadfast determination, the lives and rights of the South Asian immigrant community in Britain, in the face of racist attacks and the racist policy of the British State. Unsparing in defence of the rights of the immigrants and minorities, you have shown us the big proletarian heart of the working class of Britain. Red salute to you courageous fighters against racism and all forms of injustice!

We Indian communists cherish this face of Britain that we have come to know, which is far removed and in fact the diametrical opposite of the ugly face of the “white sahib”. We cherish the face of the British communists, the militant fighters against all forms of exploitation and injustice, the antithesis of all that was and is hateful about British imperialism. In particular, we cherish the memory of that great internationalist and departed leader of your party, Comrade John Buckle, who was one of the most sincere well-wishers and comrade-in-arms of our party.

Comrade John Buckle assisted us in those early days in the late seventies when we were carrying out preparations for the founding of the Communist Ghadar Party of India. With great patience he worked with us, to help us overcome our difficulties. He personified all that is good in your party and in the working class of this country. It is 15 years since he left us, but his smiling face, his cool and clear mind, his deep internationalist love for the Indian working class and people will always remain etched in our memories.

Comrades, the tradition of John Buckle has been carried forward by your party in these extremely difficult years. We in India cherish the assistance that we have received from Chris Coleman and other comrades of your party, during the numerous discussions and common work experience we have had with you, both in India and elsewhere.

As you know, our Party held its Second Congress in October 1998. The Second Congress of the CGPI adopted a programme called “Hum hai iske malik! Hum Hai Hindostan! Mazdoor, kisan, aurat aur jawan!” (Workers, peasants, women and youth! We constitute India! We are her masters!) This programme is consistent with the general line of march in this period, and with the aspirations of the broad masses of people, their desire to end the crisis and open the path for deep going transformation of Indian society.

The Second Congress of our Party has opened a new chapter, a new stage in our work to restore the unity of Indian communists and the political unity of the working class and all the oppressed around the immediate programme for the democratic renewal of India. We are determined to carry forward this important work, overcoming the loss of Comrade Hardial Bains, who was the architect of our Party and its founding, its most outstanding ideologue, theoretician and creative organiser. As we take up the challenge of organising the work at this new stage, without Comrade Hardial in our midst, we look forward to even closer cooperation with you comrades in Britain and with all the progressive forces on the world scale.

Comrades, we congratulate you on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the founding of your party. For 20 years, you have battled in the heartland of world imperialism, defending the working class, first from the attacks of Thatcherism and now from New Labour. You have fought persistently against the pressures of liberalism and social-democracy, against all attempts to emasculate the revolutionary content of the working class movement of your country and turn it into a tail of the imperialist bourgeoisie. From the rostrum of the Third Congress of RCPB (ML), we hail this work of your Party as an important contribution to the cause of the communist and working class movement of the world.

As you know very well, comrades, the history of the twentieth century is a history of the struggle of revolutionary communism to make a clean break with social-democracy and all conciliation with it within the communist movement. At the present time, when the world revolution is in a period of retreat, social-democracy has adjusted to the new conditions. It is presenting itself in the form of the “Third Way”, as the alternative to all extremes, as allegedly the alternative to capitalist reforms and to socialist revolution. We seek your close cooperation, comrades, especially in waging the stern ideological and polemical struggle against this line of the “Third Way” and its conciliators within the communist movement. The working class of India and Britain have a special role in this struggle, given the long years of experience we have had with the politics of class conciliation in the form of a middle road between capitalism and socialism, the only two possible systems of society at the present time.

The Third Congress of your Party has been convened to take very important decisions that will unleash all the creative energies of the communists in Britain. Armed with the decisions of this Congress, we are confident that the working class will come to occupy the centre stage of British politics with its own independent programme.

May the Third Congress of RCPB(ML) be the guarantee that the communists of Britain are fully armed and prepared for the twenty-first century! The twenty-first century belongs to the working class, comrades. We are certain that the working class will emerge as the leader of society and mobilise all the exploited and oppressed in building a new society, not only in Britain and India, but all over the world. We are proud and honoured to fight shoulder to shoulder with you comrades for the glorious cause of the triumph of revolution and communism on the world scale. Let us prepare for the turn of the tide, comrades! Let us prepare to turn our successes into lasting victory for the working class and all the oppressed!

We pledge to you dear comrades! We will always guard and strengthen the unity between RCPB(ML) and the CGPI, the unity between the British and Indian working class and peoples, like the apple of our eye!

Hail the Third Congress of RCPB(ML)!
Long live RCPB(ML)!
Long live the unity between RCPB(ML) and the CGPI!
Glory to Marxism-Leninism! Long live Proletarian Internationalism!
Inquilab Zindabad!  

Article Index



THIS YEAR’S Pensioners’ Parliament 1999 took place in Blackpool from May 11 to 13. This was the third Pensioners’ Parliament to be in held Britain, the previous ones being held in 1996 and 1997 respectively. Any pensioner is entitled to attend the Parliament provided they register for £1, and this year 2,200 pensioners took part in the Parliament with members of the National Pensioners Convention, members of the Pensioners and Trade Union Action Association, and members of many other pensioners’ organisations also taking part. The Pensioners’ Parliament was also held as part of the International Year of Older Persons 1999 under the banner Towards a society for all ages.

This year there was one main guest speaker, Steve Webb, Liberal Democrat MP, and the rest of the time was devoted to discussion. The discussions this year were held in three main debates on pensions, transport and health care.

On pensions, the “Discussion Statement” prepared for members of the Pensioners’ Parliament put forward: “All citizens have the right to expect that they will not suffer deprivation in retirement.” The debate centred around the fact that “pensioners have a right to a decent state pension” and opposition to the stand of New Labour. The government has broken its promise to restore the link between earnings and pensions and is increasing its attacks on state pensions though the “stakeholder” pension and other means.

On transport, the “Discussion Statement” put forward that pensioners must “firmly resist any moves to reduce the established concessions for pensioner travel” and the discussion highlighted demands for restoration of free concessionary local travel and there were also calls for the implementation of free national travel for all pensioners.

On health care, the “Discussion Statement” pointed out that in spite of “government activity on health”, it has “failed to deal with the problems experienced by the thousands of older people receiving inadequate support”. In the discussion the members of the Parliament gave lots of examples of how cut backs in investment in health care was having serious consequences in health care provision for the elderly. At the end of the proceedings the “Discussion Statement” was adopted.

During the Pensioners’ Parliament, around 60 people attended a fringe meeting. This was addressed, among others, by Joe Simmons, President of the Pensioners and Trade Union Action Association speaking in a personal capacity. Speaking about the government’s “justification” for NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia, he said that a lot is heard these days about “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” but what can it be called when a “a whole generation of British people is effectively excluded from society” because they have not got enough to live on. They also suffer curfew because they cannot afford the fares to go out. He pointed out that the government claims that the pensioners’ living standards are higher than ever and set to improve still further. But not even the poverty level of pensions when it was linked to earnings is to be restored. The government is trying to take the steam out of any opposition to its Green Paper with some paltry means tested measures and a £100 winter fuel allowance.

The speaker called for the ending of the means testing of elderly people, and exposed the Labour government’s duplicity in trying to blame the Tories yet at the same time carrying out the same policies on means testing of benefits, on refusing to restore the link of pensions to earnings, on privatisation and so on. He said that what was coming from the Pensioners Parliament, in his view, was that the talks had broken down with government. Pensioners couldn’t strike but had to and were considering other forms of direct action. “Pensioners were part of the working class and are still part of the working class” he emphasised. And he declared “nothing has been freely given we have always had to fight for justice” and in conclusion warned against the attempts to split the working class and people and that the call needs for to be for unity.

Following the meeting Joe Simmons spoke to a Workers Weekly correspondent. He said that the pensioners movement was opposing the refusal of the government to restore the link of pensions with earnings and opposing their refusal to do away with means testing. “These were the two fundamental issues on the pensions that it was totally inadequate and we want to do away with all means testing.” He said that “since 1980 pensioners have lost about £25 a week since this link with earnings was broken. The pension now is £67 and it should have been £92”. He continued that the government’s “minimal income guarantee is nothing but a means tested income support because without the link with earnings the basic pension would deteriorate and devalue to such an extent that eventually it would disappear.”

He said that “in the previous Pensioners’ Parliaments a considerable amount of time has been taken up by platform speakers but we decided this time discussion should come from the floor.” He said that events are beginning to overtake those who plead with them to confine their struggle to one of a dialogue with the Labour government and that now there are many calls for direct action. He concluded that “we all know what should be done, but the argument now is how we go about getting what should be done.”

North of England Correspondent  

Article Index

Rail Workers Strike

picket at GTRM Saltley depotWORKERS at the Birmingham depot of GTRM, in Duddeston Mill Road, Saltley in Birmingham recently struck work over pay and temporary contracts. About 1,00 maintenance workers took part in the protest. This strike shows that the range of class struggle is developing in the area. Workers at the depot in Birmingham took united action and mounted a militant picket against what one worker described as slavery. He said:

“What they are asking us to commit ourselves to amounts to legalised slavery with us working eight out of 13 weekends from Fridays through to Sundays.”

This statement expresses the growing consciousness that the capitalist system of wage slavery and exploitation is at the heart of workers’ problems.

In response to the strike the company, GTRM, a joint venture between Tarmac and Alstom, had sent in workers with improper skills to cover track and signal repairs during the stoppage. The actions of GTRM and Railtrack are compromising safety on the West Coast Mainline and in doing this are risking people’s lives.

Capitalism disregards the safety of the public. The privatised rail network has been geared only to profit, and the Labour government is quite happy to carry on with the current arrangement, which maintains a most important element of transport in private hands. By keeping the railway system in the private sector the government can abdicate its responsibility to a key social programme. The rail system is geared to maximising the profits of the rich and private capital has shown that it will cut corners in safety and also exploit its workers in order to make those profits.

The workers at the GTRM depot in Saltley have demonstrated that they will not stand by and be marginalised and that they are willing to wage class struggle in order to make their voice heard. Workers will continue to oppose the arrangements of the government and only by stopping paying the rich and increasing investment in social programmes can the aspirations of the railway workers and the public be met.

Midland Correspondent  

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——Workers and Politics——

With this issue of Workers' Weekly, we are beginning a column on the conditions of the workers and on the agenda the workers themselves are setting to overcome their marginalisation and to take up politics. We encourage all our readers to contribute to this column.

Car Workers:

Workers at Rover Must Find A Way Out of Marginalisation

ROVER WORKERS have a long history of struggle and have great experience of the various arrangements that have been made. Those who have controlled the company have always wished to maintain the company as a capitalist profit making enterprise.

Arrangements can be traced back at Longbridge in Birmingham and various other car factories that go right back to when the company was solely known as “The Austin”. Also we can see this in the early days of Lord Ryder and the notorious “Ryder Report” through to nationalisation and the formation of the company known as British Leyland. There have been various plans made to make the company competitive and maximise the profits at the expense of the labour force. One such infamous chairman of the company was Sir Michael Edwardes and his so-called “Edwardes Plan” to save the company from extinction. There has since been take-overs from British Aerospace (with handouts from the government), and collaborations with Japanese firms such as Honda. Various profitable sections have been sold off, such as Jaguar which was privatised and ended up with the Ford Motor Company.

Today the Rover group has passed into the hands of the German company BMW who wish to close down unprofitable sections of the company and make many workers redundant, including many workers in the supply industry. BMW have threatened to close Longbridge if there is no enticement of large amounts of money from the government.

Under all of these circumstances workers have been asked to participate in plans to work with managements in order to make the company successful and “save jobs”. It was not long ago that the company had a particular arrangement where the workers were to give up certain working conditions, won over years of struggle, and liquidate certain working practices. In exchange for this arrangement workers were to be given “jobs for life”, an agreement which was soon torn up by the BMW board.

In order to break from the arrangements made by the various capitalist owners, workers always need to look after their own class interests. The arrangements only serve the interests of the capitalist class and they will implement their plans regardless of the attitude of the workers.

The Labour government and its supporters are a block to workers finding their own way
The Labour government, consistent with its politics of the “third way”, obstructs the workers when they are trying to find their own way forward.

In the current situation, the government is openly telling the workers that they should join in a three-way partnership consisting of the company, the government and the workforce themselves to solve the problem at Longbridge. In this deal the company will promise to invest in Longbridge and create employment. The government giving cash to the company (along with the local Labour council) will back this. This will happen if the workers agree to increase productivity to ensure that they are competitive in the global market.

The Labour government is openly telling the workers that they should stay out of politics and leave this side of things to them. The so-called offer of £200m has been floated and reduced to a figure of £118m which itself is “negotiable”. On the company’s part, they are continuing to float the idea that the company might move production abroad to Hungary. The idea that negotiations should be “left to Labour and the Trade Unions” because they are the only ones who can get the “best deal” is consistent with the notion that the workers should be politically marginalised.

It has to be said that there is no proof of BMW’s real intentions or whether the move to Hungary is viable or not. What can be said is that the history of the company has shown that various plans have not led to any permanent job security. The instability of the car market and indeed any part of the capitalist market has been proven. Overproduction has always dogged the car market. The ability to carry on producing cars at the present rate, or other considerations such as environmental ones, have not shown signs that there is a positive future in car production in its present form.

Under these conditions the workers cannot remain marginalised but must find a way to assert themselves. The problem is not one of discussion only, but a real problem for solution. Workers need to look after their own interests and find ways of intervening in the political situations as they arise.

Organisation is the way forward
The traditional organisation, the trade unions, has proved that it is not only ineffective in dealing with the issues facing the working class (as can be seen in particular during the Thatcher years) but also is a block to development. The trade unions have only given limited criticism to the Labour government in the present crisis at BMW. They have only said that the government should hurry up in providing the money for BMW. They have agreed to take part in the “third way” politics of partnership and exclusion of the workers in the political process.

The question arises, what type of organisation do workers need so that they are not marginalised and can break the arrangements of the capitalists? The answer to this question must start on the basis of no action without analysis of the present conditions. Workers are required to participate in the struggle to find the necessary forms of organisation, which are independent of the capitalist class and those who want to block workers. Workers who want to break the present marginalisation that prevents a long-term challenge to the capitalist arrangements need to analyse and reflect on their organisation in order to strengthen it. Workers need to participate in building organisation in order to find out the best form. Under the present conditions at Longbridge workers are asking the question, “What can we do, they might close us down?” This is nothing new, it is a regular blackmail against any workers in a difficult situation and it has happened many times before. What we do know is that there are workers still at Longbridge. How long this might continue is not known but it is certain that workers will face this situation again and again elsewhere. In order to change this situation the working class will need to have control over the situation where they are empowered and production is organised on a socialist basis. Meanwhile the present conditions mean that action is limited and should only be considered with proper analysis.  

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More Funding Needed for Cancer Treatment

On Thursday, May 20, Tony Blair promised a programme aimed at improving the treatment of cancer in this country. The usual things were said: prevention is better than cure, anti-smoking campaigns, dietary information, etc. What Blair did not promise, and what all cancer experts agree is desperately needed, is more money which could be used to save the lives of thousands of unfortunate people dying of this hideous disease right now.

Every year 160,000 people die of cancer in Britain. We spend less on cancer treatment than almost any other European country and are therefore at the bottom of the treatment success league on a par with Poland and Estonia. In Britain each cancer consultant is responsible for 750 patients compared to, for instance, Holland, where the figures are 250 patients compared to each consultant. For a wealthy country such as Britain, this is an outrage and a disgrace against humanity in general and the suffering in particular. The experts agree that by using the latest drugs, success rates would be dramatically improved, but the problem is that under the current free market system few health authorities can afford these drugs. Of course, those amongst us who are wealthy enough to pay privately will receive preferential treatment. Once again the poor are not only suffering, but paying with their lives. The cost involved in making these drugs universally available and hence the saving of thousands of lives each year is a mere £100,000,000. Compare this with the money being spent each week by the British government to wage war on Serbia resulting in further deaths of poor and innocent people.

On the same day that this programme was announced, MPs were voting to restrict benefits paid to the disabled. Yet another example of how the weakest members of society are being marginalised and forced to pay, sometimes with their lives, the obscene price of capitalism.

Yours (signed) etc.  

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New Worker public meeting

No to the New World Order!

Speakers include:
Andy Brooks, General Secretary NCP; Michael Chant, Workers’ Weekly;
Representative from Kurdish Information Centre
Chairperson: Dorothy Legg
7.30pm Thursday 3 June at Conway Hall (Bertrand Russell Room),
Red Lion Square, London WC1.

Saturday 5 June, National Demonstration

Stop NATO bombing Yugoslavia

Assemble 1.30pm Victoria Embankment. (nearest tube Embankment)
March 2.30pm · Rally 3.30pm
Organised by the Committee for Peace in the Balkans

No NATO in the Far East!

Public Meeting. Wednesday June 9 1999, 7.30 p.m.
Conway Hall (Brockway Room), Red Lion Square, London WC1.
Called by Peace Movement Policy Forum

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South London Area Meeting on NATO and Yugoslavia

ON Wednesday, May 19, a successful meeting in the South London area was organised under the auspices of John Buckle Books. The main speaker, former London Regional Secretary of CND, dealt with the history of NATO and its political and military significance in the implementation of the USA New World Order. The talk was impressively researched and enthusiastically received. Questions to the speaker were pertinent and were answered with insight on the world military and political role of NATO. With this information a discussion ensued on the NATO war on Yugoslavia by sustained bombing of cities in Yugoslavia in general and in Kosova in particular, the very province for the freedom of which it was claimed the war had been launched. The whole world is now aware of the heavy civilian casualties in a campaign that boasted of being directed at military and ancillary military targets only, and there is now no doubt that the sentiment of the peoples of the world is of condemnation of the NATO action. The meeting discussed the grave aggravation of the situation in Kosova and the massive refugee exodus used by NATO and its supporters to justify its actions, and denying that these actions made worse the situation it was claimed the actions were intended to ease for the benefit of Kosovan Albanians. Some benefit!

Speaking of benefit; the question was raised as to who will benefit from the destruction of so much of Yugoslavian and Kosova. It was remarked that the sudden rise in share value in the larger construction industries of the countries involved in the war had sinister overtones of war profiteering. This seemed to be part of the plan to exercise economic and military investment in a sovereign country by the USA using NATO to control that part of the world for its own imperialist purposes. It is slavishly assisted in that by the British Labour government heartily supported by the Tory Opposition, Liberal Democrats, etc., whose speakers may condemn some of the methods but not the strategic aims. On the whole the meeting was a satisfactory justification of the line of Workers’ Weekly on an action that the longer it continues the more criminal it becomes.  

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“Stop the War” Meeting In Newcastle

ON Thursday, May 27, around 150 people attended a rally to demand a stop to the war against Yugoslavia. As the University authorities barred people from using the meeting hall which had been previously booked by locking the doors, the rally took place outside on the steps of the University. Martin Levey, President of the Newcastle Trades Union Council, Chaired the Meeting on behalf of the Tyne and Wear Stop The War Campaign. He introduced the three speakers.

Father David Mumford, Vicar of St Peter’s Church, Cowgate, addressed the rally speaking about his experiences with international bodies in The Hague. He condemned the NATO bombing of Serbia and Kosova as a breach of international law and as a war crime. Then followed a speech by Yunus Baksh, Secretary of UNISON Newcastle City Health Branch. He pointed out that the National Executive of UNISON has called for an end to the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia – one of the few unions to do so. He exposed the propaganda that NATO was conducting the war for “humanitarian” aims and he condemned Blair and Clinton as war criminals. He said NATO should get out of the Balkans and called on everyone to demand a cessation to the bombing and he also spoke about the need to oppose New Labour’s Asylum Bill and the mistreatment of refugees whilst million of pounds are spent on weapons. A speaker from East Timor also addressed the rally, condemning the action of the New Labour government in supplying weapons to the reactionary Indonesian government which are being use to suppress the people of East Timor. All the speeches were greeted with vigorous applause.

Martin Levey who spoke before and following the speeches about the campaign in the Northern Region emphasised the broad character of the campaign and he called on everyone to support the forthcoming national demonstration in London on June 5, and other local activities of the campaign.  

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Public Meeting in Milton Keynes on Kosova and Yugoslavia

On Friday, May 14, Milton Keynes Peace and Justice Centre organised an exchange of views on Kosova and Yugoslavia. The twenty participants held a detailed discussion, debating their opinions on the conflict and finished by passing the following resolution unanimously.

• We express our revulsion and anger at the terrible suffering caused in the region by racism, state-sponsored ethnic cleansing and armed conflict.
• We believe that the present use of violence by NATO is wrong in principle, contrary to international law and likely to make the position worse rather than better.
• We reject the false choice between the use of force and doing nothing. We call on all people of goodwill to examine urgently all possibilities for non-violent action to achieve a cessation of hostilities and to establish a process under the control of the United Nations for ultimately resolving the ethnic conflict and bringing to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity. • We commend the positive peacemaking efforts of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and other non-governmental organisations, which have had to be suspended since the bombing commenced.
• We deeply regret that the new millennium looks set to begin with humanity failing to learn the lesson of the last century, namely that war as a method of settling international and inter-tribal disputes is obsolete, ineffective and impossibly damaging, especially to women and children who are its principal victims.

This Resolution was released to the local press.

Many important points were raised during the discussions, and plans were also made by participants in the meeting to join local and national actions against the war.

There is a regular picket against both the bombing and sanctions on Iraq and the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and Kosova on the first Saturday of every month. The picket is held from 12 noon until 2.00 pm outside Central Milton Keynes library and all are welcome to participate. This picket is held by the Gulf Crisis Group who may be contacted at:

Gulf Crisis Group: c\o MKP&J Centre, 300 Saxon Gate West, Central Milton Keynes, MK9 2ES.  

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TUC’s Millennial Challenge

AT THE “Partners for Progress: New Unionism in the Workplace conference”, TUC General Secretary John Monks delivered a speech on the theme of “Partnership Can Beat Militancy and Macho-Management”.

In it he said: “Many predicted that we would not survive the difficult years of the 1980s. Well, we are still here, with nearly seven million members. But there is still so much to do. That is why the TUC has set itself a Millennial Challenge – to modernise the trade union movement and ensure that we are equipped to meet the demands of the next century.

“Partnership with employers must go hand-in-hand with a focus on organisation and recruitment, top-class work related services and a determination to create a more rational trade union structure. This is a different kind of trade unionism. Modern, relevant to today’s world of work, focused on an agenda beyond pay, grievances and discipline.”

Earlier in the speech he had referred to the message of Prime Minister Tony Blair, saying that his presence at the conference “shows that you recognise that there is now the firm evidence that we are making that change. Of course we still have some way to go – unions need to deepen their commitment and ask themselves hard questions about structure. That’s the theme of the Millennial Challenge we have set ourselves.”

Dwelling on making the case for partnership, John Monks said: “The key question we have to answer is what is in it for employers. The answer is straightforward. It’s about improving performance, enhancing competitiveness, enriching the quality of working life. That’s the new unionism, but it’s also what smart managers want to do.”

He said further on: “As Peter Mandelson said at last year’s Congress, the employment relationship is always unequal. The employer has the power to hire and fire. You can’t get away from this fundamental truth. Genuine partnership is impossible without an independent employee voice. And as one employer told us: The unions see things that we miss.”

He concluded: “This conference marks the time when we start winning – winning for our members, winning for the organisations for which they work, and winning for Britain.”
See Article Agenda behind Tony Blair's "Partnership" Fund Should Be Profoundly Understtod and Rejected 

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Cologne 99 – May 29:

Europe-Wide Demonstration against Unemployment, Job Insecurity, Social Exclusion and Racism

THE European Marches (organiser of the mass demonstration in Amsterdam in 1997) has called another major protest in Cologne this Saturday, May 29, to coincide with the Heads of Government Summit of the EU under the German presidency. Marchers have set out from various European cities including Berlin, Hamburg, Prague and Basle to converge on Cologne for the demonstration. Over 100,000 are estimated to be arriving in Cologne. A march of 1,000 people is on its way from Brussels to Cologne comprised of international delegations.

A “European Parliament of Unemployed and People in Precarious Work” is to take place, beginning on May 30 and concluding on June 1. This is a co-ordination of the Euromarch organisation and the counter-summit organisation. A joint opening of the Counter-Summit and the Parliament is to take place on the evening of May 28, and the Counter-Summit will have a closing session on June 3. The Parliament will be a direct meeting of European activists, unemployed and other associations to debate and exchange views. The themes discussed will include: Income and all forms of social rights (including women’s rights); Work: precarious work (low-paid insecure work), reducing the working time (35 hours without loss of pay); The struggles for the rights of populations with immigrant origin, asylum seekers, and the issue of the Schengen borders of the EU.

The object of the Cologne demonstration is to focus attention on the unemployed associations and those with insecure jobs throughout Europe, and an occasion to show the extent of international convergence of the people’s struggles. It is planned that there will be an initiative against the European heads of state on June 3. Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, has described the agenda of the Cologne summit as reflecting the government’s priorities for Europe – “a Europe of reform, a Europe of the people, and a Europe of strength in the world.”

There will be an anti-G7/8 demonstration on June 19, and the European Marches network will also participate in the June 18 World Action with Reclaim the Streets, which is a global day of protest against neo-liberalism. The European Marches network also supports the “World March of Women 2000 to Eliminate Poverty and Violence against Women”, and initiatives such as the Intercontinental Caravan and the Brazil March of the Landless. The following text against the bombing of Yugoslavia has been put forward as a basis for discussion in the European Marches network:

Every day that goes by, the war in Kosovo aggravates the situation of the civil populations, who were already greatly affected by the years of insidious war and by the privations provoked mainly by the Serbian nationalist rulers. The responsibility of the European Union and of the USA, through NATO, in the actual situation is devastating. Far from helping the Kosovo population, the bombing permitted to the Serbian government to intensify the ethnic cleansing and to proceed to even more massacres in Kosovo, while repressing Serb opposition and rallying around it the population of Serbia, in a reflex of nationalistic defence.

We demand that:
- the NATO bombings stop immediately;
- negotiations start and a political solution be sought; for it, one should take into account the aspirations of the Kosovan people and the respect of their right to self determination in a multi-cultural Kosovo;
- the refugees who so wish be granted hospitality and free movement in all European countries.

In the context of war and rise of nationalism all over the Balkans, the autonomous expression of civil society, trade unions and associations is a decisive element for preserving and developing ties between the communities based on dialogue and democratic values, reconstruction of solidarity, and social struggles overcoming the splits between peoples.

That is why we engage ourselves, as militants from associations and trade unions, in a project of aid for the development of information, exchange and debates networks in order to support democratic associations and trade unions, whether they are refugees or still in Kosovo, in Serbia or anywhere else in the Balkans.

On the agenda of the European Union summit in Cologne, on June 3 and 4, two points are included:
- one action plan for setting up a European defence, in relation to NATO;
- a pact for employment, which will represent a heavy menace for the workers and for the unemployed in European Union.

In view of this summit, the European Marches network is organising a series of actions which will culminate in a large demonstration in the streets of Cologne on May 29, 1999.

In order to mark our solidarity with all of the peoples of the Balkans, victims of this war, to denounce those responsible for it, NATO, the USA, the EU and the Milosevic government, and in a broader sense to affirm our opposition to the militarist logic, which is useless from a social point of view and criminal from a human point of view, we decide to give the European Marches 99 the following name:
“European Marches against unemployment, job insecurity, exclusions, racism and war”.  

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