WORKERS' WEEKLY Vol. 29, No. 15, June 19 - July 3, 1999

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

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Article Index

Will the North of Ireland Impasse Be Broken?

Commentary: Continuing Deadlock in Northern Ireland

The Armed Occupation of Yugoslavia by the Imperialist Powers

The Demand that British Monopolies Get their Share of the Spoils

“Crack UK Peacekeeping Troops” Underline Blair’s Interventionist “Doctrine of International Community”

London Meeting Commemorates “Operation Blue Star”

Gulf Crisis Group, Milton Keynes, Declares “No War in Our Name!”
Inter-Imperialist Contradictions Intensify over Kosova

Party Organisations Report on their Work
East London Branch Establishes Workers’ Weekly Readers’ Group
Programme of the Northern Regional Committee in Taking Forward its Work
Birmingham Branch of RCPB(ML) Discusses the Party’s Programme
South London Branch Reports

From the 3rd Congress of RCPB(ML)
Building the Communist Party on the New Historic Basis

Youth & Students
Student Opposition to the War in the Balkans
Why the Youth Must Be Political

Diary of a Health Worker on her First Visit to Cuba - Part 1 - What A Day!

Euromarches — 29 May, Cologne, Germany

Letter to the Editor - Sections of the Farming Community Are on the Move

Anti-war activists issue call: No Far Eastern "NATO"!

For Your Reference
The Way Forward - A Joint Statement By the British and Irish Governments
Strategic Defence Review - Key Points
UN Security Council Resolution on Kosova, June 10, 1999 (Published in Printed Edition but not reproduced here)

Will the North of Ireland Impasse Be Broken?

TONY BLAIR has clearly invested much time and effort over the days before the June 30 “deadline” and the days since in trying to ensure that the Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly is set up, and that the “peace process” of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement is pushed forward.

His speech in Belfast of June 15, for example, quotes from his speech just after New Labour was elected, of his “profound sense of responsibility”, and emphasising that “it is a responsibility that weighs not just upon the mind, but the soul”. This responsibility was “about life and death for people here – an end to violence”. When Britain was bombing Yugoslavia, Tony Blair was also overcome with a heavy moral responsibility that innocent lives were being lost and so much suffering caused, but carried out for a higher cause. The two cases are not unconnected. Not only in a “moral imperative” which is here taking the form of working hard to push through the already pushed through agreement. But also in that this self-imposed deadline after other deadlines have been and gone comes when the armed occupation of Yugoslavia has been accomplished.

Tony Blair cannot have a bloody conflict going on in north of Ireland, Britain’s backyard as it were, and retain the mantle of a world statesman and peace enforcer. This role of peace enforcer, particularly in the interests of Anglo-American values, is very much central to the scenario Blair is mapping out.

The point is, he is not taking the Downing Street declaration to its logical conclusion in his endeavours. That is, not only must the people of the whole of Ireland be entitled to determine their own affairs without outside interference, but the conditions have been created and history is demanding that political affairs in the north of Ireland should be sorted out in the context of the sovereignty of the Irish as a whole. Instead they are being sorted out in the context of the agenda of Westminster and the British government.

It is interesting to speculate how far Tony Blair thought himself correct when he introduced his speech on June 15 by saying: “The people of Northern Ireland face a crisis they do not want, do not deserve and is not of their making.” This, one could say, is the whole point. Whereas Blair’s actual logic, as in Kosova, is that the people make their own crisis, if only by foolishly following leaders who do not serve their interests. This gives Blair the false mandate to intervene.

The divisions, the Orangemen, the “two communities”, which the British bourgeoisie itself set in motion, are not only giving Blair the opportunity to institutionalise sectarian divisions in the Assembly, but they are providing the impasse which he is now trying to overcome. The government must be condemned on both counts. They demonstrate that Britain is not prepared to relinquish its hold on the north of Ireland. But at the same time, it cannot represent for them a cauldron whereby British troops are tied down or even the stigma of armed conflict is attached to the government.

This explains Blair’s investment of energy in the Agreement going ahead. The “peace” they wish to impose is not where representatives of the citizens of the north are left free and given every facility to be elected and on behalf of all the people sort out the issues which they face and which are a legacy of being Britain’s oldest colony. Regional government or devolution is not an exercise of sovereignty, no matter that the democratic forces may utilise it, as they must, as a stepping stone to push forward the movement whereby they truly exercise their decision-making authority.

Workers and democratic people must see the connection in this respect between Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia. In different ways, “self-government” is being handed out on terms which contradict its essence. The conclusion can also be drawn that the workers must uphold the banner of modern sovereign states, the banner of the right of a people to sovereignty.

Article Index


Continuing Deadlock in Northern Ireland

Chris Coleman, National Spokesperson, RCPB(ML) – 3.7.99

After five days of wrangling at Stormont Castle, with no agreement having been reached, the British and Irish governments late on Friday night put forward a set of proposals for the long-delayed implementation of last year’s Good Friday Agreement. These proposals involve the establishment of a coalition Executive for the Northern Ireland Assembly on July 15; the handing over of devolved powers to the Assembly by the Westminster Parliament on July 16, to come into effect on July 18; and the beginning of the “process of decommissioning” of paramilitary arms under the supervision of the International Commission on Decommissioning a few days later, with actual arms handed over within weeks and completed by May 2000. All the north of Ireland parties involved in the talks have agreed to consult their supporters on the proposals, with Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein already speaking positively but David Trimble of the Ulster Unionists expressing strong reservations.

Looked at superficially, the sticking point has appeared to be simply the Ulster Unionists’ refusal to sit on an Executive with Sinn Fein members until Sinn Fein have given an assurance on decommissioning of IRA arms which they are not prepared or able to give, and which the Good Friday Agreement does not require. It was in these circumstances that Tony Blair descended on Belfast as the saviour, missing the opening of the Scottish Parliament, talking of changes of “historic” and even “seismic” proportions, painting a dreadful picture of the consequences of failure, and generally taking the role of high-minded peacemaker between the warring and intransigent natives, prepared to try and impose a settlement if the parties could not themselves agree.

The facts however, looked at soberly and in the wider perspective, show something else. The facts show that it is the British governments, past and present, which have both been the source of the problem and are the block to progress in the north of Ireland at present.

What became known as the Peace Process began in 1993 with the Downing Street Declaration, in which the Major government acknowledged for the first time ever the right of self-determination of the Irish people. It was prepared to make some concessions while manouevring to keep control. Looked at strategically, clearly the British state wished to end the armed struggle in its own backyard in order to free its military forces for use in the coming scramble for global redivision and domination among the big powers, although few at the time foresaw the extent and rapidity of this development, as the bombing and military occupation of first Bosnia and now Serbia amply prove.

The IRA ceasefire of 1994 further opened up the way to progress, but the Major government was unwilling and incapable of moving the situation forward. With Tony Blair’s election in 1997, however, movement began again. Sinn Fein, who had been excluded from the all-party talks by Major and without whom the talks were meaningless, were now included. In an atmosphere of violence and extreme tension deliberately created by the state and its agencies the Good Friday Agreement was pushed through. Sinn Fein, while acknowledging the flaws of the Agreement – after all it institutionalised British rule and institutionalised the sectarian divisions caused by that rule – endorsed the Agreement and agreed to serve on the Executive, arguing with some justification that this would provide a springboard to pursue their openly stated aim of ending British rule and reuniting Ireland.

Since that time, for over a year now, we have seen Sinn Fein continuously strengthening its position, winning a larger and larger share of the popular vote in Northern Ireland Elections, as well as in the south. And on its part we have seen continuous efforts by the British state and its agencies to frustrate this development, to obscure the whole issue of the right of self-determination and sovereignty of the Irish people which Sinn Fein represents, to keep control in its hands and those of the monopolies it serves. It has stopped at nothing to do this, fomenting divisions everywhere, and playing the “Orange Card” unmercifully. It is this, the promotion of division and violence by the British state and its agencies, the deliberate maintaining of a permanent state of tension, which blocks progress, prevents any matters being resolved and threatens further disasters.

The current deadlock in implementing the Good Friday Agreement must be seen in this context and with this perspective. Tony Blair is not the saviour in the north of Ireland any more than he has been in Kosova. He is a fomentor of divisions, a creator of diversions, an instrument of imperialist interference in other peoples’ countries. The call of the working class and people can thus only be the same for Ireland as for Kosova. Peace, the real application of the right of self-determination and sovereignty, will only come with the withdrawal of all British and other foreign forces, of all the institutions of foreign rule, and leaving the peoples to sort out their own affairs.  

Article Index

The Armed Occupation of Yugoslavia by the Imperialist Powers

June 5 demonstration against the bombing of Yugoslavia

ON JUNE 10, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1244 on Kosova (see page 11). The resolution cites the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and Security Council resolutions from March, September and October 1998, as well as May 14, 1999. The resolution did not condemn the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia, which was in violation of its Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and all UN conventions which prohibit aggression against a sovereign state and demand that disputes be settled on a peaceful basis. The resolution merely says it “regrets” “there has not been full compliance with the requirements of Security Council resolutions”.

The resolution speaks about being “determined to resolve the grave humanitarian situation in Kosova and to provide for the safe free return of all refugees and displaced persons to their homes”. But no explanation is given as to why a “grave humanitarian situation” existed in Kosova and responsibility is not assigned where it belongs. Instead, the resolution carries the suggestion which provided the pretext for NATO to launch its aggression in the first place, that the government of Yugoslavia is responsible for “ethnic cleansing”.

This leaves the door open for the further creation of pretexts by the US and NATO powers. Under the guise of “moral imperative”, the big powers are imposing the “civilised values” of the “English speaking nations” wherever they see fit. This is the spirit of NATO’s founding Charter and what is sanctioned with its “new strategic concept”.

Thus, the logic contained in the resolution for the military occupation of Kosova, an integral part of the sovereign state of Yugoslavia, itself a founding member of the UN, is laid out on the same terms as the logic which NATO used to start the bombing and carry it out for eleven weeks. This logic is consistent with the medieval imperialist dictum that Might Makes Right. Guided by this dictum, far from providing the problems which face humankind with solutions, the big powers led by the US imperialists have established a new “norm” in international relations. According to this “norm” all international affairs can be criminalised and the military rule of the big imperialist powers over the peoples of the world is supposed to be a fait accompli. This is something which they will never accept.

With this resolution, the UN presence is relegated to the “civilian” front, co-ordinating with the military power which is not subordinate to the civil power. The role the UN has carved out for itself on the humanitarian front in no way justifies the military occupation of a sovereign country by the armed forces of the big powers. It merely underscores the fact that the UN will continue to be a bystander as the US-led NATO command dictates in Yugoslavia.

Already there is a serious difference of interpretation over who is in charge. Yugoslavia insists that the Military Technical Agreement signed on June 9 was signed with the UN. For its part, the US, Britain and others declare that it was signed with NATO. The UN resolution attempts to give the impression that the UN is in charge while in fact seeking to legitimise NATO forces in Yugoslavia as an “international force” under the auspices of the UN. Furthermore, the resolution gives absolute power to the commander of K-For, the British General Sir Michael Jackson, to decide everything without defining what is meant by his mandate. For instance, what constitutes “terrorist acts”?

The last nine years since the end of the bi-polar division of the world show that the US imperialists and Britain, together with the other big powers of Europe, define their political enemies as “terrorists” in order to crush them and pursue their own big power interests. Doing this in the name of democracy, human rights and civilised values does not change the reality one iota. They condone state terrorism when this serves their interests, as in India, Turkey, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador and many other countries. They condemn it when it does not serve their interests, as in the current case of Yugoslavia. The fact is that even as concerns Yugoslavia, for 20 years they were onlookers as Great Serb violence and repression of Kosovar Albanians was unleashed time and time again.

Not only has the US-led NATO aggression against Yugoslavia elevated the use of state terrorism to new international proportions, it has also deepened the credibility crisis facing the parliamentary and presidential democracies of the NATO countries. These unrepresentative parliamentary and presidential democracies have declared themselves to be above “civil society”. They have not only been criminalising all problems of an economic, social, cultural and political nature internally and are now doing so internationally as well, but it is all done without the consent of the parliaments of the various countries, and in defiance of many of the countries’ constitutions as well as of the international conventions to which the same countries are signatories. The fact that these countries involved their countries in an aggressive war against Yugoslavia has further deepened the crisis facing the democracies of the NATO countries without exception. These democracies do not represent the sovereign will of their peoples.

While the big powers are in agreement on the point that Might Makes Right, the contradictions in their own ranks have not been sorted out by the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia. These contradictions have, in fact, become many times sharper. So long as the aim of the US remains to dominate Europe so as to take over Asia, the US will continue to use its leading position in NATO to establish its hegemony over the entire world. The NATO aggression showed that the US will not allow any country to share command. What is decided in one place will continue to be undermined in another so that US interests prevail.

As a result of the NATO aggression, the European powers are faced with a greatly destabilised Europe, a huge refugee crisis, terrible destruction and suffering by Yugoslavs of all nationalities and an environmental problem whose dimensions are yet to be felt.

The US is also intriguing to keep Russia in a subordinate position, split the CIS and force the new NATO countries on Russia’s borders to toe the US line. The attempts of the European powers and Russia, to keep the latter as a part of the equation through a “compromise” solution, are far from victorious in the face of the US dictate.

The intentional bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade was also part of its new strategy of confrontation with China as the US does everything in its power to strengthen its position in Asia.

As concerns the problems of “ethnic cleansing”, “national hatred” or communal violence, it is the big powers which must take the blame. It is they who are using and encouraging the old British colonial method of divide and rule. The war of aggression against Yugoslavia and all the related media campaign and propaganda of the NATO countries has brought to the entire world’s attention the manner in which these powers finance their own agents to commit crimes and then present themselves as the saviours. All over the world, first they divide people on the basis of national origin, race, gender, religion, language and other considerations. They then foment communal massacres, and then declare themselves champions of “civilised values”. The aim of this policy is to make sure the people do not unite against the cause of their condition and do not provide themselves with a vision on the basis of which they can create those conditions which favour them. The imperialists for self-serving reasons equate the Serb people with Great Serb chauvinism in Yugoslavia. They used the excuse of a counter-insurgency they themselves provoked by financing a phoney insurgency to declare a humanitarian catastrophe. All of this was done to achieve their aim of occupying a part of Yugoslavia.

It is no accident that it was the existence of socialist Albania and to a lesser extent the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia under Tito which kept Great Serb chauvinism in check. The incitement of chauvinism and national/religious hatred are the stock-in-trade of US imperialism and the NATO powers, just as was the case of Hitler prior to and during World War II. It goes hand in hand with all the terrorist means to achieve their aims.

The Security Council Resolution 1244 resolves nothing, nor is it intended to resolve anything. Far from it, it lays the basis for the inter-imperialist contradictions to become sharper and paves the way for further aggressions to be committed by the big powers, especially the US. The only way peace can be guaranteed at this point in time is for the peoples to step up their work to make sure that the principles of peace and justice which guide relations between nation-states are effectively applied.

In this regard, it is of utmost importance that the British working class and the peoples of the world continue to demand that the aggression against Yugoslavia be legally condemned and those responsible be brought to justice. The demand by China, Cuba and other countries to include the condemnation of the aggression against Yugoslavia in the resolution was entirely appropriate. The failure of the Security Council to include it shows that the crisis facing the UN will continue.

An organisation which does not even defend its own Charter and founding principles clearly requires renewal. The resolution cannot wipe away the black mark against the Security Council which for eleven weeks failed to condemn the bombing and the extremely serious breach of international law. Even the United Nations Commission on Human Rights failed to condemn the bombing of Yugoslavia and its devastation, thereby seriously affecting the UN’s credibility in defence of human rights.

The peoples of the world have not lived and fought throughout this century in vain. They are sure to draw the warranted conclusions and take further concrete measures to establish their fraternal unity to open society’s path to progress. This is the only way to defeat the destructive plans of the imperialist powers.  

Article Index

Britain’s “Kosovo Regeneration Task Force”:

The Demand that British Monopolies Get their Share of the Spoils

IN THE WAKE of its criminal war of aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugosalvia, the government has moved swiftly to make sure that it is British monopolies that benefit from the lucrative reconstruction of Kosova and other areas in the Balkans, following the destruction and devastation caused by NATO bombing. There is already particularly intense rivalry between the major European monopolies, backed by their respective governments, to profit from the war. It is in this context that the British government has established its Kosovo Regeneration Task Force, which includes representatives of various government departments, the CBI and some of the biggest monopolies including AMEC, Bovis and Taylor Woodrow, “to promote and co-ordinate the UK’s commercial response to the Kosovo situation”.

This week representatives of the “Task Force” visited Kosova and reported back to a conference on “commercial opportunities” in Kosova, which was chaired by John Battle, the Minister for Energy and Industry.

The activities of the “Task Force” are being heralded as part of a humanitarian effort needed to assist the Kosovan refugees and the “regeneration” of Kosova and to make it “a better and nicer place”. However, the government’s statement that it is doing all in its power to enable them to “tap into reconstruction opportunities” makes it clear that the profits of the major monopolies are the major consideration. A representative of AMEC claimed that British monopolies lost out to their rivals in Bosnia, and they are now openly demanding that they expect to gain a percentage of the contracts at least as large as the amount of “aid” donated by the government to the region. The rivalries between the monopolies backed by the big powers are intensifying as they all scramble to win contracts throughout the Balkan region, estimated to be worth some £30 bn. It is reported that the German government is to set up its own task force to represent the German monopolies, which also feel that they lost out to their rivals in Bosnia and after the Gulf War. Already representatives of the German monopolies are attempting to bolster their claims by stressing that they are the traditional major trading partners with the Balkan region.

These facts signal that all the major powers, including the US, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, Canada as well as Britain are stepping up their contention in the region. Far from the struggle between them dying down, it will intensify as each strives to further its own economic, strategic and political interests as the representatives of the big monopolies. Tony Blair and others have talked of bringing “civilised values” to the Balkan region. The British government and NATO have been fighting for the values of 19th century colonialism, of “gunboat diplomacy” and “trade following the flag”. The “civilising mission” of Blair and NATO is nothing more than a cover for furthering the mercenary interests of the monopolies as they contend for supremacy in the global market.

Kosovo Task Force

“Even before the conflict in Kosovo had been resolved, British Trade International had been considering how British companies could play their role in helping with the reconstruction of the economy of Kosovo. Under the personal initiative of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Stephen Byers, a joint private sector /Government Taskforce has been set up to promote and co-ordinate the UK’s commercial response to the Kosovo situation.

“The Kosovo Task Force is chaired by Nigel Thompson (Ove Arup); the other senior private sector representatives on the Task Force are:-Stuart Doughthy (Kennedy Group), Ian Thomas (AMEC), Bruce Russell (Taylor Woodrow), Kevin Stovell (Mott McDonald), Colin Adams (British Consultants Bureau), Don Cook (Crown Agents) and Andy Scott (CBI). In addition to British Trade International, officials from the FCO, MOD, ECGD, DFID and DETR are also members of the Task Force.” (Information from the Government body British Trade International)


Article Index

“Crack UK Peacekeeping Troops” Underline Blair’s Interventionist “Doctrine of International Community”

THE government has recently announced that what are referred to as “crack UK peacekeeping troops” are to be made available to the UN under a new agreement signed with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan. Under the agreement British troops, police and other personnel as well as supporting equipment can be rapidly deployed anywhere in the world in a “peacekeeping and conflict prevention role”. The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, also announced that France would be signing a similar agreement with the UN. This agreement highlights the reactionary role that Britain is playing in the world, and the efforts by the government to become a leading player in international affairs and intervene in the interests of the monopolies all over the world.

It is an attempt by both countries to bolster their role as permanent members of the UN Security Council, but must also be seen as a means to strengthen the capacity of the UN to take military action in furtherance of the interests of the big powers. At the same time, Britain and France aim to promote closer military co-operation in Europe as part of plans to strengthen the military role of the big imperialist powers of Europe within and outside NATO, and in this respect step up their contradictions with the US.

Last year, the government’s strategic defence review emphasised the need for modern armed forces that could respond rapidly throughout the world. This April, in a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of NATO, Tony Blair announced what he called “a new doctrine of international community”, one that would enable support for military intervention in the event of “threats to international peace and security”. During the war against Yugoslavia, Blair and other NATO and UN chiefs developed the “New Strategic Concept”, where what was referred to and defined by the big powers as “human security” took precedence over the rights of nations to sovereignty and self-determination. This “New Strategic Concept” creates the justification for the big powers to intervene anywhere in the world on the pretext of “humanitarian concern” or safeguarding “human security”.  

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London Meeting Commemorates “Operation Blue Star”

Chris Coleman introducing the meeting

ON JUNE 26, a meeting entitled “Fifteen Years after Operation Blue Star” was held at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. From June 4 to June 6, 1984, the Indira Gandhi government had sent the Indian army to invade the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab. Thousands of people inside were slaughtered. This infamous attack on the highest seat of religion of the Sikhs was intended to humiliate a whole people, to attack their dignity and their struggle. This policy has not ended. State terrorism and other forms of violence are increasingly being utilised by the Indian state. It was the invasion of the Golden Temple that marked the dramatic development of the criminalisation of Indian politics. The evidence from India today, fifteen years after Operation Blue Star, shows that the Indian union is sinking ever deeper into crisis. But neither have the people given up their struggle against state terrorism and the violation of rights.

Opening the meeting, which was very well-attended, Chris Coleman said that RCPB(ML), Indian Progressive Study Group (Britain) and other organisations in Britain which had got together to hold the meeting had thought it most appropriate that the meeting not only commemorate the thousands of people who were killed in the Golden Temple in June 1984 and condemn the Indian state for this crime against humanity, but that it be used to open up a whole broad discussion on the question of the violation of human rights and state terrorism being used as an instrument of government policy.

The first speaker, Dr Rajesh Gopalan of the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups (AIPSG) said that Operation Blue Star was an example of state interference in religious affairs, something which had increased in India since that time as a means to divide the people and create a diversion. It had initiated an increase in the use of violence against the people as state policy. Today, he said, the war in the Balkans as well as India’s bombing in Kashmir pointed to this being the continued policy for the 21st century. He spoke of this in the strategic and geopolitical context. He spoke about the obstacles presented by de-politicisation and disinformation and said the people must play their role in ensuring the policy of military solutions to political problems was not followed. He said that the people affirming their rights and emerging to bring about democratic renewal would end the legacy of Operation Blue Star.

Ajmer Bains, General Secretary of Indian Workers Association (Great Britain), recalled the massacre at Jallianwalla Bag by British troops in 1918. He said that Operation Blue Star showed, with this in mind, that 1947 had seen not independence but only a transfer of power from the British imperialists to their lackeys, who would take over the same institutions and methods. He spoke against the militarisation of Indian politics and economy. He said the struggle must be for a life worthy of human beings.

Zafar Khan of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) paid tribute and homage to those massacred in Operation Blue Star and pledged solidarity with the Sikhs and the people of Punjab. He spoke in detail about the current situation in Kashmir and the danger of the situation escalating into a war between India and Pakistan. He said that the Kashmiri people had suffered for 11 years at the hands of the Indian state, who had repeated the methods perfected by British imperialism during its rule and used in Operation Blue Star. He called for a solution to be found to the Kashmiri problem which took into account the dimension of the Kashmiri people. He put forward JKLF’s proposals which involved withdrawal of both Indian and Pakistan troops and administrations from Kashmir, interim self government under international supervision and a decision on independence or union with Pakistan or India to be made by a free people.

Speaker from RCPB(ML)

Michael Chant of RCPB(ML) said that in India and elsewhere problems demanding solution were becoming more pressing. Instead of dealing with them governments were turning more and more to anarchy and violence, to exacerbating divisions and creating diversions, to state terrorism. He said that the Party condemned the violation of human rights and state terrorism in India, the attacks on the national rights of the Punjabi people and others. Those responsible should still be brought to justice. He spoke of the responsibility of the British state and governments. It was their model which had been imposed in India and the British government had never condemned Operation Blue Star. In fact it had justified mass slaughter as a legitimate policy as evidenced in its Extradition Treaty with India of 1992. He called for the British working class to settle scores with the old conscience and take up a modern definition of rights. He said that Tony Blair’s “civilised values”, used to justify the aggression against Serbia, were the same as those of 19th century colonialism. He said that people must unite in action against the criminalisation of the polity, against state interference and state terrorism. He pointed out that the Party had given the call at its recent Congress “Forward into the 21st Century” and “For a Socialist Britain”. It was the Party’s responsibility to politicise the working class and people through widespread discussion, including on India and geopolitics. The national minorities must be provided with a place of honour and equal rights in the polity.

The meeting ended with the showing of a very moving video of Hardial Bains giving an important speech in Southall on June 9, 1984, a few days after Operation Blue Star. Copies of an article by Comrade Bains entitled “Violence and Anarchy in Punjab and India”, published on May 23, 1991, were distributed at the meeting as a contribution to the discussion.

The meeting was important for a number of reasons, not least in underlining the responsibility of the communists and workers in Britain in taking a stand against the criminalisation of the political life of both India and Britain and against the continued violation of human rights, as well as reflecting their particular duty in this country towards the peoples of Indian and South Asian origin, as well as other origins who have been the subject of British colonial rule and are denied the all-round exercise of their rights. The meeting was concluded with the resolve that discussion on these issues continue and be taken widely amongst the people.  

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Gulf Crisis Group, Milton Keynes, Declares “No War in Our Name!”

A correspondent writes that the Gulf Crisis Group, Milton Keynes, celebrated the 19th anniversary of the Milton Keynes Peace Pagoda on Sunday, June 20.

At the meeting a speech was given on behalf of the Gulf Crisis Group, which opened by declaring: “Our message is no war in our name!

The speaker went on to explain that the group was formed to speak out against the genocide which the government is still continuing against the people of Iraq. Air strikes, economic sanctions and the effects of depleted uranium weapons from the war mean more than 4,000 children are still dying every month in Iraq. As citizens of Milton Keynes, the speaker affirmed, we stand with the mothers and fathers of those children to say No! No more! This must stop! Lift the sanctions!

The group found it had to expand its horizons when Tony Blair launched another war, this time against Yugoslavia. On that first night, 371 planes took off from ground bases in Europe and the US, some from Fairford, only one and a half hours drive from Milton Keynes. NATO warships in the Adriatic launched cruise missiles. By June 1, the number of combat missions launched amounted to 29,979. Thousands of innocent people were killed or wounded.

More than 90% of the Kosovars fleeing their country did so after March 24. Returning, they find ruin, desolation and radioactive depleted uranium everywhere and we know what this has done to the people of Iraq. The air in the Balkans is now poisoned with sulphur dioxide and ammonia. The rivers and the sea are full of toxic products from weapons and from chemical plants which were bombed. Acid rain reached Romania by May 20.

Unmanned aircraft have bombed hospitals with patients inside, homes with people in them, bridges full of pedestrians and buses with passengers. We stand with them, the speaker said, those patients, pedestrians, and passengers, we stand with those families. Not even Hitler’s airforce assaults against the villages, towns and cities of Poland in the first weeks of World War Two were as brutal and extensive as NATO’s bombing of the present Yugoslavia.

Wood engraving by Emily Johns

The speaker went on to condemn NATO’s crimes against the Serbian people while supporting the full rights of the Albanian Kosovars to be guaranteed their national, cultural and religious identity and the widest possible autonomy and even independence if, after a just and peaceful political settlement, the Yugoslavs of Serb and Albanian nationality decide that this is what they want. But it is they and only they, the people of the area, who must decide. No one else has the right to decide for them. Any decision imposed on the people by a cruel and merciless war will only increase the problems a hundred fold. Our Group stands with the ordinary people of Britain too. Britain is the only country in Europe which sends 17 year olds into war. These are our sons and daughters!

If we were to accept that genocide can be done in our name in Iraq and in Yugoslavia, said the speaker, we also accept that our rights at home can be taken away. This is another reason why we say No War In Our Name!

On Friday, July 9, at 7.30 pm, the Gulf Crisis Group is holding a public meeting entitled: “The Sanctions War against the People of Iraq: eyewitness report”. It will take place at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone, CMK. The speaker is Andrea Needham, who has risked five years imprisonment by taking children’s medicines to Iraq without authorisation, in defiance of the sanctions. She was a delegate to Iraq from the organisation Voices in the Wilderness in May this year. The Gulf Crisis Group can be contacted c/o Milton Keynes Peace and Justice Centre, 300 Saxon Gate West, Milton Keynes.  

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Inter-Imperialist Contradictions Intensify over Kosova

AS I WRITE, the arrival of a few hundred Russian troops in the Kosovan capital, Pristina and their subsequent deployment at Pristina airport, apparently in opposition to NATO’s plans for the province, has been heralded by the international media as an example of “Cold War tensions resurfacing” in the Balkans. What is deliberately obscured by such statements is the fact that following the criminal war of aggression waged by NATO, nearly 50,000 troops from 30 countries, including Britain, are being deployed to occupy Kosova, which is an integral part of a sovereign country, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Britain already has over 13,000 troops in the Balkans and has placed another 6,000 on stand-by, thus contributing the largest single contingent of this occupying force.

What is also obscured is that the cause of the war in Yugoslavia has been 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 necessarily brings it into contention with the other big world powers including Russia, which has its own long-standing strategic interests in the Balkans, but is also concerned about NATO’s expansion eastward. Already in the current confrontation, Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, three countries which wish to join NATO and the EU, have refused to allow Russia an air corridor to move more troops into Kosova. Britain too has its own strategic aims in the region, as do the other major powers. The war in the Balkans is being waged in the context of the rivalry of the monopolies backed by the big powers as they struggle for supremacy throughout the world and is sharpening the contradictions between all the imperialist powers.

The five leading powers in NATO, the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy have already partitioned Kosova amongst themselves. Each of them will “administer” a sector of the province, but Russia has been left out of this arrangement and is attempting to force a settlement in its favour by the deployment of troops at Pristina airport. Representatives of the Russian military had threatened to carve out their own sector with the support of the Yugoslav government. As if to strengthen its position ahead of the G8 summit in Cologne, the Russian government has claimed that it wishes to deploy as many as 10,000 troops in Kosova.

The squabbles between the big powers underline the fact that far from fighting in Yugoslavia for humanitarian reasons, for the “values of civilisation” and against “ethnic cleansing”, all the imperialists are fighting for territory, for the strategic and economic interests of the financial oligarchies in their rivalry for supremacy throughout the world. Far from the situation in the Balkans being resolved by NATO’s criminal aggression, the situation remains unstable and fraught with danger. In its drive for a unipolar world US imperialism is risking ever more conflict with the other big powers including those of the European Union.

For its part the government of Tony Blair has shown that it aims to be one of the leading players in the warmongering NATO alliance; that it aims to further its policy of “Making Britain Great Again” through wars of aggression and trampling on the sovereignty of other countries. Such a policy only adds to the contention between the big powers and contributes to the growing instability in the world. It is this dangerous and warmongering policy which Blair and others attempt to camouflage with pious phrases about their “civilising mission” in Kosova.

What is evident is that only the peoples of the Balkans can restore peace, freedom and independence, which the US, Britain, Russia and the other big powers are trampling on. What must be demanded is that all foreign troops be removed from the Balkans.  

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Party Organisations Report on their Work 

East London Branch Establishes Workers’ Weekly Readers’ Group

THE East London Branch of RCPB(ML) has been engaged in discussions to elaborate its programme of work for the coming period in the light of the resolutions of the Party’s Third Congress. In particular the Branch has discussed how to develop a programme which can contribute to strengthening the Party’s work of continuing to build and strengthen Workers’ Weekly on the basis of Improving the Content and Extending the Readership of the newspaper. The Branch considers that it must pay serious attention to this work and continue to consolidate the advances made in the period leading up to the Third Congress. In this context it is striving to make sure that it continues to strengthen the collective study of the paper and the political line of the Party in the new conditions; that it works to develop the ability of all its members to write for the paper on a regular basis and that it collectively finds ways to continually extend the regular readership of the paper.

The Branch considers that in order to strengthen this work at the present time it is also necessary to strengthen its links with all the regular readers and subscribers to Workers’ Weekly in the local area. After consulting many of the readers and subscribers it decided to begin regular readers’ meetings in East London. One of the main aims of these meetings will be to develop and deepen the level of political discussion amongst all those who regularly read Workers’ Weekly, while at the same time it will provide an opportunity for readers to give their views on the political content as well as the style and form of the paper. It is vital that all sections of the people, but especially the workers and youth, see Workers’ Weekly as their own, as their tribune giving a voice to their struggles and aspirations for a new society, and as an instrument to set their own agenda and end their political marginalisation. The readers’ groups can play an important part in this process which must ultimately lead to creating the conditions for building organised support for the Party amongst the workers and other sections of the people. It is through creating the conditions not only for discussion but also for an analysis of the problems confronting the people that the readers’ groups may become the means of establishing groups of supporters who also report and write for the paper as well as taking up its dissemination.

The East London Branch of the Party received an enthusiastic response to the proposal to hold regular readers’ meetings and feels sure that once established the readers’ groups will be able to make an important contribution to the work to develop and strengthen Workers’ Weekly. This work is in itself integral to building the Party amongst the workers and others sections of the people, to raising their consciousness and preparing for the coming revolutionary storms.  

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Programme of the Northern Regional Committee in Taking Forward its Work

THE Northern Regional Committee has recently adopted its programme for the initial period following the Congress. The main consideration in adopting the programme has been to develop the work of the Party organisations under the conditions of the success achieved by the 3rd Congress. The programme has been arrived at by ongoing discussion on the resolutions and themes of the Congress and the implementation of the decisions of the 2nd Plenum of the Central Committee. The most important discussion has been around what does it mean to Improve the Content, Extend the Readership of Workers’ Weekly with this new consciousness and how can this work be further taken into the working class and among the people. Another important consideration was how should activists involved in the working class movement against the anti-social offensive and peoples movements such as that against the NATO war act? What organisations should be built and what is the line for those organisations? Another crucial question was that everything should be discussed in the collective and everyone made conscious of what the issues are and nothing should be left to chance.

On May 1, the Northern Regional Committee took up the call of the 2nd Plenum of the Central Committee to re-establish the constant work of the Party fully in a very disciplined way bringing the new consciousness into play. During this new period the constant work and programme of the activists has changed from one of mainly writing for and distributing Workers’ Weekly to one of placing the emphasis on involving workers in politics through reports, interviews, articles and contributions in the pages of Workers’ Weekly. This work has the perspective of creating reader/writer groups in the workplaces, colleges and in the communities. By involving workers in this work the programme is placing organising in the first place. At the same time, in order to organise, the line has to be elaborated. Therefore, the programme also involves the activists in constantly summing up the work and striving to enrich the central programme of the Party to Improve the Content and Extend the Readership by taking it into the working class and people’s movement. Instead of just keeping in touch with worker activists and friends of the Party, activists are discussing ways of involving them in the work. This includes elaborating with them the whole path of ending the political marginalisation of the workers and organising for the working class to take centre stage in the political life of the country and in their historic mission to bring about socialism.

The issue being raised in the working class movement is what type of “partnership” should the workers have with their employers. The TUC leaders are creating the illusion that “partnership” can be “equal” and in favour of the interest of the workers as “opposition” to employers who openly declare that they will call all the shots. Such a debate about partnership is aimed at diverting the workers and getting workers to submit to the continuing anti-social offensive and is part of the whole ideological offensive of Tony Blair’s “Third Way”.

The issue for the workers is what organisation do workers need so that they are not marginalised and can break the arrangements of the capitalists, arrangements such as this so-called partnership between government, big business and trade unions. Already the work of the Party is showing that action must be based on the analysis of the present conditions. It is showing that workers need to participate in the struggle to find the necessary forms of organisation which are independent of the capitalist class and those who are trying to block the workers. It is participating in this struggle in which workers will find the best form of organisation which is the crucial question.

What these objective and subjective conditions are pointing towards is the programme to organise workers to read, write for and study Workers’ Weekly as a vital part of such a new arrangement that will end the political marginalisation of the workers and transform the subjective conditions. The programme of the Northern Regional Committee calls on its activists and supporters to take up these tasks and develop their practical political work in the region consistent with these tasks.  

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Birmingham Branch of RCPB(ML) Discusses the Party’s Programme

On Sunday, June 10, the Birmingham Branch of the Party met and on its agenda it decided to discuss future plans for the area. The plans were worked out on the basis of the line of march adopted at the recent Congress. One issue was the Draft Programme for the Working Class, and the other on points surrounding improving the content and extending the readership of the paper. A number of decisions were taken to assist in implementation.

In discussing the paper, Workers’ Weekly, it was agreed that the members of the branch would step up their activity in reporting and writing for the paper, adding to a number of successful articles recently written which contributed to the paper’s reporting on the working class and in particular the problem of the political marginalisation of the workers. The comrade responsible for this, with the assistance of others, agreed to continue with this work. Other comrades will be looking into issues surrounding transport and the investment in social programmes, detailed investigation on the situation in the Balkans and third world debt.

The work of the branch on the Party paper also reflects what is needed amongst the workers. The branch has decided that it will model the work on creating a group of writers and disseminators as part of the programme of work that is necessary for the class itself. The branch worked out that it should aim towards promoting the technique of writing and encouraging the workers to subscribe, discuss and write for the paper. In this way the workers will see that the paper is their organ, which provides them with a voice, hence contributing to their struggle to oppose marginalisation.

The branch sees the work advancing in future on two levels. On one level, workers can analyse their conditions by becoming writers and disseminators. The branch discussed how the workers, on another level, can constitute themselves as the nation. In this context the historical value of Chartism was discussed where the workers in Birmingham had previously organised the Birmingham Political Union, the first of its kind, which later led to the first political organisation of the working class for the empowerment of the workers. In this tradition the Birmingham Branch discussed how the working class must once more organise around the programme of the working class, which the Party put forward first as a draft and has recently been adopted by Congress. With this programme, the working class can broadly adopt a political programme which can lead to its empowerment under the modern conditions.

The Birmingham Branch took a number of practical decisions. First it decided to produce subscription forms for the paper. It has also decided to reproduce the programme for the working class on a single sheet with its aims clearly set out.  

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South London Branch Reports

THE South London Branch of RCPB(ML) would like to report to Workers’ Weekly that it has set its programme of work for the immediate period ahead. In the light of the Party’s 3rd Congress decision to continue to build and strengthen Workers’ Weekly on the basis of its programme to Improve the Content, Extent the Readership of the newspaper and in order to fulfil our responsibility and play our part in ensuring the success of this work, our unit has set a plan to submit an article every week to the paper.

In order to set this programme, the Branch discussed what needs to be done in this period, what considerations should be borne in mind in determining our programme of work and what arrangements need to be put in place in order to ensure its success. The major consideration was, as the Communiqué of the 2nd Plenum stated, that units must immediately take up the constant work of the Party but must, at the same time, take up the work of elaborating what those tasks are and that this work must be imbued with the new consciousness that has arisen with the new circumstances since the Congress.

The Branch concluded that the objectives were two-fold in order that the basic organisation fulfils its role of being an organ of class struggle at its level and further strengthens itself.

First, it must respond to the requirement set by Congress to Improve the Content, Extend the Readership in an organised way.

Second, there is the issue of waging the class struggle in South London. The first step is to report on the struggles and movements of the workers and activists in our region. However, discussion is also important, and the Branch is organising a discussion group around the paper every fortnight, which also has the aim of writing for Workers’ Weekly, based on the participants’ own experience. This work taken as a whole has the perspective of organising the working class in the area for which we have responsibility, in the context of the Party’s work nationally, to take up their own independent programme and unite the people around it, and thus end their marginalisation.  

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From the 3rd Congress of RCPB(ML)

3rd Congress logo

Building the Communist Party on the New Historical Basis

THE THIRD CONGRESS embodied the collective will of the Party. This was the quality to work to build RCPB(ML) as a modern communist party. Like the two National Consultative Conferences of 1998 before it, the Congress represented an arrangement whereby the whole Party was drawn into the deliberations on the further advance of the Party’s work.

Discussion took place during the Congress on the line of march of the Party, and in this context the question of what it means to build a modern communist party was addressed.

It was remarked that it is pertinent in considering the norms and organisational line of the modern communist party to look at the question of the how the credentials of this Congress were arrived at. If a basic organisation was in good standing, the credentials of the members of that basic organisation were assessed in relation to that basic organisation. In other words, it was not a question of individual qualities or personalities, it was not a question of assessing comrades’ strengths and weaknesses in the abstract. If the basic organisation was not in good standing, even if members were admitted into the Party many years ago, there was no basis on which they could attend the Congress as full delegates because the credentials have been assessed in relation to the standing of the basic organisation. So the participation in the Congress has been reflected in relation to the work of the Party. It does not in any way go against the constitution that was adopted in 1983. The norms reflect the cultural and social forms that were appropriate for that time. These norms have not been contradicted, but they have been built on with this crucial factor of conscious participation of the whole membership in the work of the Party.

This led the Congress to point out that, in considering the question of the theory and practice of a modern communist party, one of the key issues is the consciousness with which the work is carried out. The issue is not simply just to agree or disagree with the line that is put. The issue is that a modern communist party comprises people, comrades and activists, who are thinking through and working through the problems themselves. The people who actually carry out the work are the ones who also have to do the work of analysing what is that experience.

It must be addressed that in building a modern communist party, it is the most crucial factor in bringing about revolution. Why is it then that modern communist parties have not been built and revolution taken place? In this connection, the agenda of the Congress raised that scores must be settled with the old philosophic conscience. Building socialism here in Britain is not building socialism with old so-called British colours, with a “British Road to Socialism” which says that there is at root something to be cherished about this British democratic system, something which makes Britain an exception to the laws governing all social revolutions.

It is therefore the order of the day that a modern communist party has to settle scores with the old philosophic conscience.

The Congress resolved that RCPB(ML) must step up the work to build the Party on such a new historical basis and to further strengthen it on the basis of the principles of democratic centralism.

The Congress recognises that in carrying out this work, the basis of unity of Marxist-Leninists as adherents of some general principles of communism, or some general line, is not enough. It has to develop its work on the basis of modern definitions.

It is the order of the day that the communists elevate themselves to the position of politicians, respected by the working class and the broad masses of the people. This raises the question of what is a politician, what does it mean to be political. The Congress, in deliberating this issue, drew attention to what will transform the situation. It drew parallels with the Party’s plan for Workers’ Weekly which it has stuck to and in which, rather than focusing on developing some pure so-called “politically correct line”, the Party has focused on paying attention to its decisions on this front and implementing them. It drew the conclusion that having basic organisations which are organs of class struggle, the collective leadership, will transform the situation in terms of the communists elevating themselves to the position of politicians. This, furthermore, is at the core of the issue of basic organisations being in good standing.

This is one central implication of building the unity of Marxist-Leninists on a new historical basis.

(to be continued)  

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Youth & Students


Student Opposition to the War in the Balkans

The following article was written in May. Clearly there have been many developments since that time. But we think it is important still to print it in the form it was submitted, since it reflects the stand of the youth against the war.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon back on April 24, a demonstration denouncing the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia took place in Manchester. Around 500 people marched for two miles from Platt Fields, part of the student area, up to the town hall in the city centre. The march stopped along the way in front of the BBC North building. They politely declined to report on the action.

A good cross-section of the community was present, spanning the age groups, with a very large turnout of young people. Many organisations were represented: socialist groups; trade unions, including UNISON; and environmental, Christian and other pacifist groups. Speeches were given by Alice Mahon MP, a university lecturer, a member of North-west CND and other activists.

Since that time many other demonstrations across the country have taken place, with increasing size, number and determination. The involvement of the youth in the opposition is increasing. On May 8, over 15,000 people took part in a national demonstration in London. Every new error of judgement by NATO, such as the bombing of the Chinese Embassy on May 7 and of the hospital and market place at Nis on the same day, brings with it a new wave of opposition. The recent announcement to double the ground force to nearly 50,000 troops is sure to bring people out in their hundreds and thousands in anger at the government. There are definite signs that popular opinion is shifting away from support for the war.

It is essential for us as youth to actively condemn NATO’s actions. We cannot accept the propaganda that they are acting in the name of “democracy” by opposing “fascism” and “dictators”. NATO did not spring upon the scene like a hero to the rescue, as they would have us believe. In fact, ever since the late eighties, when “market reforms”, spearheaded by the USA, through the World Bank and the IMF, caused the elimination of millions of jobs, and the subsequent recolonisation by Western capital, the conditions have been perfect for the rise of a man like Milosevic.

A few years ago, Milosevic was viewed favourably by the West. In 1995, the US envoy Richard Holbrook described him as “a man we can do business with”, while Madeleine Albright dismissed the KLA as “no more than terrorists”. It was the question of a NATO-led military presence in Kosova that became the sticking point, and eventually led to the present war, with all its dreadful consequences that we have seen and continue to see every day.

The USA, through NATO, is seeking to establish its “New World Order” now that its Cold War enemy, the USSR, no longer exists. Milosevic is seen as a threat to its strategy for Eastern Europe. The USA is seeking absolute economic control in the world, while Britain opportunistically hangs on. The Balkans and surrounding countries sit at the intersection of Europe, Asia and North Africa. Greece and Albania lie at the centre of the Mediterranean. Serbia itself holds some of Europe’s largest deposits of copper ore, as well as bauxite, lead and zinc.

The aims of the bombings and the planned invasion are not “humanitarian”. If they had any semblance of “morality”, cluster bombs (effectively air-dropped landmines) and missiles carrying depleted uranium would not have been used. Similar uranium weapons used in Iraq have caused leukaemia and birth defect levels as high as those after Hiroshima.

NATO has no right to attack another country. As an alliance of 19 states, each with its own particular aims and under the domination of the USA, NATO was originally set up as a military alliance of the capitalist West against the Eastern bloc. It is now finding a new role as an instrument of American imperialism. In so doing, it has rejected its own principle of acting only when a NATO country is attacked, and has directly violated the international laws of the UN Charter of non-interference in a sovereign country, of finding a peaceful solution to international disputes and of the principle of group security, whereby any “peace-keeping” must be carried out by the UN Security Council.

The stability of Europe and the rest of the world has been put under serious threat by the intervention of the West in Iraq and the Balkans. It is imperative that we as youth take the forefront in the struggle against this imperialist war. It is us who will be conscripted in the event of an all-out conflict. We should actively campaign to educate ourselves into what is happening in Yugoslavia, to counter the state’s campaign of disinformation and economy of truth. We should be truly international in driving imperialism out of this troubled and strategic area, allowing the peoples of the region to solve their problems for themselves, as it is their sovereign right to do.  

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Why the Youth Must Be Political

As youth we are constantly kept busy with school, exams, work, university. In our spare time we are “given the chance to relax” by escaping through television such as MTV (for the privileged) and other means of “escape”. This “escape” tells us to be working constantly for our future – by future I mean our individualistic future – a job, money and a family.

Whatever course we take (whether we choose the method of stepping on the toes of others, or not) we face a certainty of greed, anxiety, inequality and money on the brain – we are scared. This fear must make us think; and gradually we realise that this current political system is the prime founder of our social, environmental and economic problems, and that if we don’t take the next step we will have to face their consequences.

This is why it is so important that the youth must be political. We must organise and change the society causing these problems, providing a bright future for ourselves, and create a situation for the youth of the future to flourish too. There are those who are constantly trying to convince us that we do not have to take part in politics and creating our own future, that is unless you are to become a politician by joining the “Young Conservatives” or such like. However it must be understood that as youth the future is ours. We can either face a life of pollution, crime, discrimination, marginalisation, work stress, and undoubtedly war. Or we can realise the corrupt downward spiral on which this capitalist system is taking us and fight it! We can organise and create a society that is against and would solve these problems, where humans are recognised as humans with all their rights and claims. We can take responsibility for building a future together, all taking responsibility for our own lives, our collective lives. We do not walk through a door, rather we build the pathway, we open the door and keep it open for all – to change as necessary.

This article, this page, this paper are proof that the youth and others are realising these problems. We are looking at different ideals, different systems of living, of lifestyle for answers to our ever increasing and developing questions. We must recognise ourselves as youth (as we are constantly being prevented from doing), we must organise ourselves under this realisation that we are the future and must therefore join the masses in working towards creating a new society.  

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---------- Diary of a Health Worker ----------

----------- on Her First Visit to Cuba-------------

Part 1 – What A Day!

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WHAT A DAY and it was only our third day in Cuba! We arrived at Santiago de Cuba Airport. We were getting worried about nobody meeting us when a car drew up and out got Rosa Lydia, Regional Secretary of the Cuban Health Workers Union, and George our translator who teaches English at the Medical School in Santiago. He is also responsible for developing distance learning for health workers by e-mail in Cuba. They presented each of us with a big bouquet of roses and other flowers, a postcard inscribed welcome to Santiago and a gift of a traditional bracelet and brooch. It was very moving to be welcomed – unknown to each other – but with the ties of human beings fighting for the same ideals.

We set off through a very bustling and lively Santiago which is very different from Havana. We passed an amazing statue of Antonio Maceo. He was a one of the leaders of the first revolutionary war. We also passed the giant machete sculptures which were really impressive. The scultpures mark the start, in 1868, of the 10 year war of independence against Spanish colonialism led by Manuel de Céspedes who trained his cane workers in the use of machetes as a weapon of war. The war resulted in the unification of both black slaves and White Cubans in their resolve to establish a free Cuba. We were then taken to the equivalent of the Regional Health Authority. The room was full of regional union delegates. They had their delegation hats on and welcomed us with their delegation song. We sat on the platform with Rosa Lydia who introduced us. I then spoke about how proud and honoured we were to be in a socialist country to learn about their health service and to represent the health workers from my area in England and how proud I was to be part of their delegation to the Cuban health workers Congress. How to help overcome the effects of the blockade by bringing materials from our hospital and by taking the experience of Cuban health workers back to England was true internationalism. We all clapped and it was very emotional. Then a number of individual members of the delegation (57) in all spoke.

We then left and Rosa said I would meet them all at the Congress. George the translator and Saida the union Branch Secretary from the Ambrosia-Grillo hospital who was also a nurse took us to our hotel. The hotel is set high above Santiago and with a most beautiful view and we sat under a tree with Saida and George. We exchanged views about health care, the treatment of the youth, education, etc.

The Ambrosia-Grillo hospital has over 1400 workers and covers a population of about 300,000 and has about 600 beds. Primary care is most important with family doctors truly part of the community. They live within their 120 families, always visiting them and they have a list of priorities, those with heart problems, hypertension and babies. We talked about the proposed twinning of our hospital in England and the Ambrosia-Grillo and the positive effect it had on our local area. We also talked about the war in Kosova and about the problems facing the youth. Because of her interest the young member of our delegation was invited to meet with the Young Communist representative at the hospital.

The evening again was an experience that will stay with us forever. We were picked up by the union car and taken to the Regional Union Office in the centre of Santiago. It was an amazing place full of energy and bustle. The people in the office were busy preparing for Congress and there were Congress posters all over with the slogan In defence of my country. We met with Rosa Lydia in her office and presented her with gifts for the delegation. Pens, paper, and banners from our union UNISON.

We sat talking about building links, about Kosova and it was interesting that both Saida and Lydia were very interested in what we thought about Kosova and approved of our condemnation of NATO’s interference in Yugoslavia and the Balkans which was their view also. We then met many union workers and some stayed to take part in the discussion. We were very impressed about how many women there were. They were the majority and we talked about women in the union in England and agreed how important it was not just to have women’s issues, but for women to take up all issues that effect workers and people. We talked about propaganda and the importance of building a workers’ press.

Then during and after a lovely Cuban meal that they made for us the discussion continued. We asked many questions. Cuba has a lower neo-natal mortality rate than the UK despite a trade blockade, which means they have next to nothing in supplies and equipment. Maternity leave is one year, six months of which is paid. They have very few teenage pregnancies, in which a big part is played by the family doctors who know well all the families in their care as the ratio is 1 doctor for 120 families. Contraception and sex education is carried out jointly by the family doctors and the school.

In medicine, antibiotics are used only if absolutely necessary and they concentrate very much on prevention. They have developed natural medicine and at the Ambrosia-Grillo Hospital have three masters in this. They were very keen for us to bring delegations of health workers and youth to come back to Santiago and visit rural family doctors. We were given our delegation hats, and we were told that there was a prize for the best delegation at Congress! We said our good byes had a photo taken and left for the hotel where we just caught a programme on the Bay of Pigs incident. Today is the anniversary of that victory for the Cuban people.

Further instalments will include the observations on meeting the director, Party secretary and Young Communist League at the hospital, and on the experience of May Day in Cuba.  

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Euromarches — 29 May, Cologne, Germany

On May 29, as part of the continuing Euromarches campaign against the European Union, a demonstration of over 30,000 people in Cologne denounced unemployment, war and racism. The link between these evils of contemporary Europe and the EU was pointed out and appropriate conclusions drawn.

Delegations from throughout Europe, and further afield, were identified by colourful banners from Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Turkey, Kurdistan, Britain, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Russia.

Reports of the march point out its broad nature and the awareness of the necessity of developing the movement against the European Union to oppose the EU’s anti-social plans. The march was also very much a manifestation of opposition to the aggression against Yugoslavia.

The 12 coachloads of marchers from Britain, though small by comparison with other national contingents, were significant in the climate of the marginalisation imposed by the TUC leaders and the influence of New Labour in the workers’ movement.

After the march, from May 30 to June 1, three “counter-Parliament” sessions were held, with a gathering of more than a hundred activists of unemployed movements from Germany, France, Spain, Belgium, Britain, Holland, Scandinavia, Italy and Switzerland. Among the proposals to emerge from the “counter-Parliament” were for a European day of joint action in December 1999, for a guaranteed income and against workfare, and an international demonstration in France, to be held sometime towards the end of 2000. The following resolution was adopted by the gathering in the name of the “European Parliament of unemployed and those in insecure jobs”:

“We, the unemployed and those in insecure jobs in Germany and in many other European countries demonstrated on Saturday, 29 May in Cologne, side by side with trade unionists and other activists from the social movement. We were more than 30 000 demonstrators in Cologne, the venue of the European Summit of European heads of state, that opened on 3 June. We call on Summit participants to take into consideration the following social demands:

• the establishment of a minimum guaranteed individual income for all, to enable people to live in dignity, without discrimination of age, sex or of origin, without conditions, or any form of activity in exchange, or any obligation to accept employment ;

• a massive reduction of working hours throughout Europe to be financed by a tax on profits, and without flexibility or lower wages ;

• everybody must be guaranteed the right to decent housing, to healthcare, to training, to free access to all forms of public transport, and access to all other forms of public services (the means of communication, electricity, etc.) necessary for full and active participation in social life.

We call on the unemployed and those in insecure jobs to join existing collectives and associations or to create new ones.

Here and now, we call upon all those unemployed and in insecure jobs to take part, wherever possible, in a European day of action against workfare that will coincide with the Helsinki European Summit of December 1999.

In the year 2000, we want to demonstrate all together again during the French presidency of the Europe Union.

Cologne, 1st June 1999.”  

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Sections of the Farming Community Are on the Move

THE RAVAGES of the global capitalist economic crisis eat deeper and deeper into the fabric of life throughout the world; there is little economic activity of any sort which is not a source of gain for the bourgeoisie.

Control of the essentials for human existence are, of course, of major interest to world capitalism and the production and distribution of food stands high on such a list. Since food production is not possible without land, this has been for thousands of years the basis of elite power whether tribal, feudal or capitalist.

From feudal times with compulsory labour owed to the Lord of the Manor, to post-Enclosure tenant farmer paying rent to the landlord, producing food by traditional methods and selling at local markets for local consumption; into the 20th century with growth of national centralised markets and supermarket groups combined with intensive methods and thus expansion of the agrochemical industry, and the involvement of Merchant Banks – the farming industry has step by step lost control of its practices and its destiny. Following close on the devastating BSE crisis comes the question of genetic modification and its use or misuse. Once more the world sees the threat posed not by science per se but by the misapplication of scientific research by powerful monopoly interests in pursuit of maximum profit.

In the developing world, where agriculture is a primary economic activity, the activities and practices of former colonial powers and their partners in trade have a mostly exploitative nature. In many such countries, the inequity of trade with, for example, Europe or North America is such that the producing country is forced to sell at rock-bottom prices by the terms of IMF credits as well as other financial institutions. The long-term effect is the further impoverishment of the developing countries, their “disqualification” from future credits and serious food shortages for their own consumption.

It is our intention to carry out further study and investigation on these questions with a view to contributing to the debate among British workers and farmers and people, especially on the advantages to be gained by the adoption of socialist principles in general and on the question of land ownership and farm cooperatives/collectives as an essential basis for a socialist system in Britain.

Party activists in the West Country  

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Anti-war activists issue call:

No Far Eastern “NATO”!

The following is taken from a press release dated June 10, 1999, of the Peace Movement Policy Forum, which is called by the Institute for Independence Studies.

In a packed London committee room last night, 32 activists from a wide range of peace organisations, political parties and groups, members of London’s Chinese, Yugoslav and other minority communities, and concerned members of the public, gathered to discuss the urgent task of how to alert public opinion in Britain to the danger of the present international crisis and conflict drifting towards global confrontation, particularly in the case of the Far East. Among those in attendance was George Hajifanis, independent anti-war candidate in today’s elections for the European Parliament.

A paper was delivered by Hugh Stephens, Secretary of the Institute for Independence Studies, which showed how the US has been following a policy of “creeping militarisation” of the Far Eastern states under its influence. He revealed the enormous scale of the military exercises which are conducted in the Korean region, and how this has led to the effective consolidation of a tri-partite military alliance between the US, its south Korean puppet forces, and the Japanese armed forces (in violation of Japan’s own constitution). Stephens showed how a new level of US recklessness has now been reached, with the recent US proposal for a Theatre Missile Defence system of “star-wars” type clearly aiming to draw in China’s Province of Taiwan and make the bloc quadripartite. He expressed solidarity with the peaceful and independent reunification of Korea, and with China’s policy for “one country two systems”. He concluded by exposing a number of US provocations against the peoples of the Far East, including the bombing of China’s Embassy in Belgrade, and called for continuing urgent action to build solidarity with China, Korea and the other peoples of the region.

A lively discussion followed on how to carry this information far and wide in the peace movement, the labour movement, and all progressive and anti-war circles in Britain. The Institute circulated a Draft declaration against the formation of a US-led military bloc in the Far East for further discussion in the movement.  

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The following is the full text of the proposals put forward by the British and Irish Prime Ministers: 2 July 1999

After five days of discussion, the British and Irish Governments have put to all the parties a way forward to establish an inclusive Executive, and to decommission arms.

These discussions have been difficult. But as they conclude, the peace process is very much alive, and on track. The Good Friday Agreement presents the best chance of peace and prosperity in decades. It is clear from our discussions that nobody wants to throw that opportunity away.

We believe that both unionist and nationalist opinion will see that our approach meets their concerns, and will support it accordingly.

The way forward is as follows:

1. All parties reaffirm the three principles agreed on 25 June
- an inclusive Executive exercising devolved powers;
- decommissioning of all paramilitary arms by May 2000;
- decommissioning to be carried out in a manner determined by the International Commission on Decommissioning.

2. The d’Hondt procedure to nominate Ministers to be run on 15 July.

3. The Devolution Order to be laid before the British Parliament on 16 July to take effect on 18 July. Within the period specified by the de Chastelain Commission, the Commission will confirm a start to the process of decommissioning, that start to be defined as in their report of 2 July.

4. As described in their report today, the Commission will have urgent discussions with the groups’ points of contact. The Commission will specify that actual decommissioning is to start within a specified time. They will report progress in September and December 1999 and in May 2000.

5. A “failsafe” clause: the Governments undertake that, in accordance with the review provisions of the Agreement, if commitments under the Agreement are not met, either in relation to decommissioning or to devolution, they will automatically, and with immediate effect, suspend the operation of the institutions set up by the Agreement. In relation to decommissioning, this action will be taken on receipt of a report at any time that the commitments now being entered into or steps which are automatically laid down by the Commission, are not fulfilled, in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement. The British Government will legislate to this effect.
All parties have fought very hard to ensure their basic concerns have been met. This means that we are now closer than ever to a fulfilling the promise of the Good Friday Agreement:
- a government for Northern Ireland in which the two traditions work together in a devolved administration;
- new North-South and British-Irish institutions;
- the decommissioning of paramilitary arms;
- constitutional change;
- equality, justice, human rights, and the normalisation of Northern Ireland society.
All sides have legislative safeguards to ensure that commitments entered into are met.
This is an historic opportunity. Now is the time to seize it.  

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Strategic Defence Review


Enhancements in joint capabilities
Joint Rapid Reaction Forces
Joint RN/RAF fixed wing Force (Joint Force 2000)
Joint Battlefield Helicopter Command
Joint Army/RAF Ground Based Air Defence organisation
Deployable Joint Force Headquarters and greater powers for Chief of Joint Operations.
Joint Defence Centre
New Strategic Lift assets

Plugging the gaps
Improving the capability of the Defence
Medical Services
Logistic enhancements
Improved NBC defences

Modernising the services
Plans to buy two new aircraft carriers
Strengthening amphibious forces
Extending attack submarine TLAM capability
350 additional Royal Naval Reservists
Increasing the number of deployable armoured and mechanised Army Brigades from 5 to 6
Converting 5 Airborne Brigade to a Mechanised Brigade
Converting 24 Airmobile Brigade into a new air manoeuvre brigade
Adding 3,300 troops to Regular Army Larger, but fewer, tank regiments
Improving TA deployability and usability
Forming a TA Army Mobilisation Centre Reducing the number of TA held for defence of UK
Confirming the order for Eurofighter
New Missiles for Eurofighter and Tornado
Improvements to Tornado GR4
Improvements to Nimrod R
Modernising the air transport fleet
270 new Air Force Reservists

Making the world a safer place
Defence diplomacy
Declaring additional forces as potentially available to UN
Further steps on international arms control Reducing our nuclear deterrent capability to the minimum necessary
Increased openness about our nuclear holdings

Caring for our people and society
Correcting undermanning
“Learning Forces” initiative
Improving operational welfare provision
A new Task Force for Families
Veterans’ Advice Cell
Increasing the resources for the Cadet Forces

Making every pound count
Introducing Smart Procurement
New 4 star Chief of Defence Logistics
A single Defence Transport and Movements Organisation
A new joint Defence Storage and Distribution Agency
Bringing together explosive storage processing and distribution
More active measures to dispose of excess holdings in the defence estate
(Source: Ministry of Defence, July 1998)  

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