Workers' Weekly Masthead

Volume 29, Number 20, October 16-23, 1999

Condemn the Government for the On-Going Bombing of Iraq!

Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

Condemn the Government for the On-Going Bombing of Iraq!

War against Iraq Prosecuted in Silence by US and Britain

The Genocidal Sanctions on Iraq Must Be Completely Lifted

United States' Hegemony Condemned in UN Debate

Issues of National Sovereignty, Legitimacy and Structural Reform Dominate Agenda

Youth Conference: The Future Belongs to the Youth!

Letter to the Editor: All the Best for the Work at Workers' Publishing House

Tony Blair’s Labour Party Conference Speech:The Issue Is How to Take Britain into the 21st Century on a Progressive Basis

The "New Internationalism" of the Labour Party

For Your Information: Notes on Social Democracy and the English Labour Movement

North East: New Labour's Devolution to the English Regions

The Government’s "New Partnership" with Africa

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Condemn the Government for the On-Going Bombing of Iraq!

One way the prevailing media collaborates with the crimes of the government, in this case against the people of Iraq, is its silence on what is going on.

In the Iraq town of Jesan, a boy salvages items from a home bombed during a US airstrike US and British aircraft have been continuing their flights over Iraq and carrying out bombing raids. This was so even while the bombing of Yugoslavia was at its height. According to a French Foreign Ministry spokesman, for every 100 bombs dropped on Kosova, 70 bombs were being dropped on Iraq.

The latest reported raid was on October 17. A military spokesman, quoted by the Iraqi News Agency, said that US and British warplanes flew 18 sorties over northern Iraq on that day. He said that civilian areas had been hit by the planes, which were driven off by the Iraq armed forces. Two weeks before, a similar raid had been carried out, when the warplanes flew 12 sorties over the same terrain. The planes fly in from Turkish territories and attack both service and civilian installations.

It is a fact that US and British planes ceaselessly patrol the so-called "no-fly zones" which the US and its allies have unilaterally imposed over the north and the south of Iraq. They attack targets in these zones on an almost daily basis. Over 200 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the raids since December alone. Around 600 have been wounded. These "no-fly zones" cover the areas above the 36th parallel of latitude in the north and below the 33rd parallel in the south. How much of the territory of Iraq this is can be gauged from the fact that Iraq extends from approximately the 29th to the 37th parallels of latitude. The zones have been in force since the Gulf War of 1991, but have no legality under international law. They were not included in the UN resolutions adopted after the Gulf War.

The Foreign Minister of Iraq has recently sent a letter of protest to Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General. Pointing out that the US land and sea forces are intercepting aid to Iraq that is directed towards alleviating the suffering caused by the trade sanctions, the letter says: "The government of Iraq, while condemning this flagrant US use of force to ban arrival of humanitarian materials to Iraq, calls upon you as sponsoring the memorandum of understanding to intervene to stop such US inhuman, illegal and immoral practices."

In a further punitive manoeuvre against Iraq, it is reported that the UN Security Council's Iraq sanctions committee is delaying approval for the funding of repairs to the pipeline that carries Iraqi crude oil from northern Iraq to a port in Turkey. This will keep Iraq from significantly increasing oil exports until the end of September 2000. The significance of this is that, under the sanctions imposed on Iraq, the country is allowed to export oil on an "oil-for-food" basis. Keeping down the oil exports means that the funds that Iraq receives for humanitarian supplies to the people are also kept low. The repairs to the pipeline, which would cost about $1 million, would themselves be funded by the sale of Iraqi oil in the "oil-for-food" programme. But "approval" by the Security Council committee is necessary for the project.

To expose all these facts is to show that both US imperialism and the British government are intent both on punishing Iraq as a "rogue state" which will not do the bidding of the US and its allies, as well as underpinning their control of this strategic and oil rich region of the Middle East. They demonstrate the doctrine, as George Bush had announced while the bombs and missiles were falling in 1991, of "what we say goes". These kinds of war crimes against the Iraqi people give the lie that, for example, the bombing of Yugoslavia was motivated by humanitarian concerns. How is it possible to be at the same time a humanitarian and a war criminal?

British workers and democratic people must draw the appropriate conclusions about the criminal geo-political and economic aims of British foreign policy, and raise their voices against the genocidal bombing and sanctions against Iraq. A further conclusion is the necessity to wrest the United Nations and its Security Council away from the control and manoeuvrings of the United States by the full democratisation of the UN, so that the UN cannot be used as an instrument of US and the big powers.

Article Index


War against Iraq Prosecuted in Silence by US and Britain

For the 43 weeks since Operation Desert Fox last December, Iraq has been bombed by US imperialism and the British government.

US reports state that US and British aircraft have fired more than 1,000 missiles at about 360 Iraqi military targets in the eight months to August. The planes fly at 15,000 feet. At the time of the bombing of Yugoslavia, both Britain and the US rejected claims that a secret war was being conducted against Iraq on the grounds that attention had been focused on Kosova. But still there is no end in sight to the aerial bombardment and the silence of the British government continues.

The US has more than 200 aircraft, 19 warships – including an aircraft carrier – and 22,000 personnel engaged in maintaining a military presence in the region, costing an estimated $1 billion a year. Britain has 12 Tornado GR1s in Kuwait, six Tornado F3 air defence aircraft in Saudi Arabia, two VC10 tankers in Bahrain, four Jaguars and two VC10s at Incirlik in Turkey, one warship, accompanied by a supply vessel, in the Gulf, and a total of 1,400 personnel. The cost is running at about £4.5 million a month, over and above the normal bill for having military personnel on operational duty.

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The Genocidal Sanctions on Iraq Must Be Completely Lifted

It is widely recognised that over 1.5 million Iraqi people have died as a result of the sanctions imposed on Iraq by the UN at the behest of the United States.

A Conference entitled "Sanctions on Iraq: background, consequences & strategies" is being held on November 13-14, 1999, in Cambridge. It is being organised by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq (CASI). The conference will cover the history of the conflict, its consequences, the current situation and ways forward. Academics, students, members of the public and professionals are all welcome to attend.

Confirmed speakers include: Ivor Lucas, former head of Middle East Dept., Foreign & Commonwealth Office; Anthonius de Vries, Economic & financial sanctions coordinator, European Commission; Professor Richard Garfield, Columbia University epidemiologist specialising in the effects of sanctions on civilian populations; John Davies, Middle East Desk, Foreign & Commonwealth Office; Dr Doug Rokke, Jacksonville University, former advisor to the Pentagon on Depleted Uranium; Rita Bhatia, Save the Children; Chris Doyle, Director of the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding Dr Nadje Al-Ali, Sussex University; Dr Erica Hunter, Cambridge University; Dr Eric Herring, Bristol University; Harriet Griffin, Oxford University; Felicity Arbuthnot, freelance journalist; Milan Rai, Voices in the Wilderness UK; Nikki van der Gaag, New Internationalist magazine; George Joffé, Royal Institute for International Affairs; and Professor Hugh MacDonald, Weapons of Mass Destruction expert at the University of East Anglia

The organisers point out: "Weapons inspections in Iraq have ceased, over eight years into a job scheduled to take 120 days. At the same time, UNICEF estimates that an additional half million Iraqi children under five have died since the imposition of sanctions in 1990. Without any diplomatic end to the sanctions in sight, the suffering of the Iraqi people is prolonged indefinitely, while the Iraqi regime continues to live in luxury."

Other commentators have pointed out that the sanctions are denying the chlorine necessary to purify drinking water to Iraq on the grounds that chlorine is a "dual use" item. This means that it could also supposedly be used for a military purpose. It has been estimated that 80 percent of the disease that has killed over 1.5 million people in Iraq in the last decade originates in contaminated drinking water. According to 1996 World Health Organisation figures, 96 percent of Iraq's population had safe drinking water in 1989-90, but by 1994, this had fallen to only 45 percent. Meanwhile, Iraq is now experiencing its worst drought since the 1930s. This has also affected agricultural production and power generation. The necessary equipment to alleviate the drought, such as agricultural equipment, piping to transport water, and other vital supplies, is also being denied under the "oil-for-food" deal.

The British government is promoting a US-backed proposal that discussions to lift sanctions could only occur after Iraq has accepted a new plan for so-called weapons inspections. China, France, Malaysia and Russia on the UN Security Council oppose the proposal, and demand an immediate suspension of the trade embargo. The previous system of inspections came to an end when Iraq expelled the "weapons inspectors" with the well-founded claim that they were engaged in espionage activities, after which the US and its allies launched Operation Desert Fox. During the eight years of intrusive inspections, the "weapons inspectors" went to any site they wanted to, before Iraq demanded an end to these open-ended "inspections". It is also well known that Denis Halliday, former Assistant Secretary General of the UN, resigned from being in charge of the "oil-for-food" programme last September to speak out against the genocide that was being perpetrated against the people of Iraq, especially the children.

For further information about the Conference organised by CASI, please email, telephone 01223 363882, or write to 'CASI Conference', c/o Seb Wills, Clare College, Cambridge CB2 1TL. Details of the conference are also available on the CASI website at . The website will be updated frequently between now and the conference. Advance tickets (excluding food and accommodation) are £10 (unwaged); £20 (waged). Tickets for one day only are half price. Additional donations will be gratefully received. To book places, please send your name, address, telephone number and email address (if you have one), together with a cheque (payable to "CASI") to the above address.

The organisers also request help in publicising the conference. All queries or offers of assistance should be directed to the contact details above.

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United States' Hegemony Condemned in UN Debate

Iraq and Cuba attacked United States hegemony as undermining the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of nations. Their respective foreign ministers spoke during the General Debate in the UN General Assembly on September 24 which dealt with questions of sovereignty, the state system, and the future of the UN.

Mohammed Said al-Sahaf, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, said that the doctrine of humanitarian intervention had no place in international law, for it implied an organised onslaught on the most fundamental rules of the present international order, such as sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and non-interference. Continued United States hegemony and governance of the destinies of the world, as well as international economic and political organisations, placed the United Nations in the face of the most serious challenge it had encountered since its establishment.

Felipe Perez Roque, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said that in a world dominated by a single military and technological power, attempts to impose such notions as the limitation of sovereignty and humanitarian intervention posed a threat to the countries of the third world. He urged that Security Council veto power be accorded to an expanded more representative group of permanent members, if it could not be eliminated altogether.

He added that, given the absolute contempt demonstrated by the United States towards General Assembly resolutions on its embargo against his country, the people of Cuba had decided – independently of the battle that went on in the Assembly – to resort to legal procedures in order to demand appropriate sanctions in respect of that policy of "genocide".

Felipe Perez Roque said that in a world dominated by a single military and technological power, attempts to impose such notions as the limitation of sovereignty and humanitarian intervention posed a threat to the countries of the third world, must be brought to an end, as they violated the letter and spirit of the Charter. He proposed increasing the number of permanent members of the Security Council to include nations from Latin America, Africa and Asia. Ideally, no one should have the power of veto, but if it could not be eliminated, it should at least be evenly shared among a larger number of permanent members. He also suggested that it be restricted to the power to veto measures proposed under Chapter VII of the Charter.

While the wealthy countries had transnational companies, which controlled more than a third of worldwide exports, the poor countries bore the asphyxiating burden of foreign debt, he said. That debt had reached $2 trillion and continued to grow; interest payments devoured almost 25 per cent of exports. What would the next century's economists say when they realised that the United States lived with a current account deficit of around $300 billion, without the International Monetary Fund imposing on it a single one of the severe economic adjustment programmes that were impoverishing third world nations? he asked. The current international economic system was not only unjust but unsustainable. An economic system that destroyed the environment could not be sustained. Nor was it possible to sustain an economic system based on the wealthy nations' irrational consumption patterns, which were later exported to the poor countries through the mass media.

If there were ever an eloquent example of what should not be done in the relations between power nations and small ones, it could be seen in Cuba, he said. For more than 40 years, Cubans had been subjected to a brutal policy of hostility and aggression imposed by the United States. The blockade, shamelessly and euphemistically referred to as an "embargo", had been progressively intensified. The genocidal policy had reached even more infamous heights with the Helms-Burton Act, which codified all previous administrative restrictions, expanded and tightened the blockade and established it in perpetuity.

For seven consecutive years, the General Assembly had consistently called for an end to the economic blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, he recalled. The world's condemnation had increased visibly from year to year. Given the absolute contempt demonstrated by the United States with regard to those resolutions, the people of Cuba had decided – independently of the battle that went on in the Assembly – to resort to legal procedures to which they had a right in order to demand sanctions corresponding to those responsible for those acts of genocide.

In his contribution, Mohammed Said Al-Sahaf said that with the end of the Cold War, there had been a feeling that the world would see balanced international relations based on peace, stability and well-being. But the state of affairs had proved the contrary, as the international imbalance continued. The most dangerous phenomenon witnessed during the present decade, which had become an orchestrated endeavour of a group of western States, was the advocacy of what was called humanitarian intervention. That doctrine, which had no place in international law, implied an organised onslaught on the most fundamental rules of the present international order, such as sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and non-interference.

Continuing, the Minister said that in 1998, the Security Council was discussing the arrangements to conduct a comprehensive review of the implementation by Iraq of its obligations under Council resolutions, with a view to consider the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990, he said. While the Council was convening to discuss the matter, the forces of the United States and the United Kingdom launched a large-scale military aggression against Iraq, using the lies and fabrications of Richard Butler as a pretext for their aggression. In spite of that flagrant violation of the Charter, the Council remained completely crippled without taking any immediate collective measure.

While the Council's resolutions had imposed obligations on Iraq, they had in return imposed a specific obligation on the Council – that the embargo was to be lifted once Iraq had fulfilled its obligations under the same resolutions, he continued. The Council had failed to lift the embargo on Iraq due to the hegemony of the United States on the Council, which had prevented the proper implementation of the Council's resolutions. Iraq, he said demanded its clear and legitimate rights, namely the lifting of the sanctions, in accordance with Council resolutions. It had become clear for all, that the former special commission had been used by the United States and the United Kingdom to achieve their aggressive objectives against Iraq's people, sovereignty and security.

One of the basic pillars of the American-British hostile policy towards Iraq was the imposition of the two no-fly zones on Iraq, he said. That was a violation of the United Nations Charter and of international law. Proceeding from its legitimate right to self- defence guaranteed by all international covenants, Iraq would not hesitate to counter all the American and British aggressive acts aimed at violating the inviolability of its airspace and territory, and threatening its security and territorial integrity. The policy of the United States had also encouraged Turkey to carry out large-scale military operations inside Iraqi territory under the pretext of chasing the elements of the Workers' Party of Kurdestan (PKK). The continued United States hegemony and governance of the destinies of the world, as well as international economic and political organisations, has placed the United Nations in the face of the most serious challenge it has ever encountered since its foundation.

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54th UN General Assembly:

Issues of National Sovereignty, Legitimacy and Structural Reform Dominate Agenda

The 54th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly opened on Tuesday, September 14, 1999. One hundred and eighty-eight countries now constitute the UN, with three new members having been admitted – the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, and the Kingdom of Tonga. The 54th Assembly elected Theo-Ben Gurirab, Foreign Minister of Namibia, as its President.

The General Assembly has set itself a 172-item agenda dealing with political, economic, social and development issues. It established its Credentials Committee and elected 21 Vice-Presidents from five regional groups. The Assembly's six main committees – Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial; Social, Humanitarian and Cultural; Special Political and Decolonisation; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal – also elected their Chairpersons.

In his remarks to the closing session of the 53rd General Assembly on September 13, outgoing President Didier Opertti (Uruguay) told delegates that the crisis in Kosova had affected the functioning and credibility of the UN and demonstrated "that the reform of the United Nations should proceed without any further delay". He said that the threatened use of the veto in the Kosova crisis showed that "the mechanism that had been ostensibly conceived to avoid the use of force, ultimately became a factor which took the decision regarding its use away from the Security Council and the Organisation itself".

The 54th Assembly will continue to deliberate on the reports and recommendations of the Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in Membership of Security Council and Other Related Matters. According to the report of the Working Group, substantial differences of view still remain on many issues. In his summation, Opertti said that he believed that there was as yet no genuine universal political will to reform that would facilitate agreement on the main issues.

In his opening remarks to the Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab noted that the 54th Assembly will span the two millenniums and that its proceedings will take place at a time when the aspirations, hopes and expectations of the world's peoples are high. "They yearn for a world that is peaceful, humane and prosperous for all," he said. "Without the UN, such an inclusive world led by inspiring leaders cannot come about." Theo-Ben Gurirab outlined seven challenges facing the 54th General Assembly: 1) globalisation; 2) sustainable development and the protection of the environment; 3) peace and international security; 4) the refugee crisis; 5) gender equality; 6) the HIV/AIDS crisis; 7) the future of children. On the need for UN Reform, he said, "At the end, we should be satisfied that the United Nations belongs to all its Member States collectively and individually. Its ownership must be shared equitably in a manner similar to how members of an extended family share. All Member States, big and small, rich and poor, developed and developing, must have a stake in the Organisation...."

On September 20, Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented his annual report to the General Assembly. The Secretary-General stated that the continuing mission of restoring the UN to its "rightful role in the pursuit of peace and security" is made difficult by a "world transformed by geo-political, economic, technological and environmental changes whose lasting significance still eludes us". He said that the United Nations would succeed "only if we all adapt our Organisation to a world with new actors, new responsibilities, and new possibilities for peace and progress".

According to Kofi Annan, "State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined by the forces of globalisation and international co-operation." He said that the developments "demand of us a willingness to think anew – about how the United Nations responds to the political, human rights and humanitarian crises affecting so much of the world; about the means employed by the international community in situations of need; and about our willingness to act in some areas of conflict, while limiting ourselves to humanitarian palliatives in many other crises whose daily toll of death and suffering ought to shame us into action".

Speaking of Kosova, Kofi Annan said it "has prompted important questions about the consequences of action in the absence of complete unity on the part of the international community." He stated, "It has cast in stark relief the dilemma of what has been called humanitarian intervention..." He said the "inability of the international community ... to reconcile these two equally compelling interests – universal legitimacy and effectiveness in defence of human rights – can only be viewed as a tragedy".

Further on the subject of the divisions in the UN over the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia and the use of the United Nations as an instrument for imperialist aggression, Kofi Annan stated, "To those for whom the greatest threat to the future of international order is the use of force in the absence of a Security Council mandate, one might ask – not in the context of Kosovo, but in the context of Rwanda: If, in those dark days and hours leading up to the genocide, a coalition of states had been prepared to act in defence of the Tutsi population, but did not receive prompt Council authorisation, should such a coalition have stood aside and allowed the horror to unfold? To those for whom the Kosovo action heralded a new era when states and groups of states can take military action outside the established mechanisms for enforcing international law, one might ask: Is there not a danger of such interventions undermining the imperfect, yet resilient, security system created after the Second World War, and of setting dangerous precedents for future interventions without a clear criterion to decide who might invoke these precedents, and in what circumstances?"

Kofi Annan attributed this dilemma to "our difficulties in applying its (the UN Charter’s) principles to a new era; an era when strictly traditional notions of sovereignty can no longer do justice to the aspirations of peoples everywhere to attain their fundamental freedoms. The sovereign states who drafted the Charter over half a century ago were dedicated to peace, but experienced in war. They knew the terror of conflict, but knew equally that there are times when the use of force may be legitimate in the pursuit of peace. That is why the Charter's own words declare that 'armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest'. But what is that common interest? Who shall define it? Who will defend it? Under whose authority? And with what means of intervention? These are the monumental questions facing us as we enter the new century."

The Secretary-General concluded by applauding Council's "prompt and effective action in authorising a multinational force for East Timor" and stated, "Just as we have learned that the world cannot stand aside when gross and systematic violations of human rights are taking place, so we have also learned that intervention must be based on legitimate and universal principles if it is to enjoy the sustained support of the world's peoples... Any such evolution in our understanding of state sovereignty and individual sovereignty will, in some quarters, be met with distrust, scepticism, even hostility. But it is an evolution that we should welcome. Why? Because, despite its limitations and imperfections, it is testimony to a humanity that cares more, not less, for the suffering in its midst, and a humanity that will do more, and not less, to end it. It is a hopeful sign at the end of the twentieth century."

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Youth & Students Page

As the world prepares to enter the new millennium... ...what does the future hold for the youth? For you?

More often than not, we as young people are told that we are the problem. That we cannot expect things to be handed to us on a plate, and we have to work hard, and make that future; and if we don't, or if we kick up a fuss, then that we are the problem. Yet what possibilities do we have to take part in building the future, who listens to us, what decisions can we make?

As an alternative, it is also put forward that we should just live for the moment, forget about society, do as we please. But is this really an alternative?

We are holding this conference to say that the future does belong to the youth, and that the youth demand a better future! That we should become political, work together and collectively discuss the problems that we face, and the kind of society that we want!

We would like as many youth as possible to come to this conference and give their views and experiences on these issues. Everyone's opinion is valued. Tell your friends! Join in! Shape your future!

Register your interest @
or simply E-mail:

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Letter to the Editor


All the Best for the Work at Workers' Publishing House

Dear Comrades,

I wish the Workers' Publishing House all the best for a successful completion of the maintenance work on its plant.

I think the Internet edition of Workers' Weekly is an exciting development, which will greatly extend the readership of the paper and its influence.

In line with the guideline Improve the Content, Extend the Readership, the content of the paper is getting better and more relevant all the time. Workers' Weekly is the only paper in this country, which is giving a detailed, serious and progressive analysis of such important issues as the Kosova crisis, Northern Ireland and the extremely reactionary nature of the Blair government.

The Youth and Students page in the paper is a very important development and unique in providing the youth a platform in which they can discuss the many problems they face in our society and put forward their views. The same is true of the Discussion Page. As RCPB(ML) through Workers' Weekly has pointed out many times in different contexts, the rule of the rich is designed to exclude working people from the political process and be in a position to make decisions which will improve their lives. I am more and more finding, as everyone is, that people of my acquaintance from all walks of life are becoming increasingly disillusioned and disturbed by anti-people policies being pursued by the government and are wondering what the answers are. It is through people discussing the real problems in society that will lead to change. The Discussion Page is therefore a very important beginning in encouraging and leading discussion amongst ordinary working people.

I am enclosing a cheque as a contribution to the work.

Communist greetings

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Tony Blair’s Labour Party Conference Speech:

The Issue Is How to Take Britain into the 21st Century on a Progressive Basis

It is clearly a burning issue for the people how to take Britain into the 21st century on a new basis, a progressive basis. The people desire a change in the direction of the economy, a renewal of democracy, a world where all nations and peoples are considered equal, where the concerns of the people are put at the centre of all considerations.

Tony Blair, in his speech to the Labour Party Conference on September 28, 1999, sought to define the Labour Party in relation to this desire. He began: "Today at the frontier of the new Millennium I set out for you how, as a nation, we renew British strength and confidence for the 21st century; and how, as a Party reborn, we make it a century of progressive politics after one dominated by Conservatives.

"A New Britain where the extraordinary talent of the British people is liberated from the forces of conservatism that so long have held them back, to create a model 21st century nation, based not on privilege, or class or background, but on the equal worth of all.

"And this Party, New Labour, confident at having modernised itself, now the new progressive force in British politics which can modernise the nation, sweep away those forces of conservatism to set the people free."

This is the theme running through Tony Blair’s speech. That New Labour is the Party of progressive values. "We will set your potential free." "Party and nation joined in the same cause for the same purpose: to set our people free."

But to bring into being a society in which the potential of the human person is liberated, one must analyse what features of the present society are imprisoning that human individual potential, and envision the society in which this liberated human potential flourishes in the context of the flourishing of the society as a whole. There has to be a programme for lifting society out of the all-sided crisis in which it is stuck, wreaking havoc for the people.

Tony Blair, with a guilty conscience, begins by listing some of the manifestations of the crisis: "More than 1 million still unemployed. Schools and hospitals still needing investment. Pensioners still living in hardship. People still petrified by crime and drugs. Three million children still in poverty." And draws the conclusion: "We know what a 21st century nation needs. A knowledge-based economy. A strong civic society. A confident place in the world." Going on: "The challenge is how? The answer is people. The future is people."

It does not take a genius to point out that there is no thread of logic linking the three parts of Tony Blair’s argument. If the manifestations of the crisis are unemployment, lack of investment in social programmes, hardship and poverty, then its solution is not a "knowledge-based economy", whatever that might be. It is increased investment in social programmes, a programme to lift society out of the crisis where the produced values, the fruits of labour, are put back into the economy, and not siphoned off by all kinds of means, direct and indirect, into the hands of the rich, the financial oligarchy. Then health and education and all social programmes will flourish, the guarantee of a livelihood can be given legal force, and the destruction of the fabric of society can be halted.

"The answer is people," sounds "progressive", but the content given to it by Tony Blair is to "set your potential free" in order to "add to our wealth". So this is the "Third Way" that is not old left or new right. It is "not a new way between progressive and conservative politics. It is progressive politics distinguishing itself from conservatism of left or right." This is a case of using words to make them mean anything you want them to mean, in other words that anything that is opposed to the direction that New Labour is taking the country is to be branded as opposed to progress. While there is no "third way" in reality between moving forward to a new society or moving backward to undo all the progressive gains of the 20th century, Tony Blair is putting forward his "Third Way" in the conditions of the deepening economic, political and all-sided crisis, where competition for global markets is intensifying, the financial oligarchy is demanding that the whole of society should be geared ever more completely to their interests of making the maximum profit. The "Third Way" in this sense is a call that all barriers to "setting your potential free" to "add to the wealth" of the rich be removed.

The main content of Tony Blair’s speech is therefore a call to enter the 21st century by removing all the gains that progressive humanity has won in the 20th century. It is a demand that workers forget they are workers and become "people" whose potential is in the service of their enterprises in making the maximum profit and making Britain number one internationally. In this sense, it is reminiscent of the struggle for the redivision of the world prior to the 1st World War. But now Tony Blair in addition wants the "class war" to be "over", that the whole "nation" should be united with the Labour Party in this "common purpose". Anything that is opposed to this programme is then labelled the "forces of conservatism". In short, anything and anyone who is opposed to taking society backwards to medievalist values is part of the "forces of conservatism".

In reality, what is progressive is to work to open the door to progress, to transform society, to resolve the contradiction between the private ownership of the means of production and the social character of production on the eve of the new millennium. It is for the workers to rise to become the leading class of the nation and, rather than consolidating Party rule, instead to empower the people by making them sovereign, the decision-makers in society. It is to liberate human potential by recognising that every human being has a claim on society that must be met as of right. It is in this way that the worth of everyone will be recognised and the new socialist society created.

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The "New Internationalism" of the Labour Party

In his speech at the recent Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, the Foreign Secretary Robin Cook claimed that "for a hundred years, Labour has been the Party of internationalism…and was right on the big questions of the century that has past". But although many members of the Labour Party may have been part of the anti-fascist movement of the 1930s, or campaigned against colonialism and apartheid in South Africa, their actions can in no way be equated with the policies and actions of the present Labour government, nor with those which held office in the past. Cook’s attempt to lay claim, on behalf of the present government and Labour Party, to the progressive traditions of the twentieth century are entirely fraudulent and must be exposed as such. The "internationalism" of Robin Cook and the Labour government represent nothing more than the global ambitions of the big monopolies, the concern to return to the imperialist tradition of the nineteenth century summed up in Tony Blair’s aim to "Make Britain Great Again".

Robin Cook is happy to boast that no other country has a higher proportion of its armed forces active on what he called "peace-keeping duties" around the world. He may talk about defending the rights of the peoples of Asia and Africa, but his words are no different from the imperialists of the last century who boasted of their civilising mission and the so-called white man’s burden, which necessitated intervention throughout the world wherever the monopolies sought new markets and resources to maximise their profits. Whether it is the present government’s activities in Sierra Leone and East Timor or its criminal war in the Balkans, what is abundantly clear is that peace and the rights of the peoples of these regions to solve their own problems and manage their own affairs are not part of its aims. On the contrary the Labour government and its predecessors have been responsible for creating or exacerbating such problems throughout the world, which have then been used as a pretext for intervention.

In his speech Robin Cook also claimed that Britain is leading the EU, and warned against withdrawal from this reactionary union of the big European monopolies. He made it clear that the Labour government would continue with its aim of turning the EU into a superpower, which might rival the other major blocs in the world. At the same time he argued that the Labour government’s increasing "influence" in Europe meant that it had "more respect in Washington". In this context, the Labour government continues to see itself as "the bridge between both parts of the Atlantic" and not only plays a reactionary role in Europe but also through its role as the most zealous ally of US imperialism.

The "New Internationalism" of Robin Cook and the Labour government means trampling on the rights of the peoples of the world on the basis of the so-called New Strategic Concept which is designed to justify intervention and the negation of national sovereignty by Britain and the other big powers. It means an intensification of the global contention of the big powers and the monopolies they serve and the danger of regional and even world war. The Labour government cannot lay claim to anything progressive from this century. It must be condemned and exposed as a servant of the big monopolies as they contend for supremacy in the global market.

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For Your Information:

Notes on Social Democracy and the English Labour Movement

(Part 2)

The Labour Party took a leading part in the re-establishment of the Second International in 1919. This International was established on the basis of opposition to the path of revolution that had been opened up by the Great October Revolution in 1917 and the establishment of the Soviet Republic. At this time, the Labour Party was equally active in declaring itself against the revolutionary struggles of the peoples in the colonies of the British empire, such as India. The same was true in relation to the revolutionary struggles of the Irish workers.

The temporary reconstruction of capitalism in the post war crisis was accomplished by means of wage cuts, longer hours and worsened conditions for the British working class, with the capitalist onslaught starting in 1921. The Labour Party attempted to undermine the workers’ resistance to these attacks by putting forward overt collaborationist slogans such as "Peace in Industry" and "Produce More". They also undermined strikes such as the 1921 miners’ strike and attempts at inter-union co-operation. With the support of the liberal bourgeoisie (such as Lord Chelmsford, the ex-Viceroy of India, and Lord Haldance, the former Liberal Minister of War), the Labour Party formed a government after the General Election of 1923, with Ramsay MacDonald as Prime Minister. Among their immediate actions were the suppression of the railway drivers’ strike using an Emergency Powers Act, and the prosecution and imprisonment of the editor of the Communist "Workers’ Weekly" for publishing an anti-militarist article. Acute disagreements among the bourgeoisie, however, as to how to handle the economic situation, resulted in the replacement of the Labour Government, after the "Zinoviev letter" incident of 1924. The new Conservative government of Baldwin decided to stabilise the currency by returning to the gold standard and also to stimulate the economy by lowering the cost of British manufacturing exports. This they proposed to do by lowering wages and the Bank of England was called in to assist by restricting credit (which increased unemployment and competition for jobs). As a result, the next two years were among the most troubled for the British bourgeoisie of the entire 20th Century (even including the end of the Thatcher period). The massive political and economic upheaval of the General Strike of 1926 was, however, severely compromised by the actions and declarations of the Labour and Trades Union leadership.

Oswald Mosely, the British fascist leader, was at this time a member of the executive of the Labour Party. He resigned from his Labour Cabinet post in 1930, putting forward the "Mosely Memorandum" for capitalist reconstruction. The Nazis seized power in Germany in 1933 and Mosley’s advocacy of fascism as a new instrument of bourgeois government found substantial support among the Labour party leadership then in power and responsible for the introduction of wage cuts, the Means Test, the reduction of social services and so forth. Ramsay MacDonald in particular made it quite clear that he favoured the introduction of a totalitarian state to implement these measures. However the clear and militant opposition of the British working class to fascism, both in Britain and in the rest of Europe, persuaded the Labour leadership to soften their pronouncements in this respect and to sideline Ramsay MacDonald. They instead declared that fascism was a consequence of the rise of communism and encouraged the working class to follow more "moderate" policies.

After the defeat of Hitlerite fascism the impetus for basic and radical social change in Britain was again too great for a Conservative government to be able to oppose. The Atlee government of 1945 – 1951 effectively side-tracked these aspirations and used the mechanisms of the command economy to sort out the post war crisis in Britain. The Wilson/Callaghan government of the ’60s and ’70s tackled the problems of decolonisation and the social and educational changes required to re-marshal the working class in the new world situation which the bourgeoisie faced.

(to be continued)

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North East:

New Labour's Devolution to the English Regions

New Labour's devolution programme to the English regions has started with the government creating Regional Development Agencies (RGA) in each English region. In the North East, as with many other regions, the present government has simply replaced similar "enterprise agencies" set up by the previous government. At the same time, the government has also encouraged the formation of "regional chambers", but with no statutory basis or direct powers. These have been formed out of local authority associations, incorporating business, unions and voluntary organisations. Also, the government say they will implement devolved government in the English regions only where there is a proven demand for it.

The Development Agency for the North East of England is "One North East". In its founding document Unlocking Our Potential it says that the North East is at a turning point in its history. It presents the analysis that "over the next ten years we need to build a region which is more competitive, more inclusive and more sustainable. Global forces are strong and must be harnessed." In this manner the document elaborates how its aim is to facilitate the efficient penetration of inward and outward investment in the global market by implementing its strategic priorities to "build an adaptable, highly skilled workforce", meet the "transport and property needs", build a "knowledge based economy" and so on. This as all part of a 10-year plan to have by 2010 "a vibrant, outward-looking region, which has the economic capacity to compete with the best in the world and can provide opportunities for all". That such a strategy is a pipe dream and doomed to failure can be seen from the further 369 job losses announced in the middle of October at Onwa TVs, Samsung and elsewhere and the pending closure at AMEC Wallsend with a loss of 700 jobs. This follows on the dramatic demise of major inward investment companies such as Siemens, Fujitsu, Grove Cranes and Kaevernor and the continuing crisis of outward investors such as NEI, Vickers and so on.

The claims by "One North East" and other bodies that reliance on inward and outward investment in the global market is a way of establishing economic stability and growth in the region has been further exposed over the recent period. This is why Tony Blair as recently as May this year tried to bolster the flagging image of the global market when he called on the people of the region to "drop the post-industrial image of the region and redefine ourselves as a knowledge based region. The North East is setting the pace in embracing the challenges and opportunities of competing in the global market place."

So, New Labour may allow some form of regional government. However, when these plans of putting in place what it claims to be "democratic reforms" by devolving power to the development agencies, such as "One North East", to its "regional chambers", are examined, the picture that emerges is of a partnership between business, community leaders and unions. What is becoming clear is that central to these plans is the aim of getting the working class and people of the region to work against their own interests. Workers are called upon to give up their aspirations to determine the direction of the national economy so that it meets the needs of all. As a block to this aspiration, New Labour is working to further set each region against each other in the global market by saying that this will provide "opportunities for all". But the "opportunities" are not for all but for the wealthy to make maximum profits in the global market at the expense of the national economy and at the expense of meeting the needs of the people in the region. These "opportunities for all" will increase the inequalities in regional development, widening the divide between rich and poor.

The question has arisen as to how the workers should view these plans of the Labour government for devolution to the English regions, as well as what stand they should take to those political forces that are calling for the establishment of regional government. The answer is that the workers must set their agenda based on the most important considerations facing Britain as a whole. The main considerations are that the entire direction of gearing everything to paying the rich must be reversed so that the economy can be planned to meet the needs of the people. There must be political renewal of the archaic parliamentary system and outdated institutions, and the adoption of a modern constitution guaranteeing the inviolable rights of all simply on the basis of being human. The devolution plans of the government for the English regions do not provide this agenda, nor will they reverse the inequality of the regions.

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The Government’s "New Partnership" with Africa

From October 11-15, Britain’s "Minister for Africa", Peter Hain, has visited three former British colonies in East Africa – Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania – and on several occasions has attempted to set out the government’s strategy for "a new British partnership with Africa", based on its policy of "backing success" in Africa.

Accordingly to Hain, the British government will now only support those African countries committed to "democracy, human rights and economic reform". In other words, only those African countries which support the Eurocentrist values of the Paris Charter of 1990 are to be allowed to exist. This is a criminal violation of the right of a people to choose their own path of development. It may be couched in "humanitarian" terms, but this is the currency of the Labour government. Behind it are the enslaving "aid" packages and other means to bind these countries to Britain and to interfere in their internal affairs just as if Britain was still the colonial master. That the callous interests of the rich are what are really at stake are revealed at once by the title of an article by Peter Hain setting out Britain’s policy on Africa: "Only Money Will Set Africa Free". Even in Tony Blair’s exhortations to the British workers, it is supposed to be the people who will be liberated to take Britain into the 21st century!

In several of his recent speeches, Hain has been happy to gloss over the crimes committed by Britain during the colonial period, and even spoke of what he called the "benefits" of colonial rule. At the same time he blamed Africans for the problems which the continent faces today which are a legacy not only of colonial rule but also of continued neo-colonial exploitation and interference by Britain and the other big powers. Now Britain is supposed to be contributing to "the African renaissance".

The fact is that Britain, France, the US and the other big powers are engaged in a new scramble for Africa, as they contend to dominate the global market, just as they did at the close of the last century. Today the British government’s "civilising mission" in Africa is allegedly carried out for humanitarian reasons, in order to "back success", to "support just African solutions to African problems", but its imperialist aims remain the same. In spite of the rhetoric of Hain and other government ministers the facts speak for themselves. Britain and the other big powers are still inciting and intervening in military conflicts in Africa, as is apparent in Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere. Those who have created such problems in the African continent cannot now provide solutions. It is the intrigues and interference of Britain and the other big powers that have turned Africa into a continent that has more than half of all war-related deaths world-wide, and more than 8 million refugees. It has turned it into a continent that has 40% of its population living below the "one dollar a day" poverty line and debts of $226 billion.

Peter Hain’s visit to East Africa constituted more interference in the internal affairs of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The British government continues to put pressure on the these governments to adopt its values of "multi-party democracy" and "free market" reforms and promises further economic "aid" if its demands are met. Britain remains one of the biggest providers of "aid" to these countries. It is the largest bilateral donor to Uganda, the third largest to Kenya and the government has recently agreed to provide £60 million in "aid" to Tanzania over the next 2 years. But such enslaving "aid" continues to benefit the big monopolies in Britain. To give just one example, in 1998 Britain maintained a trade surplus with Kenya of over £9.4 million.

There can be no illusions that the British government’s talk of "partnership" with Africa today is in anyway designed to assist the African peoples. Rather it must be condemned for what it is, a continuation of the neo-colonial exploitation of the African continent in the interests of the big monopolies as they contend for supremacy in the global market.

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Issue 2 of EthioNet Published

Workers' Weekly has received issue number 2 of EthioNet, the newsletter of the Ethiopia Support Network. The network was formed in 1996 with the aim of lending support to the continued struggles of the Ethiopian people for peace, democracy and development. It organises forums and discussions and provides speakers. Its aims are to promote interest in and an understanding of the struggles of the Ethiopian people, and it enables exchange of information concerning Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is known to many people only as a country of poverty and a place constantly the victim of drought, politically motivated famine and civil war. However, the Ethiopian people have been struggling for many years now to turn their situation around and have striven always to do so with the participation of the whole people working together to determine their own future. The successes of recent developments speak for themselves. Since the overthrow of the Derg military regime in 1991, the people of Ethiopia have carved a new path where all nationalities, languages, religions and beliefs are not only recognised but are enabled to develop. Women now play an active part in all aspects of the political, social and economic life of the country. The country's health and education system is expanding and developing at a rapid rate, as is Ethiopia's agriculture with the emphasis on the country’s ability to feed itself and provide access to running water for all its people. In addition, Ethiopia's economic growth rate for GDP has risen from 1.7% in 1993/94 to 9.2% in 1998/99. This has been achieved by the democratic involvement of all the people in all aspects of the running of their own affairs, as well as by upholding the principle that a country must, as a primary concern, first cater for the well being of all its members.

Those interested can obtain the EthioNet newsletter by writing to the Ethiopia Support Network, 211 Clapham Road, London, SW9 0QH.

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