Workers' Weekly Masthead

Volume 29, Number 24, December 18-24 Edition, 1999

The Line of March to a New Society

Internet Edition : Article Index : Discuss

The Line of March to a New Society

Collapse of World Trade Organisation Meeting in Seattle:
The People Will Not Accept the "Liberalisation of World Trade" in the Name of Globalisation

For Your Reference: Some Comments on the Collapse of the WTO Talks

Government's Vain Hope of a Third Way in World Trade

Reclaim the Railways!

How Can the Visit to Cuba Best Be Summed Up?

United Nations Resolution to Lift US Blockade Against Cuba Wins 8th Consecutive Vote

Workers' Movement:
BT Call Centre Workers and "Modern" Conditions
Haringey Council Workers Strike

Movement to Safeguard Future of the NHS:
Renewed Calls for Halt of Downgrading of K&C
Campaign against Privatisation of Public Services
Around the Country

For Your Information:
Background to the OSCE Istanbul Summit and the European Council in Helsinki

Letter to the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) from the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea

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The Line of March to a New Society

The public release on January 8, 2000, of the Political Report of the Central Committee to the 3rd Congress of RCPB(ML) under the slogan of "The Line of March to a New Society" will mark a fitting beginning to the work of the Party in the 21st century of preparing the subjective conditions for the revolutionary transformation of society to socialism. This work will be a continuation of and an intensification of the whole work the Party has been dedicated to since its founding, particularly along the line of march opened up by the Party’s 3rd Congress in March 1999, with its themes of Forward into the 21st Century! For a Socialist Britain!

The theme of the event on January 8 is the necessity to begin the 21st century by redoubling the work to open the path to a new society, a socialist society. This is the concern of the communist and workers’ movement, that the working class should end its marginalisation and lead the people in defeating the anti-social offensive, and blaze this trail to the victory of establishing a new society. The starting point of such a society is that everyone has rights simply by virtue of being human, and that the most significant human right is that of participating in governance, in making the decisions on the running and direction of society. Thus the January 8 release is also of broad significance. It is a call to the working class to occupy the space for change, to which the Party is objectively contributing to creating. It is of significance to all who are concerned to work out the line of march to a new society, and to join together their struggles to do so.

The 3rd Congress of RCPB(ML) had pointed out that, as a condition of empowering the broad masses of the people, the Party and the working class should elaborate and fight right now for their vision of a socialist society, of a socialist Britain, a modern society in modern colours, proletarian colours. It is with this fighting call in mind that the Central Committee is organising the release of the Political Report at the commencement of the 21st century. The broadest possible circles are welcome to join with the whole Party on this exciting occasion.

Article Index


Collapse of World Trade Organisation Meeting in Seattle:

The People Will Not Accept the "Liberalisation of World Trade" in the Name of Globalisation

The stated agenda of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is the "liberalisation" of international trade. By "liberalisation" is meant putting up for grabs the resources of nations and peoples on a global scale for the dominant sections of the world financial oligarchy and the big powers. It is these interests which dominate the WTO. It means proceeding on the premise that the sovereignty of peoples and governments is an outmoded conception that these same interests must use their power to overcome. This is all done, as is to be expected, with the protestation of the best of intentions, of "economic development and poverty alleviation", of managing economic affairs "cooperatively", and representing "the needs of all Members". But the opposition at Seattle and in London, for example, from November 29 to December 3, representing the sentiment of the world's billions of people, demonstrated that such "globalisation with a human face" is not accepted by them. It was said before the WTO convened at its Seattle summit that it would determine the WTO's agenda for the coming decade. However, the people demonstrated their opposition to such an agenda of education, health care, the social and natural environment, and the people's welfare being further made the preserve of forces of the global marketplace. The meeting ended in recrimination, with no agreement on international trade, and major disputes between the 135 member countries.

The WTO was launched on January 1, 1995, following the signing of the global free trade agreement GATT in 1994. Its mandate is to remove obstacles to free trade, and its decisions, which are enforceable by trade sanctions, are binding on all member countries. The WTO is dominated by the big powers, the US, Japan, the countries of the EU and others. They are continually seeking the expansion of the WTO’s mandate and further multilateral agreements on trade, so as to provide the big monopolies with even greater access to all areas of the global market. At Seattle they were seeking to further roll back national sovereignty so that every sphere of economic life, even including public services such as health and education, could be penetrated by the big monopolies. Even though the talks ended in failure, the US and the other big powers are already calling for a new round of talks to begin in Geneva in January. Poorer countries on the other hand were said to be celebrating the collapse of the talks and criticising the fact that the big powers attempted to impose their own agendas, sometimes by excluding the majority of countries from the most important discussions.

The Seattle meeting showed that there are major conflicts between the big powers and between them and the poorer countries of the world. The big powers seek to open up access to the economies of others while they aim to protect their home markets from foreign competition. For example, the US wanted the EU and other countries to end farm export subsidies. Japan and other countries are demanding that the US stop protecting its steel and other industries against foreign competition. Many poorer countries are opposed to what they see as protectionism and to the way that the WTO is used to further the interests of the big powers. They went into the Seattle meeting refusing to make new commitments unless their needs and interests were taken into account.

The last round of trade negotiations, known as the Uruguay Round, took over eight years to conclude. At Seattle the big powers were seeking to get binding multilateral agreements on a range of new areas, including investment, which would then oblige member countries to further open up their economies to foreign goods, capital and the monopolies. In this respect, a Seattle agreement would have posed the same danger of the international dictate of these interests as did the unconcluded MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment). However, no new agreements were reached and the WTO members could not even agree on an agenda for the talks. Representatives of the poorer countries refused to accept a proposal from the US that "labour rights" should be discussed, and argued that the US was simply attempting to protect its own industries from cheaper foreign competition. They also demanded that the richer countries must open their markets to the goods of the poorer countries. Major differences also emerged between the representatives of US and the EU over agriculture and other matters.

The collapse of the talks at the WTO is a reflection of the growing rivalry between the big powers, as they contend for supremacy in the global market on behalf of the major monopolies. They also reflect the contradiction between the big powers and the poorer countries, as the latter attempt to protect their sovereignty from the onslaught of the monopolies. It is clear that these contradictions are become more acute, as the monopolies strive to find means to counter the falling rate of profit and to continue to make maximum profit in all circumstances. The intensification of their rivalry poses not just grave economic and social problems to the world’s peoples but also the danger of loss of national sovereignty and the threat of new wars to re-divide the world amongst the big powers. At the same time, it is clear from the opposition to the machinations of the big powers at Seattle that the struggles of the world’s peoples are also developing.

It is in this context that the representatives of Britain and the other big powers are making strenuous efforts to re-package the WTO. Their watchwords are to improve its efficiency and transparency, to make it more democratic. But it is all too easy after Seattle to appreciate that their concern is to find new ways to advance the interests of the monopolies and the big powers in the face of growing opposition. According to press reports, Stephen Byers, the Trade and Industry Secretary, will spearhead efforts to reform the World Trade Organisation. It is claimed that the British government will use its influence within the Commonwealth and the EU to broker international agreements aimed at modernising the WTO. But, as the Trade Minister, Richard Caborn, said leading up to Seattle, Britain's concern with Commonwealth countries is for them "to eliminate unnecessary procedures and costs that stand in the way of international trade", of course, not forgetting to add that this can bring benefits to "all countries, particularly developing nations". The British government is attempting to pose as the altruistic champion of the poorer countries but it remains one of their greatest enemies, intent on pursuing the reactionary aim of "Making Britain Great Again" by interfering in their affairs and furthering the interests of the monopolies in the global market. No reliance can be placed on the proposed reform of international trade by Britain or the other big powers.

What is vitally necessary is that that the peoples’ struggles against the domination of the monopolies are further strengthened. The demand of the working class and people is that the WTO be dismantled. The defence of the sovereignty of nations and peoples, far from being "quaint" or a preserve of the "forces of conservatism", is a modern demand, which the working class must take up. In doing so, it is taking up its project to put the assets of the nation under its control, in opposition to the demand that they be opened up to the rapacious appetites of the rich and international financiers and the big powers, so that the people decide on the direction of the economy in their own favour.

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For Your Reference:

Some Comments on the Collapse of the WTO Talks

Thousands of protesters claimed victory as the World Trade Organisation failed to reach an agreement in Seattle on December 3. The delegates were at loggerheads, for example, over reducing farm subsidies and introducing labour standards in developing countries.

Zimbabwean delegate Yash Tandon said: "(The talks) failed mainly because the bigger players refused to take into account the concerns of Africa. Africa this time found it necessary to say, 'If you are not going to take us seriously, then we are not going to be with you.'"

Martin Khor, director of Third World Network, said: "The failure in Seattle to a large extent reflects the developing countries' unhappiness over how the system has not benefited them and how they have not been able to participate fully".

Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizens' Global Trade Watch, said: "History has been made in Seattle as the allegedly irresistible forces of corporate economic globalisation were stopped in their tracks."

"The collapse in Seattle affords the WTO the opportunity to take a new direction toward trade policies that work for the environment," said David Schorr of World Wildlife Fund.

Protester Sheila Richard said, "What I hoped is that the consciousness has been raised a little (by the protests)."

US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky, who chaired the talks, said that the WTO had outgrown its current method of gaining agreement by consensus. The talks were extended for hours beyond their scheduled close before Ms Barshefsky decided the cause was hopeless, saying there was no "feeling of consensus". She said members had agreed that it would be best to have a break from the talks and to "consult with one another and try to find a creative means to finish the job".

A senior official from Zimbabwe, expressing a general view among the developing nations, said the failure was a good thing. Africa, he said, had stood firm on its threat – also made by the Caribbean nations – not to sign any text it disagreed with.

Agriculture has been a sticking point, with the European Union being pressed to make deeper cuts in its food export subsidies than it was prepared to accept. Some EU officials privately blamed the looming US presidential election for the host nation's failure to give ground. Labour standards also proved extremely contentious.

With its member countries split numerous ways Ms Barshefsky said that it had become clear there was no chance of all sides agreeing to an agenda for the new trade talks.

Many developing countries felt that their specific needs and preoccupations had not been addressed. "From the day after the opening of the conference we became aware that Africa was not being taken into account in the way the negotiations were to be conducted," Senegalese Foreign Trade Minister Khalifa Ababacar Sall said. "The fact that Africa was not brought into the running of the conference was the subject of various criticisms and a source of frustration." The attitude of US trade representative Charlene Barshefsky had annoyed developing countries, he said. "She as good as told us to come to an agreement and get on with it, by which she meant taking the USA's side. Or else, she said, she would find another solution."

Two Australian ministers said that their country had pinned a great deal of hope on a positive result. Trade Minister Mark Vaile said it was a pity time had run out before negotiations could be completed. "It's a disappointment. We came to Seattle to launch a new round. We're well down the path towards that. It is just quite unfortunate that a ministerial declaration has not been able to be completed in the time available here in Seattle," Mr Vaile said. Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said that Australian farmers had looked forward to reaping the benefits of a successful outcome. "That was very important for Australian farmers and indeed for world agricultural trade, and we're disappointed that that's not going to result," Mr Truss said.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono said he preferred not to think of the summit as a failure. "There were many complicated and difficult tasks. Time was too short to handle them."

Indian Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran said that all the contentious issues his country had opposed – such as the setting of minimum labour standards – had been frozen. "So, there will be no declaration – only the chairman's statement. India's stand has been vindicated."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said they regretted the failure of the talks but matters should not be allowed to stand still. "A further liberalisation of world trade is necessary," Mr Schroeder said.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine said the lack of a result was preferable to a bad agreement. "Europe took an ambitious, consistent and constructive approach to these negotiations. Europe was right not to desist and not to accept truncated negotiations, which would have started things off on a negative footing."

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres said that not enough attention had been given to the issues of justice and human rights. "We have long insisted that it is not enough for trade to be free: trade must also be fair. It is unacceptable that, in the name of hard cash, in the name of profit, certain forms of competition should be allowed which are based on total disrespect for people's rights or total disrespect for environmental values."

The spokesman on trade for the socialist group of MEPs, Eryl McNally, said it was the EU that pulled the plug on the talks. "The United States was too greedy" she said, "it was all take and no give. I can't believe that America's chief negotiator could have been so foolish to think we would accept it".

Ms Barshefsky accepted claims that the way in which trade agreements are discussed, by a small number of countries in a private room, needed to be reviewed. "I wondered whether keeping people in a room, filled with intractable issues, was going to work", she said. "There were only 25 countries in the room, meaning that there were 110 outside. I didn't like the look of it, I definitely didn't like the feel of it and I didn't like the way it was going."

The Foreign Minister of Guyana, Clement Rohee, said that system would have to stop if there were to be success in expanding free trade in future. He said, "We from developing countries were invited to this meeting, and asked to participate, but then treated like delinquents. We didn't come here to sit outside and drink coffee while the decisions were taken by the richer countries."

The WTO has stressed that taking what Charlene Barshefsky called a "time out" in the debate, by freezing the discussions, much of the work of this week would be preserved. Attempts to agree an agenda for a new round of talks will start again in Geneva in the Spring. Discussions on trade in services and in agricultural products are already scheduled, after that part of the agenda was agreed in the last round of talks.

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Government's Vain Hope of a Third Way in World Trade

It is instructive to look at the speech of Stephen Byers, the Trade and Industry Secretary, at Seattle, in the light of the failure to reach an agreement and the opposition to the WTO's agenda.

Stephen Byers addressed the opening plenary session of the WTO Ministerial Meeting on November 30. He said that, though the WTO had only been in existence for five years, "yet Seattle will be a defining event for the WTO". His words may yet prove prophetic. But Stephen Byers' concern for giving globalisation a human face was clear when he posed the question, "Can the WTO modernise and reform itself so that it can gain increased credibility and win the support of people and their governments? Can it stop being seen as a servant of the multinationals and instead assert itself as a body which will protect and defend the interests of all its members?" It emerges that the government is concerned with the credibility of the WTO and of its being seen for what it actually is. Byers and the government want a typical "Third Way" solution: a global age where the neoliberal "market fundamentalism" is ameliorated with talk of agreement between states on a truly world level for mutual and universal benefit. The only problem being that the nature of the WTO itself is at odds with the conception of a "body which will protect and defend the interests of all its members", let alone provide any benefits to the people of these states, as Seattle demonstrated only too well. Say one thing, do another, is the essence of such third way "solutions".

So Stephen Byers focuses in his speech on some of the most glaring manifestations of the WTO as it serves the US and the financial oligarchy in general. For example, he wants a "WTO which recognises the need for greater openness and transparency. No longer seen as secretive and being responsive to the needs of the few and failing to respond to the aspirations of the developing and least developed countries. A WTO which is modernised and reformed and which can look forward with confidence to the 21st century and the ever increasing pace of globalisation." The world's people and nations have other aspirations.

Byers then pleads: "We must not lose sight of the opportunities that have flowed from the new age of globalisation. We have benefited from the integration of the international economy." It is reasonable to ask, where are these benefits? The growing divide between rich and poor? The destruction of national economies and industries? The opening up of social programmes to be a source of profits for the rich? Inward investment which reaps tax breaks and government handouts and then pulls out? Outward investment which exports capital to make the maximum profits from the world's poor? The devastation of the natural environment? Or even the acts of aggression and military intervention against such states that will not willingly submit to enjoy the benefits from "the integration of the international economy"?

To those who would question such benefits, Stephen Byers has comforting words. "A shared commitment to open trade and commerce has been a driving force for growth. The essential answer to the problems of the moment is not less globalisation – not new national structures to separate and isolate economies, but stronger international structures to make globalisation work in harder times as well as easy ones."

As if aware that not everyone will be convinced by his entreaties, Stephen Byers points out, "There are those who say that globalisation and trade liberalisation are innately harmful, bringing benefits only to a handful of multinational companies, widening the gap between the richest and poorest, threatening the environment and undermining social structures." Of course, he is quite right. There are quite a few people who say such things. Stephen Byers has no time for them. "Such people can be found at all stages of human history, casting doubt on progress and pointing to the ills it allegedly brings while ignoring the benefits. Today their modern counterparts reject the market and the concept of growth; they dismiss profit as greed and see science and technology as a threat rather than as means of improving people’s lives." If only we could bring ourselves to be convinced by the Third Way, that the class war is over, that imperialism and colonialism were a thing of the past. Then we could see that really the rich and powerful use science and technology with the aim of benefiting the people and not improving the productivity of labour so as to maximise profits and creating an army of the unemployed, that maximising profit is the basis of growth and not the narrowest base on which to build a healthy economy. Then we could join with the forces of progress against the forces of conservatism.

To convince us further, and aware he has not won over his audience, Stephen Byers goes on: "There is no doubt that progress pursued blindly and without thought for the consequences carries with it risks and costs." This is an interesting slant on the notion of progress. But let us pull together anyway, let us join for the success of business in the global marketplace: "By working together we can confound the critics and show that globalisation and liberalisation together can be a decisive force for good. But in our countries we need to work at convincing our people that this is to be welcomed rather than feared." However, it appears that Stephen Byers is the one to be convinced. He says, "If it were true that globalisation was about the unregulated power of cynical multinational corporations coercing Governments and playing off one country against another – then I would be the first to call a halt." After the events at Seattle, should we not now expect Stephen Byers to be leading the opposition to the WTO?

At least, these words should haunt the Trade and Industry Minister: "Our economic interdependence means that we cannot come to Seattle to only protect our national interest. We must think globally. To meet the challenges we all face we cannot leave Seattle with anything less than agreement on a new Round with a broad-based agenda reflecting the interests and priorities of all countries of the world, from the smallest to the biggest, from the poorest to the richest. Too much is at stake to leave with less." Within these words is an exposure. Stephen Byers and the government have relinquished responsibility for the national interest. So that is why the human and material assets of the nation are being drained and put at the disposal of the financial oligarchy. The government is thinking globally.

These words pose a challenge also to the working class, to constitute itself as the nation, to take hold of these assets which Stephen Byers is so little concerned to protect, and run the economy for the basis of the general wellbeing of the people, not to pay the rich in one million and one ways.

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Reclaim the Railways!

In a handout distributed at the protests in London on November 30, Reclaim the Streets and the Strike Support Group with the support of the London Regional Council of the RMT (Tube workers) and the Campaign against Tube Privatisation, say:

"This month the World Trade Organisation meets in Seattle to further impose the market on our lives. In response, an international day of action has been called on November 30. The most blatant example of market madness in London is the privatisation of the Tube. Consequently, railways are the focus of the events here. Join us to say No! to privatisation. No! to another century of capitalism. No! to another century of alienated work, poverty, wars and ecological destruction – and Yes! to a new world based on real human community, a society based on our needs and desires not their profits!"

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How Can the Visit to Cuba Best Be Summed Up?

(Workers’ Weekly in Vol.29, Nos.15-17, carried three articles entitled "Diary of a Health Worker on Her First Visit to Cuba". In the following, the health worker reflects on the lessons learned from her visit.)

The trip to Cuba was an unforgettable experience; the people and their culture gave us a trip to remember for always. But what is it that allows the Cuban people to thrive under such harsh conditions imposed by the US blockade and compounded by the collapse in trading relations with Eastern Europe?

How can a country that was left with virtually nothing in the way of trade nine years ago still have developed over this same period such a high level of health care for its people? And, what's more, in a totally selfless manner supply health workers and resources to neighbouring countries for no gain?

The Cuban government spends 70% of its budget on health, education and social security. In other words, unlike in Britain where our much larger economy is increasingly geared to paying the rich at the expense of the needs of the people, in Cuba the direction of the economy is set to meet the needs of the people as a first priority.

The Cuban government and people face tremendous problems in developing their economy to overcome both the impact of the US blockade and the problems of the past. In looking for solutions, the Cuban government has involved wide sections of the people in discussing the problems, and this involvement, real democracy could be seen at all levels, including at the Ambrosia Grillo hospital.

Twelve or so years ago, the government realised that a new way was needed in approaching health care to improve the health of the Cuban people further. This was the beginning of the family doctor programme, which has resulted in a ratio of 1 GP and nurse to no more than 120 families. This was a planned change which required an increase in University places for training family doctors as well as resources for polyclinics, etc. To help overcome the problems of the blockade and consequent loss of availability of many medicines, another decision was taken to quickly develop a Cuban pharmaceutical industry, which would also help to develop exports. These decisions are not taken on the basis of what will help increase the profits of a financial oligarchy as in Britain, but of how the economy can be further geared to ensuring the well being of the people even in the Special Period.

As a result of this, the Cuban people enjoy a better health than people in most places in the world, and this is true for all the Cuban people regardless of class. The average life expectancy at birth is 74 for women and 73 for men. In Britain this average age varies depending on which class you come from.

Many of the acute diseases have been wiped out in Cuba as result of well-planned immunisation programmes. In Britain the incentive to immunise is given to doctors in the form of bonuses for immunising above certain percentages. In Cuba there is well-developed health education that reflects a true concern for democracy and also shows the importance women play in the health of the family. The Cuban Federation of Women plays a big part in ensuring good health education in the community. Women in Cuba have fully taken up their role in society. For example, 60% of scientists are women – far above the figure for the UK and USA – and their full potential has been released. The healthcare of mother and child is seen as of utmost importance. Maternity leave is 1 year, out of which 6 months are paid in full. The Cubans we met said crèche provision is patchy, and this is something the government is working on. The women we met felt confident that indeed it would be dealt with to their satisfaction, as had other problems in the past. It was not just a promise made before an election to get votes. And as with other problems facing the Cuban people, they would be involved in the discussions to find a solution.

The cultural level of the people we met was of the highest level, no matter where this was. There were many theatres, which were very cheap for Cubans, and sport, dance and other aspects of cultural life are seen to be of very high importance. This level of culture also plays an important part in the all round health of the people.

Building links with Cuban health workers is important for both our peoples. For the Cubans, it helps them to see they have many, many friends in the world and allows provision of material support and allows them to share their skills and experience. For us, we can see their experience and see that it is possible to build an economy geared to the needs of the people if we, like the Cubans, can become our own liberators and our own models. It is a cause of great anger that the USA still maintains an inhuman blockade of Cuba against the continued opposition of so many people and countries around the world. Such visits as ours also show to the Cuban people, if indeed they needed to be shown, that not just our hearts are with them but that we materially support them. The living experience we had of Cuba has underlined that, for us as health workers, the crucial issue is what we fight for here. Our agenda is that health care is a right and that a modern health service should be available to all at the highest standard possible. This is not just a question of defending the NHS against the government agenda of increasing cutbacks and privatisation, but a political question that requires an agenda of fundamental change in the direction of the economy and society. Instead of an economy which is more and more geared to paying the financial oligarchy it requires an economy that is geared to making the investments to create such a modern health service that meets the needs of all at the highest level. Instead of a political process that excludes people from taking decisions on such vital questions as health care it requires a political system that empowers the people to take the decisions on how society should be organised for their interests and their benefit.

I think that, on reflection, this is the way the trip to Cuba can best be summed up.

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United Nations Resolution to Lift US Blockade Against Cuba Wins 8th Consecutive Vote

On November 9, for the 8th consecutive year, the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly rejected the US-imposed economic, commercial and financial blockade of Cuba. In spite of intense pressure brought against the member-states by representatives of the United States – urging them to vote against the Cuban resolution and, essentially, for the blockade – 157 countries registered their rejection of the blockade, although Cameroon and St Vincent and the Grenadines did not appear in the final voting list due to "technical problems". Only Israel joined the US in voting against the resolution; eight countries abstained and another 12 were not present for the vote. Six countries that have always voted against the blockade were not able to cast their ballots, having lost their voting rights when they were unable to pay past debts to the UN. It should be noted that despite its well-known billion-dollar debt to the UN, the United States could still cast its vote.

In the first vote on Cuba's anti-blockade resolution in 1992, 59 countries had come out in favour of the resolution, with three against and 71 abstentions, while 46 delegates were not present.

When the Cuban resolution was introduced at the General Assembly, Cuban Parliamentary President Ricardo Alarcon addressed the Assembly. He stated amongst other things that the United States has not respected previous resolutions passed by the majority of UN member-states. Alarcon also pointed out that the United States has actually tightened its economic blockade against Cuba since the UN resolutions were introduced in 1992. He referred to the Torricelli and Helms-Burton Laws, in addition to a number of legislative amendments and executive orders.

During his speech, Alarcon also referred to the multi-billion dollar lawsuit launched by Cuba against the US government, charging the United States with more than 40 years of aggressions against the Cuban Revolution. "I am officially announcing to this assembly," Alarcon said, "that a lawsuit will be filed against the government of the United States for compensation of over $100 billion on account of the enormous damages caused to the people of Cuba by the blockade."

A Havana court the week before upheld a $181.1 billion compensation claim by Cuba against the US government for deaths and injuries caused by four decades of hostilities, including the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion.

The UN resolution, titled "Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba", points out amongst other things that the extra-territorial effects of legislation such as the Helms-Burton Act "affect the sovereignty of other states, the legitimate interests or persons under their jurisdictions and the freedom of trade and navigation".

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BT Call Centre Workers and "Modern" Conditions

Workers in BT Call Centres had been due to take strike action on December 10 and then again on January 10. However, the strikes were called off when an agreement was reached between BT and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) on December 7.

The workers had already held a previous one-day strike on November 22, when thousands of workers at 37 centres took action, from Aberdeen to Swansea, from Belfast to Brighton. What has given rise to the actions is the conditions under which the staff have had to work. For example, they have complained of intolerable levels of stress caused by unachievable targets and constant monitoring.

This problem has not been confined to the BT Call Centres, although the BT management have perfected this high-stress and demeaning method of working with their call centre staff over many years, where literally every second of the time spent by the worker is monitored and has to be accounted for. It is estimated that more than 400,000 people now work at call centres. This is more than the combined workforces of coalmining, steel and vehicle production. The number of workers at any centre is kept below the minimum required to adequately handle the amount of calls, and more and more of the staff are contract workers. Workers are under constant pressure to cut handling time, irrespective of the quality of customer service. The policy of BT was to subject the operators to disciplinary action if calls were not dealt with within 285 seconds. The whole thrust is to dehumanise the worker. The call centre managers themselves are put under pressure to ensure targets are met. As new technology has advanced, so has the imposition of the "high-pressure and employment-insecure" methods throughout the industry.

On November 4, workers took part in an international day of action at call centres to oppose the effects of such increased exploitation. Eighteen sites were leafleted in Britain, the targeted companies including Cable and Wireless, Excell Multimedia, Orange, Vodafone and Telewest. There are over 1,000 call centres where telephonists provide goods and services.

BT itself is pressing ahead with its "modernisation". It plans to purpose build larger Call Centres and close nine Transaction Service Centres (which deal with 100 and 999 calls) along with three Directory Enquiry Centres (dealing with 192 calls). CWU Assistant Secretary Sally Bridge said of these plans: "Operators have been in the forefront of change for many years, this is not a new phenomenon. We have had to face downsizing, rationalisation and job losses through the onset of technology and company reorganisations. However, this strategic move to bigger and larger Call Centre sizes will displace many Operators." She also pointed out that BT has just increased the cost of a Directory Enquiries call. She spoke of the "extremely competitive fast-moving environment of Call Centres", saying that BT is taking decisions in order to keep abreast and ahead of market forces, but said that this strategy must take into account the livelihood of the people that it will affect.

These "strategic moves" of BT are taking place in the context of a 9% rise in its second-quarter operating profits, announced on November 11, from £1.54 billion to £1.69 billion. For the first six months of its financial year, BT’s revenue has risen 19% to £10.32 billion. BT stock surged to an all-time high on the London stock market in response. At the same time, workers have been treated in a manner described as "borrowed from the previous century", and the call centres described as the "dark satanic mills" of the modern age.

Following the workers’ action and the threat of further strikes, it was announced that the Health and Safety Executive are to investigate the working conditions. The HSE has said that it will launch a study to investigate the potential physical and health risks connected with working practices. Workers will be questioned about their daily routine, shift patterns, level of training and health issues, such as noise, stress, back and voice problems. The Department of Trade and Industry has also instigated an inquiry.

The agreement reached on December 7 commits BT and the CWU to play a full part in both these initiatives.

Jeannie Drake, the CWU Deputy General Secretary, said the agreement also included: "1. Call Centres answering 150 calls increasing full time staff by 800, with a reduction of agency staffing to 13% of the workforce; 2. Call Centres answering 151 calls recruiting full time BT staff so that they form 80% -- instead of 40% -- of staffing; 3. Call handling times becoming a ‘team’ rather than individual measure; 4. An agreed stress management programme; 5. Other improvements concerning annual leave arrangements, attendance flexibility and criteria for the use of agency working."

CWU General Secretary Derek Hodgson said, "I am delighted that the outcome has been so positive, and welcome BT’s desire to make their call centres the standard by which others will be judged."

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Haringey Council Workers Strike

Workers at Haringey Council took strike action on December 7 and on December 14-15 in a 48-hour strike. The workers, who number around 4,000, are to take further action if the council persists with its plans to cut pay and other measures aimed at eliminating a £22.7 million budget deficit. Both the strikes have been accompanied by rallies of the striking council workers, and more than 400 people marched through Haringey on December 15 in support of the workers.

As with Wandsworth Council, where workers held a one-day strike on November 24, Haringey is attempting to impose a system whereby the workers are made to pay for the first two days off for any illness. They are also proposing to cut manual workers’ pay by up to £600 a year, stop overtime rates for evening and weekend working, halve maternity leave and increase the working week for a number of staff.

Sonya Dakin, Assistant Branch Secretary of the UNISON branch at Haringey, said: "What the council is trying to do to both us and to the service we provide is unprecedented – and so is the depth of anger it has generated and the level of unity between the unions here." She added: "The council is in financial trouble because of years of incompetent financial management and years of underfunding. They think they can patch things up by attacking us and destroying services. They want to make £16 million of cuts in Social Services. That will effectively mean the end of services such as help for people with learning difficulties. Why should we and the community we serve suffer needlessly? The council should get the money from the Government. We have made it very clear that if the council stops its attacks we will call off the strike and join them in lobbying the Government for more money." She went on to emphasise: "This isn’t just about our pay and conditions – it’s about a so-called Labour council and a so-called Labour Government destroying public services."

It is clear that the anger against the anti-social offensive is growing and that the workers and the people in the community affected by the cuts are increasingly ready to take action in defence of social programmes and demand that the claims of the people on society are met as of right. They are working out ways to do so in a situation where the monopoly-controlled media are often silent on their struggles, and in a situation where the big parties wish to keep the initiative out of the hands of the people.

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-- Movement to Safeguard Future of the NHS --

Renewed Calls for Halt of Downgrading of K&C

There have been renewed calls for the downgrading of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital to be halted.

In the light of the suggestion by government planning inspectors that 175,000 homes are to be built in Kent between now and 2016, Concern for Health in East Kent (CHEK) secretary, Peggy Pryer, said: "We have always maintained that EKHA [East Kent Health Authority] drastically underestimated that population of East Kent and its current and future demands on the NHS. Now with this Government directive for new homes to be built it is hard to see how the health services will cope. How will EKHA fulfil its declared policy of providing safe, dependable services for all East Kent residents? Perhaps the hidden agenda is for patients to spend even shorter periods of time in hospital. If so, how will the already over-stretched community services cope?"

Already the number of nurses at the K&C has dropped significantly and the pressure on beds increased. Only a few days ago, a nurse at the K&S was reported as describing how staff go home mentally drained and exhausted. She pointed out that conditions have worsened over the past year. She said, "I have been in nursing for 20 years but this has been horrendous. Sometimes I am the only regular person on the ward and have the care of one side of a ward, about 15 patients. It is very worrying. I go home thinking – have I done something wrong, will everything be all right? We are so overworked and the only answer is more trained staff. We have had so many staff leave but the problem is that no one seems to want to come into nursing."

After a vigorous campaign by the people and health workers and professionals of Canterbury and East Kent to stop the K&C being downgraded, Frank Dobson, then Secretary of State for Health, announced one year ago, on December 22, 1998, that he endorsed the decision of the EKHA to downgrade the hospital. Less than a month later the struggle to save the K&C was revitalised with meetings and demonstrations to start the fightback, with campaigns such as CHEK stepping up their work.

As everyone knows, the K&C and the fight to save it is not an isolated example. The closure and downgrading of some hospitals while concluding PFI-type contracts with others and ignoring the needs and wishes of the people for health care provision for all without discrimination, is the pattern across the country. Equally common is the experience of pressure and overwork on the nursing staff, who are made to shoulder an increasing burden of responsibility. What has become especially clear is that the government is pursuing a very definite course, having no intention of providing the investments needed for even the "health initiatives" that they have undertaken. The outcome of this course is the removal of the national provision of comprehensive health care from the agenda altogether. Once more, with the latest news about the Kent and Canterbury hospital, the necessity is underlined of the working class and people themselves taking up the agenda of safeguarding the future of the NHS and how this is to be organised.

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Campaign against Privatisation of Public Services

Waltham Forest Trades Council has launched a campaign against privatisation of public services. Education, railways and London Underground, the health service, social services and other local government services are all being increasingly opened up to the private sector. In two public meetings people came together to hear speakers representing these services in the local area explain what is happening in their services and the impact on both staff and the public.

The first meeting took place just a few days before the Paddington rail crash, and the RMT union activist’s warnings about safety cuts and potential disasters on a part privatised London Underground were made tragically real. Much of the discussion was focused on this issue in the second meeting in November. The article below is based on the talk on PFI in the health services given at the first meeting.

PFI is a key method through which public services are being opened up as a market by trans-national corporations. This is a global strategy, and in Seattle at the World Trade Organisation Conference they were seeking agreements that would roll back national sovereignty and the restrictions governments may have on the extent to which public services can be opened to the market place. Allyson Pollock, Professor in Health Policy and Health Services Research Unit, UCL, speaking at the NHS Support Federation Conference in October, emphasised the significance of Seattle, and the importance of the movement of resistance to these and other plans to open every sphere of life to the market. (See Workers’ Weekly, Vol.29, No.21)


Private Finance Initiative in health service

Under government rules any hospital build over £25m has to be offered for PFI, advertised in European Community Journal, and tenders invited. Consortia of finance, building, and service companies then bid to get the contract. Trusts then lease or rent back the buildings, and pay for support services such as catering, and portering, usually taken over by consortia. The contracts signed are for 30 – 60 years. Some contracts mean at the end of this period the building will still belong to the private sector, and some that it reverts to the NHS.

As a "public sector comparator" the costs of building this hospital with public funding have also to be worked up. However, accounting rules devised by the government make it very difficult for public sector option to come out less expensive than PFI options. An arbitrary 6% is added to the public sector costs, which is usually just enough to tip the costs over the PFI bid. This is justified by using a method of "discounting" some of the costs if they are spread out over many years as opposed to spent over a few years, (commercial investment appraisal). The logic is that while money is not being spent it is earning interest, ignoring the fact that the health service is not a profit-making enterprise and the money is supposed to be invested in the health of the population.


To date 37 new hospital projects have been approved, 17 are under construction. All but four of these are PFI (12 PFI contracts have been signed).

The PFI deals are worth £3.1 billion to the banks, financiers, construction and service firms forming consortiums to enter this market.

Changes in NHS and private provision of public services

Until 1990, hospital and community building (capital) was funded by the Department of Health (DoH). In the early 1960s, parliament agreed funding for a nation-wide hospital building programme to replace the old Victorian buildings of pre-war era with modern hospitals. (Only one-third of this programme was fully completed).

Capital and revenue money was separated in the allocations to health authorities.

As resources to the NHS were cut back from late ‘70s, hospital building was too. Only seven schemes over £25m went ahead in the 17 years between 1980 and 1997. Annual expenditure on capital in 1974 was £28bn; by 1998 it had shrunk to £3.5bn.

PFI has been long planned for. Back in the late ‘80s, the Thatcher think tanks were working out how to privatise the NHS, whilst getting round the profound opposition there would be to such a move in Britain. The strategy they adopted was to set up an internal market within the NHS to prepare the necessary structures and conditions for privatisation. We are only now fully seeing the consequences.

The 1990 NHS and Community Care Act that set up trusts as business units to run hospital and community services also introduced capital charging. Capital charging requires trusts to pay to Region 6% of the book value of their buildings and other major assets every year. The idea is to artificially mimic the relationship between a private corporation and its bankers and shareholders – paying interest and dividends. Most of these buildings have already been built and paid for decades ago. It is in effect a "tax" on hospitals. Initially this money was re-circulated within the NHS, issued as capital for new building. It was intended to be the funding stream for the private sector through PFI. In fact the payment being demanded is double that or more.

Costs of PFI

The first wave of PFI hospitals are now showing huge costs above anything they would have been should public funding have been used. To meet these costs, hospital beds have been cut often by one third, cuts to community services, to staff including nurses, doctors and other clinical staff, and privatisation of support staff have been implemented.

The "rental charges" set by the consortiums to recoup the construction costs, pay back loans to financiers, pay dividends, and a small lifetime maintenance allowance are ranging from 11.2 – 18.5% of total construction costs, each year. This compares to capital charges paid in publicly funded options of 6%. A high rate of profit is ensured with shareholders in PFI schemes able to expect 15 – 25% return per year.

If the treasury financed the building out of their own borrowing they would pay only 3 – 3.5% interest.


The example of Worcester Royal Infirmary PFI project is a good illustration.

The original cost identified in the business case was £45m; the actual PFI cost for building the hospital is now £116m. The annual charge payable to consortium by the local health service is £16.9m – more than a quarter of the Trust’s projected income. Of this just under half is the "availability" charge, or lease payment, giving a total cost of £216m to lease the hospital for 30 years, nearly twice the building cost.

The scheme will only be financially viable if 27% of local hospital beds are cut, and an astounding 50% increase is achieved in the number of patients treated per bed, by the time the hospital opens in 2002.

The government recently gave this scheme the go-ahead in face of intense local opposition.

In many cases the government gives additional funding to enable the PFI project to happen, taking capital money from the pot that would have been available for other hospitals.

Cuts to staff and services

Worcester is just one example. Once PFI is brought in, paying the consortium has the first claim on local health resources.

Now, health planning no longer pretends to start from the health needs of the population and best practice models of delivering care, but concentrating resources to ensure the profitability of the PFI scheme for the consortiums is the staring point. "Affordability" decides the bed numbers, not projected patient needs.

As the proportion of a local trust’s income spent on capital has increased, so the expenditure on patient care has to go down. (In Edinburgh it has increased from 8% - 18% of income).

Predictions of beds needed are arrived at not from analysis of local conditions and patterns of service but on bed numbers elsewhere, irrespective of whether these districts are comparable, and on anonymised commercial data bases. The aim is to justify reductions, however much this deprives local people of care they need.


Staff make up the main resource of the Health Service and 62 - 70% of trust budgets is spent on staffing. So it is there they look to find money for the consortiums.

In Edinburgh there will be 18% fewer staff, in North Durham 14% fewer qualified nurses. In both cases a greater proportion of nursing staff will be unqualified. Admin and clerical and ancillary face 30% cuts as well as privatisation.

Private sector in care pays on average far lower wages and employs fewer qualified staff. The private community care sector average pay is £8,000. The NHS mental health and community average annual wage cost is around £20,000.

Political agenda

A drive to move to the private provision of public services is central to Government policy. "Public-private partnership" is a global phenomena promoted by global financial institutions.

The aim, according to the European Union, is to produce major savings in public spending and create fresh opportunities for private business. (European Commission, 1997. "Making the most of the opening of public procurement").

The European Union market for public sector and facilities (transport, bridges, etc) in 1994 was worth 720 billion Ecus, 11.5% of gross national product of the 15 member states of the European Union.

Cash is being released for profit by cutting services, restricting people’s access to services either through waiting lists or through re-defining categories of conditions or people out of entitlement to NHS care. Services are shifted to a sector with only partial funding and partial user charging, for example, many social services. In this way the costs of investment in healthcare are being shifted from society in general to the users of public services.

On a global level, private finance for public services is integral to structural adjustment programmes imposed by the IMF and World Bank and a prerequisite for loans to developing countries.

Britain has been among the first states in the developed world to take up two key recommendations designed to facilitate transfer of public services to the private sector: commercial accounting (capital charges) and commercial investment appraisal ("discounting" that gives advantage to PFI in cost and Value For Money appraisal).

Who is behind this agenda? The banks are one force, the US health industry which is a trillion dollar business is another. US foreign policy is to export this industry. A subsidiary of the largest health maintenance organisation in the USA, Columbia/HCA, has already teamed up with the PPP largest private health insurer in the UK to go for the health market opening in Britain.

It is necessary to see that this is not just an issue of the private sector making money, or just a question of being ideologically against privatisation. The domination of health care and other public services by these forces, ensuring everything is geared to paying the very wealthy, is incompatible with caring for people. It is incompatible with people’s right to have society ensure their best standards of wellbeing.

References: British Medical Journal, 1999, volume 319, 3rd, 10th,17th and 24th July, by Allyson Pollock, Professor at Health Policy and Health Services Research Unit, School of Public Policy, University College London. Other information is taken from colleagues in that and other universities, from London Health Emergency and from UNISON.

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Around the Country


Elderly and disabled people are to bear the brunt of a further spending squeeze as Kent Council reports that its social services budget is "spiralling out of control". It is reported that their spending is £9 million over budget.

The latest round of cost-cutting measures is to bite much deeper into front-line care. It includes a two-week freeze on placing elderly and disabled people into residential and nursing homes and a halt to recruitment. The Council is also to step up its attempts to reduce the number of children it has to look after and is to reassess whether or not disabled and other people who have so-called "high-cost" packages should be moved into less costly residential homes.


Doctors in Yorkshire are warning that huge rises of more than 600 per cent in some generic medicines are causing major cash headaches which will hit patient care and derail plans for future service improvements.

The price of the drug bendrofluazide used to treat blood pressure rose by more than 650 per cent in the nine months to September to £35.88 for a pack of 1.000. The price of cimetidine, a drug used to treat ulcers, increased by 260 per cent in the same period.

NHS chiefs in the Northern and Yorkshire region, which covers West, North and East Yorkshire, estimate the bill will on average hit the £1 million mark for each health authority this year. Sheffield Health Authority estimates the price increases will cost it £2.1 million and has implemented a series of cuts to administration to ensure supplies of drugs are maintained. In North Yorkshire, officials are predicting a £2.8 million overspend on prescribing costs, although significant savings have already been made to reduce the deficit.

Dr Paul Davis, vice-chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, said: "We’re talking about drugs which are essential but we don’t know where the money is going to come from to pay for them. What could happen is money which would have been used for hip operations for instance will be used to pay for over-the-counter drugs." One GP practice manager in York said that cash was being drawn from budgets earmarked for modernisation. "Some drug companies are just taking the NHS for a ride. Increases of this scale are totally unjustified," he said.

A spokesman for the British Generic Manufacturers’ Association said that price rises in the past few months were down to market shortages and a failure by the Department of Health to co-ordinate the introduction of new European Community regulations on medicine packaging.

North East:

A report published earlier this month shows that there is a higher than normal level of throat cancer among former Consett steelworkers. The workers and their families are to begin a court action against British Steel.

The research into a high incidence of throat and associated cancers was launched in 1997 by County Durham Health Authority and carried out by researchers at Newcastle University. Since then almost 90 former workers have come forward to say they have a cancer of the upper aero digestive tract UAD. Only a handful are still alive. The solicitor representing the families of over 50 of the former steelworkers said on the publication of the report, "I will be writing to British Steel next week informing a case is being brought for compensation for alleged negligence in the way it operated Consett works." A process which American research has shown to cause cancer was used at Consett, despite British Steel denying its existence until confronted with evidence provided by the former workers.

Tommy Hall, who worked in the Consett steelworks periodically between 1948 until the site closed in 1980, said, "The conditions we worked in were a disgrace. They were terrible. No-one had any protection from dust or fumes or anything. The works must be to blame. It couldn’t be anything else." Consett steelworks were closed in 1980 with the loss of 4,000 jobs. By the mid-1990s, throat cancer problems were coming to light.

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For Your Information:

Background to the OSCE Istanbul Summit and the European Council in Helsinki

On November 17-18, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held a Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. The Heads of Government of most of its member states were present, including US President Bill Clinton. The European Council met in Helsinki, Finland, on December 10-11. It increased to 12 the number of countries involved in accession negotiations with the EU, and gave candidate status to Turkey for the first time.

The OSCE Summit followed the NATO war of aggression against Yugoslavia in March-June this year and was held, as was the Helsinki Summit, during the on-going Russian assault on Chechnya.

Turkey is central to the United States' plans to expand NATO's operations into the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia and is the United States' principal ally in the region. Turkey provides a launching pad for the continuing Anglo-American air war against Iraq, which has involved 15,000 flights, 1,200 missile strikes and has killed at least 127 people since December 1998. The US has backed the formation of a Turkish-Israeli military pact; this has drawn protests from most surrounding states including Syria, Iraq, Iran, Greece and Russia.

One of the objects of the OSCE Summit was the signing of a "European Security Charter" dealing, among other things, with the need to protect minorities. Yet, while Kurds form the second largest nationality in Turkey, constituting 20-25% of the population, all Kurdish place-names have been eliminated there. Broadcasting and education in Kurdish are banned, as is the giving of Kurdish names to children. The Turkish army has destroyed 2,000 Kurdish villages and 30,000 people have been killed in an armed Kurdish rebellion since the 1980s. The United States has declared the rebels to be "terrorists".

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952 and the Turkish armed forces have played a central role in Turkish affairs throughout that time. There have been military coups in Turkey in 1960, 1970 and 1980. The current Turkish constitution was laid down by the armed forces following the 1980 coup and gives the military a central place in government through the "National Security Council". In 1997, the then Turkish government, which came to power on a policy of Turkish withdrawal from NATO, was sacked on orders from the armed forces. The United States maintains a "special relationship" with the Turkish military.

The largest new oilfield in the world is that of the "Caspian basin" lying to the east of Turkey around the Caspian Sea and the gas fields further to the east in Central Asia. The shortest and cheapest pipeline routes to get this oil and gas to world markets lie through Russia, via Chechnya, or through Iran. However, the United States has been insistent that the new pipeline avoid both these countries and instead pass through Turkey, and an agreement was signed to that effect at the OSCE Summit, presided over by President Clinton. However, the oil companies involved say that the Turkish route "makes no commercial sense" and the British government does not support the American plan. Disagreements have opened up between the US and the EU over Iran, with the US attempting to isolate that country and the EU countries refusing to toe the American line. Britain has restored diplomatic relations with Iran.

Greece and Turkey are both members of both of NATO and of the OSCE, yet there have been long-standing disputes between them. Cyprus is described as the most militarised island on earth – with 30,000 Turkish troops based in the north of the island following the Turkish invasion of 1974 and 3,000 British troops housed in two "sovereign base areas" in the south along with a British intelligence-gathering station.

Greece and Turkey have also long disputed their common borders in the Aegean Sea. In the mid-1990s, Greece strengthened its military links with Cyprus. In 1996, Greece and Turkey came close to war over their Aegean Sea disputes and tension on Cyprus rose to its highest level for 22 years. Greece announced an £11 billion arms procurement plan and the government of Cyprus ordered long-range anti-aircraft missiles from Russia for use against Turkish aircraft. Turkey said it was prepared to launch military strikes and the British Foreign Secretary spoke of the "serious possibility" of war between Greece and Turkey. Yet the Lisbon Summit of the OSCE, meeting in the midst of all this, in December 1996, and which was charged with "consolidating peace ... in the entire OSCE region" and making the OSCE "a primary instrument for early warning and conflict prevention" made no mention at all of this imminent danger of war.

One "'justification" which President Clinton gave for launching the NATO war against Yugoslavia was to help consolidate NATO and to prevent the rift between Greece and Turkey developing.

Turkey began the process of applying for European Union membership in 1963, but although it has been backed by the United States, this has been blocked for 36 years. One factor in this has been the opposition of Greece, which is already an EU member. Another factor has been the opposition of some big EU powers to letting the United States dictate European affairs. At the Istanbul Summit President Clinton called for Turkey to be admitted to the EU, and also called on Turkey to accept the invitation to candidacy. The EU at its summit confirmed Turkey as a candidate for membership of the EU, and European Union foreign and security policy chief, Javier Solana, the former NATO Secretary General, met Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit in Ankara to successfully persuade him to accept. EU entry criteria demand that candidates submit any territorial disputes to the International Court of Justice, but Solana had put it to the Turkish Prime Minister that there was no deadline for this submission, merely that the matter would be reviewed in 2004.

The EU leaders also agreed to invite Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Malta to attend accession talks with the EU. The EU has been holding entry talks since March 1998 with Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus, and had previously relegated Latvia and Lithuania to a second-tier group of candidates. If expanded to encompass all these countries, the EU would form the biggest trade and investment bloc in the world, comprising around 550 million people. Turkish Prime Minister Ecevit said of the European Union: "Inevitably the frontiers of Europe will expand towards the east, towards Caucasia, towards Azerbaijan, towards Asia." He said, nothing should obscure the strategic and geopolitical significance of Turkey’s European destiny, with a "pivotal" role between Europe and Asia.

Also of note was that the EU agreed to create a military force for "crisis management". This European Security and Defence Initiative (ESDI) has been widely seen as creating a rival pole to the military NATO alliance. The US has been anxious to insist that NATO be guaranteed the "right of first refusal" when military intervention in a "crisis" is called for. However, there is no such guarantee in the EU statement, and a senior French official was quoted as saying that there never would be. The EU is insisting on "autonomous decision-making", and the summit endorsed the plan of creating a rapid reaction force of up to 60,000 troops trained, equipped and ready to intervene in future "crises". The plan calls for new structures, including a permanent Political and Security Committee, a Military Committee and a Military Staff. However, Bulent Ecevit said that Turkey opposed the plans to form an autonomous European force by 2003 that could use NATO military assets if that meant excluding non-EU allies, implying that Turkey might attempt to veto a future EU operation from using NATO assets.

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Letter to the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) from the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea

Dear Comrades

The Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea sends best regards to your Party, which has always extended firm support to, and solidarity with, the WPK and Korean people in their dynamic effort to defend socialism and achieve the independent and peaceful reunification of the country under the outstanding leadership of the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the WPK, who gives primary importance to the army in revolution.

Today the international interest in peace, stability and reunification of the Korean peninsula is increasing with each passing day.

The WPK and Korean people have made a consistent effort to reunify the country through the great unity of the whole nation by putting national independence and common interests of the nation ahead of the differences in ideology and system. Their sincere effort now arouses deep sympathy among the broad sections of peace-loving peoples the world over.

The respected leader Comrade Kim Il Sung put forward the three principles to reunify the country in an independent and peaceful way and through great national unity. In 1972 these three principles of national reunification were agreed upon by the north and the south of Korea and made public to the world through the North-South Joint Statement.

He also advanced the proposal of founding the Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo and 10-point policy of great unity of the whole nation for the country’s reunification.

The great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il has defined these three initiatives advanced by the respected Comrade Kim Il Sung as three charters of national reunification. In April last year he set forth the 5-point policy of great national unity on the basis of the scientific analysis of the prevailing internal ant external situation as well as the common aspiration and demand of the nation.

The 5-point policy of great national unity is:

a) to achieve great national unity with the principle of national independence,

b) to unite the whole nation under the banner of patriotism and national reunification,

c) to improve north-south relations,

d) to oppose foreign domination and intervention, and fight against traitors to the nation and anti-reunification forces who are hand in glove with the foreign forces, and

e) to develop mutual visits, contact and dialogue among Koreans in the north, south and abroad, and strengthen co-operation and alliance within the nation.

The three charters of national reunification defined by the great leader Comrade Kim Jong Il and 5-point policy of great national unity advanced by him are the most above-board and realistic initiatives which can ensure durable peace and security on the Korean peninsula as well as the confederal way of the county’s reunification and which can be accepted by anyone.

For their substantive implementation, in February this year we proposed to the south Korean authorities as well as to the political and social organisations at home and abroad to define this year as the "year of independence and great unity of the nation, to be faithful to the three principles of national reunification, and to realise multi-channel dialogue, including the ones between authorities.

With a view to removing all obstacles to dialogue, we also demanded that the south Korean authorities give up "co-operation" with foreign forces, stop joint military exercises, abolish the National Security Law and ensure freedom of the pro-reunification movement and activities of pro-reunification patriotic organisations and figures.

Nevertheless, the present south Korean authorities made about-face to our sincerity and concocted the "sunshine policy". They are now involved in mendicant diplomacy to beg support for it, clamouring as if it were a new way for improvement of north-south relations.

In a nutshell, the "sunshine policy" is a variety of US strategy of "peaceful transition", the ulterior purpose of which is to demolish socialism in the north from within by inducing it to "reform" and "opening" under the cloak of "reconciliation" and "co-operation".

It is well-known to the whole world that behind the screen of "reconciliation" and "co-operation", the south Korean authorities are running amuck to stifle the DPR of Korea militarily in collaboration with foreign forces.

In "co-operation" with the United States and Japan, they ship in one weapon of mass destruction after another for aggression against the DPR of Korea. This year alone, they staged joint military exercises with different code names, including "Ulji Focus Lens" and "Foal Eagle". They went so far as to claim that the US troops should continue to stay on the Korean peninsula even after the country's reunification,

They still maintain the "National Security Law" which defines the DPR of Korea as an enemy, and have reinforced the Security Planning Board, the hatchery of anti-north plots, into the State Intelligence Service. They indiscriminately repress and put behind bars the organisations and individual figures involved in the pro-reunification patriotic movement by labelling them as "enemy-benefiting acts" and "enemy-benefiting organisations".

These facts clearly prove how hypocritical and anti-national is their "sunshine policy", under which they allegedly "engage" us. Recently the south Korean authorities have been contacting political parties in different countries of the world which have relations with the Workers' Party of Korea in an attempt to involve them in vicious intrigues of all sorts.

The clash of their attempt to degenerate and destroy the system in the DPR of Korea with our strong will to defend socialism will lead to nothing but north-south confrontation and war.

We hereby express expectation and belief that your Party will pay due attention to the criminal nature of the "sunshine policy" and "engagement policy" advertised by the south Korean authorities and continue to extend steady support to, and solidarity with, the WPK and the Korean people in their efforts to reunify the country in an independent and peaceful way.

With comradely greetings,

Central Committee
Workers’ Party of Korea
Pyongyang, DPR of Korea
November 17, 1999 (Juche 88)

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