WORKERS' WEEKLY Vol. 29, No. 4, February 6, 1999

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

170, Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LA. Phone 0171 627 0599

Article Index

Employment Relations Bill: Not “Fairness at Work” But Inviolable Rights Must Be Guaranteed!

Preparing for the 3rd Congress: Considerations in Setting the Themes and Agenda

Key Theoretical and Political Issues: Defence of the Rights of All

The Threats and “Peace Proposals” of the Big Powers Will Not Bring Peace to Kosova

House of Lords Reform: Is This Bringing Democracy Nearer?

Bloody Sunday March in London

Fear for Longbridge’s Future

Correspondence: What of Deliverance from "Fear of the Future" Now?

“Merger Mania” in the Car Industry Underlines the Need for the Workers to Take Control of the Economy

News in Brief: Mega-Monopolies Dominate UK Share Market

Blaming Health Workers, With an Ulterior Motive?

Forest Healthcare Trust Joint Staff Consultative Group - Press Release

Battle to Save the K&C Revitalised

Concerned People Continue to Oppose Reactionary “Centre For Life”

British Government Continues to Play a Reactionary Role in Europe and throughout the World

CAEF to Hold Conference Opposing European Military Union

North of Ireland: “Power-Sharing” Deal

March and Rally: For Peace and Justice

International Gathering of Economists in Havana

US-ROK to Set up Psychological Warfare Command Post against the DPRK

Employment Relations Bill:

Not “Fairness at Work” But Inviolable Rights Must Be Guaranteed!

ON JANUARY 27, the Employment Relations Bill received its first reading. The second reading is scheduled for 9 February. The promise of this legislation was one of the main pledges of New Labour’s election manifesto on “Fairness at Work”. But what is the issue with workers rights and the “Fairness at Work” Bill?

The government is hailing the legislation as for the first time providing workers with “minimum standards” and is putting forward that it will provide “a new climate of co-operation between workers and employers”. The TUC and other trade union leaders are hailing the new bill as “the biggest advance in employee rights for a very long time” and, whilst saying that it does not go as far as the unions would like, that it “marks a milestone in bringing some balance back to Britain’s workplaces”.

The essence of this debate between government, employers and trade unions is being made one of where should the balance lie, where is the line to be drawn. The government is promoting it as a model of “social partnership”, the employers are demanding that the proposals be weakened and the TUC and other unions are demanding that the balance be brought back and that this is supposed to give the workers “fairness” within this “social partnership” between government, employers and unions. This is the issue that is being presented on this question of Employment Relations and “Fairness at Work”. But for the working class this can never be the issue. Their interests can never be realised by such a “social partnership” and determining where the balance should lie in this fashion. Their interests are diametrically opposed to the interests of the bourgeosie and can never be limited to the trade union leaders haggling with the CBI over some employment rights in return for co-operation with their employers. Already, class conscious workers are describing the legislation as a “new anti-union law”, a “betrayal of the trade unions by New Labour” and demanding the repeal of all the anti-union trade union laws and demanding that the rights of workers be reclaimed.

This question of workers rights is the issue that workers everywhere should inscribe on their banner. The consideration that this raises for the working class movement is that the working class movement should not be limited to the affirmation of some rights at work, or “Employment Relations” type rights. The trade union leadership would like to limit the workers’ struggles to winning concessions. However, what needs to be affirmed are workers rights and the rights of all in society. Can such rights be guaranteed or given a concrete expression by the working class if they do not control the assets of the nation of which they are the main producers? Similarly, will the rights of the workers and all the other collectives in society, the national minorities, the women, the disabled, and other collectives, be guaranteed unless the demand for political empowerment of all the people is not addressed?

Demanding a “balance” within a “social partnership” between government, employers and unions is a path whch is a complete betrayal of the interests of the working class and people. The issue for the workers is to inscribe on their banner that inviolable rights be guaranteed.  

Article Index


Considerations in Setting the Themes and Agenda

THE THIRD CONGRESS of RCPB(ML) will be held with the orientation of the necessity to prepare to transform society and to enter the new millennium on a new basis. It is being held with the orientation of the necessity to prepare to the utmost to take advantage of the coming inevitable revolutionary storms and bring about a socialist society. Thus a prime consideration in setting the themes and agenda of the Congress is what will be instrumental in opening up these historic vistas for the working class and people, in taking Britain into the 21st century on a new basis. This is something momentous which is being undertaken, and establishes itself as the central consideration.

The theoretical and ideological considerations which were taken into account when RCPB(ML) formulated its Draft Programme for the Working Class still remain. Such theoretical considerations as that the nature of the period is that of retreat of revolution, as that the British parliamentary system is profoundly absolutist in character, and that if the social system no longer meets modern requirements for the well-being of society it must be overthrown and replaced with one that will, such theoretical considerations will still inform the deliberations of the Congress. Similarly, those deliberations must continue to be informed by such ideological considerations as that there can be no illusions that this system can of itself give rise to socialism, that there can be no illusions that any other force but the working class can lead society out of the present crisis and open up the way to a new socialist society, that the notion should be rejected that the working class must confine itself to the industrial and economic struggle and not become political themselves, and that there can be no illusions that change will come about spontaneously.

Having said that, the Congress is the highest decision-making body of the Party. It must fulfil its function of summing up the work of the Party since the Second Congress, and point the way to the future in setting the tasks of the Party and the class for the whole coming period of its work, as well as electing the new Central Committee, the leadership of the Party between Congresses. In this respect, it must do its duty in formulating its vision which is both informed by theoretical and ideological considerations but quite crucially by making concrete the necessary political and organisational tasks which it is calling on the working class to take up in its forward march to transform society. What is necessary at this historical juncture, what are these political and organisational tasks for the working class, what are these political and organisational tasks for the Communist Party – this is at the nub of setting the themes and agenda of the Congress: what is necessary in terms of advancing the Party’s line of march, in terms of elaborating the Party’s programme for the working class, in terms of the development of the Party’s policy and plan to blaze a trail in pointing the way out of the crisis.

The world is experiencing an historic shift, as the reactionary bourgeoisie counts all civilised norms as nothing. In this situation, the Party needs to elaborate the new arrangements which are required so that the rights of all are guaranteed. In this regard, the considerations for setting the themes and agenda for the Third Congress must take into account what kind of future, what kind of society, it will be that will guarantee such rights. It will need to take into account the character and the implementation of the fighting programme to bring society from its present crisis-ridden state, which is hell bent on retrogression, to its transformation to the strategic aim of the Party, to socialism. Central to this is the necessity for the working class to take up its leading role, and that the Party is the general staff, the vanguard of the class, whose task it is to rally around it the advanced sections in accomplishing its tasks. The considerations must include the necessity to provide the communist and workers’ movement with a new coherence, a new perspective, so that it can take its place at the head of a broad movement to bring about the complete renovation of society and overthrow the old society with all its rottenness. The considerations must include the necessity to march forward on the basis of a consolidated Party press, a press whose revolutionary character is inseparably linked with that of the Party.

Furthermore, as part of its duty to work to create the subjective conditions for revolution at any given juncture, it will consider how to elaborate its vision of what a new society should be, and how to make this the centre of all discussion and struggle. Its considerations will include how to organise for the working class to actually break with the chauvinism of the imperialist bourgeoisie, to face up to the question of the English nation, to break with narrowness and complacency and narrow trade unionism, how to end its marginalisation as well as that of the women and the youth and other sections of society, and place itself at the centre of political life, leading society out of the crisis to a new socialist society.

The essence of the Congress it to put the Party in a strong position as it moves into the 21st century, but its essence is also that it is an important event which is of concern for the whole polity and everyone in motion in society. So the considerations in setting its themes and agenda are based on the fact that the Party and the working class will march forward into the new millennium on the high road of civilisation, opening the door to progress and to socialism.

The Third Congress is taking place from Friday, March 19, 1999, to Sunday, March 21, 1999, inclusive. To apply for credentials to attend the Congress, please get in touch with the Party contact in your area, or write to the Central Committee of RCPB(ML) at 170 Wandsworth Road, London SW8 2LA, telephone 0171-627 0599, fax 0171-498 5407 or e-mail  

Article Index

Key Theoretical and Political Issues:

Defence of the Rights of All

THE VALUES promoted by the British government, the mixing up of the notions of nationality and citizenship, its programme to “Make Britain Great Again” and its so-called “ethical foreign policy” – all these point to a government whose conception of society is an anachronism at the end of the twentieth century.

Diametrically opposed to these conceptions is that of the defence of the rights of all, a recognition of the equality of all members of the polity in a modern society which protects those who are the most vulnerable, where state-organised attacks and every other attack on rights are opposed and eliminated on the basis that defence of the rights of minorities is defence of the rights of all, and which provides for the flourishing of the languages and cultures of national minorities.

It is a measure of democracy how minorities are treated – national minorities, linguistic and religious minorities as well as the collectives identified by ability, lifestyle, political opinion and so on. By this measure, it is an urgent necessity to turn things around in Britain so that the rights of minorities are not negated, which is the case under the present political system. Britain’s whole history has been one of colonialism and neo-colonialism. This still has its consequences with the prevailing bourgeois ideology of chauvinism and racism, which accompany the state-organised racist attacks and murders, and the old racist and colonialist arrangements. It has meant a confusion of national identity, and attacks on the rights to their language and culture of the national minorities in Britain. The people must be vigilant about the pretexts advanced by the state and its agencies amongst the people and the monopoly-controlled news media which claims that the problem is the “two extremes”, or backward customs or which blame the people for the problems they face. Those who advance this logic are responsible for the escalation of state-organised intervention and attacks on the people.

The issue is for the people of South Asian, African, Caribbean and other origins, as an integral part of the working class and people in Britain, to work to ensure that everyone is equal in the polity on the basis of recognising their equal rights and duties, and defending the equality of their languages and cultures and social mores. In this way, they can work to end the state-organised racist attacks against them, their marginalisation and ghettoisation and the state interference in affairs which are a matter of conscience such as religion. It cannot be tolerated that in a modern society there is such a thing as an official state religion, that the head of state is also the head of the church and their religious beliefs or non-beliefs are prescribed. Further, it is outrageous that attempts are made to isolate religious and other minorities by calling them subversives, terrorists, extremists and in this way justifying the attacks against them and against the people as a whole.

The guarantee of minority rights is the mark of a genuinely democratic polity. Such a guarantee, as well as the rights and duties of citizens, must be enshrined in a modern constitution so as to make sure that all citizens are equal before the law and that the culture of privileges in lieu of rights and the division of the polity on a racist basis are ended. All people of national minority origin must be able to participate in the affairs of the polity as equals who stand second to none. This is the way to end the marginalisation of minorities, the politics of elite accommodation, the racist state-organised attacks against the people.

In this fashion and for these reasons, the national minorities, and the vulnerable sections of society, together with the working class and all other sections of the people, must inscribe on their banner the defence of the rights of all members of society.  

Article Index

The Threats and “Peace Proposals” of the Big Powers Will Not Bring Peace to Kosova

BRITAIN and the other big powers are again threatening military intervention in Kosova in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia if their demands are not met. These threats follow continuing violence and atrocities perpetrated by the Serbian military authorities against the Albanian population and the armed struggle for the independence of Kosova waged by the Kosova Liberation Army.

On 29 January the so-called “Contact Group” (US, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Russia) declared that it was “assuming its responsibility” and demanded that representatives of the Kosovars and the Yugoslav and Serbian authorities accept its “peace proposals”, which include elections for a Kosova assembly, and local control over the police and “internal security”. Perhaps most noticeably these proposals are only for “an interim accord for three years” and also included the deployment of an international military force in Kosova, the nature of which would be decided by “the international community”. At the end of the three year period the future status of Kosova would be “reviewed under international auspices”, thus allowing the big powers to continue their interference. The Contact Group demanded that negotiations, which will be hosted by Britain and France, begin within a week, and are to be completed within a further two weeks. These demands were backed up with the threat of military action by NATO forces if they were not immediately accepted and implemented.

The Contact Group has no mandate to make such demands, nor to make pronouncements about the future of Kosova and who should participate in any talks and its actions must be condemned. In this manner the big powers continue their bullying and interference in Kosova, not in the interests of peace or humanitarian concerns as they claim, but for their own ends. They are continuing to create an unstable and dangerous situation which they are continuing to exploit. There have in fact been repeated attempts to arrange so called peace talks or to impose “ceasefire agreements” all backed with the threat of NATO military intervention. But far from bringing peace to the region all the threats and bullying have led to increased violence and greater intervention by the big powers. In the last eleven months it is estimated that some 2000 people have been killed, over 200 since the last “ceasefire” was imposed by similar threats last October.

But even before the Contact Group had met, Britain and France, in the spirit of their new “entente”, pre-empted the meeting by declaring that they and the other big powers were willing “to consider all forms of military action, including the dispatch of ground forces” to “accompany the implementation of a negotiated settlement”. At the present time the German government has also agreed to the deployment of ground troops. These troops would be added to the 30,000 already installed in Bosnia, NATO land and air forces stationed in Italy and Macedonia and the OSCE Verification Mission which will be increased to 1500 personnel in the next few months.

It is clear that Britain and the other big powers including the US are seeking to firmly establish themselves in this important strategic region which gives access to all parts of Europe and is also a gateway to Asia. They use any pretext to further these goals and the fascist logic that they will even use violence against others to allegedly facilitate peace. It is in this context that the statements and shuttle diplomacy of Robin Cook and others must be seen. The government’s talk of humanitarian concern or an ethical foreign policy is merely a smokescreen to further the political, economic and strategic interests of the monopolies. How can those who bomb and invade other countries be the brokers of international peace? Their interference in the past has not brought peace and is not designed to do so now. Instead they continue sell arms to all the belligerents, to fish in troubled waters in their own interests and to squabble amongst themselves to consolidate their own spheres of influence. Already there are public differences between the NATO allies and Russia over the future of Yugoslavia, while it is clear that the European powers, led by Britain and France are attempting to strengthen their own interests in the region at the expense of the US.

What is never mentioned nor recognised are the rights of the peoples of the Balkans and especially the rights of the people of Kosova to self-determination, the right to exercise their sovereignty and to determine their own futures free from outside interference.

History shows that big power intervention, in whatever form, will not bring to the people of Kosova and the Balkans what they are struggling for – peace, sovereignty and their national and social rights. On the contrary it will bring further disasters. The working class and democratic people can have no illusions on this score, but must oppose the interference of Britain and the other big powers, their bullying and threats of military intervention. What must be supported is the right of the peoples of the Balkans to determine their own affairs, free from all such interference.  

Article Index

House of Lords Reform:

Is This Bringing Democracy Nearer?

A Royal Commission has been set up to make proposals by the end of 1999 for reform the House of Lords. The House of Lords Bill, presented to the House of Commons on January 19, will abolish at the end of this parliamentary session the voting rights of hereditary peers. These measures have been described by Tony Blair as a blow against “feudalism”, against privilege. In the Foreword to the White Paper on the subject published on the same day, Modernising Parliament: Reforming the House of Lords, he claims that the proposed changes reflect the characteristics of “fairness”, “decency” and “democracy”. But for whom?

The hereditary peerage have long since ceased to be an important and significant force in society. Those who have money, and a few have vast wealth, put their money where others with great wealth put it, into the big monopolies and financial institutions. They are part of the financial oligarchy. In targeting the hereditary peerage as a block to progress Tony Blair is creating straw men and appealing to sentiment.

Naturally, the House of Lords should be swept away. But what should replace it is not irrelevant. The question arises, how can this be a blow against “feudalism” when the feudal remnant which does actually play a role in holding back progress remains intact? If it were the hereditary principle that is being aimed at, then clearly the first reform would be to abolish the monarchy.

This underlines that it is democratic renewal which is needed. The people are prevented from participating in governance, from deciding their own affairs, are reduced to mere voting cattle every four or so years, by an archaic institution described in constitutional terms by the phrase “monarch-in-parliament”. This is the system which has remained fundamentally unchanged for 339 years and which was established to protect the interests of the “men of property”. Over those years it has developed with the growth of parliamentary parties and the Cabinet system. Thus the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the day can, using the Royal Prerogative, declare war, sign treaties, even declare a State of Emergency and suspend all rights, without even consulting parliament, let alone the electors. It is the continued existence of the monarchy and the Cabinet system of the House of Commons, not some hereditary Lords, which ensures that parliament still serves the interests of today’s “men of property”, those whose bidding the Cabinet inevitably carries out, the financial oligarchy.

Tony Blair’s constitutional reform programme thus only serves to bolster the status quo. The way forward, the way to empowerment of the people and control over their own affairs can only come by democratic renewal of the existing archaic parliamentary institutions and electoral system.  

Article Index

Bloody Sunday March in London

SOME two thousand people marched through Central London on Saturday January 30, from Temple past Parliament and Downing Street to Euston, to commemorate Bloody Sunday. The March for Justice: Time for Truth, as it was titled, demanded that the full truth be revealed about the massacre by British troops of 14 unarmed demonstrators in Derry on January 30, 1972.

The march, which included numbers of Irish residents, as well as trade union, student and other campaigning groups, was notable for its militancy. Two flute bands and one Latin American band lent added colour and vibrancy to the occasion. The futile attempt by fascists, heavily protected by the police, to disrupt the march at Trafalgar Square was met with glowering contempt. Slogans included: “No More Bloody Sundays!”, “Tell the Truth Now!”, “Troops Out Now!”, “Disband the RUC!”, “British Justice - No Justice!”, “Britain Out of Ireland!”. The march was addressed at the beginning by Jeremy Corbyn MP, while at the rally at its conclusion it was addressed by North Belfast Sinn Fein Assembly member Gerry Kelly and John McDonnell MP, among others.

Around 200 copies of last week’s Workers Weekly, containing the lead article entitled “Bloody Sunday: The Reality of British Rule”, were distributed on the march and numbers of discussions held by Party activists.  

Article Index

Fear for Longbridge’s Future

THE Supervisory Board of BMW is expected at its meeting in Munich on Friday, February 5, to relieve its chief executive, Bernd Pischetsrieder, of his duties and usher in Wolfgang Reitzle, an avowed opponent of the Rover operation at Longbridge, as the new chief executive.

Longbridge workers in early '80s when struggling against BL

Wolfgang Reitzle has previously declared himself against the continuation of the Longbridge plant, which employs 14,000 workers. It is said that he sees Rover’s future in Britain only in terms of its Oxford and Solihull plants. Having imposed a deal on the workers only a few weeks ago which involves “radical working practices” on pain of closing the whole plant, hailed as proving that “partnership is now the central focus of British industrial relations”, the company now seems set to close Longbridge unilaterally anyway. It has all too soon proved that such deals give the workers no guarantee whatsoever that the monopoly capitalists will not follow their interests to make the maximum profits come what may, nor that they safeguard the workers livelihoods. Decisions on maximising profit override any other consideration for the financial oligarchy. It is undeniable that the £200 million in government aid from the state treasury which the DTI is considering is part of BMW’s reckoning. But if its interests mean eliminating the Rover range, then this is what it will do. Workers can have no illusions that those in power feel any responsibility for their welfare.

Article Index



What of Deliverance from “Fear of the Future” Now?

IT IS reported that the future of Longbridge, the Rover car plant in Birmingham, is once more in the balance. Speculation is mounting that Bernd Pischetsrieder is to be sacked as chief executive of BMW, Rover’s parent. This comes only weeks after a deal was concluded between national union leaders and the Rover management that was hailed as delivering Rover workers from “fear of the future” and involved 2,500 workers losing their jobs.

In the face of yet another pending attack on the Rover workers, when the ink is hardly dry on the last agreement, the trade union leadership has come up with a response like “Rover must come clean with its workers”. The workers already have bitter experience of what Rover is up to and the indicators are that with the news of recent days about the sacking of Bernd Pischetsrieder, that more redundancies are in the pipeline. Indeed closure of one or more of the Rover plants in the Midlands is not an impossibility. It is reported that major shareholders and management of BMW are not happy with the “ill-judged” £800 million buy out of the Rover Group and that “structural problems” have to be tackled within the company. (Birmingham Post - Business Section, 4 Feb, 1999).

All this indicates that whether Rover “comes clean” or not the future is not very bright for the workforce and their families. At Rover Longbridge, they have already lost 2500 jobs and been forced to accept “flexible” working practices. In reality this means that the workers are at the beck and call of the owners to work when production is high, be laid off when it is low and to bank these layoff hours to be called in again when demand for cars increases. All holiday bonuses and overtime pay have been stopped, effectively cutting the wages of the workers. This working arrangement plays havoc with the family life of the workers and to quote a Longbridge worker “you can’t pay the bills with banked hours”.

There can and there never will be guarantees for workers under the present system. The last deal was sold to them as “the only way forward” to secure jobs for the future and save the company. Well if by the “way forward” they meant more redundancies and exploitation then they were telling the truth! The point is, what do workers do when faced with this situation? All the past methods of struggle of strikes, negotiations, no matter how praiseworthy and how militantly they were carried out have never lead to a situation where workers have a cast iron guarantee that their interests will never be compromised in the pursuit of ever increasing profits. The interests of workers and capitalist owners are diametrically opposed and cannot be accommodated within a system where the means of production is social but the ownership of the wealth of that production is private. These contradictions are going to become sharper as the crisis of over production and competition between the major car companies intensifies.

Workers have to realise that they cannot expect their demands for a livelihood, for a secure future free of economic exploitation to be delivered by the present economic system no matter how militantly they ask for it. The only interest of the present economy is to pay the rich by furnishing them with the vast profits from the sale of goods produced by the workers. If those profits are ever threatened then it is the workers that pay the price and bear the brunt of the crisis with unemployment and increasing impoverishment. In these circumstances the way forward for the workers is to organise themselves on a new basis, to articulate what sort of society it is that they want and to realise that it is their right to demand this. In short they have to take up their own independent pro-social programme to defeat the attacks being made on them and to lead society out of crisis.

Birmingham Branch, RCPB(ML)  

Article Index

“Merger Mania” in the Car Industry Underlines the Need for the Workers to Take Control of the Economy

IT HAS recently been announced that Ford, the world’s second largest and most profitable car monopoly, has agreed to buy Volvo’s passenger car division for £3.9 billion. The deal has been reported as yet another example of “merger mania” in the global car industry and highlights the increasing monopolisation that is occurring in all areas of the economy. In addition to Ford there are now just four other major car monopolies with a web of subsidiaries throughout the world, General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen. Last year Daimler-Benz merged with Chrysler to form the world’s third largest monopoly and it is reported that there are expected to be further mergers and take-overs in the industry.

Fords Dagenham

The growing numbers of mergers and take-overs reflect the fact that the monopolies’ drive to make maximum profits and to capture the lion’s share of the global market inevitably leads to overproduction in the car industry. Ford’s new chairman claimed that that the company aimed to be the world’s leading producer of “automotive products and services”. As a consequence there is a continual demand for “rationalisation” as the biggest monopolies continue their cutthroat competition. They have no concern for the consequences, for the livelihoods of thousands of workers and their families. The pursuit of maximum profits requires the pushing down of wages and living conditions to the lowest level, cutbacks in production and the loss of thousands of jobs.

Already Volvo has announced that it will now close its only British factory in Ayrshire with the loss of 250 jobs. This is in addition to the 250 redundancies at the factory announced only last December. Ford has announced that it is to cut 8,000 jobs worldwide in an attempt to cut operating costs by over $1bn in order to sustain maximum profits. It is not yet clear how many job losses there will be in Britain.

In these circumstances what guarantees can Ford give to the 4500 workers at their plant in Dagenham that their jobs and livelihoods are secure? Already the four-day week that was introduced last autumn as a “temporary measure” has been extended and now it appears further cutbacks in production are likely, despite assurances to the contrary. In these circumstances the workers clearly cannot rely on the monopolies to provide a solution as New Labour politicians and other suggest. The increasing monopolisation of the car industry and other areas of the economy underlines the need for the working class and people to take control of the economy so that production can be planned in the interest of the majority, not for the profits of the few. To guarantee their futures the workers themselves must take centre stage and move towards the transformation of society from capitalism to socialism.  

Article Index


Mega-Monopolies Dominate UK Share Market

On January 28, it was reported that the wave of mega mergers and "merger mania" that has swept the London Stock market in recent months is "seeing and enormous gap between big and the small among British companies". Once the current mega-mergers goes through "any of the top seven companies on the FTSE 100, including BP-Amoco, Glaxo Wellcome and Vodafone Air Touch, will be larger than the enitre Small Cap Index - the nearly 500 small companies listed on the London Stock Exchange outside the FTSE 350. By then, the top 15 companies will account for 45% of the value of the entire share market 837 companies in all," the report said.

This latest report confirms the increasing drive of the monopolies toward dominance in the economy. This development further confirms the need to change the direction of the economy so that it is the people's well being that is put at the centre and not the interests of the monopolies.


Blaming Health Workers, With an Ulterior Motive?

WHILE CUTS are going on in beds and services in the NHS hospitals, nurses and other health workers are being put under intolerable pressure. As part of this offensive, it is the health workers themselves who find themselves the target of attack in the most slanderous way in the media, while government ministers wear their heart on their sleeves in pitying the burden on nurses and health staff and in fulsome praise for their sterling qualities. Health workers themselves are beginning to point out that cuts in beds and services and the slandering of those who actually have the best care of the patients at heart may well have an ulterior motive. This is to actually justify the road of privatisation, the road of PFI and PPP, the road of further turning the health service into a source of profit for the rich. One example was the breaking of the news of the alleged failures in the cervical smear tests at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital at a time that the health workers, professionals and the whole community were at a crucial point in fighting that the hospital not be downgraded. Is the slanderous article against nursing staff at Whipps Cross Hospital in East London which appeared in the Daily Mail of January 25 accusing them of neglecting elderly patients a similar case in point?

We are publishing below a press release from the Joint Staff Consultative Group of the Forest Healthcare Trust which refutes these slanders and puts them in context.


Joint Staff Consultative Group

Press Release

ON BEHALF OF THE STAFF we wish to say the following regarding the recent press coverage of care provided for elderly people in Whipps Cross Hospital, coverage which has contained statements nothing less than slanderous. Nurses, doctors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and others choose to work in the field of medicine for elderly people because that is their specialist interest, they want to work with older people. The twisted picture presented in the Daily Mail front page article last week (25th January) and reported in the local press is not one that is recognisable either to staff, or to the many patients and their relatives actually on these wards who since the article came out have been writing letters to the press to put a very different picture. Letters incidentally which to date we have not seen published.

Absurd allegations printed such as not washing a patient for eleven days which no nurse could or would do have incensed staff as has the number of untruths in an extremely biased report.

Nursing staff in Whipps Cross Hospital work under enormous pressure not only in the winter months but all year round. This is a pressure created by successive government policies which have starved the NHS of the resources required to provide the level of care the local population needs and have a right to. The closure of a medical ward and elderly care ward in March last year to save money immediately increased the pressure on remaining wards. Whipps Cross, like much of the NHS, runs on too few staff and relies on agency cover.

Health staff are the first to say when levels of service we are in a position to provide are not sufficient. The causes are too often beyond the control of the staff who provide care. Nursing staff have spent the last two years banging their heads against brick walls trying to get proper cleaning of their wards, and decent food for their patients, from the private contractors to whom these services have been handed. Cleaning levels were so bad that last December the Trust Board decided to change contractors only 18 months into a six year contract. Unfortunately the call of both clinical staff and staff employed by the contractors to bring these vital services back within the health service was ignored.

Like much of the NHS the major gap between resources that are needed and the funding provided to meet the health needs of the local population is growing. But Waltham Forest which Whipps Cross Hospital services is particularly hard hit. With high unemployment and poverty we are the 20th most deprived area out of nearly 400 in England, yet our health funding increase for this year is the second lowest in the country. This follows £14.6 million cuts to Redbridge and Waltham Forest services last year.

The irresponsible attacks in the press on nursing staff have had a devastating effect on morale in particular on the ward in question. On the day the article was printed (with the ward’s name) nurses were called away from caring for their patients only to find they were taking abusive phone calls and have since received anonymous mail. Staff now fear for their safety. Experienced, well qualified, nursing staff are thinking of leaving. However the support for staff from patients and relatives and colleagues has been fantastic.

The dedication of skilled staff who too frequently work through breaks and stay after their shift is over has held the service together as they attempt to ensure that the best possible quality care is maintained despite the lack of resources. This move to attack the staff who provide the care is totally unacceptable. It is the systematic government underfunding, disinvestment and privatisation in healthcare, and NHS management obsession with meeting financial targets at the expense of patient care that threatens to take the heart out of the NHS. Health staff and unions will continue their efforts to improve quality of care, get the resources the population needs, and safeguard the future of the NHS. We need the public’s support.  

Article Index

Battle to Save the K&C Revitalised

Campaigners march through Cantebury

CAMPAIGNERS again marched through Canterbury on Saturday, January 23, to demand that the Kent and Canterbury Hospital not be downgraded. As an integral part of this campaign they are demanding that there be one health trust for all three main hospitals in East Kent. “One Trust Is A Must!” is their slogan. They reason that if there were one trust and not three as a present, the struggle to apportion services between the three hospitals in Canterbury, Thanet and Ashford will be ended. At the same time, many campaigners are aware that the struggle to save the local hospitals is part of a principled struggle to safeguard the future of the NHS nationally.

Over 700 people, led by a Scots piper, marched from the Westgate Towers, Canterbury, to the Northgate Community Centre for a meeting organised by CHEK, Concern for Health in East Kent. At the rally, consultant paediatrician Dr James Appleyard launched a bitter and scathing attack on the East Kent Health Authority, He accused them of deceit and spelt out that they would have “blood on their hands” if they allowed the health service in the district to descend into chaos, expressing the community’s anger at the plans to destroy medical training and research which will create a medical desert. He asked the question: who can we trust to make decisions on our health service? And answered: we cannot trust the politicians! He pointed out that staff would be blamed for flaws in the plans they have been given to implement. He ended: “We may have lost a battle, but we will win the war.”

Another view of the march

There were the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats groups on Canterbury council, as well as the local Conservative MP, on the platform. All gave the same position that “One Trust Is A Must”. Dr Deborah Hennessy, of the Royal College of Nurses, said it was important to ensure that any proposed changes were based on the health needs of the local community, adding that the transport needs of patients and families had to be considered. Doris Hughes, chairman of CHEK, emphasised that the campaign is of ordinary people who do not want the erosion of the health service. She said that the people gathered were fighters and that they have an organisation because the need is there.

An organising meeting of CHEK on Friday, January 29, was held in a positive atmosphere. It decided on raising money to run the organisation, to write letters to the newspapers, and to spread the message among local people. CHEK is also opening a shop which is open daily.  

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Concerned People Continue to Oppose Reactionary “Centre For Life”

ON MONDAY, JANUARY 18, around 30 members of GeneNo! and Disability Action North East (DANE) barred from taking part started a series of pickets outside the Centre For Life in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne opposing the first Conference to be hosted there called “Making Biotechnology Happen”. At the three day Conference attended by scientists and UK companies, organised by Newcastle University, Dr Monica Darnborough, director of biotechnology at the Department of Trade and Industry, said that the biotechnology was aimed at “health care”, the “environment”, “food”, and the “Third World” and that the UK was a European leader in the field but Germany was catching up fast and there was “no room for complacency”.

The picketers erected a long banner in front of the building, Genetic Engineering The New Nightmare, and held up placards inscribed Bad Science +Big Business=Bad News. The protestors distributed leaflets to people outside the Centre and to those attending the conference engaging many in discussion on the serious issues involved. The protestors also organised opposition inside the conference itself on one day. Speaking about the conference a spokesperson on the picket said that “the Centre for Life had previously written to us saying that the centre will not be used as a front for multi-national corporations to do with using biotechnology and genetic engineering in the third world”. He said that with this first conference they had already broken that promise.

In leaflets distributed at the picket the protestors also spoke how government and big business were taking great risks with a technology “that only understands a fraction of human DNA” and that in pursuit of maximum profits the “possibilities for severe and permanent mistakes are great”. Opposing the Centre for Life becoming the new genetic screening centre for foetuses, the protestors denounced this move towards eugenics. “Once screening for genetic defects is given the status and prestige offered by places like the Centre for Life, it is a short step to screening out whatever ‘abnormalities’ society at large is incapable of accepting. We are seeing increasing use of gene ‘therapy’ and genetic screening for psychiatric illnesses, combined with crass and simplistic stereotyping of people suffering from such illnesses.” The Centre for Life has already indicated that its research will continue into finding the genes that it claims are responsible for intelligence, behaviour, gender and race. The leaflet points out that the new bio-technology and the Centre for Life operate within a social context and are a means and a philosophy for taking society’s oppression a stage further especially against disabled people and other minority groups.

The last day of the conference coincided with remarks in the Commons by Trade and Industry Minister Stephen Byers on biotechnology that what was needed was “an open and transparent public debate about genetically modified foods which will restore public confidence in this important area”. What is becoming clear is that the Centre for life in Newcastle with its genetic theme park is very much a path finder for the bourgeoisie to provide the ideological content to win over the population to the anti-human course in genetics and bio-technology as a preliminary for the expansion of these industries in this area. Great emphasis is put by the Centre on not making the “huge mistake” of the nuclear industry and its culture of secrecy and it is claimed that genetics and bio-technology will be “open to debate”. In other words, the problem of the nuclear industry is not the huge dangers it presents for the people but that the problem is one of “communications”. This is the view of the government. So, the message they are trying to give is that the potentially even greater dangers posed to the people by the new genetics and bio-technology are okay providing the public is made to “understand the benefits”. How dangerous this science is in the hands of government and big business can be seen when in the same week that this conference took place the British Medical Association warned against the existence of lethal viruses developed by genetic engineering capable of infecting the genes of particular ethnic groups. Whilst the report was intended to warn against the possession of these lethal weapons by certain “rogue” states the actual implication is that such weapons are already available to the US, Britain, and other big states who have always developed inhuman and criminal weapons before anyone else.

In a previous article in Workers’ Weekly (Vol.28 No. 12, May 1 1998) we pointed out that these actions of the disabled and other concerned people at the Centre for Life “highlight the anti-human course on which natural and social science is presently set, in which science is put solely in the service of maximum profits for the monopoly capitalists and financial oligarchy. It underlines the necessity to work for a society where natural and social science is humanised and placed under the control of the people to meet their needs.”  

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British Government Continues to Play a Reactionary Role in Europe and throughout the World

Recent statements on foreign policy by government ministers show that the Labour government continues to play an extremely reactionary role in Europe and throughout the world. The Labour government’s policy is aimed at making Britain a leading player in Europe, to strengthen the EU as an economic, political and military superpower, but also to remain a staunch ally of US imperialism and a leading player in the warmongering NATO alliance.

Government ministers continue to boast that New Labour has a “pro-European agenda” and has done everything to make Britain a leading player in the EU, the reactionary union of the big European monopolies. The government remains fully committed to the enlargement of the EU, has “a strong interest in the success” of the Euro, and only last December, together with the French government, issued a joint statement agreeing to work together on a common defence policy and strengthen a common foreign policy for the EU. In short the government has done everything possible not only to assume a leadership role in Europe but also to turn the EU into a superpower which might rival the other major blocs in the world, including the US.

At the same time the British government sees itself as “the bridge between both sides of the Atlantic”, and believes that it can be the broker between Europe and the US. In this context it aims to strengthen the military role of Europe within NATO, whether through the Western European Union, or by other means. The Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook recently claimed that NATO itself needed modernising so that it could be “more than just a defensive alliance”. Cook announced that this year NATO’s role will be much more clearly defined because as he stressed, “Nowhere in the world is so far away that it is not relevant to our security interests.” According to this reactionary view Britain’s interests include the bombing of Iraq, interference in the Balkans and in Africa and anywhere else where the monopolies pursue maximum profits in the global market and as a consequence of their rivalry attempt to re-divide the world.

The concern of the Labour government, on behalf of the monopolies, is based on the reactionary policy of “Making Britain Great Again”. At the present time it sees the possibility of realising this aim through the EU, but an EU which is a military superpower in its own right and which has its own aims and identity within a re-organised NATO, which in itself will be re-organised to play an even more reactionary role not only within Europe but throughout the world.

The British government’s policy cannot hide the fact that the contradictions between the EU and the US are increasing and are particularly apparent as they both aim to dominate NATO and use it for their own purposes. In all these manoeuvrings the British government continues to play a reactionary role. Neither the EU, the union of the big monopolies of Europe nor the warmongering NATO alliance serve the interests of the people of Britain or of other countries. The working class and all progressive people must take a stand in opposition to the Labour government’s foreign policy, which spells disaster for the people and is leading the country down the road to war. They must demand that Britain withdraw from all warmongering trade, political and military blocs and that they be dismantled. The working class must fight for and elaborate its own independent programme in foreign policy and pursue its own class aims so as to prepare the way for social revolution. This is the only way to prevent the disasters which the British government and the imperialist powers are preparing for the peoples of the world.  

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CAEF to Hold Conference Opposing European Military Union

ON MARCH 20, the Campaign against Euro-Federalism (CAEF) is holding an important conference in London under the title “Halt European Military Union”. The conference will run from 10.30 am – 4.00 pm at the Friends Meeting House, 173 Euston Road.

All demands from the people to oppose the building of the EU as a military power are entirely just, especially at this time in the face of New Labour’s desire to “Make Britain Great Again” and its emerging stand in favour of an increased and more independent military role for the EU.

The competition for markets in the global economy between the world’s leading powers such as the US, Japan and political and trading blocs like the EU is intensifying with each passing day. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US emerged as the number one super power in the world and as such is striving to have the EU under the dictate of the US-led NATO alliance. Britain, which started with a pro-US stance in favour of NATO, as the competition for markets has increased and the contradictions between the economic powers has sharpened, has started to demand a more independent military role for the EU with Britain as a leading force.

Europe has a central role here, for whoever controls Europe holds the key to the domination of Asia, the Far East and, from there, the rest of the world. These imperialist powers are so intent on world domination that they are fully prepared, with their various military alliances, to wage war for control of the markets and reap disaster for the peoples of the world in the process. The heightened tension between NATO, the Western European Union (WEU) and the EU over who controls the EU militarily only serves to raise the stakes in favour of war.

In these circumstances the people must oppose and call for an end to the military strengthening of the EU, NATO and the WEU and demand Britain’s withdrawal from and the dismantling of all such warmongering trade and political blocs.  

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North of Ireland:

“Power-Sharing” Deal

A DEAL on the composition of the power-sharing government was reached in the north of Ireland on January 20 even as arguments over disarmament continued. The Northern Ireland Assembly met to discuss formation of an administration as outlined in a report by First Minister David Trimble and his deputy first minister Seamus Mallon. It suggested there be 10 departments in the government, divided between parties from the “nationalist” and “unionist” communities, and a range of cross-border bodies, including ministers from Dublin for the first time. The report was formally adopted by 74 votes to 27.

Commentators have underlined that “it remains largely meaningless as long as the issue of disarming the paramilitaries continues to dog the peace process”. They point out that with no agreement on disarmament, there is no government, rendering approval of its structure a hollow victory.

Under last year’s April 10 peace accord, paramilitary groups must disarm by mid-2000. David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionists, insists the Sinn Fein cannot sit in the new administration until the IRA has begun to decommission its weapons. Sinn Fein points to the letter of the accord, saying its mandate in assembly elections last year gives it a right to two cabinet seats.

Because of continued sectarian accusations on the part of so-called Protestant deputies, the assembly was only asked to approve Trimble’s report, based largely on proposals already agreed in talks between the parties last year. A final report will be debated on February 15, and only if that is passed will the way be clear for Westminster to devolve power to Belfast. The British government has set March 10 as its deadline for the transfer of powers.  

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March and Rally:

For Peace and Justice

A March and Rally “For Peace and Justice” is being held in London on Saturday, April 17, 1999. It has the slogans: “Libya 1986 … Iraq 1999 … No more bombings! Lift the sanctions!” The march is called by the April 14-15 Commemoration Committee (“Who are the real terrorists?”) and the Campaign Against Sanctions and War on Iraq (CASWI), in association with the Institute for Independence Studies.

In a leaflet, the organisers write:

“In April 1986 US bombers left bases in Britain to launch a criminal attack on civilians in Libya. In December 1998 and right up till now US and British bombers are raining death on civilians in Iraq.

“Meanwhile the US and British governments sustain a murderous sanctions blockade on Iraq that has killed between one and two million people, most of them children, and a blockade of Libya that is holding back the economic and political development of the entire African continent.

“The US-British policy of sanctions and war threats is increasingly rejected by public opinion, and there is now an opportunity to demonstrate this fact by a massive demand for a new turn towards peace and justice for the peoples of Iraq, Libya and all other countries blockaded and threatened by US and British imperialism.”

It is planned that the march assemble at Hyde Park Corner at 1.00pm and march to a rally in Trafalgar Square at 3.00pm. The rally will be addressed by Ahmed Ben Bella, first President of Algeria, Tony Benn MP, Denis Halliday, former Assistant General Secretary of the UN and others.

Please note that the date is April 17 (not April 10 as previously announced). This is so as not to clash with a major march in Newcastle on the issue of a minimum wage.  

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Neo-Liberal Globalisation:

International Gathering of

Economists in Havana

Cuban President Fidel Castro has again asserted that neo-liberal globalisation is unsustainable, in statements during the international gathering of economists in Havana. Reiterating concepts that the Cuban leader has defended in recent times, Fidel Castro blasted the sharp increase of speculative capital, comparing it to “a new weapon that could have catastrophic effects for humanity”. Fidel Castro expressed agreement with statements at the gathering issued by an Argentinean economist, who called speculative capital “a financial time-bomb”. He said rigid norms should be adopted concerning the so-called high-risk funds involved in reckless stock market operations and speculating with the national currencies of numerous countries.

The Cuban leader said he did not oppose globalisation, but did oppose the type of brutal globalisation occurring today. In other interventions at the international gathering, former French First Lady Danielle Mitterand came out in favour of “prioritising human beings within the context of the current economic order”. The president of the humanitarian organisation France Liberte called for economic growth “that does away with the excesses of consumer societies, the current financial dictatorship and speculation”.

Argentinean expert Jorge Beinsten pointed to the financial and geographic concentration of recent years. He said that in the 1960s, the 200 most important global firms owned 17 percent of the world’s gross national product, which rose to 33 percent in the 1990s and threatens to reach 35 percent by the year 2000. The Argentinean economist warned of the weakening of the State with respect to big business.

Several hundred experts from close to 50 countries participated in Havana’s International Gathering on Globalisation and Development.  

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US-ROK to Set up Psychological Warfare Command Post against the DPRK

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff headquarters of South Korea Kim Jin Ho and chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Shelton held the “20th South Korea-US Military Committee” meeting in Seoul on January 14 and agreed to set up a new “joint psychological warfare command for wartime”, according to a news report. The major operational mission of the combined psychological warfare command, an organisation of specialised military alliance, is to broadcast news items aimed at assimilating the inhabitants of the north to a Liberal Democratic System and conduct an operation to jam radios of the north if an “overall war breaks out” on the Korean peninsula.

Announcing the plan to the public for setting up the psychological warfare command, the South Korean authorities announced that it would also be formed to examine its function during the “South Korea-US joint military training” in the future as well as in the “event of contingency”. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) pointed out , “This is one of its major criminal purposes. It is clear that the South Korean warmongers, in collusion with the United States, are foolishly through a broadcasting mechanism trying to disintegrate the Korean people who are resolutely defending their socialism without wavering under any ideological and cultural infiltration by the imperialists.”

“The United States is zealously trying to stifle the DPRK with armed forces, advertising ‘Operation Plan 5027’ for northward invasion,” it added. “Not content with this, together with the South Korean warmongers, it intends to attain its sinister purpose by spreading its ideological and cultural poison within the DPRK through the joint psychological warfare command.” The KCNA called it a “useless plan”.  

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