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Year 2001 No. 190, November 7, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Tony Blair Turns the Problems of the Economy Upside Down

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Tony Blair Turns the Problems of the Economy Upside Down

A Just and Peaceful Solution Is Possible! The Workers’ Opposition Must Be Built!

Discussions on the Political Programme of Opposition to the "War against Terrorism" at London Political Forum

Armed US Government Agents Prevent American Green Party Co-ordinator from Flying

Criminal Charges Against Firefighters at Ground Zero

Opposition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to US Bombing of Afghanistan

Brent UNISON and PCSU Demonstration for Safety at Work

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Tony Blair Turns the Problems of the Economy Upside Down

While recognising that even before September 11, the world faced a more difficult economic climate, in his speech to the CBI conference in Birmingham on Monday, Tony Blair said that winning the battle against international terrorism is to win for the economy too.

He said: " Jobs, living standards, business and trade need us to defeat this terrorist menace. Each step towards our goal is a step of reassurance for our own way of life."

It appears that Tony Blair has placed things back to front and upside down. If the global economy were re-ordered so that national economies were based on self-reliance and international trade was based on need and mutual benefit, then the basis of its crisis which is synonymous with neo-liberal globalisation would be eliminated. The drive to obtain the maximum capitalist profit which is leading to the obscene gap between the rich and the poor world, and within states between the haves and the have-nots, is no base on which justice and national and social rights can be built. The contention for control and domination of markets and sources of human and material resources is no basis for the elimination of state and other forms of terrorism. The imposition of the values of the free-market economy and the social and political system which is consistent with the unfettered rule of finance capital could itself be considered as the menace of international terrorism.

Article Index


A Just and Peaceful Solution Is Possible!

The Workers’ Opposition Must Be Built!

One of the major points of contention over the people’s demand that the bombing of Afghanistan be halted is whether there is an alternative. Of course, it is blindingly clear that Tony Blair in his efforts to maintain the coalition to support the US-led bombing is displaying double standards. Far from justice demanding that innocent lives be lost in Afghanistan as retribution for the innocent lives lost on September 11, justice demands that the basis for such terrorist acts be overturned and that the use of force be repudiated. Tony Blair, however, claims that to put an end to terrorism there is no alternative to innocent lives being lost, however unfortunate that might be, because war is not a clean business. This is a logic that that no justice-loving or peace-loving person can accept.

To say that an alternative is possible and that there is a just and peaceful solution to the situation into which the world has been plunged is not simply to take a pacifist position, that the other cheek must be turned if one is attacked. The double standards of Anglo-American imperialism and NATO have included that the US administration has been acting in "self-defence". It is only the "self-defence" of the aggressor seeking pretexts to attack, a "pre-emptive self-defence". To insist that there is a just and peaceful solution and that aggression and force be repudiated is to take a stand on principle and call that the norms of international conduct that were formulated at the end of the 2nd World War in opposition to Hitlerite aggression be followed and implemented.

Therefore as well as condemning the bombing and aggression being carried out by Anglo-US imperialism, with the backing of the big powers, democratic and progressive people cannot afford not to discuss this alternative. They cannot leave it to chance that they should merely line up on the side of opposition to the bombing and leave the outcome and the way forward simply hanging. What kind of global order is giving rise to this aggression and state terrorism is of utmost importance for the people to discuss, as is the question of how it is that despite the sentiment of the people against the inhuman bombing of Afghanistan they have been decisively sidelined. It is just to declare that the war is being carried out "Not In Our Name!", but how to ensure that the people can put their name to the programme and actions of a government must also be taken up. A new and different collective consciousness will be given rise to by this quest to formulate the alternative.

The workers in particular must take up the issue of nurturing the alternative and taking a political stand against the war. The workers are beginning to appreciate that the crisis has itself given rise to state terrorism and aggression, and that September 11 is in turn being used by Tony Blair and New Labour to further attack not only their rights but the rights of all. Building the Workers’ Opposition to the programme of aggression and war, as well as to the programme of the denial of political and social rights, has become even more crucial at this time.

Article Index

Discussions on the Political Programme of Opposition to the "War against Terrorism" at London Political Forum

The first in a new series of meetings of the London Political Forum convened by London Region RCPB(ML) took place at Marx House last Wednesday, October 31. The topic was "No to State Terrorism and War! For a Just and Peaceful Solution!"

After the chair, a representative of RCPB(ML) in London, had welcomed everyone, the speaker from the New Communist Party began by talking about terrorism historically. Quoting Lenin he drew a distinction between the acts of small groups isolated from the masses and actions such as that of the Irish Republicans in 1916, which Lenin described as a heroic climax to a mass movement. He drew a further distinction with the type of state terrorism perpetrated by the US over decades. Speaking about the present war against Afghanistan he said this was on a far greater scale than the attacks of the Gulf War and Kosovo. He spoke of the fragility of the so-called "alliance" claimed by the US and Britain, and of the contradictions emerging between the big powers. He pointed out the strategic interest of the big powers in Afghan oil and gas and said the war constituted a drive to war, possibly to world war, by the most powerful sections of finance capital. September 11, he suggested, was caused directly by Bush allowing the Middle East peace process to collapse and Sharon’s terror. He pointed out that international aggression was now coupled with increasingly repressive measures by the capitalist states at home. The background to all this, he said, was the increasingly acute economic crisis and the growing movements against privatisation and globalisation. The contradictions of capitalism, he said, would sow the seeds of future rebellions. The task was to build the struggle for peace, to promote socialism in contrast with the anarchy and violence of capitalism. The future is ours, he concluded.

A speaker from London CND referred to a recent US Commission on Terrorism report which noticeably failed to give any definition of terrorism or to mention such things as the International Court of Justice finding of 1986 of a US "undeclared terrorist war" against Nicaragua. He spoke of the flimsy justification for the war against Afghanistan giving facts from UN reports which contradicted all the US claims. He spoke, among other things, of the background to the US motivation, citing the need to justify a hugely increased defence budget.

A Party activist and health worker spoke of her experience in building opposition to the war. She said that the immediate reaction of many people to the September 11 attacks was: how will the US react? The issue was what stand to take. There was a need for talking among activists. She said that the imperialist globalisation agenda was the source of all the problems facing the people. How convenient that the war could be used to try and block the movement against this! She spoke of the strength of the anti-war movement, of the thousands who had overfilled Friends House within days, of the many local initiatives. She said it was important to reach people, to give people a voice. The movement belonged to the activists and should not be "ideologically owned". One understood issues such as the oil and gas in Afghanistan and the call must be: "Another World Is Possible!" There must be talking about how to take the anti-war movement further, about how to enable the people to prevent the war. Strengthening understanding and organisation were worth fighting for.

The speaker from RCPB(ML) said it was good that the London Political Forum presented such an all-sided view. He said it was important to deepen the grasp of what political programme would "make a difference". Those that controlled the media had power, but the initiative was being seized in the movement against globalisation and privatisation. It had been beginning to make a difference. Thus the brutal reaction. Now the ruling circles saw the opportunity to knock the movement off course. But September 11 and its aftermath raised in a very stark way what is just and what is unjust. So it was possible to strengthen the movement among the people irrespective of ideologies and political affiliations. There was a sharp struggle emerging against Tony Blair’s concept of struggle against a "new evil" and "wickedness" superseding everything, with the British government reluctant to give any definition of terrorism or examine its root cause. Blair was becoming more and more frenzied with his talk of "failed states". His conception of what was just was at odds with the people’s idea. The US backed by Britain was trying to impose a unipolar world, codified in the Paris Charter as a free market economy, multi-party democracy and human rights based on private property. He said that one important contribution the working class and people could make against the war was to go into the causes of the current problems, to target Tony Blair’s justifications, which were those of 19th century colonialism. Afghanistan was not a failed state but an Islamic state whose difficulties were caused by foreign intervention, now as at the time of the 19th century "Great Game". It was important to unite around what was just and eliminate the causes of war, he said.

The discussion was then opened to the floor. The first contributors spoke in detail about local activities, about the link between the deterioration of public services and the war, and about the dangers of the war widening. A contributor spoke about the lack of value put on human life, both on September 11 and after, recalling how Madeleine Albright had considered 250,000 child deaths in Iraq a price "worth paying". She also mentioned that Blair was going so far as to illegitimatise discussion. A contributor raised the issue of the use of depleted uranium and of the widening of the Terrorism Act. Another contributor said that the concept of "failed states" was racist and Eurocentric and attempted to extend the scope of foreign intervention. September 11 would not be sorted out by slaughtering others. A 21st century solution was needed, not a 19th century one. We were at war but nobody had been consulted. The target of the war was to dominate Central Asia, with its oil and gas, as the gateway to the entire Asian region. The differences between the big powers were all being exacerbated and there was a real danger of it leading to a Third World War. The sentiment against the war must be transformed into the empowerment of the people. Another contributor made comparisons with Hitler’s stands and justifications in the ’30s. Another contributor said that the principles of international relations codified after the Second World War were all being abandoned. The world was being reordered according to a pre-planned agenda for which the ground had been prepared. The issue was to fight for a different society regarding who holds power, relations between states, rights of collectives and political arrangements. Another speaker mentioned the danger of the US egging on India on the Kashmir question as well as raising tension with China.

Finally one contributor raised the crucial question of what was the solution to the overall problem even if the bombing stopped. Some initial discussion took place on this topic – a speaker raising for instance the role of the UN and an international process of justice – before it was suggested that this could well be the topic of an entire future meeting. It was then agreed that the Forum would convene again on a monthly basis to deal in more depth with topics that had been touched on in this initial discussion.

Article Index

Armed US Government Agents Prevent American Green Party Co-ordinator from Flying

Armed government agents grabbed Nancy Oden, Green Party USA co-ordinating committee member, on November 1 at Bangor International Airport in the US, as she attempted to board an American Airlines flight to Chicago.

"An official told me that my name had been flagged in the computer," Nancy Oden said. "I was targeted because the Green Party USA opposes the bombing of innocent civilians in Afghanistan."

She was ordered away from the plane and military personnel with automatic weapons surrounded her and instructed all airlines to deny her passage on any flight. "I was told that the airport was closed to me until further notice and that my ticket would not be refunded," Nancy Oden said.

She had been scheduled to speak in Chicago on the evening of Friday, November 2, on a panel concerning pesticides as weapons of war. She had helped to co-ordinate the Green Party USA’s antiwar efforts these past few months, and was to report on these to The Greens national committee.

"Not only did they stop me at the airport but some mysterious party had called the hotel and cancelled my reservation," Nancy Oden said.

The National Committee of the American Green Party met in Chicago November 2-4 to hammer out the details of national campaigns against bio-chemical warfare, the spraying of toxic pesticides, genetic engineering, and the Party’s involvement in the burgeoning peace movement.

This news shows that in the context of the "war on terrorism" and "anti-terrorism" legislation in the United States, the officially sanctioned persecution of political forces is taking place, revealing the grave dangers facing the society and all political opponents of the regime. This gives pause for thought, since the US legislation has been closely modelled on the British government’s Terrorism Act 2000 and also includes provisions to proscribe whatsoever organisations the government decrees.

Article Index

Criminal Charges Against Firefighters at Ground Zero

Seven firefighters, four ranking fire officers and one fire marshal were held at the 28th Precinct station house in central Harlem after being arrested during a rally at Ground Zero on Friday, November 2. Ten of the 12 firefighters were arraigned Saturday morning. Felony charges, including incitement to riot, were dropped, according to Steven Rabinowitz, a union attorney. Remaining charges include criminal trespassing and obstructing governmental administration, he said.

The charges were laid on November 2, when some 1,500 firefighters held a rally to protest against a change in policy taken by the City of New York. The policy, which took effect on October 30, cites "safety concerns" and restricts the number of firefighters and police officers at the scene to 25 from each department. It also takes sole control of the site out of the hands of the Fire Department. Instead, the site is now jointly overseen by the fire and police departments and the city's Department of Design and Construction.

At the Friday rally, the firefighters demanded that the recovery operation continue. The firefighters opposed the change in policy claiming it was intended to save money by eliminating the recovery operation and reducing the work to one of carting away "debris". About 343 firefighters died in the rescue operation at the Twin Towers, and some 250 remain missing.

The firefighters' union said that it does not want to see the recovery effort turned into a "full-time construction scoop-and-dump operation".

Chanting "Bring them home", firefighters also vigorously denounced suggestions by officials that they wanted to stay at the site to receive overtime pay, saying that they would be willing to work for free.

"This has nothing to do with overtime," firefighter Bob McGuire said.

After their stop at Ground Zero, the fire-fighters marched to City Hall as onlookers cheered. At City Hall, they sought to personally deliver their message to city officials, news agencies report. Police in riot gear and officers on horseback stood by, the news agencies said. At the end of the rally, outside a gate at City Hall Gorman said, "Our message has been delivered. If we come back here again, we'll come back with 5,000."

New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen sought to cover up the essence of the firefighters' demands by repeating that the policy was changed out of "safety concerns". Several firefighters said the disaster site was safer now than on September 11 and the reason for the personnel cuts was to save the city money as they shifted work at the ground zero to "scoop, dump, and sift for body parts".

The policy to eliminate the rescue operation and instead turn it into an operation to cart away "debris" shows the double standards which authorities in the US are following. Everything is done to "protect US assets" as President George W. Bush said in a speech from the White House, but when it comes to the working people, their needs and demands are dismissed and even criminalised.

This fact has been clearly recognised by the firefighters and American working people. A retired nurse at the scene of the rally, Anita Offner, said, "We always have plenty of money for everything else. Why shouldn't we have money for the people who are our heroes?" During the rally of the firefighters, one of the chants was "Bring the brothers home! They took the gold out!"

This questions whether it was fortuitous that the policy change came the same day that news media reported that "tons of gold, silver buried below the WTC" was recovered.

The New York Daily News quoted Pam Agnew, spokeswoman for Canada's Bank of Nova Scotia saying that on October 30, some $375 million in gold and silver buried beneath the World Trade Centre since the September 11 attacks had been relocated. The Bank of Nova Scotia is the parent of bullion and depository ScotiaMocatta.

"We are relocating contents of a vault and the reason that we're moving the contents now is because authorities need to demolish the building," Agnew said.

The Daily News said that "a small army of heavily armed federal agent stood guard as city policemen and firefighters packed the trucks". Workers are reported to have "loaded at least two Brink's armoured trucks with metal that had been out of reach since the September 11 hijacked plane attacks which brought down the Twin Towers," the Daily News said. It is after this that the policy change at Ground Zero was announced.

Moreover, attempts were made to justify the criminalisation of dissent by claiming that the firefighters were "violent" because their "emotions" are out of control. They "punched policemen" news agencies report. Mayor Giuliani said such "conduct" is unacceptable, while Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen "offered an apology on behalf of the department to the police".

In a November 2 statement, Peter Gorman, president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association said, "I was on West Street this morning. Rudy Giuliani and (Police Commissioner) Bernard Kerik were not. I saw much of what happened. Those two saw nothing."

Gorman's statement continues, "They are lying when they say firefighters attacked the police. The trouble began on West Street, at a corner three or four blocks south of Chambers Street. Approximately 1,500 firefighters were marching peacefully to Ground Zero. Suddenly, and without provocation, a handful of police superior officers (white shirts and gold braid) waded into the line of march and began pulling firefighters out.

"Was there struggling and scuffling and some name-calling? Absolutely. The police superior officers were arresting people for no reason.

"The Mayor wasn't there and his Police and Fire Commissioner weren't there. Now we have the spectacle of Mayor Giuliani convicting 12 firefighters before they are charged with any crime.

"The police provoked all that occurred. It was a peaceful march for a just cause and now the Mayor and his two commissioners are trying to defend their disgusting World Trade Centre policies by libelling firefighters and excusing police misconduct by a small group of superior officers."

Lt. Jack Ginty, vice president of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, who was among those charged, said, "We did absolutely nothing wrong – absolutely, unequivocally nothing."

They denounced the "apology" the Fire Commissioner issued on their behalf. Even at the rally at City Hall, firefighters repeated their demand for the resignation of Von Essen, chanting "Tommy Must Go!" According to news reports, "at a benefit concert two weeks ago, firefighters booed Von Essen when he came on stage." Furthermore, "two firefighting unions gave Von Essen a vote of no-confidence in April. The unions say Von Essen has not stuck up for the rank-and-file."

Von Essen proved them right when he also dismissed the fighters' demands and blamed their "emotions" for "being out of control". "People are very upset, they're very distraught. ... Maybe these are not the people who have the ability to detach themselves from the situation," he said.

Article Index

Opposition of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to US Bombing of Afghanistan

Venezuela President Hugo Chávez last week condemned the US military campaign against Afghanistan.

As on several occasions since Chávez took office in February 1999, he has once again annoyed the US government. In the past, Caracas and Washington have clashed over the multi-billion dollar Plan Colombia anti-drug programme, Venezuela's refusal to allow US military planes to overfly its territory on anti-drug missions, and Chávez's visits to Libya and Iraq.

Other sources of tension have been Venezuela's alleged support for indigenous movements in Ecuador and Bolivia, and Chávez's close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro. The Venezuelan president, who has been pushing a "social revolution" since he came to power, has defended his government's "independent international agenda" aimed at "contributing to the construction of a multipolar world order."

On Thursday, November 1, the administration of George W. Bush called its ambassador in Venezuela, Donna Hrinak, to Washington for consultations "to discuss the current state of our bilateral relationship with Venezuela", the State Department reported. Hrinak was called in after the Bush administration stated that it found Chávez's comments Monday referring to the "killing of innocents" by US bombs in Afghanistan "surprising and very disappointing".

The State Department summoned Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, Ignacio Arcaya, to ask him for explanations, while the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry did the same with Hrinak in Caracas.

In a televised national address broadcast on October 29 after he returned from a three-week international tour, Chávez held up photos of dead and wounded Afghan children and said the bombing was leaving a trail of atrocities.

"Do you see this child? What was he guilty of?" asked Chávez, complaining that the US bombing was claiming innocent victims. "This has no justification, just like the (September 11) attacks on New York didn't either," he stated. "The killing in Afghanistan must stop," said Chávez.

Chávez stated that he supported "the fight against terrorism, and no one should doubt that". But, he added, "we have also said from the start that you cannot respond to terror with more terror."

Meanwhile, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Dávila said Venezuela had taken a "humanitarian" stance that should be no reason for "irritation".

Article Index

Brent UNISON and PCSU Demonstration for Safety at Work

A dispute of public sector workers to secure safe working conditions is rapidly escalating into the biggest public sector strike under a Labour government since 1979.

Public sector workers are increasingly at risk from violence at work. Social service, education, employment, benefit staff and care-workers are all under threat of violence. In this situation, members of the civil service union PCSU in Brent have been on strike since September 4 in order to secure safe working conditions in the new Jobcentre Plus offices that will amalgamate Jobcentres and Benefits Agency offices.

In support of this campaign the public sector unions UNISON and PCSU have called a mass demonstration at Harlesden Jobcentre Plus office.

Harlesden House 161-163 High Street
Harlesden London NW10 4TJ
Friday 16 November from 7:00 AM

Willesden Junction Tube and mainline station (Harrow Road exit)

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