Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Twenty years ago...

...in the New Worker

THE TORY leadership battle has ended in a victory for John Major, Thatcher’s protégé. But the divisions behind the battle will not be resolved so quickly.
... Now the British public will learn that it was not “Thatcherism” they hated – there is no such thing – but capitalism. Thatcher was only the figurehead.
With or without her the Tory Government will continue its ruthless attack on the working class. Thousands of homeless will remain in bed and breakfast accommodation or in cardboard boxes on the streets.
Hospital waiting lists will grow. High interests and inflation will continue to impoverish workers.
The poll tax will also impoverish workers and force local authorities to cut vital services to the elderly, the disabled and other vulnerable members if the community.

OVER 15,000 demonstrators marched through London last Saturday to demand a peaceful solution of the Gulf crisis. People, young and old came from all over Britain to take part in the march and rally organised by the Committee to Stop the War in the Gulf.
The campaign has clearly gained in strength over the past few months. There were hundreds of banners from peace movement groups, religious organisations and political parties, many more than on September’s anti war demonstration.
Sadly the labour trade union movement’s national banners were not out in force, though a number of branch and district banners there along with some local trades councils and local Labour parties.
To enthusiastic applause Tony Benn said “Control of oil is what the whole business is all about ... we must control the international oil companies ... the resources of the world have got to be shared if there is ever to be peace”.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We're being robbed

By Theo Russell

NEW RESEARCH on how the rich and big business in Britain avoid paying their taxes provides clear evidence – if any were needed – that the Con-Dem coalition’s attack on the public sector and vital services is not due to economic necessity but is an all-out political assault on the working class.
We all know that the current budget deficit is overwhelmingly caused by the bail-out of banks, which gambled with working people’s hard-earned money, and not, as Cameron and Clegg would have us to believe, by the Labour government’s “over-spending”.
But now research shows that three-quarters of the current budget deficit could be wiped out if big businesses and the rich paid their share of taxes just like everybody else, and both New Labour and the Con-Dem coalition share the blame.
According to a recent article by George Monbiot in The Guardian, over £120 billion a year in taxes is being lost through avoidance, evasion and debts as business and the wealthy employ accountants to run rings around the system.
This is equal to 80 per cent of total income taxes, and three-quarters of the budget deficit, which the government is using to justify slashing spending and cutting tens of thousands of public sector jobs.
Twenty-five billion pounds is being lost through tax avoidance, £70 billion through tax evasion, and uncollected debts amount to £28 billion a year, according to Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK. In comparison losses due to benefit fraud – estimates range from £1.1 billion a year to £5 billion (Ian Duncan-Smith’s figure) – pale into insignificance.
But the real class politics behind the government’s plans are exposed in that far from trying to recoup these losses – as they are loudly proclaiming to do with benefit fraud – staff and funding to close these loopholes are being slashed.
Since the merger of the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise in 2005 (to create HM Revenue and Customs), staff number have fallen from 99,000 to 68,000 and will fall another 12,000 in the next four years, while spending on tax avoidance been cut by half since 2006 (£3.6 billion to £1.9 billion).
This is no accident – it is a deliberate policy. Dave Hartnett, Permanent Secretary, has told the Financial Times that the tax service plans to "adopt a less combative approach to resolving tax disputes with businesses in order to chime with the coalition's 'open for business' message".
While the wealthy and big business employ top accountants and use every scam in the book to avoid paying their share to the society that they are part of, small businesses and individuals are still being chased for every penny of tax, and the minority of corrupt benefit claimants are hounded by the tabloids.
Britain is already the most unequal society in Western Europe: it has the lowest Corporation tax of any major industrialised country, and since 1979 taxes on the rich have been slashed. Yet these very groups, much of whose wealth comes from Britain itself, are managing to escape their legal tax obligations and in many cases paying less than the basic rate of income tax.
Just two examples are Vodafone, which according to Private Eye has saved a cool £6 billion by using a Luxembourg subsidiary, and Boots, which avoided paying £86 million by relocating to a post office box in Switzerland. In Vodafone’s case the HMRC agreed to let this scam go unchallenged.
Meanwhile thousands of small businesses that cannot afford specialist accountants still have to pay their full share in taxes. These are the very companies which David Cameron expects to generate the jobs to fill the huge hole that will be created by his government’s cuts.
Monbiot describes the Con-Dem coalition’s actions as “another application of the shock doctrine… to free corporations and the very rich from their obligations to society,” and says “we are living in a country where the poor bail out the banks, while the rich keep their billions intact”.
This is the real political battle in Britain today – to expose the Con-Dem coalition’s all-out class offensive against working people and to take forward the fight to make the rich and big business pay their fair share. It affects the lives of every working person in Britain – in other words everyone not wealthy enough to live without a job or benefits.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Twenty years ago...

...this week in the New Worker

The British Medical Association has added its voice to those who are warning that many hospitals which chose to become self-governing could end up bankrupt. Hospital managers do not have enough experience to run multi-million pound businesses the BMA predicted last week. Once hospitals have chosen to go it alone, as the Government wants them to, they will not be able to fall back on the local health authorities to help them out. The Government has put considerable pressure on hospitals to opt-out of local health authority control and the Association of Health Authorities and Trusts said it expected opted-out hospitals would “thrive within the reformed NHS”. But Dr Jeremy Lee-Porter, chairperson of the BMA, warned, “We believe the sums do not add up. At the end of the line there will be bankruptcy for some. There will be winners and losers and we are afraid for those patients in an area where a hospital is unsuccessful”.

A candle-lit vigil was held in Bristol last Wednesday to Stop the War in the Gulf. About 200 people attended and stood on both sides of the city centre green holding banners saying no to war in the Gulf and toot if you agree – which encouraged car drivers to toot their horns. At a meeting to Stop the War in the Gulf in Woolwich, south London, Jeremy Corbyn MP said, “What is right and what is wrong? People talk about defending the rights of small nations. I visited Grenada, smaller than Woolwich, no threat to but the US invaded. What was the US doing in Panama. They killed 7000 people in an area nowhere near Noriega.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Twenty years ago...

...this week in the New Worker

At last after 11 years the most unpopular, anti-working class British prime minister this century faces a serious challenge to her position. But before we all break out the champagne and start painting the town red we must face the sad and sobering truth that her fact that her only real challenger is another Tory who is at least as anti-working class as she is. We must also remember she is not yet defeated. Heseltine’s decision to challenge for the Tory party leadership arises from a long and deep seated division among the Tories over British integration into the European Community. In 1986 he resigned from the Cabinet over the Westland Helicopter because he favoured a European rather than a US takeover of the ailing British firm. He is a true blue capitalist who has amassed a £50m fortune from his City publishing interests. He won his spurs in Mrs Thatcher’s cabinet as Defence Secretary by put “CND in its place”. He is not good news for peace and disarmament. His only real disagreement with Thatcher have been over the poll tax, for electoral reasons, and Europe.

The ruling Bulgarian Socialist Party, born from the former communist party whose leader Todor Zhivkov was ousted last year, is facing collapse. The reform leadership is quarrelling among themselves in their efforts to link-up with the reactionary opposition to re-introduce capitalism in Bulgaria. A splinter group even more to the right of the current socialist leaders has undermined their parliamentary position while the anti-communist Union of Democratic Forces is refusing to go into coalition unless they get the choice of ministries and the premiership.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Twenty years ago this week...

...in the New Worker

Fifteen hundred engineering workers at the Liverpool plant of tele-communications company GPT, will strike from November 23 unless the company puts forward acceptable terms for a shorter working week. The manual workers voted about 4:1 in favour of industrial action last week, although white-collar workers voted against. Dave Gough, AEU activist told the New Worker that a major stumbling block has been the company’s refusal to accept a four and a half day week. He said the company had put forward 14 points in all, some of which were “window-dressing” while others were far more significant. The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions has reached 1,200 agreements reducing the working week from 39 hours to 37 for over half a million workers. The CSEU has called for a strike ballot at MEM in Tysley, Birmingham, and has also given the go-ahead for strike action at Howden Sirocco in Birmingham. In the Rolls Royce aerospace group, attempts to reach a final agreement for all 20,000 manual workers stalled last week.

Those in favour of a merger have won a simple majority in the Civil and Public Service Association’s ballot. Around 55,000 or 42 per cent of CPSA’s membership voted. This is an exceptional high return in any postal ballot. The majority in favour of merger with the National Union of Civil and Public Servants was just less than 1,500. A simple majority is all that is required. NUCPS members have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger. The result, announced last week, was 27,000 voted for and 6,000 against, in a 29 percent turnout of NUCPS’s 118,000 members.