Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1670

My message to Railtrack

ONE WEEK after the Paddington crash Railtrack sent out a letter to its employees. It contained the following sentences: 'Emotions at this time will run high, and criticism may come our way as individuals and employees of Railtrack. Though it may be at times difficult to take, I ask you to bear in mind how people are feeling when they speak to you or about the company.'

It is signed by that callous bastard Gerald Corbett. Don't worry, I won't hold back when asked about the company. I know how people feel more than he ever will!

I will tell them how Railtrack is run by a bunch of vicious, profit motivated, penny pinching bastards who don't give a damn about the travelling public or their employees so long as their profits and fat salaries are protected. The railways must be renationalised along with the other public transport companies and all the utilities – gas, electric, telephones, water – so public need and safety is put before private greed.



I WAS one of 600 people who marched two weeks ago, demanding the renationalisation of the railways following the Paddington disaster. It made me proud to be a rail worker on that day. We were making a stand against the horror and against the bosses who care more about their profits than our safety.

The demonstration was built by a number of socialists and trade unionists within the rail unions. However, I was embarrassed when one of my workmates asked me where Bob Crow was, the assistant general secretary of the RMT. Sadly neither he nor any other rail union leader was present.

The demonstration could have been massive if Bob Crow and Mick Rix, the leader of ASLEF, had backed it and urged rail workers to attend. We elected these people because they are on the left and they say they want a fighting union. What is the point of winning these positions if you don't stand with the people who are fighting back?

Now relatives of the victims of the Southall crash have called for a national demonstration on 6 November. Our union leaders must get behind this one.


From Indonesia to China – Blair backs butchers

THE RULER of China, Jiang Zemin, supported Deng Xiaoping without hesitation when Deng ordered troops to shoot sleeping students in Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989. This year Jiang ordered the arrest of hundreds of members of a meditative sect known as the Falun gong. The only possible motive is that the Falun gong is now more popular than the Chinese Communist Party!

Market capitalist policies in China have brought greater instability and insecurity for the lives of the majority. Unemployment, rural illiteracy, crime and prostitution are rising. But for a tiny minority it has brought wealth, power and a more or less equal footing with the representatives of global capitalism.

Amongst those demonstrating against Jiang last week was Wei Jingsheng, who spent 14 years in a Chinese prison because he fought for democracy. Tibetans are not allowed to protest freely in their own country. You might expect they would be allowed to here. Instead protesters were threatened with arrest and bundled away in order to protect the sensitivities of Jiang.

What about the memory of the dead of Tiananmen? It will not take long for the British people to completely lose faith in Tony Blair if he continues to befriend dictators like Suharto and Jiang Zemin with such enthusiasm.


AEEU must hold ballot

I WANT to condemn the decision of the leadership of the engineers' and electricians' AEEU to refuse our members a ballot in the forthcoming selection of Labour candidate for the position of mayor of London. Sir Ken Jackson claims to have the authority to cast a block vote in the name of thousands of rank and file AEEU members. Members of our union, far beyond the usual layer of activists, see Jackson's actions as an interference in the democratic process.

It is not voter apathy that meant Labour was trounced in the Scottish, Welsh and Euro elections. It is voter contempt at the betrayals of the Labour government. Jackson's refusal to hold a ballot will add to the contempt. The electoral college is a manoeuvre to keep out anyone the Labour leadership does not want. Our union leadership must reverse its decision to refuse to ballot members over the choice of Labour's candidate. The vote of the AEEU should be cast in accordance with the wishes of the members.

AEEU MEMBER, Manchester


BLACK broadcaster Trevor Phillips recently abandoned his own flagging campaign to win Labour's nomination for London mayor and announced he was accepting an invitation to run as Frank Dobson's deputy. Is this the same Trevor Phillips who contemptuously dismissed a similar offer from Ken Livingstone a few months ago?

Phillips then said that Livingstone's offer was typical of the old racist assumption that blacks should be kept in a position of subordination. I look forward to hearing Trevor Phillips' explanation for his new found willingness to bow to his New Labour master's voice.


Not so Red Ken

HOW ON earth can you support Ken Livingstone for London mayor? It is outrageous. We saw Ken's true colours during the Balkan War. He gloried in the bloodbath and as for what he said about Tony Benn, that alone should put him beyond the pale for anyone with a spark of internationalism in their bones. The left should look for a candidate in its own ranks, and not support this man of blood.


Join the union to have a say

MY WORKPLACE does not have a union, but we are trying to build one and win recognition. I was recently approached by someone who is not a union member. He wanted to know, if he joined the union, whether he would have a say in who Labour's candidate for London mayor would be. He said he wanted to do anything that would stop Dobson, because Dobson would give the Tories a chance of winning!

We talked about the state of the tubes in London and the things that the city needs, and why Labour's selection process is all wrong. By the end of the afternoon he had completed his union membership form and given it back to me. The lesson? Politics builds the union.


Tony Benn drops whip

THE SIGHT of Tony Blair sitting on a platform flanked by Tory ex-ministers Clarke and Heseltine at the launch of the Britain in Europe campaign was enough to turn your stomach. Michael Heseltine pre sided over the pit closure programme in 1992 which ripped the heart out of working class communities.

It was especially welcome therefore to hear that our MP, Tony Benn, has also had enough. At the recent annual rally of the Chesterfield Pensioners' Action Group, Tony announced from the platform that he has written to the Labour chief whip stating that he is no longer prepared to simply follow the Labour whip in the House of Commons. Tony's actions are symptomatic of the deep crisis affecting tens of thousands of Labour activists as they look on with horror at the antics of New Labour.

In Chesterfield a significant group of leading local Labour Party members travelled down to the lobby of the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth. We need to make sure that we don't miss out on the opportunity to win angry and disillusioned Labour party activists to our politics.

JAMES EADEN, Chesterfield

Staff cheer Mark Thomas

COMEDIAN MARK Thomas recently exposed the role of the Export Credit Guarantee Department (ECGD) in the British arms trade. He showed how taxpayers took over the death merchants' costs when the weaponry they delivered to Iraq wasn't paid for. The ECGD is giving the same guarantees on the Hawk jets sold to Indonesia.

Having only left the ECGD last year, a good number of ex-workmates have got in touch with me to say that I've missed all the excitement around the making and showing of the programme. They tell me they are livid that management banned them from speaking to Mark Thomas.

Many are glad that Thomas embarrassed management. The PCS union has now called a meeting to show a tape of the programme! It should open up a debate about management, their big business beneficiaries and this Labour government.

PAT CARMODY, Amsterdam

CNN REPORTS that the US State Department has poured scorn on Russia, saying that 'Moscow was using more military equipment in Chechenia than it was allowed to under the 1990 Treaty of Conventional Forces in Europe.' Was NATO within the limits of the above treaty in its frenzied attack which rendered Yugoslavia and its innocent population in tatters for many years to come? We do not think that after the war in Yugoslavia that either the 1990 treaty nor the agreement from the Helsinki Conference, nor the UN for that matter, have any importance and relevance in future global interventions.

BOB VLAJCIC, Chiltern Peace and Justice Group

I AM interested to know whether you will be urging your members to attend the demonstrations against the World Trade Organisation that are planned for 30 November. They are being organised by the same people who organised the 18 June Carnival Against Capitalism.


NO ONE who looks at the violent, chaotic, war torn world we live in and imagines a better one can fail to be cheered to hear that the favourite song lyric voted for in a BBC poll was John Lennon's 'Imagine'. Everyone must want to turn their imaginings into reality.

COLIN FANCY, South London

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Article information

Sat 30 Oct 1999, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1670
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