Socialist Worker

No taste for farmers' bull

Issue No. 1671

ON FRIDAY, Saturday and Sunday last week we had a French market in our town, with French people selling their produce. On the Friday someone set up a fruit and vegetable stall in the market flying a Union Jack. It was covered in posters saying 'Buy British' and 'End the ban on British beef'.

It all coincided with the disgusting stuff about France in the tabloids. But the market was packed with local working class people and some who had travelled in from outside Gravesend. All the food stalls had queues, and I'm glad to say the British stall only had a few customers. The 'Buy British' stall did not come back on the Saturday or Sunday.

We have had constant media coverage against French food. Yet my experience is most people didn't go along with the nasty nationalist fervour that the press and some politicians are trying to whip up.

Stench of hypocrisy

TESCO MANAGERS proudly announced that they were backing the 'Don't buy French Goods' campaign. What a bunch of hypocrites. The same Tesco boasts about selling cheap Levi jeans. But they don't talk about the children as young as seven who make those jeans in Thai sweatshops. All the supermarkets are using the bigotry whipped up by the media to pretend that they are on the consumer's side. But after a week of massive press propaganda it doesn't seem to be working.

There has only been a tiny fall in the amount of French goods sold in Tesco stores. French bread, wine and mustard remain as popular as ever. Yet beef sales are still 18 percent lower than they were five years ago! The supermarket bosses, big farmers and the government are responsible for the deregulation of food safety, and they live in big houses in a town or village near you.
TESCO WORKER and USDAW union rep, North London

Rail meeting demands end to privatisation

WE CALLED a meeting in Brighton on 'Safety not profit, Renationalise the Railways' on Friday of last week which around 30 people came to. A divisional rep from the ASLEF union, a UNISON fire brigade rep and a local Labour councillor all spoke on the case for renationalisation. The meeting showed how disgusted everyone is that the fat cats have played Russian roulette with our lives.

Many people made links with how the fat cats have behaved in other privatised utilities. It got good press coverage, with a report on local radio before and after the meeting. The Evening Argus had an article with the headline, 'Commuters Demand State Owned Railway.' Everyone at the meeting agreed we should build local protests and support the national march on 6 November.
RAIL WORKER, Sussex coast

London mayor... London mayor...

A vote to beat Blair

IN THE race for leader of the Labour Party in Wales, and therefore who would head the Welsh Assembly, there were two candidates - Tony Blair and Rhodri Morgan. This is how thousands of people in Wales saw the contest. They wanted to see Blair's candidate, Alun Michael, get beaten. When Rhodri Morgan was stitched up and Michael got the job, Labour Party supporters were furious.

Socialist Worker supporters actively backed Rhodri's campaign. In the unions we launched petitions demanding the right to vote. We leafleted workplaces and produced posters as part of the movement against Blair. But is Rhodri Morgan a radical left winger? Not particularly. He was always keen to say he was a fan of Blair and offered no alternative political strategy. He was simply the anti-Blair candidate.

Now living in London I find the same mood surrounding Livingstone - with one major difference. Livingstone has made himself the anti tube privatisation candidate. A victory for him would be a huge boost to the resistance to Blair and privatisation.

Take sides

ANYONE IN two minds about backing Ken Livingstone for mayor should ask themselves a question - Do you want the chance to put two fingers up to Blair? The opinion polls in the London Evening Standard show that the majority of Londoners want that chance. They are sick of New Labour's love affair with the fat cats. They think public transport should remain public, and safety should come before profit.

Voting for Ken would show New Labour we're fed up with Tory policies. That is why union branches like mine, Brent UNISON, have decided overwhelmingly to back Livingstone. Members voted to support his campaign as a focus for resistance to the attacks working people face. Local unions in Brent are setting up a hustings meeting to rally support for Ken.

That does not mean we have all buried our differences with Ken, or that we've forgotten his capitulation to Blair over the Balkan War. It means we have a chance to turn the tables on Blair. The Labour Party leadership are pulling out all the stops to stitch up Ken. No one, including Ken Livingstone, should think this is just an internal Labour Party matter. A campaign for Livingstone is a chance to campaign and argue for a real alternative to New Labour.

Young, angry, united

A GROUP of us from Leeds University went down to the Students Fighting for Socialism event last weekend. It was brilliant and had a number of excellent debates. One that stood out for us was the rally with a rail worker and Tony Cliff which showed the need for workers and students to unite. Also there was the meeting with the Campaign Against the Arms Trade. Such united meetings are essential. Now at Leeds we have written a letter with the People and Planet group to the chancellor demanding the university stops its role in the arms trade.

Protest at trial

WE ARE campaigning in defence of the three imprisoned members of the International Socialists of South Korea (ISSK). The court is denying them the right to free speech from the dock. The judge, Kim Shi-soo, ordered prison guards to forcibly take out comrades Kim Nak-joon and Lee Jeong-goo, who were asserting their right to free speech.

The president of South Korea, Kim Dae-jung, is lauded in the West. But he has launched repeated attacks on trade unionists and the left over the right to free speech. International protests over the last two years have succeeded in beating back attacks on free speech and getting sentences quashed. We are planning to hold a protest rally in November.

To send messages of upport, donations or order factsheets, write to Committee to Defend South Korean Socialists c/o Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 0171 637 1848.

Cops to blame?

YET ANOTHER black man has died after being held in police custody. Osmond Hayes died in hospital four days after being rushed there unconscious from his cell in south London's Kennington police station. This is the same police station which was responsible for the death of Brian Douglas in 1996. There has been much talk from Labour politicians and police bosses in the aftermath of the Macpherson report into Stephen Lawrence's death. Yet many people feel as if nothing has changed. I joined a lively picket outside Kennington police station on Friday of last week.
GER FRANCIS, South London

Irish nurses cheer

THE NURSES' strike in Ireland should act as an inspiration for us all, especially those working in the NHS. They have shown how a group of workers regarded as 'too nice to strike' can fight back and win popular support. The parallels with the anger and discontent workers feel in Blair's Britain are obvious. The Irish trade union leaders have signed up to the sort of partnership deals which our TUC loves.

We face privatisation in the NHS which means cuts that cost lives. There is a crying need for our union leaders to take on this government. All we get is a deafening silence. Events in Ireland have shown us the alternative. Roll on the British nurses' strike.
GRAHAM KIRKWOOD, health worker, Norwich

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Article information

Sat 6 Nov 1999, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1671
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