Socialist Worker

'Military' tactics won't stop anger

Issue No. 1676

ALONG WITH thousands of other people demonstrating against the World Trade Organisation at Euston station last week I was outraged by the behaviour of both the press and the police. Before the event the press massively hyped up expectations of violence.

Yet despite this the mood in the early evening was excellent. Protesters cheered speakers who attacked the role of the WTO and the big multinational companies who are taking food out of the mouths of the starving. There was a sense that we could make a difference in this rotten world. Then the police came in. It was like a military operation. They wore what I can only describe as armour, carrying steel batons and riot shields, and with cameras and film equipment.

Having corralled people into an enclosed area the police then began to charge repeatedly into a compressed crowd with nowhere to run. It was sheer terror tactics. We were made to feel like criminals for doing no more than demonstrating against world poverty. Is this how policing will develop under New Labour?

I raised the matter the next day with my union branch when we discussed a motion reaffirming our commitment to the Livingstone for mayor campaign. Union members were appalled at what had happened and overwhelmingly passed a motion condemning the actions of the police. We need to do the same up and down the country. Make no mistake, this lot are prepared to use all of the old Tory methods and then some to defend the free market system they have come to cherish.

MARK O'BRIEN, assistant secretary, Tower Hamlets NATFHE

Police took their revenge

I WAS at the anti-WTO protest outside Euston station last week, and I was shocked and appalled at the brutal treatment we received at the hands of the police. As I walked up the road to Euston I saw hundreds of fully kitted out riot police piling in behind the station before the demonstration had even started. There were police vans everywhere, swamping the pro test, and it was impossible to get near the area without having a police camera stuck in your face.

The police were comparing the photos with pictures of protesters from the J18 Carnival Against Capitalism in June this year. The police behaviour last week was not about protecting people or stopping things 'getting out of hand'. The police were out for revenge for the J18 mass protest.


Sink NATO lies

DURING THE well publicised protest at Euston station against the World Trade Organisation, another lively protest was in full swing. James Shea and Lord George Robertson, two of the brutal faces of NATO during this year's Balkan War, came to Greenwich for a banquet celebrating the 50th anniversary of NATO. They travelled by river and were barracked by around 100 protesters at Westminster. They got on the boat and walked into the banquet with the words 'murdering scum' ringing in their ears from a 50 strong crowd in Greenwich.

It was brilliant to know that the financiers of Railtrack and other City fat cats were under attack while we were making the top brass of the Western military feel very uncomfortable. James Shea's lies over Serb atrocities and NATO accuracy are being exposed every week. It is important we keep up the pressure on these murderers whenever they make an appearance.

GUY TAYLOR, South London

Rank and file at Ford need to stick together

IT WAS great to see Ford workers at the Dagenham plant decisively throwing out our bosses' latest pay deal. It shows the positive impact of the Dagenham workers' recent walkouts over both racism and pay. Nationally, Ford workers voted to accept the pay deal, but it would be wrong to think we were all happy with it.

At the PTA at Ford Halewood some 70 percent voted for the deal, but many of us were angry about it. A lot of workers were asking, 'What the hell's going to be in store for us in three years time?' Our union officials told us the pay deal was the 'best we could get', and unfortunately many workers didn't feel confident enough to challenge that.

We're expecting to produce Jaguars, and we're constantly told that the only way to guarantee that is if we work harder and don't rock the boat. Last month, however, we walked out here after a worker committed suicide. Many workers felt this was the final straw. The walkout was the culmination of a whole host of grievances. Yet our union leaders quickly tried to dampen down these sparks of anger. They should have been encouraging, not discouraging, us to take more action and linking the issue to a fight over pay.

Ford workers now have to negotiate some of the strings at a local level. The bosses want to divide us plant from plant in the hope it will weaken any resistance. We should learn the opposite lesson-that, more than ever, rank and file workers need to organise and stick together across every plant.


London mayor

An eye opener on Tony Blair

SOME 150 people attended a lunchtime hustings meeting in Lambeth, south London, last week to hear Labour's candidates for mayor. It was a real eye opener on how deeply people hate Tony Blair. Ken Livingstone and Glenda Jackson addressed the meeting. Jackson was heckled by some of the audience when she claimed that Labour's plans for Public-Private Partnership for the tube were not privatisation.

The mood of the audience was very angry. Everyone who attacked privatisation on the railways and tubes or who spoke against the market went down well. A council tenant complained bitterly about the sell off of sections of the housing department.

Labour Party members were livid at Blair's attempts to block Livingstone. A local NUT official was furious at receiving a letter from her local MP supporting Frank Dobson. I'd never seen so clearly just how great the potential is for Livingstone's campaign to be a focus for all those opposed to Blair.


Easy to raise in workplace

THE KEN Livingstone issue has struck a real chord in my workplace. We have launched an open letter in east London for trade unionists and Labour Party members to sign in support of Livingstone. Nearly every member of my UNISON branch committee has put their name to it.

Our union branch has also agreed to back Livingstone, circulate publicity, work with other local union branches to organise a hustings, and get the open letter published in the local east London paper. Every trade unionist can do this. The issue is easy to raise in workplaces because the contest is about more than just tube privatisation. It is turning into a referendum on New Labour.

SAM BIRNIE, East London

Mood for change on the buses

IT HAS been encouraging to see the reports in Socialist Worker of the recent bus strikes at Centre West and action by other bus workers. I am a driver with First Aberdeen, part of the First Group company, and we face similar attacks. We're forced into long working hours and terrible shift patterns. New drivers are discriminated against with worse terms and conditions.

There is the potential for strike action right across the industry. Our bosses are panicking at the thought of united action across First Group. Why don't our TGWU union leaders call a national day of action in support of the Centre West strikes? But union leaders seem more interested in cosy deals than in fighting. So we need to get organised ourselves. I've sent a message of support to the strikers at Centre West and this week I am raising solidarity in my TGWU union branch.

BUS WORKER, Aberdeen

Film is attack on capitalism

HELEN Shooter's review of the film Fight Club missed the point completely. The film is a scathing critique of capitalism and the fake liberalism it surrounds itself with. The central character, played by Ed Norton, is disgusted by his job in a car company which cynically gambles with people's lives. The Fight Club allows such men to vent their anguish on one another, playing roles that are unachievable in day to day life.

In many respects the film is a satire on the so called 'male crisis', which Susan Faludi depicts in her book Stiffed. It is also about the nasty way in which advertising pushes a type of 'beauty' to which people have to conform. Fight Club is a plea for civilised values and a protest against the deadening anguish that capitalism puts people through. It would be a mistake for socialists to dismiss it.

R SEYMOUR, South London

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Article information

Sat 11 Dec 1999, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1676
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