Socialist Worker

Have marchers gone to pot?

Issue No. 1869

THE BOSSES are on strike against the democratically elected president of Venezuela, but their movement is not as popular as the rich in that country would have us believe. They claim they represent a mass, popular movement against the left wing president, Hugo Chavez.

But in fact the media is using all kinds of tactics to make the strike and the opposition seem bigger than they are. One of the trademarks of opposition demonstrations has become making noise by pot-banging.

But the upper class protesters have been caught out recording pot-banging on CDs and playing it on loudspeakers to make it sound like there are more people out demonstrating than there really are.

Is Alan a turn coat?

TRADE minister Alan Johnson told a TUC conference that managers are still in the driving seat when it comes to making decisions about their businesses. He was adamant that new European directives on consultation would not lead to 'joint decision making' in the workplace. How confusing.

There used to be a trade union leader called Alan Johnson, who was the spitting image of this minister. This other Alan Johnson was the leader of the post workers' union when they were on a national strike in 1996 against management's right to push workers around.

HYSTERIA about terrorism is obviously getting to some people. The royal family have had terrorism-proof panic rooms installed in Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

The panic rooms are bulletproof, bombproof and poison gas proof-and cost £1.6 million.

11-plus is a minus

WE ARE always being told that selective schools raise standards in education. A new report shows the opposite is true. Kent has more selective schools than any other county. A third of Kent's schools are grammar schools.

But the number of failing schools in Kent is three times the national average. In Kent the number of secondary schools judged to be 'poor' is twice that of education authorities with similar levels of deprivation. Education secretary Charles Clarke is continuing to push ahead with specialist academies, promoting the same kind of divisions everywhere that have been so damaging in Kent.

Tell the bosses to get off-piste

THE WORLD elite is becoming more scared of the anti-capitalist movement. The Swiss government has approved draconian new security measures to defend the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos this week. It is going to turn the Swiss skiing resort into a military camp.

It has agreed to send 2,000 soldiers, create a no-fly zone and grant the military the right to shoot down unauthorised planes. The government has also granted 100 foreign security guards permission to use firearms.

The residents of Davos aren't happy about the summit either. 'From a business point of view the WEF is bad for us,' says Alexandra Bossi, who runs a sporting goods store. 'The demonstrators have a right to give their opinions.'

Cheap thrills

MOSCOW'S NEW super-rich are so bored with their gilded lifestyles they are paying a company to let them experience being poor. Punters pay £3,500 to play at being homeless, dressed in rags and smeared with rotten turnip.

In another jolly jape, wives or girlfriends dress as prostitutes and bets are laid as to which one gets approached first.

Dame Shirley Porter and her husband Sir Leslie Porter were lavishly entertained at a glittering diplomatic dinner in the British embassy in Israel last November. Dame Shirley, the Tory ex-leader of Westminster council, is on the run from Britain over her role in the 'homes for votes' gerrymandering scandal.

She still owes the council £26 million. The British Law Lords described her as politically corrupt. Despite this she was entertained by diplomats at the expense of taxpayers.

Smoking barons

THERE IS a gang of drug dealers whose wares are smuggled round the world. They try to push customs officers into covering for them by saying they are trying to curb the worst of their drug smuggling.

One gang belonging to a shady organisation with a funny sounding name accounts for a whole 25 percent of the illegal trade in their drug. Yes, it's the Imperial Tobacco company-a multinational that can't stop its cigs being smuggled around the world and so tries, unsuccessfully, to get customs to vouch for the sincerity of its attempts.

THE government is always saying it can't afford to fund higher education. They tell us there is no other way but to bring in top-up fees to pay for degree courses.

In fact, the department of education has spent £1.7 billion less than its budget. That is £470 million more than parents and students have had to fork out in tuition fees since they were introduced five years ago.

Why Blair is a red

NEW LABOUR is skint. The party is over £10 million in the red as donations are falling. Now it is having trouble paying the £5.5 million mortgage on its posh new offices in Westminster.

So New Labour is asking its supporters to have a whip-round. Ever ready to cater for the better off, Labour will award you 'silver membership' for a £100 donation or 'gold membership' for a £500 one. Apparently, less than 1,000 people have taken advantage of this offer.

Things they say

'I AM not persuaded of the case for war. We have not had much evidence. I don't think Saddam is necessarily the right target.'

'INSPECTION IS a better way of disarming than bombing. It has not been shown there is any near-term threat from Iraq to Europe or beyond. War may lead to a situation worse than the one we have now.'

SIR TIMOTHY GARDEN, former air chief marshal

'I WOULD not want to lead my troops into battle unless I was totally convinced of its just cause. So far, this does not seem to be the case.'

'IF WE are talking about war, I think it is disproportionate. I don't think Saddam, though very nasty internally, is danger enough to be worth a war.'
SIR MICHAEL QUINLAN, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence

'I'VE real concerns with any war. Since 9/11 there seems to be a link between Iraq and terrorism that politicians have allowed to grow despite there being no evidence. Will any conflict make the region safer? I don't think so.'
JOHN NICHOL, former RAF officer captured by Iraq in the last Gulf War

'WE SHOULDN'T go to war. Since troops returned home in 1991, 558 have died as a result of Gulf War syndrome. For the past ten years British and American planes have been using uranium-coated bombs on the Iraqis. Now we want to send troops there?'
JAMES MOORE, Gulf Veterans' Association

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 20 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1869
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