'We need workers not shareholders'
NOTHING HAS changed on the railways since Paddington. Now four more passengers have paid with their lives in the Hatfield disaster. While Railtrack is making 1.3 million a day profit, millions of passengers have gone through hell as the privatised rail companies are unable to cope with emergency speed restrictions.
The private rail industry has collapsed into utter chaos. As socialists and rail workers we say that the railway is not safe in private hands. The running of a rail network for public need is not compatible with corporate greed. In the aftermath of Hatfield, Railtrack was rightly identified as a major cause of the disaster. But it was almost instantly told it would receive an additional 4.7 billion from the government.
It is no good throwing money at a company that has utterly failed. Our own employer, GT Railway Maintenance, continues to threaten redundancy to staff who could carry out vital maintenance. Even after Hatfield, rail companies still care more about profits than safety.
What we need is our union leaders to lead a fightback. They should call a national demonstration to renationalise the rail and call on the TUC to back it. It should not be left to the heroic survivors of disasters to fight for rail safety. Our unions must be at the forefront of this struggle. Our industry needs more workers, not more shareholders.
- DAVE BARNES, GTRM South branch chair, TSSA, and BILL ASHCROFT, GTRM Company Council rep, RMT
Alliance brings socialism into Sheffield arena
THE SHEFFIELD Socialist Alliance was launched recently at a meeting of around 160 local activists. People at the meeting were enthusiastic at the prospect of putting left wing politics back on the agenda. As a steel worker I know only too well that the confidence of workers to take action is not high.
But I also know that those same workers are more open to political discussion than they have been for years. The bitterness against New Labour is very deep. The manner in which New Labour has ditched any pretence at socialist policies and embraced corporate business has left a political vacuum which socialists must fill. If we don't, a drift to the right by workers is a possibility.
Sheffield is traditionally a Labour city. But New Labour has left countless activists disillusioned. We can draw them towards us if we show we are a viable left alternative. The Socialist Alliances must become rooted in the communities and the workplaces by activity.
Political interventions in campaigns such as the defence of council housing will raise socialist politics generally. The Socialist Alliances are a great opportunity to spread our politics to a much wider audience.
- NICK RILEY, Sheffield
Refugees are staying here
I WAS put on trial on 5 October for protesting at Heathrow airport against the forced deportation of Kurdish asylum seeker Amanj Gafor. Amanj resisted so bravely on the plane that the passengers and flight crew demanded the deportation be stopped.
At my trial the police barrister and the judges did not know the new European human rights legislation that had come into force three days before. Because of this they delayed the trial. When the accused don't know the law they are sentenced as criminals. When the judges don't know the law they get two months revision time to make sure they can convict.
We are going to make sure this trial backfires. We may lose, but we can push the issue of abuse of the human rights of asylum seekers up the political agenda. We must unite and resist for all our brothers and sisters fleeing the effects of capitalism.
- MIKE TAYLOR, branch secretary Bristol NUJ
Hope inside the beast
I HAVE recently started work in the Home Office. I asked the trade union secretary to send an e-mail to all members with some information on the collection of toys for children of asylum seekers. The response so far has been amazing. Colleagues from Bristol and Croydon have been in contact to ask where local collection points are.
Every day I have e-mails from other colleagues requesting information on how to help. I've also asked colleagues to collect clothes and bedding (especially with winter fast approaching), and again the response has been fantastic. If I can get this kind of response at the Home Office, where the policies of the voucher system and anti-asylum seekers were conceived, imagine what you can do amongst friends, family, neighbours and colleagues.
- ANGELA MUNLEY, West London
CWU MUST ACT
I AM very concerned about the evidence that racist bullying at the Aston sorting office in Birmingham caused a young black postal worker, Jermaine Lee, to commit suicide in November last year.
The black newspaper the Voice revealed how Jermaine's father launched a campaign to find out what had caused his son to kill himself. Because of this he was subjected to racist phone calls and hate mail.
Many of the black and Asian workers at the sorting office have complained of harassment and intimidation by the management. It is extremely worrying that the CWU union seems to have done very little to challenge this racism. It is only through the efforts of the father that this injustice has come to public attention ten months after the event.
The CWU should have been leading the campaign to root the racists out of the workplace from the very beginning.
- DAVID, London
LAST WEEK I was on a demonstration in Barcelona in Spain in solidarity with the people of Palestine. I was shocked to see that the organisers allowed a local Nazi group to join the march.
The Nazis attacked members of the left group Izquierda Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Left), who objected to their participation. We want to win over Jewish workers just as much as any other workers, and we can't do that if we march alongside people who are the heirs of Adolf Hitler. This would hand the most powerful weapon possible to the Zionists, and makes it impossible to argue for a democratic and secular solution in the Middle East.
- COLIN SPARKS, North London
"BEST VALUE" is New Labour's replacement for the Tories' Compulsory Competitive Tendering, which saw the wholesale privatisation of council services. An excellent new pamphlet by the Centre for Public Services (CPS) makes it clear that it is no replacement.
Best Value talks of the "Four Cs"-Challenge, Compare, Consult and Competitiveness. As the pamphlet says, "A fifth C is Cuts". Pamphlets available at 1 from CPS, 1 Sidney Street, Sheffield S1 4RG. Phone 0114 272 6683.
- ROBERT CAMPBELL, East London
Fight closure of Ford plant
WE ARE a group of Ford workers who want to fight the closure of the Dagenham plant. For weeks our union has left us in the dark about when mass meetings and a ballot for strike action will be held. Some shop stewards have even recommended transferring to Southampton. Where is the fighting talk in that?
There are loads of people in the plant who want to take on Ford, but Tony Woodley of the TGWU union and Ken Jackson of the AEEU union might sacrifice us in the run-up to the general election. We're not sitting back, but are trying to kick some life into our leaders. If Ford wins, it will be a defeat for the whole working class.
Any struggle we put up would win massive support across the plant and east London. But our union leaders have to act now.
- FORD DAGENHAM WORKERS, East London
WE HAVE made a video highlighting cuts and closures of community facilities all over Glasgow. Our aim is to try to unite Glaswegians in their struggle against these closures. One thing after another is being closed, and this is ripping apart our communities.
We want to make a comprehensive list of all the community resources that have been closed in the last five years and projects under threat of cuts or closure. What action is your community actively involved in? Tell us how your community is prepared to stand up to these closures and let other communities learn from successful community action.
- ISABEL, Glasgow, www.videowatchdog.co.uk
TONY BLAIR wants environmentalists and business to work together to improve the environment. Mistaking platitude for partnership is like assuming equality between landlords and tenants, employers and workers, racists and asylum seekers, and rich and poor.
Recent events have exposed the conflict between private profit-making and public safety. The government must choose between the short term greed of the anti-health, pro-pollution multinationals and their mass media, and the continuing long term need of the public. JOHN NICHOLSON, chief executive UK Public Health Association, Manchester
SOCIALIST Worker is the only real alternative to the lies printed in the daily newspapers. However, when it comes to reviewing films or TV programmes, providing the political content is in line with socialist politics it will be given a glowing review. Art has to be reviewed for its artistic worth. Socialism doesn't always make a good film.
- SHELAGH STEWART, Manchester