'WE ARE just knocked out down here by the coverage of our dispute in Socialist Worker,' says John Drake, chair of the Fire Brigades Union in Gloucestershire. 'It's the only paper telling the truth about our dispute, with the exception of the Daily Mirror. But Socialist Worker does more - it helps build solidarity from the wider trade union movement.
'For a lot of firefighters, this has been the first opportunity to read Socialist Worker. People are taking to it, not just because it answers the smear campaign in the rest of the press, but because it talks about other issues as well. Lots of FBU members who would have described themselves as unpolitical are now starting to understand the importance of other workers' battles. When this is over, that understanding is going to leave a legacy of a strengthened FBU and trade union movement. And Socialist Worker will have played its part.'
Socialist Worker supporters have thrown themselves into organising solidarity for firefighters. At the invitation of the Amicus union reps, firefighters from Gorton fire station in Manchester brought along a fire engine, leaflets and buckets, and collected over £65 outside Fujitsu West Gorton.
One reader from west London visited Chelsea, Fulham and High Street Kensington stations. He says, 'I brought £50 from a lunchtime collection at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital and four full A4 petition sheets to the Chelsea fire station. 'The pickets were delighted. People at all three stations bought Socialist Worker.'
BBC news on Monday featured pickets at Gipton station in Leeds who were fuming at Blair's attacks on the FBU at his panic press conference. Eight of the pickets had already got last week's Socialist Worker. It's not only on FBU picket lines that people want to get the paper.
The same is true of sales in other workplaces, high street sales, colleges and schools. Those sales are helping to build a network of support for the firefighters. One school student in Liverpool collected £12 from classmates and took it to Allerton fire station, where four pickets bought Socialist Worker. The message from across the country is clear:
- Organise collections for the firefighters.
Offer people the paper. It carries the facts and arguments to counter the government's propaganda. In doing so, it strengthens and helps to organise a wave of solidarity that can see the firefighters win.