Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1895

Now it's Waterloo sunset for Blair's New Labour

IN AN important development last week, the Waterloo Branch of the RMT rail workers' union has agreed to support Respect candidates standing in the London Assembly and European elections. The decision reflects the deep disgust members have with a Labour Party that has turned its back on working people.

We have learnt from bitter experience. Two years ago, when we were on strike at Waterloo in a vicious battle over pay and in defence of victimised colleagues, Labour ministers lined up to publicly attack us. Behind the scenes the government manipulated the franchise rules to subsidise our bosses against the losses our strikes were causing.

They covered up serious health and safety breaches, caused by poorly trained managers acting as scab labour-threatening the lives of passengers. Labour's anti-union laws hampered the ability of other rail workers to take solidarity action.

But, while Labour attacked us, other workers did come to our defence. In particular the Socialist Alliance pulled out the stops to provide solidarity. We submitted a resolution to our union's conference asking for a rule change to allow branches to support parties other than Labour.

This resolution opened the door for our union to support the Scottish Socialist Party, and has now led Labour to expel our union. The fight now is to get other RMT branches to follow suit by backing Respect. We are confident that many will. After all, it was Labour that set out to privatise London Underground. It is Labour that has continually supported the private rail companies at our expense.

Some RMT activists think it is too early to support Respect. They want to see a proven track record first. If only life was that easy. It is true that Respect is new and untested in elections. But we know that Respect already has roots in the anti-war movement that the RMT has been pleased to support. Activists in Respect have supported our struggles over the years.

We at Waterloo are confident that, with the participation of RMT, the firefighters' union and other union branches, we can build Respect into a serious political force.

Greg Tucker, RMT Waterloo Branch Secretary

An alternative in Northern Ireland

AFTER WINNING an impressive vote in the recent Northern Ireland Assembly elections, the Socialist Environmental Alliance (SEA) in Derry decided to look at standing in the European elections.

This meant we had to establish the SEA right across Northern Ireland. A convention of the left held in Derry in February went part of the way to making this a reality. A second gathering of activists in Belfast last week means there will be a Northern Ireland wide SEA campaign with Eamonn McCann endorsed as the candidate.

McCann is probably the best known political activist in Northern Ireland. He won 5.5 percent standing in the Foyle constituency in the assembly elections. He pointed out that without the SEA the European election would amount to another 'dual referendum' to determine who will champion each community against the other. The SEA vision for the elections is that of a Europe that puts the needs of working people before the interests of multinational corporations.

The proposed introduction of water charges, which will cost over £400 per year per household, has been justified by an EU directive. The rise in racist attacks is connected to the 'Fortress Europe' project. The crackdown across Europe associated with the 'war on terror' has seen a greater attack on civil rights than even under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Jim Clarke, Northern Ireland

Fearsome force

THROUGH THE late 1980s, nursery nurses and childcare assistants in Sheffield built a three-year campaign for improved pay and conditions, with a very successful outcome. Our employer still draws our attention to the fact that we are paid more than other areas.

We built this campaign brick by brick, making real contact with every school and nursery in the city. Our mass meetings grew to the point where they were standing room only. Then we all went on strike. Possibly the factor that made us such a 'fearsome force' was our working party, which met weekly and which was always looking beyond the next step to the one after.

Ian Wallace, Sheffield

When in Rome, demonstrate

ON 20 March, Rome was host to the biggest of the worldwide demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq. The movement showed that it could mobilise a year after the great march of three million in February 2003-despite those in the movement who tried to put the brake on mobilisation for fear of upsetting electoral alliances.

The Democratic Left (a party based on the right wing majority from the old Communist Party) abstained on the vote on financing the Italian troops in Iraq. When their leader turned up he was booed off the demonstration, while many rank and file members were welcomed as part of the movement. The big question that the demonstration posed was that of a political alternative to prime minister Berlusconi.

Phil Rushton, Naples, Italy

Your view...

A letter from Billy Hayes

I AM responding to your piece on the political fund (27 March, page 15). You quote Derek Durkin, Scotland No 2 branch secretary. I assume that you are quoting Derek accurately and I am copying this letter to him. In your piece you say Derek says, 'That's despite the fact that our general secretary, Billy Hayes, has argued strongly that we must stick 100 percent with Labour at all costs. But we have not even had a letter from him over the affiliation.'

Perhaps Derek's memory is faulty. Upon learning about the decision via the Scotland No 2 branch, I faxed a letter to Derek on 4 February. He replied on 20 February. I sent a further letter to Derek on 23 March seeking more information.

The matter is being dealt with in line with the policy of our union. I would appreciate Socialist Worker correcting the false impression that the general secretary of the CWU has not made contact with Derek Durkin on this matter.

Billy Hayes, CWU general secretary

Little stars make a big noise

I HAD a great time on the Stop the War demonstration. Me, my sister Lily and my mate Ellie made up this fab chant and yelled it most of the way: 'Twinkle, twinkle, little star. Bush and Blair have gone too far. First they went and bombed Iraq. Then they lied when they came back!'

Sorcha Bradley (age 10), London

Shayler comes to the seaside

FORMER MI5 officer and whistleblower David Shayler spoke to a meeting of nearly 50 people in the small Dorset seaside town of Swanage on Wednesday 17 March. He talked about the way the security services and other state organs operate independently of democratic controls.

He exposed the government's claims that their support for the war in Iraq was legally and morally justifiable, and that it had reduced terrorism. Several speakers from the floor referred to the recent massacre in Madrid, Spain.

They argued that the oppressive and exploitative policies of the US government and its allies had intensified the conditions which made terrorism likely.

Fred Lindop, liaison officer, Swanage Peace Group

Japan says 'get the troops out'

THE 20 March demonstration was successful in Japan. Although it was raining heavily and freezing on the day, over 30,000 gathered around Hibiya Park and marched to Tokyo Station. Hundreds of groups got together to say no to war.

Each group picked up many different issues concerning the war in Iraq and expressed their anger and worries in different ways-die-ins, street shows, singing, etc.

When the US started the war, most people in Japan opposed the war and Japan's involvement. However, our prime minister sent troops to Iraq. Japan needs bigger and more actions to stop the war and get the Japanese troops out.

Taka Kataoka, Osaka, Japan

Who created the nationalists?

IN HIS article on Yugoslavia (Socialist Worker, 27 March), Alex Callinicos says, 'Like the leaders of the Croats and the Bosnian Muslims during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Albanian nationalists in Kosovo appealed to the Western powers.' This argument may not be the right way round-perhaps these movements were the creation of the Western powers.

David Leal, London

Why attack this charming man?

I READ about our hero of yesterday and today, Morrissey, in Socialist Worker (27 March). Why do you say that Morrissey flirted with the National Front? I was at the Madness concert mentioned in the article and so know better. Morrissey was only singing, wrapped up in the British flag-but so what?

'National Front Disco' was a song about a boy going to a National Front disco. Did anyone ever think the song might be about a certain kind of music and not about race?

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Article information

Sat 3 Apr 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1895
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