Socialist Worker

Blair fears ice will break in Britain

Issue No. 1806

TONY BLAIR has more to worry him than the jibes of the right wing press. According to the Guardian, 'Tony Blair is seeking to avert what threatens to be the biggest wave of industrial unrest in the public services since Labour came to power in 1997.' Blair is used to entertaining big business fat cats and socialising with media celebrities.

But now he has had to hold a series of meetings with trade union leaders in Downing Street. Blair is worried about a rebirth of the trade union militancy we were told had disappeared forever from Britain. During the 1980s the Tories claimed to have defeated the working class once and for all.

Then New Labour proclaimed the end of the class struggle and the beginning of a new era of 'social partnership'. Blair is being forced to recognise the deep bitterness that threatens to explode. People are sick of coping with the destruction of public services, low pay, job insecurity and increasingly stressful lives.

They are fed up with watching the rich get richer, with being pushed out as housing prices rocket, and of being lied to by companies that promised them a decent pension only to snatch it away. Blair's solution to these problems is to lean on the trade union leaders and try to persuade them to contain the anger. Unfortunately, at the moment, he seems to be meeting with some degree of success.

Many of them simply repeat what Blair says, while others argue against him but stand back and do nothing to stop him. But there are signs that things are beginning to change. Strike ballots are being held for workers across local government, the post and London Underground.

There was another echo of the change at the RMT rail workers' union conference last week. Fury at Labour's privatisation plans led the union to slash its affiliation fees to New Labour by more than half.

It also withdrew financial backing from leading Labour figures like John Prescott and Robin Cook who refused to endorse union policies such as renationalising the railways. General strikes in Greece and Spain last week and big strike movements in Germany and Italy recently all show how struggles can break out. Blair's meetings with the union leaders show that he can see the possibility of the ice beginning to melt in Britain too.

Report destroys lies

POLITICIANS AND the media have whipped up a huge scare about the Sangatte refugee camp near Calais. Again and again we have been told that the camp is a magnet for refugees from around the world heading for Britain.

David Blunkett is demanding that the camp is closed down. But these arguments are deliberate lies calculated to whip up prejudice, according to a new study of the refugees at Sangatte. The people in the camp are mainly Afghans and Kurds. The vast majority of them had no thought of reaching Britain when they fled their homes.

Even fewer had ever heard of the Sangatte camp before they reached Western Europe. The study also found that the vast majority of the camps' residents are young and relatively well educated. They had not left their homes to find work, but to escape from 'political persecution' and 'war and violence'.

They are exactly the people we desperately need to come and live and work in Britain. They should be welcomed.

Seville: anti-capitalists march

OVER 100,000 anti-capitalists protested against the European Union summit in Seville, Spain, last week.

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What We Think
Sat 29 Jun 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1806
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