Socialist Worker

Bolkestein will mean misery across Europe

Issue No. 1980

Whether it’s the attack on pensions and schools in this country, Italian students protesting against education “reforms”, or the Irish Ferries seafarers occupying their vessels, there is a common theme to many of the stories in this week’s Socialist Worker.

Across Europe ordinary people are confronting a neo-liberal policy which seeks to open our services to naked market forces. The Bolkestein directive flows from the decisions made at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (Gats), and endorsed by the European Union (EU) council. Taken together these aim at the privatisation of all services and the demolition of labour regulations and health and safety conditions across the EU.

Bolkestein has not yet been endorsed by the European parliament. But already Irish Ferries has tried to sack its workforce and replace them with Eastern European labour paid a pittance.

Italian students are protesting against the EU’s “Bologna process”, which insists that university degrees should be “relevant” to the needs of the labour market.

The WTO meets in Hong Kong next week. It is pushing towards a complete liberalisation of services and total deregulation of labour. In Europe it aims at deepening the “race to the bottom”, as each government competes to offer the most profitable way to exploit its workforce.

Protests will greet the WTO in Hong Kong. And in Europe we need to fan the flames of resistance against the EU agenda championed by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson. The fight for our pensions is part of a much wider rebellion.

Civil rights

Race and class are still linked, 50 years on

It is 50 years since Rosa Parks triggered the Montgomery bus boycott and the black civil rights movement in the US. Ending legal segregation in the Southern states was a tremendous achievement. But how much has really changed?

George Bush’s administration boasts that it has a black woman, Condoleezza Rice, as secretary of state. She parades herself as an heir to the great movement of the 1960s, when she’s not justifying torture flights to secret CIA dungeons.

In one sense she’s right about what she represents. She is part of a thin, conservative layer of black people that made it into the middle class and beyond on the back of the civil rights struggle. But for the vast majority of black people life is getting worse.

Young black men are more likely to be in prison, on probation or on parole than at college. Despite the fall of legal segregation, race matters. And, as the gulf between Rice and black poor of New Orleans shows, it is entwined with class — not only in the US, but here too.


Blair’s ‘youth’ won’t stop our movement

To “stop Respect in their tracks” in next spring’s council elections is the promise London Young Labour makes in its current newsletter.

It is another tribute to the impact Respect has made that Labour supporters in the capital are being told this is a priority in “a very important year for the Labour Party”. But trying to stop an express train in its tracks is never that easy.

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What We Think
Sat 10 Dec 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1980
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