Socialist Worker

Tube workers are not safe with Blair in charge

Issue No. 1894

THE WARS in Iraq and Afghanistan were built on many lies, but the terrible massacre on Madrid's railways highlights one of the biggest-the world is not a safer place. As RMT members on London Underground we are only too aware of the vulnerability of the tube network. The same newspapers that supported the war regularly run stories with lurid headlines telling us how the bombers are out to get the Underground.

The official response has been a poster campaign and a slight increase in plain-clothes Transport Police officers, which is not what our union has demanded. Our response has been twofold. On the one hand we want an increase in uniformed tube staff who can properly monitor the trains, depots and stations.

On the other, we have played a small but, we hope, important part in building the movement against the recent wars. We have also been part of shaping a political alternative to the slaughter promoted by Bush, Blair and Aznar. Iraq was a major factor in redefining our relationship with Labour. We don't feel safe with these people in charge. When it's safe to work in Baghdad, free from an army of occupation, then it'll be safe to work in London and Madrid.

Our sympathies are with those families who lost their loved ones in Madrid. Our admiration goes to the millions who saw through the lies of Aznar and booted him out.

London Underground workers Ross Marshall RMT young members' chair, Unjum Mirza RMT political officer, Tony Collins RMT health and safety rep, Edgware Road, Dave Walker RMT train operator, Pete Trotter RMT train operator, Fiona Prior RMT health and safety rep, Bank/Monument, Mac McKenna health and safety rep, King's Cross, Lynda Aitken RMT train operator, White City, Martin Sharpe RMT functional council rep

Get to London forum

PEOPLE ARE still discussing the recent World Social Forum in Mumbai, India-some critically. We know that participants don't rush home and overturn capitalism. Yet we have seen how just a single issue-hatred of war-has roused millions of people to march and protest. Now they are questioning the whole approach of their rulers.

It's said that only the united power of industrial workers can crush capitalism. But what if a country, despite a sizeable industry in services, minerals and arms manufacturing, is mainly rural-like India? How can those workers learn, unite and show their strength?

People at the forums see the links. They are brought to a wider view, to a more active rejection of capitalism. See for yourself. Go to the European Social Forum in London-14 to 17 October. It's going to be brilliant-energy, purpose and a great celebration.

Gaye Bennett, Respect European Parliament candidate, Yorkshire and Humberside

A large audience

SOME 600 people attended an 'Iraq: Peace and Justice' meeting in Carlisle on a Saturday evening two weeks ago, addressed by Tony Benn. Distrust of New Labour was evident, with several questions regarding alternatives to New Labour.

Many people we spoke to expressed interest in Respect and supplies of coalition leaflets were exhausted. Following this success we are planning to hold a Respect public meeting in Carlisle.

Caroline Renwick, Carlisle

Why should left back PR system?

I ENJOY Colin Barker's Socialist Worker column very much. I would like to ask Colin a question about proportional representation (PR). I have been reading Socialist Worker for 30 years and I don't recall it advocating PR. Recently some Socialist Worker writers, including Paul Foot in his Guardian column, have come out in favour of this system of voting.

Is this turnaround due to the SWP's decision to stand candidates in elections? PR may well make it easier for socialists outside the Labour Party to be elected to office. But the same could be said for far right groups such as the BNP. Surely this is not what we want?

In what way is PR preferable to the 'first past the post' system which currently exists?

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Campbell has no shame

ALASTAIR Campbell graced Manchester with his presence as part of his 'one-man tour' last week. A number of Socialist Worker Student Society (SWSS) members went along and we were absolutely appalled. Campbell stuck by Blair and Labour and worked his way around every single question.

Two of our members walked out in disgust over his actions, but myself and the other SWSS member stayed until the end where we blocked the entrance to the venue with the North West Respect banner and gave out dozens of leaflets. I urge anyone if Campbell comes to your town to go and raise the roof at his justifications for war, fees and Blair.

Diane Stoker, Manchester

Spain: we stood up for democracy

AFTER THE bomb attack on Madrid on 11 March and the defeat in the elections of the Popular Party the right in the US and Britain have said that the Spanish citizens are cowardly. Right wingers claim that Spanish voters have yielded to the terrorists by voting for the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party has promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq by 30 June if the UN does not take control of the occupation.

Once again the right are lying. The mobilisations of the Saturday before the elections were the continuation of enormous anti-war demonstrations. Also they know that the vote to punish the Popular Party depended to a great extent on the fact that they put us into a war that nobody wanted.

The Spanish people have not yielded to terrorism. People know that the bombs that killed 202 people are the terrorist answer to the invasion and terrorist occupation of Iraq that has taken almost 15,000 lives already. For Bush, Blair, Aznar and their newspapers what they have done in Iraq is not terrorism. They say that they are taking democracy to Iraq. They are liars.

Pablo Fernandez, Madrid

Cruel reminder of the vile Tory past

THIRTY MEMBERS of my housing association went to a Westminster council meeting in west London last week to hear the results of an auditor's report into the 'Homes for Votes' scandal 18 years ago. The Tory council launched a 'dirty tricks' campaign against residents who were trying to stop the sell-off of their homes to private developers.

Dame Shirley Porter was ordered to pay Westminster residents over £40 million for her involvement in the scandal. Last week's report was the Tories' best opportunity to apologise and for Tory councillors Simon Milton and Judith Warner, who were on the council at the time, to come clean about their involvement. As if.

The whole experience was like being caught in some vile Thatcherite time warp. The Tory councillors congratulated themselves over being recently voted 'Council of the Year', berated residents and Labour councillors for being 'sad' and said we should be consigned to the 'dustbin of history'.

One resident, who had been placed in an asbestos-riddled flat with her baby as part of the gerrymandering tricks, was really upset. She said every morning she wakes up and worries that her daughter will be affected by asbestos.

The Tories deliberately tried to break up our community. If ever a reminder was needed of how despicable local council politics really are and how badly we need an alternative, such as Respect, this was it.

Julie Bundy, West London

No open gates

I WAS shocked recently when I arrived at New Cross Gate tube station. Over 15 police in the foyer, a further 30 to 40 in the rest of the station plus nine immigration officials and yet more revenue officials were crowded into the station complete with sniffer dogs.

The immigration officer told me as they couldn't stop and search people themselves they were using the police to stop and search people they thought might be 'illegal immigrants'. They stopped one man because he 'had a strong African accent'. Maybe instead of cutting the number of civil servants they should cut back the police numbers and let us get on with our lives instead of harassing working class communities.

Matt Raine, South London

Attack relates to all teachers

BURIED UNDER the budget coverage was the shocking announcement from education minister Charles Clarke last Tuesday that all teachers will be subject to performance-related pay (PRP) from September 2005.

At present if teachers complete their qualifying first year we can expect to progress through six increments automatically, with very rare exceptions. Only then do we choose to submit to PRP criteria for what is called the Upper Pay Spine (UPS). Few of us can afford not to apply for this.

To their shame every school national union apart from the NUT has signed up to a string of pay and conditions deals with Clarke in the last 18 months. He has obviously decided to put the boot in, knowing that the majority of unions have played possum for so long now on so much.

But Clarke may have gone too far on this. Official statements from the second biggest union, NASUWT, oppose this step. Headteacher unions, for whom this proposal represents a massive increase in workload, are also unhappy.

The opportunity is now open to get a united school staff response on this. A model motion and petition can be downloaded from the Socialist Teachers Alliance website

Nick Grant, secretary Ealing NUT

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 27 Mar 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1894
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.