Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker


Issue: 1852

Dated: 24 May 2003



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Let's tear up all the SATs

"I AM going to completely boycott these tests. I am never doing the SATs in my school again." That's what Birmingham primary school head teacher Carol Lyndon told Socialist Worker on Monday after her frustration at the government's compulsory tests for school children reached breaking point.


International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other

News

Bechtel in London to carve up Iraq

BECHTEL, THE biggest vulture to have got its claws into Iraq since the invasion, planned to be in London on Friday this week. It wanted to hand out a few scraps to British firms linked to government projects here. Bechtel is a byword for ruthless privatisation. The US government has given it the principal contract, worth $680 million, to "reconstruct" Iraq.

Poor suffer in chaos of Brown's benefits

SOME OF the poorest families in Britain are still waiting for vital tax credits which make all the difference in enabling them to get by. Many have now been waiting over six weeks for money they were supposed to receive on 6 April. Other benefits like free school meals cannot be claimed until tax credits are processed.

Mystery of break-in at TV offices

EVIDENCE OF a sinister smear campaign against anti-war MP George Galloway is mounting following a mysterious break in at the office of an independent TV production company he is associated with. Files, videos and computer hard drives were removed from AVL Media in Kilmarnock on the very day the Daily Telegraph published its outlandish claims about Galloway.

How far will new law go?

NEW LABOUR managed to spin a five-year delay over making companies accountable for deaths at work into a dramatic new initiative on Tuesday. Tony Blair promised to introduce a "corporate killing law" in the 1997 general election manifesto.

Going through the roof

A SURVEY this week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation confirmed what millions of people know - house prices in Britain are beyond the reach of most working people. The survey, by Steve Wilcox of York University, compared prices of small houses with average incomes of working households, aged between 20 and 39, across England.

Fury over fire deal

BULLYING JOHN Prescott finally got leaders of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) to accept an appalling deal for their 52,000 members on Tuesday. FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist accepts it will mean job losses, but is recommending it is accepted at a special union conference.

Occupation watch

United against US OVER 10,000 Shia and Sunni Muslims marched through Baghdad on Monday to oppose the US occupation. US snipers overlooked the demonstration from rooftops as protesters chanted against the new US governor in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and his plans for a delayed Iraqi government in the future.

More joining all-out strike

ACTION OVER low pay by journalists working for US media giant owned Newsquest is hotting up as more vote in favour of industrial action. Sixty journalists from Newsquest Lancashire are in their fifth week of an indefinite strike and are set to be joined by 48 of their Bradford colleagues on Monday.

Nursery nurses

SOME 140 nursery nurses in Kirklees completed five days strike action last Friday. The strikers, who are members of the Unison union, had already taken four days of action as part of their campaign to win a regrading. The action is having a big effect.

Recognising will to fight

AMICUS MEMBERS at the Fujitsu Services site at West Gorton, Manchester, voted by two to one in an indicative ballot for action up to and including striking in support of their pay claim.

Defend council housing

COUNCIL TENANTS and trade unionists face major battles in the coming months as the government presses ahead with its plans to privatise council homes. Some 125,000 council homes are targeted in the coming year in 17 major councils for straightforward transfer to housing associations, dubbed Large Scale Voluntary Transfers, from Manchester and Hartlepool to Lambeth and Islington.

Anti Nazi League

DEMONSTRATORS protested against Nazi BNP councillors in Burnley on Thursday of last week. Around 80 Anti Nazi League members picketed Burnley council's first meeting since eight BNP members were elected. The Nazis turned up in two chauffeur-driven limousines to celebrate their election win.

Civil servants

SECTION ELECTIONS in the PCS civil servants' union have resulted in important gains for the left. The right wing lost control of the key inland revenue group and were almost wiped out in the Department of Work and Pensions.

Battle at critical stage

"WE'VE NOW got to go out and win a resounding vote against this deal on the stations, and then at the recalled conference." With those words Paul Embury from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) at Islington station, north London, summed up the feeling of many hundreds of activists in the union.

Scunthorpe throws out low pay offer

AROUND 350 low paid health workers in the North Lincolnshire NHS trust have rejected a pay offer from their private employer, Carillion. Domestic, catering and portering staff have walked out on strike on two different occasions in support of their £5.02 an hour pay claim. The workers, at hospitals in Scunthorpe, Grimsby and Goole, endure terrible pay and conditions. Many don't get sick pay or a work pension.

TSSA

THE STRENGTHS and weaknesses of the Transport Salaried Staff Associations (TSSA) were highlighted at this year's annual conference. TSSA has historically relied on the militancy of the RMT to win pay claims in the past.

Postal workers

POSTAL WORKERS in London are continuing their pay campaign although the prospect of unofficial action is unlikely in the short term. London branch secretaries and reps met the CWU union's general secretary, Billy Hayes, last week.

London weighting

AROUND 1,000 workers employed by local councils in London were striking for three days this week from Tuesday to Thursday. The action is part of council staff's ongoing fight to win an increase on the London weighting allowance - the money they get for working in the capital.

Bectu

DELEGATES AT the annual conference of the broadcasting and entertainment union Bectu delivered a blow to New Labour last weekend. They went against the union's leadership and carried a motion demanding a membership-wide vote on the union's affiliation with the Labour Party. The vote produced a 61 percent majority in favour, with delegates casting branch votes of 9,165 votes for and 5,960 against.

Empty promises leave millions enslaved by debt

PROTESTS AGAINST the G8 summit of the world's most powerful countries in Evian, France, will begin next week. George Bush will be jetting in for the summit, fresh from the slaughter in Iraq. Evian is not just a chance to protest to demonstrate against the warmongers. It brings together the people who impose brutal capitalist polices across the globe.


International

Pension fight rattles Tories

THE BATTLE to defend workers' pension rights in France is at a critical stage this week. The Tory government has been rattled by last week's strikes and demonstrations. Up to two million workers joined marches across the country and many more walked out of work.

Strikes and protests add to turmoil

DEMONSTRATIONS took place in Germany on Saturday against government plans to cut unemployment and other welfare benefits. The government wants to make it easier for bosses to sack workers. Over 10,000 marched in Berlin. The protests came as strikes in key sectors hotted up over a demand to cut working hours.

Round up - Belgium & South Korea

Why support for the far right has grown BELGIUM'S general election saw a terrifying surge in support for the far right Vlaams Blok (Flemish Block). The party is overtly racist and pushes savagely anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.


Comment

Hard kicking from Murdoch

FOOTBALL USED to be called "the people's game". Not any more. The professional game now mirrors Blair's Britain, with a growing gap between the handful of rich clubs at the top of the Premiership and the also-rans in the Nationwide leagues. Clubs used to be owned by local businessmen with big cheque books and even bigger egos. But now the top clubs are listed on the stock exchange and are controlled by the City of London institutions.


Features

Gaza, Afghanistan, Iraq... The bitter fruits

THE devastating bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia and Morocco shattered 75 lives, and with them the great lie at the heart of George Bush's "war on terror". We were told the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq would "make the world a safer place". The US government, and Blair, have all but abandoned the pretence that invading Iraq was about weapons of mass destruction. Instead, Bush says Saddam Hussein was a key player in the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Do you want him to be judge, jury and jailer?

CRIME RATES are falling - but that doesn't stop home secretary David Blunkett whipping up hysteria over crime to help him ram through major attacks on civil liberties.

Why won't the trade unions punch their weight?

GEORGE Galloway's suspension from the Labour Party is due to be considered by the party's top internal committee on 10 June. The National Executive Committee (NEC) has the power to overturn the suspension, which was issued by the party's unelected general secretary, David Triesman, on behalf of the Blairite hierarchy two weeks ago.

Brazil's Lula clamps down on his left wing

LULA, THE former socialist and leader of the Workers Party who was elected president of Brazil last year, is turning on left wingers in his own party who oppose the pro-business policies he is pursuing in office. Three Workers Party deputies in Brazil's Congress are being threatened with expulsion from the party for opposing Lula's tax and pension plans which will hit workers.

War in DR Congo: Who is to blame for the 3.5 million dead?

Soon after the 11 September attacks George Bush declared that the US and the world were facing "the first war of the 21st century". He was contemptuously brushing aside a war in which almost 3.5 million people have died. This has been going on since 1998 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Central Africa. It still goes on today.


Reviews

To Kill a King: the world turned upside down

To Kill a King is an interesting new film about the English Revolution in the mid 17th century. A revolt, led by parliament, broke out against the tyranny of Charles I's regime in 1642. After years of civil war and attempts to compromise broke down, revolt became a full-blooded revolution.

Antwone Fisher – controlling the present

Denzel Washington's first film as a director is deeply touching. The true story of Antwone Fisher, who wrote the screenplay, is an inspirational tale about a young man attempting to gain control over his present and future by coming to terms with his past. Antwone, played by Derek Luke, is enlisted in the US navy and is prone to uncontrollable outbursts of anger.


What We Think

Fat cats fall out - why not skin 'em all?

THE £22 million payout for GlaxoSmithKline boss Jean Pierre Garnier has revealed the obscene scale of the wealth, opulence and luxury at the top of society. It shows that nothing has changed under New Labour. Bosses are still awarding themselves millions in salaries, bonuses, share options and "golden parachutes". In fact the fat cats are revelling in an even more grotesque way than they did in Margaret Thatcher's heyday.

Voices for Palestine

OVER 5,000 people rallied in Trafalgar Square on Saturday of last week in support of the Palestinians. The date was chosen to mark the 55th anniversary of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians at the founding of the Israeli state in 1948.

What's the real divide on the euro?

THE DEBATE over Britain joining the euro currency is tearing New Labour apart. The government's deep splits have been reopened in the run-up to the announcement on the euro on 9 June. Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are set to haul in cabinet ministers one by one to try to hammer home a line.


Other Categories

Letters

More and more people standing up to Nazi BNP Many people in the local community here were shocked when the British National Party (BNP) got someone elected to Broxbourne council on 1 May. On Tuesday 13 May we had a local protest against the BNP councillor taking up his position.

I love the smell of graft in the morning

TONY BLAIR had some friends round for breakfast at Number 10 last week. On the menu was the carve-up of lucrative NHS contracts, and round the table a clutch of fat cat privatisers.



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