Dated: 31 May 2003
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GEORGE BUSH, the butcher of Iraq, is arriving in Europe this weekend. He is flying into Evian in France to meet with his fellow leaders of the "G8" richest industrial countries. He comes determined to hammer home his victory in Iraq - even though every day there are reports of more deaths and killings in the country he claims to have liberated.
A multinational corporation broke the law to try and undermine a strike against poverty pay last week. Cleanaway, part of the giant Brambles corporation, faced a week-long strike by 150 bin workers demanding an increased London weighting allowance. The workers get a basic pay of just £200 a week.
HUNDREDS OF people have been shot dead in Iraq over the last three weeks. They are the victims of both US patrols and of rival gangs who have exploited the power vacuum created by the occupying powers. The UN children's agency UNICEF also warns that the humanitarian crisis in the country is getting worse - with continuing blackouts, untreated sewage pouring into drinking water, food shortages and epidemics.
"SEVEN WEEKS without money. Minimum wage. Drowning in debt. No money to feed kids." That's how one woman summed up the impact of the chaos gripping the government's system for paying tax credits. The means-tested credits are the centrepiece of Chancellor Gordon Brown's welfare plans.
UP TO 1,600 jobs to go in schools. That's the reality behind education secretary Charles Clarke's claim that he has sorted out the schools funding crisis. Clarke tried to wrongly blame local education authorities for holding back government cash from schools.
A FIGHT between low paid journalists and a multinational corporation has reached a decisive stage this week. The Newsquest corporation is one of Britain's biggest owners of local newspapers, and is a subsidiary of the US multinational Gannett.
Janice Godrich is the president of the PCS civil servants' union and a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. She spoke to Socialist Worker about the upcoming elections to the union's national executive, which begin on Friday 6 June. The socialist Left Unity group and the PCS Democrats group are standing a united list in an attempt to defeat the right wing Moderates group that has dominated the union.
THE LEFT dominated the annual conference of Natfhe, the university and college lecturers' union. Delegates felt lifted by the recent experience of the anti-war movement. This fed into overwhelming opposition to New Labour's policies on every front and larger than usual meetings for Rank and File, Stop the War Coalition and the Socialist Alliance.
COUNCIL WORKERS in Luton from the TGWU, GMB and Unison unions held a 40-strong protest of the council on Thursday of last week. Workers were protesting against plans to privatise the building, cleaning and printing departments. Jim Gregg, Unison branch secretary, said, "These are loyal, dedicated workers who after years of operating under difficult conditions are now finding themselves outsourced."
AROUND 80 people protested against the first council meeting of Nazi BNP councillor John Savage in Sandwell, West Midlands, on Wednesday of last week. The protesters were mainly members of Sandwell Unison union. Tony Barnsley, the assistant branch secretary of Sandwell Unison, said, "We think the BNP have conned their way into power by blaming asylum seekers. Our members, particularly our black and Asian members, feel threatened by the BNP. I will refuse to work for them and we are encouraging our members to do the same." Another BNP councillor failed to show up for the meeting.
ANTI-WAR movement teach-ins, discussion meetings and debates continue to attract large and enthusiastic audiences across Britain. Those which took place last week included:
OVER 70 protesters staged sit-downs outside the gates of the nuclear dockyard in Plymouth last Saturday. The demonstrations followed news reports that HMS Tireless, a nuclear submarine based at Plymouth, was damaged after colliding with an iceberg. More than ten "T" class submarines are based in Plymouth, all having the same design fault.
TONY BLAIR'S candidate for a top position in the postal workers' CWU union was soundly defeated last week. John Keggie, a member of Labour's national executive, was defeated by Dave Ward for the post of deputy general secretary (postal). This is the position which Keggie presently holds. Keggie took 16,814 votes - Ward won 19,404.
HUNDREDS OF Inland Revenue workers in the PCS civil servants' union unofficially walked out of their offices for 15 minutes on Friday of last week. The workers were protesting against the crisis caused by the government's new tax credit programme which left Britain's poorest families waiting for vital money.
AROUND 140 council manual workers, members of the TGWU and GMB unions, met on Wednesday of last week in central Manchester to discuss resistance to the imposition of new contracts by Manchester City Council. Hundreds of cleaners and "street scene" workers face new duties and the loss of weekend working pay enhancements.
HUNDREDS OF workers for Hanson Bricks, Britain's biggest brick producer, are set to take strike action in a dispute over pay. The workers, in the TGWU, Amicus and GMB unions, have voted overwhelmingly to strike. The first strike is set for Monday 9 June. The second day of action is set for Monday 16 June.
A FANTASTICALLY well attended Birmingham Gay Pride 2003 last weekend celebrated cultural and sexual diversity once more with tremendous verve and great style. The weekend was great fun, kicking off with a traditional march from the city centre and continuing with a vibrant street party, market and fairground attractions. There was also a strong political atmosphere and many revellers were concerned by the Nazi BNP's recent council gains.
SOME OF the lowest paid workers in Britain are rebelling. Nursery nurses in Scotland and health workers in North Lincolnshire and east London were set to strike this week for a living wage. They are sick of doing important, caring jobs for pitiful wages that won't pay the bills. They want to be treated with respect, not taken for granted as low paid skivvies.
THE THREAT posed by 16 British National Party(BNP) councillors in Britain has united anti-Nazi campaigners in a call for demonstrations on Saturday 28 June. Protests are planned in Burnley, Broxbourne, Halifax and Tipton - places where the BNP have conned people into voting for them.
THE STAKES are mounting in the battle over workers' pension rights in France. Sunday saw a new round of massive demonstrations against the Tory government's plan to force workers to work more years, and pay more, for poorer pensions. Around 600,000 people marched in Paris, with tens of thousands more marching in cities across the country.
UP TO 50 million Indian public sector workers joined a powerful one-day strike in protest against government privatisation plans on Wednesday of last week. Workers in banking, insurance, the post office, transport and mining joined the action ensuring major disruption nationwide. For the second time this month, a strike has hit the financial sector particularly hard.
ONE OF the biggest talking points of the past few months has concerned where the war on Iraq leaves relations between Europe and the US. Many people on the left have been speculating that the European Union (EU) can, under French and German leadership, emerge as a counterweight to the US.
THE FIRST voice I heard as I left the cinema was saying, "Well I thought that was total bollocks, I really did." No one seemed to disagree, certainly not me. The original Matrix was a successful film because it was clever, because it used its effects budget well, and because it had what Hollywood calls "crossover appeal".
THE RIGHT wing tabloids and the Daily Telegraph have whipped up a frenzy over two issues over greater European integration. The furore is over the referendum over the European constitution, and whether Britain should adopt the euro currency.
IF 14 police officers had been killed during their course of duty the national press would have created an outrage. Their pictures would have been on every front page. We would know their faces, names, and ages. We would know the grief and heartache of their families and colleagues.
Zackie Achmat is one of the leading figures of the South African movement fighting to get lifesaving drugs made available to everyone living with HIV and AIDS. He was an anti-apartheid activist from an early age. Although he is HIV positive, he is refusing to take antiretroviral drugs until they are made available for everyone in the South African public health system. He is chair of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
What are your main criticisms of capitalism?
THE GUARDIAN has called its new book on the war against Iraq The War We Could Not Stop. The title reflects the desire of millions of people to stop the war and their anger when the mightiest military power in the world unleashed its devastation on a poor and oppressed people.
EVERYONE SHOULD smell a rat when Rupert Murdoch's Sun claims to care about mass sackings of workers. Billionaire Murdoch is responsible for massacring many thousands of jobs in the print industry here and abroad. But Tuesday's Sun had the nerve to play on fears of redundancy in order to whip up pro George Bush hysteria over Europe.
ANYONE WHO believes that the government's assault on asylum seekers leaves the most desperate "legitimate" refugees untouched, should look at Abas Amini's face. The Home Office is appealing against a decision to give him asylum in Britain. He is so desperate he has sewn up his own eyes, mouth and ears in protest.
MANY IN York were shocked by the sudden death of Colin Clark. Colin fought for socialism in the Labour Party and in engineering and council workplaces in the West Midlands during the 1960s and 70s. Let down by Labour, he joined the Socialist Workers Party in York. In his early fifties he successfully studied for a degree in History and Spanish.
Casablanca's two cities THE RECENT suicide bombings in Casablanca in Morocco were horrific and wrong. Attacks like this kill innocent people and do nothing at all to change the things those carrying them out are angry about. But we have to understand that people are right to be angry at the poverty and injustice in the world and offer an alternative which offers a real way to change things.
"THE MOVEMENT is so fresh. Why do you look back to old ideas? Why do you produce a paper and spend time selling it?" Those questions came up at a recent Marxist forum. The answers in the discussion arose out of the experiences people have had within the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements.
AN Arab-American woman who was in court to fight a parking ticket fainted when a US judge asked her if she was a terrorist. Anissa Khoder has now filed a complaint about judge William Crosbie. She says that after giving the judge her reasons for why the parking ticket should be dismissed, "He said something like, 'You have the money to support terrorists, but you don't want to pay the ticket.'