Dated: 28 Jun 2003
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He won't even allow tax debate NEWSPAPERS and most politicians united in an angry howl of rage last week. They were outraged by the suggestion that company directors presently grasping £500,000 a year might have to get by on £25,000 or even £50,000 less. A newspaper owner grabbing £2 million a year might lose £150,000! How would he survive! Last week in the corporate hospitality rooms at Royal Ascot the parasites from the City and big business quaffed £500 bottles of champagne and stuffed themselves with £300 lobster lunches.
THE PRESS give the impression that vast numbers of workers are hit by the top tax rates. In fact only around 10 percent of people pay the higher income tax rate of 40 percent levied on salaries over £34,515 a year. Very few of these are ordinary workers.
"UNIONS HAVE been mobilising and we expect good delegations from the postal workers' CWU and firefighters' FBU," says Matt Saywell. He is a member of Broxbourne Against Racism, which is mobilising for Saturday's march in the Hertfordshire town where the BNP has one councillor. "The GMB London Region is also supporting the march, as are local churches," says Matt. "We've had a really good response from local people."
WE REPORTED last week on the fight by 102 year old Winifred Humphrey against being evicted from the care home where she has lived for nine years. The callous owners of the home in Whitstable, Kent, have now thrown her out to make way for a fee-paying resident.
THE GOVERNMENT is fighting to quash another revolt by backbench MPs. Labour MPs fear introducing top-up university fees could cost them seats at the next election.
Tension with New Labour
THE THREAT of further action by First Group bus workers across South Yorkshire has led to a new pay offer. Over 1,000 workers had defied the recommendation of their TGWU officials to accept the previous offer.
BALLOT PAPERS went out this week for the general secretary election in Aslef, the train drivers' union. General secretary Mick Rix is seeking re-election, nominated by 83 branches. Shaun Brady, who has only 11 branch nominations, is challenging him. Rix became general secretary five years ago in an election that marked the beginning of a series of successes for left wing candidates.
THE GOVERNMENT has admitted that its Arms Length Management Organisations (ALMOs) are a staging post towards full privatisation of council housing. ALMOs were introduced by the government in the face of opposition from tenants and trade unionists to the handover of council homes to housing associations and private companies.
ANTI-WAR activists Pete Heddle and Tony Staunton were found not guilty at their trial in Plymouth on Monday of this week. They were arrested in February during a 500-strong march and protests through Plymouth city centre.
ONE OF Blairism's last outposts in the trade union movement received a major blow last weekend. Delegates gathered for the last ever MSF union conference as it is about to complete its merger with the AEEU union to form Amicus. They narrowly voted to affiliate to the Stop the War Coalition.
THE RMT London Region held its first political day school last Thursday. About 70 people took part in debates and discussions on issues from the war to our links with Labour. Tony Benn and Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition kicked the day off with a history of the labour movement.
UP TO 300 people packed in to Dewsbury town hall on Thursday of last week in a meeting organised by Kirklees United Against Racism and Fascism. It was called to build on the successful campaign to keep the Nazis from building roots locally.
OVER 100 delegates from Connect, the union for professionals in communications, met last week. The conference marked a change in industrial direction for the union, with a new general secretary anxious to align Connect somewhat more closely with the "awkward squad" of unions.
RMT UNION activist Glenroy Watson has won his appeal and has been reinstated as a tube driver. This is a major climbdown for London Underground management. Glenroy suffered a clear case of victimisation when he was demoted to a station assistant. Management have backed down. But, as Glenroy rightly states, "We must continue to fight against this injustice." He still has a two-year warning, leaving him open to attack.
OVER 80 people joined a "free the refugees" rally at Haslar immigration removals centre in Gosport last Sunday. The rally was organised by Portsmouth Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers and supported by campaigners from Southampton, Oxford, Yarls Wood and the No Borders group in Brighton.
SOME 1,000 Otis lift engineers were due to continue their strike action on Friday of this week in a dispute over pay. Otis is the world's largest manufacturer of lifts with businesses in 200 countries. Yet it imposed a 1.7 percent pay deal. Workers, who are in the Amicus union, have rejected a further 2.2 percent offer, which would only be granted by local managers based on individual interviews.
CAR WORKERS in the Amicus union at the Honda car plant in Swindon have won a 3.7 percent pay claim. Jim D'Avila, Amicus regional secretary, said, "This result is an important victory and demonstrates the value of union membership."
MICHAEL Meacher was New Labour's environment minister from 1997 until he was sacked by Tony Blair a fortnight ago. In government Meacher was in charge of policy on genetically modified (GM) crops. Now he has blown apart the whole case for GM crops pushed by Blair and that government. In a devastating article in last weekend's Independent on Sunday, Meacher accused Blair of ignoring scientific evidence on potential dangers from GM crops.
UP TO 70,000 people took part in the protests outside the European Union summit near Salonika, Greece, last weekend. "It was a tremendous sight as people came together down the seafront in the centre of the city," says Panos Garganas, editor of Socialist Worker's sister paper in Greece, Workers Solidarity.
THE SEARCH for weapons of limited destruction in the shape of guns haunts our cities, according to senior police officers of the Met. They talk of wild gun-toting Yardies and Albanians threatening the fabric of our society, especially in the suburbs where they threaten to flood us with drugs. Newspaper headlines scream out that gun crime has reached epidemic proportions and that it's no longer safe to tread any urban street.
A TOP US general is already comparing the occupation of Iraq to the "quagmire" the US sank into in Vietnam. The US had "failed to understand the mindset and attitudes of the Iraqi people and the depth of hostility towards the US in much of the country", admitted retired general William Nash last weekend.
OVER 600 people attended the Stop the War Coalition's activist conference held in London on Saturday. "The size of today's conference shows that the anti-war movement has not gone away," said coalition convenor Lindsey German. "That is also clear from public meetings up and down the country. They are drawing in hundreds of people. Some areas are having bigger meetings than they did in the run-up to the war. The war is also continuing in Iraq. It is continuing in that they are making threats against Iran. So our movement must continue. People feel that we were vindicated in opposing the war. Now we have to continue to build on that. They have a project for the new century. We should h
THE spectacular libel against George Galloway by the US paper the Christian Science Monitor has come crashing down. The paper admitted last week that its story about Galloway receiving $10 million from Saddam Hussein's regime was based on documents that were crude forgeries. It has apologised to Galloway. Rightly, he has refused to let the paper off the hook.
LOW PAID workers at the Royal Bolton hospital are the latest group of NHS staff to strike against private NHS contractors. The 150 workers are employed by ISS Mediclean, one of the largest private cleaning firms in Britain. The ISS group raked in £200 million profit last year. Domestics (cleaning staff) get £4.47 an hour, with porters getting £4.61. They are demanding £5 and £5.60 respectively.
"THE TEXTILE workers are like the coal miners in Britain, to make a comparison. They are a very old section of the working class and have a long history going back to the mid-19th century. They have been involved in many struggles and formed the backbone of the city for many years.
ANYONE INVOLVED in the anti-capitalist movement can only welcome the call that George Monbiot makes in his interview in Socialist Worker last week and in his new book The Age of Consent for "a global democratic revolution". Monbiot unflinchingly targets what he calls "the global dictatorship of vested interests".
How do you assess the growth of the anti-war movement and the opportunities for the left?
"MR BLAIR, we will take strike action again." This warning came from Dave Prentis last week at the conference of the Unison union. He is the general secretary of the 1.3 million strong public sector workers' union. Prentis praised the strikes the union's members have staged in the last year. He warned more would follow unless the government coughed up to tackle low pay and improve schools and hospitals.
THERE HAS been an explosion of ideas and debate in the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements. People are hungry for answers, and words have been poured over the inequality, misery and war created by global capitalism and how to stop it. On the eve of a previous wave of protest, one which saw revolution spread across Europe, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote one of the most famous and influential political pamphlets of all time: The Communist Manifesto.
Jeremy Hardy v The Israeli Army
THE WHEELS have come off Tony Blair's bandwagon. Millions of people have rumbled his lies over the war. A television mock trial, which presented the anti-war case badly, still found Blair guilty of mass deception by a margin of two to one. The aftermath of the war and New Labour's ongoing attacks are producing immense political debate and questioning across Britain. It finds only the faintest echo in the cosseted world of official politics.
IT IS with great sadness that we learnt of the death of Ros Gardner, who had been suffering from a long term illness. She will be remembered by many comrades in London, Bournemouth and Southampton. She was a very committed member of the SWP and was an inspiring speaker. She was particularly active during the miners' strike and helped collect large amounts of money to keep Shirebrook, Derbyshire miners going.
CHARLIE MOORE, a lifelong socialist, trade unionist and working class fighter, died last week aged 89.
Brutal policy against the elderly in homes RAGE, the Relatives Action Group for the Elderly, is maintaining its fight. The campaign works with families, unions and community organisations to stop the rationalisation of public sector care homes for older people. Research produced by RAGE in 2001 revealed that up to 450 care homes and day centres were threatened by either closure, privatisation or transfer/partnership.
FAMILIES FROM Nigeria are trying to take drugs giant Pfizer to court for using their children in botched drug trials seven years ago. Last week the 20 families were fighting to have their claim for compensation heard in a New York court.