Dated: 12 Jul 2003
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LEAVE ASIDE all the technicalities, exactly who said what and who knew what. The message that should have come out in this week's report from a Commons committee was that the war was for oil and US power and it was launched by lies. It is a lie that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that could be ready in 45 minutes. It is a lie that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger. It is a lie that Iraq had rebuilt factories capable of producing biological weapons.
ONE MILLION of Britain's poorest families are to lose money the government says they are entitled to. The government could snatch back up to half a billion pounds it had pledged would go to the poor. Chancellor Gordon Brown promised his new tax credit system would lift millions of people with children out of poverty.
WHEN MEMBERS of the TGWU union gathered for their conference they brought with them many bitter experiences of life under Labour. The union organises shop workers, security guards, bus drivers and factory workers. Many who spoke in the conference debates described living at the sharp end of Labour's neo-liberal policies.
THE CONFERENCE of the TGWU manual workers' union in Brighton last week provided further evidence of the shift to the left amongst rank and file trade unionists. Many delegates spoke about the reality of their working lives (see page 7). Almost every motion at the biannual conference was critical of New Labour, whether it was foundation hospitals, privatisation, the war, anti trade union laws or low pay.
SOME 30 parents and teachers attended a meeting at Moreland Primary School in Islington, north London, last week to protest against cuts. Moreland is one of ten schools in Islington with a budget shortfall. That is leading to bigger classes, the scrapping of 1.8 teaching posts and redundancies for two teaching assistants.
WORKERS AT the Peugeot car plant in Ryton, Coventry, have been told they have to accept a pay cut or face sweeping job cuts. The workers, members of the Amicus and TGWU unions, are being balloted over whether to take a drop in wages or see the plant's night shift cut and hundreds of jobs lost.
"THE TESTS have got to go. I would be personally willing for my children not to do them." That's what headteacher Angie Tate told a packed meeting in Camden, north London, last week.
THE INCREASING anger among Labour Party members at Tony Blair saw some 400 people gather at a conference on Saturday organised by the Labour left. The bulk of those at the "Save Our Party" conference, called by the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs, have spent many years inside the Labour Party. John McDonnell MP spoke of "the level of discontent, disillusion and lack of trust in the New Labour leadership."
PCS CIVIL servants' union members were celebrating a historic victory for democracy as their union conference began on Tuesday of this week. The Democracy slate of the socialist Left Unity group and the centre-left PCS Democrats swept the national executive elections last week. It won 34 of 43 positions.
THE AREA of Darwen in Lancashire has been devastated by the announcement of 177 job losses at the Imperial Home Decor Group (IHDG). On Tuesday of last week the workers were assembled and individually picked out for redundancy.
THE THREAT of strike action by bus workers on Wiltshire and Dorset buses has forced the company to withdraw its plan to shut the final salary pension scheme. The 460 workers, members of the RMT union, were due to strike last month. The workers will keep the final salary pension scheme and their contributions will increase by 1 percent to a total of 6 percent. The company's contribution to the scheme is 10.5 percent.
SEVEN HUNDRED Stagecoach bus drivers in Exeter and east Devon struck on Tuesday of this week after a 93 percent vote for action over pay. The drivers, who are almost all members of the RMT union, are currently on between £5.50 and £5.93 an hour for a 41-hour week. They are calling for a minimum £6.50 an hour and a one-hour reduction in the working week. This is the first strike by bus drivers in Exeter for 30 years.
"WE ARE out because we are low paid and we deserve more." That was the simple message from pickets at Old Palace School in Tower Hamlets, east London, last week. They and hundreds more staff employed by local councils across London were out on strike all week as part of the fight to win a decent London weighting allowance.
SOME 80 trade unionists from Natfhe, Unison, PCS, FBU, Usdaw and Amicus marched with their banners in Manchester last Saturday. The march was over the bullying of staff at the Mancat college. One department with 20 posts has seen 35 pass through it in two years. The management made an unsuccessful attempt to dismiss the branch secretary last year. Now the college has declared compulsory redundancies in the trade union education unit, which includes a number of union branch activists.
SHEFFIELD: More than 300 people attended a public rally with George Galloway last week, called by Sheffield Stop the War Coalition and supported by Sheffield trades council amongst others. Phil Turner
"WE FOUGHT for our principles and we're overjoyed!" Isabel and Sophia were celebrating on Friday of last week in Tower Hamlets, east London. They and over 100 other nursery workers had just heard of their stunning victory - one that should be a model and a lesson for every trade unionist. Three weeks of all-out indefinite strike had humbled the New Labour council and forced it to retreat on all the key issues at the centre of the fight.
HOSPITAL WORKERS in Bolton were set to be on strike again this week against one of the NHS's biggest private contractors, ISS Mediclean. They planned to strike on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and another three days next week.
ONE OF THE most shameful injustices in Britain's dirty legal history was back in the news last week. In Cardiff Crown Court a man pleaded guilty to the murder of Lynette White in 1988. This is the same crime that Yusef Abdullahi, Tony Paris and Stephen Miller were convicted of in 1990.
THE SPIRIT of the international movement against war and capitalism surged through the Marxism 2003 event in London last week. There were thousands of trade unionists and activists present from all over Britain, and hundreds from other parts of the world.
'DISCOVER weapons of mass distraction," declares the latest Easyjet billboard ad campaign, above a photo of a woman's breasts in a bikini top. Every high street is full of such images, selling records, cars, plumbing parts and mobile phones. The models fulfil society's stereotype of the ideal female shape - they are all skinny and busty.
JOHN BOMBA, a leading Zimbabwean socialist and pro-democracy activist, should have been speaking at this year's Marxism 2003 event in London. Instead he was refused entry to Britain by the UK High Commission in Harare. Here John talks angrily about his experience.
WORK TILL you drop was the message from trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt last week. Under the utterly transparent cover of "tackling age discrimination" she announced the government plans to lift the retirement age to 70 or scrap it altogether.
LINDSEY GERMAN is the convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and the editor of Socialist Review, the monthly magazine of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Lindsey spoke to Socialist Worker as part of our series on the future of the left.
THE STRIKES in France during May and June were amazing. Some people have compared them to the public sector workers' strikes of December 1995. In many ways they were better. On 13 May, for example, there were at least eight million on strike.
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"GEORGE BUSH is coming to South Africa with his hands dripping with the fresh blood of Iraqi people. When they roll out the red carpet for him, it will be to hide the bloodstains." That's how Trevor Ngwane, the leading South African anti-privatisation activist, summed up what Bush's tour of Africa means.
THE BLAIR government lurched towards further confrontation with its own supporters over the health service this week. A bill which includes plans for foundation hospitals had its third reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday. The widespread opposition of Labour backbenchers has forced health secretary John Reid to make some cosmetic changes to the proposals.
'Respectable' mask falls from Nazi thugs THE EVENTS that took place in Burnley after the recent Unity demonstration have revealed the true face of the Nazi BNP. The Nazis hated the fact that a demonstration by local trade unionists, politicians and anti-racist campaigners was being held in what they believe to be "their town".
THE SUN claimed an "exclusive" last Friday when it exposed that "callous asylum seekers are barbecuing the queen's swans". The paper's front page ranted, "East European poachers lure the protected royal birds into traps, an official Metropolitan Police report says."