Dated: 21 Dec 2002
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BILLIONS OF people around the world want peace. Opinion polls show the majority of people in every country apart from the US are against war on Iraq. Yet George Bush is out for blood. Bush has already rubbished the dossier on weapons that Iraq produced. He's ready to order the thousands of US troops in the Gulf state of Qatar to kill and maim ordinary people in Iraq.
SOME 600 workers at the Scottish Agricultural College voted by 63 percent to strike over a deal that amounts to a pay freeze for most staff.
THE NATIONAL council of the Socialist Alliance met in London last Saturday, with delegates from local groups across England. Socialist Alliance trade union officer Mark Hoskisson stressed the importance of the crisis facing Labour and how the Socialist Alliance had a key role to play in the debate over the trade union political funds.
GUARDS AND station staff on Arriva Trains Northern were set to continue their heroic fight against low pay with four strikes over the holiday period. "We have called strikes for this Saturday 21, 23, 24 and 31 December," one RMT union member on Arriva told Socialist Worker.
BREAKING national conditions and fire cover standards. A "pay as you go" fire service. That's what the 160 pages of the Bain review into the fire service, published this week, amounts to. Talks between fire service employers and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are scheduled for early January. But Prescott says he will impose Bain's assault anyway.
MILLIONS OF people will be brought face to face with the transport crisis under New Labour in the coming week. Going to visit friends and family over the Christmas period will be a nightmare for many.
TWO DISGUSTING attacks this week brought home the reality of what the "racial problem" is in Britain. It isn't the failure of immigrants and refugees to "fit in". It's the racism and violence they face.
A MOB rioted around parliament on Monday night. Rioters hurled fireworks and scaled the gates of the House of Commons. The crowd burned an effigy of Tony Blair, sat in the road, climbed traffic lights and tried to smash their way through police lines. Imagine the uproar if this had been an anti-war protest, a May Day march, a group of strikers or Asian youth defending themselves in Bradford, Oldham or Burnley.
THE GOVERNMENT is sending a naval task force to the Gulf to prepare for a murderous attack on Iraq. The fleet includes a submarine, a destroyer and an aircraft carrier. Officially the ships are heading for a training event off Malaysia. But one senior official called the exercise "a very convenient cover".
NEW LABOUR'S education secretary Charles Clarke rejoices in the nickname "Biggles". He is now calling in the army to help run local schools. Soldiers will take tutorials with pupils. Government officials claim that soldiers are good role models, especially for boys.
A THREAT to jobs provoked an unofficial walkout by some 390 Rolls-Royce workers in Bristol on Thursday of last week. Workers in the combustion section, who are not known for their militancy, downed tools after their management announced 10 percent would lose their jobs in the next four months.
A 500-strong demonstration marched on RAF Fairford last Saturday, and demanded entry to the base to conduct an inspection for weapons of mass destruction. The Gloucestershire Weapons Inspectors led the march through the village of Fairford.
THE MEHMETI family have won the right to stay in Britain after a ten-month campaign to stop them being sent back to Kosovo. Thousands of people in Bristol backed the campaign - trade unionists, community groups, political groups and even the local Evening Post newspaper. The adjudicator in the case said that given "the level of community ties and huge local support for them remaining, and given their particular difficulties, the balance is in favour of the family remaining in the UK". Jo Benefield
THE GMB union has suspended strikes by 6,000 gas safety engineers. Bosses offered workers at Transco, the privatised monopoly that runs the gas pipeline network, a pay rise of just 3 percent. This was conditional on changes to hours, allowances and sick pay that would have cancelled out the pay rise.
SOME 4,500 Peugeot workers are set to ballot for strike action in the new year after talks over the pay claim broke down. A series of one-day strikes are planned. The talks followed a 90 percent rejection of the company offer (worth 7.3 percent over two years) in a ballot. The company also wants the shopfloor to increase their pension contributions by 1 percent.
LABOUR-RUN Hackney council has suspended three key union activists who all face dismissal for alleged gross misconduct. They are Unison joint branch secretaries Brian Debus and Will Leng plus equalities officer John Page.
OVER 80 people came to a meeting organised by the Argentine Solidarity Campaign on Thursday of last week. They heard an inspiring talk from two workers from the one-year occupation at the Zanon ceramic factory in Neuquen, Argentina. The two workers, Natalio Navarrete and Mariano Pedrero, had attended the European Social Forum in Florence, and afterwards toured Italy addressing Fiat workers fighting job losses.
THREATS OF strike action have won an increased pay offer for airport workers. The workers include firefighters, security staff and engineers at major airports including Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted. The workers' TGWU union had been pushed into opposing the offer by anger from the rank and file after a previous strike was suspended.
A NATIONAL campaign has been launched to protest against attempts to crush the anti-capitalist movement in Italy. Around 80 people demonstrated outside the Italian Embassy in London on Thursday of last week.
THAT SMALL portion of the media not obsessed with Cherie Blair has been rhubarbing about how "historic" last weekend's European Union (EU) summit in Copenhagen was. It was in a way, but not primarily because the EU has finally decided to expand to incorporate ten new member states, mainly relatively poor countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
THE IDEA that refugees in Britain drive down wages and cause unemployment has been blown apart by research released last week. "Immigration is found to have, if anything, a positive effect on the wages of the existing population. Using the most robust data source available, an increase in immigration of 1 percent of the non-migrant population leads to a nearly 2 percent increase in non-migrant wages," says the research summary.
GEORGE BUSH'S US government openly threw itself behind attempts to overthrow President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela last weekend. As it did so the country drew close to civil war. The opposition has launched a campaign very similar to that which culminated in the overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile 29 years ago.
SINCE WORLD War Two the US has been the dominant world power. In some ways that power has declined substantially, like in its share of wealth and production. In other measures it has increased-military force. America's predecessor in world control understood very well what was happening as World War Two drew to a close.
"SUPERBUG SWEEPS Hospitals". "Sharp Rise In Superbug Deaths". These were just some of the headlines in the papers last week. The spark was a study in the British Medical Journal showing hospital deaths from the "superbug" MRSA had risen. MRSA is a bacterium resistant to key antibiotics.
THE GOVERNMENT sent out a clear message this week that nobody should rely on the state pension to look after them in old age. The pensions green paper was published after Socialist Worker went to press, but statements in advance had set out some key elements.
GEORGE BUSH and Tony Blair may preach hollow words of peace and goodwill this Christmas and New Year. But their policies have ensured millions of people around the world live with hunger and fear.
CHERIE BLAIR tries to con us with her tears. She wants us to think she is just a poor working mum struggling to cope with all the pressures and worrying about her eldest child going off to university. Don't make me laugh. She should try living in the real world. As a working woman with three children, the eldest of whom has just gone to university, I know about the kind of stresses and pressures, personal and financial, that brings.
HELL, IT'S Christmas again. Sold to us as the best of times, it's often the worst. Time to trudge round the shopping centre. Time to get stuck in a traffic jam. Time to buy my auntie something she doesn't really want, so she won't think I don't care. Christmas - bonanza time for advertisers. Time perhaps to think about consumerism.
RUN OUT of ideas for Christmas presents? Here's a suggestion from the Evening Standard, self styled voice of Londoners. Dinner for two at the Sketch restaurant is a snip at £450.