Dated: 07 Dec 2002
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Blair's POLITICAL attack on all of us
"THE BIGGEST ever pay deal in NHS history." That was a typical headline after the government announced a new pay package last week for NHS staff. The reality of the package, called "Agenda for Change", is very different. GILL GEORGE, a health worker in Hackney, one of the poorest boroughs in Britain, gives ten reasons why health workers should oppose it.
THOUSANDS OF students were set to join the National Union of Students march for "grants, not fees" in central London on Wednesday this week. Students are angrier this term than I've ever seen them. Higher education is in crisis. The introduction of tuition fees and the abolition of the grant put many people off going to university and stuck the rest of us with an average £15,000 debt.
THE SUN and Daily Mail were cheering this week at the closure of the Sangatte refugee camp in France. The same papers that attacked the striking firefighters also run hate campaigns against refugees.
TEACHERS, school support staff and council workers struck across London last week. Tens of thousands walked out demanding a higher London weighting allowance for the extra costs of living and working in the capital. Thousands demonstrated and they were joined by striking firefighters. Socialist Worker spoke to some of those marching about the day, and how they say the fight going forward.
TRADE UNIONISTS and campaigners met in Burnley last Saturday to discuss how to campaign against the Nazi threat across the north west of England. The mood at the conference, sponsored by the Anti Nazi League, was serious and determined after the election of three British National Party (BNP) councillors in Burnley and one in Blackburn.
WORKERS AT a factory near Burnley have entered their tenth week of selective strike action. They are Amicus-AEEU press and paintline section members at Raven Manufacturing. The workers earn £5.08 an hour and are fighting for a pay increase. Strikers have just discovered the managing director had a 17.4 percent increase last year, bringing his salary to £166,000.
EDUCATION LEEDS, the private company that now runs the city's schools, has been rocked by opposition to its secondary school reorganisation plans. Over the last couple of weeks, parents, teachers and school governors have packed into 'consultation meetings' to angrily denounce the proposals.
PROTESTERS HELD a ninth anniversary rally for the Close Down Campsfield campaign last Saturday. The rally was addressed by Labour MP Julia Drown who claimed the government's asylum and immigration policies were "compassionate".
SOME 80 people attended a conference in Manchester organised by the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs on Saturday. The morning session was boosted by about 200 firefighters who turned up for what was billed as a rally in support of their strike.
AROUND 500 protesters marched in Oxford last Saturday against war on Iraq and for justice for the Palestinians. People of all religions, political orientations and ages united in a display of resistance and solidarity, led by a brilliant band of student musicians. At the rally afterwards there was a determination to build for the European day of action on 15 February. Mike Cotgrave
STRIKING HEALTH workers at the Glasgow North Health Trust trust returned to work on Monday of this week after over three weeks of unofficial action. The low paid admin and clerical workers voted overwhelmingly to end their indefinite strike at a mass meeting.
WORKERS AT airport operators BAA have had to postpone their series of one-day strikes over pay to ballot on the company's revised pay offer. The decision to reballot follows a fierce argument with the TGWU, the union that represents many of the workers.
THE ITALIAN state has arrested 20 activists after the successful European Social Forum in Florence. They have charged with "subversion against state authority". These included Antonino Campenni of the Cobas union national executive, and Francesco Caruso, one of the leaders of the "disobbediente" group. Antonino spoke at a Globalise Resistance meeting in London last year.
"A COLD and calculated manipulation of the work of human rights activists." That was the damning verdict of Amnesty International on home secretary Jack Straw's dossier on human rights abuses in Iraq published this week. Amnesty is absolutely right to question Straw's motives. New Labour has launched a propaganda war to back a US attack on Iraq. It wants us to believe it is so concerned about human rights there that it will join the US in blasting the country and its people. George Bush has been piling troops and weapons into the Gulf region ready for the mass destruction of the country. US and British planes have kept up their regular bombing raids on Iraq, which have been continuing
NEW LABOUR is highly selective about the countries it chooses to condemn over human rights abuses. The government's dossier graphically describes torture methods under Saddam Hussein. Yet it does not detail the torture and repression that is carried out by regimes that are allies of the US and Britain.
THREE DAYS of rage. Three days of hatred based on religious and ethnic differentiation. Three days of barbarism. That is all capitalism can offer the oil-rich and populous country of Nigeria, the world's sixth largest oil producer.
THE MEDIA have made much of Gordon Brown's admission in last week's pre-budget report that he had got his sums wrong. Most notably the government is going to have to borrow £20 billion this year and £24 billion next year - nearly twice the amounts Brown forecast only seven months ago.
YEARS AGO there was a cartoon that did the rounds. It showed a galley ship, with hundreds of galley slaves rowing away like crazy. Standing over them was an overseer with a whip in his hand urging on the slaves with, "We're all in the same boat." What a perfect picture of how politicians talk about society. Yes, we all live in the same country, in the same world, we are all born and we all die. But the vital thing is that in the time between birth and death we find that the way we live is structured.
SHOCK, bewilderment, anger. Those words sum up the emotions FBU members felt when our executive suspended the strike due to start this week. Calling off the strike for "exploratory talks at ACAS" is a major mistake. There is a serious danger that our pay campaign will not deliver, and could even end in defeat.
"THE ABUSE this Labour government is hurling at us is as bad as the Tories' attacks on the miners." That's what Ian Foulkes from Liverpool says of the bile pouring out of government ministers' mouths.
THE FIREFIGHTERS' strike has lifted the lid on the operations of a tightly knit group of intensely political men. They are the unelected bankers, media barons and industry chiefs who control the crucial levers of power. Without having to formally make an agreement they know that at key moments like this they have to set aside their rivalries and line up against a common enemy - workers in struggle.
IT SEEMS as if we live in a democracy. After all, every five years we elect the government. That's certainly better than not electing it. But then there are some questions. Most people in Britain support the firefighters, are against war on Iraq and oppose student fees. How does New Labour respond? It attacks the firefighters, threatening thousands of jobs as the price of a half-decent pay rise.
THEY TALK of modernisation today. Funnily enough that was the language and the fight we faced back then. The employers and the Tory government wanted to break dockers and our employment "scheme", which gave us real protection of jobs and conditions.
MODERNISATION IS what workers are told to accept. There is nothing "modern" about it at all. It is as old as capitalism. And its real meaning is the same as it always has been: "You have to work harder and longer." It is 70 years since Charlie Chaplin famously attacked "modernisation" in his brilliant film Modern Times.
ONE THING is crystal clear after last week's attack on a hotel and Israeli passenger plane in Kenya - George Bush's "war on terror" has been an utter failure. One year ago in the wake of the 11 September attacks Bush pledged action to stop terrorist attacks.
MISS WORLD has come to Britain, bringing with it a torrent of garbage about women and their role in society. Miss World is a symbol of how society reduces women to objects judged on the way they look.
BILLY HAYES, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, has responded to two recent articles in Socialist Worker. One was by Exeter postal worker Fran Choules, the other by Socialist Worker journalist Charlie Kimber.
A NEW generation of activists is discovering the power of socialist ideas. Here trade unionists and socialists from across Britain recommend books that changed how they see the world. All of the books that feature would make great presents. They are all available from Bookmarks bookshop.
THE firefighters' dispute has highlighted the depth of opposition to New Labour among ordinary people. But it has also shown that opposition needs to be much more sharply focused and organised.
FRANK ALLAUN, who died recently, was a principled Labour left winger who never lost his burning desire to make the world a better place. MP for East Salford for nearly 30 years until 1983, Frank declined a peerage and spent the next 19 years in activity outside parliament. Under Harold Wilson Frank was briefly appointed parliamentary private secretary to the Secretary of State for the Colonies.
I feel betrayed by the Labour Party As a firefighter I am at the end of my tether with the Labour Party, a party which I have been a member of for around 18 years since I left the Royal Navy. At our last FBU union conference our general secretary, Andy Gilchrist, argued strongly that the union had to continue to fund Labour, and only Labour. We voted loyally to stick with Labour.
DYNCORP is one of George Bush's favourite corporations. DynCorp backed Bush's election bid and gets most of its work from the US government. The company has been chosen to replace US special forces as the bodyguards for Afghan leader Hamid Karzai.