Dated: 02 Nov 2002
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ABOUT 200,000 people joined powerful anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco, Washington, and other cities in the US last weekend. The Washington Post reported that it was Washington's largest anti-war demo since the Vietnam War era. That challenge to George Bush came as protests were planned in most towns and cities in Britain for Thursday, a day of action called by the Stop the War Coalition.
ANGER OVER pay is driving more and more workers to take action. The Bank of England is demanding that public sector pay rises are limited to an average 4 percent. This "average" includes vast sums handed out to overpaid managers and fat cat executives.
MORE THAN 1,000 jobs are set to go at Doctor Marten's boot factories in Northampton, Leicestershire and Somerset. Bosses want to move production to exploit cheaper labour in China. This move adds to the 150,000 manufacturing jobs that have gone in Britain in the last 12 months.
SOME 500 cleaners, porters and telephonists in Swansea were to vote this week on an improved offer from their private bosses, ISS Mediclean. Some workers are angry at their Unison union officials for calling off a planned week-long strike. More could have been won, but the Swansea workers have shown that action is getting results in the health service.
ANTI-NAZI campaigners in the north west of England stepped up their fight against the Nazi BNP and National Front (NF) last week. The BNP won three council seats in Burnley in May this year. Local activists are determined to strike back.
WORKERS AT Resourcesaver in Bristol took strike action last Wednesday over management reneging on a deal to cut working hours. Resourcesaver is responsible for collecting black boxes for recycling. Doug Varney from the workers' of the Unison union branch explained, "Management had agreed to cut the working week to 40 hours - that's five eight-hour days. Now management have imposed a standard nine-hour day.
AROUND 50 council gardeners walked out on Monday of last week in Hackney, east London. They were protesting against the council's plans to push through job cuts while increasing the use of agency staff and the number of managers - who are also receiving pay increases.
AROUND 130 postal workers in Bridgwater, Somerset, are on all-out, indefinite, unofficial strike. They are taking action in protest against management's broken promises and relentless harassment.
OVER 150 Norwich bus drivers attended an emergency union branch meeting on Sunday and rejected their employer Firstgroup's latest offer. Firstgroup has imposed new conditions which mean up to £18.50 per week loss of pay for many drivers because of cuts in paid breaks and working periods of up to 5.5 hours behind the wheel.
PRESS AND paintline section strikers at Raven Manufacturing Ltd near Burnley are into their fifth week of selective strike action. Management found excuses to suspend two of the strikers, but this has just made them more determined than ever.
AT A packed chapel (union branch) meeting last Friday, Express and Star NUJ union members unanimously called for a strike ballot. This is part of our fight to prevent our boss Richard Desmond sending up to 100 of our jobs to Broughton, Lancashire. We believe this is an attempt at a Wapping-style operation aimed at shifting production to Lancashire.
THE EXECUTIVE committee of the Aslef rail union has suspended further planned 48-hour strikes by drivers on First North Western (FNW) while members ballot on an offer from the company. "The problem is none of us know what the offer is," says Steve West, a First North Western driver. The details were to be revealed when people got their ballot papers this week. There's been no sign of any movement from management. Aslef is not recommending acceptance of the deal. So all we can assume is that it contains the same unacceptable attacks on conditions that we have already rejected."
AROUND 60 people lobbied Hackney Teaching and Learning Centre this week in support of maths teacher Indro Sen. Sen was sacked from Kingsland School in September by a governors' panel. The demonstration was organised by his supporters and Kingsland NUT, and supported by Hackney NUT.
SELECTIVE STRIKE action is continuing in boroughs across London as part of the campaign for £4,000 London weighting. At Tower Hamlets council, east London, pickets were out again throughout the week, blocking post deliveries at the two buildings where post is dealt with. The pickets were enlivened by petitioning and leafleting for the firefighters and for home care workers whose jobs are threatened by privatisation.
AROUND 700 people braved appalling weather to take part an inspiring protest last Saturday in Glasgow. Former Israeli army chief Shaul Mofaz, who led the repression of the second intifada, was blockaded inside a Glasgow hotel.
THE government is desperate to avoid a confrontation with 55,000 firefighters and emergency control room staff. That's why it went from accusing the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) of "Scargillism" on Wednesday of last week to sending deputy prime minister John Prescott into talks with union leaders the following day.
OVER 100 people were killed by the gas which Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered to be pumped into the Moscow theatre siege last weekend. The horror of the siege's end gave a glimpse of the brutal methods used by the Russian state in Chechnya, methods which created the hostage crisis. Putin, along with Tony Blair and most of the British press, describe the Chechens as fanatical terrorists.
STRIKES ARE on the rise in Zimbabwe. Teachers, lecturers and health workers have all taken action over the last month as living conditions have deteriorated and rampant inflation has wiped out wage increases handed out before the presidential election. The Mugabe regime has responded with bitter repression, including torture and jailings. None of this is reflected in the British papers which are so quick to raise an outcry about the "sufferings" of white farmers
THE RESULTS of the general election set to take place in Turkey on Sunday are hard to predict, with opinion polls notorious for their unreliability. But the political instability gripping the country is likely to be reflected in the vote. It could be that none of the parties in the current coalition government will get a single seat in parliament. An election rule designed to prevent Kurdish parties getting parliamentary seats requires any party to get 10 percent of votes across Turkey to get any MPs.
WHATEVER THE ups and downs of media coverage, the planned war on Iraq remains top of the Bush administration's agenda. Once the United States went to the United Nations Security Council for authority to attack Iraq the immediate drama went out of the story. There have been weeks of negotiations over the text of a resolution.
I WENT away for a couple of days over half term, and when I came back I found that Estelle Morris had resigned. Or at least I thought it was Estelle Morris. Reading the papers and watching the news, it appeared that the carping, nasty, vicious education secretary, a figure prompting contempt and ridicule in my school - and thousands of others, no doubt - had become Saint Estelle the Humble. The media claim she was an honest victim of the bullying Mr Fixits of Downing Street.
Over the last week, SOCIALIST WORKER has printed thousands of "Victory to the firefighters" placards. They went down a storm with firefighters like these from east London. Your donations are crucial in helping us to build solidarity with those fighting back. One big push to collect money from supporters and sympathisers and we can reach our target.
THOUSANDS of people from across Europe are heading for the European Social Forum in Florence in Italy next week. They will be taking part in one of the biggest international gatherings of campaigners and activists Europe has seen. The forum culminates in a major Europe-wide anti-war demonstration next Saturday, 9 November.
FIRE BRIGADES Union (FBU) officials and reps were meeting throughout this week to discuss their pay campaign. Those meetings of core members of the union expressed a renewed determination to win a clear-cut victory after the government has shown it can be budged. There were loud calls that the union nationally should maintain the momentum it has built up over the last few months.
A POLITICAL earthquake shook Latin America's largest country in Brazil's presidential election last Sunday. With 61.4 percent of the vote, the Workers Party candidate, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva - or Lula, as he is usually known - crushed the old government's candidate, José Serra.
ISHTIAQ AHMED has spent 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. KEVIN OVENDEN visited Ishtiaq in HMP Coldingley before his appeal, which began in London this week.
THE revelations about MI5 infiltration of the unions confirm that there are large parts of the state wholly removed from any hint of democratic control. According to the BBC series True Spies, secret service agents bugged, burgled and bribed their way into the heart of the unions during the 1970s and 1980s. Hurling aside all the rhetoric about privacy and the rule of law, these agents did what they pleased in order to destabilise workers' organisations.
TONY BLAIR accused the firefighters last week of bringing back the spectre of "Scargillism". He wanted to use the name of miners' union leader Arthur Scargill to try to discredit the firefighters. When Blair refers to "Scargillism" he means working class militancy. Workers in the 1970s showed that they could beat off attacks from the bosses and the government, through striking and winning active solidarity from other workers.
GILAD ATZMON is a writer and jazz musician. His first novel, A Guide to the Perplexed, is out now. It is a satirical novel about Gunther Wuntz who, like Gilad, is an Israeli Jew who comes to reject Israel. It is set in 2052, 40 years after the Israeli state has ceased to exist. Matthew Cookson spoke to Gilad.
EVER WISH you could hear Malcolm X speak out? Well, now you can. If you have access to a computer connected to the internet, just log on to <a href="http://www.brothermalcolm.net"target="_blank">www.brothermalcolm.net</a>
ONCE AGAIN the 1960s are back in vogue - the music, the films and the imagery. Over the past few years a number of films from the period have been re-released - The Italian Job, Blow Up and Alfie. But there was a time in the 1960s before the swinging started. This period is brilliantly captured in a series of films made in the early 1960s labelled by critics as the "British new wave".
NEW LABOUR presents itself as a party that won't be pushed around. But over the last week we have seen how it can be forced to change its tune. First the government insisted it would not be influenced at all by the firefighters' threat of strike action. Blair resorted to the same sort of language Thatcher used against the miners.
JIM HIGGINS, who has died aged 71, was a leading activist in the socialist and trade union movements between the 1950s and 1970s. He played a major role in building the membership and influence of the International Socialists, the organisation which preceded the Socialist Workers Party.
EVERY TEACHER will get a support worker. It sounds like a headline to please parents, teachers and classroom assistants throughout Britain. This is what New Labour announced while Estelle Morris was still the education minister.
RICHARD SYKES is the chairman of the giant pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline. The firm makes £10,000 every minute - the same time it takes 21 people in the Third World to die of preventable diseases. It was also one of the firms which tried to prevent South Africa from developing its own cheaper drugs for AIDS and HIV.