Dated: 05 Oct 2002
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A HARD anti-war position was very nearly voted for at the Labour Party's conference in Blackpool on Monday of this week. If just a few big unions had changed their votes then Bush's most trusted ally, Tony Blair, would have had his war policy totally rejected by his own party. Some 40 percent of the conference voted to totally reject any military action against Iraq.
STRIKES ARE back in the Post Office. The anger against management last week burst through the union leaders' efforts to hold it back. A quarter of the Post Office's cash handling network was closed by unofficial walkouts at the beginning of last week as CWU union members reacted angrily to a management briefing.
UNISON MEMBERS facing Britain's biggest PFI project have voted overwhelmingly to take strike action against an attempt to break their union. In a consultative ballot 78 percent voted to back an official strike ballot demanding the reinstatement of their union branch secretary, Phil Billows. Phil was suspended for spearheading a campaign against the huge PFI project at the Royal London and Barts NHS trust.
WORKERS ON the Channel Tunnel Rail Link threatened to walk off the job last week. Their wages have been cut in half. The 70 workers are building the tunnel from Stratford in east London to King's Cross.
AROUND 1,200 workers downed tools at BAe Systems after a workmate was sacked. The walkout involved shopfloor workers on the Eurofighter project at the Samlesbury plant near Preston. They held a mass meeting to demand the colleague's reinstatement and then walked out on Monday of last week.
THE SCOTTISH National Party tacked rightwards at its conference in Inverness last week. The message from party leader John Swinney was that the SNP has evolved from a party of protest to one capable of taking power. With just seven months to go before the Scottish Parliament elections, Swinney wants to "do a Tony Blair" on the SNP.
THE BNP Nazis are standing a candidate for mayor in Stoke-on-Trent. The election will be held on Thursday 17 October. NorSCARF, the North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Fascism, is organising a mass campaign to expose the true nature of the BNP.
CONFUSION AND bitterness spread through the ranks of 1,300 bus drivers in the Edinburgh region on Friday of last week. The drivers, who work for the Lothian bus company, were set to begin an all-out strike that day against a new pay deal. Their TGWU union leaders called the strike off at the last minute on Thursday evening after they received a new offer from management.
FIREFIGHTERS AND control staff across Britain are already returning a big yes vote in their strike ballot, which began last week, according to Fire Brigades Union regional reps. Documents from the Ministry of Defence have revealed that the government is to ship 3,000 of the troops it had trained to scab on any strike to the Gulf. Last weekend also saw a taste of the kind of propaganda New Labour is prepared to put out in an effort to undermine high levels of public support for the FBU union's campaign.
VOTING STARTS this Saturday in the election for mayor of the east London borough of Hackney. The campaign for the Socialist Alliance candidate, journalist Paul Foot, is gathering pace. Last Sunday campaigners were out across all areas of Hackney delivering a special eight-page newspaper. Paul has recently addressed groups of campaigners fighting for disability rights and against nursery closures.
THE NATIONAL Union of Teachers (NUT) is to hold a second ballot for a one-day London-wide strike over allowances for working in the capital. Ballot papers will go out on Friday of next week to be returned by 29 October, for a strike on Thursday 14 November. The second largest teachers' union, the NASUWT, is consulting reps in London before moving to a ballot for a strike on the same day.
AS TONY Blair talks of the new "post-comprehensive" education system, the reality of what that means is hitting home in Hackney, east London. The new Learning Trust, which took over the running of education in August, is pressing ahead with plans to close Kingsland School in July 2003. Some 140 students hadn't found a place in a local secondary school this summer. Kingsland has a long history of campaigning in defence of comprehensive education in Hackney.
HUNDREDS OF college workers, members of the Unison union in 11 pre-1992 London universities, took strike action last Thursday as the first step in their campaign to win an increase in London weighting to £4,000. Faced with a freeze on London weighting for the eleventh consecutive year, workers demonstrated that they had had enough.
HAIDI GIULIANI, the mother of Carlo - who was killed by police on the Genoa protest last year - is doing a speaking tour in Britain to raise support for the European Social Forum. The tour starts next Monday, 7 October, at Venturers Building, Bristol University, at 7pm.
NOT A single London tube train ran on Wednesday of last week as RMT and Aslef union members staged the most effective strike anyone can remember. It was a humiliation for London Underground management, which had claimed there was little support for the unions' fight over pay.
THE SHOCKWAVES created by Derek Simpson's victory in the AEEU-Amicus elections continue. Defeated right wing leader Ken Jackson has fallen out with his former supporter Roger Maskell.
CIVIL SERVANTS in the PCS union working for DEFRA, the merged former ministry of agriculture and the department of the environment, have voted for strike action over pay disparities. Some 1,677 to 845 voted in favour of striking in a 50 percent turnout. Some 2,048 to 465 voted in favour of action short of a strike.
COMPANY BOSSES have doubled their pay in the last ten years. So have barristers. Top civil servants have seen their pay jump by 55 percent in ten years, judges by 58 percent. The people whose work keeps public services going have had no such bonanza. The gap between those at the top and the rest of us has soared. A decade ago top managers at big companies grabbed four times the average wage. Now they get almost six times the average.
IN JAMES Bond films the villain always has a plan to dominate the world. Usually this is something that he reveals in private, in some secret hideout far from the everyday world. Not so the United States under George W Bush. A fortnight ago his administration published The National Security Strategy of the United States of America.
NEWSPAPERS REPORT that we are eating fewer potatoes. The British Potato Council says sales of fresh potatoes fell dramatically in the past ten years. At the start of the 1990s 80 percent of potatoes were bought as nature intended. Today only around half of all the spuds consumed in Britain come as real potatoes.
These newly designed T-shirts for the SOCIALIST WORKER AUTUMN APPEAL went down a storm on Saturday's anti-war demonstration. Fashion and politics really can mix! The T-shirts catch the anti-war spirit.
LABOUR conference delegates inflicted a serious defeat on Tony Blair's privatisation policies on Monday. By a vote of 67 percent to 33 percent they called for an independent review of the use of private finance in public services - the government's PFI and PPP schemes.
IT IS not only six Asian men who are on trial at Preston Crown Court following last year's disturbances in Burnley. At stake also is the principle of when people have the right to defend themselves.
ONE IN three of Britain's 12 million children live in poverty, a figure that has hardly changed since New Labour came to office. That stark figure brings home how little all the government's initiatives, and its babble about "social inclusion", have achieved. A wide-ranging survey, commissioned by Save the Children and carried out by researchers at the University of York, has just been released.
TONY BLAIR'S policy of supporting Bush over war with Iraq is causing the biggest turmoil inside the Labour Party for 20 years. In 1982 important sections of the right wing went from Labour to form the Social Democratic Party. This time it is the left who are outraged by the party's direction. The debate on the war at this week's conference gave one sign of the bitter mood. It involved leaders of some of the most important trade unions, still the bedrock of Labour, pitting themselves against the leadership. The revolt in parliament last week, when 56 Labour MPs voted against the government, was another important indication.
THERE IS crisis in the coffee market - but not for the four giant corporations that dominate it. Kraft Foods, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee control all the major high street coffee brands. Kraft, controlled by tobacco giant Philip Morris, made profits of over $1 billion last year. Nestlé makes an estimated 26 percent profit margin on its instant coffee. Its profits are so huge that one investment analyst described it as the "commercial equivalent of heaven".
THE PEOPLE who head the institutions of global capitalism are nervous over the outcome of next Sunday's presidential election in Brazil. Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, known universally as Lula in the South American country, looks set to top the poll. He is a former left wing socialist and mass strike leader. Lula has soared in the polls as popular discontent has grown with the current government of President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
The European Social Forum (ESF) will be the first Europe-wide gathering of the growing movements against neo-liberalism, racism and war. Tens of thousands of people will gather to discuss, debate and organise. There will also be a major united European demonstration against war. The ESF is for everyone who cares about the future of our planet, everyone who believes a better world is possible and necessary.
HUNDREDS OF thousands of people took over central London last Saturday to march against war on Iraq and for freedom for Palestine. The size of the demonstration stunned many people. Marchers waited around four hours to leave Embankment, while speakers at the end rally were already addressing demonstrators as they poured into Hyde Park. Thousands more joined splinter demonstrations that spilled out into other parts of central London, including a march up Oxford Street.
"IT IS extremely important that we prevent more aggression against a country that has already been bombed back to the Stone Age. Around 60 percent of our workforce are African or Middle Eastern in origin, so they tend to be more sympathetic to the anti-war argument. We have to keep on making our efforts to stop the war." Arif Shaikh, TGWU, First Central Buses
SATURDAY'S demonstration was a sea of placards and banners, brought from every corner of Britain. At the heart of the demonstration was a major mobilisation of trade unionists. Black, white and Asian workers, men and women, young and old proudly marched together behind their trade union banners.
"WE REPRESENT the overwhelming majority round the world. We are not a "protest movement". It may be that Bush will go to war in a matter of weeks. It may be that prime minister Blair will send troops into battle. But nothing can take the British people into a war they don't accept and don't want. If the war begins it is our plain duty to take time out at once to see everybody understands what has happened, and mobilise against the war. There is a good chance of stopping Britain going to war if we carry on organising in this brilliant way." Tony Benn
IT WAS not just in London that people took to the streets to protest against war last weekend. Other demonstrations around the world included 5,000 marching in Washington in the US, 50,000 in Madrid in Spain and 3,000 in Athens in Greece. In Rome in Italy 100,000 took part in a demonstration which had a major anti-war theme.
ANTI-WAR activists are mobilising for the next focus in the movement to stop war on Iraq. The Stop the War Coalition has called for a day of action - "Stop Your City, Stop the War" - on Thursday 31 October.
SWEET SIXTEEN is the latest film by director Ken Loach. His films always focus on the struggles of working class people to survive when all the odds are stacked against them. This film is no exception. Liam's mum, Jean, is in prison but she will be released in time for his 16th birthday.
THE BBC comedy series The Office started a second series on Monday this week. Its huge success is a sign of the times. It is a brilliantly sustained assault on all the management bollocks about caring and sharing concern for employees. Every episode tears into myths about work being a partnership between workers and management where everyone is in the same boat.
US AND Israeli politicians and commentators always blame the current violence in the Middle East on Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians. They claim that the Palestinians were getting the best deal possible in the peace process and they rejected it. The new edition of The End of the Peace Process, a collection of essays by the Palestinian writer Edward Said, exposes these claims for the lies they are. It shows that under the peace agreements the areas under Palestinian control would be small, cut off from one another and remain dominated by Israeli troops and settlers.
TONY BLAIR is fighting on two fronts. His speech at Labour's conference shows he is determined to press ahead with backing George Bush's war plans and pushing through PFI. To add insult to injury, he is openly abandoning the principle of comprehensive education by talking about "post-comprehensive education".
THE HYPOCRISY of Bush and Blair's propaganda against Saddam Hussein is striking in very many ways. But few can feel more nauseated by this hypocrisy than the Kurdish people of Iraq and Turkey. They, more directly than anyone else, know that Saddam is a ruthless and bloody dictator.
BEFORE LAST year's general election David Blunkett, then education secretary, had the great idea that children's reading skills could be improved if parents read a story to them every night. Current education secretary Estelle Morris repeated the policy earlier this year.