Dated: 21 Sep 2002
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"The US is hell bent on attacking Iraq to impose regime change. On 28 September I will be proud to demonstrate against war. The whole trade union movement should be there." Mick Rix, Aslef rail workers' union leader
Workers at the Caparo Steel Group have shown that strikes are the best way to defend pensions. They have forced concessions from their employer after five 24-hour strikes at weekly intervals. The 340 workers at plants in Scunthorpe, Wrexham and Tredegar had threatened to increase their action to two 24-hour strikes per week.
Around 90,000 civil servants in the PCS union began balloting this week over a new pay deal in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). DWP bosses have offered workers on the lowest grades a 4 percent pay rise. This is higher than other offers to civil servants this year.
Bosses at Arriva Trains Northern are cancelling four out of ten services on non-strike days in a desperate effort to break resistance by members of the RMT rail union. Arriva managing director Ray Price admitted in a confidential briefing to managers that cancellations are at record levels. He wrote on 10 September, "The last period five about a month was the worst train performance experienced for a very long time."
Parents and teachers at Kingsland School in Hackney, east London, are determined to fight the threatened closure of the school. Hackney people desperately need Kingsland, one of only two mixed secular comprehensives in the borough.
A one-day strike was staged by over 100 workers at William Freeman Ltd in Barnsley on Thursday of last week. The workers, members of the GMB union, plan a further series of one-day strikes in their campaign for a 4.5 percent pay rise.
MORE THAN 500 people took part in a noisy demonstration in London last Saturday against the government's Mental Health Bill. The bill's proposals may result in the forcible detention of around 600 people each year.
Strike action at Reality call centres across the north of England and Mid Wales has been called off after management was forced to offer the workforce a new deal.
Over 50 delegates from universities around the country attended a meeting in Manchester last Saturday of student supporters of Socialist Worker. Most universities start back this week, at a time of mass opposition to Blair's plans for war with Iraq. Last academic year saw the biggest anti-war movement in the universities since the Vietnam War.
OVER 1,300 bus drivers in Edinburgh and the Lothians were poised to start an indefinite strike over pay this week. But a last minute offer halted the action.
Firefighters are to begin voting next week for their first national strike in 25 years, as they head towards the biggest confrontation Tony Blair has yet faced. The move towards a series of strikes has New Labour deeply worried that firefighters and control room staff could spearhead a wider revolt over public sector pay.
Pressure for strikes over pay is growing, along with the feeling for united action across different unions:
GEORGE BUSH is still driving towards war, despite Iraq saying it would bow to demands to allow weapons inspectors into the country. His undersecretary of state for arms control says the US wants "a regime change in Baghdad, and that policy will not be altered whether inspectors go in or not".
THE US is using bullying and dirty deals to try and ensure that the United Nations does not oppose war. That underlines why opponents of the war must be clear and say no war, with or without United Nations backing. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are the US, Britain, Russia, France and China. Any of these can veto a resolution backing war. Bush can rely on Britain. That leaves the three others.
THE TIMES splashed a front page story on Monday claiming it had definitive evidence that Iraq was within months of acquiring nuclear weapons. Its source was Khidir Hamza, a defector who it claimed was "at the heart of the Iraq regime".
A SECRET blueprint for US global domination reveals that Bush and his key advisers were planning war on Iraq to secure "regime change" even before he took office in January 2001. It talks of a war against Iraq as the "immediate justification" for wider US aims to dominate the Middle East.
MORE KEY figures in New Labour have come out against war. Roy Hattersley, former Labour deputy leader, admitted on Monday of this week that he had turned from an "unlikely hawk" into a "Gulf war dove" in the last six weeks.
A UN World Food Programme report said this week that 14.5 million people across southern Africa face starvation and famine. The famine doesn't just affect Zimbabwe, which the British media concentrated on as part of its support for rich white farmers against Mugabe's government. It also hits Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
IN THE run-up to next week's anti-war demonstration big meetings have been held in many parts of Britain. Bristol Stop the War Coalition organised a showing of the Not In My Name film on 11 September. Over 160 people turned up to hear Mike Marqusee introduce the discussion. This meant that a second showing had to be put on while Mike Marqusee spoke to the overflow crowd outside the cinema. Both the film and the discussion received an excellent response. One person said, "It's great to come to an event like this on a day like today when you see George Bush and Tony Blair using the deaths on 11 September to build support for an attack on Iraq." A Stop the War Coalition activist
QASIM KHAN, a 16 year old, was found guilty last week of five charges including police assault and racial abuse. The verdicts arise from a demonstration in support of the Govanhill pool occupation last year. The sheriff's verdict has shocked campaigners. Qasim had denied all the charges. Sentencing will take place in October. Other recent verdicts include: Sher Khan was acquitted of assaulting police by spraying them with urine. The Children's Panel accepted that his "super-soaker" contained only water, and he was admonished and dismissed without penalty. A charge that he racially abused a Sikh officer was also withdrawn.
The postal executive of the Communication Workers Union has narrowly voted in favour of a deal to end the dispute over the privatisation of the Romec cleaning and maintenance section of the Post Office. After a long debate the executive voted by ten votes to six to accept management's offer. The minority who wanted to throw out the deal and push hard for action against the joint venture were absolutely right.
Tuesday 22 October will be a global day of solidarity with the Kensington 87, the protesters who were arrested in Johannesburg, South Africa, for demonstrating against water and electricity cutoffs. The defendants include Trevor Ngwane. They will go before a court on 23 October to face serious charges. Globalise Resistance has called a demonstration outside the South African embassy in London at 5pm on 22 October.
PAUL FOOT, the Socialist Alliance candidate for mayor of Hackney in east London, has helped to expose manoeuvres linking the election process and the council's strike-busting operation against library workers.
German Social Democrat leader Gerhard Schröeder has edged ahead in the polls by opposing George Bush's war drive in the run-up to Germany's general election on Sunday. Three polls at the end of last week put Schröeder, leader of the German equivalent of the Labour Party, a couple of points ahead of his challenger Edmund Stoiber, a hard right Tory.
AUSTRIA IS heading for a general election in November following the collapse last week of the Tory/far right government. The coalition's collapse is the result of a deepening polarisation between left and right.
THE EARTH Summit in Johannesburg is generally agreed to have been an enormous flop. There is also widespread agreement about the cause. The United States and the other leading capitalist states refused to budge from their free market agenda.
There is a road near where I live that is a monument to the achievements of capitalism. It was once a terrace of shops with flats above. It was built in the 1820s, nothing grand.
THE RIGHT of Asians to defend themselves against racists is currently on trial in Preston, Lancashire. The six Asian defendants are the first to go on trial over the riots in Burnley in June of last year. They live in a town where three British National Party (BNP) members became councillors after the elections earlier this year.
The nazi British National Party (BNP) and National Front have been forced to cancel two planned events in the north west of England because of anti-Nazi opposition. The BNP had announced it was organising a march next Saturday in Burnley. It wanted to use the issue of threatened closures to elderly people's homes to try to con people in Burnley that it is a "respectable" party that cares about the NHS.
Bush and Blair claim war on Iraq is about stopping Saddam Hussein developing weapons of mass destruction. But who is the real threat in the world? And who has, and has used, weapons of mass destruction? "The people who do most of the shouting about weapons of mass destruction have those weapons themselves," says Nigel Chamberlain from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
AS revolutionaries we do not simply want to win a few small changes in society. We want to run the world in a completely different way. We think it is necessary to smash the presently existing state. But there's an immediate problem: the other side will do everything in its power to stop us. And they have a lot of power.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference in Blackpool last week was the most significant for years. The debates, speeches and votes made headline news on TV and in papers which normally shun serious coverage of trade union affairs.
An important meeting of the national committee of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) took place last weekend. The meeting agreed that we are facing a decisive and unprecedented political situation both internationally and in Britain.
The Countryside Alliance will be marching through London on Sunday. March organisers say they are standing up to "unite rural Britain, for liberty, and for all those whose jobs are based in the country". In fact those at the centre of the Countryside Alliance and the march represent some of the richest and most reactionary people in Britain. Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith will be there, and Britain's richest landowners are backing the march.
Bacardi is one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the world, but behind the sleek image lies a sinister side to this multinational. Hernando Calvo Ospina, a Colombian investigative journalist, demonstrates in his new book Bacardi: The Hidden War that Bacardi has prosecuted a clandestine war against Cuba in an effort to destabilise the Castro government.
Radio Bemba Sound System, the new live album by the anti-capitalist musician Manu Chao, captures the exuberant energy of his live shows. It makes it clear why he and his sound system have become a flagship for the movement. His music fuses influences from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and the US in a manic aural assault.
The experience of refugees in British society has given rise to a number of plays in recent years. One of the best has been John Retallack's Hannah and Hanna, which is about to go on an extensive tour. Set in Margate, on the Kent coast, it follows the relationship between two teenage girls - one from the town itself, the other a refugee from Kosovo.
IRAQ'S OFFER on arms inspections wrong-footed the US state at the start of this week. This means we can expect a torrent of lies to blunt opposition to a murderous attack on Iraq. The goalposts have already been shifted. We were told a few weeks ago that Iraq is a nuclear-armed state on the brink of invading its neighbours. But a study last week found that Saddam Hussein does not have nuclear weapons. None of the six states that border Iraq fear invasion. So now we are told Saddam Hussein is a bad man who could possibly get nuclear weapons in the future if someone gave him the technology possessed by only a handful of states.
A High Court judge ruled last week that home secretary David Blunkett's decision to deport the Ahmadi family was "unlawful". Farid and Feriba Ahmadi and their two young children fled from the horror of Afghanistan. Then they faced a police raid on the mosque where they were seeking sanctuary.
THE RURAL rich's club, the Countryside Alliance, was due to march in London on Sunday to demand the right to hunt foxes. One of the march's slogans is "The countryside works - keep it working." This is a cruel comment on the life and death of a 54 year old gamekeeper, Anthony Wensley.