Dated: 31 Aug 2002
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"PEOPLE ARE on the streets here because the process since the Rio Earth Summit has clearly failed. We don't need more promises to tackle poverty and environmental destruction. We need action - action to regulate polluting multinational corporations - and we need redistribution of wealth.
"WE ARE inspired by Seattle and Genoa, and we hope our protest turns into something like Seattle." That's how South Africa's Anti-Privatisation Forum summed up its aim and hope for the mass protest it planned at the Earth Summit on Saturday. The forum is an umbrella group uniting a wide range of people campaigning for social justice.
WOMEN IN one of South Africa's poorest townships, Wentworth on the edge of Durban, issued a statement about why they are protesting at the Earth Summit. They have called their grassroots organisation the Wentworth Summit on Sickness and Death (WSSD), mirroring the official title of the world leaders' gathering, the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Home secretary David Blunkett was dealt a blow in court last week in his campaign against a refugee family. When Blunkett threw the Ahmadis out of Britain he claimed they could settle in Germany instead.
BRITISH ENERGY, the privatised nuclear giant, needs to come up with around £450 million to avoid collapse. The company doesn't have the money. A secret plan, codenamed Project Blue, has been drawn up by government officials. It involves taking British Energy back into public ownership, costing a minimum of £500 million.
THE FALL in the stockmarket is having a devastating effect on pensions. The Pearl Assurance company has announced that it is slashing payouts on endowments and pension policies. Life insurance policies maturing this autumn will be cut by 12.5 percent, while pension policies will be cut by as much as 15 percent.
WORKERS AT Caparo Steel in Scunthorpe, Tredegar and Wrexham held a second one-day strike over pensions last week. They planned another strike this week. The dispute is over plans to replace their current final salary pension scheme with a stakeholder pension scheme.
ARRIVA TRAINS Northern workers reached a decisive stage in their long-running pay fight last weekend. They struck for the 18th time on Saturday. The action by 650 guards was again solid, and Arriva management again arrogantly dismissed it.
JOURNALISTS AT the Rotherham Advertiser launched their first six days of strike action over pay with a solidarity rally last Saturday. The NUJ chapel (union branch) has decided to fight low pay, following the successes at Bradford, Spalding, Guardian Media in Manchester and elsewhere. Suzanne Roberts, mother of chapel at the Spalding Guardian, and a representative from the EMAP Health Magazines NUJ chapel - who are on a 24-hour strike over pay this Friday - spoke of a changing mood among journalists.
"WE'LL BE fighting the May 2003 Scottish elections in a very different climate from 1999, when Tommy Sheridan won our single seat in the Scottish Parliament. Then capitalism seemed the only show in town. Today the war drums are beating, the stock exchange is still sliding, and there is a shift to the left in the trade union movement. The conditions are much more favourable for us."
OVER 80,000 members of the PCS civil servants' union are to be balloted over a new pay deal in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in September. DWP bosses have offered workers on the lowest grades a 4 percent pay rise. But this will still leave those on the lowest grade on a minimum of under £10,000 a year.
MEMBERS OF the GMB union at the two Lupton and Place die casting factories in Burnley struck for three days last week. The 100 workers were set to hold another three one-day strikes next week. Talks were scheduled for Tuesday of this week. Management had withdrawn their measly 1 percent pay offer, which was only conditional on selling some land and was not to be backdated.
WORKERS AT the Massey Ferguson tractor factory in Coventry are set to ballot for strike action against the closure of the plant. Over 1,000 angry workers, members of the TGWU union, packed into a mass meeting on Wednesday of last week. They overwhelmingly rejected a redundancy package from Agco, the US company which runs Massey Ferguson.
"LISTEN TO the workers!" "Could you live on our pay?" These were some of the shouts which met Scottish health minister Malcolm Chisholm as his car swept into the Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock, near Glasgow, on Friday of last week. Chisholm was officially welcomed by a row of suited hospital managers. But first he was challenged by a lively demonstration of over 100 angry and militant pickets, on their fifth day of an unofficial strike against low pay. The strike was continuing at the beginning of the week.
THE STOP the War Coalition is holding rallies across Britain in the build-up to the 28 September demonstration. Here are just some of them. For more details of what's happening in your area phone 07951 235 915.
COUNCIL workers' unions last week reaffirmed their determination to fight for higher London weighting allowances for the capital's council workforces. Unless the employers come up with a satisfactory offer another one-day strike could be called later in September.
THOUSANDS OF people lined the streets of central Manchester last Saturday to celebrate the Mardi Gras gay and lesbian festival, despite the poor weather and threats of cancellation. The police, backed by Manchester's Labour council, had refused to allow more than one street in Manchester's gay village to be designated for drinking alcohol.
ANTI-RACISTS held a speak-out against racism, organised by the Anti Nazi League, on Eltham High Street, south east London, on Saturday. It followed two more serious racist attacks. Two weeks ago a 14 year old black boy was hospitalised with a broken jaw after he was attacked and racially abused by a white man in his twenties.
Sunday 1 September, 11am, march from Manchester town hall, Albert square, to carnival at Platt fields park. For details phone the ANL on 020 7924 0333
THE SPANISH government this week won a parliamentary vote to make the Basque nationalist political party Batasuna illegal. Batasuna is the political wing of the ETA armed group. We spoke to INAKI ORTIZ of Socialist Worker's sister paper in Spain, En Lucha.
NEW LABOUR, the Tories and the US government are all trying to blame Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, for famine in southern Africa. They use the same language of "regime change" that we hear used about Iraq. On Wednesday of last week George W Bush's top adviser on African affairs said that the US wants Mugabe out, and that he had "stolen an election". This is breathtaking hypocrisy from the people who are in the White House because they stole the Florida election for Bush.
HOW BIG a threat are the Nazis in Europe today? Many liberal establishment commentators dismiss groups like the British National Party as nasty but marginal thugs who have no chance of ever getting near power. This position has become much harder to sustain, especially since Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen beat prime minister Lionel Jospin into third place in the first round of the French presidential elections on 21 April.
"IS ANY child safe?" the Daily Express thundered last week. In the wake of the tragic murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, the tabloids are seeking to boost circulation by playing on parents' fears. The News of the World is planning a repeat of the "name and shame" campaign against paedophiles it ran two years ago.
GEORGE BUSH'S drive for war has opened up bitter rows in the US establishment - even among those who share his long term objectives. But in a speech this week aimed at those with misgivings, US vice-president Dick Cheney said the danger of "inaction" is greater than the risks of war.
OVER 2,000 firefighters and their supporters converged on Belfast from around Northern Ireland and Britain as the firefighters' campaign for decent pay hotted up last weekend. This latest Fire Brigades Union (FBU) demonstration had the same confident and vibrant spirit shown on previous demonstrations on the streets of London, Glasgow and other cities.
THE MEDIA has begun to talk about strikes again for the first time in almost a decade. This is because pressure is growing among groups of workers for action over pay, privatisation and other issues.
ANOTHER SUMMIT, and more claims from government leaders that they want to tackle world poverty and global warming. But as the delegates meet in the South African city of Johannesburg, they are likely to entrench the same forces and policies responsible for the crisis. Almost three billion people, half the world's population, live on less than two US dollars a day.
SOME AT the heart of global capitalism recognise that their system threatens disaster. A World Bank report last week warned that if things continue as now the world will be "confronted by dysfunctional cities, dwindling water supplies, more inequality and conflict".
"UP THE workers!" That was the headline in the Daily Mirror last week. The paper was reporting on a new Mori poll which found that 68 percent of the population agreed with the statement, "I'm working class and proud of it." That is up from 52 percent of people who agreed with that statement three years ago, and from 51 percent in 1994.
"Show me a capitalist and I'll show you a bloodsucker"
THE SUM of All Fears, which is now being shown in cinemas, was done and dusted before 11 September 2001. But the film deals with a major terrorist attack on the US and has been seen as Hollywood's first attempt to deal with the attacks. It has been a big hit in the US.
IF YOU want to know more about modern Italy then read See Naples and Die, the new book by socialist Tom Behan. It is about the Camorra, the powerful organised crime group that dominates the southern Italian city of Naples. The Camorra has grown because of the huge unemployment rate in the Campania region - 23.3 percent overall and 28 percent in Naples.
THE PROTESTS against the rich and powerful at the Earth Summit in South Africa have been inspiring. Following on from the protests in Barcelona and Seville earlier this year, they are a powerful rebuttal to all those who claimed the anti-capitalist movement was dead after 11 September.
THE "LEADERS" of the world meet this week in Johannesburg. They will put profits before people and try to convince us there is no other way to run the world than the way it is done now. The activists, campaigners, arguers, debaters, discussers and awkward people of the European anti-capitalist movement will come together in Florence in November.
THE US spent £165 million on the biggest war game in military history earlier this month. According to one key participant it was rigged to ensure that US forces beat their "Middle Eastern" opponents. "The exercises were almost entirely scripted to ensure a US win," General Paul Van Riper, a retired marine lieutenant-general, told the Army Times.