Dated: 24 Apr 2004
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GEORGE BUSH has chosen a replacement for Paul Bremer as governor-in-chief in Iraq. It is John Negroponte, the mastermind behind the death squads of Central America. Negroponte could give lessons to the most brutal dictatorships in the world on how to organise death squads, assassinate opponents and terrorise popular movements into submission.
THE FRENCH Nazi leader Le Pen was due to come to Birmingham on Sunday. The leader of the National Front organisation announced on his website this week that he was planning an \"official visit\" in England on Sunday. He was likely to be speaking at an £80 a head fundraising dinner for the British National Party (BNP) in the West Midlands.
THE TUC has promised to organise one of its biggest demonstrations for years on Saturday 19 June. The unions are responding to a series of savage attacks on pension rights. The government plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 for teachers and civil servants, making them work longer for their pensions.
THURSDAY, GEORGE Bush endorses Israel's land grab in the Occupied Territories. Friday, he and Tony Blair line up behind Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Saturday, another Palestinian leader is murdered. The fiction of a \"road map to peace\" in the Middle East is dead, murdered by an expansionist Israeli government that wants to humiliate the Palestinians and leave them with a tenth of the land they lived in only two generations ago.
HOW OFTEN do you hear foreigners who are killed or injured in Iraq described as \"contractors\"? US campaigner and film director Michael Moore is one of those who has dug behind the headlines to find out what is going on:
11am Housing protest
AFTER A 17-day unofficial work stoppage, Oxford postal workers have won a crucial battle. Their courageous stand against bullying and management's failure to take the issue seriously is a massive step forward for workers everywhere. Bullying occurs in every industry. Management invariably do nothing about it or actively instigate and encourage it. Oxford postal workers have shown how to fight back.
AROUND 500 Sainsbury's workers marched on the supermarket headquarters in London on Monday to demand a halt to a pay freeze. A two-tier system started last year when new contracts were offered in exchange for staff giving up overtime and shift premiums. Many long-serving staff who did not accept the \"voluntary\" contracts ended up with their pay frozen.
WHAT RELATIONSHIP to have with the government was the question that dominated the conferences of the three main teachers' unions over Easter. And it is likely to be at the centre of debates at other union conferences over the next three months.
THE HIGHLY successful strike on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week by around 100,000 civil servants in the PCS union showed a real determination among members. People are not willing to give in to low pay and performance-related pay. Leaked documents last week showed how Kevin White, the human resources director at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), disgracefully criticised women staff for their supposed lack of ambition.
AROUND THE country activists held emergency protests last Saturday to protest against the massacre of over 600 Iraqis in Fallujah. Around 250 people assembled in Edinburgh's Parliament Square to hear speeches denouncing the brutality of the occupation. Some 200 protesters marched through Brighton and attended a lively rally.
IT'S NOW possible to draw a balance sheet of the four-week strike earlier this year by lecturers at Leicester College. The deal now agreed means that management have been forced to retreat from their attack on collective bargaining. All staff will now be put onto the contract that the Natfhe union negotiated. This contract includes a number of gains and an action plan to discuss improvements.
OVER 100 people attended a public meeting in Haringey, north London, last Sunday called by the Roger Sylvester Justice Campaign (RSJC). \"Five years after his death we are still fighting for justice,\" said Rupert, his father.
THE 2004 European Social Forum (ESF) is set to take place in London in October. It will bring together tens of thousands of anti-capitalist activists and campaigners. The latest in a series of European Assemblies to plan the ESF took place in Istanbul, Turkey, last weekend.
A SERIOUS threat hangs over one million council workers and related employees. The government wants to push through a crippling pay and conditions deal. The main elements are:
WORKERS HAVE reacted with anger to huge multinational Diageo's announcement of the closure of the Guinness brewery in Park Royal in Brent, north west London. The company plans to axe 90 jobs in the 70 year old plant in London, transferring this work to St James's Gate, Ireland. According to one union rep, \"For a number of years management have used the threat of closing either Park Royal or St James's Gate as a way of pushing through cuts and rationalisation in both plants. We gave concession after concession. We were told we had to 'modernise' and we did, but it just meant more work and now they do this. Park Royal was set up by Guinness in the 1930s to avoid paying import tax
FIRE BRIGADES Union (FBU) members in Tower Hamlets, east London, are balloting for industrial action over a scheme designed to cover up for cuts in the ambulance service by getting firefighters effectively to do two jobs. Karl Haider, a local FBU union official, told Socialist Worker what's at stake:
SIGNALLING, maintenance and station staff working for the company that runs the entire rail infrastructure network are to ballot for strikes which could bring the first national rail stoppage for ten years. The 7,000 members of the RMT union on Network Rail were due to begin receiving ballot papers this week for action over pay, pensions and travel facilities. Network Rail has offered a pay rise of just 3 percent-the lowest pay offer in the rail industry.
THE MAGNIFICENT all-out strike of 4,500 nursery nurses across Scotland is still going strong in its eighth week. The strikers, members of the Unison union, are fighting for a decent national pay deal from COSLA, the Labour-dominated local employers. Scottish nursery nurses voted to continue their action at a meeting on Tuesday of this week.
\"23 April-St George's Day-should be carved on the heart of every Englishman.\" These are the words of Andrew Rosindell, the Conservative MP for Romford-someone who pops up on numerous TV programmes championing St George's Day. Rosindell likes to present himself as part of a new young generation, a man who can both be \"cosmopolitan\" in his outlook and at the same time proud to be English. But don't be deceived by appearances.
CURRENT REPORTS say something like 500-600 people have been killed in Fallujah, including estimates of 200 women and over 100 children. There are no women among the mujahideen (resistance fighters)-so all of the above are non-combatants. Many of the men who were wounded told us they were just going about their business.
Socialist Worker sellers are finding a real audience when they campaign for Respect in the workplaces. Keith from Hackney told me how Socialist Worker was going down with local bus workers: \"Our sale at Clapton bus garage last Friday saw an upturn in interest. \"Bus workers were approaching our table and asking for information about Respect. They were wondering why they had not heard of Respect. This gave us ample opportunity to sell the only paper that informs-Socialist Worker. As a result 15 papers were sold, and many people took Respect literature.\"
ONE MILLION children are living in housing that stunts their health and education, according to a study last week by housing charity Shelter. It found the number of homeless families has increased 31 percent since New Labour was elected in May 1997. There is a housing crisis in Britain. We now have the lowest level of housebuilding since the Second World War. Council housing is virtually not built any more.
THE WHOLE experience of my brother's death and what happened after was a total shock. We knew right from the beginning that the police were lying to us. We were treated with such contempt. They were always trying to put the blame on anyone but themselves for what happened to Christopher.
THIRTY YEARS ago this week officers in the Portuguese army overthrew the country's fascist dictator, Caetano. The coup triggered a rash of strikes, demonstrations and factory occupations, as workers began to seize the opportunity to air long-suppressed grievances. The explosion from below led commentators to begin talking of the \"Portuguese Revolution\".
HIP-HOP HAS always been a music with two souls. One soul rages against ghetto life, against racism, police harassment and \"the system\". The other soul reflects the divisions among those who suffer. It promotes sexism and celebrates a cash-rich lifestyle that will always be out of the reach of most of the fans. Dead Prez come from the soul of resistance. Their hip-hop is about a rebellious tradition that goes back to the Black Panther Party.
TONY BLAIR has faced another stark choice over the last few days. He could stick with his fellow war criminal George Bush and slide deeper into the blood and horror of Iraq. Or he could follow the Spanish government and withdraw troops as quickly as possible.
From the Victorian era till the 1960s gays and lesbians were persecuted by the state. Police officers regularly entrapped and arrested gay men. In that repressive climate, most gays and lesbians hid their sexual orientation. Over the last three decades the worst legal restrictions and discriminations have ended. The level of popular prejudice against gays and lesbians is much reduced. Today every major TV and radio soap has gay or lesbian storylines, with sympathetic characters.
I AM a black man from a Christian background. But I feel the attacks on the Muslim community as if they were on me personally. Racists do not discriminate when they turn upon scapegoats. Today it is the asylum seeker and the Muslim. Tomorrow it is the Hindu and the Sikh, and the day after it is all black people.
\"FLESH-MELTING Bomb Plot Foiled,\" screamed the Sun on 7 April. Not to be outdone, the Daily Mirror weighed in with \"Dirty Bomb Plot Foiled: MI5 Stop 'Poison Gas Gang'.\" Overnight the gutter press was full of tales of osmium tetroxide, a toxic chemical available on the internet for £100 which, it was claimed, dissolves flesh and causes blindness and \"dry land drowning\", where lungs fill with fluid.