Dated: 22 Jun 2002
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STOP THE WAR ON ASYLUM SEEKERS
THE WAR against refugees intensified again this week. Home secretary David Blunkett welcomed the election of a Tory government in France because he believes it will crack down on asylum seekers. Tony Blair is meeting European leaders at Seville to organise warships to sink refugee boats. He also wants European states to slash aid to the poor countries that refugees flee from.
THE PENSION scandal gets greater by the day. More and more firms are closing off schemes which give workers a pension linked to their earnings, and instead are forcing them to gamble their future on pensions linked to the stockmarket.
Blair's nuke bomb plant NEW LABOUR is planning to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on a massive nuclear bomb making factory at Aldermaston, near Reading. These nuclear warheads will be used against "terrorist" groups and "rogue" states.
THERE IS a hidden army of workers in Britain today. They travel to work very early in the morning or very late at night, out of sight of opinion formers and politicians. Their lives do not feature in the glossy colour supplements or TV lifestyle programmes.
AN ELECTION begins on Monday whose result is important for every trade unionist in Britain. The vote is for the leader of one of Britain's key unions. And at stake is the fate of Tony Blair's key ally in the trade union movement. Over 700,000 members of the AEEU section of the Amicus union are voting for their general secretary.
TUBE WORKERS took their fight against the privatisation of London Underground onto the streets last Tuesday. The RMT union's campaign for a yes vote in the ballot for strike action was kicked off by Bob Crow.
A STRIKE by hundreds of workers in the PCS and Prospect civil servants' unions closed the British Museum in central London on Monday of this week. They were protesting against £6.5 million of cuts which will lead to the loss of 150 jobs-15 percent of the workforce. "After two other periods of redundancies it was time to make a stand," said Hadrian Ellory-Vandecker, the Prospect representative in the museum. "Management will be cutting back on essential services-there will be gallery closures. There will be a large number of compulsory redundancies. It's appalling." "This is the first time in its 250-year history that the Museum has been closed by industrial action," said Annette C
LINCOLNSHIRE Free Press and Spalding Guardian journalists have just embarked on a 20-day strike. This latest action comes after two five-day strikes proved unsuccessful at getting management talking. Our salaries and recognition of our professional skills and experience have been eroded over many years.
Solidarity at the chalk face THE UNISON union strike made last week one of the most exciting I have ever experienced. I called a NUT union meeting on Tuesday, and 40 people turned up to decide our action. There was a fantastic discussion, and an emergency staff meeting was held on Thursday.
South Bank University, London, saw lecturers strike for three days last week against compulsory redundancies. Now lecturers are withholding marks, which means that exam boards can't go ahead.
THE firefighters' FBU union leaders have been campaigning for unity in the fight to win a £30,000 wage. But right in the middle of the campaign they have suspended two union officials. Joe McVeigh and Neale Williams have been suspended following allegations of electoral irregularity in the Bowgate branch of the FBU. The accusations concern the ongoing election for the London delegate to the national council.
ANOTHER 17,000 job losses in the post and a disgracefully lacklustre response from union leaders. That was the bad news for postal workers last week. Workers are being asked to pay for mistakes by the bosses, and the government's crazed commitment to the market and privatisation. The bosses used gross lies to justify the job losses.
THE SOCIALIST Alliance is holding a recall conference for trade union activists on 29 June. It is a chance to discuss how to take our campaign to democratise the trade union political funds forward. This comes as the Labour right wing campaigns to block moves to give members a democratic say in how their political fund is allocated.
TWO SMALL independent bookshops, Housmans and Bookmarks, are fighting the threat of a libel case. They face a case brought by someone criticised in Searchlight magazine in 1993. The shops' defence is based on the impossibility of small bookshops taking responsibility for what is in the thousands of publications they stock.
THE CHART-topping band Chumbawamba launched an attack on the BNP, after announcing they would play in the Anti Nazi League (ANL) concert in Burnley on 27 June.
THE INQUEST into the death of Harry Stanley opened last Monday. Harry was shot dead by police as he walked home from a pub in Hackney, east London. No criminal charges are being brought against the police as a result of Harry's death.
SOME 100 activists took part in a conference in Edinburgh on Saturday on "Giving effective solidarity to the Palestinians". John McAllion, Labour MSP, opened the conference by insisting that unity of all campaigners for Palestine was essential.
AROUND 100 people attended the Stop the War Coalition activists' conference in central London last Sunday. Activists from 25 local Stop the War Coalition groups discussed continuing to organise against the so called "war on terror" and the US's plans for an attack on Iraq.
THE MOOD for a fight for decent pay for public sector workers marked the conference of Britain's biggest trade union this week. So too did the growing feeling for united action over pay across the public sector. The main conference of the Unison union took place in Bournemouth after Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday.
THE FRENCH Tories won a big majority in the parliamentary elections on Monday. The right will have around 400 seats in the new parliament, while the Socialist Party (equivalent of the Labour Party) and its allies will have around 175. After the recent presidential elections John Monks of the TUC and newspapers like the Guardian blamed the far left for the fact that the Nazi Le Pen beat the Socialist Party.
THE BIGGEST general strike for 15 years in Argentina's neighbour Uruguay, in South America, took place last week. There was an almost total stoppage by public sector workers, and a very strong response in private industry.
MORE THAN 70 people were arrested and beaten in Harare, Zimbabwe, last weekend. They were taking part in a peaceful commemoration of the Soweto anti-apartheid uprising in South Africa in 1976. Socialist MP Munyaradzi Gwisai, who is due to speak at Marxism 2002 in London, was singled out for special treatment by the riot police. He was severely beaten and needed urgent medical treatment.
THE BLOOM has suddenly gone off the British and US economies. Until a few weeks ago the business media were stridently celebrating the ease with which they had shaken off the slowdown that hit both stockmarkets and the real economy in 2000-1.
TONY PARSONS'S novel Man and Boy is one of the most successful books of recent years. It has sold over a million copies, been translated into 30 languages and won many awards. His latest book, One For My Baby, is destined to be equally popular. I think they are both grossly overrated and push a false, very conservative view of the world.
IN TWO weeks one of the biggest and most exciting gatherings of socialists in Europe will take place at the Marxism 2002 event in central London. Several thousand people attended last year's event.
ONE WAY the defenders of capitalism try to discredit socialism is by claiming it would destroy individuality and reduce everything to a dull conformity. By contrast they give the impression that capitalism provides people with varied, exciting lives.
NO ONE can have missed the fact that the World Cup is taking place. The tournament will mean different things to different people. Some will simply enjoy the games as a sporting event. It will be a chance to briefly escape from the normal routines of life. Others, corporations like Nike and Adidas, the businesses who dub themselves "official World Cup sponsors", and the giant media companies have a very different outlook.
IN 1897, 46,000 plumed and scrubbed troops marched through London to mark Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. They were drawn from an empire that included over a quarter of the world's people. There was a camel corps from India, the Dyak police from Borneo, Muslim zaptiehs in their red fezzes, soldiers from Fiji, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Zanzibar and many more.
HARLAN COUNTY War is a brilliant new film just out on video. It is drama based on the year-long strike of 180 miners in Kentucky in the US in 1973. The miners work long hours in dangerous conditions. The miners and their families live in small houses without running water.
FILMS BASED on comics are not always successful. But this summer's blockbuster, Spider-Man, is not at all bad. The original comic superheroes were Superman and Batman. Their adventures in the 1940s laid down rules that dominated the industry for the next 20 years.
THE SIEGE, by Helen Dunmore, is a novel set in the winter-long blockade of Leningrad in Russia by Nazi forces during the Second World War. It has just come out in paperback. It follows the story of a young woman, Anna. Her mother died in childbirth. Now Anna works in a nursery, and cares for her five year old brother and ageing father.
SEVILLE IN Spain sees the two different faces of Europe this week. Tony Blair and other European leaders are meeting to force through even tougher legislation to victimise those seeking refuge from war and famine. Blair is at the heart of a right wing axis. Downing Street has leapt in to dub right wing French president Jacques Chirac "a man we can work with", as he plans huge tax cuts for the rich and an assault on French workers.
I WAS one of the firefighters who attended the recent fire at Buckingham Palace during the jubilee. This fire was a small affair and quickly extinguished.
EUROPE MINISTER Peter Hain has shocked many Labour supporters by his harsh words about immigration and asylum. He claimed, "Muslim immigrants can be very isolationist and need to integrate more." He implied they bring racist attacks on themselves. Some 27 years ago a young firebrand wrote an essay to denounce this type of pandering to racists' ideas: