Dated: 22 Jan 2005
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A TERRITORIAL Army (TA) soldier has resigned from the force in protest at the war and occupation of Iraq.
AS AMERICA’S rich and powerful party in Washington, celebrating George W Bush’s presidential inauguration, the White House is preparing to extend its war to Iran. Award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh revealed in the New Yorker this week that US special forces have been operating in Iran since at least last summer, identifying possible targets. Rather than deny the report, the Pentagon tried to rubbish Hersh’s reporting.
GORDON BROWN will have been delighted to have his photo taken next to a smiling Nelson Mandela last weekend. It was an important battle won against Tony Blair in the contest over who will be seen as the "saviour of Africa".
THREE DAYS of militant protests last week forced the Bolivian government to expel a multinational water company from the country. A general strike shut down the financial capital of Santa Cruz. At the same time Indian residents of the town of El Alto blocked all the roads leading to La Paz, the administrative capital.
ALAN MILBURN used a speech last Sunday to unveil a new assault on social housing. He wants the "right to buy policy", introduced in the 1980s for council houses, extended to housing association tenants. With council housing already being taken out of public control through ALMO schemes and sell-offs to housing associations, this would make life even harder for people who cannot afford to buy or afford private rents.
Youth jail’s history of abuse AN INQUIRY into the racist murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham Young Offenders Institution has revealed more abuse at the youth jail. The inquiry heard how warders handcuffed a prisoner, believed to be a foreign national, to his cell bars, pulled down his trousers and smeared black boot polish onto his buttocks.
"It’s a little like the Che T-shirt worn by many adolescents who haven’t the slightest idea who Mr Guevara was."David Aaronovitch, Observer columnist, on Prince Harry’s Nazi costume
JUST WHEN I thought it could not get any worse, I got news this week of another cover-up in the case of my brother, who is threatened with extradition to the US under trumped up "terrorism charges". The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) announced on Monday a decision to formally discipline just one of the several Anti-Terrorist Branch police officers who arrested Babar on 2 December 2003.
The great power failure Despite claims that occupation forces would rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, a US army officer admitted last week that electricity supply has fallen well below its level prior to the invasion. Major General Thomas Bostwick reported power plants have a generating capacity of just 3,500 to 3,600 megawatts, far less than the 4,400 figure prior to the fall of Baghdad. Most of the country has just three hours of electricity a day. Electricity supply has fallen since December of last year. Blackouts are a daily reality of occupation life.
I RECENTLY walked from a hotel room in central Dallas about two miles to the book repository where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot JFK. The journey took about 30 minutes and in total I passed less than ten people on the street. Here was one of America’s gleaming cities with a dense concentration of skyscrapers—most over 60 storeys tall—and the streets below are eerily empty on Saturday at midday.
Over 150 people attended an election day school organised by Respect, the Unity Coalition last Saturday.
Ali Fadhil, the Iraqi who made the documentary about the US assault on Fallujah shown last week on Channel 4, has delayed leaving Britain so that he can speak at the Stop the War Coalition student teach-in on 2 February. For more details of the teach-in see page 10.
Workers defiant despite ruling JOURNALISTS IN the NUJ union at the Enfield Advertiser in north London were balloting this week about taking further strike action against management cuts. The ten members struck for a day two weeks ago. Owners Trinity Mirror obtained a high court ruling to stop the workers from taking further action and forcing them to reballot. The ballot was set to close on Thursday of this week.There will be an NUJ Left conference on Saturday 12 February in Manchester. Phone 07801789297 for more details.
ACTIVISTS IN the PCS civil service workers union in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were set to meet on Friday of this week to discuss a new pay offer in our long running dispute. Some 90,000 workers struck for a total of six days last year against poverty pay and a discriminatory appraisal system.
SOCIAL WORKERS in Liverpool’s families and children department went back to work on Tuesday of last week after a heroic four month all-out strike was ended by regional officials in the Unison union. Before the dispute ended, we warned that the Liberal Democrat controlled council was intent on victimising us.
THE ELECTION for the new leader of Unison, Britain’s biggest public sector union, begins on Tuesday of next week. Jon Rogers is the United Left candidate for Unison general secretary. The debate in the elections will centre on the union’s relationship with New Labour.
ABOUT 100 local people came together in Woolwich, south east London, last Saturday to oppose a march through the area by the National Front (NF). Later that day the Nazi NF attempted to march near Green Street in Newham, east London.
FRIDAY 18 February is an important date for everyone who wants to fight against the attacks on our pensions.
FIFTEEN YEARS ago ambulance workers were in national dispute with Thatcher’s Tory government over low pay. It was an enormously popular dispute with opinion polls showing 80 percent of the public backing the ambulance workers.
AN ALLIANCE of two major unions, and support from the mid-level leaders of major political parties, has come together to increase the power of workers fighting against privatisation.
ON CHRISTMAS Day, the Indonesian military announced that it had killed 18 Acehnese guerillas. It was a paltry accomplishment by its own brutal standards. In the time since martial law was imposed on Aceh in May 2003, the army has admitted to having killed 3,216 Acehnese. Amnesty International reports a litany of atrocities in the same period—torture, extra-judicial killings, "rape and other forms of sexual violence".
THE AGENDA for the third Cairo Conference, which takes place from 24-27 March in the Egyptian capital, has just been finalised. The International Campaign Against US Aggression has organised the conference against war and globalisation. The aim of the third Cairo Conference is to encourage much wider participation.
Many commentators hoped that the effects of the tsunami would bring peace to Sri Lanka. At the end of 2004 it seemed that the fragile peace that had ended the 20 years civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), known as the Tamil Tigers, was collapsing. For a moment after the disaster it seemed that everyone would work together to rebuild the country. Now these hopes seem to be crumbling.
"Any appearance of a permanent occupation of Iraq will both undermine domestic support here in the US and play directly into the hands of those in the Middle East who—however wrongly—suspect us of imperial design." So spoke James Baker last week in a speech at Rice University in Houston.
HARRY COHEN, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead, told a Stop the War meeting last week, "15 February contributed to the unravelling of the policies to justify war—19 March can be just as effective." He was speaking at a rally in Waltham Forest, east London, alongside Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi refugee who teaches sociology at London Metropolitan University.
In the winter of 1921 the Russian socialist leader Lenin made a trip to a new art school. The art school had a progressive and experimental curriculum, where questions of art and design were annexed to the needs of the Soviet state. A student told Lenin that they were trying to figure out how art and politics could be linked.
Tony Blair has promised that Labour’s election manifesto will "drive through the market based reforms in the health service". But the privatisation of our NHS isn’t simply a threat for the future—it’s happening now.
The myth of choice The next few years will see the introduction of the government’s "patient choice" scheme, where people will be offered up to five different hospitals for their operation.But a MORI poll carried out for the government showed most patients don’t think a choice of hospital is important—they would rather have more say in decisions about what kind of treatment they receive.
THE FIFTH World Social Forum assembles next week in Porto Alegre, Brazil. This great gathering will bring together tens of thousands of activists from Latin America and the rest of the world. It comes at an important moment in the history of the movement against corporate globalisation. It is now more than five years since that movement first became visible in the Seattle protests in November 1999.
IN THE past year, the movement against war and corporate globalisation has continued to grow, especially at the national level, where movements are directly defending workers’ and farmers’ livelihoods by reclaiming land and campaigning against privatisation and trade liberalisation. In many parts of the world, from Bolivia to Thailand, social movements have successfully pressed their governments to reconsider or change economic policies.
ON 1 January 1994 the Zapatistas broke the imperialist tranquillity of Latin America. Five years later and a large part of the continent had entered a period of revolts, government changes and general strikes that continues to the present day. In January 2000 a revolt by the Ecuadorians against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) demolished the government of Jamil Mahuad.
A GREAT battle in southern Italy in 71BC pitted an army of privileged citizen soldiers, commanded by a corrupt millionaire, against an army of slaves and rural labourers led by an escaped gladiator called Spartacus. It was the climax of the greatest slave revolt in antiquity.
Wednesday 26-31 JanuaryWorld Social Forum, Porto Alegre, Brazil. For details go to <a href="www.forumsocialmundial.org.br" target = "_blank">www.forumsocialmundial.org.br</a>
In focus: Pensions
The British jazz scene has often been overshadowed by its much larger American cousin. But a new series starting on BBC4 next Friday lifts the lid on the development of jazz in this country. In doing so, it offers a fascinating glimpse of Britain’s multicultural history.
A Very Long Engagement Directed by Jean-Pierre JeunetReleased Friday 21 January
The Rotters’ Club BBC2, starts Wednesday 26 January, 9pm
THE SOUNDBITE that launched Blair’s election campaign last week—" an unremittingly New Labour third term"—is one that should send a chill down the spine of anyone who wants a just and fair society.
Working class Glaswegians have responded much more positively to the dispersal of asylum seekers to their city than many media reports have suggested, according to a recent study. The Building Bridges report, by Dr Karen Wren, identifies the voluntary work of local people within community networks as the single most positive aspect where the integration of asylum seekers in Glasgow is concerned.
After the tsunami…
The new bumper issue of International Socialism is out this month.
Bookmarks has just published a new edition of Rosa Luxemburg’s superb pamphlet The Mass Strike (£4), which draws out the lessons for socialists from the titanic strikes that repeatedly shook the Russian empire in the revolution of 1905.
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