Dated: 11 May 2002
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TONY BLAIR is preparing to rob child benefit and housing benefit from the poorest families in Britain because their children have been branded "tearaways". He is pressing ahead with the plan despite opposition from even right wing papers that exploit people's fear of crime. Far from cutting crime, Blair's scheme will make it worse. The single biggest cause of crime is poverty.
THE US is preparing to attack Iraq no matter how many United Nations weapons inspectors Saddam Hussein allows in. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said last week, "US policy is that, regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad.
REFUGEE children are not a problem in schools. Government policy and funding cuts are. That finding, in research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, shatters home secretary David Blunkett's scapegoating claim that asylum seekers are "swamping" schools and other public services.
CABLE company Telewest is sacking 1,500 workers as the crisis in the communications industry grows. The announcement came just a week after ITV Digital went bust, with the loss of 1,500 jobs. The ITV Digital collapse will also lead to the sacking of about 600 footballers from the lower leagues.
THE RICHEST people in Britain give less of their wealth to charity than those receiving state benefits do. A study by the Institute for Public Policy Research, A Bit Rich, found that the top 20 percent of households in Britain give less than 1 percent of their income to charity.
Breathtaking negligence of employers SOME 7,000 workers a year are struck with asthma through work. Occupational asthma is widespread, and is forcing many workers to leave their jobs due to ill health, according to research for the TUC. Workers often suffer from debilitating asthma without employers recognising that work is to blame.
FURTHER evidence has come to light confirming that crime is actually falling. There had been a recorded rise in street crime that was almost wholly down to an increase in the number of reported mobile phone thefts. The media seized on the increase in street robbery figures two months ago to claim that violent crime is spiralling.
THE NAZI British National Party has conned its way into three council seats in Burnley. This is a terrible warning. It demands an urgent reaction from the anti-Nazi majority across Britain.
THE MYTH that workers are better off with the flexible labour market in Britain has been powerfully exposed in a new report. Workers are working harder for more hours and under greater stress than they were ten years ago, according to research in Britain's World of Work-Myths and Realities by Richard Taylor.
YOU WOULDN'T know it from newspapers and TV, but across England thousands voted for socialist candidates in last week's local elections. The Socialist Alliance stood 230 candidates on a platform of left wing opposition to the mainstream pro-business parties. Consistently between 5 and 10 percent of voters cast one of their votes for the alliance.
JOURNALISTS AT the Independent and Independent on Sunday were set to start a strike ballot this week. They had given management at the national newspapers until Wednesday to come up with a serious pay offer or a ballot for action would begin. Management at the papers, owned by Irish businessman and newspaper baron Tony O'Reilly, want a pay freeze for staff.
THE TGWU union has sacked its Irish regional secretary after a ten-month suspension, despite the opposition of the membership in Ireland. Mick O'Reilly was sacked alongside regional organiser Eugene McGlone.
HUNDREDS OF people across Britain demonstrated in solidarity with the Palestinians over bank holiday weekend. The "Justice for Palestine-hands off Iraq" demonstration filled Sheffield city centre last Saturday. It was 2, 000-strong at its height, with lots of people joining in the march as it went along.
EDINBURGH: 1,000 people marched for international solidarity and socialism through the streets of Edinburgh to a rally in Princes Street Gardens on Saturday. Palestinian flags flew among trade union and socialist banners as the chants rang out against privatisation and for freedom for Palestine.
'Don't charge us' say firefighters in London FORTY FIREFIGHTERS attended a fantastic rank and file meeting in central London last week. The meeting was called by Clerkenwell Fire Brigades Union members who are taking unofficial action against the levying of a congestion charge which will cost £I,000 per year.
HEALTH WORKERS last week ripped a hole in the government's strategy to force Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes through in the NHS. The government's plans for the NHS, including those announced in last month's budget, are based on a massive increase in PFI privatisation projects across the health service.
AS THE news of the BNP's victory in Burnley circulated, anti-Nazi campaigners across Britain took to the streets in protest. Over 100 people turned up in Bristol on Friday and marched, to a great reception from passers-by. People marched to the BBC to demand no platform for Nazis.
LEADERS OF the CWU postal workers' union have called off a strike planned for this week. They claim they have achieved a "major victory" over pay. In fact they have surrendered to Royal Mail bosses' and threaten to weaken workers' ability to fight in the future. It is important that activists throw themselves into defeating the proposed deal in the forthcoming ballot.
A RECENT letter from the managing director of Arriva trains shows exactly why workers at the company are continuing their campaign of strike action. The brief note was a response to a heartfelt letter from the wife of a conductor in Hull. She listed the pressures on her husband and the abuse he often faces from passengers, some a result of the chaotic service Arriva runs. For this and his responsibilities for safety on the train his basic salary is just £15,500 a year for working shifts.
OVER 50,000 council workers across London are set to strike next Tuesday, 14 May. The one-day strike is over a demand for higher London weighting, the extra pay many workers get for the costs of living and working in the capital. Housing, transport and other costs are higher in London than elsewhere. And workers, many of whom are already on low pay, are being hit hard.
THE SECOND round of the French presidential election on Sunday saw the expected landslide victory for the Tory Jacques Chirac. He got 82 percent of the votes against 18 percent for the Nazi Jean-Marie Le Pen. The election result shows the limits of Le Pen's support.
TWO LEADING Labour women were in the news last weekend. One was Barbara Castle, who died on Friday of last week. The other was Mo Mowlam, interviewed at length on Channel 4 about her gripes with Tony Blair's government.
FOR THE last few years I've kept my mouth shut when I've heard people saying that the sales of Harry Potter books were doing wonders for children's reading. On some occasions I defended the books, particularly if they were under attack from snobs. These are the kind of people who only want kids to read the books they read as a child, like Alice in Wonderland and the Just William books.
IN AN ordinary street, a family goes from tree to tree, looking through sealed bags of rubbish for something to eat. With quick fingers they open the bags, check the contents and take something out.
HITLER HAD been in power for 12 months. The strongest working class movement in the world lay shattered beneath his feet. Fascists were gaining ground across Europe. The world was mired in economic slump, which brought with it mass unemployment and wage cuts.
ONE OF the best accounts of the nature of the state of Israel is now back in print. It is available for a new generation of people angered by Israel's massacre of the Palestinians. Socialist Worker's pamphlet Israel: The Hijack State by Jewish socialist John Rose was first published in 1986.
THE MULTIRACIAL band Cornershop have returned with a brilliant new album, Handcream for a Generation. Cornershop are known to a wider audience for their huge hit single "Brimful of Asha". They chose the name Cornershop to subvert the stereotype of Asians only running newsagents and grocers, not performing in indie bands.
THE FILM The Navigators by socialist film director Ken Loach has just been released on video. It was written by a former rail worker, and exposes the impact of privatisation on the lives of rail workers. Some workers take a gamble by opting for redundancy money and life as casual workers.
BACK TO business as usual. That was the message from much of the press and many establishment politicians this week. The threat of far right and Nazi parties has, they said, been seen off. Jean-Marie Le Pen has been soundly beaten in the run-off for the presidential election in France.
Debbie was a central member of Wolverhampton Socialist Workers Party for many years. She was also an active trade unionist and campaigner for women's rights. Until recently she was deputy branch secretary of the Wolverhampton Unison union.
IN THE run-up to the local elections New Labour, the Tories and the Liberals fell over themselves to announce plans to tackle anti-social tenants and crime. They always end up referring to problems on council estates as if council tenants are the lowest of the low.
THE LOCAL elections in England show how limited democracy is under capitalism. It's not just the precious little difference between the mainstream parties' policies. The whole system operates by removing the most powerful institutions in society from any democratic accountability. Ordinary people have no say over decisions with the biggest impact on their lives.
WORK CAN kill you-that's official. Work is three times more deadly than war. Two million people die every year from a work-related accident or disease-nearly double the figure from two years ago.
Marxism 2002 will be one of the biggest left wing events in Europe this year. At Marxism we will be discussing all the issues thrown up by the political crises of recent months, in over 200 meetings and forums.