Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker


Issue: 1682

Dated: 05 Feb 2000



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'Police did not give a damn'

Cliff McGowan, whose brother Errol and nephew Jason were found hanged in Telford after receiving racist death threats, has spoken out against the police. Cliff told Socialist Worker, "The police made us feel that Errol's life didn't matter. As far as they were concerned he'd taken his own life, and that was it. "I asked, 'What will it take to change your mind?' They said, 'Bring us some evidence.' I thought that was their job."


International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other

News

Asylum briefs

£10,000 to visit your relatives The government is to demand a bond of up to £10,000 from people from the Indian subcontinent who want to visit relatives in Britain. This will effectively bar people from visiting their families or attending funerals and weddings.

Easy life for retired bosses

PENSIONERS ARE trying to survive on a basic £3,471 a year. But top directors retire on that much a WEEK and more, according to Labour Research.

Report slams into chicken factories

A DEVASTATING report into British abattoirs reveals "severe deficiencies" in the production of food, according to a report by vets working for the European Commission. The vets inspected a number of factories producing chicken, which counts for around 40 percent of all the meat consumed in Britain. The process used dirty equipment in run down buildings and with little inspection from qualified vets. The report also concluded that government inspections at the factories are failing. It revealed factory bosses are pressurising the inspectors into giving them a good hygiene report. Food safety expert Tim Lang says this smacks of "the worst time of the 1980s when the ministry's reflex was

Sackings, old and new

ANNESLEY - Bentinck pit in Nottinghamshire closed its doors last week after 140 years. The private firm Midland Mining took over the pit four years ago. But last December the company announced it was shutting the mine and sacking 450 workers. It is not just in the "old industries" where workers are facing unemployment. Two big internet companies announced job cuts last week. Boo.com, which sells designer clothes through the internet, is sacking some of its workforce, as is the world's largest online bookseller, Amazon.com. Amazon is cutting its workforce by 150, despite the fact that the company is valued at £20 billion.

Blair's Britain

RICHARD Branson is hiking ticket prices on his Virgin Trains. Virgin now charges £150 for a standard return fare between London and Manchester. This has risen by 50 percent in three years.THOUSANDS of children are suffering serious birth injuries because of a crisis in Britain's maternity services, say the government's own figures. A shortage of midwives means that up to a third of women give birth without proper supervision.PRINCE Charles's official fortune is now at an all time high of £290 million. Most of this comes from the Duchy of Cornwall. Profits from the estate gave Charles an income of £7 million last year.NEW LABOUR is planning to let the

Rage against injustice

A CROWD of 12,000 people packed into a London venue on Friday of last week to see US band Rage Against the Machine. Band members urged everyone to build support for justice campaigns like Mumia Abu-Jamal and Satpal Ram.

Two men hanged in Telford

"WHAT DOES a black family have to do to get justice? Hire their own police force, their own solicitor, their own forensic scientist?" So says Cliff McGowan, whose brother Errol was found hanged last July after suffering two years of racist harassment and death threats. Cliff's nephew Jason, who was investigating his uncle's death, was then found hanged on New Year's Day.

Leading defenders of NHS under attack

HEALTH WORKERS at UCLH hospitals in London are organising a demonstration on Tuesday of next week to call for more funding for the NHS. It has never been needed more. The Association of Community Health Councils revealed shocking evidence last week about the state of accident and emergency departments. It did a snapshot survey on 20 December last year and found elderly patients with serious illnesses left on trolleys for more than two days. It found patients were forced to lie on the floor because there were no beds-and this was before the flu outbreak in January. This is the tragic result of New Labour's refusal to fund the NHS.

Vote London Socialist Alliance

SOCIALISTS WILL be standing in the elections for the Greater London Assembly in May. Socialists, trade unionists and community groups have united in the London Socialist Alliance (LSA). The LSA will contest seats on the Greater London Assembly, the new body which will come into operation at the same time as the mayor. Over the next two weeks elections will be taking place to select local LSA candidates.

Cambridge Two

OVER 600 people attended a lively demonstration last Saturday in Cambridge to protest against the imprisonment of the Cambridge Two, Ruth Wyner and John Brock. A judge had two days earlier refused them leave to appeal against their conviction. That decision will now go to a higher court. The two have been sentenced to five and four years after having been falsely accused of allowing drugs to be dealt in the homeless day centre they ran. Delegations on the march included workers from the local council, Southwark NATFHE, Ipswich TGWU and local students. Protesters chanted, "British justice, no justice-free the Cambridge Two." Campaigners now plan to take their protests to London and hand

Council protests

LEICESTERSHIRE: Around 500 care workers across Leicestershire took part in the first of a series of one day strikes last Saturday against plans to cut wages. Leicestershire County Council bosses are trying to impose new contracts which will take away weekend shift allowances. This would cost some workers up to £2,000 a year. It is also feared that this pay cut could pave the way for privatisation. Support for the strike was solid amongst the mainly female part time workforce. Two rallies of about 100 strikers and supporters took place during the day. The workers planned more strikes this week and next unless management backed down.

UNISON round-up

Roddy Slorach THE APPEAL against the expulsion of leading Scottish activist Roddy Slorach from his UNISON union was last week postponed until 7 March.

Reports round-up

BT CONCERN IS growing among BT workers over the company's massive new restructuring programme, labelled NewGRID. Some of the biggest union meetings for years have been taking place around the country over the plan, and now three key London engineering branches of the workers' CWU union have called a mass meeting. NewGRID will affect all BT workers, and the company wants to end all current demarcation and grading structures.

Free Satpal Ram

The Free Satpal Ram Campaign has called a vigil outside the Home Office on Monday 28 February. The campaign is to meet with minister Paul Boateng to press the government to release Satpal. Satpal has been in prison for 13 years for defending himself against racist thugs who attacked him in a Birmingham restaurant.

Firefighters

Firefighters on Merseyside have forced the reinstatement of the branch secretary and branch chair of Formby fire station after the threat of a brigade - wide walkout. Management suspended the two branch officials after an allegation that they had been "discourteous". This was a major attack on the FBU firefighters' union, as both officials are heading a campaign to prevent Formby from being downgraded. Both are now back at work after firefighters at stations across the brigade voted to walk out.

ATTAC

Some 50 people attended a meeting in London last Saturday to launch the Association for the Tobin Tax for Aid to Citizens (ATTAC) in Britain. The tax, named after economist James Tobin, would be a levy on financial speculation. Katherin Matheison of War On Want addressed Saturday's meeting, as did a member of ATTAC from France. Across the Channel ATTAC has grown to some 70,000 members with 130 local groups in little over a year after it was launched by the left wing monthly paper Le Monde diplomatique. Most of those at Saturday's meeting were inspired by the Seattle protest against the World Trade Organisation. A series of further meetings is planned, including a joint conference with W

Victory at Connex — 'Bosses scared to show their faces'

"UNION railroads Connex." That was the headline in last Sunday's Observer newspaper. Drivers working for privatised rail company Connex have won a magnificent victory. One 24 hour strike by 1,500 train drivers left fat cat rail bosses reeling. Drivers, who belong to the ASLEF rail union, won their demands for a 35 hour week and 100 percent pension rights. Connex has also been forced to agree to recruit at least 60 new drivers. A driver from Battersea depot in south London told Socialist Worker, "Everyone stood together and we won. "All the managers who tried to bully and intimidate us are skulking around the mess room now. They're scared to show their faces."

Sky Chefs dispute ends — 'Proud of our fight'

"WE WERE right to stand and fight. I have no doubts about that. People stood together and that makes me proud." They were the words of one of the sacked Sky Chefs workers who last week decided to end their brave 14 month fight. The 270 catering workers at Heathrow Airport were sacked by air giant Lufthansa simply for taking part in a legal one day strike against huge attacks on their pay and conditions.

Student fees fight gains pace

Hundreds of students at the School of Oriental and African Studies, central London, took control of the college's finance and admin department for most of last week. They were fighting for students who have not paid their tuition fees. In doing so they highlighted a battle that is taking place inside every college in Britain. Students who cannot afford to pay their tuition fees, or who are refusing to pay on principle, face expulsion from college. "If we put up with this, we can say goodbye to working class students coming to this college," said Tam, one of the SOAS occupiers. "I'm a third year. I don't even pay fees. But I will leave college with £8,000 to £9,000 of debt. I get a m


International

Alarm raised at far right's rise in Austria

AUSTRIA'S FAR right Freedom Party was close to entering government as Socialist Worker went to press. It was in talks with the Tory People's Party over forming a coalition government. The prospect of a far right party holding ministerial office in Europe for the first time since 1945 should sound alarm bells. Jörg Haider's Freedom Party is viciously anti - immigrant. It claimed during last autumn's general election campaign that Austria suffered from "Überfremdung" (foreign infiltration). Hitler's Nazis put this word at the centre of their propaganda in the early 1930s. By inviting Haider's party into government, the Austrian Tories have given respectability to open racist scapego

Picket lines and protests in France

FRANCE SHOWS another face of Europe, how workers can take on bosses and governments, marginalising the far right and the Nazis. Over 10,000 health workers united to march in Paris on Friday of last week. Thousands joined similar protests in other cities around the country. They were demanding increased funding and more staff. More protests were planned this week. Four years ago the Tory government attacked France's welfare provision, including health. This was beaten back, and strikes and protests ensured a left wing coalition government was swept to power.


Comment

Holocaust Day, something to fight for

I GUESS many a reader of Socialist Worker enjoys the fire of the Observer's columnist Nick Cohen. On Sunday he turned his attention to New Labour's announcement that 27 January will be Holocaust Day. Cohen loathes everything about the idea. He is nauseated by Labour politicians' hypocrisy commemorating persecution whilst mounting attacks on asylum seekers. He thinks that official memorials like this let modern leaders off the hook. It means they can be compassionate about the past whilst not giving a damn about the present.

Bit player's hollow boast

TONY BLAIR was off swanking at the World Economic Forum at Davos in Switzerland last week. He lectured European business and political leaders that they needed to copy the flexible, free - market model offered by British and US capitalism. "Does Europe continue with the old social model, that has an attitude to social legislation rooted in the 60s and 70s, or does it recognise that the new economy demands a redirection of European economic policy for the future?" Blair asked.


Features

Why it's right to scrap Section 28

TORIES AND religious fundamentalists are trying to unleash a flood of anti-gay bigotry. Catholic Cardinal Winning and millionaire owner of the Stagecoach empire Brian Souter (an evangelical Christian) are leading a crusade to keep the anti-gay Section 28 law in Scotland. Tory lords and Church of England bishops have now waded in to defend Section 28 in England and Wales. All of them claim they oppose discrimination. Yet recently Winning called homosexuality a "perversion" and likened gay people to Hitler's Nazis. His insult is sick beyond belief. Gays were one of the groups Hitler sent to concentration camps.

Left say no to the war in Chechnya

AS RUSSIAN generals continued to wage their brutal war against the Chechen people, campaigners held a meeting in central London last week to voice their protest at the slaughter. All the speakers linked this war to NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia, which made the world a more dangerous place, encouraged military conflict and acted as a model for Russia. Liz Davies, a left winger on the Labour Party's National Executive Committee, opened the meeting. She spoke about the horror of the Russian assault on the Chechen capital, Grozny. "Thousands of innocent people are freezing in basements, living under the Russian bombardment. Many of these people are elderly and cannot leave the city."

Helen Keller - opponent of injustice, fighter for socialism

Helen Keller's fight to overcome her disabilities made her life an inspiration for millions of people. Her story is taught in schools around the world. But what is not so well known is that Helen Keller was a committed and active socialist.

Raging sales

On Friday of last week 250 copies of Socialist Worker were sold outside Rage Against The Machine's concert at Wembley campaigning in support of Mumia Abu - Jamal. Workplace sales of Socialist Worker included 19 at Riverside House council offices in Greenwich, 15 at Manchester Royal Infirmary, 14 at Dunlop Tyres in Birmingham, 13 at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, 10 at each of De La Rue Printers in High Wycombe, Remploy in Neath, Glazier Metals in Glasgow, Sunderland Civic Centre and Nottinghamshire County Hall, 9 at both Chivas Regal in Paisley and Manchester Town Hall, 8 at both Vickers in Newcastle and the Inland Revenue offices in Nottingham. Despite the rain and wind Socialist Worker selle


Reviews

American Beauty — the collapse of a dream

AMERICAN Beauty, which has been a huge hit in the United States, is about the collapse of the American Dream. The film revolves around the Burnhams, who are, by all appearances, the perfect family. They are attractive, well off and own a large, tasteful house in a small town. The parents' careers are well established.

Season Ticket — a novel where fans strike back

"THEY ALL think we're scum." That is the view of two young Newcastle fans, Gerry and his mate Sewell. They are the main characters in Jonathan Tulloch's great novel Season Ticket. Gerry and Sewell live in Gateshead. Sewell's dad is doing a long stretch in prison. Gerry's dad is a violent, abusive drinker.

Wonderland — a slice of everyday life

Wonderland is a really good film. It is about real people you might actually know, like your friends and family. That makes it an all too welcome change from the glitzy dross that Hollywood so often pumps out. The film uses a grainy documentary style to portray a weekend in the lives of three working sisters in London. One sister is single but using lonely hearts ads to try to find a partner. Another sister is a single mum just trying to have a good time. The third is married and about to have a baby.

Television previews

CORRESPONDENT (Sat, 5.50pm, BBC2). Worth a look. This special edition from Latin America looks at the aftermath of the 1998 hurricane and how money intended for the victims has gone into the pockets of the international banks.


What We Think

Peter Kilfoyle's resignation shows even the loyal are turning from Blair

THE RESIGNATION as junior defence minister of Peter Kilfoyle, an enthusiastic supporter of "modernisation", is a sign of the deep crisis engulfing New Labour. Kilfoyle's decision follows Tony Blair's worst ever week, when the press was full of headlines about Labour's betrayals.


Other Categories

Great politics on the Connex picket lines

Great politics on the picket lines DURING THE Connex rail strike on Tuesday of last week myself and another comrade went down to the drivers' picket line at Orpington, Kent. The response we received was brilliant. People welcomed us when we said we were from Socialist Worker. There was a real willingness by the strikers to talk about the issues behind their dispute and the wider political situation facing workers today.

Can we plan the economy?

THE COLLAPSE of the old Soviet Union has meant many commentators, even some on the left, have dismissed the idea that you can plan the economy. So Ken Livingstone said last week, "My biggest failure was not to realise earlier that the centrally planned economy didn't work." It is true that there is no way every aspect of a modern economy can be controlled in every detail by a single centralised body. However, that does not mean that planning is out of date or impossible to achieve.

New Labour, new sleaze #126…

MULTI-MILLIONAIRE Carl Cushnie was one of the glittering stars in New Labour's constellation of businessmen. He appeared in New Labour's party political broadcast for the European elections last year after a personal appeal from Tony Blair. Now the financial company he headed, British - based Versailles, has gone into receivership and is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. It increased its apparent turnover by setting up paper companies and swapping loans between them. An accountant told the Financial Times last week that money laundering was a possibility. He said, "Money was going out of these accounts via one of the client accounts. "It was repeatedly going into bank a



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