Dated: 20 Mar 2004
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Spanish voters kick out Bush's other ally
SPAIN'S ELECTORATE shocked the world by voting out its pro-war government on Sunday. There is no mainstream party you can vote for in Britain that has been unequivocally against the war. The Tories backed the war, the Lib Dems supported the war once it started.
"AN OPINION poll carried out in Iraq will make good reading for US president George Bush and British prime minister Tony Blair." So claimed the BBC on Tuesday morning. The Hutton report has obviously bent the BBC's judgement. The kindest thing you can say is that the BBC has "sexed up" the results of the poll that it commissioned.
PROTESTS BY staff and students at the London School of Economics (LSE) have forced pro-business director Howard Davies to turn down a directorship at the TotalFinaElf oil multinational.
COUNCIL WORKERS in Newham, east London, were due this week to start a ballot on industrial action to defend their union branch. The New Labour council has renewed its threat to axe the Unison union branch's full time officers, and to force it out of its existing union office in a council building.
THE BATTLE against poverty pay in the civil service is continuing. Some 90,000 workers in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are set to strike for two days on 13 and 14 April. This follows a strike in February that closed down job centres, benefits offices, pension centres and the Child Support Agency.
IN TWO key areas of the north west of England meetings of the Unite Against Fascism coalition gathered anti-Nazi campaigners together last week. In Oldham, former British National Party councillor Maureen Stowe urged people at a rally to stamp out the BNP in the elections in June.
ANGRY PARENTS and children joined a lobby of Barnsley Labour councillors called by the NUT and Unison unions last Tuesday. Barnsley council is applying to replace a secondary and two primary schools with the country's first "three to 19 academy". This would take local schools out of the local education system. GEORGE ARTHUR
AVIANCE, THE airport servicing company at Gatwick, have launched a serious attack on their workforce. At the beginning of the year they announced a series of cost cutting measures. In response the workforce staged a series of unofficial actions that caused severe disruption.
Walkout in Aston SOME 100 postal workers at the sorting office in Aston, Birmingham, stopped work on Monday of last week. Their strike was against the sacking of Peter Longbottom, who was accused of having consumed alcohol before arriving at work. One union activist said, "Members were particularly annoyed that the same manager who accused Peter of drinking was the one that sacked him. Judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one."
A PLANNED strike by track workers on London Underground has forced the private company on the network into a climbdown over six sacked employees. Metronet, which runs two thirds of the track, had said it would not take back under any circumstances six workers it singled out at Farringdon depot.
COUNCIL TENANTS in Wrexham have delivered another hammer blow to the government's drive to privatise council homes. Over 13,000 tenants of the North Wales council have decisively rejected privatisation in a ballot.
"WHAT'S SHOCKING is not just the employers' demands, but the fact that our own union leadership is railroading the members." That was the response of Andy Brickles of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in the East Midlands Region to swingeing attacks on conditions which are to be put to a snap ballot.
BUS WORKERS in Stratford, east London, experienced first hand last week the sham of New Labour's "big conversation". Around 100 drivers, engineers and workers in the canteen at Stagecoach's depot on Waterden Road heard transport minister Alistair Darling urge them to "ask whatever they want".
SOME 2,000 people joined a Stop the War Coalition protest against Blair in Manchester on Saturday. Blair and other ministers had gathered in the city for New Labour's spring conference. Police created a "Red Zone" around the G-Mex complex where the conference took place, setting up special barricades and roadblocks defended by armed police. As the conference began on Friday of last week, anti-war activists held a "Trial of Tony Blair".
THE Communication Workers Union (CWU) telecom executive is calling on BT workers to accept the latest offer over London weighting. But many members are angry at the call. The offer is for a £200 increase now and a further £25 next year.
THE ANNUAL women's TUC conference last week showed that trade unionists have not forgotten the Iraq war or swallowed Labour's domestic agenda. Some 400 delegates gathered in Eastbourne. Flashes of anger against the war on Iraq and the treatment of asylum seekers brought the conference to life. One motion asked for coalition forces in Iraq to ensure women's rights were enforced.
'NO WAR! No war!" the crowd chanted as the Socialist Party leader, Zapatero, made his acceptance speech in Madrid on Sunday. They did so as a shock election result in Spain removed from office the Tory Popular Party of Aznar. Aznar was the one of the key European leaders who most backed the war against Iraq, and a year ago posed with Bush and Blair in the Azores as they launched that war.
WARMONGERS IN the West rushed to express horror at the death toll in last week's bomb attacks in Madrid. Yet they continue to carry out massacres of their own in Iraq on a regular basis. A year of occupation has led to the deaths of over 10,000 Iraqi civilians.
THE TERRORIST attacks in Madrid, placed in three local trains, took place around 7.30am last Thursday. Most of the victims were commuting to work and school. The aim of the terrorists, according to the police, was to blow up the trains inside Atocha's station and bring down the whole building.
SPAIN'S TORY government tried to blame ETA for the Madrid explosions as part of its attempt to hang on to power using Spanish nationalism in a completely reactionary manner. Under the Spanish republic established in 1931 Catalonia and the Basque country had their own governments. Franco's fascists destroyed this independence when they overthrew the republic in the civil war of 1936-9.
ACROSS THE world this Saturday people are marching against Bush and Blair's invasion of Iraq and "war on terror". An appeal to march on this day came out of the 50,000-strong European Social Forum in Paris last November, and the 100,000-strong World Social Forum in Mumbai, India, in January.
At the heart of capitalism is an ongoing class struggle between capital and labour. That is the ABC of Marxism. But the alphabet has more than three letters. Class domination in capitalism is interwoven with many other sorts of human oppression. These provide a basis for divisions among the exploited. Disadvantaged groups have been held down on the grounds of being "different", and they in turn have fought back.
When European politicians led a demonstration through the streets of Madrid last week in the wake of the train bombings, there was one familiar face missing. Surely Tony Blair would not miss the opportunity to rub shoulders with other political leaders and to adopt his "people's princess" face of pouting lip and moist eyes?
THE ONLY response from home secretary David Blunkett to the bombings in Madrid was to call for more of the repressive measures which failed to prevent the tragedy. Western governments have been locking up hundreds of men for two years, all justified by the claim that a bit of repression is a price worth paying in the "war against terror".
I GOT involved in supporting Rhuhel Ahmed's family in Tipton about a year ago. When the men were first detained there was hostility from the media saying the "Tipton Three" were guilty and fanatics. In that situation the families weren't sure they would get much support from local people.
THE MEDIA coverage marking the 20th anniversary of the Great Miners' Strike has been very mixed. Some of it has provided a glimpse of the solidarity that sustained the strikers and occasionally there have been images showing the violence with which the forces of the state confronted the miners. But in the mainstream media coverage there is an underlying message.
SUPPORT IS flooding in for 4,500 nursery nurses in Scotland who began their third week on all-out strike on Monday. A delegation of strikers arrived in London on Tuesday to spend four days visiting branches and workplaces. The strength of the strike and the solidarity are putting immense pressure on COSLA, the Labour-dominated local employers.
JAMES MANN has produced a wonderful book of original anti-war posters from around the world. The book is co-written with Nicolas Lampert and has an introduction by veteran US campaigner Howard Zinn. It makes a powerful case for politically committed art.
THE WORLD will be a safer place," foreign secretary Jack Straw told parliament two days before the war on Iraq. "Iraq", Tony Blair said in the same debate, "will be the test of whether we take the threat of terrorism seriously." A year later at least 15,000 Iraqis have lost their lives in this "test", each one dying as horribly as the 200 people blown to pieces in Madrid last week.
"THIS IS not the time for politics. We must show our unity against the terrorists, regardless of class or party." So proclaimed all the mainstream politicians in Spain and Britain after last week's bombings. But the governments supporting last year's war did not lose one minute in trying to squeeze the political advantage for themselves.
I HAVE recently begun again to read Socialist Worker, and I must tell you how refreshing it is to see the truth in print once again. During my career in the armed forces under both Conservative and Labour administrations I would regularly read and reread my copy of the paper in full view of the hierarchy.
BUILDING BOSSES reacted with great sympathy when a group of scaffolders declined to work during the recent snow-they sacked them all. The 37 scaffolders, employed by NSS Industrial, were working on the Buxton Cement Works site. The workers, members of the Amicus union, downed tools when snow settled and they felt the site was not safe. One of the workers said, "Some of us have worked for two years on that job, doing up to seven days a week to keep the project on course for its completion date.