Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker


Issue: 1786

Dated: 09 Feb 2002



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New Labour: 'WRECKERS'

Three pillar boxes on each street corner (and each one owned by a different company under crazy plan to sell off the Post Office) New Labour is poised to drive through Post Office privatisation in just seven weeks time. The government's regulator announced last week that it wants to see the Post Office (Consignia) totally sold off. This is the privatisation from hell, the maddest of the mad. It offers the crazy prospect of competing pillar boxes on street corners. Even Margaret Thatcher shied away from it.


International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other

News

Bosses ARE brutal but can be beaten

Over 650 guards and conductors on Arriva Northern struck for 48 hours on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Their action brought trains across the north of England to a halt and led to big, angry picket lines.

The dodgy accounts of PFI

Tony Blair is relying on disgraced accountants Arthur Andersen and similar companies to push through privatisation schemes. Andersen did auditing and consultancy work for Enron, the bankrupt energy giant. It shredded documents showing how Enron hid its losses to appear to be making a profit.

Birt and Branson are in it together

Lord Birt, Tony Blair's new special transport adviser, is tied up in a £100 million business deal with Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Trains. Birt operates from luxury offices where a life-sized cardboard cutout of Branson greets visitors. At the same time he has a direct line to Tony Blair. Birt is chairman of the Lynx New Media company.

Arms sales to Africa

The newspapers have been full of Tony Blair's forthcoming visit to Africa. A new report from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade has found that the value of British arms sales to Africa is set to quadruple over the next year. African nations spent £52 million on arms deals with British firms in 1999.

1m elderly are at risk

Cuts to care homes and social services are leaving one million elderly people at risk. Help the Aged, one of 21 organisations contributing to a new report on the crisis, says that many elderly people "use social services as an emergency measure.

New Labour can't count

Transport secretary Stephen Byers has been caught out again for trying to pass off already allocated government spending as "new". Last week he claimed he had got an extra £2.2 billion for the railways. Within two days officials at the Treasury admitted the money had already been announced in April of last year.

Fury at 'wreckers' insult: 'I felt like crying after Blair spoke'

"Wreckers." That is how Tony Blair insulted public sector workers at a Labour conference in Cardiff last weekend. Nurses, rail workers, postal workers, teachers and cleaners are not "wreckers". They are the people who keep our services going.

Socialist Worker to appear in your newsagent next week

Socialist Worker will be available to a new-and its biggest ever-audience in newsagents across Britain from next week. Major newspaper distributors have recognised the growing mood for left wing ideas after two successful pilot projects, and will distribute Socialist Worker nationally.

Thousands face sack at British Airways

British Airways is threatening to axe another 16,000 jobs. BA cut 7,000 jobs last year, but chief executive Rod Eddington admitted that more jobs would have to be sacrificed this year. Alpha Airways, which supplies in-flight meals and duty free shops, is also planning to sack some 1,000 workers.

Debates aiming at real issues

Muhammad Abbas Shaffi went to a Marxist forum on Kashmir last Thursday in Bristol. He said, "It was the first time I'd been to any meeting like that, but I was really inspired. The speaker had an overwhelming knowledge, and being Kashmiri myself it was the first time I had ever discussed Kashmir from an independent perspective. What I also liked was that it was an open and honest debate by people who had nothing to gain by being there apart from the betterment of humanity. It was debate, not for the sake of it, but to try and overcome the problems in Kashmir and think how to resolve the issue."

News made by victory on pay

The first strike by journalists over pay in over a decade has won a victory at the Bradford Telegraph and Argus titles. After just one half-day stoppage by NUJ union members, management at the Newsquest-owned titles were forced to offer a deal worth 3 percent. The Bradford NUJ chapel (workplace union branch) was the first to win back recognition at Newsquest, which owns papers across the country and is owned by US multinational Gannett.

Devonport blockade

Over 400 people joined a march and sit-down protests as the HMS Vanguard nuclear submarine entered Plymouth's Devonport dockyard for the first time last Sunday. Seven people were arrested during a mass blockade of the nuclear submarine dockyard.

Glasgow & Tower Hamlets

The Scottish Executive announced last week that it is to give £300 million of public money to shore up the plan to privatise Glasgow's council homes. New Labour is prepared to throw still more public money in to push the privatisation through in a tenants' ballot due to get under way in March. Glasgow is just one of the major privatisation plans coming to a head.

BT throws down gauntlet to union

BT has issued a major challenge to its workers' CWU union, and the challenge looks set to spark a strike ballot. BT plans to transfer core workers to a private company.

London Unison, Teachers & Natfhe

Tens of thousands more workers in London are to be balloted on possible action over pay. Council workers, health workers, higher education admin workers and more could be united in a vote across the capital which could pave the way for action. We reported in Socialist Worker last week that delegates from Unison union branches across London had backed an indicative vote among council workers.

Welsh Socialist Alliance

The Welsh Socialist Alliance (WSA) continues an energetic campaign in Ogmore, where a by-election takes place on Thursday of next week.

Strike lands at Labour airport

Around 400 workers at Manchester Airport struck on Monday in the first of six one-hour stoppages. The strikes are against the imposition of new contracts which would mean wage cuts of up to 40 percent, attacks on holidays and sick pay, and a longer working week. The airport management are also threatening to axe jobs

How to boost the dispute

New Labour is determined to break the national dispute involving tens of thousands of job centre and benefits office workers. The government wants to seriously weaken the strikers' PCS union. An internal document for MPs and managers says that the dispute is a "matter of principle" and that the government will not negotiate.

In brief

Members of the Ambulance Service Union on Merseyside are celebrating the reinstatement of two suspended colleagues. Management took two paramedics off work a fortnight ago after both left a shift early due to illness. Workers voted to strike if the two were sacked, and both workers have now been cleared.

War Axis in White House

"Our war against terror is only beginning." That was US president George Bush's chilling message last week. Bush labelled Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil", and threatened them with "the justice of this nation". After the bombing of Afghanistan there is little doubt what US "justice" means.


International


Comment

This is end of the truce

The rows at Labour's spring conference in Cardiff last weekend signal the end of the truce between the government and certain union leaders that has existed since 11 September. Remember the morning of that day? Delegates were gathering at the Trades Union Congress and preparing for a huge battle over public services. Tony Blair was to speak, and union leaders were lined up to condemn privatisation and savage the government's priorities.

Unreserved judgement

I guess readers of this paper were delighted to read that 50 reservist Israeli army officers had refused to serve in the West Bank. They have signed a petition saying, "We will not fight beyond the Green Line Israel's 1967 border with the West Bank in order to rule, expel, destroy, blockade, assassinate, starve and humiliate an entire people."


Features

20,000 confront the rich, 70,000 plan a new world

The movement against capitalist globalisation is alive, growing and truly global. Some 70,000 people here in Porto Alegre, Brazil's southernmost state, are giving the lie to Clare Short's dismissal of the movement as well meaning white middle class people who have no support in the Third World. The World Social Forum first met in Porto Alegre a year ago. Then, between 15,000 and 20,000 people took part.

Which way for the movement?

The debates at the World Social Forum have underlined the polarisation that is beginning to develop within the anti-capitalist movement. Undoubtedly Porto Alegre has witnessed a determined effort to co-opt the movement.

Palestine under occupation

'Everywhere we went we bumped into a funeral. We went to the town of Salfeet in the West Bank. Many houses had been bulldozed just two days before we'd got there. They'd built a little hospital. It has four beds and two doctors for 60,000 people. People from Ramallah have to use the hospital as well. There are lots of stillbirths.

Weakest have most to gain from pay strikes

Pay is suddenly a major issue-and not just for striking rail workers. Official talk of an economic boom in Britain, while much of the world slides into recession, has sharpened the feeling of millions of workers that they are being left behind.

A glimpse of a new way to run our lives

It is 8pm and in squares, parks and streets across Buenos Aires, people begin to gather in their hundreds, to discuss, to debate and to organise. Neighbourhood assemblies meet in the open air on the warm summer evenings. "Today a meeting of the local assembly hits the ratings of even the most popular TV programme," reports journalist Stella Calloni.


Reviews

Gosford Park: views from below stairs

Gosford Park, the new film from director Robert Altman, is a whodunit-style murder mystery set in a stately home in Britain in the early 1930s. It has a cast list that reads like a who's who of top British actors. But Gosford Park is more than an Agatha Christie-ish murder mystery.

Alan Clark: Top Tory who adored Hitler

Alan Clark, the Tory MP who died in 1999, is often portrayed as an eccentric, lovable rogue. Everyone agrees he was lecherous, rude and arrogant. But the general view is that his diaries are tremendous achievements, and that he himself was cheeky but irresistible.


What We Think

We need deeds to match the words

"I am under pressure from rank and file members of my union to disaffiliate from the Labour Party." That was the message from Dave Prentis of Unison to his fellow union leaders last week. Both Unison and the GMB union have launched big advertising campaigns in response to Blair's "wreckers" insults. They rightly point out that public sector workers are not wreckers.


Other Categories

Letters

Labour's assault on civil liberties New Labour is following the lead of Bush's US government in its assault on civil liberties. It appears that the new Terrorism Act is already being used to intimidate sections of the Asian community in Britain.

Class: not about speaking proper

"Why Are We Still So Obsessed With Class?" asked a headline in the Daily Express last week. It was referring to the release of the film Gosford Park, about class divisions in the 1930s.

Who is behind Beirut deaths?

Coincidence? You decide. Elie Hobeika was blown up by a car bomb in Beirut, Lebanon, three weeks ago. He was a leader of one of the Lebanese fascist groups which massacred over 2,500 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut in 1982. Hobeika had agreed to give evidence to a Belgian inquiry into the role of current Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in the atrocity.



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