Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker


Issue: 1787

Dated: 16 Feb 2002



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George Bush: the madman prepares to kill again

US President George Bush this week ordered the biggest naval build-up since the Gulf War in 1991. He stunned the world two weeks ago by declaring that Iran, North Korea and Iraq were on his hit list. Yet there is no evidence that any of these countries have anything to do with the Al Qaida network.


International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other

News

Crucial stage in SWT strike

The RMT union has suspended strikes that were planned on South West Trains (SWT) for this week. The decision was taken on Friday of last week to allow RMT acting general secretary Vernon Hince to approach SWT management for talks over pay. A further meeting of the union's national executive was to take place this Wednesday. It was to consider reinstating action if the company had not made any serious moves to end the dispute.

Faslane blockade

Despite high winds and driving rain, around 500 people joined a lively demonstration outside Faslane nuclear submarine base last Monday. The blockade kicked off the three-day "Block 'n' Roll" of the Faslane base in Scotland, organised by CND and Trident Ploughshares.

A walkout at the chalk face?

Teachers in London are to ballot for strike action over pay. Ballot papers will go out to over 40,000 members of the NUT union the week after next. Teachers will vote on a one-day strike over the allowances paid for working in London and neighbouring areas.

Stop the war

Over 70 people went to a teach-in against the war at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London last Saturday. The event was called by the Stop the War Coalition. It attracted a new audience of people who have just started to get involved in opposing the war.

New dates for action

Civil Servants working in job centres and benefits agencies are set to hold their next strike on 6 and 7 March. The workers, members of the PCS union, have held two-day strikes on two occasions since mid-December.

DEFRA

The government has made its third pay offer to workers in the DEFRA department under pressure from industrial action. The workers, members of the PCS union, used to work in the MAFF government department.

Councils

Some 40 Lambeth council workers in special housing services held a second day of strike action on Tuesday of last week in protest at the sacking of Unison steward Alex Owalade.

In brief

A ballot for action should be getting under way this week in a key section of BT. The vote involves some 850 workers in one section of the company, but the fight is vital to every BT worker.

Blair is the real 'wrecker' - not trade unionists

Trade Unionists in Cardiff last week lined up to attack Tony Blair for branding them as "wreckers". They were in the same venue that Blair had used to make that speech. This time it was filled with 500 women members of the Unison public sector union.

Lecturers

The proposed all-out strike action at Huddersfield Technical College by Unison union members which was to begin on Monday of this week has been suspended until the end of the month.

Manchester airport

Over 200 striking security workers in the TGWU union at Manchester airport joined picket lines in a series of one-hour stoppages last week. The picket lines were very lively and confident. The strikers stopped traffic around the airport and received a very supportive response from the public and other airport workers.

World Social Forum: exclusive report from the protest the other papers ignored

One of the biggest conferences the world has ever seen finished last week in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. Over 70,000 people joined the World Social Forum. They demonstrated and debated in meetings, forums and workshops around the conference theme, "Another world is possible."

Pension threat to eight million

If you work for ICI, BT, Marks & Spencer, Iceland or a string of other top firms your pension is under threat. Such companies plan to slash what they spend on pensions by a third and make workers pay more. If they did this directly through a pay cut everyone would know what was happening.

Royal Bigot Princess Margaret: a nation doesn't mourn

The papers have been stuffed with millions of words about Princess Margaret. Here are some things they didn't tell you.

Africans don't want lectures from Blair

"We want people in Britain to know the truth about Tony Blair's 'welcome' in West Africa. In Ghana a planned protest against Blair was not allowed under security laws. Yet, despite very short notice, hundreds of people crammed into a rally to speak out against his visit.

Schools dream of playing fields

The scandal about playing fields for children goes on. Under the Tories, Labour was very critical of the policy of selling off school playing fields. But in office New Labour has continued to allow fields to be sold. Amid great fanfares the government announced in 1999 that £125 million of lottery cash had been allocated to create new playing fields for kids.

Profits from the teacher shortage

£679,000-that's how much Trish Seabourne, the boss of TimePlan, pocketed last year. TimePlan is the firm which employed Amy Gehring, the supply teacher at the centre of a court case over sex with pupils.

Who's next after Enron?

"Rolls-Royce is the latest victim of Enronitis, the fear that many firms, particularly those with large debts, could be concealing nasty secrets." That was the verdict of the Sunday Times this week as panic spread across the financial world in the wake of the scandal surrounding the collapse of Enron. Bankers and speculators are nervously watching firms with similarly huge debts to Enron.


International


Comment

MMR debate

I am the father of two young children, one five, one nearly two. After some anxiety, my partner and I decided they should have the MMR vaccination. I believe that was the right choice, and that scientific evidence supports that view. But I can equally well understand why many, many parents do not trust MMR or government advice about it.

Trading under African skies

Tony Blair has been strutting around abroad again, posing as the saviour of the world. This time Africa has been the victim of his attentions. When Blair pledged to "reorder the world" at the Labour Party conference last October he claimed to have Africa especially in his sights. He called the continent a "scar on the conscience of the world".


Features

David Blunkett wants to arrange YOUR marriage

Home Secretary David Blunkett unveiled New Labour's latest crackdown on immigration, asylum and British citizenship last week. He won rapturous praise from Tory MPs for attacks on the ability of immigrants to speak English and on British people marrying partners from the Indian subcontinent.

A new feeling of anger and resistance across Britain: 'People have just had enough now'

Hundreds of workers queued in the rain and biting wind outside the Caterpillar factory in the Durham town of Peterlee on Thursday morning of last week. They waited patiently, then one by one stepped forward to formally sign a declaration of "no confidence" in the managing director.

Message from World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil: 'We know another world is possible'

The demonstration was supposed to begin at 5pm in Porto Alegre's market square. There were groups with banners at various corners, but they seemed dispersed and separate. But at seven that evening, when the summer showers had ended, 40,000 people flowed into a single column. They were young, old, black, white, men, women, Latin Americans, Africans, and a European contingent that included 1,500 Italians full of the enthusiastic spirit of Genoa.

200,000 homes at stake in two ballots

Decisive battles are set to take place. They are part of a hidden war waged by the New Labour government. It is a war to destroy one of the pillars of the welfare state-council housing. New Labour is out to privatise three million council homes. In Birmingham tenants will begin to vote on 18 March on whether their homes are handed to private housing associations.

Privatisers stalking the postal service

"I know many of our union's members will be concerned about what the government is doing. Don't all rush to send motions to the union conference about the way we use our political fund. I can tell you the leadership of the union will be suspending funds for Labour unless there is a substantial change in policy." That was the message to union reps from John Keggie, the union's deputy general secretary, last week. He was speaking to reps from all over Britain. They had gathered the day after a ballot had overwhelmingly backed a national postal strike over pay.

Bush's new war drive shocks even those who backed Afghan bombing

"A new foreign policy" is how the Guardian's Martin Woollacott described George W Bush's chilling speech threatening war across the globe. Woollacott and fellow Guardian commentator Hugo Young are just two of those who backed Bush and Blair's Afghan war but are now shocked by the US's new global war drive. Even former Tory minister Chris Patten has spoken out.


Reviews

Monsters, Inc: monster laughs

Monsters, Inc is the latest film from the creators of Toy Story and A Bug's Life. It is set in Monstropolis, home to a population of monsters of all shapes and sizes. The Monsters, Inc scream processing unit supplies the town with its power.

Ali: Why Muhammad Ali still packs a punch

The US ruling class would probably rather we watch the gung-ho war film Black Hawk Down than Ali, a biopic about a black American Muslim who took on the system. But as Muhammad Ali himself said in 1967, "I am America. I am the part you won't recognise, but get used to me. Black, confident, cocky-my name, not yours. My religion, not yours. My goals, my own. Get used to me." The film begins in 1964, when the civil rights movement moved from pacifist protests in the apartheid Southern states to riot and rebellion in the North.


What We Think

The insult that won't go away

"Tony Blair talks about public sector workers putting scars on his back, and then calls us wreckers. I think public sector workers should be a boil on Tony Blair's nose." Julie Pih, a Rochdale homecare worker, is furious with the government, especially after Blair's "wreckers" insult. She is one among millions. Julie was one of the delegates who expressed their anger at last week's Unison women's conference.


Other Categories

Letters

Postal worker asks 'Should we fund the privatisers?' At a meeting of my CWU branch last week I put a motion to back the conference organised by the Socialist Alliance debating the political fund. The government's announcement of its steps to privatise the Post Office just added fuel to the fire. Why are we giving our money to New Labour when it is getting rid of thousands of jobs and wrecking the service? Our union gave over £1.5 million to Labour last year.

The working class: 'Are you saying they're the salt of the earth?'

Why do socialists always go on about the working class? After all, workers are not always the poorest people in society-small farmers in the Third World are worse off than skilled workers in Britain. Neither are workers always militantly rejecting capitalism-many ordinary people read the Sun and seem to care more about football than politics. Workers are not even the majority of the world's population. But the working class is unique. Karl Marx called it the "special and essential product of capitalism".

Target Practice

The Israeli army plans to build a mock Palestinian city in the middle of the desert to practise laying siege to Palestinian areas. Senior Israeli army sources openly talk of carrying out increasingly large-scale operations invading Palestinian areas.



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