Dated: 02 Mar 2002
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STOP THEIR WAR
"ACTION AGAINST Iraq will be top of the agenda." That's how Tony Blair's official spokesman sums up the meeting planned between Blair and George W Bush in six weeks time. Bush has made it clear he is eager to blast Iraq, and Blair is cheering on the plan.
In South east London last weekend Moonbow Jake's cafe bar was packed with people discussing and debating Muhammad Ali and the spirit of the 60s. Jason Halal, an American student at Goldsmiths' College, has written an article for the student magazine on the forum:
The national dispute by tens of thousands of benefits office and job centre workers in the PCS civil servants' union has taken another major blow. The group executive committee, which runs the dispute and is dominated by the Left Unity group, decided on Monday of this week to recommend no action until a one-day strike for Tuesday 2 April. This is the day that New Labour's flagship Jobcentre Plus welfare scheme is officially launched.
Some 377 CWU union members who work in the D&DS section of BT are being balloted to take strike action against plans to transfer them to a contractor, ComputaCentre. At a meeting of around 40 union members in London last week there was a heated exchange between the audience and a national executive member.
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members are celebrating winning union recognition at Emap Healthcare and Public Sector Management magazines after a campaign lasting nearly four years. The victory is significant-Emap, a major media group, derecognised trade unions a decade ago.
Some 800 TGWU union members from Manchester airport and their supporters marched through the centre of Manchester last Saturday during a 36-hour strike. This followed a series of lively one-hour stoppages in February. Their managers are demanding that the workers accept new contracts which cut their pay by 40 percent. They will lose their jobs if they do not.
A Stop the War Coalition teach-in took place in Nottingham last Saturday. Around 60 people engaged in a series of dynamic discussions. The final rally included Lindsey German, the editor of Socialist Review, Neil Kingsnorth of Yorkshire CND, and Alan Simpson, the local Labour MP.
Over 150 trade union activists marched through driving snow and winds to lobby the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth last Saturday. Some coaches were prevented from attending due to the snowfalls. John McAllion, the Labour MSP, spoke at a rally against privatisation after the lobby.
Over 100 people attended an excellent weekend of meetings in London organised by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign last Saturday and Sunday. The highlight of the conference was a rally addressed by visiting trade unionists from Colombia.
Workers at historic tourist attractions in England are set to stage a one-day strike on Monday 11 March. Hundreds of workers will join the strikes at places such as Stonehenge and Dover Castle. The workers at English Heritage are fuming at an imposed pay award of 3.5 percent.
The streets of central London reverberated to the sound of 10,000 loud and angry students on Wednesday of last week. They were demanding the reinstatement of the grant and the scrapping of tuition fees.
Hundreds of medical secretaries in the north east of England are set to strike for three days from next Tuesday. The women workers are some of the lowest paid in the National Health Service. Most of them earn less than £13,000 a year. For years they have put up with low pay, working in an underfunded NHS without any reward for their work.
Thousands of workers at the Longbridge MG Rover car plant in Birmingham are balloting on strike action. Both the TGWU and Amicus unions have agreed to ballot their members in a fight over bosses' attempts to get workers to accept more "flexible" working arrangements.
The close vote on privatisation at the Scottish Labour Party conference last weekend underlined the depths of opposition to policies like handing council homes to private companies. The vote came just after a significant minority of the ruling Labour group of councillors in Glasgow voted against the plan to go ahead with a ballot on privatising the city's more than 80,000 council homes.
Teachers in London are voting for strikes as increasing workloads and the rising cost of living force record numbers to quit the job. Over 40,000 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are balloting for action to win increases in the allowances paid for working in London.
"Management say they are digging in. But so are we, and the feeling is mounting." That's what Mark Russell, an RMT union guards' rep on Arriva trains, told Socialist Worker. Arriva bosses last week cancelled rest day working in a vindictive move designed to hit workers' pay packets between strikes.
At a packed meeting last week 300 council workers in Tower Hamlets, east London, voted unanimously to go ahead with strike action, starting with a one-day strike across the borough on Thursday of this week.
The mood for strikes is back. One group of workers after another are voting for action over pay, the impact of privatisation, aggressive managers and New Labour's insults. But they also face pressure from many of their own union leaders to hold back from battle. Rail workers on Arriva Northern were set to strike over pay for 48 hours on Friday and Saturday of this week.
Colombia's government has plunged the country into full-scale civil war. The US backs this brutal and bloody policy. Andreas Pastrana, president of the South American country, broke off peace talks with the powerful FARC guerrilla group on Wednesday of last week.
The Hindu fundamentalist BJP party did badly in three key state elections last weekend. The very good news is that the BJP's attempt to whip up chauvinism over Kashmir has failed to deliver votes.
Zimbabwe's security forces have continued their attacks on opposition candidates ahead of the presidential election scheduled for 9 and 10 March. The police fired shots at a convoy carrying opposition leaders to a rally. Five people were injured when government backed activists attacked the offices of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the town of KweKwe.
Protests continued in Argentina last week. These events mark the second month since the uprising which overthrew two governments. They did so as the International Monetary Fund refused to give aid to Argentina. The IMF claims the new budget proposed by the government of Eduardo Duhalde was not hard enough.
A wave of strikes hit South Korea at the start of this week, just days after US president George W Bush faced anti-war protests during his official visit to the country last week.
There is a debate going on among establishment economists over the recession that hit the US last year. Many of them claim that it is already over. Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve board (the US central bank), told a Senate committee last month that economic activity was "beginning to firm".
"This is not political – this is entertainment," said the man who refused my leaflet for the Stop the War demo. Then as if to confirm his point the tannoy system announced, "The Tony Benn show will start in five minutes."
"There is a great deal of discontent among our rank and file with Labour." That is how Billy Hayes, leader of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), summed up why the union last week threatened to withhold £1 million from its donations to the Labour Party.
Nothing has changed. That is the damning verdict of Doreen Lawrence three years after the Macpherson report. That report was into the police handling of the 1993 racist murder of Doreen's son, black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
"War fighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict." That is what all this weaponry is for. The war against Afghanistan and the preparations to attack Iraq are part of the US's drive for global dominance.
The world now faces the greatest war machine in history, lashing out at whoever it decides is "evil". US military aggression and arrogance are creating opposition among hundreds of millions of people across the world. "The good news is we're the world's only superpower," said Joseph Biden, chair of the US Senate's foreign relations committee, last month. "The bad news is we're the world's only superpower."
Many people in Britain heard of you for the first time during the Genoa protests against the G8 last July. Why were you there?
If you sacrifice public interest for private sector gain you have to bury bad news every day. That simple truth lies at the root of the row surrounding transport secretary Stephen Byers. The media and mainstream parties are focusing solely on the tale of who said what to who.
Drive out Nazis, not their victims Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman spoke at a meeting at the University of Greenwich on Tuesday of last week. It was held after it was discovered that a leading member of the British National Party, Lawrence Rustem, is studying at the university.
Many people won't remember the Winter Olympics in the US's Salt Lake City for the curling or ice dancing. Instead their memory will be of rubber bullets, baton-wielding riot cops and Black Hawk helicopters. Last Saturday night hundreds of local people celebrating the end of the Olympics were suddenly told the downtown Bud World bar was closing early.