Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker


Issue: 1790

Dated: 09 Mar 2002



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Justice for Palestinians

Children ripped apart by tank shells as they play. Women shot dead by army snipers in their own homes. Houses smashed to rubble by F-16 fighter jets. A doctor deliberately shot dead in his own ambulance as he rushes to help the injured. This is the reality of Ariel Sharon's massacre of Palestinian civilians. It is the reality that the British media try to ignore. They concentrate on reporting only the Israeli casualties.


International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other

News

Pay insult to the rest of us

New Labour ministers, MPs, judges and civil service chiefs are stuffing their already bulging pockets while low paid workers are told they can't have a decent pay rise. MPs are grabbing their second pay rise in less than a year next month. They will now be on £55,118 basic-well over double the average national wage. The new rise will mean MPs have awarded themselves an extra £4,000 a year in the last eight months.

Refugees: now most desperate to be targeted

New Labour immigration minister Lord Rooker congratulated the government last week for driving away refugees fleeing poverty and persecution. Vicious measures have stopped people finding safety in Britain. A glance at those who do make it shows that it is the most desperate people who try to get here.

Nine to one vote for London schools strike

Teachers in London have voted overwhelmingly to strike on Thursday of next week over pay. Over 40,000 members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in London and neighbouring areas of the Home Counties voted by nine to one to strike in a ballot declared on Tuesday of this week.

Banks after homes...

Birmingham council tenants are being asked to hand control of their homes to the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Labour-run city council was meeting on Tuesday of this week to give the final go-ahead to a ballot starting on 18 March over the plan to privatise over 80,000 council homes.

Wages down, cancer soars

Thousands of people are dying unnecessarily because waiting times for NHS cancer treatment are getting longer. A key reason is the shortage of radiologists in the NHS. A third of people who train never enter the profession because the pay is so bad.

Lib Dems for privatisation

The Liberal Democrats are turning to the right. A policy review pushed by leader Charles Kennedy is set to recommend more use of PFI schemes and private firms to run schools and hospitals. It says PFI is helpful for bringing "more private sector management know-how into public service provision".

Tsar rips off the homeless

A government hotline set up to try and stop people giving to beggars is to be closed after it flopped. New Labour's "Homelessness Tsar", Louise Casey, insisted last year that people should not give money to the homeless on the streets.

Young and militant

Saturday's protest to stop the war was big, loud, young and militant. A brilliant 20,000 marched through London streets. Banners and placards called for peace, and branded George Bush a war criminal.

Council workers

Towering success for union Thousands of council workers in Tower Hamlets, east London, struck on Thursday of last week against attacks on their employment conditions. Housing offices, parking, administration, libraries, and rent, benefits and repair services were all shut.

Civil Servants

The national strike involving tens of thousands of members of the PCS civil servants' union in job centres and benefits offices is hanging in the balance. The group executive committee, which runs the dispute, is calling for a one-day strike on Tuesday 2 April-the day the government's flagship Jobcentre Plus scheme is officially launched.

Warwick Uni head stung by waltzing

Warwick University students organised a lively protest last week against the university's Centre for Education and Industry. This promotes education-industry links, and produces teaching packs for primary, secondary and further education.

British Telecom: It's good to walk

Hundreds of BT workers have voted to strike against a plan to transfer them out of the company to a contractor and to attack their conditions, pay and pension rights. Workers in the D&DS section voted by 81 percent on an 80 percent turnout for strikes in a ballot.

In brief

Discord with Tony Blair in Liverpool About 900 people heard Tony Benn speak at Liverpool's Philharmonic Theatre last week. Many in the audience voiced their discontent with New Labour, and attacked Tony Blair's love for fat cats and George W Bush. Socialist Alliance and anti-war leaflets were well received.

'Rail workers are hitting back now'

Over 2,000 rail workers brought services across the north of England and Scotland to a halt last week as they struck over pay. "This is a demonstration of the power of rail workers to hit back, not least over privatisation," one picket in the RMT union in Newcastle told Socialist Worker.

Scottish Socialist Party conference

"Socialism is alive and kicking in every corner of Scotland." That was how Tommy Sheridan, national convenor of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), opened the party's fourth annual conference in Dundee on Saturday of last week. "Labour has been transformed from the party of the millions to the party of the millionaires and the multi-millionaires," Sheridan said. The SSP, by contrast, had "a vision of an independent Scottish socialist republic where pensioners are more important than profits, kids are more important than cash, and people are more important than big business". The SSP, he said, was "internationalist to the core".

Journalists

Votes for strike action over pay will set the mood for this year's annual delegate conference of the NUJ journalists' union in Eastbourne. Four local newspaper workplace union branches have now voted for strike ballots. This is after one half-day strike brought victory for journalists at the Bradford Telegraph and Argus group.

National march to save Post Office

Postal Workers will hold a national demonstration in a week's time. Thousands will march through London protesting at plans to hand over the mail to private firms. This is a great chance to take the anger against privatisation and the rundown of public services onto the streets.

'We will not be treated as low paid dogsbodies'

"We're not militant, but now it's come to the crunch. We've finally had enough, and we're fighting." That's how medical secretary Susan Mann summed up the mood on an angry and lively picket line outside Sunderland Royal Hospital on Tuesday of this week. She was one of 90 low paid women health workers on the picket line at the start of their three-day strike. All of them had the same message. They are fed up of being treated like low paid dogsbodies. Medical secretaries across the north east of England have been fighting to win a higher grade and better pay.


International

Zimbabwe - What's at stake in the election?

Zimbabweans will vote for a president on Saturday and Sunday. They face a choice between Robert Mugabe's brutal regime and the Movement for Democratic Change's Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC contains good trade unionists and socialists, but is dominated by businessmen and white landowners.

500,000 call Italy's leader a lying thief

Half a million Italians demonstrated in Rome last Saturday against the right wing government of millionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi. The demonstration was organised by the Democratic Left party and its allies in the Olive Tree coalition. The Democratic Left is a part of the old Communist Party that adopted policies similar to the British Labour Party.

Colombia: Rebels' resistance is strong

A top Colombian general resigned last week, along with several other senior military officers. It was the clearest sign yet that the war launched by the US-backed regime against rebel forces is not going to plan.

India: Blair's friends aid massacres

The Indian government, which Tony Blair praised recently, has stood by while a section of its supporters carry out horrific massacres. Hundreds of people have been killed in communal violence centred on the Gujarat region.

Victory for the Korean strikers

A major battle against privatisation in South Korea was continuing this week after rail workers won major concessions and the government threatened a crackdown on striking power workers.


Comment

Fury with warmakers

Anyone who was on last Saturday's 20,000-strong demonstration will have been delighted at the size of it. It showed that there is an impressive movement ready to oppose the warmongers and their threats against new targets, especially Iraq.

Mike Rosen on Tests, tales and failure

Imagine some New Labour minister, press puppet or government geek steps up at a press conference and makes a statement: "Our job in education has always been seen as raising standards. This remains absolutely and unequivocally our policy. To bring this about, many ways have been tried-hiring extra staff, putting money into schools in areas where there is poverty, and supporting children with special needs, whether those are due to deprivation, disability or speaking another language. Sometimes what's been tried is ending the way children are selected for this or that school, or this or that stream. The idea here was that we would treat school students as people who would discover their


Features

Row deepens trade unions' discontent with Labour

Tony Blair has gone too far even for the leaders of the Trades Union Congress. They have been reluctant to criticise Tony Blair. But union leaders at a TUC general council meeting last week were fuming about Tony Blair's agreement with right wing Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi. Blair and Berlusconi met two weeks ago and agreed to try to push through "economic liberalisation", "flexible labour markets" and "minimum labour standards".

Traffic chaos: are congestion charges the solution?

The traffic chaos in London is getting worse by the month. The rush hour used to be an hour, but today it stretches for most of the day. The choked roads mean misery for commuters battling to get to work. Pollution from exhaust fumes plays a major role in the rising levels of asthma in children. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for children aged one to 14 years old.

Pensions crisis

"Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid," was the Guardian's headline. "Britain is hurtling towards a pensions crisis," said the Sunday Telegraph. That was the alarm raised recently in the media over pensions. Big firms are stealing tens of thousands of pounds from workers' pay packets. They are robbing by stealth. They are taking from pensions, which are a form of pay set aside for the future.

Celebrate uprisings of women workers

'The working women's day of militancy." That was how the Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai described the first ever celebration of International Women's Day in March 1911. That probably isn't how most people view International Women's Day, which is on Friday of this week, if they have heard of it at all.


Reviews

John Steinbeck: Angry voice of US 1930s Depression

This year marks the centenary of the birth of John Steinbeck. He is one of the US's most passionate, poetic and socially conscious writers. His novels often give voice to those denied it, especially in the Depression years before World War Two in the US. His stories are those of the dispossessed.

A Beautiful Mind: More mind games than the heart of this genius

"The real John Nash Jr was schizophrenic, and he did win the Nobel Prize, but that's where the similarity ends". So said a mathematician discussing A Beautiful Mind on the radio. Most biopics I've seen are either wildly inaccurate, boring, or so whitewashed as to strip the humanity out of their subject. This one falls in to the first and last categories, while also managing to be boring.


What We Think

After protest build bigger movement

Some 20,000 people joined an anti-war march through London last Saturday. How right they were to protest has been underlined by events in the last week. First Tony Blair cheered on US president George Bush's plans to launch a new war against Iraq. Then the war in Afghanistan erupted in some of the heaviest fighting yet seen.


Other Categories

Letters

We can tip the balance I've been out with the Anti Nazi League (ANL) canvassing against the British National Party (BNP) in Oldham. We campaign in so called "white areas" such as Hollingwood and South Chadderton. Nazis from the BNP are targeting these working class areas. They have some of the most run down estates and deprived streets of terraced homes. You can see the years of neglect.

Middle Class: Can opticians see the way forward?

Middle Class is a term that is used a lot, but it has a multitude of meanings. In this column two weeks ago (23 February) we argued that it is often used wrongly about people in "white collar" jobs, like office staff, teachers and many health workers.

New deal or old unemployment?

Tony Blair's flagship New Deal scheme has managed to find real jobs for less than 3 percent of the young people forced to take part in it. That is the damning conclusion of a report by the parliamentary financial watchdog, the National Audit Commission, published last week.



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