Dated: 27 Mar 2004
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ISRAEL'S ASSASSINATION of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin has provoked fury among Palestinians and across the world. But British foreign secretary Jack Straw's main response was to call the killing a tactical error that was "very unlikely to achieve its objective". George Galloway MP, who heads the Respect coalition's list for the European Parliament in London, said, "The murder of Sheikh Yassin is an act of criminal insanity from the criminally insane prime minister Sharon.
AROUND 550 miners at Kellingley pit in North Yorkshire struck for the second time last week after talks broke down. The action had been suspended while the NUM union prepared to take the employer, UK Coal, to court over a scheme for new shifts.
WORKERS WHO waived their pay rises for three years to help their troubled engineering company have voted overwhelmingly for a strike. Around 60 staff are planning to walk out for 48 hours from 15 April at ABB in Sunderland.
Bracknell POSTAL WORKERS in Bracknell, Berkshire, have voted for strikes after a postal worker was sacked. George McComb, aged 55, was dismissed last month for allegedly leaving post unattended which was then stolen. He has received huge support form the people he delivers to and his workmates.
NEARLY 3,000 RMT union members working for rail contractor Jarvis were to begin voting for strike action this week to protect their employment rights when they are transferred to Network Rail. Jarvis's maintenance contracts are due to be brought in-house and the workers re-employed by Network Rail on 1 April.
WORKERS at Anglian Water have gone "absolutely ballistic" over their bosses' plans to axe their pensions, says Unison union officer Tracy Lambert. Some 3,500 water workers are set to strike against threats to their final salary pension schemes. The first half-day strike is planned for next Tuesday.
INSPECTORS, researchers, scientists and support staff at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were preparing for their first strike in almost 20 years as Socialist Worker went to press. Members of the PCS and Prospect unions, 40 percent of HSE's 4,000 staff, face a pay cut as management tries to squeeze down the maximum level of all pay bands. HSE management can afford to pay an inflation-based rise, maintain previous commitments on pay progression and stay within Treasury-imposed limits-but with top managers' bonuses based on reducing budgets they have a vested interest in reducing the pay bill dramatically.
THE Communication Workers Union (CWU), with 280,000 members in the post office and telecoms, is set to debate its relationship with Labour at its conference in June. Already one of the union's biggest branches, covering Edinburgh and Lothian, has affiliated to the Scottish Socialist Party.
COUNCIL employers were clearly coming under pressure as the strike by nearly 5,000 nursery nurses in Scotland entered its fourth week on Monday. Seven local authorities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, issued a joint statement saying they were prepared to come to local pay settlements with the nursery nurses. "Our reply to that is simple," the nursery nurses' Unison union convenor Carol Ball told Socialist Worker.
THE FATHER of a British soldier killed at a police station north of Basra in Iraq told anti-war protesters last week, "I am with you." Reg Keys's son, Thomas, was killed in June last year with five other British military policemen. Mr Keys has no doubt who is to blame for his death:
ALLEGATIONS AGAINST George Galloway in a US paper that he was paid $10 million by Saddam Hussein were "false and without foundation", the High Court has ruled. The Christian Science Monitor based its libellous article on forged documents supposedly from 1992-3, which in reality were only a few months old when they were "discovered" in post-Saddam Baghdad.
ISRAELI PRIME minister Ariel Sharon organised the assassination of the Palestinian Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. The US government refused to condemn the murder. Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, said: "Let's remember that Hamas is a terrorist organisation, and that Sheikh Yassin has been involved in terrorist planning."
TONY BLAIR got a few conversations he hadn't bargained for when he arrived in Enfield, north London, last week for the latest of his "Big Conversation" meetings. MICHAEL, an anti-war protester, tells how he confronted Blair:
SUPPORT IS growing for the Unite Against Fascism coalition in its campaign against the British National Party in the run-up to the 10 June elections. The latest of the launch meetings in local areas saw over 130 people attend in Wakefield Town Hall, including representatives from trade unions and Muslim organisations.
<LI> Protest at war lies cover-up
AFTER 28 days on hunger strike, and at the urging of their friends and supporters, the "Glasgow Three", Faroq Haidari, Fariborz Gravindi and Mokhtar Haydary, have ended their hunger strike. The three, Kurdish refugees from Iran, have been heartened by the growing support for their fight against deportation from across Scotland and beyond. They were also strengthened by a protest in their support at the Scottish Parliament last week.
OVER 300 turned out to the annual David Jones/Joe Green Strike Memorial Day in Barnsley on Saturday. It was the largest turnout for this event for many years. David and Joe were miners killed on the picket line during the 1984-5 strike. Miners, ex-miners and families, along with other trade unionists, heard Dennis Skinner MP and Ian Lavery of the NUM recall events from the miners' heroic struggle.
UP TO 100 people joined an angry Mother's Day protest in Glasgow last Sunday against plans by the Greater Glasgow Health Board to close the Queen Mother's Maternity Unit at Yorkhill.
Ballot on action for decent pay LOW PAID health workers in North Manchester and Bury hospitals are planning strike action at the start of April. The porters and domestic staff are employed by private contractor ISS Mediclean. The workers, members of the Unison union, overwhelmingly voted for strike action in their ballot earlier this month. They earn just £4.61 an hour, and want to get £5 an hour. That is what similar workers directly employed by the NHS in the same hospital trust earn.
AROUND 150 people attended a showing of the film Injustice at the Prince Charles cinema in central London last week. The powerful film shows families in Britain who have been fighting for justice after their loved ones died in police custody.
ANTI-WAR protesters last week launched an appeal against a judgement which ruled that the police acted lawfully in turning them away from a demonstration at RAF Fairford last March. The coach passengers won a landmark victory in last month's High Court judgement, which ruled that the police had acted unlawfully by detaining them on their way to an anti-war demonstration.
MEMBERS OF the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) have voted narrowly against a proposal for their trade union to set up a political fund. The move was rejected by 53 percent to 47 percent, a majority of just 579 votes. The debate on having a political fund was clouded by opponents who claimed it was an attempt to get the union to support the Labour Party.
LECTURERS AND academic staff were on the verge of a stunning victory at the start of this week. Delegates to the Association of University Teachers (AUT) conference were meeting this week to assess a revised pay offer from university bosses which has conceded on every point of the union's claim.
THERE IS a mounting revolt in the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) at attempts to railroad through swingeing attacks on conditions demanded by the employers. "I've not come across a single branch that has voted in favour of surrendering the conditions the employers are attacking," says Dean Mills, secretary of the Southern Region of the FBU, which does not have a reputation for militancy.
ANTI-WAR campaigners around the globe protested on 20 March after a call went out at this year's World Social Forum in India. The example set by Spain's anti-war movement inspired marchers in Italy. Two million filled the streets of Rome chanting "Berlusconi's next!"
THE CONTINUING nightmare of the occupation of Iraq is making US soldiers rebel against their leaders' plans. Some 600 US soldiers have gone absent without leave from the war. US staff sergeant Camilo Mejia last week refused to carry on fighting in Iraq. The 28 year old soldier says, "I am saying no to war. It is a war for oil, based on lies. "I went to Iraq and was an instrument of violence, and now I have decided to become an instrument of peace. "The Iraqis don't want us there. We don't want to be there. We're getting killed there.
OVER A million people took to the streets of South Korea last Saturday. More than 200,000 people gathered in Seoul for a candlelight rally to protest against the impeachment of President Roh Moo-hyun by the three opposition conservative parties-the Grand National Party, Millennium Democratic Party, and United Liberal Democrats.
THE MOST important feature of the elections was that they were a sanction against the right wing government.
TONY BLAIR sought yet again to justify the conquest of Iraq in a recent speech. He harked back to what he plainly regards as an earlier triumph, NATO's 1999 war against Yugoslavia. Blair cited this as a precedent for the Anglo-American attack on Iraq. Even "before September 11", he explained, "the world's view of the justification of military action had been changing. The only clear case in international relations for armed intervention had been self defence... But the notion of intervening on humanitarian grounds had been gaining currency."
In the 1840s famine struck Britain's colony in Ireland. The British government enforced the export of food from Ireland. One and a half million people died from starvation, and a million and a half emigrated.
ONE OF the proudest moments of my life was compering the 200,000-strong Anti Nazi League carnival in south London in 1994. It was the perfect combination of politics and music. And, oh boy, did we need it!
SOCIALIST Worker supporters threw themselves into publicising last Saturday's anti-war demonstration-and at the same time they sold the paper. Leafleting in the run-up to the demo, over 140 papers were sold in just one hour at Tottenham Court Road in London. On the march itself around 2,500 copies were sold.
A mass of anti-war protesters packed the streets of London last Saturday. Exactly one year after the invasion of Iraq, 100,000 people had come to tell Tony Blair that the movement is here to stay. They stretched from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square chanting "No justice, no peace" and "Blair out".
'Nothing has really improved for black people in terms of the institutional racism we face. New Labour ignores us. But there is a thirst for a new political movement.'
POLLY TOYNBEE has produced a neat digest of Downing Street press releases over recent weeks. This is a service to the left, since it allows us to itemise New Labour's defence of government policy and reply point by point.
IN HER Guardian article Polly Toynbee suggested that Labour has reduced child poverty and substantially increased investment in public services, especially in health and education. The conclusion she reaches is that if we want to maintain this progress we should shut up, stop criticising the government and concentrate on fighting the Tories.
'Gordon Brown's budget statement signals an attack on the welfare state. You hear about all these unscrupulous employers who sack their workers by text message or e-mail. Well, the government has gone one better and sacked 40,000 civil servants live on TV.
KEVIN CURRAN, the general secretary of the GMB union, disgracefully praised Gordon Brown's job cuts plans. Curran said, "The chancellor has bravely negotiated cuts in Whitehall departments that will ensure that public service investment reaches communities where it can most help individuals and families." Paul Kenny, head of the London GMB, said he was "mystified and angered" by the comment.
CHRISTIAN HOGSBJERG reviews the play Homage to Catalonia, based on George Orwell's book of that name, and MIGUEL ARIAS recommends Orwell's original account of revolution in Barcelona.
WE WOULD all like to wipe the smile off Tony Blair's face. Last Saturday's demonstration showed that the massive anger over the war on Iraq has not gone away.
PETER LEECH died from a heart attack last Sunday. He was 67 years young. Anyone that knew Peter would agree that he was a lion-hearted, formidable socialist. Whatever he involved himself with he went at it with a tenacity that never failed to amaze me. Peter would use his guitar as a weapon with which, alongside his huge intellect, he would put down oppressors, scabs and the bosses. He joined the SWP just before the Great Miners' Strike and remained active until his last moments. He stood for the Socialist Alliance in 2001 and rose to the occasion.
THE WARS in Iraq and Afghanistan were built on many lies, but the terrible massacre on Madrid's railways highlights one of the biggest-the world is not a safer place. As RMT members on London Underground we are only too aware of the vulnerability of the tube network. The same newspapers that supported the war regularly run stories with lurid headlines telling us how the bombers are out to get the Underground.
A DIFFERENT election, a different result and a different response. Senior figures in the White House couldn't wait to pour abuse on Spanish voters for daring to kick out Bush and Blair's friend (and their equal in the lying stakes) Jose Maria Aznar.