Dated: 27 Jan 2001
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The mood in Luton last Saturday summed up how many workers in Britain feel today. Everyone in the town feels gutted by General Motors' decision to close the Vauxhall plant, but at the same time people want resistance. Over 10,000 car workers, local people and other trade unionists marched through Luton last Saturday.
Victims of asbestos poisoning are getting "sympathy but no money" according to leading asbestos campaigner in Scotland Tommy Gorman. Thousands of workers may never get payments they are entitled to after the insurance company, QBE International, handling their claims recently went bust. "It could be a major problem," says Tommy. "People were poisoned when they worked on the Upper Clyde shipyards in Scotland. And it's not just Scotland. In areas like Liverpool and Tyneside workers were affected too."
Survivors and relatives of the victims of the Hatfield crash are outraged by the government's decision not to hold a public inquiry. Carol Bell, vice-chair of the Safety on Trains Action Group, said she was "stunned".
'This dispute is part of our revenge' An unofficial rank and file strike by about 3,000 postal workers in north west England broke the anti-union laws and forced Royal Mail management into a humiliating retreat this week.
Trade Unionists, community campaigners and socialists met in Bristol last week to select a Socialist Alliance candidate to fight in the general election. It was one of many selection meetings taking place to democratically select Socialist Alliance candidates. Socialist Alliance candidates are not careerists bankrolled by millionaires, but ordinary working class people chosen by working class people at open, democratic meetings.
Over 500 copies of Socialist Worker were sold on the "Save Vauxhall" demonstration in Luton on Saturday, while 20 people joined the Socialist Workers Party.14 papers were sold to striking Liverpool postal workers, while 5 papers were sold outside Vauxhall in Ellesmere Port. 6 papers were sold to striking lecturers at Coatbridge College and 13 were sold at a North Lanarkshire EIS union meeting.
Congratualations to the three lucky readers who have won prizes in the Red Raffle.
The Times Educational Supplement advertised over 4,000 vacancies for teachers' posts last week. It's not only in London that the teacher shortage crisis is biting hard. In Hertfordshire young teachers find the cost of living intolerably high. In areas like this over 65 percent of teachers are aged over 40.
Around 3,000 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) workers in the PCS civil servants' union went on strike on Wednesday and Thursday of last week over pay. Picket lines sprang up across England and Wales after management tried to impose a deal workers had rejected by 82 percent in a ballot.
Royal Mail workers should vote no to the 3.2 percent pay deal recommended by the majority of the CWU union's postal executive. After months of negotiations Post Office bosses conceded a further 0.1 percent at the last moment. This was enough for the union's leaders to halt plans for a strike ballot.
Hackney Council Workers in Hackney, east London, will strike next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in a crucial dispute over the ruling group's plans for cuts and privatisation. The Labour-Tory coalition "structural adjustment plans" mean cutting £50 million over the next three years. Hundreds of jobs will go and services will be handed over to private firms.
I can't stand the way big brand name companies smother us with their distorted view of the world. So I was really pleased when I heard about a protest organised against Gap in the centre of Bristol. Gap employs child labourers at 22p an hour while the executives get £15,000 an hour. The protest last week was amazing. Within minutes we had over 100 people outside Gap. This soon rose to 150 people, holding placards, petitioning and giving out leaflets.
"We'Vve given up a chance to stop a maverick chief officer trampling all over us." So said a Merseyside firefighter after the Fire Brigades Union accepted a poor deal rather than act on last week's vote for a strike. There will be "talks" over the number of control room staff, and a "review" of cuts in the number of appliances responding to automatic calls. A majority of FBU branches, 19 to six, reluctantly voted for the deal under pressure from FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist, and regional and brigade officials.
The threat of strike action has forced Arriva to offer bus drivers in Wycombe a 7.8 percent pay rise and an hour cut in the working week. The 120 drivers, members of the TGWU union, had voted by 69 percent to strike unless they got a decent rise.
On 18 January the body of Ramin Khaleghi, a 27 year old Iranian, was discovered in the International Hotel, a hostel housing asylum seekers in Leicester. Ramin had been a political prisoner in Iran for a number of years before managing to flee to Britain.
Campaigners in Wales are building for the Wales and the World conference, which includes speakers like journalist George Monbiot, Barry Coates from the World Development Movement and writer Colin Hines.
The rich and powerful from across the globe were to gather in the Swiss ski-resort of Davos this weekend. But right across the world their system is being challenged. At Davos protesters planned demonstrations outside the rulers' World Economic Forum.
Workers and bosses in France were set for a major trial of strength on Thursday. All the country's major union federations have called for strikes and demonstrations against a "frontal assault" on workers' pension rights. It comes as the social and political temperature in France is rising. Strikes and demonstrations have been multiplying in recent weeks. Now the Les Echos business paper worries that bosses are playing "a dangerous game". Thursday's action centres around a provocative move by the Medef employers' organisation.
Tens of thousands of people protested against the inauguration of US president George W Bush last weekend. They took to the streets in Washington, Florida and Seattle to show they are opposed to how Bush and the Republicans stole last November's election.
Mass demonstrations forced the resignation of the president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada, on Friday of last week. Over 200,000 people took to the streets of the capital, Manila, for several days last week after court proceedings against Estrada over corruption effectively collapsed.
Africa over the past generation has proved to be a tragic continent, plagued by war, famine and the AIDS epidemic. Perhaps no country sums up this tragedy more starkly than the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), whose president, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated last week.
The case of the "internet twins" has provoked cries of outrage from politicians and press alike. The tabloid press have portrayed the Kilshaws, the British couple who bought the six month old twin girls on the internet for £8,200, as eccentric and unfit parents. The twins' biological mother has been called "shameful" and "grasping". The Kilshaws may not be particularly appetising people. He is a well-off solicitor and belongs to a far right fragment, the Democratic Party. But most people who are desperate for children are not like this. The same politicians and newspapers that have been in uproar over the "internet twins" have helped create a situation that drives such people to
These Victorian slums in Poplar, east London, capture the image many of us have of the time in the 19th century when Britain was most divided between rich and poor. But those who live in the same streets today face the same level of inequality as their Victorian predecessors.
The Holocaust is the greatest crime in European history. There have been other horrors-terrible wars, mass killings, the dropping of the atomic bomb and the forced movement of peoples on all continents. But the Nazis' systematic murder of six million Jews and millions of others during the Second World War is barbarism without parallel. They used up to date industrial techniques to set about annihilating the entire Jewish population of Europe.
When the auditorium at an off the ring road multiplex is almost full on a cold midweek night, you know you are watching a box office hit. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a Chinese language epic that has captured and enthralled its audiences. But despite its stunning combat scenes this is no martial arts movie.
Under Suspicion is a film set in the US-run Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. It's a hot and sticky night. People dance on the streets. It's carnival time. A successful, rich lawyer gets ready to make his speech at a glitzy fundraising charity dinner-the island has recently been devastated by a hurricane. The day before the lawyer found the body of a raped and murdered girl while out jogging. It's the second such murder in recent weeks.
"This is no Hollywood movie," says film-maker Newton Aduaka about his new film, Rage. The film is about the friendship between three young men. Like so many people, Rage, G and T have a shared dream.
Vasily Grossman's novel Life and Fate has over 150 characters spread throughout war-torn Russia during the Battle of Stalingrad in late 1942 and early 1943. Grossman tells the story through the experiences of Soviet soldiers. The book also deals with the horrors of fascism. This is told in the most chilling way, as Nazi personnel build gas chambers and as a group of Jewish people are forced to journey to the camps.
There is a new sense of fightback in the air. Workers' anger at job cuts, planned factory closures, rotten pay deals and long working hours runs deep. In some areas it is beginning to bubble over. Last Saturday's demonstration against General Motors shutting down the Vauxhall car plant in Luton showed that spirit.
Nuclear protesters found not guilty On 18 January in Manchester Crown Court a jury of six men and six women found two Trident Ploughshares campaigners not guilty of a charge of conspiracy to commit criminal damage.
A letter from Neil, a student in London, raised the issue of socialists' attitude to religion in Socialist Worker two weeks ago. "Religion is the opium of the people," is one of the better known quotations from Karl Marx.
Behind all the glitz of George W Bush's inauguration as US president last weekend lay the dirty hand of big business. The Bush inaugural committee raised over $17 million for the confetti, champagne and hors d'oeuvres that were showered on the guests as the vote-stealer became "the most powerful man on the planet".