Dated: 17 Feb 2001
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"Death Of The Comprehensive." So the Daily Mail greeted Blair's plans for education this week. Scrapping the hated 11-plus and introducing comprehensive schools in the 1960s and 1970s led to the biggest ever increase in educational achievement. The system was so successful that even Tory education secretary Margaret Thatcher went along with it.
"It is time for a second phase of New Labour, defined less by reference to the old Labour Party." That is how Tony Blair spelt out his vision for New Labour's second term in government last week. He said he would move even further from "Old Labour" policies such as redistribution of wealth. Corporate profits are soaring, and the share companies contribute in taxes is falling.
Socialist Worker supporters have been active in three protest movements recently. SWP members were part of the united mobilisation against nuclear weapons at Faslane on Monday, part of the protest at Ariel Sharon's election outside the Israeli embassy and part of building the Globalise Resistance tour. To keep up the resistance, organise more activity and to strengthen the fight for socialism, we want to build the SWP.
Remember Tony Blair's promise to raise health spending to the European average? He's forgotten it! A study by the London School of Economics and the respected Kings Fund shows that New Labour will need to spend an extra £38 billion a year to reach the target that Blair says he aspires to.
Blair and education secretary David Blunkett have announced plans to deal with the chronic shortage of teachers. They are to write off, over ten years, the student debt of university graduates who become maths or language teachers.
Workers in the biggest union at Vauxhall have voted for action to save the Luton car plant from closure. The vote, by workers at Luton and the Ellesmere Port plant on Merseyside, saw members of the TGWU union, the vast bulk of shopfloor workers, back strikes by a 58 percent majority.
Over 2,000 people packed into the continuing Globalise Resistance tour around the country last week. The previous weekend 1,800 people had attended the tour's Glasgow and London legs. "The tour stormed through Birmingham with a lively conference bringing together activists- black and white, old and young, red and green," says Chris Crean from West Midlands Friends of the Earth, one of the 250 people who attended the Birmingham conference.
Pickets were out in force last Friday in Ansty near Coventry as workers struck for a day at plans by the Rolls-Royce aerospace company to axe 1,300 jobs. "A one-day strike won't force the company to back down, but it's our first strike for 20 years," says one worker. "Most of us have never experienced a strike before, let alone a picket line. We are ready to step up the action."
RAGE led the local TV news in Birmingham last week! RAGE is the vibrant local campaign against the Labour council's criminal plan to privatise 30 elderly care homes across Britain's second biggest city. Over 50 people took over the pelican crossing outside the Normanhust home last week. The mood was fantastic. People were chanting "People not profit. Save our homes," and held banners saying, "Labour has betrayed the elderly."
Last week's strike on London Underground struck a powerful blow to New Labour's privatisation scheme. But there is now a danger that a version of John Prescott's plan to hand the tube to private contractors could still go ahead after union leaders called off strikes planned for this week and next.
A rash of disputes has broken out in councils across the north west of England. They are driven by workers' anger at New Labour councils' cuts and huge attacks on working conditions. Thousands of council workers are involved in the battles. It is the first time many of them have attended mass meetings or stood on picket lines. All are determined not to let New Labour get away with slashing services or driving workers into the ground. In KNOWSLEY council workers are fighting against the council's attempt to increase their working week from 35 hours to 37 hours. They held their second round of action last week.
Anti-incinerator campaigns Over 60 people packed into an angry meeting against the expansion of Britain's largest incinerator, in Edmonton, north London. The expansion is part of a national programme of 122 proposed new incineration sites.
Socialist Alliance members and No Sweat activists in east London protested outside Gap's flagship store in Canary Wharf last Saturday
There were nearly 100 people on the picket line outside Rolls-Royce's Ansty plant near Coventry last week. The size of the picket was totally illegal according to the anti trade union laws, but nobody cared.
Our strike has ended in victory after a week of unofficial action. It has been a revelation for all of us. It began over a small incident but quickly escalated to being about intimidation, harassment and victimisation. Royal Mail changed tactics for this strike. Once it started they were out to sack reps, to break the union in Oxford as an example to elsewhere. But we beat the bastards. We survived because of local and national solidarity.
Over 70 students at the University of East Anglia demonstrated against Nestlé last week at the official opening of the new PFI-funded campus sports park. We were demonstrating against the sale of Nestlé products in the sports centre and carried banners saying, "Nestlé-show some milk of human kindness" and "People not profit". One banner was done in the style of a Kit Kat wrapper and said, "Nestlé kills kids".
Around 250 taxi drivers at Gatwick airport have been sacked, but they are fighting back. They lost their jobs when they refused to work for Excellent Connection and Checker Cars, two super-firms that have been handed the franchise at the north and south terminals at Gatwick airport by BAA.
Some 60 workers and trade unionists attended Wigan's first Socialist Alliance rally last week. It was one of the best political meetings in the area for years. The branch secretary and both assistant secretaries of the local UNISON branch turned up, together with at least eight shop stewards from across many different unions. Community activists and a local Green were there, together with two tenants' reps.
On 5 March the world's biggest pharmaceutical firms are going to court to stop South Africans receiving cheaper AIDS drugs. If they succeed they will pass a death sentence on millions of the poorest people suffering from AIDS.
Revolt against the "neo-liberal" policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) swept the South American country of Ecuador last week-and won. Thousands of indigenous people from the countryside marched on the capital, Quito, and occupied the city's university and the headquarters of a visiting IMF delegation.
When the leaders of the IMF and World Bank arrive in Nigeria, West Africa, next Wednesday they might find up to two million protesters on the streets across the country. One of the biggest demonstrations will be against job losses and workers being forced to pay for the country's crisis. Nigeria is in turmoil.
The discussions between Ariel Sharon, the new right wing prime minister of Israel, and leading figures of the Israeli Labour Party show how neither main Israeli party wants peace with the Palestinians.
At the recent Globalise Resistance conference in London one of the packed workshops was about what is happening in the South American country of Colombia. The discussion was introduced by JONATHAN NEALE, author of a book on the US war in Vietnam. He spoke of how the Colombian and US governments were pushing their Plan Colombia. The plan involves billions of dollars and US military "aid" to Colombia.
I'm sure I'm only one of many thousands of anti-capitalist activists who bitterly regret having missed the World Social Forum (WSF) at Porto Alegre. At the end of last month 12,000 people from all over the world packed the capital of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul to attend this event. It was planned as an alternative to the bosses' shindig in Davos, the World Economic Forum.
What a delicious week! The fallout from the Human Genome Project has quite simply shattered the central claim of those who say human behaviour is determined by our genes. Even sweeter is that among those who have disproved this notion are the very people who have been its champions.
World leaders are failing to meet their own target to cut world poverty by half, according to a new report by a United Nations (UN) committee on rural poverty. New Labour international development secretary Clare Short promotes the market as the answer to ending world poverty.
Those involved in the struggle against capitalism justly view the media with suspicion. Capitalists, after all, own the newspapers and TV stations and are, of course, deeply hostile to any movements which challenge their order. At best the media ignore protests. At worst they portray protesters as deranged fanatics.
Jazz: The History of America's Music is a moving book with stunning photographs. It accompanies a documentary series that has already wowed the US and will be shown in Britain later this year. The increased sales of jazz records in the US have been credited to the power of the series.
Kevin Danaher, a key organiser of the Seattle protests, has edited a new collection of articles on "the battle against the World Bank and the IMF". Democratizing the Global Economy contains a wide range of articles and is packed with useful facts about the way institutions such as the IMF bolster corporate power across the globe.
Nuclear weapons were suddenly back on the political agenda this week. They were in focus because of the determination of protesters at Faslane, and because the government is ready to do the bidding of the US and spend billions more on new missiles that could destroy the earth. The outcry against nuclear weaponry runs deep. At the Faslane protest police arrested over 370 people, including Scottish Socialist Party MSP Tommy Sheridan, Labour MP George Galloway and Green MEP Caroline Lucas. Nuclear weapons show Labour's priorities.
We fund them, they whack us I am fed up with our union giving the Labour Party hundreds of thousands of pounds while in government that party attacks us. I am a postal worker in the Communication Workers Union (CWU). New Labour is pushing "joint ventures" and privatisation which are a huge threat to our jobs and conditions.
One of the most exciting developments of the new anti-capitalist movement is how it has brought together all sorts of people with differing views about how to change the world. This has been seen most recently in Britain with the Globalise Resistance counter-conference tour. Environmentalists, socialists, anarchists and many others have come together to discuss how to take on the power of the corporations.
Robert Hardy was the chief executive of the Chester Street Insurance company, which recently went bust, leaving thousands of victims of killer asbestos dust stranded. Sickeningly, we now know Hardy got a "success" bonus payment of £439,000 the year before the collapse.