Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker


Issue: 2094

Dated: 29 Mar 2008




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Back the left challenge to New Labour

The crisis sweeping through the world’s financial markets threatens millions of people here in Britain.


International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other

News

Why is the National Union of Students planning a vote to abolish itself?

A key vote at next week’s annual conference of the National Union of Students (NUS) could see the organisation transformed from a campaigning body into a "professional lobbying group".

Transforming the student union in Essex

Students at Essex university have shown that it is possible to build campaigns outside the structures of student unions that can then capture its leading positions.

Student unions: coffee, booze and a career - but no politics

The depoliticisation and commercialisation of student unions has found a particularly strong expression in King’s College, London, says student John Cooper.

Striking a blow for democracy at UCL

Activists at University College London (UCL) were celebrating last week after they defeated the right’s attempt to suspend Sam Godwin, the student union’s general secretary, and reverse a democratic decision to block military recruitment on campus.

Merseyside Remploy shut down early

A senior GMB union shop steward at Remploy returned from holiday to find out that all his personal effects and years of union paperwork had been thrown out by Remploy bosses. The steward Paul Bragg worked at Remploy’s Wallasey Central Cutting Unit in Merseryside.

CND anniversary protest at Aldermaston

Up to 5,000 people protested at the Aldermaston atomic weapons plant in Berkshire on Easter Monday – 50 years after the first demonstration there.

2.2 percent for local government workers is a slap in the face

Local government workers received a huge slap in the face last week when employers offered them a pay rise of just 2.2 percent for 2008.

Ballot result due for London Underground dispute

The result of a strike ballot of RMT union members on London Underground was due this week. The dispute centres on management’s plans to close ticket offices, to introduce agency staff and private security guards into the workforce and to attack safety standards.

Rail workers' red light over safety

A strike by ten rail workers in the RMT union at Network Rail’s electrical control room in York led to the cancellation, on Thursday of last week, of maintenance and contract work on overhead power lines along the East Coast and branch lines.

Keep backing victimised health service trade unionists

A crucial time is coming for two high profile health workers who have been victimised by their employers for their trade union activities.

Anti-war marches: who goes and why

The media has recently been marking the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq – and of the massive anti-war demonstrations that preceded it. One minor hobby horse throughout the coverage has been the supposed dwindling of the anti-war movement since then.

Strike called on London Underground

The RMT and TSSA rail workers’ unions have called three days of action on London Underground that will bring the tube system to a juddering halt. The strike over safety and staffing issues will begin at 6.30pm on Sunday 6 April and run to 6.30pm on Wednesday 9 April.

Royal Mail ups pensions attack

Royal Mail this week threw down the gauntlet to postal workers and their union by deciding to implement its proposed closure of the final salary pensions scheme with just seven days notice.

Get the army out of our schools

Teachers at the NUT union conference highlighted the issue of army involvement in education by voting on Tuesday to oppose army recruitment in schools.

Teachers to give Gordon Brown a lesson

Teachers took the lead in the revolt against Gordon Brown’s public sector pay limit last weekend when the NUT union’s conference voted unanimously to call for more strike action.

Maternity services saved at Horton hospital in Oxfordshire

Campaigners for the NHS in Oxfordshire were celebrating this week after winning their campaign to save maternity services at the Horton hospital in Banbury.

Reports round-up

Pitiful fines for corporate deaths The majority of large companies convicted of health and safety offences involving a death are fined at a level which is less than one 700th of their annual turnover, new research shows.

NUT conference: Teachers debate future of education

Delegates agreed that this years’ conference of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) was one of the most enthusiastic and left wing ever.

NUT conference: classroom behaviour

An important debate on classroom behaviour took place at conference, at a time when panic about violence among children is leading to some schools introducing "airport style" metal detectors, on-site police officers and increased surveillance of students.

Protesting at Heathrow

Campaigners for the Left List were set to join a protest against airport extension at Heathrow airport in London on Thursday this week, Terminal Five’s opening day.

BNP success in Havering election shows Nazi threat

A council by-election held in Havering, east London on Thursday of last week has highlighted the danger posed by the fascist British National Party (BNP) – and underlined the importance of the Love Music Hate Racism carnival to be held in April.

First class hypocrisy from Labour over post office closures

The Labour government is pushing through the closure of more than 2,500 of Britain’s 14,000 post offices.

Sue MacPherson: ‘We won’t let poor be pushed out of Manchester’

Left list candidates in Manchester are mounting a challenge in two council wards. Nahella Ashraf is standing in the Rusholme ward and Sue MacPherson is standing in Gorton South.

Left List is on the ball at AFC Wimbledon

Left List candidate for the London assembly Kris Stewart, and supporters including candidate Tansy Hoskins, leafleted AFC Wimbledon football club’s game on Good Friday.

How the left can make a breakthrough in London

The Left List campaign for the London mayoral and assembly elections is up and running. Activists have been hitting the streets of the capital getting the message of opposition to war, racism and privatisation across to voters.

NUT conference: class sizes and workload

Workload was raised regularly at conference. A recent School Teachers Review Body (STRB) report found that primary school teachers were now working on average 52 hours a week. Teachers were clear that workload cannot be separated from other issues such as class size and pay.

NUT conference: Academies

A major theme of NUT conference was fighting for a different vision of education. Time after time delegates referred to the Unicef report that placed children in Britain 21 out of 21 in a league table of the well-being and happiness of children in the richest countries.

NUT conference: Military recruitment

Conference voted overwhelmingly to support a motion opposing military recruitment in schools and to support teachers, students and parents who choose not to take part in events organised by the military.

NUT conference: Anti-fascism

Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism had a big profile at conference. The NUT last year voted to set up a political fund, which will allow it to openly campaign against the BNP. Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the NUT, told conference, "I’m delighted that the ballot on our political fund was so successful. I will be very proud when the NUT can put out leaflets saying ‘Don’t vote for fascists and racists – don’t vote BNP’".

NUT conference: Anti-war fringe meeting

Around 250 people crammed into a fantastic fringe meeting on "Britishness, racism and war". The meeting was chaired by Baljeet Ghale, former President of the NUT, and addressed by Lindsey German from the Stop the War Coalition, Rose Gentle from Military Families Against the War and Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee.

NUT conference: Respect Left List fringe meeting

Around 70 people attended a fringe meeting of Respect’s Left List at NUT conference on Easter Monday. Victimised trade unionist Karen Reissmann, Dave Harvey from the NUT executive (in personal capacity) and Michael Lavalette, Respect councillor in Preston, addressed the meeting.

NUT conference: Socialist Teachers Alliance fringe meeting

Around 100 people attended a fringe meeting on the Friday evening of conference on pay, politics and trade unionism, organised by the Socialist Teachers Alliance.

Revolt spreads across Iraq

A mass revolt has broken out across Iraq against attempts by the US and its allies to crush the Shia Muslim resistance to the occupation.


International

Anger over price rises in Cameroon spills over into political demands

Anti-government anger is simmering across the West African state of Cameroon. The removal of government subsidies on basic prices sparked a series of strikes and riots last month.

New round of strikes sweeps across Egypt

Egyptian democracy campaigners have called for a "day of popular anger" to coincide with a textile workers’ strike on 6 April.


Comment

Pressure from below forced NUS to become radical

The huge student movements of the 1960s largely bypassed the NUS, which activists wrote off as both irrelevant and hopelessly right wing.

Why embryo research matters

Gordon Brown and his chief whip Geoff Hoon have faced pressure to allow Labour MPs a "free vote" over the upcoming Human and Embryology Bill.

Hiding failure in Iraq with talk of ‘success’

US president George Bush pronounced on Wednesday of last week that he had no regrets about war in Iraq despite the "high cost in lives and treasure" and declared that the US was on track for victory.

Winter Soldier: US Iraq veterans testify against their leaders’ war

Jason Moon suffers from persistent insomnia as he wrestles with memories of his time in Iraq.

Sally Hunt writes: 'Lecturers are set to join the battle'

The UCU union is balloting members in further education (FE) colleges in England to take strike action in support of a better pay deal. Our pay claim, agreed with other FE unions calls for a 6 percent increase or £1,500, whichever is the greater.

China’s complex problem for George Bush

The Chinese crackdown in Tibet has raised the pitch of criticism of China’s government in the US. Calls for a boycott of the Olympics, originally in protest at China’s support for the Sudanese regime, are gaining strength.


Features

Human nature and social change

Socialists argue that it is both possible and necessary to construct another kind of society, in which resources are shared equally, that is free of war and racism, and which is run on the basis of genuine democracy.

Are we going back to the 1930s? A decade of political polarisation

The crisis in the financial markets has sent bankers, media and politicians into panic. Many of them have compared the current problems to the economic crash of 1929, which heralded the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Are we going back to the 1930s? The economic similarities

The Wall Street Crash of 29 October 1929 has entered the popular imagination as the key example of a crisis in the financial system.

The migrant workers sleeping rough in Peterborough's boom town

Peterborough has one of the fastest economic growth rates of any city in Britain, and for decades that growth has in part been based on the sweat of immigrant labour.


Reviews

Take Away exhibition

Eating habits have been transformed over the past decades due to changing work patterns and attitudes to food.

Redacted

This is a shocking film that pulls no punches in depicting the brutality of the Iraq war.

Aliens offer an alternative perspective of life on Earth

The idea behind this unusual exhibition is that alien art critics have collected Earthling modern art and are trying to interpret it.

Arthur C Clarke’s vision of benevolent empire

A bone, cast into the African sky by a prehistoric ape, cuts to a satellite spinning in orbit. A space plane docks with a rotating space station to the strains of Strauss’s Blue Danube. A star-child, poised between human and alien, floats towards the Earth.

CND Archive

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament’s 50 years of activism have produced an amazing archive of posters, leaflets, banners and photos. Its peace symbol is recognised across the world.


What We Think

Tories and the unions: Cameron’s unlikely charm offensive

Tory leader David Cameron has appointed a trade union envoy. Richard Balfe, a former Labour MEP, has been sent off to talk to general secretaries and sell the Tory message to the eight million plus union members in Britain.

Mortality report shows inequality from the cradle to the grave

New Labour has a well deserved reputation for "burying bad news". During budget week earlier this month the government released its report into health inequalities in Britain since 1997. Its damning verdict was that life expectancy and child mortality for poorer people has got worse since Labour came to power.

City traders are even ripping each other off

It was just one more crisis in the constant turmoil in the financial sector – last week Britain’s biggest mortgage lender, HBOS, nearly went bust. Someone started rumours that the bank was in trouble – and then bet on the falling share price. One speculator is thought to have made £100 million.


Other Categories

Pete Glatter 1949–2008

Pete Glatter, my friend, activist, Russia specialist and member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), died last week with a lot left to give.

Tim: 'They don't want us'

Letters

Letters



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