Dated: 24 Feb 2001
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George W Bush Tony Blair These two men bombed Iraqi children just to keep control of oil
Around 120 Socialist Alliance candidates, election agents and supporters met in Birmingham last Saturday to plan the general election challenge. "There is a real urgency. There are just 47 days to go if the election is on 5 April and 75 days if the election is on 3 May," said the chair of the National Network of Socialist Alliances in England, Dave Nellist, who introduced the day. The day was very productive, with sessions on campaigning, raising finance, the role of candidates and using the press.
"Is this the return of student radicalism?" was how BBC Look North described Leeds University student union's annual general meeting (AGM) on Thursday 8 February. Some 900 students turned up to debate the union's "no platform for Nazis" policy.
Plans to run down Rosyth naval dockyard and sack 1,200 workers over the next five years have been leaked to the TGWU union. Babcock Rosyth Defence plans to reduce the number of docks at its Fife yard from four to one by 2006, which would employ less than 1,000 people.
Dudley hospitals strikers confronted their UNISON union leader Dave Prentis when they lobbied Labour's spring conference in Glasgow last weekend. Prentis came out of the conference to speak to the strikers, to pledge his support for their battle, and to underline his hope that a settlement could be achieved soon. But strikers wanted more.
Fifty workers at the Museum of London struck on Friday of last week. The official half-day action was in protest at a below inflation pay deal. The strike was 95 percent solid. Despite threats of legal action by management the protests outside the museum swelled to 100, with archaeologists and specialists who applauded the strikers. The strike marked the beginning of a campaign by the IPMS union across the heritage sector against low pay.
Construction has the worst safety record of any industry. Workplace fatalities increased 20 percent in the last financial year to 86 deaths. Deputy prime minister John Prescott has called a "Construction Safety Summit" for Tuesday of next week. This was originally going to be a full-day event. Now he has downgraded it to a three-hour session.
All UNISON members at Kirklees council elderly people's homes went on strike on Monday of this week. The strikers are cooks, cleaners and care workers in 15 residential care homes for elderly people.
Post Office bosses are threatening to privatise 3,500 jobs unless unofficial strikes stop. This blackmailing ultimatum comes in a letter from Post Office managing director David Morphey. He says that unless the strikes stop the Cash Handling and Distribution function, with its 3,500 workers, could be handed over to Securicor.
Protesters disrupted a lecture by George Robertson, the general secretary of NATO, at Dundee University last Saturday. They were protesting against his warmongering in the Balkans two years ago and the bombing of Baghdad the night before. They succeeded in stopping his talk, and the protest was covered in the Scottish Post.
Over 100 people demonstrated at the "Save our Schools" event in Bristol last Saturday. The protest was a spontaneous response to the council's sham referendum over the council tax. The result means the Labour council will make millions of pounds of cuts to the education budget. The message from teachers, parents and the community was, "No way will we accept this ludicrous situation that could see 180 teachers sacked." Over 650 signatures were collected, and many pledged to come to an open planning meeting on 1 March.
Up to 16,000 engineers working for ADT, Britain's largest fire and security company, have this week voted to suspend their strike action. The workers have been taking a series of four-day strikes over a pay claim. The strikes have disrupted ADT's out of hours service, and managers have been forced to staff local offices.
Workers in the GMB union at Glasgow airport are to be balloted over strike action in protest over the sacking of a union representative. GMB Scottish secretary Robert Parker said, "GMB Scotland believes that British Airways (BA) set up our member. "BA needs to be aware that we will take whatever action to reinstate the sacked union rep."
Peugeot management have struck again, this time on our pay claim. They stated in a recent communication that the percentages they offer are the biggest in the industry. But Peugeot employees are some of the lowest paid in the industry. We find this an insult.
A Two-day carnival-like event took place in Montpellier, southern France, last week. It was a 15,000-strong protest against globalisation that saw people pack into meetings on everything from how to fight the multinationals to the threat to privatise public services under the planned GATS trade agreement. There was also an inspiring march, with students, peasants and trade unionists chanting what has become the slogan of the movement: "The world is not for sale!"
University research is being hijacked by big business. University departments are increasingly taking funding from the companies whose products they are supposed to be "investigating". Scientists at Imperial College, Berkshire, did a ten-year study of GM crops, and concluded that GM crops were no more likely to be bad for the environment than conventional ones.
Tony Blair used his speech to Labour's spring conference last weekend to warn against cynicism. New Labour is scared that its "core supporters" won't vote. Blair has no one to blame but himself for betraying people's hopes. Gordon Brown launched New Labour's election campaign with a speech condemning child poverty as a "scar on the soul of Britain". But a new report released this week shows that:
How could anyone be cynical about New Labour? The party came to power promising to end the stink of sleaze and corruption that enveloped the Tories. Now we see:
Tony Blair held a pre-election lunch for 23 of the top "captains of industry" last week. Its theme was "competitiveness". It aimed to reassure business that they need not be worried if the government uses any "radical" rhetoric in order to motivate its core supporters to get out and vote. Among the guests were:
The ISTC steel union last week dismissed as a "cruel fantasy" the scheme by telecom firm EXI to find jobs for 4,000 redundant steel workers. The company's offer was backed by leaders of the AEEU union. EXI presently employs just 1,700 in 30 countries worldwide. ISTC leader Michael Leahy said the idea that it could generate thousands of jobs in Britain was "far fetched to say the least".
BG Group, the integrated gas business, more than doubled its profits last year. Its profits rose by 153 percent to £425 million-and came after the record profits announced by BP, Shell and Exxon. Yet despite this record haul, the cost of gas is going up by 4 percent in a few weeks time.
Workers at Vauxhall motors were to strike on Thursday of this week. They planned to hit back at General Motors, one of the world's biggest corporations. GM wants to close down its Vauxhall motors plant in Luton and sack 2,000 workers.
Workers at the Rolls Royce aerospace plant in Ansty, near Coventry, are to strike for the day next Monday. Skilled engineers at the plant have already taken one day's solid strike action against the company's plan to sack over 1,000 workers and to move work to Bristol and Canada. "The company has not shifted at all," says an MSF rep at the plant. "Everyone is solidly behind more strike action."
The Government was in a deepening hole over its plans for privatising London's tube network at the beginning of this week-and more strikes could be on the way. Talks between deputy prime min ister John Prescott and London mayor Ken Livingstone's transport supremo Bob Kiley restarted on Monday. They had collapsed last week after Prescott went back on an earlier pledge to overhaul his PPP privatisation scheme.
New Labour faces still more problems with its plan to privatise the national air traffic control service before the general election. Independent safety advisers have handed their report on the three different private bidders over to the government. There are serious worries about two of them. Lockheed-Martin has had huge problems trying to install computer software at the new air traffic centre at Swanwick in Hampshire.
"Railtrack is facing bankruptcy. It cannot survive as it is without the injection of further government money." That is the verdict of officials in the Strategic Rail Authority, the government's rail watchdog.
A meeting called by the Fire Brigades Union in north London to oppose privatisation and support tube workers showed the potential for solidarity with the fight to stop the tube sell-off. Some 120 people came to the meeting in Islington on Thursday of last week. There were groups of firefighters, post office workers, tube drivers and station staff, teachers, council workers and others.
A swathe of privatisation proposals across the West Midlands have united anti-privatisation campaigners in a determined battle. Dudley Group of Hospitals is at the centre of the plans. Health workers are now on strike to fight the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) scheme that means axing staff, privatising jobs and slashing beds.
In Leeds 9 copies of Socialist Worker were sold at the General Infirmary, 6 were sold at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, 5 at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and 4 at Shrubhill bus garage. Manchester sales included 7 at both Schlumberger's and at the Royal Infirmary. Elsewhere 8 were sold at De La Rue Printers in High Wycombe, 5 at Aston post office in Birmingham and 4 at Copperas Hill post office in Liverpool.
Labour's spring conference in Glasgow last weekend was a chance to see what is going on at the heart of the Labour Party. It brought together 3,000 Labour members from all over Britain to hear a series of speeches and, for all practical purposes, to hear the leadership launch the election campaign.
A trial judge at Newport Crown Court recently claimed there was no racial motive in the horrific murder of Jan Marthin Passalbessy on 20 June 2000. This was despite hearing evidence that the four killers convicted of the murder had called their victim "nigger" and "black bastard" during the attack.
The bombing of Iraq last weekend was soaked in hypocrisy. Bush and Blair talk of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and his evil rule. But this week the US was involved in joint military exercises with the one certain nuclear power in the Middle East-Israel. The Israeli government is now headed by Ariel Sharon, a war criminal. He was responsible for the murder of 2,000 Palestinians in 1982. They were raped, knifed or shot as they washed their clothes and cooked their food in refugee camps in West Beirut.
The right wing press heaped praise on Tony Blair last week for his plans to attack comprehensive education. The Sun said, "We take our hat off to the prime minister." It applauded Blair's spokesman Alastair Campbell for labelling comprehensive schools "bog-standard". The Tories boasted that New Labour had copied their policies. The right wing are cheering the end of working class children getting the right to a decent education.
New Labour wants us to save money. It wants us to save for our children's university education (for the 30 percent who go into higher education) and save for our retirement. Last week the government promised a new children's saving scheme where the state would top up money put in by parents. It was suggested the fund could be used later in life to "tide workers over periods of unemployment in an uncertain world".
We are told that the lives of many of the poorest people across the world are often at the mercy of "natural disasters". Millions of people in the Third World are driven into destitution or early graves by a drought or flooding which we are told human beings have no control over.
The play The Bogus Woman, written by Kay Adshead and solo performed by Norma Dumezweni, is an extremely powerful and moving political drama. It takes you on a painful journey through the state of the asylum system under New Labour.
Two excellent films by the Indian film-maker Deepa Mehta are now available on video. Fire and Earth are part of Deepa Mehta's trilogy of films set in India. They challenge many of the accepted ideas in Indian society. Cinemas in India showing Fire were targeted by the extreme right wing Hindu organisation Shiv Shena because the story includes a relationship between two women.
The media recently turned its attention upon Eminem, the US rap singer, during his British tour. Eminem's sexist and anti-gay lyrics led Sheffield University Student Union to ban his songs and image from campus. His concerts attract angry protests from gay rights activists. Socialist Worker spoke to people in the age group 14-17, Eminem's main fan base, about the rap star.
"The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist. McDonalds cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas. The hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US army, air force, navy and Marine Corps."THOMAS FRIEDMAN, right wing US journalist
The Prudential insurance firm has just announced it is axing some 2,000 staff – nearly 20 percent of its entire British workforce. I work in one of the Prudential call centres in Reading. Most of those who are being sacked are "field staff". These are the people who visit policy holders in their own homes and deal with individual cases. They are all being done away with.
"I am somewhat confused about the SWP's attitude to elections and the Socialist Alliance," wrote a reader in last week's paper. "Is this really about trying to get elected or is just about propaganda?" The first thing to be said is our attitude is very different to that which has prevailed in the Labour Party for the last 100 years.
George W Bush taking over in the White House has made some people nostalgic for Bill Clinton.