Dated: 03 Mar 2001
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The Socialist Alliance launched its general election campaign this week. People across Britain now have the chance to say a resounding no to Tony Blair's pro-market, pro-privatisation policies, and to vote for a socialist alternative.
High profile figures like playwright Harold Pinter are backing the Socialist Alliance. He says, "There has to be positive and practical resistance to 'big business' government, and the Socialist Alliance has to be it. This country is doomed if we can't organise and support an energetic and determined alternative force, for which social justice is an aspiration which will not be surrendered." Film director Ken Loach is also offering his support.
Instant camera firm Polaroid plans to sack 235 workers at its Dumbartonshire factory in Scotland despite soaring profits. Polaroid's profits jumped from £5.2 million to £22 million last year. One worker facing the axe said, "They are throwing people on the scrapheap so the bosses can rake in cash." One of those who could be handing out redundancy notices is "human resources" director Alistair Liddell, who is married to New Labour Scottish secretary Helen Liddell.
Teachers in London and Doncaster voted by nine to one this week for action to end the scandal of teacher shortages. They will not cover for vacant posts and long term absences. There is a national shortage of supply teachers, who are meant to fill gaps caused by full time vacancies.
Mean Peugeot Multinational car firm Peugeot is telling workers at its plant near Coventry to work harder, and is refusing to give them a decent pay rise. Yet Peugeot has just announced a leap in profits, up 80 percent to a huge £818 million. Last week Peugeot workers showed what they thought of that by throwing out the company's pay offer by an 82 percent majority.
Two Socialist Workers Party national delegate meetings last weekend discussed the huge challenge posed by the election. Both were brimming with enthusiasm at the prospect of the biggest and broadest ever left wing challenge to Labour.
Over 220 people attended a meeting in Conway Hall in London on Tuesday of last week to kickstart Globalise Resistance's mobilisation for the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. Everybody who was there is planning to travel to Genoa on 20-22 July to protest at the summit, where leaders from the world's eight richest countries will gather.
The Daily Record, a Labour-supporting tabloid in Scotland, has organised a march against drugs on 1 April as part of its "war on drugs" campaign. Brian Souter, the anti-gay millionaire owner of Stagecoach, is supporting the march.
Packed meeting Over 500 people packed a meeting last Saturday to look at what has changed two years after the Macpherson report into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. Labour MP Diane Abbott spoke, condemning Jack Straw's decision not to sack Paul Condon, head of the Metropolitan Police, after the Macpherson report. The number of people at this year's meeting rose sharply from last year. But many felt frustrated that their high hopes for change in the wake of the Macpherson report have not been realised.
"Next time there's an unofficial strike in the post we will sack those who have led it and encouraged it." That is what Post Office bosses warned leaders of the CWU union at the end of last week.
Vauxhall workers struck for the day last week against the closure of the Luton plant by giant US multinational General Motors. Luton strikers were joined by workers at the Ellesmere Port plant who also had a solid one-day strike. Socialists, the media, two local Labour MPs and the regional TGWU official swelled the small number of pickets at Luton. Workers argued, "You won't have a job if you keep on doing what management tell you to do!" with workers who crossed the picket lines, mainly MSF members who voted against action.
Protests are to hit the clothes chain Gap next week. Why Gap? Why next week? Because next Thursday, 8 March, is International Women's Day, a day established nearly 100 years ago, inspired by women workers in the New York garment industry, many of who were immigrants. They struggled to survive the horrible sweatshops but they also fought back and organised.
Mobile phone companies all over Britain are taking part in a mad scramble to throw up transmitter masts before laws are passed which might inconvenience them. Soon they will need to apply for planning permission and-to their horror-possibly face some measure of democratic control over their activities.
The following resolution was passed at last Sunday's national meeting of delegates from SWP branches:
A liverly, noisy demonstration of over 400 people took place in Greenock near Glasgow on Saturday of last week against the possible closure of the Rankin Maternity Unit at the Inverclyde Royal Hospital. The march, which took place despite freezing weather, was the culmination of six weeks of well organised activity by a group of committed members of the local community.
Maureen Brennan confronted Michael Meacher, New Labour MP, as he arrived at a conference over safety on construction sites in central London on Tuesday. She is the mother of Michael Brennan, who was killed on a construction site ten years ago. She is still fighting for justice. Maureen joined other victims' families and construction workers in an angry 100-strong lobby.
There will be a national policy conference for the National Network of Socialist Alliances on Saturday 10 March. The meeting will decide the Socialist Alliance's election manifesto. All members of the National Network of Socialist Alliances are urged to attend.
West Sussex councillors told a public meeting last week that they want to build an incinerator to the north east of Crawley, just the width of a motorway away from a housing development and a school. Everyone in the room was very angry and applauded me when I attacked the council's plans.MURIEL HIRSCH
Unison union members in Knowsley council, Merseyside, were due to take their third round of strike action on Thursday of this week. They have had overwhelming support for action against an increase in the working week for white collar workers from 35 to 37 hours.
Some 40 protesters picketed a book signing by Tory Ann Widdecombe at Waterstone's bookshop in Nottingham last week. One of the protesters was Pete Radcliff, the prospective Socialist Alliance candidate for Nottingham East.
Bradford's hung council voted by 43 to 38 to privatise the city's 27,000 council homes last week. The Defend Council Housing campaign in Bradford has pledged to oppose the sell off. Tenants have the final say in the ballot to be held later this year. A preliminary survey by the council shows 82 percent of tenants want to stay under council control.
Rolls Royce workers at Ansty in the West Midlands stepped up their fight against up to 1,300 job cuts with a second round of strike action on Monday of this week. Cars tailed back for miles from both gates as workers in the MSF and GMB unions caused massive disruption to the site. "We're having a serious effect," one engineer told Socialist Worker. The strike by 500 workers, mainly skilled engineers and office workers, has been solid.
UEL Thousands of staff and students at the University of East London (UEL) have signed a statement of no confidence in the university's senior management. Over 200 staff have lost their jobs in the last four years. Now vice-chancellor Frank Gould has demanded another £3 million in cuts and redundancies. A meeting of 250 staff and students recently confronted UEL governors. Martin Hoyles, chair of the lecturers' NATFHE union branch, told the governors, "This management must go."
Some 75 people came to a "Renationalise the rail" public rally in Nottingham last week. Speakers included Alan Simpson MP, Jim Creamer, branch secretary of East Midlands RMT, and a Dudley hospitals striker. The meeting brought together Labour Party activists, Socialist Alliance members, environmental campaigners, and members of the World Development Movement. Some 13 people joined the Socialist Alliance, which will be standing a candidate against John Heppell in Nottingham East. Heppell is John Prescott's parliamentary private secretary and refuses to support the call to renationalise the railways.
Around 70 people came to a hustings meeting in central London for the candidates for general secretary of the postal workers' CWU union last week. John Keggie, the present union deputy general secretary, is standing against Billy Hayes, a union national officer.
Around 70 people attended a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting in Glasgow last week. Scottish National Party MSP Shona Robison and leading pro-Palestinian academic Dr Michael Prior were joined by Palestinian and Jewish speakers in calling for solidarity with the intifada.
Firefighters in Derbyshire are "withdrawing goodwill" with the Labour-controlled county council over a £1 million cut in the budget. A spokesperson for the firefighters' FBU union told Socialist Worker, "Last time we went into dispute with the council they hid behind a Tory government. They cannot do that now. Gordon Brown should spend some of his billions on essential services."
Over 100 people attended a public meeting in Tottenham, north London, last week to hear Delroy Lindo, Raphael Rowe, the Harry Stanley campaign and others talk of their fights for justice
"I call on everyone to attend this Saturday's march and rally in Birmingham. We can make a difference." That statement comes from Steve Godward, the divisional secretary of West Midlands Fire Brigades Union, urging support for the anti-privatisation demonstration in Birmingham.
The battle over New Labour's plan to privatise the tube in London was coming to a head this week. Tony Blair met Gordon Brown and John Prescott on Monday, and refused to abandon the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme which means breaking up the tube and handing it to private companies such as Balfour Beatty.
Over 4,000 riot police stormed into a Daewoo Motors plant in South Korea last week. They stormed the building to smash up a four day long sit-in by 700 sacked workers and their families fighting for their jobs. The security forces broke down barricades with forklift trucks and excavators.
Turkey has become the latest country to fall victim to the whirlwind of financial speculation. A huge outflow of money forced the government of Bülent Ecevit to announce on Thursday of last week that it was allowing the Turkish currency, the lira, to float freely on the foreign exchange markets. Within two days the lira had been devalued by 36 percent.
New Labour's ten-year crime programme, released on Monday, was full of "get tough" policies. It centred on 2,500 new prison places, 9,000 more police, allowing juries to see details of a defendant's convictions during a trial, and an army of private security guards backing up the police.
Tony Blair met George Bush last week. Their so called "special relationship" is sealed in blood. The day before they met US and British planes were again bombing Iraq. They bombed the northern "no-fly zone" just under a week after bombing Baghdad. Blair and Bush say the bombing raids are carefully targeted.
"In the modern world the majority of people could be termed middle class." This is the conclusion of the new TV series Middle Classes: Their Rise and Sprawl. It charts the "middle classes' rise to social dominance" through the 20th century.
Liam is set in working class Liverpool during the depression of the 1930s. It is one of a number of recent films, such as Billy Elliott and Ratcatcher, which attempt to realistically portray social conditions and working class life. The script is by Jimmy McGovern-who wrote excellent TV dramas about the Hillsborough tragedy and the Liverpool dockers.
Moth Smoke, a new novel by Moshin Hamid, is set in the border city of Lahore, Pakistan, in 1998. Electricity is in short supply, temperatures are over 120 degrees and nuclear testing is a common occurrence.
One of the greatest political plays of the 20th century is on tour across Britain in the coming weeks. If you have the chance to go, don't miss it. The Good Woman of Setzuan was written by the socialist playwright Bertolt Brecht in 1942.
Foot and mouth disease has dominated the press and TV for the last week. The disease is highly infectious, and action is needed. But it is not like BSE, mad cow disease, which passed to humans with devastating consequences. There is little risk to humans from foot and mouth disease. No one is likely to die or even get ill.
Trade unionists and socialists in Sheffield will be sad to learn of the death of Rob Dawber. Rob was an active socialist and trade unionist since the mid-1970s. Rob was local RMT branch secretary at the time of rail privatisation. He and thousands of track workers were made redundant. Rob turned his hand to film writing and wrote a prophetic script about the effects of privatisation on rail safety.
Refugees: Their fight is ours The new immigration law passed in Spain last December is a clear attempt to undermine immigrant rights, leaving them in inhuman conditions. The law cuts their right to vote, strike, meet and unionise. The right wing Spanish government wants to keep the "sans papiers" in a situation of slavery.
An important component of many recent mobilisations, conferences and protests has been members and supporters of the Green Party. They helped to build, and spoke at, the successful Globalise Resistance conferences.
Doncaster Labour council is showing just how to woo disillusioned Labour voters. Council leader Colin Wedd issued a memo warning fellow councillors to be "careful" to help ensure "maximum support" among Labour voters in the general election.