Dated: 06 Nov 1999
Search below by year or month.
Try our search to find a specific issue of Socialist Worker, or use the search at the top of the page to find a specific article.
£40 million handout to the fat cats
AS CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown was praising the achievements of Thatcherism, hundreds of coal miners in the north east of England faced the sack. Private mining firm RJ Budge, which was allowed to buy up coal pits on the cheap by the Tories, announced that it is to close the last remaining working deep mine pit in the north east. Budge is to close Ellington pit, near Ashington in Northumberland, with the loss of 450 jobs.
THE HEALTH and Safety Executive (HSE) published its first interim report into the Paddington rail crash last week. The report found that signal 109 was obscured by overhead cables and gantries, making it hard for the driver to see the signal. The HSE report made it clear that the driver of the Thames train was not to blame for the crash.
THE INDIAN cyclone has caused complete devastation to one of the poorest areas of India. Ten million people's lives have been ruined and thousands are dead.
THE BRITISH government secretly sprayed huge areas of the country with deadly chemical spray in the 1950s, it has been revealed. The Ministry of Defence's chemical and biological warfare establishment at Porton Down conducted the secret experiments. It sprayed chemical spray and bacteria over Wiltshire, Hampshire, Berkshire, Dorset, Somerset and Surrey. Scientists claimed they wanted to find how vulnerable Britain was to a biological attack from the Soviet Union.
THE TORIES and the British press have whipped themselves into an anti-French frenzy over beef during the last fortnight. Labour cabinet ministers, like agriculture secretary Nick Brown, have encouraged the mood. But they all ignore the most basic facts about British beef and BSE.
NURSES' UNION leaders in Ireland ordered over 27,000 striking nurses back to work last week while they ballot on a deal proposed by the Irish government. Many nurses are unhappy with the proposals, which do not meet their demand for every long serving staff nurse to receive higher pay. Instead the government is proposing to create 2,500 positions of "senior staff nurse" which will only benefit a minority of nurses.
Sales of Socialist Worker outside workplaces are gathering strength. Last week in central London 14 were sold at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, 9 at Mount Pleasant post office and 5 at the Westminster site of the Jubilee Line Extension. In the north east 15 papers were sold at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary with £15 collected for the Socialist Worker Appeal and £11 at Sunderland Civic Centre where 11 was collected. In Manchester 16 papers were sold at the town hall, 12 at Oldham Road post office and 8 at the Marks and Spencer construction site. In Bristol sales included 11 at the Avonmouth Bridge site and 9 at the central telephone exchange, while on Merseyside 15 were sold at
WORKERS ON Tyneside's Metro light rail system are threatening strike action over millennium holiday payments. They have rejected by eight to one an offer of a £350 bonus, triple pay and a day off for those working after 8pm on New Year's Eve. The RMT union, representing half of Metro's 600 employees, is asking for a £750 millennium bonus.
CAR WORKERS in Coventry have been taking French lessons! The French parliament last week approved the key stage in a law cutting hours to 35 a week with no loss of pay. Unions at Peugeot in Britain are now demanding that the French company's 6,000 workers in Coventry get the same.
MORE AREAS are getting organised behind the campaign for the election of Roger Bannister for general secretary of Britain's largest union, UNISON. Activists on Merseyside met last week to plan a public meeting to build the fight for a socialist alternative to UNISON's current leadership.
ABOUT 50 people attended a counter-demonstration to face down an annual anti-abortion commemoration in Glasgow last week. The anti-abortion "vigil", on the anniversary of the passing of the act which legalised abortion in Britain in 1967, was much smaller than in previous years. The pro-choice lobby included health workers, lecturers and students. Men joined women in with angry chants of, "No return to the backstreet - a woman's right to choose", and, "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate."
HOME HELPS in Derbyshire have voted by more than nine to one for industrial action to stop the introduction of electronic time sheets. The result is a blow to the Labour controlled council, whose scheme has been dubbed "electronic tagging" by the home helps. The industrial action was due to start on Wednesday of this week and will allow home helps to boycott the scheme.
LEADERS OF the AUT lecturers' union have disgracefully suspended industrial action over pay. The campaign began earlier this year with an excellent one day strike. Since then it has consisted mainly of boycotts of some administration tasks and admissions inquiries. The union's winter council (a delegate based body similar to a conference in other unions) could be asked to consider holding another ballot for action if there is not sufficient progress by the time it is held.
HUNDREDS OF workers at Ford Halewood on Merseyside walked out in disgust last week after they heard of the suicide of a fellow worker. Halewood is the third Ford plant in the last month to be hit by an unofficial walkout.
THE PRESS presented the recent meeting between Jacques Nasser of Ford and Bill Morris of the TGWU as a solution to the problems of racism and bullying at Ford's Dagenham plant. But many workers at Dagenham are left wondering what the deal will mean for them. Ford has agreed to a plan from the unions - the TGWU, AEEU, GMB and MSF - for a "Diversity and Equality Assessment Review".
UNION OFFICIALS will meet with the Ford motor company next week for three days of negotiations over the pay deal. Workers are angry with a whole host of Ford's proposals. "This is a lousy pay deal with strings," says a worker. "We don't want corridor annualised hours and we don't want attacks on our union negotiating structures. That would be going backwards, not forwards. But we do want better pay and two hours off the working week. Ford will have to think again."
SIR KEN Jackson, the right wing leader of the AEEU, has rammed through a rotten pay deal. Electricians in the construction industry voted to accept a pay offer by 3,324 votes to 2,636. Jackson claimed that electricians would get a 30 percent pay rise. But because they will lose overtime payments and travelling expenses many electricians will in fact be worse off.
WORKERS AT Leicestershire sock manufacturer Pex have mounted protests after the company locked the workers out and their pay cheques bounced last week. Pex manager Andrea Dellavolta disappeared owing workers their wages and £18,000 in union contributions that he has deducted from wages.
FIREFIGHTERS IN West Yorkshire are planning a demonstration after the fire authority voted to press ahead with its plans to merge the Bramley and Pudsey fire stations in Leeds. This is despite firefighters handing in an 11,000 signature petition to the fire authority meeting.
ZUBER LATIF from India has won his battle against deportation. He has lived in Britain for 12 years and is married to a British citizen. The Home Office had claimed that their marriage was "ill timed" and was not grounds for Zuber staying in Britain, despite the fact that the couple had a child.
POSTAL WORKERS at the giant Mount Pleasant office in central London are waiting to hear if their site is to lose 1,600 jobs. Royal Mail plans to shift most of Britain's international mail work to a new "greenfield" site at Langley near Slough in Berkshire. That would mean huge job losses at Mount Pleasant - and at Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Reading and Dover. The key date is 15 November when the Royal Mail board meets.
Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians struck and demonstrated on Wednesday of last week against unemployment and recession caused by the government's free market policies. The strike and protests were organised by the CUT union federation and involved students and landless farmers as well as workers.
BOMBS SMASHED into a refugee convoy, slaughtering at least 25 civilians and injuring over 150 people. This could have been a scene of horror from NATO's war in the Balkans. But the bombing happened last week - the latest atrocity in Russia's increasingly horrific war against Chechenia. The Red Cross said the refugee convoy was clearly marked and visible from the air. Two Red Cross workers were also killed in the bombing.
A JUDGE has ordered a stay of execution for Mumia Abu Jamal, the former Black Panther on death row in the United States. Mumia, who was framed for the killing of a police officer, had been given a date for execution, 2 December. But now Judge Yohn has allowed additional hearings to be allowed.
THE HORRIFIC result of NATO's war in the Balkans continues. Last week a column of Serb refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing was set upon by Albanians. Dutch troops stopped the attack. But a UN representative with the Serb convoy said, "I'm surprised I wasn't burned alive in my car."
THERE'S NOTHING like a beef war to remind you just how stupid the British media and British politicians are. The idiotic jingoistic ranting at the French this past fortnight really has taken the biscuit. In fact, France is the most interesting country in Europe today. A huge wave of social struggles is sweeping French society. The farmers' protests are merely the tip of the iceberg. Barely a day seems to go by without some group or other demonstrating in Paris. High school students have taken to the streets in their hundreds of thousands twice over the past six months.
HOME SECRETARY Jack Straw has found time off from forcing through the Asylum Bill to extract an apology from the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Sir David Ramsbotham's "offence" had been to question what would happen to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who killed two year old James Bulger in 1993.
THE APPEAL total reached £98,048.27 at the beginning of this week. That does not include thousands of pounds which was pledged in sponsorship for dozens of fundraising events which took place on Sunday. Some 25 Socialist Worker readers cycled from Cambridge to London (60 miles!), raising over £2,000 in sponsorship.
"I FEEL ashamed to say that I'm a member of the London Labour Party. The shenanigans that are taking place to stop Ken from becoming mayor are a disgrace. This has nothing to do with democratic socialism. It is more like Stalin's Russia."
When a person dies, the autopsy reveals the nature of their illness. The collapse of the Stalinist regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe makes it possible to be absolutely clear about the nature of those regimes. There was no resistance to the collapse from the mass of people. They didn't defend the system. That shows they didn't believe the regimes had anything to do with socialism or workers' power.
"THE PEOPLE of Eastern Europe can now look forward to a future of freedom and prosperity." That was the confident prediction of the Times at the end of 1989. The Berlin Wall had crashed down weeks earlier, symbolising an extraordinary year.
"SOCIETY MAY be in a mess, but a revolution would produce a new tyranny." That is one of the most common objections to the idea of revolution. Defenders of capitalism said the monstrous societies of Eastern Europe and Russia which collapsed in 1989 were the inevitable result of workers' revolution.
THE SIGHT of rejoicing people tearing down the Berlin Wall sums up for many the hopes of the 1989 Eastern European revolutions. They demonstrated the potential of the mass of ordinary people to rise up and challenge even the most repressive regimes. They proved wrong all those who had claimed that the Stalinist regimes were all-powerful monoliths that could not be overthrown. Yet ten years on the hopes of so many of those who fought for their freedom have been turned to dust.
THE WORLD Trade Organisation (WTO) meets in Seattle in the United States at the end of this month. People across the world are preparing to protest against it. The WTO claims to be about ensuring fair play in international trade. Its real function is to act as the bully boy for the world's most powerful governments and multinational corporations. It helps patrol a world where eight giant corporations grab more wealth than half of the world's people combined and where 1.2 billion people live in abject poverty.
"YOU CAN stick Loaded magazine up your arse!" "What do we want? Liberation!" That's what 600 students chanted as they marched for women's rights through the streets of east London on Wednesday of last week.
GRANTS MIGHT return for poorer students in Scotland. That could be the result of the political crisis over education funding that has swept the country. It would be a huge victory that could detonate a massive fight to bring back grants for students in England and Wales. The prospect of the return of grants is a result of the crisis facing the Scottish Executive.
THE NOVELS of J M Coetzee, who won the prestigious Booker Prize for the second time last week, are well worth reading. Coetzee, a white South African, was an opponent of apartheid. Disgrace, his latest work, tells the story of lecturer David Lurie, who has an affair with one of his students. Accused of harassment, he leaves the university and goes to live with his lesbian daughter.
THE MOST eagerly anticipated movie of the year has arrived - The Blair Witch Project. It was filmed for just $35,000. It has made $137 million at the US box office, making it the most profitable movie of all time. The film's plot is simple. Three young film makers disappear while shooting a documentary about witches in the forests of Maryland. One year later their film is found.
GORDON BROWN surpassed himself this week, even by the craven standards set by New Labour. He stood before the bosses gathered at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and announced £40 million of public money to encourage share handouts to fat cats. At the same time New Labour was hoping to ram welfare cuts of tens of millions of pounds through parliament. Brown also praised the bosses' hero at the CBI. "People say that in the 1980s Mrs Thatcher created an enterprising society," declared Brown. "We must do far better than we have in the past. We must go beyond what we achieved in the 1980s."
ON FRIDAY, Saturday and Sunday last week we had a French market in our town, with French people selling their produce. On the Friday someone set up a fruit and vegetable stall in the market flying a Union Jack. It was covered in posters saying "Buy British" and "End the ban on British beef".
THE GOVERNMENT got a shock at one of its "Citizens' Juries" recently. These groups consist of 14 people plucked at random from the electoral register who are brought together to discuss some aspect of policy. The one in Greenock, Inverclyde, was called together to discuss Incapacity Benefit.