Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker

Issue: 1675

Dated: 04 Dec 1999

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In every continent... Rage against the system

RIGHT ACROSS the world people protested against capitalism this week. Their target was the World Trade Organisation. Tens of thousands marching in Seattle were attacked by police. Across France tens of thousands joined marches like the one shown here in Paris. In London and other cities across Britain people staged protests. Similar protests took place from Brazil to Bangladesh, from Argentina to Australia.

International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other


Our enemy is capitalism

THE US city of Seattle was deeply divided on Tuesday. Police with armed personnel carriers waded into peaceful protesters. It was the first use of teargas and rubber bullets in Seattle since the Vietnam War. Even Glenys Kinnock was shocked at the police violence. She talked of the "extraordinary over-reaction of the police".

Prescott car u-turn

JOHN PRESCOTT has junked any idea of cutting the number of cars on Britain's roads. In a complete U-turn, Prescott announced the speeding up of the government's programme of road building schemes. Any idea of creating an environmentally safe and cheap integrated transport system has gone out of the window.

On the line

AN EXCELLENT 50 copies of Socialist Worker were sold to pickets during last week's Wandsworth council strike, while 29 papers were sold to striking postal workers during their unofficial strike in Glasgow. Socialist Worker readers in the post produced two copies of a strike bulletin.

Choking on this force fed deal

FORD WORKERS have voted to accept the company's revised pay and hours offer - but only just. Workers voted to accept the three year deal by 54.5 percent to 45.5 percent. The vote was 8,016 votes for the deal and 6,696 against.

Turning on the taggers

"BRUCE BUCKLEY, hear us shout - electronic tagging, out, out, out!" That was the message from around 500 home helps and their supporters to the director of Derbyshire social services as they marched through Chesterfield last Saturday.

Vote for a fight

THE FIGHT for the leadership of Britain's biggest union will be between a candidate wanting to cosy up to the government and a socialist standing against the attacks from New Labour. The election is a result of current UNISON leader Rodney Bickerstaffe's decision to stand down.

Civil servants

DELEGATES FROM the PTC civil service union met in Scarborough last week against a backdrop of continuing low pay and government attacks. The delegates were split up into their "groups", such as Inland Revenue, Employment Service (ES), and so on.

MSF and London mayor

OVER 40 people attended a public meeting in central London on Thursday of last week. They decided to campaign against the Labour Party and MSF union leadership's attacks on the MSF London region. The Labour Party has ruled that MSF members in London cannot vote in the party's mayoral candidate election because of a late payment in affiliation fees. When three London region MSF branch officers challenged the ruling they were suspended by their national leadership.

'Staggered' by attack

"I WAS staggered to learn of the expulsion of Roddy Slorach. Stop the witch hunt - justice must be done." So said UNISON national executive member, and candidate in the union's current general secretary election, Roger Bannister, over the expulsion of one of Glasgow's leading trade unionists from his union. Roger's message of support for Roddy will be read out by a delegation from his Knowsley UNISON branch who plan to join a lobby in Glasgow on Saturday. UNISON members and other trade unionists from across Britain are to protest outside UNISON's Scottish Regional Council.


TEACHERS IN England and Wales remain adamantly opposed to New Labour's plans for performance related pay, even as their union leaders move to sell them out. That is the conclusion from a special conference of the second largest teachers' union in England, the NASUWT, on Saturday, and from the build up to a week of action by the largest, the NUT.

Steel workers

STEEL WORKERS are demanding action to stop an £800 million "Maxwell style" pensions rip off. Thousands of steel workers are furious that British Steel bosses are taking £800 million from the £1,000 million pension fund surplus for themselves. Union leaders have accused British Steel of raiding the pension fund to finance the company's merger with Dutch firm Hoogovens.

20,000 students on fees protest

"WICKED!" That was how one student summed up last week's national NUS demonstration against student poverty that saw up to 20,000 students march through central London. Despite this magnificent turnout none of the national press saw fit to report the protest.


THEY CAME in their hundreds, placards at the ready, with slogans such as, "Rent rise £2.70 a week - pensions increase 75p a week", and, "Thanks for the licence - pity we can't afford the TV." The pensioners came despite the cold weather, because they are angry with a Labour government which has reduced their quality of life.

Anti-racist march

OVER 1,000 people marched through Glasgow on Saturday on the Scottish TUC's march against racism. The demonstrators were headed by the Chhokar family campaign who are fighting for justice for their son Surjit who was stabbed to death. The rally was addressed by Scottish minister for communities Wendy Alexander and Sky Chefs workers from the London Heathrow dispute, amongst others.


UP TO 3,000 jobs are under threat at oil rig building yards in the Scottish Highlands. The yards, owned by Barmac, are at Nigg and Ardersier, both near Inverness, and are the largest private sector employer in the Highlands. Closure, which bosses say could happen next spring, could devastate the area.

Airport workers

ALL HELL broke loose in the computing section of British Airways at Heathrow Airport in west London last week. The company had announced it was to sell off three sections of the Information Management Department. Workers were gobsmacked. No one could believe it.

Bernard Matthews

SOME 2,000 workers at Bernard Matthews turkey factories have voted for industrial action over pay in the run up to Christmas. The workers, members of the TGWU union, want a 4.6 percent rise and also have complaints about the way they are treated by managers. Union leaders are considering what form the action should take at the factories in Great Witchingham in Norfolk and Holton in Suffolk.

Campaigns roundup

AROUND 150 people lobbied Hackney council in east London last Wednesday on a protest called by the Friends of Hackney Nurseries campaign group. The lively protest shook councillors, who are discussing possible cuts which will hit local parents and their children hard. The cuts plan was to be discussed at a council education committee meeting on Thursday, and at a full council meeting next Wednesday. More protests are planned.

TSSA rail

AT THE best attended meeting ever, TSSA white collar rail maintenance workers at GTRM trains voted in favour of a call for a ballot to take industrial action. The dispute is about pay differentials with blue collar staff. Over the previous year wages grade staff have struck repeatedly to improve their conditions. Now many wages staff have higher basic rates of pay than their supervisors.


Workers' pressure pays off

TONY BLAIR'S key ally in Europe had to turn away from New Labour's policy of letting the free market rip through the economy last week. Pressure from workers and trade unions forced German leader Gerhard Schröder to stump up £80 million of government money to save 28,000 jobs.

'The election shows thirst for change'

NEW ZEALAND'S Tories were booted out of office at the weekend as voters rejected 15 years of free market madness. In 1984 the country's Labour government let the market rip. It sold off public services, passed vicious anti-union laws and doled out tax cuts to the rich. The nine year National (Tory) government that followed carried on in Labour's footsteps. The gap between rich and poor increased more in New Zealand than in any other Western country. Today one in ten households are forced to ask for food handouts.

A mockery of justice

AN APPEAL court in Turkey upheld the death sentence on Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan last week. The five judges said Ocalan's original trial had been "conducted in accordance with legal procedures".


Splits in elite club

THE WORLD Trade Organisation (WTO) met this week, not only besieged by demonstrators outside, but fissured by internal disputes. These divisions were so deep that negotiators could not even agree on an agenda for the meeting.

Schooling for young consumers

"PSST! WANNA buy a school? I can do you a nice four storey job, chock-a-block full of clients, everyone a potential customer. Interested? I'll throw you in staff, management, heat, light, cleaning and services. And some beautiful marketing opportunities: canned drinks, ads for sports gear, sweets, toys - know what I mean?"


Help us raise £175,000

DONATIONS THIS week bring the total raised to £149,250.58. Thanks to everyone who has given to the appeal in the last week.

A fire down below

WORKERS EVERYWHERE are under pressure. We face heartless managers, constant demands to work harder and insulting pay, no matter what industry we are in. Bitterness is rising even though all too often it does not surface in collective action. Last week, in three different areas, it did.

Protest at the Miss World 'meat market'

This Saturday we will be subject to the degrading spectacle of the Miss World contest on television. Women will be paraded, ogled at and inspected like so many pieces of meat. They will be judged for the size of their breasts, the shape of their legs or the smoothness of their skin. A "bubbly" personality or an interest in "children or current affairs" may be an asset, but only if the contestant matches up to a stereotypical and sexist image of what is "beautiful".

Why did Labour lose in 1980s?

"WHEN KEN Livingstone was in charge of the Labour Party in London we were a byword for extremism. We were unelectable as a political party. I never want to go back to those days again." This is Tony Blair's central argument why people should not back Ken Livingstone as Labour's candidate for mayor of London. It is a complete reversal of the truth.

Beating their divide and rule

WORKERS "have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workers of all countries, unite!" So rings out the magnificent internationalist declaration at the end of The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 150 years ago. It is a message more relevant than ever today. Politicians are always trying to divide workers on the basis of "race", religion, "ethnic group", or some other supposed difference.

We could all do with some more Charles Dickens

Most people know about Charles Dickens even if few have ploughed through his novels. They have heard of Oliver Twist, the little orphan boy who asked for more food, or Ebenezer Scrooge, the skinflint employer who dismissed time off for Christmas as humbug.

Blair's march is out of step

TONY BLAIR got a taste of the discontent and debate inside the Labour Party when he spoke in east London last week. Blair and deputy prime minister John Prescott conducted a question and answer session at Queen Mary & Westfield College. Some 400 invited Labour Party members were crammed into the hall, with another 200 in an overspill room.

It is time for class politics

THE NEW Assembly in Northern Ireland has been welcomed by nearly everyone except a tiny minority of hardline Unionists gathered around Ian Paisley. Millions of people are hoping the new Assembly will mean the dawn of a new era of peace in Northern Ireland. Many ordinary Protestants and Catholics are also hoping that the new Assembly will begin to tackle poverty, unemployment and declining welfare services. But the real question is whether the new Assembly will be able to deliver the peace and prosperity so many people in Northern Ireland are hoping for.


What We Think

Unite strands of resistance

THE PROTESTS against the World Trade Organisation this week were a brilliant show of opposition to the multinationals and to the naked rule of profit. The protests showed the anger against the system that squeezes the very life out of people in developing countries so that bankers, bosses and their hangers-on can grow ever richer.

Other Categories

The RUC are not heroes

THE NEWS that the RUC has been awarded the George Cross for "bravery" has shocked many thousands of people here in Northern Ireland. The RUC has an absolutely terrible record of human rights violations, sectarianism and brutality.

A sniff of hypocrisy

BACK IN March 1998 the British tabloid press went wild over claims that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was planning to poison the public with deadly anthrax bacteria. The Sun's front page read, "Saddam's Anthrax in our Duty Frees". It told of plans to put the bacteria in perfume bottles - "one sniff and you're dead in four days".

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