Dated: 27 Oct 2001
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Stop this slaughter NEW LABOUR is worried by the growing resistance to the war Britain and the US are waging on the people of Afghanistan. The government was shocked by the size of the 50,000-strong demonstration in London against the war.
THE MEDIA last week relegated the impact of the bombing of Afghanistan to the third or fourth item on news bulletins, behind gung-ho tales of derring-do by "special forces".
THE MEDIA routinely report civilian casualties in Afghanistan as "Taliban claims". In a growing number of cases the media then quietly admits three or four days later that the claim was in fact true.
BOMBING HAS destroyed aid supplies. The US bombed a Red Cross building last week, even though it was clearly marked with a huge red cross, destroying 35 percent of its food, tents, blankets and other humanitarian supplies.
THE DEAD bodies are mounting in Afghanistan, but this horror has almost become routine in Bush and Blair's war. The civilians slaughtered by US bombs do not make headline news in most of the media. The warmongers dismiss it with the announcement days later of a "stray" bomb.
THE GUARDIAN newspaper has quite rightly come in for a lot of flak for its failure to report the great anti-war demonstration in London a fortnight ago. The paper has also been carrying articles that seek to play down the opposition to the war. "Students Shun 'Stop The War' Movement" was the headline of a piece that claimed students are too worried about money or having a good time to take a stand against the war.
GEORGE BUSH has had to change his tune on which country is a "rogue state" to keep his coalition together. Take China. Bush, and many of the hard-right Republicans, came to power last year declaring that China was a "strategic competitor". There was his sabre rattling with the Chinese during the spy plane crisis six months ago.
ARIEL SHARON, the Israeli war criminal prime minister, has launched a new offensive against the Palestinians. He is using the aftermath of the assassination of far right Israeli politician Rehavam Zeevi by Palestinian militants on Wednesday of last week.
AS BUSH ordered the first bombs to be dropped on Afghanistan, a US think tank declared the guerrilla movements in Colombia the greatest terrorist threat in the western hemisphere. The US government agrees and has showered military aid on the Colombian state. The $1.3 billion Plan Colombia package pretends to be about fighting drug trafficking.
Thousands of students in universities and colleges across Britain are mobilising against the war. The war is producing some of the biggest meetings on campuses that have been seen in years. "We reckon nearly 500 students took part in the teach-in at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London throughout the day," says Sandy Nicoll, a member of the university's staff, about the day-long event last Saturday.
THREE HUNDRED low paid health workers across ten Glasgow hospitals began an all-out indefinite strike on Tuesday of this week. The 300 medical secretaries are fighting to upgrade their pay and improve their terrible working conditions.
HUNDREDS MORE job centre workers in the PCS civil servants' union joined the indefinite strike for safety at work on Monday of this week. Workers at the government's new Pathfinder offices in Streatham and Brent in London have entered the eighth week of their strike against the removal of safety screens at work.
AN EMPLOYMENT tribunal has unanimously agreed that Post Office management unfairly dismissed CWU union activist Mick Doherty. Mick, chair of the N/NW London CWU branch, was sacked after allegations of his involvement in football violence before last year's UEFA cup final in Copenhagen.
SIX DAYS of strike action by 900 members of the UNISON union have forced Sefton council on Merseyside to reopen two of the care homes it shut. The income from the sale of a third site has been ring-fenced to be reinvested into social services, and a site is to be found for a new children's home.
STRIKE action planned at Scottish Power this week has been called off to allow negotiations with management. The decision was taken at a stewards' meeting addressed by officials from the AEEU, GMB and TGWU unions.
Mark New, a leader of the Dudley hospitals workers' strike and the candidate of the United Left, has been elected to the national executive committee (NEC) of public sector union Unison. Mark was elected by health workers in the union for a "health" seat on the union's NEC.
SOME 450 British Airways workers at Heathrow attended a GMB union meeting last week to discuss the management's attacks on their pay. The company wants to cut the pay of 36,000 workers, including flight crew, cabin crew, engineers, administrative staff and ground staff. The attack amounts to a 4 percent pay cut, and the equivalent of 7,000 job losses at the company.
NEW LABOUR'S plans to step up its draconian attacks on asylum seekers are even worrying the Metropolitan Police. The government is to unleash "snatch squads" across London next month to round up asylum seekers whose claims have been refused. A pilot scheme in east London is already seeing people snatched from their homes in the middle of the night and bundled off to be forcibly deported. Refugee campaigners in the area have told Socialist Worker they are receiving reports of at least two people a day being snatched. They are then deported on a plane chartered by the government.
THE MAN responsible for one of the worst records in the rail industry has been picked by the government to head the Strategic Rail Authority. The appointment of Virgin Rail boss Richard Bowker is incredible, even by New Labour's standards.
ANOTHER flagship privatisation scheme has collapsed in chaos. Newham council in east London is to terminate its £35 million contract with private firm CSL to run the borough's housing benefit services. The council will bring the service back "in house".
"THERE IS no doubt in my mind that the Respect festival had mass popular support in Oldham. Many ordinary people have said to me over the last few weeks that the festival was 'the event Oldham needed'. But the police and the council decide how far democracy can exist in our town, and they have banned it. This will only give succour to the racists."
THE BNFL nuclear company is on the verge of bankruptcy, and is appealing for a government bailout. The firm is state owned, but the government wants to press ahead with plans to privatise it.
THE SHARPEST rise in unemployment for eight years. That's the reality behind official figures announced last week. Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed that between June and the end of August the number of people looking for work rose by 53,000.
THOUSANDS OF workers at Rolls-Royce aero engine plants around the country were shocked last week when the firm announced 5,000 job losses. Some 3,800 of the job cuts will be in Britain, the bulk of them at the firm's Derby plant.
JUST AS growing numbers of people across Britain are being thrown out of work, the government is mounting a nasty attack to force disabled people to find low paid jobs. Pilot schemes began this week, and the government wants its new regime to operate across the country next year. Parliament was not even debating the plan until Thursday, after it had already begun.
"CAPITALISM AH no we fren" says the Jamaican reggae dub poet Mutabaruka, echoing the rebellious spirit of our times. Mutabaruka's words are caught on an acclaimed new film documentary that takes as its subject a part of the world-the Caribbean-that should be one of the richest. Instead the Caribbean is becoming ever poorer, due to crippling debts imposed by the IMF and World Bank.
"IT IS the paper's general policy not to cover marches." That was what the Guardian newspaper admitted this week, explaining why it hadn't covered the huge 50,000-strong protest against the war in London two weeks ago.
WE WANT the bombing of Afghanistan stopped. Our members were devastated by the events of 11 September. There were 343 firefighters among those who lost their lives. We do not want that tragedy to be followed by another tragedy.
"THERE IS a stunned atmosphere in the plant. Some of the workers have been there all their working lives. Almost everyone in Burnley has some connection with Michelin. It was the place to work."
"In a Western democracy if you lose touch with your people then you lose elections. In a monarchy you lose your head." The words were those of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Revolution usually seems to most people a distant prospect. It is easy to conclude that all that we can do is resign ourselves to what exists, at most pushing for marginal reforms.
La Ville est Tranquille (The Town is Quiet), directed by Robert Guediguian, is one of the most powerful and deeply moving films I have seen for many years. Set in Marseilles, it is a razor-sharp portrayal, devoid of sentimentality, of working class people suffering the unremitting brutalisation of modern day capitalism.
The Man Who Wasn't There is a new film by director Joel Coen. It follows the life of Ed Crane, a small-town barber in late 1940s California. Ed, who talks very little and always has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, is tired of the futility of his life.
THERE IS so much that a film that is set in Brixton, south London, could possibly explore. But South West Nine presents a picture of life that doesn't reflect the real experience of the area and consists of a range of cliches.
The war against Afghanistan has raised many issues about violence in society. Here we answer some of those questions.