Dated: 04 Jan 2003
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THOUSANDS OF activists across the world are making 15 February an international day of demonstrations against war on Iraq. They are doing so as US military analysts tell of a "near unstoppable momentum towards war" by late February.
A SERIES of announcements by health secretary Alan Milburn over the holiday period signals a major new government drive to privatise the NHS. If New Labour's plans go ahead private firms could take over the running of NHS hospitals.
LAST YEAR could leave no one in any doubt about where the New Labour government is going. It began with Tony Blair in February denouncing public sector workers who oppose privatisation as "wreckers". It ended with the whole government mounting a vicious propaganda campaign against the firefighters and their union.
DICK CHENEY, US vice- president and warmonger, has stepped in personally to sabotage a deal on drugs drawn up by the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The proposals to make cheap drugs available to poor countries faced with medical emergencies were accepted by all the other 144 countries involved in the negotiations.
MARIO O'BRIEN Clarke, a soldier from the Deepcut army barracks in Surrey, was shot dead in Hackney, east London, on Boxing Day. Clarke was the fifth soldier from the barracks to die in suspicious circumstances since 1995.
FIREFIGHTERS AND control room operators enter the new year with the stakes in their pay dispute higher than ever. The government has rammed home its determination to impose the swingeing attacks on conditions, jobs and fire cover contained in the Bain review. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is committed to talks with the employers, beginning next week, and to two 48-hour strikes from 28 January and 1 February should those talks fail.
URGENT SUPPORT is needed for three branch officers of the Unison union in Hackney, east London, who have been suspended by council management. The disciplinary action raises crucial questions for the union movement about racism and union rights.
CONDUCTORS ON Arriva Trains Northern struck three times over the Christmas period on 21, 24 and 31 December. The RMT members' fight over pay at Arriva has been running for almost a year. Strikers' spirits were high on the picket line at Carlisle the Saturday before Christmas. Some 20 pickets, out of a small depot, were there in Santa hats. "Being prepared to lose money at this time of year shows just how determined people are," one RMT striker told Socialist Worker.
THE FIGHT for an increase in London weighting for council workers across the capital has reached a crucial phase. The employers have dug their heels in and refused to make any offer. The unions need to respond with more action.
ON THE last Saturday before Christmas an anti-war demonstration of over 60 people marched though the small Wiltshire town of Marlborough. They were cheered by market traders and shoppers. The event was organised by the newly formed Marlborough Peace Group, who intend to organise a coach from the town to the 15 February demo in London.
AROUND 50 people, black and white, gathered in the week before Christmas to show their horror and anger at a racist attack in Hackney, east London. Ahmed Ali, a man of Somali origin, was attacked by three white men who beat him with a metal bar. He was badly wounded and lost the sight of one eye. The protest brought together local trade unionists, members of the community and Somali groups to show their total opposition to racism.
"MY GOVERNMENT will be for the excluded, the discriminated, the humiliated and the oppressed." Those were the words of Brazil's new president, Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva, who took office this week.
CARACAS, the capital of Venezuela, is a city divided along class lines. It is divided between the rich east central area and the western inner city area, which merges into the shanty towns around the city. Today the division is political as well as economic.
DECADES OF one-party rule in Kenya in East Africa ended last weekend and people came out onto the streets to celebrate. Election results showed that opposition candidate Mwai Kibaki had easily defeated Uhuru Kenyatta. Kenyatta was the candidate of the outgoing leader, Daniel arap Moi. Moi became Kenya's ruler in 1978.
ACTIVISTS FROM the anti-war and "anti-globalisation" movement joined forces with delegates from across the Arab world at a remarkable conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, in late December. The Egyptian government tried to ban it. Then it was forced to allow it to go ahead. The 1,000-strong demonstration that followed the conference was surrounded by riot police and armoured cars.
"YES, BUT what do you think it achieves?" If you took part in the marches and demonstrations against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, this was a question that you would be asked over and over again. It didn't come from people in favour of the US bombing peasant farmers but from people who were, let's say, uneasy.
Secret cabinet documents from 1972 have just been released to the public. They reveal how working class action terrified the highest levels of government. And they show how solidarity action between workers humbled a powerful right wing cabinet. The Tory government began 1972 full of confidence and determination to hold down workers' pay.
The events of Bloody Sunday influenced the growth and development of the IRA, which was committed to the armed struggle against the British and Protestant state. Hundreds of angry young men and women flocked to join the IRA. A number of the leaders of the IRA came to the conclusion, however, that while the British army could not militarily defeat them, they could not defeat it.
ISRAR HUSSAIN, a 42 year old taxi driver and father of six children, was stabbed to death in Oldham in the early hours of Saturday morning. He had responded to a request for a taxi. His passenger attacked him, slitting his throat with a knife. Israr collapsed on the pavement. A number of passers-by tried to give him first aid, but he died shortly after arriving in hospital.
THERE WERE two sharply contrasting faces of 2002: the mushrooming resistance to the priorities of the world's leaders, and more evidence of the cost of those priorities. We saw the biggest political demonstrations in Europe since the Second World War.
Against capital and against war COMMENTATORS declared the anti-capitalist movement dead at the start of the year. How wrong they were. In February 70,000 gathered at the second World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and 20,000 marched in New York, at one point chanting, "George Bush is a terrorist."
NOMMO IS a great album by the band Slovo. It is influenced by music from around the world and has very political lyrics. Slovo is the new project of Dave Randall, former guitarist with the band Faithless.
CARRYING THE Elephant is a wonderful collection of prose-poems by author, broadcaster and Socialist Worker columnist Michael Rosen. This is a book that can be dipped into, as each piece stands alone. But it can also, unlike many other poetry books, be read from beginning to end as the story of one man's life.
An angry demonstration gathers outside a detention centre to protest against the deportation of refugees, chanting "To send them back is murder!" A young refugee, traumatised by war, sits in a stark room being screamed at by insensitive officials. These are just two of the powerful scenes from the first episode of a new BBC TV drama, Face at the Window.
"THERE IS every reason to think we are about to enter the most dramatic year in the story of New Labour." "At home and abroad in the year ahead the prime minister and New Labour will be tested as never before." These predictions (from key articles in the Financial Times and the Observer) are spot on.
TWO IMPORTANT social forums took place at the end of last month. Activists met at the Palestine Social Forum in Ramallah, which is under Israeli occupation. It called for support for the international day of action against the war on Iraq on 15 February.
THE ITALIAN state is clamping down on the anti-capitalist movement. That should concern every reader of Socialist Worker and every activist. Since the extraordinary success of the European Social Forum in Florence, the Italian government has arrested 42 leading activists and charged them with political crimes. Some of the charges carry five to ten year sentences.
A HOUSEHOLD Cavalry trooper who shot a cyclist "because he was bored" escaped jail in December. Adam Everett, one of the queen's guards, fired an airgun from Knightsbridge barracks. This sparked a terrorist alert. He hit cyclist Rajko Novakovic in the arm.