Socialist Worker

Socialist Worker


Issue: 1874

Dated: 25 Oct 2003



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Blair panics over Bush's state visit

IT'S OFFICIAL. The British government is so worried by the prospect of anti-war protests that it has downgraded its plans for US president George Bush's state visit.


International Comment Features Reviews What We Think Other

News

Why does our union give money to Labour?

A TOP union leader in the Communication Workers Union launched a bitter attack on New Labour last week and questioned further union funding for the party. The speech came from Dave Ward, the union's deputy general secretary (postal). He was speaking to 300 strikers taking part in action over London weighting on Thursday of last week,

The Underground is at breaking point

FOUR DERAILMENTS this year. Two last weekend within 36 hours of each other, leaving seven people hospitalised. Tube workers and passengers are up in arms over safety on the underground now that its track, signalling and stations have been handed over to private companies by Labour ministers.

Ford's vital parts

THE MOST powerful corporations are vulnerable to workers' action. The mighty Ford motor company has had to halt production of Transit vans at its Southampton factory because disruption at its factory in Belgium left it without essential parts. The 1,603 Southampton workers were sent on training courses indefinitely last week.

Blair's Britain: American lessons for the NHS

JOHN REID, the health secretary, was set to visit one of the US's biggest providers of private healthcare this week, Kaiser Permanente in Washington. Reid says, "Just because we in Britain reject the insurance-based health system run by private providers it doesn't mean that we cannot learn lessons about how such systems operate elsewhere."

Two days of strikes made the bosses listen

WORKERS AT the Heathrow Express are jubilant after winning their long-running dispute with management. Members of the Aslef rail union have been campaigning for full recognition and bargaining rights on the line, which runs from Paddington to Heathrow, for over two years.

Nursery nurses

THOUSANDS OF nursery nurses across Scotland were taking strike action this week. They began a strike, set to last five days, on Monday of this week. The action, called by the Unison public sector workers' union, was part of the Scottish nursery nurses' ongoing fight against low pay, which has so far lasted for six months.

In brief

Fresh strikes at the Royal Mint WORKERS AT the Royal Mint in South Wales are staging a series of one-day strikes over pay and have started an overtime ban. Last year workers at the Llantrisant plant endured a pay freeze and mass redundancies. They are angry that bosses have only offered a 3 percent rise this year or 9 percent over a three year-period.

Interserve

A SOLID STRIKE was held by council house repair workers in the TGWU union over the axing of 63 jobs at their Liverpool depot on Friday of last week. Their employer, private firm Interserve, which made £49.1 million profits last year, wants to scrap the jobs through a mixture of compulsory and voluntary redundancies, despite a repairs backlog in the city.

Postal workers

Ballots SECTIONS OF postal workers across Britain could soon be balloted for strikes. Royal Mail bosses have refused to negotiate over proposed major changes in the processing (sorting) and logistics (driving) divisions. They think they can railroad through whatever they want in the wake of the vote against national strikes over pay-although recent events in Oxford, London and Wolverhampton may now be making them pause for thought!

Wales

FIREFIGHTERS IN Wales are threatening to walk out if Rob Rayner is sacked for supporting a demonstration against the closure of a night-time casualty unit. Rob was on "duty stand down period" when he and other firefighters visited the Prince Philip hospital, Llanelli, to show support for demonstrators.

TGWU elections

JACK DROMEY has been elected as deputy leader of the TGWU, one of Britain's most powerful unions. He was elected overwhelmingly, polling 62,422 votes compared with his nearest rival, Graham Stevenson who took 29,363 votes. A third candidate, Barry Camfield, took 24,145 votes. Only around 15 percent of TGWU members voted. The election campaign didn't catch anyone's imagination.

Civil servants

CIVIL SERVANTS in the PCS union are gearing up for a pay battle with the government. A number of government departments have given unacceptable pay offers to their workers. Union members in the Home Office are set to ballot soon on rejecting their pay offer and taking strike action to win a better deal.

New pamphlet from Sats campaign

The Anti-Sats Alliance has produced a pamphlet to help build the campaign against damaging national tests for children at seven, 12 and 14. The alliance's steering committee met last week and heard encouraging reports from many areas about the depth of feeling against the Sats tests. The largest teachers union, the NUT, is nearing the end of a survey of its members on whether to boycott Sats.

HSBC bank in the rush to the bottom

BANKING giant HSBC has become the latest multinational to announce plans to move jobs overseas. Some 4,000 jobs will be axed from its call centres in Swansea, Birmingham, Brentwood and Sheffield, and transferred to call centres in India, China and Malaysia.

We've had to put our whole life on hold

WORKERS AT insurer Direct Line are on the verge of striking just weeks after many of them joined the union for the first time. If they go ahead this will be the first strike in the history of Direct Line, which is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Success against BNP

THE NAZI BNP suffered two setbacks in by-elections on Thursday of last week. They failed to hold a council seat in Burnley or to capture a seat in the Mixenden ward, Calderdale, where they already hold one of the two council seats. In the Great Horton ward, Bradford, they were disqualified due to irregularities in their nomination papers.

Nottingham is not for sale

A PRIVATISATION threat hanging over Nottingham City Council housing has sparked protests from council workers and tenants. A 90-strong meeting was held at Nottingham's YMCA building to discuss how to fight off Nottingham City Council's housing plans. It started with the presentation of a 60-page report from Nottingham City Unison. "Nottingham is not for sale," was how the Unison officer summed up the report.

Police racism publicly unmasked

HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett didn't wait to see the documentary, The Secret Policeman, before he attacked the BBC. The documentary exposed an incredible degree of police racism in Manchester and in other areas.


International

Greece: another warmonger visit axed

US SECRETARY of State Colin Powell was forced to cancel a visit to Greece due to take place on Wednesday of this week. He had arranged to meet the Greek prime minister in the capital, Athens. But anti-war campaigners, as here, found a huge response to protests they called to stop Powell.

Uprising in Bolivia: stones and clubs defeated the tanks

THE UPRISING was the culmination of a month of strikes and demonstrations after troops killed seven demonstrators on 20 September. The protesters were calling for a referendum over the neo-liberal government's export of natural gas to the United States.

Uprising in Bolivia: 'Prepare for street battles'

REPORTS FROM the radical news agency Econoticias tell the story of last weekend: Thursday At least a quarter of a million workers and people from almost all the lower class neighbourhoods of El Alto and La Paz have surrounded the government palace. They have given the most hated man in the history of the country, the millionaire president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozado, a last chance to resign and flee Bolivia.

Socialist speaks from jail on the growing revolt

Brid Smith, a member of the Socialist Workers Party of Ireland, spoke to Socialist Worker from Mountjoy women's prison in Dublin The movement against the bin tax is pitting working class communities against a corrupt political establishment and its big business cronies. It is the biggest upsurge in Ireland since the campaign against increased taxes on workers' wages over two decades ago.


Comment

We need to stay on the streets

WE ARE living in an era of intense political mobilisation. Over the past two years London has witnessed a succession of great mass demonstrations that belong to a far larger tapestry of global protest.

The Anglican Church is a mass of tensions

The dilemmas of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, were beautifully summed up in an interview he gave last weekend. In an interview with John Humphrys on the Today programme, Williams came close to saying that the war against Iraq had been immoral. Then, terrified by the implication of this statement, Williams' officials demanded that this portion of the interview should not be broadcast – and the BBC agreed.


Features

Early morning wake-up call

READERS OF Socialist Worker were out early in the morning across London on Thursday of last week. Over 160 postal workers bought copies of the paper on picket lines.

Socialist Worker Appeal

SO FAR our supporters have raised £73,224 towards our appeal to raise £150,000. This money will help to make Socialist Worker even better, getting in more of your stories and reports.

Protests are already denting Bush's dreams

FEAR OF anti-war protests has already hit George Bush's attempts to turn his visit to London next month into a political triumph. The British government has abandoned plans for Bush to parade with the queen down the Mall during his visit to Britain in four weeks time.

As toxic timebomb heads for Teesside

HARTLEPOOL IS a town in revolt. Hundreds of ordinary people are up in arms about the toxic ships. And they are furious with a system that wants to turn their town into a dumping ground for polluted waste. Geoff Lilley, a former Labour councillor and bus driver, told Socialist Worker, "After it got out that the ships were coming here there was a near revolution by the public." He continues, "People on the protests are ordinary grandmothers and mothers. They have never done anything like this before."

Rote Fahne: the Red Flag of the German revolution

In your area there may well be a longstanding Socialist Worker reader who has a video of the marvellous film about the Polish/German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg. If so, borrow it. Among other outstanding scenes is one where Rosa Luxemburg's friends implore her to leave Berlin as the forerunners of the Nazi stormtroopers hunt her down.

Russia 1917: was it a revolution or a coup?

The Russian Revolution began in February 1917 with an uprising that brought down the hated Tsar. By October a new government was founded led by the Bolsheviks. What happened?

Libel Fund

I AM asking all socialists and freethinkers to contribute to a libel appeal on behalf of the socialist bookshop Bookmarks. Bookmarks was sued by Quintin Hoare and Branca Magas, well known figures on the British left. They complained about an article written in 1993 and published in 1999 in the book The Balkans, Nationalism and Imperialism.

Strikes coming together to win better pay for all

THE POSTAL workers' strike was a brilliant success and it shocked management. They are bitterly disappointed that last week's strike was such a success. Bosses had tried their usual mix of intimidation and bribery to get workers to break ranks. There were threats against workers, especially young, new and limited-contract staff, that their jobs could be at risk.

Even after Winston Silcott's release he is still having to fight for justice

WINSTON Silcott's 17 years of unjust, politically motivated incarceration is finally at an end. The police and right wing media's campaign against him is not. Their lies and smears kept an innocent man in jail for nearly two decades. Now they are out to persecute him and his family further by continuing to link him to a crime which an appeal court found him innocent of.


Reviews

Ricky Tomlinson's autobiography: 'New Labour my arse!'

Most of today's Socialist Worker readers will probably know Ricky Tomlinson best as Jim "My arse" Royle in the hugely popular Royle Family TV comedy, or his past role in Brookside.

Mystic River: their past is a river of no return

Three young boys play ball in the street of an Irish working class neighbourhood in Boston. What follows will haunt them into their very different adult lives. Dave, in a great performance by Tim Robbins, has been left a broken man who won't let his own son out of his sight. Sean, played by Kevin Bacon, is a detective who is pulled back into the old neighbourhood to investigate a murder.


What We Think

New Labour sinks to new depths

HOW MUCH lower can New Labour go? Millions of people in the anti-war and trade union movements must be asking this question as the Labour Party drags George Galloway, the MP most associated with the anti-war movement, before a kangaroo court.


Other Categories

Letters

We are not going to let racism divide our workforce I AM so proud of what we did as Wolverhampton postal workers to strike back against racism. We have shown that we are not going to allow racism to become "normal" or to be used to divide the workforce.

Tragedy is ignored to bash refugees

THE RIGHT wing press seized on a judge's ruling last week against a refugee family from Lithuania living in Southwark, south London. The family were appealing for adequate housing. The Daily Express called the case "asylum rip-off number one" and its front page screamed "Proof Britain is a soft touch". But the story will be familiar to ordinary people across Britain desperate to be rehoused.



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