Dated: 04 Oct 2003
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New Labour's policies of war and privatisation have led to revolt. But replacing Tony Blair with Gordon Brown is no solution. From among the millions sickened by this government's policies we need to create a socialist alternative to Labour and...
THE 2,500-strong protest outside Labour's conference in Bournemouth on Monday showed the anger ordinary people feel at New Labour. The Amicus union organised the demonstration to protest against New Labour standing by while manufacturing jobs are massacred. Sneh Sharma and Pam Degun work at AB Electronics in Romford. They told Socialist Worker, "No one feels their job is safe any more. Everyone is worried for the future. Every day we fear for our jobs. That's why we are here. But we are also worried that tuition fees will discourage young people from studying. And we want to stop the privatisation of the NHS."
HUNDREDS OF workers and supporters have occupied the Appledore shipyard in North Devon. They stopped the receivers from entering the threatened yard. Nine steel bollards, usually used to support the hulls of ships, blockade the yard's entrance. Banners read "No Surrender".
MEMBERS OF the Aslef rail workers union on the Heathrow Express have voted to take action against management bullying and low pay. This includes an overtime ban and several 24 hour strikes. The first strike was set for this Friday 3 October.
CRECHE WORKERS in Gloucester lobbied the council cabinet meeting on Thursday of last week to protest against the council's plans to close their creche. Six months ago the council opened a creche as part of a new leisure centre. The creche originally had six workers but one left to get another job.
AMICUS UNION members at the giant Fujitsu Services (formerly ICL) site in West Gorton, Manchester, are continuing their fight against attacks on union recognition.
I AM currently employed at a branch of MFI. We have just been told of pay cuts of up to 20 percent and the loss of customer care managers in our stores nationwide. Management have done this without consultation and no notice.
PRINT WORKERS at the St Ives plant in Andover, Hampshire, have won improved pay by threatening strike action. Management at the plant made them a "final" pay offer that was lower than that negotiated through the national pay agreement in the industry.
AROUND 350 people crammed into a meeting at Leeds University on Thursday of last week to hear Labour MP George Galloway, Kate Hudson of CND and Anas Al-Tikriti of the Muslim Association of Great Britain.
SOME 50 teachers and parents attended an rally to oppose SATs tests in Bristol last week. Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset NUT teachers' union divisions organised the meeting. Jon Illingworth, prospective left candidate for general secretary of the NUT, spoke alongside primary school teacher Suzie Coggles, children's author Pat Thompson and school student Sophie North.
THURSDAY 16 October could be set to see major strikes across London. Tens of thousands of workers employed by local councils in town halls, offices, depots and schools are to strike for the day in the latest phase of a long-running battle over London weighting.
TENS OF thousands of lecturers in further education colleges across England and Wales are set to vote in the next two weeks on whether to accept a proposed pay and conditions package.
BULLYING BOSSES and a low pay offer have prompted journalists at the Emap publishing group in North London to vote for industrial action. Journalists were offered just 3 percent to cover inflation. They had asked for 8 percent.
CLEANERS AT Derriford hospital in Plymouth are in dispute with their employers, ISS Mediclean, over pay and conditions. Only two out of some 200 union members voted no when they were balloted on whether they wanted to take action at Derriford hospital. They are demanding that they should get the same pay as staff employed directly by the NHS.
AROUND 250 CWU union divisional, area and branch reps met last Saturday at an official meeting to discuss the recent pay ballot, management attacks and the way forward for the union. The meeting was much more positive than anyone might have expected a week before.
ELECTRICIANS AT the Piccadilly site in Manchester have now been locked out for 20 weeks by their employers, DAF Electrical. We were employed on the £30 million project on a self-employed basis. We noticed that management were employing unskilled workers to carry out electrical work on a lower wage.
OVER 25,000 postal workers in London were set to strike this week in a defiant response to their management. The strike is over London weighting, but it has greater significance. It will be another important step on the road to the union recovering its self confidence and fighting spirit after the setback of losing the national pay ballot.
UNOFFICIAL AND illegal action by hundreds of Oxford postal workers has won a landmark victory. An Oxford CWU member told Socialist Worker, "We feel ten feet tall. We were in a big battle and the rank and file and our reps did not blink. We pushed them back and have given an example for postal workers everywhere."
"HOW CAN they ignore us any longer? All we want is the truth, justice and change." So said Geoff and Diane Gray, speaking at a Socialist Alliance meeting in Hackney, east London, on Monday of this week. Geoff and Diane are campaigning for justice following the death of their 17 year old son, Private Geoff Gray, in suspicious circumstances at the notorious Deepcut barracks.
A SOCIALIST member of Ireland's parliament and a local councillor were both jailed last week for standing alongside the working class people they represent. Until now the essential public service of collecting rubbish has been provided free in Ireland, and funded by general taxation. The right wing government wants to impose local charges for rubbish collection-a bin tax.
MINERS BLOCKADED main roads and railway lines in Silesia in Poland last week in a battle against unemployment. They were joined by railway workers who themselves are facing privatisation and mass sackings. Unfortunately the blockades lasted only three hours and involved only 3,000 protesters.
HUNDREDS OF thousands of workers in Bolivia, from miners to bus drivers, struck on Monday demanding the resignation of the country's president. Union leaders called the protests amid rising anger and protest, fuelled by the deep and worsening poverty in the poorest country in South America. Over two thirds of the 8.3 million people live below the poverty line of $2 a day.
MENTION CLASSICAL music to many people and it is an instant turn off. So probably not that many Socialist Worker readers would instinctively tune in to watch a BBC programme due to be broadcast this Saturday (9.15pm, BBC2) dedicated to the Third Symphony by the composer Beethoven. Yet that is precisely what I recommend you do, because Beethoven's music is above all about struggle and freedom.
'Socialists, trade unionists and campaigners everywhere require a socialist newspaper. Socialist Worker proved with its coverage of the war, and the firefighters' dispute that it is an essential read.'
SOCIALIST WORKER went down a storm on last Saturday's anti-war demonstration. Not only did 5,000 people buy copies of the demonstration special, but our supporters also found some innovative ways of selling before and after. Huw, from Swansea, tells me that they started selling Socialist Worker before their coach even arrived in London. "Two of us put up a table in one of the service stations on the M4. We sold five copies in ten minutes. Then we were moved on by security."
HUGE NUMBERS of people marched through the streets of London last Saturday against the occupation of Iraq. Most wanted regime change too-here in Britain. The 100,000-strong protest was called by the Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Muslim Association of Britain, and took place on the eve of the Labour Party conference.
Millions of Labour supporters feel a growing distress at the direction the party has taken This feeling was reflected at a conference fringe meeting organised by the Socialist Campaign Group in Bournemouth on Monday evening. The speaker who really captured the sense of bitterness with New Labour was Bob Crow, leader of the RMT rail workers' union.
IF YOU believed the lifestyle supplements, TV ads and government talk of an "aspirational society" you would think most people in Britain had never had it so good.
The Northern Star was the paper of the first ever mass working class movement-Chartism. Chartism got its name from the fight for a Charter that would expand the right to vote. But it also focused wider social issues into a movement that struck fear into the ruling class. The Northern Star was the lifeblood of the movement-as educator, organiser and agitator.
IN 1998 a relatively unknown train driver from Leeds, Mick Rix, won the general secretary election in Aslef. He was the first in a series of new left wing trade union leaders now known as the "awkward squad". Their election signalled a wider radicalisation taking place inside Britain's trade union movement.
Micah Ian Wright
The recent TV drama about the poet Lord Byron concentrated on his sex life. Was there more to him than that?
TONY BLAIR got his standing ovation on Tuesday at the Labour Party conference. But that won't be enough to deal with the disgust and disquiet millions of Labour voters feel at what his government has done at home, and abroad. The disquiet even found some reflection in other parts of Labour's conference. And Blair's invocation of Margaret Thatcher's "I'm not for turning" speech, and his threat of even harsher treatment for refugees, will fuel the anger against him.
Those fighting for justice around the world lost one of their most eloquent voices when the Palestinian writer and critic Edward W Said died last week. Said was in many ways an improbable radical. He was born in Jerusalem in 1935. His family were conservative Anglican Arabs who called him after the then Prince of Wales.
THE CRAWLEY Pensioners Action Group is up in arms about council tax. Each rise in council tax is an effective cut in income. That is not only for pensioners, but for all on low incomes. One of our members tried non-payment on his own last year. Many of us went to court to support him, but in the end he did a deal. This has not yet been resolved, as the deal has created a continual build-up of a backlog.
THE TREAMENT of Muslim women who wear headscarves in France has erupted into a national debate, shot through with racism. The prime minister of France's right wing government, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, launched an attack on Muslim women last week declaring his opposition to the wearing of the head scarf in school.
A Hartlepool shipyard is trying to make money out of importing 13 old US warships contaminated with dangerous and banned pollutants such as asbestos. But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency says the ships are dangerous, and recommends that the 4,500-mile trip to Britain be put off until further inspections have been made.