Dated: 20 Sep 2003
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FOR FIVE months we've been told things will get better in Iraq. But with every day that's passed since the "end" of the war life for millions of Iraqis has gone from bad to worse. There are 1,000 killings a week, according to reports from distinguished Middle East journalist Robert Fisk. He wrote in last week's Independent on Sunday, "Occupation powers insist that journalists obtain clearance to visit hospitals.
THOUSANDS OF workers walked out of shipyards along the River Tyne on Monday in a magnificent solidarity strike in support of sacked workmates. "We did not ask for this," said Tom Murray, a shop steward for the sacked workers. "But we are delighted at this much appreciated show of solidarity."
NEW LABOUR'S plans for Diagnostic and Treatment Centres (DTCs) run by private health consortia have rightly caused widespread outrage. The government last week gave seven private health corporations, including two led by US health firms, a free run to make profits from the NHS.
THOUSANDS OF innocent and often vulnerable people are held on remand in British prisons. And too often they are driven to commit suicide, according to a new report by the Prison Reform Trust. The trust says that 36 prisoners awaiting trial committed suicide last year-that's the equivalent of a death every ten days.
Scotland SCOTTISH nursery nurses planned more industrial action this week in their dispute over pay. They are angry that the employers' body, Cosla, has not come up with a serious pay offer. The nursery nurses announced the next stage in their campaign at a well attended family day held in Glasgow last Saturday.
ON WEDNESDAY of last week some 1,000 pensioners descended on Westminster to ask for a £10 increase to the state pension and the restoration of the link with earnings. The demonstration came following strikes to defend pensions in Europe. There was a rally organised by the NPC pensioners' convention and a lobby of MPs.
THE LEFT FIELD fringe meeting was one of the most refreshing to be held at the TUC conference last week. Speakers included Jeremy Dear, Hilary Wainwright and Judith Orr from the Bookmarks socialist bookshop, which is now part of the Left Field collective. Left Field is a new concept growing out of the Workers Beer Company and supported by Ethical Threads and War on Want.
THE DEPARTMENT of Work and Pensions have announced that they want to close the job centre at Whitstable, Kent. People looking for work in Whitstable will now be forced to sign on in Herne Bay or Canterbury, paying a large chunk of their measly £54.65 a week to travel there. Campaigners started a petition as soon as the closure was announced.
ACTIVISTS protested outside the Egyptian embassy in central London on Friday of last week against the jailing of five Egyptian anti-war campaigners. Demonstrators were urged to attend the second Cairo conference which has now been arranged for 13 and 14 December.
MERSEYSIDE TUC organised a conference last Saturday to build a campaign against racism and fascism. Some 50 people attended the Merseyside Against Racism and Fascism foundation conference, including representatives of the PCS, Unison, Amicus and TGWU unions. Delegates agreed to launch the Merseyside Coalition Against Racism and Fascism to fight against the Nazi BNP in the area.
HUNDREDS OF cleaners, porters and catering staff at Hairmyres Hospital in East Kilbride are to ballot for strike action. Hairmyres is one of New Labour's flagship PFI hospitals. The workers are fuming at their bosses, ISS Mediclean, and at government ministers. The hospital has been lambasted for having too few beds, sewerage leaks, losing patient records and failing IT systems following privatisation.
Liverpool LIVERPOOL' S CHIEF fire officer has provoked a dispute with members of the FBU firefighters' union by breaking overtime agreements. Brigade secretary Les Sharratt told Socialist Worker, "This is a fundamental attack on our members by the chief fire officer. No negotiations have taken place over this. They are trying it on." Committee members told Socialist Worker that strike action could take place. PAUL SILLETT
OVER 100 people packed a meeting to discuss how the media stokes up "fake" fears of so called Islamic terrorism. The meeting was held on the second anniversary of the 11 September attacks on New York at the headquarters of the NUJ journalists' union.
MEMBERS OF Amicus, the second biggest union in Britain, are getting set for national executive elections that could transform the union. The merger of the MSF and AEEU unions will be completed on 1 January 2004. Right wing leaderships have dominated both unions for years.
WORKERS at IT services company Fujitsu Services, West Gorton, Manchester, took strike action on Monday following the unanimous rejection of management's latest offer at a members' meeting on Thursday. The mood of the strikers was very positive. Many had been angered by provocative e-mails from senior management in the days leading up to the strike. The scare tactics backfired badly.
MEMBERS OF the Association of University Teachers (AUT) in 12 London universities voted last week to support further strike action in their London weighting campaign. The AUT is the main lecturers' union in the old universities. The vote came despite a low-key summer campaign and the union leadership calling off action earlier in the year. In most colleges at least two thirds voted for further action, which surprised the AUT leadership. The results also gave a boost to Unison union members, who have taken five days of strike action over London weighting so far this year.
WORKERS IN the Amicus union at the Cummins factory in Ramsgate voted unanimously on two occasions last week to reject management's offers for pay and conditions. Amicus-MSF rep at the factory Marian Armstrong told Socialist Worker, "It is a pretty powerful statement. The feeling is the same on the shop floor and among staff. No one trusts the management. People are on poor money and have lost overtime. Management wants workers to have banked hours so that they work more hours some weeks, less the other. That means less overtime. I have never seen people so unanimous."
EAMONN McCANN made a rousing speech at a rally in support of Socialist Alliance candidate Brian Butterworth on Monday of this week. The rally was held three days before the Brent East parliamentary election which takes place on Thursday of this week. Over 80 people heard from film director Ken Loach, journalist Paul Foot and local people disillusioned with Blair.
PROTESTERS poured onto the streets of Washington, DC, on the US East Coast last Saturday in the country's biggest anti-war protest so far. Over 300,000 people joined the march, according to independent observers and the march organisers, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. Up to 200,000 marched in San Francisco, on the US West Coast, and tens of thousands joined protests in other US cities.
PROTESTERS celebrated the collapse of World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in Cancun, Mexico, on Sunday as a defeat for the global corporations and the world's most powerful governments. Commentators in Britain, from the Guardian to former New Labour minister Clare Short (masquerading in Cancun as a BBC reporter), argued that the Cancun collapse was a "blow to the world economy" and a "setback for the world's poor".
"A DEVASTATING defeat for the political and economic elite." That's how a TV commentator referred to the result of the referendum on joining the euro single currency in Sweden on Sunday. The vote was tipped to be close, following the murder of the foreign minister Anna Lindh last week. Lindh was pro-euro and commentators expected sympathy for her would shift votes to the yes camp. But the no side won a clear victory, with 56.1 percent against 41.8 percent. This is the first time that people have voted against the ruling elite here.
"IRAQ: THE New War". That headline in the prestigious New York Review of Books captures the scale of the fighting that continues in Iraq. The word occupation does not adequately describe what is happening. There is a new phase in this war that we were assured was won when Western television stations took carefully choreographed shots of the fall of statues to Saddam Hussein five months ago. It is like the colonial wars conducted in the 1950s by the British army in Kenya, Malaysia, Aden and Cyprus, and by France in Algeria.
THE FEROCITY of the attacks on the BBC was underscored last Saturday when Radio 4's flagship news programme, Today, handed its weekly essay slot to Charles Moore, editor of the Daily Telegraph. You had to suspend disbelief as Moore told his listeners the BBC was left of centre, anti big business and-wait for it-passionately opposed to the war in Iraq.
ENGINEERS AT British Airways voted by over two to one to reject a 3 percent pay offer that was tied to a new swipe card time recording system. The introduction of the swipe card system was the issue that saw check-in staff take extremely effective unofficial action at Heathrow two months ago.
ISRAFIL SHIRI poured petrol over himself and set himself alight in the offices of Refugee Action in Salford three weeks ago. After five days in agony, with 70 percent burns, he died in Manchester's Wythenshawe Hospital (see last week's Socialist Worker). What could possibly drive a man to such a terrible act?
'Socialist Worker stands up for the people. It stands up against racism. It stands up for jobs. It stands up over the war. You couldn't imagine the Labour Party doing that, but Socialist Worker does.'
SOCIALIST Worker sellers in Canterbury, Kent, have really gone to town with their campaigning sales. They've been trying to find new ways of building the Stop the War Coalition demo on 27 September while selling the paper. I got a note from Phil saying,
4am I've just got up-it's not easy to start so early. My basic duties are to do five days a week on a rotating shift, so quite often I work Saturdays as a normal day. Some people still do six days. Most people know what it's like to get up at 4am once a year. You have a long day and then sleep more the next day to recover.
THE FRENCH Revolution between 1789 and 1794 was the first time in history that revolutionary newspapers played a decisive role in shaping the course of events. The revolution was the key battle in the birth of the modern capitalist world. It swept away the old feudal order of aristocrats and kings. In its place it forged a national state dominated by the middle class of merchants, doctors, lawyers.
I'M MAKING a documentary at the moment to be shown on 22 September and it's producing some extraordinary information. We found some very revealing archive footage of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush gang. In early 2001, visiting Cairo, Colin Powell said, "Saddam Hussein has not developed any capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project even conventional power against his neighbours. "So in effect our policies have strengthened the security of the region." Condoleezza Rice said something very similar at the time.
EVERY CANDIDATE in California's dark recall election comedy should be obliged to answer the question, "Whither Duroville?" Duroville is the California visitors never see and that pundits ignore when they debate the future of the world's sixth largest economy.
"HORRIBLE" was how one of New Labour's staunchest supporters in the trade union movement described last week's Trades Union Congress (TUC) in Brighton. The vast majority of delegates, the seven million workers they represent and millions of others felt differently. "You get a feeling that, at last, slowly the anger and concerns of working people are finally getting a hearing at the top of the unions," says TUC delegate Jane Loftus, a member of the national executive of the postal workers' CWU union. The conference put clear red water between the trade unions and New Labour.
NEW LABOUR loyalist Angela Eagle MP tried to launch a standing ovation from the observers' gallery when Gordon Brown finished his TUC speech. She had to sit down in embarrassment. Not one other person rose to their feet. Polite applause petered out after 14 seconds. It was the worst-received speech by a Labour minister to the TUC since Blair became party leader.
I USED to teach 10 and 11 year olds who were reluctant to leave their computers and read books. To encourage them, I started writing stories about children like them and read them chapters in class. I wanted to give them something they could identify with and they loved it. Harry Potter is written to an old-fashioned formula, like Billy Bunter and the Just William books. It's got the same old public schools and servants.
Black in the day: another story UK Black Tuesday 23 September, 8.30pm, Radio 2 WHAT WOULD popular music in Britain sound like if there had been no migration of people from the Caribbean? And what was it about the experiences of blacks in Britain that led them to create such vibrant and path-breaking sounds? In this series Courtney Pine interviews musicians, DJs, clubbers and promoters with some brilliant insights along the way.
THERE IS an escalating war in Iraq. The lying politicians who launched the invasion six months ago won't admit it. But it's the only honest conclusion from the terrible death toll. The director of the Baghdad central mortuary told the New York Times how the number of killings has rocketed under the last five months of occupation. There were 462 in May, 626 in June, 751 in July and 872 in August. Most of them, about 70 percent, were shot dead. That is in just one city.
RUNNING BATTLES with the police, teasing arms dealers, a mock arms seller offering prosthetic limbs for sale, and Globalise Resistance's pink and orange tank. The DSEi (Defence Systems Equipment international) or Docklands arms fair has been a memorable experience for activists and, presumably, also arms dealers.
"ANOTHER WORLD is possible" is one of the most popular slogans of the anti-capitalist movement. It is hard to imagine a world without capitalism. Aspects of the system like competition, sexism or class divisions are often presented as eternal truths. But throughout history people have lived in many different kinds of society. Two hundred years ago over 95 percent of people were peasants. They might own a small patch of land and a few basic tools that they could use to produce enough food for themselves and their family. Most of what they needed could be produced in the home.
GOVERNMENT PLANS are afoot to hijack a vital health and safety scheme and use it to spy on asylum seekers working in construction. The Construction Safety Certification Scheme (CSCS) was introduced to improve safety in construction-one of the most dangerous places to work.
THE BOSSES are on strike against the democratically elected president of Venezuela, but their movement is not as popular as the rich in that country would have us believe. They claim they represent a mass, popular movement against the left wing president, Hugo Chavez.