MANY PEOPLE might have expected politics to be winding down in the run up to Xmas and the millennium celebrations. But the opposite is true. New Labour's pro-business and anti working class policies have led to an outburst of anger. It was set to announce more reactionary measures in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.
ORDINARY PEOPLE in Northern Ireland will be hoping for an end to the war which has blighted their lives as politicians continued to haggle over a peace deal this week. We did not know the final outcome of the talks as Socialist Worker went to press. But even if a deal is struck, the struggle for a better future for working class people is far from over.
PARENTS ARE deluged with advice and demands. They are supposed to read with their child, make sure they are not on the streets, surround them with a "stimulating environment", and lavish them with time, energy and smiles. Yet at the same time the government and the "experts" bombard parents with demands for "flexibility" and "making yourself available for employment".
JUST OVER a year ago the world economy found itself standing at the edge of an abyss. The Russian crash of August 1998, coming in the wake of the Asian economic crisis, sent global financial markets into panic.
PAKISTANI GEORGE "Genghis" Khan wants his children to make him proud. They should be proper Muslims and have their marriages arranged by their father. It's tradition - anything less would bring shame upon them all. His kids have other ideas. So begins East is East, a hilarious British film about the culture clash between first and second generation immigrants, set in Salford in the 1970s.
GORDON BROWN surpassed himself this week, even by the craven standards set by New Labour. He stood before the bosses gathered at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and announced £40 million of public money to encourage share handouts to fat cats. At the same time New Labour was hoping to ram welfare cuts of tens of millions of pounds through parliament. Brown also praised the bosses' hero at the CBI. "People say that in the 1980s Mrs Thatcher created an enterprising society," declared Brown. "We must do far better than we have in the past. We must go beyond what we achieved in the 1980s."
THERE'S NOTHING like a beef war to remind you just how stupid the British media and British politicians are. The idiotic jingoistic ranting at the French this past fortnight really has taken the biscuit. In fact, France is the most interesting country in Europe today. A huge wave of social struggles is sweeping French society. The farmers' protests are merely the tip of the iceberg. Barely a day seems to go by without some group or other demonstrating in Paris. High school students have taken to the streets in their hundreds of thousands twice over the past six months.
HOME SECRETARY Jack Straw has found time off from forcing through the Asylum Bill to extract an apology from the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Sir David Ramsbotham's "offence" had been to question what would happen to Jon Venables and Robert Thompson, who killed two year old James Bulger in 1993.
WHAT A contrast. Ford workers strike unofficially for a day. The result: one of the most powerful capitalists in the world almost immediately flies across the Atlantic. Rail union leaders call off a one day strike over safety by guards because it is declared illegal by a high court judge. The result: Railtrack could get away with murder.
Channel 4's "Black History" month has restored my faith in the ability of television to take important historical subjects and present them in an unpatronising and accessible way. The centrepiece has been the four part series Britain's Slave Trade. It took as its inspiration Eric Williams's 1964 study Capitalism and Slavery, but updated it and brought it alive.