IT SEEMS as if we live in a democracy. After all, every five years we elect the government. That's certainly better than not electing it. But then there are some questions. Most people in Britain support the firefighters, are against war on Iraq and oppose student fees. How does New Labour respond? It attacks the firefighters, threatening thousands of jobs as the price of a half-decent pay rise.
THEY TALK of modernisation today. Funnily enough that was the language and the fight we faced back then. The employers and the Tory government wanted to break dockers and our employment "scheme", which gave us real protection of jobs and conditions.
MODERNISATION IS what workers are told to accept. There is nothing "modern" about it at all. It is as old as capitalism. And its real meaning is the same as it always has been: "You have to work harder and longer." It is 70 years since Charlie Chaplin famously attacked "modernisation" in his brilliant film Modern Times.
ONE THING is crystal clear after last week's attack on a hotel and Israeli passenger plane in Kenya - George Bush's "war on terror" has been an utter failure. One year ago in the wake of the 11 September attacks Bush pledged action to stop terrorist attacks.
MISS WORLD has come to Britain, bringing with it a torrent of garbage about women and their role in society. Miss World is a symbol of how society reduces women to objects judged on the way they look.
BILLY HAYES, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, has responded to two recent articles in Socialist Worker. One was by Exeter postal worker Fran Choules, the other by Socialist Worker journalist Charlie Kimber.
HARDER, MORE determined, and disgusted with John Prescott, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. That was the mood among 52,000 firefighters and control room staff as they learned that the government had scuppered negotiations and forced them into an eight-day strike.
SOME 40 percent of people in Britain firmly oppose war on Iraq, according to a poll on Monday. You wouldn't get that impression from the debate over Iraq in parliament that same day. Most of the debate was over how to wage a war.
THE GOVERNMENT says it would cost too much to pay the firefighters a decent wage. Ministers can't pretend that Britain is not rich enough to fund such an increase.
"WHAT'S WRONG with elitism?" The fact that education secretary Charles Clarke asked this question tells us exactly where he is coming from. He and the whole cabinet are engulfed in a crisis about university funding which goes to the heart of the New Labour project.
CHANCELLOR Gordon Brown constantly argues that the government has made major inroads into tackling child and pensioner poverty. Both claims were demolished by shocking studies published last week.
"WE ARE just knocked out down here by the coverage of our dispute in Socialist Worker," says John Drake, chair of the Fire Brigades Union in Gloucestershire. "It's the only paper telling the truth about our dispute, with the exception of the Daily Mirror. But Socialist Worker does more - it helps build solidarity from the wider trade union movement.
THE TWO-day firefighters' strike last week, and the support it got, rattled the government. Large sections of the capital's tube system shut during the strike when workers took impressive action over health and safety (see below). The strike also transformed the 55,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist told over 600 people at a fundraising gig in west London on Friday of last week that his tour of mass meetings showed a deepening confidence among firefighters that they will win.
A WAVE of support and solidarity greeted firefighters and emergency control room staff from the minute they walked out the door. "The vast majority of our people have never been on strike before," Tam McFarlane, secretary of the south west England region of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), told Socialist Worker. "The support they have got from other trade unionists and the public has been just overwhelming. And we are talking about areas like Somerset, Cornwall and Devon. It's given them confidence to stand up to the press attacks. No one in the fire service wants to be on strike. But the solidarity we are getting convinces us we are right to take this difficult step, and that we will w
THE FIREFIGHTERS' strike dominates the headlines and causes something approaching panic in New Labour leaders and hysteria in the right wing press. Two arguments in particular are launched against the strikers from inside the labour movement. From the right comes the view of New Labour's favourite (and knighted) professor, George Bain.
A STRIKE often brings out the best in working class people. It always brings out the worst from the rich who run the media. The handful of men who control most newspapers and TV stations hate strikes and strikers. They unleash every lie, every bit of filth, to try and demoralise strikers and turn other people against them.
I SPENT two days last week with the asylum seekers sheltering in a disused church in Calais. Everybody should know the truth about their lives. The 120 people involved were made up of 85 Iraqi Kurds and 35 Afghans. The Iraqis were bitterly aware of the hypocrisy of governments that are prepared to launch a war against "tyrant Saddam Hussein" but act in the most brutal fashion towards people who have fled Iraq.
IT HAS been hard to avoid the top ten "Great Britons" series currently on TV. It pushes the idea that history is made by remarkable individuals - most often kings, queens, top military brass and other establishment figures. Socialists have a completely different view - that it is the struggles of millions of ordinary women and men that have shaped history.
WE PRINT some of the e-mails we received from our readers about the recent European Social Forum (ESF) and the million-strong anti-war demo in Florence, Italy.
THE ROYAL family are supposed to be role models for the rest of us. They are held up as examples of devotion to duty, and symbols of national unity and pride. We are expected to curtsey, bow and scrape before them. But the revelations after the collapse of the trial of butler Paul Burrell have exposed the reality.