"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.
THE US is preparing for slaughter in Iraq. The administration may be hoping that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could be ousted by a military coup. But Bush is willing to unleash a bloody battle that will raze Iraq to the ground.
UP TO a million people marched against war through the Italian city of Florence last Saturday. All day they arrived to swell the city to two or three times its normal size. The march was a dense, colourful and energetic show of total opposition to any attack by Bush and Blair on Iraq.
"THE BEST army in the world." This is how the New Labour government and right wing papers like the Sun describe the British army. As Britain gears up to back George Bush's planned attack on Iraq they will be piling on the pro-war and pro-army propaganda. Through the media they promote the image of "our brave boys" putting their lives at risk to defend democracy.
"YOU CAN'T get elected if you're a Blairite." That comment about the swathe of left union leaders who have been elected recently came from John Edmonds, outgoing general secretary of the GMB union. It's a breath of fresh air to see left wing leaders replace the likes of Sir Ken Jackson in the AEEU-Amicus union. They have been dubbed the "awkward squad".
EVERY YEAR hundreds of workers are killed at work, and thousands more suffer injuries from unsafe working conditions. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the official body charged with ensuring safety standards at work.
It was 80 years ago that fascism first came to power, and it happened in Italy. There is a myth that Benito Mussolini seized power after his March on Rome and the occupation of the city by his fascist shock troops. Fascist columns did assemble at four points near the city – but they were lightly armed, ill fed and left standing in the rain.
"WILDCAT Chaos." That was the front page headline of the Daily Record, Scotland's biggest selling newspaper, on Friday of last week. It was responding to, and trying to vilify, the unofficial walkouts by hundreds of workers in Glasgow hospitals and the Glasgow underground. Clerical and administration workers in nine hospitals in North Glasgow NHS Trust, mainly women, walked out on Thursday and Friday. Around half the workers at Gartnavel Hospital had joined the strike by Monday of this week.
THE EUROPEAN Social Forum (ESF) in Florence, Italy, vastly exceeded even the most optimistic predictions. It did not just succeed-it was a political triumph. Around 60,000 people took part in the three days of meetings leading up to the anti-war demonstration. People came from every continent, and from 105 countries. There were students and trade unionists, unemployed people and pensioners, activists and campaigners.
OPPOSITION TO war on Iraq dominated many of the debates and discussions in Florence. Thousands of people crammed into meetings and forums determined to build a united, strong, mass anti-war movement. An overwhelming majority agreed with a call to turn 15 February into a united Europe-wide day of protest.
THOUSANDS OF trade unionists came to the European Social Forum. Their numbers reflected the rise in workers' struggle in much of Europe. There were members of many British unions present, including the CWU, RMT, Amicus, Unison, PCS, NUJ, Natfhe, Prospect, NUT and TGWU. There were more than 2,000 people at just one of the meetings on trade union struggles.
SIX THOUSAND people packed into a huge hangar-like room 150 yards long for a debate on relations between parties and the movement. Bernard Cassen from ATTAC, the movement against financial speculation, said it was "born out of the disillusion with the failure of political parties and unions to deliver the ecological and social policies people want.