THREE MILLION Italian trade unionists, students, immigrant workers, unemployed people and pensioners defied Tony Blair's key European ally last Saturday. Six huge feeder protests marched to the centre of Rome to demonstrate against Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's plans to "reform" laws protecting workers. Some 9,200 coaches, 61 special trains, five aeroplanes and four boats brought people to Rome from across Italy.
Tony Blair has formed an unholy alliance with the two most right wing leaders in Europe to drive through an assault on workers' rights across Europe. Blair's friends-Spain's leader Jose Maria Aznar and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi – want to push through privatisation, deregulation, more flexibility and attacks on trade unions.
The kids in Jenin camp look like kids in any deprived area in the world. They have that knowing look in their eyes, a look that says, "I know something you don't know"-a look of pride, anger and defiance. The eyes of battle hardened veterans that belie their age.
Twenty years ago this week the Falklands War began. During 74 days of conflict 255 British servicemen and around 800 Argentinians were killed. Most of the Argentinian dead were young conscripts. Thousands were injured. Those who were there write of "the ballooned faces of badly burned men" and of the "screams in the night in the dormitories acting as refuges for the wounded". The suffering has continued since.
The biggest conference of rank and file trade unionists for two decades took place in London last Saturday. Over 1,000 trade unionists from across Britain came to the event organised by the Socialist Alliance, which will be standing hundreds of candidates at the May local elections. The Scottish Socialist Party also supported it. The conference signalled a further step in the deepening rift between the government and trade unionists.
How significant do you think the Stop the War Coalition demo at the beginning of March was?
THE DEMO last November was very big-about 100,000-and that was when the war in Afghanistan was just beginning. Then, inevitably, the war was presented as a military victory. Now people are just waking up to the fact that there is another, bigger war on the way. So to get 20,000 out in March was very, very good.
The deaths of over 160 Palestinians and more than 30 Israelis in 12 days at the beginning of this month shocked people across the world. Socialist Worker looks at the roots of the conflict.
"We protested against the war in Afghanistan, but we could not stop it happening. This time we have a chance to stop it, and to create a big crisis for Blair."
The US government is unleashing a flood of lies to pave the way for attacks on Iraq. We are told that Iraq threatens the world with weapons of mass destruction. But a US State Department official revealed four weeks ago that the US wants war even if Iraq allows weapons inspectors in. He said of discussions between Iraq and United Nations officials over inspections, "We will not take yes for an answer."
This month sees key battles in a largely unreported war over the future of one of the pillars of the welfare state. Tenants of Britain's two biggest landlords, Birmingham and Glasgow councils, will vote on New Labour plans to hand their homes to private housing companies. Thousands of tenants in Crewe are already voting in a similar ballot, and Bradford council tenants will also vote this month.
Why should we continue to fund those who support privatisation? Hundreds of trade unionists will be debating this question on Saturday at what promises to be one of the biggest rank and file trade union conferences for years.
DO YOU feel tempted to write a satirical novel about Blair's Britain, as you did Margaret Thatcher's Britain?
I AM looking forward to writing that. It is where the sequel to my current novel The Rotters' Club is going. The horrible young Thatcherite in the new book will grow into a Blairite whizz-kid MP for a West Midlands constituency.
Socialist Worker sellers were out last week campaigning against Sharon's onslaught on the Palestinians. In just three days over 500 copies of Socialist Worker were sold on the streets in central London. In Kensington on a new sale nine sellers (including five new members) received a brilliant reception-160 copies of Socialist Worker were sold and four people joined the SWP.
ANTI-CAPITALIST protests are back on the agenda. After last month's 70,000-strong gathering in Brazil at the World Social Forum, thousands of protesters were set to hit the streets of Barcelona in Spain this week.
Around 150 activists from all over Europe met in Brussels, the Belgian capital, last weekend to plan a European Social Forum. This will be modelled on the World Social Forum held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The World Social Forum was a great gathering of the worldwide movement against global capitalism.
Two hundred medical students turned up to a meeting last week to hear George Galloway MP speak out over the war drive against Iraq. It was the first political meeting for years on a site of University College London where medical students at Guy's Hospital, south London, have lectures.
Tony Blair has gone too far even for the leaders of the Trades Union Congress. They have been reluctant to criticise Tony Blair. But union leaders at a TUC general council meeting last week were fuming about Tony Blair's agreement with right wing Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi. Blair and Berlusconi met two weeks ago and agreed to try to push through "economic liberalisation", "flexible labour markets" and "minimum labour standards".
The traffic chaos in London is getting worse by the month. The rush hour used to be an hour, but today it stretches for most of the day. The choked roads mean misery for commuters battling to get to work. Pollution from exhaust fumes plays a major role in the rising levels of asthma in children. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for children aged one to 14 years old.
"Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid," was the Guardian's headline. "Britain is hurtling towards a pensions crisis," said the Sunday Telegraph. That was the alarm raised recently in the media over pensions. Big firms are stealing tens of thousands of pounds from workers' pay packets. They are robbing by stealth. They are taking from pensions, which are a form of pay set aside for the future.
'The working women's day of militancy." That was how the Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai described the first ever celebration of International Women's Day in March 1911. That probably isn't how most people view International Women's Day, which is on Friday of this week, if they have heard of it at all.