THE GOVERNMENT'S treatment of asylum seekers stands in stark contrast to the system exposed by the Barings crash.
The Tories take for granted the unrestricted movement of vast fortunes around the globe at a drop of a hat.
They encourage banks to rip billions out of Africa, while urging corrupt, vicious regimes to keep their populations down.
But when individuals flee the resulting terror and come to Britain, they are met with detention and deportation.
Eighteen year old Sita Kamara from the Ivory Coast is the latest casualty of this barbarism.
Sita has spent seven months in Camspfield House, the detention centre run by Group 4. For the past three weeks she has been on hunger strike.
Despite this immigration officers took Sita to a secure holding centre near to Gatwick airport last week, ready to be flown back into the arms of the regime she fled in terror.
"She can't walk. She can't really talk. She looks very ill," another Ivory Coast refugee who visited Sita told Socialist Worker.
The Home Office says there are no human rights problems in the Ivory Coast. But human rights group Amnesty International has catalogued assassinations, detentions and the torture of opponents of the regime.
The Home Office told Socialist Worker that, "each asylum case is judged on its merits".
What then must Sita and other asylum seekers do to prove the "merits" of their case?
Sita was a member of an organisation which fought for student rights. It was suppressed by the regime and she was raped by the security forces.
The truth is the Tory government is prepared to deport asylum seekers like Sita to reinforce its scare stories over immigration.
THE LABOUR Party front bench is not challenging the Tories' racism but echoing it.
The New Statesman magazine reports shadow home secretary Jack Straw telling Labour MEPs that "it should not be possible to `insert a cigarette card' between the government and the Labour front benches over immigration".
Nevertheless there has been resistance.
Other asylum seekers in Campsfield staged a courageous, angry protest when Sita was taken to Gatwick last Tuesday.
They were suppressed by Group 4 security guards using police riot equipment. Those identified as "ringleaders" were then shipped out to different jails.
Last Sunday 70 protesters--led by other Ivory Coast refugees--picketed Campsfield. Protests have stopped the Home Office from immediately deporting Sita. Pressure must now be stepped up. A high court hearing of Sita's case was set for Thursday.
HEALTH SECRETARY Virginia Bottomley has been forced into a humiliating retreat over her plans to axe Guy's Hospital in London.
Guy's has now been reprieved until 1999.
If Bottomley can be forced to climb down on Guy's, we can also force the Tories to cave in on their insulting 1 percent pay offer to nurses and other health workers.
There should be big protests outside every hospital and in every town centre on health union UNISON's day of action on 30 March.
A wave of protests could be a springboard for further action in the hospitals.
"The 30th should just be the start of a real campaign," Jim McGlaughlin, chair of Lothian region UNISON health branch, told Socialist Worker. "We need all out strikes on a national scale and we need to demand our national leaders call it." A member of the Royal College of Midwives at the Whittington Hospital, London, agrees:.
"The time has come for hospital workers to stop thinking patients will suffer if we strike. Patients are more at risk from the lack of beds and hospital closures. We'll get support and solidarity if we strike." Pay protest roundup-
THE GOVERNMENT'S Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced "shock" new findings about the dangers of asbestos.
"Roughly one in one hundred of all British men now aged about 50 will die of mesothelioma," a cancer only caused by asbestos exposure, says Professor Julian Peto, the HSE's favourite asbestos "expert".
Asbestos is now Britain's biggest occupational killer. By the turn of the century it will have claimed 500,000 lives.
Dr Peter Graham, the HSE's senior health policy official, admitted last week, "History has been littered with statements underestimating the full extent of this substance's potential harm.
"People in the past were handicapped by an incomplete knowledge of the potency of asbestos."
The truth is the only people to consistently underestimate the threat of asbestos have been the government, the HSE and the big companies they have covered up for.
The dangers of asbestos have been known for a century. Back in 1898 the government's chief inspector of factories warned of "the evil effects of asbestos dust".
Nothing was done until the 1930s, when a senior government medical inspector admitted:
"It is impossible not to feel that opportunities for discovery and prevention were badly missed."
They were missed again in the 1970s and 1980s when more controls were introduced.
It has taken a mounting pile of bodies, campaigns by trade union militants and journalists to expose this mass murder.
Despite the new findings the HSE says existing legislation "provides an adequate framework for preventing and controlling the risks".
The GMB union disagrees. A representative stated:
"There are currently 3,000 people dying every year due to previous asbestos exposure yet between 1983 and 1993 only 227 convictions were secured for breaches of asbestos laws."
The Construction Safety Campaign also dismisses the HSE claim. It says, "Workers who complain about asbestos exposure do not get controls or masks--they get the sack."
THE government has announced a new inquiry into the loss of the ship Derbyshire, which claimed 44 lives in 1980.
The decision comes after 15 years of campaigning by the victims' families, seafarers' unions and the International Transport Workers Federation.
The government and the Derbyshire's builders, Swan Hunter, long maintained the ship was "overwhelmed by the forces of nature".
A formal inquiry in 1987 upheld this view. However, the Derbyshire's sister ship also sank in suspicious circumstances and other vessels of the same design have had safety problems.
A new inquiry may uncover the truth--but the government only sanctioned it after Swan Hunter went into receivership.
THE TORIES are creating a two tier education system according to an authoritative new report by two Oxford academics.
The report, Education Divides, was commissioned by the Child Poverty Action Group and found:
Government's talk of "parental choice" is a lie.
"The most popular schools are increasingly able to select their intake, rather than the other way round," says the report.
And "the flip side is the rejected `sink school' with declining numbers and resources, often located in a disadvantaged area."
The Tories assisted places scheme is a con.
The government said the scheme would help people from "working class inner city" homes to get public school education. In fact less than 10 percent of those who have benefited under the scheme come from such homes.
Tory claims that education funding has risen are not true.
Spending in real terms has barely changed since 1975 and has fallen as a proportion of national wealth.
One of the report's authors, Teresa Smith, says, "We are seeing an increasingly fragmented and divided education service struggling to provide for disadvantaged areas."
THE government last week announced more cuts in universities. Funding next year will not keep pace with inflation, which means more overcrowding, less books and worse accommodation for students.
Meanwhile, university bosses have joined the ranks of "top earners" with salaries of £100,000 a year plus perks including cars, houses, health insurance and pensions.
Top of the pile is Sir Kenneth Green of Manchester Metropolitan University who got £126,900 last year.
THE TESTS the government sets for its planned new incapacity benefit are designed to stop three in four of those who get the current invalidity benefit from claiming it.
From April invalidity benefit will be replaced by incapacity benefit which imposes new "medical" tests on claimants.
The real purpose of the tests was made clear in a written parliamentary answer by the minister for the disabled, William Hague, last week.
He said the amount paid out would be cut by £200 million this year and £1 billion by 1998 as three out of four of those claiming are refused.
The figure is more than double that found in a similar survey seven years ago.
THE TORIES are peddling lies about immigration in an attempt to distract attention from their problems.
On Monday the government released a report that claimed a housing crisis would result from a million immigrants entering this country in the next 20 years.
Just for good measure they managed to scapegoat single parents, saying that they would take up extra housing as well.
In fact, all indicators show that the population of Britain is projected to fall and that for decades more people left to live abroad than entered this country.
The Tories want us to blame immigrants and forget about the cuts, wage curbs and job slaughter.
The people to blame for the housing crisis are the Tories themselves and the system they defend.
Cheap affordable council housing has been sold off and councils are not allowed to use the money to build more homes.
Over 750,000 houses now stand empty because councils do not have the resources to renovate them and because private developers hold them back waiting for price rises.
Around 250,000 people could be housed in the empty properties in London alone. What we need is a society where all those who need decent housing get it.
To do that we need to get rid of this system where the rich enjoy their town houses and country homes while scapegoating people for a housing problem they did nothing to create.
GAS BOSS Cedric Brown, the heads of Barings and the bosses of Barclays are thieves, and we are the ones they are robbing.
Brown was back before MPs justifying his 75 percent pay rise, £593,000 "bonus" and £268,000 share handout this week. The rest of us have had to fork out a 2.9 percent rise in gas bills to pay for it all.
Barclays bosses announced close on £2,000 million profits for last year--enough to reverse every planned council cut in the country.
Heads of the collapsed Barings bank were cock-a-hoop at being taken over by the Dutch finance corporation ING, because they protected a £100 million bonus share out.
This money is part of the vast wealth created by ordinary workers in factories and offices.
But, in the name of profit, it is stolen from the mass of people and fills the pockets of Cedric Brown and others like him.
Such people are paid fabulous sums for sacking workers and dreaming up new ways to screw even more out of us.
Never mind the inquiries the Tories promise or Labour demands. These will appoint bankers and businessmen to investigate businessmen and bankers.
The simplest way to end this obscenity would be to nationalise the banks, the power companies and other utilities.
Yet Tony Blair wants to drop the Labour Party's commitment to public ownership.
He wants to signal to the likes of Cedric Brown and the Barings family that their millions will remain safe with Labour.
WE ARE supposed to live in a democracy where all views get a proper hearing. But from the press and television coverage, you would think that support for
Labour's Clause Four is confined to a few "dinosaurs".
There has been virtually no reporting of the crowds attracted to public meetings around the country to hear left wing Labour MP Dennis Skinner and miners' leader Arthur Scargill defend the clause.
Labour leader Tony Blair connives in the process. His supporters denounce the TGWU union as "unrepresentative" when it backs the clause, but makes no criticism of the union leaders who are using every undemocratic trick in the book to line up votes behind Blair.
If Labour's leaders are so confident of their case, why is the video supporting Clause Four, made by top film director Ken Loach, not being distributed to party branches just as one supporting Blair's position was?
And why had the Scottish Labour Party Conference scheduled just one hour for debating the clause this Friday following a 40 minute speech by Blair.
What happened? One young man was employed by Barings in Singapore to bet on the future prices of shares on the Japanese stock market.
In particular he took advantage of the tiny differences in these prices on the Osaka and Singapore exchanges.
This dealer, Nick Leeson, made Barings a lot of money--£18.5 million out of the group's total profits of £54 million in the first seven months of 1994. So they let him do more or less what he liked.
Barings looked on indulgently while Leeson's gambling got out of hand. By the end of last year there were £50 million of losses hidden in one special account.
In a few weeks of desperate trading in January and February Leeson was allowed to build up liabilities worth at least $28 billion. In the midst of all of this, barely a fortnight before the crisis broke, Barings promised him a $2 million bonus.
By the time they discovered what had happened, Leeson had run up losses of £650 million--enough to sink the bank.
So Barings turned to the Bank of England to save them from the effects of Leeson's gambling and their own greed.
There is no doubt that a serious attempt to save Barings was made. Eddie George, governor of the Bank of England, assembled leading British bankers to discuss a rescue plan.
Andrew Buxton, chairman of Barclays, played a leading role in bullying other bankers to chip in. One banker told the Financial Times:
"We went round the table and there were one or two banks who hadn't put any money in. One said he didn't have the authority of his board but Buxton said:
`This is the future of the banking industry, and you are going to contribute,' and he did."
The bankers managed to raise about £600 million. The rescue fell through, however, because no one was prepared to take on the potentially much greater losses which some of Leeson's bets on the Japanese stock market might yet bring. The fact that Barings wasn't bailed out by British banks has attracted some criticism. Tory MP Peter Tapsell and Times columnist Lord Rees-Mogg argue that the Barings failure has undermined the credibility of other British merchant banks.
Will Hutton, economics editor of the Guardian, made a larger point: "The lesson will not be lost on anybody. Britain and the Bank of England are no longer the financial powers they once were."
The City of London, Hutton argues, has been weakened by the decline of British manufacturing industry:
"The predictable profits from banking to a large and successful industrial hinterland have dwindled. Deutsche Bank or Japan's DKB have the muscle to buy an ailing bank because they have a flow of profits from an industrial base they nurture; the same cannot be said of Britain."
But the Bank of England's failure to rescue Barings has been defended by the Financial Times, which dismissed regrets for the bank's fall as so much sentimentality:
"The City whose good name has been so seriously traduced no longer exists. London's competitive advantage in international finance has little, if anything, to do with the older cohorts of the merchant bank fraternity [like Barings]É
"For the best part of two decades the powerhouse of financial innovation has been located largely in the foreign banking and securities community."
The City has flourished through providing an increasingly deregulated environment in which banks and other investors can speculate in the "euromarkets"--money markets uncontrolled by any national government.
Thus London has, as the Financial Times puts it, become the base from which "the (mainly foreign) investment and commercial bands do euromarket business in the European time zone."
Maybe the paper is right and the City can operate successfully without a British industrial base. But at the same time, the argument highlights the weakness of British capitalism, which even in finance is giving way before the foreign banks now increasingly dominating the City. And, more fundamentally, this deregulated City is a place where yet more Nick Leesons can use the resources of a global financial system to gamble away gigantic sums of money that would be far better used addressing real human needs.
IT'S GOOD to know the bastards who close our hospitals do not have to suffer on waiting lists like the rest of us.
Robert Maxwell--no relation to the former tycoon and crook--is chief executive of the King's Fund and recently had a private operation on his knee rather than wait for NHS treatment.
Nothing unusual there, of course--executives rarely do anything else when they are sick.
Except that the King's Fund is the health "think tank" that has the ear of Labour's spokesman David Blunkett.
It recommended shutting 15 London hospitals back in the summer of 1992, claiming the capital has "too many hospitals" and "too many beds".
Two months later the Tory sponsored Tomlinson Report happily took up the King's Fund proposals. Maxwell even had the operation--on an arthritic knee--at St Thomas's, sister hospital of Guy's which is threatened by the closure programme he is so keen on. "Many people are forced to have private treatment who do not wish it," explains Maxwell.
And why might that be, do you think?
YOU will be pleased to learn the economic "recovery" has not so far extended to Plumstead Conservative Club in south London.
Mounting debts, including unpaid VAT, have forced it to close. Its treasurer blames rising interest rates and reveals, "A lot of clubs have the same problems."
NAZIS IN the United States have been humiliated, in a part of the country where they expected to do well.
A remote Oregon logging town where 99 percent of the population are white and unemployment is twice the national average has sent them packing.
Aryan Nations, a white supremacist organisation that preaches racial hatred, has been attempting to recruit across western America in recent months.
One leading figure recently announced he was to give a "seminar" in the town Grants Pass, halfway between San Francisco and Seattle.
Grants Pass is one of many timber towns where the economy has been devastated in recent years.
Its local Citizens' Alliance recently backed attacks on gay rights.
But two weeks ago, when the local paper blasted the Nazis' plans all over its front page, a crowd of 2,000 people protested in front of the county courthouse--that's one in ten of the local population. Shops put posters in their windows declaring Grants Pass a "Hate-free community" and the seminar was cancelled.
THE TUC does not seem to have drawn any lessons about the market from the collapse of Barings bank.
TUC leaders last week invited Eddie George, the governor of the Bank of England, to address their general council in July.
The invite is part of the TUC's policy of trying to extend its influence into "new areas".
MISSISSIPPI HAS voted to abolish slavery--130 years after the rest of the US. The southern state's Senate formally voted two weeks ago to pass the 13th Amendment of the United States constitution, which outlaws slavery.
The state was among the last to abandon segregation in the 1960s. The film Mississippi Burning was about Ku Klux Klan activity there.
The state refused to pass the 13th Amendment in 1865 when it was passed by the federal government at the end of the civil war.
Toyota bosses say they will now cut the working day by 15 minutes--and take the time off the lunch break.
The firm makes its money marketing Christian books, videos and cassettes.
Its publicity blurb says it wants to "publish, produce and market products that honour God and serve humanity, and to enhance shareholder value".
SURVIVING the recent earthquake did not end the hazards facing ordinary people in Kobe, Japan.
Now the country's Environment Agency reports the number of asbestos fibres in the air has increased to more than four times the national average as damaged houses are pulled down.
In areas where there is large scale demolition, the figure is 26 times the average.
Asbestos causes cancer of the lung and stomach and respiratory diseases like asbestosis.
But illness may take years to take hold. That is why the same agency can claim the pollution "should not pose an immediate threat to residents".
THE CONFERENCE fits the situation we face.
In the 1960s and 1970s activists and militants were able to convince the majority of workers to fight and isolate the minority who were against any fight.
We had a lot of rank and file activity and workers were confident in the face of the trade union bureaucracy.
Contrast that period with the 1980s. Then workers were on the defensive. Their confidence in the face of the employers was abysmally low, and confidence in the face of union officials even lower.
Today we face a situation that is not like either the late 60s and early 1970s--an upturn in struggle--nor is it like the 1980s, what we have called a downturn.
The word that sums it up better than any is frustration. Militants and activists feel frustrated.
There is certainly no big upturn in the struggle. But at the same time there is not the same feeling of demoralisation.
There is a general feeling against the Tories. When nurses get 1 percent while top officials get 40 percent, it makes millions of people absolutely mad.
The picture is different when it comes to activity. It is more like a mosaic, fragmented.
You get activity here and today, but it doesn't necessarily follow that you get it there and tomorrow.
For example in Newcastle last month there was a strike with council workers and teachers. But there is no guarantee you get the same everywhere or next time.
In industry you find the same pattern.
You got the brilliant victory of the signal workers. But it wasn't followed by other victories like that.
The strike vote at Jaguar was lost, but with 49 percent voting for a strike. It was marginal. It wasn't a walkover one way or the other.
This situation affects the ideas of the best workers. They feel really frustrated. They face real problems and difficulties.
That means we have to learn from one another how to overcome the problems. We have to build links with each other.
You saw a glimpse of what's needed around the signal workers' strike, with people collecting in every locality. We need to extend that into a network of militants in touch with each other in every locality and industry.
This is where the conference fits. We cannot build the house of today with the bricks of tomorrow. But we can make the bricks today for the house of tomorrow.
The aim of the conference is NOT to launch a rank and file movement. I wish we could do that, but we can't.
But we can build the foundation of what will become a rank and file movement. The trade union movement today is in one way very strong: there are still seven or eight million members. And there are over 300,000 shop stewards and office reps.
But the muscles in the movement have become very soft because of years of retreat.
Many shop stewards have survived the years of the 1980s. but they have paid a price. They often lack confidence in the rank and file. They don't know how to mobilise other workers.
Again in many places you have shop stewards' organisation, but it is an empty shell.
We have to rebuild the muscles in the movement. We have to rebuild the kernel in the shell.
Politics is crucial in doing this. Politics enters every argument. You can't deal with arguments such as, "The country can't afford it" without politics.
So the conference is the start of a process. People will learn at the conference, but learning from each other must continue afterwards.
After the conference the paper, Socialist Worker, will be the crucial link between militants.
There were 30,000 workers out during the post office strike last year at Milton Keynes but the press and TV ignored it.
There is a blackout on activity and struggle in the press and TV. Only Socialist Worker gives you the information of what is really happening
And of course the struggle is never simply industrial, it is also ideological. So the paper has to deal with all the ideas that can divide workers, taking up the fight against racism for example.
The main line of contact between militants after the conference will be Socialist Worker, not simply reading it, but selling it, distributing it.
It is crucial we build now. Union officials hardly ever support strikes or struggle today. Imagine what they would be like if Blair becomes prime minister!
Now after 16 years of Tory government workers brush aside arguments from the government.
But when it comes to Blair arguing and the union officials backing it up, many workers will say give him a chance. It takes politics and independence to counter that.
THE COLLAPSE of Baring Brothers bank came as no surprise to those of us who work for these institutions.
In the mid-1980s stories were rife of "yuppies" on massive wages with enormous bonuses. The reality for most workers was completely different.
Finance companies like Barings employ thousands of people across the world. By far the majority are low paid administrative workers, often on temporary contracts, on long hours and subject to continual speed ups.
The work is monotonous and any mistakes are punished with the sack. Random sackings are frequently used to perpetuate the fear.
We have 20th century technology and 19th century working conditions. This includes horrific industrial diseases the bosses deny exist.
In the 1980s the promise of a large bonus eased the nightmare. Since the Black Monday crash in 1987 the bonuses have dwindled to nothing and wage rises are now non-existent.
Despite all of this there is hope. Workers have the power to strike at the very heart of the beast in the City of London.
BIFU, the banking union, has grown in the last decade by fighting over issues like RSI--repetitive strain injury.
The power to switch off the speculation lies with those punching data into computer terminals.
Also most workers in these places speak to other workers across the world on a daily basis.
In March last year a strike by unionised workers at the stock exchange in Seoul, South Korea, disrupted stockbroking around the world.
Thousands of finance workers knew about it within seconds, yet there were no reports in the press.
Finance workers have little tradition of fighting the bosses but bitterness is boiling over.
However, finance workers have to be argued with that unions and collective action are essential to prevent redundancies and that socialist organisation is needed to prevent speculation and the ruthless pursuit of profit.
I AM one of John Major's "jobseekers" who has recently been made homeless due to the Tory attacks on the poor.
I was sharing a house with a friend when the DSS made the decision we were "living together as man and wife". This meant, in practice, that £20 was deducted from our income support.
In the meantime I managed to get some casual work at the post office. I didn't realise this would mean the loss of both our income support as I was expected to support both of us on my low wage.
As a direct consequence we have been made homeless and I have been unable to work because I had to sort out some accommodation. Of course, I am not now receiving income support either.
The Tories still have the nerve to call unemployed people scroungers. With the planned introduction of the Job Seeker's Allowance they are still trying to blame the poor for the mess this country is in.
They claim there is not enough money to go round.
If there is no money, how is it that Michael Heseltine is worth £100 million? How can the British Gas boss get away with a 75 percent pay rise? Why does the queen drive around in a carriage made of gold?
TORY minister Charles Wardle resigned over the supposed threat of "thousands of illegal immigrants" flooding into Britain. In fact, Britain is now effectively "transporting" the unemployed.
We have just returned from teaching English in Poland. The most recent recruits to the staff as we left were two young men who had been unemployed for two years.
They were instructed, under the threat of losing benefit, to take a course in teaching English as a foreign language, paid for by the DSS.
They were then told, again under treat of losing benefit, that they must accept the first job that was offered to them.
This happened to be in Poland, at a couple of weeks notice, and where they will have to stay until at least July.
THE PRIME minister recently announced that "there has been a significant drop in the number of long term unemployed".
What has really happened is an unannounced change in policy by the Department of Employment in which the long term unemployed--who are often very vulnerable--are being harassed within the job centres.
Where I sign on, a Restart officer now sits beside the signing area. As people come to sign they have to account to this officer.
Significant numbers are being transferred to weekly signing and asked to produce evidence on a weekly basis that they are seeking employment.
The long term unemployed should not suffer for the personal vindictiveness of social security minister Peter Lilley.
This purge must be stopped. The long term unemployed are being punished for failures in economic and social policy in a way more in keeping with 1930s Germany.
WILL YOU write an article on whether charities are appropriate in alleviating the plight of the poor.
Many people reckon that if they donate to charity they have fulfilled a good cause. But which ones are genuine?
Does Princess Diana really help those in need when attending ceremonial events? How much aid really goes to the starving in the Third World?
We need to know whether or not we are being conned.
Try and get your paper in the newsagents. It should be as easily available as the Sun. You print the truth. They write bunk.
LAST SEPTEMBER a young West Indian, Norman Manning Bunson Washington, was murdered in a racist attack in Long Lartin prison. His body was extensively mutilated, including castration.
No one has yet been arrested. The police and prison authorities say they cannot find out who did it. Yet the names of the two people allegedly involved in the attack were given to Bunson's family.
The family solicitor has been refused access to the prison to make enquiries.
Last week a very angry campaign meeting in Handsworth attended by over 70 people decided to launch a campaign of civil disobedience to highlight the case and demand a public inquiry.
THE CAMPAIGN by Arthur Scargill and other socialists within the Labour Party to defend Clause Four should be supported by everyone who wants a better society.
Yet I would like to ask Arthur what will happen if the left win. There will still be a Labour leadership that openly opposes and belittles socialist commitment.
I am sure if Blair was defeated he would launch a bitter fight similar to that of Hugh Gaitskell in the early 1960s.
While I support the Defend Clause Four campaign I would call on Arthur Scargill and others to join the SWP--a party with a socialist constitution and a willingness to shout out loud its socialism.
If Arthur doesn't want to join the SWP it would be in the interest of socialist debate for him to say why not.
Surely his differences with the SWP cannot be greater than with the Labour Party?
I AM a member of an educational video group which is making a film called What is Socialism? The idea is to explain where socialism came from, where it is now and where it is going.
In particular we want to show how socialism has developed from the struggles of ordinary people and to explore the international side of socialism.
We are keen to hear from anyone who has any interesting video or film footage of significance in the history of socialism, which they might loan us.
We are interested in footage of political demonstrations, strikes, speeches and interviews from the earliest times down to the present day.
We would also be interested in any archive footage or relevant still photos illustrating social history--housing conditions, families and so on. Please reply c/o Socialist Worker, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH.
No witnesses were called. This contrasts with the attempt to punish a local Labour councillor for coming to the aid of the Socialist Worker sellers.
He was charged with affray and the case was only dropped when none of the witnesses would support the prosecution.
Will it divide society even further into information "haves and "have nots", or can it be used as liberating technology?
GOING ON strike has won engineering workers in Germany a pay rise without strings, after bosses earlier refused to discuss any increase unless the union first made concessions.
Union leaders in the south German state of Bavaria signed a two year deal on Tuesday, claiming it is worth 4 percent.
More than 20,000 engineers at 30 Bavarian factories had been on strike for a week and a half.
Their action pushed the employers to drop demands for more flexible working and maintained a one hour cut in the working week planned for October.
The workers will get a 3.4 percent rise from May for this year, plus a one off payment.
In November they will get a further 3.6 percent rise for 1996.
However, this will not compensate German engineers for what they have lost in the last three years when wages were held below inflation, and this year's one off 7 percent tax rise imposed by Chancellor Kohl.
Under the deal the engineers will not legally be able to strike again until the deal runs out.
Tuesday's agreement only covers factories in Bavaria. But it is bound to provide the basis for a national deal.
The IG Metall union had the bosses on the ropes but the union leaders did not press home the attack.
Hundreds of thousands of the union's three million members had joined in warning strikes in the run up to the action. The union got an 88 percent vote for all out strikes across Bavaria in a ballot.
Yet it chose to fight with just a fraction of this strength.
Union leaders called strikes in only one small part of the biggest economy in Europe, pulled out just a fraction of their members in the area, and deliberately avoided hitting key sectors like the car industry.
The employers had threatened to begin locking out IG Metall members from the end of this week if there was no deal.
Union leaders threatened national action if this happened, but were clearly anxious to avoid a bigger confrontation.
They had already retreated from their original demand for 6 percent.
On Monday they even retreated from their planned programme of escalating strikes, sending strikers at three factories back to work.
Nonetheless, the rise, without strings, will set a target for other German
workers. Bank and insurance, construction, chemical and public sector workers
all say they want the same and are threatening pay strikes.
United Nations Social Development Summit
JOHN MAJOR cares so little for the suffering of ordinary people that he refuses to even talk about tackling world poverty.
Major, along with US president Bill Clinton, is boycotting this week's United Nations Social Development Summit in Copenhagen.
The summit, attended by 130 heads of government and 3,000 other delegates, is supposed to discuss how world poverty can be eradicated.
The UN itself estimates that some 1.3 billion people, a quarter of the world's population, are now living in what it calls "absolute" poverty. That means they don't have adequate food, clothing and shelter.
And each year things are getting worse. In the last 30 years, says the UN, the gap between the richest fifth and poorest of fifth of the world's people has more than doubled.
In Africa living standards have plummeted over the last decade until now over half the population live in "absolute" poverty.
In the industrialised West too poverty is increasing.
In Britain the gap between rich and poor is bigger than any time since the Second World War and one in four children now live in households below the government's official poverty line.
It is no wonder Major doesn't want to even talk about tackling poverty. His government is creating poverty at home and abroad.
In the last month the Tories have cut aid contributions to 70 of the world's poorest countries.
And this year Britain's overseas aid will fall to an all time low of 0.26 percent of national production, well below even the miserly UN target of 0.7 percent.
By snubbing the UN summit Major shows how little he cares about poverty but the truth is the summit will do nothing to help the world's poor.
The reason is simple. The summit is dominated by the very governments and organisations responsible for world poverty.
The single biggest measure that could alleviate global poverty would be to cancel the debts owed by many of the world's poorest countries to Western banks and governments. In Africa interest payments on these debts alone suck $10 billion a year out of the mouths of the hungry.
Yet "debt will not be a major issue" at the conference, officials insist. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund are centrally involved in the Copenhagen conference.
Yet their Structural Adjustment Programmes, imposed around the globe, have pushed millions into misery.
These programmes amount to slashing education and health spending, ramming through free market policies and privatisation schemes and handing over cash from exports to the bankers.
The World Bank spokesman at the Copenhagen summit turns reality on its head by insisting "market reform" is the key to reducing poverty.
The summit says education is a key element in the fight against poverty. A third of children in Africa get no education at all and World Bank programmes have seen Sierra Leone cut education spending by 82 percent and Nigeria by 70 percent.
The Copenhagen summit is hypocritical hot air from the very people responsible for the poverty they are talking about. None of the participants will commit themselves to spending a penny more as a result of the summit.
The statements produced will talk about "market forces" and "competition" as important in fighting poverty.
You might as well prescribe cholera to someone suffering from typhoid. Presiding over the whole summit is the United Nations. The UN's biggest contribution to "tackling poverty" in Africa was to send 30,000 troops from the US and other countries into Somalia.
The operation cost £3,000 million, killed thousands of ordinary Somalis, and left the country poorer and more ravaged than ever.
A real solution to world poverty will come not from those gathered in Copenhagen this week, but when ordinary people begin to wrest control of the world's resources from these people.
None of the participants will commit themselves to spending a penny more as a result of the summit|
WORLD LEADERS like to attend international summits like that in Copenhagen. They strut around posing as statesmen, pontificating about the issues of the day.
Yet behind the facade these people are ready to bribe, bully and kill to line their own pockets and hang on to their wealth and power.
In recent weeks the truth has been exposed about three of these "world leaders": MEXICO: Former president Carlos Salinas was held up as a model for rulers of developing countries.
He backed free market programmes and on his retirement last year was hailed by US president Bill Clinton.
Salinas was set to head the powerful World Trade Organisation--until last week. The job has now evaporated as Salinas's "economic miracle" has turned to crisis. Salinas has also been exposed as heavily implicated in a stunning scandal rocking Mexico's ruling PRI party.
It involves bitter infighting inside the PRI which led to the assassination last year of two of its leading members. Salinas's own brother was last week arrested for involvement in one of the killings. Meanwhile, his brother in law was detained as he tried to flee the country with suitcases full of cash.
ITALY: For decades Guilio Andreotti was the central figure in the country's post- war governments.
Andreotti was feted as a bulwark against the country's powerful Communist Party. Now he is in court charged with direct involvement with the Mafia. SPAIN: Socialist Party prime minister Felipe Gonzalez was hailed as a new young modern leader when elected back in 1982.
Now he presides over record unemployment, an economy in crisis and he could be driven from office after revelations linking him with death squads that assassinated people fighting for independence for the Basque people in north eastern Spain.
Blair is an Oxford educated public schoolboy. His father was a barrister, a leading Tory in the north east who tried to become an MP.
"He was keen on the Thatcher revolution", says Blair. "I understand whence my father was coming from because he was totally self made--the sort of Tory represented by Norman Tebbit."
Blair was sent to the privileged private school Choristers in Durham. According to Sopel he "was very much at home there". At 13 Blair even stood as the Conservative candidate in the school's mock election.
He won a scholarship to Fettes College--the Edinburgh public school known as "Eton in a kilt".
There Blair mixed with the children of Scotland's ruling class. It taught him the rules of the establishment and gave him the "right" connections.
At Oxford University Blair had no connection with the Labour club or the local Oxford Labour Party.
He did, however, belong to the Archery club--a dining club which aped the behaviour of the Oxford upper class.
Blair did not join the Labour Party until he had left Oxford and was training to be a barrister.
All this is found in Sopel's book, but it is, unfortunately, a grovelling and uncritical account of Blair's life.
Sopel agrees with Blair on everything from the market economy to the ditching of Clause Four.
Blair is praised as a decent family man and endlessly described as charming, talented and a gifted barrister and astute politician.
But despite Sopel's ingratiating tone a picture emerges of Blair as a power hungry and vain man, someone who would do anything to advance himself.
In his CV for his Sedgefield constituency, for example, Blair name dropped his in-laws, the actor Tony Booth and Coronation Street star Pat Phoenix.
He even promised his wife, Cherie, would live with him in Sedgefield--even though she herself was standing for election in the south east at the time.
Local party agent John Burton secured Blair's nomination for the seat by waving a piece of paper which supposedly said Michael Foot recommended Blair for Sedgefield. It was a lie. The letter merely said, "Blair will make a major contribution to British politics."
Blair's subsequent career in Westminster has been dominated by opportunism. Sopel describes a world of parliamentary manoeuvring, shabby deals and even respect for the Tories.
Blair was even welcomed to the Commons in 1983 with a hearty slap on the back by Tory Edward du Cann--who mistook him for one of the new intake of Tories.
Neil Kinnock almost immediately recruited Blair to his campaign to shift the party to the right. He was employed by the NEC to advise on how to kick out Militant.
Blair came to symbolise "New Labour" and the "modernisers", aping the Tories--whether on education, crime, or the anti trade union laws.
He has even adopted Tory language--Labour is the "party of law and order" and the champion of "one nation politics".
Blair wrote Labour's industrial relations policy review which caved in to the Tories' anti-union laws.
He enthusiastically supported John Smith's one member one vote proposals weakening union involvement and was "furious" that Smith did not go far enough.
Blair was not a "natural" successor to Smith. He had to fight his way to the leadership and was "absolutely clinical" in his chase for power.
But Sopel's book gives no sense of the unease Blair has created within the party and does not remark on the 43 percent of the vote that went to his rivals, John Prescott and Margaret Beckett.
And despite Sopel's attempts to portray Blair as an intellectual, it is the poverty of ideas which is most striking.
Words like "opportunity", "responsibility" and "fairness" merely mask the lack of fresh thinking.
"I was walking home after playing football. I saw the police van out of the corner of my eye. I carried on walking, but they pulled in and stopped me."
`"We want a routine search' they said,' 'What's your name?' I didn't cooperate at first, but then I thought,' I don't want to get into the van.'
Then they searched me, I asked them why, but they woldn't give a reason."
His experience of police harassment is not unique. Every day in every city in Britain the police target black people.
They are subject to racist abuse, intimidation and humiliation.
Tottenham MP Bernie Grant recently got stop and search figures out of the Home Office.
The figures reveal police racism on a massive scale.
Nearly half of all people stopped by the police in London last year were black or Asian--yet the black population of London is only 20 percent.
In some parts of London the figures for police harassment are even worse.
This racism is not confined to London. In Moss Side in Manchester black people are twice as likely to be stopped. The same figure applies to the West Midlands. A further breakdown of the figures suggests that if you are Afro-Caribbean or African then you are FIVE times more likely to be stopped than white people.
The response of the Metropolitan Police to this blatant racism was to say, "We strongly refute any suggestion that the police apply stop and search laws in a racially discriminatory manner".
Yet it has just been uncovered that the Metropolitan Police have the classification "negroid types" in the logbooks they use to record stop and searches.
Bernie Grant cited the case of a young black man who had been stopped in his car and made to produce his documents 23 times in three months. He was never charged with any offence.
In another case a driver was told he was taking a "circuitous route". Another case saw a black driver stopped because he was "unlawfully displaying an L plate".
Black drivers are caught in a double racist bind.
If they have old cars they are stopped for vehicle checks.
If they have new cars they are stopped because the police assume either it is stolen or that they can only afford it because they are criminals.
Tony Leslie told the newspaper the Voice that "one night I was driving a convertible Mercedes and was told that both I and it looked out of place in that part of north London.
"Another time I was stopped because they said at a distance of 100 metres that I looked like a wanted criminal and the last time they claimed it was just `routine'."
SECTIONS OF the Criminal Justice Act giving police increased powers to stop and search come onto the statute book next month.
But the police should not forget the last time they used repressive stop and search powers--the "sus" laws.
Use of sus was widespread in the 1970s. It resulted in the 1981 inner city riots, all of which were sparked by incidents of racist police harassment.
The sus laws went back to the 1824 Vagrancy Act, passed to stop soldiers coming back from the Napoleonic wars, begging on the streets.
Under sus black people could be convicted on the sole testimony of the arresting officer for being "a suspected person loitering with intent to steal". Most stopped were never charged with any offence.
The 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) included a clause that said the police had to give a reason why they stopped someone.
But incidents of stop and search did not decline after 1984--they increased. Since 1992 stop and search figures have risen by 26 percent.
Today six out of ten black people think that police racism has got worse in the last ten years, according to the black paper the Weekly Journal.
The "ring of steel", the roadblock in the City of London supposedly to stop IRA bombers, has been used by the police as an excuse to stop and search cars driven by black people.
A NEW survey commissioned by the black newspaper the Weekly Journal shows how much black people hate the police.
POLICE HARASSMENT of black people serves to perpetuate the myth that all black people are criminals.
Afro-Caribbeans and Africans make up just 1.6 percent of the British population. Yet they make up over 10 percent of those in jail.
The police and the courts would have us believe that this is because black people are more inclined to crime.
But last year the Tories suppressed a Home Office commissioned MORI survey which showed that nearly twice as many whites between the ages of 14 and 21 admit to drug offences as black people.
MORI also found that a third more whites took part in property offences, such as burglary, than their black counterparts.
Despite this black people are three and a half times more likely to be arrested.
THERE HAS to be a united fightback against racist police harassment.
This is in everyone's interests--both black and white.
The police cannot be reformed. Their ranks are full of racists.
Take the experience of black officers. Less than 1 percent of the British police are black.
Figures for 1989 show that, out of 35 new black recruits to the Metropolitan police that year, 26 of them quit.
A recent pamphlet by civil rights organisation Liberty cited a 1993 case where "an industrial tribunal awarded £25,000 damages to an Asian officer who had been subjected to 42 incidents of discrimination and victimisation involving 60 of his colleagues".
Even those officers who may want to tackle racism are silenced by the dominant "canteen culture" of the force.
What is more, the police's paymasters--the Tories--are prepared to use the race card if they think they can gain from it.
They believe it can deflect people's anger about the state of society onto black people.
A leaked document by Tory party deputy chairman John Maples exposed this last year.
It said, "Disaffected Tory voters have very right wing views on crime and immigration. We cannot be tough enough for our audience on law and order."
What the Tories and the police really hate and fear is black and white people marching side by side and fighting back together.
For socialists unity between black and white is crucial. That is why we must campaign now and in the future against Britain's racist police.
LAST WEEK the government announced a new crackdown, including heavy fines, on car emissions that pollute the atmosphere.
Doubtless there are those in the green and environmental movement who welcome this as a small step in the right direction.
From a socialist point of view there is an obvious problem.
The people this will hit are the working class and the poor who have to get by with old secondhand cars, not the rich and the middle class who can afford new ones.
This is one example of a wider problem. In general the environmental movement is seen and sees itself as broadly left of centre.
But sometimes environmental issues (like animal rights issues supported by right wingers like Brigitte Bardot and Alan Clark) are taken up by the Tories and the right.
There are two reasons for this. First there are times when the Tories can use green arguments in a completely hypocritical and opportunist way to justify reactionary class policies, such as closing the pits or putting VAT on fuel.
But there is also the fact that destruction of the environment can quite often affect the quality of life of the ruling class itself and its middle class supporters.
Dangerous chemicals in the air can damage the lungs of even the ruling class. Excessive road building can spoil their country walks and destruction of the ozone layer can give them skin cancer.
It is because of this that a multi-millionaire and right winger like Sir James Goldsmith can become an environmental campaigner while former Friends of the Earth and Green Party leader Jonathon Porritt can become an adviser to Prince Charles.
This in turn leads many greens to claim that the environment is an issue which rises above class differences and transcends the old division between right and left.
In reality, however, this is the fundamental flaw in green politics. For in the long run an "all classes together" approach cannot save the environment.
On the one hand Tories and other supporters of capitalism cannot be consistent defenders of the environment.
Capitalism is driven by the competitive struggle for profit. For the ruling class the need to maximise profits will ultimately always override environmental concerns.
On the other hand when they do act over environmental issues they will always do so in a Tory and capitalist way--in a way that benefits the rich and discriminates against ordinary people.
However serious the threat to the environment a purely environmental response is not enough.
In capitalist society the conflict of interest between the basic classes is fundamental and runs through every issue and every aspect of society without exception.
First, it is invariably working people who suffer most from the deterioration of the environment and ecological disasters.
Whether it is an incinerator with dangerous emissions, a motorway driven through a residential area or raw sewage on the beach, the rich can buy their way out of the situation. Working people cannot.
Secondly, the major threats to the environment from the destruction of the rainforest to all the problems caused by the private motor car cannot be dealt with piecemeal.
They all require collective democratically planned solutions.
The devastation caused by relentless road building, the problem of innumerable giant lorries and the pollution from car exhausts are different aspects of the underlying problem of transport in a modern economy which requires a coordinated response.
Only socialism can deliver this because only socialism will place production under the democratic control of the producers and make it serve human need, not profit.
Under capitalism the moment one threat to the environment has been dealt with or controlled another will appear because that is the drive of the system.
Trying to save the environment on the basis of capitalism is like trying to deal with an overflowing bath by mopping up the water without turning off the tap.
Thirdly, environmental considerations cannot be treated as absolute and overriding all others.
Human beings depend on nature and cannot live without it, therefore it must be protected.
But equally human beings cannot live without working on nature and changing it. It is no good saying save the trees and fields and letting people go homeless, unemployed and hungry.
There has to be a balance struck between the preservation of nature and human needs.
That balance can only be determined democratically by the people and that again means taking productive activity out of private or bureaucratic hands and putting it under the control of the working class.
Environmental issues, therefore, must always be taken up from a working class standpoint and integrated into a wider socialist perspective which fights to change society as a whole.
THE COLLAPSE of Barings' bank has focused attention on one of the richest and most powerful families in Britain.
The Barings epitomise the ruling class, inhabiting the ground where business, government, diplomacy and even the church and arts meet.
Peter Baring is the current bank chairman. His brother Nicholas is chairman of the giant Commercial Union insurance company. Both went to Eton and Magdalene, the most elite Cambridge University college.
Nicholas served in the Coldstream Guards and was chief military aide to the governor of Kenya before joining the family bank.
Lord Ashburton (Sir John Baring) is chairman of British Petroleum, Britain's biggest company, and has sat on the boards of Jaguar, Dunlop and Royal Insurance.
This set him up to be a director of the Bank of England. He has also been chairman of the government committee on finance for industry, a trustee of the National Gallery, a member of the British Transport Docks Board and of the council of the bosses' CBI organisation.
The Barings do not hold these positions through merit or hard work, but through their family's cultivation of power for almost three centuries.
The dynasty was founded by Sir Francis Baring, grandson of German immigrants, who built up a cloth firm. With the profits he started a bank in 1717 and was one of the lucky ones who survived.
Involvement in the East India Company, which was plundering Asia, set the family up for generations of privilege.
Alexander Baring, the son of the bank's founder, extended operations to the United States and recognised the need to influence political decisions.
At a time when only one in 20 people had the vote and open corruption was normal, he bought a seat in the House of Commons and stayed there for almost 30 years.
His main contribution was to oppose the slightest extension of the vote in case this upset rule by the rich.
A contemporary wrote, "Mr Baring is a stout defender of the fixed principle that those who have the greatest stake in the country must have the greatest voice. He says that those who have not built Britain must not expect to rule in its governance."
Politics also attracted Sir Francis's grandson, who became Baron Northbrook and was chancellor of the exchequer and then first lord of the admiralty.
He laid the basis for the 1844 Bank Act which protected owners like the Barings from losing their money if a bank collapsed.
The Barings wheedled and married their way into elite society, dining with royals and eventually emerging as the monarchs' bankers.
But they quickly saw through the myth that real power lies in parliament. The family understood power rests with those who own and control businesses, who decide on how currencies move and where money is invested.
The directors of the Bank of England, who none of us elect and none of us can remove, are very powerful political figures and the Barings have seven times been directors of the Bank of England.
In 1931, when Labour meekly turned to the Bank of England for advice on how to combat a run on the pound, the cabinet was told:
"It was in the deputy governor's view essential that very substantial economies should be effected on the unemployment insurance."
In other words, a government elected to defend working class interests during a raging capitalist slump was being told by bankers, among them a Baring, to cut the dole. Labour's leaders did just that. A Baring had helped ensure that his class would not suffer, whatever the hardship for workers and the unemployed.
Thirty years later a family member was even more influential. The third Lord Cromer, born George Baring, was governor of the Bank of England when Harold Wilson's Labour government was elected in 1964.
After Eton and Cambridge he filled a string of government positions and bizarre royal appointments.
He had not only been page of honour to the king and queen but had represented Britain in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand and was later to be ambassador to the United States.
He had been groomed for the Bank of England through an incredible list of interlorsonal dominion. He made the local poor pay two thirds of the cost of the British invasion of Sudan. His son became governor of Kenya. Thomas Baring, Lord Northbrook, was viceroy of India.
The Barings demonstrate how the chief positions in the state and business are held by people drawn almost entirely from the rich and who dedicate their lives to defending the rich.
At present 13 members of the Baring dynasty are being prepared at Eton to follow in tracks of their ancestors.
They will make it to the top of society even if they are thugs--like Sir James Baring who was convicted of assault four years ago after attacking his wife for over an hour causing serious internal injuries.
Labour governments have left the power of people like the Barings untouched. To get genuine democracy we will need to seize their wealth and have workers' control in every aspect of economic, political and social life.
THE BARINGS' ability to influence the state has long been helpful to the family. In 1818 when a French loan went sour their bank was saved by the Duke of Wellington who simply instructed that the debt should be cancelled.
In 1890 the bank again faced disaster after foreign loans went wrong. The Chancellor of the exchequer rushed round to the governor of the Bank of England and "found him in dreadful state. Barings in such danger that unless aid is given they must stop. All houses would tumble one after the other. All credit gone."
The government feared that London's reputation as a financial centre would be destroyed, and it twisted bankers' arms until they agreed to stumped up the equivalent of £4,600 million at today's values and the bank escaped.
A Baring family member said, "We have nearly been brought down by turmoil and revolution in Argentina.
"Fortunately our own government has showed itself a friend of merchant interest and refused to allow these unforseen chances to obscure what is in really British interest for British prosperity. It is a model of how business and government should work."
This time round other bankers were less forthcoming. British capitalism is much weaker compared with its rivals than in the 19th century and Barings is no longer so central.
The Financial Times wrote last week, "The world can live without Barings." But while charities and pension funds lose money, no member of the family will suffer.
"THERE ARE six great powers in Europe: England, France, Prussia, Austria, Russia and Baring Brothers."
"THE executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie [big business owners]."
LISTEN TO this magnificent rhetoric from a Guardian newspaper columnist writing on 3 March about the Barings collapse: " We have gone back to the world of Charles Dickens, Karl Marx, the railway and cottage booms of the 1830s--back to untamed, unregulated, anxiety-haunted socially destructive and economically wasteful capitalism."
The writer insists that all this has happened not by chance, but by design. "No technological or cultural imperative forced us to go back. We did so because governments abdicated, not because they were dethroned."
It follows, he argues, that those in government who believe in the state intervention in the economy advocated by economist John Keynes can regain the heights of the economy which they scaled in the mid-20th century. They can seize hold of the capitalists, and regulate them into social democracy and fairness. The article, which is very militant in tone, ends with something like a call to arms, "Our ancestors did not reform the world of Martin Chuzzlewit without a fight. It is time for a lot more optimism of the will and a little less pessimism of the intellect."
Who writes this tirade? His name is David Marquand. His own political life bears some testimony to the sincerity of his call to Keynesian arms.
In 1977 half way through the last Labour government--as a pact was formed between Keynesian Labour ministers and the Keynesian Liberal Party--a leading Keynesian member of the Labour cabinet jumped ship. His name was Roy Jenkins, a former Labour chancellor and home secretary, who gleefully accepted a post as (unelected) European Commissioner.
Jenkins "abdicated" (to use a word in Marquand's article) from his seat at Stechford in Birmingham which was promptly lost to the Tories. At once Jenkins was joined in Brussels by a very clever and equally right wing Labour admirer called David Marquand.
Marquand stuck two fingers up to the Nottinghamshire miners and engineering workers who had voted for him in overwhelming numbers. In the ensuing by-election one of the biggest Labour majorities in the country was overturned by the Tories.
The Jenkins/Marquand European partnership did very little to stem the free market tide. Indeed both men stressed the values of the free market rather than the importance of regulating it.
When the Social Democrat Party was formed in 1981, Jenkins was one of its founders and Marquand one of its leading lights. The most vital aim of the SDP was to denounce the Labour Party for being too "interventionist" in free market capitalism and to replace a Clause Four Labour Party with a new middle of the road, all things to everyone lib/lab coalition, with the lib leading the lab.
What Marquand now calls the "Keynesian-corporatist social democrats of the mid-20th century" united across the old lines of Liberal and Labour to reject even their previous commitments to Keynesianism and to campaign instead for capitalism.
The basic theory of the Keynesians was that intelligent and decent people can "regulate" capitalist society so that its excesses of greed and inequality can be smoothed out.
Parliamentary democracy is a useful way for such people to get their hands on the reins of the economy, but it is not essential. As Jenkins and Marquand discovered, the new European Common Market, as it was then called, provided intelligent Keynesians with important positions to which they did not have to bother to get elected.
The workers of Stechford and Sutton-in-Ashfield were no longer necessary for Jenkins and Marquand to work their utterly futile "regulation" of the capitalist economies in their charge.
Now, as he looks back on a lifetime of abdication--from Sutton, from Labour, from his own modest Keynesian aspirations--Marquand re-discovers the elitist reforming philosophies of his youth.
Yes, we are back to unregulated capitalism--the law of the jungle--partly thanks to the intelligentsia who argued that capitalism could be controlled and regulated from above.
Marquand is right too. We are back with Marx--so perhaps he and his fellow failed Keynesians should start reading Marx, and thinking and acting accordingly.
by SAM ASHMAN
A DANISH detective story dominated by snow. That is Peter Hoeg's book Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow.
It starts with the funeral of a young boy in Copenhagen. His footprints on a snowy rooftop are his last mark on the world.
It unfolds into a battle with a multinational company that ends on the Arctic icecap.
This is far better than most detective stories.
It creates an eerie atmosphere that conveys what it must be like to live in an environment dominated by snow.
It weaves the story together with observations about snow, ice, science, nature and philosophy.
The book's central character, Smilla Jaspersen, is a likeable, intelligent woman.
Her mother was a Greenlander, her father a successful Dane. Smilla has rejected his world and distrusts the establishment and all symbols of authority.
But these aren't the only things to be said about Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow.
This book has sold phenomenally well. It has been on the bestsellers list for over four months.
It shows that there is a market for intelligent and often anti-Tory, anti- capitalist literature.
Sophie's World, which explores the ideas of the world's major philosophers, has also been on the best sellers list for weeks.
The Tory view of workers as uncultured stupid oafs who only love Coronation Street is completely false.
That is not to say Miss Smilla is oozing politics from every pore. But the book is generally anti-capitalist.
Big business is bad, wrecking lives and the environment. Ordinary people are treated sympathetically.
We see the Greenlanders living in Denmark, uprooted, having had their livelihoods destroyed and forced on to social security.
We see too that Denmark has its own imperialist traditions in the destruction of their world.
One warning about Miss Smilla--at times it is quite dense. The names and places are unfamiliar and the plot twists and tangles. But it is well worth the effort. Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg is published by Flamingo at £5.99.
by JUNE THREADGOULD
THE PEOPLE of Northern Ireland have now experienced six months of peace--begun by the IRA's ceasefire.
The recently published Nor Meekly Serve My Time, edited by Brian Campbell (£9.95), gives you a real insight into the kind of people who took up the struggle against the presence of British troops by joining the IRA.
This book records how the Tories, with the backing of the Labour Party, were prepared to let ten prisoners starve to death in 1981.
The fight had begun in 1976 when the Labour government ended the Republican prisoners, political status and branded them as criminals.
These included men and women who only five years earlier had marched for civil rights at a time when the IRA barely existed.
In the next two years Catholics were murdered by the British army and Loyalist thugs.
Civil rights campaigners concluded the British state would never accept their demands for freedom and took up the gun.
The memories of the hunger strikers showed they believed their struggle for political status was central to the fight against the British state.
The prisoners' campaign struck a chord all over Ireland. There was the potential to build a mass movement to kick out the British army. But Sinn Fein sought to turn this solely into votes.
Another book that covers this same period is Ten Men Dead by David Beresford (£4.99). Michael Farrell's Northern Ireland--The Orange State (£10.95) shows how the Unionists' sectarianism is central to the Northern Ireland state--key to understanding today's events.
War in an Irish Town by Eamonn McCann (£9.95) is the classic socialist history of the conflict.
But for the best short account of oppression in Northern Ireland and the socialist strategy to end it try Chris Bambery's Ireland's Permanent Revolution (£3.50). All these books are available from Bookmarks, 265 Seven Sisters Road, Finsbury Park, London N4 2DE. Phone 0181 802 6145 (add 15 percent for postage and packing).
by TALAT AHMED
THE POPULAR view of black people as sexually permissive is not a new one.
The themes of sex and colour form the basis of the BBC series Ruling Passions which aims to show how Britain's colonial past helped shape attitudes to non-whites.
Britain's rulers thought themselves superior to any other beings, including other whites.
This racial arrogance permeated every aspect of society. Generals and politicians felt that native women were fair game for their sexual desires.
As a result women were sexually abused and exploited. During the British Raj in India it was common for these people to have several mistresses. But to keep courtesans for sex and fun was one thing, and to fall in love and marry was another.
The hypocrisy of British imperialism and its deep seated racism meant that inter-racial relationships were rejected and even subject to violence.
However, not all whites accepted the crude racist stereotypes. In Britain, in towns like Bristol with sizeable black populations for centuries, blacks and whites did marry.
The first programme did not fully explore how the racist views were invented, fostered and perpetuated by our ruling class for its own ends. Let's hope future episodes examine this
Ruling Passions, Monday, 10pm, BBC2.
by CHARLIE KIMBER
THE MILLION strong TGWU union delivered a resounding slap in the face for Labour leader Tony Blair on Monday when they decided to back Clause Four.
In a welcome decision the TGWU said that its members were fully behind the clause in Labour's constitution which commits it to public ownership of industry.
Blair is certainly not having the debate all his own way.
Three union leaders, the GMB's John Edmonds, MSF's Roger Lyons and GPMU's Tony Dubbins, have all demanded that any new clause includes a commitment to full employment--a promise Blair is desperate to avoid.
Meanwhile Labour's Scottish conference was to debate the clause this Friday with the vote on a knife edge. Blair and his supporters have been desperate to use every means to win backing for their position.
Labour's national executive has held back on unveiling its new wording for Clause Four until after the Scottish conference.
The conference's original agenda had 26 motions supporting Clause Four and 15 amendments calling for some sort of change.
The Scottish executive was undecided which motion to support up to the eve of the conference.
Blair was so stung by the extent of backing for Clause Four in Scotland that he lashed out at those who want an alternative to the market.
He told Scotland on Sunday, "I don't think the reason for the opposition is that it reflects the grass roots feeling of people. Rather I think it is the views of a small number of activists who have a conception of socialism that is frankly out of date."
A section of the Scottish leadership back a "compromise" position originally put forward by transport spokesperson Brian Wilson.
But Wilson is bitterly hostile to the present Clause Four. His amendment does no more than camouflage Blair's attempt to thrust the party rightwards and away from class politics.
A trade union delegate to the Scottish conference told Socialist Worker, "We have come under the most tremendous pressure not to support Clause Four. Partly from Tony Blair supporters, but equally there are lots of people who say they are on the left who are now taking fright and backing off.
"Blair should come with me to the housing schemes in Glasgow. People there don't throw up their hands in horror when you talk about taking water and gas and electricity and British Telecom back into public ownership."
The opposition to Blair is shown in the many parts of the country where supporters of Clause Four have held big and lively public meetings.
Blair may well at the end of the day be able to twist enough arms and launch sufficient manoeuvres to get his way at the special conference on 29 April. But he will not be able to stop a sizeable vote for Clause Four.
That will be important in showing that there is resistance to his abandonment of socialism--a resistance that will be important if we get a Labour government.
LABOUR WILL go into the next election supporting the idea of a minimum wage but refusing to give a figure for what it should be.
Yet with all the anger over big pay rises for bosses there could not be a better time to set a minimum wage and win support from millions of low paid workers.
Over 4.5 million workers would get a pay rise if the minimum rate was set using the formula Labour promised at the last election. Blair is shying away because of business opposition.
Trade union leaders John Edmonds of the GMB and Bill Morris of the TGWU want a figure agreed. They want Blair to "mix some concrete into the rhetoric".
They must now come out and force Blair into backing a minimum of £4.10 an hour.
Disgracefully, a TUC meeting last week defeated calls from Bill Morris and AlanJinkinson of UNISON to demand Labour set a figure. Instead the TUC has decided to "win the intellectual high ground" over the minimum wage with a conference in July.
THE SHOW trial of South Korean socialist Choi Il-bung is due to restart next Wednesday 15 March.
He is one of 36 people seized in police raids last October. Twenty four face charges under the National Security Law, accused of being members of the International Socialists of South Korea. Ten are in jail.
Their only crime was to join in political activities that are legal in democracies, such as South Korea claims to be.
Its president, Kim Young Sam, was in Europe this week visiting heads of government in Germany, France and Britain.
Kim claims to have "liberalised" South Korea after three decades of military rule, but the trial shows Kim's claims are a sham.
Independent trade unions are banned and opposition suppressed.
As recently as 13 February police stormed the Seoul plant of Daehung Machineries where trade unionists had resolved to go on strike in protest at the arrest of their union leader.
A day later police in Pusan arrested 15 student activists.
The prosecution in Choi Il-bung's trial describes the International Socialists of South Korea as an "enemy benefiting organisation". They mean it supports North Korea.
This is ridiculous. For one thing, Choi made clear at an earlier trial--he got two years for publishing socialist books in 1992--that the ISSK opposes the undemocratic regime in North Korea as much as that in the South.
For another, Kim's government has just given the go ahead to South Korean companies to build two nuclear reactors in the North.
One of South Korea's biggest corporations, Daewoo, is pushing to construct roads and power plants in the North. Hyundai has openly admitted business links with the North since 1989.
What the trial and police raids are really about is repressing working class opposition.
Last year saw the biggest strike wave in South Korea since 1987-9. The government needed tens of thousands of riot police to break strikes at Hyundai.
It then used a confrontation over nuclear weapons with North Korea as an excuse for a new wave of repression.
THE COMMITTEE to Defend South Korean Socialists placed a page advertisement in the current issue of the prestigious New York Review of Books under the headline
"Free speech under attack in South Korea".
It is a sign of the level of repression in the country that South Korean newspapers refused to print the advertisement.
But the New York Review of Books is widely circulated. The advertisement declares:
"The South Korean state can only begin to be a genuine democracy when its citizens are no longer persecuted for their opinions. The case of the International Socialists is a test of the Kim Young Sam administration's democratic credentials.
"We demand the withdrawal of all charges against those accused and their unconditional release, and we call on our own governments to press this case upon the Republic of Korea."
It is signed by 250 MPs, leading academics, writers, trade unions and other organisations, including:
SOME 900 people lobbied Lewisham council in South London last Tuesday against cuts in the pay and conditions of manual workers. Angry demonstrators occupied the road for 20 minutes.
A further lobby has been called, and one of the council's UNISON branches will be balloting for strike action against the cuts on 30 March. Resistance against the cuts continues across the country.
Over 300 angry teachers, council workers and local residents marched through Cambridge on Saturday against the county council's massive package of cuts.
Meanwhile Islington council UNISON members in north London were set to meet on Tuesday to decide whether or not to strike unofficially on Thursday.
The action had been called over pay cuts of £1,000 per year for "resources" clerical staff in neighbourhood offices. Managers are to get an increase of £5,000 a year.
Resources staff are already balloting for all out indefinite strike action. Strikes against the cuts are also being planned elsewhere.
In Somerset thousands of public sector workers are to ballot for strike action against cuts on 30 March.
Although the Liberal led council has agreed a budget of £2.5 million over the government's spending limit, that still leaves £17.5 million of cuts.
Resistance also continues in Somerset schools, five of which have already agreed "needs budgets".
In Hackney, east London, the manual workers' joint works committee is calling for a council wide strike against cuts on 29 March.
In Derbyshire teachers and council workers are balloting for joint strike action on 6 April and plan a rally in Matlock on the day.
The move by the NUT and UNISON comes after the county council set a £28 million cuts budget last week.
Firefighters are also considering one hour strikes and many school governing bodies are discussing setting no cuts "needs" budgets.
Meanwhile in north east Derbyshire there is growing support for a "Derbyshire goes to parliament" lobby on 29 March.
In Sheffield, council workers in UNISON were set to strike for half a day on Friday to join a march and rally as the Labour council meets to set a budget likely to contain up to £10 million of cuts.
Teachers and parents were set to send delegations to join the protests with hundreds of jobs threatened in the city's schools.
The council may set a budget above the government's capping limit.
But the limitation of this strategy, being pursued by several other councils, was shown last year when Sheffield council set a budget £5 million over the capping limit and appealed to the government.
The government eventually agreed it could have a budget £3 million over the limit, but there was no extra money from the Tories and the council had to raise the money by a higher council tax.
NUT members in Sheffield are being balloted for a one day protest strike against the budget cuts. The cuts could lead to classes of 40, and 350 teachers being sacked. Five schools have requested ballots for action over class sizes.
Sheffield governors voted unanimously last Tuesday to support those governing bodies that set needs budgets.
So far eight coaches have been booked for the FACE demonstration on 25 March, including four from schools.
Other recent protests against cuts include:
Lobbies of council education and social services committees were due on Monday and Tuesday and a lobby of the full council meeting on Wednesday. The Liberal and Tory run council plans up to £27 million cuts.
UNISON members in Environmental Services--parks, libraries, children's play--had voted to strike on Wednesday.
Parents and governors have launched a local campaign to fight the council's plan to axe 489 jobs in the education service.
The largest branch meeting in 20 years of Lambeth's NUT voted unanimously to endorse the local union's call for a one day strike. Some 950 teachers then marched to a second mass meeting.
Lambeth FACE joined the NUT in supporting the lobby.
Council workers in Havering could be set to ballot for strike action against a £17 million cuts package pushed through last week by the minority Labour council.
The council was elected last May in a landslide which kicked out the BNP's Derek Beackon and ended years of Liberal control. Labour promised then to stand up for local people. Now it is pushing through Tory cuts.
Rents are going up by an average £4.90 a week--16 percent--and all youth and community education budgets are being cut by 20 percent.
The Pensioners Action Group has called a demonstration on Saturday 11 March through Telford town centre. Assemble outside library at 10am.
Protesters also plan to lobby the Social Services Committee on Tuesday 14 March outside Shire Hall in Shrewsbury at 9.30am.
They are responding to last week's decision by the Tories and Liberals to vote through £18 million of cuts and take an extra £5.5 million from reserves in order to stay inside government spending restrictions.
Around 90 percent of schools have started consultation procedures required in the case of compulsory redundancies.
School meals will go up and new sixth formers will have to pay £50 a year for transport.
The meeting also agreed to send a coach to the FACE demonstration in London on 25 March and to invite parents and governors on the coach.
A local demonstration is due to take place on Saturday 11 March and three coaches have already been booked to go to the national FACE demonstration.
A joint Lab-Lib-Dem budget has been passed reducing planned cuts.
But job losses will mean larger classes, a worsening of conditions and poorer education.
Coaches have been booked for the FACE demo on 25 March and union members planned petitioning and leafleting in Leicester city centre this Saturday.
For further details contact NUT office: 2539310.
A speaker from FACE said parents and school governors should take the lead in the fight against cuts.
Nottingham FACE meeting: Thursday 9 March, 7.30 pm: YMCA, Nottingham. Supported by Notts NUT and Notts UNISON. Labour MP Alan Simpson speaking. Coach for national FACE demonstration leaves Windley Junior School, Radford, 9am, 25 March
A MASS meeting of manual workers in Hackney council's department of environmental services in east London is due to discuss an immediate overtime ban at a meeting this Friday if management have not backed down on a proposal to increase their working hours to 40 a week.
UP TO 70 firefighters protested against fire service cuts last Monday. Firefighters across the county also protested by answering only 999 calls for 24 hours.
The firefighters' FBU union will respond when it becomes clear how the cuts will be implemented.
TEACHERS IN Islington, north London, have won a victory over cuts. The council has agreed to withdraw compulsory redundancies for advisory and section 11 teachers who were to be sacked at the end of this term.
The decision follows a successful strike vote and a planned day of industrial action.
The council then asked for an urgent meeting with the union, the NUT, and at that meeting agreed to withdraw all the redundancies.
The union is committed to ensuring that we build on this success next term and protect the jobs of all Section 11 teachers.
Southwark NUT has been given the go ahead for a strike ballot to save 75 Section 11 jobs. This would coincide with a national day of action on 30 March.
PARENTS, TEACHERS and school governors are set to lobby parliament on 21 March in protest at the cuts.
The lobby is supported by national organisations of parents, governors, local authorities and teachers.
The lobby organisers are calling for one parent, one governor and three teachers--from the NUT, ATL and NASUWT teaching unions--from each constituency.
THREE NUT school reps in Trafford, Manchester, are to be called before a union disciplinary meeting on 30 March, charged with selling Socialist Worker and handing out leaflets.
An open letter is being launched to oppose this witch hunt and to protect democracy within the NUT. More details next week.
THOUSANDS OF Post Office Counters workers struck on Monday against the Tories' backdoor privatisation policies.
In Glasgow around 50 delivery workers, not directly involved in the action, refused for some time to cross a picket line of striking counter workers at the George Square office.
They were ushered into work only after they came under pressure from union officials.
A delivery worker said, "We should not be crossing picket lines. We should be out alongside these strikers."
Since 1988 Post Office Counters Limited (POCL) has sold off over 700 offices to supermarkets and retail chain stores. They now plan to axe another 400 along with 3,500 jobs in four years time.
The response to the call for action was good, despite management claims that it had been a complete flop. Half to two thirds of offices called out were completely closed.
The action was most effective in areas where activists organised picketing and tried to involve people in activity.
The workers' CWU union called for action in 19 branches out of 70 across the country. Some offices in the target regions did remain open, but only by managers going on the tills and bosses bussing scabs around.
However, if the campaign is to go forward it has to shift tactics. At present the CWU has called a series of strikes months apart. That will have little more than a propaganda effect.
CWU national officials must be pressured to call for real resistance wherever an office is threatened and to launch a renewed campaign for national action. That would be most powerful if it included an appeal to sorting and delivery workers, and workers in Parcelforce, not to cross picket lines.
POSTAL WORKERS in north west London are continuing to resist the new working practices resulting from the CADR (Computer Assisted Delivery Revision) review.
There have been two spontaneous go slows in the Kentish Town area recently and, if bosses implement CADR without agreement, action is set for 20 March at delivery offices across north west London.
CADR increases the workload, demands quicker delivery times and cuts jobs. Before Christmas CWU union members in both north west and south west London voted clearly for action against CADR. It was one of the issues that led to the walkouts at NWDO sorting and delivery office and the unofficial strike by 20,000 across London.
CIVIL SERVICE union leaders seem to have succeeded in restricting action on "JSA Day"--the official day of protest they called against the Job Seeker's Allowance.
In most places protests on Thursday 16 March will be limited to handing out leaflets.
Yet the JSA is an attack on millions of the unemployed as well as tens of thousands of civil servants. It threatens claimants with fines if they turn down rotten jobs or pointless "training schemes".
What is more, by cutting entitlement to unemployment benefit, it threatens EVERY worker.
There is a mood for much more action.
"People are asking why we are not on strike," says a CPSA member in Liverpool. Activists in some offices have organised their own protests.
A lunchtime demonstration is planned in Liverpool, a burning of UB40 cards in Newcastle and a public meeting in Brighton.
Call a lunchtime protest outside your Job Centre, Employment Service or Benefits Agency office.
FIFTY THOUSAND members of the Inland Revenue Staffs Federation have voted 54 percent to 46 percent to accept the Change Agreement recommended by their union.
The result was far closer than expected.
This agreement signs away at least 12,500 jobs and will cut pay and conditions.
It went through because union leaders recommended it and told members they would be looking at an all out strike of at least six weeks if they voted against.
The job losses can only come from changes in work practices that require IRSF members' cooperation.
Disgracefully, union officials are now telling every office to come up with a plan to get rid of the required number of jobs.
Activists should refuse to submit a plan in their own office and argue for every office to do the same.
WHY IS the train drivers' union ASLEF still sitting on the results of its referendum for action on pay and against privatisation?
Although the vote was overwhelmingly for action, ASLEF says it will not announce the official result until after British Rail makes a formal pay offer.
The RMT union meanwhile has done nothing except issue a claim for a substantial rise.
Yet if privatisation goes ahead pay bargaining will be fragmented with the unions facing hundreds of separate employers.
The process has already begun with Railtrack demanding separate negotiations.
"If we launched a united fight on pay it would stop privatisation in its tracks," a train driver from Yorkshire told Socialist Worker. "But", he added, "everyone should remember last year. The ASLEF executive accepted 2.5 percent and stuck to it even though it was rejected by the conference."
While the union leaders do nothing, rail bosses are pressing ahead with attacks on conditions and jobs.
The Wembley depot in north London is to close with the loss of over 200 jobs. Activists in ASLEF, RMT and TSSA should be circulating petitions demanding action over pay.
SCHOOLCHILDREN have been going on strike against the M77 motorway extension, which builder Wimpey wants to plough through their working class area of Glasgow.
Children from Bellarmine Secondary School demanded their headmaster allow them time off to join the protests at Pollok Free State--the base of protests against the motorway.
One school student said, "This is our future. We'll quit when Wimpeys do." Last Tuesday three students were arrested at a protest.
Wimpey is continuing to battle against local opposition. On Friday more protesters were arrested in a dawn raid on one of the occupied sites.
THE SCOTTISH TUC has called a demonstration against the Criminal Justice Act and the Criminal Justice Bill (Scotland) for Saturday 1 April.
PROTESTERS against the CJA will picket Wokingham council building to protest against the eviction of travellers by the council. Monday 13 March, 7.30 pm.
A DEMONSTRATION is planned outside Windsor Magistrates Court on Monday 20 March at 9.45am in support of those arrested at the mass trespass on the queen's land at Windsor last month.
by IAN TAYLOR
WORKERS AT the Rolls Royce aero-engine plant at Ansty, outside Coventry, were celebrating a partial victory on Monday in their fight to retain a full time union convenor.
Hundreds of AEEU engineering union members in the repair and services (RAES) section walked out on strike three times last week.
They were furious at the company's attempt to cut their convenor's facility time to mornings only, and rightly saw it as an attack on the union. When management took the convenor "off the clock"--stopped paying him for time spent on union activities--they walked out.
The company was clearly rocked.
On Monday it retreated and allowed convenor Alan Wilkins to continue his union work in the afternoon.
But he told Socialist Worker, "The issue is not resolved yet. We are still in talks."
Workers in the RAES section at the plant first walked out at midday on Monday of last week when the convenor was ordered off the clock.
They rightly did not wait to hold a ballot.
They did the same the following day.
On Wednesday the company issued every worker with a threatening letter, saying they were in breach of contract and putting their jobs at risk.
They simply came out again at midday.
"Rolls seem determined not to allow a full time convenor. But we're prepared to walk out every day so long as they refuse to accept one," an AEEU member told Socialist Worker.
On Thursday the AEEU officially repudiated the strike action. But the company, unable to stop the walkouts, asked for talks.
There was no further walkout while management and unions met on Thursday afternoon, but work effectively stopped for the duration of the meeting. Talks were set to continue this week.
The prompt action by Rolls workers should be a lesson to every trade unionist. This was a serious attack on the union that could have heralded an offensive across the company if it had gone unchallenged. Employers across engineering would have been encouraged to try the same.
Rolls bosses launched the attack because they are worried.
They want new "annualised" working hours which would abolish overtime and mean workers would have to do whatever hours they were ordered so long as they averaged 37 a week over a year.
The workers' ballot on this was due to finish on Monday.
"Management clearly hoped to influence the result," said one worker. "But they misread the situation completely."
The union should not delay in calling action. Last week's walkouts need to be followed up quickly to keep Rolls bosses on the run.
WORKERS IN the test area of the Rolls site in Bristol stopped work for an hour last Thursday to attend a mass meeting in support of the Ansty workers.
"WE ARE not giving in. There is still a fight on and this shows what we can do when the national union gives only a bit of a lead."
That is what one member of the lecturers' union NATFHE said as staff at some 60 further education colleges across England and Wales were set to strike this week.
The action was part of a week of protest against the new contracts the employers and the Tories want to impose.
They want to increase the workload of staff drastically while upping student numbers and introducing "business ethics" into education.
"It shows the employers have not won and they're not going to," says another union member.
It was pressure from below that forced NATFHE leaders to call strike action, as national negotiations with the employers' CEF broke down and it became clear the strategy of local deals is failing.
Colleges so far uninvolved in the action were set to take part. Swansea College was to strike for a day, its first strike since the dispute began.
Greenhill College in Harrow won its first strike ballot too.
Lecturers in nearby Uxbridge were out last Saturday petitioning in defence of further education and in support of their strike.
"We were amazed by the amount of support we got," said a lecturer.
Preston College is also to ballot over contracts, after the employers hailed the college as a model when the vast majority of staff signed new contracts.
"Winning action was made easier by the official call," says a lecturer. "But we still needed rank and file co-ordination to get things going. Now we have to build on this."
The colleges set to strike this week (on Wednesday unless indicated) were: Anglia: Suffolk College nEast Midlands: High Peak College (8th and 9th) nInner London: Hackney, Hammersmith and West London (10th), Kingsway, Lewisham, South Thames, City of Westminster nNorth West: Accrington and Rossendale, Burnley, City of Manchester (6th, 7th, 8th), Rochdale Hopwood Hall, West Cheshire, Macclesfield (7th, 8th, 9th), Salford (7th), Southport, South Trafford, Warrington (6th, 7th, 8th), Wirral. Bolton lecturers are to strike on the 14th, along with students, when education minister Tim Boswell visits the college and Blackburn College is to strike on the 14th and 15th to hit inspection. nNorthern: Carlisle, West Cumbria nOuter London: Croydon (8th, 9th), Richmond, Southgate, Stanmore, Uxbridge, Weald nSouth East: West Kent nSouthern: Henley (10th) nWestern: Bournemouth and Poole (10th), Soundwell (9th), South Bristol (9th) nYorkshire and Humberside: Calderdale (7th), Bradford and Ilkley (7th, 8th), Rotherham (9th), Selby, Shipley nWales: Aberdare (8th, 9th), Deeside (8th, 9th), Gwent, Menai, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath (7th, 9th), Rhondda, Swansea (9th), Ystrad Mynach nWest Midlands: Bourneville, Handsworth, Telford, Tile Hill, Shrewsbury, Walsall, Dudley.
LECTURERS AT Southwark College in south London have voted by 83 to 74 for an all out strike against redundancies.
The action was due to start next week. NATFHE members everywhere need to get behind Southwark. Colleges everywhere are threatened with redundancies.
Invite a speaker from Southwark to address your union meeting. Organise levies in support of Southwark strikers.
ELECTIONS ARE taking place for some seats on NATFHE's national executive. Fight the Contracts and Socialist Lecturers Alliance candidates are standing:
AROUND 150 lecturers at Clydebank College in Glasgow staged an unofficial walkout last week over management attempts to discipline a worker who has been at the college 30 years.
"The victimisation was only the spark that ignited the mood," said one member of staff.
Management tried to impose a new disciplinary procedure and refused to postpone the hearing so that a full time union officer could attend. Angry lecturers held an emergency meeting and voted to walk out.
"It was a spontaneous call. Everyone thought this is just the last straw," said a lecturer.
Management at Clydebank want to increase the working week and cut holidays.
"They have been generally tightening the screw. But the feeling was smashing after Wednesday."
THE NATIONAL day of action over nurses' pay on 30 March is gaining momentum.
Health unions are calling for protests all over the country against the derisory 1 percent pay offer. However, there are signs that some trusts want to pre-empt any action by offering an additional 2 percent.
This is not because they care about putting more money in nurses' pockets. They are scared of nurses taking action.
Health union UNISON has pledged to fight for a national pay deal, but the other main nursing organisation--the no-strike Royal College of Nursing--has accepted local bargaining.
Local deals are divisive, pitting hospital against hospital. They will give trusts the green light to impose their own conditions and will mean further cuts in services.
Nurses need a national pay rise--and a rise worth fighting for. Unfortunately both UNISON and the RCN have limited their demands to 3 percent. UNISON should stick out for its original 8.3 percent claim. Action already planned for 30 March includes:
This will mean nurses taking on clerical jobs and clerks having to take temperatures, read pulses and possibly take blood samples from patients.
The money saving drive will make workers do three jobs for the price of one--cleaning, clerical work and helping medical staff in emergencies.
Managers have been shocked by the strength of feeling displayed at mass meetings and have been forced to delay advertising the new jobs.
A further mass meeting is planned on 17 March.
Scotland's biggest trust--Grampian Healthcare--to derecognise it.
At an emergency meeting last week UNISON members voted for industrial action if management tries to implement its threat.
JOURNALISTS in Sheffield have won a victory in a fight for improved heath and safety rights.
The Health and Safety Executive has served an improvement notice on management at the Sheffield Star.
Star bosses must make improvements demanded to working conditions by 24 April or face court action and a possible fine.
The factory inspector was called in by members of the National Union of Journalists because five journalists had been diagnosed by the company's own doctor as suffering from Repetitive Strain Injury.
The latest move comes as part of a long running battle to defend union rights at the Star.
Sheffield Newspapers' NUJ Chapel (union branch) was derecognised for pay bargaining last April. Then in December management also derecognised the union for health and safety.
When journalists held a protest meeting two chapel officials were disciplined. The health and safety ruling is a boost to the campaign to win back union rights at the Star.
SOME 450 print workers at Harrisons, High Wycombe, are banning overtime and flexibility in response to imposed changes in working practices.
The company is also refusing to recognise the six chapels and chapel committees of the workers' GPMU union.
At the same time 29 industrial tribunal cases will be heard this month for Harrisons workers who were dismissed when the company tore up redundancy selection and payment agreements last year.
The current dispute must be stepped up for a decisive victory. Regular mass meetings must be held to involve members and to prepare to escalate the action.
THE BATTLE of the 105 sacked Chelmsford bus workers to win their jobs back has won the backing of the TUC.
The workers were sacked by Eastern National--a subsidiary of the massive Badgerline company--for going on strike before Christmas.
John Monks, general secretary of the TUC said last week, "The TUC, will give its full support to the Chelmsford bus drivers and calls for their immediate reinstatement."
Trade unionists should take this as a green light to raise the Chelmsford dispute in the unions and give backing to the national demonstration called by the TGWU for 25 March.
MICK DANAHER--the TGWU branch secretary at Exel Logistics, Rotherham, sacked by the firm because he left his keys in his lorry while helping to dig another lorry out of a snowdrift--was due to have his final appeal this week.
The campaign to get him reinstated has gathered pace. Mick spoke at Sheffield and Barnsley Trades Councils and got pledges of support from unions, including TGWU Mainline Bus Depot in Sheffield, TGWU Beatson Clark's Glassworks in Barnsley, Sheffield and Rotherham NUJ, Barnsley UNISON Health, Barnsley UNISON (ex-NUPE), Barnsley GMB, Barnsley NUT and Barnsley NATFHE.
Labour MEP Roger Barton is also supporting the campaign, as is Sheffield UNISON Number 2 branch.
If Mick's appeal fails the campaign intends to demonstrate outside Sainsbury's. Exel's work is exclusively tied up with delivering to Sainsbury's.
WORKERS AT Lucas Aerospace in Wolverhampton rejected management's 3 percent pay offer and are now being consulted on a revised deal.
The new deal means an extra 1 percent to be paid from August onwards with some limited strings attached. Workers should reject the new pay offer and demand their AEEU union ballots for action to win a decent rise without strings.
WORKERS AT Vosper Thorneycroft shipyards in Southampton were to meet this week to discuss management's 2.5 percent pay offer.
Shop stewards from the workers' GMB, TGWU and UCATT unions were recommending rejection of the deal.
>HUNDREDS OF Nottinghamshire miners and supporters marched in Ollerton last Saturday to commemorate the 1984-5 strike.
A rally was addressed by Henry Richardson, secretary of Notts NUM, who warned miners against new coal owners RJB Mining.
The pit was originally bought by mine workers and run as a cooperative, but last year a private company took a substantial stake in the company.
The dispute flaired when management stopped all production bonuses. Faced with action they backed down and agreed some bonus payment.
ZENECA, THE break off chemical company from ICI, is threatening to derecognise union bargaining at its plants.
The next step of the campaign to defend the unions is a national delegate conference on 18 March.
But some workers are worried that national officials from the MSF and TGWU unions are preparing to sell a rotten deal.
But the company can still be stopped by rank and file action.
Every plant needs a mass meeting prior to 18 March where the arguments for action can be put.
PARENTS around the country are reeling in shock as this year's education cuts hit individual schools.
Over £200 million is being axed from education nationally, with the bulk of these cuts directly affecting schools.
The thousands of people who have protested outside council meetings have forced some councils to defy the government's spending limits.
Up to this week Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Shropshire and Newcastle have defied the government cap. But it is vital the campaign continues. Even in these areas councils are still implementing cuts budgets.
The focus of the fight to defend our schools is now moving to school governors.
They have until the end of this month to set their own budgets for individual schools.
If the cuts go through, teachers will get the sack and class sizes will rise.
The National Association of Head Teachers says governing bodies should let school budgets go into the red rather than sack teachers.
Every week governors meeting across the country are showing their determination not to sack teachers by voting for budgets which reflect what children need instead of implementing the cuts.
Last week an 80 strong governors meeting in Sheffield voted to pass illegal budgets. A similar meeting in Lambeth, south London, agreed to call on governing bodies to set no-cuts budgets.
As Cornwall's section of the National Association of Governors and Managers says, "We are not prepared to stand back and see the education service spiral into decline through lack of funding."
Parents are also voicing their anger. Last week 200 parents attended a meeting about the cuts in Stocksfield, outside Newcastle.
They know the government is to blame for the cuts.
In many areas parents, governors and teachers are building the national demonstration called by Fight Against Cuts in Education (FACE) on 25 March. Nottinghamshire parent Sarah Leigh Barnett says, "We have got two FACE meetings planned this week. I've written to all the schools in Nottinghamshire and told the heads to distribute FACE leaflets to parents.
"One mother phoned me today because she'd got the leaflet. I said stand up and be counted, come to the meeting and help sell tickets for the coach to the march on 25 March."
Sarah stresses the importance of booking transport and distributing leaflets and publicity for the march now.
"Visit the school, do a petition and get a meeting. That way you get the support from parents in the local area," she added.
Debbie Webster, another local parent, says she was welcomed with open arms when she went into her child's school to talk about fighting the cuts.
In Sheffield parents have already booked 12 coaches for the march, with many coming from individual schools.
"So far we've got 27 parents going just from my son's school," says Ben Morris. "I'm sure we can fill a coach. Word gets round a primary school--parents talk to each other. We are going to pay for the coach by selling tickets and we can do a collection at the school gate."
Already five Sheffield schools are planning to hold a bonfire the night before the national demonstration, in line with the call from FACE nationally.
Teachers in Sheffield are also balloting for a one day strike against the cuts and a number of schools plan to start action against rising class sizes.
"It is essential we fight the cuts," says a Wolverhampton parent governor. "At my school a teacher is getting the sack. I don't just want funding levels to stay the same. I want a decent level of funding for schools so children can have a decent education."
LABOUR AND trade union leaders should be throwing their full weight behind the 25 March demonstration--but unfortunately they are not.
The Labour Party is arguing against governors setting illegal budgets, rather than back their fight against Tory cuts.
"I spoke at a meeting of governors and parents in Nottingham based around a number of local schools," says Sarah Leigh Barnett.
"A Labour councillor was trying to persuade people not to set illegal budgets. People were disappointed. they expected something different from Labour.
"Setting school budgets should be based on giving our children the best education. If that means the budget is outside the government's financial constraints, then so be it."
Labour councillors were defeated when they tried to undermine a motion supporting illegal budgets at a 150 strong meeting on class size in Sheffield last week.
Shamefully, no national union is backing the 25 March demonstration.
At the Sheffield meeting Anne Moran, the NUT national treasurer, abstained when a vote was taken on supporting the demo.
This response makes it much harder for parents to build the protest. But at a local level teaching unions are voting to back the march.
"It's the first time I've done anything like this," one parent told Socialist Worker. "Without the help and advice of the NUT and the UNISON union reps who got in touch with me I wouldn't have been able to organise in Nottinghamshire."
Debbie, a governor from Wolverhampton, explains that it is only funding from the NUT and UNISON locally that has allowed them to produce leaflets and arrange transport for the march.
It is vital union members get their union branches to back the march and provide funding for publicity and transport.
And it is also essential the unions use their power to stop the cuts. Teachers are currently balloting for action in a number of different areas.
That action needs to be coordinated. The teachers' union leaders cannot be allowed to hide behind the parents' protests. If they called action it would win wide support.
Education secretary Gillian Shephard fears such action. In her leaked letter to other cabinet members she warned the cuts could cause disruption in the schools.
The Tories are hoping if they stick to their guns they can ride out the current wave of protest. The teaching union leaders should be calling the sort of strike action which can halt the government now.