Battle of Ideas

"Albanian" result leads to German building workers' strike

After a secret ballot, held at union offices, which resulted in a 99% "yes" vote for strike action (turnout "around a third"), workers in Germany have begun the first nationwide strike in the building industry since 1949. As this article is published (Tuesday) the strike is in its second day.

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Yorkie (and everything else inlife) is for girls!

Sometimes sexist advertising really cheeses us off. Here is how one young reader,
Rebecca Barnett, broached the subject with the manufacturers of Yorkie chocolate bars.

DEAR Nestle and whomever else it might concern,
I'm writing to tell you how appalled I am with your "new" Yorkie wrapper. It is sexist and encourages a patriarchal view on things.

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German students strike against proposed fees

Currently (Tuesday lunchtime) around 8,000 students are demonstrating in the German city of Düsseldorf against the planned introduction of tuition fees. Reports are of students having broken through police lines and the demonstration has reached the regional parliament of the state of North-Rhein-Westphalia (NRW), some students have gone inside the parliament buildings. A number of
students also disrupted Chancellor Schröder, who defended the plans, at a rally launching his re-election campaign in the town of Mühlheim today. The police removed the 100 students - who according to Schröder, "looked too old" to be students, from the hall. On a demonstration on June 8 (a Saturday) 40,000 students demonstrated in Düsseldorf against fees. Slogans used on the marches include "Rich parents for all" or "Tax the companies, not students".

Trade Unions: 

New turn needed in campaign to stop war on Iraq

By Dan Nichols
An "activists' conference" held by the Stop The War Coalition in central London on 16 June was sparsely attended. Only a few activists from outside London turned up, and those from London were mostly SWP diehards with a small sprinkling of pacifists and people from other activist-left groups.
The campaign seems to be pinning most of its hopes on a CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) demonstration against war on Iraq, on 28 September in London, which it is helping to build, and a week of action in July.

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Cross-union appeal against PCS "coup"

From a leaflet published by the Socialist Alliance
Mark Serwotka was active and well-known as a socialist, both within his union and in broader fields, for many years before he was elected General Secretary. There was and is no secret about it. PCS members voted for him knowing who he is and what he stands for.
Their vote was part of a growing trend for trade unionism to revive after many hard years. Several other unions have elected leaders seen as standing for more vigorous trade unionism - Bob Crowe in the RMT, Mick Rix in ASLEF, Billy Hayes in the CWU, Paul Mackney in NATFHE, Tony Woodley in the TGWU. Right now Derek Simpson is challenging Ken Jackson in the AEEU on the same basis.
The coup in PCS is an attempt to stop that whole process, right across the trade union movement. Every trade unionist should help PCS members resist it.

The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Trade Unions: 

Ceci n'est pas une assemblée nationale ...

From the French Marxist bulletin Liaisons
L'heure des bilans approche, et ce sera aussi l'heure des batailles contre le gouvernement Chirac-Raffarin, le gouvernement de combat du patronat, le gouvernement de restauration de la V° République dans toute la plénitude de ses pouvoirs.
Pendant 5 ans, l'Assemblée nationale élue en juin 1997 contre Chirac, effet différé du mouvement de décembre 1995 contre la destruction de la Sécurité sociale, n'a pas respecté son mandat. Car elle avait un mandat : rompre avec Chirac, ne pas ratifier le traité d'Amsterdam (ce qui était même une promesse électorale de Jospin), imposer un gouvernement qui aille dans les sens des travailleurs.

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Swaziland faces isolation

The Internal Security Bill of 2002, otherwise known as the Makhundu, has begun to attract national and international outrage just weeks after it was announced.

The Makhundu, which retrenches the government's repressive stranglehold on the democratic opposition (see Simunye Update, 17 June 2002: http://www.swazis.org.uk/simup-170602.pdf ), appears to have already come into force before going through the official rubber-stamping procedures.

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Unions start to fight back

Solidarity 3/9 - 25th June 2002
Council workers, firefighters, tube workers, train conductors, lecturers, air traffic controllers...
Unions start to fight back
Link the struggles!



Firefighters demonstrate. London local government workers, members of UNISON, strike for two days, and British Museum workers and South Bank University lecturers for one day each. The Tube union RMT prepares to ballot for renewed strike action about privatisation, and local government workers across the country - TGWU and GMB as well as UNISON - ballot for action in a national pay dispute distinct from the London weighting dispute they have struck over.

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SSP practising censorship?

Peter Burton, a member of the Scottish Socialist Party, writes:

I have received rather unique treatment in terms of censorship within the SSP over the years. Around 15 articles have not been printed over a 4 year period, most of them uncritical reviews of books or documentaries and none of them long. In other words nothing has been printed that I have sent in to the "Scottish Socialist Voice".

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Bread and Roses: We want it all!

The Guardian's recent series of articles on the legacy of feminism was very Guardian women's page. Sometimes irritating, middle-classey, kind-of-socialisticy, anti-globalisationy kind of fare. Nonetheless I found myself broadly in agreement with the conclusions - even with those of the dreadful (ex-SDPer) Polly Toynbee.

What is "feminism"? A short definition is - a belief in equality for women with men. But the feminist goal, as Katherine Viner analysed quite well, has come to be associated with the watered-down reformist/capitalist spin on equality, that is "equality of opportunity". Feminism is now about women having the best of capitalism - lots of consumer goods and managerial jobs. If one accepts the status quo and the myth that it is possible for most people, men and women both, to have these things, it becomes easier to talk about how feminism has achieved its goals.

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13 million strike in Spain

Fight for workers' rights across Europe!
By Lucy Clement and Hannah Wood

A general strike in Spain on Thursday 20 June was a resounding success. The trade union federations united to bring Spain to a virtual standstill. The UGT (socialist union federation) and CCOO (Communist union federation) reported 84% of workers across the country supporting the strike. That is, nearly 13 million workers went on strike!

There were some very large demonstrations, especially in the capital Madrid and various places in the southern region of Andalucia (where the support for the strike was the reportedly the strongest, at 93%). The Basque country was the weakest region but even there the unions report good support, especially in urban transportation and some industry.

The strike is against attacks by the right-wing Partido Popular
(Popular Party) government on unemployment protection. The government also want to make people work for benefits. Tony Blair's friend, the Spanish president Jose Maria Aznar, has been uncompromising in his opposition to the unions. The police were used against strikers in a number of places, some workers were arrested and in Madrid the police blockaded the headquarters of the UGT. A number of workers were injured in confrontations with the police.

The general strike in Spain follows a huge strike two months ago in
Italy over changes to employment law. Further action in Spain looks likely.

The Spanish action coincided with a series of strikes by air traffic controllers which brought European flights to a halt.

A all-day walkout by controllers in France, Greece, Portugal, Hungary and Italy on Wednesday 19 June was followed by a 24-hour strike by Spanish controllers on Thursday 20th - part of the general strike. In Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland air traffic controllers worked to rule.

The air traffic controllers have been striking against plans to privatise the continent's air traffic control system. Under the EU's "single skies" plan, national air traffic services will be replaced by systems based on "air corridors". But trade unions say the plan will lead to job cuts and compromise safety.

Among those hit by the strike was Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, who was stranded at the airport en route to a meeting in Spain.

The action in Spain in elsewhere in Europe should be an inspiration to unions in the UK. Tony Blair is happy to join the Aznar-Berlusconi gang to attack workers' rights: we should be joining European workers to stop them!

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Trade Unions: 

CWU Conference

Not "how many redundancies?" but "what sort of service?"
By a postal worker


In the face of threats of massive redundancies in the Post Office, our union's response has been sadly lacking in vision and has squandered opportunities. Instead of raising the call to "fight for a decent job for all postal workers" we heard once again "avoid compulsory redundancies".

Trade Unions: 

Defend left bookshops!

Six years down the line, left-wing bookshops Housmans and Bookmarks
are still facing a potentially ruinous libel case for stocking the
respected anti-fascist magazine Searchlight.
The case was brought by someone criticised in Searchlight.
"Astoundingly, British law allows anyone who claims they have been
libelled to sue a shop, distributor or library handling the allegedly
libellous publication, as well as or instead of suing the author,
editor and publisher," said Albert Beale of Housmans.
This case has still not reached a conclusion although it relates to
an article in a 1993 issue of Searchlight and the case was first
brought in 1996. This action is one of several initiated then by
people criticised in Searchlight, in what could be seen as
politically motivated attacks on progressive bookshops.
Housmans, which is linked to the magazine Peace News, and Bookmarks,
run by the Socialist Workers Party, have been fighting the case with
a defence of "innocent dissemination", in effect arguing that it is
impossible for bookshops, particularly small independents, to check -
and take responsibility for - the content of the thousands of
publications in stock at any one time. The shops feel that it is
important to try to take a stand, otherwise there might be no end to
this sort of "legal intimidation".
The shops are facing a new round of legal bills as the case moves
towards a conclusion, and so are relaunching the appeal fund for this
important case. Housmans has recently been targeted with a further
libel writ from one of the group who sued over Searchlight. This
case, relating to criticism in another publication, similarly
threatens the free circulation of radical material.

l Donations to "Bookshop Libel Fund", c/o HOUSMANS BOOKSHOP, 5
Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX, 020 7278 4474 or c/o BOOKMARKS
BOOKSHOP, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE, 020 7637 1848.

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The AWL, Labour and the Left: 

Disability isn't just a cultural difference

Solidarity 3/8 contained an article by Lynne Moffat: Dignity in Life as well as death, which commented on the case of Diane Pretty and argued that as well defending her right to choose the time of her death, socialists need to look at their own prejudices about disabled people anbd the idea that society views the existence of disabled people as a 'shame'.
This letter is a response to that view

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When England had a republic

from Solidarity 3/9 - 25th June 2002
Experiences in revolutionary history
Had enough of Golden Jubilee sycophancy? Three hundred and fifty years or so ago they'd had enough of Royalty too. In 1649, the English Parliament cut off the King's head, abolished the House of Lords, and proclaimed a Republic.
In the first of two articles, Lucy Clement looks at the background to the revolution of the 1640s

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French workers brace against blue wave

By Vicki Morris

Solidarity 3/9 - 25th June 2002

It is hard to imagine a more depressing outcome than that produced by the French general election on 9 and 16 June. The right-wing Unionfor a Presidential Majority - supporters of President Jacques Chirac - won 399 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, France's Parliament.

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Rally for Friction Dynamics

A thousand strong rally in support of Friction Dynamics workers was held on 8 June in Caernarfon. 87 workers at the motor parts factory have been locked out for over a year.

The dispute started when US boss Craig Smith tried to cut time-off and enforce a pay cut of 15 per cent. The lock-out came about when Smith enforced the 1999 Employment Act which allows employers to dismiss workers after an eight week dispute in which the employer has "followed an appropriate procedure to resolve the dispute."

Trade Unions: 

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German students strike

Matt Heaney reports from Germany

On Tuesday 18 June around 8,000 students demonstrated in the German city of Düsseldorf against the planned introduction of tuition fees in the North-Rhein-Westphalia state. Students broke through police lines to reach the regional parliament and occupied the buildings.

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