Solidarity 044, 22 January 2004

West Midlands Land Rover dispute

Trade union Amicus has written to Land Rover, asking them to resume talks to resolve the pay dispute at the Solihull and Gaydon plants in the West Midlands.

TGWU and Amicus members at Land Rover are due to hold another 24-hour stoppage on Monday 9 February after holding a successful strike on Monday 26 January.

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After the Hutton Report: free Katharine Gun!

Going to press on 21 January, we do not know what the Hutton Report will say about whether the Blair government culpably exposed government scientist David Kelly to the pressures which led him to suicide.
We know about Katharine Gun, though. And Baha Mousa, Kifa Taha, and Abd al-Jabbar Mossa.

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Obituary: Cecilia Prosper

Cecilia Prosper, former Islington UNISON steward, Socialist Alliance candidate in North-East London in the GLA 2000 elections, and a member of the Socialist Workers Party, has died of cancer at the age of 44. Cecilia was victimised from her job at Islington council after a strike in the late 1990s, but led the appeal which indicted the council. Our sympathy and condolences to her family and many friends. A memorial event will be announced shortly.

Details: Socialist Worker website

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Obituary: Hugh McGrillen

Hugh McGrillen, a long-time MSF left activist and for many years London regional secretary of the MSF, has died of cancer. Hugh, a qualified chemist, worked as an advice worker at the London Hazards Centre. He was also a member of the Irish national chess team.

In 1999 the London Region of the MSF was excluded from voting in the Labour Party mayoral ballot on the utterly spurious grounds of late payment of affiliation. Hugh and his comrades fought the exclusion.

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Renationalise rail now!

By Gerry Bates

Railway privatisation has been a disaster, for passengers, for railworkers, for taxpayers. Public money spent on the railways now is three times what it was in the last year of the nationalised railways. Private Train Operating Companies are raking in profits.

Fare rises this year will be above inflation, as Train Operating Companies pass the costs of the improvements they must make on to passengers.

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Civil Contingencies Bill - War on civil liberties

By Joan Trevor

On 19 January the Civil Contingencies Bill (CCB) had its second reading in Parliament. If it becomes law it will give the Government vastly increased powers in the event of an emergency such as a terrorist attack or... another outbreak of foot and mouth disease!

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Kick out Blair, not the railworkers!

By a Tubeworker



The Labour Party has written to the rail union RMT warning the union that unless the Executive revokes its decision to allow Scottish RMT branches to affiliate to the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), we will be outside the rules of the Labour Party. That essentially means our union's expulsion.

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Referendum rubbish

George Galloway and his "Respect" coalition are saying that the June Euro and local government elections should be made a referendum on Tony Blair.

So after June we should add up the Tory, Lib Dem, Scottish National Party, and other non-Labour votes, and crack open the champagne if the total is large enough?

The left should oust Blair. Not by hoping that the Tories' votes plus our little extra come to enough to dishearten him, but by mobilising the unions to reject both Blair and Brown and re-establish accountable working-class political representation.

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Press gang: Bad news day? Have a spliff

By Lucy Clement

This week in the world of the media:

In the grand Government tradition of avoiding awkward issues by having a "review", Bob Phillis, chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, has published his report into Government communications. Phillis was asked to investigate after the Jo Moore affair (she who thought September 11 was a good day to bury bad news). However, Jo Moore's shenanigans have faded into insignificance after the Kelly/Gilligan/Campbell debacle.

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ESF in London... as resources allow

By Tony Jeffries

There are plans to hold the 3rd European Social Forum (ESF) in London. But large obstacles still stand in the way.

About 200 people attended the European preparatory assembly for the London ESF, held on Saturday 13-Sunday 14 December, with a good attendance from all over Europe. About 100 people attended from Britain, but not the range of organisations that will need to be involved if the ESF is to be a success. Reports of the assembly are available here.

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Tax the rich, don't scapegoat refugees

In a recent Mori poll four out of 10 white people said they wanted to live in area with people of the same ethnic background. More older white people than younger felt this way. Any way you look at it, and even taking into account the smallness of the sample - just 1000 - the figure is shocking.

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APPEAL: Help the Israeli refuseniks!

Dear comrades,
The Refusers Parents Forum is an informal organisation of friends and relatives of Israeli Conscientious Objectors who have just been sentenced for a second year in military jail. They have refused to enlist in the Israel army (IDF) while it remains an occupation force.

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Haiti: the crisis and the workers

By Mark Osborn

At the end of March a sweatshop union organiser from the militant Haitian trade union Batay Ouvriye will go on a speaker tour of Britain organised by No Sweat and the Haiti Support Group.

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Where can Iranian workers protest against all MPs?

By Yassamine Mather

News about Iran in the Western press has been dominated by the sit-in staged by "reformist" MPs in the Islamic Majles [parliament] who are protesting at the Guardian Council's decision to ban more than 3,000 candidates in next month's elections.

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Recent workers' struggles in China

News of the class struggle will be easier to follow in English from now on, thanks to a monthly bulletin produced by the China Labour Bulletin.

The online bulletin, produced in Hong Kong, is an excellent source of information on workers' struggles inside China, where over 200 million industrial workers produce a huge volume of clothes, trainers, toys and other products sold all over the world. Some recent examples of class struggle are summarised below.

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Workers of the world: ROUND-UP

By Pablo Velasco

  • Workers will stand in Korean election
  • Appeal by Korean migrant workers union
  • Crackdown in West Papua



Workers will stand in Korean election

South Korean workers are braced for another year of conflict with employers and the government - fighting on many fronts: for a five-day working week, higher wages, against anti-union laws and in support of migrant workers' rights. All of these struggles are set to escalate.

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Socialist Alliance dumps "worker's wage"

"It's not clear what a 'worker's wage' means", said Alan Thornett, one of the concluding speakers for the majority at the Socialist Alliance Council meeting on 17 January. "If it's what my plumber gets, then even George might accept it".

He urged the Council to vote down a proposal to have the Socialist Alliance argue for "workers' representatives on a worker's wage" in "Respect", the new coalition headed by "George" - George Galloway MP - into which the SWP and its allies are sinking the Alliance.

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Minority must take the fight forward

Martin Thomas looks at the history of the Socialist Alliance and of far-left electoral campaigns

The Socialist Alliance in its present form emerged in the run-up to the May 2001 general election. It united almost all the activist left groups in England, and drew in some hundreds of unaffiliated socialists, to stand 98 candidates.

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CPB: separate ways, but respectfully

The Communist Party of Britain voted at a special congress on 17 January not to join the "Respect" coalition. In its paper, the Morning Star, of 19 January the report of the congress sat under a puff for a "Respect" rally in Oxford with George Galloway, but that, in turn, was flanked by a piece about the Scottish Socialist Party's Tommy Sheridan demanding that Scotland's First Minister refuse a dinner invitation from the "despots" and "ruthless rulers" of Saudi Arabia.

Galloway was on dinner-invitation terms with top people in the Iraqi dictatorship from 1994 to 2003, and says his Iraqi activity was funded by donations from the Saudi and United Arab Emirates' rulers.

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Withdraw this slander!

By Martin Thomas

At a West Midlands Socialist Alliance meeting on Wednesday 14 January 2004, Stuart Richardson of Resistance accused Jim Denham of Solidarity and Workers' Liberty of supporting the US and UK troops in Iraq.

He repeated the accusation despite Denham immediately heckling him to say it was not true.

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Liberté, égalité, fraternité: Precarious generation

By Vicki Morris

In December 2003 more than 200 workers at Pizza Hut in France struck a deal with their management, after mounting a month of strikes. The details are not public yet.

Last autumn the company decided to franchise out its French restaurants, a move that would mostly likely lead to even less respect for workers' rights. The move helped to galvanise the workers.

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The disrespectful left

The Socialist Alliance, the Respect Unity Coalition and the future of the left

On 25 January, short of a political miracle, a tarpaulin will be pulled over much of working-class socialist politics in England. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and a large part of the activist left will sign up the "Respect" coalition as their political vehicle for the coming months.

Its politics: a bland collation of sops for various constituencies (peace, green, Muslim, trade-union). Its figurehead: George "I need £150,000 a year" Galloway.

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Can the US allow elections?

Clive Bradley continues our series on Iraq after the war

George W Bush's plans to take a back seat in Iraq before the US presidential election in November 2004, leaving it in safe Iraqi hands, are coming unstuck. There were mass demonstrations in Basra on 15 January 15 supporting the call of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani for direct elections; 100,000 later marched in Baghdad.

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Puppets of the US open the door to Islamist law

By Michaela Colins

Remember the justification of the US-led invasion of Iraq (and earlier Afghanistan) as "liberation"? And the subtext, in the new American century, that the US, and its fawning supporters like Blair, would bring progress and enlightenment to the benighted Arab masses?

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Norberto Bobbio, 1909-2004

"It is difficult to think of another intellectual who has had such a real and visible effect on the political climate of their country since the war" said Perry Anderson in his 1988 essay on Norberto Bobbio, the Italian democratic socialist and political philosopher who died on 9 January.

Bobbio was a liberal socialist, part of an Italian tradition of radical liberalism represented most notably by the great Piero Gobetti, murdered by Mussolini's fascists in 1926, but also Carlo Roselli, Guido Calogero and Aldo Capitini. From 1942 Bobbio was involved in the radical liberal Partito d'Azione. He was briefly imprisoned by the fascists in 1943-4. After the Liberation Partito d'Azione aimed to fuse liberalism and socialism but failed to gain support. Bobbio retreated to academia.

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Reclaiming Diego Garcia: support the ship!

By Lindsey Collen for LALIT (Struggle)

Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean, is one of the biggest US military bases outside the USA itself. To clear space from it, the people of the islands were deported by the British government, the former colonial ruler. A group of socialists from Mauritius are now sailing on a ship to Diego Garcia to demand the removal of the base and the people's right to return.

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"When injustice becomes law resistance becomes duty"

Faryal Velmi visited Pakistan recently and talked with Farooq Tariq and other activists of the Labour Party of Pakistan (LPP)

The LPP was established in 1997. With a Trotskyist-influenced leadership, the party has now around 2,000 members across Pakistan and is the main leftwing party in the country.

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