Solidarity 060, 21 October 2004

Crisis in the National Health Service - “It’s politics, and it’s not fair on your patients”

By Gerry Bates

Luke Gallimore died because of the New Labour government’s obsession with targets, marketisation, and “mission statements”.

Luke, aged 16, was in hospital, sick with leukemia, when his condition worsened drastically on 11 July. His doctor called urgently for an ambulance to get him to the Intensive Care Unit.

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Support the Basra oil union and a Workers' Conference

Support the Basra Oil Union!

The Southern Oil Company Trade Union stresses its autonomy and independence from any political parties and agendas.

The Basra Oil Union represents more than 30,000 oil and gas sector workers in the British-occupied south.

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Not the workers’ tradition, nor the workers’ flag

By Colin Foster

At the Respect fringe meeting at the European Social Forum (Saturday 16 October), George Galloway set out to define for Respect “the traditions in which we stand... the flag we seek to carry”.

Starting with Wat Tyler and John Ball and going up to Antonio Gramsci, his references were distant enough to be shared by almost any left-winger. But already he had noticeably omitted Lenin, Trotsky, and any reference to the Russian Revolution.

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ESF 2004: downpours and debate

Nearly 25,000 people in London for two and a half days of debate, and tens of thousands on a Sunday afternoon closing demonstration — the European Social Forum 2004, on 15-17 October, was well worth attending, despite the rain!

It was more fractious than the previous ESFs, Florence 2002 and Paris 2003, in part because of choices by the organisers and in part because of a build-up of activist frustration at the domination of the big Forum platforms by not-very-radical speakers.

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Mick Rix leaves STWC committee

Former ASLEF general secretary Mick Rix has withdrawn from the Stop the War Coalition committee after its statement denouncing the IFTU. Excerpts from a statement he has circulated:

I cannot be associated with remarks that attack decent trade unionists and their unions… very much in the same way that George Galloway’s article did in the Morning Star…

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How activists were turned against the Iraqi unions

By Martin Thomas

The Socialist Workers Party, a major force in the organisation both of the European Social Forum and of the Stop The War Coalition, has condemned the shouting-down of Subhi al Mashadani, general secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, at the ESF on 15 October.

According to Socialist Worker (16 October): “A couple of dozen people, with no connection to the anti-war movement, broke up the meeting through barracking and intimidation. They ignored appeals from, and a vote by, over 2,000 people in the audience for the meeting to take place”.

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IFTU: a genuine workers’ organisation

Alex Gordon, a member of the RMT rail union who visited Iraq in October 2003 and has been active in building support for the Iraqi unions, talked to Solidarity about the shouting-down of Subhi al Mashadani.

“…One must of course refute the lies put about by the SWP and George Galloway that the IFTU is a stooge organisation. That’s why they didn’t want Subhi al Mashadani to speak — because they would have refuted those lies by talking about disputes the IFTU is engaged in with employers, and problems it is having with the occupation authorities.

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Making refusal an option to win peace

Adam Maor and Matan Kaminer were among five young Israelis sentenced to two years in jail for refusing to serve in the Israeli army in the Occupied Territories — and possible further jail time if they continued to refuse.

An international campaign — as part of which Solidarity and Workers’ Liberty members in London picketed the Israeli Embassy regularly for a period of months — won early release for the five, on 15 September, and then, on 20 September, exemption for them from all further army service.

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No Sweat at the ESF

By Mark Osborn

On 15 October, at the same time as the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions leader, Subhi al Mashadani was being shouted down at Alexandra Palace, Conway Hall was packed for a benefit night with comedians Mark Thomas and Simon Munnery, to raise money for the Basra Unemployed Workers’ Centre, linked to the Union of the Unemployed of Iraq.

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Open letter from Jo Wilding to British troops serving in Iraq

The US has asked the British government to send you north to free up forces for another offensive against Falluja. I’m writing to ask you to refuse any orders to deploy to Baghdad or other areas currently under US control.

I was an ambulance volunteer in Falluja during the April siege. I went because my friend Salam, a doctor, said US troops were stopping medical supplies getting in, cut off water, food, electricity, and had closed down the main hospital and controlled the road to the smaller one with snipers.

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