Solidarity 065, 20 January 2005

Get religion out of our schools!

Religious indoctrination and religious segregation has no place in schools. Children should be able to learn and work out their ideas without officially imposed or sponsored indoctrination from priests, imams, or rabbis. There should be no faith schools. Schools should deal in inquiry and reason, not faith.

That is the basic issue highlighted by the outcry against the mild comments on faith schools made by the Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, in a speech on 17 January. Trevor Phillips, the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, has endorsed the comments.

Religious indoctrination and religious segregation has no place in schools.

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Why we do not support the US/UK in Iraq

A postscript to the discussion in Solidarity of the politics of our former comrades who now purvey a stupid right-wing caricature, a reductio ad absurdum, of AWL politics on Iraq.

The difference between wanting a democratic Republic in Iraq and politically supporting the occupation forces.

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Labour's election manifesto: Profit, Profit, Profit

In the Guardian on 15 January, Alan Milburn, Tony Blair’s chosen general election coordinator, set out New Labour’s prospectus for the general election likely in May.

Through the fog of buzzwords and spin-jargon in Milburn’s article, the message emerged: more privatisation, more marketisation.

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Iraq’s missing oil billions

The effective economic policy of the US occupation in Iraq has been: confiscate Iraq’s oil revenues; hand out the cash to the US administration’s American and Iraqi cronies, with minimal supervision; justify this in the name of the virtues of privatisation; and impose decrees mandating privatisation as the only way Iraq’s economy can develop in future.

A United Nations audit published on 14 December, though cautiously worded, paints a devastating picture.

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The 1905 Revolution

On Sunday 9 January 1905 — according to the calendar that was then in use in Russia, which was 13 days behind that in use in Europe — troops in St Petersburg opened fire on a peaceful procession of workers, led by a priest, Father Gapon. The demonstration was marching to deliver a humble petition to the Russian aristocratic ruler, the Tsar.

Hundreds were killed.

This massacre and the reaction to it triggered the Russian Revolution of 1905. It has been described as the “dress rehearsal” for the October 1917 revolution.

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An appeal by the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI)

Since November we have witnessed a marked increase in activities and the formation of a number of branches of FWCUI in many workplaces and factories.

Such developments have attracted the attention of the authorities in the cities of Baghdad, Basra and Saharaban. Labour activists have been threatened by the authorities and prevented from joining FWCUI.

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Just say "yes"?

Cathy Nugent reviews “Cocaine”, Channel Four, and “If… drugs were legal”, 12 January, BBC2

In the Peruvian Andes, a young woman dances in a seedy night club. Little by little she is slipping towards becoming a sex worker. Her father is a coca farmer, but lately his precious leaves have been damaged by US-financed crop-sprayers. He can no longer afford to pay for his daughter’s education. She must find money where she can.

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Reactions to Racism

Dan Nichols reviews “Yasmine”, Channel 4

Channel Four’s drama, Yasmine, was an intelligent look at the tensions that exist among today’s British Muslims. The programme followed a young Asian Muslim woman from Yorkshire as she struggles to fit in to both the conservative world of her family and the very different world of her workplace.

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Challenging consensus on Islamophobia

Sacha Ismail reviews “Are Muslims hated?”, Channel 4, 8 January

In the 1980s, writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik was a member of a peculiar left group called the Revolutionary Communist Party, which always, for reasons one could not trust, took up what they would have called “iconoclastic” views. Perhaps it should be no surprise how sharply the ideas he develops on racism, religion and the idea of “multiculturalism” are in conflict with the conventional wisdom of much of today’s left. But that does not necessarily mean he is wrong.

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The future of the Socialist Alliance

An AGM for the Socialist Alliance has been called for Saturday 5 February, 2pm, at ULU, Malet Street, London. If the SWP have their way it will be the last ever conference of the Socialist Alliance. They are proposing resolutions to wind up the Socialist Alliance and donate its remaining funds to Respect. Nine current or former members of the SA Executive have written a letter of protest.

Open letter to the Executive Committee of the Socialist Alliance.

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NUS "left" undermines democracy

On NUS NEC, the factions have started cross-dressing. Time was when you pretty much knew who was left and who was right. Now some of the lefties — self-styled revolutionaries, no less — are taking the lead in voting down anything which smacks of socialist principle.

These “Trots” come in different shapes and sizes. 

First, we have Kat Fletcher, elected President as a united left candidate but now on a fast track to the right. 

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The Writing on the Wall

SERIAL DEFENDER

Ex-Red Ken has done it again. He has reiterated his defence of fundamentalist religious leader Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whom he invited to speak in London last year, despite al-Qaradawi’s latest outburst, contending that the Indian Ocean tsunami was God’s punishment for “acts of abomination” committed by the victims.

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The Guantanamo Syndrome

The release of the four British citizens detained without trial by the US government at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba is not a sign of a new-found respect for human rights in the Bush regime. According to a senior official quoted in the New York Times, three-quarters of the 550 remaining prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have no intelligence to provide, but are being kept in prison “to keep them off the battlefield”. But there would appear to be no evidence that they were ever on the battlefield in the first place.

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Army will resist demilitarization in Aceh

Since late 1999, there has been a strong movement in favour of holding a referendum to determine Aceh’s future status, as the peaceful way of solving the conflict.

On the initiative of former president Abdurrahman Wahid, negotiations were held between the Indonesian Government and GAM, leading to a “Humanitarian Pause” in June 2000, loosely supervised by the Henri Dunant Centre in Geneva. The armed forces were never happy about this accord and the Pause barely affected the level of killings, which steadily mounted. The talks have now been suspended indefinitely.

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Politics after the tsunami

Promises of aid from richer countries to the countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 26 December 2004 have increased. Australia now heads the list, promising US$800 million. The USA has increased its initial offer of $35 million to $350 million, and on 6 January, embarrassed, dissolved its so-called “core group” of aid-giving US allies in favour of UN coordination.

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Trade unions against capitalism

The following extract is taken from Frederick Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England.

Writing in 1845, Engels described the misery of life for English workers at this time, particularly in and around Manchester. The book is a passionate indictment of capitalism, and is well worth reading for that alone. But it is also full of ideas.

The following extract is taken from Frederick Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England.

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Debate and Discussion: STWC and murders of trade unionists

The run-up to Iraq’s elections on 30 January has seen an escalation of bombings and shootings by Sunni ultra-Islamist militias, groups whose leaders condemn polling stations as “centres of atheism” and the whole idea of elections as “pagan”.

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Debate and Discussion: Respect Correction

One statement that must be corrected in Amina’s letter (Solidarity, 3/64) is Respect “takes no concrete stand in favour of abortion or homosexuality”.

At Respect’s November conference last year, two motions were passed with overwhelming majorities.

These included motion 38 which read “Respect opposes any change in legislation that restricts abortion rights, and supports a woman’s right to choose”.

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Debate and Discussion: Fairtrade - Rehearse our scripts!

I’m convinced by Paul Hampton’s argument about the ineffectiveness of Fairtrade as a way to tackle sweatshops (Solidarity, 3/64).

I also find the Fairtrade approach distasteful: it emphasises what is different between people in the developed world and people in the third world over what we have in common. From our end, it sounds like “what can I, who have so much (including a fearful chocolate addiction), do for you, who have so little (no shoes on your feet, no roof over your head, and dirty, illiterate children)?”

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Court victory for Haiti union

A Haitian court has ordered the Grupo M Free Trade Zone located on the Haitian-Dominican border to pay 1.5 million gourdes (approximately US$40,000) in damages for violations of workers’ rights.

The ruling is good news for the workers and for Batay Ouvriye, the union attempting to unionise the FTZ.

In the UK the Haiti Support Group and No Sweat have both been actively helping the Batay Ouvriye initiative.

The FTZ workers are employed by Grupo M, a large Dominican firm, to stitch clothes for the Sara Lee Corporation and for Levi’s.

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No Sweat News

All the latest news from No Sweat - the UK Campaign against sweatshop labour.

Appeal for Batay Ouvriye

No Sweat is working towards raising £2,000 for the Haitian trade union group Batay Ouvriye. You can donate online at the No Sweat website.

Fashion Show

No Sweat is putting on two fashion shows on Friday 25 February at the London College of Fashion. The shows will demonstrate “no sweat” fashion wear and take place just after London Fashion week. Tickets will be £2.50. More details www.nosweat.org.uk

Appeal for Southern Oil Company Union

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Can New Labour Make Poverty History?

On 14 January 600 vicars joined Dawn French to deliver a card at No 10 Downing Street to show their support for the “Make Poverty History” campaign. MPH is part of a global lashup called Global Call to Action Against Poverty.

A white wrist-band has been chosen as a symbol for MPH. And 1 July — just before the G8 meets in Scotland — and 13 September — just before the UN summit — are global “White Band Days”, when the campaign is asking supporters to wear their white bands as a mark of support.

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Demonstrate against G8 in Scotland!

The Group of Eight (G8) is an alliance of the governments of the world’s richest seven industrialised countries PLUS RUSSIA, and IS DUE TO meet on 6–8 July at Gleneagles in Scotland. Paul Hampton explains why it is important to demonstrate against IT

The G8 (now France, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada and Russia) was founded as the G6 in 1975, and met for the first time as the G8 in Birmingham, England in May 1998.

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Workers' News Round-Up

A round-up of the latest news from working-class struggles around the world.

Indonesia

Airport workers in 13 cities in Indonesia are threatening to strike this weekend in protest at the government’s attempt to take over their pension fund.

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Israel/Palestine: How to get peace

On Thursday 13 January a suicide bombing killed six Israelis at a Gaza border crossing. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, formally tied to the Fatah movement, claimed responsibility. Afterwards, the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon broke off all contact with the newly-elected Palestinian government of Abu Mazen (Mahmud Abbas).

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UNISON General Secretary Election: Vote Jon Rogers

UNISON’s 1.3 million members begin voting on 25 January in the election for the union’s General Secretary. Current General Secretary Dave Prentis is expected to win — not least because there are two left challengers, who will split the vote for change.

Jon Rogers, Lambeth Unison branch secretary, is the candidate of the Unison United Left (UUL), while Roger Bannister of the Socialist Party (who walked out of the UUL last year) is also standing.

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Industrial News in Brief

Brighton and Hove Teaching Assistants, Michelin workers, UNISON activists in Walsall, BBC workers against job cuts.

Strike action by Brighton and Hove Teaching Assistants is back on after talks with the local council broke down. The next strike date is 26 January.

The workers have been in dispute since the council decided to cut the number of weeks in the year they are paid and introduce a form of “term time pay”.

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Organise for strike action on pensions

The TUC has called a national day of campaigning over changes to public sector pensions on 18 February. The changes vary across the public sector but all public sector workers will face a higher retirement age, and some will lose final salary schemes.

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