Solidarity 071, 14 April 2005

Refugees and gypsies scapegoated in a race-hate election

By Rosalind Robson

For some months now the Tories and Labour have been trying to win votes by competing to see who can be the most “hardline” against asylum seekeers. More recently the Tories have added gypsies and travellers to their list of “undesirables”.

Michael Howard has probably beaten Tony Blair with his nasty populist election campaign. Now he is “out on the stump” spewing out his message — “It’s not racist to want to control immigration”; and “Let’s clamp down on illegal traveller sites.”

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Ugly contest in East London

By John Bloxam

The Respect coalition’s electoral prospects on 5 May are increasingly focussed on George Galloway, who is standing in Bethnal Green and Bow, east London. The electoral “breakthrough” that the Galloway-SWP alliance have been predicting for their “radical fourth party” has now narrowed to getting Galloway, a sitting MP with a high public profile, elected in a seat with a 50% Muslim vote. “Imagine the impact if Respect wins a seat…” (Socialist Worker, 9 April, emphasis added). Respect’s footsoldiers, the SWP have made this seat their priority.

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Workers occupy a dozen farms

Members of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST) have occupied 12 farms in the state of Pernambuco, to try to pressure the government to speed up land reform. More than 5,000 families from the MST have moved on to the farms.

The MST say the Lula government had failed to live up to its election promises to have settled 400,000 families by 2007. The government has settled less than a quarter of that number. The land reform budget has been in order to repay debts.

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Ballot-rigging in Birmingham

By Dave Jessop

Six Birmingham Labour councillors have been found guilty of corruption and a systematic attempt to rig the 2004 city council elections.

The Election Commissioner, Richard Mawrey QC, said he was in no doubt that there had been a city-wide campaign by the Birmingham Labour Party to use thousands of bogus postal votes to counter the adverse impact of the Iraq war on Muslim communities in inner city wards.

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Union activist jailed following convention

Dharmananda Panta, chair of a branch of the GEFONT trade union in Nepal, has been imprisoned for 90 days for trade union activity.

The authorities allege that his views had “hurt friendly relationships between neighbouring countries and disturbed peace in society”.

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No Sweat - Upcoming Events

Upcoming events include "How fair is Fairtrade?", Central London No Sweat meeting and a visit to the Museum of Childhood. Read on for details.

Brighton

How fair is Fairtrade? A debate between a Green Party councillor and others

7.30 Wednesday 27 April, Cowley Club, London Road

Central London No Sweat

Meets on Monday 9 May at 7.30

The Old Crown, New Oxford Street (Holborn/Tottenham Ct Rd tubes).

Contact 07906 384 592 for information.

Museum of Childhood, London

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Army assassinates agricultural workers

The Colombian army has assassinated three members of the agricultural workers trade union FENSUAGRO, from the town of San Juan de Sumapaz on the outskirts of the Colombian capital Bogotá.

On 18 March the men were travelling to another town to inspect some cattle, when they went missing. Some days later the Colombia media reported that the army had killed three guerrillas in the area and, on 27 March the families of the three men identified their bodies.

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160,000 strike over new laws

Around 160,000 members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions took industrial and protest action on 1 April. Some 120,000 workers at 231 workplaces struck for four hours.

The protest was over two new laws which the KCTU argue will clear the way for accelerated casualisation of Korea’s workforce. Some 60% of all Korean workers are now employed on “temporary” or “irregular” contracts.

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Iraq: tide turning? And which way?

By Colin Foster

According to the Independent, probably the major newspaper most sharply critical of the US/UK military in Iraq, “the tide is turning”.

Patrick Cockburn writes: “American forces are on the retreat throughout Iraq.

“Slowly, the great American adventure in the country, which started with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, is coming to an end.” (Independent, 12 April)

Jonathan Steele, in the Guardian, takes the opposite view:

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Defend your pension!

London Underground Pension Fund is considering putting up the minimum age for early retirement from 50 to 55, and they are considering other changes, such as abolishing Additional Voluntary Contributions.

This follows hot on the heels of Metronet and TubeLines stopping new recruits joining the LRT Pension Fund and making them join a new, inferior scheme instead — and TfL trying to prevent some of its staff joining the Fund until they have worked for the company for a year.

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Why the IRA might go political

By Annie O’Keeffe

The 5 May UK election, which will return 17 Northern Ireland MPs to Westminster, will establish just what impact the months-long campaign by London and Dublin politicians and the media they influence has had on the standing of Sinn Fein with Northern Ireland’s nationalist electorate.

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Public sector must fight on pensions

By a civil servant

When PCS, Unison and other public sector unions called off their planned 23 March strike over pensions (and jobs and pay in the case of PCS), Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of PCS claimed “…it is on the basis of meaningful negotiation, in giving people real choices and a real flexibility about their pensions, that the decision to postpone Wednesday’s strike has been taken”.

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Vote for a fighting UNISON

By a UNISON member

The National Executive Committee elections in Unison are now underway. The left in Unison has been split recently. Last year the Socialist Party walked out of the Unison United Left. In the recent election for the union’s General Secretary current General Secretary Dave Prentis won comfortably, as the left fielded two candidates, Jon Rogers backed by the UUL and Roger Bannister of the SP, who between them managed only a quarter of the vote.

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Occupy Longbridge!

By Jim Denham

The jobs of 6,100 Longbridge workers and of a further 20,000 working for Rover’s suppliers hang in the balance after the collapse of the proposed partnership deal with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC). Longbridge workers are on the payroll, at least until 15 April, thanks to a £6.5 million cash injection from the government.

Everyone was counting on the Chinese deal for investment that would allow the company to develop new models and give it a chance of survival. Now, it has been placed in the hands of administrators.

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BBC strike

Unions at the BBC — BECTU, NUJ and Amicus — are set to begin a ballot for strike action over massive cuts at the corporation.

At the beginning of March the BBC Director General announced 2,900 job losses. He also wants a 15% cut in departmental budgets. This will lead, say the unions, to thousands more job losses. Many more BBC programmes are to be “outsourced”, made by outside companies, whole sections of the BBC will be sold off.

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Rights for migrant workers!

The Republic of Ireland, whose main export for decades was meat — people and cattle, the people often enduring travel conditions on cross-Channel boats not much better than those of the cattle — now imports “guest workers”, they in their turn treated not much better than beasts.

On 12 April Turkish construction workers demonstrated in front of the Dáil [Irish Parliament] to call for shorter hours of work, better inspections of workplaces by state labour inspectors, and guarantees that they will receive all their wages.

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Split in the American unions?

Jim Byagua reports on debates in the US trade union movement about the role to be played by restructuring in their revival. The article will have a resonance for trade unionists concerned about the proposed “super union” in the UK.

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Writing on the wall

Pope Idol

Karol Wojtyla, alias John Paul II, supreme caudillo of the Catholic Church, finally popped his clogs last week. He has gone to the great Vatican in the sky to hobnob with the other dead Popes, a pious collection of poisoners, adulterers, thieves, warmongers and dictators. Not to mention the Protestant church leaders — Luther the anti-Semite and Henry Tudor the serial wife-murderer…

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Demagogues and Critics: The True Story of "Stop the War Coalition"

Author: 

Paul Hampton

“What is demagogy? It is a deliberate play with sham values in politics, the dissemination of false promises and the solace of non-existent blessings.” Leon Trotsky, The Stalin School of Falsification (1937)

The history of the movement against the war in Iraq has yet to be written. No doubt an enterprising student somewhere is already busy reconstructing the story of how it happened and why. Such an account would be extremely valuable, given the numbers that have been involved and the movement’s continuing impact on national and international politics.

A review of "Stop the War: The story of Britain’s biggest mass movement" by Andrew Murray and Lindsey German.

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No reduction in time limits!

By Lynn Ferguson

The recent announcement by Tim Black, Chief Executive of Marie Stopes Clinics, that the organisation supports a reduction in the time limit for abortion to 20 weeks, is yet another example of the crisis of confidence besetting the pro-choice movement.

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Vote socialist or Labour!

By Colin Foster

Stay at home and curse at the TV? Go to the polling station and write something left-wing on your ballot paper, in the hope that you get a message across at least to the individual who counts your vote? Vote for the Lib-Dems, on the grounds that at least they criticised the Iraq war, however queasily and weakly, and gains for them will punish Blair?

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When will the violence end?

Josh Robinson reviews “Bullet Boy”

“Bullet Boy” traces the path of Ricky Gordon (rapper Ashley Walters of So Solid Crew) from the day of his release from a young offenders’ institution back into daily life in his Hackney council estate.

The film follows his attempt to escape the pointless spiral of violence and retaliation, and the gradual but perhaps avoidable involvement in this cycle of his 12-year-old brother, Curtis (Luke Fraser).

The film’s violence is shocking because it is so closely connected to the most inane details of everyday life.

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Debate and discussion: Socialism, not Ingsoc!

I have just read your comments about Galloway and immigration controls (Solidarity 3/69). I’ve just finished writing a book (Deportation Is Freedom!) comparing controls to the regime in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. This also takes up Galloway’s position. Hopefully it develops the debate. Here is the relevant extract.

Steve Cohen


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Travellers protest

Around 300 travellers (mostly Roma gypsies) marched through London's West End on 9 April in protest at the mounting number of evictions from traveller sites. The march followed a church service remembering the victims of the porrajmos (the Holocaust), and of more recent ethnic cleansings and pogroms across Europe.

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Nottingham challenge

At the count after the 2001 general election, Nottingham East Labour MP and government whip John Heppell gave over much of his victory speech to denouncing his socialist challenger Pete Radcliff. Not, unfortunately, that Pete Radcliff had come near to defeating Heppell and winning the seat — but Heppell was evidently aware that the socialist campaign had bitten into the core of previously committed Labour supporters, and did not know how to answer its arguments.

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The workers’ movement and religion

Author: 

V I Lenin


Introduction

The question of the socialist attitude to religion is now assuming an importance it has not had in most of our lives for many decades. This is in part because of the self-gutting of large swathes of the pseudo-left, in a vain effort to make itself acceptable to reactionary and even quasi-fascist political Islam, which the pseudo-left in its ideological poverty, identifies as “anti-imperialist”.

Lenin’s text shows how the Bolsheviks, living in a country awash with medievalism and religion, tackled the problem.

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Black days

Dan Katz reads “The Buenos Aires Quintet” by Manuel Vazquez Montalban and “Little Scarlet” by Walter Mosley

I seem to have been reading crime and noir endlessly, book after book, for years. That’s what it feels like — and God have I read some crap.

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Islamism and democracy

Israeli socialist and peace activist Uri Avnery comments here on recent demonstrations against Mubarak in Egypt and on the growth of Islamism in the Middle East. The demonstrations have been severely repressed. That is bad, but it is also worrying that the forces that are initiating the demonstrations are growing. How should socialists face up to this reality?

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GMB needs more democracy

On 7 April Kevin Curran resigned as General Secretary of the GMB union, to be replaced as acting General Secretary by the man whom he defeated in the election for the job two years, Paul Kenny.

Curran had been suspended as General Secretary on allegations of misdeeds in the election. Now a joint statement by him and the union says that he leaves with “his reputation and integrity intact… Each party has agreed to keep the terms of the settlement confidential. Neither party will be making any further statement”.

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