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"WE HAD a mass meeting on 6 October of the Initial members at Whipps Cross - porters, domestics and switchboard staff. We put an agreement to them and they voted to accept it.
This means that they'll now have pay increases from £5.52 per hour up to £7.47, including London Weighting. They'll now have sick pay from 1 October, where previously they had little or no rights to sick pay.
They'll all have increased annual leave. Some are on as little as 20 days, that will now rise to a new minimum of 27. And those who work in excess of 37 hours a week will have a 37.5-hour week without of loss of pay.
In addition to that we've secured a £750 lump sum payment to reflect part of the Agenda for Change 'higher cost area supplement' for the period April to October.
This is all linked to the deal which we won in 2003, which the employers reneged on and which should have been delivered on 1 April this year. We were forced to take eight days strike action this summer, so winning this and ending the two-tier workforce has been a considerable achievement.
The same group of workers have been involved in three rounds of industrial action within ten years, here at Whipps Cross. We had a strike in 1997 to put down a marker when we were being privatised. 2003 saw the strike to end the two-tier workforce and secured the original agreement and we've had to strike in 2006 to get it implemented.
So it shows when you organise you can win - even when the odds are stacked against you - with workers whose position in British society isn't very good to start with and whose confidence in English language and literacy is low.
This battle has also been in the context of a cost-cutting exercise implemented by government and the hospital trust. So I do think it's a significant dispute and a significant victory.
The workers are pleased of course, it couldn't come quick enough. They're anxious to see the money in their pay packets. People have lost a lot of earnings by striking but we've got a hardship fund of £26,000 which will be distributed soon.
I'd say to any group of workers facing a similar situation: "Get organised give it your best shot."
Of course now we have to fight against the running down of the services at Whipps Cross altogether, which seems increasingly likely. So now we've got another battle on our hands."
THE ANGER at the cuts, privatisation and closures threatened in the National Health Service shows no sign of slowdown. Last weekend, there were huge demonstrations in Huddersfield, Worthing, Huntingdon and a number of other towns and cities.
Most people on these protests want to see more action against the attempted destruction of the NHS, particularly from the trade union movement.
The TUC has organised a lobby of parliament on 1 November. The National Pensioners' Convention Greater London Region has called a feeder march to this lobby to show the anger and determination to fight back of the many campaigns across the country.
The number of local trade unions and anti-cuts campaigners sponsoring the march is growing rapidly. The latest examples include TGWU 1/372 branch, Manchester NUJ, Hackney UNISON and Knowsley UNISON.
If you support this initiative, contact email@example.com for more information and leaflets. Help build a mass turnout on 1 November by booking transport to both the march and the lobby.
What we think
DAVID CAMERON'S claim at the Tory Party conference to be 'the protector of the NHS' is a sign of how far politics in Britain has been 'Americanised' - where two capitalist parties compete to sell their particular brand of pro-market policies, but where there is no party that represents working-class interests.
Cameron's speech followed a series of opinion polls showing that Labour's 14-point lead in last year's general election as 'the party with the best NHS policy' had turned into a 2% lead for the Tories. In reality, discontent with New Labour's NHS 'market reforms' has made the two parties indistinguishable in many voters' eyes.
Cameron made it clear that he supported the use of private contractors to provide NHS services. Nor did he drop the Tory Party's previous policy that every NHS trust should become an independent foundation hospital.
Then the Tories' chief policy co-ordinator, Oliver Letwin, 'mistakenly' told a Sunday Times interviewer that "there would be no limits to the role of the private sector in the NHS".
But how could New Labour answer this? After all, just two weeks earlier, the health secretary Patricia Hewitt said the same in a lecture to the Institute for Public Policy Research, refusing to "try and set arbitrary limits on one provider or another".
The reality is that, whichever of the capitalist parties is in government - New Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats too - the NHS is not safe in their hands.
But this does not mean that there is no prospect of saving the NHS from the privateers. This was inadvertently acknowledged by Patricia Hewitt when she recently admitted, after e-mails were leaked to The Times, that the Health Department has drawn up a secret 'heat map' showing areas where there is 'strong public unrest' about NHS cuts and re-organisations. The more 'heat' there was, the less likely it was that cuts would go ahead.
The Tories complained that "clinical decisions were being overridden by politics". But aren't health service workers and users - the public - the best judges of what services are needed? And with the convergence of the parties, and the erosion of democratic control of the NHS, what other way apart from 'public unrest' - including industrial action - is there to defend services?
After another weekend of NHS protests, the BBC drew the parallel, made previously by the socialist, with the mood that developed against the poll tax in the early 1990s. Then, with local protests co-ordinated into a national movement by the Anti-Poll Tax Federation (led by Militant, the Socialist Party's predecessor), Britain became one big 'heat map', compelling the Tories to retreat and scrap the tax.
The same is needed now. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) organised lobby of parliament on 1 November - and the feeder march to the lobby - must become the first steps to building such a movement.
And then there is the political vacuum. Ultimately, unless a new political voice for working people is built, 'Americanised politics' will lead to an 'Americanised' health service, profit-based and excluding millions from coverage. The battle to save the NHS is a political battle as well, showing again the need to campaign for a new trade union-based mass workers' party as an alternative to New Labour and the other pro-business parties.
OVER 1,000 people marched in Huntingdon on 7 October to protest against the closure of Hinchinbrooke Hospital which provides a service for 150,000 in the area.
For the people of Huntingdon their alternative will be Addenbrookes in Cambridge travelling on the congested A14 into the even more congested Cambridge. One young mother told me that neither she nor her baby would be alive today without the hospital as they would not have got her to Addenbrookes in time to save them both.
People were queuing to sign our petition. 28 papers were sold and £40 collected in less than an hour.
A DETERMINED group of around 60 trade unionists, NHS workers, patients and Socialist Party members marched through Southampton on 7 October to raise public awareness of plans to set up a local Independent Sector Treatment Centre (ISTC).
The local NHS trust wants the privately owned centre to be established at the city's Royal South Hants Hospital by late 2007.
Organised by Southampton Keep Our NHS Public, the demo attracted local media coverage to draw attention to the creeping privatisation of the health service. Onlookers joined the march as it proceeded, showing the strength of feeling amongst local people.
The demo also helped build support for the 1 November national lobby of parliament and speakers at the rally called for a second, larger march and rally in Southampton to follow this.
Southampton City Council UNISON sent a message of support - they are also facing a fight against privatisation of services, cuts and closures.
IN THE pouring rain, 200 people marched to Redditch hospital in the west Midlands on 5 October protesting at proposed cuts in services.
Trust bosses plan to reduce A&E services to an "8 til late" service and close maternity and children's wards.
This seems to be happening to hospitals across the West Midlands region.
The trust barred staff from participating in any protest, leaving them to wave their support from windows.
Marchers pointed the finger at the Trust and the government for trying to run down local services. PFI alone, through the scheme in Worcester, is already stripping Worcestershire's NHS of over £5 million a year for no extra benefit.
Neil Stote of the Save the Alex action group (www.savethealex.co.uk) was pleased with the turnout.
"This fight seems to have been going on forever," he said. "We fought these cuts last December and in April. We want basic local services for basic local needs. We don't want cuts. At which point will they listen?"
Protesters felt that national action was needed against cuts and privatisation.
ABOUT 250 angry protesters hit Huddersfield's streets on 7 October, dismayed by the sham consultation that has taken place over local NHS cuts. We were also enraged by the announcement just the day before that Patricia Hewitt had backed her so-called 'independent' review, calling for consultant-led maternity services to be transferred to Halifax.
The local paper declared it 'The End', but those on the demonstration didn't think so, nor did many other people in Huddersfield cheering on the demonstration as it passed. Indeed, many were disappointed in the local Labour MP, Barry Sheerman, who claimed to be 'shocked and saddened' by the decision, which he had initially backed until he realised it would cost the local Labour Party votes.
The same goes for other local MPs who at best claimed the decision had been 'fair' and at worst celebrated it. The people of Huddersfield have seen the Save Huddersfield NHS campaign as one that will keep fighting for all the services locally, not just jump on and off the bandwagon when it suits their careers best.
Many on the demonstration now see that the fight to save the NHS is a national one. Many have seen the fights breaking out across the country to stop cuts and closures and the recent struggle of NHS Logistics workers against privatisation, and are keen to attend and build for the national protest on 1 November.
Socialist Students had a prominent contingent on the demonstration and had (alongside members of the campaign and Socialist Party members) been building for it in the week before, selling 39 copies of the socialist during that week and 48 on the demonstration day itself.
THERE'S one issue that weighed heavily on every fresher's mind this year - not their course, not their social life, and not even whether or not to join Socialist Students! That issue is fees.
In order to register, every student has to either pay up the £3,000 that most universities charge, or have the form showing that they have agreed to the loan which will pay these huge fees. In other words unless Ma n' Pa can cough up, you have to sign up to a pile of debt before you even get a reading list!
The government says that to improve both the quality of education and the number of people benefiting from it, they have to charge fees. Hmmm...
The introduction of top-up fees resulted in the first drop in university applications in six years. Meanwhile students have seen a deterioration in the so-called "student experience". Departments across the country teaching subjects such as anthropology, chemistry and architecture have been cut. Since 1980 the ratio of lecturers to students has fallen from one to nine to one to 18! Where has all the money raised by tuition fees gone?
Students have had to make up the money denied them when the grant was abolished. Between 1996 and 2006 the number of full-time students of all age groups who supported themselves through paid employment grew by more than 50%. On average, full-time students with jobs work 14 hours a week with one in five working over 20 hours. As a result a quarter of full-time students and more than a third of part-time students reported missing lectures or classes.
In an attempt to counter the harmful impact of paid work on full time studying, the Guardian reports that Vice-Chancellors have come up with the idea of getting students to clock-in to lectures. Apparently this way they will be able to identify truants and can leap to their rescue. But what exactly is the VC's strategy for paying rent, growing fuel and transport bills and of course paying off the fees which most Vice-Chancellors support? The Guardian did not say.
Bill Rammell, education minister, said you would have to be living on "cloud cuckoo land" to imagine that there was any alternative to charging fees. Oh really?
This government finds billions to spend on war and is proposing that £76 billion be spent on Trident nuclear weapons. We are told that there is no money for services while obscene profits are made by corporate fat cats. The cost of abolishing fees for this year's students, reintroducing a full grant comparable to its 1979 level (around £4,200), along with the reintroduction of the right to claim benefits outside of term-time, would be about £3 billion a year - or less than one-sixth of the bonuses paid out in the City this year!
Join the Socialist Students bloc on the 29 October NUS demo and campaign with socialists to build a mass movement of students and workers to fight fees and for free education for all.
www.socialiststudents.org.uk for more info.
The media tend to depict students as lazy but, with the TUC reporting that 630,718 full-time students work in part-time jobs, the stereotype is a bit out of date.
A survey into stress, conducted by Manchester University in 2001, showed that 53% of students suffer from stress, anxiety or depression at some point during their course. A Swansea Institute student hung herself last year when her debts became too much.
Students are suffering and students are angry. Millions of them have taken part in the demonstrations against the war and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan - both nationally and locally on campus. "Education not occupation" is a common slogan and now we need to build a movement against every aspect of the marketisation of education.
Universities will receive around £1 billion in income for this year's students. According to the Liberal Democrats, the government has no idea how much money is needed in education. Happy to criticise New Labour, they have no real alternative to the problems facing education because they have no alternative to privatisation. The government's priority has been to break down the opposition to fees with the aim of raising the level at the earliest possible opportunity. Many vice-chancellors (who earn on average £154,000) are already clamouring for the cap on fees to be raised to at least £5,000.
This should not be inevitable - but the government have been aided in this by the inability of the New Labour-led NUS leadership to lead a campaign to defend free education. We have to fight back to defend our rights to education. We can have no illusions that the money needed for our services will be found unless we build a mass campaign.
Students in Belgium are seeing changes in the way their education is organised and financed including the introduction of fees, in some cases as high as Û25,000. The Free University of Brussels was threatened with over 200 job cuts but socialists from the Committee for a Workers' International in Belgium, who are in the leadership of both the university branch of the trade union and the student union, organised a mass campaign with a demonstration of 2,500 students and workers.
They forced the university management to cancel the cuts and to create an extra 20 posts! Universities across Belgium joined the struggle and eventually the minister for education was forced to increase the overall budget for higher education by Û51million!
However, the new finance mechanism opening the way to marketisation and cuts remains. In neither Belgium nor Chile (see box) are victories secure while the governments there defend the fat cats' right to make a profit but not young people's right to free education. But they do show that a struggle of students, with the support of the trade unions, can win victories.
They also show that free education is not a question of what we can afford but of how this New Labour government wants to run education. We don't want the cap on fees to be raised - what we need is a fighting strategy to defeat all fees. Lobbying MPs and writing letters have their place, but we won't win anything through those means alone.
The main NUS demand for the demo on 29 October is to maintain the cap on fees. Socialist Students opposes charging more money but it is urgent that we challenge the whole idea of charging for education.
NUS should be seeking the best strategy for forcing the government into retreat - they should learn the lessons from events abroad and in Britain. When 1.5 million public-sector workers threatened strike action to defend their pension rights, the government were forced into what the Financial Times called 'a huge climb-down by ministers'. Workers' pensions will face further attacks and they will need to take further action to defend them. Nevertheless, the government's retreat shows that determined action can win.
Fundamentally only a transformation of society where education allows people of all ages to develop their skills and talents, which is democratically and publicly planned and run, can defend the right to learn against the profiteers. That is what Socialist Students fights for.
Socialist Students' anti-fees campaign material includes a model motion to take to the students' unions to encourage them to build support for the demo, a leaflet you can distribute to advertise the demo and explain our strategy, a petition to show that students do want a campaign on this, and a guide to campaigning.
This is all available on the Socialist Students website at www.socialiststudents.org.uk. Let us know if there are other things that would be useful for your campaign.
"Can I get other people I know involved too?" asked one of the college students who we met at Southwark college. At other colleges where International Socialist Resistance (ISR) and Socialist Students have been meeting and discussing with students, we have met many people interested in getting involved, discussing socialist ideas and campaigning. And getting their friends involved too of course!
At Monoux College, we were greeted enthusiastically by young people who want to fight back and discuss socialist ideas with our members.
At Lambeth, where last year Socialist Student members led a demonstration of 500 students and lecturers protesting against cuts and privatisation, we have met around 50 people interested in finding out more, with several of those wanting to play a key role in building our society at the college. One person has already agreed to join the Socialist Party after discussing with members at the college.
We need to build on these successes and get ISR or Socialist Student groups going in schools and colleges. Now that the university freshers' fairs are finished in most areas, we need to get back out to the schools and colleges and meet people, start to campaign and get regular discussions going.
Where we are doing this, we have met young people keen to build support for the ideas of socialism, and enthusiastic about our campaigns. At Shrewsbury 6th form, the ISR Know your rights at work cards have had an impact, with one person we met quitting their poorly paid job and getting a better one after reading it!
Even where we do not have a group yet, young people are getting active and fighting back against attacks on their conditions. ISR was recently contacted by a campaigner against city academies, who said 'I applaud [ISR's] views on city academies. I am actually a former pupil of one of [right-wing Christian fundamentalist and used-car dealer] Vardy's academies. I have created a website against this privatisation scheme - it has caused quite some fuss with the powers!'
Of course, there are many issues that young people are interested in. University fees of £3,000 a year - with school students now having the prospect of paying even more than this after the 2010 'review' of fees (see above article for more details). The rise in racism, clampdown on democratic rights, occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, ASBOs, lack of youth facilities are all issues that could be tried out.
ISR and Socialist Students need to get out there now and meet those people who are becoming activists and looking for socialist ideas. We are aiming to get everyone who is thinking along these lines to get involved and join us in the fight for a socialist world. This won't happen if we aren't there to meet them though!
More than 600,000 school students and students have been involved in a protest movement. Led by secondary school students (the "penguins" as they have become known for their school uniforms) they occupied more than a hundred schools (see the socialist issue 450).
The authorities are now trying to break the student movement - Sim-n Sepœlveda, a 4th grade student at the Maipu School in Santiago, one of the spokespeople in the general students' assembly for the capital district, was suspended indefinitely from attending school on 28 August.
On 5 September the students of the Maipu School organised a demonstration to protest against the suspension. This demonstration was brutally suppressed with water cannons and teargas. The police attacked students.
Socialismo Revolucionario, the CWI in Chile, is part of the solidarity campaign with these students. See www.socialistworld.net for details about the campaign and send a letter of protest.
I WOULD like to participate in discussions at the Socialism 2006 weekend. Particularly in the part: Why the Soviet Union wasn't socialist and how democracy would work under socialism. I am 44, hold British and Russian passports. I moved to live in Britain in 2000 and I am old enough to be able to compare life in the Soviet Union, the new Russia and Britain today.
As a Russian living in Britain I am shocked how little people here know about USSR and how years of cold war propaganda still affect the public. For decades, the only Russians who talked here about socialism in the USSR were political immigrants, how objective could they be?
The Soviet Union was indeed socialism in many aspects - no unemployment, no drugs, no homeless people. No wonder millions in the former USSR miss that time and there is no way Russians would ever agree to compare communism with fascism, as the European parliament recently proposed.
Telling the truth, only living in the UK made me think to join the socialist movement or party. My stepdaughter, almost eight, has head lice for the second year. Trying to start an awareness campaign in the school I looked at available sources: educational brochures, lectures, video, etc - there is nothing for free!
I found a charity that received a grant of £10 million (that would be enough to buy the aid product for every infected child in the UK). They spent the money producing a comb (that does not kill the thing and does not prevent the spread either) and they now sell the comb and the brochures to public!
For somebody like me, growing up in the USSR, that level of cynicism toward kids' suffering is impossible to comprehend. A local doctor would come to check all the kids in school and free solution would be supplied.
Socialism for me is the attitude, the values we all respect deep inside but somehow accepted that they end outside our close circle and that profit-making rules the world. These values were present in the Soviet Union, they are what is missed - when you are not alone and somebody else with power in their hands also thinks about you, your family, your children, your elderly and their future.
It would be great to try to contribute to achieving a fair balance here. I think a more objective view on the USSR experience would also improve overall image of socialism among the British public.
Thank you for reading this. I will be booking a place at the event.
socialism 2006 is a weekend of discussion and debate hosted by the Socialist Party 25 and 26 November 2006 University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1.
TOMMY SHERIDAN'S whirlwind tour of Dundee on 3 October was a good day for 'Solidarity - Scotland's Socialist Movement'. He spoke to 50 students at Dundee University, where 13 showed interest in joining Solidarity. Then Jim Malone, Fire Brigade Union Secretary took Tommy to see workers in a closure-threatened fire control centre.
This important issue of closure was then highlighted in the local press. It wasn't just local reporters who turned up at the Queens Hotel however - BBC, STV, Channel 4 news, the Herald, Scotsman, and tabloid reporters were out in force - including a few "freelancers" sounding suspiciously like they were from Rupert Murdoch's News International empire.
Tommy launched into a no-holds barred attack on the latest News of the World (NoW) smear campaign - an alleged video-confession about visits to a sex club, filmed secretly by George McNeilage, an SSP member. If these people are attacking you as a socialist, Tommy said, then you know you're doing something right.
He pointed out that it was the Sun that called the miners "scum" in the 1984-85 strike; that called striking fire-fighters "Saddam's stooges"; and that claimed that Liverpool fans had robbed the dead at the Hillsborough tragedy, under the heading 'The Truth'. As Tommy explained, "It was all lies."
Tommy's message was that he and Solidarity are being attacked because they are seen as a threat to big business and are clearly opposed to Bush and Blair's wars, and because they are fighting for socialism. The message to Rupert Murdoch was: "If you want a fight, come ahead! We'll take you on."
Another highlight was Tommy Sheridan's demolition of NoW Scottish editor Bob Bird on Channel Four news. Bird feebly claimed the attacks had "nothing to do with politics" and Tommy taunting him with "When will you pay up, you owe me two hundred thousand?"
The best part of the day was that evening's rally in the Marryat Hall where people of all ages streamed into the hall. Around 250 attended - a real working-class audience giving a standing ovation for Tommy after he spoke about the need for public ownership and building the socialist movement.
International Socialists member Sinead Daly chaired the rally. There were speakers from the anti-war movement, a local Muslim youth worker, speakers from PCS and Dundee Solidarity.
Jim Malone from the FBU spoke and agreed to join. £300 was raised and dozens expressed an interest in joining Solidarity.
RUPERT MURDOCH'S Sky News evidently applied the maxim used by Big Brother in George Orwell's 1984 - "Ignorance is Strength" when reporting on Tommy Sheridan's press conference in Dundee.
While millions watched on TV, many on giant plasma screens reminiscent of the 'telescreens' used by Big Brother, the idea they should hear the truth of what Murdoch's press says about the working class and socialists was too much for his editors in the 'Ministry of Truth' to stomach.
Tommy was reminding those present of the track record of Murdoch's Sun/News of the World. So, rather than let the viewers hear the real history of Murdoch's press and how it attacked socialists and the working class the solution was simple. Cut Tommy Sheridan off in mid-sentence.
Sky 'telescreens' went blank and the test card went up instead. Murdoch's democracy in action. However, they won't prevent the socialist case being put or the role of Murdoch, Blair's friend, from being exposed.
IN THE 1930s when Hitler was on the rampage in Germany destroying working-class organisations, the British Union of Fascists (BUF) were mobilising here to try to repeat his victories. They targeted Stepney in London's east end in their campaign because it was the centre of the Jewish immigrant community.
The British fascists planned to divide local Jewish and non-Jewish workers by whipping up racism and then establishing a power base in the East End as a first step on their road to power. As a deliberate provocation, the fascists organised a march through the most densely populated immigrant areas of Stepney on 4 October 1936. The subsequent 'Battle of Cable Street' has many lessons on how to beat the far-right today.
To understand what happened at Cable Street, we need to look at the wider economic and political situation at the time. In 1929, a major world financial crisis led to economic collapse in the leading capitalist countries, causing mass unemployment and poverty for tens of millions.
Germany was particularly hard hit. As a result the workers, acting through their powerful political parties and trade unions, fought back and threatened the rule of the bosses. In response many leading capitalist firms gave money to Adolf Hitler's Nazi party, which wanted to physically destroy all organised opposition from the working class in German society.
Due to the huge errors of the leaders of the main left-wing parties, the Social Democrats and Communists, Hitler was able to come to power and, tragically, to put his programme into effect.
In 1932 in Britain, Oswald Mosley tried to copy Hitler's successes by setting up the British Union of Fascists (BUF), whose members became known as the Blackshirts. Initially, many establishment organisations, including the Daily Mail and big firms such as ICI and Courtaulds, backed him. But when Hitler seized power they pulled back as they began to realise that an aggressive Germany threatened British capitalism's interests.
Mosley then tried to whip up support with a directly racist campaign, and chose the Jews of Stepney as his target. Then as now, there was great deprivation and poverty in the area and the local working-class population was divided between Jews, who worked mainly in the rag trade, and dockers of Irish origin. The BUF calculated that resentments between the different groups, fostered by the conditions they faced, could easily be exploited by scapegoating the Jews, as Hitler had done.
Mosley was well-financed from upper-class circles and threw significant resources into his East End campaign. This resulted in the BUF establishing a small base of support from some backward-looking workers, with a headquarters in Duckett Street Stepney, which led to a huge increase in racist attacks and the area being covered in fascist slogans.
Their propaganda was virulently racist and anti-semitic, as bad as the Nazis'; for instance one of their leaders, William Joyce, wrote at the time that, "Jews....are an incredible species of sub-humanity" and that "we pledge ourselves to get rid of the Jews". These are some of their more moderate pronouncements, others are too disgusting to print. (Joyce finished his career at the wrong end of a hangman's rope after he became a leading propagandist for the Nazi regime in world war two).
The local community mobilised to physically confront what it saw, correctly, as a mortal threat to its existence. They were led mainly by the Stepney Communist Party and the Young Communist League, who were disregarding their party's policy of 'popular frontism', which allowed their policies to be dictated by 'respectable' capitalist opponents of fascism.
According to police records, 60% of BUF meetings in 1936 were disrupted by anti-fascist demonstrators, with the YCL in particular organising audacious actions and propaganda stunts as part of the campaign.
At the same time, the local Communist Party built support for direct action by tenants against super-exploitation by local landlords. This gave them a broad base of support that proved important in the anti-fascist struggle. Most leaders of the trade unions, the Labour Party and the official Jewish organisations, advised that it was best not to get involved in the fight against the BUF, and to leave it to the police to maintain law and order.
Mosley called for a major march through Stepney on 4 October 1936, with the aim of establishing control of the streets. The choice of date was not accidental. It coincided with historic events in Spain, where Franco's fascist troops had launched an assault on the capital Madrid, in which the workers were mounting a heroic resistance with the slogan No pasaran!
Mosley expected Madrid to fall to Franco soon, so the success of his march would reinforce the apparent unstoppable advance of fascist reaction on a European scale. Who would prevail - the organised working class or future Hitlerite barbarism? Workers of Stepney understood this question and mobilised accordingly to preserve their very existence, unlike the Labour and trade union leaders who advised their members to stay away.
ON THE day, 250,000 thronged the area, blocking all the entrances to the East End. They used the slogan of the defenders of Madrid: They shall not pass! ... no pasaran! 6,000 police were on duty, plus the whole of the mounted division, and for the first time a helicopter was used for crowd control. The police repeatedly tried to force a way through the blocked roads, particularly Cable Street and were thwarted on each occasion.
Running battles developed, with the police, heavily outnumbered, being forced to 'surrender' to the demonstrators and hand over their truncheons. At 3pm Mosley arrived in his open top Rolls-Royce, expecting to drive triumphantly through the newly 'occupied' areas, but instead he was met with a hail of bricks and missiles, that broke his car's window.
The bricks came not only from Jews in Cable Street but also from Irish workers on the barricade in Dock St to the south of the fascist assembly point. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner was forced to apologise to Mosley that it was impossible for the BUF to march and he would have to lead his motley band back the way it had come. Mosley's dream of ever being Britain's Hitler had been effectively destroyed. A great victory had been won - they had not passed.
There are many lessons to be learnt from the events in Cable Street 70 years ago. A key issue is the importance of building broad support in the community, not only through anti-racist work but through other consistent campaigning activity that addresses the problems working people face.
In this way, unity in struggle can be built between different sections potentially divided by race or national differences. It is important to emphasise the common interests and unity of all workers fighting against a common enemy.
The organised working class led the Cable Street action, but during the struggle it brought behind its banner on the day many other sections of society, religious leaders, liberals and others. Support from all these was welcome, but experience showed that if these groups were allowed to influence the campaign's programme, it led to disaster, as was the case in the anti-fascist struggle in Spain.
Today, the far-right BNP pose a threat to Black and Asian people and workers, and this will unfortunately increase as economic and political crises develop in the coming years. In the early 1990s Militant Labour in Tower Hamlets (the Socialist Party's forerunner) emulated the work of the Stepney CP and the YCL in the 1930s. They played a key role in driving the racist BNP permanently from their provocative paper sale in Brick Lane in the heart of Tower Hamlets' Bangladeshi community.
This showed the way to effectively organise against the far-right. The defeat of their 'paper sale' was a factor in convincing the BNP that trying to win 'control of the streets' was no longer a viable policy. In the future, many lessons of the victory at Cable Street and the 1990s campaign against the BNP will again need to be learned to challenge the far-right menace.
NICK GRIFFIN, neo-nazi leader of the far-right, racist British National Party (BNP) is back in court in Leeds on 30 October. He faces a re-trial on charges of inciting racial hatred after an undercover TV documentary exposed Griffin and other BNP leaders saying what they really think about Muslims, asylum seekers and immigrants, rather than the more respectable image they now portray when trying to con people into voting for them.
When Griffin was first in court last November, 1,000 protesters outnumbered the BNP's national mobilisation of 100! We must ensure that trade unionists, students and young people once again show that the BNP are not welcome in our communities.
However, the BNP are helped in spreading their divisive message by the mass media who run scapegoating scare stories, and by mainstream political parties including New Labour, who compete with each other as to who can be toughest on asylum seekers and immigrants whilst cutting and privatising our NHS, education and pensions!
It is capitalism world-wide, through war, dictatorships and poverty that creates refugees and migrants, and it's the bosses in Britain who abuse cheap labour whilst exploiting divisions to keep all workers down.
The Socialist Party and Socialist Students call for a trade union-led campaign for decent jobs and wages, homes and services for all, and for the building of a new mass workers' party to provide a socialist alternative to the three main pro-war, pro-capitalist parties.
Outside Leeds Crown Court, Oxford Row (near Town Hall).
ANOTHER BILLION cars in the world is the calculation economists have made, assuming there is no major world recession. They forecast that car ownership in countries like China, India and Brazil will begin to reach the same level as America and Europe, which is already at saturation level. As the Guardian puts it: "That adds up to a lot of greenhouse gas".
In the USA and Western Europe about one in two people own a car at the moment. In China only 15 in every 1,000 own a car, in India it is eight in every 1,000.
If car ownership increases in Eastern Europe and parts of the developing world as well, then by the year 2050 the planet will consist of bumper-to-bumper traffic jams.
Only last week it was calculated that, for the first time in human history, more people now live in urban areas than live in the countryside.
The fear of the planet being overwhelmed in a catastrophic permanent smog of exhaust gases, pumping out from millions of vehicles, would make any thinking person say: "This can't go on".
There must be another way for people to get about, other than locked up in their own personal metal boxes - drivers cut off from the rest of the world, wishing to hell that the car in front would just get out of the way so they can get to their destination without being inconvenienced.
But to say to the peoples of China and India that there are already too many carbon monoxide-gushing vehicles on the planet's roads and therefore you cannot have what the west has already got, would not get you very far.
This is the attitude of many environmentalists who cannot see beyond a capitalist system that is based on the production of things for profit.
As socialist environmentalists we would start from the position of: "How can the needs of the mass of the population be met without wrecking the whole planet at the same time?"
Only a world socialist plan of production could offer a way out of this conundrum. Capitalism as a system cannot hope to square the circle of making things for profit and at the same time meet the real needs of people across the globe.
30 years ago, the Lucas Aerospace shop stewards' committee developed ideas for alternative products to the military equipment their members were actually making at the time.
These ideas included new methods of transport, such as a rail/bus vehicle and what were then new types of wheelchairs for the disabled.
Needless the say, the Lucas bosses completely ignored these ideas for "socially useful products".
But the point was driven home that the needs of people could only be met by the adaptation of the skills of these workers to things other than weapons of mass destruction.
It is the same with car production. Cars are not made to meet people's need to get from A to B. They are advertised and sold to increase car manufacturers' profits.
A rational world based on socialism would have an integrated transport plan. This would include all forms of transport and would prioritise environmental considerations from the beginning.
With capitalism, what we have instead is an irrational use of human labour to produce millions of cars, which the advertisers strive to convince millions of people they really need.
Individually capitalist producers might recognise the damage to the planet their products do. But they are locked into a vicious cycle, where competition between manufacturers forces them to mass produce cars on a scale never before attained in human history.
They might tinker from time to time with various means of cutting down on environmentally damaging exhaust gases but it is no more than tinkering.
Meanwhile, car workers face wave after wave of attacks on their working conditions, living standards and employment security.
The world car industry is an industry without parallel. It comprises some of the biggest concentrations of capital, of plant, equipment and investment, ever seen.
The world's biggest manufacturer, General Motors, made over nine million vehicles last year. Until recently GM employed 600,000 workers and had annual sales which, in money terms, were greater than the combined GNP of New Zealand, Portugal and Luxembourg put together.
But the whole industry is now going through greater structural changes than ever in its history. The bosses are shifting much of the industry from the west to the east.
In Europe, major car companies are shifting their production to Eastern Europe. In North America, the big car producers seek to develop production facilities in China and south-east Asia. At the same time, Japanese producers continue to forge ahead, taking more and more of the USA domestic market from the big three of GM, Ford and Daimler Chrysler.
What drives these changes and upheavals is the chase after lower and lower labour costs. Labour costs in the Czech Republic, for example, are one fifth of those in Germany. GM plants in Belgium and Germany are being closed and shifted to Poland. Ford have closed five of their 11 plants in Western Europe and shifted east.
Japanese and Korean companies are opening up in Eastern Europe as well. Toyota is opening new plants in Turkey and Russia. Hyundai and Ka, both South Korean manufacturers, are now in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine and Turkey.
But it's not just to Eastern Europe that production is being shifted. More and more plants are being opened in the developing world by the big manufacturers, whilst plants are being closed in Western Europe.
Bob Lutz, GM vice chair, whilst announcing jobs cuts in the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port Merseyside said: "We will shift production to Korea, Thailand and Mexico".
Thousands of workers in Western Europe, including Britain, are being thrown on the scrap heap. In the USA the big three of GM, Ford and Daimler/Chrysler have led an offensive against workers' conditions in the production plants.
GM and Ford have sacked 30,000 workers at the same time as cutting back the pay, pension rights and health benefits of the workers, unfortunately all too often with the compliance of the auto unions. The car companies claim that the reason they are doing this is falling profits as their sales plummet. Ford sales declined 35% in the USA last year, Daimler Chrysler lost 37% and GM fell by 19.5%.
They are being pushed out of their domestic market by Japanese and Korean car makers. Toyota increased their sales in the USA by 16%, Honda's went up by 10%, Hyundai by 6% and only Nissan has failed to cash in, when its sales fell by 19%.
A big factor in the loss of sales by the USA giants is the rise in the price of oil, which cut sales of SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles or 4x4s) by 45%.
This does not mean that fewer cars are being made. World car production actually increased from 38 million to 44 million between 1997 and 2004. Production of all vehicles - cars, trucks buses etc - went from 51 million to 61 million, reflecting the continuing world-wide economic upswing.
In the car plants of Western Europe and North America a war of attrition is being waged by the manufacturers against their own workers.
In Germany VW and BMW bosses have managed to slow the rate of export of the jobs to the east by cutting workers' wages and conditions with the backing of the trade union leaders.
In the USA, again with the connivance of the unions, and only after a certain amount of resistance from below by rank and file workers, the same cost-cutting measures have been pushed through.
Meanwhile, the Chinese car industry has been growing. China is now the fourth biggest producer at 4.5 million cars per year, compared to one million only a few years ago. Wages on average are one-tenth of the European level.
Here in Britain, the situation has been different for a number of years. The collapse of the British-owned car industry was a direct result of the de-industrialisation policies of the Tories, which were continued under New Labour.
The British-owned car industry was allowed to die, unlike in France, where the government took direct control of the industry.
Both the Tories and New Labour refused to prop up the "lame duck" of British Leyland (BL). BL was privatised under Margaret Thatcher and handed over to British Aerospace.
Before that, under the previous Labour government, Harold Wilson, with Tony Benn as his industry minister, was forced to nationalise what was then British Leyland. But no real investment followed.
At the time, for every £1,000 of investment behind BL workers, Honda was investing £16,000 per worker.
Benn was removed as the minister in charge because he became too close to the unions who were demanding proper investment.
Instead, the Labour government oversaw the closure of more and more factories. BL was nationalised mainly because of the strength of the trade unions in the 1970s.
But the key demand for workers' control and management, raised at the time by Militant supporters in the Rover factories in Solihull and Longbridge, was ignored.
We called for the board of BL to be made up as follows: One third coming from the trade unions in BL - to represent the workers of BL directly. Union membership was nearly 100% at the time and the shop stewards' committees were under the control of the shop floor by annual elections and the right of recall at any time.
Another third coming from the TUC, to represent the organised working class as a whole - at the time the unions had 60 or 70% of the whole working class in their ranks.
And the final third from the Labour government. Again, this was when the Labour Party was still a workers' party, albeit with a pro-capitalist leadership.
It is easy to see how this demand would not resonate today, in quite different circumstances to the 1970s, nevertheless they were quite "revolutionary" at the time. In fact when talks were opened up with Tony Benn when he was industry minister, his response to a level of workers' control of BL was positive.
That is probably another reason why Harold Wilson sacked him.
BMW subsequently bought Rover for £800 million. The UK car industry, particularly companies like Rover, has been under-funded and under-invested for decades. Until the BMW takeover, less than 3% of turnover was reinvested in plant and equipment.
BMW claim that they have brought this up to 7%, but this was mainly in greenfield sites like the factory within a factory at Rover's Oxford plant - which has gone on to produce the successful new mini.
The whole of the British car industry is now owned by overseas companies. The massive defeats suffered by the organised trade unions in the traditional car plants have been exploited ruthlessly by Japanese companies. "Beauty contests" for the most compliant unions were introduced by the Japanese car manufacturers before they laid a single brick.
No car worker who had any history of trade union activity was allowed to get a job in the UK assembly plants of Nissan, Toyota and Datsun.
The result has been that output of the British car industry is the same as it was 30 years ago but with one-third of the labour force. But the increase in productivity is mainly due to the much higher level of investment per worker than was the case for example in BL.
But as workers in the Peugeot plant in Coventry found out, foreign-owned plants in Britain will be the first to shut in the event of a recession. They are no more that assembly plants for components brought in from overseas.
Britain now produces as many cars as ever but the research and development facilities are concentrated in Japan.
The response of the union leaders throughout this period has ranged from complete compliance with the capitalist owners to frustrated calls for the government to introduce measures to curb sales of foreign cars in Britain.
The crisis at Peugeot Coventry revealed the weakness of the unions to stop this process.
Peugeot was able to take advantage of the lack of legal protection for British workers, compared to French workers, when it announced that it was cheaper and easier to close its British plant than its French or Belgian ones.
But the response of the union leaders was to call for a boycott of Peugeot car sales in Britain. This is yet to have any effect.
What the movement needs is basic demands that will give protection to car workers and at the same time point the way forward to a more rational use of their skills and abilities to meet the world's need for transport.
IN 1972, David Bowie sang: "News had just come over... Earth was really dying". He was wrong, we're still here. But for how long? NASA scientists now say the Earth is warmer than at any time for the last 10,000 years.
Over the past 30 years, average surface temperatures have risen 0.2C a decade. But some areas (especially higher and more northern latitudes) are warming even faster. Another 10 years of "business as usual" carbon emissions, reports NASA, could trigger runaway climate change.
If that happens, New Scientist describes how in the northern tundra (Siberia, northern Canada and Alaska) huge amounts of methane could be released from thawing peat in melting permafrost.
Methane is 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Global warming could accelerate in what is called positive feedback.
The Met Office's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research predicts that climate change could lead to a massive extension of drought and deserts, as global warming changes rainfall patterns.
Extreme drought, where agriculture is impossible, could affect almost one-third of the planet by 2100. Hundreds of millions of people could be forced to flee before then from hunger and thirst.
In November a UN conference will propose a replacement for the weak Kyoto treaty which set targets (not being met!) for states and businesses to limit greenhouse gases. Left to big business, will those targets be met in time?
Drax in Yorkshire, Europe's largest coal fired power station, is Britain's biggest producer of greenhouse gases. Last year Drax produced nearly 21m tonnes of carbon dioxide. The owners predict that figure will be worse this year. They claim that's because they're not given enough financial incentives to burn biofuels, although Drax doubled its profits to £317 million in the first six months of the year!
With earnings like these, what's the incentive for shareholders to forego such profits? A serious plan to radically reduce carbon dioxide must start with public ownership and the removal of the role of profit. Climate change is too serious to leave to capitalist politicians and big business.
MINERS EMPLOYED by the 'Mittal Steel Temirtau' company in Kazakhstan (a branch of the international corporation 'Arcelor Mittal') went on strike on 25 September.
The workers' are demanding wage rises and a lower retirement age - currently they are on $250-$300 a month. The strike began after the death of 41 miners because of poor working conditions.
The strike began despite the "advice" of the official trade union, 'Korgau', not to take militant action. Now the miners are trying to organise from below.
Socialist Resistance fully supports the miners and calls for fighting, democratic trade unions, and for the nationalisation of the mines and metallurgical industry in Kazakhstan.
This is the first miners' strike on such a scale, since 1989. Currently, 25,000 miners are on strike. The strike is also supported by workers in the Karaganda metallurgical industry, who have their own battles to fight. These workers held a mass meeting on 30 September, in Temirtau city and demanded a 40% wage rise.
The striking miners are taking courageous action and flexing their industrial power, but they need international moral and political support. The official trade union leaders and the local city and regional authorities, are trying to divide the workers. Permanent surveillance of striking miners takes place. The government-run mass media constantly puts out misinformation about the strikers. We appeal for telegrams and letters of solidarity to be sent to the striking miners' 'unofficial' leader, Pavel Shumkin, who was well-known as a miners' leader during the 1989 strikes.
Contact Pavel Shumkin at: Loboda St., 13, Apt. 49, 100000, Karaganda, Republic of Kazakhstan. Phone ++7 3212 41 36 04, mobile ++7 705 574 75 91. Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We also ask you to contact trade unions in other 'Arcelor Mittal' plants in 16 countries across the world, including in the Czech Republic, Canada, and the USA. Arcelor Mittal's policy of brutal labour conditions and low pay is also practised at the 'Krivorozhstal' company in the Ukraine, and in Romania.
An explosive situation is developing in Kazakhstan. A wave of strikes, and the appearance of new fighting trade unions, can sweep the country, especially if this dispute is won. Socialists, trade unions and activists everywhere must support the miners in Kazakhstan. Only through solidarity and by common struggle can we defend our rights and win real victories!
THE FIRST round of the Brazilian elections was an upset for the current president and candidate for re-election - Luis Inácio Lula da Silva - of the Workers' Party (PT).
Lula and the PT, and almost the entire media, were assuming a definite victory for Lula on the first ballot. But the 48.61% of the vote achieved by the coalition headed by the PT was not sufficient. Lula will now face a run-off on 29 October with Geraldo Alckmin, ex-governor of São Paulo state and candidate for PSDB (Party of the Brazilian Social Democracy), who got 41.64%.
One important factor on the electoral scene was the 6.85% vote (more than 6.5 million votes) for senator Heloísa Helena of PSOL (Party for Socialism and Liberty) - a new left party founded in 2004 that participated in the election as part of a Left Front which also included PSTU (United Socialist Workers Party) and PCB (Brazilian Communist Party).
In the two last weeks of the campaign, support for Lula was affected by a new scandal involving leaders of the PT. The federal police arrested members of PT who were trying to pay a criminal gang the equivalent of 1.7 million reals ($800,000 dollars) for an alleged dossier that connected the PSDB, and the previous government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, to corruption schemes. The dossier was going to be used to weaken PSDB's presidential candidate, Geraldo Alckmin, and the candidate for governor in São Paulo state, José Serra, who was health minister during Cardoso's government.
But it backfired. Alckmin is in the second round and Serra won the election in São Paulo, gaining 58% of the vote, compared to 32% for PT's candidate, Alo'so Mercadante.
The broadcasting of piles of money found with PT members, the fact that the source of the money is still not clear, and also Lula's non-attendance at the TV debates, ended Lula's chances of a first round victory.
The "dossiergate" has already led to the resignation of PT's national chair, Ricardo Berzoini, the main organiser of Lula's campaign, and Hamilton Lacerda, one of the main organisers of PT's campaign in São Paulo state.
They add to a series of high-ranking leaders of the PT and ministers that have resigned because of corruption scandals, in particular the "monthly allowance" scandal - a huge bribing scheme using public money to buy off MPs.
The Lula government went through a profound political crisis during 2005 due to these corruption scandals. At the height of the crisis, the government only managed to survive because the right-wing opposition feared the situation would get out of hand, with themselves being affected and provoking an even deeper crisis for the whole political regime.
The Lula government's budget cuts to pay the public debt to the bankers and the neo-liberal reforms implemented were clearly in the interests of the ruling class.
At the end of this year, when Lula is completing his fourth year in government, he will have handed more than $300 billion in interest payments on the public debt to bankers and speculators. To show their satisfaction, they became the biggest financial backers of his election campaign, paying more money to PT than even to PSDB.
Lula's government adopted a conscious policy of creating an electoral base, built upon government handouts, such as the "family allowance". Spending $2.5 billion a year, giving an average $30 a month to roughly 8 million families (more than 30 million people), Lula managed to secure an electoral base among the poorest and least organised in Brazil, especially on the north-eastern region of the country.
The government also tried to build an image of social concern over access to universities, a widespread demand and one of Lula's main planks in the election. However, Lula manipulated a genuine social demand to promote a neo-liberal, privatisiation policy. The government's 'university reform' is based on using public funds to finance private universities.
However, the fundamental reason for why many workers again voted for Lula is the lack of an political alternative. If there is a discontent with Lula's government, the years of Cardoso and the PSDB are still fresh in people's memory. The left alternative presented by PSOL and the Left Front played an important role in exposing the false polarisation between the PT and PSDB, but was not seen as viable electoral alternative by a majority of workers.
LULA'S VOTE this time was completely different in the 2002 elections. Then there was an enormous hope and enthusiastic support for social change under the PT. Many voted this time 'holding their noses', justifying their votes in the name of the 'lesser evil'. There will be no 'blank cheque' for the PT and the government during a possible second term.
If re-elected, Lula will try to quickly implement his neo-liberal reforms. In addition, the government will have to implement austerity measures, with more cutbacks, to maintain the primary budget surplus in order to continue paying the debt schedule.
The scenario will be the same if Alckmin wins the election. In that case, bigger clashes between the next government and the trade unions and social movements, will be inevitable. The chances of an intensification of the struggles, including workers in the public and private sector, apart from the landless workers and the youth in schools and universities, are much bigger.
IN GOVERNMENT, Lula and the PT's left-wing past was used very skilfully to confuse the workers, dividing them, and in that way containing a radicalisation of the struggle and resistance. The government co-opted the most combative trade union centre, the CUT, to the point of appointing its chair as Minister of Labour and defender of labour reform. The same happened to the UNE (National Union of Students). Even the more combative and radicalised movements, such as the MST (Movement of the Landless Rural Workers), ended up neutralised before the government.
Labour struggles - civil servants, workers in the private sector (eg at Volkswagen in the industrial ABC region in São Paulo, and the current bank workers' strike) - took place but tended to remain isolated. Generally, they didn't reach any real victories and couldn't count on the old workers' organisations to unify the struggles.
This puts the issue of building new organisations for the struggle as a concrete theme for an important layer of workers. There are plans to hold a National Gathering of Workers next year, called by organisations like Conlutas (National Coordination of Struggles) and the Intersindical to draw up a common plan for action to resist the coming attacks.
OF SEVEN MPs, PSOL managed to re-elect only three: Ivan Valente (São Paulo), Chico Alencar (Rio de Janeiro) and Luciana Genro (Rio Grande do Sul). The current MP Babá, one of the founders of the party, who transferred his candidature from Pará in the north to Rio de Janeiro, didn't get re-elected. The same happened to MP Maninha (Distrito Federal), João Alfredo (Ceará) and Orlando Fantazzini (São Paulo).
PSOL got two state MPs in São Paulo (Carlos Giannazi and Raul Marcelo) and one in Rio de Janeiro (Marcelo Freixo), but lost four MPs in the states of Santa Catarina, Espírito Santo, Pará and Amapá. The other parties of the Left Front (PSTU and PCB) didn't get anyone elected.
The second presidential ballot will also be a test for PSOL. Heloísa Helena declared that the party will support neither Lula nor Alckmin and that no member of the party can give public support to any of the two. In spite of that, the party is not adopting a clear position of a "null" vote, leaving it free for its supporters to vote as they like. Socialismo Revolucionário supports a "null" vote against Lula and Alckmin and the necessity to organise a struggle to resist the attacks that will come with the next government.
The future of PSOL will depend upon linking up with the social struggles that will develop in the country in the coming period. Socialismo Revolucionário, Brazilian section of CWI, acting as a tendency in PSOL, defends a socialist programme and a concept of a party that is democratic, militant, internationalist, based on local structures and linked to workers' struggles.
HELOêSA HELENA'S candidature was a big step in the direction of rebuilding a political left-wing.
The Left Front put forward a manifesto that was quite advanced, calling for a break with imperialism and finance capital, suspension of the payment of the internal and foreign public debt, the building of really democratic institutions that would represent a new power under the direct control of the workers and the people, and defending the social rights of workers, women, black people, etc, against super-exploitation.
However, when Heloísa Helena reached 12% in the opinion polls and Alckmin stagnated temporarily, the idea that Heloísa could overtake Alckmin and reach the second ballot against Lula created enormous pressure to moderate her political profile.
The fundamental emphasis of the campaign became Heloísa's qualities - like courage, integrity and honesty. The programmatic alternative became more and more moderate.
A show of strength by the mass movement, together with the defence of a left programme could have won the support of an important segment of the pauperised middle classes, as well as the working class. Even if an electoral victory was very unlikely, this would have laid the ground for the construction of a new workers' movement.
A FINANCIAL scandal involving Ireland's Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern - "Bertiegate" - dominates Irish politics and threatens to bring down the rightwing coalition government.
Ahern went to the D‡il (Irish parliament), on 3 October, under huge pressure to explain the "loans" and "gifts" he got from businessmen, to the value of Û60,000, when Ahern was a government minister in the 1990s.
JOE HIGGINS, Socialist Party TD (MP) spoke during the Dáil debate, and condemned "the sleaze, cronyism, patronage and corruption that pervaded politics in the 1980s and 1990s".
Joe attacked the pro-big business ruling parties, Fianna Fáil (FF) and the Progressive Democrats (PD), and government ministers who defend Bertie Ahern to try to stay in power.
It was recently revealed that a businessman, Michael Wall, who sold Ahern his Dublin home, in 1997, was present at an October 1994 fund-raising function in Manchester, when Ahern received £8,000 from businessmen.
Ahern confirmed Wall did sell him his Dublin home in 1997 but claimed he did not donate him any money. Ahern claims he paid the "full market rate" for the house, but refused to say how much that was.
Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McDowell, indicated that his PDs will stand by Fianna Fáil until the next general election (due next year), unless there are further revelations.
"Yet rumours abound of at least one major expose" that could mean "the good ship FF-PD will go down with all hands onboard", according to the Irish Independent (09/10/06).
For all his self-declared financial 'transparency', Ahern intends to go ahead with High Court action to prevent a government tribunal obtaining access to some of his financial details.
Meanwhile, the Deputy PM is criticised for having "flip-flopped" on the Ahern payments affair. Before the last general election, McDowell claimed he would be a "watchdog" over coalition partners, Fianna Fáil.
The government's antics nauseate hard-pressed workers. Speaking in the Dáil, Joe Higgins - a socialist MP who lives on a workers' wage - said the Ahern government is "light years removed from the struggle of working people to spread their wages over the mortgage, child care, transport and other problems."
"The final straw was when this restructure was announced in a Q&A session at a scientific meeting last week, three days before the trade unions and staff had even been informed. It's as if they don't take us seriously.
"The Blood Service say that they need to close seven out of 10 regional blood centres to cope with a fall in the use of blood due to technical advances like keyhole surgery. But these cuts go way beyond the fall in use, which has been about 2% a year for the last five years.
The real reason is that the Department of Health have not invested and will not invest in modern up-to-date facilities.
No new blood centre has been built since 1991, except the Liverpool Centre and that was only funded after a campaign by the unions and blood donors and local people against the closure of the old Liverpool centre."
UNISON in the Blood Service, who organise the blood collection teams, have troubles as well. There are job cuts amongst the donor carers, who go out to blood donor sessions in church halls and factories, as well as for team managers and donor recruitment staff.
AMICUS and UNISON reps lobbied the board of the NHS Blood and Transplant Authority, who run the National Blood Service, last week, but staff are now braced for announcements over the next few weeks as to exactly which centres will face closure or down-sizing.
THE GANGMASTER Licensing Act (GLA) came into force on 1 October. This regulation of the 'gangmasters' who supply workers to industries like agriculture, food and packing is long overdue.
The Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) initiated a campaign for this over 20 years ago and in 2001 the Biennial Delegate Conference backed the call for a national licensing scheme.
The GLA, with representatives in every sector of the industry, has been established to look after workers in agriculture, horticulture, shellfish-gathering and associated processing and packaging industries. From 1 October it is illegal to supply workers in these sectors without a GLA license, though the shellfish gathering industry has until April 2007 to comply.
It is estimated that there are 1,000 labour-providers working in these industries. The majority who have applied for a license are in the food processing and packaging industries.
There are probably many who do not know they need licenses, as there was no real campaign leading up to its introduction. For example, there have been no applications from Bristol, Avon and Cumberland and only six from Wales!
It has been accepted that labour providers need to add 30% on top of the minimum wage to cover all overheads, including transport, which would be a minimum rate of £6.98. Workers covered by the agriculture wages board would be entitled to more.
Any labour provider offering less than that is either underpaying their workers or evading their tax and National Insurance.
The GLA and Inland Revenue (now HMRC) need to check on the rates that labour providers are charging and what labour users are paying.
But some labour providers are likely to slip through the net and get their license, which then gives the labour user a get-out clause for a lower hourly rate.
Over half the labour providers in the UK have got away with underpayment for years and have not been caught by HMRC. How are the staff of GLA going to be any more successful?
Supermarkets are still pushing down prices, so the suppliers will expect the labour provider to either take the brunt of it or cut the costs by not paying the workers what they are entitled to.
The GLA can only be successful if it targets those who abuse workers' rights. The GLA must be extended to other industries that depend on labour providers, otherwise the criminals will just abandon agriculture in favour of those that are not regulated.
But the best way to begin making sure these workers are not exploited is to recruit them into the unions and fight to raise wages and conditions. The fact that the majority are casual migrant workers makes this more difficult.
The TGWU, the union that organises agricultural workers, should demand that they have access to the workers whose labour providers have registered.
It's time to make those who campaigned to get the GLA on the statute book prove that they mean what they say.