Barclays are by no means alone. Lloyds TSB are planning similar "efficiency restructuring" which will threaten 3,000 jobs. And this comes on top of the recent banking merger that is expected to cost the jobs of some 21,000 NatWest workers.
Eddy Weatherill, head of the Independent Banking Advisory Service described the vast profits as "just obscene" and said the situation was "outrageous".
It most certainly is and it is good that voices are being raised criticising the banks for their greed. But this should not be seen as some over-the-top isolated incident -- what Edward Heath once called "the unacceptable face of capitalism". It is the nature of capitalism itself and shows clearly what the system is all about.
Capitalism is a dog-eat-dog business in which the capitalists have to continually strive for ever increasing profits or face being pushed out of the race. And because the system is in crisis the capitalists are compelled to turn the screw harder by sacking workers and forcing those still in jobs to work harder and longer.
Tony Blair has said that class division and class struggle are things of the past. Why then should mass sackitlgs of workers lead to higher private profits for the bosses and shareholders? Why, unless there is a struggle, are increased profits never shared with the workers who have created them? Why is it that the gap between rich and poor continues to widen? The answer is that Blair's assertion is a lie and that the evidence of our daily lives exposes that.
While capitalism remains the working class has no choice but to engage in struggle to defend wages, hours and conditions. And to preserve our hard-won pensions, health service, education service, benefits and other social provision the struggle must be stepped up to raise the level of income tax on the rich.
At the same time we shall work, organise and struggle to hasten the day of that long needed revolutionary change of society, a fundamental change that will bring the inhuman capitalist system to an end -- our fight is for socialism!
NATO'S war against Yugoslavia rained bombs on that country for three solid months. The damage was enormous with energy supplies, roads, bridges, railways, houses, factories and refineries smashed to pieces. Thousands were made homeless and jobless.
When the bombing stopped the western governments declared they would make no reparations until "democracy" was restored -- a coded call for the overthrow of the legitimate Yugoslav government.
It is not surprising with so many people displaced and robbed of their former homes and livelihoods that many have become refugees. Britain, which was to the forefront in destroying Yugoslavia, is nowhere near as keen to help the people whose lives it shattered.
There has also been an increase in the number of Roma refugees from some of the former socialist countries of eastern Europe. Here too Britain cheered on and supported the forces of capitalism in those countries -- and it has been this very restoration of capitalism which has led to the upsurge in racism which has driven many Roma to seek asylum elsewhere.
The governments of western Europe seem only to grudgingly comply with international conventions on refugees and asylum seekers.
In this climate where governments are washing their hands of their crimes and responsibilities it is little wonder that the far-right, the racists and neo-Nazis are able to exploit the situation so easily.
The fruit of this mentality is Jorg Heider in Austria. We cannot ignore this -- we all have a responsibility, including the government, to speak out against racism and xenophobia. Workers of all countries unite!
FASLANE nuclear submarine base in Scotland was closed for nearly two hours last Monday as around 400 peace activists picketed the base in the biggest blockade for 15 years.
There were 179 arrests as peaceful picketers refused to budge from the road -- so many the police were simply not prepared and processing them all took most of the day.
The Valentine's Day picket was organised by Trident Ploughshares and included two Euro MPs a member of the Scottish Parliament, more than a dozen clergymen and members of the same group as the three women who were acquitted last year of charges of damaging property at the base, when a sheriff ruled that according to international law, Trident nuclear weapons are illegal.
Among those arrested were Caroline Lucas, Britain's only Green Euro MP, Scottish Member of Parliament Tommy Sheridan, Welsh councillor Ray Davies and Angela Zelter, one of those found not guilty of breaking into the base four months ago in the controversial sheriff's court ruling.
Messages of support came from Labour MSP John McAllion, film star Sir Sean Connery, actress Emma Thompson and author Kurt Vonnegut.
Also in attendance and very vocal, as usual, was the Cardiff Reds Choir and five members of the choir were arrested.
Choir member Beatrice Smith told the New Worker: "It was very enjoyable, a very good demo. There were workshops the day before so we knew exactly what to do. It was very well organised.
"The police were very good but just not prepared for the numbers. The weather was appalling -- heavy rain. It would have been better if it had been snow. We were hardened campaigners and came dressed for the occasion butwe were still quickly soaked through. So were the police.
"Our group went to one of the two gates. The police had already shut this themselves and all the action was at the other gate. We were in touch by mobile phone and most of us went across -- a one-and-a-half-mile trek across the fields.
"Around 50 stayed behind in case the police tried to sneak the traffic in through that gate -- mainly workers at the base arriving for their daily shift. They saw no action but they were very necessary and very disciplined to stick it out in the rain where they were.
"We arrived at the other gate just in time. The police started trying to clear this before the protesters were even in position."
The demonstrators held placards saying: "Trident's a crime", "Base closed" and "Crime scene, do not enter".
The protesters sat down and blockaded the base for nearly two hours. The police found it very heavy weather moving them out of the way -- especially when most simply came back to another spot and sat down again.
One man was rebuked for selling hot tea to the protesters. He was told it could be a health hazard -- as if the nuclear missiles just a few yards away were harmless!
One young woman chained herself to the underside of a lorry. Others filled truck tyres with concrete.
Speaking for Trident Ploughshares, David Mackenzie said: "As usual, Strathclyde Police took great care in the way they handled activists. But we do not appreciate the fact that they arrest us for doing something lawful, and they refuse to arrest those on the base doing something unlawful.
Scottish CND administrator John Ainslie said: "This has been a historic protest. People from all walks of life came together to take a stand against Trident. It is high time the leadership of the Scottish Parliament paid attention to what they are saying."
Beatrice Smith reported to the New Worker that the police had trouble accommodating all who had been arrested. This meant she spent two hours, packed with other protesters, in a police van, all of them cold and in wet clothes, driving around for a police station that could take them.
They were so pleased when they finally arrived at a police station they gave the police a burst of song.
"We were glad to get in the cells, but we didn't get there until one o'clock. Even in there we were freezing and they only had one blanket each for us. To give them credit, they rooted around and found a few more blankets, they did their best.
"But it took them ages to process us all. We didn't get back to the centre until five o'clock."
A spokesperson for the Trident Ploughshares group summed up the day: "We are obviously delighted at the response we have had, and to stop the base completely for an hour and a half in soaking weather conditions was exceptional."
The real message delivered was that peace campaigners in Britain and throughout the world have not taken their eye off the ball. The Government may want us all to forget the costly monstrosities but the dangers of a nuclear war have not gone away and nor have the protests against them.
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by Caroline Colebrook
STUDENT nurses in Greenwich, south London, last week threatened strike action after they received eviction notices to quit their accommodation within two months.
The block of flats they live in, overlooking the Thames and the millennium dome, has been sold off as part, of a private finance initiative (PFI) deal. The block is scheduled to be modernised and sold off as luxury flats with a great view.
The nurses considered strike action against the eviction and voted by 98 per cent in a ballot for industrial action.
But this has been postponed after the Greenwich Healthcare Trust explained the eviction notices would not take effect until November -- they had been sent out last week for legal technical reasons.
The trust admits the letters, which arrived just before the nurses were due to take important exams, were badly worded and gave a wrong impression but insists that accommodation for the nurses is the responsibility of the University of Greenwich and Oxleas NHS Trust.
The chances of them finding affordable accommodation in the private sector is virtually zero, with house prices and rents currently rocketing.
Average rents in the area are £200 a week in the private sector and some of the students fear they will have to quit nursing.
The Woodlands nurses' home was sold to developers over 18 months ago by Greenwich Healthcare Trust, which runs Greenwich District Hospital.
It is part of a PFI package in which the company Kvaerner is redeveloping the former military hospital, the Queen Elizabeth on Woolwich Common for £95 million.
The company was also given land from the site of the former Brook Hospital, now closed. The Greenwich District is also threatened with closure once the Queen Elizabeth is completed.
The NHS will then only have one hospital, in the borough, rented from Kvaerner where two decades ago there were seven belonging to the NHS.
Midwifery student Penny Bart is on a nursing bursary. This means she cannot get additional finance from student loans. She said: "We have all been given personal notices to move out by 1st April, quoting the Housing Act.
"The whole way this has been dealt with is disgusting. If we have to resort to strike action we are all prepared to do it.
"It's just totally unrealistic for us. We are prepared for a sit-in in the buildings."
Dave Prentiss, deputy general secretary of the public sector union Unison, said: "Nursing students receive just £2 an hour and they are now faced with the prospect of looking for private rented accommodation.
"We believe the NHS should ensure these students have decent safe, affordable accommodation for the duration of training."
Greenwich Healthcare Trust has already had severe recruiting problems, and its wards are under-staffed because the local cost of housing had risen so high.
The trust says that no nurses will be expected to quit before September and that the local university -- which they attend for the academic side of their training -- should be able to accommodate them.
A 'MARCH for human rights, democracy, and peace in 2000', which was sponsored by the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association (IHD), encountered harsh intervention from police before it could even get started last weekend.
Police, who put Istanbul's Beyoglu section under a virtual blockade, have beaten and taken approximately 300 people into custody, including IHD Istanbul branch chairman Eren Keskin, other officers and members of the organisation, numbers of intellectuals, artists, lawyers, representatives of non-government organisations and political parties, elderly people, and even 5-year-old children.
Beyoglu earlier came under a total police blockade beginning in the early hours of the morning. Police filled the streets along the route of the march, from the "Tunel" district to the IHD building.
Individuals considered "suspicious" were forced into police vehicles and taken into custody. One group, walking towards Tunel half an hour prior to the start of the march, was stopped by police in front of the Odakule office building. The group, which included Eren Keskin and a number of IHD officers and attorneys, were forcibly detained and carried off in police vehicles.
Hundreds of other people proceeding toward Tunel, both in groups and individually, were taken into custody without having done anything. During the same timeframe, one group, including 5-year-old Aytac Deniz, who was walking with members of the Mothers for Peace Initiative, was violently intercepted, forced into police vehicles, and taken into custody.
A number of lawyers who charged that the police intervention was illegal, as well as a group of marchers who sought to take refuge in the Dicle Women's Culture Center, were also forcibly taken into custody.
After another group of people took refuge in the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) Istanbul provincial headquarters building, police blockaded the building. As several people standing at the entrance to the building were beaten and taken into custody, those within the building protested this action by mock applause. ODP Istanbul Provincial Chairman Vahit Gene, making a statement within the building, characterised the behaviour of the police as "savage"
Several IHD officials who escaped being taken into custody, together with representatives of other democratic mass organisations, later held a press conference in the association's headquarters building.
IHD Executive Board Member Kiraz Bicici said that the march had been planned to be a silent one. He said: "The state has shown its ugly face yet again, and has demonstrated once again that it will not respect human rights in this country.
"While people all over the world march for peace and against racism, we human rights defenders in Turkey were unable to carry out our silent march for 'respect for human rights in the new millennium'.
"We had in fact evaluated this silent march as a test. But we've seen once again that the state has failed in this test of human rights. We will not be silenced. Despite all the obstacles, the pressures, and the blockades, we will continue our struggle for human rights."
Approximately 300 people were taken into custody, including officials and representatives of political parties such as the People's Democracy Party (HADEP), the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP), and the Proletarian Party (EMEP), as well as representatives and members of democratic mass organisations.
Among the detainees were: IHD Istanbul Branch Chairman Eren Keskin and Executive Board members Dogan Gene, Leman Yurtsever, and Gulseren Yoleri; lawyers Gulizar Tuncer. Filiz Kostak, and Ali Talipoglu: Turkish Human Rights Foundation Istanbul representative Hurriyet Sener; German Greens Party member Hamide Scheer; artist Ekrem Ataer; poet Suna Aras; writer Tomris Ozden; Mothers for Peace Rahime Ince and Asiye Turhalli; Saturday Mothers Emine Ocak and Hanife Yildiz; Alinteri newspaper corresondent Makbule Turk; and 5-year-old Aytac Deniz.
Ozgur Politika (Kurdish Observer)
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by Steve Lawton
HASTY action by the British government to decapitate the Northern Ireland Assembly last Friday, despite the significance and knowledge of the second arms decommissioning body report from General John de Chastelain, has, according to Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, left Republicans with no room to manoeuvre.
The IRA, by Tuesday, withdrew both its representative and its proposals tabled since last November from the de Chastelain commission.
The Irish Republican Army's statement said that Northern Ireland secretary Peter Mandelson has "reintroduced the unionist veto by suspending the political institutions" and that the Blair government and UUP leaders "rejected" IRA proposals to the commission.
The IRA pointed out that they "agreed to appoint a representative" to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) on 17 November, as part of the process of ending the 18-month deadlock which had been "created and maintained by unionist intransigence and a failure of the British government to advance the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement."
Sinn Fein's chairman Mitchel McLaughlin attacked the British government's actions as an "illegal anti-democratic act". Speaking at Trinity College, Dublin on Tuesday, he said "The British government are the only parties now in default [of the Good Friday Agreement]. Not even the unionists are in default. At the time the executive was suspended, all parties were honouring their obligations. Peter Mandelson had no legal basis and no political basis for doing what he did."
The moment Westminster took over the political institutions, the basis of the IRA's stretched accommodation to unionist dictat by creating a constructive bridge to the decommissioning element in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA), became untenable.
The IRA said the context of their engagement had changed. In effect, the British government has undercut de Chastelain's mandate and is in danger of compromising its avowed independence.
The danger to the peace process will be very apparent quickly. If a reversal of direct rule does not happen soon, grave doubts will be raised about the exact direction of the really key issues -- British de-militarisation, policing and the RUC, a just legal process and Bloody Sunday truths -- that concern the 70 per cent of nationalists and unionists, Catholics and Protestants, who voted for the GFA two years ago.
In his interview with the Irish Times (15.2.00) head of the Policing Commission Chris Patten said that the implementation of its 175 recommendations for RUC reform may now be jeopardised by the present suspension setback since the body is a part of the progress overall in the peace process.
He said "we argued" for a policing board based on the Assembly's political balance. "Now if there is no acting Assembly, it's much more difficult to establish such an institution.
"Not impossible, but you have to do it in rather different ways, and, not inconceivably, less democratically accountable ways.
And that, given the risk now of a serious political vacuum opening up even though the IRA and the key loyalist organisations remain on ceasefire, would amount to a rejuvenation of RUC terror as a renewed instrument of the British state. Not a point Patten would naturally make.
Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, speaking on BBC Radio Four on Monday, condemned the response to de Chastelain: "The British government do not have the right to say that what General de Chastelain said was not enough. [He] was given a very important job and [last] Friday he said that he could report valuable progress. Those are his words, not mine. In my opinion that should have been accepted by the British government [but] it was rejected."
The Sinn Fein leader said the government had in effect told the de Chastelain commission to "pack their bags and go". He said they should "climb down" and "accept" de Chastelain's report.
The Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader David Trimble, persistently puffed up by Blair's attentions, was emboldened to act the fake facilitator of de Chastelain's supposed predicament. David Trimble demands the IRA declare what they have said to de Chastelain -- to protect the general's "integrity" -- besides what is in the second report, that is, has the IRA declared its willingness to decommission?
This negative move by the British government, which strengthens unionism and undermines the peace process, enables the UUP leader to denigrate in a crude way the delicate foundations of political diplomacy.
That was so obviously made a pronounced factor when Senator George Mitchell conducted the review process and helped to stabilise developments at the time.
As though David Trimble didn't know that. The integrity of the peace process comes second, it seems.
We await the outcome of frantic bi-laterals between British and Irish governments and key parties to the process, and to see whether Blair & Co will pull back.
** The inquest at Kingston Crown Court into the death of Diarmuid O'Neill, under the questioning of Michael Mansfield QC last Monday, revealed that the policeman called "Kilo" -- incognito behind a black screen -- killed Diarmuid by firing six shots from his 9mm carbine "out of the pure panic of the situation".
In what many regard as a "shoot-to-kill" operation against a supposed IRA unit in 1996, the killer -- who said he thought he was going to be killed -- was not wearing a respirator when several CS gas canisters were thrown into the hotel room of Diarmuid O'Neill who was barely dressed.
Michael Mansfield said: "Your eyes were streaming, choking, you couldn't breathe with the lobby full of smoke. You see a figure and that's all you see. I suggest you were not in a position to make a decision." He continued: "You were so fired up, so anxious, the moment you'd got in the room the person was shot dead."
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