In the last month the hi-tech multinationals have slashed a staggering 40,000 jobs and even older industries are cutting back on staff as the recession in the United States starts to bite into other economies. Last Tuesday the tyre maker, Goodyear, announced 600 redundancies.
As usual the pundits and politicians are doing their best to make light of the problems in the hope of keeping confidence as high as possible in the City of London and to conceal the depth of the capitalist crisis.
But for all the upbeat chatter, the recession is a reality in the US and it's already affecting other capitalist states, including Britain. And in every one of those capitalist countries the working class will be made to pay for the crisis in order to keep the rich minority in clover. It's unemployment, insecurity, and poverty for millions and even greater wealth and privilege for a few leading monopolists who will grow fatter and fatter as the mergers and take-overs speed up.
The last thing the ruling capitalist elites want is for the system of exploitation to be exposed and rejected. Capitalists the world over fear the strength of the working class acting together and more than anything fears the advance of socialism -- which is the only way forward.
As a result everything that can divide workers, deceive workers and confound workers is done all of the time. At times of recession and crisis these efforts are multiplied.
A favourite and time-honoured ploy of the ruling class is to foster racism in every way it can -- through the utterances of right-wing politicians, through the bourgeoise media and by the underhand method of allowing officials and institutions to turn blind eyes to racist bigotry and actions.
This provides a convenient diversion from the real issues. It creates a totally unnecessary division within the working class. It sets minorities up as scapegoats for the ills caused by capitalism and it encourages reactionary elements and outright fascists to step up their anti-working class propaganda.
Despite William Hague signing the Commission for Racial Equality's pledge not to use racism in the general election, some Tories are clearly not happy. It is also clear that quite a few other people, and certainly the ruling class, would rather focus our attention on the latest group to be picked out as scapegoats -- asylum seekers and refugees -- than discuss the growing number ofjob losses, the mounting fear of mass unemployment returning and the utter failure of the capitalist system to solve these problems.
Nor are the reactionary forces only interested in heightening racism during the run-up to the election. It is being elevated because of the deepening economic crisis and because hardship and discontent are likely to grow.
We need more than ever to say boldly and clearly that immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees and people from ethnic minorities are not responsible for the redundancies at Motorola, Goodyear, Corus, Ericsson, or any other firm. They are not to blame for the teacher shortage, the nursing shortage, the inadequate state retirement pension, the fortunes wasted on Trident weapons, the social spending cuts, the anti-union laws, the lack of council housing, the privatisation of the railways and every other service and utility and they are not responsible for the poverty in other countries which imperialism exploits.
We need to condemn racism and work to strengthen working class solidarity and organisation. And we need to pin the blame where it belongs -- on the capitalist class and its inhuman system.
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Then here will be a rally addressed by Mick Rix, general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef, Bob Crowe, deputy general secretary of the transport union RMT and Eddie McDermott of the Transport and General Workers' Union.
No doubt Mick Rix and Bob Crowe will be calling on supporters to sign the unions' Take Back the Track petition urging the Government to renationalise our railways.
A recent Mori poll showed that 76 per cent of people in Britain endorse this call.
The South Tyneside May day Committee has organised a rally on 1 May at the South Shields Labour Club, Victoria Road at 7.30pm.
This will be addressed by Arthur Scargill on behalf of the National Union of Mineworkers an Eric Trevett on behalf of the Korea Friendship and Solidarity Campaign.
Political singer/songwriter Paddy Shannon will provide entertamment.
Tickets for the event are just £l and are available from Roger Nettleship on 0191 483 7766.
The Edinburgh May Day Committee has announced: "Radical voices to address Edinburgh's May Day Rally on the 75th anniversary of the 1926 General Strike -- a new generation of activists is expected to join Tony Benn MP and Tommy Sheridan MSP at this year's May Day rally in Edinburgh.
"And this year's message on international workers' day is that the struggle for social justice is every bit as vital, relevant and inspiring today."
Tony Benn argues that: "For our generation the most important task is to win the labour movement for socialism again and build democracy from the bottom up. That is what the people are waiting to hear."
And Tommy Sheridan says: "May Day is an opportunity to highlight poverty and public ownership.
"Poverty is unacceptable in a country as rich as Scotland with huge natural resources, physical wealth, technology and social infrastructure.
"Poverty arises in Scotland not because we are a poor country but because the distribution of our wealth is still obscenely unequal.
"The renatonalisation of the utilities stolen from ordinary citizens must be put back on the political agenda in order that gas, electricity, telecoms and public transport belong to the people."
He called for an independent socialist Scotland and for condemnation of the support given by the British and United States governments for Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.
The Edinburgh May Day committee intends to mobilise hundreds of workers for a march, including 100 children, each carrying a photograph of a Palestinian -- adult or child -- killed by Israeli state forces in he recent uprising.
A spokesperson said: "May Day is international workers' day and has always highlighted the struggles of the oppressed everywhere.
"Just as the labour movement was an ally of those fighting apartheid in South Africa, so it will be a key force in fighting against the dispossession, ethnic cleansing and ongoing massacres of the Palestinian people."
Bill Speirs, of the Scottish TUC and deputy general secretary of the Irish trade union Siptu, will address the rally on behalf of the trade union movements in Scotiand and Ireland.
He will point out the link between the two through the experience ofthe Edinburgh-born socialist James Connolly, who was executed by the British Army or his role in the Irish war of independence.
May Day in Edinburgh will be a cultural affair, with multicultural bands and art exhibitions and treats for the children.
The march assembles at 11.30 am on Saturday 5 May in market Street for a rally at 1pm in Princes Street Gardens.
There are dozens of other May Day events happening, including a rally in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich on Saturday 5 May from 10am onwards, where New Worker comrades will have a stall.
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by Daphne Liddle
SHADOW chancellor Michael Portillo last week threw the Tory party into disarray by playing politics with the race issue, using a pledge issued by the Commission for Racial Equality as a weapon to try to upstage his leader William Hague.
The Labour Party responded by also playing party politics with the issue in a way that means racism will feature strongly in the election and afterwards as the coming global recession starts to bite and mass unemployment returns to haunt the working class.
The CRE pledge was a fairly anodyne voluntary agreement for all contestants in the coming general election to sign to promise not to campaign in a way that would increase racial prejudice or tensions.
Most signed it without battmg an eyelid, including William Hague, Anne Widdecome, most other Tory candidates, and all the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates.
Most of the general public would hardly have been aware of it had not three Tory backwoodsmen refused to sign it. Portillo seems to have seen this as an opportunity to upstage his leader and also refused to sign. Portillo himself is not a racist, he recently berated one of his own party members for this.
But he knows that raising the issue will strike a chord with many in his party and win him support electorally and in the battle for leadership of his party.
He attacked the CRE and claimed the document was aimed to stifle debate on asylum and immigration.
The right-wing press took up the issue with alacrity and acres of newsprint appeared in papers like The Telegraph attacking the CRE as a Labour stooge.
They wheeled out former CRE commissioner Dr Raj Chandran to claim that all the current CRE leadership are Labour Party activists.
Portillo has been supported by many other Tories, including former armed forces minister Nicholas Soames who called the CRE pledge "a loathsome and offensive document", John Gummer and Aldershot MP Gerald Howarth who said it was an attempt to "intimidate" Tory candidates.
This was a signal for Hague and Widdecome to jump on the bandwagon and declare that although they had signed the document, they did not like it.
On the other hand, Steve Norris and Michael Ancram have been trying to quell the more outspoken racists in their own ranks.
Steve Norris started by saying that Mr Hague had expected all candidates to sign the pledge and Michael Ancram had written a circular to all Tory candidates warning them not to come out with racist comments while campaigning.
Meanwhile Labour itself is by no means innocent of racism. Home secretary Jack Straw has accused Hague of weakness on the issue while he himself has introduced new measures to remove 30,000 unsuccessful asylum-seekers this year.
This is pure electioneering but it will have a devastating effect on the asylum seekers who no longer get a fair hearing in the current fast-track processing and will pander to unfounded public fears about excessive numbers of asylum seekers.
And the right-wing press continues to attack the very existence of the CRE. Many fear that if elected, the Tories would abolish it.
But the CRE funds racial equality groups all around the country which are doing vital work in defending the victims of racism.
Dev Barrah of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality told the New Worker that if the CRE funding was withdrawn: "We would be dependent on the council to pay our wages and they would love to close us down because we challenge them on things they are getting wrong.
"We do loads of casework. Thousands come to us for help because we go out into the community and talk to people. Eighty per cent of those from ethnic minorities have no confidence in the police or the council. If we did not exist, these people would have nowhere to go. There would be riots on the estates.
"Some local CREs are not as effective as they could be, it depends on the people who are on the management committees. They need to be improved, not cut.
"And the CRE is vital to see that the recommendations of the McPherson report are implemented. Who else is there to do that?"
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by Liz Rowley of People's Voice
THE demonstration of tens of thousands goes on forever, thirty people wide is bigger than anything I've ever seen. We later find out that 70,000 people came out, twice as large as organizers had hoped. The efforts by police, governments, media and pundits to frighten people and keep them away have failed.
In fact the opposite has happened. The massive police buildup of 6,000, plus 1,200 army regulars brought up from Valcartier, has become an issue in itself. Frightened by the efforts to restrict democracy and civil rights, people and have come out in their thousands to show they will not be silenced. TV images showing row upon row of riot police facing unarmed youth climbing the hated perimeter fence have increased the anger. Why is this fence here? Why are young people being attacked with tear gas and plastic bullets?
But the mood is not primarily anger, although that erupts whenever the demonstration passes a street with a clear view up to the ramparts where people are intent on bringing down the fence.
Before the day is over, two of our own young people have been injured - one hit in the head by a plastic bullet, another collapsed after being gassed. Everyone gets a taste of the gas somewhere along the march. It wafts everywhere throughout the city, potent and still able to burn eyes and choke throats and chests.
In the end the tear gas also gets Chrétien and the Summit leaders. The conference has to be adjourned Saturday when the winds blow the tear gas back into the Summit compound. There it gets into the ventilation systems, and the buildings are evacuated. The news is hidden from demonstrators and the public. But like the FTAA text, somehow it leaks out, the best news of the day!
Friday's protests also delayed the Summit opening, as well as some of the day's sessions. The protests cannot be ignored. The leaders WILL hear. And they do.
On this side of the perimeter fence, there is the intoxicating power of masses of people in motion. This is the real power of the people, of democracy and social justice, of unity and solidarity, reflected in the faces of people marching with dignity and moral authority.
They came in more than 300 buses and trains from all over Quebec, Ontario, and the Maritimes. Even a busload from Winnipeg arrives. They are trade unions, social justice groups, special event groups like Toronto's "Mob4Glob" (mobilization for globalization). The CSN, Quebec's largest public sector union, has done an outstanding job with more than 20 buses coming from Local 301 alone; Montreal's outside workers have outdone themselves! The Quebec's teacher union is also out in force, along with many from the FTQ, the CLC's Quebec affiliate. The CAW has sent 15 buses, and paid for more to bring hundreds of social justice and community groups to Quebec City. CUPE, CUPW, and other public sector unions are also present in significant numbers. The Steelworker/CEP train has brought six carloads from Toronto and stops along the way.
The NDP leaders are here, a change from previous demonstrations, and a shift away from the main direction of their policy on globalization. Have the election results had an impact on their thinking? Many in the labour leadership are glad to see them.
The Communist Party of Canada is also here, together with its Quebec members, the Parti communiste du Quebec. Two busloads have arrived, one from Montreal and the other, after a gruelling nine hour trip, from Toronto. Everyone is happy to be here. Boxes of the CPC statement on capitalist globalization spill out onto the pavement, along with banners of all sorts -- and poles to put them on, what a relief!! Advance rumours were that the cops would confiscate anything attached to wood, even poles to hoist and carry banners! Two hours later, 10,000 leaflets have been eaten up by a crowd hungry for information. The Young Communist Organization also has a leaflet, but it too is gone in short order.
One key demands - to release the text of the agreement for public debate - has born fruit. On Friday, an important section of the text was leaked. Dealing with constitutional issues and national sovereignty, it galvanized opposition and focussed the demands for openness, publicity, democracy and accountability.
Above all, demonstrators want Ottawa to put the FTAA on the public agenda, and to take direction from the Canadian people, not the "economic elites": the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, GATT, the G7, and other un-elected and unaccountable corporate global entities.
The largest contingent are the social justice and community groups from Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes, many of whom are also union members and activists. The Council of Canadians is front and centre, along with the Canadian Federation of Students. The largest proportion of demonstrators are young, providing the protest with much of its enormous energy and optimism.
Among them are Radical Cheerleaders along the route. "Go to the Left, left, left! Not to the Right, right, right! We're going to fight, fight, fight!" they holler out, pompoms flying this way and that.
Music and puppets are everywhere too, many homemade. The puppets are enormous -- 15 or 20 feet high. George Bush in ghoulish flight. A huge green condom to be used to "Protect yourself from the FTAA!" is covered with reminders about the threat to the environment, social programs, labour standards, and democracy. A huge Uncle Sam standing over a guillotine. A gigantic mother protecting her children from corporate conglomerates. A very ugly Ronald McDonald doing nasty things. And so on.
Much of the music is pots and pans, and rhythm and beat. When the pots and pans brigade are too tired to walk, they climb the crossbeams on the lamp standards, and entertain us from above with drum beats on metal. People dance through the streets. "So! So! So! So-lidarite!" goes the favourite chant throughout the day.
Street theatre is everywhere. A group of three show how government is blinded and silenced by money, while corporations go fishing. A large group of 20 or 30 walks in lockstep to the march of a drum, all dressed in corporate suits and ties, movements synchronized including the stop to the look at the relentless watch, and the stop to hold the aching, breaking head.
The rejection of a world run by corporate, capitalist elites is plain to see. People come dressed as sharks, ghouls, tycoons, carrying signs that make the impassioned case for democracy, for civil and national rights. Many came with US dollar bills taped across their mouths. Others carry Cuban flags made of paper. The Che Guevara stickers made by the Young Communist Organization go like hot cakes with hundreds of people wearing them throughout the day. A broad sense of solidarity with Cuba, and the Cuban trade unions and people, saturates the protest.
Thousands of people come in their cars and vans with friends and relations, some because there weren't any buses, or because the buses were long since filled. Whole families arrive, often with their own signs in the trunk. Everyone has brought water, along with winter coats, boots, scarves and mittens. Who knew the weather was going to be hot? Winter clothes are stripped off, and suddenly the crowd is a mix of summer and winter, coats tied around the waist, paper hats made of leaflets and newspapers, everybody sunburned and exhausted at the end of the 10 kilometre hike.
Some turn back before the final kilometres, a stretch through industrial land where marchers feel isolated and sidelined. Why did the march not come close to the perimeter, many ask. The end is the exhibition grounds where toilets await, together with brief speeches, and more music.
The buses finally arrive, and the worry about finding all the right bodies begins. Who is missing? Who is lost? Is anybody hurt? Are the cell phones working? A young woman lost turns out to be in the emergency ward. Drowned in tear gas, she collapsed when her asthmatic lungs shut down. An ambulance was called, she was treated in hospital where we recover her.
Finally we head out for the nine-hour trip home, secure in the knowledge that we made our contribution to the blooming opposition to the FTAA, and to its disruption and developing defeat.
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CONSTRUCTION companies last week rejected a scheme put forward by unions and by the Health and Safety Executive for roving safety inspectors.
The Construction Confederation and the Electrical Contractors' Association which represent more than 7,000 companies dismissed the scheme as "counter-productive" because "it will be someone who doesn't know the site. They may know health and safety rules but not the ways of working the site."
Building workers are more than six times likely to be killed or seriously injured at work than any other occupation and a third of all health and safety prosecutions relate to the construction industry.
Last year 80 workers died on building sites while death rates in other industries fell.
Mick Holder of the London Hazard Centre, a campaigning group for improved safety, said: "We want legislation. The days of employers being 'requested' to take action should be over.
"The members of these organisations have caused the deaths of too many of their employees, so we thought they would have been a bit more willing to participate."
The HSE said that independent safety trained inspectors would have the advantage of not being employed by the firms they are inspecting.
"Inspectors can be more objective about a problem if the company is not in a position to sack them," said a spokesperson.
George Brumwell, general secretary of the construction union Ucatt, said: "Denial of workers' rights, a culture of lawlessness at site level, a chronic skills shortage and sickening health and safety statistics have all contributed to the industry's poor image.
"A real change in the industry's culture will mean involving the workforce in health and safety on building sites. That is why we strongly advocate the trade union roving safety rep system."
A small number of roving safety inspectors will be launched next week as part of a pilot scheme, though their powers have not yet been defined.
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