As the jitters creep into the City of London and Wall Street, what could be more welcome than the chance to invest in the relatively solid world of public transport and essential services?
This is obviously a big factor in why the government is so intransigent about its private/public plans for the London Underground -- despite the clear desire of the people of London for a public service under public ownership and democratic control. And it explains the determination of the government to push ahead with its privatisation plans for air-traffic control and what used to be the Post Office.
Londoners have already used the ballot box to show what they think -- the future of the Tube was the largest ssingle reason why Ken Livingstone had the active support of many Labour Party members and easily won the Mayoral contest.
But clearly we need, as always, to do rather more than just vote -- Livingstone needs vociferous support forr his stand against the big guns of the Government/City machine and the would-be Tube speculators.
The London Underground unions have picked up the baton of this particular struggle -- now we need to take it on as well by giving them our full support and adding our voices to the campaign.
In the same way the fight needs to be stepped up over the future of air traffic control -- a service where safety must never be compromised and where the very highest standards must be maintained -- this means saying NO to any "Railtrack" of the skies! Keep air traffic control public!
Postal delivery services are now up for grabs. This means there is an immediate need to put the government under pressure to protect jobs, to keep prices to customers pegged-down and to protect services to rural areas.
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ISRAELI gunships are attacking Gaza City and Ramallah in a new wave of terror to try and stifle the mounting Palestinian offensive which left five Zionists dead and scores more wounded in a week of resistance bombings and guerrilla attacks.
At the United Nations Security Council the Americans vetoed a proposal to send an international observer force to occupied Palestine to help protect the Palestinian Arabs and in the Jordanian capital of Amman Arab kings, princes and presidents heard Syria's new leader, Bashir al Assad compare the Zionist entity to Nazi Germany.
US bails out stooge
At United Nations Headquarters the United States vetoed a non-aligned resolution calling for the despatch of unarmed observer force to the occupied territories. The motion was backed by People's China, Russia, Bangladesh, Columbia, Jamaica, Mali, Mauritius, Singapore, and Tunisia. Britain, France, Ireland and Norway abstained and Ukraine did not vote.
Palestinian MP Hanan Ashrawi warned that if the United States continued to prevent any international intervention there would be more loss of life.
Back in Amman, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat repeated his call for an international force to protect the Palestinian civilians under Israeli oppression and accused Israel of using depleted uranium weapons against them.
There senior delegations from the 22 members of the Arab League including 15 leaders tried to forge a common front in the facing of mounting anger on the Arab street at the persecution of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel.
And they heard UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on one hand condemn Israel's "collective punishment" of the Palestinians and its "excessively harsh response" to the new intifada while bleating that "these points could be made more effectively if many Israelis did not believe that their existence was under threat". Syrian President Bashir al Assad scorned those who might want to give Israel's Sharon government the benefit of the doubt.
Sharon "is a killer and a man who hates Arabs" Assad said. "He hates everything that has to do with Arabs. How can anyone convince Arabs that the Israeli street wants peace?"
"Sharon needs time?" he mimicked. "Time to kill more Arabs."
Israel is "a racist society, a society more racist than the Nazis," the Syrian leader told the summit. But "history is on our side. Every Israeli knows that he does not own this land. This is Arab land".
On the Arab street no-one expects much from the summit -- the first for eleven years -- though the fact that it took place at all was a victory in itself. The Palestinians hope that at least the millions promised in aid for the Palestinian Authority will eventually get delivered to the West Bank and Gaza.
The Syrians and the other progressive Arab governments will try and get the summit to back demands for a return to the economic boycott and isolation of Israel until Tel Aviv withdraws from all the occupied territories.
But on the Palestinian street the only dialogue now with the Zionists is with guns and bombs. Israel was rocked by three bomb blasts this week -- two within six hours in occupied Jerusallem.
On Tuesday a powerful car bomb exploded near a shopping mall in southern Jerusalem wounding several Israelis. Later that afternoon northern Jerusalem was hit by a huge blast which wounded 31 more Israelis.
The next day another bomb killed three Zionists at a bus stop near the Israeli town of Kfar Saba. At least one resistance fighter sacrificed himself in the attack. Two other bombs planted in the port of Netanya and Petah Tikva were discovered by the Israeli police on Wednesday and defused.
One attack in Jerusalem is believed to have been carried out by Islamic Jehad the other two by the Muslim Brotherhood's (Hamas) military wing, the Izzedin al Qassam brigades.
In a statement to the press the brigades said the actions had been carried out by their elite unit 103 and they warned that there were "still seven martyrs ready to strike and we have more."
Hamas and the other Palestinian resistance movements have vowed to retaliate for the killing by the Israeli occupation army of more that 438 Palestinians, many of them children or teenagers, since the outbreak of the intifada. Some 66 Israelis have also been killed by resistance actions over the past six months.
"The confrontation is expanding because of the policies announced by Sharon while he is launching an all-out war against the Palestinian people," Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo warned.
All the Arabs know that the Zionists are to blame for the wave of violence sweeping across Palestine. Now the Zionists are discovering that violence is not a one-way street.
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by Renee Sams
LABOUR MP Diane Abbott last week admitted that on the issue of immigration and asylum seekers she is "ashamed of the Government's policy".
"It's not right, it's not necessary", she told a rally in Trafalgar Square last Saturday. "We remain one of the richest countries in the world and we should behave in a more principled way towards those in need of asylum."
The 2,000-strong Hands Off My Friend rally was organised by the National Assembly Against Racism on United Nations Day Against Racism.
A letter was delivered to the Prime Minister calling on the Government to change its policy on immigration and asylum.
Actor Kevin Whately -- who played Sergeant Lewis in the popular TV detective series Morse -- added his voice to this call.
"We must welcome these people," he said. "This is a humanitarian question more than a political issue."
Paul MacNey. general secretary of the lecturers' union, Natfhe, told the rally that his father had helped Jewish people escape from Nazi oppression in Nazi Germany in the thirties. "Now I am doing the same," he said.
"I want to keep racism out of the general election but not to keep asylum seekers out. I want to hear all candidates in the general election welcome asylum seekers here."
Also giving his full support to the Hands Off My Friend was Roger Sainsbury, the Bishop of Barking. He reported that when the campaign was taken to an east London school it has been "enthusiastically embraced".
They were joined on the platform by Jeremy Corbyn MP, who called on everybody: "Don't allow the general election to become some awful auction with asylum seekers as pawns in the competition."
He was also concerned about the number of immigrants and asylum seekers held in detention.
Government policy of deterring asylum seekers from entering the country is coming under increasing attack and there have been demonstrations by campaign groups outside the Harmondsworth and Campsfield detention centres and prisons such as Belmarsh and Haslar where asylum seekers are held behind bars.
Many from those campaign groups were present at the Trafalgar Square rally.
Over 1,500 people are locked up in detention camps in Britain, two thirds of them held under prison conditions. And they are there for months, sometimes for years and they have no right to bail.
Yet, as Jeremy Corbyn said, "Not one of them is a criminal".
Helen Bamber, the director of the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, said: "I want to change the image of asylum seeker; as the Daily Mail sees them."
She told ofa young child who can no longer speak. The girl had withstood the loss of her parents, torture and abuse. But the treatment she received here when she came expecting asylum was the last straw.
"Her belief in democracy was crushed by brutality," said Helen Bamber, "and we are compounding the brutality by our treatment of asylum seekers."
Another asylum seeker had been forced to flee the Middle East after being assaulted and ill treated only to be attacked by racist thugs in London.
"If our leaders are silent in the face of all this, then it is up to us to do something about it." And she warned: "What begins with racist propaganda could end in annihilation."
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by the International Department of the KSCM
International story - 30/3/2001.
Czech Communists condemn their craven government.
by the International Department of the KSCM
In the name of human rights, the USA set out to overthrow a communist regime in Afghanistan which had built thousands of schools, hospitals and factories, uprooted feudalism, given equal rights to women and tried to modernise and develop Afghan society. Its allies in this struggle were the Taliban and people like Usam Bin Ladin. The Americans established military bases for them in Pakistan and supplied them with weapons, instructors and millions of dollars. They called the Taliban terrorists "rebels" and "mujhadeen" (fighters in a holy war).
After the break-up of the socialist camp in Europe, the Taliban "liberated" Afghanistan by hanging communists from trees, closing down schools (especially girls’ schools) and restoring feudalism. Most recently, they have destroyed cultural riches which belonged not only to Afghanistan but to the whole of humanity. But today, as the eyes of the whole world are on these barbarians, hardly anybody remembers that it was these selfsame "friends" of the USA who helped it in its "struggle for human rights" in Afghanistan.
In the name of human rights the USA also waged an aggressive war against the sovereign state of Yugoslavia, using depleted uranium weapons and wrecking its economy, the environment and the lives of its people.
In the name of human rights, the USA has been blockading the small island of Cuba for over 40 years. Here too it has its "mujhadeen". Using methods like direct military intervention, invasions by Miami-based "mujhadeen", an economic, trade and financial embargo, bacteriological warfare and assassination attempts on Cuban leaders, it has tried to impose its will on the Cuban people and undermine a socialist system which they supported in a referendum. All to no avail.
Before the revolution, life in Cuba was like that in any other poor developing country: 80-90% illiteracy, a one-crop agricultural economy, dependence on the USA, and rule by a dictatorship which tortured and summarily executed its opponents.
Cuba long ago ceased to be a backward country relying on handouts from
US sailors. Today its health care, education and social security are comparable
with that provided in the advanced countries. Cuba gives medical and educational
aid to many nations in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. The
revolution in Cuba has made it possible for human rights to be
realised not only in the social, economic and cultural spheres but also in civic and political life.
Real democracy and popular participation are guaranteed in Cuba, despite the threat posed by the USA. Any citizen can be nominated as a candidate in elections, and he does not need to support his candidacy with a deposit or thousands of signatures, as required in many capitalist countries, notably the USA. Elected bodies are fully accountable to the voters at report-back meetings and voters exercise their right to recall elected representatives. Participation in elections is voluntary and a high percentage of voters use their right to vote.
In Saudi Arabia there is no elected legislature and no legal political parties, apart from the ruling party. Anyone accused of communism would face his end without even a trial. In Kuwait women cannot vote or be elected. In Turkey a third of the population, the Kurds, have no cultural or political rights. There are almost 70,000 political prisoners in Turkish prisons. The secret police murder opponents of the social democratic government in the street. Police arrest women for celebrating International Women’s Day.
There are many similar states which, unlike Cuba, uphold capitalism as the best of all social systems. Their oil and other riches benefit the USA and world capitalism, since the revenues from these are deposited in US banks or spent on arms. They allow US military bases on their soil. Unlike Cuba, they are loyal servants of the USA and have no problems with the USA – or its alter ego, the foreign ministry of the Czech Republic!
When tabling resolutions on human rights in Cuba, the USA inevitably met with opposition from developing countries which were members of the UN Human Rights Commission. So it decided to enrol the services of suitably servile governments to help it achieve its aims. The governments chosen were Poland and, unfortunately, the Czech Republic.
This year Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has tabled another draft resolution condemning "human rights violations in Cuba", which includes a critical reference to US economic sanctions against Cuba. Poland, however, has declined the honour of co-sponsoring this hypocritical resolution. The Czech government tabled similar resolutions in 1999 and 2000, but before they were passed Kavan agreed to the withdrawal of the critical references to US sanctions.
Kavan now boasts that at the UN General Assembly last September he "spoke
out about the need for targeted sanctions – not only against Cuba, but
against Libya and Milosevic’s Yugoslavia as well." The fact that Kavan
favours targeted sanctions while the USA prefers across-the-board sanctions
is neither here nor there, since one key question remains unanswered: who
gives the USA and Kavan the right to impose sanctions? What is abundantly
clear is that Kavan does not
want action taken against US allies.
Even though the anti-Cuban resolution expresses doubts about the unilateral US embargo, it is essentially anti-Cuban, servile and selective. If our government really wasn’t a US puppet, it would have tabled a resolution condemning human rights violations in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Israel.
Kavan says he consulted his US partners about the text of this year’s Czech resolution. So why all the fuss about the critical reference to US sanctions in this year’s resolution when the resolutions in 1999 and 2000 included similar criticism? Why has Powell, the US foreign secretary, complained to Havel about the Czech government’s resolution. The answer is simple.
George W.Bush, the new US president, wants to be seen as taking a harder line on Cuba without depriving Kavan of his room to manoeuvre on the domestic political scene. Kavan is not anxious to be seen as toadying to the USA.
However, the US administration is by no means certain that it is standing on firm ground with this year’s Czech resolution.
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TALKS between the Government, the London Underground management and London's Transport Commissioner Bob Kiley -- appointed by Mayor Ken Livingstone, broke down completely last Monday.
Now the Government's plans to partially privatise the Tube in a public private partnership (PPP) will be challenged in the courts and by industrial action from London Underground workers.
The sticking point all along has been safety. Mr Kiley, the Health and Safety Executive and the unions all agree the breaking up of the Tube under different administrations will make it less safe.
Bob Kiley has insisted that unified overall control be maintained and that he should have power to enforce safety measures on a day to day basis.
The companies wanting to bid to run parts of the Tube do not want such close control over their operations which they say will hamper their chances of maximising profits.
Ken Livingstone has already referred the issue to the courts for a judicial review of the Government's decision.
Ata public rally in Croydon on Tuesday night he was asked whether or not he thought this was futile and that the judge would be pressured by the Government.
He replied that this could not be assumed. "A rail crash above ground is bad enough. One underground is another story completely," he said.
He pointed out that the tunnels were less accessible to rescue operations by emergency services and that fires can easily rage out of control in tunnels and said that this would give any judge second thoughts before hastily endorsing an unsafe system.
As we go to press the RMT transport union is set to stage a one-day strike on Thursday. The drivers' union Aslef is not directly involved in the action this time but it is expected that few drivers will cross RMT picket lines.
A one-day strike by Aslef last month paralysed all modes of transport in London.
The Government has repeatedly accused Mr Kiley and the unions of scaremongering over the safety issue. But it has not accused the Health and Safety Executive of doing the same after it produced a report raising nearly 300 points of serious concern over safety in the PPP proposals.
Mr Kiley said the PPP proposal "defies the basic diktat of common sense and repeats the problems of Hatfield. This is not value for money and that is probably why this system is not evident anywhere in the world."
He pointed out the PPP plans are dangerous because they involve separating the responsibility for maintenance from the running of the trains.
Ken Livingstone endorsed Mr Kiley's position, saying: "I believe Bob Kiley has the overwhelming backing of Londoners to take whatever action he feels is appropriate to ensure he is able to run a safe Tube network.
"Bob Kiley is one of the world's greatest experts in managing underground railways. He has reported to me that the Government's PPP plans in their present form fragment the management of the underground, increase the risk to passengers and make it impossible for me to meet my statutory obligation to provide a safe, integrated and economic transport system for London. I take that advice seriously. Mr Kiley also warned that the fabric of the Tube network has deteriorated so much that safety is a major issue now in any case.
"There comes a point" he said, "with the physical deterioration and the level of management distraction where safety rears its head.
"It is getting as bad in a hurry as the New York City subway when I took it over and that was tipping into the abyss of unsafety."
A serious incident on the Tube's Metropolitan Line at Baker Street station, which is being investigated by the HSE, highlighted his points.
Last Friday a packed train began to leave the station after the driver saw a green Light. This light then changed to red. The driver pulled up hastily and only just avoided a collision with another train just a short distahce ahead.
Since then a signaller has reported that there was something wrong with the system relating to the Lack of skilled signals engineers and this is being investigated by the HSE.
The station and Metropolitan Line were then closed all day while investigations took place as to why the signal had been showing green when it should have been red.
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