Blair has backed the US in its war against Afghanistan, acted
as an etnissary for Bush in the Middle East and southern Asia and played
along with the US in its aggression against Iraq and in the breaking up
Blair is now heading off for West Africa and will visit Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and possibly Sierra Leone. Many in the progressive movement hope he is sincere about Africa, a continent he described at the last Labour Party conference as "a scar on the conscience of the world".
It is really hard though not to see the Blairs as a latter-day version of Lord and Lady Bountiful -- wealthy people leaving the comfort of the stately home to take baskets of food to the deserving poor of the village.
It's not just because the "help" western leaders usually give amounts to the eyuivalent of a slightly bigger basket of overseas aid. It's also because neither the bountifuls nor the modern western leaders ever address the cause of the poverty they seek to ease and certainly have no intention of condemning the system of exploitation at the heart of the oppression -- a system they are part and parcel of.
Furthermore, just as the wealthy here have always tried to blame the poor for being poor, saying they are idle and feckless, so the western media and supporters of capitalism never miss a chance to tell us about the problems in the developing world being caused by local corruption.
Ain't it rich -- the wealthy, who produce absolutely nothing, tell the poor, whose hard toil produces everything, that it is they, the under-paid workers, who are idle and feckless. And the rich, the former colonial powers who bled the developing world of its riches -- and continue to exploit these countries, say the poverty they have caused is nowadays down to corrupt local leaders and self-servers.
Even in the matter of "corruption" the western propagandists are pulling the wool over our eyes. Was it not the case that ever since the national liberation movements gained independence from direct colonial rule, the wealthy capitalist powers have plotted and schemed to try and prevent progressive leaders and movements from holding power in the developing countries?
The world was reminded of these terrible practices last week when the Belgian Government belatedly apologised for its part (along with the CIA) in the murder of Patrice Lumumba -- a progressive leader of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo -- overthrown after a mere four months in office and then brutally murdered.
We remember that in the days of Apartheid the South African government, acting as a proxy for Anglo-American interests, gave support and help to reactionary elements in other southern African states in order to prevent progressive governments holding power.
And today the efforts to implement land reform in Zimbabwe are being met by orchestrated pressure from the western camp. President Robert Mugabe is being portrayed as a monster. The internal affairs of Zimbabwe are being debated in the European Union. Threats of sanctions are being bandied about as the West tries to restore: the status quo -- a situation of intolerable injustice over land distribution which is long overdue for reform.
If Tony Blair were to offer his support for land reform that would be something really worthwhile -- we're not holding our breath!
Let us hope that Blair sees more than just the poverty of Africa. He should take a look too at some of the wealth -- the wealth of Shell in Nigeria which never seems to Ilow into the Dockets of the Nigerians living around its plants. The wealth of minerals all over Africa which never enrich the people who do the digging and the sweating.
Change will come and it won't be a minute too soon!
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by Daphne Liddle
THE GOVERNMENT last week was forced to back-pedal after Prime Minister Tony Blair outraged unions by describing those who oppose the privatisation of public sector services as wreckers.
At the Labour Party spring conference in Cardiff, Tony Blair described the current pressure to privatise more and more as "reform" and said: "If we are to win the argument for collective provision, defeat the wreckers and secure the future of our public services, then we must be prepared to use all available means to make improvements that patients and pupils and passengers understand."
Matters were made worse by Home Secretary David Blunkett claiming the failures in the provision of public services were not the fault of the Government but of public sector workers.
John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB general union reacted furiously to the "wreckers" jibe. He said: "the idea that we -- who want reform, who want improvement -- should be described as wreckers is just bizarre.
The GMB has mounted a high profile advertising campaign in newspapers, showing a nurse holding a baby and a home help looking after an elderly woman asking, "Is she a wrecker?" and calling on the public to write to Tony Blair and their own MPs in protest.
Some union activists have compared the remark to Margaret Thatcher's description of the miners as the enemy within" because they took strike action to try to stop the decimation of their industry by the Tory government.
TGWU general secretary Bill Morris said: "We are not the wreckers. The wreckers are the Railtracks, the Enrons and those who believe that 11 September was a good day to bury bad news.
"They are the wreckers and they will wreck our party and our country."
There was a strong suspicion that Jo Moore, special adviser to Stephen Byers, had a hand in preparing Blair's "wreckers" speech.
Bill Morris warned that the Railtrack fiasco has already come home to roost and so will the privatisation of air traffic control.
Dave Prentis, general sectetary of the giant public sector union Unison, described the speech as "juvenile" and politically inept. "Such generalised speeches do not help at all he said."
And he added: "The people who do worry me are the New Labour aristocracy -- reassuring themselves that involving prrivate companies is not privatisation, mulling over the semantics, repeating the mantra that services are still largely free at the point of delivery. Don't be fooled.
"It is privatisation of delivery; taxpayers' money siphoned off for private profit. We gambled on Railtrack and we lost. Learn from our mistakes. Don't start gambling on our local services -- we can't lay off that bet."
The GMB produced a poll of public opinion showing that only 11 per cent of the public support privatisation of public services.
John Edmonds warned that this support was lower even that the level of support for Mrs Thatcher's poll tax. That had failed dismally and had shortened Mrs Thatcher's career. Pushing ahead with privatisation in the teeth of public opposition could do the same to Tony Blair.
The GMB has also drawn attention to four major Railtrack infrastructure and track maintenance companies and played a role in the disaster that is railtrack which are now also involved in privatisation schemes in hospitals, schools and public services across Britain. Balfour Beatly, Amey, Jarvis and Amec.
The fury aroused by the "wreckers" speech has forced a private apology from the Government.
It was delivered by Lady Morgan, Number Ten's director of Government relation s, and implies that the unions have got the wrong end of the stick and that Tony Blair was not calling them wreckers at all.
Labour Party chairperson Charles Clarke added: "When the Prime Minister spoke of wreckers at the weekend, he was setting out those dividing lines between a Labour Party committed to investment and reform or a Tory party committed to massive cuts in public spending as part of their policy of reducing public spending to 35 per cent of GDP."
Nevertheless, it is clear that speech was written to deliver a message both to the workers and the capitalists who are looking forward to making a profit from public services.
Dave Prentis has warned Blair that he is under strong pressure from some union activists to disafilliate from the Labour Party.
This would be a mistake and would leave the party totally in the hands of the capitalists and the labour movement splintered.
The unions created the Labour Party to stand up for the working classes against the unfettered greed of the capitalists. And the unions are showing that their strength is now growing and the mood within them is growing firmer against privatisation.
The labour movement must not surrender its party to the bosses but must reclaim it for the workers. The unions' power is growing and they must use it to send the Blairites packing.
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by Caroline Colebrook
WORKERS in Britain are working longer hours than ever and wishing they did not have to, in spite of European legislalion passed in October 1998 to prevent this form of exploitation.
A recent opinion poll taken by the TUC last December shows that 42 per cent of workers want to work fewer hours, with ten per cent prepared to take home less pay in order to achieve this.
The report, About Time, showed that nearly four million workers now put in more than 48 hours a week -- the maximum allowed by the EU regulations. This is an increase of 350,000 since 1992.
But when those regulations were enacted in Britain in 1998, so many exemptions were granted that the regulations are practically unenforceable.
Many major companies indude an opt out form for all new recruits to sign as a matter of routine so that the law will not apply to them. Very few workers have the nerve to challenge this. In non-union workplaces workers may not even be aware of the law or exactly what it is they are signing.
The Confederation of British Industry defends this practice, saying that people do not want to be governed by a "nanny state".
"Britain's long-hours culture is a national disgrace," said TUC general secretary John Monks. "It leads to stress, ill-health and family strain."
The report showed that 40 per cent of workers can't get time off work for a doctor's appointment or family crisis while more than 60 per cent cannot vary the hours when they start or finish.
This makes life very difficult for parents who have to take children to school or pick them up at a particular time.
Only 25 per cent can work flexitime and 40 per cent say they must work their contracted hours, no matter what.
"Our poll," said John Monks, "shows just how difficult it call be for many people at work to make even minor adjustments to their working time that will fit in with family commitments.
"The right to ask to vary your hours in the new Employment Bill is a welcome step forward but policymakers should never forget that many people don't work for model employers."
Mary McLeod, chief executive of the National Family and Parenting Institute said the report is "bad news" for families.
"Every day," she said, "we see headlines blaming parents for not having enough time for their children. Meanwhile parents in Britain are having to work the longest hours in Europe to make ends meet."
Low wages lie at the nub of the matter, along with soaring living
costs -- especially housing. Bosses do not have to crack the whip over workers who are deep in debt with mortgages and credit card arrears.
The workers themselves seek out every opportunity to earn a little more here and there, either through overtime or through doing more than one job.
Those paid only the minimum wage and living in big cities like London where costs are sky high can only survive by working long, long hours and having two or three jobs is common.
The EU regulations provide no protection against this sort of gross exploitation which is leaving workers too exhausted to realise the damage that is being done to their lives and their health.
The only defence the workers have is their own organisations, the unions. The fight to raise pay and reduce hours must be redoubled.
And the fight to recruit the lowest paid non-union workers must be redoubled.
The TUC report also showed that British workers are the least productive. In Europe where the regulations are more firmly enforced and working hours are less, workers who are not so tired produce more and have a better life.
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Report from Radio Havana Cuba
MORE than 60 Israeli Army reservists, half officers and all of them combat veterans, have publicly refused to continue serving in the West Bank and Gaza Strip -- charging that Israeli occupation forces are abusing and killing Palestinians.
A petition signed by the reservists and published in the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth states that the reservists will no longer serve "for the purpose of occupying, deporting, destroying, blockading, killing, starving and humiliating an entire people."
According to reports from observers in Tel Aviv, there have been cases in the past of Israelis resisting military service or refusing to serve in certain areas for reasons of conscience.
But what makes this case unusual is that such a large number of reservists have publicly come forward at the same time. And organisers of the petition -- two young army lieutenants who have both served previous tours of duty in occupied territories -- say their goal is to collect 500 signatures and launch a broad social campaign against Israeli atrocities.
Reserve Lieutenant David Zonshein, one of the two men who drafted the petition, told reporters that Israeli troops are ordered to shoot people and destroy houses that could have people inside. In statements to the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Zonshein and other reservists said that troops had opened fire on Palestinian children and other civilians who posed no apparent danger to their lives.
Another former combat soldier who refused to serve during Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1983 said the current refusals are similar to previous conflicts. Ram Rahat, a 45-year-old accountant, said it demonstrates that people who have gone through army reserve duty in occupied territories "and see the reality of what is going on there, are starting to get fed up with it."
* Israel has jailed some 600 reservists for refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories and at least 2,500 others have gone absent without leave. Thousands more, known as "grey conscientious objectors" are trying to avoid call-up claiming compassionate reasons or medical grounds.
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by Renee Sams
SHOCKED fire fighters employed by the Ministry of Defence lobbied their MPs last week after seeing an advertisement from a recruiting agency calling for applicants for jobs in "airfield support services" -- in other words their jobs!
The appearance of job advertisements from Logicair, one the three consortia bidding for privatised services in RAF News looked like a done deal.
The adverts offered "a large number of exciting opportunities" for drivers, fire lighters and maintenance workers in the Falkland Islands and over 100 other sites.
The fire fighters were all the more angry because they had cooperated fully with a two-part examination of the fire services: the Airfield Support Services Project (ASSP) and Fire Study 2000.
This was a review by the fire service management which produced a report which showed that an efficient, accountable service was possible while keeping the MoD fire service in the public sector -- and still cuts costs by at least 20 per cent.
In the Parliamentary debate on 13 November 2001, Minister of State Adam Ingram said: "There is no privatisation initiative. The allegation that we are privatising the MoD fire service will not stand up to an examination of the explanation that I have given." The MoD fire service covers all three services, protecting the lives of workers in more than a hundred military installations across the country and in many other countries.
It is a highly committed and motivated service, protecting civilians as well as service personell.
It also helps out local fire brigades in emergencies like floods and has recently helped farmers fumigating farm buildings during the height of the foot-and-mouth crisis. More than 100 MoD fire fighters volunteered to go to New York after 11 September.
Fire fighter Kevin Davies explained the situation to the New Worker. He said the fire fighters "fear that their pay and conditions are under threat and their pensions may be jeopardised if the Government goes ahead with the privatisation".
"Even if we keep our jobs," he said, "new personnel may be taken on under different contracts which could lead to a two-tier system which would not be good for morale."
The giant public service unions TGWU, GMB, Amicus and PCS are mounting a campaign to prevent the Government taking this dangerous step.
TGWU national officer Chris Kaufman warned: "If they can flog off the MoD fire service today, it won't be long before local authority fire brigades come under the hammer."
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