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Year 2000 No. 150, September 13, 2000 Archive Search Home Page

TUC CONGRESS

Who Is On Whose Side?

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

TUC CONGRESS:
Who Is On Whose Side?

Round-up of Some of the Actions against Government’s Maintaining High Fuel Prices

Britain Must Get Out of Sierra Leone!

Students Brave Tear Gas in Chile

Call against Torture in Turkey

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TUC CONGRESS

Who Is On Whose Side?

Yesterday, it was the turn of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, to address the TUC Congress.

Before launching into his prepared speech, Gordon Brown paid warm tribute to two trade union retiring general secretaries – Ken Cameron of the Fire Brigades Union, and Rodney Bickerstaffe of UNISON. The interesting thing was that his tributes were made in the context of their contribution to the struggles for socialism and equality. The previous day, Arthur Scargill, NUM President, had joked that attending this year’s Congress was like being at a conference of the CBI.

The TUC Congress being like a CBI conference, while the prudent New Labour Chancellor speaks of socialism and equality. Just who is on whose side?

The question was posed again after Gordon Brown announced his theme. After referring to the necessity to bring about opportunity and security to all, the Chancellor defined his theme as "to build through growth and productivity full employment for all in our generation". To bring this about, what young people need is "a government on their side". But possibly the Chancellor meant to say that the young people need to be on the side of the government. Because the stress in the rest of his speech was on the necessity to "work together". The implication was of the need to convince his audience that, unpalatable as it might seem, the workers and their trade unions should embrace the Labour government’s agenda for their own good. To do otherwise would be to commit the sin of "short-termism".

Congress on the whole was sceptical. Especially as the onus seemed to be on the workers in this business of working together, of the government being on the side of the young unemployed. To achieve full employment, "we must entrench an anti-inflation culture of stability". To strengthen full employment, "a tougher New Deal, rights and responsibilities". To sustain full employment, "far higher productivity". To underpin full employment, "a new unionism". But it could be that the scepticism of the trade union leaders had more to do with a worry whether this relegates them to less than equal partners in the tri-partism of government, business and organised labour than a conviction that the workers should have their own political programme for socialism and equality. After all, are they not committed to uniting with this New Labour government?

The Chancellor moved from being on the side of the young unemployed to inviting the trades unions to work with the government, which accepts its responsibilities in the public sector. For this, what is needed is to reject the "wrong kind of government", just as much as to reject the "wrong kind of management and the wrong kind of unionism" which according to Gordon Brown are equally to blame. This means "great historical changes", "even more dramatic than the changes a century ago when craft unionism transformed itself into new industrial unionism". Furthermore, "in this new century, old industrial unionism is transforming itself into new unionism".

What is being put forward here is the government’s side of the picture represented by "winning at work", the content of which is to rekindle in the present serious crisis of global capitalism the arrangement of tripartism – the triumvirate of big government, big business and big labour. The "old unionism", whereby the workers got organised to defend their collectives interests, is to be rejected. The "new unionism", whereby workers are organised to defend the interests of their employers, is to be embraced.

No wonder the question presents itself as to just who is on whose side. Who at the TUC Congress is raising that the workers should take up the defence of the national economy and the general interests of society?

Article Index



Round-up of Some of the Actions against Government’s Maintaining High Fuel Prices

· Lorry drivers at the M1/M62 interchange near Leeds protested against high fuel prices.

· Protestors started a go-slow towards Manchester on the M62.

· A 10 mile tailback formed from the Chain Bar roundabout at the M62/M606 Interchange for Bradford.

· Most petrol stations in Cheshire have run out of fuel.

· A picket is in operation at the Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire. Tankers are not leaving the refinery because of a decision taken by drivers and management.

· Very few garages selling unleaded petrol are still open in the South West.

· Most filling stations in south west Wales have run out of fuel.

· Lorry drivers are continuing their blockade of fuel terminals in west Wales, promising they will not leave until the government gives in to their demands to lower duty on fuel.

· Drivers are gathered at the Texaco plant in Pembroke, with others at the Elf site in nearby Milford Haven.

· A blockade of the BP Grangemouth oil refinery is ongoing in on the Firth of Forth. Farmers are reported to have joined road hauliers in a major protest in Edinburgh.

·In the North East most petrol stations are already out of fuel.

·The BP oil terminal at Jarrow has been blockaded for four days by road hauliers, farmers and taxi drivers.

·At Port of Sunderland road hauliers and taxis drivers blockaded the docks since yesterday and oil depots at Workington and Dalston in Cumbria are also closed.

· The Scottish National Party is planning a "national day of action" on Saturday, to highlight the amount of tax being imposed on fuel prices by the Treasury. The SNP is calling on the government to "listen and act on" the protests.

· Esso stations are particularly badly hit in the North West and South West of England.

· Sainsbury’s petrol stations are running dry, as are those of Total Fina Elf and Shell.

· Texaco’s Pembroke oil refinery is blocked off by protestors.

· In Bolton, taxi drivers have staged go-slows during the rush-hour to protest against the price of fuel.

· Protesters are continuing their picket at the giant terminal in Trafford Park, Manchester, which supplies Esso, Texaco and Elf outlets.

· The use of special contingency plans to ensure the distribution of fuel across Britain have been sanctioned by the Privy Council acting in the name of the sovereign.

· Protests force the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister to abandon celebrations in Hull to mark John Prescott’s 30 years as an MP.

· Internationally, protests against high fuel prices are taking place in Germany, Belgium and France. Demonstrations have also spread to Holland.

Article Index



Britain Must Get Out of Sierra Leone!

At a press conference on Monday, September 11, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, attempted to justify continued British intervention in Sierra Leone. His statement was made following the military action taken by British, UN and Sierra Leonean forces to release six British and one Sierra Leonean soldier captured by a local militia group which is opposed to the current government in Sierra Leone. During the assault one British soldier was killed, while 25 members of the militia group, including three women, also lost their lives. Now government ministers are hinting that even more British troops might be sent to Sierra Leone in the future

According to Robin Cook this action was "a step forward" to the government’s stated objective "of a stable Sierra Leone under the control of its legitimate government". But the fact is that British military intervention in the past has not brought stability to Sierra Leone, but rather has created all the conditions for greater instability and further intervention.

The British government has presented all kinds of bogus reasons for its interference in Sierra Leone, which was initially explained as a "humanitarian mission" to allow the evacuation of civilians, then as necessary to support the UN and train the Sierra Leonean army. However in May the Defence Secretary, Geoffrey Hoon, made it clear that one of Britain’s main aims was to make sure that the Sierra Leone government was in control of the diamond producing areas of the country.

But Robin Cook’s latest statement, that "it is in Britain’s interest that we should defend democracy where it is threatened by overthrow from terrorists", shows that the British government is also attempting to use the situation that has been created in Sierra Leone to justify intervention elsewhere in the future. It is also trying to strengthen its hand in the UN – to use its military intervention in order to present itself as a country having "expertise in peace-keeping", in order to further its aim to train and lead a permanent UN rapid reaction force in the future. Such aims have nothing to do with "peace-keeping", defending "democracy" or "humanitarianism" but must be seen in the context of the growing rivalry between the monopolies and therefore the big powers as they jockey for the dominant position in the global market.

The British government has no business interfering in the internal politics of Sierra Leone. Its armed intervention has no justification and must be condemned. Britain’s interference is not for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone and will not bring peace to that country. Rather it will create the conditions not only for future instability and conflict in that country, but also for increased armed intervention under the guise of "peace-keeping" elsewhere in the world.

Robin Cook’s claim that the "British people would not understand" if the British armed forces were withdrawn is totally fraudulent. What must be demanded is that Britain gets out of Sierra Leone.

Article Index



Students Brave Tear Gas in Chile

Students protested at three universities in Chile to mark the 27th anniversary of the coup of General August Pinochet and his US backers on September 11, 1973.

Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the students, and at least 25 students were detained after incidents flared in and around college campuses in Santiago and in southern Chile. Students at the University of Concepcion occupied a campus and threw rocks at police. Students at the University of Santiago blocked traffic. Students at the metropolitan University of Education in Santiago hurled rocks and stones at police, who fired tear gas and targeted water canons at the students.

Families of victims of the Pinochet regime, as well as broad sections of the people, laid floral wreaths at the foot of the monument to Salvador Allende.

At present, federal prosecutor judge Juan Guzman is investigating some 170 criminal complaints that have been filed against Pinochet after he was stripped of his immunity from prosecution. Many thousands "disappeared" during his bloody and anti-communist military regime.

Article Index



Call against Torture in Turkey

WDIE has received the following call addressed to human rights supporters from the mother of a revolutionary prisoner in Turkey.

Dear human right supporters,

This is a call from a country where security forces demonstrate against human rights just after extra-juridical executions, where mothers of disappeared people are beaten and detained every Saturday for their peaceful actions, where a great range of people faced torture at least once... I call out from Turkey.

Sufferings have not come to an end in prisons for a long time. It is my chief concern since I am a political prisoner’s parent. I am one of those painful mothers and fathers waiting in front of prisons day and night. We do so, because we are deeply concerned about the lives of our children. It was last year, I remember, 26th of September, when 10 prisoners were murdered in Ankara Ulucanlar Prison directly by security forces. I did run across the hospitals just to know if my son/daughter is alive or dead.

Nowadays our concerns and sufferings have been doubled. The government is running the construction of F-type prisons, particularly for political prisoners. F-type is a special regime of individual and/or small group isolation. Several times we tried to go to Ankara in order to discuss the subject and tell our concerns with to the authorities. In each case we were repressed brutally.

Dear human right supporters,

In F-type prisons, prisoners shall stay alone or three persons in isolation cells. These new prisons have been constructed on Article 16 of the Anti-Terror Law which says: The sentences of those convicted under the provisions of this law will be served in special penal institutions built on a system of rooms constructed for one three people. (...) Convicted prisoners will not be permitted contact and communication with other convicted prisoners.

Well, as far as I know, whatever he or she had done, every person should serve his or her sentence under equal conditions. This is a basic requirement of civil law based on human rights. In just the same way Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners have been determined in detail by the United Nations: The following rules shall be applied impartially. There shall be no discrimination on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. However, the above-mentioned article of the Anti-Terror Law is obviously discriminative.

What makes us most frightened is the phrase that says the convicted prisoners will not be permitted contact or communication with other convicted prisoners. The spokesman of the Ministry of Justice claims F-type prisons are not composed of cells, but of rooms. In order to support their claim, they further say that sports rooms, libraries and ateliers have also been constructed in prisons. However, the Anti-Terror Laws says no contact, no communication. How shall prisoners play sport, read and work without any contact and relation? The point is also mentioned by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture in the report dated 23.02.1999 presented to the Turkish Government: It is imperative for prisoners in Turkey to have the accompanied measures applied to ensure that prisoners spend a reasonable part of the day engaged in purposeful activities outside their living unit. Indeed, the effects of the current almost total absence of any organised programme of activities for prisoners would be felt even more keenly in activities for prisoners, for whom the introduction of smaller living units will almost certainly cause more problems than it solves.

Dear human right supporters,

I am in no way persuaded as to what the authorities have been telling. I, frankly speaking, do not trust them. Hundreds of prisoners died in those prisons under their control, of ill-treatment, hunger strikes, medical problems, torture and repression. I believe that my son/daughter will suffer of isolation in F-type prisons. Isolation is certainly an extra-sentence during the serving of sentence. As human beings our nature is in need of other human beings, to be heard and seen by them.

Consequently, I tell all this to inform you, so you can tell other people also. Since we did not have any response to our appeals from the authorities, now we need your support and solidarity. We ask you to try to make pressure on Turkish authorities through the ways you prefer. Perhaps, these attempts may remind them of the universal principles and international documents of human rights.

Sincerely

Mother of a revolutionary prisoner

P.S.: please send this e-mail to democratic, socialist, communist, anti-fascist, and green people, parties, associations and foundations to help us. Thanks for now.

Take care of yourselves.

Venceremos!

We are right, we will fight, we will win!

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