Year 2000 No. 61, April 3, 2000

Tens of Thousands March against Rover Closure

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Tens of Thousands March against Rover Closure

Conference on Jobs and the Welfare State

EU-Africa Summit:
Britain’s Reactionary Role Regarding Zimbabwe

For Your Information:
British Government’s Anti-Zimbabwe Campaign

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Tens of Thousands March against Rover Closure

Tens of thousands of people joined a march through the centre of Birmingham on Saturday against the sale of Rover and the devastation this will cause to the workers and to the livelihoods of many hundreds of thousands throughout the West Midlands and beyond.

Over 40,000 people – probably as many as 100,000 – marched from the centre to a rally in Cannon Hill Park. Workers were joined by their families, union officials and church leaders from across the country for the mass protest which brought roads in the heart of the city to a standstill. A stream of people stretched back as far as the eye could see with placards, banners, whistles and drums. At the head of the march were the three Rover models which are threatened by the sell-off of Rover – the 25, 45 and 75. Placards read: "Keep Rover Running!" and "We gave everything for you!". It took more than an hour for the marchers to cross the starting point in the city centre.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the TGWU, said: "The number of people here today shows the level of concern about the company and about the community whieh relies on it."

Duncan Simpson, chief negotiator for the AEEU, said: "What you see here is a show of solidarity. Not just Rover workers, but the whole community and supporters from far afield. We have had coach loads arrive for this event, including workers from Ford’s plant in Dagenham who see their jobs under threat. The message we are sending back to BMW is that their conduct will not be tolerated by the British people."

Sir Ken Jackson, leader of the AEEU, said: "BMW have not just stabbed Rover workers in the back – they have stabbed the entire West Midlands in the back by walking away from their commitment."

Roger Lyons, general secretary of the MSF union, referring to the massive turnout, said: "This has been a phenomenal success but it is not a funeral for Rover – it is a demand for action. We will be doing all we can to find a solution other than Alchemy Partners. They are part of the problem – we need to find a real solution. The strength we will get from today will help us in the days and months ahead."

Tony Woodley, of the TGWU, told the marchers: "We are dealing with total betrayal and the break-up and destruction of Rover. It is nothing less than industrial sabotage… We will not be treated as cannon fodder for other people."

A website set up by the AEEU in support of the struggle of the Rover workers has already received more than 500 messages, including from as far afield as Australia and the US.

The campaign is set to grow. A meeting has been organised for next Saturday by the Campaign against Euro-Federalism, details of which are given in the advert below. There are projects afoot for committees to be set up to give the opposition an organised basis, as well as proposals to take the struggle forward, such as a mass charter or petition.

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Conference on Jobs and the Welfare State

Help the success of the Rover workers!

Prevent economic devastation of the Midlands!

Saturday, April 8

10.30 am - 4.30 pm

Carrs Lane Church Centre, Carrs Lane,
Birmingham City Centre

Convened by the Campaign Against Euro-Federalism
Further Information: CAEF, c/o George Road, B23 7SD
Or phone: 0121 373 6846

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EU-Africa Summit:

Britain’s Reactionary Role Regarding Zimbabwe

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook continued the British government’s attack on Zimbabwe prior to the EU-Africa summit in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, Egypt. The summit runs from April 3-5 and is the first to be held between the EU and the countries of Africa.

The President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, responded to the latest attacks on his country by saying, "Britain has no right to try to suggest to the rest of the world that we are a failure, nor do they have the right to try to suggest to us what we should do - we are not an extension of Britain".

Cook’s main proposal is that the EU should provide election monitors for Zimbabwe’s forthcoming elections, scheduled for May this year, "to make sure that these elections are free and fair and are seen to be free and fair". In response to the accusation that the government’s attitude might be seen as that of "the old colonial master", a view he rejected, Cook said: "I think we would be colonial, we would be failing the people of Zimbabwe, if we were to expect them to have fewer civil rights, fewer political rights, less right to a democratic election that we expect ourselves, that is to say democratic process and the rule of law, the right of business people and farmers to be able to go about their business under the protection of the courts that enforce those court orders."

With these remarks Cook is one again restating the government’s foreign policy, based on the principles of the Paris Charter, which is that only countries which follow Eurocentric values of multi-party democracy, a free market economy and rights based on private property will be supported and should have any right to exist. The remarks are in line with the policy that Anlgo-American imperialism is developing as a foreign policy of the "Third Way", which is that these values have a "universality". This policy defends this "universality" under the pretext that human rights have the same scope throughout the world, and is openly being developed against the enlightened view that the peoples are having to fight to defend their sovereignty against imperialist attempts at intervention for geo-political reasons and for reasons for the economic benefit of the financial oligarchy.

Thus on the eve of a summit allegedly held to "sweep away the residue of the colonial past", the British government is acting in the manner of 19th century imperialists. Britain continues to provide enslaving "aid" to several countries in Africa as a means to subsidise unequal trading relations in the interest of British monopolies and to increase the indebtedness of the countries of Africa – which has increased every year since 1980 at the rate of 12% and at the present time stands at $350bn.

At the most basic level, the Cairo summit provides yet another opportunity for Britain and the other countries of the EU to impose their Eurocentric values on Africa and to intensify the economic exploitation of the continent and interference in its affairs. It is in this context that Robin Cook is claiming that when "economic development" and "conflict prevention" are discussed, Britain is "very well placed to provide leadership and assistance on these two main issues at this summit."

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British Government’s Anti-Zimbabwe Campaign

The British government has, over the last few months, pursued a vicious campaign of lies, provocations and interference in the internal affairs of Zimbabwe. This has centred on the issue of the occupation of farms on land which date from the time of colonial rule. The government of Zimbabwe has stated its intention to redistribute the land.

Such is the extent of the campaign, which has included the threat of economic sanctions, that the President of Zimbabwe has remarked that Britain has "declared war" on the country. The government of Zimbabwe has also threatened that it might be forced to retaliate by taking action against British-owned industry.

The monopoly-controlled media in Britain have been one-sidedly presenting the viewpoint of the British government.

The Foreign Office last week stated that it had contingency plans to evacuate some of the 20,000 people who it is said are residents of Zimbabwe but hold British passports.

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