Kevin Devine

A Statement of Revolution

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Review of 'A Rebel's Guide to Lenin', Ian Birchall, Bookmarks £2

The process by which Lenin and the Bolsheviks came to power began 100 years ago this year with the first Russian Revolution of 1905. The revolution transformed the tiny Bolshevik Party into an organisation of tens of thousands and ensured it would play a key role in the events of 1917. When it comes to assessing Lenin's role, the view on the right (and among some socialists) is that his rule was a prelude to the horrors under Stalin.

In the Name of the Father

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Review of 'Thirty Years in a Turtleneck Sweater', Nick Warren, Ebury Press £12.99

Des Warren, who died on 24 April 2004 from pneumonia and complications resulting from Parkinson's disease, was better known as one of the 'Shrewsbury Two'. Along with Ricky Tomlinson he was jailed in 1973 for his part in the nationwide building workers' strike of the year before. During the dispute a small group of rank and file activists in North Wales, including Des and Ricky, used the tactic of the 'flying picket' to bring sites out on strike.

Unions: Tiers and Fears

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Union leaders have hailed as a major victory the government's recent announcement of measures aimed at ending the two-tier workforce in privatised services.

Under the new arrangements, an existing code of practice covering local authority contracts will be extended to the rest of the public sector.

Unions are hopeful that the move signals the end of the current situation, whereby pay and conditions for existing employees are protected when a service is privatised, but any new employees subsequently taken on are hired under much worse terms.

Trade Unions: Merger Most Horrid?

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Mergers aren't all they are cracked up to be.

Plans for a merger between Amicus and the TGWU, and possibly the GMB trade unions were announced recently with some high-flown oratory from Tony Woodley, the TGWU general secretary. Invoking the ghosts of engineering militant Tom Mann and dockers' leader Ben Tillett along the way, he said that the plans send 'a warning to employers that we intend to match the power of capital with the power of united labour'. He also promised that the new union would be 'driven by one idea above all - strengthening the position of our members in the workplace'.

Five Kids from Derry

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Review of 'Teenage Kicks - The Story of The Undertones'

Music lover and DJ extraordinaire John Peel, who died last year, had one pop song that he regarded above all others. At his personal request it was played at his funeral, and its opening line ('Teenage dreams, so hard to beat') is inscribed on his gravestone. The song is 'Teenage Kicks', the first single released by the Undertones.

Private Healthcare: Leeches on the NHS

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The government's plans for 'independent treatment centres' (ITCs) - privately run units that carry out routine hip, knee and cataract operations for the NHS - have run into trouble.

Under the plans, NHS trusts pay private companies to carry out these operations, often referred to as 'elective surgery' because patients decide whether or not to go ahead with the treatment. Health secretary John Reid has touted the idea as a way of reducing NHS waiting lists. But the bullying way in which the Department of Health is pushing the policy through has provoked a backlash of criticism from the NHS managers who are expected to implement it. And worse still for the government, the row has exposed the real agenda behind their plans.

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