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European Social Forum: Meeting of a Multitude

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All eyes will be on Florence this month when the European Social Forum comes to town. Tom Behan analyses the Italian left while Andrew Stone talks to some activists who will be attending.

The vast majority of people at the European Social Forum (ESF) will be Italians. While I haven't the space to teach you Italian, I can provide some background on the largest organisations likely to be active in Florence

The Alternative Dossier 7: With Friends Like These

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Bush's cabinet and their corporate links.

Ann Veneman, Agriculture Secretary
Veneman served on the board of directors for Calgene Inc, which was the first company to bring genetically engineered food, the Flavr Savr tomato, to supermarket shelves.

John Ashcroft, Attorney General
Ashcroft was one of only a handful of senators sponsoring a bill that extended the patent on Schering-Plough's ultra-profitable allergy pill Claritin. The patent is worth billions of dollars in potential revenue.

The Alternative Dossier 6: Sanctioning Murder

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'In 1990...the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with security council resolutions... Saddam Hussain has [worked] around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials.' George Bush in his speech to the UN, 12 September 2002

The United Nations Security Council imposed economic sanctions on Iraq on 6 August 1990, in response to its invasion of Kuwait. Under these sanctions, all imports into Iraq (except medical supplies) and all exports from Iraq were prohibited, unless the Security Council permitted exceptions. A spokesman from the US State Department later referred to these sanctions as 'the toughest, most comprehensive sanctions in history'. Similarly, a Select Committee of the House of Commons said that the Iraqi sanctions regime 'is unprecedented in terms of longevity and its comprehensive nature'.

The Alternative Dossier 5: Chemical Reaction

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'A report came out of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] that they [the Iraqis] were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need. It threatens the US. It threatens Britain. The battlefield has changed. We are in a new kind of war.' Tony Blair on his way to meet George Bush, 7 September 2002

As Blair flew to the US to deepen his 'special relationship' with his dear friend George Bush, the 'proof' that Iraq was only a few months away from having nuclear weapons was building up. Or so Blair would have us believe. The IAEA was set up by the United Nations, and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of nuclear weapons treaties. It is also responsible for nuclear safety, energy and the like. To have proof from the IAEA about Iraq's nuclear capability would be conclusive.

The Alternative Dossier 3: An Inspector Calls

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'Saddam Hussein is a threat that has to be dealt with. He has twice before started wars of aggression. Over 1 million people died in them. When the weapons inspectors were evicted from Iraq in 1998 there were still enough chemical and biological weapons remaining to devastate the entire Gulf region.' Tony Blair, 10 September 2002

Blair and Jack Straw have repeatedly said that Unscom inspectors were evicted by the Iraqi regime in December 1998. In fact the US withdrew them. The government's dossier admits the inspectors were withdrawn, although it does also say they were 'effectively eject[ed]' (part 2,14), implying they were kicked out by Iraq. It took just a few hours from the removal of the inspectors to the start of the bombing by the US and Britain:

On 7 November 1998, 15 weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq leaving just a skeleton staff behind.

The Alternative Dossier 1: Arms and the Man

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'Iraq had made frequent use of a variety of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war... In 1988 Saddam...used mustard and nerve agents against Iraqi Kurds at Halabja in northern Iraq. Estimates vary, but according to Human Rights Watch up to 5,000 people were killed.' The Government's dossier on Iraq released on 24 September 2002

The images of people frozen in instant death after Iraq gassed thousands of people shocked the world. To this day the massacre at Halabja, which the government refers to in its long awaited dossier on Iraq and which Blair mentioned when he addressed the TUC this year, remains a terrible crime. If anyone doubts the brutality of the Iraqi regime, then they have only to remember what Saddam Hussein did in March 1988.

The Alternative Dossier Intro: War Weapons and Iraq

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The world's mightiest imperialist power is on the warpath again.

In place of the Cold War 'Truman Doctrine' comes the 'Bush Doctrine'--a declared right to pre-emptively attack in the cause of the amorphous 'war on terror'. US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has described this strategy as 'imperial but not imperialistic', a qualification which defies experience as much as formal logic. Despite massive global opposition to a course that is aggressively interventionist, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld axis is determined to invade Iraq and see to the unfinished business of the first Gulf War--'regime change'.

Education: Bottom of the Class

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Labour's crude currency of success in education is the market.

Are you aware of the state of education in Britain today? For example, do you know how many of these institutions are in your area: city learning centres, city academies, children's centres, pupil referral units, early years centres, specialist, advanced, beacon, special measures, training or special achievement schools?

Pensions: One Hand in the Till

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Pensions--once the bedrock of the welfare state--are under attack as never before. Solomon Hughes explains why this is connected to the spread of global capital.

Pensions have leapt from the personal finance supplements to the front page. Last month the 'Daily Mail' argued that government should 'end this pensions disgrace' by cracking down on management 'pension wreckers'. The 'Mail' declared, 'It is outrageous that loyal, prudent workers should be bilked out of their pension' as 'cynical employers' walk away from their obligations, closing schemes while enjoying their own 'generous pensions'. Not only did this arch Tory newspaper call for legal restraint on the employers, it also called for a 'government safety net' for pensioners.

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