Opinion

Virtual Unity

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This month brings an email from an activist with the AUT at a major British university. He describes how email and the internet have become useful tools in their attempt to organise workers at the university.

He writes, 'We are of course in a good position in the AUT in that almost all members have email at work. However, with the spread of email I think the unions are missing out on a potentially very useful organising tool.' He goes on to add, 'Of course it is only one tool as part of a major improvement in branch activity recently, including recruitment stalls and a newsletter (on paper), but it is an important one.'

Mind the (Gender) Gap

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Shocking new figures have put equal pay back on the agenda.

A batch of recent statistics on the role of women in the labour market highlight the fact that widespread discrimination has not gone away - even though women now make up virtually 50 percent of the workforce in Britain. The figures on pay discrimination are particularly scandalous given that it is now more than 30 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force and - despite all the ballyhoo about 'Blair's babes' - there has been hardly any shift in the gender pay gap since New Labour came to power.

How to Fight the System

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Coalitions can't substitute for revolutionary organisation but are a vital prerequisite.

A couple of years ago Paul Foot wrote an article in Socialist Worker arguing that people who were involved in the anti-war movement needed to belong to something more, a political organisation that took up other issues as well. We received two letters criticising his argument. They were from people who argued that they already had a wider organisation, the electoral united front the Socialist Alliance, and saw no reason to be in the Socialist Workers Party.

The Great Wall of Capital

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The free market means a maze of fortified borderposts.

When delirious crowds tore down the Berlin Wall in 1989 many hallucinated that a millennium of borderless freedom was at hand. Globalisation was supposed to inaugurate an era of unprecedented physical and virtual-electronic mobility. Instead neoliberal capitalism has built the greatest barrier to free movement in history.

Power to the Beetle

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A decade on, the Zapatistas still inspire resistance, writes Mike Gonzalez.

In January 1994, some new and unexpected faces joined the public gallery of political images. Actually, the faces were barely visible - just the eyes through the slits in the woollen balaclavas they wore. The Zapatistas, unknown warriors from the Mexican south, had stolen the thunder of the three presidents meeting to announce the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) to the world's press corps. But their slick Armani suits made very boring pictures compared with the rough blankets and open sandals of the guerrilla fighters of Chiapas.

Eat Your Worms

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Public sector reform has problems in store for Blair.

Even though Tony Blair‘s entire demeanour recently smacks of ’nobody likes me‘, it‘s looking as though he might need to eat quite a few more worms before he is eventually put out of his misery. In fact a great writhing bucketful is already waiting in the shape of public sector reform. On the one hand, most members of the general public have no more enthusiasm for further Railtrack-style ’improvements‘ in the NHS, education or the civil service than any of them had for an illegal invasion of Iraq or for university top-up fees.

Inside the Sunshine Gulag

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Allegations of corruption and murder are rocking California‘s penal system.

Khem Singh was little more than a shrivelled skeleton when he died of starvation in early February while on hunger strike in California‘s notorious Corcoran State Prison. The 72 year old Sikh priest, who spoke almost no English, had been given a draconian 23-year sentence in 2001 for ’inappropriately touching a young girl‘.

Although he had been on hunger strike for weeks, and had shrunken to less than 80 pounds, prison staff failed to monitor Singh‘s decline or move him into intensive care. Guards told a reporter that they ’didn‘t notice that the prisoner was wasting away‘.

Developing Neoliberals

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My enemy‘s enemy is not always my friend.

Many activists at the World Social Forum in Mumbai were quite rightly celebrating the blow to the plans of the US and the EU at the Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). For once, the world‘s most powerful capitalist states suffered a setback in their schemes to write the agenda for the rest of the system.

My Kingdom on a Horse

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Four centuries later, Mike Gonzalez finds Don Quixote a strangely modern tragicomic hero.

’Tilting at windmills‘ - it‘s a phrase you often hear whenever people launch ferocious assaults at imaginary enemies. But perhaps not everyone remembers that the first man to charge at slowly turning sails was an elderly Spaniard wearing a pudding bowl on his head. Don Quixote was his name - and the only witness to this particular attack of lunacy was a plump peasant riding a donkey who found it impossible to convince the old man that these were not giants with flailing arms who needed to be brought down a peg or two. The reluctant witness was his squire, one Sancho Panza.

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