Opinion

Sects, Lies and Virile Monks

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The history of decadent, out of touch rulers should worry Tony Blair, writes
Mike Gonzalez.

Listening to Blair's Churchillian blast at Labour's spring conference was a peculiarly unpleasant experience. As usual, he mobilised his two good old standbys - moralism and fear. Like Canute, Blair stood resolutely on the beach looking out across the water and commanded the waves to turn back. This was a man so obviously lying to himself and others - so obviously acting a part - that not even the toadies and sycophants lined beaming along the front row of the hall could have believed a word of it.

Hostage to Misfortune

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The Guantanamo detainees are as much hostages as Terry Waite was, argues Pat Stack.

Hostage tragedy, hostage farce. That was the only way to describe the antics of the last few weeks.

Despite the appalling treatment that has been dished out by the US towards the hostages at Guantanamo Bay, the British tabloids have been happy to carry any old hogwash the US State Department may throw at them about those recently released British citizens. They were all Taliban and Al Qaida according to the Sun, relying directly on US information issued in retaliation for those hostages describing the horrors of the camp.

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.

Open or Shut?

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Millions of Windows computers infected with the My Doom virus, major security flaws exposed in some systems and the leaking of some sections of the Windows source code will probably mean that among Microsoft executives February 2004 will be remembered as a bad month.

All this will also make many people question what it is about Microsoft‘s software that makes it so vulnerable. The answer lies partly in its practice of rushing software out so flawed that it requires huge updates as soon as it is installed.

This is why later versions of the Windows operating system continually check Microsoft‘s website for automatic updates - errors, bugs and problems are so common that it is simpler for Microsoft to build in a self update system rather than attempt to release better code.

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.

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