Britain

On the one hand, Blair prepares to send troops into Iraq behind the coattails of the Americans to overthrow Saddam. On the other hand, he and 'two Jags' Prescott prepare to send in troops to break the picket lines of the firefighters. If you adopt the policies of capitalism abroad, inevitably you will adopt them in domestic policy.

In a matter of days the entire political landscape of Britain has been transformed by the magnificent struggle of the firefighters. The entire labour movement must now rally to the side of the firefighters. Go to the picket lines! Move resolutions and take up collections! The fight must be taken into the Labour Party as well. The Labour leaders want a fight with the unions. The unions must give them a fight inside the Party too.

As the Fire Brigades Union in Britain goes out on strike for the second time, we are publishing the second Firefighters' Bulletin distributed by the Socialist Appeal throughout the fire stations up and down the country. The struggle of the firefighters in Britain is becoming a major industrial battle with the Labour government commited to smash the union. We support the struggle of the firefighters for fair pay.

The dearth of leadership in the Tory Party is not the cause of their crisis, but it is not an accident either. The failings of these leaders faithfully reflect the impasse of their system. Nye Bevan once said of the Tory leaders (including Churchill) they have nothing to say about tomorrow, and harp on about the past because they have no part to play in the future. They are a doomed party representing a doomed class and a doomed system. The crisis in the Tory Party is symptomatic of the impasse facing the profit system. The sickness of that system spreads like a cancer affecting every aspect of society.

Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith is "murally dyslexic," according to one of his own backbench MPs Anthony Steen, "he can't read the writing on the wall!" The "nasty party" as their own chairman Theresa May MP dubbed the Tories, stumbles from one crisis to the next. The issue of adoption for unmarried and gay couples is an important one, but is not the root cause of the latest debacle. The press make much of Duncan Smith's history as a plotter and a backstabber in the days of John Major's leadership. He voted against the 'party line' more than 40 times over Europe. True as this undoubtedly is, the Tory leader's paranoia, seeing plots around every corner, is not the source of

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Fredrick Engels once defined the state as "armed bodies of men", together with their appendages, in defence of private property. Last month's BBC 2 TV programme in Britain entitled True Spies by Peter Taylor examined one of these appendages, Britain's secret services. The programme revealed how in "democratic" Britain, MI5 and the Special Branch systematically infiltrated political groups and organisations, and secretly spied on trade union leaders such as Arthur Scargill and Derek 'Red Robbo' Robinson. While none of the revelations are particularly startling, what was of interest was the use of first-hand interviews by ex-M15 agents in explaining their...

It's amazing how people change. And it's even more terrible when you forget your roots. This is surely the case with poor old John Prescott, once National Union of Seamen firebrand, and now "responsible" statesman and minister in charge of the Labour Government's stand against the just demands of Britain's firefighters.

Industrial militancy in Britain is on the increase. It reflects a general mood in the workplace that enough is enough. The Blair government is not only confronting the first national firefighters' strike in 25 years, but is facing action on a number of other fronts. This has raised the spectre of another Winter of Discontent similar to the one faced by the Callaghan government in 1978/79.

At the beginning of this month, as the first wave of strikes loomed the Blair government was preparing to square up to the firefighters. "Picket lines might be crossed… no options are being ruled out" Blair triumphantly proclaimed. This was a blatant threat of attack. Such actions would have put the government on a collision course with the unions. It shows how removed from reality Blair is in arrogantly attempting to trample over the concerns of working people. However they are in for a rude awakening.

Interview with Mick Shaw member of the FBU EC for the London Region: "We have now reached the stage where the government and the employers are hiding behind this so-called 'independent inquiry', and are refusing to engage in negotiations. Our members see no alternative but to take industrial action in order to persuade the employers to return to negotiations."

At this year's annual Labour Party conference it was quite clear that Blair is no longer looking as confident as only a few months ago. He has had to swallow defeat in his own party, on a key issue: the participation of private capital in the providing of public services And he also came close to defeat on his plans to wage war on Iraq! We are witnessing the first steps in what will prove to be a major turn-around inside the Labour Party over the next period.

Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the NUJ, was one of several left union leaders to be newly elected to the TUC General Council. Socialist Appealspoke to him at the recent TUC Conference.

Strikes in Britain are at their highest level for thirteen years and the trend is upwards. The recent council workers' strike involving over one million people was the largest strike by women workers ever seen in this country. Fire fighters have voted unanimously at their recall conference to ballot for strike action over a 40% rise in pay! If this takes place, it will be the first national strike in 25 years. Rail and tube workers, who have their own disputes, have threatened to refuse to work on grounds of safety if there is no fire cover. The general public, according to a recent Guardian/ICM poll, appear to sympathise with them. The days of workplace "servitude" seem finally...

The planned national industrial action by the firefighters is the first for 25 years. It coincides with an increasing radicalisation in the union movement, which is a culmination of years of bitterness and resentment built up by the attacks on the wages and conditions of workers in general, and in the public sector in particular. The FBU is playing a leading role in the struggle for better wages in the public sector.