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

Some of our readers will perhaps remember the inauguration of the right-wing coalition government in Austria in February 2000. For the first time since 1970 the Social Democratic Party was not part of the federal government. The new government was formed by Wolfgang Schüssel of the conservative Peoples’ Party and Jörg Haider, the leader of the Freedom Party. This led to a big movement of Austrian “civil society” and a wave of international protests starting with the tops of the EU. Many on the left saw the threat of fascism because of the participation of the Freedom Party in this new bourgeois government.

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 to be coming to an end.

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.

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.

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