Volume 29, Number 17, September 18, 1999
Internet Edition : Article Index
Resolutions of National Consultative
Workers and Politics
Diary of a Health Worker on Her First Visit to Cuba
Newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain
National Consultative Forum of RCPB(ML)
September 12, 1999
A National Consultative Forum was called by the Central Committee of RCPB(ML) in London on September 12. Activists from around the country gathered to discuss directly with the Central Committee the work of the Party and the perspectives for this work.
Its aim was to ensure that all the activists and Party circles are drawn into the new tasks that have been given rise to by the 3rd Congress of the Party. It gave rise to a collective consciousness on what is being achieved and what needs to be achieved after the initial period of assimilating the Congress decisions, identifying the constant work and putting this programme into operation. In this context its purpose was to initiate a period where the Party puts this programme into practice as a conscious collective, and then sums it up in an appropriate way and creates the conditions for this work to advance. This period can be considered as the start-up period of the work to take Britain into the 21st century on a new basis, a socialist basis.
The theme of the National Consultative Forum was summed up in the slogans: The Full Weight of the Collective Behind All the Work! Improve the Content, Extend the Readership!
The discussions of the Forum were extremely successful, and a full report will be given in the next issue of Workers Weekly Internet Edition.
In this issue we are printing the text of the resolutions of the National Consultative Forum.
Resolutions of National Consultative Forum
On the Work of RCPB(ML)
Whereas the Party must act with the full force of the collective in its work on all fronts;
Whereas the cutting edge of the work remains Improve the Content, Extend the Readership in the new circumstances;
Whereas it is necessary for the whole Party to implement and elaborate the decisions of the 3rd Congress;
This National Consultative Forum proposes to the Central Committee that a National Consultative Conference be held by the end of the year 2000 to sum up the work of this start-up period and to crystallise the Partys new tasks at the commencement of the 21st century.
On the Work to Safeguard the Future of the Health Service
Moved by health worker activists of RCPB(ML)
In order to implement the Resolution of the 3rd Congress on the programme to further the movement against the anti-social offensive and for the victory of a pro-social programme in relation to the specifics of the health service, we propose to the Central Committee the setting up of a Workers Weekly Health Group.
In this way, the strength of the collective will enable activists of the Party working in the health service to begin the implementation of the resolution. This will also further the work of the individual units and assist in Improving the Content, Extending the Readership of Workers Weekly.
The Future Belongs to the Youth!
Moved by Workers Weekly Youth Group
That as a part of developing our Workers Weekly Youth Group, we resolve to hold a meeting in October, to which all youth are invited, to prepare to organise a National Conference dealing with the problems facing the youth and how they can work for a bright future.
Workers and Politics
This is the column of Workers' Weekly on the conditions of the workers and on the agenda the workers themselves are setting to overcome their marginalisation and to take up politics. We encourage all our readers to contribute to the politicisation of the workers and write for this column
TUC 1999: Workers and Politics Commentary
The Millennial Challenge
The focus of the 1999 TUC Congress was on the TUCs "Millennial Challenge". It was no accident or surprise that the main theme of this "Millennial Challenge" was "Partners at Work". This was the theme of the Conference held by the TUC in May in which Tony Blair put forward the government's £5 million "partnership fund" to promote "partnership at work" and spelled out the whole policy of "social partnership" and the "Third Way".
At the TUC Congress, held in Brighton from September 13-16, Tony Blair took the opportunity to urge the TUC to take this partnership further. He said that because the "pace of technological advance is so fundamental I want to see trade unions as partners in this change, not as enemies but as champions even of this change". Whilst the reception from delegates was cool TUC General Secretary John Monks issued a press release claiming that the Prime Minister "gave a very positive account of the role of trade unions in the future of Britain. His address really looked beyond the issue of union/government relations to the bigger challenges facing the country." He said that in doing so the Prime Minister "co-opted the trade union movement as full partners in responding to that challenge" and he welcomed Tony Blair's suggestion of a conference involving government, CBI and TUC on this technological revolution and the "knowledge economy" next year.
In all this talk of "partnership" between government, unions and big business and in the praising of the government for the "most significance advances", there is laid out that the independent interests of the workers should be completely abandoned in favour of the need of the financial oligarchy for maximum profits. Within this scenario, workers should be completely marginalised from politics. The "social partnership" that Tony Blair and the TUC General Council and John Monks are calling for is not an equal partnership. Indeed, how can it be called a partnership at all when one "partner" has to agree to work entirely for the interests of the other "partner"? Of course, the government and the TUC claim that by entering into such a "partnership" both sides benefit. But this does not accord with the realities of life. The workers are certainly not "full partners" and neither is the "partnership" a consensus between two different interests. What this theme "partners at work" means is the subordinating of all the rights and interests of the workers to the aims of the monopolies in the global market place. It means a "partnership" where workers are urged to give up their rights and interests in favour of loyalty to their enterprise, whilst government "promises" to legislate on "minimum standards" which allegedly will protect their interests.
Workers should note that Tony Blair expressed no concern about the fate of the national economy or the future of society but called on the workers to adapt to all the changes demanded by the monopolies in the global market place. The experience of the last two years has demonstrated that the interests of the workers, the interests of the national economy and the interests of society cannot be reconciled with the interests of the global monopolies making inward and outward investments for maximum capitalist profit. It was pointed out at the Congress that over the last year alone 140,000 jobs have gone in Britain in manufacturing alone and at the same time delegates opposed the continued anti-social offensive against public services and social programmes started by Margaret Thatcher and being carried on by New Labour.
At this years TUC Congress, the Labour government and TUC leaders put very great pressure on the working class to accept this agenda of "Partnership" and the "Third Way". The call of Tony Blair and John Monks for a "social partnership" between the British working class movement, between the workers and the monopolies and financial oligarchy, is part of an ideological offensive. It is part of the new arrangements the bourgeoisie is making to attempt to stop the working class fighting for its own independent interests under the conditions where it is only the working class that is a position to lead society out of the crisis that capitalism has created. The main attack of this "Millennial Challenge" of the TUC is on the agenda of the working class so as to create illusions that there is a "Third Way" between capitalism and socialism. But the real millennium challenge for the working class is to organise itself and take the lead in transforming society from capitalism to socialism.
The theme of this years TUC Congress is damaging to the interests of the workers class and dangerous in the context of the world situation. The fact is that at this time global capitalism is now verging on all out war for re-division of world markets, territory and spheres of influence. Every major capitalist power is striving to steal an advantage in this globalisation by trying to stop the workers from fighting for their independent interests. This criminal role of the Labour government and the TUC leaders is in striving to get the British workers behind their employer and be their partner in cut-throat competition, regardless of the consequences. This criminality should not be underestimated. It is against the interest of the British working class but also poses great dangers for the workers of all lands. Also, workers should note that those "left" wing leaders that spoke at the TUC accepting this agenda are closing the eyes of the workers to the reality and further creating illusions that workers can still rely on the Labour Party and will not have to organise themselves on a new basis and create new arrangements.
Workers should reject the agenda of New Labour. They should reject the agenda of the TUC leaders and all those who call on them to enter into partnership with their employers and reject the conference called by the government and the £5 million partnership fund set up to oppose their interests. The fight of the workers is to set their own agenda. The working class must organise itself to take hold of what belongs to it, strengthening its vision of a new and truly modern society, where society is transformed to meet the needs of the people and not those of the financial oligarchy.
Experience of Workers and Amendments to Legislation Exposes New Labour's Working Time Regulations
Experience of workers on Tyneside show that the government's claims to have improved the health and safety of the workers such as with the introduction of the Working Time Regulations has not only not occurred but the conditions facing the workers are deteriorating rapidly and the working week of the workers is being extended to meet the drive of the monopolies for maximum profits in the global market.
Whilst AMEC Process and Energy, Crown House Engineering, both based in Wallsend, and Ledwood Construction at North Shields were "honoured" on June 16 by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents for improving their safety record, when, for example, workers and employees of contractors at the AMEC oil rig construction sites are still forced to work long hours for 6 and seven 10 hour shifts a week or be paid off. Many of these workers are not only expected to work long hours but if they take holidays they are paid off and in any case are forced to pay each week for their own holiday pay with holiday credit reductions.
Recently, one contractor at AMEC Wallsend sent around a letter saying that "If you would like to continue to work more than 48 hours from time to time, you will need to sign the enclosed agreement (The so-called "individual choice" to opt out from the protection of the Act-ed) If the agreement is not signed, you will not be allowed to work more than 48 hours." They also added to the letter in relation to the right of an employee to have 4 weeks paid holiday under the regulations the paragraph in bold print. "It is your responsibility to ensure that you manage your own holiday credits to ensure that you have payment during holiday periods." The letter is in violation of the government's Working Time Regulations in that workers can work overtime providing it averages no more than 48 hours over 17 weeks. The conditions the company is imposing is that the workers must sign away their rights to get any overtime and then they must work the hours that they dictate. However, whilst the company manipulate the situation to suit their plans to exploit the workers to the maximum the workers have minimal rights. As one worker at the yard pointed out; "Three lads were paid off last week because they had families and couldn't work the seven days but the company simply writes down the reason that they were paid off because there is 'no work' for them. If they complain then they are at risk of loosing their dole and not being re-employed at another yard and the company will deny that they were paid off because they refuse to work over 48 hours." Since then six more have been paid of for the same reason.
The workers are right not to trust in the legislation of New Labour. In a Tribunal case in July a van driver won his case against a Gateshead company for being dismissed because he refused to work over 48 hours. This is only the second of two cases that have been won nationally after a year of the legislation. The tribunal awarded the maximum to the van driver but he will not get his job back and is to be paid only £12,000 in compensation inspite of the fact that he is unlikely to find another job due to a his age and a disability. It is also common knowledge that employers secretly black workers who take their former employers to tribunals.
In addition the government has just introduced into Parliament amendments to the Working Time Regulations which reverse some of the provisions of the Act only introduced last October. This announcement came in the same week that the government claimed that it was committed to "family friendly" employment. The changes have been tabled on the last day of the parliamentary session with only a short period of consultation inspite of the protests of the Health and Safety Commission, the TUC, trade unions and others. The amendment to regulation 5 removes record keeping requirements from employers where employees opt out of the limit on their working time to 48 hours. The amendment to Regulation 20 removes from the limit of and average of 48 hours a week virtually all salaried workers who "voluntarily" work unpaid outside of their normal working hours. The amendments which will pass through Parliament in October are according to the government amendments that are necessary because they are an "unnecessary burden on business."
It is reported that according to the latest figures men in Britain work longer hours than anywhere else in Europe. The Rowntree Foundation pointed out that a quarter of all fathers were working over 50 hours a week and that one in eleven were working more than 60 hours a week. As a result only a minority of fathers working more than 50 hours a week were able to participate in a family meal every day.
What this experience of the workers and the proposal to backtrack on the WTR exposes is that they cannot put their faith in the vision that Tony Blair paints of a "fair and flexible labour market underpinned by minimum standards." The situation they face reveals that the "family friendly" polices of New Labour embodied in the health and safety and other legislation has the aim of intensifying the exploitation of all types of workers and increasing their working day and working week still further. It exposes the argument of those that argue that a "fair deal" for workers can be achieved whereby allegedly the interests of the workers to have a normal working week can be harmonised with the interests of big business to maximise profits and increase productivity. Such a "fair deal" means that legislation such as the WTR prioritise not placing "burdens on business". Such legislation provides a shorter working week when it suits big business in their drive for maximum profits and a way to extend the hours of work when a longer working week satisfies this aim. In other words, such legislation provides privileges when it suits big business and not universal rights which are applicable to all human beings and which are guaranteed.
The working class movement for over 200 years has fought many heroic battles to establish a normal working week and an 8 hour day. Fighting against the odds and under the most difficult conditions is no strange situation for workers on Tyneside whose fathers and grandfathers and many of them first hand went throught the struggles in the former shipyards and coal mines in this struggle. This was one of the most important political battles that the workers led and a positive achievement for all in society. Today the workers can no longer rely on a Labour government to defend such a basic achievement as the normal working week and whose agenda of "fair and flexible labour market underpinned by minimum standards" is a betrayal of all previous civilised values that the working class and people fought for and a restoration of 19th century conditions.
Today, again many workers, such as workers on Tyneside, are risking their livelihoods to resist the imposition of such a long working week. The issue once again is the workers turning the battles that they are waging into a political struggle, which is to say that they must engage in the struggle in defence of their own class interests. It is the workers who must come to the forefront on all the issues in society and on all these issues proclaim that they have rights and are not going to compromise in asserting these rights. Today, workers should reject the agenda of New Labour and all the political parties of the rich as well as the TUC leaders that call on them to enter into partnership with their employers. The fight of the workers is to set their own agenda. What kind of society will it be where the workers are empowered to set their own agenda? What kind of society will it be when they decide on the whole direction for the economy and within that decide what is a normal working week, stake their claims, get scientific research done on what is the optimum working week and working day under given conditions? It will not be a society where the workers remain wage slaves, where they get behind those that hire and fire them and say, fine, we are going to be your partner and enrich you, and you tell us what the agenda should be and we will be flexible, work longer hours here and be idle there, while the national economy goes to hell. Workers should start right now to organise, to write about and engage and disseminate to their fellow workers those politics that assert their rights and elaborates what these rights are in the modern conditions. This is the conclusion from the attempts of the capitalists to impose longer hours, and every other trick in the book to get the workers to give up their rights and their interests. It is this which will give a modern profile to socialism and place the working class centre stage in the political life of the country.
WORKERS' SAFETY CONTINUES TO BE DISREGARDED BY CAPITALISTS
The safety of workers at work continues to be a serious problem. In pursuit of maximum profits the capitalist employers disregard the dangers workers face with little or no action taken to improve the working conditions in different kinds of environment. Legislation, which includes the Health and Safety at Work Act, has done nothing to improve the situation and have in fact made it worse in many cases. Government created the legislation in order to favour the employer. It made sure that companies only had to take "Reasonable Precautions", a wholly ambiguous criteria for making sure that plant and equipment etc. was safe to use. The inspections of work areas are minimal and often rule in favour of employers on the basis of not adding unnecessary costs to business. Safety Committees are set up sparingly and in some cases do not exist in many establishments. They were set up to offset union organisation in this field.
In the West Midlands the issues of safety are no different to elsewhere but a raw survey of the last quarter reveals that the problem continues to be a serious one. Newspaper reportage from the bourgeois media is scarce but does reveal some serious incidents from various parts of the region.
On May 18th a young worker, aged only 18 was hit in the face by molten metal. This accident took place at BE Wedge, a galvanising firm in Willenhall while the young man was working on the 2pm to 10pm shift. The youth was splashed with zinc and suffered injuries to his face, arms and neck. He had to be rushed to Wolverhampton Hospital and later transferred to the burns unit at Selly Oak in Birmingham. The foreman took the youth to hospital.
On the 23rd June an electricity worker was killed by a massive electric shock as he worked at a Midlands Electricity Board sub-station. The station is situated at Bushbury in Wolverhampton. During a massive explosion the 34-year-old man was believed to have received an electric shock of approximately 34,000 volts. A fellow worker, who was nearby at the time, tried to help him and received severe shock and burns himself. The Inspector from the Health and Safety Executive came to the site after a report of an explosion and found the deceased worker and his shocked colleague. A station officer said that there was a fire involving insulating oil that runs through the circuit breaker.
Two women assistants fled a Great Bridge fish and chip shop when it went up in flames. The frying range at the Black Country shop exploded when it was switched on for the day's frying on June 27th. Both women were overcome by smoke but managed to escape from the High Street shop. One of the women workers said that she had switched on the range to begin heating it up when it exploded.
"Flames were shooting up and I ran to the back to phone the fire brigade and then ran outside," she said.
Her fellow workmate was also present and ran through the back door. Firemen treated the workers with oxygen at the scene when they arrived. The sub-officer, who was from Handsworth, reported the cause of the fire.
"It was caused by a build -up of fat in the flue at the back of the range and it was triggered when it was switched on," he said, "The women were lucky not to have been burned."
The fire completely melted the range.
On 21st July a construction worker investigating a foul water drain in Solihull High Street had to be winched to safety after he fell down a 15ft hole. The middle-aged man who works for T. Maguire slipped and fell off a ladder while he was climbing out of the hole. The man was unconscious after his head hit iron girders near to the concrete floor, but he regained consciousness when paramedics and fire fighters arrived. Backup crews from Bickenhill had to help rescue the man from the hole. Paramedics and two fire officers went down into the hole to stabilise the man who was being comforted by a fellow worker. It took about 30 minutes to bring the man out. He needed a spine board placing beneath him to get him out without further damage. He was then placed into a scoop stretcher before hauling him up.
Two factory workers have died after apparantly being overcome by fumes in a suspected chemical leak in an engineering factory. Workers arriving for the dayshift discovered the bodies at ENG Ltd, Black Lake, West Bromwich. Fire service experts believe a number of of substances may have leaked and combined to make a lethal gas. The firm uses a concoction of chemicals to strip and clean metals. The main A41 outside the firm had to be closed and motorists diverted. A decontamination shower also had to be set up for the firefighters had to be set up in the road. The owners of the firm have refused to comment on the tragedy.
It is a point of concern to note how the capitalists get off lightly when accidents occur at work. Recently a young man of 20 years was killed when a spark caused an explosion at a paint plant. A verdict of "accidental" death was delivered by an inquest when a young decorator died in a blast at a factory. The man, from Hall Green in Birmingham, suffered 60% burns in the explosion at the Du Ponts paint plant in Minworth at Sutton Coldfield. The inquest heard that he was cleaning a tank with flammable solvents when static electricity ignited a fireball. The young man died from his injuries in hospital 17 days later.
---------- Diary of a Health Worker ----------
----------- on Her First Visit to Cuba -------------
Final Part HEALTH DELEGATION AT SANTIAGO STATION - MAY DAY IN HAVANA
(Part 1 What A Day! appeared in Workers Weekly, Vol.29, No.15, Part 2 - A Day at a Cuban Hospital - appeared in Workers' Weekly Vol.29, No. 16)
The Health delegates leave from Santiago Station for Havana
Today we were picked up by our new interpreter, Evelio, who also teaches English at the local medical school, and by Avia, who is a family doctor and an active member of the union but not a delegate this year, so she will hold the fort whilst Rosa and the others are in Havana for the Health Workers Congress.
First, we went to El Cobre, a world famous Catholic shrine. The cathedral is full of gifts people have sent over many years after their prayers are answered. There was a Cuban flag given after the success of the 2nd War of Liberation, many sporting trophies and items from the Revolution of 1959, even a Party card. In Cuba there is evidently no contradiction between religious belief and support for the revolution and socialism.
Evelio explained how important the visit of the Pope had been to Cuba at this time of the Special Period with the US sanctions against Cuba. It was important for Cuba's international standing. The setting of El Cobre is very beautiful and is next to the El Cobre copper mine, which coincidentally twinned with Ellington Colliery in Northumberland.
We then had a short visit to the Moncada barracks, the site where the first revolutionary attack against the Batista regime was made on July 26, 1956, and saw the school that is now there.
Back at the hotel we discussed, something mentioned before, the important role of the family doctor in prevention of unwanted pregnancies, sex education and children's health. Avia explained the role of the polyclinics, each of which is linked to about 30 family doctors and used for simple investigations, monitoring and caring for people with simple illnesses, or convalescing, and also for minor injuries. The use of natural medicine and homeopathy has grown and there is increasing production of natural medicines in Cuba. There is very little unemployment apart from those not wanting to work. If a company is unable to function due to shortage of materials during the Special Period then the workers are sent home, but remain on full pay until alternative work can be found, or the problem is resolved.
At about 15:00, we were driven into Santiago city. As we neared the train station we heard music and were caught behind a "parade". In fact these were the delegates to the Health Workers' Congress, their families and supporters going to the train station! We pulled into a side street to get to the station ahead of them. There were already some delegates waiting at the station along with many other health workers who had come to wish them well. The delegates wore T-shirts and baseball hats and they looked marvellous, embellished with wooden Che badges on their T-shirts and badges of the Cuban flags on their hats. Suddenly about forty primary school children appeared in their beautiful uniforms walking in pairs, holding hands along with two teachers. Not far behind came the parade. You could hear them and see their red hats a long way off. As they neared, one could see their banner at the front, with their regions name and "To the 8th Congress" emblazoned on it.
As they arrived at the station, so did the bus carrying the delegates from the neighbouring province of Guantanamo. There was a lot of friendly competition between the two delegations, shouting of slogans and banter, and the atmosphere was electric within both delegations and other health workers, families and supporters outside the beautiful train station which was only three years old. Those following two hours will stay with us forever.
The warmth of the Santiago delegates towards us was wonderful; we were greeted as old friends. The delegates unfurled their flag and sang their delegation song and shouted slogans, raising their fists and flowers in the air.
Then a speaker system was set up. The children sang and gave each of the delegates a red rose and one small child gave a speech. There were then speeches from the leaders of the two regional delegations, from the Cuban Federation of Women and from the Cuban Communist Party. The friendly banter and competition between the two delegations continued. The speakers noted how important it was that there were so many women delegates and how vital the effort of the health workers is, especially during the Special Period, but how also they were carrying forward the revolution and defending socialism. They also spoke of how important the role of Fidel had been in developing the programme for health. At this all the children started shouting "Fidel, Fidel"!
After the speeches there was more slogans and singing. The music was wonderful, of African origin played by a trio. We joined in the dancing which then moved into the station. The train was laid on especially for the delegates. We said our farewells, wished them well on their journey and parted with the words, "Manana Havana" "Tomorrow we meet in Havana!".
We did meet the following day in Havana and were able to participate in a number of sessions of their Congress and meet many other health workers from around Cuba and also from other parts of England, Wales and South Africa.
May Day in Havana
The culmination of our Cuban trip was May Day in Havana. Viva de primara de Mai! posters throughout the city had proclaimed since our arrival, announcing meeting points, etc. The build up to May Day in Havana had been tremendous and now here it was at last May Day in a socialist country.
We woke early and as we were eating breakfast I suddenly realised that whereas there were normally many taxis outside, today there were none because the taxi drivers had themselves gone to the May Day parade! We became a little worried about how we were to get to Revolution Square some miles away. So we hurried outside and clearly there was not a taxi to be had. The elderly man who each morning sold us the Granma held his fist high in the air and shouted at us: "Viva de primara de Mai!". We stood wondering how we were to reach the Plaza de la Revolution when a bicycle taxi appeared and offered to take us. We pondered a while. It was a long haul for him but he was sure he could do it and really we had no other choice.
All the way people were getting ready, the atmosphere was electric, the whole city was alive. As we neared the square there were more and more people. In groups, pairs, some with special T-shirts and hats. There were bands, lorry loads and buses full of people. We were not too far now so we got out of the bicycle taxi and walked with the crowds. As we neared Plaza de la Revolution, we could see the stand. In a very polite manner a policeman asked us if we could go over to a certain building to have our bags searched and we found ourselves amongst many other visitors, mainly French workers with a guide who happily translated for us as well.
Although we had arrived early at 8.00 am in the morning, we found we had not arrived early enough to easily find a seat. We milled around at the bottom of the stand looking for a space until some young students from the Latin American School of Medicine called on us to join them in the stand. They came from all over Central and Latin America but they loved Cuba for giving them the chance to study medicine and nursing, and enthusiastically waved Cuban flags. As the time went on there was a build up of excitement.
At 08:45 in the morning the Cuban leaders came out onto the podium opposite our stand Fidel, Pedro Ross the leader of the Cuban Trades Unions, and other trade union leaders. There was an introduction and singing of the National Anthem. Pedro Ross then spoke, about May Day as the International Day of the Workers. He spoke about defence of the revolution and socialism and about the dangers the US posed to the world and about the war in Kosovo.
On looking to the right, we could see the mass of banners and flags ready to move. Between our stand and the podium there was a six-lane road and at 09:00 it started! It is hard to describe in words the mass of people and their enthusiasm for May Day. The slogan for this year is History, Unity and Revolution and these words were hung high above the square. The crowds were at least 50 across and crowded together, with children and even some adults held aloft. There were countless flags and banners. Banners from individual workplaces, symbols representing each group of workers from factories, hotels, hospitals, taxis, airport workers, farms, the vaccine plant, ambulance drivers to bank workers. There were huge Cuban flags and banners from the local Committees for Defence of the Revolution, banners of Cuban heroes, banners against NATO's intervention in Yugoslavia, banners proclaiming the first of May and many other slogans. The banners were very beautiful, some with a professional look, others with home-made appearance, and many were very ingenious with models of trains, ambulances, and other things.
There was much shouting of slogans, especially when the marchers passed the podium where Fidel stood. As each contingent marched past the podium, their name was called out on the public address system. The students we were with were full of excitement and co-ordinating some Mexican waves and waving their Cuban flags. The crowds went on and on, a sight that was incredible and unforgettable. There was a small lull, a gap in the march, then the military march, very smart representing each branch of the service. What struck us was how the women marched as a part of every contingent and not separately.
Then the march was finished, the crowds rushed back and stopped in front of the podium. There was a short silence, then the band struck up the Internationale and we all stood with our fists raised singing. There was much emotion amongst the crowd and there was then much clapping and shouting for "Fidel". He remained there waving at the crowds for a while. We did not want to move, but wanted to stand there savouring such a marvellous experience. But then it was time to say goodbye to our new friends, the students, and walk back along the street that had just been full of the people of Havana celebrating May Day International Workers' Day. Already rows of people were sweeping the streets and people were standing in groups, lingering and talking.
As we reached the end of the road we stood wondering how we were to get back to our hotel when all of a sudden the car of the Health Workers' Union drew up and Ramon Crespo, the Health Workers' Union leader, insisted on giving us a lift. We all piled in. Seven of us in a small car! We were all dropped at the National Hotel, and in very pleasant surroundings we continued our celebration of May Day. Everywhere we could hear the continuing May Day celebrations, and they went on into the early hours. It was strange but very nice to be woken in the middle of the night by the strains of the Internationale coming from one such party
Activities of CAEF in the West Midlands Have Increased Since the Beginning of May
THE West Midlands regional organisation of the Campaign against Euro Federalism (CAEF) has increased its activities in the Midlands in recent times. These activities were dominated in the May/June period by the unjust war against Yugoslavia. This war was launched by the United States and the EU through the NATO "defence" alliance and the so-called European Parliament elections.
CAEF has held three public distributions of anti-war leaflets in Birmingham City centre at which thousands of leaflets were given out. In most cases the leaflets were well received.
Members of CAEF also took part in an anti-war vigil outside Pebble Mill TV centre called by the "Committee for Peace in the Balkans". CAEF members also took part with the coach loads of demonstrators from Birmingham in the 10,000 strong London demonstration organised by the same committee. Discussions also took place with a number of Midland socialist organisations for a meeting and demonstration in Birmingham after the EU elections had the bombing of Yugoslavia continued.
CAEF members took part in successful Anti-Maastricht Alliance (AMA) meetings in Redditch on June 3 and Wolverhampton on July 16. Speakers from the Conservative and United Kingdom Independence Parties, Business for Sterling, Campaign for an Independent Britain (CIB) and CAEF spoke against European Monetary Union (EMU) and other aspects of the EU such as Corpus Juris and EU armed forces. A total of 11,000 leaflets were distributed for the two meetings. (Note: AMA is a broad movement consisting of about 20 organisations opposed to EMU and further integration into the EU and was set up at the EU Counter Summit in 1992 in Edinburgh. CAEF is a founder member of the AMA.)
CAEF members also took part in the distribution of 3,000 leaflets for a debate on EMU and the Euro between speakers from the Democracy Movement and the European Movement in Burton on Trent on June 17. The debate was attended by 40 people and all but two people voted against the Euro when the vote was taken.
On Saturday, July 24, CAEF members took part in a leaflet distribution organised by the Democracy Movement in which 10 people took part in the centre of Derby. This was part of national activities organised on that day and thousands of leaflets were given out and hundreds of signatures were collected to Save the Pound, which is a political issue and not an economic one.
National and West Midlands Regional Organiser of CAEF.
29 July, 1999
Recent publications of the Campaign against Euro-federalism
EU Common Foreign and Security Policy:
Military-Industrial-Complex, Costing the Earth
EU Common Foreign and Security Policy: Agreements or NATO-EU
Publications can be ordered from CAEF, 57 Green Lane, Merseyside, L45 8JQ.
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