No room at the hospital
I would like you all to know my daughter’s personal plight at the hands of the NHS.
She was due to give birth in mid-January 2007. But her baby girl, Olivia, was born five weeks early. She weighed in at just over three pounds.
Our local hospital in Southampton doesn’t have the facilities to deal with premature babies. So my daughter Stephanie and baby Olivia were both shipped out to Basingstoke – 47 miles away.
After a couple of days my daughter, who is 26 years old, was sent home and told to return daily to feed the baby.
My daughter doesn’t drive and she didn’t have the money to travel to Basingstoke hospital.
She wanted to stay at the hospital with the baby, but they said they didn’t have facilities for mums.
My daughter was in tears because she desperately needed to get to hospital but had no hope of getting there.
Fortunately Olivia is now home, but I blame capitalism for this shambles in the NHS, and I blame the government.
A very good year for Stop the War
Hackney Stop the War has had a very productive year. We have held a regular variety of events – not just meetings about Iraq, Iran and civil liberties, but also film showings and a successful night for Palestine with poems, speeches and music.
This allowed us to mobilise very quickly during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Within five days we organised a meeting of 120 people and a local march of 300 people, which were well received and created a big debate in the local paper.
In September we held a very successful meeting at which former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg spoke. We also organised a 100 strong vigil of remembrance for the Afghan and Iraqi dead and sent 35 people (many of them delegates from their organisations) to the People’s Assembly against Islamophobia.
We met new people, but also cemented relationships with those we already knew. But we have to push out further – as we realised when we only filled one and a bit coaches for the demonstration in Manchester (though others took the train).
We now have a much more broadly based committee, which includes representatives of Muslim and Turkish/Kurdish organisations, the Green Party, school students and trade unionists. And Labour Party members will also be attending future committee meetings.
One task we have set ourselves for the coming year is to deepen our work with trade unionists inside local workplaces, particularly the council.
Despina Karayianni, Hackney Stop the War, East London
A day to remember
Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January provides an opportunity for anti-racist activists to unite with wider sections of society and learn the lessons of how to fight fascism.
It’s an opportunity to build broader alliances.
These can deepen the level of resistance to the growth of fascist parties like the British National Party.
However, there are criticisms of the event from groups who say that the focus on the industrial scale slaughter of six million Jews by the Nazis downplays the experience of other genocidal acts.
An unfortunate example of this is the decision by the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) to hold alternative events for Holocaust Memorial Day, including readings of the play Perdition.
Perdition is fiercely critical of the role played by Zionists in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War Two and should be seen widely.
However, we would argue that to counterpose Perdition to other Memorial Day events is a mistake by the SPSC.
There are weaknesses to Holocaust Memorial Day, but the key point is to find ways to engage with those involved in the events, rather than cutting off debate and alienating potential allies.
As socialists and Jews active in the anti-war movement, we are utterly opposed to the Israeli state’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinians.
The horrible irony of the Israeli state justifying its actions with reference to the Holocaust needs to be exposed.
But, there is a growing need to learn the lessons of the Holocaust itself – engaging with events round Memorial Day can contribute to this.
We should remember the Nazi Holocaust so that current and future generations of activists learn how to fight fascism.
We call upon the SPSC to reconsider its plans, engage with other groups and make the event truly inclusive.
Barrie Levine and Henry Maitles, Glasgow
Inviting Gilad Atzmon to play is a bad move
Great news about the Cultures of Resistance musical programme, but I have to say I’m mightily dismayed that you have saxophonist Gilad Atzmon on board.
He is someone who has frequently expressed racist ideas and surely we have always said that you can’t fight racism with racism? I fear that the racism he expresses is seen by some in the liberation movements as a racism that doesn’t matter as much.
That’s to say, it’s said by some that racism towards peoples from countries oppressed and exploited by the West is the main racism we’re fighting, but a racism directed towards peoples seen as heavily implicated in the West’s oppression matters less.
Thus, antisemitism in the 21st century is seen perhaps as “mistaken” within the liberation movement, much as we might say that going on about Rupert Murdoch being Australian is “mistaken”.
This is a disastrous route to go down. Antisemitism imagines the removal or elimination of a group of people from the world system.
All we have to ask ourselves is: 1) would eliminating that group change the system for the better? 2) what ghastly processes would a state create in order to do the removing and eliminating?
I think Cultures of Resistance is making a great mistake taking Atzmon on board with them and this will undermine and weaken what we are all trying to do.
Michael Rosen, East London
BBC chooses the viewers’ debate
Given the relentless barrage of anti-asylum seeker and anti-refugee propaganda pouring from the media it is very easy to get used to it.
I sat in disbelief while watching the 10pm news the other day.
The second news item was about how around £100 million has been spent on translation for non-English speaking asylum seekers and refugees.
The clear slant being given was that this was a hindrance rather than a help – and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Viewers were encouraged to “join the debate” by logging onto the BBC website.
In the same bulletin, the BBC highlighted, in a most positive manner, the bumper Christmas bonuses being enjoyed by City fat cats.
“Earning” an average salary of £340,000 a year, many could expect £2 million, with some expecting £20 million.
It then went on to talk of presents they had bought such as an £18,000 watch and a £145,000 necklace.
As you can expect, viewers were not asked to “join the debate”.
John Curtis, Margate
Making you better?
It was with interest that I read your article on happiness (Richard Layard, inequality and the 'science' of happiness, 9 December).
The history of psychiatry has been bedevilled by cruel and ineffective treatments, including high pressure water treatments, brain lobotomy and insulin induced comas.
I believe there will come a time when the current long term drug treatment of mental illness, with all its horrible side effects, will be viewed as yet another blunder that perpetuates the suffering of people.
Peter Covey, Essex
I won’t mourn Thatcher
I was cheered and inspired by Andy Burnyeat’s letter “Party when Margaret Thatcher goes”, (Letters, 9 December). It is by no means harsh – it is an excellent idea.
That woman was, quite rightly, the prime focus of hate for many of us in the 1980s.
From her “swamping” speech, her responsibility for the deaths of ten Irish hunger strikers, her support for the apartheid regime in South Africa to the decimation of the mining industry – yes, we have many reasons to party when she finally goes.
The day she goes should be welcomed and celebrated.
I just hope it’s when I return to Britain as I am working in Italy at the moment and would hate to miss the party!
Karen Johnson, Piacenza, Italy
Time to leave Maggie alone
Gloating over the death of Margaret Thatcher exposes socialists as just as hate filled as the British National Party.
The only difference is that socialists have “trendy” targets – toffs, the US, Israel, the royal family and national pride.
You had your “good riddance to Thatcher” day back in 1990, it’s time we left her in the past and concentrated on the rights of workers and equality for all.
Andy Reade, Cardiff
A reason to celebrate
Normally when a person dies it is a reason to mourn.
But the death of the hated General Pinochet of Chile has brought many hundreds onto the streets of Santiago to drink champagne and to dance in celebration on hearing of his demise.
I also share this joy. He drowned the country in the blood of many thousands of trade union and socialist activists for no other reason than the fact they supported a socialist government.
The Dundee Chilean Solidarity Campaign raised money and awareness of the plight of these refugees.
My dear Chilean friend Mario Uribe, who lived in Dundee since the military coup and contributed much to the community here, died a few weeks before Pinochet.
If he had been alive today, we would have raised a glass together in honour of the many Chileans who lost their lives fighting the dictator Pinochet. We would have had another drink to celebrate the death of the dictator.
Jim Barlow, Dundee
No time for conspiracies
It appears that Boris Kagarlitsky is open to the idea of a conspiracy behind the Twin Towers terrorist attack (Alexander Litvinenko and Russia’s killing game, 9 December).
As far as I and the rest of the mainstream are concerned, there is no evidence of rogue US intelligence involvement behind the events of 9/11.
There are plenty of conspiracy theories out there. But most have no real evidence supporting them and should therefore be disregarded.
Socialist Worker must always be credible to keep Marxism convincing. The danger with giving space to conspiracy theories is that it can undermine the credibility of Socialist Worker and hinder the working class struggle.
Alex Naysmith, Cheshire