More reasons to march
Contract opportunities: Dog handlers wanted. Not an unusual advert until you realise the job could be in Iraq, the recruiter is Blackwater USA, a military outsourcer whose home page describes them as “nine separate business units to offer the most comprehensive professional security, peacekeeping, and stability operations company in the world.”
It’s the greatest Orwellian nightmare – a privatised army – and has recently received endorsement from George “Dubya” Bush himself when he called for a Civilian Reserve Corps to ease the burden on the US’s armed forces last month.
Effectively it is already happening courtesy of multimillionaire, Bush supporter and Blackwater owner Eric Prince and others like him. It is estimated there are 100,000 contractors in Iraq, of which 48,000 work as private soldiers.
In fact it was Blackwater military employees that were killed in the incident in Fallujah in April 2004 that led to the siege and destruction of that city. At the time it was suggested these contractors were somehow involved in reconstruction.
Privatisation of the military has serious implications for democracy. Recruitment of mercenaries is morally appalling. It surely suggests the desperation of the Bush regime and the increasingly difficulty to recruit to maintain their planned “surge” and just one more reason to march this Saturday, as if we needed any more…
Anne Cooper aka The Poet Aniseed, www.myspace.com/thepoetaniseed
Activists from across Scotland have been buoyed up after the success of the recent Stop the War Coalition conference. It has had a knock on effect on campus at Glasgow University where the conference was held.
The first indication was when 35 students stayed behind after the conference to discuss how we build links between the different Stop the War groups, and to swap ideas about what worked in the various areas.
The second one came last Monday morning. I work part-time in one of the student unions, and during a two hour period, three people came up to me and said they had seen me at the conference.
They were asking all sorts of questions about how did we organise something so “professional”, where did we get all the great speakers, and more importantly, when was the next one and could they help out?
We had obviously reached out to another layer of the anti-war movement who hadn’t been active before. Because we were so confident and visible we motivated them to get involved.
Then on Thursday of last week we found out that Tony Blair was coming to Glasgow.
With less than an hour’s notice we mobilised 50 protesters to “welcome” him.
We are continuing to build for the demonstration this Saturday. The mood generated by the success of the Scottish Stop the War conference has made the task that much easier.
Eileen Boyle, Glasgow
Corruption at Barnsley College
On 12 February one of Barnsley College’s former managers, Stuart Spacey, was sent to prison for 18 months for his part in defrauding the college of hundreds of thousands of pounds over a seven year period.
His co-accused, the former principal David Eade, was judged too ill to stand trial. Spacey is the first person to go to prison for corrupt practices in further education – which gives a measure of how significant this trial has been.
There has been a flood of allegations of corruption in further education from the mid 1990s onwards, after the Tories took colleges out of the control of local education authorities. This semi-privatisation gave the green light to corrupt practices.
Labour has done nothing to change this situation – one of many examples of how it has continued Tory policies. Instead government ministers showered praise on David Eade.
What brought the corruption to an end were the actions of whistleblowers and the college lecturers’ union branch, now part of the UCU union.
While the college’s governors were insisting that there was no corruption, the whistleblowers and the union continued to draw public attention to the truth until eventually the stench became too overwhelming to ignore.
The UCU branch at Barnsley College welcomes the Manifesto for Further Education drawn up by the union’s London region and supported by general secretary candidate Roger Kline.
We are firmly in favour of bringing further education colleges back into local democratic control. That is the way to ensure that this sort of corruption never happens again.
We also welcome Roger Kline’s prompt and pertinent press release about Spacey’s prison sentence – this is what we would expect of a general secretary of our union.
That is one reason why a number of our members have been actively campaigning for Kline in the current UCU general secretary election.
Dave Gibson, Barnsley College UCU branch secretary
Indian Mutiny was a generalised revolt
Gajendra Singh (Letters, 27 January) argues that the 1857 Indian Mutiny was not an anti-imperialist movement, but an uncoordinated “series of revolts” over a variety of grievances.
This interpretation of the Mutiny was in fact the one promoted by British colonial authorities at the time.
Typically they saw the revolt as a one-off event that could be explained by some kind of administrative “mistake” on their part.
Such interpretations are superficial.
Of course the revolts that punctuated British rule in India and culminated in 1857 were related to many different local grievances – are there any great social upheavals where this is not the case?
But these grievances were in turn shaped by the policies adopted and the conditions resulting from imperial rule.
It is not “nationalist” to talk about this colonial context – it simply reflects the framework within which these events actually took place.
Ignoring this framework when understanding the 1857 Mutiny is like arguing that the resistance in Iraq today has nothing to do with the presence of occupation troops, and simply reflects US “incompetence” or “ethnic hatred” among Iraqis.
John Game, Middlesex
A nuclear defeat
Greenpeace’s defeat of the government in the High Court last week over plans to build new nuclear power stations is a significant victory for campaigners.
The government’s consultation procedure was, in the words of the judge overseeing the case, “seriously flawed” and “misleading”.
The High Court accepted Greenpeace’s complaints that the government had failed to provide clear information on the cost of nuclear power and how nuclear waste would be safely stored.
Tony Blair has put himself behind the proposals for more nuclear power plants, arguing that new stations were the only way that Britain could reduce its carbon emissions.
The government has attempted to portray those who oppose nuclear power as not caring about climate change.
However, there are questions about whether nuclear power is as carbon neutral as the industry likes to claim and the problems caused by nuclear waste.
Nuclear power is also extremely expensive – money that could be invested into renewable energy.
The government’s defeat doesn’t mean an end to its nuclear plans. But it will help create a space for those who argue that we can reduce carbon emissions without resorting to nuclear energy.
Martin Empson, East London
The cheque’s in the post
Following a letter about the Socialist Worker appeal sent to CWU union branches from our general secretary Billy Hayes, our branch committee has unanimously passed a motion to donate £100.
We would also like to place on record a word of thanks to Socialist Worker for the excellent coverage and support of the CWU.
This is both in terms of our disputes and our campaigns – particularly against the privatisation of the post office.
Mark Dolan, treasurer, North/Northwest London CWU branch
Climate and capitalism
Readers of Socialist Worker may be interested in Climate And Capitalism, a new website that aims to present Marxist perspectives on climate change.
We hope to provide socialists with the information and analysis they need to understand and respond to the crisis.
The site features original articles and reprints from a wide range of sources.
To find out more, please visit www.climateandcapitalism.blogspot.com
Ian Angus, Ontario, Canada
Squeezed dry by managers
I’ve worked for Royal Mail for the last seven years. I recently moved from southeast London to North Yorkshire with my family.
I worked full-time in London but have now had to take a duty of 24 hours a week.
To not be able to transfer an employee without a 16 hour reduction in his wage slip is scandalous.
There is only so much juice you can squeeze from an orange.
This will be the downfall of the Royal Mail. I feel penalised for moving my family to another part of Britain.
I have arrived at an office where there is no morale and the workforce is split between part-timers and full-timers.
I know the hours are there. It is a question of someone managing them correctly.
It is not happening and the bosses Allan Leighton and Adam Crozier are laughing in the face of non-existent union support.
Divide and rule – they are succeeding.
Alistair Mackenzie, North Yorkshire
Bird flu risk for workers
Something i noticed about the media’s treatment of the latest bird flu scare is an almost total lack of concern for the health of workers in the poultry rearing and processing industries.
To my mind, it is the health of these workers which is most at risk.
I imagine that most in this country are on the minimum wage or little more, and that many are recent immigrants whose wages are docked to cover exorbitant rents.
Laurel Bush, Wick, Caithness
An event to be angry about
I was pleased to hear that a film drama about Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent Brazilian man shot dead by police on the London Underground in July 2005, is now going ahead – despite the BBC pulling out of the project.
However, I haven’t been impressed by comments from Henrique Goldman, the film’s director.
He said the film would avoid taking any political stance on Jean Charles’s death.
Goldman also said that his film would not focus on the role of the police, since the British police are “dramatically boring”.
I wonder whether the difficulties of getting funding for this project have encouraged the filmmakers to water it down politically and misrepresent Jean Charles’s death as a “tragic event”.
But the shooting is not merely “tragic” – it is something we should be angry about.
Jiben Kumar, East London