Protest and survive
As a participant on the huge CND and Stop the War demonstration in London on Saturday 24 February I felt compelled to write about it.
The sheer number of people serves as a clear indication that the people of Britain are sick and tired of the warmongering policies of this so-called Labour government.
There was something of a feeling of bitterness among the crowd. There was a disbelief that over 650,000 lives have been sacrificed in an illegal and expensive war when Britain is in desperate need of nurses, teachers and care for the elderly.
The government instead ignores our needs and chooses to embark upon a multi-billion pound programme of nuclear weaponry, a move that pours salt into the wounds of the British public.
I feel that the demonstration expressed the sentiments of the majority of British people, as could be demonstrated by the diversity of the crowd.
We need to build on this movement and ensure that such barbaric policies are unable to continue.
Lauren Fearn, by email
'Winnability' is not a relevant distinction between the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (Editorial, 3 March).
Because Afghanistan was providing safe haven to Al Qaida, whose ability to strike in the West was proved on 9/11, there was a need and justification for ousting the Taliban. No such need or justification existed in Iraq.
The Afghanistan invasion was legal, had the sanction of a United Nations (UN) mandate, and had a big international coalition in favour. Iraq was illegal, had no UN authorisation, and virtually no support.
We are not doing any good in Iraq. One hundred people are dying every day and the vast majority of Iraqis want us out – as the head of the British army observed, we are making the situation worse.
We are doing some good in Afghanistan, if slowly, and the majority of Afghans want us to stay.
Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat MP
I would like to take issue with the numbers that Socialist Worker (100,000 protest against the war, 3 March) said were on the Glasgow demonstration against the war and Trident. I have been on many demonstrations and think there was at least 5,000 in Glasgow.
I have found recently the paper seems to underestimate the numbers on demonstrations. The demonstration last September outside the Labour Party conference in Manchester was the most obvious case.
I and many of the people I spoke to thought the figure more like 80,000 than the 50,000 quoted in the paper. Why the conservatism in estimates?
Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh
School fights for refugees
On Friday 16 February Aseng Nzoabar and her four children were arrested in a dawn raid in their house in south Leeds. Last week they were taken to Tinsley detention centre and deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
An anti-deportation speaker and a member of the Congolese community spoke at Leeds NUT teachers' union executive meeting. NUT members agreed to support the campaign to stop the deportations.
Staff and pupils from Cockburn High School in Beeston were horrified to discover that it was fellow pupils Herve and Alex who had been arrested with their mother and two younger brothers.
The deputy head contacted the local radio to express her disgust. Two of the teachers drove down to the Evening Post newspaper to demand that it print an article condemning the arrests and threatened deportations.
A petition was circulated around the school and over 650 signatures were collected within two hours.
Hilary Benn, the local MP, was contacted and staff phoned XL Airways to demand it cancelled the flight that was to deport hundreds of families back to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
At the same time over 70 people demonstrated outside the immigration office in Leeds, protesting against the arrests.
This demonstration had been called with only 24 hours notice. Many of those who protested were from the Democratic Republic of Congo. They sat on the road outside the offices.
Teachers and pupils went home in tears not knowing whether they would ever see their friends again after their deportation.
But at the same time everyone felt proud that they had got together and tried to fight for justice for the family.
Sally Kincaid, Steve Johnston and John Ward, Leeds
Social care faces devastating attacks
The news has been heavy recently with the changes and cuts affecting the NHS. But little is being said about the changes about to occur in what is called social care.
This is the care which aims to help disabled people or people with debilitating conditions carry on normal day to day activities. Essentially, the principles outlined for the NHS will be carried over to the social sector with 'the money' following the service user.
It will be devastating. Most of this sector is already privatised. But the new element is that individuals will be given the budget to purchase care how they see fit. So far so good?
But who defines how much money is on offer? Who will define what care is on offer?
The market already dictates that there are very few residential or nursing homes available in inner London.
Who makes sure staff have the right training? What happens when this care breaks down? The next two years will define whether, and how, this programme is adopted.
The government will aim to sound good but be able to blame individuals when it goes wrong.
Resistance to these attacks will be discussed at the 'Social work: a profession worth fighting for?' conference in Glasgow university on 24 and 25 March. Go to www.gcal.ac.uk/shsc/news/conferences.html
Helen Davies, East London
Focus on right to take public photos
In another sign of Tony Blair's contempt for our civil liberties, the government is about to propose restrictions on photography in public places.
This could make street photography and documentary photography against the law.
These proposed changes could result in photographers having to apply for ID cards in order to take pictures in public places.
The consequences of these proposed restrictions could be hugely damaging.
They could potentially wipe out an entire area of photography.
Photographers would come under police suspicion for taking pictures in the street.
A website petition to the prime minister against these moves has been set up.
It says, 'It is a fundamental right of a UK citizen to use a camera in a public place, indeed there is no right to privacy when in a public place.
'These moves have developed from paranoia and only promote suspicion towards genuine people following their hobby or profession.'
Everyone should sign the petition on petitions.pm.gov.uk/Photography/
Katherine Branney, East London
Two jobs and still underpaid
I am currently feeling very tired, after finishing a four and a half hour shift at one job and then a seven hour shift at another. I am very annoyed.
Today I made £57, while my managers have collectively scooped £3,000. I do not belong to any political ideal, but I am tired of all this and I wish so much that things would change.
Keep on with the good work.
Eluned Glyn Dafydd, Bangor
Central plan is undemocratic
Gareth Jenkins (Creating a new world, 3 March) is to be congratulated for explaining what terms like 'socialism' and 'communism' mean.
I'm not sure though about the democratic but 'centrally organised' workers' state Gareth supports.
How democratic is being organised from the centre? Centralised planning has quite rightly got a bad press. It doesn't seem to work well in allocating resources in society.
The answer is more freedom for workers to decide priorities on economic matters in their workplace. This could even be started under capitalism.
Graeme Kemp, Telford
Left leader will revive us
To assume that former Labour activists will 'never vote Labour again' because of the war (What's behind the Labour leadership battle?, 3 March) is absurd.
A new left leadership would bring them back ten-fold. That's why we're campaigning for John McDonnell and urging socialists to join the Labour Party and make a difference.
Susan Press, Hebden Bridge
Transfer us to the council
Some of my neighbours on my housing association estate in Brighton were pleased to see council tenants vote three to one against privatisation (Housing campaigners crank up heat on the government, 3 March).
We have played our part in letting council tenants understand the reality of housing associations.
We wrote an open letter to councillors asking if we could have a vote in the ballot because we wanted to transfer from our landlord to the council.
Any Socialist Worker reader with a housing association landlord can join the debate and help stop privatisation.
Dave Jones, Brighton
Fighting for the tenants
We want to congratulate Carole Swords (Housing campaigners crank up heat on the government, 3 March) for her courage and hard work in winning the right to a full legal review of the decision to transfer the Parkside housing estates in Tower Hamlets, east London.
We thank Carole for her effort to ensure that Bow tenants get a fair and democratic ballot.
We all need more of Carole's persistence and determination to battle for the residents' right to choose.
There are other private landlords and developers trying to get their hands on our homes, land and public buildings on the cheap.
They are riding roughshod over residents and our democratic rights.
Cllr Abjol Miah and Cllr Oliur Rahman, on behalf of all the Respect group on Tower Hamlets council
Rid world of nuke weapons
Many thanks for your editorial on nuclear weapons and a new Cold War (Editorial, 24 February).
It was incorrect, however, to say that the US has never ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has, but it has never lived up to its disarmanent commitments under the treaty.
In order to help bring about a world without nuclear weapons, I would urge everyone to ask their MP to sign EDM 798 on 'The future of Trident and the process of global nuclear disarmament'.
David Rolfe, Telford