Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2044

Taking the spirit of the People’s Assembly into the workplace is now critical  (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Taking the spirit of the People’s Assembly into the workplace is now critical (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Anti-war assembly was a show of people power

“All power to the people,” was a slogan that I was reminded of while at the recent People’s Assembly. I used to think that the slogan was about the “democracy” that we live under – that was until the country was taken, against its will, into the illegal and immoral wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Parliament may have decided not to debate these outrages but at our assembly MPs from all parties talked about the terrible state of Iraq and how Tony Blair had blundered.

Iraqi exiles explained how thousands of their fellows (including Kurds) are fleeing the deteriorating conditions and the rampaging security services. Depleted uranium has poisoned the soil, creating all manner of cancers and birth defects.

Tony Benn reminded us that every generation is forced to confront the evil committed by a powerful elite. Two hundred years ago it was slavery, today it is war and pre-emptive strikes.

Veteran campaigner and Labour NEC member Walter Wolfgang urged us to be “confident and determined” in our struggle.

The assembly was a brilliant demonstration of what a real democracy looks like.

Madeline Chanter, Redbridge Against the War

Parliament may not be able to discuss it, but in workplaces up and down the country, Iraq is a major topic of debate.

This atmosphere has been reflected in my trade union branch. Our banner has been on every Stop the War demonstration and we’ve had Stop the War convenor Lindsey German and CND chair Kate Hudson address our meetings.

Now, having attended the People’s Assembly, some members of my union branch are planning a reportback meeting.

Obviously lots of people at work are already very clued up about Iraq. But we have decided that we need to be better organised, especially as George Bush seems determined to attack Iran. The reportback will be the perfect opportunity to start that process.

Sometimes people can think that they can’t make a difference. But every time people have a chance to come together, it gives them a sense of being part of a wider movement.

The size and breadth of the People’s Assembly was proof of just how deep the Stop the War Coalition’s roots are. Activists should take the inspiration and the message into their workplaces.

Jo Cardwell, East London

Cameron is not on our side

I was proud to be one of the 12,000 doctors who marched through London recently (Angry junior doctors take protest to the streets, 24 March).

We were protesting against a new training scheme called Modernising Medical Careers (MMC), which threatens 8,000 of us with joblessness.

The new system does not give due consideration to qualifications and experience while selecting candidates for interview.

Instead the whole application process has been reduced to a creative writing exercise.

Contrary to popular belief, most junior doctors are not wealthy. In fact we are thousands of pounds in debt due to student loans.

It was heartening to find that doctors on the march were making the links between their situation and New Labour’s wider agenda.

Many I spoke to were incensed that the government is spending billions of pounds on nuclear weapons and illegal wars but says it has no money for their salaries. “Jobs not bombs” was a popular slogan.

Most doctors saw through Tory leader David Cameron’s attempt to hijack their situation for his own gain, and several shouted, “You’re only here for the votes,” when he started speaking.

Unfortunately the media have portrayed our protest as being closely linked to the Tories’ agenda, which is simply not true. Most of us had no idea he would be speaking and were unhappy with his presence.

Asad Khan, Bury Stop the War Coalition

Palestinians strike for British journalist

Readers of Socialist Worker will be interested to know that journalists in Gaza staged a two-hour strike to reinforce calls for the safe release of NUJ union member and BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

Alan, whose reporting has regularly highlighted the harshness of life in the Occupied Territories, was kidnapped in Gaza two weeks ago.

Members of the Palestine Journalists Syndicate were responding to appeals from the NUJ and International Federation of Journalists to support efforts to free Alan.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear wrote to his Palestinian counterpart, who in turn hand delivered a letter from the NUJ to the new minister of information, Mustapha Barghouti.

Jeremy Dear thanked Palestinian journalists for their support, saying, “We are very grateful to our sisters and brothers in the Palestine Journalists Syndicate for their commitment to securing Alan’s release.

“Those holding Alan must free him and allow journalists to report unhindered on the tragedy imposed on the Palestinian people.

“For our part we will redouble our efforts to help free Alan and to support our friends in Palestine who work under such difficult conditions to bring some small sense of the reality of life in Gaza to the outside world”.

Paula Johnson, Edinburgh

Wilberforce didn’t bring liberation

Thanks for the excellent pages on slavery in last week’s Socialist Worker (The revolt against slavery), and in particular, your emphasis on the role played by slaves in their own liberation.

The mainstream press coverage of the abolition movement has been appalling.

They urge us to praise William Wilberforce for bringing freedom to black people, as though it were a gift to be handed out from on high.

In reality a section of the rich declared themselves against slavery in order to salve their consciences, and to switch to the exploitation of wage slaves, both on their plantations and in their factories.

But as Marika Sherwood points out, slavery didn’t end in 1807. It ended only after the slave rebellion in Jamaica in 1831.

This rising was brutally put down by the British army.

But even so, everyone knew that slaves could not be treated as the property of their rich masters any longer.

The rich feared for the profits made from the import of cotton, tobacco and rum.

The slaves fought for their own freedom. For them it was liberty or death!

Rohan Nakkady, West London

Brown makes me see red

After the budget I sent the following note to our chancellor.

“Dear Mr Brown, Thank you so much for your trite, pseudo-generosity to people like myself who have children.

“You have managed a tiny increase in child benefit, while billions are spent on disgusting weapons – which are directed at cities full of people like my children and me. Your kindness warms my Blair-chilled soul.”

Heather Kay, Health worker, Wales

Don’t silence Yvonne

Like most of your readers, I find it disgusting that the government is trying to silence Muslims in Britain.

We have become used to being targeted by the media. One source of relief was Yvonne Ridley’s show, The Agenda, on the Islam Channel.

I read your report about how this has been taken off the air, and was absolutely enraged. This show was the only programme that gave Muslims a voice.

I feel that this show should be back on the air and that everyone should get their say.

Sonum Nawaz, by email

Our national treasure

Thank you for bringing the awful way that health trade unionist Yunus Bakhsh has been treated to our attention. He has been suspended and gagged for months now.

Yunus is a national treasure and should be cherished, not victimised.

Anyone who has ever heard him speak knows how passionate and committed to the NHS he is.

As a trade unionist myself, I worry about what kind of message this victimisation gives to the fat cats and bosses.

Let us all continue to support Yunus in any way we can.

Solidarity brother!

Jan Lowarch, by email

More on Nkrumah

Gyekye Tanoh’s excellent article on Kwame Nkrumah (The real legacy of Kwame Nkrumah, 17 March) rightly stressed his emphasis on militant popular mobilisation as the means of understanding his enduring popularity.

Those who would like to read further on the debates between Nkrumah and the various Marxist and Pan Africanist thinkers of the day would do well to track down Paul Buhle’s CLR James: His Life And Work.

Jane Harvey, Leeds

Where are the apologies?

The conscience of the New Labour warmongers appear to be more iron clad than the armour they supply the British troops in Iraq with.

We have not heard one word of sorrow for the number of deaths.

Given that imperialist countries are only now apologising for slavery, is it the case that we will have to wait another 200 years before someone in government can say sorry for what has been done to Iraq?

Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield

Turning up side down

Bob Fotheringham (Interpreting the world in order to change it, 3 March) and Tony Phillips (Letters, 24 March) both state that Karl Marx “turned Hegel on his head”.

But Marx did not do any such thing, nor did he ever claim to. In fact Marx writes that it is Hegel who is “standing on his head”, and that he “must be turned right side up again”.

This isn’t mere literary pedantry. If Marx had written about “turning Hegel on his head”, it would suggest he was fundamentally antagonistic to the philosopher and wished to overturn him.

“Turning Hegel the right side up again”, in contrast, suggests correcting a mistake in Hegel in order to activate the radical potential of the dialectic.

Jiben Kumar, East London

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Article information

Sat 31 Mar 2007, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2044
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