Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2049

Campaigners for free water protest during the World Social Forum (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Campaigners for free water protest during the World Social Forum (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Liberation for Africa

Van F (Letters, 28 April) is right to argue that the imperial warmongers George Bush, John Howard and Tony Blair are 'racist hypocrites' in their demands for 'democracy' in Zimbabwe.

But reality is turned on its head when Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is portrayed as a positive force in Africa's continuing struggle for liberation and the opposition to him as stooges of the West.

The current crisis did not begin with agent provocateurs seeking 'regime change', but rather with Mugabe pushing through a disastrous structural adjustment programme at the behest of the West.

This sparked a tremendous urban revolt against his increasingly unpopular brand of neoliberal dictatorship, which politically crystallised into the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. This revolt forced Mugabe to tack left while unleashing the most terrible state violence.

Yet, despite its origins in the working class and its continuing role as lightning rod for the democratic rebellion, the MDC leadership can itself see no alternative to neoliberal economics and is, in part, looking to the West for Zimbabwe's salvation.

This melding of democratisation and neoliberalism in a single movement is, however, a contradiction by no means unique to Zimbabwe.

It was also to be found in the great wave of democratic struggles that swept the continent in the 1990s and reached their highpoint with the overthrow of apartheid.

And, as with each of these, the potential remains for the Zimbabwean working class to move back into the driving seat of the opposition. It can sweep away a vicious dictatorship, and do so in a way which fundamentally challenges the Western powers and multinationals that were for so long happy to work alongside and through it.

Gavin Capps, Eldridge Culverwell and Mercy Pasipanodya, London

Tony Blair hopes that he will forget his record of war and privatisation if he can convince us that the G8 is combating poverty in Africa.

In fact the G8 serves nothing but its own interests.

The G8 countries are the ones that have pillaged Africa's wealth and natural resources through colonialism, imperialism and privatisation.

Socialist Worker (21 April) highlighted how Anglo Platinum is cutting off water supplies and forcibly moving poor South African people from their land, in order to mine for platinum.

US company Donegal International has also been exposed as buying debt owed to Romania by Zambia for $3.2 million which was then bumped up to a staggering $55 million with interest.

It is our role as socialists to stand in solidarity with oppressed and exploited people around the world.

As part of this we should mobilise delegations from universities, workplaces and campaigns to the G8 in Germany on 2 June and be part of the international movement against capitalism and war.

Sian Ruddick, Swansea

Man of the elite

The recent death of Boris Yeltsin, the former president of Russia, has prompted a lot of media bullshit about how he practically single-handedly created a democratic Russia out the ruins of the Soviet Union.

But it was ordinary Russians, who resisted the authorities from the moment the Soviet Union first began to wobble.

In the spring of 1991, a miners' strike was at the heart of an anti-Soviet mass movement. Yeltsin, shortly to be elected the first president of Russia, was widely identified with it.

It was at this moment that the Russian ruling class chose him, abandoning Mikhail Gorbachev, the reforming Soviet leader, who hurriedly did a deal with Yeltsin.

The deal involved Yeltsin using his authority to end the strikes, introduce a harsh work regime and declare unauthorised action against the authorities 'intolerable'.

Yeltsin went on to preside over marketisation and privatisation measures which destroyed 50 percent of the Russian economy.

This took much of the steam out of the strike movement. Nevertheless, strikes and even hunger strikes for months of unpaid back wages continued.

A movement against the first Chechen war, which Yeltsin began at the end of 1994, forced him to make peace in 1996 or risk losing the forthcoming presidential election.

In 1998 a 'railway war', in which miners blocked train tracks, brought the movement of goods in Russia to a halt.

An ailing Yeltsin approved panic concessions, though these were nullified by the rouble crash a few months later. He also started former spy Vladimir Putin on his road to the Kremlin.

The Russian ruling class was so frightened that it was prepared to offer the KGB a partial restoration to power for the first time in over a decade. Years later, Yeltsin himself was unable to refer to the 'railway war' without a shudder.

Even under Putin, pensioners and workers in booming industries have successfully fought for their share of rising profits.

Pete Glatter, South London

Why did the Greens stand in Preston?

In Preston last year Respect narrowly missed winning a council seat from Labour because the Greens stood a candidate against Respect.

Respect lost by seven votes, while the Green vote was marginal. This was not a one off.

This year it seems that the Greens attempted to repeat their spoiling tactics by standing a candidate against Michael Lavalette in Preston.

No other Greens are standing in any other ward in Preston this May.

Standing against Michael was a big mistake.

Local people who care about putting both people and the planet before New Labour's love of profits are justifiably angry.

Even the majority of the Green Party's supporters are unhappy that their party is deliberately harming the chances of another anti-war party.

But it seems that the Green Party's leadership put their own petty interests ahead of the overwhelming desire for real change in Preston.

A Respect councillor in Preston will do far more to advance policies that will help the environment than having no councillors from either Respect or the Greens.

As the Green candidate didn't have a hope of winning, what on earth did they hope to gain?

Dave Marsh, South London

The true causes of gun crime

My Respect group last week held a meeting on gun crime, which reflected the whole of the local community.

Local parents and young people alike expressed concern over the solutions to gun crime that are being offered.

Issues raised as contributing towards disaffection amongst young people included chronic housing shortages leading to overcrowding, low expectations of black and working class children in education, and the difficulty of getting young people into apprenticeship and training schemes.

There was a debate about so-called 'black on black' crime.

We discussed the underlying racism of Tony Blair, the police and the media, all of who choose to portray gun crime as a 'black problem'.

A recent report by the Prince's Trust indicates that almost 1.2 million young people in England, Scotland and Wales (almost one in five) are not in employment, education or training.

Together we took inspiration from the civil rights movement in the US in the 1960s.

There was agreement that we should build Respect and help organise community campaigns to challenge racism.

Julie Bundy, West London

A portrait of censorship

How disgraceful that award-winning painter Darren Coffield's portrait of MP George Galloway has been rejected by the National Portrait Gallery.

The painting features Galloway flanked by papier-mache cut outs of George Bush dressed as a cowboy and Tony Blair as a Native American brandishing a tomahawk.

The artist, whose previous work has featured in the National Gallery as well as in the Courtauld Collection, is furious at the rejection for which no explanation has been forthcoming.

Was the decision the result of political diktat from the Gallery's sponsor BP, the oil giant presided over by Tony's crony New Labour peer Lord Browne?

Anna Crane, Manchester

The cost of apples

Shopping in my local Sainsbury's, I picked up a bag of organic apples, which were prominently labelled 'biodegradable' packaging.

Quite a good effort for a supermarket, I thought.

But closer inspection revealed that the apples' country of origin was Chile.

The environmental impact of transporting these apples to Britain will totally dwarf the benefits of growing them organically and packaging them in biodegradable wrapping.

This is yet another example of how big businesses are neither willing nor able to combat climate change.

Instead they resort to smoke and mirror tactics to give the appearance that they are altering their ways.

But capitalism's psychopathic pursuit of short term profit necessarily precludes environmentally sustainable practice.

James A Miller, Oxford

Trying to find a dentist

For anyone living in the Rotherham area of South Yorkshire, access to a NHS dentist is absolutely appalling and virtually impossible.

One year after the introduction of the new dental contract almost all dentists in the area still have closed books.

I am trying to contact other people who are likely to be interested in trying to improve the national situation relating to access to NHS dentists.

I invite people to sign my online petition sent to the prime minister via the 10 Downing Street website.

If you are interested yourself, perhaps you will know other people who have been affected by the problems and might also be interested in adding their names to my petition.

John Moralee, Rotherham

Take on emissions

When is the government going to start taking global warming seriously?

Putting a little extra tax on a few 4x4s is hardly going to impact of carbon dioxide levels.

When is the government going to start making tougher decisions? For instance, enforcing a reduction in plane travel, and investing in public transport.

The clock is ticking...

Shaun Parsley, West Sussex

Make your vote count

Kate Douglas (Unite now to beat Gordon Brown, 28 April) is spot on about May Day.

The 1 May strike by the PCS civil service union was an excellent opportunity to build unity against the cuts agenda of the Labour government and expose the effects of its policies on jobs and services provided by the public sector.

Gordon Brown represents the other side of the same Tony Blair coin – use your vote on 3 May to send a message that the pro-cuts and war for oil agenda of the government must be rejected!

Nigel Sheahan, Hastings

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Article information

Tue 1 May 2007, 19:22 BST
Issue No. 2049
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