Respect has impact beyond elections
Respect members in Handsworth, Birmingham, have been campaigning alongside others against cuts in vital accident and emergency and children’s services at our local City hospital.
Respect activists petitioned in the month running up to the local elections and got over 2,500 signatures – about one in five households in the Handsworth and East Lozells ward.
People were furious that the cuts could potentially cost people’s lives.
The local paper ran a page on the campaign the day before the local elections. This was great coverage for Respect. Our role in the campaign has shown people we are not just an anti-war party, helping us to win 1,411 votes in the ward.
The hospital trust board was forced into important concessions last week. Ambulances will still be able to go to City hospital. Whilst the concessions aren’t enough and questions remain over the quality of care, they show what a campaign can achieve.
Matt Raine, Birmingham
The short period since I left the Labour Party and joined Respect has been one of the most exciting and engaging periods of my life. The solidarity, encouragement and support given to me by members throughout the coalition has been heartening and humbling.
My message to any left winger hanging on inside New Labour would be to come and join a campaigning organisation that places the priorities of working class people at its core, rather than the interests of the rich.
In our first election campaign in Charnwood, Respect made a real impact. The groundwork has been laid for future elections and campaigns.
I would, of course, have preferred the election result to have been different in my ward, but Respect achieved some outstanding results.
Now we must transform the alienation that people feel towards the big parties into positive support for a Respect alternative and a better way of representing people.
Wayne Muldoon, Respect candidate and former Labour councillor, Lemyngton Ward, Lougborough
Despite an enthusiastic campaign, Solidarity did not get Tommy Sheridan or Rosemary Byrne re-elected to the Scottish parliament. Although this is a blow, the Scottish National Party (SNP) victory opens up new opportunities for the left.
The SNP stood on an anti-war, anti-Trident platform and focused on these issues, rather than independence. Although the Scottish parliament has no power over defence directly, we can demand that military recruitment in schools is outlawed and that nuclear weapons are banned from Scottish roads.
The SNP also campaigned against hospital closures. In Glasgow we plan to lobby the new Scottish executive to demand it reverses Labour’s decision to close the Victoria Infirmary.
Lorraine Barrie, Glasgow
Demos in Turkey not so sinister
To use the military’s intervention into the current political crisis in Turkey as an opportunity to offer some form of whitewash to Abdullah Gül and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is short sighted and a misunderstanding ('Secular' movement pushes aside democracy, 4 May).
The AKP rose to power at the beginning of the century as a result of the disintegration of the mainstream parties, who were rightly seen as corrupt and inefficient.
The AKP government faced a major crisis during the run up to the war in Iraq, where opposition members blocked the AKP’s plans to send Turkish troops into Iraq, not the other way round as stated in your article.
Despite some early promises of social programmes to help the rural and urban poor, the AKP has notably failed to deliver for the people who elected them and formed the base of their support.
Your article is lacking some history of the movement to stop the AKP gaining the presidency.
The first major demonstration of 14 April in Ankara – two weeks before the military chiefs of staff intervened – was against the proposed candidacy of AKP leader Tayyip Erdogan (leader of the AKP) for the presidency.
Around half a million people attended this demonstration.
In the immediate aftermath of this, Erdogan stepped aside and offered his public support to his right hand man, Abdullah Gül.
The second, and indeed third, demonstrations were planned for the weekend of 28-29 April and it was at this point that the armed forces interceded.
None of this is to suggest that the Turkish armed forces are progressive. However, it is worth remembering that Gül himself has recently spent time in the US trying to overturn references to the Armenian genocide.
To dismiss the genuine fears many people share over the direction that the AKP is taking the country in as “sinister moves” to “build support for a military coup” is pure foolishness.
Toby Gibbons, Mersin, Turkey
Respect can help to undermine Nazi BNP
Finally, there is something positive to report from Burnley. The fascist British National Party (BNP) is losing its grip on the council – losing three of its seven seats in the recent local elections.
Living in a BNP stronghold can be demoralising, but as Anindya Bhattacharyya reports (BNP’s bigoted bandwagon brought down, 12 May), united campaigning can dent its support and influence.
In Burnley, the campaign has united trade unionists, church and community groups, and young people who have put on their own Love Music Hate Racism events.
Burnley is one of the poorest places in England, and the success of the BNP reflects a wider disillusionment with mainstream politics.
This is why it’s not enough to just campaign against the BNP.
In Preston – just 20 minutes from Burnley – Michael Lavalette’s election victory for Respect provides real hope for a left wing alternative.
Michael not only won 52 percent of the vote, but he also beat Labour in every single ballot box in the ward, significantly winning support in key white working class areas of his ward where racism has been known to fester.
The BNP do well in a political vacuum. It’s time Respect started filling more of that space. Respect’s results in Preston prove this is a real possibility.
Jennifer Wilkinson, Preston
Pensioners’ rage at snubs by MPs
At this year’s Pensioners’ Parliament, many felt insulted by the three main parliamentary parties.
New Labour’s Hazel Blears failed to turn up as she had to attend a friend’s funeral. This was a genuine reason, but New Labour showed their contempt for pensioners by failing to send a substitute.
Tory MP Nigel Waterson attacked New Labour and then left the hall long before the debate from the floor had finished. He did not want to listen to pensioners’ problems.
David Laws, Lib Dem MP, at least had the courtesy to listen to the debate. But he, like Nigel Waterson, backed the new pensions bill, now in parliament.
This line was criticised strongly from the floor. Not only does the bill do nothing for today’s pensioners, it does nothing for tomorrow’s either.
One woman said that it’s about time politicians started respecting pensioners and stopped their crocodile tears.
We should campaign to get a Respect speaker at next year’s parliament.
Let’s show pensioners that there is a party that does care and does listen to them.
John Johnston, Secretary, Manchester TUC Pensioners’ Association (personal capacity)
Sarkozy didn’t stop fascists
Alex Callinicos writes of the French elections, that Jean Marie Le Pen’s vote fell because Nicolas Sarkozy stole his vicious right wing policies (French election heralds more battles to come, 28 April).
Really? This seems to me a reversal of a long-held position among socialists that moving right towards the Nazis simply legitimises their politics and encourages them.
Socialist Worker has always argued against the notion that the rise of Margaret Thatcher nullified the fascist National Front (NF) vote in the 1970s.
The NF had grown fastest in earlier periods when the leaders of the Conservative Party pushed themselves furthest to the right.
It was Enoch Powell’s infamous Rivers of Blood speech which first dragged the NF into prominence.
It was Conservative and press attacks on the Kenyan and Ugandan Asians that helped the NF to build a mass following in 1968 and 1972.
If Thatcherism did hurt the NF, then it could do so only because the NF was already in rapid decline.
As Ian Mitchell wrote some years ago in Socialist Worker, “It was not Margaret Thatcher’s pandering to racism that derailed the Nazis. It was the campaigning work of anti-Nazi groups, principally the Anti Nazi League.”
I’m sure there are complex reasons why Le Pen lost. But it would be quite wrong to say that Sarkozy was the key.
Helen Parsons, Nottingham
Coming out to play?
Readers may be alarmed that a new city academy in Peterborough will have no play space, as it would allegedly detract from learning. But it gets worse.
From the next school year it will no longer be obligatory for any organisation providing education for under five year olds to include access to outdoor space or natural light.
Will nurseries of the future be in tower blocks or basements?
How long before Bernard Matthews cottons on to the fact that he could make as much dosh hot-housing kids as turkeys?
Nick Grant, West London
Put Nkrumah in context
Gyekye Tanoh omitted the full context of what he terms “Kwame Nkrumah’s repression” following the 1961 general strike in Ghana (What is the real legacy of Kwame Nkrumah?, 17 March).
For left leaning leaders, such as Nkrumah, who prioritised public health, education and welfare – and thereby incurred the wrath of the Western powers – the external threat to their programmes was real.
With the benefit of post-Cold War hindsight it is somewhat glib to now decry such leaders as antithetical to democracy in Western civil rights terms.
As sanctions began to damage Ghana’s fragile economy, it is understandable that Nkrumah felt it necessary to rein in those who challenged his industrialisation programme.
Nkrumah’s Pan-African vision enshrined a right of return for all in the diaspora especially those suffering US racism. This was too much for George Bush senior and his CIA saboteurs to take.
Guy Nicholls, Northampton
We demand truth not hype
If anything, the media hype surrounding Tony Blair’s departure shows us how undemocratic and biased the media is.
Channel 4 News recently wrote off John McDonnell’s campaign for Labour leader due to Gordon Brown being the “moderate” candidate.
The business elite that runs the media obviously feels that privatisation and war are “mainstream”.
As a young person, this reinforced my view that publications like Socialist Worker are integral in any campaign for truth and justice.
Peter Berry, Stockport