Message from the West Bank
SOMETHING important happened last night. We were watching MBC, an Arab TV station seen by millions of people in the Middle East. News from London was shown, with people demonstrating at Selfridges, the big store in Oxford Street.
They were protesting against the sale of goods marked 'Made in Israel' but really produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. These are illegal goods produced in illegal settlements. We saw a man holding the Israeli products and protesting against their sale. He was surrounded by security guards while the shoppers watched. MBC explained that he was Jewish but against Zionism.
A Palestinian demonstrator explained in Arabic that a campaign called Boycott Israeli Goods was organising to stop the sale of these products. He explained that thousands of leaflets had been given out and that some shoppers were preparing to withdraw their credit cards from the store. This solidarity gives us strength. It tells us that we are not alone in our struggle.
The fact that Jewish people in the West will support the Palestinians is important for us here. It makes an impact-many people are talking about it. Please continue your activity-it is greatly valued by people in Palestine.
MOHAMED, Ramallah, West Bank
Great victory for the boycott
HARRODS, ONE of London's most famous stores, announced last week that it has withdrawn illegal Israeli settlement products made in the Occupied Territories. This is a result of pressure from the growing protest movement organised by BIG, the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign.
This important victory helps us redouble our efforts at Selfridges. Harrods' decision follows a similar decision by Selfridges just before Christmas in response to pickets and thousands of leaflets handed to customers. However, Selfridges backed down after intense lobbying from the Israeli embassy. A delighted Israeli ambassador was photographed standing next to the shelves full of reinstated goods from the West Bank and Golan Heights. He had denounced Selfridges as the 'first store in Europe' to succumb to these protests.
This is a blatant provocation-this photograph now features on our leaflets and stimulates excited conversations with customers. Serious Selfridges is now a test case. We have quadrupled the numbers of pickets every Saturday, with the protests moving inside the store itself.
There is a chance that a serious mass movement can emerge from this. For information email email@example.com
Incidentally, we are the two people referred to in Mohamed's letter.
AYHAM ZEKRA and JOHN ROSE, Campaign for Palestinian Rights
Working for the unity of the exploited
I WOULD like to respond to John Kennedy (Letters, 19 January) on Kashmir. When looking at the question, socialists have to take into account certain fundamental material realities of the conflict. The first is that India is by far the most powerful sub-imperialism in the region.
It also ruthlessly suppresses any threat, whether internal or external, to the integrity of the territory controlled by the new ruling class that emerged after Britain was driven out. With both Pakistan and India continuing the old game of divide and rule, socialists of course must stress unity between the oppressed and exploited across regional and communal divides.
This is particularly so as we face the threat of war, even nuclear war. The demand socialists have often made in response to this conflict has been to 'unravel the legacy of partition'.
But we must be clear what this means. It does not mean the building of a single bigger prison to replace the two smaller ones.
It is not a demand that can be opposed to the demand for self determination. The most terrible legacy of partition has been the ability of the ruling classes on both sides of the border to divide and rule, whether on the basis of ethnicity or religion.
Part of that was the denial of any meaningful self determination for the Kashmiris.
Socialists support the right to self determination for Kashmiris. But we also understand that this demand is only a part of a wider struggle to unite the oppressed and exploited against the divide and rule tactics of the ruling class.
The question of whether that unity is best achieved with or without borders is a matter for the oppressed themselves to decide.
JOHN GAME, East London
No Tory campaign
WHAT DOES Socialist Worker think about the proposed passengers' strike on the railways? When I heard a spokesperson for the movement on the radio he sounded a bit like a Tory to me! I think he just wanted to help the Tories recover by grabbing hold of the anger that people feel towards the government.
However, I do think there is a real chance to get passengers and workers to protest together. Socialists shouldn't abstain from the passengers' action, because that will just leave it to the Tories. I'm confident that the policies put forward by the Socialist Alliance can make much more headway with people than those which come from Iain Duncan Smith. It's now the time for all of us to get active among rail passengers.
MARGARET JACKSON, West London
AS A first time reader and purchaser of your paper, I thought your coverage of the crisis on the railways in the 5 January issue was excellent. Private companies running trains has never worked. When the 'big four' rail companies (GWR, LNER, LMS and SR) were in charge the branch lines were pretty poor.
Now we have god knows how many cowboys running rail companies. It was also good to see coverage of the Post Office workers' strike on 21 December. This service is also declining.
The main London post office at Trafalgar Square, which used to open 24 hours, and then stayed open till 8pm, is now to close at 6.30pm to save Consignia more money. The final insult is that they are closing down part of it to become another branch of that bastion of trade union rights McDonald's-just what the West End needs!
Passengers and workers united
AS AN annual season ticket holder of a Metro card for West Yorkshire, it is an enormous relief to see the RMT take strike action on Arriva. With some of the oldest rolling stock and the worst conditions in the privatised network, now is the time for the punters to support our fellow workers.
Everyone who has an interest in an integrated transport system must support the strike days. They should also be backed by those who believe that direct action leads to progress.
By petitioning on the strike days we can show our support for the immediate renationalisation of the rail, and also build for the passenger boycott which is scheduled to take place on 1 March.
Euro is not our currency
DAVID GOODMAN (Letters, 19 January) asks about the euro. He questions whether it would really mean cuts in public expenditure here, given that France and Germany have higher levels of spending. At present Britain would not have to cut spending to enter the euro. That is because the British economy has been growing (even if slowly) and Gordon Brown has been repaying debt.
There has also been a stranglehold on welfare spending. I would still argue that the euro is based on cuts. If any European government tried to spend on the level required to properly fund the health service, then it would come up against euro levels.
The Socialist Alliance programme would certainly be forbidden! We should oppose the way the single currency is run and demand a social Europe.
HEATHER HARRISON, Blackburn
Do the tribunals mean anything
I AM glad to see that north London postal workers are finally getting balloted for industrial action over the Post Office's disgraceful treatment of Mick and Tom Doherty.
As much as I would like to see the Doherty brothers win their jobs back, there is a more important principle at stake here-the right of a worker to reinstatement following a successful 'unfair dismissal' employment tribunal decision.
The Doherty brothers have been denied this right despite orders from their respective tribunals instructing Post Office management to immediately reinstate them. Such defiance by unscrupulous Post Office managers has left all postal workers without recourse through the independent employment tribunal process. Therefore these arrogant managers can sack whoever they take a dislike to, without fear of justifying their actions.
All postal workers must vote for industrial action to protect workers' rights and work to change the law.
MICKEY BEER, North London
PAT FOLEY (Letters, 19 January) describes the problems people face with New Labour very well. The selection rows around left wingers such as Mark Seddon show how hostile the New Labour machine is to anyone who challenges their dogmatic obsession with right wing policies.
Labour is intent on continued privatisation, war, attacks on refugees, and undermining the role of trade unions. The SWP provides a perfect opportunity for people like Pat to fight for socialism.
DAMIAN KING, Warwick University
I AM incensed that Sir Ken Jackson, the leader of the AEEU engineering union (or joint leader of Amicus, as it is now called), has got away with staying in office beyond his retirement date. He then persuaded the conference last year to let him stay until 2004.
Now an AEEU official, Derek Simpson, has complained to the trade union certification officer. I am sure you don't think this is the right way to go about it, but what other ways do we have left? Is there a campaign to get Jackson out? Are the left (including you) in the new union taking up the issue?
It is very important that rank and file workers do not allow the officials to get away with anything that reduces democracy.
HARRY MERLIN, West Bromwich
PLEASE DON'T forget the question of homelessness. Socialist Worker should continue to campaign for this government and future governments to house all the homeless.
Also, please take up the issue of landlords refusing to rent rooms to the unemployed and people on housing benefit. Such discrimination should be made illegal, and can lead to people ending up homeless.