Don't give them more power
I am appalled by recent comments from Mike Best, who is the editor of the Voice, a newspaper aimed at Britain's black people. He said that most black people would welcome the police increasing the number of stop and searches.
Mike, it might feel like that in the social circles you mix in. It feels very different if, like me, you are a working class black man in London. In 1999-2000 the number of stop and searches per 1,000 of the population were white 16, black 81 and Asian 26. This is after the Macpherson report-after the police were supposed to have 'put their house in order'.
It is true, as Mike Best argues, that black people suffer disproportionately from crime. That is because crime is always highest in areas of poverty. It is no solution to allow the police a free rein to commit crimes against us-crimes like harassment, aggressive interrogation, fitting people up, deaths in custody, beatings and false imprisonment.
To think that there will be 'fair' stop and search is to play into the hands of people who will use their powers to criminalise black people, Asians and white youth who are thought of as 'problems'. Many people are very worried about crime (especially gun crime) in areas like Hackney. Largely this is a result of inflated stories that are published in the press.
I think it would be much more useful if the Voice spent more time exposing the real way the police behave, not giving them ammunition to use against us.
WESLEY DODDS, East London
Stop the War
Let's all make our voices heard after the demo
THE RECENT demonstration in London against Bush and Blair's war (or should that be wars?) was brilliant. I felt I was part of something big. There were loads of young people there, and it was fast and lively without for a moment forgetting the important issues we were protesting about. For too long people have let this government get away with murder. At least there was some opposition on the streets when we marched. I am a sixth form student, and I know that lots of people have doubts about the war.
I am now much more confident to go back and argue that Blair can be made to change his mind-or perhaps get a mind in the first place. What can we do to go beyond just marches? I loved being with 20,000 others on that march, but I am not sure things like that are enough.
Perhaps, as a start, we could have a 'witnessing' day where everyone who is against the war wears a badge, writes a letter to a newspaper or (in colleges or schools) gets up and speaks out. It would have an impact and could lead to bigger things.
TERESA LILLEY, South London
THE IRISH government, the anti-abortion movement and the Catholic church were beaten in the referendum on abortion rights. Voters rejected the proposed constitutional amendment on abortion. The no vote will preserve the present situation in relation to abortion in Ireland. This came about after mass protest forced the Supreme Court in 1992 to allow abortion when there was the risk of suicide.
A yes vote would have removed the suicide clause as grounds for abortion, and would have introduced 12-year jail sentences for abortion. Not even the backing of the pope could get that through. However, after this vote, instead of introducing legislation immediately even on this limited basis, politicians have said they will do nothing.
Backed by the corporate media, they are still trying to create confusion on the issue, claiming the extreme right were behind the no vote. In fact wherever working class people came out and voted they voted against the referendum.
The referendum was overwhelmingly defeated in urban centres. Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Galway produced huge no votes. The reality of the thousands of women who go to England for an abortion meant working class people wouldn't let the church and government turn back the clock. At the count of the votes the anti-abortionists burst into tears because they knew they had lost. But we have yet to win full abortion rights. We need to keep up the fight.
GRACE LALLY, Dublin
Pay to have a hearing
IN THE 2001 Employment Bill the government introduced proposals to cut the number of employees applying to employment tribunals. Instead of eliminating the root of the problem-exploitative employers-the government wants to discourage employees from applying to tribunals. Under the proposed changes employees can be forced to pay the employers' legal fees if they lose. In this the system fails. I know of one case which shows the potential problems. Paul, 23, recently took his former employer to a tribunal for under-payment of wages. He won his case and claimed back over £1,500. But despite the case being clear cut in his favour he only won thanks to his sister, who represented him after studying the tribunal system. Had the new bill been in place, Paul would not have felt able to risk bringing his case forward in case he had costs awarded against him. Even in the present system Paul reclaimed his wages, but he has had no recompense for being made homeless and credit blacklisted.
MARK LOFTUS, St Andrews
A class act
EDUCATION secretary Estelle Morris has announced plans to increase the use of classroom support assistants. This is supposedly to ease teachers' workload and help with the shortage of teachers.
In fact it will mean using low paid assistants to get education on the cheap. At present support assistants are paid pro rata, term time only, with a starting income of just under £8,500 a year. This is for 27.5 hours a week, every period of the school day.
We must keep a record of every lesson we attend. Admin work has to be done in our own time. We mainly work in classrooms supporting children with learning difficulties from age 11 to 16.
We do not think people realise just how stressful our job can be at times. Our pay does not reflect our ability to do a very difficult and demanding job, and it is time for a change. All we ask for is a decent salary that reflects our skill, experience and knowledge in a range of subjects.
CLASSROOM SUPPORT ASSISTANTS, Acland Burghley School, North London
AS A specialist in the field of American studies, congratulations to Kevin Ovenden for his page 'Can We Defeat The US Evil Empire?' (Socialist Worker, 2 March).
Kevin is right to remind us that the Vietnamese people (and Filipinos in the last century) successfully opposed the US through peasant guerrilla warfare. But I think some changes are needed. The 'evil axis' has strengthened itself. In particular there has been an intensification of propaganda .
This means we should do more to support radical US directors (Robert Altman, David Lynch, etc). We should also boycott films like Black Hawk Down.
LARRY ILES, Eastbourne
Steinbeck was great but wasn't a Marxist
I WANTED to comment on Moira Nolan's piece on John Steinbeck (Socialist Worker, 9 March). Steinbeck's books The Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle started out as eyewitness journalism.
Steinbeck was so overwhelmed by the suffering he saw that he felt compelled to record the injustice in fuller form. The Communist organisers-Jim, Mac and others in In Dubious Battle-were real people he interviewed. The Grapes of Wrath shows an ordinary man driven by poverty and company goons to become a 'red'.
Steinbeck saw that process happen before his eyes, and he empathised with it. What he did not do was agree with it. He was a New Deal Democrat and not a Communist sympathiser, as Moira's article implies. The Grapes of Wrath and In Dubious Battle were not celebrations of workers' struggle but warnings to America that without social justice the workers may wreak a terrible revenge.
These novels should be required reading because they are brilliantly written accounts of how capitalist crisis tears lives apart and how we can resist. However, Steinbeck was no Marxist, and his support for the Vietnam War was not really a surprise.
JIM JEPPS, Colchester
I WAS interested to read the letter (Socialist Worker, 16 February) from Alhassan Adam about Tony Blair's recent visit to Ghana. According to the myths of colonialism, human sacrifice took place in Africa before the 'civilising' Europeans arrived.
In fact human sacrifice is taking place today. It has been modernised and generalised under the euphemism 'structural adjustment'. The new slayers are remote and therefore escape responsibility.
DAN FULANI, North London
THE GOVERNMENT is not thinking of putting up taxes to pay for the NHS. They are putting up taxes to replace the money they are giving away to private enterprise, without any guaranteed returns, that should really be going to the people's health service. It is the people's money.
THE 10 percent offered to the top dogs at the Post Office infuriated me. My son is a postman at South East Delivery Office, Manchester, and is being well screwed by the company.
Delivery postmen and women at South East Delivery Office are working 2.5 hours a week more, for the same pay, doing exactly the same job as other delivery postmen and women in Manchester.
This has been going on for five months. This is because management reneged on a deal that would have given a five-day, 40-hour week.
NAME WITHHELD, Manchester
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