Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2052

Many activists - both in and outside the Labour Party - want an end to Tony Blair’s warmongering policies, not just an end to Blair (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Many activists - both in and outside the Labour Party - want an end to Tony Blair’s warmongering policies, not just an end to Blair (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Not licensed to kill

I was recently arrested after calling Peter Hain a war criminal.

Hain was speaking in Neath in south Wales last week as part of his campaign for deputy leader.

I didn’t know whether or not it was a public meeting, so I walked in and when no one challenged me I sat down.

After listening for a while I couldn’t stomach it any more. I shouted that Hain is a war criminal and said that he shouldn’t be standing for the deputy leadership, he should be on his way to the Hague to a trial for war crimes.

I was asked to leave the meeting so I went outside. Some plain clothes police officers followed me out and demanded my name.

I told them my name is James Bond, which it is. They said they didn’t believe me and they arrested me and took me to the station and kept me in a cell for four hours.

I was charged with being drunk and disorderly, even though they refused to breathalyse me or take a urine sample so that I could prove that I wasn’t drunk.

I was in the Labour Party for 17 years. I left just before Blair was elected in 1997 because I was angry at the abolition of the Clause Four commitment to public ownership, and I was unhappy with Blairism even then.

Now we have a cabinet full of war criminals. And what sort of leadership election is this?

We will have Gordon Brown, unchallenged, for prime minister. And then deputy leader candidates such as Hazel Blears and Peter Hain – who are also complicit in the war crimes and part of the government that caused the devastation in Iraq.

Hain shouldn’t be allowed to get away with distancing himself from the destruction in Iraq.

People in the Labour Party aren’t challenging this enough, which is one reason I had to speak out and tell the truth.

Jim Bond, Neath, Wales

The eulogies devoted to Tony Blair after his long awaited departure announcement obscures the fact that key policies of New Labour legislation recently required the support of the Tories.

Behind all the talk about “end of eras” and “legacies”, the reality is that chancellor Gordon Brown has been more New Labour than anyone else in government.

Blair shouldn’t be allowed to just walk away like some revered abdicating monarch.

If the politicians’ concern about accountability is genuine, they would surely have been at the forefront of insisting Brown faced an open leadership contest with a candidate from the left.

With so many political issues at stake, particularly Iraq, such a contest would have been a reminder of what politics should be about in a democracy.

Nick Vinehill, Norfolk

Don’t fall for Turkish militarism

Toby Gibbons seems to miss the main issue about the recent demonstrations against the Turkish government (Letters, 19 May).

I fail to be convinced about the spontaneity of the first two demonstrations against a possible presidential candidacy of the Peace and Justice Party (AKP) leader Tayyip Erdogan.

They were prepared by a centre linked with the military and the Social Democracy Party.

The system of democracy has been failing in Turkey due to the fact that political parties have always been obliged to repeat the rhetoric that is laid out by Kemalism, the official state ideology.

The Justice and Development Party with all the criticism that it rightly deserves, is the only force to stand up against this.

Throughout the 1960s to the 1990s, the Turkish political system faced a military intervention approximately once every decade.

The victimisation of the left during the bloodiest of these military coups in September 1980 has continued over many years.

There are volumes of writings – and nowadays even popular films – about this story.

It is relevant to the lives of the trade unionists and other left activists who went through such an awful experience.

The setting up of Islamic courses was taken up strongly by the “secular” government set up by the generals after the coup.

This is ironic considering that the “secularists” are now hysterically opposing religious tendencies.

Religion then suited the generals and the US alike who preferred it to the ideology of Marxism during the Cold War.

The democratic mandate needs to be respected in Turkey if there is to be any way forward for democracy.

At the same time, the ultimate goal for the left must be to achieve no less than free health and education and affordable housing.

Ali Temel, by email

Complex realities of Sarkozy and Le Pen

Helen Parsons complains that in saying that Nicolas Sarkozy stole policies and votes from the Nazi National Front I reversed “a long-held position among socialists that moving right towards the Nazis simply legitimises their politics and encourages them” (Letters, 19 May).

Helen ignores two facts. One, the Nazi share of the vote dropped by nearly half between the 2002 and 2007 presidential elections.

Two, a major theme of Sarkozy’s campaign was devoted to scapegoating immigrants.

Saying that these are connected doesn’t, as Helen suggests, mean arguing that the rise of Margaret Thatcher was responsible for the decline of the British Nazis in the late 1970s.

Thanks to the mass campaigns of the Anti Nazi League (ANL), the Nazi vote began to fall well before Thatcher’s election.

Alas, there is no equivalent of the ANL in France. Nor did any British Labour politician pursue the cynical strategy of Socialist Party president François Mitterrand of promoting the rise of Jean Marie Le Pen to split the right-wing vote.

Sarkozy consciously sought to win votes from Le Pen. Helen is right that in the longer term this will help to give the Nazis greater legitimacy. But we can’t ignore the specific political realities of different societies.

Alex Callinicos, North London

NHS staff ready to fight over pay

The anger over the pay “award” given to NHS staff by our future prime minister, Gordon Brown, is very strong.

It comes at a time when all staff have been working unbelievably hard to try and meet government targets and battle cuts and closures to services.

As I discuss the issue with colleagues I am increasingly surprised by the reaction among professions that are not traditionally militant.

The message is clear – we have put up with attacks on our services and our jobs for so long, but this is the final straw.

The issue of pay is a national one that unites the workforce across the country and gives us a real opportunity to take action together.

It is easy to link the campaign for fair pay with the issues of privatisation and cuts and with the millions being spent on the war with Iraq.

However I have also been surprised by the reluctance of some Unison union officials to acknowledge that a ballot for industrial action will happen and to begin to prepare for it.

We need to keep up the pressure and organise ourselves to ensure that action is taken before the mood is lost.

Sarah Creagh, Bristol

Too hard on Alex Salmond

Isn’t it a bit soon to be so critical of Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond’s “backtracking” (SNP starts to wobble, 19 May)?

At least the SNP offers some hope after years of Labour’s neglect and complacency.

And, yes, Salmond is going to face problems delivering on some of the SNP’s policies.

For one, the SNP with the Greens have formed a minority government and will be sabotaged by the other parties.

And the Scottish parliament has no decision making powers over many crucial issues facing working class Scots, such as Trident, nuclear power, foreign policy and asylum rights.

That’s why Scotland needs independence, so that the people of Scotland, not the Blairites of Westminster, can make these decisions.

Elaine Campbell, Fort William

Why fund parasites?

Talks are currently underway between the “big three” political parties and Sir Haydn Phillips with regard to their funding.

So far they have agreed to accept a £25 million rise in government subsides – jolly decent of them – but refused any further changes as to how they should be funded.

Why should they receive any government funding at all? 

If they are so in favour of the free market and think people respect them, then they can stop being parasites on the people’s taxes and survive solely on their members subscriptions.

This will put the parties entirely under the control of their members. Can’t get more democratic or fair than that can you?

Sadly truth, justice, honesty, morality, integrity and democracy are words that are treated with derision by the new political class.

Mostly they are spineless gutless party apparatchiks busy trying to bury their ever-growing snouts into a trough of our money.

It’s time to start voting for smaller parties and independents and consign the “big three” to the dustbins and sewers where they belong.

AD Williams, Anglesey

Reformist view of SNP

How far Socialist Worker has slipped into the electoralist mire is demonstrated by your triumphalism over the recent votes for Respect and your parochial analysis of the situation in Scotland.

While not entirely irrelevant, the policies of the SNP are secondary to the potential impact upon the British state of Scottish independence and the possibilities that implies for the break-up of that state as we know it.

Socialist Worker appears to be more concerned as to whether the SNP is adhering to a set of social democratic concerns than whether or not widespread support for independence undermines or enhances the struggle against the capitalist state.

In other words, yours is an entirely reformist response which, from a revolutionary party, is cause for concern.

Glyn Powell, Dorset

Internal issue in Palestine

I don’t think there is any Palestinian who hasn’t gone through some form of horror such as that in your article A life in the line of fire in Palestine (19 May).

We have all suffered from this. However, what is puzzling is why isn’t anyone addressing the killing that is going on there now.

The bigger crime is when we kill each other. The extra sympathy and justification of revenge yielded a generation of bloodthirsty thugs who can’t handle anything any other way.

Yet no one seems to take it seriously.

We need to fix the internal Palestinian issues. Otherwise, how can we expect anyone to care?

Saleem Abdallah, by email

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Article information

Tue 22 May 2007, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2052
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