Labour's assault on civil liberties
New Labour is following the lead of Bush's US government in its assault on civil liberties. It appears that the new Terrorism Act is already being used to intimidate sections of the Asian community in Britain.
A couple of weeks ago nine men were arrested in a highly publicised swoop in Leicester. There was obviously little or no evidence against them. After being detained for five days, five were then released without charge. The other four were handed over to the Immigration Service for questioning. Presumably they will be subject to indefinite detention under the new act, on the basis that they are not British nationals.
Further dawn raids in the north east of England targeted long established residents 'of Middle Eastern origin'. Six people arrested in these raids have now all been released without charge. Such highly publicised raids stigmatise Muslims and encourage racists.
They are designed to create a climate of fear and stifle opposition to the war. There are now three major 'anti-terrorist' acts (all initiated by Labour governments) plus extensive powers of detention under immigration legislation. Those arrested under these laws are rarely charged with criminal offences of any kind, let alone offences connected to terrorism.
Controlling dissent and cutting back civil liberties is clearly more important to New Labour than basic principles such as a person is innocent until proven guilty, or even the need to have evidence before making an arrest.
MIKE GREWCOCK, East London
US government is in the pocket of the multinationals
Further to the revelations in Socialist Worker (26 January) on New Labour's Enron connections, your readers will not be too surprised to learn that Enron was also a master in not paying tax. In four out of the past five years Enron paid no income tax whatsoever in the US (called corporation tax in the UK).
It channelled company profits through the 881 subsidiaries Enron set up outside the US, the vast majority in tax havens. The company also avoided paying tax through deducting the profit that Enron executives made by cashing in stock options from its tax liabilities. This method allowed Enron, in 2000, to transform a tax bill of $110 million into a refund of $278 million. Since 1996 Enron received a total of $382 million in tax refunds.
Citizens for Tax Justice discovered that 24 of the US's top companies paid no tax at all in 1998. Enron acted perfectly legally. This shows how far the US government is in the pocket of big business.
GARY McFARLANE, North London
Mood change in the Balkans
I TEACH English at a school in Macedonia. I didn't used to talk much about what I thought because I felt that there wasn't any audience for socialist politics. People often said, 'We've already been through that, and it didn't work.' The situation is worse than it was ten years ago.
There was a war during the summer, and there still are about 40,000 displaced Macedonians who aren't able to go back home. People's standard of living is going down, and unemployment is about 50 to 60 percent.
I started reading Socialist Worker on the internet. Because people are starved of real information from the media I started translating articles from Socialist Worker and giving them out. I got a very good response. Just a few days ago I left a copy of some translations that I did with a woman who owns a photocopying shop.
I asked her what she thought about the articles. She replied that she liked them, and that she'd done another 15 to 20 copies and given them out to students. I'm planning to continue handing out translations from Socialist Worker.
SVETLANA SIMONSKA, Macedonia
Meeting shows anger
BARNSLEY OLDER People's Community Forum recently organised a meeting. A speaker from the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) spoke about the campaigning group. I asked how the NPC could help us in our 15-month fight against charges for wardens and intercoms.
A Labour councillor, who had voted for the charges, then tried to justify them. He didn't get any support. 'We demonstrated in support of Labour when they were in opposition,' said one pensioner. 'They promised so much. What happened to those promises?' Another said, 'Labour won't get my vote in the May local elections.' The Socialist Alliance can win the support of elderly people in the local elections.
SUE WILD, Barnsley
Dramas filled me with hope
Despite it being 30 years coming, I'm glad to see the truth about Bloody Sunday coming out in two television dramas. We all knew the disgusting brutality of the Paras on that day, but to see this depicted on national television fills me with hope. For too long the British government has covered up atrocities in Northern Ireland. With these two dramas I hope more truth is revealed to the nation.
What has angered but not surprised me is the Daily Mail and the Sun's reaction. This is why I am extremely glad we have Socialist Worker, which isn't a disgustingly nationalist or conservative tabloid. I also think the strikes and rallies in Northern Ireland are outstanding.
Although Northern Ireland should be freed from British rule, I think it is essential Protestants and Catholics live together in peace. Maybe it's a sign that the years of the Troubles are finally coming to an end.
FERGHAL McTAGGART, North London
I showed the Bloody Sunday film to a group of my students last week, for a project on the media. They are mostly Afro-Caribbean and West African mature students. Most of them had no understanding of what Bloody Sunday was, or the situation in Ireland.
But by halfway through the film all of them had tears in their eyes. At the end one said, 'Now I know why the IRA exists.' Another said, 'I understand why Britain is hated throughout the world.' All of them were in awe of this powerful and truthful film.
Don't back Liberals
The Liberal Democrats are not a left wing alternative to Labour. I heard their transport spokesperson, Don Foster, on Radio 4 attacking the strikes on Arriva Northern and South West Trains. He said it is 'time to consider changing the law to allow passengers to sue a rail union'.
That is back to the anti-union Taff Vale judgement won by Liberal rail bosses against the union at the beginning of the last century. We should not be bankrolling the likes of New Labour's Stephen Byers. But I don't want to see union money or workers' votes going behind the Liberal Democrats either.
RAIL WORKER, Yorkshire
Cali occupation ends in victory
Today in Cali, Colombia, the neo-liberal model, based on impoverishment of the many for the benefit of the few, has been dealt a serious blow. Through the courage, dedication, and imagination in resistance of thousands of people, the Cam Tower occupation came to an end, and the utilities company Emcali remains in public hands. It will fulfil its social role by not increasing prices to people who can barely afford to eat.
Many joked and laughed. Others cried tears of tension and joy. For everyone the immensity of what they had achieved was understood. There were lots of hugs, and special moments, and signs that friendships forged in these situations will never disappear. But most of all there was talk of the 'salida' (leaving the building).
The 'salida' fulfilled all the expectations, with thousands of people filling the streets, the Internationale playing. Before the 'salida' began, the new flag of the Sintraemcali trade union was lowered by ropes from the seventeenth floor. The streets filled with the roar of the crowd. As Alexander Lopez, president of the union, made his speech, the crowd fell silent.
He thanked everyone who had built this victory from the local community, the workers, and of course the women and men who had been in the Cam Tower. He urged everyone to celebrate this victory of the people, but only for today. Tomorrow everyone has to carry on in the struggle, to build in the communities a spirit of resistance which will drive out the corrupt oligarchy that has bled the country dry, and give back to the people what is rightfully theirs-everything.
MARIO NOVELLI, Cali, Colombia