We can tip the balance
I've been out with the Anti Nazi League (ANL) canvassing against the British National Party (BNP) in Oldham. We campaign in so called 'white areas' such as Hollingwood and South Chadderton. Nazis from the BNP are targeting these working class areas. They have some of the most run down estates and deprived streets of terraced homes. You can see the years of neglect.
I expected it to be harder, with loads of people backing the Nazis in Hollingwood. Instead we met few people who were going to vote BNP. A much larger number of residents than I had expected told us they had chased off the BNP from the area.
The first time out in South Chadderton I had an argument with a BNP supporter.
Six doors down I met her black neighbour. He was very supportive of the ANL. A few streets down someone who could be taken for a stereotypical BNP supporter answered the door. He was avidly opposed to the Nazis. Everyone who goes out canvassing meets up before and is really thoroughly briefed, so we have all the arguments against the Nazis at our fingertips. The canvassing demoralises the hardcore BNP voter.
It strengthens people who are anti-racists, and it pulls people who are susceptible to racist ideas away from the BNP. Just the fact that people who feel they have been forgotten by political parties see the Anti Nazi League going around every home talking to people makes a difference.
KATE RICHARDSON, Oldham
Recreate the atmosphere of Porto Alegre
I WAS lucky enough to go to the 70,000-strong World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, last month. No paper other than Socialist Worker seems to have reported this incredible event.
There were activists from heroic struggles against the devastating effects of neo-liberalism everywhere plus many sharp analyses of all that's wrong with world capitalism. Our side can be impressive at organising even in adverse circumstances, and events which include space for the celebration of 'resistance' culture can be inspiring and politicising.
The organisation in Porto Alegre coped with 25 percent more people turning up than had been expected.
Politics was why people had come, and it was woven through everything. The camp provided an environment where discussions could continue for hours. There were groups everywhere debating every subject you could imagine (hot sunshine added to the ambience).
The anti-capitalist demonstrations in Europe have been characterised by new and exciting expressions of our creativity. This spirit was evident everywhere at Porto Alegre. The Tory government introduced legislation to outlaw mass cultural events organised from below-maybe it's time we found ways to reintroduce expressions of our own 'cultures of resistance'.
ISSY HARVEY, North London
Nazis off our campus
THREE WEEKS ago we launched a campaign at Leeds University to expel Mark Collett, leader of the Nazi Young British National Party (BNP). Collett was so incensed at being exposed as a Nazi and facing organised opposition that one day he was reduced to violently overturning our stall.
Collett is so unpopular on campus that at a union meeting everyone voted to reaffirm the union's opposition to the BNP's attempts to organise on campus. Yet, despite the union's longstanding no platform for racists and fascists policy, Collett was allowed to speak and portray himself as just another student.
This, and the fact that the union bureaucracy warned students that voting to expel him would be 'unconstitutional', meant that we lost the vote to expel him. There was a general feeling of shock, which turned to anger as the strutting Nazi denounced anti-racist students.
It is clear that the vast majority of students, while unsure about the need to expel Collett, absolutely detest him. We are now organising a mass meeting with Leon Greenman, a Holocaust survivor, and the father of Leeds student Sarfraz Najeib.
It is gutting that a leading Nazi on our multicultural campus can remain part of our union and is due to stand for the BNP in the council elections. Yet it is also leading to growing resistance.
REBECCA ALLEN and DARREN HILL, Leeds University Anti Nazi League
Lib Dems close our schools
SHEFFIELD CITY Council, run by the Liberal Democrats, is trying to close and merge schools. It is hoping to shut Lowfield School and merge it with Ann's Grove. Lowfield pupils, parents and teachers are totally opposed to this. It is a brilliant multi-ethnic school. Pupils come from 15 different ethnic groups, a record in Sheffield.
The school has worked long and hard to develop its ethos, and has a proud anti-racist record. Pupils get a great education both academically and through learning about the different backgrounds of everybody in the school. Parents chose to send their children to Lowfield because of its excellent track record. We held a public meeting last week against the closure.
Around 150 pupils, parents, staff and community members came along. This was about the liveliest meeting I have ever attended. The biggest cheer of the night went to the National Union of Teachers executive member who said we should link our campaign up with all other schools and nurseries the council has targeted.
ANGELA SHANN, Sheffield
Defending homes in Manchester
THE RECENT Defend Council Housing conference in Birmingham has had a big impact in Manchester. I contacted the Manchester tenants and residents association before the conference.
Tenants agreed that they were only hearing one side of the story over council house privatisation. So they circulated details of the conference to all tenants associations in Manchester, and 11 people went as delegates. Everyone enjoyed the conference, and there are now report back meetings planned throughout this month.
New Labour is carrying out a massive attack on council housing. It can be defeated, as the recent Aylesbury and Dudley votes have shown, when council workers and tenants fight together.
MARION DOHERTY, Manchester
State pensions are the answer
THE ANGER that members of final salary pension schemes feel at seeing their expectations snatched away is fully justified. But we should take a closer look at occupational pensions.
Occupational pensions are largely confined to Britain within the European Union. Funded occupational pensions divide the interests of workers over pensions. That inhibits the massive actions which continental unions have taken in defence of their pay as you go pensions.
These struggles have forced French employers, for example, to increase their social insurance contributions to four times employers' National Insurance payments in Britain. The occupational pensions system also allows pension fund managers (some of the City's fattest cats) to erode the level of pensions.
Some enlightened economists have been saying for years that the neo-liberal pension system in Britain and the US is a form of con trick which would in due course implode. Well, now it's happening, although the huge pension funds are actually sufficient to pay promised occupational pensions for 30 years even with no further contributions.
The proper response to the occupational pensions crisis is to step up the demand for a decent basic state pension linked to earnings, and the restoration of the state-run SERPS scheme.
HUGH LOWE, West London
Who's the main terror threat?
THE US is a superpower with an awesome military. Yet this seemingly invincible colossus has been outsmarted in the past. The defeat in Vietnam, the rise of Islamists in Iran and the survival of Saddam Hussein are some of the US's policy failures. In Afghanistan, despite the predictable rout of the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden has not been found. Nor have most of the senior Al Qaida leaders.
Every two weeks or so we are told by the US that Bin Laden is hiding in different locations. He is in the Philippines, Kashmir, Pakistan, Tora Bora, or he died of kidney failure, or was blown to pieces, or he is in the ex-Soviet Muslim republics... Will George Bush and his intelligence chiefs make up their minds?
Is it possible that the terrorist masterminds have escaped and that, despite the murders of thousands of innocent people in Afghanistan by carpet bombing, the US military campaign has been a failure? We are told that Osama Bin Laden is 'the world's most dangerous and wanted man'. There is a growing perception that that title really belongs to George Bush.
Autism: more help needed
AS A parent of two autistic children I would agree with Charlie Kimber's well argued article on MMR (Socialist Worker, 23 February).
However, two linked issues that he did not address are the likelihood that some children are more susceptible than others to the MMR vaccine, and also the lack of adequate compensation for vaccine-damaged individuals.
I know of parents with videos of their children showing perfectly normal development before MMR and the onset of the symptoms of autism immediately after.
Caring for autistic children is very difficult, the support services are scarce or non-existent, and financial aid is low. Then there is fighting cash-strapped education authorities for some appropriate educational provision.
Blair and his friends in the drugs companies that profit from the MMR vaccine will continue to refuse to fund proper studies into the link with autism unless they are forced to.
RICHARD MORSE, South Wales