I’M DELIGHTED to report that Camden council has withdrawn the summons against me for “placing posters on a bus shelter by means of sticky brown tape” (Socialist Worker, 24 July).
The posters went up during the successful campaign against housing privatisation last November.
After it issued the summons, the council faced a barrage of criticism from local tenants’, community and trade union organisations for trying to use the criminal law to restrict the basic human right to protest.
The longstanding tradition in this country of putting up posters to inform, debate and organise is a social—not an antisocial—activity.
It would be an outrage if those in power abused their position and used the criminal law to persecute those who exercise their democratic rights.
Tenants’ associations and other community groups use posters to advertise meetings and other activities. Posters, along with leaflets, stalls on high streets and letters to the press, are essential campaigning tools in a democratic society.
They are often the only way that many people can really begin to participate in political life.
Government and local authorities are strong on the rhetoric of “community involvement”. They use seemingly unlimited amounts of public money to promote their policies.
The council’s decision to cut and run is recognition that it had lost the argument, both in terms of public support and the legal status of our basic human rights.
The council faced the embarrassment of a large demonstration by Camden tenants and trade unionists outside the court when I was due to contest the case.
Thanks to all who supported me and let’s keep up the battle for democratic rights.
We must not allow the government to get away with a very restricted version of democracy where the people at the top of society decide what can be said and what can be done during a campaign.
In future battles we should take heart that we stuck another victory on our wall last week to add to the bigger one earlier.
Alan Walter, North London
Why pay for their homes?
A MAJOR Sunday newspaper recently highlighted the fact that government ministers have been granted an after-tax allowance of £21,000 per year in order to assist them in buying a second home in London.
This is on top of a massive wage, gilt-edged pension, and a host of other allowances that we, the voters, pay for.
I challenge ALL politicians to explain why I, a taxpayer on a low wage who cannot afford to buy a first home, should subsidise a minister buying a second home.
This is especially true when we have to contend with the massive shortage of cheap homes to buy and no council house building programme to provide affordable rented accommodation.
If ministers have to reside in London then they should be given state-subsidised rented accommodation only.
Perhaps the next time a politician is about to bemoan falling turnouts at elections they should consider examples such as this.
They might then realise that this is one in a long list of “snout in the trough” reasons why the electorate neither votes for, nor has a shred of respect for, most of them.
A D Williams, Holyhead
THE HUTTON inquiry and the Butler report were nothing but “red herrings” to dupe gullible media believers into thinking that some sort of democratic process is being pursued.
The truth is that profit is everything when your nation is nothing more than a vast military industrial complex.
Gary Crowe, Watford
We need our own Freedom Summer
AFTER READING the article about Freedom Summer in the US (Socialist Worker, 24 July) I am doubly certain that we need drives for voter registration in Britain in 2004.
Research shows that around 10 percent of people in Britain are not registered to vote. The average hides much larger numbers (up to 17 percent) in some areas.
Predominantly it is the poor, black and Asian people, and people whose first language is not English who get left out.
Anyone who has canvassed for Respect knows that you meet people who say they would love to vote for us but then discover they are not registered.
Other people find this out on the election day itself when they try to vote. The authorities are quite happy for this situation to continue.
It is imperative that we have a systematic drive to raise the level of registration.
Not only would this be a basic democratic service, it would also show that Respect takes seriously the task of bringing new layers of people into political activity.
If we sign someone up to vote they are far more likely to consider using that vote for Respect.
Rafiq Master, Birmingham
We are many, they are few
I WOULD like to reply to the interesting letter in Socialist Worker (24 July) from a reader in Durham who was worried that any revolution would be likely to lead to civil war and violence.
There is no doubt that the rich and powerful will do everything they can to keep control and will use force if their rule is threatened.
But the stronger our side is in such circumstances, the less the likelihood of widespread violence.
The Russian October Revolution was relatively painless in the industrial centres, due, in large part, to the presence of a revolutionary party which had mass support.
The mass of the army who could have been used to suppress the revolution deserted to the side of the workers. On its own the ruling class is a very small physical force and, without the forces of the state, is unable to crush those fighting back.
During revolutions huge numbers of people who previously looked to right wing ideas and seemed pro-capitalist are able to come over to those wanting radical change.
The very process of common struggle seen even during strikes, let alone revolution, is the greatest antidote to racism and reaction.
Huw Williams, Blackwood
Magic at Marxism
I ATTENDED this year’s Marxism event for the first time and to say it was a wonderful event would be an understatement.
It was great to be debating with, and learning alongside, other socialists.
One debate that I particularly enjoyed was “Can we have a world without borders?” If it’s OK for big business to move freely across the world, why can’t people?
Other good meetings were “Confessions of a copper” with Paul Davies and “Is there an alternative to prison?” with Michael Lavalette.
I could go on forever!
Thanks again to everyone involved for what was a brilliant event.
C A Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness
Is the US going to attack Iran?
ONE OF the issues which made Iraq a “bad guy” in the eyes of the US was that it started invoicing its oil in euros.
If a good many oil exporters started doing this the dollar would soon cease to be the dominant currency. The price the US would need to pay for oil would increase as the dollar fell in value.
Iran is now setting up an oil exchange to rival the ones in London and New York. Iran is also massing troops next to the Iraqi border in case of a US pullout.
These factors have led to the US making noises about Iran.
For example, press releases say that the “9/11 hijackers had been in Iran”.
Remember the US still has an embargo on trade with Iran. Any trouble in Saudi Arabia and the US will desperately need oil (and gas) flowing from Iraq and Iran.
Time for the Stop the War Coalition to think about opposing a war with Iran?
John Keeley, Canterbury
They don’t dare go themselves!
HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett, in his infinite wisdom, thinks it’s safe to return asylum seekers to Somalia.
But his fact-finding Home Office representatives had to do their fact-finding in neighbouring Kenya because Somalia is too dangerous!
Salman Mirza, Birmingham
Another view on psychiatric care
CONCERNING THE tragic death of Azrar Ayub in psychiatric custody, I agree with Stephen McLean (Letters, 17 July) that medical responses to social problems are extremely damaging to patients.
However, I take exception to the general tone of his letter. I believe there is little or no difference between the psychiatric profession and the penal system.
Both attract large numbers of people with right wing views. Psychiatrists are treated like gods in the mental health system and nurses, in general, are totally servile towards them.
James Haggerty, Glasgow
Cheers to Roger for his article
IT WAS good to see Roger Protz back to his stinging best in his article about the Butler report and Blair’s war lies (Socialist Worker, 24 July).
More please, comrade!
Richard Jones, Swansea
Livingstone did what we needed
IT IS a great pity that Alex Callinicos (Socialist Worker, 10 July) adopts the language of the right when he writes of Ken Livingstone’s “ultra politically correct policies on issues such as race, gender and disability”, as if fighting oppression was not a part of politics.
After I started studying at Bradford University I was told that, because I suffered from epilepsy, I would have to take my exams in a separate building the best part of a mile away from other students.
This state of affairs continued until I contacted my (Labour) MP, who enabled me to be exempted from these inhuman practices.
Rather than being mocked as “politically correct”—an odious expression which certainly has no place in the terminology of revolutionary socialists like ourselves—everyone, even Ken Livingstone and my MP, should be applauded for challenging the repression experienced by minorities.
Andrew Crowther, Bingley
Inspiring story of recruitment
THANK YOU for the article about building unions among cleaners at Canary Wharf (Socialist Worker, 24 July).
I work as a security guard and sometimes can be posted to Canary Wharf, although I might equally well find myself sent to a site ten or even 15 miles away at the whim of my employer.
I am a member of the TGWU and hope that very soon we will also try to involve more security guards in the union.
At present I often work for 70 hours a week for around £5 an hour.
Some contractors treat their employees with a total lack of dignity and we need to hit back.
I have taken heart from the achievements of the cleaners. They still have a long way to go, but have taken a vital first step.
John, North London