Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1773

David Blunkett has finally been forced to accept that the government can't control people smoking cannabis, so he has had to make concessions. Stamping down on drugs hasn't worked. New Labour have now reclassified cannabis from a category B drug to a category C.

After the announcement there was new confidence in the air on Coldharbour Lane in Brixton, south London, both amongst users and dealers. While Blunkett may have relaxed the law on cannabis, New Labour are too uptight to look at the more radical solutions needed.

Reclassification is a halfway measure. Maybe New Labour think it is quite clever. But what will happen in the future? This is not decriminalisation. This is a cynical move by Blunkett which will not win back any credibility for the government's drugs policy.

Forty year old laws that make possession of cannabis illegal remain in force, even though today most cannabis users do not feel they are breaking the law.

Around 900,000 people a year may no longer be taken to court for having cannabis. But the police can, and I'm sure they will, continue to still stop and search people. Officers will now be able to 'exercise their discretion' about how to treat people in possession of cannabis. Police forces around the country will continue to prosecute people for supplying cannabis, which also remains illegal.

We all know who the police will treat as dealers and who they won't. All the studies show that the majority of cannabis users are white. However, I fully expect that it will continue to be a disproportionate number of young black men that are stopped and searched, or taken to court as drug users and dealers.

The latest move doesn't even go as far as the recommendations made by the Police Foundation inquiry last year. Blunkett ignored the foundation's call for LSD and ecstasy to be downgraded from a class A drug. On drugs, Blunkett and New Labour simply don't make any sense.
TIM MAYNE, South London

Hope for the whole people of the world

Last week I came out of my mosque after Friday prayers and met people stood outside selling your newspaper. I hadn't heard about who you are, what you do or what your policies are. Having read my first Socialist Worker I was deeply touched by your beliefs, your actions and your honesty.

That's something our politicians obviously don't know the meaning of. Most of all, I was struck by your ideas. I want a peaceful world, where the hard-working people of the world can live shoulder to shoulder regardless of their beliefs, race, religion or colour.

Through organisations such as yours I can see hope. And I really do hope that we can make this world a better place for everyone. Our beautiful planet has soaked up enough blood from lives lost for greed. I am sick to death of all the sorry, corrupt governments in the world who have no idea of what life for people is like under their rule.

I am a 30 year old Muslim living in Lancashire. I have three kids and I would like to help build a better world, not only for them but all the children all over the world.
ZAF, Lancashire

Making the headlines

Media Workers Against the War (MWAW) has really taken off, with a monster rally in central London in October. The staff at the small trade magazine where I work, like most media workers, feel we have a right to comment on how the media are fuelling the war hysteria. Without people like us they can't put out their propaganda.

Media Workers Against the War is our campaign. We own it and it enables us to have a say-unlike the publications we work on. At my workplace we had a good meeting against the war. One of the subs knocked up a leaflet which we stuck up around the building.

A speaker from the local CND kicked off the discussion. This helped us get support for MWAW through our union meeting the following week. It has given confidence to people to speak out, which is changing the atmosphere at work.

I am sure it is no accident that the Guardian retracted its position on 'not covering demonstrations'. Now there are a dozen MWAW activists inside. This helped win the argument when a row broke out with the editors. Workplace meetings are the next step to build the anti-war movement all over the media.
DAVE CROUCH, Media Workers Against the War ( »

Question of war

One argument I have heard in the anti-war movement is that we should also oppose fundamentalism and terrorism by raising slogans against them together with the slogan 'Stop the war'. I think this is wrong because it confuses and dilutes what must be our real message.

Our enemy is here at home-US and UK imperialism, whose contempt for the oppressed in the Middle East lies at the root of this war. We should not forget that the US is a world power with the capacity to cause death on a world scale.

The loss of life in the World Trade Centre was terrible, but the US slaughtered 100,000 Iraqis in the Gulf War and 500,000 children since with sanctions. This is why the critical issue for us in the West is, are you against the war? The great strength of the growing anti-war movement is its focus on building a broad anti-imperialist coalition under the clear unifying slogan of 'Stop the war'.

Our message must be clear. Our rulers want war-we want peace. That is the only basis upon which a genuinely anti-imperialist movement can be built.
Dragan Plavsic, West London

Sick cuts

The cuts in Incapacity Benefit voted through in parliament last week are a cynical manoeuvre by the government to save money at the expense of disabled people. As a result, Incapacity Benefit will only be awarded to people for a maximum of three years, after which claimants will have to undergo a Personal Capability Assessment (PCA).

PCAs frighten people because the benefits they need to live on could be taken away if they fail the test. I advocate on behalf of disabled people who claim benefits. I accompany clients at medical examinations. These are intense physical examinations in which people have to stretch, twist and walk around.

This causes some people great pain, all so it can be decided whether they can keep their benefits. The new rules mean more people will lose their benefit if a doctor from SEMA (a private company) gives a report which means they do not pass the test. This is part of the government's drive to limit the amount they spend on benefits.

At the same time there is a bottomless pit of money to spend on the war in Afghanistan. What hypocrisy!

STEVE WEST, East London

Workers' right to feel safe at work

Geoff Wilson is wrong to attack benefit office workers for striking to keep screens (Socialist Worker, 27 October). Every worker has the right to a safe working environment. On the picket line in Bridgend I found great sympathy for claimants and how they can be pushed over the edge.

One striker explained that for many people, 'we are the last port of call if people need money from the Social Fund. 'But if it has run out we are the ones who have to tell them.' That means working on the customer relations desk could be 'a really scary experience'. The union branch secretary emphasised that it only took one to do serious damage.

There had been a threatened stabbing the Friday before the strike. A claimant who was there supporting the strike had seen acts of violence, and pointed out that these sometimes came from vulnerable people with mental health problems. The failure of the so called care in the community policy will have worsened such problems.

As socialists we should also remember that strikes are a learning process, and workers that get a taste of their potential power over one issue will have more confidence to fight over others.

Peace lessons

KARACHI University teachers in Pakistan held a protest against the war on Afghanistan. These were the views expressed at the silent demonstration of teachers through banners and placards held under the auspices of Teachers Concerned About Human Survival:

'The US war on Afghanistan is mercilessly killing and maiming ordinary Afghans and should be stopped immediately. 'The US and its allies are bombing civilians in the name of military targets. 'Peace, not war, is the solution. 'The Pakistani state is meddling in Afghan affairs with the support of the US. This has only strengthened religious bigotry, sectarian killing and has led to a kalashnikov and drug culture in Pakistan. 'This has allowed the unhindered growth of religious extremism. 'It is time that the ordinary people of Afghanistan are allowed to decide their own future. 'It is time that war on Afghanistan is stopped and foreign intervention comes to an end.'

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Article information

Sat 3 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1773
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