Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1774

I will be on the anti-war demonstration in London on 18 November, and I hope there are tens of thousands of others who will be as well. This is not just some routine march. I really feel that this is a crucial moment for all of us to do something about the war.

I come from Whitstable, a small east Kent town with a population of 28,000. Despite it being a small place, there is a real feeling here against the war. I am sure the mood is the same, if not greater, everywhere. It would be a tragedy if the demonstration on 18 November does not really reflect the feeling against the killing that is going on in Afghanistan. When the bombing started I was very angry and depressed. A friend and I decided that we had to do something about it, not just sit and be frustrated by what the politicians were doing.

Very quickly we found that lots of other people were feeling the same and wanted to get involved in activity. We contacted individuals we knew and then did loads of leafleting. Within ten days there was a demonstration of over 300 people. Now we meet every week, and there are always around 30 people there to organise and do work against the war.

About 60 people came to a debate we held with a local Labour councillor who spoke in favour of the war. The anti-war argments won overwhelmingly. There are not many days left to the London demo. We have got transport organised and are leafleting regularly to fill the coaches.

Let's make sure we let New Labour and the US government know what we think of their war.

Strong reaction against bombing

SCARBOROUGH Coalition Against the War has booked a coach for 18 November, and we are determined to fill it. The group has brought together people from the Labour Party, the Green Party, the SWP, Amnesty International, anarchists and people who have had no political involvement before. We have had a very good meeting against the war with 70 people present, a vigil last weekend and a stall every Saturday. This has become a focus for everyone to meet and discuss. We have done a stall at a local sixth form college and are going to do this again. The local TGWU branch has pledged £50 towards the coach for 18 November and UNISON at least £100. Let's all do our utmost to stop Britain's involvement in this bloody war.
RACHEL BOYES, Scarborough

This should be a crucial event

I remember the CND marches in the early 1980s and the magnificent poll tax demonstration of 1990 which finished off the tax and pushed Tory Margaret Thatcher under. I shall always be proud that I was on those protests and was a very tiny part of standing up for a better, more humane society.

The march against the war on 18 November ought to be another of those historic days. It is terrible, heartbreaking, to hear over and over again that Britain and the US have bombed one of the poorest countries in the world. Every raid sees more deaths, more agony for people who have already suffered countless agonies.

Can I plead with every reader to spend an extra few minutes every day-leafleting, ringing people you know, informing people in your community, at work or at college-to make 18 November a powerful voice for peace?

There also need to be lots of coaches booked. There will be many people who decide to come to London in the last few days before the protest. I was in Bristol in 1990 and we had around 50 coaches for the poll tax demo from the area. Maybe we can't reach that level, but we should do our best to make sure everyone who wants to get to London is able to.
ANGELA HILL, Tewkesbury

We used video to start the discussion

ANTI-WAR activists in east London are using the video recently produced by Media Workers Against the War at trade union and community meetings. This week there will be showings in a community centre, a council workplace and in my school-where the video is being shown at an NUT union meeting.

The video is 25 minutes long, includes footage of anti-war speeches and outlines the basic case against the war in Afghanistan. I hope that it will mean we have debate and more activity against the war in the run-up to 18 November. Everyone who can show the video should do so for a union meeting.
TEACHER, East London

Video available from Bookmarks for £7.50- phone 020 7637 1848.

Don't stop campaign for asylum

I hope that the changes to the asylum regulations announced by home secretary David Blunkett recently will act as a spur to further struggle. Activists for refugees' rights should be delighted that the government has been forced to change the humiliating regime of vouchers, which acted to pauperise and stigmatise asylum seekers.

But there could be a vicious sting in the tail with proposals for more detention centres. Refugees will also face demands to report regularly, perhaps daily, to centres where they could easily find themselves 'fast tracked' for deportation. I have been involved in campaigning for refugees' rights for several years. Over the next 12 months we must fight to force the government to make reception centres the sort of helpful places which greeted the Vietnamese 'boat people' in the 1980s.

These had faults but did genuinely attempt to offer advice, accommodation and assistance. Unfortunately under New Labour 'reception' really means 'prepare for exit'. Ordinary people have forced the government to make some very double-edged concessions. Trade unions were also important.

Instead of being dispirited by how mean-minded Blunkett and the rest have been, we should continue to insist that we want a society where refugees and all immigrants are welcome.
JENNY MILTON, Hartlepool

Positive socialist policy in Burnley

The Socialist Alliance is standing candidates in two council by-elections in Burnley. Voting will take place on 22 November. I am standing in the Trinity ward to give people a chance to vote for a positive socialist alternative. I used to be a Labour Party member, but at the last election I simply could not bring myself to vote Labour.

At that election I spoiled my ballot paper. This time there is a home for all those who feel that New Labour has abandoned working class people and its own principles. People can vote for me or the other Socialist Alliance candidate, Pauline Farrell.

We are canvassing and we find that people are interested in our message. The lack of housing is a big issue in the area. So is the decline in the NHS and education. We say that many of the problems in our community are caused by a lack of investment in the public services, not by asylum seekers or by Asian people. Since the riots in the north west of England Labour has failed to take any positive lead against racism and is now proceeding with a war agenda.

We are standing against New Labour, independents and the British National Party. We are the only people who truly represent working class interests. If you would like to be involved in the Socialist Alliance campaign please phone me on 07779 321 084.

Cynical alliance

According to Chinese official sources, the Chinese police and army are engaged in extensive operations in Urumchi, capital of Xinjiang province, with the aim of cracking down on 'terrorist activities'. China's rulers are asking the West to back its anti-separatist policy in Xinjiang

This stance is meant to strengthen nationalism at home (to divert opposition) and secure its control in the region. This is why the 11 September incident came at the right time for China's rulers. The bargaining was cleverly done between China and the US, so that they will back each other in their respective attacks on their proposed enemies. The Chinese police and army are carrying out their operations in the name of public security and a crackdown on crime. Afghan refugees are blocked from crossing the western border of Xinjiang.

Xinjiang has a 60 percent Muslim population who are discriminated against, persecuted and denied democratic rights on their own land. The US endorsement of Chinese repression against Xinjiang is the evidence that the West should never be trusted in the fight for independence.
HSIAO HUNG, East London

Postal points

We had a great demonstration in Hong Kong recently. It may seem small by your standards, but we had 300 marchers protesting against the World Economic Forum here.

My place in the demo was behind the Philippines Jubilee South group, so I started shouting a slogan I saw in last week's Socialist Worker used in anti-war demos in Britain-'They say drop the bombs-we say drop the debt.'

I also chanted, 'They say warfare-we say welfare', which I also read in Socialist Worker. These slogans went down really well.
SW READER, Hong Kong

Martin Smith's assertion (Socialist Worker 27 October) that in a hunter-gatherer society 'it is likely that the very concept of war would have been utterly meaningless' is hopelessly naive.

The Yanomani (translated as 'Fierce people') of the Amazon region, one of the last of the 'hunter-gatherers', go on bloody raids to neighbouring villages, and those who kill gain respect, power and more wives! Capitalism may drive war, but don't idealise-there never was a golden age.

Even in rural Mid Wales there is protest against the war.

Recently in Lampeter some 50 people took part in a protest for peace and an end to bombing. The resistance is happening everywhere!

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Article information

Sat 10 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1774
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