Socialists teach Blunkett lessons
David Blunkett and Tony Blair would have got a good lesson in citizenship and breaking down language barriers at a 'Winter Welcome' party for asylum seekers organised by Dulwich Socialist Alliance.
The event was held at the Southwark Day Centre and brought together 200 asylum seekers, including many children, who had fled hunger, persecution and war. Asylum seekers from countries as diverse as Sierra Leone, Russia, Kosovo, Colombia and Afghanistan mingled with locals to enjoy a feast of international food, music and acrobatic entertainment.
Socialist Alliance local supporters raised money to pay for the event, along with many people involved in Dulwich Stop the War Campaign. One parent organised a cake sale at her child's school and raised £160! All the professional entertainers performed for free.
A local socialist welcomed everyone, saying, 'Thank you for coming to Britain. We apologise for the treatment you have received from this government. We will continue to fight for your rights.' Several asylum seekers then spoke in their own languages to express international solidarity. There were presents for all the children.
The highlight of the evening was when some of the asylum seekers who were clearly accomplished musicians got up and joined world music band Mukka. They provided everyone with an impromptu heart-stopping musical fusion of Eastern European, Arabic and Celtic styles. The dancefloor erupted.
This proves that the barrier to social and cultural integration is not lack of openness on the part of ethnic communities, but the barriers of institutionalised racism which are being reinforced by New Labour's policies.
NICOLA FIELD and JOY LEMAN, South London
Building union recognition at factory gates
GAINING UNION recognition for the AEEU at Honda is a huge step forward in Swindon. The town has very few organised workplaces in the private sector. There is a lot of manufacturing industry here, with big name firms like Motorola, Intel and EMI. One of the attractions of the town for these companies is the low level of unionisation.
These companies employ just a few key workers permanently, and the rest are on short term contracts with lower wages.
The union campaign at Honda was not a sweet-heart deal from the top. The factory was organised the old fashioned way. A number of workers there had kept individual union membership from previous employers, and the union built on that.
AEEU officials stood outside the gates and gave leaflets to anyone they could get to talk to, and gradually built up membership by ones and twos until they had a majority.
This is also a slap in the face for New Labour. The main organiser who achieved this victory was Jim D'Avila.
Five years ago Jim was the preferred candidate for Swindon North Labour Party, but Millbank parachuted in a Blairite, Michael Wills. New Labour simply didn't want a trade unionist in parliament. The victory at Honda is an inspiration for local activists. A huge Wal-Mart supermarket has just opened here, and it's non-union.
ANDY NEWMAN, Swindon
Getting away with murder
AMID ENDLESS articles about the 'humanitarian' concerns of this government, a little story from here in Bristol was quietly buried. It concerned four construction workers who died in September 1999 while working on the project to widen the M5 bridge at Avonmouth. They fell 80 feet after the gantry they were working on was blown away by a gust of wind.
Relatives of the men heard the judge in the case say that 'the accident could and should have been prevented by a number of simple measures.' Yarm Road (formerly Kvaerner) and Costain were each fined just £250,000-a small dent in the £150 million they had pocketed from the original contract.
MARK FARMER, Bristol
Going on strike worked for us
The Team Valley Brush strikers would like to thank Tony Dowling and everyone else who took part in helping us to get through the four weeks we were on all-out strike.
All 120 GMB union members at the company went on strike over pay. We were paid just £3.11 an hour. Without your advice and help there would not have been a strikers' fund. We would like to donate £100 to your cause for helping other people in a similar position as the Team Valley Brush workers were in.
I would like to say that going on strike did work for us. We now have a boss who is willing to listen, and we are happy with our pay this time.
B PATTERSON and ALL TEAM VALLEY BRUSH STRIKERS
Reports from Oldham, Burnley and Bradford have clearly indicated that the problems have been created by segregation. Segregation has come about by council policy in housing and schooling, and looks set to be made worse by Blair's proposals on faith schools.
We only have to look at the recent scenes at Holy Cross School in Northern Ireland to see the results of segregation. It's time to join a party which wants to fight the bosses for our schools, housing and health service. It's time to join the Socialist Alliance.
M SWINDELLS, Manchester
Workplace groups still opposing war
At the recent meeting of the Barnet NATFHE union, the first since 11 September, members voted to oppose the war and affiliate to the Stop the War Coalition. Anti-war meetings had taken place at three Barnet college sites, and a fundraising peace day raised over £100 for refugees.
College management had tried to publicly claim that Barnet College Anti-War Group did not represent the views of the whole college. The NATFHE branch endorsement shows the vast majority of the lecturers are opposed to the war.
It falls to those of us that have the right to democratically organise from below in trade unions to speak for all those who are disenfranchised by military dictatorship, monarchist and one-party rule around the world. It is crucial we act at a time when freedoms are under threat there. Barnet College NATFHE also called on the general council of the TUC to oppose attempts to escalate the war to Iraq and beyond. The union meeting welcomed NATFHE general secretary Paul Mackney's opposition to the war.
RAHITH PERERA, ZOE GERRARD and KEN MONTAGUE, Barnet College NATFHE Against the War
A vote winner
Tenants in Dudley have beaten the Labour council's plans to privatise 27,000 council homes. This was achieved by a small group of tenants, trade unionists and socialists organising a public meeting. We delivered 10,000 leaflets before the ballot.
LYNN WARD, chair Russell Hall Tenants and Residents Association, and TONY BARNSLEY, Defend Council Housing
Short changed by Gordon
On reflection, the outlook for pensioners outlined in Gordon Brown's pre-budget statement, with sums of £100 and £200 bandied about, becomes clear. It is a continual erosion of the basic state pension, a massive increase in means testing, and handouts designed to blackmail pensioners in the next election.
The guaranteed state pension increase of £100 per year, starting in 2003, means only £1.92 per week extra for a single pensioner. This is hardly generous, and fails to make up any of the £29 a week lost since the link with earnings was broken in 1980.
Meanwhile the gap between the means tested Mimimum Income Guarantee, linked to earnings, and the basic state pension, linked to prices, will continue to grow. The complicated Pension Credit, due in 2003, will subject half of all pensioners to means testing. This is a mean spirited way to treat elderly people. Gordon Brown must think again.
CLIFFORD FULLER, Gloucester
I am an SWP member from London, and have sold the paper on many occasions. I am appalled by the misery meted out by the US, Britain, Israel and their allies. This said, though, we have to be clear that there are atrocities committed on both sides against innocent people.
Although we know that these can only be stopped when Israel withdraws from the occupied territories and ends its brutality against the Palestinians, this does not justify a Socialist Worker cover up.
Don't walk away
I was greatly disappointed to read that the Socialist Party have left the Socialist Alliance. I feel this is a serious mistake.
As an individual member of the Socialist Alliance I supported the Socialist Party's proposed constitution. However, the one member one vote constitution was adopted. Those of us who had our doubts have to hope we will be proved wrong. Walking away, however, simply further divides the organisational strength of the left.
While welcoming the Socialist Party's proposals for electoral alliances, I feel that their action has seriously weakened the left and will only help our enemies. I therefore hope that the Socialist Party will reconsider its actions and, if not, that its members will individually return to the Socialist Alliance.
MARK EDWARDS, Somerset