Role models and racism
Your editorial on black boys and role models (» Racism is the problem, 18 August) was a really superficial article.
Of course racism is a central issue, but overcoming racism (or beginning to fight back against it) involves complex factors.
Had you examined wider research about black young people and role models you would have found that many see their parents or their sisters, brothers or other relatives as role models.
In other words, it can be a thoroughly healthy process of pride in families – black families – who have struggled and held their own.
And Socialist Worker would rightly encourage a black child who was inspired by the “role models” of Angela Davis, Malcolm X or Martin Luther King.
We should certainly interrogate which people are seen as models. The best are those who encourage self-reliance, struggle, a thirst for liberation and a collective pride. The worst are those who venerate money and compliance with power. Please think more deeply.
Franklin Moore, South London
The climate camp and change
The recent Camp for Climate Action was one of the most inspiring mass direct action events of the year.
The camp had a number of aims. These included highlighting the need to stop aviation expansion, explaining the devastation BAA’s third runway will have on nearby villages and showing alternative ways of living.
The camp showed how imaginative, disciplined and organised ordinary people can be when acting collectively.
A diverse range of people came to support the camp, including local Sikh youth who brought boxes of samosas.
There were some problems. The policy of denying access to the media excluded sympathetic journalists, and the ban on political parties restricted the level of political debate.
Such restrictions reflect the mindset of the mid-1990s and could become an impediment to the growth of this dynamic movement if not challenged.
John Sinha, North London
The huge impact of the climate camp in the media and in provoking discussion has led some people to say that this is a new way to organise and win change.
People point to the use of affinity groups and decisions being made by consensus as proving that equality ruled at the camp and that there was no leadership.
But this format prevents thorough discussion of points, lacks clarity and takes an incredibly long time. It is wrong to say there was no leadership.
Dominant forces in each group ensured that any discussion about a different way to organise, such as in a mass way rather than autonomous groups, was flattened.
This means that the expansion of the movement is restricted, with a hostility to mass action.
Instead the aim seems to be to get arrested. There is no generalisation of the issues of war and privatisation into the climate change debate. This will not reach out to ordinary working people.
Sian Ruddick, South London
Drugs and inequality
Peter O’Loughlin (» Letters, 18 August) has either chosen to ignore the gist of Dean Ryan’s article on drug use or has a woeful misreading of it.
Dean does not suggest that drugs can resolve problems. In fact, he identifies the lack of opportunities young people have under New Labour as the biggest single factor in why people turn to an often harmful pursuit.
O’Loughlin claims that “It really doesn’t matter whether they are from Brick Lane or Park Lane, the results are the same.”
Furthermore, he says that drug addiction is a personal choice, and getting off drugs depends on individual willpower.
This seriously disregards the complex interplay of social, emotional and psychological factors involved in drug use.
Of course, people of all social classes use drugs. But there are very different results.
In my experience of working with young people with drug problems, it is working class people who face more serious social, legal, and health-related consequences.
Middle class professionals getting their kicks from cocaine generally have access to a more reliable supply and have far greater social resources to draw upon if their drug use becomes problematic.
Well paid professionals use drugs in a comparatively controlled way. Working class youngsters use them to alleviate the worst symptoms of mental illness, deprivation and the alienation and boredom of dead end jobs.
Prior to the Tories’ ravaging of the coal industry, mining towns were places where communities had a sense of pride, although they were not without social problems. But visit any former mining town today and you will find widespread use of heroin and alcohol.
This is not the “effortless, altered state of consciousness” that is given as an explanation of drug use. It is a deliberate attempt to escape the despair of a life without prospects. It is not a lifestyle that is freely chosen, and would be unrecognisable to residents of Park Lane.
Stephen Mclean, Brighton
A CWU success – but the battle goes on
The suspension of strike action by the CWU postal workers’ union to enter into negotiations with management is a reflection of the success of their previous stoppages.
However, the decision to suspend all action for a month while entering into secret negotiations is fraught with danger for the postal workers.
The momentum and confidence built up could be squandered as members are left isolated and ignorant of events.
It is inconceivable that management will not be consulting with Gordon Brown and his advisors. The involvement of the TUC does not inspire optimism, as the dead hand of their support for New Labour could help smother the inspiring flames of grassroots rebellion.
It is therefore of the greatest importance that the pressure is maintained upon management and the government.
Support from other public sector unions is essential as there is obviously a strategy to derail the threatened alliance against government wage restraint, job losses and cuts.
We need support from below to stop divide and rule from the establishment. But they are rattled by current events.
This is the greatest opportunity for 20 years for the working class in this country to reassert itself on the political stage as a power to be reckoned with. We must not fail.
Graham Richards, Manchester
Pilger film shows US hypocrisy
I would like to commend John Pilger’s documentary The War On Democracy.
It’s a thought-provoking film about how US imperialism has destroyed popular movements in Latin America, propping up brutal dictatorships through the CIA, multinationals and puppet presidents.
Particularly poignant are the testimonies of a Chilean student activist and a US nun in El Salvador, as well as the story of the murdered socialist folk singer Victor Jara, whose music inspired a generation.
Pilger shows the power of ideas, of the struggles of ordinary people fighting back, and how these people are the real catalysts of revolution in Latin America.
I am a little surprised that Colombia didn’t feature, and also that the ongoing Zapatista struggle in Chiapas wasn’t mentioned.
Overall, however, it would be difficult to find a more relevant piece of political reporting.
As the film points out, US atrocities (with British complicity) today in the Middle East are not “isolated”, nor are they “mistakes”. They are fully consistent with US foreign policy and will continue to be.
SW reader, Roehampton, London
Defending In The Ghetto
Although not a great fan, I found your article on Elvis very interesting (» An unlikely rebel, 18 August).
However I take exception to the description of In The Ghetto as “appalling”.
I have always felt this song was a powerful cry against the injustice of the vicious cycle of poverty and social deprivation – which the song so accurately mirrors in its cyclical structure and lyrics.
I also think it unfair to say it depicts the victims as “helpless”.
It highlights the powerlessness of the victims of the established political system, specifically in the urban ghettos of the US at the time it was written.
I confess that I might just like it because it’s one of the few songs I can get away with in karaoke with my appalling singing voice!
Hugh Parsons, Swansea
Don’t be cruel to the king
Of course Elvis Presley only went “so far” (» Letters, 25 August). Nobody said he was Lenin.
There is a marvellous photo of him promising to help US president Richard Nixon’s anti-drugs campaign. You can see the black marks round his eyes caused by his own drug abuse.
The point is do socialists relate to movements of rebellion, however confused and limited, or do they sit back and congratulate themselves on their own political superiority?
Pete Seeger’s dismissal of Elvis is typical musical and political sectarianism.
Remember Seeger suppressed his own anti-war songs when Russia entered the Second World War in 1941. There’s only one thing worse than a folk singer, and that’s a Stalinist folk singer.
Ian Birchall, North London
Solidarity with cabbies
I want to tell my fellow brother and sister cabbies in Coventry, one of whose members has just suffered an attack (Socialist Worker, 25 August), that you’re not alone.
Attacks on cabbies seem to be an everyday matter.
No one seems to care about the cabbies. This has got to stop.
I founded the Save A Cabbie website – » www.saveacabbie.com/CabbieAttacks.htm
I have printed your story for the world to see on this website.
There have been hundreds of attacks on cabbies this year. And it’s estimated that 70 percent of all attacks on cabbies are never reported.
It’s time that we did something about this.
Anyone wishing to update me on this brother and his story or any other attacks please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Szekely, Tennessee, US
An exciting perfomance
How could anyone fail to be moved by the performance of the young people from the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela at their recent Proms performance at the Royal Albert Hall?
Sir Simon Rattle says that Venezuela is the most exciting place for music in the world currently.
This was endorsed by Radio 3’s Verity Sharp and her studio guests.
Music is being supplied free of charge in Venezuelan schools and this might be saying something about the leadership of the country and its policies. The times they are a changing!
Bob Miller, Chelmsford, Essex
No supplies for troops
Our young are being slaughtered needlessly in illegal wars.
Many of our soldiers are ill-fed, without water or proper boots and equipment. Soldiers with mental health issues are sent into battle without any medication.
This treatment of our troops must stop now.
Amina Siegerson, Glasgow