: A very fruitful Bristol protest
I was one of the people who heard Tony Blair speak when he came to Bristol on Tuesday of last week. As I approached the council building where he was to be speaking I was delighted to see many different protest groups demonstrating. People were there protesting against the government's policy on Iraq, and children and parents shouted against the closure of their schools. The Bristol Socialist Alliance (BSA) were there too.
As I milled around the busy foyer waiting to go into the main hall I overheard a conversation between two Labour Party badge wearers. 'Have you seen the BSA outside?' one said.
'I think these groups on the left act as a conscience to our party,' the other replied. Let's face it, more often than not they're right.' The first three questions Blair was asked destroyed any notion that this was to be an easy ride for him.
A student nurse asked an emotionally-charged question regarding the unfair and unsatisfactory bursary system, to enthusiastic applause from the audience. Applause also greeted a question challenging the government's disgraceful policy on Iraq.
However, this was nothing to the thunderous applause and cries of agreement which met a call for the renationalisation of our railways. It was clear that Blair had come to Bristol in an attempt to create enthusiasm and win the support of Labour activists in the run-up to the election. However, the reception afforded him by the people of Bristol must surely have both him and his MPs worried.
IAN PHILLIPS, chair, Bristol Socialist Alliance
Get petitioning for the railways and the Alliance
Just before Christmas the Tyneside Socialist Alliance (TSA) petitioned railway stations in Newcastle, Darlington and Carlisle on the need to renationalise the railways. The response was tremendous.
In Newcastle people were eager to sign and show their bitterness at the way the railways are being run, and how billions of pounds are pouring into private rail companies. The event attracted considerable press and TV coverage.
On 27 January this event will be repeated as part of a national campaign called by the National Network of Socialist Alliances. Tony Benn is sponsoring a formal petition with the support of 100 MPs calling for renationalisation, supported by Mick Rix of the Aslef rail union and Bob Crow of the RMT.
This petition should be used on 27 January to campaign for a railway system that is safe and efficient.
BOB MURDOCH, Newcastle
Backers on the inside
Now that the general election is looming, the arguments with disillusioned left wing Labour Party members are becoming more focused. In the past few weeks a number of good Labour activists have offered the local Socialist Alliance some great practical campaigning advice. But, fearing expulsion from the Labour Party, they argue they must remain anonymous.
When members of one organisation want the opposition to win it must tell you something. Over the next few weeks Socialist Alliance supporters on Teesside will be arguing with Labour and trade union activists why they should join a genuine socialist election campaign.
If Labour activists and others openly join the Socialist Alliances they can help shape the campaign and the alliance, as well as the many struggles taking place against capitalism.
GEOFF KERR-MORGAN, Middlesbrough
The recent hysterical campaign by the Scottish newspaper the Daily Record on drug dealers will do absolutely nothing to improve communities with drug problems. Its disgusting campaign encourages people to phone anonymously and 'grass a dealer'.
This type of scapegoating creates fear and confusion. The levels of drug addiction and misuse are linked to poverty. The highest rates are in those areas with the highest rates of unemployment. In areas like Inverclyde over the last 30 years people have seen the running down of industries that provided jobs and at least some sense of a future. If you are a cocaine-using stockbroker in the City the Record will not be identifying you as a menace to society.
It is only interested in attacking those at the bottom of society.
ANGELA McCORMICK, Glasgow
Eddie Gilfoyle and his family are outraged by the decision made by the Court of Appeal just before Christmas. At the appeal the defence completely destroyed the case against him. The appeal court judges still upheld the previous verdict.
Eddie still languishes in prison for a crime that never happened. Lancashire police reinvestigated Eddie's case and concluded there was no evidence of a crime. The Police Complaints Authority have doubts about the conviction.
The Criminal Cases Review Commission uncovered overwhelming evidence that Eddie's wife committed suicide. The struggle for justice for Eddie will continue.
EDDIE GILFOYLE CAMPAIGN
Send messages of support to Eddie Gilfoyle, DP 1827, HMP Wakefield, Love Lane, Wakefield, WF2 9AG.
State is to blame
As a participant in the demonstrations at the European Union (EU) summit in Nice, I would like to reply to Neil Young's letter (Socialist Worker, 13 January) criticising the SWP's role in the march on the conference centre. The Wednesday march, backed by both British and French trade unions, had about 100,000 demonstrators. However, these numbers were not present the next day, resulting in a group of about 5,000 attempting to march to the summit.
The French riot police, the CRS, battered us back with severe attacks of teargas. If it were not for the organisation of the SWP many of us would have scattered and run straight into police batons. Instead we were able to get within 100 yards of the summit. The meeting of SWP members the night before prepared us for what we would face. If anybody had been hurt I would not have blamed the SWP but the state that feels the need to protect itself so violently from peaceful protesters.
GAEA TODD, Brighton
Read our history
I have just read from the first page to the last page of Chris Harman's book A People's History of the World. I think it is brilliant. I say this not because of the terrific overview that it gives or because it is crammed full of factual information, but because it answers so many questions that socialists need to deal with.
More importantly the book is directed at young workers and others who have not been around for the last 20 to 40 years! It is accessible to everyone. It would be a pity if the book were to simply be referred to from time to time. Some books are more important than others. If I were a Socialist Workers Party branch secretary today I would quietly encourage new members and, in particular, newly politicised workers to read the book and use it as a reference for further reading.
JIM NICHOL, East London
A People's History of the World by Chris Harman (£15.99) is available from Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 020 7637 1848.
I was at a peace concert recently where the journalist John Pilger spoke about the plight of the Iraqi people. He had been in south Iraq and, as well as the almost daily bombing, he was told that the people were suffering from very high rates of cancer. A doctor there told him, 'You in the west don't realise that this is our Hiroshima.'
Pilger ended by urging the peace movement to publicise what is happening in Iraq and campaign against the use of depleted uranium shells. The fact that these weapons are affecting Europeans and are being tested in Britain may give the matter some added urgency. We are told that they pose 'no significant danger' to people or the environment. Now where have we heard that before?
HAZEL SABEY, West London
The police made a number of arrests during an anti-capitalist demonstration on 3 June in Birmingham city centre. These arrests had been pre-planned. The unprecedented police operation was carried out under political pressure from the city council and business leaders. During the trial the court heard from a succession of police prosecution witnesses.
The common feature of their evidence was a vague and generalised personal view. We were found not guilty. Our decision to plead our innocence against all the odds has been vindicated. A society based on repression is doomed to failure. This has made us all the more determined to campaign for a world where all species can live without exploitation on a clean planet.
I support of your policies but feel that as international socialists you should support the European Union (EU) and the euro. Britain is far more undemocratic than other European countries. Every important person in Europe is either chosen in a democratic manner or like during the Nice treaty are the democratically elected leaders deciding on things for their parliaments.
The euro would increase freedom of movement in a state where every country has to be democratic. The head of Britain's civil service is unelected, as are many ministers. You should form an alliance with other socialists in the EU and campaign in poor farming communities. The National Farmers Union wants to end subsidies. You could say the opposite.
GRACE JONES, North Wales