Socialist Worker is a superb paper. It is so strong on foreign affairs and feedback from workers. I work as a hotel porter and sell all the mainstream papers. The Daily Telegraph is handed out free there. I like some of their obituaries, and some of yours too – particularly Lord Denning's.
I stood as a Labour candidate in council elections in south east London. New Labour headquarters at Millbank tried to deselect me because I issued a leaflet to voters calling for left wing policies. I am so disgusted with what I hear about the Labour Party's collaboration with the City and financial powers while ignoring workers' needs.
I know I speak for all of Biggin Hill Labour Party. Biggin Hill is not what it should be. It is a bleak town with half the shops boarded up. It's got traffic, crime and youth problems. There is no chance of local work. I will not be voting New Labour again. Last time I voted Socialist Labour. Just some of the policies which anger me include:
My standpoint may be slightly different from yours. I was in the Territorial Army for ten years and I believe I got something out of it. I realise you do not like the army because of Bloody Sunday. But I am ashamed of New Labour, their efforts and their record.
JOHN LEWIS, South London
Section 28 – dump this bigoted law
SOCIALISTS IN Scotland joined gay rights campaigners in celebrating the recent announcement by the Executive of the Scottish Parliament that it is to repeal Section 28, Margaret Thatcher's infamous gay bashing law. Teachers will no longer have to turn away teenagers who want to discuss gay issues for fear that they will be accused of 'promoting homosexuality'. Local authorities will not be bound to treat gay parents and their children as second class 'pretended families'.
However, there are forces in Scottish society which want to prevent the repeal of this law. In a disgusting article for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper Cardinal Thomas Winning, head of the Catholic church in Scotland, argued that homosexuality is 'disordered' and that gay people are more inclined to sexually abuse children than heterosexuals. He then concluded that it is right to discriminate against gay people in such areas as teaching and foster care. The Scottish Conservative Party backed him.
A gay rights group, West of Scotland Gay and Lesbian Forum, is taking Winning to the Equal Opportunities Commission over his comments. I wish them well.
MARK BROWN, Glasgow
Calling out for unions
YOUR ARTICLE on working conditions in the call centres (Socialist Worker, 11 November) indicates that they rightly can be called the new 'bright satanic mills'. Some call centres are part of large, already unionised companies like British Telecom, where workers were due to strike against appalling conditions on Monday of next week.
Elsewhere trade unions are trying to unionise other call centres. There was an international organising day for recruiting call centre workers on 4 November. The Communications Workers Union in Britain targeted companies like Cable & Wireless, Cellnet and Telewest. Such organising drives should allow unions to improve many of the working conditions.
GREGOR GALL, Stirling
Waste of an opportunity
A RECENT conference on equal opportunities organised by the National Union of Teachers should have been a great chance to focus on anti-racism in schools in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. However, it did not look to examples of positive anti-racist work in schools.
Instead two speakers addressed delegates. One was a lecturer who used the language of the market to promote New Labour policies. The other was a headteacher who commended Ofsted boss Chris Woodhead on his comments about teachers being unwilling to change and who derided attempts by teachers to defend the teaching of black history.
The teachers I travelled down with were all left feeling angry. We all work in multiracial schools where underfunding, class size, poverty and school closures are real threats to our pupils and to the way we try to challenge racism. There is a general anti-racist mood, exemplified by the unofficial walkout against bullying and racism at Ford Dagenham.
Our union leaders are not harnessing this mood. Once again it was left to us to debate the issues on the train home. We all agreed that was the best part of the day.
PAULA CHAMPION, Leeds
Rerun police raid
OVER 100 armed police raided Handsworth, a major black area of Birmingham, two weeks ago. They smashed up restaurants next to the Beehive pub and sealed off Soho Road in a massive operation that lasted two hours. The police said they were looking for drugs, but they only found tiny quantities.
This operation had more to do with criminalising the black community than with concern about drugs. It is the kind of action that sparked riots in Handsworth and other inner city areas in the early 1980s. And it is the kind of police behaviour we are told is a thing of the past.
ANDY NORTH, Birmingham
1917 was not so democratic
THE RUSSIAN Revolution of October 1917 did 'offer the greatest hope to humanity' (Socialist Worker, 6 November). But to call it 'the most democratic act in history' flies in the face of uncomfortable facts.
The Bolsheviks dissolved the constituent assembly (the Russian parliament) when they won only 175 out of 707 seats after taking power. Press censorship of non-Bolshevik groups began in March 1918. At the same time non-Bolshevik socialists were denounced as 'the enemy' and subjected to terror.
The revolution did abolish anti-Semitic discrimination, but between 1918 and 1922 many Jewish socialists in the Bund organisation, who had fought to overthrow the Tsar, languished in prison alongside other socialists not tolerated by the new regime. Lenin dissolved the Bund and other parties in 1921. We have to deal with the truth and reality of the Russian Revolution if we are to win socialism and democracy in the next century.
DAVID ROSENBURG, London
I HAVE just read a report that stun guns and electric shock weapons were being advertised on the government's Department of Trade and Industry website as recently as the beginning of this month. A company called Nisam International advertised the stun guns for export. Torturers often use them in interrogations because they leave no mark. The advert said Nisam was 'fully authorised by the British government to deal in all defence and security goods'. So much for New Labour's 'ethical foreign policy'.
SALLY KINCAID, Leeds
I WENT to Zambia to work for a British engineering firm in 1980. I was on a three month contract paying £3,000. But the company refused to pay me when I got back to Britain. I thought I lived in a civilised democratic society, so I tried to sue my ex-boss. I was shocked to find I was denied legal aid. So this criminal who had just robbed me of £3,000 was free to do it again. There really is one law for the rich and one law for the poor.
RICHARD FARRAR, South London
YOU REPORTED that global warming is believed to be responsible for the Indian cyclone and other recent natural disasters (Socialist Worker, 6 November). You seemed in favour of reducing carbon emissions to halt global warming. However, just below this article was another condemning the Ellington pit closure. Keeping the pit open would mean more coal, which would be burnt, producing more carbon dioxide. What, then, is your position on global warming and polluting industries?