Fighting fascism today
Over 50 people attended a protest against Holocaust denier David Irving in Birmingham on Friday of last week.
Because of protests organised by Unite Against Fascism, the venue cancelled it. This meant that the protest was more like a celebration!
There’s a danger that Irving may try and re-book his meeting – in which case people will be ready to protest again to stop him spreading his fascist lies in Birmingham.
Rosemary Cragg, Birmingham
I was shocked to read that the Oxford Union debating club has invited the fascists Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak (» Students organise to stop fascists , 20 October).
It reminds me of an occasion in 1964 when the same Oxford Union invited the South African ambassador to speak.
This was just after Nelson Mandela was jailed. Today everyone admires Mandela – but back then he was called a “terrorist”.
Students organised a large demonstration against the ambassador. The Oxford Union’s hall was plunged into darkness when a future editor of International Socialism journal removed the fuses.
A “mob” – which I am proud to have been part of – surrounded the ambassador’s car and let the tyres down. I do hope today’s students give Griffin and Irving an equally warm welcome.
Ian Birchall, North London
It’s a disgrace that the Nazi David Irving is planning a “speaking tour” in Britain. Irving is a convicted Holocaust denier and has spent much of his life speaking at neo-Nazi rallies across Europe
Freedom of speech for Nazis means freedom to incite attacks on black and Asian people, gays and lesbians, trade unionists and anyone else who they oppose. This is why we need to defend a policy of “No Platform” for Nazis.
Liz Brown, Mid-Glamorgan
Scottish voters an ‘afterthought’
The results of the inquiry into the Scottish elections in May come as no surprise to those who witnessed the chaos caused when privatised electronic counting systems seized up and 147,000 ballot papers were rejected.
Ron Gould, who led the inquiry, found that everyone concerned with managing the election, including party leaders and the Electoral Commission, had “almost without exception treated voters as an afterthought”.
How ironic that the system which purported to increase the turnout instead disenfranchised voters.
One of the most astonishing facts to emerge from the inquiry is that a study of the ballot paper before the election found that 4 percent of voters found it too confusing to use it correctly. This was the exact percentage of rejected ballot papers.
Will the former Scottish secretary Douglas Alexander, who had overall responsibility for the fiasco, resign from his current post? I doubt it.
Pat Smith, Edinburgh
Tragic cost of abortion illegality
I thought last week’s feature on abortion (» Abortion rights – 40 years on , 27 October) was timely. Among the last women who died as a result of backstreet abortions prior to 1967 was my mum.
We lived in Rutland (not the most progressive of areas) and she already had three young children and a baby with Down’s Syndrome when she became pregnant again.
Her partner was in prison for theft and she must have been at the end of her tether when she resorted to a backstreet abortion on her cleaner’s wage.
I was only 11 at the time and was never told about the real cause of her death because of the stigma attached to such abortions. The effect on what was left of our family, as with so many others, was horrible.
The baby was taken into care and the rest of us were nearly consigned to Barnardo’s, which had in the past shipped kids off to Canada and Australia where they risked a life of abuse or semi-slavery.
Luckily we were saved by relatives who did a brilliant job of caring for us.
My point is that not only should we fight any restrictions on the right to choose but we should fight any attempt to stigmatise women who have abortions.
The failure to have open, frank and sympathetic discussions of such matters scars not only the women but their families as well.
Steve Johnston, Leeds
Women in Poland fight for their abortion rights
Following your article on abortion rights in Britain 40 years on from legalisation (» Abortion rights – 40 years on , 27 October), I thought your readers might be interested in the situation here in Poland.
Poland’s anti-abortion laws are among the most restrictive in Europe. They grant the right to terminate pregnancy only if the woman’s health is threatened, if it is likely that the foetus is seriously damaged or if the pregnancy is the result of a crime.
In practice women are regularly refused abortion by doctors and hospitals even in these situations. Officially only around 150 to 200 legal abortions are performed each year.
This figure covers up a huge number of illegal abortions performed in private clinics at a cost of around £500 each. For a low paid woman this amounts to around three months’ wages.
Last spring the far right tried to propose a change to the constitution that would effectively outlaw all abortions.
In response, women’s organisations mobilised petitions, protests on the streets and sit-ins in front of parliament. We won the battle and the far right lost the vote in parliament.
This victory should be the start of a campaign to abolish the
anti-abortion laws altogether.
The extreme anti-abortionists are unpopular in Poland and they failed to get into parliament in the general elections held last month.
Elzbieta Jarzebina, Warsaw, Poland
Solidarity with Palestine
A recent UCU college and university workers’ union meeting at the University of Kent shows how political trade unions can be.
One of the items discussed was solidarity with Palestine. We passed a motion for the union to twin with a Palestinian university.
The meeting was critical of the UCU leadership’s decision to stop any debate on boycotting Israel.
We referred a motion to investigate the signing of an agreement between the university’s bioscience department and one of the world’s biggest defence contractors.
Tom Behan, Whitstable, Kent
Time to transform ‘our way of life’
Those of us on the left of politics are often accused of wanting to change “our way of life”. But what is so wonderful about “our way of life” that we should not alter it?
The 20th century was the most horrendous in recorded history – a time of bloody wars, genocide, famine and poverty. In my 86 years I have witnessed most of these things.
There is no glory in war. War is filth, man’s inhumanity to man. And we are now witnessing the warmongers dragging the bloody culture of the 20th century into the 21st.
Today we find half the world’s population living in poverty, without access to decent sanitation, or dying of curable diseases or starvation.
Why should this be so? Because there are no profits to be made in giving food, clean water or cheap medication to the poor. Capitalism is by its very nature corrupt.
I want to live in a world at peace, a world free from the fear of nuclear war, a world where people can live a full and happy life – a socialist world.
So do I want to change “our way of life”? Yes – the object of being a socialist is to change our way of life. And if this makes me an enemy of the state, so be it.
Ron Acock, Ilkeston, Derbyshire
The concept of apathy
Anindya Bhattacharyya is right that Mark Garnett’s new book From Anger To Apathy is well worth a look (» The rise of apathy? , 27 October).
It aims to be a history of the present, covering Britain from 1975 until today – though it is debatable whether it really is a history book, as opposed to a polemic that argues things were better 30 years ago.
However Garnett fails to grasp the concept of apathy, which plays a central role in his book.
He sees people increasingly disaffected from formal political processes – which is undoubtedly true.
But as Tony Cliff pointed out 40 years ago, such disaffection does not necessarily lead to political apathy.
It can also lead to the reverse – sudden and not always predictable outbreaks of protest and anger. That is something socialists need to be constantly alert for.
Keith Flett, North London
A duty to help rebuild Iraq
It is becoming increasingly plain to see that the US and Britain have lost the war in Iraq.
Both governments should admit defeat and reach an agreement to restore peace.
They should also help rebuild the country’s infrastructure and generally make a concerted effort to put the people of Iraq back on their feet.
After all the mayhem caused by these invading armies, simply leaving would be a totally inadequate solution to the mess and terrible waste of lives in Iraq.
Perhaps the anti?war movement should now be suggesting ways of overcoming the terrible devastation of Iraq, rather than simply calling for the troops to come home?
Sophie Jongman, Gillingham, Kent
The case for car-free cities
Jonathan Neale is right to call for car free cities (» Will it take a ban on flying to stop climate change?, 20 October).
Our research, published in the Lancet medical journal on 22 September, found that only a car free London could achieve the rapid carbon dioxide emission reductions needed to tackle climate change.
De-motorising society would bring with it huge health and social benefits.
We would start tackling obesity as more people walked and cycled.
We would reduce air and noise pollution. Our streets would be far safer for children to play and adults to socialise.
The main obstacles to this are the vested economic interests linked to the car.
Challenging these should be top of every socialist’s agenda.
James Woodcock, East London
Let’s have a sit-in at BBC
BBC workers should resist the recently announced job cuts (» 'We need a strike to stop BBC job cuts', 27 October), not just by striking, picketing and seeking support, but also by occupying their workplaces.
Sitting-in to fight for the right to work would also be an opportunity for BBC editorial staff to broadcast footage of other sit-ins, such as Clydeside, the US and Italy in the 1930s, or South America today.
Nigel Coward, West London
Monkeys see off BJP bigot
I note with some satisfaction that the animal world has recently made its own small contribution to the struggle against fascist reaction.
The incident occured in Delhi, India, where a troop of wild monkeys descended on the first floor terrace of the house of SS Bajwa, a leading member of the Hindu chauvinist BJP party.
Bajwa fell from his terrace while trying to fight off the monkeys and died of his injuries.
His death will not be mourned by the victims the BJP’s murderous hate campaigns against Muslims.
Rather I would class this bizarre incident as a rare example of natural justice.
Jiben Kumar, East London