State of the movement
Richard Seymour’s article (» Resisting The War, 17 November) did a good job in providing a balanced account of the anti-war movement.
It’s always important to remember that our actions are influenced by what happens around us. Like many school students of my age at the time, I wasn’t on the huge anti-war demonstration on 15 February 2003 – but today I feel that I may as well have been.
Had there been no mass demonstrations in 2003, no Seattle, no global mass movement against neoliberalism and war, I don’t think I would be doing anything effective politically.
The fact is that having between a million to two million people on the streets of London breaks down the idea that dissent is somehow only done by a certain sort of people – that it is uncommon, unwelcome or abstract.
Instead dissent is right outside your door. Ideas and demands are put into reality and the sooner you are involved, the sooner you can begin to improve your life and the world you live in.
For me the logical and inescapable conclusion of this was to join a revolutionary party – which is why I joined the Socialist Workers Party earlier this year.
While this isn’t true of everyone who was in the anti-war movement, we need to remember that not since the 1960s have people been so alienated from the current system. We carry the massive task of presenting a viable alternative. This task is not easy but it is the most important one of this period in human history.
James Nowlan, East London
Your account of the current state of the anti-war movement in the US was a little one?sided. One result of poor leadership of the US movement is that the only likely anti-war candidate in next year’s presidential election will be Ron Paul.
Paul is a libertarian Republican who makes much rhetoric against the Washington status quo but has a basically right wing agenda. Many of the best people who became politicised by the war are supporting Ron Paul – far more than supported Ralph Nader’s candidacy in 2004.
With the accession of the Democrats to the majority party in Congress, the overall result has been to further cynicism with politics. Few believe that rhetoric against the war will amount to much. If there were a sizeable and intelligent left in the US this would provide us with an opportunity, but this is lacking.
Instead the cynicism has led to the Iraq war being dropped as an issue. There are a few bright spots such as anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan running against Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives – but these examples are few and far between.
Alan, Gainsville, Florida
PCS should back action
We disagree with the recent decision by the executive of the PCS civil service workers’ union to postpone calling national strikes, despite the 68 percent vote in favour of continuing action.
If strikes had been called it would have been a help to postal workers in the CWU, who are considering alternatives to accepting their present deal.
It would have put us alongside teachers who are planning to ballot for action. It would have raised a banner of continuing resistance to Gordon Brown’s attacks on public services.
The executive was wrong to say that striking would weaken us in the negotiations which are taking place. It would have strengthened us.
Presently different civil service departments are affected by different issues, but what links them all is that they are being driven by the government’s neoliberal agenda.
This is why we should have a strategy that links up the different issues into a united national strike instead of having different departments on strike at different times – or taking no action at all.
If the Department for Work and Pensions votes for strikes over pay (as we all hope) then their action would have been massively strengthened by national action alongside them.
Anna Owens, PCS rep HMRC, and Steve West, PCS rep DWP (both in a personal capacity)
On hearing that the main post office in Canterbury is to close and move into WH Smith – with several other small post offices closing too – I took a “support the post offices” petition into school.
I collected several hundred signatures, receiving a really positive response from both pupils and teachers.
I also spoke to people whose parents were opposed to the post strikes and explained why they are justified and necessary. I’m outraged by the attempts to close down and sell off the post offices – they’re a public service and not just there to make profit.
Helen Blomfield, Canterbury school student
Manchester students back twinning scheme
Manchester university students union won a victory last week against attempts to prevent us from twinning with Al Najah university in Nablus, Palestine.
The right wing in the union put forward a motion that sought to smear Al Najah students as supporters of terrorism.
But Manchester students saw through these lies and realised that this was a negative motion aimed at breaking our twinning policy, demonising Palestinians and silencing any criticism of Israeli atrocities on campus.
At the best attended student union general meeting since the 1990s, Palestinian activists put the case against the right wing motion and for their amendment.
More than 1,100 students turned out to deliver a massive majority in favour of the pro?Palestinian amendment (634 for, 372 against, 13 abstentions) and subsequently in favour of the amended motion (531 for, 210 against, 17 abstentions).
This proves that support for our twinning agreement with Al Najah is overwhelming. The campaign to defend it politicised our campus and demonstrated how the sometimes complex arguments about Palestine can be part of a mass campaign for justice and freedom.
The vote also showed how students reject notions that Palestinians are somehow terrorists or fanatics for standing up to the brutal Israeli occupation.
Andrew Cunningham, Manchester university students union campaigns officer
Postal workers can vote no and fight on
I cannot agree more with the article by CWU union rep Tam Dewar (» Vote to reject the deal, 17 November). He has my wholehearted support in voting no to the deal being offered to postal workers.
The leaders of the CWU ought to hang their heads in shame if they really wished to have us accept this apology for a deal. I say get them out, and the sooner the better.
What makes me really angry is that the ballot result won’t be published until the end of this month. If we do win a no, this barely gives us time to use Christmas as a lever for a better deal.
Our leaders buckled just when as we had got into our stride. What kind of pressure made them do that?
The strikes were having a major effect on industry. Something like £200 million was reported as having been lost to the British economy.
If that was the case, surely we should have moved to continuous action. I simply do not believe that our great union’s lawyers had got their wording wrong – what do we employ them for?
We should vote no, throw out this deal, go back to our picket lines and remain strong – and we will win.
William Marshall, Ardrossan, Ayrshire
The right sort of dictatorship
Imagine if Saddam Hussein or Iran’s rulers had sacked judges in their country and sent in police to beat them up.
Imagine then that our government sold them our finest weapons and secretly paid nearly £1 billion in bribes to get the contract.
Then imagine our government inviting those leaders over on a red carpet state visit to meet the queen.
But of course this is not Iraq or Iran – it is Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, countries that are run by friendly pro?Western dictators – and that makes it OK!
Mark Holt, Chair, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition
Bhutto won’t save Pakistan
Your editorial attacking former Pakistani president Benazir Bhutto for her support for the “war on terror” (» Democracy in Pakistan will not come from Benazir Bhutto, 17 November) was absolutely correct.
Most of the Western media has bought the idea that Bhutto sits at the head of Pakistan’s democracy movement.
She does not. Bhutto seeks only to use the movement to secure herself another shot at the presidency.
She fears that a genuine mass movement for democracy would sweep away not just the generals, but all the other corrupt politicians, herself included.
When she was president, Bhutto presided over policies that gave to the wealthy and stole from the poor, just as her father did when he was in power.
Those who have bravely fought the army and the police, and all those who have been rounded up into the jails, deserve much better than Bhutto.
Shahnaz Khan, Norwich
The ethics of remembrance
Although I do not question the genuine pain of those left to grieve, I find the establishment-driven nature of red poppy sales hypocritical.
Nobody disputes the importance of remembrance – those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
But every politician that unquestioningly supported the Iraq war wears the red poppy.
The royal family wears unearned medals and glories in the pomp and splendour of the remembrance parades.
The Sunday papers on 11 November were dominated by calls for more money to be spent on the military.
Yet this government subsidises the arms trade, thus ensuring future wars and the maiming and slaughter of generations to come.
Bob Chapman, Canvey Island, Essex
The Levellers’ role in Ireland
In response to Angela O’Leary’s letter (» Letters, 17 November), the Leveller’s 17th century radical democratic vision did in fact extend to Ireland.
Their leaders argued fiercely against imperialism against the Irish, even before Oliver Cromwell’s invasion.
William Walwyn wrote, “The cause of the Irish natives in seeking their just freedoms was the very same with our cause here in endeavouring our own rescue and freedom from the power of oppressors.”
The Levellers failed in their fight against the gentry for control of the army, but their radical vision can still be applauded by socialists.
Dominic Alexander, North London
Genoa 25 face years in jail
Prosecutors in Italy are demanding that 25 people arrested during the protests against the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa receive a total of 225 years in prison.
They face charges under laws introduced by the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
Meanwhile the court cases against police who beat up and abused protesters slowly drag on – with a slap on the wrist the likely outcome.
The centre left prime minister Romano Prodi made an election pledge to hold an official inquiry into police excesses – one he’s now dropped.
Claudia Rosselli, Rome, Italy