Can we beat the Nazis by debating with them?
Anindya Bhattacharyya’s article (» Why there must be no free speech for Nazis, 8 December) did a good job discussing the specific threat of fascism. However, there is an aspect of the no platform issue that leads to confusion, sometimes on our side, that needs discussing.
Who are we asking to enforce the no platform position? Our opponents, including some on the left, often accuse us of demanding that the state “ban” this or that, and that trustingly handing such power to the government is a bad idea.
However, the best no platform position is not a request to the state to “ban” anything – it is not addressed to the state at all, but is an appeal for solidarity among workers, students, communities, to build a movement from below to stop fascists.
It is in fact our opponents, not us, who should be on the defensive about the state. Where we successfully mobilise to close down a Nazi rally, do they support our community activism, or insist that the police break our lines to let the Nazis have their “free speech”?
In 2001, many postal workers refused to deliver BNP election leaflets. We celebrated that grassroots action.
To be consistent, those opposed to no platform would deliver the leaflets themselves, or perhaps send the police to arrest workers who, magnificently, wouldn’t sully their hands with them.
China Miéville, North London
Some people argue that to defeat the Nazis you debate and humiliate them.
But I don’t think I particularly want to have a debate around whether I would prefer a petrol bomb through my window or perhaps shit through my letter box, or whether I would prefer a punch or a kick in the face.
The battle of Cable Street in the East End of London that defeated fascist Edward Mosley and his black shirts in the 1930s was not won through a debating session with them.
It was through a combination of giving them no platform on the streets and fighting over real issues like health, education and poor housing.
Salman Mirza, Birmingham
Trade unionists have a history of opposing fascism for the simple reason that no fascist state has allowed independent trade unions, and trade unionists have been murdered to ensure this.
When the Oxford Union invited Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak, Oxford trade unionists joined with others to launch a wave of protest.
They included five Oxfordshire Unison union branches, and the PCS and CWU unions. The Oxford and District Trades Council supported a statement launched by Unite Against Fascism calling for the invitation to be withdrawn and gave £500 towards the campaign.
A new generation of anti-racists and anti-fascists was born at the protest.
Ian McKendrick, Oxford
Good deal for CWU?
The example of the victimisation of 12 post workers at Burslem Delivery Office in the Stoke area highlights the major fault in the deal that we, as the CWU, have just accepted.
In any industrial dispute it is essential to have a return to work agreement – including no victimisations.
The fact that we are open to such attacks questions the validity of any claims of victory. If the deal has any value then it is paramount that we can defend it and ensure that it is acted on. How do we do this when we are suspended or sacked?
Burslem is not even the exception – it is happening all over the country.
In Oxford not only are we fighting against individual victimisations but also the vindictive attack on our mail centre, which is threatened with closure. A mail centre, which at the time of the announcement was one of the best performing in the country.
This was a direct attack on the union during the dispute. This should have all been settled nationally before the deal was ever recommended to the membership.
The magnificent solidarity shown by our membership throughout the dispute should not be allowed to be tarnished by these attacks.
Paul Garraway, South Central No 1, CWU (pc)
A crisis at the heart of New Labour
Does anyone remember the phrase from “phoney Tony” Blair, “we must not just be whiter than white, we must also be seen to be whiter than white”? Looks to me like New Labour have failed on both counts.
Following the proxy donations from David Abrahams totalling £650,000, we are now faced with Wendy Alexander, Labour leader in Scotland, accepting donations from someone ineligible to do so.
However, in my view the most important issue here is not the fact that illegal donations were accepted, important as that is.
It is the fact that the “Labour” party, a political organisation supposedly representing the working man, sees fit to solicit donations from property tycoons and tax exiles.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, we only give money to political organisations that we think will benefit ourselves or those we identify with. Are we really supposed to believe that either of these individuals identify with the working class or the oppressed of this country?
This whole affair just goes to prove – alongside issues such as student fees, public sector wage freezes and public service privatisation – that New Labour no longer represents everyday people. It has become another party of the establishment.
As a railway worker and self-proclaimed “ordinary bloke” I used to be a Labour supporter – till 1998 when I realised I wouldn’t be able to afford to send my own kids to university thanks to “New” Labour.
Labour no longer represents the workers – only Respect does this in its support of the posties strike and its opposition to public sector privatisation, and I will be supporting them wholeheartedly. I only wish I had £650,000 to give to them!
Dan Allen, Herne Bay, Kent
Wrong on Chavez?
The tone of the piece » Is it all over for Hugo Chavez? (8 December) does not do justice to the analysis writer Mike Gonzalez himself has developed.
With the growing threat of the opposition the vote against is a setback for us all. The movement still relies on the strength of Chavez.
While the defeat could only be inflicted because of the contradictions in Chavismo we must remember our slogan “With Chavez but beyond Chavez.”
Josie Ward, Telford
Memories of Kelly
I was very sad to hear about the death of Kelly MacDermott, more so because I can’t be at his funeral for what I’m sure will be a great celebration of his life.
I first met Kelly in 1985 in Hyde Park, when we were arrested together on a huge demonstration in support of the miners’ strike.
Long after the strike had ended, and our fines were paid off, we would still greet each other with clenched fists and the shout of “Free The Hyde Park Two!”
I can’t think of a nicer bloke to get arrested with.
Clive Hopkins, Sydney, Australia
Real vision of the SNP
Billionaire property developer Donald Trump wants to build a £1 billion golf resort on unspoilt countryside and beach in Aberdeenshire.
His proposal was rejected by the democratically elected local councillors, including two from the Scottish National Party (SNP).
But Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP who had dinner with Trump last month in New York, has now intervened to ignore this vote to take the matter into his own hands.
SNP economic policy is beholden to the view that big business has to get its way.
What this shows more than anything is how flimsy our “democracy” really is.
Joe Hartney, Edinburgh
Don’t support Mugabe
In response to Kenny Matimba (» Letters, 8 December), we should have no illusions in the likes of Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe may have put up a challenge to the colonialists.
But that doesn’t change the fact that he is a brutal dictator.
People on the left should give no support to people like Mugabe – he stands in the way of any real transformation of society.
David Kangwena, South east London
Profit priority in Bangladesh
I am writing to you regarding the devastating cyclone in Bangladesh.
Many nations and charities have provided aid and raised money.
This will be very welcome but what needs to be done is to plan for these events in the future.
Various NGOs have been relentlessly pursuing people for loan repayments in the wake of the disaster.
Pressure from developed nations would give assistance to these powerless people.
Jahedur Rahman, North London
Scandal of empty houses
There are 3,569 empty homes in the London borough of Westminster and 3,160 in neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea.
There are 5,500 people on Westminster’s waiting list for a home.
Surely these empty properties should be taken over by the councils to rehouse people in need.
Carmela Ozzi, Central London
Don’t burn our books
Waltham Forest council has spent £3 million refurbishing the central library. It includes three fish tanks at £8,000 each but surprisingly few books – because the council has burned thousands of them.
A campaign was started by residents over the closure of their local library, St James Street, in a deprived part of the borough.
It found that there are 60 percent less books available for borrowing than two years ago.
The council has now admitted sending them to be destroyed.
All this by a Labour council, at a time when concerns about literacy is at an all time high.
Siobhan Hawthorne, St James Street Library campaign
Hypocrisy on education
I am an Open University (OU) student and was upset to find that the government wants to reduce the OU’s teaching grant by not funding students who have a degree.
This represents a large section of OU students, who take the opportunity to study for a change of career.
It comes at a time when many graduates are finding that their first degree is not leading to a decent job.
New Labour talks of a commitment to life-long learning – but this policy runs in total opposition to this.
To sign the online petition, go to: petitions.pm.gov.uk/ELQFunding/
Alex Platt, Leeds