A fantastic boost for anti-racists in Hull
Just before the Christmas holidays there was a brilliant Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) event in Hull.
It came on the back of the free CD promotion with the NME music paper. A member of the British National Party (BNP) in Hull wrote to the NME to complain. This led to a letter being sent back signed by over 50 bands and local groups in Hull supporting anti-racism.
There had already been a good LMHR event in the city that attracted some 300 young people. Local bands and an innovative youth project decided to put on a big event at the main venue, Hull City Hall.
This was a full day of music and theatre and attracted considerable interest.
But it was the gig in the evening that saw a sell out crowd of 2,300 mainly young people come and see The Paddingtons, The View and many other groups.
They also heard the anti-racist message of the event – a round up of the celebrations linked to the anti-slavery campaign anniversary.
The LMHR stall at the gig did a roaring trade and many people gave their names to join in the campaign against the BNP. It was a brilliant night and testament to the young people who were the driving force behind it.
The sight of Hull’s main venue packed to the rafters will have demoralised the BNP and it also gave a great boost to all those people who want to oppose racism.
Phil Sanderson, Hull
Drive for profit causes transport chaos
The bosses of Network Rail have blamed the post-Christmas four-day overrun of work on the West Coast Main Line on lack of skilled overhead line staff.
For those of us working on the line this is not news. For years rail unions have been calling for engineering training that has been almost
non-existent for some groups of maintenance workers since the transfer to Network Rail.
Ian Coucher, chief executive of Network Rail, has finally suggested taking more of the work currently done by contractors in-house – which is again something the unions have been calling for for years.
But workers need to retain their existing terms and conditions. The suggestion made by Coucher implies staff being made redundant from their current employers, which would lead to the loss of the very skilled staff we need.
The real cause for the failure at Rugby is the long term effect of privatisation. The rail industry has never recovered from the massive redundancies in the lead-up to privatisation in 1994 and subsequent continuous reorganisations and company transfers.
The inquiry being launched into the failures at Rugby should focus at the top of Network Rail where year on year 5 percent budget cuts have left no money for training of staff.
Dave Barnes, Home Counties
Serbs on Kosovo
Alex Callinicos (» A triumph for the West?, 22 December) rightly exposes the failure of US and EU policy in Kosovo. The primary duty of socialists in the West is to argue that Western imperialism has no answers to the problems of the Balkans.
But what should revolutionary socialists in Serbia say about Kosovo?
Our position is difficult. Nationalist claims to Kosovo play a crucial role in “legitimising” the Serbian ruling class. And the threat from Serbia lies at the root of Kosovan Albanian support for the US, which has plans for a Balkan oil pipeline.
To counter the US, Serbia looks to Russia, which in turn seeks ownership of key Serbian energy resources. As a result a mini-Cold War has broken out over Kosovo.
Nationalism and imperialism are dangerously entangled in Kosovo. This is why Serbian revolutionary socialists have to be both anti-nationalist and anti-imperialist.
Another factor is the emergence of a radical but nationalist group in Kosovo called Self-determination (Vetevendosje). It has mobilised thousands by calling for unconditional independence, an end to colonial rule by the “international community”, plus social reforms for a Kosovo that has the lowest per capita income in Europe. It has been brutally repressed – two members were shot dead by UN police last year and its leader was imprisoned.
We believe that Serbian revolutionary socialists should respect Kosovo’s right to self-determination. By doing so, we draw a clear line between us and our ruling class.
We argue that, by extending an internationalist hand of friendship to the Kosovan Albanians, there is a way of solving our problems without becoming the pawns of imperialism, East and West.
Milos Jadzic, Vladimir Markovic, Matija Medenica, Dragan Plavsic, Milan Radanovic, Vladimir Simovic, Vladimir Unkovski-Korica, Jovana Vukovic, Andreja Zivkovic, Serbia
Inevitable blunders result of privatisation
Last month Pearson Driving Assessments Ltd lost a hard drive holding some three million learner drivers’ details. This follows the loss of the records of 25 million tax payers in the HM Revenue and Customs in November.
In the PCS civil servants’ union, it is our view that the stampede to put work into the private sector will inevitably lead to these types of serious lapses.
The PCS has said that it is now time for the government to call for a root and branch review of government policy.
Privatisation, job losses, office closures and the goal of delivering quality public services simply do not mix.
It is not civil servants or PCS members who lost the data – it is a private company. But the first reaction from the Department of Transport appears to be to remind civil servants of the rules of data protection!
Some press claimed that the loss of the discs in HM Revenue and Customs was the fault of a low paid civil servant. In fact a private company, TNT, lost the discs in transit.
While private companies are allowed to enter into a feeding frenzy of bidding for public services then their only motivation will be profit. That means cutting corners and increases the chances of security lapses happening again.
Paul Williams and Steve Grigor, PCS members, Driving Standards Agency
Housing hypocrisy from Livingstone
London mayor Ken Livingstone has blocked recommendations to impose minimum space standards on developers building homes in London.
Shockingly England and Wales are the only two countries in the EU without such restrictions.
Ken’s London Plan has some very good guidelines – such as stating that a percentage of all homes built should be affordable. But he fails to set out exactly what “affordable” is.
Now Ken has caved in to pressure from the Home Builders Federation, who want the market to decide affordability and space standards.
London is increasingly becoming a playground for the global super rich and Ken wants to keep it that way by making it the world’s number one financial capital city.
No wonder he and Gordon Brown are not serious about housing – instead they believe that if business is taken care of then the rest will follow.
This is why I will be attending the Defend Council Housing lobby of parliament on 22 January to stand up for council housing.
Paul Fredericks, East London
In memory of Ahmed Hassan
Over 5,000 people attended the funeral of Ahmed Hassan, the teenager who was stabbed at Dewsbury railway station in December.
The service was broadcast outside via speakers.
The two teenagers accused of his murder have appeared at court. They will appear again on 17 March and are due to face trial in June.
Ahmed’s family have opened a book of condolence and said they would like to make it a prayer for unity.
The book will be kept at the Pakistan and Kashmir Welfare Association in Manor Way, Batley, West Yorkshire, until the beginning of February.
A memorial football match is also expected to take place at the end of January.
John Appleyard, West Yorkshire
China’s place in the world
John Chen and Michael Liu painted a fascinating picture of workers’ resistance in China (» Resistance and the Chinese boom, 22 December). But there was one important factual mistake.
They write, “After overtaking the US in 2003, the country has been the largest single recipient of foreign direct investment [FDI] in the world.”
It is true that China received more FDI that anywhere else in the world in 2003, but this was because the collapse of the dotcom boom in the US had drastically cut the flows of capital within the advanced capitalist countries.
But by 2004, as the world economy recovered, the US was back in its normal position as the biggest single recipient of FDI. China has now returned to its usual third place in the FDI league table.
The Chinese boom is undoubtedly helping to transform world capitalism but it has yet to change the longstanding reality that the rich countries invest mainly among themselves.
Alex Callinicos, East London
Prison deaths are a disgrace
It is a damning indictment of government policy that suicides in prisons in England and Wales rose by 37 percent last year.
The ministry of justice had the cheek to claim that prison overcrowding gives lonely prisoners “someone to talk to”.
Prison doesn’t work. It’s time to start addressing the real causes of crime – growing inequality and alienation.
Sabiha Ghani, Manchester
Labour owes us a refund
The most ridiculous statement regarding the mire of Labour Party funding was made recently: “The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will consider whether there is strong enough public interest to warrant a case on the evidence available.”
It will do nothing of the sort – it will do as it’s told.
I want to know what happened to our money – the over £180,000 the Electoral Commission gave the Labour Party for staff training on how to implement laws on party donations.
As it was our taxes, we have a right to know how much was used as intended. It was a feeble effort and we should get our money back.
A Williams, Anglesey
Bitter irony for disabled
Thank you for pointing out the plight of disabled people trying to claim disability benefits (» Why are we made to feel like criminals?, 22 December).
I am currently awaiting the result of my claim for disability living allowance. I have to attend regular “back to work” interviews at a job centre in town.
As I can’t walk, I was told that I could get a taxi there and claim back the expenses.
The irony is that it is accepted that I can’t walk yet I’m still being forced to look for work. It is shameful that this is happening under a Labour government.
Jackie Bolson, Sheffield