Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2090

Stop Labour’s racist attacks on migrants

Gordon Brown’s plans to make migrants “earn” their right to British citizenship are not only hypocritical and racist to the core – they threaten all working people, whether they were born in Britain or not.

Immigration minister Liam Byrne claims consultations show British people want newcomers to “pay their taxes like the rest of us”.

Why then did the government retreat in the face of business pressure from making millionaire “non-doms” do precisely that?

Why do they resist any attempt to make the rich pay their way?

Migrants who are likely to make more use of public services will be made to pay more to apply for citizenship.

However, those likely to make less use of them – the majority, since they tend to be young and healthy – will not have their contributions reduced. And why stop at migrants? If level of public service use is to be used as a criteria for setting fees, then why not use it to determine contributions from people already living in Britain?

If migrants have to demonstrate their willingness to “integrate” by working or doing voluntary work, how long before the long-term unemployed are treated in the same way?

Byrne says his consultations show that Britain is not “a nation of Alf Garnetts”, but this is exactly what the government thinks of us.

First we have a racist and xenophobic media playing on people’s ignorance and despair to create a storm of hatred and suspicion.

Then the government finds it convenient to “listen” to the people on this issue, in a way it never did over, say, the war in Iraq or the renationalisation of the railways.

We can best answer this by defending the rights of migrants and by supporting, not non-existent “British” values, but the international values of solidarity and anti-racism.

Neil Davidson, West Calder, Scotland

Wider inspiration of Egypt strikes

I was thrilled by your front page article on the Egyptian strikes (» Strikes shake US ally, 23 February).

The British media hide foreign strike waves and demonstrations, however large and important they may be, even more than they hide British working class news.

Some of the enterprises on strike have been at the forefront of working class struggle for decades. When I went to the Middle East over 60 years ago the Mahalla textile workers and a big engineering firm, among other enterprises, had been on all-out strike for some time.

The huge repercussions of these strikes are bound to influence political developments, in the first instance in further threatening the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Beyond that, freedom for the Palestinians is a demand held dear by all Arab workers.

If the strikers included this in their demands, it might force the government to do something more practical to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice.

Chanie Rosenberg, East London

Robeson’s unrealised ambition

Your review of 1930s films starring Paul Robeson was right to highlight their contradictory nature (» Flawed attempts to bring black pride to the screen, 23 February).

Sanders of the River, for example, was made as a propaganda film for the British Empire by Alexander Korda, an Anglophile Hungarian who had links to the Conservative Party Film Association.

Robeson’s feeling of betrayal at being used in such films, coupled with his radicalisation during the 1930s, helps explain why he agreed to star in CLR James’s anti-imperialist play about the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint L’Ouverture – the story of the only successful slave revolt in history.

This 1936 production in London was the first time black professional actors such as Robeson had starred on the British stage in a play written by a black playwright.

Robeson tried and failed to interest Hollywood in turning Toussaint L’Ouverture into a film.

Sergei Eisenstein also failed to interest Hollywood in such a film during the early 1930s.

The US was militarily occupying Haiti itself at the time.

By 1936, back in Stalinist Russia, it seems Eisenstein hoped to make a film that was less about the heroic revolutionary leader Toussaint and more about the later degeneration of the Haitian Revolution under Henri Christophe.

Eisenstein’s proposed film about the rise of a tyrant to power on the back of a great popular revolution was not to the liking of the Stalinist bureaucracy, which killed the idea.

It seems that there are some world-historical events that those in power quite simply just do not want made into films.

It is to be hoped that Danny Glover’s planned film Toussaint (starring Don Cheadle and financially supported by Hugo Chavez) will succeed where Eisenstein and Robeson failed, and finally ensure that the Haitian Revolution makes it onto the big screen.

Christian Hogsbjerg, Leeds

Betrayed by hypocrisy of New Labour rulers

As an ex-soldier discharged in January 2006, I have seen first hand the hypocrisy of the Labour government that we all had such high hopes for.

Before joining the army I was a postman and member of the CWU union for four years. My old man was a postman for over 30 years and chair of the Preston branch of the union.

When I first got out of the army my wife and I were expecting the birth of our first child. Having served less than three years I was not entitled to any payout and had to go cap in hand to the British Legion to set us up with a home and furniture.

I then looked up my local MP who was a Lib Dem for Oxford and enquired about social housing. He told me I could afford housing so didn’t have a problem.

This just confirmed my belief that all politicians are far removed from the people that vote them in. To think that I was willing to risk life and limb for this country – only to be failed by the people that run it.

I used to think how great it was having the option to join a union but I now think it’s irrelevant. When I was a postman we had solidarity – a right which is all but given up.

So what now for a left wing dinosaur at the tender age of 28?

What now for people like me who believe in democracy and social justice? A distant shout of “power to the people” or “Revolution” might seem apt.

Alex Rowland, Preston

Essex students sweep away right

Last week, at the University of Essex, the left won an historic battle, sweeping away years of bureaucracy and careerism.

The Viva Essex slate, made up of left activists, won four out of the five sabbatical positions in a student union which has been controlled by the right for a decade.

This year a group of students proposed an alternative to the status quo and, using the slogan “Another Union is Possible”, showed that there is a more radical form of unionism.

Nationally we are seeing an increase in left activists winning student union elections. This is only possible thanks to a resurgence in student activism at a grassroots level – a resurgence born on 15 February 2003 when two million people marched against the war in Iraq.

There was some disappointment as I lost out on winning the presidency by only 30 votes.

However, our result showed that students want activist based unions which are open to all students. Where a radical, organised left alternative is posed, victories will be made.

Dominic Kavakeb, University of Essex

Who will fight single status?

I don’t agree that strike action is likely to beat single status (» Strike action can beat single status, 16 February).

I am a refuse collector who is also losing money through the deal. No MP, MSP, or councillor has stood up for the council workers losing money.

Indeed in Angus the Unison union bigwigs were first to sign up to the deal. The GMB union has not said anything.

They all say they “haven’t agreed to anything” but they aren’t shouting from the roof tops or threatening strike action.

Having seen the questions for the legal appeal, it is clear that very, very few people are going to win it.

Malcolm Nichol, Forfar, Angus

Victory over arts cuts

Readers may have heard that the Arts Council was forced to backtrack in many of the cases where it had cut organisations’ funding. 

In the Norfolk area, they reinstated funds for local theatre company Eastern Angles.

Creative Arts East had their funding cut. They still plan to continue but may make job cuts and have raised the price of their equipment and film hire.   

Nevertheless it is a victory that so many arts organisations were reprieved. I am sure it is because there was an immediate reaction from so many people.

Jackie Mulhallen, Norfolk

We’ll reclaim the game

“The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life,” said former Liverpool football club manager Bill Shankly.

So read the press release of the “Sons of Shankly” a group of Liverpool supporters who have set up a campaign to kick out the US tycoons who own Liverpool FC.

Fans are angry with the new owners and are organising protests and a boycott of club merchandise.

They also aim to set up a “subscription based trade union style movement”.

Together with other groups in Liverpool (see and earlier initiatives, maybe we are starting to see beginnings of a grassroots rebellion against the commercialisation of football?

Kevin Dudley, Upton, Merseyside

Football is a waste of time

I suppose we should admire campaigners like Kris Stewart (» Can we have our ball back please?, 23 February) who are trying to rescue football from corporate control.

But I can’t help feeling he’s wasting his time.

Aren’t all the major clubs already in the hands of big business – and the merchandise and advertising industries?

Players are also increasingly part of celebrity culture – an alienated way to relate to other human beings.

Football is global big business. Enjoy it if you can, but short of a revolution, I don’t think that it is going to be the “people’s game”.

Olga Fox, Grimsby

Stop attacks on Chambers

I’ve been disgusted with the hysterical reaction to athlete Dwain Chambers’ automatic selection for this month’s world indoor championships.

Certain individuals have been foaming at the mouth with outrage at this “drug monster” having the audacity to win the selection race.

Dwain Chambers didn’t murder anyone. He didn’t harm anyone except perhaps himself. He cheated by using drugs. He broke the rules and was punished.

One of his mistakes was to admit it. Plenty of athletes just keep claiming they’ve never taken drugs and the media seems to treat them accordingly.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

Rodney de Gale, South London

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Article information

Tue 26 Feb 2008, 18:57 GMT
Issue No. 2090
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