Did China free Tibet?
The most patronising argument used to defend China’s crackdown on Tibetan protests is that Chinese rule has benefited and developed Tibet. Some on the left even argue that Chinese domination liberates Tibetan women. The argument is all too familiar – the Russians, the US and Britain said the same thing about liberating women in Afghanistan.
The idea that Tibetan culture is under-developed or “backward”, and that a “socialist” China brings progress, is a nationalist lie.
Tibetan women played a significant and active role in political movements, such as the uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
They were part of the movement for the independence of Tibet. Today, women and men have been left behind by the train of capitalist development in China, where Tibet’s local needs are neglected and its interests marginalised.
People witness environmental degradation, increasing poverty, economic disparity between rural and urban areas, the lowest education level in China (due to lack of resources), and privatised healthcare that working class Tibetans cannot afford. Tibetans face routine discrimination, based on their ethnicity, in employment and life.
Nationalism is the only thing that the Chinese ruling class can resort to in order to legitimise its repression against Tibetans.
Let’s not forget that the Chinese ruling class doesn’t only have a problem with Tibetan protesters. It also tries to keep its own Han Chinese people quiet – such as the migrant workers in Beijing who are suffering from appalling working conditions building the Olympics sites, and protesters, strikers and dissidents fighting all over the country.
Socialists should challenge nationalism among the Chinese working class and argue for unity between Chinese and Tibetan working class people.
Hsiao-Hung Pai, East London
I was shocked to see the response of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s radical president, to the protests in Tibet. He said, “The US imperialists want to divide China. And they’re causing problems there in Tibet. They’re trying to sabotage the Olympics in Beijing, and behind that is the hand of imperialism.
“You see the images of the violence in Tibet. Who is that against? Against China. It’s the US empire that wants to weaken China, because China is rising up.”
I was very disappointed to see Chavez, who has made his name as a champion of global resistance, implicitly supporting the repression of a downtrodden people, and saying their protests have been stirred up by the US.
He seems to be putting his relationship with China’s rulers, who, though not as bad as the US’s leaders, want to exploit and dominate in their own region, above his support for those who fight back.
Katherine Branney, East London
Military vote will help me
The NUT teachers’ union was right to agree at their conference in Manchester last week to oppose military recruitment campaigns in schools.
Educational materials produced recently for use in schools by the Ministry of Defence portray the British army as an upholder of human rights engaged in building hospitals and schools in Iraq.
It is doing neither. Human rights have deteriorated since the invasion – there is less food, electricity and water, four million have fled their homes, and the health system is collapsing.
Army materials omit any reference to these facts. They forget the million Iraqis who have died, the 4,000 US soldiers killed, and those British forces killed, maimed, or with mental health problems.
To explain all this is not to be anti-army. Many teachers at last week’s conference heard a speech from Rose Gentle. Her son Gordon was killed in Iraq at the age of 19.
As a teacher I am proud that my union stands side by side with people like Rose and Military Families Against the War.
As a teacher of careers in secondary schools I now have the backing of my union to oppose military recruitment in schools and to support students and parents who choose not to take part in events organised by the military.
My union is in line with the majority of people in Britain who want a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, and oppose any attack on Iran.
Young people will decide their own future and choose their own career paths. Their choices should be based upon facts – advice given by teachers and careers advisers should be balanced and honest.
Evidence from the anti-war protests suggest that the Stop the War Coalition has been more successful at recruiting today’s youth than the Ministry of Defence. Young people today are right to choose peace not war.
Mark Krantz, Convener Greater Manchester Stop The War Coalition
Memories of struggle
I knew Pete Glatter (» Obituary, 29 March) for nearly 40 years. In 1975 I travelled, as interpreter, with Pete to Belgium to meet a group of rank and file bus workers.
For most of the journey Pete and another young bus worker, Les Kay, regaled us with stories of their clashes with employers and union officials.
What I remember from those days, when a miners’ strike had just overthrown a Tory government, was the enormous self-confidence – the sense that workers could and should run the world.
Through 30 years of setbacks and defeats, Pete never lost his confidence in the working class. Pete’s excellent articles on the bus workers’ rank and file movement of the 1930s and on the future of higher education are available at » www.marxists.org
Ian Birchall, North London
Pete Glatter was instrumental in recruiting me to the International Socialists [forerunner of the SWP] when I was at Kingston Polytechnic in the late 1960s. Students held a meeting because the education authority had not handed over the cheque for the student union.
Opinion was divided between those who wanted an immediate sit-in and occupation and those such as Jack Straw, the NUS president, who urged students instead to write to our MP. Pete gave everyone a lesson in tactics.
He suggested that we vote in favour of both motions, which we did, much to Straw’s annoyance.
Penny Krantz, Manchester
Shining the light on Mafia’s power
A ray of hope recently emerged during the Italian election campaign in a protest in the southern city of Bari. The two main coalitions have been saying more or less the same things in the election campaign.
Meanwhile the Rainbow Left coalition, made up of Communist Refoundation, the Greens, and two other left groupings is promising to do the things they didn’t do during the last two years when they were in government.
Recently 100,000 people marched in Bari, about an issue most parties tend to ignore in detail – the dominance of organised crime in a third of the country.
It is calculated that organised crime has an annual turnover of 80 billion euros.
Sadly, it looks like the centre-left will be defeated by the sleazy, right wing politician Silvio Berlusconi.
One man likely to be elected is Salvatore Cuffaro, who was governor of Sicily until he resigned two months ago after being convicted of aiding and abetting the Mafia.
The left needs to offer far more radical policies to shift people away from supporting candidates out of fear, cynicism or demoralisation.
Tom Behan, Whitstable, Kent
NUT’s pro-choice vote
The NUT teachers’ union conference last week took the historic decision to defend abortion rights, which are under attack.
Anti-choice MPs plan amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to make abortion more difficult.
In the past the NUT leadership opposed moves to commit the union to support a woman’s right to choose, arguing this would alienate sections of the membership.
But this year, a motion opposing the attacks and to affiliate to the Abortion Rights campaign was overwhelmingly supported.
Teachers recognised that the fight for abortion rights is a working class issue. Every union should affiliate to ensure that the anti-abortionists are driven back.
Fran Postlethwaite, Barnsley
Kick in teeth for Mumia
A US federal appeals court last week refused to overturn the conviction of imprisoned former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal and rejected his call for a new trial.
However, the ruling also said Mumia, who has been on death row for 26 years, deserves a new sentencing hearing because of flawed jury instructions. If he is resentenced he will face either death or life in prison without parole.
He was wrongly convicted for killing a police officer after a trial before a predominantly white jury. Send letters to Mumia Abu-Jamal, AM 8335, SCI Greene, 175 Progress Drive, Waynesburg, US, PA 15370.
Marie Hutton, Luton
Death of a good socialist
Rowland Sheret died on 30 March in Stirling. Rowland first became politically active as a member of the International Marxist Group and the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign in the late 1960s.
He has been a central figure in many campaigns in the Stirling area. For years he was chair of the Stirling Trades Council, and helped set up the Stirling branch of the Chile Solidarity Campaign.
He also chaired the Stirling, Falkirk and Alloa Miners Support Group during the 1984-5 Miners’ Strike.
Recently, despite illness, he was involved in organising opposition to the war on Iraq and was a key activist in the housing campaign in the Stirling area.
For information on Rowland’s funeral phone 01786 470511.
Bill Munro, Stirling
It can be right to back Tesco
I was interested to read about some of your supporters’ anti-Tesco campaign(»Cambridge campaign stops new Tesco store, 15 March).
As a Plaid Cymru candidate for Castle Ward in Swansea, I have taken a leading role in campaigning to keep Tesco at its Oystermouth Road site while the city centre is being redeveloped.
Plaid Cymru believes that it is important to keep supermarket facilities in the area to provide cheap food for disadvantaged residents.
I do not see a contradiction between this point of view and Plaid’s support for farmers who supply Tesco being paid a fair price for their produce.
There is no problem in defending Tesco in Swansea because it offers affordable food to thousands of people living in the area, including Castle ward, which is one of the most deprived wards in Wales.
Rhys Jones, Swansea
Aldermaston can be used
Anti-war campaigners met at Aldermaston in Berkshire on 24 March to demand the nuclear research centre be shut (» CND anniversary protest at Aldermaston , 29 March).
I think it would be better to put it to use decommissioning nuclear warheads rather than close it.
Someone’s got to do it if we want a nuclear-free world.
Daniel Viesnik, by email