Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2096

Councillor Oliur Rahman (right) at last month

Councillor Oliur Rahman (right) at last month's Cairo Conference (Pic: Anna Livingstone)

Councillor Oliur Rahman stopped by terror cop

I was stopped and questioned by a Special Branch officer at Heathrow airport on Wednesday of last week after I returned to London from Cairo, Egypt.

The officer sat me down on a bench and asked me questions.

I asked him why I had been selected for interview, and he told me he had a right to detain me under the Terrorism Act.

I told him that the main purpose of my visit to Cairo was for a holiday, and that I had attended the Cairo Conference that was taking place against the war while I was there.

He took my passport and my councillor's identity card. He ran checks, came back and asked me what sessions I went to at the Cairo Conference.

He then said that I was free to go and that I shouldn't be offended by this random stop. But I was the only person stopped out of 200 people on my flight. I believe this was because of my background.

I have a record of opposing terrorism and calling for Muslims frustrated by injustice to get involved in politics to change things. I was stopped despite this.

I was shaken up by the questioning, despite knowing I would have support from trade unionists and others. But what about people who are stopped who don't have that support?

This experience won't stop me fighting for what I believe in.

Councillor Oliur Rahman,
Left List candidate for the London assembly

Bertie Ahern: our part in his downfall

The shock resignation last week of Ireland's prime minister Bertie Ahern has a definite hint of someone jumping before they were pushed. In recent months his legendary Teflon coating lost its non-stick quality.

Weeks of revelations of more money 'passing through' or 'resting' in his 'personal political accounts' meant his end was inevitable. The final straw came when his secretary undermined Ahern's entire evidence before a public tribunal set up to investigate corruption.

The scandal surrounding Ahern's corrupt payments was first exclusively exposed in Ireland's Socialist Worker in 1999.Ahern was a prime minister who looked after the interests of the rich in Ireland – with tax amnesties and low taxes on profits.

His legacy is an era when wealth was transferred from Ireland's workers to the rich. Public services were under-resourced in order to push through privatisation. Ireland became a tax haven.

Ahern's party Fianna Fail (FF) wants to paint his legacy as that of peacemaker. But the settlement in Northern Ireland was achieved as a result of a massive popular mood and mobilisation for an end to war.

It was also achieved as a result of a change in strategy on the part of the Republican movement.

The settlement has done nothing to remove the sectarian basis of politics in Northern Ireland. In fact it has copper-fastened it.

Far from being a peacemaker, Ahern was a consistent supporter of war. He backed George Bush and his war in Iraq. Over one million US troops have passed through Shannon airport on their way to Iraq. Ahern's government refused to investigate CIA kidnappings and torture flights through Shannon.

With or without Ahern, FF remains the party of the rich. The Greens and Labour betrayed the interests of workers by going into government with Ahern and FF. In Ireland we need a left that breaks with coalition politics, and articulates and organises for the rights of workers.

Donal Mac Fhearraigh, editor, Socialist Worker, Ireland

A tribute to Steve Sinnott

Steve Sinnott became the general secretary of the NUT teachers' union in 2004 and has tragically died at the age of 56 on the eve of the union's first national strike for more than 20 years.

Steve was never associated with the left of the union, but he was always a committed trade union activist.

He was a passionate opponent of social inequality, racism and homophobia and took great pleasure in using his position as general secretary to advance work in all these areas.

He was outraged at the racist murder of Anthony Walker in his home town of Liverpool and worked with Anthony's mother to set up an annual memorial lecture as a contribution to the fight against racism.

He worked with Gus John and a panel of black youngsters to develop a charter for the education of black boys that the NUT is promoting.

He became a strong advocate of a political fund to allow the union to directly oppose the British National Party (BNP) and the success of our ballot for a political fund is a tribute to him.

Steve was a passionate supporter of educational opportunities for working class children and a defender of the comprehensive ideal of good local schools for all.

He spoke on anti-academies platforms the length and breadth of the country and gave direct union support to campaigning work on the issue.

But it is around the pay dispute that activists have the most reason to be thankful to Steve.

He was willing to work with all within the union to move the pay fight forward and was robust and persuasive in organising for action when some were less certain.

The best tribute – and the one that Steve would wish for – is a huge turnout on the strike day on 24 April and a united movement in the union to win the dispute.

Steve leaves behind his wife Mary, two children and two grandchildren. Our heartfelt sympathy goes to them.

Kevin Courtney and Alex Kenny, NUT executive

Stop the War made the difference for me

I have heard people ask whether the Stop the War Coalition made any difference, as the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan went ahead and the occupations of those countries continue.

Well, I first voted Tory in 1992 then converted to New Labour, which was quite easy. I supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but was completely shellshocked by two things – the size of the anti-war demonstration just prior to the invasion and the weapons of mass destruction not showing up.

These acted as a catalyst and I started to question more things. Not only did I come to realise that the war had been based on a pack of lies, but that capitalist greed was the cause of it.

This in turn led me to question everything else, including my politics and why things are as they are. I began to see that only by fighting capitalism can we make a difference.

But the most important thing is that, had the Stop the War Coalition not been so vocal right from the beginning and kept up the pressure, then I may not have taken notice and started questioning things.

I feel enormous gratitude to the coalition and all those who persevered with the campaign. Because of that I am now an organised socialist. I feel free and all the better for it.

Simon O'Connor, Bedford

Survey shows level of homophobia

A survey by YouGov for the Stonewall gay rights group has shown the huge level of discrimination lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people continue to face in Britain.

The survey of 1,658 LGBT people has found that despite recent legislative changes on civil rights partnerships and other measures, the majority of them believe they will be discriminated against when they access public services.

People were asked about their experiences and expectations of discrimination at work, in education, politics, the criminal justice system, housing and healthcare.

The survey found nine in ten expect barriers to becoming foster parents, and one in four expect to be treated worse by police if they are victims of hate crimes.

Nearly one in five people reveal that they are still bullied at work for being gay. Three in five still think that they would face barriers if they wanted to be a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party. This rises to 90 percent for the Conservatives.

The survey shows how deeply rooted homophobia is and how far we still have to go for real liberation.

Jean McCutcheon, Durham

Who is stoking the civil war?

In a war based on lies the latest lie is that somehow the West is in Iraq as some sort of honest broker between warring factions. The truth is the opposite.

Everything that happens in Iraq is the responsibility of the West. Our illegal, immoral war broke the bonds that held Iraqi society together and for the first time in the country's history, Shia, Sunni and Kurds are killing each other.

Meanwhile in southern Iraq the British knowingly recruited sectarian militias and gave them influence in the police, which led to a situation of Shia killing Shia while the British army whistles at Basra airport. So exactly who has stoked a civil war?

Mark Holt, chair, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition

Get rid of the whole system

It's not just Tesco (» Letters, 29 March) that we have to get rid of if we are to have a future – but capitalism too.

A lobby that boycotts Tesco will not have much effect. Many people can't afford to shop elsewhere and swathes of people die every day because they can't afford to buy what they need.

Being angry at one aspect of capitalism can be a starting point, but socialists need to make sure that camapigns put things like Tesco in context – as part of a wider system.

Heather Falconer, Swansea

Don't make schools worse

I read the NUT teachers' union conference reports (» Teachers debate future of education, 29 March) with interest.

In the article about classroom behaviour, it mentions that British students are the unhappiest in the world. But students in some US states where corporal punishment is still permitted are a lot unhappier than ours.

I understand that a future Tory government wishes to reinstate corporal punishment within schools and no doubt the Tories with the red rosettes would back them to the hilt.

Do we really want an addition to our already diabolical education system? For more information go to » and »

Nick Rowland, Hastings

Lords leaping to conclusions

With mainstream politicians obsessed with foreigners and crime, the House of Lords report on the economics of immigration (» Tories and Labour attack migrants in House of Lords report, 5 April) is hardly surprising. Equally unsurprising is the committee's make up.

There are two former CBI bosses (Lords Turner and Vallance), an Enron director (Wakeham), the president of the Marylebone Cricket Club (Griffiths), former head of the Bank of England (Kingsdown), a hedge fund director and former Tory chancellor (Lamont), an Old Etonan Blairite (Layard), one of the country's richest men (Paul) and Lord Skidelsky who started off with Labour, moved to the SDP and then joined the Tories.

Former minister Lord Sheldon is also part of the team. What a shower. And what a load of xenophobic rubbish too.

Terry James, Cardiff

Sick treated like criminals

New labour's welfare policies are a vicious attack on the most vulnerable members of our society and a kick in the teeth for all those caring for disabled and sick, as they also imply that they are cheating too.

I am unable to work because of ill health and am claiming incapacity benefit. I, and more like me, have worked for over 30 years and find that now, as we are sick, we are treated like criminals. Does this government believe that we should all work till we drop dead?

Harry Latham, Stafford

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Article information

Tue 8 Apr 2008, 19:57 BST
Issue No. 2096
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