Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2098

Immigrants have helped to build Britain, including these Ugandan Asians, who arrived in 1972

Immigrants have helped to build Britain, including these Ugandan Asians, who arrived in 1972

Our history of migration

I was a London docker in 1968 when Enoch Powell made his “Rivers of Blood” speech (» Enoch Powell and racism, 19 April) and I remember the arguments. His words created a horrible atmosphere at work, especially for black dockers.

Powell was a professor of ancient Greek history, yet he understood nothing of how human society develops. He was a demagogue whose main appeal was to the basest instincts of the most ignorant people of all classes.

Displacement features large in human history. In the beginning there was no private land and no national boundaries. All cultures interact, fuse and develop dynamically, and ours is no exception. As well as importing peoples and their cultures, Britain has also exported them on a grand scale to Australia, Canada, South Africa and the US.

We are constantly being told we live in a globalised economy. If capital flows and newly developed countries prosper, then as night follows day people will be attracted there to find jobs.

When Britain and the US bomb and strafe countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, people flee the dangers and seek out places to sink new roots.

If we are to escape the anarchy of market capitalism, with all its wars and turbulence, our job as socialists is to bring these facts to the attention of the working class.

We can also offer a picture of a differently organised world – a world where peoples can grow and cooperate instead of competing with each other, a world without the exploitation of the working class by private profit. For this to happen our class has to fulfil its historic mission to overthrow the power of their class.

Eddie Prevost, East London
Eddie describes his political experiences on the docks in 1968 in next month’s Socialist Review

Liverpool and the culture of capital

It pains me to see what is going on in Liverpool at the moment under the guise of the “European Capital of Culture 2008”. The guts of the city are being ripped out in order to put oversize department stores everywhere you look.

A great city is being turned into a Disneyland of high street shops. Their owners must be salivating at the very thought of removing the hard earned cash from people’s pockets.

This is all the more annoying when you read of the amount of people who are already in debt. Just last week Socialist Worker noted that the amount of credit card debt for households in Britain stands at £225 billion.

And what about people on benefits? How will they be able to get involved in the cultural highlights of the city? Have you seen the ticket prices for some of the events planned?

Liverpool already has one of the highest unemployment rates in Britain, with its manufacturing base being hit from every angle.

Yes, the “Capital of Culture” initiative will create jobs. But as we already know, these jobs will have worse conditions and be badly paid compared to the ones that have disappeared over the years.

The “Capital of Culture” should be an event that includes all corners of the city and people from all classes. What is going on at the moment just further serves the greed of the few and the exclusion of the many.

Alan McShane, Merseyside

Inspired by Palestine

We were part of a delegation from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) that went on a solidarity visit to Palestine in February.

The idea of the visit came from the NUT annual conference two years ago where we heard two speakers from the General Union of Palestinian Teachers talk about the shocking conditions in the West Bank.

During our visit we met some extraordinarily brave people, Reem al-Shareef is the head teacher at Qurtuba School in the city of Hebron.

Both the teachers and the girls at the school are frequently attacked, mainly by Israeli women and girls from the neighbouring settlement. These settlers are from Brooklyn, New York, and are guarded by four Israeli soldiers for each settler.

We met Renad Qubbaj, director of the Tamer Institute in Ramallah which promotes literature in English and Arabic.

The institute has ensured that Beverley Naidoo’s classic book Journey to Jo’burg – which was banned in South Africa during the apartheid era – is now published in Arabic.

We also visited the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, which houses over 11,000 people in the space of 500 square metres.

Our guide was a 26 year old man who had lost 11 of his closest friends during the second intifada that started in 2000.

We will tell the story of the injustice we have witnessed and we will encourage our colleagues to visit Palestine.

We are available to speak at meetings about our experiences, and we will work to make sure that students and teachers can engage with their colleagues in Palestine.

During our time in Palestine we were told time and again that visits are a huge boost for Palestinian spirits.

They want their story to be told unfettered by mainstream media censorship. It was a journey we will never forget – and we will be going back.

Dave Clinch, Secretary, Devon NUT
Mike Gurney, Deputy secretary, Devon NUT
Jamie Wells, Secretary, South Gloucestershire NUT

Report exposes the brutality of the state

The recent House of Lords committee of inquiry into immigration was made up of a small number of extreme right wing Tories, Blairites and businessmen.

In contrast, the Independent Asylum Commission was made up of lawyers, crossbenchers, war correspondents, human rights academics and representatives of religions, among others.

The commission held seven hearings in cities across Britain and took hundreds of submissions in evidence. These came from a huge number of professional and voluntary organisations, NGOs and trade unions, as well as many campaigns and individuals.

The commission has published its interim findings in a report titled “Fit for Purpose Yet?”. It provides clear documentation of the racism and brutality of the British state, which uses dawn arrests, detention camps, and enforced removal to evade its obligation to grant asylum to refugees.

What is also clear, however, is the extent of the opposition and organised resistance to this – from the refugees themselves and from professional workers, trade unionists and ordinary people.

Needless to say, Liam Byrne, minister for immigration, has rejected the report’s findings and stated that Britain’s asylum system is entirely fair.

Margaret Woods, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees
For copies of the report go to »

Life after death for the Italian left

While I agree with Socialist Worker’s editorial about the Italian general elections (» The left's death by compromise in the Italian election, 19 April), it is perhaps an exaggeration to talk of the “death” of the left.

There are many campaigns and strikes that continue outside parliament.

And given the state of the Italian economy, these are set to be fuelled by further discontent.

The left wing Rifondazione Comunista party should have been involved in these campaigns, organising the millions who protested against the G8 and the Iraq war to put pressure on centre left prime minister Romano Prodi.

Instead it was scared of rocking the boat and spent most of its energies defending Prodi’s government.

Despite Rifondazione’s radical rhetoric, it has always had more faith in centre left politicians than in the Italian working class.

Nevertheless, while the Italian left might be dead in parliament – and it’s horrible to see the right wing back on the offensive – this is not the end of the story.

Those who protested against Silvio Berlusconi last time round have not gone away.

David Groves, Rovigo, Italy

Unemployed need a union

Do you know of any unions that represent the unemployed? I ask because the government is now forcing the unemployed into training agencies where they can be treated badly.

I went to one of these agencies, along with many others. We were made to sit in a room, day in, day out, with nothing to do. We were treated like animals – and then I was dismissed for complaining!

These government training agencies are just exploiting the unemployed. They are taking away the rights we are entitled to and pushing people into low‑paid jobs with no trade union and poor working conditions.

The unemployed are being treated like naughty school children just to artificially get the figures down for the government.

Unemployed worker, Manchester

Down with the thug Mubarak

Thank you for your article on the uprising by workers in Mahalla, Egypt (» Egypt's workers defy repression in Mahalla, 12 April).

The US claims to be the champion of democracy, but it supports one of the worst dictators that has ever governed Egypt.

Egypt is living a long dark night and waiting for a new dawn. The country needs to free itself from a gang of thugs that has robbed its wealth and dignity.

Down with the ugly dictator Hosni Mubarak!

K Shalaby, by email

Greens happy with Boris

The Greens’ lack of grounding in socialist and working class politics (» Can the Greens be a radical alternative to the mainstream?, 19 April) has been shown in the London elections.

Sian Berry, the Green candidate for London mayor, said she would be willing to work with Tory Boris Johnson and that the Greens would be “happy to offer advice” to him if he is elected mayor.

Johnson is a right wing racist Tory who is out to push through attacks on working people in London. No one who describes themselves as “progressive” should work with him.

Would Sian Berry have “worked with” Margaret Thatcher as she destroyed the miners and their communities, and attacked all working people in the 1980s?

Katherine Branney, East London

Resistance is not terrorism

Was it right that Kingston Crown Court found Abu Izzadeen guilty of inciting terrorism overseas?

What right has a British court got to decide that the Iraqi resistance fighters who oppose our illegal, immoral occupation are terrorists? Who decides who is a terrorist?

From what I’ve read, Abu Izzadeen called for support for the Iraqi resistance when they were holed up in the city of Fallujah.

US forces bombed Fallujah with internationally banned weapons such as phosphorous bombs, depleted uranium shells and cluster bombs.

The occupiers murdered over 2,000 innocent civilians. Is this not an evil act of terrorism?

Are the Iraqi resistance not simply brave patriots doing exactly what we would do if our country was faced with a brutal occupation that had slaughtered a million of our countrypeople?

Mark Holt, Liverpool

Desire shaped by ideology

I broadly agreed with John Parrington’s trenchant defence of scientific research into embryology and human fertility (» Embryonic bigotry, 19 April).

But it is too crude to say that “the atomised society of modern capitalism fuels the desire for a biologically related child”.

This misses the decisive role of ideology in shaping not just our notions of “blood relations”, but also the desires associated with these notions.

Jiben Kumar, East London

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Article information

Tue 22 Apr 2008, 18:32 BST
Issue No. 2098
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