Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1962

Sorrow and anger after the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Sorrow and anger after the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes (Pic: Guy Smallman)

My friend Jean Charles

As a friend of Jean Charles de Menezes, shot and killed recently by police, I feel a great mixture of emotions in this sad time.

I am hugely grateful for the outpouring of sympathy and warmth from many British people who feel solidarity with Jean Charles and his family.

These people are the truly human face of Britain — against bitterness and war, and in favour of life.

The vigils and other mobilisations that followed Jean Charles’s murder have shown that there is a strong current of opinion in Britain that will not accept the official version of events, and that does not believe that a half-hearted apology is nearly enough.

My other emotion is one of deep anger.

I cannot believe that the Metropolitan Police has sent the officer who shot Jean Charles on holiday, together with his family, paid for by public funds.

This is not a serious response to what has occurred. It is saying the man is innocent of all wrongdoing.

Those who send the police to kill are the biggest villains, but we must also look at the officers involved themselves.

Thank you to Socialist Worker and all those who have sought justice in this case. Please keep fighting.

Maria Santos, South London

As an impressionable teenager of 17 I entered a British army recruiting office. I listened to the recruiting sergeant and naively believed everything he told me about how good and noble it was to be a British soldier.

Joining up filled me with a new found confidence and purpose in life. There was a great feeling of empowerment at having a 7.62 self-loading rifle together with the backing of queen and country to use it.

In a short space of time, me and my young comrades had been moulded into highly trained killers.

Being a member of the British armed forces, supported by its military might, I was never called upon to be a suicide bomber.

The modern British forces have weapons of mass destruction aplenty with which to cause death and destruction from afar at the press of a button.

Tony Blair condemned the London bombers as extremists.

What could be more extreme than using depleted uranium weaponry to kill thousands of innocent people in Iraq?

We must continue to call for an end to the illegal occupation of Iraq.

Ray Kay, Pembrokeshire

Shooting an unarmed man when he is on the ground sounds like something that American police officers would do.

For some reason I thought that British police officers were more restrained. I guess I was wrong.

The terrorists must be stopped, but that doesn’t mean that innocent American citizens and British subjects should have to give up their privacy, rights, and even their lives.

A famous American revolutionary, Benjamin Franklin, once said, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.”

Chuck Mann, Greensboro, North Carolina, US

Tap on the shoulder

I was interested to read of the strike by Asda workers in north east England. It is a welcome sign of resistance to an employer who will fight hard to reduce or eliminate union influence in the workplace.

In my local branch we have seen another example of how arrogantly Asda bosses act. In the Morriston store, Swansea, the staff have been asked to prove they are not illegal immigrants.

They had to produce passports or birth certificates. If they could not, or did not want to, then bosses said they could be suspended without pay.

This is not only a gross assault on civil liberties, but could also have the effect of making staff look suspiciously at one another.

I would be interested to know if other stores have received this letter.

It certainly seems bizarre if Swansea has been singled out. Regrettably the area is not a focus for immigrants of any sort, legal or illegal — except from England!

Helen Davies, Swansea

Death at work laws

Figures released last week mean that the number of people killed at work since Labour took office in 1997 is over 2,000.

Yet there is no certainty that we will get a law from New Labour that will make bosses pay when deaths occur at work.

Union leaders have repeatedly been promised such a law, but business opposition means it has been watered down.

I agree with T&G union leader Tony Woodley that “the law should protect workers, not shield the negligent. Until directors have personal responsibility for health and safety then I fear the death toll will continue.”

A strong union organisation in the workplace is the best defence of health and safety, but that needs to be backed up by laws.

Sally Krenzer, North London

TUC’s pension move is campaigning issue

Malcolm Willis is entirely right to criticise the TUC in his article (Anger at choice of partners, SW, 9 July) for backing private pensions and for excluding the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) from the People’s Pension Coalition.

How can the People’s Pension Coalition possibly be effective without the campaigning activities of the NPC and how can the TUC justify leaving the NPC out?

All trade union members ought to be insisting that the TUC extends the People’s Pension Coalition to include the NPC and pushing this demand through their trade union.

Members of all trade unions should be supporting the pensioners’ lobby of parliament on 12 October in support of the Pensioners Charter which was adopted by the Pensioners Parliament in June.

This calls for measures including a basic state pension set above the official poverty level and linked to average male earnings, a warm and comfortable home, free healthcare treatment based on clinical need, free community care and services to assist living at home and free nationwide travel on all public and local transport.

We need to all work together on this, to make sure that present and future pensioners get the decent pensions they deserve, without all the different means tested extras we are offered to make up for poverty pensions.

Mary Phillips, South London

60 years on, still a long way to go

On 6 August 1945 the US dropped a nuclear bomb on the city of Hiroshima in Japan.

The city was obliterated, over 250,0000 people were killed and generations poisoned by radiation.

In May 2000 the nuclear weapons states, including Britain, agreed an “unequivocal undertaking” to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

Yet even now tens of thousands of nuclear weapons still threaten the world. Britain still has about 200 nuclear warheads, each with eight times the power of the bomb that devastated Hiroshima.

These weapons undermine international treaty obligations, global security and peace, and make the use of nuclear weapons more likely.

As we remember Hiroshima, I invite all readers to the commemoration this Saturday 6 August, in Tavistock Square, London between 12 noon and 1pm.

We will call upon our government to make a commitment that Britain will not use, threaten to use, or develop nuclear weapons, and will take immediate steps to reduce our nuclear weapons arsenal.

Rob Bennett, West London

How much do they rip us off?

I’ve done some rough calculations to try and quantify how much workers are exploited. Last year the US’s gross domestic product (GDP) was about $12 trillion.

Of this about $1.4 trillion replaced worn out capital.

This gives a national income of about $10.6 trillion. Wage and salary income is stated as $6.6 trillion. Is it correct to therefore conclude that $4 trillion is surplus value?

If so, US workers get less than two thirds of what they produce, even taking into account depreciation. Am I along the right lines here?

John Keeley, Folkestone

Blair’s off hand attitude

I was shocked by Tony Blair's cavalier treatment of the change in regulations over shoot to kill. Last week he told a press conference that he could not recall when new rules allowing police officers to shoot people in the head had been agreed.

He treated the whole matter as trivial, a mere operational matter best left to the hierarchy of the police.

Any previous Labour prime minister would probably have gone along with police demands, but would have had anxieties about them.

Blair has lost all such scruples. This, I suppose, is the essence of New Labour.

Marjorie Hemmings, Birmingham

We knew it would happen

When so many of us marched against the war, it was not only because it was wrong and evil in itself, but because people recognised it would not be the end of violence.

Now bombs, human ones, have exploded in our midst.

God forbid, but those perpetrating these horrendous acts feel no shame because they keep in mind our shells, our land mines, our “collateral damage”.

Joan Grant, Romford, Essex

All stand against bombs

You say the 7 July bombers were angry about the Iraq war too and are “hurling a bit of the violence back”. Yet they did not attack Tony Blair.

They did not attack government or army targets.

The bombers killed civilians indiscriminately.

They killed working class Londoners of all races and religions — Muslim, Jewish and Christian.

Two weeks later the failed bombers planned to cause even more human suffering, packing their bombs with nails and bolts to cause maximum agony to their victims.

There is no doubt that the war in Iraq has increased the threat of terrorism and we must continue to argue against it and for the withdrawal of troops.

Will the SWP and the anti-war movement also stand up to this far right, fascist Islamist movement in the same way we have against white fascists?

Laura Nere, Southampton

Hopeful signs of left unity

Following a recent magnificent Respect public meeting in Coventry, attended by over 80 people, some 25 Respect members and supporters came to the Muslim Resource Centre to enjoy a video rerun of George Galloway’s trashing of the US senate.

People attending both meetings were enthused by the prospect of standing Respect candidates in council elections for the first time in Coventry.

There is a real feeling that we may soon have at least one Respect councillor in the city.

At the public meeting, Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist and Coventry Respect members both talked of the need for meaningful discussions about which wards we stand in, and how we maximise the impact of all progressive candidates in the city next May.

Dave Goodfield, Coventry

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Sat 6 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1962
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