Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1885

Avoiding the state

Mike Gonzalez (Socialist Worker, 17 January) is right to describe how the Zapatista movement in Mexico has provided a great inspiration for activists across the world.

Certainly where I am, at Cambridge University, a number of campaigners have been influenced by the Zapatista uprising.

However, we should be careful not to be blind to their weaknesses. Many saw Zapatista leader Marcos's refusal to try to take state power, and the Zapatistas' lack of a large national political organisation, as pointing towards a new and better way of organising.

But the state is not, as some Zapatista followers would argue, like a rock that we can walk around. There was no walking around the army that brutally fought the Zapatistas.

It is not good enough simply to talk about 'spheres of anti-power' and about pressurising establishment politicians. If the working class is to make real gains, we have to organise politically.

That is why, after ten years of fighting, all the Zapatistas have really won is that the president of Mexico now pays some lip service to the rights of indigenous peoples.

Unfortunately, small impoverished regions cannot remain both isolated and liberated for long. The Zapatistas' success in the Chiapas region was not matched by successful mobilisations of Mexico City's destitute millions.

To achieve this would have meant organising among them.

The state, as a strong coercive force, will always confront us until we defeat it. The idea that change comes about through its institutions is accepted by many people, and refusing to discuss the state will not change their minds.

It is necessary to challenge the state's ideological and physical power. To not do so is a mistake that can have disastrous consequences.

Daniel Mayer, Cambridge

Top-up fees are attack on the lowest paid

East London Labour MP Tony Banks has backed down over his opposition to top-up fees. He believes that the government has sorted out any problems with the fees with its concessions.

Maybe if MPs and government ministers repaid the money it cost to send them to university years ago I might feel differently about top-up fees.

Why do they want to punish the youth of today? They are trying to bring selection into education. This means imposing a tax on young people. When people start to earn they are required to pay back their tuition fees.

When I went to university in 1970 I hardly had to pay a penny to get my degree, nor did my son when he went some years later.

Top-up fees are totally outrageous. They are an attack on the working class. I couldn't have gone to university with the system as it is at the moment. My father wouldn't have been able to afford it. In 1980 I could just about afford to support my son through university.

What Tony Banks did was inevitable. Labour MPs and the Tories are just trying to score points at the moment. In Newham, east London, where I work as a roadsweeper and Banks is one of the MPs, the Labour council is trying to suppress the Unison union after our role in the campaign for better London pay.

As with fees, Labour has to look at itself and ask, does it support itself or the working class?

There is a growing recognition amongst working class people that they have a lot to contribute to society regardless of how much they earn. MPs and others may earn more money and think they contribute more, but they don't. The working class contributes the most because it is the majority.

Mick Saxby, East London

Back ETUC day of action for social Europe

The movement against corporate global domination is having an increasing influence in the trade unions.

The European TUC has recognised that governments are attempting to weaken collective bargaining and welfare, privatise public services and encourage companies to aim exclusively for 'shareholder value'.

The ETUC points out that the single market and European Union expansion are not being built on a strong social platform. It has called for Europe-wide action on 2 and 3 April, demanding a social Europe founded on democracy, justice, equality, tolerance and freedom.

The ETUC wants affiliates to organise protests and mass demonstrations in the major cities of Europe to make an impact on governments and businesses.

This call is welcome and provides an opportunity to connect the movements on the streets to the power of organised workers.

This isn't the first time the ETUC has called for action. In March 2002, before the attack on Iraq, the ETUC called on affiliates to organise work stoppages. In some countries, this was reflected in real union mobilisations. In the UK, some unions did help to build the anti-war demonstrations.

However, the TUC limited itself to a long statement and issued no clear call for action. It's up to activists everywhere to turn this ETUC call into reality.

Ian Allinson, Amicus union national executive member (personal capacity)

'Sus' laws return to target refugees

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, young blacks frequently faced being stopped and searched by police under the infamous 'sus' laws.

Concerted resistance to these laws led to them being dropped temporarily. Now they have reappeared, not only to be used against youth in the inner cities, but in multi-agency swoops on stations and bus stops.

Ticket collectors, British Transport Police and immigration officials stop travellers on the pretext of checking for fare evaders and then take them off to question them about their immigration status.

We saw a swoop outside Willesden Green tube when we were selling Socialist Worker there. Other swoops have been reported in other areas.

The 'war on terror' provides the background to these attacks on civil liberties. If they can get away with this even before the introduction of the swingeing new asylum and immigration laws, think how much worse it will become.

The Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers has got together with other groups to call a protest at Waterloo Station, where there is an asylum detention centre linked to the Eurostar terminal.

Meet under the big clock on the concourse at midday on Saturday 31 January to join in leafleting travellers to alert them to these abuses.

Sarah Cox, North London

A great loss

In the Greater London Assembly elections in 2000 I had a fantastic time accompanying Cecilia Prosper, who died recently, as her press officer when she stood for the Socialist Alliance.

One of the most inspiring political experiences of my life was when we visited the noisy and steam-filled dungeons of a huge hospital to meet the lowest of the low paid.

Cecilia instantly won them over with her easy manner, her natural charm and her way of talking about politics that made people feel empowered.

In that moment, she lit up the dungeon and the lives of everyone there. Cecilia was a beautiful woman in every sense of the word, and the labour movement will miss her greatly, as will I.

Clare Fermont, East London

Greek warning for Tony Blair

There is bad news from Greece for Tony Blair. Prime minister Simitis has resigned as leader of the Greek Labour Party, Pasok.

His successor is George Papandreou, minister of foreign affairs and son of the late A Papandreou, the founder of Pasok. Simitis also announced that the general election will take place on 7 March instead of May.

This is a sign of the deep crisis engulfing the 'modernisers' of social democracy in Greece. Workers and young people have come to despise Simitis because of his pro-market and pro-war policies.

Hundreds of thousands marched against the war in Iraq. In the autumn there was a strike wave with demands for wage rises and better pensions. This forced Simitis to go.

Papandreou is no better than Simitis. He has always been on the right wing of Pasok. He's in favour of sending Greek troops to help the US and British occupation of Iraq.

The voice of the movements of the past years will not be absent from the election. The Anti-Capitalist Alliance was launched in December by hundreds of activists. There will be a left alternative to Papandreou's tricks.

Leandros Bolaris, Greece

Ken could have rude awakening

I've been cynical about Ken Livingstone ever since he joined the Labour Party in 1968, when many of its activists were leaving.

He now rejoins the Labour Party at a time when many activists are disillusioned and leaving in their droves. He seems to be taking the electorate for granted, thinking he can be mayor of London whether inside the Labour Party or not. He could be in for a rude awakening.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Will unity call ring hollow?

Does our new coalition risk splitting the left/radical vote?

Our local Green councillor believes that in the Euro elections for the north west we could seriously risk letting the Nazi BNP in. The Green candidate was close to winning at the last elections.

It would be a mistake to dismiss the sheer leap of quality that can be made in a coalition arising from the energy of the anti-war and other movements pushing together.

Nevertheless the debate needs to be started right now with the Green Party, and others left of Labour. We should be clear and realistic about the possibilities our coalition represents in elections. Otherwise our cry of 'unity' may ring hollow.

Simon Sobrero, Manchester

Deaths shame the Home Office

I refer to my letter published in Socialist Worker on 10 January, concerning the death of my only child, Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, in January 2003.

Given that my daughter's inquest has still not taken place, it is important that I correct the error in paragraph four. This states that Sarah was taken to Styal Prison 'where she died several hours later without regaining consciousness'.

A correct statement is that my daughter was taken to Styal on 17 January 2003, and died in hospital the following day without regaining consciousness.

Deaths in police and prison custody reflect increasing shame on the Home Office, which seems unable or unwilling to take action to deal with what has become a national scandal. Humane and rational reform of the penal system is needed urgently.

Mrs Pauline B Campbell, Malpas, Cheshire

A welcoming and warm paper

I joined the Socialist Workers Party through stumbling across the Derby SWP on a cold, wet Saturday morning.

I picked up Socialist Worker and was greeted with warmth and sincerity. The group invited me to the next meeting. I was relieved to read a perspective which reported real voices, events and everything I believed in. Thanks to those who remain passionate and determined.

Sarah Stone, Derby

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Article information

Sat 24 Jan 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1885
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