Socialist Worker

Don't let our rights be lost

Issue No. 1769

AS A lawyer specialising in human rights, civil liberties and asylum, I am extremely concerned about the climate of intolerance, fear and racism which surrounds our government's declaration of a 'war on terrorism.' We cannot claim to be fighting for democracy and human rights if we start off by abrogating basic freedoms and perpetrating injustice. Proposals to bring in even more draconian terrorist laws and laws against asylum seekers will carry with them expectations that this will somehow result in the identification of terrorist suspects.

Since the Terrorism Act 2000 came in and redefined terrorism as damage to property, and named a list of 31 banned organisations, there have actually been no prosecutions under it. The racist attacks against Muslims, which are now a daily occurrence, make it urgent that this act be repealed, as any prosecution will be seen as being unjust and will increase the level of racial tension. Fleeing There should be no more laws of this kind.

The 1951 convention on refugees was brought in because of collective guilt that we failed to give a safe haven to Jewish people fleeing persecution by the Nazis. The tragedy developing on the borders of Afghanistan where thousands of refugees are at risk of their lives must not be used as an excuse to ditch the 1951 convention, as Jack Straw has been saying for some time he wants to do.

There is far more danger that the threatened military action will escalate into world war if the US and Britain behave unfairly and discriminatorily to Muslims. Any use of terrorism laws, introduction of ID cards or threat to the fair treatment of refugees carries this risk.

LOUISE CHRISTIAN, North London


Verdict on the market in Poland

VOTERS IN Poland kicked both government parties right out of parliament in the recent elections. The main government party got just over 5 percent of the vote and its neo-liberal partner 3 percent.

They were thrown out because unemployment is now officially three million (16 percent), and because they have 'reformed' (cut) the health service, education and other areas.

The Solidarity trade union had already cut its links with the government-a government that it had been central to forming. In 1989 people won democratic rights, and most believed that a market economy would improve their lives.

Since then we have had governments formed in rotation by ex-Solidarity parties and social democrats from the former Communist Party. All of them have pursued IMF-approved policies of privatisation, and widened the gap between the rich and the rest.

Now the post-Communists (SLD), whose leader Leszek Miller says Tony Blair is his model, are back in with 40 percent of the vote. The SLD is anything but left wing.

People are looking for alternatives. This can be based on a fightback or on looking for scapegoats. A farmers' party whose leader is known for organising road blockades won 10 percent of the vote. He has flirted with extreme right wingers in the past, but this time his campaign was more left wing.

Unfortunately a similar vote was won by the Law and Justice Party, which calls for higher prison sentences, and a right wing Catholic nationalist party got 8 percent. The turnout was only 46 percent.

The disgust and anger with official politics has to be connected to workers' fightbacks and opposition to capitalism.

ANDY ZEBROWSKI, Pracownicza Demokracja (Workers' Democracy), Poland


Tower trouble

YOUR ARTICLE (Socialist Worker, 22 September) about sky-scrapers in the wake of the collapse of the World Trade Centre towers made some excellent points, but more can be said. For many years I was the union branch secretary at an office block in London. I worked on the seventeenth and top floor.

As a union organised building, we made sure there were regular fire drills. With outsourcing and privatisation, these drills can happen less often. Tall buildings are an alienating working environment. The only time you got a feel who was there was when everyone was at ground level for a drill or a walkout.

Yet the policy of London mayor Ken Livingstone is for more high rises. We should oppose them.

KEITH FLETT, North London


Fear for air jobs

CRAWLEY AND the surrounding towns are often regarded as typical of the economically prosperous south east of England. However, the job losses announced by airlines in the wake of the attacks on New York and Washington may be about to bring that prosperity to an abrupt end.

The job cuts already announced by Virgin and British Airways will inevitably be followed by redundancies amongst staff employed by BAA, the company that runs Gatwick airport. Local industries such as catering and hotels are also likely to be severely affected.

All the airlines have been pushing for cost-cutting to boost their profits, and they are simply using the current situation as a smokescreen to try to push through major job cuts, and attacks on wages and conditions. It is vital that unions at the airport launch a fightback against this offensive.

PAUL SMITH, Crawley


Socialist Alliance opposes Bush's war

THE SOCIALIST Alliance has adopted an unequivocal position of opposition to the impending war on innocent Afghans and others by Bush and Blair. We oppose this war because military action will inevitably lead to the loss of the lives of countless innocent men, women and children. It will not solve the problems which have bred the terrorist response.

We will also be strongly opposing the attack on civil liberties being planned by home secretary David Blunkett in the aftermath of the tragic events in the US, and the racist attacks which resulted from the demonisation of Muslims.

A full statement on the events in the US and the response of Western governments has been unanimously endorsed by the Socialist Alliance national executive. This can be found on the Socialist Alliance website at www.socialistalliance.net Socialist Alliances locally have already been centrally involved in supporting anti-war meetings, vigils and other activities and initiatives across the country (these also feature on our website).

I have no doubt we will be playing a full role within the recently established Stop the War Coalition, which has prominent Socialist Alliance supporters on its interim steering committee, including Tariq Ali and Mike Marqusee.

ROB HOVEMAN, national vice -chair Socialist Alliance


Link is weaker

I SAW a fascinating survey in the latest issue of Labour Research. The magazine surveyed 301 trade union branches. Nearly three quarters were critical of the current relationship between Labour and the affiliated unions. Even the minority of union branches which wanted the link strengthened were highly critical of aspects of government policy.

Tony Blair's willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with Bush on each and every occasion can only intensify the debates inside union branches. I think that, as part of a wider struggle over these issues, socialists should step up their demands for the unions' political funds to be used for parties that truly represent what members believe.

ANNE McDONNELL, Edinburgh


I expect you will answer me

TWO QUESTIONS for George W Bush:

Are you prepared to wipe out millions of people in order to destroy what you consider 'terrorist organisations'? If you are, then you will spawn more terrorists. If you are not, then those organisations will continue to exist and even flourish.

Have you made people aware of precisely the risks they are running? Have you told the US people that they must accept thousands more dead, lower living standards, the draft, fear and hatred, little or no foreign travel, etc, etc?

Two questions for Socialist Worker:

Should you not make clearer your opposition to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan? Whatever the roots of this movement, it is clearly very anti-socialist and oppressive towards women-a world away from what you stand for.

Can you please explain why we should ever vote Labour instead of Green when there is not a socialist candidate in an election? The Greens have a half decent statement out against the war. The Labour government is leading the war drive.

PETER GILL, Droitwich


Postal points

THE US government and much of the media are giving the impression that the dreadful attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon were the greatest atrocities ever committed.

Surely the nuclear bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima were by far the worst aspects of terrorism in human history? Millions of people died, and even today, over 50 years later, children are still being born terribly deformed as a result of those bombings.

Japan was already militarily defeated. The whole act was an unnecessary act of global terror. I do not remember three minutes silence to mourn those victims.

MARY PHILLIPS, South London

I DO not condone any terrorist attacks. When I saw the destruction of the World Trade Centre I felt nothing but anger and outrage that people might commit such acts against the innocent. But addressing the problem of terror means acknowledging the importance of the Palestinian struggle.

The US backs Israel politically, with arms and with money. During the latest Palestinian intifada hundreds of youths have been murdered by Israeli forces for merely throwing stones. To get justice you must follow the trail of truth, not follow the missiles to certain further destruction.

ANDREW GARBETT, Bournemouth

I HAVE just visited your website for the first time ever and I think it is great. I feel sorry for the people who suffered in the World Trade Centre, but after the support the US government gave to hit squads in Latin America and elsewhere then you can understand what happened.

Terrorism in any form is wrong, but what the Americans do by promoting it is even worse. I think also that Bush is managing to use the bombings as an excuse to persecute Islam and Islamic countries.

Bush and Blair will try to revert to the medieval style of handling the Muslims and countries from which they come from by going on a vicious crusade.

FRED GLASER


I READ your paper via the internet recently. I had hoped to find some interesting and truthful information that would help me analyse the current world situation. Parts of some of your articles contained facts that have been ignored by the mainstream media. However, for the most part I found your articles biased and sensational.

I am an American. I am not a big fan of George Bush. However, your painting of him as someone exploiting this disaster for some wicked capitalist gain is wrong. I believe President Bush is a human being who is desperately trying to do the best he can to protect the country.

JEREMY SUMPMAN, New York City


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Article information

Letters
Mon 1 Oct 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1769
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