Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1737

Refugees: Their fight is ours

The new immigration law passed in Spain last December is a clear attempt to undermine immigrant rights, leaving them in inhuman conditions. The law cuts their right to vote, strike, meet and unionise. The right wing Spanish government wants to keep the 'sans papiers' in a situation of slavery.

It is playing a hypocritical role. It talks about the need for immigrants because there are not enough workers to work in jobs like fruit picking. But it does not want to give legal papers to them. There has been popular discontent and huge opposition.

More than 700 immigrants have been occupying ten churches in Barcelona and a few in other towns since the law was passed. Some immigrants have been on hunger strike for 15 days. The Spanish population is supporting their case with demonstrations and signing petitions. There were demonstrations in Barcelona, Madrid and other towns, with thousands of people supporting immigrants at the end of January. There were also student occupations in some universities in Barcelona in February in solidarity with immigrants.

The attack on immigrants is not the only attack the right wing government is making. The Popular Party plans a labour reform that worsens workers' rights. Spain has one of the highest rates of accidents at work. Insecurity is also growing, while the price of housing and food is rising. We have to keep our eyes open to see who is the real enemy of workers-the system that exploits us all, workers and immigrants.

Teresa Garcia, Spain

Stuff Sodexho

Last month students at Hackney Community College boycotted their canteen because of the high prices introduced by Sodexho, a private company that runs the canteen. Sodexho also runs the voucher scheme for asylum seekers. The majority of students and staff observed the boycott.

Sodexho put a special offer on to undermine the action-and because they were afraid of losing money. The next day the prices were as high as ever. Although Sodexho runs the voucher scheme, asylum seeker students cannot use the company's own vouchers in its canteen. Hackney's refugee support group is organising another boycott.


By George, we think he got it!

I was one of the protesters who challenged George Robertson, the NATO general secretary, during his lecture at Dundee University two weeks ago. Some of us dressed in suits, and I removed my socialist badge so we could gain entry to the public lecture.

Within the first minute one SWP member stood up to Robertson and shouted, 'Why is NATO bombing innocent civilians in Iraq?' All 14 of us stood up in solidarity and shouted, 'You have blood on your hands!' We managed to disrupt the lecture for 20 minutes non-stop. The continuous shouting shocked Robertson.

Everyone is buzzing, as our protest grabbed media attention. Robertson had also been picketed earlier that day in Glasgow at the Labour Party conference and challenged at a talk in Edinburgh. The head of the university had talked of Robertson holding radical ideas and protests in his student days. I said, 'Where's your radicalism now? It only lies in nuclear warfare.'


Dole fury

I am livid with my local job centre. When I arrived for a signing on appointment I was told that because I was early the government had to be told. When the government sends spies to check up on the unemployed it's an insult. It should be picking on companies that commit fraud.

I've always been brought up to believe in Labour. I will never vote for them again. They have wasted money on the Millennium Dome while giving a minuscule sum to the unemployed.

UNEMPLOYED, Southampton

Top vote

Socialist Worker is right to say times are changing. Millions of ordinary workers are sick of New Labour's Tory agenda. This is not just reflected in demos and protests, it is apparent inside the trade unions. In the recent UNISON national executive elections socialist candidates did extremely well.

Janet Noble stood on a platform in defence of asylum seekers and came second with over 27,000 votes. I was elected in the northern region on a fighting socialist platform.

YUNUS BAKHSH, UNISON NEC (personal capacity)

Songs of protest

On the last day of the London Tate gallery's exhibition on William Blake I saw a demonstration outside organised by the Peckham Disloyalty Association. There were music and poetry readings in protest at the exhibition's sponsorship by GlaxoSmithKline.

Their leaflet said, 'While Blake railed against poverty and oppression, GlaxoSmithKline is denying millions of African people with AIDS access to drugs that could save their lives.' The exhibition is moving to New York, where I hope someone organises a similar protest but on the first day, not the last!

PETE AINSLEY, North London

Blair's vision of Chiswick

The day after Blair announced his plans for greater selection and privatisation in schools, I was speaking to a lunchtime meeting of staff in a west London school. They had asked me in, as NUT branch secretary, because they are not paid on national rates, do not get a penny in London allowance, do not have union recognition, and have to write at least three reports on every kid per year.

It's a private college for international students run by a businessman. Ten more staff signed up to the NUT before I left, and next week they are meeting again to demand recognition. Both the horrible reality of Blair's vision and the mood to fight back are there to behold in Chiswick.

NICK GRANT, West London

Danger ahoy

There have been very serious issues taking place at Portsmouth royal naval base. I was the health and safety representative for the TGWU and a qualified life raft examiner there. I raised three issues about life rafts and lack of safety. I was sacked after 20 years service.

I have been on a protest outside our union office in London. I believe that dangerous working practices have been going on which should be stopped.


Postal points

When I first read of Marx in 1938 I was impressed by his proposition for a future communist society. Since the passage of time and a lot of water under the bridge I now have to restate my present attitude.

Marx said, 'My theory is not a dogma but a guide to action.' Capitalism will write a trillion words to refute him, but the rich and powerful will use any words or methods to retain their power.

DAVE DAVIS, South London

As a regular reader of your paper, I find Chris Harman's 'Message To Our Readers' (Socialist Worker, 10 February) a rather tired and lacklustre piece. Yes, quite rightly, Harman points out that the political climate is changing, but what new ideas does he have? Is there a hint of an ideological shift to move with the times? No, just the same tired old formula. Come on Chris, we deserve better.

EWAN MacDONALD, North London

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Article information

Sat 3 Mar 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1737
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