Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2135

We must stand together against imperialism

The murderous Israeli bombardment and invasion of Gaza have rightly angered many people here in Britain. Tens of thousands have taken part in protests against Israel’s actions and in solidarity with the Palestinian people.

We are, however, saddened and alarmed to hear of a number of antisemitic incidents in east London. A Tesco store on Commercial Road had its windows broken and “Kill Jews” painted upon it. A Tesco delivery van driver was also attacked nearby.

The vast majority of people who oppose what is happening in Gaza understand that it is the Israeli state and its Western backers that are responsible for the slaughter.

They do not blame Jews, nor do they accept Israel’s claims to represent all Jewish people.

In these times it is vital for people of all backgrounds to come together in a sustained and united campaign that demands freedom for the Palestinians and an end to all imperialist wars.

Such campaigns can inspire us and channel the rage we feel against our common enemies.

Kambiz Boomla, Mary Brodbin, Sybil Cock, Maureen Delenian, Jim Fagan, Maggie Falshaw, Mubin Haq, James Nowlan, Paul Robertson, Miriam Scharf, Simon Shaw and Jackie Turner, East London

Stop Thailand’s attack on activist

Giles ji Ungpakorn, an associate professor of political science and an activist in Thailand, faces up to 15 years in jail for his book A Coup For The Rich. Giles is a brave, gentle and kind man who is being prosecuted as a leading critic of the recent coups in Thailand and for insulting the monarchy.

His “offence” is lèse majesté. This has fallen into disuse in most of the world. Thailand is an exception.

The Economist magazine commented in August last year, “The king said in 2005 that he could be criticised and was not afraid of this. But those posing as his majesty’s protectors conveniently forget his words.

“So, despite their democratic institutions, Thais are not free to debate matters regarding their head of state, including appropriate limits on criticising him.”

The prosecution of Giles represents a fundamental attack on the freedom of speech.

Demand that the charges against him are unconditionally withdrawn. Send protest letters to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Government House, Bangkok, Thailand. Fax number +66 (0) 29727751.

Also write to the Thai ambassador, Royal Thai Embassy, 29-30 Queens Gate, London SW7 5JB.

Professor Malcolm Povey, University and College Union national executive committee member (personal capacity)

Anger at Gaza pain

Israel rains fire on Gaza with its phosphorus shells.

The Geneva Treaty of 1980 stipulates that white phosphorus should not be used as a weapon of war in civilian areas, but there is no blanket ban under international law on its use as a smokescreen or for illumination.

However, Charles Heyman, a military expert and former major in the British army, said, “If white phosphorus was deliberately fired at a crowd of people someone would end up in the Hague.

“White phosphorus is also a terror weapon. The descending blobs of phosphorus will burn when in contact with skin.”

Abu Tareq, Meknes, Morocco

The news reported that humanitarian aid could not be taken into Gaza as Israel refused to allow it across the border.

But much of Gaza’s border is coastline plus its southern border is with Egypt.

So why couldn’t aid be taken in and the people be able to get out of Israel’s killing fields?

Aircraft carriers could be used as hospitals moored off the coast. Countries – especially the ones that can afford to arm Israel so generously – could have opened their borders and enabled people to escape.

Surely if they really wanted to help they could have found a way around Israel’s refusal.

Hannah Fahoney, by email

The police said that there were between 15,000 and 20,000 people on the Saturday 10 January demonstration in London against Israel’s attack on Gaza.

But we all know that the true number was well over 100,000.

Years ago I was on a very large CND demo at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, London.

I was next to a policeman when he received news of the numbers on the demonstration from a police helicopter. I heard the conversation and in the press the number was exactly halved.

So there is nothing new about police claims, it’s just that the lies are more extreme.

Hazel Sabey, West London

Fighting to save legal services for the public

I was one of the activists at the Unite union’s lobby of the Legal Services Commission (LSC) headquarters in December (» Letters, 10 January). I work at Blackfriars Advice Centre.

At the time of the lobby our employer was making five people redundant out of a workforce of 20. The primary reason behind this was cuts in the payments we received from the LSC.

The “fixed fee” regime has been in place for 15 months and has meant many agencies handing back contracts as they find the requirements impossible to meet. Some agencies have simply closed their doors permanently.

There has at least been an announcement of a review of current LSC funding and the plans for full competitive tendering from 2010.

The union’s conference on 29 January for workplace reps in the voluntary sector is welcome if it is going to discuss concrete plans to fight the plans of the LSC, local authorities and central government.

But for many agencies the review will be too late.

The LSC has announced job cuts of 600 over the next two years out of a department of 1,700. Spreading and widening the shop stewards network across the company offers the best option for activists to start fighting back against this in 2009.

Julian Vaughan, Unite voluntary sector branch chair (pc)

Why the union leaders are afraid

Tommy Ewing (» Letters, 10 January) asks why the union leaders are afraid of taking on a Labour government and whether they are afraid of a Tory government.

The Labour Party was formed partly because union leaders wanted a political weapon to protect their funds and bargaining rights. Ever since, they have generally supported Labour regardless of its policies.

Due to their position, the union leaders balance between employers and workers. They want reforms, but most rely on Labour to deliver them on behalf of workers.

They distrust anyone who wants more far reaching social change. For them, the only alternative to a Labour government is the return of the Tories. When Labour is in office, the pressure is on them to bow to the government formed by “their party”.

This is why they are so scared to take on Labour now.

When the Tories have been in government, Labour has told the unions that strikes are unpopular and will cost Labour votes. The union leaders have tended to avoid calling strikes unless there has been serious pressure from the rank and file.

Steve West, Kirkcaldy

Time to wield the axe again

Friday 30 January marks the 360th anniversary of the execution of King Charles I by the people.

With the media exposing the witless Prince Charles and his equally worthless son Harry as racists, I think fondly of this date and believe it is high time a long unused axe was put to work again.

Sasha Simic, East London

Lapdancing is not freedom

John McEwan (» Letters, 17 January) suggests that Socialist Worker is accusing women in the lapdancing industry of being unable to think for themselves.

But Socialist Worker did not say that. Instead it welcomed the changes in government legislation, which will mean that lapdancing clubs are classed as part of the sex industry and not as “family entertainment”.

John McEwan says that it is positive that the GMB union represents lapdancers – on this point I absolutely agree.

But this does not mean socialists should refrain from criticising the sex industry.

How can a situation where a man literally pays for a woman to take her clothes off and entertain him be called sexual freedom?

Julie Webster, Hucknall

Terror must be rejected

It is now over 20 years since the Lockerbie aircraft terrorist attack in December 1988.

I found it chilling and obscene that people say that this act was “politics”. Terrorism is a deed that Marxists should reject.

It is a counter-productive method, and if all that was needed to change society was a revolver, what need is there for a mass struggle against capitalism?

As the great Marxist Leon Trotsky said, “Individual terror is inadmissible precisely because it belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission.”

Raymond Hogan, Manchester

Unite across the borders

How refreshing to read Neil Faulkner’s clear-headed analysis and rejection of protectionism (» Protectionism: can it help us survive?, 10 January) when many mainstream commentators seem to be falling back into bad habits.

It’s an irony that the period of globalised and credit-driven growth saw right wing economists portray themselves as champions of internationalism and seek to caricature the anti-capitalist left as closed-minded reactionaries.

But the truth will out, especially in times of crisis.

Capitalist “globalism” can melt away like snow when the economy catches a fever.

Socialists remain committed to workers uniting across borders, as the only way to mend this crazy world.

Ben Drake, York

Podcasts of the resistance

The ResistanceMP3 website, which holds audio recordings of the annual Marxism socialist festival, wants to try and create podcasts of the meetings.

We want people to suggest files that really illuminated a topic.

So if you could make any suggestions, please let us know.

We have the timetables of Marxism 2007 and 2008, but it would be a great help if we could get hold of the timetables for Marxism 2004 and 2005.

If anybody would like to get involved, especially somebody who has experience of creating and promoting podcasts, or has any suggestions on this matter, please feel free to contact us.

ResistanceMP3, [email protected]

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Article information

Tue 20 Jan 2009, 18:49 GMT
Issue No. 2135
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