THE NEWS that the RUC has been awarded the George Cross for 'bravery' has shocked many thousands of people here in Northern Ireland. The RUC has an absolutely terrible record of human rights violations, sectarianism and brutality.
In giving the RUC this award Peter Mandelson is insulting the memory of the 50 people killed by this force. He ignores the pain of relatives of victims, victims like Julie Livingstone, a 14 year old schoolgirl killed by an RUC plastic bullet while going to the shops for a pint of milk.
Mandelson has also chosen to ignore the many investigations by human rights organisations into the RUC. The first such investigation was in 1936 by the National Council for Civil Liberties, which criticised the RUC for standing by while Orange marchers attacked a Catholic area. Over recent years the RUC has been criticised by the UN Committee on Torture, the European Court of Human Rights and Amnesty International.
Just last month the local headlines told the story of how a Catholic grandmother and her daughter in Larne were beaten by a Loyalist mob. When the RUC arrived they refused to take action against the attackers but instead threatened to arrest the daughter. This is the force that Mandelson is rewarding with the George's Cross, because it is politically expedient to cosy up to the Ulster Unionists. This is adding insult to injury.
SEAN McVEIGH, Belfast
Treated like dirt by call centre
I AM writing about the disgusting treatment my partner and I have received at the call centre where we worked. We are students and worked at the call centre on weekends and holidays to help pay our way through college. Many of those we worked alongside were also students in the same position. They have to work like this or face massive debt because of tuition fees.
When my grandmother died recently we took a weekend off to go and help look after my dad. We phoned the call centre to tell them and when we got back to work everything seemed fine. A couple of weeks later I had to have a day off after I was bleeding following a repeat smear test and needed to avoid stress, and rest on medical advice.
As you can imagine, working in a call centre is quite stressful. You take a call every 90 seconds. There are floor walkers and people checking. I was shocked when I went back and was then sacked on the spot. I was told I hadn't phoned in when I was off, which was not true - I could prove it from the phone record. I was also told that as I had had a repeat test I might have health problems and be having time off in the busy period up to Christmas, and that's why they 'had to let me go'. I was escorted off the premises. It was humiliating and I was shaking.
This sacking came just before the 13 week qualifying time when I would have got some rights at work. When they sacked me they raised that I had had time off for my grandmother's death. My partner was also sacked and told it was for having the weekend off with me. We were treated like dirt. It is disgusting. What they get away with is terrible.
Defend women's right to choose
WE ARE writing to request your support for a pro-choice rally to be held in Glasgow City Halls at 7.30pm on Thursday 9 December. The aim is to raise awareness and show support for the right of women to have access to safe and legal abortions. A number of individuals and groups have already given their support, including Pro-Choice Forum, the National Abortion Campaign and the Scottish TUC.
On Saturday 27 November the extreme anti-abortion group Precious Life was launched in Glasgow. Precious Life intend to have weekly demonstrations in shopping centres and towns across Scotland. The group is totally opposed to all abortions, including those for rape victims.
Precious Life in the US has been held responsible for 1,750 violent assaults and 50 deaths. Last year Dr Barnett Slepian, a respected gynaecologist, was shot dead through a kitchen window in front of his children by extreme anti-abortionists. We would like you to assist us with the rally by sending a clear message of support.
GILL HUBBARD, secretary, Pro-Choice Action Group, and LEE MORROW, Welfare Office, Caledonian University Students Association
Why don't you stand candidates?
I USED to come to Socialist Worker meetings in Bristol, and although I am now an activist in the Liberal Democrats, I still read your paper with great interest. I think what puts people off Socialist Worker most is that all year round your paper rails against the New Tory Labour Party. But as soon as local elections come round your supporters are busy helping Labour candidates, and one general election your front page was 'Vote Labour'.
All the good work you do in campaigning for workers' rights is negated at local level by that. Until you put up candidates you are doomed to be a pressure group which is not taken seriously. I am a member of the Land Value Taxation Campaign. Its principle is, why should a few rich people own most of the land and property yet not be taxed on it when it lies idle?
STELLA HENDER, Bristol
Afghan sanctions from US
AS OF 15 November the US has imposed sanctions on Afghanistan because of the failure of the regime to hand over the alleged 'terrorist' Osama bin Laden. This is another example of the US wielding enormous unchecked power over a very poor country. To hold an entire country to ransom over the alleged criminal actions of one individual, who is not even the country's leader, is astonishing.
Another victim of US sanctions, which I have rarely seen mentioned in your paper, is Cuba. Cuba has been subjected to 40 years of US terror and economic warfare. This has caused terrible social consequences for the people.
KEVIN KIERNAN, Glasgow
Employers' eyes on Wandsworth
A MEMO on sick leave came round to all staff in my college last week. It stated that the management found Wandsworth council's attempt to 'curtail expenditure from the public purse by tightening up on sickness' very 'laudable'. This is just weeks after rumours that the college plans to force lecturers and support staff make up days 'lost' through bank holidays.
It is obvious that some employers are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of squeezing more work out of us. This is another sick example of Blair's 'flexible' Britain.
Wrong on Russia
DAVID Rosenburg (20 November) misunderstands what happened to the Jewish Bund following the 1917 Russian Revolution. He ignores the civil war which split the Bund wide open, with a majority supporting the Bolsheviks. Nathan Weinstock writes in his three volume history of the Jewish workers' movement, Le pain du misere, that 'the pogroms against the Jews ruined Bundist illusions that there was a peaceful route to socialism'.
Yes, the minority Bund, supporting the Mensheviks, were banned. But the great anarchist writer Victor Serge, who detested the bans, nevertheless uncompromisingly defended the Bolsheviks in the civil war. This was not least because the alternative was to plunge Russia back into the Dark Ages.
JOHN ROSE, South London
Industry and climate change
ANITA NAGARAJAN asked (Socialist Worker, 20 November) what our position is on global warming and polluting industries. If the closure of the mines was part of a government plan towards clean energy we would welcome it but demand good jobs for those made redundant. Similarly with the closure of an arms factory. We would then also demand other engineering jobs for those workers.
ALAN DONOVAN, Cambridge
Give more facts
I WAS pleased to see your recent front page which said, 'Labour robs millions from the disabled - see page three.' At last, I thought, details of the cuts the government is making and how it affects people with disabilities.
However, this was not the case. Page three was a punchy but uninformative list of Thatcherite policies of the 1980s. We need to know in detail what is happening now, not rhetoric. Please investigate what is really happening and do a detailed report. This can help people fight back against these cuts.
JANICE WORMALD, Nuneaton