Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2164

Migrant workers have the right to protest

For the government of a so-called “civilised” country such as Britain to want to pass new rules that make it more difficult for migrants to become citizens if they have a history of protesting is extremely undemocratic.

Protesting is a way of expressing one’s thoughts, feelings or emotions about a particular issue. This is a right, not a privilege.

It does not matter who you are—black or white, Asian or African, migrant or a national. You should not be singled out and denied your basic rights.

Migrants contribute a lot. We pay taxes that help fund the needs of society. When that money is being wasted on wars, it is only fair that we are allowed to express our dissent through peaceful protest.

If that is not allowed, then Britain is no better than the oppressive regimes it so often criticises.

Clara Osagiede London

The government’s new points scheme for citizenship intends to prevent refugees and migrants from going on so-called “anti-social” demonstrations against war, and force them to do voluntary work.

This is supposedly in order to prove their commitment to what the government defines as “British values”.

In Glasgow, huge numbers of asylum seekers have been doing voluntary work for years. They work in community projects, anti-poverty groups, the Citizens Advice Bureau and the Red Cross.

They do it because they desperately want to contribute to society and help others.

In order to gain the right to vote, people are to be deprived of their rights to freedom of speech and peaceful protest.

A number of former home secretaries and immigration ministers have been caught up in the MPs’ expenses scandal, proving themselves to be venal and greedy.

The government stands accused of waging illegal war, and complicity in torture.

These people are not qualified to lecture anybody about “responsible citizenship”.

Meanwhile, refugees and immigrants, who contribute so much to this country, should be welcomed as citizens.

Margaret Woods Campaign to Welcome Refugees

Over the years New Labour has used manipulation, propaganda and outright lies to try to con people into supporting their wars.

The idea of targeting migrants who have taken part in protest is as appalling as it is ludicrous. Have they not done enough to erode human rights? Apparently not.

Nicola Fisher Glasgow Stop the War Coalition

Cutting Almo funding is bad for tenants

Simon Basketter says it’s a “good thing” that government money to Arms Length Management Organisations (Almos) is being cut (Socialist Worker, 1 August).

But for hundreds of thousands of council tenants across 12 boroughs it will mean waiting even longer for desperately needed improvements to our homes.

Many of these tenants are living in appalling, substandard conditions.

Almos were always a bad idea—they move accountability away from democratically elected councillors and are the first step on the road to fully fledged privatisation.

But the fact that homes have gone to Almos does not mean we should stop fighting for the money for improvements.

The government’s manifesto promise was to deliver decent homes by 2010.

We call for council housing to be taken back from Almos and returned to local authorities to manage directly.

But tenants from the 12 affected council areas should also insist that the government keeps its promise and coughs up the cash.

After all, why should council tenants be left waiting while banks get bailed out and MPs rip us off for millions with their second home scams?

Stephen Hack Lambeth Defend Council Housing

Basque questions

We have been in the Basque country this week and have been impressed. The region has an overwhelming sense of culture, language and history.

Under the Franco dictatorship this was suppressed. But in the post-Franco era the Spanish Basque Country has been granted a wide-reaching autonomous status.

Although the majority still support total separation, they are utterly divided. The Spanish government has banned the more radical Basque parties for refusing to denounce violence.

The focus for their campaigning seems detached from the bigger economic threat. Mainstream Basque politicians champion neoliberal economics.

The sense here is of a clandestine movement of graffiti and flyposting—we have seen little in the way of street protests or demonstrations.

Glossy campaign materials highlight the plight of hundreds of political prisoners, along with allegations of torture and illegal detention. Hand-written posters have gone up since we arrived, demanding the freedom of recently detained activists.

On the surface it is hard to identify the discrimination that lies at the heart of other national liberation struggles.

There is little police or military presences and, crossing the border from France, there is not even a checkpoint.

ETA’s struggle has a history entwined with anti-fascist resistance. At its height it had widespread support well beyond Spain.

But tactical decisions have left it largely isolated. Its actions are detached from class struggle and seem utterly removed from the rest of the Spanish left and the global crisis.

As socialists we must stand against the draconian role played by the Spanish state in suppressing Basque radicals. But it is unclear what ETA is really fighting for.

Their actions are a far cry from their roots, and even further from the collective class action we have seen from South Korean and Irish workers this week.

Tom Woodcock and Paula Champion via email

Norwich shows we need left unity

The Labour Party has itself to blame for the result in Norwich North.

It effectively removed the MP, Ian Gibson, who has consistently voted against its warmongering and anti-civil liberties policies.

The collapse of the Labour vote and the deep bitterness of working class people continues to shape the political landscape.

Craig Murray stood as an independent and spoke well on many issues.

But as an independent it is difficult to get a message across about collective ideas—especially when a flurry of “celebrities” look set to stand who will not defend working class interests.

Some on the left think we should put our energies into “reclaiming the Labour party”. I do not agree.

I think we need to take the anti-politician and left-of-the-mainstream views that most people hold and develop a new grassroots alternative that stands for socialist ideals.

We desperately need unity on the left. But a “federal” strategy will not obtain the profile or political unity needed to challenge and win electorally.

Julie Bremner Norwich

Skewer Blair the snake

Finally, could there be some chance of some of Tony Blair’s lies about Iraq being skewered?

He has previously claimed that most people he’d dealt with had found him “pretty straight”.

I remember the televised response from a working class woman in the Midlands: “Straight? There’s more chance of a snake in a jam jar going straight than him.”

Nigel Coward West London

Defend the right to live

I was shocked to see the column last week supporting the right to “assisted suicide” (Socialist Worker, 8 August).

The writer makes clear that he does not advocate assisted suicide, but calls for the state to take a hands-off approach.

The problem with this position is that simply legalising assisted suicide will see the number of occurrences rise sharply, whether or not socialists (or the state) go so far as to actively advocate it.

Under capitalism, legalisation will mean mounting pressure on the elderly and ill not to be a costly “burden” on their relatives.

It is a slippery slope that will lead to a rash of granny-killing across the land.

Instead of the right to die, socialists should demand the right to live—with free, high quality healthcare and end-of-life care for all.

Gladys Potter Manchester

They’re the real swines

Once again we all bear witness to an illness of the capitalist system hitting our streets. This time it is the outbreak of swine flu.

It is absolutely scandalous that multinational firms like Glaxo Smith Kline charge £6 for a dose of vaccine that only costs £1 to produce. That’s a profit of 500 percent!

The World Health Organisation reports that only those countries with the ability to pay will get the lion’s share of the drugs.

There are enough drugs and vaccines in the world to wipe swine flu—and other illnesses like Aids and cholera—off the face of the earth.

The problem is the relentless, uncaring pursuit of profit by the pharmaceutical companies. They are the real swines.

Charlie Dowthwaite Barrow-in-Furness

Solidarity with Vestas

We send to Vestas workers our solidarity with their struggle. You are an example and a guide for the future generations. With your action, they can see that another society is possible.

In Argentina, more than 1,000 factories have been occupied since 2001. They began to take charge of all the factories, without bosses or capitalists.

They showed the way to fight for genuine work in the middle of the economic crisis. We consider it a question of principle to support all occupations.

Victory to the Vestas workers!

Carlos Macagno Asociacionde Trabajadors del Estado

(Association of State Workers), Argentina

Hayes lets posties down

I retired from Royal Mail in February and am sickened by the tactics of the management. They were never going to adhere to the 2007 agreement.

But what is of more a concern is the lack of fight and leadership from the CWU union leadership. They are letting the rank and file down so badly.

Billy Hayes seems too concerned about not upsetting the Labour Party. It is about time he realised Labour do not defend working people any more.

Peter Mandelson is out to smash the CWU and the postal service—not to mention a great and loyal bunch of workers and union members.

Kath Cronin via email

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Article information

Tue 11 Aug 2009, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2164
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