Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2168

Labour’s barbaric policy of detaining children

Official confirmation came this week that 470 children have been detained in immigration centres in the first half of 2009.

Many of them are under five years old. This is not an unintended or unforeseen consequence of government immigration policy – the reality is that the Labour government is using our taxes to fund this systematic abuse.

It is perfectly legal for the British state to lock up children in detention centres simply because they are seeking asylum.

Last week the Home Office was confronted with published testimony from experts about what happens to detained children – from nightmares through to depression and self harm.

Its response was simple. It says it has a “duty” to enforce the law.

Throughout human history, the concept of “law” has been used to justify terrible deeds that, in themselves, demonstrate how far away a civilisation can stray from its own humanity.

Gratton Puxon, chair of the European Roma Federation, offered a tribute to Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal at the time of his death. In it he urged us to “root out all those today who promote racial hatred and terror against our people – especially when their deeds are masked behind the veil of law.”

If you ever speak on the phone with someone in a detention centre, you will hear the moans and cries that surround them. That is the world of every child in there.

The fact that it is “legal” to harm children who are in this country in this way can never make it right, and every day that it continues deepens the attack upon our humanity.

We must use every means at our disposal to highlight and end the barbarity that detaining children exemplifies.

Rhetta Moran, Manchester

Royal Mail bosses pile pressure on

What is Royal Mail management up to?

My office was closed and we were offered a pitiful redundancy package or transfer to an office 40 miles away.

I accepted the transfer, so now I travel two hours a day just to get to work.

When I arrive I have to sort letters – even though I am classed as a professional driver.

Even when I’m driving, managers have harassed me. On several occasions I’ve been unable to take my full breaks. When I complained about this out their reply was “tough!”

I find this totally unacceptable and have been branded as a troublemaker.

Everyone is being constantly hassled by management.

They’ve turned what used to be an enjoyable, worthwhile job into a nightmare.

If strike action improves our working conditions then I am all for it. However, it remains to be seen if management will take any notice at all.

Royal Mail driver, Reading

No end to horror in Sri Lanka

Injustice against Tamils (» Sri Lanka’s anti-Tamil crimes continue, 5 September) by Sri Lanka’s governments has continued systematically ever since independence.

Peaceful efforts to find reconciliation were crushed.

Government militarisation of the Tamil north east began in the 1960s – years before the Tamil Tigers began their armed struggle.

And all governments arrogantly went on to ignore the Tamil question.

In the end Tamil youth took up arms to fight. Whether they were right or wrong to do so, they could see no alternative but failed political processes.

When the youth began armed violence the Sri Lankan government enacted the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act.

Disappearances of suspects continue to this day, and there have never been any genuine investigations into them.

There have been a few “eyewash” inquiries, but these go on for so long and achieve so little that many Tamils don’t even bother to file their cases.

In 1981, in an act of petty and vicious vindictiveness, government paramilitaries burnt down the Jaffna library – the great Tamil cultural centre.

Just two years later came “Black July”, when many were killed in the capital, Colombo.

Over 100,000 people have died in the struggle for political justice. The world has simply closed its eyes.

The violence of the Tamil Tigers is wrong. But that of successive governments is worse – systematic and slowly genocidal. Surely there must be some mechanism that can come in early to stop states ill-treating ethnic minorities.

As the war ended Tamil civilians were treated as war criminals, not victims.

The Sinhalese majority is largely apathetic to creeping dictatorship, still basking in the glory of war victory.

The military defeat of the Tamil Tigers cannot be allowed to erase the political justification for Tamil people’s democratic rights.

Alex, by email

Mean-spirited attack on single parents

When the whim takes it, the government calls itself “socialist”. In evidence it points to its record on eradicating child poverty.

But in 2007-08 there were four million children in poverty, after housing costs had been taken into account.

And if there are no jobs for the parents of some of these children, what can be done to avoid the young ones slipping further into the world of poverty?

Last year, the government showed where its loyalties lie. It introduced two sets of regulations.

One will stop single parents from claiming income support from 2010 when their youngest child reaches the age of seven.

The other changes how income support is paid to lone parents who have the care of a young child and are deemed not to be available for work.

It used to be paid one week in arrears, to allow them to budget for food and other essentials.

Now it is supplied two weeks in arrears. Child poverty organisations cried foul, but the government explained that loans were available to get families through the second week!

It is almost unbearable to see children still living in poverty as the bosses and the rich pile up the cash for themselves and their offspring.

Essie, by email

Don’t side with imperialism

I have a problem with Chris Bambery’s article on British policy towards Nazi Germany (» Who were the ‘guilty men’?, 5 August).

When he condemns Neville Chamberlain and his allies for appeasement, the implied lesson is that the British government should have confronted Hitler earlier.

It seems to be saying they should have attacked before he made territorial gains and before Germany had re-armed.

This obscures the fact that, for Marxists, the Second World War was not about a conflict between “democracy” and fascism as such, but was fundamentally imperialist.

Britain and other countries, including the USSR, sought to expand their control of the world’s markets as a way of pulling themselves out of a capitalist crisis.

In these circumstances the role of socialists was not to call on their governments to oppose a rival imperialist power.

They had to call on workers to turn the imperialist war into a civil war, directed against the bosses everywhere.

That was the successful policy followed by Russian revolutionaries Lenin and Trotsky during the First World War.

Benjamin Kindler, Hong Kong

Support the Tobin Tax

In An otherwise excellent article about the Tobin Tax (» Tax bombshell splits ruling class, 5 September), Tom Walker implied that the left should not support it.

His article followed a shock proposal by a top government financial official to tax international currency transactions.

Tom wrote that the tax “can only mitigate the worst effects of the crisis and may slightly delay the next collapse”.

But, in his book, An Anti-Capitalist Manifesto, Alex Callinicos listed the Tobin Tax as a central transitional demand in response to capitalism’s crisis.

John Rose, North London

Unions: stop backing Brown

Gordon Brown’s decision to cut housing benefit by £15 a week for the poorest and most vulnerable stinks.

It confirms New Labour is absolutely no different from the Tories in representing the interests of the super rich against working class people.

God speed the day when trade unions wake up and stop giving their money to this atrocious big business mafia.

Mark Holt, Merseyside

Keep Marxist organisation

The progress of the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) in France is very encouraging (» A new atmosphere on the French left, 5 September).

Chris Harman is right to say that it would be wrong for Marxists in the NPA to alienate the wider membership by trying to impose their politics on the party.

But his article also seems suggest that the French Marxists are right not to organise themselves as a distinct group in the NPA.

I disagree. Marxists need to have a distinct, but open, organisation, while working in a comradely way with those who are not Marxists – whether within a broader party or not.

Phil Webster, Whalley, Lancashire

Save disability allowance

We have just 60 days to prevent Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance being abolished.

A government green paper proposes to stop paying these disability benefits.

Current claimants would have their benefits converted to a “personal budget” administered by local authorities.

We need to raise an almighty row during the consultation period, which ends on 13 November.

The campaign to defend the benefits has more than 22,600 members. Join it at »

John Smithee, Cambridgeshire

‘Knife crime’ for the rich

Simon Carson walked free from court after attacking his neighbour with a £20,000 samurai sword.

The attack left a fellow resident at his Marylebone mansion block with scars and pain in his hands and wrists, which will last for the rest of his life.

Carson was given a one-year suspended sentence. Apparently the state’s “zero tolerance” policy to knife crime only applies when the person doing the stabbing isn’t rich.

Christine Lasenby, South London

Let’s give people hope

I wasn’t surprised by the success of the British National Party (BNP) in the European elections.

They didn’t win seats through a huge swell in support, but because hardly anyone voted.

People don’t feel connected to politicians any more. They think nothing will change if they vote or not.

That is the real problem. Not the BNP.

The left has got to inspire people and make them believe in something again.

So, yes, let the left unite, but not just to stop the BNP. Let’s unite to make things better as well.

Chris, Manchester

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Article information

Tue 8 Sep 2009, 19:38 BST
Issue No. 2168
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