Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2180

A group of unemployed men in the early morning in the Afghan city of Herat, hoping to be offered work. Many of those gathered have been displaced by the war  (Pic:»<

A group of unemployed men in the early morning in the Afghan city of Herat, hoping to be offered work. Many of those gathered have been displaced by the war  (Pic: »<

Afghan refugees face daily battle to survive

Guy Smallman’s article on the dire situation facing jobless labourers in Afghanistan (» Jobless, displaced and bitter, 21 November) applies equally here on the island of Samos, Greece.

There are now hundreds of refugees, many of them from Afghanistan, trying to survive here and to find new lives free from violence and imperialist warfare in their own country.

But what they find is no refuge and no care from the state – only neglect and cruelty.

The result is that every morning, from first light to around 9am, there are groups of between ten and 30 young Afghan men standing by the key thoroughfares, waiting to be “selected” for work.

Their desperation makes them super-exploitable. From what I have discovered, the “lucky” few who get selected are doing the most arduous physical work on the land or on the building sites for as little as five euros a day – and in some cases only for food.

Because the refugee centre in the main town is massively overcrowded many of these young guys are living rough. The winter rains have yet to arrive but when they do, who knows what suffering will follow.

Samos is by no means unique. In Patras, in mainland Greece, there have been over 2,000 young Afghan men living in the most pitiful self-made camp – now erased by the state.

These refugees, both among the 800 on Samos or the thousands around Patras, illustrate yet again the monstrosity of this war and the urgency with which we must bring it to an end.

Chris Jones, Ambelos, Samos, Greece

Defending bus workers’ rights

First Eastern Counties bus company has taken unprecedented action against one of its Norwich-based drivers.

He suffered an industrial accident recently and was signed off sick by his GP.

The company then went to extreme lengths to monitor him to try to prove that he was not really ill. On returning to work, the driver was presented with the evidence. He is now off work again – this time with stress!

The local Unite union branch held a special meeting earlier this month. We hoped that at the very least there would be a one-day strike called to voice concern and to warn the company to desist from such action in future.

However this was not to be, and most of the 70 members present were persuaded to sanction a letter of protest instead and sign a petition to the management. But our campaign continues.

First East Counties driver, Norwich

Halt Brown’s immigration lies

Two years ago Gordon Brown used the notorious slogan “British jobs for British workers”. This became a rallying cry for every racist, bigot and xenophobe who blames immigrants for unemployment.

Now he has returned to the subject and proved he has learnt nothing.

Promising a “clampdown” on immigration numbers, Brown opines, “I want to see rising levels of skills, wages and employment among those resident here, rather than employers having to resort to recruiting people from abroad.”

In other words, he’s regurgitated the essence of British jobs for British workers in a less pithy sentence.

Brown may be following in a long and disgusting tradition of capitulating to racism.

He wouldn’t be the first Labour politician who has rummaged in the sewer to pick up a few miserable racist votes.

Alternatively he might be trying to win back votes lost to the Nazis of the British National Party (BNP).

If that is the case he should be aware of the experience of those French politicians who tried to push fascist leader Jean Marie Le Pen back by adopting the vocabulary and mimicking the racism of his National Front.

They strengthened Le Pen, who argued that voters tend to prefer an original to a copy.

Racism isn’t fought by pandering and capitulating to it. Whatever the reasons for his latest attack on immigrants, Brown can get stuffed.

Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers didn’t cause this crisis. We’ll be damned if we’re going to be used as scapegoats by those who did.

Sasha Simic, East London

I was appalled to see reports last week showing two thirds of black men in Britain are on the police DNA database. This follows years of racist stop and search by the police.

There couldn’t be a clearer example of how black people are criminalised. We must unite against this state racism.

Darya Rohan, Wolverhampton

I won’t be eating any humble pie over cuts

In response to your story about a Unison union activist being barred from office (» Barred from union office for defence of nurse , 21 November), I think that the stance being taken by the union is nothing new.

I am currently suspended from my job as a bin man with Edinburgh council.

My crime?

Writing to the local paper to outline the workforce’s side of a current dispute over the council’s attempt to slash the wages of the lowest paid workers, both male and female, in the name of “single status”.

When I got in touch with my full time union official, his advice was to “eat humble pie and apologise”.

A wonderful approach to help prevent a gagging notice from being placed on a workforce by management I think you will agree!

I wish the Unison member concerned all the best in her fight. But I’m afraid most union full time officials are way out of touch with their workforces now.

Paul French, Edinburgh

Brilliant to see a victory on the Leeds bins (» Victory in Leeds for bin workers, 28 November).

How long are we supposed to put up with this charade of “equal pay” being used as an excuse to attack low paid workers? How about cuts at the top for a change?

Tricia Green, Grimsby

Abolish Ofsted to improve schools

I am pleased to see that Ofsted has been coming in for some criticism recently.

Those of us who work in education know only too well how teachers and children have suffered for nearly 20 years under a regime of fear due to Ofsted’s punitive inspection regime.

Now things are getting even worse. Ofsted has introduced a new inspection framework that seeks to fail even more schools, often for trivial reasons.

Under this, raw test scores are used to judge schools – and if a school does not meet national averages, they will be marked down.

For schools in deprived areas, this will have a devastating impact. More and more of our schools will be found to be “failing”.

The new framework has seen one school failed for having playground fences that were too low and another because the inspector was offered a cup of tea before he was asked for his criminal record check.

Ofsted has no role to play in improving education.

In fact, the immediate abolition of Ofsted would be a big improvement to the education system.

Jess Edwards, South London

We should say no prohibition

Graeme Kemp pointed out the very real link between some drug dependency and poverty (» Letters, 28 November).

However, we must be more specific. Cocaine use, for example, is a lot higher among business people than among the working class.

Some drugs are used for escapism – heroin and crack are two examples. But many are used simply for pleasure!

Drug abuse and alienation go hand in hand – and so do being a revolutionary and opposing prohibition and the war on drugs.

Hanif Leylabi, Leeds

Drugs didn’t create art

I am confused by the nameless radical’s ire about drugs (» Letters, 21 November).

For as long as people have had minds they have had minds to alter.

Unless we have never drunk anything, smoked or even popped an aspirin to relieve a headache, we have all altered our body’s chemistry.

This is why all drugs should be legally available – not because drug taking is revolutionary, but because it is mundane.

We could provide a list of famous drug users. For example, John Lennon took LSD, James Joyce drank absinthe and Samuel Taylor Coleridge smoked opium.

But LSD did not write “I Am The Walrus”, nor absinthe Ulysses, nor opium the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Surely we know this?

Reducing famous drug users down to their drug of choice is a disservice to them and doesn’t get anywhere.

Adam Marks, East London

Where’s flood bailout cash?

Has anyone else noticed the badly stage-managed photo opportunity that our “Gord” got up to?

I refer to the prime minister’s visit to the poor folk of Cockermouth and Workington in Cumbria who have lost their homes and are cut off by bridge closures.

Gordon Brown put his hand into our pocket and found some loose change – £1 million – then stuffed it into their pockets and left the area. Job done: sit back and watch it on TV in the warm at Number Ten.

Compare that to the billions of pounds of our money he gave his banking friends when their massive bonuses came under threat.

These people hadn’t lost their homes but they have lost the homes of many unfortunate families. But not to worry. Their massive bonuses are now safe thanks to our “Gord” and New Labour.

Derek Hanlin, Porth, Mid Glamorgan

Inspired by Malcolm X

I read one of your online archive articles about Malcolm X (» ‘We are living in an era of revolution’, February 2005).

I truly identified with this article from the very first line.

I am not African American, but I have always been interested in the life and work of Malcolm X which, like your author, I discovered in my late teens.

I learned from Malcolm’s life experience and the evolution of his political and social discourse.

I also praise his phrase “the future belongs to those who prepare for it today”.

That is what I have tried to do along my 26 years of age.

Thank you Malcolm.

Yadelys Garriga, by email

Labour denies human rights

The council of Europe meets this week to discuss countries that have failed to abide by rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

Shamefully, Britain is one of them.

For more than five years, there has been a legal duty to give prisoners the right to vote.

But Labour obviously thinks it won’t play well with the tabloid press, so it still hasn’t happened.

Sabiha Ghani, Manchester

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Article information

Tue 1 Dec 2009, 18:34 GMT
Issue No. 2180
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