Our leaders have failed Haiti – but we haven’t
Students, teachers and non-teaching staff at Filton High School, south Gloucestershire, raised £500 for Haiti last week.
We were all saddened by the desperate loss of life.
The headteacher announced that the school would donate £100 to the emergency disaster fund. We decided to do more and organised bucket collections among students and staff. As a result we raised an additional £400.
We spoke to workers and students about the reasons for the earthquake and why aid has taken so long to arrive.
We also highlighted how unfair the media has been in depicting people looking for food as “looters”.
People’s reactions quickly changed from sadness to anger. Everybody seemed to feel a sense of injustice – that the people of Haiti have been failed.
Like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, these people have been forgotten. Not at Filton!
We have a real collective consciousness and pride because we managed to raise money so quickly.
Staff have a good reputation for collecting to support strikes and struggle, but this time students were involved and led most collections during breaks.
We have a fantastic cross-curricular group in our school called Alternative Futures. This has put the curriculum into the hands of teachers and given learning a context. Events have been held around climate change and racism.
This week Alternative Futures rose again organically. There has been no official meeting, but staff independently began to plan and share lessons around the geography of earthquakes and the politics of disaster.
We will not stop at collecting money for Haiti. Our sixth form events and lessons aim to encourage discussion and debate about how the world should react to such “natural disasters”.
We also want to ask questions about what sort of world we want to live in.
The banks continue to be bailed out while people starve.
There has never been a better time to be asking students what sort of “alternative future” they want.
Laura Storey, Bristol
I have read the articles in Socialist Worker on the background to the impact of the earthquake in Haiti.
They are a necessary corrective to the news coverage in the mainstream media.
This has, with a few notable exceptions, taken the line of “poor Haitians, cruel nature”, while focusing on human interest stories, as individuals are pulled from the rubble.
The real human interest story is the extent to which the lives of Haitians could be transformed by the cancellation of their debts and freedom from interference in their affairs.
Nature is neither cruel nor kind. Poverty, which is man-made, is very cruel.
Kathryn Rimmington, Portsmouth
No always means no
There has been an outrageous rape trial in Bolton. A prosecution was dropped against six men because the victim discussed fantasies of group sex on the internet with one of them.
The judge instructed the jury to return a not guilty verdict because “her morals go out the window”.
This takes us back to the days of judges and police assuming only “bad girls” get raped.
In this view those who dress “wrongly”, go out alone, and have fantasies about sex outside of monogamy or marriage are “asking for it”.
So what if she had fantasies? The internet has an effect on inhibitions in the alienated world of human relations.
The issue is very simple. If someone does not consent to sex at any stage, then it is rape.
With so many women attacked for the way they dress or behave it is little wonder that only 5 percent of rapes are reported and that only 6.5 percent of reported rapes end in a conviction.
If the judges and police want to drag us back 30 years, we will have to campaign for no to really mean no all of the time.
Elane Heffernan, East London
Stop the scabs
A few months ago Royal Mail opened scab mail centres during legal strike action by the CWU union in an effort to undermine our strike.
Now British Airways is believed to be funding an “alternative union” (PCCC) to undermine the strike ballot.
The PCCC is not a union – a union should not defend management against democratic representation.
This exposes the hypocrisy of the law and management.A technicality is used to call off democratic strikes yet management dirty tricks go unpunished.
It is time the anti-trade union laws were removed.
Paul Garraway, CWU branch secretary, South Central No 1
Class attacks will increase Islamophobia
The French government has recommended a ban on Muslim women wearing the veil in public.
A committee of French MPs spent six months convincing itself of the danger posed by a practice involving less than 0.1 percent of France’s Muslim population.
Women wearing the veil in public will have no effect on the possibility of a future terrorist attack.
While the debate in France continues about a minority of women representing “fundamentalism”, there is no mention of the anger many Muslims and non-Muslims feel about the occupations of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The “war on terror” has created a wave of racism against Muslims. In Britain we are seen as the “enemy within” and have to prove we “belong”.
This has encouraged the growth of the fascist British National Party and groups like the English Defence League who have taken to our high streets (many covering their faces).
Muslims, along with our black and Asian brothers and sisters, also face racism in jobs, housing and education. Islamophobia is the new racism, and with it attacks on black and Asian people have increased.
As the attacks on our class worsen, those on Muslims will increase. It’s much easier for the ruling class to blame a minority group than the system that keeps them in power.
Nahella Ashraf, Manchester
Stoke’s anger at fascist rampage
Stoke-on-Trent has been left stunned and angry after the violence meted out by the English Defence League (EDL) and the Nazi British National Party (BNP).
We’ve now seen what happens when these maggots get together. EDL supporters vandalised mosques, trashed cars and smashed the windows of Asian businesses.
Even the right wing local paper, the Sentinel, was disgusted.
Our disgust will help us to move forward in tackling fascism in Stoke.
Very few can now doubt the need to urgently build a movement to smash the BNP’s electoral hopes and take our streets back from the EDL.
We will have a meeting at Staffordshire University on Thursday of this week to pull people together from all over Stoke to organise our fightback.
We will mobilise as many people as we can to join other activists in Bolton on 6 March and Dudley on 4 April where the EDL is planning its next sieges.
The EDL had its chance to show what it can muster nationally. Now it is our turn to show what a real national mobilisation is.
Gary McNally, Stoke-on-Trent
Barricading the beer
AB InBev is the world’s biggest brewer. Its brands include Stella Artois. In January it took on its Belgian workers by cutting 260 out of 2,700 jobs.
The workers responded with strikes and barricades, which stopped raw materials going in and beer coming out.
AB InBev won a court order to end the blockade.
The unions warned that any enforcement of the order would start an all-out strike – within days AB InBev settled.
Dave Evans, Burscough, Lancashire
Horrific effect of cutbacks
People have been led to believe that the case of two children attacking two others in Doncaster is an isolated incident in Edlington.
The two children involved in the attacks are not even from Edlington.
The case reflects a massive problem that affects the whole of Doncaster.
Frontline social services departments have been underfunded.
Voluntary groups have been relied upon to fill the gaps.
When the Unison union branch secretary Jim Board spoke out about this, the council suspended him.
Doncaster people are looking for a properly conducted investigation not a whitewash.
Ian King, Unite union convenor, Doncaster
Wrong on Iraqi oil sell-off
There is an error in the article on the effects of the Iraq war (» Blair and Brown have blood on their hands, 30 January).
It says, “The oil giants will pay the Iraqi government $1.90 for each barrel of oil they extract.”
The $1.90 is the fee that the Iraqi government will pay to the oil companies.
For one barrel, the Iraqi government will have to pay the oil company their costs plus $1.90.
The Iraqi government can then sell the oil and keep the profits.
Richard Morgan, Cambridge
Bitter brew at Twinings
Twinings, the highly profitable tea company, has announced plans to shut its North Shields plant and halve production at its Andover site in Hampshire.
The firm is moving production to eastern Europe and China, claiming it wants to be closer to its customers.
At a well-attended meeting of the “Save Twinings Jobs” campaign, speaker after speaker argued that the move was about corporate greed.
A union rep denounced the effect the move would have on families and the community.
The next stage of the campaign is about to begin and it is one well worth joining.
Andrew Stevenson, by email
Who is the real threat?
the ministry of justice has labelled environmental campaigners as extremists and a “continuing threat”.
Environmentalists are listed alongside the far right and Al Qaida-inspired terrorists. Some have never been convicted of a crime. This is shocking.
But are those who have committed a crime really a threat to the country?
Those who want to expand airports and coal-fired power stations are contributing to climate change and endangering lives.
They are a much bigger threat than environmental campaigners.
Camilla Royle, West London
York defends Joe Glenton
Over 20 supporters of York Against the War staged a lively protest in support of York-based soldier Joe Glenton last Saturday.
Joe is refusing to go back to serve in Afghanistan.
Our monthly protests to support Joe have been well received with hundreds of people signing the petition.
Supporter, York Against the War