A day to celebrate
SLAVERY IN the British Empire ended in 1833 when, on the first day of August, the government signed a document abolishing the practice across the West Indies.
From that years onwards the freed slaves celebrated “slavery day”. In 1871 the British government passed a law saying that the first Monday of August should be a bank holiday to commemorate the abolishment of slavery.
This continued until the early 1880s when the holiday was moved to the end of August and renamed. I think that it is significant date. Those who campaigned to end slavery devoted their lives to the cause. We should pay tribute to them.
I am involved in a campaign to reinstate the holiday. It is not just for West Indians but for everyone. It was the first holiday that was given to the workers. And if it was reinstated we would have another holiday that everyone could enjoy—they have far more holidays in the rest of Europe than we do in Britain.
Our campaign held a memorial service in Westminster Hall on 1 August and a meeting on 2 August. We have collected around 3,000 signatures so far. We’re hoping to have an even bigger campaign over the coming year.
People can write to 867 Harrow Road, London NW10 5NG to get petitions and to find out more.
Reverend A Harriott, London
Massive backing for Chavez
HAVING JUST come back from Venezuela, I would say that the recent referendum vote understates the amount of support for president Hugo Chavez.
Wherever you went before the referendum, in the cities or the countryside, there were masses of “No” posters (no to removing Chavez). These outnumbered the “Yes” posters by something like four to one.
Lots of people wore red “No” T-shirts.
On the day of the referendum people were queuing at the polling stations to vote from 3am.
Such was the crush of people who wanted to vote, the election had to be extended by four hours.
Many Venezuelans fear that, having failed to remove Chavez by constitutional means, the right will soon attempt another coup.
There are clear echoes of the situation in Chile before Pinochet’s coup in 1973.
Chilean workers put their trust in the left wing president, Salvador Allende. But he put his trust in the Chilean military—with tragic results.
I hope it is a lesson the Venezuelan workers take on board—developing their own independent organisation rather than relying on Chavez.
Steve Wilkins, Rainham, Kent
Black MPs have failed
DIANNE ABBOTT MP recently wrote a letter welcoming black sections into the Labour Party.
But having black and Asian MPs has not dramatically improved the conditions of black and Asian people in this country.
Hardly any of them campaign much on issues concerning racism and discrimination. Most of them voted for the war against Iraq. Most of them loyally toe the party line for the sake of their careers.
The reason why the Blairite party is interested in black sections is because the vote for Respect in areas with large immigrant communities is now a serious problem for the Labour Party.
Black and white people have to unite against the system that oppresses the working class.
No more “Uncle Toms”, no more selling out black and Asian people for the sake of careers and elections which aim to prop up a system which can’t even guarantee the working class a decent pension.
Lila Patel, by email
Refuge is refused
The Immigration minister says that this country provides a “haven” for people fleeing persecution.
Why then are so many people having their asylum pleas rejected? Is the Home Office indulging in an August holiday period clearout?
Many of the people seeking their lawful immigration and asylum rights have fled from torture, imprisonment and threat to life and limb. They have come from war-torn African countries such as Rwanda, Congo and Zimbabwe.
Kurdish people who have escaped the upheavals of the Middle East are simply seeking shelter here.
The dictionary says that “haven” means “refuge”. Why is this Government so determined to make it mean “refuse”?
John Nicholson, Bury
Help Respect bury New Labour in Hartlepool
MY WIFE and I spent a weekend in Hartlepool helping the Respect campaign in the forthcoming parliamentary by-election.
We travelled over 220 miles from Milton Keynes. This is the first parliamentary by-election that Respect has fought in a mainly white, working class and traditionally Labour constituency.
We have to make an impact in areas like this if Respect is to grow.
Hartlepool Respect has a really good local candidate in John Bloom, who has campaigned over many years on environmental issues and against the closure of the local hospital.
I particularly enjoyed running the Respect stall in Hartlepool High Street and giving New Labour what-for over the megaphone, as their dark suited candidate and his minders were handing out their election literature.
We met the youngest and oldest campaigners in Hartlepool, and they put many of us to shame.
A nine year old girl spent a whole day in the Respect office folding leaflets. On Saturday she spent the whole day helping to run a tombola stall to raise money.
On Friday I spent all day with an 81 year old comrade called Reg who helped post hundreds of leaflets through house doors.
At times he appeared to me to be running down the Hartlepool streets while I was limping with sore feet!
Hartlepool Respect needs all the help you can give.
As they say in Hartlepool: “New Labour—born in Islington, died in Iraq, buried in Hartlepool!”
Neil Williams chair Milton Keynes Respect
How many more children must die?
I READ about the death of Adam Rickwood and was appalled that a boy so young could take his own life while in the care of the state (Socialist Worker, 21 August).
How many more children are going to die?
My son Anthony Redding died in February 2001.
He was sentenced to eight weeks in Brinsford young offenders’ institute and was put on suicide watch after four attempts to take his own life.
He finally succeeded the fifth time, only three weeks into his sentence, by tying his sweatshirt round his neck and hanging himself.
They say that things are changing for the better for children who are locked up, but this is not true.
The deaths are still occurring. It’s about time someone got off their backside in their cosy little office and stopped all these needless deaths.
My heart goes out to Adam’s family—we know the devastating impact it has on you. Three years later I am still suffering stress through the loss of my only son—thanks to this appalling system.
Mrs H Redding, Coventry
Defining the war on terror
An article by William Blum in the radical US webzine CounterPunch inspired me to write the following definitions.
Aberration: state sponsored assassination, or brutal and degrading treatment of prisoners by a liberation army.
Collateral damage: the killing and mutilation of innocent civilians and the destruction of civil structures necessary for life.
Terrorphobia: a condition to be induced in the general population to facilitate the acceptance of “aberrations” and “collateral damage”.
Dave Edwards, Doncaster
Sold down the river by Ebuyer
PAUL CUSSAK is to close down operations for the ebuyer.com company in Sheffield.
A possible 120 jobs are to go as operations move to Hull.
Cussak is the 51st richest man in Yorkshire, according to one local newspaper.
Now he is moving his company to Hull to save £4 million.
Ebuyer worker, by email
LEICESTER UNITE Against Fascism (UAF) approached a local independent cinema to see if we could arrange a season of anti-fascist films.
The Phoenix Arts centre welcomed the idea with enthusiasm.
Leicester UAF can hold stalls and collections inside the cinema.
The films are The Sorrow and the Pity, Land and Freedom, The Double-Headed Eagle, La Haine, and The Damned.
Simon Furze, chair Leicester UAF
The dream of socialism
WHAT WE as socialists seek is not merely the dictatorship of the proletariat but the “decapitalisation” of present day society.
The socialists’ dream is that the concept of equality may be realised not just along racial, national or sexual lines, but also along social lines.
We dream of a time when private property is a thing of the past and where all things are universal.
We seek a world with no class barriers where you can go to the corporate businessman’s mansion without fear of being arrested, or to the inner city ghettos without fear of being robbed.
A world where you can sleep in one house today and a completely different one tomorrow if you want to. Where you can work at jobs for fun, not in order to earn a living.
Tony Saunders, West London
Going back to the 1930s
HISTORY HAS a habit of repeating itself. I think about the state the world is in now, and I can’t help but think about the 1930s.
Back then you had the rise of fascism, which is also the case today, with Le Pen nearly becoming president of France and the BNP winning council seats in places like Burnley.
Jews and Communists were demonised—today it’s the Muslims.
And who can forget the imperial powers flexing their muscles—Mussolini’s Italy invading Ethiopia, Hitler’s Germany making its territorial advances in Europe.
But in this new century it’s the US with its culture of prejudice and corporate greed, attacking any nation in search of profit or because of its fear of difference.
I’m not saying that we’re on the verge of global conflict again, but I do think that something big will eventually happen.
John Livingston, by email
Your review was a hit
I RECENTLY went to see Chronicles—A Lamentation, one of the shows that Mark Brown mentioned in his review of the Edinburgh festival (Socialist Worker, 21 August).
Outside the show they were displaying all of the press reviews of the show.
I was delighted to see the full page from Socialist Worker had been laminated and stuck on the notice board.
Esme Choonara, Glasgow