How protest drove Nazi out of our city centre
We found out that British National Party (BNP) candidate Gary Tumulty was working at a local Spar shop here in Manchester, after his details and picture were published online.
So I went there, and asked if staff were aware of the fact that he was a fascist. He tried to accuse me of shoplifting in return.
After speaking to some people at college, we designed a leaflet and organised a demonstration for 4.15 outside the Spar on Thursday of last week. We left college with about 25 people and made our way down to begin leafleting.
Within minutes we were 50 strong, with many young, black people chanting “Nazi scum”.
The police arrived and tried to move us on for numerous ridiculous reasons—littering, public disorder, blocking a public street, breaching the data protection act, etc. We stood our ground.
When we ran out of leaflets, the neighbouring convenience store run by an Asian family gave us discount on the photocopier once we explained. Local office workers photocopied more in their work.
Within an hour and a half, Tumulty and three Nazi goons who turned up to help him had left, apparently vowing not to return. We had driven them out of the city centre.
Staff inside the shop were putting their thumbs up at us through the window.
Once the Nazis were gone, the police disappeared too. So we all went home, vowing to return if Tumulty did—and letting everyone know that the fight still goes on in Oldham where the BNP is standing in the by-election.
Jamil Keating, Manchester
Joanna Yeates coverage reveals the media’s profit-driven cynicism
The blanket coverage of the tragic disappearance of Joanna Yeates, and the hunt for her killer, shows the media at its most cynical.
Hundreds of people go missing each week.
But the media only likes “deserving” victims—in this case blonde, white and from a “nice” family.
The papers then accused Yeates’ landlord Chris Jefferies of the murder, dredging up the most appalling stereotypes to explain his “guilt”. He was freed without charge.
Serena Beakhurst, a 14-year old black girl from London, disappeared a week before Yeates.
Despite a prominent campaign on Twitter appealing to find her, she got zero coverage in the national media.
Thankfully she returned safe and sound.
Media owners are only interested in sales and audience share, while the BBC has caved in to the tabloid agenda.
Dave Crouch, South London
Don’t say ‘workers’
I wish to raise my concerns about the use of the category “working people” and even “working class”. As a long-term unemployed 23-year old, with Asperger’s syndrome, obsessive-complusive disorder and specific learning difficulties, I feel that people like me are too often overlooked in the dominant political discourse.
Establishment commentators and politicians always use the terms “working people” or “hard-working families”.
But many people spend most of their lives never experiencing long-term work. This is a sad state of affairs and something that as socialists we must seek to change. However, our own language should reflect the real situation, instead of lumping everyone together as “working”.
I realise that the category “working class” signifies a particular relation to the means of production, in this instance not having any ownership over production and having to work for a boss.
But for those who are prevented from working for most of their lives, even though they may objectively belong to the “working class”, the overuse of the term can be offputting. It may prevent disabled people from joining the socialist cause. I prefer the term “ordinary/low-income” people.
People who are unemployed are treated like third class citizens because we have no union—yet!—to represent our interests. Politicians never talk about us in anything other than disparaging terms. It is no wonder that many people on benefits don’t vote or feel that politics is important.
We have often been called the “lumpenproletariat” (an amorphous mass of people with no organisation) and our potential revolutionary instincts have been overlooked.
But I believe that if socialists build a national unemployed union and speak louder about the particular needs of the disabled and people who have never tasted work, we may find that a socialist consciousness can be established among this class of people.
Anna Lansley, Chichester
Defend Assange, but don’t dismiss rape
There are two separate issues to look at about Wikileaks.
We should condemn the torture of Bradley Manning by the US state for exposing the military horror in Iraq.
Likewise we should absolutely defend Julian Assange’s right to publish information on Wikileaks.
I also want to draw attention to the rape allegations against Julian Assange.
Capitalist states are well known for smearing people and jailing them for crimes that they have not committed.
They are fond of doing this to individuals whom they judge to be a “threat”.
Of course we cannot and should not make judgements about what did, or did not happen in the absence of knowing the facts.
The “feminist” Naomi Wolf wrote a disgusting article in the Guardian last week saying that “Julian Assange’s sex-crime accusers deserve to be named”.
Someone needs to remind her that it is perfectly possible to condemn US imperialism and state repression without siding with misogynists.
Rape allegations must be taken seriously and properly investigated.
Likewise the accused is entitled to a fair trial, without the interference of organisations who have no interest in women’s liberation but simply want to hide their war crimes.
Julie Webster, Nottingham
Now really is time to be a socialist
Never a truer statement was made than the headline Now is the time to become a socialist (11 December).
Today it is as important as ever in the history of the working class to become a socialist. Everything workers have fought for and gained over the past century is once again under threat.
Like in the 1930s, working class people are living under the cloud of a global financial crisis perpetrated by the politicians and bankers.
Against this backdrop we have witnessed the rise in imperialist wars and racism. There is always a war going on somewhere, and there have been vitriolic attacks on Roma Gypsies and attacks on migrant workers across Europe.
Closer to home we have the dangerous rise of the English Defence League, whose intention is to attack mosques and Asian people.
Meanwhile the police are hell-bent on attacking student protesters.
The bosses, bankers and billionaires will not suffer as a result of the financial mess—unless we make them.
We need a socialist, working class revolution to make the rich pay for the crisis. It can work!
Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness
We can make Labour fight
I think Michael Lavalette raised important points in his article ( How should councillors oppose the cuts onslaught?, 8 January).
The strategy of seeking to work with activists and trade unionists who oppose cuts is the right one.
We should accept that many who want to fight the Tories look to Labour. We need to work in a spirit of unity with these people.
He was correct to point out a Labour council cut is just as painful as a Tory one.
We aren’t giving Labour a cloak to hide behind: we will oppose them where we disagree, and we should demand they do not vote to make the cuts.
However, this means creating a grassroots, rank and file movement. And it means united industrial action to protect jobs and build for a general strike.
Aidan Barlow, Warwick
Mark Twain was a racist
You call Mark Twain “anti-racist” ( Writer and tribune of the oppressed , 13 November). But in an article in 1870, Twain wrote this:
“He [the native American] is ignoble—base and treacherous, and hateful in every way. Not even imminent death can startle him into a spasm of virtue...
“His heart is a cesspool of falsehood, of treachery, and of low and devilish instincts.
“With him, gratitude is an unknown emotion; and when one does him a kindness, it is safest to keep the face toward him, lest the reward be an arrow in the back...The scum of the earth!”
Why is this horrific level of racism ignored by the left?
J Taylor, West London
Is this really censorship?
There has been controversy in the press over a new edition of Mark Twain’s book Huckleberry Finn being “censored” so it can be used in schools.
The new edition changes the book’s hundreds of uses of the word “nigger” to read “slave” instead.
Some say that this undermines the authenticity of the author’s work.
But isn’t it a good thing to keep this kind of racist language out of our classrooms?
Melissa Morley, Reading
Firms blinding us for profit
Drug companies are trying to stop the NHS from prescribing cheap medicine that prevents the most common cause of blindness.
Firms Genentech and Roche, who make and market the drug Avastin, are fighting attempts to use small quantities of it in this way for £50 a dose.
Instead they want to make the NHS pay £750 a dose for their “licensed” version of the same drug.
They’d let us go blind to keep their profits up.
Alisha Turnbull, South London
Desai: a model for the world
Thank you for bringing the story of this courageous woman Jayaben Desai and her struggle against the bosses, and trade union leaders, to our attention ( Jayaben Desai 1933–2010 , 8 January).
She is an important role model for all of us engaged in social justice struggles around the globe. She will be missed.
Jenny, Toronto, Canada
All for a few lousy bob
I was sad to hear that the actor Pete Postlethwaite died earlier this month.
To my mind his best performance was in Brassed Off, the film about pit closures in the 1990s, playing colliery band conductor Danny.
“The government has systematically destroyed an entire industry,” he says at the end of the film.
“And not just our industry—our communities, our homes, our lives.
“All in the name of ‘progress’. And for a few lousy bob.”
Gone but not forgotten.
Kiera Cook, Lincoln