FOR OVER a year we have had the constant presence of British immigration officers working alongside the police and London Underground’s revenue control inspectors on London Underground.
As a ticket inspector, I have witnessed their antics first hand and found them to be an abuse of civil liberties. Clad in bulletproof vests with sheriff-like badges and handcuffs attached to their waists, they pose in an intimidating manner.
On one occasion at Ealing Broadway station last year, immigration officials hijacked what was supposed to be a major revenue exercise.
They stopped customers before they reached the automatic gates where the ticket inspectors were positioned. Of course, only customers with a certain look were targeted—those with black or brown skin, or Eastern European features.
The immigration officers asked people for their tickets, then asked them what country they were from. Every aspect of their background was checked using portable computers, taking up to 40 minutes.
My colleague and I became victims of immigration harassment once. We were on duty in plainclothes. Members of British Transport Police and immigration officers were also there. A police officer came up and asked us what we were doing and where we were from.
He was embarrassed when we identified ourselves as ticket inspectors, and whispered he had approached us at the behest of immigration officers.
We were not the only revenue inspectors on duty that day—but we were the only black ones.
Immigration officers can only approach people who have already been booked for fare evasion. But I saw them approach an Asian teenager wearing hearing aids and using a Freedom Pass. I was forced to intervene.
An article in the Evening Standard (9 August) exposed immigration officials. One of them admitted they stop people who sound or look foreign. As a consequence, our manager has declared that immigration officials are no longer welcome to work with us.
But they are working on other lines, and even at bus stops. Will they set up checks in supermarkets next? If nothing is done now, they will.
K Babalola, London
Listen to warning bells from the US
THEY SAY that what happens in the US will happen here. So Jonathan Neale’s interview about his book, What’s Wrong With America? (Socialist Worker, 11 September), is a timely warning.
Lots of people go to US theme parks on holiday and have a great time. But what is life like for ordinary Americans?
My sister lives in Florida and works as a waitress for the Red Lobster restaurant chain. She has worked there for 17 years.
Her working life is a relentless grind, just as it is for many working people.
She has only two weeks holiday a year, which is the standard holiday allowance for the majority of US workers.
The 40-hour week is also standard. She receives no sick pay and has no pension. When she started her basic hourly rate was $2.19 an hour plus tips. Now, 17 years later, her basic hourly rate is $2.26 an hour plus tips.
The only reason she stays is that she is entitled to some basic minimum medical benefits for her and her family.
With no pension, she must work until she drops or she will have no income and medical coverage.
The only one in my family that ever had a pension was my father. He was a bus driver and a member of the Teamsters union.
Ron Senchek, Manchester
An Olympic victory
IN A major defeat for US Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Greek Tory government, Powell was obliged to forget his plans to visit the final ceremony of the Olympics.
The news of Powell’s visit had a few lines in the papers on Monday, less than one week before Sunday’s ceremony.
The Stop the War Coalition reacted immediately. We called for a united demonstration in Athens on Friday evening demanding that the government cancel the invitation.
Friday’s demonstration was marching towards the US embassy, but the government decided to use riot police to block our way. The police’s attack with teargas and clubs exposed the government’s lies that they didn’t want any trouble with the anti-war demonstrators.
But the demonstration was too lively to be put down by such an attack. We continued marching in the streets of Athens, which were officially “No-demonstration zones” due to the Olympic security measures.
People who were participating in Olympic music concerts downtown welcomed us, cheering, clapping and shouting anti-war slogans. First thing next morning came the news of our victory.
For the anti-war movement in Greece, this was a major boost for our next actions, and we hope it gave joy to activists all over the world.
Workers Solidarity, Greece
Not just what I eat
I AM a socialist, but not because of what I eat.
We can all sympathise with feelings of disgust at multinational food producers like McDonald’s that Gemski wants to boycott (Letters, 28 August).
But we can’t make a principle out of buying or not buying this or that product of capitalism, because capitalism pervades every corner of the earth.
Choosing not to buy cheap horrible food is a privilege enjoyed by the few.
H Falconer, Pembrokeshire
What is the solution to the pension crisis?
ONCE AGAIN the pension crisis has reared its ugly head. Both state and private or works schemes are failing badly.
The state pension scheme was never going to live up to expectations in its current form.
It takes somewhere in the region of four workers to sustain one pensioner. With an increasing life expectancy coupled with a declining birthrate, it is on course for total collapse.
There are several unpalatable solutions—increase the state pension age to 70 or even 75, raise and ringfence a new form of tax, or encourage “traditional” family life to generate a baby boom. The final answer, if state pensions are to survive, will be a mix of these.
Private and works pensions on the other hand are victim of their own dogma—the free market, in particular prevailing market forces.
It is simply amazing the amount of people who believe market forces will deliver for the majority of the people. They won’t.
They will, however, deliver for a minority who know how to use the marketplace.
The only fair solution to the private or works pension schemes problem is to force all companies to offer the same scheme from the board of directors downwards.
The unpalatable fact is that under the current system the money isn’t there and never will be unless people accept that the system can’t deliver, and capitalism, as we know it, is doomed.
A Williams, Holyhead
My precious son died in custody too
Mrs Helen Redding is quite right to call for an end to the terrible and wilful abuse and killing of children in custody by the state and its agents (Socialist Worker, 4 September).
I am the mother of Joseph Scholes, who died on 24 March 2002 aged just 16 years, after suffering inhumane and degrading treatment while incarcerated in Stoke Heath children’s prison, Shropshire.
With the support of Inquest, NACRO, and my local MP, Chris Ruane, I have been calling for a full public inquiry into my child’s death.
The home secretary, David Blunkett, continues to consider that request at his leisure, and meanwhile children suffer and die.
Since the appalling death of my precious son three more children have died in Britain’s hellish prisons, and the routine harming of the minds and bodies of children continues unabated and largely unquestioned.
We cannot allow the government to continue to harm some of the most damaged and vulnerable children in our society.
I call upon your readers to demand that their MP signs Early Day Motion number 1423 put forward by Chris Ruane MP, calling for a full public inquiry into Joseph’s death. For a full list of signatures, go to edm.ais.co.uk
Mrs Yvonne Scholes, North Wales
US election debate
Nader is vital rallying point
MARK Patterson’s comment that “Nader will destroy the US by letting Bush in again” (Letters, 11 September) is typical of the Anyone But Bush hysteria of many on the left.
Ordinary people’s lives are being destroyed by the system that both George Bush and John Kerry represent.
As the Indian writer Arundhati Roy has put it, the choice between Bush and Kerry is like the choice between two detergents—there are a few differences, but they’re both owned by Procter and Gamble.
Nader can’t win the election, but his campaign has become the rallying point for rebuilding the progressive movements that we will need to fight the policies of whoever is in the White House after 2 November.
Phil Gasper, International Socialist Organisation, California
Response from Green voter
VIRGINIA RODINO (Socialist Worker, 11 September) writes, “In ‘swing states’ voters are urged to ‘vote smart’ and vote Democrat.
“After being nominated by the Populist Party, vice-presidential candidate LaMarche said she could not even say if she would be voting for Cobb and herself.”
This is in fact not true. David Cobb has said that he will put more time into states that are guaranteed to go one way or the other.
But he has made it clear that this is not meant to encourage people to vote for Kerry.
Furthermore, Green parties in several swing states, including Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have passed resolutions opposing the “safe states” strategy. They requested that Cobb run “all out” in their states.
Cobb has indicated he will comply with their wishes. Poof! No more “safe states” strategy.
Pat LaMarche did not indicate any uncertainty about voting for the Green ticket. Finally, it’s just sloppy journalism to say that Pat was nominated by the “Populist Party”.
Steve Herrick, Michigan, US
Listen to voice of protest
I LISTENED to reports from the Republican Party convention in New York with a feeling of concern and dread for the future. If Bush and his Republican cabal get a second term, no one is safe.
Likewise a vote for John Kerry means the perpetuation of exactly the same kind of foreign policy advocated by the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, the two-party political system in the US leaves the people with no choice.
The demonstration of 400,000 people in New York on the 30 August showed that there are people there striving for peace.
The tragedy is that these voices are going to be the last ones to be heard in a political process that is both stagnant and pervasive.
Alan Haynes, Kent
Defeat Bush for big boost
IN THE debate over the US elections, few people seem to have considered the impact of a Bush victory on the movement.
Many frustrated anti-Bush activists, encouraged by the Democrat leadership, would blame Nader supporters for the defeat. The best, most socialist, elements would be cut off from the movement.
In contrast, Kerry, though still a despicable reactionary, would be a much weaker president.
The left would be united and strengthened by the experience of defeating Bush, and be more able to resist Kerry’s policies.
Sam Ross, by e-mail
Bush is buying a victory
GEORGE BUSH is going to win the US election because of the massive funding he receives.
A few weeks ago the crowds were cheering Kerry on when he did well in the primaries. But then the funds started pouring in to Bush’s campaign, and now he is ahead again.
There is a good saying, “Principles before personalities”, but that certainly does not happen in US politics.
Michael Walgrove, Shoeburyness