THE CRAWLEY Pensioners Action Group is up in arms about council tax. Each rise in council tax is an effective cut in income. That is not only for pensioners, but for all on low incomes. One of our members tried non-payment on his own last year. Many of us went to court to support him, but in the end he did a deal. This has not yet been resolved, as the deal has created a continual build-up of a backlog.
But now we have been inspired by the Devon pensioners who are refusing payment of council tax rises that are above inflation. We too are ready to go for non-payment. At our recent conference on pensions, there was a lively debate on the subject. Some urged caution, apparently believing that this government is open to persuasion.
But others urged mass protest and civil disobedience. When we discussed a link up with the Devon pensioners it was warmly approved. We all know what is needed and that the government is not listening. Pensioners of today and tomorrow are all looking to the stirrings of awareness in the unions.
We are aware that we are not alone. There are movements in Kent, Hampshire and other places. Pensioners have appeared on TV to say that what we really want is a decent pension. Council tax is one more issue for us-an unfair tax pushed in by the Tories to replace the hated poll tax, but is almost as unjust. In Crawley we are fighting over both issues.
We need a pension similar to those enjoyed in most of Europe, and we want council tax replaced by income tax. That is the only fair system of taxation and so anathema to this Tory/Labour government.
Let's all get involved in a movement against paying council tax. It worked with the poll tax!
Muriel Hirsch, Crawley
'THE GOVERNMENT is betraying old people.' That is the message from New Labour's own Royal Commission. The commission recommended that the state should pay long term care costs four years ago. The government has refused to introduce free personal care for the elderly throughout Britain.
Last weekend the nine commissioners issued a statement warning that thousands of pensioners are being forced into 'penury' and being forced to sell their homes to survive. The annual bill to provide free care for the elderly would be just £1.1 billion.
Joseph Branney by e-mail
Anger at TV show
IF ANY of you watched the Channel 4 documentary Globalisation is Good on 21 September then I'm sure you were as angry and alarmed as I was. The programme completely ignored the fact that capitalism is widening the gap between the rich and poor. The idea that the developed world would allow every country to compete on an equal standing is ridiculous.
The multinational corporations are only interested in profit. They do not want wages and working conditions to rise, as this would increase their expenses. As for 'democracy being a happy side effect of globalisation' the reality is that the governments in these countries become dependent on the continuing economic support from these multinationals.
This allows them to do almost everything they want regardless of what is most beneficial for the working class. We need to oppose the growing capitalist system now!
Ellie Green, Cambridge
Film was inspiring
WE HAD a fantastic Globalise Resistance meeting in my part of Hackney recently. Around 70 people turned out to see John Pilger's new film. Everyone in the room, from angry school students to veteran socialists, was stunned by the barbarity Pilger described and the clarity with which he urged resistance.
People were inspired by the idea of November's European Social Forum in Paris. It will be great if we can get delegates from local colleges, schools, the anti-war group and unions to go along.
Mike Simons, East London
Arms fair but no fair treatment
THE SLOGAN welfare not warfare has a particular poignancy for me. I have had my hydrotherapy treatment terminated for reasons that had everything to do to with limited resources and nothing to do with human need. There is no dedicated hydrotherapy facility in Newham. Newham residents, if they're lucky enough to be referred, have to share north east London's only hydrotherapy pool.
Unlike everything on sale at the recent Defence Systems and Equipment International arms fair, which was held in the borough, a hydrotherapy facility would be of benefit to local people and cause no harm to anyone else. Standard leisure centre facilities are unsuitable for me and many others with long term conditions. We and others would benefit from facilities that cost just £750,000.
The local newspaper, the Newham Recorder, reported that the demonstrations against the arms fair caused 'chaos' and told demonstrators 'Good riddance and don't come back'. That's exactly what I would like to tell the exhibitors at DSEi 2003. Newham council should provide us with a hydrotherapy facility rather than encouraging the disgusting, antisocial elements that exhibited at the arms fair.
Colin Yates, East London
ALTHOUGH I am not a member of the Socialist Workers Party I have been attending Marxist forums in Coventry. They are a great place to meet up with people and discuss things. The last couple have been an absolute treat and well attended by all sorts of people. I would like to thank Judith Orr for her talk on 'Why sexism sells', which provided an opportunity to share understanding of the relationship between class and gender. The best thing about the whole evening was it left me wanting to attend the next forum to resume the discussion.
Caron McKenna, vice chair, Coventry Stop the War Coalition
What's behind 'British culture'?
ANDY READE (Letters, 27 September) chose some odd examples to back his complaint that socialists dismiss British culture. I'm all in favour of fish and chips, and Christmas. But neither of them are British. Fish and chips came from Italy, and Christmas is celebrated all over the world. As for St George, if he existed, he was probably a Palestinian.
Trooping the colour was invented in 1748 to mark the birthday of a German-born king. The most British thing in his list is chicken tikka masala-a recipe invented in London. Much of what we call 'British' culture was borrowed, or stolen, from all over the world. British culture has always been multicultural. And all our lives are the richer for it.
Because Britain was the first industrial nation, our rulers were able to plunder the world. Official British culture celebrates that plunder while remaining silent about the horror that it inflicted on hundreds of millions.
We celebrate a great British tradition of anti-establishment, working class struggle from the Levellers of the English Revolution through to the anti-war movement today. That tradition's always been opposed to our rulers, and at its best has always been internationalist.
Charlie Hore, East London
Protest in US will be back
MIKE DAVIS'S recent article (Socialist Worker, 20 September) shows the real issues behind the election in California. I visited California and saw many local papers there reflected a radical mood. They ran features on union recognition campaigns and interviews with public sector union organisers involved in pay strikes. The letters pages called for increased property taxes on the rich to fund education.
This mood, after the spring anti-war protests, exerted an influence in unlikely quarters. Schwarzenegger came out against more drilling for oil off the California coast, partially backed a woman's right to choose, and supported the right of undocumented workers to hold a driving licence.
Mike Killian, Manchester
It's not very Independent
THE HITHERTO anti-war Independent recently carried an article from a pro-US group of Iraqis that described the Stop the War Coalition as a 'coalition of Trotskyists and Islamic fundamentalists'. I complained to the Independent that it was the broadest political coalition ever assembled in Britain.
Tony Benn, Jesse Jackson and Charles Kennedy, hardly Trotskyists or Islamic fundamentalists, have appeared on its platforms. I demanded that the coalition be given the right of reply.
My request was met with utter contempt by the Independent. We cannot rely on the 'liberal media' to present our case fairly. Thankfully there are papers like Socialist Worker that will do so.
Leigh Richards, Swansea Stop the War Coalition
Horror of life in Palestine
THE SITUATION in Palestine has become worse over the last three years. All cities, villages and camps are under strict siege. This affects everything including education and standard of living. One million are under the poverty line, and more than 40 percent are unemployed. The current intifada has shown the weakness of the 1993 Oslo agreement and the whole peace process.
The Palestinians are convinced that many years of negotiations were useless and did not give them minimum rights. That's why they support the resistance. It is a normal reaction to the Israeli daily aggression.
No justice in workplace
IT WAS good of you to draw attention to two cases of bullying bosses (Socialist Worker, 27 September). But the reality is much worse. The average pay out at tribunals is under £1,500 even where decisions are made in the applicant's favour.
The applicant may have to go to the county court for payment. There are also the difficulties of bringing cases and associated threats that may go with it. Nor indeed is the worker safe in a unionised environment as individuals and organisations are sown up by the employer.
The rising levels of death, suicide, mental illness and stress would be familiar to the Victorians. Perhaps we could have more discussion on this.
Patrick Cooper-Duffy, Southampton
Why isn't the BBC banned?
THE US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council recently announced plans to ban Al Jazeera television from broadcasting in Iraq. Its reasoning was that Al Jazeera had been broadcasting statements that encouraged Iraqis to resist the occupation. Tony Blair has dedicated his time persuading British troops to go to Iraq and kill people.
Which extremist broadcaster aired these messages of death to the nation? The BBC! The only logical course of action is to ban the BBC, thus denying crazed, bloodthirsty lunatics a voice.