Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2254

Roger Sylvester’s campaign banner at the People’s History Museum in Manchester

Roger Sylvester’s campaign banner at the People’s History Museum in Manchester

Institutional amnesia

Manslaughter charges are to be brought against the police officer who hit and pushed Ian Tomlinson to his death at the G20 protests in 2009.

It was only because there was video footage that showed that the policeman did hit Ian, and that the police had lied and spread false propaganda, that the charges had to be brought.

So why did the police believe they could get away with this?

It is because of institutional racism and a track record of deaths in police custody.

When the black teenager Stephen Lawrence was murdered at a bus stop in Welling in 1993 the police treated his friend Duwayne Brooks, who tried to help Stephen, as a criminal.

Both were considered suspects by the police.

Stephen’s parents were treated as troublemakers.

The murder was one of a string of racist attacks in an area where the Nazi British National Party (BNP) had opened a “bookshop”. This was ignored by the authorities.

When 60,000 of us marched to shut down the BNP bookshop the police ambushed and attacked us.

Stephen’s father Neville joined Holocaust survivor Leon Greenman at the head of the march.

The lead steward, Julie Waterson from the Anti Nazi League, was truncheoned on the head by police.

After a long campaign the police were finally forced to accept that they were “institutionally” racist in the 1999 Macpherson Report.

At the People’s History Museum in Manchester there is a collection of banners, made by Ed Hall, for justice campaigns for those who have died in custody.

I was moved to tears to see the huge portrait banners of Brian Douglas, Sarah Thomas, Roger Sylvester and Jean Charles de Menezes.

These are the banners that were carried at funerals and on protest marches.

Those who were killed by the police will never be forgotten.

I heard Doreen Lawrence speak at an NUT teachers’ union annual conference. She moved everyone to tears and delegates gave here a standing ovation.

Stephen’s future was stolen from him by a racist gang, and justice was denied by a racist police force.

The police have developed “institutional amnesia” since his death.

Doreen and Neville Lawrence stand like giants as tall as Ed Hall’s banners, and with dignity and determination.

Their strength and their determination to get justice has sustained us all in our demand: No justice, no peace!

Mark Krantz, Manchester

Putting Eric in a pickle

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, was invited to speak at the Cambridge Union (a private members’ club) on Wednesday of last week.

The meeting was held in association with the Cambridge University Conservative Association.

Protesters from Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts joined up with activists from Cambridge Defend Education, the Dale Farm Solidarity Campaign and trade unionists in a lively picket of the talk.

While Pickles managed to evade us on the way in, we

made sure that he couldn’t ignore us. We staged an occupation of the foyer of the building, delaying the start of the talk.

We were then ejected by security hired for the evening. But we kept up the drumming and chanting outside.

When Pickles thought it was safe to leave, his car was chased down the street with shouts of “Tory scum”.

The action of the security guards at this event was shocking. Peaceful protesters were rugby tackled and thrown down stone steps.

One young woman had her wrist so badly bent back that she was unable to use it to write in an exam the following day.

The police even found it necessary to restrain the security guards at one point.

They later commented that they would say “reasonable force had been used”—so we should have no illusions that the police are on our side.

It is important that we hound Con-Dem ministers whenever they come to town.

Pickles is the minister responsible for cutting bus services in Cambridgeshire.

He’s also the minister responsible for cutting fire services in Cambridgeshire, and the reason we’re losing our libraries.

The cuts that they are forcing through are wrecking people’s lives.

Amy Gilligan, Cambridge
For more houndings go to

Not all conspiracy theories are wrong

The piece on conspiracy theories contained much that was informative and true ( Why conspiracy theories let the system off the hook , 21 May).

There are indeed many mad theories concerning 9/11 and climate change, for example.

But conspiracies do happen—for example Irangate, Richard Nixon’s secret bombing of Cambodia, and Watergate.

To believe in certain conspiratorial behaviour doesn’t mean you fall for every bonkers “theory”.

I fear you throw the baby out with the bath water by saying “conspiracy theories let the system off the hook”.

Research around the high profile assassinations in the 1960s in the US revealed to millions the corruption of the elites.

Moreover, “removing individuals at the top of society” can lead to a growth in radicalisation, as in Egypt where many are looking for root and branch change.

The brilliant book Smear!, by Stephen Dorril and Robin Ramsay, showed how all manner of extra-parliamentary pressure was put on Harold Wilson’s governments by MI5 operatives, big business and others.

Unmasking real conspiracies can result in righteous anger against our rulers—a potentially potent force. So I think a bit more nuance is required when discussing such matters.

Paul Sillett, London

‘SlutWalk’ does not speak for me

I was raped and I don’t support SlutWalk ( Women refuse to take the blame for rape , 21 May).

They’re not subverting the word “slut”—they’re reinforcing the sexual objectification of women.

An ideology doesn’t stop having negative social connotations just because people say it should.

Misogyny is rampant and the pornification of women dominates popular media.

It’s deeply disappointing that some young women have bought into their own objectification to the point whereby they’re willing to promote it.

I believe they’re naive to allow themselves to be photographed as being “promiscuous”. It may not seem so empowering when their images are taken out of context later.

Raising money for rape services or walking against rape would have been much more useful than fighting for their right to be a sex object.

I’m pleased the sensationalism has stirred wider debate about blaming victims and I believe feminists can learn from clever marketing techniques.

But those who walk are not walking, or speaking, for me.

Ruby, by email

Solidarity for 30 June

The planned strikes due to take place on 30 June are of immense importance for every worker in the country.

For those of us not on strike it is vital to raise as much solidarity as possible.

Our Unison union branch passed a motion to encourage every steward to take a card around their workplace and get as many people as possible to sign it and take it to a local picket line.

This twinning of stewards with striking workplaces can be part of the process of building a united fightback against the government and reestablishing the tradition of solidarity within workplaces.

The government can be beaten but only if we stand together and strike together. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis stated that we will be balloting for action if the government does not back down.

We need to ensure that those words are put into action and the Tories are not allowed to divide working people. The future of the welfare state and the NHS depends on united action.

Greg Evans, Dave O’Brien, Huw Williams and Matt Proom, Unison stewards, South Gloucestershire Unison (pc)

Obama’s call is significant

Barack Obama’s call for a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 war borders reflects the huge shift in the movement against imperialism in the Middle East.

Many anti-imperialists correctly argue that the only lasting and peaceful solution is a unified and multi-ethnic state encompassing all of historic Palestine.

This would be a land where both Arabs and Jews live together with equal rights.

The 1967 borders fall well short of this.

But we should view Obama’s call as a forced concession and a sign of the Arab revolutionary movement’s strength.

Martin Percival, Sheffield

Unequal opportunities

It is true that “social immobility cannot be reformed away” ( Is class decided by the ‘old school tie’? ,

7 May). This needs to be asserted against every established political leader.

They all proffer their eternal commitment to “equal opportunities”.

Even if equal opportunities were attainable, it would only be equal opportunities to be unequal.

Equal opportunities presumes inequality and only pretends to ration it out a bit differently.

Nigel Coward, Northfields

Scrap the UN and Nato

The use of tyrannical muscle by the Anglo-American superpowers against the Libyans in Tripoli is totally unacceptable in a civilised world.

Formed in 1949, Nato was meant to be an alliance for “defence”—not opportunistic marauding.

The United Nations and Nato are far removed from the reasons they were formed. A new alliance should take their place, with no country dominating any other.

Otherwise a new alliance should be formed to oppose the international bullies.

William Burns, Edinburgh

Remembering Lindsey Roth

I was shocked and sad to read that Lindsey Roth has died (Obituary, 21 May).

Lindsey was at Goldsmiths College in the early 1980s. She led the Socialist Worker student group with such an unassuming manner that it was possible not to realise she was doing so.

She ensured the students’ union supported campaigns against Nazis in colleges, occupations to defend education and solidarity with the Miners’ Strike.

I will always remember what I learnt from Lindsey and will never forget such a warm, kind and hopeful human being.

Colin Fancy, by email

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Article information

Tue 31 May 2011, 18:33 BST
Issue No. 2254
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