I WAS very disturbed to hear last week that the BNP had won a council seat in Barking and Dagenham.
During the European elections in June I took part in the protest outside County Hall designed to show the unity of trade unionists and anti-Nazi campaigners against the BNP.
In those elections we forged a powerful unity which threw back the BNP and prevented them from taking a European seat.
We need to do the same again—not least because it is obvious that the BNP menace will not go away for as long as there are establishment politicians of all parties who whip up hatred of asylum seekers.
In many areas of Britain—Dagenham is one of them—there is a really deep sense of bitterness and alienation from the sham of democracy, and from the policies of all the main parties.
Many people feel left out and left behind. The BNP tap into that sense of “nobody cares for us” and peddles their own fake solutions of violence and hatred. It is up to the left and the trade union movement to put forward an alternative.
I hope that in the future the people of Dagenham will have a genuine alternative to Labour and Tory to vote for, and enough activists rooted in the area to make that alternative a powerful force.
Jane Dilley, West London
THE LOVE Music Hate Racism carnival in Stoke-on-Trent recently saw top rock band Kasabian perform on stage at the Sugarmill to a packed crowd under the Love Music Hate Racism and Unite Against Fascism banners.
Top acts from across the music spectrum were there—reggae, indie, hip-hop, punk, bhangra and garage—performing to massive racially mixed crowds.
Around 3,500 bought tickets for the event, at which speakers and musicians talked of the need to stop the BNP and urged everyone to get involved in the campaigns against them.
I spoke on both stages to raving applause when I mentioned that the BNP would hate this kind of event. The Unite Against Fascism stall was inundated with people serious about joining and getting involved with Unite and Love Music.
The whole event was a real celebration of black and white unity against the fascist BNP. The BNP have been targeting Stoke and the Staffordshire area, and yet this event attracted thousands.
It showed that by uniting people in a massive celebration of diversity—mixing music and politics—you can organise active opposition to fascism and racism.
Events like these send a message out loud and clear—the BNP’s not welcolme here!
Donna Guthrie, Unite Against Fascism
The writing on the wall
AT THE social services office where I work the employers tried to introduce new working hours. The plan was to cover more of the day without employing extra people.
It would have meant that there were gaps elsewhere in the day. But people would be pressured into filling them “in the interests of the service”.
We had a union meeting, and at first the officials told us of the changes as if they were decided on, done and dusted— and there was “nothing we could do”.
But the meeting unanimously told our reps to tell our employers where to stick their proposed shift pattern changes.
You could not tell on arrival at the workplace the level of anger there is over such issues. It’s not tangible in terms of meetings, posters or people taking action. But it’s there.
When you express anger at the government’s priorities, cuts and so on you are suddenly in good company.
Social care staff used to have to clock on and off. This is especially ridiculous, as we are not in the office for regular hours.
This has been an issue for staff meetings and team meetings for two years, with no change.
Within three weeks of it being raised at union meetings and made an issue, we suddenly no longer had to clock on.
We also managed to win some improvements on the local pay offer, and on a plan from the employers to tie pay to further qualifications.
It feels like all of this has come from the rank and file organising and putting pressure on the officials.
The next issue is going to be stress, workloads and unpaid working hours.
It is so good to be able to stick on the noticeboard stories from Socialist Worker of other workers taking action against the same conditions that we face.
I’m hoping to be able to raise a levy or at least do a successful collection for the council workers’ strikes in Swansea and Liverpool.
These have featured recently in Socialist Worker.
There is no coverage of such issues in the local union bulletin.
Council worker, Pembrokeshire
Japanese model for postal privatisation
WITH INCREASING pressure to boost private sector involvement in the British Post Office, it is revealing to see what is happening in Japan.
The Koizumi government is pushing through the privatisation of what is the world’s biggest single financial institution. It has 280,000 full time staff and 120,000 part timers.
Because of the trust which many Japanese have for the Post Office, it is the repository of a quarter of household savings.
In all, the Post Office’s savings and life assurance assets are $3,300 billion, which makes it nearly three times the size of Citigroup.
It’s easy to see why this is such rich pickings for the vultures of the corporate world.
The privatisation is being used to push through an assault on “inefficiencies”. One office on the outskirts of Tokyo has been transformed into a “model post office”.
Experts from the car company Toyota were brought in—and eliminated the chairs that the workers used to sit on.
The time and motion men, dubbed the “Seven Samurai” by resentful workers, have set out to eliminate anything that gets in the way of profit.
By driving the workers ever harder, productivity has been raised by a fifth, clearing the way for mass job cuts.
A big battle is brewing in Japan over this issue, and if the government is defeated then it will be a blow against privatisation everywhere.
Back our Japanese comrades!
Mike Forrester, Coventry
Some questions for Colin Powell
COLIN POWELL, the US Secretary of State, has used the word genocide to describe the human catastrophe that has befallen the people of Darfur in Sudan.
It is estimated that up to 50,000 people have been killed in Darfur so far.
If the term genocide is being measured in crude terms of numbers killed, then what is it called when an estimated one million are killed through the capricious use of sanctions by the US and Britain in the years leading up to the present war in Iraq?
Sudan has some of the largest oil reserves so far found in Africa.
At the moment China has most of the drilling and exploration rights there.
Forgive my cynicism, but isn’t this broadside from Powell just another exercise in US regional dominance?
Is it perhaps preparing for potential military intervention against a would-be international adversary?
When has the US ever concerned itself with large numbers of dead poor people anyway?
The only time it is concerned is when these dead poor people happen to occupy a country which has rich natural resources.
Those resources will then be targeted in order to benefit the narrow minded economic and political self interest of the Washington establishment.
Alan Haynes, Chatham, Kent
More hot air from Tony Blair
IT IS good that Blair raises the issue of global warming. What must be understood is that global warming is a consequence of the current economic system.
Capitalism requires unending economic growth. This means more and more natural resources being transformed by humans.
But the Earth’s resources are finite—even renewables can only produce a finite amount within a given time frame.
As Blair now says, there is plenty of evidence for human-created climate change.
A new economic system where we can collectively decide how much we produce and consume is needed now.
It is needed not only for greater equality — which doesn’t have total support -—but for the survival of much of life on earth—which all rational people support.
Global warming needs a socialist solution.
John Keeley, Mauritius
Rotten stench at Body Shop
IT WAS good to get information on the important strike action at Soapworks (Socialist Worker, 18 September).
I have e-mailed the company and also copied my message to the financial investors for the Body Shop, stating that I will begin a boycott of Body Shop products effective immediately.
Gloria Bergen, Toronto, Canada
Is Blair really finished now?
I SEEM to remember that about six months ago Socialist Worker was describing Tony Blair as a “political corpse”—and I agreed with you.
He doesn’t seem like that now. Far from backing off from his project (or sloping off to spend more time with some directorships), Blair has the bit between his teeth, and is coming up with ever more crackpot ideas to privatise and deregulate.
In the long term this will be even more damaging to Labour. The MPs, union leaders and Labour members have entirely failed to restrain or destroy Blair.
But we should also recognise that Blair is going to be around for some time.
Angharad Hughes, West London
Are we in the same league?
I SYMPATHISE with Terry Starr’s appeal (Socialist Worker, 11 September) for people to use workers’ co-ops, radical bookshops and so on, but it’s also important to understand the limitations of a consumer-centred approach.
Even though they are not trying to make massive profits, such organisations still have to compete in the capitalist marketplace to survive. This often means they pay workers low wages and charge customers high prices.
York City Football Club is owned and run by its supporters through a supporters’ trust.
But to compete with other clubs and pay off debts left by the previous owners, we need to charge the highest admission prices in our league, pay the players comparatively low wages, and hold our noses while doing deals for players’ kit with the likes of Nike.
Workers’ co-ops and community ventures are welcome examples of better ways of organising our world, but if we are to achieve a revolutionary transformation of society we have no choice but to fight for workers’ control of all economic activity.
Frank Ormston, York
Student fears for her future
I AM about to start my first year at univeristy and I am looking forward to a good education.
But it is also coming home to me just how much debt I will be facing by the time I end my course.
The government talks about the need for a highly trained workforce. But we must gain all such skills at our own expense.
And today there is no certainty that a degree is a passport to a big salary.
I am well aware that I am lucky to have escaped from stacking shelves or sweeping a floor.
But I am also a strong believer that education should be free.
Angela Wallingford, Hastings