Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1868

'Anger translates into action'

Arriving back in Manchester after the holidays, I was struck by the way the stop the war movement has developed. Anger at the Blair government's war lies is growing, and this has been translated into action.

Coaches for the 27 September demonstration in London have already been booked by 12 local groups. I attend Manchester University and we already have five coaches planned, even though term has not started yet. Additional coaches are being booked from central Manchester jointly with CND. There are lots of posters up and stalls every day, creating an angry political atmosphere. Many people who accepted the government's case for war now feel utterly betrayed. As the extent of the lies becomes apparent people are becoming more politicised.

It is obvious to most people that we were right to oppose the war on Iraq from the start. Building the demo on 27 September is essential if we are to keep up the pressure on the government and strengthen our fantastic anti-war movement.
Anna Southern, Manchester

Earlier this week I submitted a motion to Preston council to twin with the Palestinian city of Nablus. This initiative grew out of the anti-war work that was central to the Socialist Alliance election success in May. The motion is being seconded by an anti-war Labour councillor.

We are keen to ensure that the debate doesn't just take place in the council chamber. Over the next few weeks we will approach local trade unions and community groups to ask for their support. We will launch a petition in support of twinning at a Stop the War rally on 8 September.

As we talk to people about this, we will also urge them to come to London on 27 September.
Michael Lavalette, Socialist Alliance councillor, Preston City Council

The Blackwood Stop the War Coalition in Wales has just booked a coach to take people to the 27 September demonstration. Lots of people who became politically active through the coalition have already booked seats.

We have been invited to run a stall at the preview and each showing of the new anti-war play by Patrick Jones, a well known playwright who is from this area. We also plan activities in new areas such as Ebbw Vale in the run-up to the demonstration.

With the situation in Iraq worsening by the day we hope to have a good turnout from the area.
Ian Thomas, Blackwood Stop the War Coalition

Up to 200 people attended a public meeting on 'Is war the best way to tackle terrorism?' held in Norwich on Wednesday of last week. The author Milan Rai described how the occupying forces had reinstated members of Saddam Hussein's regime. These included the minister for health, the minister for culture and arts and the infamous Mukhabarat, the feared and despised Iraqi intelligence service.

Longstanding peace campaigner Bruce Kent was inspired by the anti-globalisation slogan 'Another world is possible' springing from the demonstrations in Seattle and Genoa, and felt that internationally the environmental anti-globalisation movement was growing.

There were also reports from the People's Assembly in London and from an action held at Norfolk County Council in which activists leafleted council workers about the investment of their pension funds in the GKN arms company.

Coach tickets for the Stop the War Coalition national demonstration were sold. People took away posters, leaflets and stickers advertising the demonstration.
Peter Offord, Norwich Stop the War Coalition

A short sharp lesson for bullying bosses

During the recent firefighters' pay dispute, an incident at a Suffolk fire station resulted in personnel withdrawing their goodwill regarding washing contaminated fire kit from other stations. This is not part of a firefighter's job. Six weeks later, and after the dispute was finished, a now very bullish deputy chief decided to throw his weight around.

He called a meeting where he dished out an ultimatum. He said that the firefighters must start washing the kit again, and threatened them with a 10 percent loss of pay. The members reacted swiftly. They threatened to walk out without a ballot and were backed up by other branches which gave the same message.

At the same time I got the union's solicitors involved, and a letter was dispatched to our management telling them to back off, as the threat was unlawful and would be a breach of contract. We have now had confirmation that the deputy chief acted without seeking legal advice. The message is clear.

Management think that the FBU firefighters' union's acceptance of an awful pay deal (which Suffolk FBU rejected) means that we no longer have the stomach for a fight. A short, sharp lesson has been given that, whatever the bullies who run the service think, members will fight back when threatened.
Paul Woolstenholmes, brigade secretary Suffolk FBU

False choices

In an interview on Radio 4, education secretary Charles Clarke said that the best use of education funding was to fund early years education rather than scrapping proposed university top-up fees. This is a completely disingenuous argument. I am an 'early years practitioner', as we are now known. My effectiveness in helping young children to learn is built on training I received at university.

Children are complex and active learners who need individual support. If Charles Clarke thinks he can do this on the cheap we may as well drop the 'education' part of our job titles and call ourselves glorified babysitters.
Lucy Cox, London

Accept this deal to cut our hours

As a teacher I must disagree with the call to 'reject' the workload agreement (6 September). To reject an agreement that will reduce the number of hours we work is ludicrous. Teachers are routinely doing tasks that were previously carried out by support staff. Consequently, teachers become stressed and overworked, which is against the interests of the pupils.

If teachers reject the workload agreement this will mean insisting on doing tasks that ought to be done by support staff
Sion Reynolds, Portsmouth

India's hidden history of unity

I thought Mark Tully's TV documentary on the rise of right wing Hindu forces in India was awful. He blamed Nehru and Western-style secularism for the rise of the Hindu right in India.

Could we have an article in Socialist Worker showing an example of unity between Hindu and Muslim workers to counter the impression of hopelessness and right wing domination that we are getting?
Martin Chapman, Swansea

Forcing Blair into asylum

The Another World is Possible/Love Music Hate Racism festival, held in Whitstable on Sunday 31 August, was really successful. Over 1,000 people bopped, jigged, jived and pogoed to some excellent bands. One of the highlights of the festival was 'The Trial of Tony Blair', with a brilliant impersonation of Tony Blair by Alan Mitchell. The audience acted as the jury and held Blair to account for his actions.

The last I heard Blair was seen swimming towards Norway seeking asylum. A festival can unite a community. Every area should hold one.
Neville Hutchinson, Kent

An alternative to Hollywood

Goodbye Lenin is an immensely refreshing documentary-style film. It provides historical honesty and personal intensity, which gives an alternative view to the mindless nonsense we are bombarded with by Hollywood. Many people today are anxious and looking for alternatives. Nostalgia is most apparent in east Germany, as many people are unemployed and find it hard to survive. This longing for socialism is addressed in the film.

Goodbye Lenin does not hesitate to reveal the brutality of Soviet totalitarianism, but also creates an image of the potential for socialism.
Henry Ker, West London

Crime and asylum hide real issues

Home Secretary Goodbye Lenin was set to visit Liverpool this week. Fresh from warmongering in Iraq and scapegoating asylum seekers, New Labour are coming to whip up fears about crime.

Blunkett's crime figures are no more believable than Alastair Campbell's stories about weapons of mass destruction. His agenda is to pull the wool over our eyes. It is poverty and poor housing that Liverpool suffers from.
Jane Calveley, Liverpool

Taking us back to the bad old days

Imagine the scenario - wealth is in the hands of a few, the majority struggle to make ends meet. There is a consensus that poverty and unemployment are due to individual choice. Charities raise money to provide for health, education and welfare. This is not late 19th century England. This is 2003.

After the Second World War a basic living allowance, healthcare and education were provided to the less fortunate. These policies developed until the early 1980s. Since then there has been steady progress towards the scenario envisaged at the start of this letter.

Charities have done away with the need for public services. They have become the main providers of funding for research into cancer and heart disease. Governments can use this as an argument to reduce funding.
Asa Steele, Barnsley

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Sat 13 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1868
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