Artificial limbs use pre-1950s methods
SHAMEFUL IS the only way to describe the treatment of a black woman who was told that if she wanted her artificial leg to match her skin colour she would have to pay for it.
Although since resolved, the incident was degrading, insulting and downright racist. It seems incredible it could happen in the 21st century, but it doesn't entirely take me by surprise.
In fact, the incident took me back to my childhood.
I have worn artificial legs since I was very young, and when I was ten or eleven.
I remember witnessing a young black girl who was given a pair of artificial legs.
Now, it has to be said that the 'flesh colour' on artificial legs was never that convincing, but at least an attempt was made.
This young black girl, however, had legs painted black (in a way therefore things would seem to have gone backwards).
But the paint was the black equivalent of white emulsion and bore no relation to any flesh tone whatsoever. Even as a child I cringed.
So little seems to have changed. Despite men on the moon, high-tech weapons, and the odd state of the art artificial limb, most people are still forced to use limbs that have not advanced much since the end of the Second World War.
They are heavy, cumbersome and awkward, made from the most basic materials. Indeed, in my own lifetime about the only innovation to my limbs has been velcro replacing buckles on straps.
What is more, the workforce producing artificial legs has been cut drastically over the last few years.
Waiting time for repairs has shot up, and in general the service has deteriorated-at least for those on the NHS.
Staff are underpaid and undervalued, in a demoralised service.
Now some money-grabbing manager comes up with a wiz plan to make people pay for the honour of having the limb looking vaguely realistic.
Thankfully now the response is greater than one little boy cringing, but still the whole sorry affair is a sad and shoddy indictment of the NHS under New Labour.
Pat Stack, North London
Plans to kick poor off tube
THE SHAPE of Ken Livingstone's transport policy is becoming clear-the 2004 tube fare rises show it's bad news.
We're moving towards a three-tier system, with the roads being cleared for the rich via the congestion charge, the tube being priced out of the reach of many people, and the poor being shunted onto buses.
As Livingstone uses his limited powers to deal with a crumbling system, his short term solution is deeply cynical.
The rise to £2 for a single tube journey in zone one is an outrageous tax on tourists and occasional users.
Transport for London's argument that residents can afford it is rubbish. Many of the rich live in town.
But central London is also full of council estates, housing association homes and student accommodation.
Tube user numbers are down, and fare rises are a conscious strategy to deal with overcrowding.
The current TV campaign is aimed at maximising off-peak revenue. Livingstone's opposition to tube privatisation won him many trade unionists' votes.
But a three-tier transport system is a kick in the face to those who hoped for something different.
Mac McKenna, South London
ONCE AGAIN I enjoyed the Marxism week in July. Many thanks for a stimulating and informative event.
I am a secondary school teacher who hates our present target/test culture. Have you come across the American research of Alfie Kohn?
The nonsense we have to endure has already been practised and exposed in the US. Kohn has been a campaigner for some years on this issue.
His books are not published in this country and yet what he says is most relevant to our concerns.
Could I encourage you to investigate the website (www.heinemann.com). and could you consider him as a speaker for next year's Marxism week?
David Harold, Hertfordshire
Games fat cats play
'THE PARTY goes on' is the official slogan for the 2004 Olympic Games. Athens 2004 is already a great party-for the multinationals and fat cats.
A cycling test blocked the centre of Athens and thousands were trapped in their cars for hours. And this was only a glimpse of what the 'Olympic year' will mean for ordinary people.
Shop workers and those in the tourist industry are under increased pressure from bosses. Natural areas have been destroyed, beaches privatised and plans to build nurseries and parks scrapped in favour of supermarkets and offices.
During 2002, 153 workers lost their lives at work, with 52 percent of them dying in constructions. It's the rush for the Olympics that has caused this awful record.
Greek prime minister K Simitis promised 300,000 new jobs. But 61 percent of the jobs created are part time, not permanent, and won't last beyond the Olympics.
Nick Loudos, Athens
OVER 2,000 workers at a Polish railway carriage manufacturing plant are on strike after they lost their jobs when the company went bust last month. Wagon SA, in Ostrow, has debts of more than £30 million and owes workers two months pay.
The parent company is accused of £2 million fraud. Strikers are prepared to occupy and blockade roads and railways in the surrounding area. Fourteen of the workers are on hunger strike.
Pete Simmons, Wroclaw, Poland
Sick of their lies?
GOING ON the 27 September demo against the occupation of Iraq?
Sick of the filthy Bush/Blair LIE machine? Sick of Murdoch's tabloid and TV, official shite-pumpers of the Bush/Blair liars?
Don't go quietly-join us on the march and make some noise to let the world hear you.
Add more culture, hope, spirit and noise to the demo. Let the bastards hear your anger!
Join the Wall of Sound
I hope to organise 1,000 percussionists in one block.
Let's sound off and make a big cacophony-'A combination of harsh sounds', 'Chant down Babylon'. Remember we march and dance in one block!
Are you a drummer, percussionist-do you know anyone who is? I'm recruiting across five main areas: samba bands; trade union street bands; ethnic and community bands; global/eco-warrior bands; and all us fans who love to march the streets to 'sounds of resistance' banging or blowing something.
Never go quietly – make yourself heard! If you're up for it, let's go... Self activity is the key-spread the word. Join the Wall of Sound at midday, Saturday 27 September, central London.
All power to the imagination.
Kicking things off, your host MC REDman / The Wall of Sound crew. I need your help. E-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org
Red Saunders aka MC REDman, London
Save Roy from deportation
ROY EKUNDAYO Ajala, 18, came to Britain from Nigeria at 11 to join his parents.
He has been abused by his uncle and father, and he is now threatened with deportation.
Roy's counsellor, Nigel Consiglio, said deportation would 'damage my client emotionally, psychologically and socially and that he would be in grave danger of becoming psychiatrically unwell'.
Write to Home Secretary David Blunkett at the Home Office, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AT. For more information go to www.ncadc.org.uk
Allison Bennett, National Coalition of Anti- Deportation Campaigns.
Bosses not by degrees
I WOULD have thought that, with blue and white collar workers mentioned in Hazel Croft's article on education, some sort of Marxist analysis would hold sway.
But, like the rabbit out of the conjuror's hat, Hazel cites the educational advantage of children from 'middle class backgrounds'.
This leaves room for some to develop a meritocratic spin on the capitalist system.
We know that bosses are bosses not because of their degrees (some bosses of the Garry Bushell model use their absence of qualifications to pretend to be 'one of us'), but because they own the means of production.
John Johnson, Essex
Lib Dems not so squeaky clean
ANYONE WHO thinks the Liberal Democrats offer a 'left alternative' to Tony Blair should think again.
In Liverpool they presided over huge cuts in much needed youth services.
However, the most shocking example of how low they are prepared to sink happened in April when they allowed the BNP to book a school building in Anfield for a rally at which Nick Griffin was due to speak.
Parents and teachers mobilised and around 300 turned up to stop the meeting. The council had to cancel the booking just two hours before it was scheduled.
Two BNP members sat skulking in a car before driving off to jeers. Most of the protesters then leafleted local streets with anti-Nazi literature. It was a real victory for those who oppose the BNP.
However it also showed the Liberal Democrats for what they really are-cynical opportunists who were prepared to allow organised racists to use schools in Liverpool to spread their vile racism.
Mark O'Brien, Liverpool
WILL HAYDOCK, (Letters, 30 August), in criticism of John Rees from the previous week, argues for 'cross-class alliances'.
Whether he is right depends on what he means by 'class'.
Every united front organisation I have been involved in has sought to unite different groups of workers.
But to try to unite workers with factory owners, however 'progressive', has led throughout history to disaster. In Spain, for example, the curtailment of strategy necessary to keep the bosses on board led to disaster and defeat.
John Lockwood, Leamington Spa