The Free Syrian Army is part of the revolution
Sami Ramadani is right to point to the danger of imperialist intervention in the Syrian revolution (Debate: Should socialists support the revolt in Syria?).
It is not in dispute that attempts are being made by various outside forces, such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and the Western powers, to direct and contain the popular uprising.
However, I think Sami is seriously mistaken to characterise the Free Syrian Army (FSA) as a tool of Nato. The FSA emerged as an organic part of the popular uprising. Ordinary soldiers and some officers defected and joined with civilians who had taken up arms to defend themselves from regime attacks.
Most reports suggest that the FSA remains a popular resistance movement, although disparate in its organisation and with no clear chain of command. There are foreign fighters involved, but some reports suggest that many of these are in fact Syrians returning from Iraq after fighting with insurgent groups there.
There are no doubt factions within the FSA which may become drawn into the orbit of imperialism. But Socialist Worker has been absolutely right to argue that the vast majority of those fighting under the FSA banner are part of a genuinely revolutionary movement.
As has happened in numerous revolutions in history, a section of the armed forces has refused to kill their own people and has united with them in opposition to an oppressive regime.
The Syrian uprising, which is predominately an uprising of the urban and rural working class, is still unfolding and faces many challenges.
Every socialist should stand in solidarity with it. It is this solidarity which is also the basis for opposition to any form of imperialist intervention, which will only mean stealing the revolution from the Syrian people.
Jonathan Maunder, North London
Remploy closures then and now
I was a Remploy worker for over 40 years. Our factory was closed in 2008. It used to make a lot of good knitwear for Marks & Spencers. Nowadays they prefer to sell cheaper stuff instead of giving disabled workers employment.
Each one of the workers sacked was promised new employment. Yet at the start of this year, 85 percent were still unemployed.
Reading about the closure of more Remploy factories just proves what lousy governments we have. Labour was in power when our factory closed. It goes to show that none of the parties can be trusted.
Kate Allsop, Mansfield
Teachers’ march was so brilliant
I am a teacher in Lambeth, south London, and NUT school rep. I was at the protest in London to fight for our pension last Wednesday.
Before the rally, even though the strike closed our school, we were angry at how the NUT executive had regionalised our strike. We felt that they had, against our will, taken a step backwards. To be honest we all felt a bit down, especially after the fantastic strikes last year.
The rally on the day cheered us up, however. We received messages of support and solidarity from teachers from as far away as Birmingham, who told us they wished they’d been able to join us.
It was a brilliant, vibrant, optimistic demo, full of solidarity, humour and positivity. When we marched past Downing Street on one side and ex-Ford Visteon workers on the other, we sang “we’re all in this together” and “the workers united will never be defeated”. It showed that anything is possible.
Union leaders sought to blunt, if not reverse, the brilliant fightback rank and file union members have conducted thus far. But we now believe we can take on the Tories on this issue and win, and win elsewhere too.
We now need to bring our leadership into line, and if they don’t we’ll kick them out, along with the Tories. We can win on pensions—and we can defeat this government.
Michael Holland, NUT rep and Lambeth Teachers Association member
• Haringey NUT was twinned with both Derby and Newcastle Associations for the strike last week. From the former we received a message of support and marched with a delegation.
And from the latter we received a solidarity photo of their union group and banner, and a £50 donation to our hardship fund. Thank you.
Terry Sullivan, Haringey NUT
It’s not bigoted to say abortion is last resort
I was disappointed by the tone of Sadie Robinson’s article on abortion rights (The forces behind anti-choice picket).
I find the actions and beliefs of the characters linked to “40 Days for Life”—Bereit, Colquhoun and Craig—disgusting too. But the emphatic suggestion that they represent all (or even most) people who are against abortion is absurd.
I am a socialist, a feminist, an atheist, a believer in human rights and a woman in my reproductive years.
I regard abortion as harming one human being for the sake of another—something which should be regarded with utmost seriousness and used as an absolute last resort, not a “choice”. I don’t think that makes me a bigot.
Yes, legal and safe abortion should be available for those women who find themselves in a desperate situation where termination is the best option for them and their families. But it is.
Now, I believe our efforts would be better spent fighting for a society where fewer women find themselves with crisis pregnancies in the first place.
This means real sexual equality, convincing justice and deterrent sentencing for rapists, better sex and relationships education, and stigma-free and easy access to contraception.
Jenny Bloom, North London
Dewsbury arrest is political danger
Two weeks ago, six soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. Azhar Ahmed, a 19 year old in Dewsbury, wrote a message on Facebook about it. He angrily complained about all the attention paid to their deaths compared to the killing and abuse of civilians by soldiers.
He was arrested for the comments, and appeared at Dewsbury magistrates’ court last week. He denies the charges and will be tried on 3 July.
Outside, the English Defence League (EDL) held a rally of around 50 people. After recent setbacks, the EDL and its offshoots are desperately looking for excuses to mobilise. On the Saturday before the hearing about 60 of them rallied in nearby Cleckheaton. Three then allegedly beat up an Asian man in Dewsbury town centre.
There is a clear political danger in the way the police, media and fascists have tried to hound local Muslims over this issue. They want to make them more afraid to voice the real majority view—that British forces should never have been sent to Afghanistan, and should be pulled out.
Roger Keely, Huddersfield
What’s on the PM’s menu?
The public still don’t know what “extras” donors paying £250,000 to the Tories’ coffers secure when they buy a cosy dinner with David Cameron at his Downing Street flat. But we do now know one thing for certain—Cornish pasties aren’t on the menu.
Sasha Simic, East London
Petrol panic stole spotlight
Why are the Tories creating a panic over petrol, telling people to fill up their cars and jerrycans? The answer is they need to create a diversion from the £250,000 dinners for donors scandal.
Why else create a crisis that normally they would be hell bent on trying to avoid? It takes the spotlight off corruption of an order that could once have demolished a government within a week.
Colin Frost Herbert, Brighton
Why I back the tanker drivers
I’m in favour of the oil tanker drivers’ strike. We’ve had enough of petrol prices going through the roof. It isn’t the oil prices that keep the price of petrol going up—it’s the government. I for one am out of work. We need prices to come down, fast.
M Austin, Norfolk
Mugabe is the poor’s friend
It is true that Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) comes from the unions (Zimbabwe: it’s the system that’s on trial).
But the MDC is a tiger’s paw for Western capitalists. Take away the veneer of “democracy and human rights” Tsvangirai spouts and look at the policies he recommends.
While I condemn Mugabe’s sometimes violent methods, his policies are clearly designed to benefit the poor and working classes. He sometimes fails in executing his policies, but his attempts clearly advance the interests of the poor and threaten those of the capitalists.
Condemn Mugabe for his mistakes, but please don’t try to pretend his efforts have not advanced the interests of the average Zimbabwean.
Batani, Washington DC
Dinner Tories have no shame
The dinners scandal should shock me—but it doesn’t. The Tories have no shame when it comes to putting a smile on the faces of the rich while the rest of us struggle to make ends meet.
But we could start a collection—then maybe Cameron would make time to discuss the pensions issue. Somehow I doubt it. The Tories need to go and ASAP.
David McAdam, Newcastle
Springsteen is a left voice
I totally disagree with Phil’s letter on Bruce Springsteen (Homegrown music can beat The Boss), in which he describes the musician as crass, dull and plodding.
I’ve been a Springsteen fan for many years. He is very far from how Phil described him—he is brilliant, thoughtful and articulate in his music and his politics.
He made a donation to the miners in their strike in 1984–5. And he spoke out against George W Bush’s imperialist wars. His songs speak about working class life.
Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness
Hell and a handcart time
Workers have already been made to suffer pay freezes and pension raids on top of above‑inflation rises in the prices of pretty much everything.
I hope the unions don’t give up, otherwise it’s hell and handcart time for every public sector worker in Britain.
Name withheld, by email