This year's lesbian and gay Pride march witnessed a return to political values. Many more floats from trade unions were present on the march. For the first time the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) provided a fire engine for its gay and lesbian members to march alongside.
It was a public way for our union to support its gay and lesbian members. At the festival in Hyde Park after the march, the TUC had a marquee which was totally packed with union stalls and attracted a great deal of attention. Members of the FBU's National Committee were at the festival and had also sent a delegation of eight to the previous week's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender conference at the TUC.
On the first day of the conference I asked the deputy minister for women and equality, Jacqui Smith, how getting rid of 3,800 jobs (by not replacing people after they retire) over the next six years will improve diversity. She replied saying it was her department that was doing everything towards improving diversity in the fire service and that it was the FBU who were the biggest obstacle on this issue!
This came as quite a shock. Had she forgotten about the government's review (the Thematic Review into Fairness and Equality in the Fire Service) which stated that the FBU was the only organisation doing anything positive towards equality in the service?
Words come cheap. It is action that counts-and the FBU has a proven track record when it comes to supporting gay and lesbian members in the service. Being out in the service is still no easy ride. It is the FBU that has the only gay and lesbian support group in the service.
It was actually the government that concluded sexuality was too hot to touch, giving the service's managers the green light to do nothing.
Pat Carberry, chair, FBU Gay and Lesbian National Committee
Argue for unity with Muslims
As a Marxist I am an atheist who will argue against mystic and supernatural interpretations of the world. However, I welcomed Rob Hoveman's argument in Socialist Worker (26 July) that to make the Socialist Alliance a broader and more credible organisation we have to work with all sorts of groups radicalised by the anti-war movement, including the Muslim community.
This view has been condemned by some who argue Islam is reactionary and working with Muslims involves a betrayal of socialist principles. This is naked racism and threatens the very unity we need to succeed. I can't remember this argument coming up about socialists working with Christians. Though he opposed religion, Karl Marx understood that religion was the 'heart in a heartless world'. When we have created a just world-where people don't need religion to help them through the day-religion will disappear.
We can only get that world through the self activity of the working class-made up of Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians and atheists.
Sasha Simic, London
Town and beach
While workers in France have vital struggles ahead, the temporary transformation of a Paris riverbank gives a glimpse of how people can overturn 'normal' priorities of business in favour of fun.
For a month the north bank of the River Seine is transformed into a public beach. It started in 2002 and mayors in other cities now copy it-why not a London beach along the Thames? It could be done for a fraction of the millions wasted on New Labour's derelict Dome.
Paul Robertson, East London
BBC programme on asylum 'racist'
PANORAMA'S 'exposé' of the UK's asylum system was so bad even home secretary David Blunkett (the man most responsible for the persecution of asylum seekers) was moved to angrily complain-and not just in defence of government procedures. Blunkett, writing in the Guardian on 24 July, condemned the programme's presenter, John Ware, for the stomach-churning nonsense the Sun is normally associated with.
The channel's discussion programme later in the evening also gave another platform to the dodgy right wing 'experts' of Migration Watch to trumpet their scaremongering 'facts'. Migration Watch presents itself as a highly respectable, independent think-tank, with sober academic credentials. Headed by an ex-ambassador, Sir Andrew Green, its chief researcher is Professor David Coleman.
Coleman is Reader in Demographics at Oxford University, but previously (and this is not mentioned on their website) he was an officer of the Eugenics Society UK, and of its successor, the Galton Institute. Francis Galton was the father of eugenics, and the inspiration for Adolf Hitler's racial policies.
Alan Gibson, Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers
The crisis within the government is due to the massive movement against the war. The demonstration on 27 September in London could push Blair over the edge. Hunter's Bar Stop the War Coalition group are booking a coach now to create momentum for a massive mobilisation.
Every local stop the war group should be aiming to book coaches immediately to ensure the Stop the War Coalition explodes back onto the national scene on 27 September. We can change the shape of British politics by serving up Blair's head on a plate!
Suzanna Wylie, Sheffield
Anti-war alive and kicking
OBITUARISTS OF the anti-war movement would have been disappointed last week, as 120 activists and supporters in St Albans heard CND's Bruce Kent and the Socialist Alliance's John Rees put the case against the Iraqi occupation. As well as anti-imperialist arguments, plans were made to build for the People's Assembly and September's national demonstration.
The debate was rich with self confidence-that's been missing for years. St Albans is typical Middle England according to New Labour's spin. But this is just one of the certainties Blair can kiss goodbye to. Previous meetings had sought the grace and favour of local MP Kerry Pollard. Not any more.
Now the talk is of new strategies and formations-how to integrate the vitality of the school strikes into the trade union movement, etc. The warmongers talk of 'blowback', refering to unintended negative results in combat. The creeping radicalisation of the Home Counties is a consequence Blair didn't bargain for.
He can take as many holidays as he likes-the mood of resistance against him won't let up.
Ed Bailey, St Albans
Where was Trotsky then?
Like pensioners who listen to late night phone-ins solely to be offended, I watched the documentary on Stalin to pick holes. At least the Lenin-Stalin protege theme (given in Darth Vader/Obi Wan overtones) was an interesting variation on 'Lenin led to Stalin'. Of course Trotsky was barely mentioned. Trotsky was Stalin's 'arch-rival'. To be accused of 'Trotskyism' was the kiss of death. How come?
Trotsky was murdered in Mexico. Why was he there? None of this was explained. But then, what was I expecting? This is the BBC.
Adam Marks, East London
Boycott BBC over racist doc
It disgusted me to see the BBC's racially motivated investigation and the so called Face the Nation debate on asylum on 23 July. Its representation of undocumented workers in this documentary was utterly racist, meant to give the message that 'these are not very nice people'. The BBC showed Iraqi undocumented workers as 'ungrateful' criminals. (Yes, the word 'ungrateful' was used in this documentary.) If this doesn't incite racial hatred, what does?
On the surface, it looks like the BBC is having another row with the government, but in fact it's arguing for the kind of immigration policy that New Labour has always tried to implement. I'm wondering if the NUJ is able to take this up and call for boycotting the BBC?
Hsiao-Hung, East London
'We created it, let's take over'
WE NEED to run in parliament (as an expression of the radical left) in the form of the Socialist Alliance to keep momentum against the system going-not because we believe parliament and the Socialist Alliance will save the day, but because it will give confidence to workers to fight the bosses.
Participating in parliament is about destroying it from within its ranks, as part of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and establishing workers' control. In the words of Patti Smith, 'We created it, let's take it over.'
TUC should hang heads in shame
Regarding your article 'In the Frame No 19' (19 July)-Digby Jones, head of the CBI group, is being invited to this year's TUC Congress. This is a disgrace. The TUC should hang their heads in shame. I suppose it's too late to rescind the invitation?
W Vidler, Sussex
Take lead from French
The French pensions battle shows that a social insurance system, with no contracting out into private pensions, is defensible by general strikes and huge popular demonstrations.
Even if French prime minister Raffarin wins-and he may not-French pensions will still be twice as good as British pensions. Workers at Rhodia, a French multinational, are employed under conditions which French unions made illegal in France. Why can't the TUC do the same for British workers?
Hugh Lowe, Central London
Very pleased to meet you
I have lived in London for six years but decided to move to Spain, where I am originally from. Before leaving I attended a Marxist forum in Seven Sisters. I find many people don't see the lies and hypocrisy in governments. Sometimes I am so shocked I lack the arguments to confront those visions. Meeting people to discuss these issues at the forums made me more optimistic, less isolated and eager to learn and debate.
We need immediate action at a collective level that provides strength and a sense of unity, but also at a personal level-talking to people every day. I am taking these ideas with me and will put them into practice.