Bush has no right to control our bodies
OVER ONE million people came out for a historic march on 25 April in Washington DC to demonstrate for abortion rights. The National Mall, which has been the site of large mobilisations for decades, was teeming with women from all backgrounds, taking nearly two hours to pass a single point on the 2.5-mile march.
The Bush administration is attacking women and their reproductive freedoms. The passage of partial birth legislation and anti-choice Supreme Court appointments have women fearing for the fragile gains they have won. Since 1992, 450 state laws have been passed that restrict access to reproductive health services. There is an ever-increasing lack of abortion facilities and a dramatically decreasing number of physicians trained to provide abortions. The March for Women's Lives brought together women and men from across the US and the world. It was the most representative and largest mobilisation for women's rights in the history of the US.
Hundreds of thousands chanted passionately 'My body, my choice', 'Pro-sex, pro-gay, pro-choice all the way' and 'Get your rosaries off my ovaries'. More than a third of the march were under the age of 25. Women were marching against their president. The speakers who addressed the crowd overwhelmingly called for people to vote out Bush by supporting John Kerry and the Democrats in the forthcoming elections.
Hillary Clinton reminded the crowd that after the last pro-choice march 12 years ago, Americans voted for a 'pro-choice president'. 'This year we're going to do the very same thing,' she said. Scepticism with the Democrats was much greater in the crowd than on the podium. Placards stating 'Kerry sucks less' were carried by many on the march.
Will it really advance women's interests to replace Condoleezza Rice with Madeleine Albright, who was one of the featured speakers? Many in the crowd linked their support for choice with their opposition to Bush's war on Iraq. But it was Albright who was instrumental in sustaining the brutal sanctions which killed more than one million Iraqis, and laid the groundwork for war.
When the Democrats continue along the path of the Bush administration, women and men will be forced to mobilise again.
Kathryn Palmateer and Kelly Holloway, Canada
Time to tackle crisis
THE TUC has called a 'Pay up for pensions' demonstration in central London on Saturday 19 June. This is a very welcome move by the unions to do something to stop the pensions crisis hitting millions of workers. This is something a second term landslide government should have dealt with. My union, Amicus, along with the other major unions, is taking the protest very seriously.
In manufacturing industry a huge number of companies have stopped their final salary pension schemes, which gave workers some security in later life. At Rolls-Royce, where I work, the company last year said it had a £1.1 billion pensions 'black hole'. They wanted workers to increase their contributions. The union mounted opposition to this, which knocked the company's campaign back. We had never had any campaign like it. The issue of pensions gelled people together.
The union supported us but when we won some small concessions they recommended a deal. An extremely narrow vote of workers accepted this. This deal hit our livelihoods and means people work longer. In the meantime the stockmarket has recovered and the 'black hole' has disappeared.
The protest is a good first step. But we need to go further. Almost every country in Western Europe has seen general strikes over pensions in recent years. We have to maximise the turnout of ordinary rank and file members on the 19 June protest. This will be a way of ensuring the unions' leaderships keep up this vital campaign to protect workers' futures.
Jerry Hicks, Amicus national executive committee (personal capacity)
Brummies stand tall against Le Pen
AS SOMEONE who was born and bred in Birmingham, I am very passionate about my city. After London, we are the most cosmopolitan, multicultural, multi-faith, interracial and culturally interwoven society in Britain. I work with a number of peace organisations and have stood up for people all over the world in the last few years.
Two weeks ago, I had to defend Birmingham against a force of hate that was headed this way, French far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen. The BNP invited him. The BNP were expected to hold a meeting in Birmingham but after Brummies planned to stage a demonstration, the BNP backed off.
Unite Against Fascism went ahead with an anti-racism rally in the city. Hundreds gathered in the city centre. It was a really beautiful atmosphere. Community leaders, artists and musicians, political party members, peace movements and the young all shared their feelings.
Respect: The Unity Coalition was very much involved. People of all faiths stood together. Le Pen is not welcome in Birmingham where churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras, mandhirs and temples fill the skyline.
People of all nationalities, dress, colours, faiths, background and language walk our streets, run our schools, work in our institutions and provide our fundamental services. We are all a people of peace and we are all Brummies.
Adam Yosef, Birmingham
Spirit lives on
IN MOURNING Des Warren's death (Socialist Worker, 1 May), readers might like to know of a recent building workers' lightning strike. Around 80 building workers walked out at a huge new works opposite London's Home Office. Electricians refused to work unless more toilets were installed. When bosses refused, sparks decided to protest. The word soon spread. Everybody walked off site.
People went back after a day out and conditions had improved a little. Bosses on building sites are as ruthless now as they were during the Shrewsbury Two's time.
It's refreshing to know that the spirit of Des and Ricky Tomlinson (and countless others) lives on.
Anna Owens, East London
Concerned at this exclusion
I WAS astounded to hear that Age Concern has ignored the Respect coalition. It has not invited Lindsey German, Respect's mayoral candidate, to speak at its London hustings on Thursday 13 May. It has invited the candidates of the three mainstream parties plus the Green Party to speak.
Lindsey German is the only woman mayoral candidate. Ken Livingstone pleaded with the Labour Party to accept him back into the fold. When he stood as an independent he was his own person. He is no longer that.
I feel it is necessary to stand a candidate in opposition to the right wing policies of New Labour. Respect stands for restoring the link between pensions and earnings.
None of the mainstream parties stand for that. Age Concern said that they had already had too many people on the platform. But what about democracy? To ignore Respect is to disenfranchise the huge number of people who attended the anti-war protests.
A number of pensioners will be pressing for Lindsey German to be included on the platform. We will also be leafleting for Respect outside the meeting to let pensioners know about the alternatives, even if Lindsey isn't allowed to speak from the platform.
Derek Allen, East London
No respect for Straw
WE GAVE home secretary and local MP Jack Straw a roasting in Blackburn recently when he was campaigning in the town centre. From our megaphone we asked, 'Where are the weapons of mass destruction, Mr Straw? How many more lies? How many more people have to die?' Jack Straw continued to talk nonsense.
That was plainly infuriating to his audience. The Respect coalition enjoyed the warmest of receptions from everyone bar the police and the shopping centre security guards. For the many people who stopped to rant about Jack Straw, talk about a left wing opposition to the neo-liberal nutcase in charge of their town was welcome. Blackburn no longer wants a man who has become one of the world's leading apologists for American and Israeli terrorism.
Daniel Iminwe Tatu Berry, Blackburn
A chance to stand for justice
ON SATURDAY 15 May, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign have called for a rally in Trafalgar Square at 1.30pm against Israel's apartheid wall. After the disgusting betrayal by Blair, in his backing of Sharon's so called disengagement plan, it is important as many activists as possible turn up to show their anger against the Sharon/Bush/Blair axis of evil.
Peace will never come to the Middle East until governments around the world stop supporting Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's acts of terrorism.
Andrew Collingwood, York
A poisonous legacy
SOLDIERS AND civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan have been exposed to internal radioactive contamination from depleted uranium.
It is hardly surprising that both the British and US governments are slow to support Gulf War syndrome victims considering the huge compensation claims for damaged health against them. Tony Blair has betrayed them all.
David MacDonald, Lancashire
No trust in the Trust
THE ARTS-based service Start is funded by the Manchester Mental Health Trust to work with people with long term mental health problems within the community. There have been worries that the Trust wants to sell off the building Start and other teams work at as it 'cannot afford' repairs to the building. The service users recently invited the Trust's chief executive to a lively meeting.
The service users were extremely angry at the threat to their lifeline and support in the community. One said, 'The government has plenty of money for an illegal war with Iraq but not for our health.'
Let's hope Unison members, who were also there, take up these issues. We rattled the chief executive but workers have the real power to fight them.
Two service users, Manchester
Media selects 'worthy' dead
ONLY A couple of weeks ago hundreds of women and children were being killed as a direct result of the use of overwhelming firepower by the US forces. The US claimed that 95 percent of the victims were 'insurgents'. Yet the tragedy in Basra on 21 April had a different reaction from the Western-dominated mass media.
All emphasised the number of children and civilians, as the most likely 'culprits' were the Iraqi freedom fighters. But those children in Basra would be alive if Iraq had not been attacked and occupied in the first place.
The invaders are the real culprits in all cases. They have the blood of the innocent Iraqi women and children on their hands.
Yamin Zakaria, London