FIVE ELDERLY people have died within eight weeks of their residential home in Liverpool being closed. This appalling treatment caused blazing anger at our weekly Merseyside Pensioners' Association meeting on Wednesday of last week. One man who is in his nineties said it was a disgrace that the government could spend millions on war but abandon pensioners.
There was talk of organising protests against the closure of homes. The day after our meeting there was an even more shocking report in the Liverpool Echo. A staggering 3,618 old people are being forced out of their homes in Liverpool because of a funding crisis in the council.
The story pointed out that as we are on the brink of sending another generation off to fight a war, the veterans of other wars are being separated from their families, friends and communities. Old people's homes can provide people with vital friendships and security. When old people have to leave it can be so traumatic that many simply cannot go on. Being moved up to 80 miles away from home, like these pensioners, means severing ties with family and old friends. It is tragic for them.
Some 111 homes have been closed in Liverpool in the last year because of a funding crisis. The local council blames the government-the government blames the local council. But the people suffering in the middle are the old people, abandoned by a system that finds money for war but not for caring.
NORAH RUSHTON, Merseyside
Hysteria that lies behind the raids on 'terror'
THE RAID on Finsbury Park mosque in north London was further evidence of the government's intention to whip up mass panic about the threat of terrorism. Abu Hamza, the cleric at the centre of this raid, is not the most sympathetic of characters. Few Muslims would see him as their role model.
He has become the Daily Mail's caricature of an Islamic fundamentalist, with his hook hand and support for Sharia law. Yet many Muslims will see this attack on Hamza as a further escalation in the government's strategy of linking terrorism with Islam and asylum seekers.
Let's keep to the facts. During the raid the police found a stun gun, a CS gas canister and an imitation gun. Does this pathetic haul justify over 150 police smashing their way into a mosque? Hamza himself has never been charged with any offence.
Of the 200 individuals arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000, nearly all of them Muslims, there has not yet been a successful conviction. The march on 15 February is therefore crucial for opposing the war and countering the witch-hunt on Muslims and asylum seekers.
MUBIN HAQ, East London
Precott's name stinks in Hull
I HAVE worked in Hull for 13 years, and the name John Prescott was usually accompanied by expressions like, 'He really understands ordinary working people.' His father called him 'middle class and cut off from his roots'. He should have added, 'He's a bully, a coward and a disgrace to the labour movement.'
Prescott's name now stinks in Hull. He has attacked the firefighters, for which no one will ever forget or forgive him. He lives in a stately pile in a posh part of east Hull, and he takes his constituents and fellow party members for granted.
Prescott prides himself on his constituency work and boasts that his surgeries are rarely cancelled. When the FBU and the local Stop the War group decided to lobby 'their local MP' recently, guess what-Prescott cancelled the surgery, claiming 'important government business' was keeping him in London. Prescott has completely sold out to New Labour.
ROGER SMITH, Hull
Growing anger over union fund
THE WELSH Socialist Alliance (WSA) held a successful forum on 'Iraq, firefighters-should the unions fund New Labour?' last week.
The Swansea branch hosted the meeting. The speakers were Paul Elliot, Unison's senior regional organiser and a Labour Party member, Neil McPherson, the Mid and West Wales FBU secretary, and Charlie Balch, CWU branch secretary for South East Wales and chair of the WSA.
Around 30 attended. Those taking part in the lively debate included Labour Party members, an ex Labour councillor, an ex Liberal councillor, a leading Green Party member and trade unionists including an FBU member straight off the picket line!
Charlie Balch described how his CWU branch was no longer able to find a political officer as the officer had to be in the Labour Party. Swansea WSA feel we are placing ourselves well for the future, especially for when Labour Party members tear up their party cards-or rather burn them as Paul Elliot stressed, because they are made of untearable plastic!
MARTIN CHAPMAN, Swansea WSA
Rise of a global right?
OVER THE past couple of years India has seen the gradual but violent assertion of right wing Hindu forces. They threaten to impose their Hindutva project on all public spaces, doing away with democratic rights, and trampling on the life and liberty of the minorities like Muslims and Christians.
The leader of such a party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is prime minister. This Hindu nationalism, however, sits cosily with imperialist globalisation, privatisation and the anti-people policies of the IMF, World Bank and WTO, in spite of their talk of 'swadeshi' (made in India).
The present Indian government wants to be included in the US-Israel imperialist nexus. It conducts joint military exercises with US troops and shares information with Mossad, Israel's secret service. The 'war against terror' is used by Hindu right wingers to raise suspicion about Muslims among ordinary Indians.
The rise of the Hindu right happened at the same time as the decline of social democracy which paved the way for the right.
SAROJ GIRI, New Delhi
New left voice for shop workers
BALLOT PAPERS were issued this week for the presidential election in Usdaw, the shop workers' union. It is an important election and Pat Buttle, a well known figure on the left, is standing as a candidate. Pat has been a member of Usdaw since she was 15 and is a great activist. She's a left wing Labour councillor in her native Darlington, and a longstanding member of CND and anti-war campaigner. She is fighting on a platform of support for full time rights for part time workers and fair pay, not fat cat pay. Pat also opposes sweetheart deals with bosses.
KATE RICHARDSON, Manchester
I ARRIVED in Denver, US, on Martin Luther King Day. This fell on 18 January and across the US people used the parades to put out an anti-war message. Over 30,000 protested in Denver alone, the biggest Day ever. There were a few hundred in the small town of Boulder, where I am staying. Denver City has officially passed an anti-war motion.
KAREN EVANS, Boulder, Colorado, US
MANY THOUSANDS of people will have been horrified by the BNP's latest success in Halifax. Five BNP candidates have now been elected in eight months.
Taken along with other votes in Stoke and south London this can't be dismissed as a localised issue. It is clear the far right is now getting a hearing among some sections of the white population.
Shouldn't there now be some urgency in mounting a popular campaign against the still small but clearly mounting threat? I think alarm bells should be starting to ring.
ALAN GIBBONS, Merseyside
THE ELECTION of another British National Party (BNP) councillor should finally discredit the arguments of those who say we should not split the anti-Nazi vote. Those who voted for the Nazi BNP are working people who are completely disillusioned with New Labour.
Anti Nazi League activity to demonstrate what the BNP stand for will come to nothing if there is no socialist alternative to New Labour which voters can choose.
Disgust at New Labour is making it impossible for many workers to vote for them, and the BNP can become a reluctant choice. The Socialist Alliance must stand in every election in which there is not a socialist opposing the Nazi BNP to ensure there is something anti-Nazis can vote for.
TONY DOWLING, Tyneside
THE Mixenden by-election here in Halifax, which was won by the Nazi BNP, has a lesson for all anti-racists. Social and economic problems have created the climate where the Nazis can con their way to victory.
We need black and white unity to fight effectively against the problems people face in the ward. The poison spread by the BNP will make everyone's lives worse.
COLIN WILSON, Halifax