Socialist Worker

This time Tony Blair has gone too far for us to stay

Issue No. 1839

I HAVE just written to Tony Blair with the following message: 'Dear prime minister, My family has Labour roots going back to the beginning of the Labour Party. To witness the disintegration of a once proud party into the spineless shadow of its former self fills me with horror.

I can no longer associate myself with a party which advocates: (a) an unprovoked invasion of Iraq, which offers no threat to our homeland, and the murder of innocent civilians; (b) Tony Blair becoming the foreign minister for the US and no longer prime minister of this country; (c) forgetting this country is in Europe and is not another state of America; (d) threats of legislation by John Prescott against the firefighters, mirroring what Thatcher did to the miners; (e) university education only for the rich and those from private schools. You no longer have my vote.'
Louise Littlefair, Preston


I have been an active member of the Labour Party for 14 years. I have never had great illusions that it was going to make huge strides towards socialism, but I thought it was the best defence against the Tories and real brute capitalism. But over the war I just can't go on thinking that. Blair could have headed up a European opposition to Bush which would have halted the war in its early planning stages.

Instead he has cleared the way for bloodletting on a terrible scale. I am not at all sure in which party progressive people in Britain should now be organising. I do know that it's not New Labour. I do know that it's urgent that there's a home for everyone who marched on Saturday.
Barry Thomas, East London


MEMBERS OF Strathclyde Fire Brigades Union (FBU) lobbied the councillors of Strathclyde Fire Board last week. Twelve firefighters have indicated that they will be standing against Strathclyde Fire Board members at the forthcoming local elections.

The FBU cannot condone their intentions. However, we fully appreciate and understand the frustration and anger they feel towards their local representatives, as a result of the lack of support from them over the current fire service dispute.
Strathclyde FBU


Change the mood about refugees

MANY POLITICIANS and much of the media have spent the past few years demonising asylum seekers. This has helped to make the BNP Nazis seem legitimate. It is vital that we build the 'Don't vote Nazi' campaigns and the Anti Nazi League's 'Love Music Hate Racism' events.

But we must also take up the arguments about housing, services, etc, particularly in relation to asylum seekers. The war against asylum seekers has begun to make racism respectable, and is being used by racists to regain ground that they lost after the Stephen Lawrence campaign.

In my workplace I have collected over three pages of signatures and £40 so far for the open letter to defend asylum seekers. This has led to many discussions. Our union branch is also reissuing a 'Defend asylum seekers' leaflet to all members explaining the arguments within the workplace.

Although not everyone has agreed with me, everyone has voiced concerns at what the Nazis are doing and disagreed with the linking of asylum seekers with terrorism.

If we take the statement round we can give confidence to some people, persuade others and begin this vital debate with the rest. This is important for all of us involved in the anti-war movement, the Socialist Alliance, the anti-capitalist agitation and supporting workers' struggles like the firefighters.
Ade Walter, Greenwich council worker


Israel matters

THE GUARDIAN and Evening Standard newspapers ran articles before last Saturday's demonstration claiming that supporters of Palestinian rights had tried to hijack the protest.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Justice for Palestine is inextricably linked to stopping the war. That is why Israeli leader Ariel Sharon outdoes even Tony Blair in his enthusiasm for an attack on Baghdad.

Nothing exposes the hypocrisy of our leaders more than their attitude to Israel. UN resolutions must be obeyed or else you risk devastating war - unless you are Israel. Weapons of mass destruction must be dismantled - unless you are Israel. You cannot occupy your neighbours' land - unless you are Israel.
Mike Simons, East London


Let's plan what action we need

SOCIALIST WORKER is right to say we need demonstrations but that we need to go beyond demonstrating. It is not enough to hope this happens - it needs to be organised. In a spirit of peace and cooperation, can I make a few suggestions about what might be appropriate so that we can begin a discussion:

  • If war breaks out, block roads, march and protest, but also occupy a public building (council office or government department?) and STAY THERE.
  • Get walkouts at work wherever possible.
  • Stop paying tax wherever possible. It's hard to avoid VAT and income tax, but you can cancel your council tax payments, etc.
  • Ring, e-mail, or fax every government minister, department, councillor, etc who supports the war and keep ringing. If 100,000 people do this we will cause real problems for the communications system.
  • On the first Saturday after an attack, take over the centres of towns, and cities, and halt normal business - not marches but angry protests that are not going to go away!

    I'm sure people have even better ideas than these, but let's have a clear idea of what we're doing so we can do it together.
    Jerry McFarlane, by e-mail


    Starry-eyed on the US in space

    MARTIN EMPSON (Letters, 15 February) points out that the recent space shuttle explosion may have links to cost-cutting. True. But we should argue for the biggest cut of all - abolish the space programme. It is not some disinterested piece of pure research which benefits humanity. It is (and always has been) essentially a military project.

    The shuttle programme will help to make Star Wars and 'first strike' nuclear war a possibility. Most of the satellites launched into space have military uses. Lockheed Martin, the main shuttle contractor, is also a major weapons maker. When we have socialism we can think about whether we want a space programme. For now, we don't.
    Helen Wilson, Birmingham


    Directions for the bomb aimer?

    Now I understand. The Labour campaigning slogan 'Schools and hospitals first' is a snappy forewarning of its bombing strategy for Iraq.
    Andrew Garner, by e-mail


    Most people are not rabid racists

    RECENT MEDIA coverage of events in our town, Saltdean near Brighton, has focused on the protests against a plan to accommodate asylum seekers at a local hotel. These reports fail to represent the views of the majority of local residents.

    A recent meeting saw a cross-section of the Saltdean community discuss how we could promote a positive view of refugees to our neighbours, and plan activities to welcome and support asylum seekers when they arrive. We welcome support from all those appalled by the hysteria surrounding the asylum issue.
    Professor Raphael Salkie, Chana Moshenska and Rebecca Shtasel PO Box 2536, Rottingdean BN2 6LX


    Who could have sold Iraq nukes?

    THE US plans to use 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours of an attack on Iraq. Yet there's no evidence of Iraq possessing nuclear weapons. The only way Saddam Hussein could have built underground nuclear arsenals was if the last Bush administration supplied them to him in the first place!
    Jon Langton, West Midlands


    Prescott didn't put up a fight

    MEMBERS OF Hull Stop the War Campaign have branded deputy prime minister John Prescott a coward after he apparently refused to discuss the Iraqi crisis with them during a recent demonstration outside his home. We had formed a 'weapons inspection team' and had hoped to gain entry into the home to look for evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

    The police banned us from using a megaphone, and they even arrested one of the weapons inspection team.
    Geoff Collier, Hull


    Not just black and white today

    AS SOCIALISTS in the SWP I think we need to look a little more closely at ourselves, what we're doing and why we're doing it. Nothing in life is black and white, and things aren't often as clear cut as we would like.

    None of us are as good as we can be and we do not have all the answers. Admitting this isn't a sign of weakness but a display of our strength.
    Alex Gunn, Manchester University SWSS


    Scandal behind the grandstand

    BEHIND ALL the fanfare of the opening of the cricket World Cup in South Africa there is a story the world has not heard. Cape Town city council has allowed the organisations that run the Newlands cricket ground (hosts of the opening ceremonies and opening game of the World Cup) to get away with unpaid municipal bills in the order of R4 million (£400,000).

    But at the same time the council is evicting poor black families from their homes in nearby Mitchell's Plain for having arrears of as little as R250 (£25).
    Peter Dwyer, Durban


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    Article information

    Letters
    Sat 22 Feb 2003, 00:00 GMT
    Issue No. 1839
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