Europe's 'Wise Men' betray Austria fight
THE European Union decision to abandon diplomatic "sanctions" against Austria is a betrayal of the thousands of people who demonstrated against the country's Tory/far right coalition.
The EU's "Wise Men" say that Austria has a normal democratic government. In fact there has been a sharp lurch to the right. The minister of justice was, until his appointment, the far right Freedom Party's lawyer. He has even discussed prosecuting opposition politicians for being unpatriotic.
Now that the government feels secure, the police can harass and intimidate the weekly demonstrations against it, which are still drawing thousands of people. Indeed, while the Wise Men sat eating their dinners in Vienna's Hotel Imperial, the police were thumping demonstrators outside.
Many protesters, as well as dozens of black people as part of a racist witch-hunt against "drug dealers", are being dragged before the courts on trumped-up charges.
The Wise Men criticised the Freedom Party. But many of the things they wrote about it, for example that some Freedom Party leaders are revisionist about Nazism, are impossible to publish in Austria.
The Freedom Party is currently flooding the opposition with slander or libel suits, and Socialist Worker's sister paper Linkswende is being sued yet again. But we are not downhearted. The resistance movement is determined to demonstrate at all Freedom Party events, and last week succeeded in stopping a rally in Vienna.
The government is also heading for a serious confrontation with the unions this autumn over cuts. It didn't escape our notice that Blair was one of the first to call for the lifting of the sanctions. Well done, Tony-hundreds of Austrian people will be in Prague for S26 to repay the kindness and make sure you get the fiasco that you desperately want to avoid.
- PAUL, Vienna
I AM very happy to inform your readers that the Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred my case back to the Court of Appeal. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time and kindness in helping and supporting me. Thank you.
- ISHTIAQ AHMED, HMP Coldingley, Shaftesbury Road, Bisley, Woking, Surrey GU24 9EX
Health in the US
I RECENTLY returned from a family holiday visiting friends in the United States. I fell ill and was hospitalised for about 30 hours in one of Boston's teaching hospitals.
The quality of nursing and medical care was fantastic, but the advocates of free enterprise and privatisation should read on. Everyone I met said I was "lucky" to fall ill in central Boston. If it had happened in the suburb where I was staying the story would have been quite different, I was assured.
What they meant was that there are massive class differences in health provision in the US. Then came the question of payment. To process our insurance details, a visit to what my partner described as a merchant bank (actually the section for international patients) was necessary.
So far we know one set of costs, for nursing and accommodation, of about �4,000. The other costs-that is, three separate bills from the doctors who treated me and one for my medication-are unknown. They are not expected to be light.
It is clear, therefore, that the advocates of privatisation fully support a system of healthcare based on ability to pay, class position and privilege. An antidote to all this was the large number of strike votes that were taken by American workers during my short stay. The school system is like a tinder box, with strikes called in two states in the last few days. Several large industrial plants are either on strike or about to come out. Best of all was the victory by employees over the massive Bell-Verizon phone company a few weeks ago.
- RICHARD DILLON, Chesterfield
Asylum seeker wins support
THE HARSH treatment of asylum seekers and the actions that can be taken to defend them were highlighted recently when an Iraqi Kurdish asylum seeker was given three days notice by social services that he was being moved. Having lived for 20 months in the area and formed friendships he was very distraught.
We quickly established that he had no legal rights whatsoever, so we decided to mobilise the local community behind him. The response from neighbours was overwhelming. We did a petition in his support down his street and not a single person refused to sign.
Social services relented when they heard of local opinion in his support. Despite propaganda by the media and politicians there is public concern for the plight of asylum seekers and it is possible to mobilise action in their support.
- SUE PETCH, South London
Railcard cut hits families
THE DECISION by the rail operators to abolish the family railcard is appalling. I know lots of people who rely on the railcard. A single parent friend of mine who lives in the north uses her card regularly to keep in contact with her mother in London. Now she won't be able to.
A family railcard costs �15. It means you can get a third off the adult fare and children can travel anywhere in Britain for �1 each way.
Over the past few years, as a low income student, I have relied on the card for family visits, and trips in the school holidays to the seaside or countryside. Given the issue of fuel prices, and car pollution that gives my child asthma, it is insane to scrap the railcard.
Now every family will be weighing up the difference between the cost of exorbitant rail fares and that of a tank of petrol.
- MOLLY DOYLE, North London
Wrong on Russia
I AM appalled and angered at your hatred towards the former Soviet Union. Perhaps you forget that while Paris and other European capitals fell without a shot being fired, the people of Leningrad stood undaunted against an almost daily bombing and shelling from the evil Nazi forces. It was Red Army soldiers who hoisted the Soviet flag on the Reichstag in Berlin on 6 May 1945. All of this was achieved at the cost of 21 million or more Russian lives. As one born of Jewish parents I know that I owe my life to the USSR.
I am not starry-eyed and do not believe that everything in the Soviet Union was beyond reproach. There was much to be criticised and deplored. But when I recall Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Korea, Vietnam, etc, the crimes of the US are greater than any committed by Stalin.
And look at what capitalist free market "democracy" has brought Russia too-starvation, work without pay, millionaires, the mafia.
- HARRY BRAMSON, South London
Fuel charge con
CONSUMPTION TAXES mean that the burden of reducing consumption falls on the poorest.
As central London residents, we'll soon have direct experience of this. When the new congestion charge comes in we'll be paying extra tax for a car that my partner needs for her job working with the homeless.
Meanwhile the oversized luxury cars that tear around our estate on their way to and from the City won't be deterred by a charge which is spare change for their fat cat owners.
We need punitive income tax for the rich plus hefty government subsidies for public transport, and perhaps a massive tax on oversized luxury cars. What we don't need is another financial burden on those who have no alternative.
- JOHN KENNEDY, Central London