Socialist Worker

Don't let 58 die in vain

Issue No. 1704


Don't let 58 die in vain

WHENEVER WILLIAM Hague, Jack Straw or some other refugee-hating politician appears on the television they should be reminded about the 58 tragic deaths in Dover. How quickly the press and politicians have forgotten those poor people, who died gasping for air in the back of a crowded truck.

For them there was no day of mourning, no memorial services, no TV special asking for our sympathy and understanding. Instead the coverage of the deaths was just a momentary interlude in the diet of foreigner baiting. However, I am glad to say that at work it did shift some people. It has been a hard argument in this area, Kent, over refugees, and I do not claim to have convinced everyone about the case even now.

But after the Dover tragedy many more people realised how desperate people who came here were. More people also began to question why we have immigration controls when we could simply allow workers to come here and take up jobs.

Every time I think of those who died I feel sad and angry. But I am also determined to do my little bit to make sure they did not die in vain. I am going to argue harder than ever for the rights of refugees and against the government's restrictions on immigration.


Youth appeal

TWO WEEKS ago I came to London with my friends Vicky Clark (14) and Jenny Woodhouse (13) for the demonstration against the government's treatment of refugees. We are appalled at what the government has done.

We have two refugees at our school, who are both scared and hardly speak a word of English, but they have made friends. I would hate to see them get told that they had to go back to their own country. I feel terrible about what this so called left wing government is doing. I would hate to have to move countries. I couldn't imagine having to live on just 36 a week. I would like to see any of those MPs try it.

I am writing this letter to prove that it is not just older people who care about these issues-there are plenty of young people too. I am 14 years old and spreading these ideas through my school. I am telling my friends to come on these demonstrations with me, and they are staring to see how bad this government is and how socialism would work.


Socialists should offer alternative to disillusioned

THE GENERAL election is approaching and many traditional Labour voters are disappointed with the "New Labour" policies introduced since 1997. The trades council in Keighley, West Yorkshire, held a meeting on this theme recently. There were people from the Labour Party who have been active members for years saying how disgusted they are with New Labour and its Tory policies.

They are looking for a socialist alternative. One party member, a pensioner, told me he had been voting Labour for 50 years, but that he won't vote for them again unless they change their attitude towards the working class. He said he would vote for a socialist candidate if there was one. Others argued for staying inside the Labour Party but bringing it back to its roots by shipping away the top level party officials, including Tony Blair. The central question for all was what attitude to take towards Labour in the next election.

Revolutionaries have to offer an alternative to these people disillusioned with the present system. I argued that socialists must unite outside the Labour Party.

Ken Livingstone and the London Socialist Alliance showed us it can be done. After three hours of discussion we came to a conclusion that one thing was uniting us-socialism. We decided to call meetings on pensioners, the NHS, education, privatisation and union rights which will be open to all socialists and left wingers.


Canteen culture changed at BBC

COMEDIANS on TV used to make jokes about how awful the food was in BBC canteens. Actually those canteens were always packed at lunchtime by both staff and performers.

But since the canteens were privatised a few years ago things have gone downhill, and are now beyond a joke. Cuts in the range and quality of food have seen a dramatic reduction in the numbers using the services.

The latest contractor, Sutcliffe, has cut the number of workers and increased workloads enormously. Other contracted-out areas in the BBC suffer similar conditions. Women cleaners work 14-hour days. Security guards work 12-hour shifts seven days in a row.

Many workers feel the cuts and long hours compromise safety. Now one of the catering staff has been electrocuted and there are allegations that the equipment involved had not been tested properly since 1986. She survived, but workers across the BBC are furious. BECTU union reps have launched a petition over the case and are demanding the contracted-out services are brought back in-house. It is winning wide support.


Questions raised by Anthony's case

ANTHONY GREEN, aged 19, suffered a broken leg when his bicycle was hit by an unmarked police car last year in the Burngreave area of Sheffield. The policeman responsible was fined 250 for careless driving. The incident led to an outcry and a march on the police headquarters demanding justice.

Anthony's solicitors alleged that "vital evidence" from a police helicopter had not been presented to the magistrates who sentenced the policeman. The solicitors are seeking a judicial review of the case and damages . It was at this time that the police searched Anthony's flat in an "unrelated incident" and found six live cartridges. Anthony denied any knowledge of them but was found guilty of possessing ammunition.

The case has led to a lot of questions being asked in an area where both black and white people face harassment from the police.


Postal points

ALTHOUGH the black Blairite David Lammy won the Tottenham by-election, this can be no comfort to New Labour.

The Labour vote fell by 17,336 compared to 1997, the Tories' vote fell by 3,187, and the Liberal Democrat and Green vote also went down. In this context the London Socialist Alliance is the real victor in the election.

  • EXPLO NANI-KOFI, West London
I MUST disagree with Socialist Worker's analysis of the campaign to scrap Section 28 in Scotland (24 June), especially when it says it has been replaced by something which will in some ways be worse.

A careful reading of the new guidance shows that, although marriage is mentioned, other styles of relationships and family life are seen as of equal validity. I think this has to be seen as a victory, even if the Scottish Executive allowed some last minute compromises.

  • SYLVIA CRICK, Edinburgh
THE MOST insulting part of the asylum seekers' voucher system is that the French company, Sodexho Pass, responsible for marketing the system is telling stores to cash in.

In their marketing literature they use the phrase, "Don't miss this revenue-making opportunity!"

  • JAKKI GILLET, South London

Fears for future unless we fight

I WAS first attracted to your newspaper through posters about the terrible plight of asylum seekers. Sadly this was the first time I had seen anything with the same opinion as me. So many people have been taken in by the racist anti asylum seeker propaganda put about by bigoted politicians from all sides and the press.

I am worried about the future. I am 16 years old and most of my classmates think that asylum seekers are just dirty scroungers. We live in a country under a government that, despite its clear faults, does not persecute us. Any problem of ours is insignificant compared to the terrible plight of asylum seekers.

  • DANIEL MARKS, Stanmore, Middlesex

Should we cheer cops v racists?

I would like to agree very much with your article on English football violence (Socialist Worker, 24 June). I was also shocked at the violent so called English fans. I had wanted England to do well in the European championship, but after the England v Germany game I wanted them to get thrown out as quickly as possible. I think their behaviour was shameful.

There are, however, a number of questions that I would like answered: (1) Why are English fans so much worse than any other country's fans? (2) BBC1's Panorama confirmed that racism lies behind much of the violence. I do not trust the police, but surely in this instance we should support them being given more powers to arrest these people? (3) I would very much like to read an article on what Socialist Worker thinks about sport in general.

  • MARK SHAWCROFT, North London

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Article information

Sat 8 Jul 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1704
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