Socialist Worker

Press and politicians attack London may day protest

Issue No. 1696

Letters

Press and politicians attack London may day protest

'We soldiers all hated Churchill'

THE MEDIA are projecting Winston Churchill as a beloved leader who won World War Two single handedly. As far as winning the war goes, there were one or two ordinary troops who played their part! I served in World War Two in Italy and Greece, and the feeling amongst the "lower ranks" was that Churchill was a murdering bastard. He was far from "beloved"-most working class people either disliked Churchill or downright hated him.

Churchill frequently called the working class in Britain "the enemy"-and that summed up his attitude throughout his life. He was known to us as the man who sent troops into Tonypandy against the miners in 1910. Also in 1910, as home secretary, he ordered the brutal breaking of the Suffragettes fighting for the vote for women. He argued for the use of troops, tanks and machine guns against workers in the 1926 General Strike.

Come World War Two most working class people's feelings were that the Nazis had to be defeated. But that did not mean we lost our hatred of Winston Churchill. The general view was that, while we were stuck with him during the war, we would get him out once it was over.

That is why in the 1945 general election the Tories suffered a landslide defeat. Churchill was elected in 1945 as Tory MP for Woodford, Essex, but only because the other main parties did not oppose him. If the Labour Party had, he would have been out of parliament. However, he was challenged by a candidate who only stood because he thought no MP should be elected unopposed. Churchill only won by 2,000 votes! We should ignore today's myth building and recognise Churchill for what he was-a class warrior fighting for the British capitalist class. No one should have any respect whatsoever for Churchill, or his statue for that matter.

  • FRANK HENDERSON, Wolverhampton

They want to lock up dissent

IN THE wake of the London anti-capitalist protest the establishment has given the green light to the courts to mete out "exemplary" sentences to those daring to sit in the road and protest against police conduct. Immediate prison sentences and heavy fines have been the order of the day down at Horseferry Road magistrates court. Much worse will follow for those branded as the ringleaders.

It is worth remembering that, sadly, this is nothing new. As long ago as 1936 the first Public Order Act made it an offence punishable with up to six months imprisonment to use threatening behaviour. This deprived those arrested of the right to have their case tried by a jury, and at the same time gave magistrates sufficient power to intimidate protesters.

These powers have over the years repeatedly been used against trade unionists, anti-racist protesters and political activists. The widespread use of video surveillance has further increased the ability of the state to control and demonise protest. The answer to this is not to give up and stay indoors, as the Metropolitan Police infamously advised us all to do after they had murdered anti-Nazi Blair Peach in 1979.

It is to understand that, when the protest is big enough and, above all, when it involves organised workers, the police and the courts tend to think twice about wielding their formidable powers.

  • HENRY BLAXLAND, North London

Our freedoms taken hostage

THE COMPLAINTS of politicians and the media about the London May Day demonstration showed exactly what is wrong with this system. They were concerned only with the petty damage to property, and did not utter one reservation about the disgusting police treatment of people in Trafalgar Square.

First they refused to let Rover workers enter the square. Then they imprisoned 3,000 people in it for up to six hours. Those held against their will included many parents who pleaded to leave, and people who were trapped on their way to work. No explanation was given by the police, who treated everyone to abuse, and really battered and sprayed some people.

  • HANNAH DEE, North London

Not 'mindless'

THE Sun branded those who demonstrated in London as "mindless thugs" who were "just there for kicks". But those who protested were far from "mindless". They are mostly young, well informed about what capitalism is doing to the planet and ordinary people everywhere, and thirsty for left wing politics.

The London events started with a two day conference of "anti-capitalist ideas". Some 500 students, environmental activists, anarchists, trade unionists, socialists and campaigners met to discuss many topics from the Seattle protests to racism after Stephen Lawrence. They looked at the nature of capitalism, and revolutionary history internationally. The discussions took place in an extremely fraternal atmosphere, with many people arguing that the "spirit of Seattle" and unity should continue between the different groups in the future.

  • MARTIN EMPSON, East London

Horrified by racist attack

ON SUNDAY of last week a young mixed race man was attacked in a Northfield petrol station, only two miles from the Rover Longbridge plant. The racists attempted to set the young man on fire and he was lucky to escape serious injury.

But the incident could easily have been a repeat of the attack on Michael Menson, who died after having been set alight by racists in London. People in the Birmingham area where the victim of this latest attack lived, and at the hospital where he was treated, were horrified. With the Nazis trying to march in Worcester, Kidderminster and Bromsgrove we have to draw the links and say the Nazis are not welcome here. Local people in Northfield, and workers in Rover, have signed a petition condemning this latest racist attack.

  • LYNNE HUBBARD, Northfield, Birmingham

Brian Souter's bigoted ballot goes in the bin

THE LATEST stunt by Stagecoach boss Brian Souter's gay-bashing Keep the Clause campaign looks set to blow up in its face. Souter has already used his millions to cover Scotland's billboards with homophobic posters.

Now he is continuing with his attempt at cheque book democracy. He is sending out ballot papers for a rigged referendum on Section 28 to every household in the country. However, the call has already gone out from the Scottish Trade Union Congress and the socialist parties for people to bin the bigots' ballot.

This argument has found a resonance beyond the labour movement. There was an excellent editorial in the Herald newspaper calling Souter's ballot paper "a highly expensive piece of junk mail". It concluded, "We suggest that the best thing to do with this bogus opinion poll is to drop it in the bin."

Keep the Clause, after accusing the STUC of failing to represent the views of its members, refused the offer of a public debate with STUC leader Bill Speirs and socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan.

  • MARK BROWN, Glasgow

NATO's real motive

I WAS pleased to see your review of Masters of the Universe (Socialist Worker, 29 April). Only now are many on the left beginning to question "humanitarian" intervention. But modern imperialism has always claimed this for its actions. The conquest of Africa and everywhere else was loudly trumpeted to be for "helping" the unenlightened inhabitants, and bringing "good government" and "even-handed justice".

So it is not really surprising that "humanitarian intervention" should have emerged as a modern rationalisation. We see it in Kosovo at the moment.

UN "special representative" Bernard Kouchner and those around him behave exactly like colonial administrators who are taking decisions for the "little Albanian or Slav brothers". This must be exposed as racism and would be regarded as such anywhere within the Western world. We must be on alert for the next target.

  • RICHARD ROPER

A magnificent show of unity

TYNESIDE'S May Day march was inspiring. Around 250 asylum seekers joined local trade unionists and campaigners to unite on international workers' day. The refugees had marched together from Newcastle's West End carrying placards demanding an end to scapegoating. On meeting up with the main body of the march, the refugees were greeted with cheers and handshakes.

They took their place alongside trade unionists, school meals staff fighting cuts, local residents protesting against an incinerator, and pensioners. Scottish TUC leader Bill Speirs told the rally, "We should welcome those fleeing persecution as our brothers and sisters." The march chanted, "Tony Blair, can you hear? Refugees are welcome here." This was the biggest May Day march in Tyneside for a decade-and one of the most politically significant.

It showed there are many people who want to stand up against anti-refugee racism. A public meeting in support of asylum seekers is now being set up, as well as a march against the degrading refugee voucher system.

  • DAVID WILSON, Tyne and Wear May Day Committee

Postal point

ABOUT 100 people marched from Handsworth to Lloyd House in Birmingham on the Saturday before last. It was a lively anti-racist demonstration in support of the Jhumat family. They were attacked in Yardley last year, leaving daughter Karuna with severe bruising. The family are angered that Karuna's attacker only received a suspended one year sentence, while her father was due to appear in court this week. Ram Lal Jhumat is charged with assault as a result of defending his family.

  • ANDREW NORTH, Birmingham

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Sat 13 May 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1696
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