'We're not racist' say pensioners
I WAS shocked at press reports of New Labour saying pensioners were "racist". MP Clive Soley reportedly said pensioners "complained about immigrants, saying, 'You give money to refugees but not to me'." Apparently Peter Mandelson started the ball rolling by saying there was "no mileage" in pensioners.
As a member of the Greater London Pensioners Association and a member of the editorial board of the Pensioner I am in contact with thousands of pensioners. A great many of them resent this slur on their reputation. Many have a proud record of fighting racism.
The whole notion of anti asylum seeker propaganda has been orchestrated by the two main political parties-the Tories, followed by New Labour. If some pensioners do fall for the anti asylum seeker arguments, the blame must lie with the government which has left pensioners in poverty. They have given pensioners an insulting 75 pence a week rise, while encouraging propaganda against refugees who have suffered more than these well-heeled politicians will ever understand. Instead of coming out with real policies that will satisfy the needs of people-for the NHS, schools, and decent pensions-they rely on dreadful and cynical propaganda against refugees. That is why it is the policy of the London Socialist Alliance to stamp on the vile lies which the major parties are using against asylum seekers in their effort to win votes on 4 May. The LSA stands for policies to improve health, schools, the environment, and to stop corruption in the police. It is over these areas that pensioners, like everyone else, want to see some action.
- AUSTIN BURNETT, LSA candidate, Brent and Harrow
We fought against Mosley
IF THE reports about senior Labour Party figures saying pensioners are racist are true it is absolutely disgraceful and out of order. As a pensioner myself, and an ex-member of the Labour Party, I think they should apologise. This is an even bigger insult than the 75p pension increase they gave us.
Who are they calling racist? Like many other pensioners I've been fighting racism all my life from Mosley in the 1930s right through to today. If they want pensioners to vote Labour they should restore the link with earnings and give us a decent pension to live on.
- TED JACKS, East London
How press invented A 'backlash'
ACCORDING TO an article in the football magazine When Saturday Comes, Millwall football club recently offered local Kosovan refugees free tickets to come and see the club. Four days before the football game, the South London Press reported that the trip had been cancelled "because the move prompted a fierce backlash from racists who phoned the club". The Press Association then reported that the club had received "threats" towards the refugees. In fact the trip was only cancelled because of the "bother" it had received in the press!
Millwall issued an angry press release which stated that "no threats of any description have been received by the club". But facts did not appear to concern the Daily Telegraph, which then ran a front page story headed, "Millwall Thugs Stamp On Hand Of Friendship". Could it be that the press are so keen to find evidence of a racist backlash that they simply invent it? We should not be complacent about the growth of racism, but at the same time we must treat scare stories with the contempt they deserve.
- KRISTINA ABBOTT, West London
'Jac the Knife' gets 48 percent
"THEY'VE GOT money coming out of their ears!" That remark sums up Ford Dagenham workers' views when news broke of Ford chief Jac Nasser's 48 percent pay rise. If Ford can afford Nasser's new 6.6 million salary then why cut production at Dagenham?
Labour MPs locally are doing nothing to back a fight for jobs. Many people at the plant think Ford is aiming to win a war of attrition by the level of the insults thrown at workers.
"Jac the Knife's" perks are only the latest kick in the teeth. Ford's profits jumped by 18 percent in the last year. But the firm is still "pushing for $1 billion in cost cuts" in the next year. Workers locally know that Ford will trample over them if they offer no resistance. Dagenham is like the calm before the storm. Tony Woodley and the TGWU are doing nothing to lead opposition.
In May, Ford will announce its plans for the plant, and most workers expect the worst. If the level of sheer anger were enough, Dagenham workers could blow management apart. People spit on the floor when bosses are mentioned. Ford hasn't yet sapped the fighting spirit of many workers. The Car Worker, the newly launched rank and file paper, was warmly received by many workers, with several taking extra copies to sell. Ford likes to see itself as all conquering. Hopefully it may yet find that Dagenham workers have a few surprises in store.
- PAUL SILLETT, East London
A swift response to bigot
THE EFFECT of Ann Widdecombe, Jack Straw and the Sun's ranting against asylum seekers was dramatically played out when we were selling Socialist Worker last week.
A young man, flanked by two pit bull terriers, took it upon himself to tear down our "Asylum Seekers Are Welcome Here" poster, while screaming his head off about all Kurds being "rapists". We immediately responded to physically prevent this attack.
We also challenged him to explain the government's role in destroying jobs at Rover and handing over council homes to the private sector. We also talked about the bombing of the Balkans, which led to people seeking refuge in the first place. A crowd gathered and started lining up to sign our petition, "Asylum Seekers Are Welcome Here".
The racist himself got no support from anyone and was completely isolated (except for his dogs). Our experience shows how immediate action in response to these thugs brings out a sense of confidence and human sympathy among the greater numbers of working class people.
- CHANIE ROSENBERG, North London
Getting the message
SOCIALIST WORKER recently reported on Frank Dobson's stunt of opening the Paddington Green health centre and the attack on PFI by Dr Sally Taylor. I was at the opening and went along wearing my "Vote Socialist, Vote London Socialist Alliance" badge.
The only hostility I met was from Frank Dobson and his entourage. Everyone there, largely the centre's workers and their families, backed Dr Taylor's comments. Loads of people came up to me and asked for the LSA badges and complained about New Labour. One local post office worker told me he thought New Labour were now doing the Tories' dirty work. He had been a rock solid Labour supporter but wouldn't be voting for Dobson.
- MARK HOSKISSON, West London
What is profit?
MORE POWER to your paper! It is needed to combat the lies of the capitalist press. But we need some articles on explaining what "profit" is. Many years of teaching working class students has taught me what confusion there is about profit. Many think that profits are legitimate for business-just in the same way they would want to sell their bike or car to get a profit if they could. They think profit is a natural thing. It needs explaining!
- A CHATTIN, Bolton
Giving help to Mugabe
YOUR ARTICLE on Zimbabwe (Socialist Worker, 15 April) was unusually disappointing. I totally support ordinary black people taking back land which was stolen from their ancestors by the British Empire. However, I don't support armed thugs hired by Mugabe's government terrorising men, women and children right out of their homes. In what way do the working class in Zimbabwe benefit from defending the state-sponsored violence against the white minority? This has nothing to do with genuine redistribution of land and everything to do with whipping up ethnic hatred in order to help Mugabe stay in power. People have human rights-yes, even rich, white people.
- ANGUS COULL, Dundee
Not in Blair's fan club
I'VE BEEN a "Labour man" all my life. When I voted in 1997 I thought I was electing a government for the working people. It was the biggest con in all my 50-plus years as a trade unionist and Labour member. Now one in three Labour constituency parties are not sending delegates to the Labour Party conference. Those who have not left in disgust certainly want no part in the Tony Blair fan club rally, which is what Labour conferences have become. Neither do Labour members want to get out on the knocker for Labour in the local elections. There is no enthusiasm. I remember going leafleting for Labour in the 1940s. Then if you were a member of the Labour Party it meant you were active. You went to ward meetings. You felt you belonged to something. I haven't bothered renewing my membership of the Labour Party and I know that I am not alone.
- RAY BURFIELD, St Albans
Problem is capitalism
IT WAS awful to hear about the famine in Ethiopia. This shows the effect of capitalism on poorer countries. In the 1960s the United Nations agreed that all the more economically developed countries should aim to give 0.7 percent of the gross national product (GNP) in aid to less economically developed countries like Ethiopia. Most countries never achieved this. Britain gives about 0.2 percent of its GNP. After joining the Socialist Workers Party a few weeks ago, I have already noticed the effects of capitalism on Third World countries and on industry, such as at Rover. It seems the only answer is to get rid of capitalism.
- CHRISTOPHER ALLEN, aged 15, Birmingham