50 years of experience
I HAVE just completed a form to join the Socialist Workers Party. I am not sure if I qualify for membership-I am 80 years of age and not very physically active! I live in sheltered accommodation. I was a Labour Party member for 50 years-what a waste. I resigned a year ago- bit late in the day, I know. Reformism is no way forward. I was an activist in the North African left wing forces movement during the Second World War. I was also active against the US wars in Korea and Vietnam, and during the miners' strike. But my activist days are gone now. However, I want to help achieve socialism. I should like to offer whatever support I can to the SWP as the only viable revolutionary socialist party. I have been a subscriber to Socialist Worker and Socialist Review for some months, so I understand the party's views.
- BOB COLEMAN, Somerset
Editor's note: Everyone has something to contribute in the struggle for socialism, particularly people with a lifetime of experience in the labour movement.
Few answers from Hackney police chief
THE JUSTICE for Harry Stanley Campaign put two questions to Inspector Robbins, chief of police in Hackney, east London, at a recent police consultative meeting. We asked him if the police proposed to put the officers who shot Harry dead last year back on duty. Robbins said the public expect good policing, and that could not happen if every officer with an allegation against them was put on a desk job. We said that shooting unarmed civilians who had committed no crime was not "good policing". We added that the police officers should be treated just like anyone else who had killed someone. They should certainly be removed from further damaging the community. We also asked if members of the police's Armed Response Unit had "rules of engagement" for using their weapons. Robbins said he was "unaware of rules of engagement". We feel this gives the police a licence to kill.
Police in Hackney have used special powers over the last month to stop and search children on their way to school. Police officers even took photographs of people at the consultative meeting, despite objections from the public. The Labour government is increasing the numbers of police while cuts are made to services we really do need. Hackney council is to axe 700 jobs by closing nurseries and other services. This is a recipe for greater misery for ordinary people accompanied by more authoritarianism from the police.
- TERRY STEWART, secretary of the Justice for Harry Stanley Campaign, East London
Faces full of distrust
AROUND 500 people attended a public meeting in Dumbarton against health cuts two weeks ago. This was the largest political meeting Dumbarton has seen for many years. People are extremely angry and willing to fight the proposed cuts to their health service, which include proposals to axe the maternity unit and the A&E at their local hospital.
Jackie Forrest, secretary of the local branch of the health workers' UNISON union, got a tremendous response when she was introduced as a working nurse. Jackie asked how New Labour can find billions to fund Trident nuclear missiles yet will not find money to ensure there are enough beds and nurses to care for our sick and elderly.
Jackie Baillie, a Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament for the area, announced that the proposals have been scrapped due to the level of opposition. However, she was met with little appaluse and a sea of faces with looks of distrust. People did not believe a word Labour said. There are still plans to close the children's hospital, and a march has been called for the beginning of May. Local Labour MP Tony Worthington failed to turn up to a recent protest meeting in Clydebank. Irene, whose eight year old attends the hospital, said, "They are not so slow to attend meetings and to speak to us when they want our votes."
- VICKY McKENZIE, Clydebank
Turn again Ken
NEW LABOUR is sinking into the most blatant hypocrisy in its attempts to smear Ken Livingstone. The party that loves big business, and whose leading figures have a host of corporate links, is attacking Livingstone for having a private company. Accusations about Livingstone's finances from Geoffrey Robinson, Peter Mandelson and the millionaires at the heart of New Labour have little credibility.
Livingstone remains popular because people believe he stands for something better than the rehashed Tory policies of New Labour. It is therefore disappointing that he has spent so much of his time trying to woo the City and big business. I think he should fight his campaign as a socialist and side with the millions of people at whose expense the City is making a profit. Livingstone is throwing away the chance to build such a campaign with every day that passes. He would like to rejoin New Labour rather than build a socialist alternative to it. I will be voting for Ken but I will also campaign and vote for the London Socialist Alliance, which is offering socialist policies against Blair.
- MARTIN VALENTINE, Croydon
Bully from Life
MY SCHOOL has a strong and (I thought) effective anti-bullying policy. However, during a recent general studies class 100 students were faced with severe emotional bullying-organised by the school! The bully was a representative of Life, the anti-abortion group. I was shocked that my school would allow access to students for someone who used fear, guilt and misrepresentation to press home their point. There was no pro-choice speaker to offer a counter-argument. Some students were upset and many angered by the Life presentation. Although some questions were allowed, those of us who had researched the issue and wished to pose vital questions were largely blocked from intervening by the Life speaker.
There is little or no concern from this organisation for the 200,000 women worldwide who die each year from unsafe backstreet abortions-the inevitable consequence of making abortion illegal. Life does not support the use of contraception, nor does it think sex education should take place at school. I will be campaigning along with many members of the sixth form for Life not to be allowed to return next year to lie to, scare and upset students.
- KATE HARDY, vice-chair of the student council, Beaumont School, St Albans
Nailing lies on refugees
VIRTUALLY every local and national newspaper's letters page currently contains articles attacking refugees. We need to counter these arguments confidently and systematically. The best way I found to do this was through reading the 15 page Socialist Worker pamphlet Refugees Are Not To Blame.
It destroys every racist argument against asylum seekers with a quickfire socialist response. Three people in Bradford have recently used the pamphlet's arguments to counter racist letters in the local press.
The pamphlet costs only �1 and should be bought by every anti-racist in Britain. Socialists should carry two or three copies to sell to people at work or college. The president of the student union at Bradford University took ten copies for the union's executive members. This pamphlet's strength is that it squarely blames the fat cats for unemployment, poor housing and attacks on pensions.
- ATEEQ SIDDIQUE, Bradford
Move towards genuine union
A MASS meeting of 550 workers at the National House Building Council (NHBC) has shaken management. The NHBC is a non profit making company which regulates standards in the building industry. Its 850 employees include 280 building inspectors. The workers, who belong to a non-TUC staff association, only got a 1 percent pay rise this year. Those in the pension scheme had to pay a 1 percent rise in their contributions.
Some 550 employees attended an NHBC conference three weeks ago to be told that reorganisation of the company would mean redundancies. They held a staff association meeting and boycotted the main session of the conference. That forced management to reopen the issue of pay. The new laws on union recognition are encouraging workers to talk about setting up a real union at the company.
- READER, High Wycombe
Fraud is not the problem
THE COVENTRY City Council fraud team recently investigated local authority benefits payments. It found that 400 people had been massively underpaid their benefits. Over �261,000 of benefits were not being claimed by those entitled to them. While fraud is certainly not welcome, neither is the news that the system allows claimants to be in ignorance of their rights.
The Labour government has put claimants at the mercy of the subjective judgments of social security officers and housing managers. Instead of massive fraud claims damaging the system, there are many thousands who are not being correctly paid. It is time that the witch-hunt against those on benefit, which is continued by the media, is looked at.
- STEPHEN BROOKES, Coventry
SOCIALISTS in Whitechapel and east London were saddened to hear of the sudden and tragic death of Joe Jeffery. Joe had been involved in socialist politics before he joined the SWP. He helped stop the Nazis marching in his hometown, Worcester, and was active in Jubilee 2000. He combined his activity with his talent for poetry, art and songwriting. Joe left an impact on all of us in east London district. He was a great persuader and listener. He motivated and encouraged all around him, whether agitating among his fellow students at Guildhall University or with Ford workers at Dagenham.
Joe had an enormous thirst for ideas. His politics came out of his humanity and his desire for a better world. He will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts go out to his parents, Heather and Paul, his sister, Holly, and his partner Gemma and her family.
- WHITECHAPEL BRANCH and EAST LONDON DISTRICT