Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2411

Celebrate a Tour de France winner who fought fascism

Le Tour de France started from Leeds this year and for an enthusiastic cyclist like me it’s pretty exciting. But there are figures from the history of Le Tour that should be brought to the attention of its fans. One is Italian Gino Bartali.

Gino was a renowned cyclist who won Le Tour De France twice and the Giro d’Italia three times. Italian fascist dictator “Il Duce” Benito Mussolini was over the moon when Gino won Le Tour in 1938. He said it was proof Italians were part of the master race.

But when Gino was asked to dedicate his win to Mussolini he refused.

Italian Jews suffered relatively little persecution during the war until 1943. Then the German army occupied parts of Italy and rounded up Jews to transport to concentration camps. That year Gino joined a secret network that protected Jews. He took up the job of courier. 

Gino would cycle great distances carrying photographs and counterfeit identity documents for resistance fighters hidden in the frame and handlebars of his bike.

When stopped and asked what he was doing, he said he was training. He explicitly told guards not to touch the bike as it was calibrated to his needs, leaving the documents safe.

In 2010 it emerged that Gino had also hidden a Jewish family in his cellar, saving their lives. Gino put himself and his family at risk for others. He was questioned by the Italian secret police and had to go into hiding during the war.

Some 80 percent of Italian Jews survived, partly because of anti-fascists like Gino.

Gino refused to view his actions as heroic. His son Andrea has said, “When people were telling him, ‘Gino, you’re a hero’, he would reply, ‘Real heroes are others, those who have suffered in their soul, in their heart, in their spirit, in their mind, for their loved ones.

“‘Those are the real heroes. I’m just a cyclist’.”

Marven Scott, Leeds

Freedom Riders vow to fight on

On behalf of the South Yorkshire Freedom Riders, I would like to thank Socialist Worker for its consistent and supportive coverage of our campaign.

We have been fighting since March for the reinstatement of free local train travel for the elderly and disabled. Hundreds of people from Barnsley and elsewhere in South Yorkshire have been involved in a lively and imaginative campaign. 

We have held lobbies, demonstrations and regular freedom rides, where we have travelled on trains and refused to pay.

We won back disabled people’s right to free travel in May. But many disabled people have continued to support our protests. 

They were involved in our latest freedom ride when the British Transport Police kettled then attacked us. Two leading campaigners were forcibly handcuffed and arrested.

Videos of the arrests have created outrage across the trade union movement and local community. Hundreds of people, including union general secretaries, have signed an open letter condemning the police attack.

Sheffield teaching hospitals’ Unison union branch last week donated £200 to the campaign.

The police attacks were clearly intended to demoralise and frighten campaigners, but instead everyone is even more determined to fight on!

Fran Postlethwaite, Barnsley

Is class behind the cut to Red Ladder theatre? 

Red Ladder, Britain’s leading radical theatre company based in Leeds, has suffered a 100 percent cut in core Arts Council funding. 

I keep getting asked if I see this cut as political. My view is all cuts are political. Red Ladder has been going for 46 years so we have had a fair share of public money.

Companies such as The Paper Birds, 1927 or Theatre Ad Infinitum applied for the portfolio. Their work is excellent and funding them would  be fair and right. But their applications were rejected. 

Opera North, however, was awarded an extra £3 million.

Taxpayers’ money is not going to sustain the next generation of good theatre. Instead it is going to an art form for a mainly wealthy audience.

Rod Dixon, Artistic Director, Red Ladder

Antibiotics crisis is driven by profit

The World Health Organisation has said that resistance to antibiotics is a “serious threat that is happening right now”. Bacteria grow so fast that random changes to their genes allow them to become resistant.

Antibiotics should only be used appropriately and new ones are constantly needed. But as common infections drop, fewer antibiotics are prescribed and older ones lose their patents. Firms can’t keep the price high—and profits drop too.

Drug companies won’t invest in new antibiotics in our profit-driven world. We need a nationalised drug industry producing drugs for health, not profit.

Ron Singer, Doctors’ section, Unite union

Just a thought...

How much did Harry pay up?

I was wondering how much Prince Harry personally had to pay for attending the World Cup in Brazil.

John Gregory, by email

No liberty—if you’re Muslim

The European Court’s recent judgement upholds France’s burqa ban. The French Republic should amend its national motto to read, ”Liberty, Equality, Fraternity—except for Muslim women.”

Sasha Simic, East London

Stop Labour’s benefits plan

Ed Miliband’s benefit proposals involve the introduction of the family means test for anyone 21 and under who is unemployed. This was one of the most hated ways in which the Tories persecuted unemployed people in the 1930s. We can be certain it will be extended to others. There must be no going back to the 1930s.

John Newsinger, Brighton

Big impact of waiting times

Shocking A&E waiting times in King’s Lynn are only half the story. Delays also mean elective surgery is cancelled to try and clear the backlog. This causes misery for those who have surgery postponed. Until we get a properly funded NHS this will get worse.

Jo Rust, King’s Lynn

Talk about us for once, Ed

So Ed Miliband is choosing to spend his time cosying up to business yet again. Miliband said he wants to “rebuild faith in business” and blathered on about how inventive and entrepreneurial businesses were. Millions of people are really suffering in Britain. Why can’t he spend time talking about them for a change?

Cerys Williamson, Bristol

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Article information

Tue 8 Jul 2014, 17:30 BST
Issue No. 2411
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