'Respectable' mask falls from Nazi thugs
THE EVENTS that took place in Burnley after the recent Unity demonstration have revealed the true face of the Nazi BNP. The Nazis hated the fact that a demonstration by local trade unionists, politicians and anti-racist campaigners was being held in what they believe to be 'their town'.
Nazi thugs from across Britain descended on Burnley in an attempt to cause fear and provoke violence. Despite this the march passed off peacefully, even though demonstrators were extremely angry at the police.
The police had imposed a route that took the march from a car park – out of sight from everyone – and then around the block and back to the same car park. The local media have totally misreported events. Despite the march's peaceful nature, it reported 'four arrests at anti-BNP demonstration'. We feel there has been a deliberate campaign by the local media to obscure the fact that these arrests were of four Nazi thugs.
After the march the Nazis attacked a white 17 year old college student in a pub, screaming 'white power' in her face. They also surrounded Labour Party National Executive Committee member Shahid Malik and threatened to kill him.
He was attacked when he was with a journalist, giving an interview. At last week's full council meeting a Labour councillor, trade union representatives and the Anti Nazi League held a small press conference, which was attended by the local press.
The press conference was called instead of the usual picket of the council meeting in order to highlight the seriousness of the violence. While it was in progress the police arrested a young man for giving a Nazi salute as he walked by.
Incredibly the local paper has reported nothing about the Nazi violence or of the threat to a local campaigner's life. These events make us even more determined to continue to campaign for maximum unity against the threat of the BNP.
Jess Edwards, Burnley
Let down by leaders
I UNDERSTOOD why CWU leader Billy Hayes said in Socialist Worker that the firefighters were not defeated. From day one our dispute was 100 percent solid and at no time did that crack. Our union organisation has stayed intact. But we are one of the brigades that believed it was clear we had to reject the final agreement.
Our reasons were that it didn't achieve our aims and we were unhappy with the lack of detail in the agreement. We believed this could open the stable door for all of our agreements to be put up for grabs. Any gains were outweighed by what we could lose. We made a choice to go into this battle, and despite the suffering, in London we were prepared to take more strike action.
But our leadership lost heart and let us down. The fact is that when the leadership called off the strikes for more negotiations, the government interpreted this as a sign of weakness. Similarly it has interpreted the outcome as a defeat for us. An editorial in the Times last week crowed that it thought it a good thing that the firefighters had been defeated.
Already 4,000-6,000 firefighters' jobs look set to go, and that would be a 10 percent reduction in the number of firefighters. Along with that, Chief Fire Officers will have the ability to remove pumps and close fire stations. Logically that means a worse service.
The employers' 'modernisation' will not compensate for these cuts. And the agreement could open the door for New Labour to push through its reform and modernisation in other parts of the public sector. If London are proved wrong to reject the agreement, I will be prepared to eat humble pie, but that will mean we'll have better pay, better conditions and a better fire service.
Linda Smith, London Region FBU
Politics at heart of Glastonbury
I WENT to the Glastonbury festival for the first time this year. I watched the TV coverage on video afterwards and you wouldn't have guessed that it was an exciting political event. There was a 'Left Field' tent which was packed for debates, discussions and stalls.
The biggest debate was on 'Blood for oil', with Tony Benn, Bianca Jagger, Ghada Radzuki from the Stop the War Coalition and myself. The Left Field, which held 2,000 people, was absolutely jam-packed. There was a rapturous reception for Tony Benn when he came on the stage. And in the audience participation the vast majority of people were anti-war.
I wore an 'End the Occupation' T-shirt – loads of people said, 'Good on you.' It was like a political festival with peace flags everywhere. The music was fantastic and the bands political. I saw REM, Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, Moby and David Gray.
Every single one of them spoke out and said the war against Iraq was immoral and disgusting. Yet every single comment was cut out of the TV coverage.
Henna Malik, London
Pensioners thrown in bin
READING your recent article on pensions made my blood boil. Pensioners in Barnsley have fought for three years to abolish the warden and intercom charges. The council has now said that they're going up from £2.35 to £8 a week, and from £6 to £11.
The council is doing the government's work of throwing pensioners in the bin. They announced this after the local elections. But many pensioners, the highest group of voters in Britain, won't vote for them next year. Beware New Labour!
Sue Wild, chair Barnsley Pensioners Action Group
Council touts for business
PRESTON CITY Council have voted to implement a new by-law that will stop 'touting for services'. The three main political parties argued that this will stop nuisance and litter in the city centre.
But in reality it is an attack on our freedom of speech, assembly and organisation. It threatens people petitioning in the city centre, left wing groups selling papers and those on a variety of stalls that enrich our life. It is part of the council's plans to bring in big multinationals and yuppify the city centre.
In Liverpool a similar by-law led to the harassment of people protesting against war in Iraq. In leading the opposition I convinced a number of councillors to vote against the measure – including a number of Labour members who broke with the party whip.
Michael Lavalette, Socialist Alliance councillor, Preston
Can unity bear fruit?
CATASTROPHIC sectarianism disfigured the left with murderous results for so long. So I was greatly encouraged by the recent article by the Stop the War Coalition chair Andrew Murray in the Communist Party's Morning Star. This is not the first time Andrew has gone into print to acknowledge the creative and hard work of the SWP in the Stop the War Coalition. I hope I'm not being too naive but can this united front bear more fruit?
Ian Foreman, Northants
Mental health misdiagnosed
I KNOW from bitter experience that the side effects of anti-depressants are often as bad or worse than the original ailment. The drug multinationals aren't interested in helping people to get well but in maximising profit.
As long as mental illness is seen as an organic malfunction of the brain, not as the product of alienated and oppressive social conditions, the problem will not be solved. Mental hospitals are often dismal places, underfunded and understaffed, with an emphasis on containment. Care in the community often means being dumped in a hostile environment with little or no support.
Terry Liddle, South London
Helping us to the grave
THANKS TO Socialist Worker for reporting the European Commission's legal action against the Ministry of Defence for failing to check the potential health risks of radioactive discharges.
The Environment Agency is also helping us into an early grave by allowing radioactive waste to be incinerated at 34 sites across England and Wales. My family has been blighted by inhaling radioactive particles. Both my mother and son died of leukaemia after living near incinerators burning radioactive waste that were 180 miles apart.
Michael Ryan, Shrewsbury
Keep in touch with Zimbabwe
I AM a member of the International Socialist Organisation in Zimbabwe. I am looking for comrades I can communicate with, updating and helping each other about struggles within countries.
Norman Chinzamba, Zimbabwe – Write c/o Socialist Worker