Criminalised because there's nothing to do
AS A youth worker, every day I see first hand how the policies of Tony Blair and David Blunkett are systematically lowering young people's aspirations and hopes. I work on estates in Brent in west London which have a mainly black and Asian population.
The police are using the government's anti-social behaviour legislation as a licence to criminalise young black and Asian people. There have recently been ten anti-social behaviour orders slapped on young people on a number of estates in the area. These could result in prosecutions for the most petty of crimes. A young person can end up facing five years in prison and their families being evicted from their homes.
Recently three van-loads of police raided one estate and arrested a young man merely for swearing. Young people are being criminalised just for hanging about on the streets-even though it is not their fault there is nothing to do. Many of the young people I work with have a range of problems.
But all of these are fuelled by the fact that all they can see is a future of poverty, bad housing and unemployment. Youth provision, for example, has been decimated. Brent used to have 49 youth centres-now there are just three. Of course extra provision would not solve all of these problems.
But this government has completely deprioritised provision for young people. There is no statutory funding for schemes and facilities, for example. This just adds to the feeling that many young people have of being written off by the society they live in.
On top of that they face the racism of the police, who behave as if they can just stomp onto working class estates and arrest anyone they pick out. This increases further young people's lack of confidence and sense of desperation and alienation.
Youth worker, West London
Help needed to stop workplace bullying
I WRITE to you with an urgent plea. You are the only paper I am aware of that might risk lifting the lid on the terrible and widespread problem of bullying and harassment at the Royal Mail. I have experience of bullying there and have never seen anything so bad in my entire working life.
Employees are quite regularly forbidden to talk in the workplace. Management's attitude is 'accuse first, don't bother asking for an explanation'. The CWU union is fighting a losing battle. At my own workplace, if employees are intimidated into not being able to speak to their colleagues, how on earth can they gain proper access to a union representative?
I believe that bullying is responsible for job losses. It is a terrible thing when people fear coming to work. The number of suicides will increase in future years. Please write something about it.
Libs no better
IF ANYONE thinks that the Liberal Democrats are an alternative to New Labour, then they are sadly mistaken. The Lib Dems run Kirklees council in West Yorkshire. They are planning to close five elderly people's homes and they have pushed through the part privatisation of council housing.
They have also introduced charges of £20 for collection of garden waste. It was on the back of these issue that the Nazi BNP managed to increase its vote in the local elections, with Labour doing badly. Never has there been a more urgent time for a socialist alternative.
John Appleyard, West Yorkshire
Debate leads to expanding sales
THE RADICALISATION in society means that Socialist Worker has a real opportunity to win a mass readership. I work in a fire safety office in London. I have noticed a significant shift in the attitudes of my workmates. When the firefighters' dispute was at its height, every day would begin with a long general discussion of issues coming out of it.
The nature of the Labour government, the unions', support for Labour, the role of the trade union leaders and the war all came up. Firefighters were particularly shocked by the way the media turned on them. The experience has led them to question what the media tells them about the war, asylum seekers and other issues.
Socialist Worker's coverage of the dispute made a big impression. Articles were regularly stuck up on the notice board. Over the last year I have been able to increase my Socialist Worker sale at work from ten to 16 papers weekly.
Four FBU members are now regular readers including the rep. Supporters of the paper should grab this chance to expand sales and make it a powerful factor in the fight against capitalism.
Tony Phillips, East London
Sexism still in fashion
JUDITH ORR'S article on the body for sale (Socialist Worker, 12 July) was the perfect antidote to the recently published report by the Future Foundation. This was a supposedly representative 'survey' of 35 people and their hostile responses to 'feminist' ideas.
But sexism is alive and kicking, particularly for those of us with children. Judith's article pointed out that some young women today wear T-shirts with 'Porn Star' or 'Babe' written on them.
This is disturbing. But it's also true that some of the young women who wear these T-shirts are aware of the barriers facing them. If the survey had asked, 'Do you think the government should provide free childcare?' the responses may well have been different.
Julie Bundy, West London
Taking us back 20 years
THE HOUSE of Lords recently made an unbelievable decision against a lesbian teacher who had been driven out of her job as a result of homophobic bullying. The House of Lords decided that such behaviour is not sex discrimination under the law dating from the 1970s.
They decided that 'an employer cannot be liable for harassment of its employees by a third party', even if they are under the employer's control. They cheerfully went on to state that the case won a few years ago by two black waitresses, who were subjected to racist abuse by the audience at a Bernard Manning show, was 'wrongly decided'.
Sue Bond, Oldham
Union leader is on wrong track
RICHARD Rosser, general secretary of the TSSA rail union, wrote in the Financial Times under the headline 'Unions Need Blair More Than Blair Needs Them'. He is suggesting that in our union the mood has swung back in favour of New Labour.
That was not the feeling of our union conference. Of the 19 separate motions and amendments that Rosser described as 'an attempt to allow for future disaffiliation from Labour' one received more than the required two thirds majority.
Another motion, which would allow for the democratisation of the political fund, received support from half the delegates. Richard Rosser should ask himself why he is ever more isolated as a pro-Blair, pro-war general secretary.
Dave Barnes, Watford
Whole cabinet is implicated too
I'M CONCERNED that the Campbell v BBC smokescreen is dominating the media and by implication debate on the left when the real issue is who along with Blair are the imperialist murderers. Readers of Socialist Worker will be in no doubt as to Blair's guilt.
But we have to nail the fact that the cabinet were in total agreement with the war, as were those MPs who voted for the war. We need to raise these facts with people who may think that Gordon Brown is the next best option if Blair is ditched.
Can you publish a list of, and do a piece on, those in the cabinet at the time and those who voted in favour of the war?
Tony Walker, Leeds
It's been down the swanny
THE STORY about refugees killing and eating swans, which the Sun featured on its front page recently (Inside the System, 12 July) is not new. It has been peddled by racists for some years about swans on the River Lea at Tottenham Hale in north London. This year, when the story surfaced again in the area, local socialists and trade unionists took action.
The local Labour councillor was contacted as were community activists, and they made it very clear that the story was a lie. It did not feature in any local newspaper in north London as a result. But clearly the spreaders of racist poison then went elsewhere.
Keith Flett, chair Haringey TUC
There already is an alternative
I READ the interview with PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka on the future of the movement (Socialist Worker, 5 July). I think you already have the alternative to the Labour Party in the Socialist Alliance.
It won a seat in the local elections this year, when if the truth be known it should have been far more than that. With the Labour Party in with big business and John Prescott willing to bring in a law to impose a deal on the firefighters, I think the best protest the unions can do is cut links with New Labour.
A taste of what we can achieve
AFTER EASTER staff at Crofton School, south London, were told as many as 11 teachers could be made redundant due to the budget crisis in education. We were shell-shocked. We had worked hard for two years to get Ofsted off our backs. We knew the school would not be able to function if the redundancies went through.
The determination of the staff and parents has been tremendous. We leafleted pupils and parents, and met with the parent teacher association, which backed us all the way.
We struck on 26 June and, following our picket line, petitioned in Lewisham shopping centre. Many of us had never done that before. We threatened strike action again and the dispute ended when the National Union of Teachers won redundancy packages for our two colleagues from special needs. This was not ideal, but this would not have been achieved without the threat of more action.
Dozens of us have been active in this dispute. We have all had a taste of what parents and teachers can achieve together. We are now ready to work with parents and pupils to build the boycott of SATs and shape a better education for the future.
Fran Crowhurst, NUT rep Crofton School and 41 other staff