THE HORRIBLE racist abuse that black England players Emile Heskey and Ashley Cole received during the recent match in Slovakia has caused outrage in the press over here. Newspapers like the Sun have rushed to condemn the racism and state that it would never be accepted in Britain.
While attacking racism abroad, the Sun has been responsible for stoking up racism against asylum seekers in Britain.
For the Roma people, that virulent racism is part of their everyday life. The Roma are one of Eastern Europe's most persecuted people. They suffer discrimination, racist abuse, violent assaults and murderous attacks. Those Roma people that try to escape from this terror in Slovakia and the Czech Republic are met with vicious persecution from the press.
'The Slovak gypsies are not political refugees fleeing persecution,' said the Sun in 1998. 'They are chancers who see Britain as a soft touch.' The New Labour government hounds, imprisons, forcibly detains and disperses the Roma and other asylum seekers.
Only two of the 800 Roma who claimed asylum this year have been granted it. Some 180 are locked up in detention and removal centres around the country. Home secretary David Blunkett's plan to deport refugees without appeal is mainly aimed at Roma people. Government ministers have expressed concern at the rise of the far right across Europe.
But they are trying to challenge the far right by appeasing them on asylum. Tackling the ugly racism that we caught a glimpse of in Slovakia means challenging the free market policies that result in poverty, unemployment and disillusion.
Jo Benefield, Bristol
Why I've left Labour to join the alliance
ROY HATTERSLEY, writing in the Guardian, urged socialists in the Labour Party to stay and fight for some kind of socialism. I have been active in the Labour Party since 1960 and recently left to join the Socialist Alliance, having resisted for several years the right wing policies of New Labour.
With the abolition of Clause Four in the mid-1990s the Labour Party ceased to be a socialist party. Since then the party has ceased to be democratic - there is no hope of recovery. The mass of its membership has in general become inactive through disillusionment.
This fulfils the aim of New Labour to turn it into something like the US Democratic Party - a clique of metropolitan politicians and a network of ward bosses.
The party bureaucracy has increasingly handed power over to itself. A party official told us we couldn't vote on the local government manifesto. Labour representation on Colchester council was reduced from 16 to six. The parliamentary Labour Party now consists largely of time-servers seeking to ingratiate themselves with the party hierarchy.
I urge other socialists in the Labour Party (and, indeed, Roy Hattersley) to leave it and help build a socialist organisation. Ensure that your trade union political levy is in future employed for something more useful than supporting Tony Blair.
John Coombes, ex Labour Party councillor, Colchester
Western powers will not bring democracy
THE PROMISES of Western leaders that they will bring freedom and democracy when they intervene in other states are lies. There has been ten years of Western intervention in the former Yugoslavia. They have turned the region into a disaster zone for its people.
The presidential election in Serbia last week was annulled because less than 50 percent of people voted. The three main extreme nationalist parties in Bosnia won the election two weeks ago in a 55 percent turnout.
The former Liberal Democrat Paddy Ashdown is the UN high representative of Bosnia. He holds all the power in the state of Bosnia despite never being elected by the people. Kosovo remains a Nato protectorate without any real democracy three years after the war. Bush and Blair want a repeat of this tragedy in Iraq. We have to stop them.
Nicolai Gentchev, London
Hear Duncan's legacy
IN REPLY to Martyn Delbeke (Socialist Worker, 19 October), Bookmarks felt the same about the number of people who never had the chance to hear Duncan Hallas speak. We have just produced a special double cassette of three marvellous talks that Duncan gave at the Marxism event in 1998.
The topics are 'Human nature', 'History and class struggle' and 'Revolution'. The set costs £7 (plus 50p postage). True to form, Duncan covers a lot more than even the titles suggest!
Judith Orr, Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3QE. Phone 020 7637 1848 or e-mail email@example.com
A week of mass demonstrations
WHAT A week! First the stop the war demonstration in London, the biggest demonstration I've ever been on in 35 years of socialist activity. Then a short holiday in Paris, where I joined a march of up to 100,000 workers. Public sector workers from right across France had struck for the day, determined to stop the government from privatising their industries and attacking their pensions.
I spoke to power workers from Tours and Brittany who were horrified at the thought of their predominantly nuclear industry being sold off to the highest bidder.
Everyone knew about the stop the war demonstration in London. I marched with a group of CGT union workers. The spirit was high and the workers were confident. 'This is the first punch in a long fight,' one of them said. 'We will win,' said his mate.
Phil Jones, Gloucester
BLAIR'S PLAN to vaccinate some people against smallpox is an attempt to scare people into supporting Bush's planned war on Iraq. An international campaign of vaccination got rid of smallpox from the human population in 1979.
It was only the warmongers at the top of the US, USSR and UK states that held onto supplies of the deadly virus for weapons research. The US and Russia have repeatedly refused requests by the World Health Organisation to destroy them.
Vaccination is not the way to prevent the return of smallpox - destruction of the remaining virus and permanent peace are. George Bush and Tony Blair can offer neither, but socialism can.
PAUL Boateng, who was speaking in favour of PFI privatisation at the Labour Party conference, claimed that PFI provides £4 billion worth of extra investment each year.
He also said that the total value of PFI projects since 1997 was £35.1 billion. In the budget papers for this year the chancellor Gordon Brown boasted, 'In total, public sector net debt has been reduced from 44 percent of GDP to under 31 percent.'
According to Brown's rules public debt should not exceed 40 percent of GDP. For the last 18 months it has been at around 30 percent of GDP. This means that the government could borrow an additional £300 billion without breaching its own limits.
This is nearly ten times the amount claimed to come from PFI deals. PFI does not provide any additional funds for public sector investment that could not be borrowed more cheaply by the government.
Andy Wynne, Leicester
JANE'S Intelligence Review confirmed in 1994 that Israel possesses 200 nuclear warheads and a biological and chemical weapons factory.
Why then aren't the US and Britain threatening 'regime change' in Israel unless it gives up its weapons of mass destruction? There seems to be a blatant case of double standards in the West's treatment of Iraq and Israel.
Dave Taylor, Hampshire