Socialist Worker

The debate on ASBOs

Issue No. 1932

I WAS delighted to see your recent supplement on Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in Salford (Socialist Worker, 4 December). It covered a situation that the mainstream press has largely shunned.

I am 21 and grew up in the Langworthy area of Salford that is similar to the other deprived and desolate areas of the city.

Living with my mother and brother on West Towers Street, I witnessed first-hand the neglect of my home and street. We were burgled regularly, which the police treated as a formality for the area.

Such experiences meant I developed contempt for the local authorities who, in my opinion, allowed the area to lose value and social viability in order to obtain the properties at a cut price.

Salford should not now be handed over to private companies for exploitation and profit.
Thomas Purcell, Salford

THE SCAREMONGERING tactics of modern politics have brought about the single most counterproductive piece of legislation—ASBOs.

This scheme does nothing to attack the reasons behind the increasing problems faced by the youth of today, and no one has thought to ask us—the people in the frontline.

I have seen the problems every day. I have seen the drug deals, the knives in our schools, the violence and vandalism. I want this dealt with, as do nearly all young people.

But these heavy-handed tactics are entirely useless without going to the heart of the issue.

The ASBO is not in itself any kind of a scheme to solve anti-social behaviour. You need to give us an alternative to violence and drug abuse.

No matter how much the youth are persecuted, the problem will not be solved until its roots are addressed. The school system has become an exercise in futility, with the ever- growing pressure of pointless testing.

This is the reason behind the rise in drug culture and binge drinking. Authority has become a joke, and there are nowhere near enough youth centres or other facilities.

We need the carrot, not the stick. So please, those curtain twitchers so keen to save your neighbourhood, don’t go to the police and politicians demanding “the yobs” be dealt with.

Go out on to the streets, talk to your children and find out about the cultures you have shunned.
David Hopkinson, school student, South London

lI THINK that your supplement on ASBOs (4 December) is crucial in highlighting the ways people can be criminalised by refusing to accept their punishment for something which was not criminal in the first place. This is a fundamental violation of any kind of natural justice.

However, I do object to your article’s trivialisation of “joyriding”.

A car is a deadly weapon. Cars are a major cause of division and alienation in society, as well as a direct cause of death through impact and pollution.
Michael Coulston, South London

EDDIE MCDONNELL’S letter (4 December) comparing the hardcore “ASBO kids” with scabs was spot on. But the original article could have avoided such criticism by pointing out that even those New Labour “reforms” that look good on paper never seem to hit their ostensible targets.

One example is the way that anti-terrorism laws are used to harass peaceful protesters.

The hardcore are not greatly affected by ASBOs. They mostly ignore them anyway.

This is because New Labour has no real interest in working class affairs, and only exists to serve the interests of big business.
Dermot Smyth, Sheffield

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Against war and racism

ON THE fifth anniversary of the protests against the WTO in Seattle, more than 4,000 people attended the first Dutch Social Forum. It ended with a demonstration against racist attacks on Muslims.

The forum was organised by a coalition of trade unions, NGOs and activist organisations like the International Socialists.

The involvement of trade unionists is a huge step forward for the anti-capitalist movement as the most right wing government in decades is pushing through an agressive neo-liberal agenda.

Faced with this challenge, the biggest union has now openly taken the side of the anti-capitalist movement. The forum was also a huge success because it addressed the most urgent issues our movement faces—the bloody occupation of Iraq and racism.

On 2 November Theo van Gogh, a racist columnist and film-maker, was murdered in Amsterdam by a man from a Moroccan background who had contact with “Muslim fundamentalists”.

The murder has led to a vicious racist backlash. This backlash is being fuelled by politicians and the media. In different cities racist thugs have attacked mosques and Islamic schools.

The biggest left parties fell behind the right in attacking “fundamentalism” as the biggest danger for the West. Some activists in the movement recognised we have to fight the system which breeds racism and war, and pushes some Muslims towards “fundamentalism”.

So we argued the social forum should focus on anti-racism and involve Muslims.

By passing this test the social forum has laid the ground for a new anti-racist movement.

Discussions about Islamophobia and racism were at the heart of the forum, and the demonstration against racism brought together Muslims and the left.

The anti-capitalist movement in the Netherlands must strengthen this unity to fight the war in Iraq, and the war on the poor and Muslims on the home front.
Peyman Jafari, Amsterdam

My photographs were censored by Boots

I AM a photographer working in Cambridge.

Recently I took two rolls of films to Boots for processing. They contained images of an art performance (part of a commission I was working on), and I needed them urgently.

When I went back to collect the pictures there was a note on the envelope saying that two of them had not been printed.

The store manager told me that it was policy that certain images are not printed for the safety of employees and customers.

The censored images are nothing more explicit than one of a nude girl on a sofa and another of a nude man—not together, and not involving any explicit sexual, illegal or offensive material.

Advertisements and boxes of cosmetics sold at Boots have more explicit images than my two pictures, and instead of being private—as my photos are supposed to be—are on show to children in the shop.

My commission was ruined because it lacked two key images, and it was too late to get them printed by another retailer.
Valerio Berdini, Cambridge

Barghouti gave us a moment of hope

EVERY SOCIALIST should regret the decision of Marwan Barghouti to withdraw from the forthcoming Palestinian presidential election.

Barghouti, leader of the Al-Aqsa intifada, is a political prisoner in Israel.

His initial decision to put his name forward gave a real choice to those Palestinians who Israel is allowing to vote.

Mahmoud Abbas is the preferred candidate of both the US and Israel.

Western politicians call him a “moderate”—which means he stands for further capitulation to Israel and the continued hemming in of the Palestinians in Bantustans within the West Bank and Gaza.

Barghouti, by contrast, is a symbol of resistance.

By standing from an Israeli prison cell, he would have exposed the illegitimacy of a political process in which the Palestinian elections are held against a backdrop of occupation, persecution and the denial of the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

If he had won, Barghouti’s election would have resonated around the world.

It would have had even greater force than the victory of Irish Republican H-block prisoner Bobby Sands in 1981.
Mark Brown, Glasgow

Lib Dems for privatisation

WE ARE celebrating a victory against privatisation in Scotland—and also noting another example of betrayal by the Liberal Democrats.

Last week the Scottish Parliament voted by 54 to 53 to reject the Scottish Executive’s plan to put the current CalMac ferry services out to competitive tender.

The New Labour/Liberal Democrat executive got a bloody nose over their plans to privatise CalMac and put at risk over 1,000 workers’ jobs and conditions.

But what a strange assortment of forces lined up in the debate.

The Tories voted with the socialists and nationalists to defend public services, while Labour and Liberals voted for privatisation.

It was more evidence of how the Lib Dems are just as bad as New Labour when they get any sort of power.
Andrea Hamilton, Oban

Support the Zanon battle

ARGENTINIAN workers at the Zanon ceramic tile factory—which they took over and are running as a workers’ co-operative—are being threatened by the federal and local governments.

These workers are providing a glowing example of how a better world can be run.

To find out more and sign the petition go to www.petitiononline. com/zanon/ petition.html
Michael Murray, Bath

Ukraine, not ‘the Ukraine’

I STARTED this letter because I was surprised to see Ukraine referred to as “the Ukraine” in a recent issue of Socialist Worker.

Using “the Ukraine” is something that many Ukrainians find offensive, as it implies that Ukraine is only a region and not a real nation.

After a history of invasions and external control, Ukraine has fought to maintain its cultural heritage and language.

Its people are proud, never more than now in the face of the recent fraud of an election.

Tens of thousands flooded the streets of Kiev, fighting for their democratic rights. They were supported by the Ukrainian diaspora all over the world, one of the largest groups of which is in Canada.

In Vancouver there has been a nightly vigil, and weekend protests of up to 500 or more. It might seem small, but dropping the “the” is one way to show Ukraine the respect it needs and deserves right now.
Anna Roik, Vancouver, Canada

So many of us feel the same

ANGIE’S letter (Socialist Worker, 4 December) about conditions at Sainsbury’s and the union’s reaction is one that I’m sure many thousands have already imagined writing in their heads.

We no longer have a real voice in the red half of the House of Commons and, if the truth be known, it’s been a very long time since we really did.

The time has come to stop the apathy and to act. I also want and need to strike today.
Phil Reilly, Wirral, Merseyside

Blair sends in inspectors!

WITH absolute predictability, Tony Blair has reacted to Tory Michael Howard’s outrageous calls for the right to shoot burglars by copying them.

But he has not gone far enough. Surely we should adopt the method of the Iraq war.

Any homeowner should be able to accuse anyone else in their neighbourhood of harbouring weapons of housebreaking destruction and demand full inspection rights.

If inspection is in any way hampered then quick justice should be imposed.

If it then turns out that nothing is found, well, all we need say is that it was all genuinely done in good faith.
Hazel Faulks, East London

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Sat 18 Dec 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1932
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