Chilled to the bone by Israel's murder
I HAVE just returned from Gaza City where I was part of a small delegation of trade unionists from Britain. We were there to show solidarity with the Palestinians and their struggle. It was the final visit of a week that had taken us all over the West Bank. I was shocked by what I saw.
To be Palestinian there is what it was to be black under South Africa's apartheid system. I saw terrible hardship and suffering, the worst of which was in Gaza. Yet, despite everything, we were delighted by the children of Gaza, who were full of life and optimism, and were instantly friendly towards us as only small children can be. They were the future, and it filled us with hope. It chills me to the bone to think of the nine children who were killed by the Israeli F-16 attack on Gaza City.
The dead may well have included the children who kicked a ball around with us a few days before. Ariel Sharon described the attack-which killed 15 and injured at least 145-as 'one of the great successes'. In plain fact it was murder. It's another reason why socialists must work to ensure that the racist Zionist state joins South Africa's apartheid state in the dustbin of history.
SASHA SIMIC, London
Two cities reality of the games
THE LAST few months have seen Manchester dominated by the run-up to the Commonwealth Games. There is a genuine buzz about the event, but also a growing cynicism about who will be the real winners.
Manchester has gone through a huge cosmetic facelift. People question why this only happens now. Why can't we have this for the other 50 weeks of the year? Council housing facing the main roads has had a paint and a clean, but those out of sight have had nothing.
As a GP I work in north Manchester, less than a mile away from the stadium. I see a different reality to those who want to showcase Manchester to the world. Homelessness services are creaking under the weight of numbers, cuts in funding and privatisation in health services. Manchester City Council now intends to privatise council houses around the games site.
The city council also borrowed over £25 million on the commercial markets to pay for extra costs. Who will pay that back? It's a shame that the way sport is funded and preyed upon by big business undermines and detracts from the benefits. Those who do sport and exercise tend to see their GP less.
These games, and the private finance that has driven them, will continue the trend of creating a Manchester of two cities-the rich loft apartments of the city centre, and the run down and substandard housing elsewhere. Over the next few weeks television cameras will be trained on Manchester. They should have been here earlier-on 17 July when thousands of council workers struck and challenged the big business jamboree.
A gold medal to the strikers. The council never got off the starting blocks.
DR KAY PHILLIPS, Manchester
True wealth picture
I FOUND Socialist Worker's article on real incomes (20 July) revealing. Every Sunday in the supposedly left leaning Observer newspaper you have one commentator or another rabbiting on about how much richer everyone is allegedly becoming in Britain.
A recent Observer article suggested that the average annual wage in Britain is now £26,468 a year-about £509 a week. Scratch beneath the surface and we find 50 percent of the working population-those with jobs-in fact live on £14,000 a year or less, and 70 percent are on less than the alleged 'average'.
These figures all exclude those on Jobseeker's Allowance, the long term sick and most pensioners. Some 80 percent of single pensioners in 1999-2000 lived on £93 a week or less. Blair claimed in October 1999 that the class struggle is dead. Rumbling discontent in the trade unions and a modest revival of the Labour left prove how wrong he was.
Though Labourism isn't the answer, such developments are welcome. What's needed in the here and now is the sort of struggles we've seen in continental Europe where workers have fended off bosses' offensives in recent years.
JEFF HILL, Barnsley
NHS deserves better
A COUPLE of months ago I was unfortunate enough to be admitted to our local hospital. I was very seriously ill and had my life saved by an urgent blood transfusion. The experience gave me the chance to see what hospital staff have to put up with, and how well they cope under almost impossible conditions.
It makes me mad when I hear politicians waffle on about how much 'they' have given to the NHS, and then have the nerve to criticise striking workers trying to achieve a half decent living wage. Their dedication, and that of the doctors and nurses, is being cynically used by the majority of MPs, whose lifestyles are a million miles from those of ordinary people.
GED PECK, Luton
Lessons for Selby miners
FOURTEEN YEARS ago, after 22 years in mining, I faced the prospect of redundancy-just like the miners today at Selby. After the defeat of the 1984-5 miners' strike there was little stomach for a fightback by the union.
As a rank and file we were constantly on the backfoot, fighting rearguard actions against the employers. Battle hardened, you move on or go under. If there's going to be a fightback at Selby, do it now. Don't wait for the union. Don't be fooled by redundancy or regeneration deals. Money goes and regeneration is a fraud.
When I left mining, South Yorkshire was promised regeneration. The money was spent on things that weren't maintained, and it didn't bring any real alternative employment. The best chance for the future is to fight for it in the here and now. Good luck to the miners at Selby.
STEVE HAMMILL, ex-miner and TGWU union member, Crewe
United against sectarian killing
SOME 5,000 people attended a vigil last week in memory of Gerard Lawlor, a North Belfast teenager murdered by Loyalist paramilitaries. Catholic and Protestant, mainly young people, held the vigil to show their revulsion at a senseless waste of a life.
The killing confirms that the Loyalists are still operating under their usual modus operandi of 'any Taig [Catholic] will do'. However, the response to the recent killings has also confirmed that people are not prepared to leave sectarian attacks and murders unchallenged. Tens of thousands of workers held walkouts all over Northern Ireland demanding an end to sectarianism after the killing of postal worker Daniel McColgan in January.
In response to the latest killing the trade union movement has called a rally for next week. We need to face down the thugs who commit these brutal killings. The fact that the trade unions are organising a rally also encourages class rather than communal loyalties.
BARBARA MULDOON, Belfast
TO ADD to your page on 'The Great Pensions Rip-Off' on the report prepared for the government by Alan Pickering (20 July). A further blemish on Alan Pickering's CV is that he is also the chairman of a body called the European Federation for Retirement Provision.
This is a pressure group devoted to spreading the British privately funded pension system-so disastrous for Britain's retired workers-to the rest of the European Union.
One reason the resistance to pension cuts has been powerful across the Channel is that trade unions generally stuck to the principle of social insurance. They have resolutely refused to touch private pensions or the idea of 'saving up'. This stance unites the interests of all workers and pensioners, instead of dividing them as happens here.
HUGH LOWE, West London
The information age
TWO YEARS ago we were being told that new computer technologies had created an unstoppable boom in the US economy. The media carried story after story about how the high-tech revolution had solved the problems of capitalism.
Despite the billions that have been spent on providing super-fast computer systems for big business, not a single capitalist was aware that companies like Enron and WorldCom were worthless. How is it that in this 'information age' nobody knew that Enron was worth £2.5 billion less than it claimed? The 'weightless economy' is looking more and more like the 'clueless economy' every day!
JOE HARTNEY, Edinburgh
A real alternative
I SPOKE to pickets in Gateshead who joined the council workers' strike last week. It was clear they were very angry at Blair and New Labour. They feel abandoned and betrayed, and will find it extremely difficult to vote Labour the next time there is an election.
That is why it is crucial we build the Socialist Alliance into a credible alternative. If we do not, the Nazi BNP could exploit the disillusionment.
TONY DOWLING, Tyneside