Socialist Worker

War on drugs is total failure

Issue No. 1809

HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett's new policy on drugs announced last week shows how New Labour cannot adopt a rational approach to the issue. His 'drugs tsar', Keith Hellawell, resigned in protest at Blunkett putting cannabis in the least dangerous category of illegal drugs, class C. The overwhelming evidence that cannabis is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco and that most people support a change in the law has forced Blunkett to retreat.

But he still wants to pursue the failed 'war on drugs'. He has increased sentences for anyone who sells cannabis and left police the power to arrest for cannabis use if it 'threatens public order'. Blunkett's approach to hard drugs remains the main problem.

The amount of money he has announced for rehabilitation and treatment is pitiful. In the 1960s heroin addiction was dealt with as a medical and welfare matter. GPs prescribed the drug to heroin addicts. There were just 500 addicts. Then the Labour and Tory governments abandoned the scheme.

Blunkett nods to how effective it was by saying a few doctors in some parts of the country will be allowed to prescribe. But the main emphasis is on police measures against drug users. More and more European countries are, like Switzerland, adopting the approach pioneered in Britain 40 years ago.

Blunkett is caught between the evidence of the failing war on drugs and a determination to push through authoritarian measures. This is not a serious attempt to deal with drug use.

Political campaign is needed to stop Bradford injustice

READING Socialist Worker's recent reports about the brutal treatment of the Bradford rioters reminded me of Dewsbury in 1989. The Nazi National Front (NF) organised a rally in support of the Dewsbury parents who sought to remove their children from a mixed race school. The police herded demonstrators against the NF together. The NF were left to riot in the town centre, smashing shops and terrorising shoppers.

The police forced us into the area of Dewsbury where many Asians live. This provoked people to build barricades and attack a pub with a racist reputation. I was arrested. My 68 co-arrestees were all black! I was separated from everyone else and thrown into a cell with 24 terrified white kids-the real Nazis got off scot free.

Some 68 innocent black people were sent to prison for up to four years in a cynical and brutal legal intimidation of people who fight back. One problem was that many of the lawyers involved did not defend us politically. This resulted in innocent people serving time.

A political campaign to defend those arrested in Bradford has a far better chance of winning against the British system of injustice than we had.
MALCOLM POVEY, Huddersfield

'Fair trade' is no solution to Africa's plight

IT IS always good to hear from people who are outraged by the suffering of the Third World. I'm sure that was what motivated Andrew Stephenson (Letters, 13 July) when he said that fairer trade rules could be 'a thread in the tapestry of a more equitable world'.

The stronger countries use trade rules to help the multinationals. But, as a socialist from Zambia, I am not going to sign up to the campaign that sees 'free trade' as the way forward. A section of people who support capitalist globalisation will support demands for reform of trade rules to distract us from the genuine causes of poverty and suffering.

Africa is not in its present state because it is cut off from the global trading system. Trade accounts for a greater proportion of Africa's income than the G8 countries'. The real problem is not trading rules but the structure of the world system. More trade will not break the chains of debt slavery.

In Zambia we have had decades of the pro-market policies that are bolted on whenever free trade is mentioned. Almost 80 percent of our industries have been privatised, the public sector workforce cut by a quarter and welfare slashed. This has all been done in the name of helping us compete in the world market! We must keep our eyes on the capitalist system as the cause of Africa's poverty.
MUSISI, Zambia

Reviewing a fight against higher fees

NEW LABOUR has just announced that its 'review' into higher education funding will probably result in commercial rate loans and even higher tuition fees. This is disgusting. Already working class students are put off university by the price tag attached to it.

This is part of the government's agenda to turn our universities into businesses. A friend of mine found out recently that his student loan has been sold to Citibank when they phoned him and demanded repayments. Blair has chosen mid-October to announce his review's decision.

This is just the right time for students to start occupying and fighting back.
HELEN SALMON, National Union of Students national executive committee (personal capacity)

End Israel's terror

GEORGE BUSH'S recent statement calling for the removal of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is very strange. We think that the problem that is facing us is not our leader, but the brutality of the Israelis and the US.

If we're talking about leaders, we think that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon should be removed for misleading his people into war and causing the deaths of innocent people. We must all fight terror in the world-starting with Sharon's massacres against us.
FADEL and LAILA, West Bank, Palestine

We need more on a socialist alternative

I REALLY enjoyed the Marxism 2002 event in London last week. It brought together so many people from different campaigns from Britain and the rest of the world.

I left much more confident about why this rotten capitalist system fails the people of the world, and why we need more than a few reforms to put it right. One small point I would like to raise is that there should have been more meetings on the alternative to capitalism.

It would have been helpful for me if there were more meetings on what socialism will be like, how democracy will operate, what will happen to people who don't like socialism, and so on. I'm already looking forward to next year's Marxism!
JANET RIDDLE, North London

Maintaining profits

RAIL COMPANY Jarvis is making huge profits by cutting corners. It was responsible for the track at Potters Bar. Jarvis has maintenance contracts which run for years, and renewal contracts which it bids for and has to take on at short notice. It does not have enough workers to do both.

So it takes people off maintenance and puts them on renewals, making up the numbers for both from subcontracted labour. It promises it will get round to catching up on the maintenance but never does. It's not the fault of individual maintenance workers. It's the whole profiteering that's at fault. Since privatisation in 1996 a public subsidy of £10 billion has gone into the railways.

Three quarters of it- £7.5 billion-has gone straight into profit for the rail companies. New Labour transport secretary Alastair Darling is still relying on the likes of Jarvis to maintain the network. He refuses to renationalise the rail industry.

Postal points

AS A member of the Unison union and the Anti Nazi League (ANL) I was disappointed to learn that affiliation to the ANL had been defeated at this year's Unison conference.

Arguments against affiliation seemed to centre round the structure of the ANL. We need a campaign inside Unison to counter these arguments. We also need to build up the number of individual branch affiliations. The positive news from conference was support for a TUC demonstration in Manchester against racism, and for a national Respect festival.

Unison members are in the front line in the fight against the Nazi BNP in Burnley. We need unity to fight the Nazis

MONDAY 1 July was a historic day for international law and human rights. The International Criminal Court (ICC) came into force that day. The court will try individuals accused of committing genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

A clear message has been sent that people planning human rights violations can no longer do so secure in the knowledge that they won't be accountable. Their actions can be stopped.
ROB BENNETT, West London

THE POLICE stopped four people from peacefully expressing their views that the monarchy is anti-democratic, pro-privilege and out of date recently during the queen's recent visit to Catford, south London. The police detained one of the protesters-a homeless man. I was arrested too.

It is time to say 'no more' to part time freedom.

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Sat 20 Jul 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1809
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