Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1808

I didn't back Ken's plan

I was a candidate in the election for the Greater London Assembly just over two years ago. Like many others, I voted for Ken Livingstone for mayor as a vote against New Labour's betrayals.

Livingstone courted right wing rags like the Evening Standard, writing a restaurant column for them. Now they have turned on him, peddling gutter gossip about him. Londoners should be more concerned about his plan for London. He says if the courts find against the Public Private Partnership (PPP) on the tube he will try to make it work.

Worse, Livingstone plans to work with private developers who want to profit from the housing crisis. His policies are for big business and workers take second place. He says that except for PPP he goes along with everything Blair stands for and he is grovelling to be let back into the Labour Party.

His plan for London says nothing about low pay or long hours or the needs of workers like nurses and office cleaners. If he wants London to be a first class city, then Livingstone should stop treating its workers like second class citizens.

I voted for Ken Livingstone, but I stood for the Socialist Alliance. We need a real socialist voice now more than ever.

Engineers today are not to blame for past scabbing

AS A printer in national newspapers in the 21st century, I can't believe Bob (Letters, 6 July 2002) doesn't see the importance of what's going on in the AEEU-Amicus union. No one will forget what the EETPU electricians' union (a forerunner of Amicus) did at Wapping in the 1980s.

It organised a scabbing operation to break the printers' strike against Rupert Murdoch's union-busting operation. So how can we be indifferent to who's running the union? There's no doubt in my mind that the despicable Sir Ken Jackson would do exactly the same thing if called on by the bosses.

That's why he's a 'Sir'. This loyal servant of the capitalist class writes union-bashing articles in the Sun and hasn't faced election since 1995. So if the rank and file of his union want to get rid of him, good luck to them.

Who heads a union is not the be all and end all. But there's a lot of left wingers winning union elections at the moment and that's got to be a good sign. Time doesn't heal all, but neither does writing off the entire membership of the second largest union in the country.

No longer a union man

JOHN PRESCOTT'S resignation from the Rail and Maritime Transport union has not gone down well in his own Hull constituency. In phone-in programmes on the local radio station many people have pointed out Prescott owes everything to his union and that he is now completely on the wrong side.

Prescott's election agent recently lost his seat on Hull City Council after several decades. There's little chance of Prescott losing his own seat too, but the voters of Hull East do seem to hold him in contempt for his lifestyle and support of Blairism.

Don't attack Iraq

I AM a British person who has lived in Iraq. I am writing about the possibility that the UK may be drawn into further conflict with Iraq aimed at bringing down Saddam Hussein. For over a decade the Iraqi people have suffered as a result of the sanctions regime, with reports of over 6,000 children dying each month.

This is regardless of the fact that Scott Ritter, former chief of Unscom's concealment unit, has said, 'It was possible as early as 1997 to determine that, from a strictly qualitative standpoint, Iraq had been disarmed.' Now the Western world talks about bringing down Saddam Hussein just over a decade after the Gulf War, even though there has been ample opportunity for the dictator to be removed.

Democracy was the main objective of the 1991 uprising where sections of the army joined with the mass of the people in taking over many of the major cities within Iraq. President George Bush Sr urged the uprising on but as the prospect of a new Iraq was dawning the US decided to stand back. In fact they gave assistance to Saddam's forces by preventing rebels from taking arms.

This left the uprising defenceless against Saddam's military machine and so it was brutally crushed. Saddam Hussein is neither the villain of the piece nor the hero of the decade. But the main issue now facing most people inside Iraq is not whether Saddam Hussein remains in power or not. It is a question of survival against a world that is now threatening a further war with no end in sight.

Stop big brother

I AM writing this letter to express my grave concern over the increasing power and arrogance of employers. Up until recently I worked for a company called Telephone Information Marketing Ltd, the Exeter call centre for national rail enquiries. I had worked there for just over two years but I have now been given my notice for using unauthorised websites at work.

We had nothing in writing to say this was not allowed. My employer undertook surveillance at my workplace which was unfair, and also may be illegal. They installed a program that monitors internet use but didn't tell anyone.

I do believe this confirms that the vast majority of businesses are arrogant, petty and some operate illegally. The only way forward is to nationalise the top companies that control our economy, and let workers and service users run them.

Summit was rocky for G8

THE CANADIAN government spent almost half a billion dollars to host a 30-hour meeting of the world's most powerful men two weeks ago. The meeting was originally scheduled for the nation's capital, Ottawa, but then was moved to the remote mountain resort of Kananaskis.

Kananaskis is more than 100 kilometres from the nearest city, Calgary, in a province, Alberta, that has the lowest union density of any in Canada. They mounted the most elaborate and expensive security operation in Canadian history, spending upwards of $400 billion to 'protect' the summit. Every gathering in Calgary was made illegal, including a picnic organised by the union movement.

But in spite of these obstacles, several spirited demonstrations went through Calgary, involving thousands of trade unionists, environmentalists and anti-capitalists. The atmosphere was electric. In Calgary it was clear that the 'Teamster-turtle' alliance, which first emerged in Seattle in the anti-WTO protests in 1999, is very much alive and well.

Legalisation can stop our suffering

THE ALARM surrounding crack cocaine will inevitably be used as an excuse to trot out the hoary old chestnut about cannabis use being a gateway to harder and addictive drugs.

The kernel of truth in this argument is that cannabis and harder drugs are usually bought from the same source-legalise cannabis and that link is broken. I'm a regular user of cannabis for medicinal reasons. I have an ataxia and for over a year pain has become an increasingly bigger part of my life. Friends and acquaintances asked whether I'd tried cannabis for pain control and suggested I should try it.

The major problem is getting hold of the stuff, having to skulk about like a criminal and knowing that doing something that makes life tolerable is illegal. My family are all very supportive of my cannabis use, from my clued-up teenage daughters to my more conservative-minded Mum. I'm indebted to the active campaigners who break the law and supply me and others, who face becoming criminals because we are ill and have found cannabis helps.

Reclassifying cannabis from class B to class C will be a small but very welcome step. Unfortunately the Medical Controls Agency is insisting on further tests, and denying hundreds of years of user experience-condemning thousands of pain sufferers to another few years of uncertainty and a potential criminal record.
COLIN YATES, East London

Postal points

Why IS it that your publication continues to appear in a tabloid form? As an intelligent prole, I find it insulting that you choose to emulate quasi-fascist tabloids like the Sun or the Star. This patronising attitude only serves to alienate potential members who might otherwise be sympathetic to socialist ideas.

I FELT you were too harsh on the proponents of fair trade. Of course, the social policies and the economies of the lesser developed countries need to be protected and developed-even the World Bank now accepts that.

But fair trade does represent one thread in the tapestry of a fairer, more equitable world-or would you be happy for the current system of trade to continue?

'FROM BEVAN to Blair' was a very informative read (Socialist Worker, 29 June 2002). But the comment that before the NHS poor families relied on local 'wise women', resulting in high death tolls, really jarred.

High infant mortality and death from treatable diseases are more related to nutrition, housing and sanitation than the 'miracles' of Western medicine. Lay women healers have practised for thousands of years but are now denigrated by a male medical elite. Thanks for a great paper.

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Sat 13 Jul 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1808
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