THERE WAS a brilliant atmosphere on the mass lobby of parliament last week called by the Trade Justice Movement. The organisers estimate there were around 10,000 people there. They were protesting at the way multinationals and powerful governments enforce trade rules that benefit themselves and mean misery for the poor.
We were petitioning in support of refugees and advertising Saturday's demonstration, which went down a storm. The argument that money can move freely but people can't went down well. We had very busy stalls all day. A guy from north London came up saying he's not that left wing but wanted to get a pamphlet that would give him some facts to present to his mates about refugees.
He said he works in the Post Office and part time in Sainsbury's, where he has got eight people to join the union. We sold £95 worth of books and pamphlets on issues like Palestine and Star Wars, George Monbiot's guide to the media and Anti-Capitalism: A Guide to the Movement. Some 188 copies of Socialist Worker were also sold.
It was a very mixed age range, and people had come from all over Britain. One guy came up and was completely excited, saying, 'I've never seen this sort of stuff in Chessingham.'
In the evening there were packed debates and meetings. I went to one on 'Trade justice in a consumer society' which had 250 people at it. The whole event was really lively and much bigger than the one last year. It shows how many ordinary people's ideas are moving to the left.
ASA HJALMERS, London
Judges' line on suicide
MANY commentators reacted furiously to Cherie Blair's momentarily correct insight into the motives of Palestinian suicide bombers. They claimed suicide tactics were a product of a peculiarly Islamic frame of mind and quite alien to 'Western' Judeo-Christian values. Don't these people remember the Bible that they tell us is the fount of their civilisation?
Generations of schoolchildren have learned the biblical tale of the great hero Samson. Yet he was the first and greatest of history's suicide attackers, wreaking a desperate revenge on the Philistines who were oppressing his people. The Bible (Judges 16:27-30) tells of how Samson was in a house 'full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there and there were about 3,000 men and women on the roof.
'And Samson called unto the Lord...that I may be avenged of the Philistines. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house rested and leaned upon them...and Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines'. And he bowed himself with all his might and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he killed in his life.'
And what about the generations of British schoolchildren who were told that it was a 'sweet and noble thing' to march to certain death for the greater glory of queen and country, an attitude that left millions dead in the bloody fields of Europe?
ROBERT CAMPBELL, South London
Build for Europe's forum against war and capitalism
TENS OF thousands of European anti-globalisation and anti-war activists will gather in Florence, Italy, from 7 to 10 November of this year for the European Social Forum (ESF). The initiative for a European forum arose out of the success of the Porto Alegre World Social Forum held earlier this year.
This event in Brazil attracted over 50,000 people from all over the world. The aim of the ESF is to strengthen the alliances against neo-liberalism and war by creating an open space for debate on how best to fight against and start building an alternative to capitalist globalisation.
The pluralism of the global justice movement is one of its greatest assets and the ESF will try to reflect this by opening itself up to a wide spectrum of non-governmental organisations, trade unions and other social movements. In England a broad range of activists have already come together to start building the strongest possible contingent to go to the ESF.
We need all the help we can get to publicise the ESF among local trade unions and social movements to help spread the network of anti-globalisation activists. So if you are interested in getting involved please come to our next London meeting on 15 July.
Check out our website at www.mobilise.org.uk or phone 07930 307 815 for more details.
ALVARO SANTOS, Globalise Resistance
Be more positive?
I HAVE Socialist Worker delivered every week and I enjoy reading the different slant on the news. It would be nice if Socialist Worker was a little more positive. Try to imagine a visitor to this country who had the opportunity to read only one newspaper.
I dread to think if their opinion was arrived at by reading the Sun or Daily Mail. But what would that opinion be if they only read Socialist Worker? This country is full of hard working, considerate people but we are not all victims.
There are also hard working, considerate companies and organisations which strike a good balance between looking after their workers and the local environment, and can still make a profit.
PETER NORCLIFFE, Huddersfield
No school for these pupils
I HAVE been very distressed to hear that three of my pupils are to be wrenched out of school against the wishes of the children, their parents and the school. Mazlum, aged 12, Nazim, aged ten, and Ali, aged six, came to England three years ago with their parents after persecution as Kurds in Turkey. The family is under threat of deportation.
I have taught all three children. They are a credit to their parents, an asset to the school, and will undoubtedly become even more of an inspiration to the local community and society as a whole as they grow older. On their first arrival at school over three years ago, I remember Mazlum and Nazim being reluctant and worried about joining in with a Turkish-speaking group.
Yet the following year they actually led a celebration of 'Turkish children's day'. They gave an emotional speech explaining that although some Turkish and Kurdish grown ups didn't get along they were all friends at Forster Park School. Teachers, schools and institutions generally seem to suffer a lot of criticism of late. But I have to admit I think I now know what institutional racism means.
RICHARD BOND, Forster Park teacher
Cars cut off
THE 700 workers who were on strike recently across four Johnson Controls plants in the US have scored a victory. After a two-day walkout the workers won the right to organise their union, the United Auto Workers (UAW), in the company. That will affect 26 plants employing 8,000 workers.
The plant in Northwood, Ohio, involved workers who were not represented by the union. But their action has secured them representation, and a majority declared they want to join the union. The strike really hurt because it shut down four US assembly plants in the supply chain.
Those hit were the car giants General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler who get their parts from Johnson Controls. It shows how the all-powerful multinationals spread across the globe can be halted by a small group of workers in one part of the process. The new UAW union president Ron Gettelfinger acknowledged that the two motor companies had 'expressed their concern' at the Johnson Controls workers strike. The deal does have weaknesses but workers' action has delivered a step forward and got the bosses 'concerned'.
Get vote out for Simpson
A MEETING about the AEEU union leadership battle was held recently in Birkenhead. Right winger Sir Ken Jackson did not accept the offer of a debate, but left winger Derek Simpson turned up before a small but angry meeting. Derek spoke about how poor democracy was inside the union.
He condemned the current leadership's love of New Labour's privatisation plans while most of the membership hate those plans. Sir Ken tells trade unionists that he has a 'foot in the door of Number Ten', yet he voted against restoring the link of pensions to inflation. He is also a chairman of the Nirex nuclear waste company.
People at the meeting expressed their readiness to leaflet and campaign in the Ford and Vauxhall car plants on Merseyside. The election vote began on Monday of this week. Contact Derek for leaflets and posters. Phone 0114 236 1419 or e-mail [email protected]
SIMON BRAMWELL, Merseyside
A READER asks why we sometimes use unnamed sources in our paper (Socialist Worker, 15 June). Most people we speak to are willing and able to use their full names. However some, like rail workers, are not allowed by a legal contract to be quoted in the press.
A few others are in justifiable fear that their boss may take disciplinary action against them if they are identified.
SOCIALIST WORKER EDITORIAL BOARD
THE RMT leader Bob Crow denounced rail privatisation, saying, 'Since 1996 the taxpayer has handed £9.97 billion to subsidise the privatised railways.' Then they aren't really privatised. If they were, then they would have been earning their keep and fending for themselves, like everyone else is supposed to do.
This is just another example of privatisation as a scam-capitalism for the poor, and socialism for the rich.