THE 500,000-strong demonstration against a Europe of capital and war in Barcelona in March was a milestone in the anti-capitalist movement that has swept the world since Seattle in 1999. It showed that the movement had not declined after 11 September, but was stronger than ever.
On 21 June the last EU summit under Spain's presidency will take place, this time in Seville. But this time not only will Aznar, Berlusconi and Blair be challenged by hundreds of thousands of demonstrators (on Saturday 22 June), but also by a 24-hour general strike the day before.
The trade unions have decided to call the strike in protest at the government's outrageous attacks on Spain's already weak unemployment benefit system. Under the new law, arrogantly rushed through by the government, hundreds of thousands of unemployed and workers on part time contracts will have their benefits slashed or eliminated.
This was the final straw after five years of attacks on workers' living standards and rights, as well as on what is left of public services. The decision by the unions to organise a general strike-the first in eight years-is a direct result of the mood shown in Barcelona two months ago. This is an unprecedented opportunity for the anti-capitalist movement to link its struggle with that of the trade unions.
Delegations will be arriving in Seville from all over Europe and Spain to take part in three days of struggle. See you there!
ANDREU DURAN, En Lucha, Barcelona
- En Lucha is Socialist Worker's sister paper in Spain.
- For details of transport to Seville phone Globalise Resistance on 020 8980 3005.
Children, their parents and school attendance
AS AN ex education social worker, I would like to comment on the recent imprisonment of a parent for school non-attendance of her children. I do not believe that such measures, or fining parents, are the answer. But I do feel that parents, particularly of young primary children, have to take some responsibility for their school attendance.
I have known children of five and six years old, who have been more than happy to go to school, being denied their right to education by their parents. Whatever the social or psychological reasons for this, it is, in my view, a form of passive abuse-as the children miss out on social as well as educational opportunities.
In my experience, education social workers, or welfare officers, bust a gut to support families where difficulties prevent regular school attendance. Obviously, as kids get older, the situation is different, but primary children rely on their parents.
It is heartbreaking to see kids desperate for stimulation being kept at home, so that they can never feel they belong. Punitive actions may act as a deterrent now, within this system. However the ultimate answer lies in a society free from alienation and poverty.
ANNE JAMES, Chesterfield
The proof of the pudding
I WORK as a childcare assistant in an all-age special school for pupils with learning and emotional difficulties. Picking up on Sue Gibson's letter and Judy Cox's article (both in Socialist Worker, 25 May), I want to reinforce how right they are.
For some years I have been taking three, four or five pupils for a day out using cheap Derbyshire Wayfarer tickets. Last Thursday we took our first trip to London using cheap tickets. We saw as much as possible in our eight hours there.
The children were picked up by the school minibus back in Sheffield at 11pm, having been told they didn't have to be in school the next day. They were in fact all there the next day at the usual time (I wasn't). I was pestered by one of them who wanted to start his writing about the trip that afternoon, rather than playing football. So I had to spend Friday afternoon slaving over a hot computer with him.
I'm not saying that our pupils are all little angels, but if we meet their needs they will often respond magnificently.
IAN WALLACE, Sheffield
This is our partnership
THE DEPTH of the crisis in many inner city areas is now obliging government to invest significant sums of money. But there is a clear political agenda behind this new investment. Blair's agenda is to blame and demonise.
There's money for CCTV and dog patrols, but not youth workers and proper facilities. New Labour insists that 'regeneration' is managed by 'partnership', not by local councils.
Neighbourhood partnership boards are usually dominated by senior managers, business representatives, appointees and consultants. In Kentish Town in central London tenants' reps from seven estates met last week to agree a joint strategy. At the next Neighbourhood Partnership forum we will meet our other 'partners' as an organised group with a clear agenda and proposals to make councillors accountable.
We're going to show them some good old fashioned 'capacity building' by organising meetings on every estate. Each meeting will be asked to back common demands, and support a mass lobby of the town hall if real progress isn't made. We didn't win a council seat in the recent local elections but our campaign has clearly helped create a different mood!
ALAN WALTER, chair Peckwater Estate Tenants Association and Socialist Alliance candidate, Kentish Town ward, Central London
Sport? It's just a question of class
THE RECENT decision to keep Rotherham Rugby Club out of the top flight league is pure class spite. It's about Twickenham toffs looking after their own and slamming the door on a northern working class town.
Despite winning the National One championship by a massive 12 points, Rotherham were denied promotion by the ruling England Rugby Limited because their ground was not up to scratch. Wasps, a club with the old school ties that bind, was given plenty of time to find a new home.
Yet all Rotherham needed was a few days, if not hours, to firm up a deal with Rotherham Football Club for the use of its ground. Such blatant double standards reveal the real reason behind the decision.
So long as rugby's public school elite retain their power and privilege over the game there's no room for the rest. Rugby is run by a closed shop of the rich and powerful. It's time we had a rugby rebellion!
PHIL TURNER, Sheffield
Questions still unanswered
AT THE end of a five-week hearing the McGowan family and campaign must now face the ordeal of yet another inquest on the death of Jason McGowan in Telford. We are no closer now than we were at the beginning to knowing the full circumstances surrounding not just Jason's death, but of his uncle Errol's death too. The police decided that Jason killed himself.
On 27 May the inquest jury of six men and four women said that after two days of deliberation and evidence from 90 witnesses they were unable to return a verdict on Jason's death. We have campaigned for truth and justice for two members of the family and all we have got is this.
There are so many unanswered questions, just as there were with Errol's death. We never had a level playing field. We have had to fight the police all the way. The indecision of the jury shows the complexity of the case. We will now be fighting not just for truth and justice but for a Judicial Review as well.
CLIFF McGOWAN, Telford
I LIKED the article 'Would Socialism Be A Dictatorship?' (Socialist Worker, 25 May). However, the word 'dictatorship' had a different meaning in Karl Marx's time. Marx studied the history of Ancient Greece and Rome at university.
The dictator was a magistrate elected by a mass meeting of the Roman people, who held power for six months during a period of crisis such as war or famine. Marx believed that the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' would be a temporary measure, like its ancient forbear. It was the state capitalist regimes in Russia and China which discredited the term.
PHIL KNIGHT, Neath
ANYONE still pondering how profits can be made out of schools need ponder no longer. EduAction, the private company which took over the running of Waltham Forest education in London, has copyrighted its policies and is now charging schools for the use of these policies.
LINDA CARRUTHERS, London