Repeating the old mistakes
LAST WEEK'S report by MPs into drug abuse recommended the reclassification of ecstasy and cannabis. This is a step in the right direction, although the 500,000 people who use ecstasy would still be seen as criminals.
But as soon as the report was released home secretary David Blunkett said that the government would never reclassify ecstasy. As someone who has worked in the underfunded drug field for the last five years I did not know whether to laugh or cry at this and minister Estelle Morris's threats to expel every drug-dealing child.
She also plans to use shock videos to scare children out of taking drugs. The 1980s 'Just say no' campaign was disastrous, so why does Morris want to repeat the same mistakes?
There are ten years of research which support a welfare strategy that, if given the chances and resources, may well have a chance of working. School is a place where young people learn academic and life skills. How are they going to do that outside the school system?
The progression of young people onto problematic drug taking is accelerated once they are expelled. What is the point of commissioning reports to provide independent recommendations when they are rejected because New Labour is scared of being seen as being soft on drugs?
It prefers to fund police forces rather than frontline drug agencies and educators who can help those addicted to drugs.
DRUGS WORKER, London
Levering open the party to the powerful
THE APPOINTMENT of Lord Levy to the Labour Party 'ethics committee' to vet political donations beggars belief. As chief fundraiser he was responsible for soliciting donations from a succession of sleazy businessmen including Express owner Richard Desmond and the Hinduja brothers.
Electoral Commission figures for 2001 show donations to Labour totalling £1.5 million from people like steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, Amstrad's Alan Sugar, Gulam Noon of Noon Products, and Paul Drayson of Powderject Pharmaceuticals. Presumably Levy believes all these donors meet the Labour Party's new rules for donors.
These are support for 'solidarity, tolerance, respect, the promotion of equality of opportunity, and the fight against the tyranny of poverty, prejudice and abuse of power'.
Labour increasingly relies on such donations. Half of Labour's funding since the start of 2001 came from business and rich individuals, and half from the unions. The question on many trade unionists' minds is, which half does the Labour Party listen to?
With increasing numbers sympathetic to the idea that unions should be able to fund organisations, like the Socialist Alliance, which have a genuine commitment to working class interests, there has never been a better time to raise it in your union branch.
MIKE ARROWSMITH, East London
Liberation and an inspiration
I ATTENDED a really inspiring meeting addressed by Leila Khaled, the legendary Palestinian freedom fighter, organised by the Campaign for Palestinian Rights in central London last week.
The room was packed full and 50 people waited for an hour and a half to hear Leila speak to them. She spoke about how the international media tries to portray the Palestinian people, including her, as terrorists. The real terrorist is Israel which has occupied Palestinian land.
The Palestinians are defending themselves against the terror of occupation. There is a huge difference of power between the two sides. The Palestinians who are turning to suicide bombing are protesting against the humiliation of their people.
They have lost everything. They have no right to return to their homeland. They have been crushed into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the last 54 years. The only way left is to revolt against it. If we want to stop the suicide bombers the Israeli occupation has to end. Leila Khaled spoke about how the armed struggle has to continue until this is won-she and the rest of the Palestinians are not terrorists, but people fighting for the liberation of their people.
SAID GAROUJ, West London
Channel 4 brought Jenin truth home
I AM writing in praise of the Dispatches programme screened on Channel 4 recently. State of Terror investigated the events of Israel's recent incursion into the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank. Deborah Davies entered the Jenin camp to find out what had happened. One Palestinian woman's home video showed how the prisoners were made to strip down to their underwear, in case they were suicide bombers, before they were handcuffed and led away for questioning.
A British military strategist concluded that the Israeli army had deliberately set about demolishing the homes of those they had sent off for interrogation. I wish we could have more programmes willing to bring the truth back home.
PAULINE WHEAT-BOWEN, Huddersfield
Carers need looking after
THE GOVERNMENT has announced a second state pension for carers. It is called additional state pension. The old SERPS scheme has been replaced by this scheme. This means all those caring for someone who receives Invalid Care Allowance, or people who are sick themselves and unable to work, have the sum of £1 a week secured in the fund to receive when they retire.
However, carers aren't in a position to retire. We lose our benefits and rely on the state pension to live. The gross indecency is that this second pension is designed to remove our right to housing benefit and council tax benefit, when we reach pension age.
It will take us just above income support levels. In other words, they are again attacking the sick, and we have no choice!
HELEN SENIOR, Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Don't justify bombers
RICHARD Sunderland's attempts (Letters, 11 May) to conjure moral justification of the Palestinian suicide bombers is sadly misplaced. Do the Tibetan people, cruelly persecuted for decades by the Chinese authorities, blow their oppressors to bits?
Mr Sunderland would do well to check his facts regarding Jenin. Even the Palestinians now accept that the alleged 'massacre' in Jenin by the Israeli army never took place.
DR K DAVIS, Cumbria
I was wrong
MANY MOONS ago I wrote questioning the slogan 'Refugees welcome here'. Events since then have convinced me that I was wrong. Socialist Worker is absolutely right to stick to the slogan, and to defend refugees and immigrants unreservedly.
Any retreat on this issue, even in rhetoric, gives credibility to racist lies. The only honest and effective response is to keep telling the simple truth-refugees are not to blame for society's ills.
They are scapegoats, to distract attention away from fat cat bosses and politicians running down our services in the name of corporate profit. To fight back we must stand together. With New Labour running away from this fight, I have felt ever more proud to be a supporter of Socialist Worker and the Socialist Alliance.
We stand in solidarity with all victims of capitalism and war, and against all racism. More power to you. Refugees are welcome here!
BEN DRAKE, York
Tory leader's hypocrisy
I AM a student at Hackney Community College in east London. Iain Duncan Smith, the leader of the Tory Party, came to visit our college recently. He spoke about how 'everyone should have the chance to study'.
How can everyone get the chance to study when students have to pay fees? None of the main parties are going to introduce free education. I asked him about the new detention centres for asylum seekers that are to be set up. 'We should put them where we can support them, not in the middle of nowhere,' he said.
I don't think that asylum seekers should be locked up at all. They have not committed any crimes-they are people fleeing from persecution and discrimination.
New Labour and the Tories are blaming asylum seekers for 'swamping' schools and public services. But it is them who have sold off school buildings and privatised public services. They are scapegoating asylum seekers to cover up for their neo-liberal policies.
DRITAN DAUTI, East London
Blair and science should never mix
WITH FRIENDS like Tony Blair, science doesn't need enemies. Blair defines science in terms of political positions. For him if you worry about genetically modified (GM) crops and the government's cavalier approach to the planting and dissemination of GM organisms, you are anti-science.
This approach will further deepen young people's distrust of science. He bundles all sorts of points of view together. But you can be a scientist, support animal experimentation where it is of real benefit to humanity, and oppose the planting of GM crops.
If he wants more young people to take up maths, physics and engineering he and his ministers should stop attacking higher education. Abolishing fees and restoring grants wouldn't be a bad start.
MALCOLM POVEY, Leeds