I AM a sixth form school student, and I took the day off school to attend the May Day protests in London. It paid off, as thousands of anti-capitalists, trade unionists and anti-war campaigners packed into central London to voice their anger at New Labour's disgusting neo-liberal policies at home and abroad.
The mood was uplifting and exciting, and we were even chanting, 'F comme fasciste, N comme Nazi' to show solidarity with our French brothers and sisters resisting the Nazi Le Pen. Workers and residents smiled at us as we passed them and marched into Trafalgar Square.
The speeches were excellent, with trade union secretaries, student union activists and Labour Party members like Diane Abbott all making the same points-solidarity with the Palestinians, resistance to the war, rights for workers and support for the people of Colombia.
Despite subsequent mainstream media reports, there was a real feeling of solidarity among the different groups, with what must have been one of the largest and most politically focused May Days for a long time.
PAUL ATKIN, Doncaster
We won't tug our forelocks for the queen
GREEN STREET, the hub of the Asian community in Newham, east London, has suddenly received a spring clean. Thousands of pounds have been spent on making the area look smarter. The occasion? A visit from the queen to mark her Jubilee. The media have wheeled out the usual stories about us poor 'cockneys' and East End folk loving the royal family, tipping our caps and tugging our forelocks.
The only thing they will have got right is the fact that people are still poor. Newham still ranks as one of the poorest boroughs in the country, with the population dying five years earlier than their counterparts in the leafy Richmond area of London. New statistics reveal that Newham has 1,564 homeless households, the fourth highest number in London.
How can the queen relate to these people, given the number of palaces and castles she has at her disposal? She represents a rotten institution which aims to keep working class people in their place.
As a Socialist Alliance candidate in the recent elections, it doesn't surprise me that 75 percent of voters didn't vote. Instead of fighting poverty and defending public services the Labour-dominated council (59 councillors out of 60 are Labour) are organising celebrations for an out of date and out of touch monarchy.
This is the same council which has fully implemented Blair's package of privatisation over the past five years.
MUBIN HAQ, East London
Blair's benefits scam will push poor under
WHILE CANVASSING for the Socialist Alliance in the local elections I met a woman whose experience shows how cruel the idea is to remove benefits from parents whose children miss school. She had recently been sacked from her council job because of irregularities over her sickness record.
She had been phoning in sick and then, in a desperate effort to make money, working shifts on a casual basis at another firm. At other times she would go to work, finish at 6pm and then do a night shift elsewhere. This woman was certainly not a scrounger. She was the victim of events that could happen to any of us.
Her house had been burgled and vandalised. She had lost almost all her possessions and was too poor to have taken out insurance. For the last year she and her three children had existed in the most difficult circumstances, with just a mattress on a bare floor for much of the time. One child was chronically ill, and another had persistently missed school because of the stress at home.
The child benefit this woman received was the difference between barely surviving and completely going under. What possible help would it be to take this woman's money away? It would simply be more vicious treatment on top of what she has already suffered.
DIANA SWINGLER, East London
Wicked to deny elderly free care
I AM writing to tell you of my mother's experience. She is now in her eighties, after a life spent working as a care assistant and nurse. She can no longer live on her own, and has been forced to live in a residential care home. She has severe arthritis and is in pain for much of the time. She needs help getting dressed and seeing to her needs.
But this is called 'personal' care rather than nursing care, so she has to pay for it. She has been forced to sell her home. I can't describe the anguish and heartache this has caused.
It is not the money. She loved her home. Now a whole lifetime of memories has been discarded just so she can get the care she needs. On top of this she now faces the threat of the home closing. She could be forced to go somewhere further away, where it will be much harder for me and the family to visit.
Why won't this government listen to the people? A recent Mori poll found that 75 percent of people think that all long term care, personal and nursing, should be free. Yet the government, a Labour government, peddles the myth that we can't afford to give the care the elderly need.
It is wicked to deny free care for people like my mother who have spent their whole lives working for others, but who are now discarded.
SUE SANDERS, Cheltenham
Budget money to PFI firms
MANCHESTER'S mental health budget for this year faces £2 million of cuts. This is a scandal. In the recent budget we were told by the Labour government that we had to pay 1 percent extra National Insurance to pay for the NHS. Mental health is supposed to be a government priority. Yet we still face enormous cuts-already we know they plan to cut 26 posts.
Why have we got these problems? The NHS is supposed to have received much more money. The real problem is the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) hospitals. The new Wythenshawe Hospital is costing £40 million a year more because it has been built by PFI.
It is this extra cost that is being spread as cuts across Greater Manchester. So our extra tax and National Insurance payments are going to swell the pockets of the private developers and contractors. We plan to launch a massive campaign against these cuts and against PFI, including a demo in Manchester on Saturday 8 June.
KAREN REISSMANN, Manchester
West is the looter
TUNDE AJALA'S letter (Socialist Worker, 20 April) about Nigeria's 'wasted wealth' refers to 'large-scale looting of the national treasury while the West looked the other way'. No! The looters are the world's dominant capitalist powers. Nigerian middlemen/ women are the conduit pipes through which the natural and mineral wealth is pumped out.
Multinational corporations are paymasters that reward senior officials, politicians and top soldiers for their agency services by appointing them to lucrative sinecures and giving them money and property abroad. Having bought the loyalty of these Nigerian VIPs (Vagabonds In Power), the corporations expect to evade local taxation and local laws.
This haemorrhage from the open veins of Africa can be stopped only by a united, non-capitalist Africa.
DAN FULANI, North London
Debates brought to life
THE MAY Day march in London was fantastic. We travelled up from Plymouth with people from the Unison union, our local trades union council, students from the university and two local schools. We were also joined by leading activists from our Defend Council Housing campaign, who were celebrating a victory against the privatisation of our Coxside council houses.
The coach was full of discussion all the way there and back, with common themes linking the fight against privatisation with the need to stop the war, and questions about Palestine, fascism, and how we fight the Nazis.
The march itself brought all the debates to life. It truly was an international workers' demonstration-lively, energetic, celebrating our unity. On the way back there was agreement that we had a common base-the fight against global capitalism.
TONY STAUNTON, Plymouth
WELL DONE for producing an informative newspaper. I read with interest your article on working hours (Socialist Worker, 11 May). I regularly work a 60-hour week for a security firm. On £5 an hour the only way I can make ends meet is by doing extra shifts. I work for my family, but have to sacrifice time with them.
It seems under this 'modern' Labour government things are going backwards to the bad old days of the 19th century, when workers were just fodder for the men at the top to grow rich.
BOB MASON, Newcastle
I CAN'T have been the only person outraged by the number of Nazis interviewed by the BBC. In four days I heard five Nazis interviewed on Radio 4. They gave airtime to BNP leader Nick Griffin, Diana Mosley, the fascist wife of Oswald Mosley, the granddaughter of Italian fascist Mussolini, Le Pen and finally Le Pen's daughter.
We have to demand that the BBC and other media stop giving these Nazis a platform to spout their filth.
TALAT AHMED, East London
IF IT is correct, and rightly so, to march against fascist Le Pen, it is also necessary to vote against him.
JOHN CLOSE, Glasgow
PLEASE COULD you investigate the oil industry? Has the US been stockpiling oil in preparation for a Middle Eastern war?