Socialist Worker

Proud to be a council tenant

Issue No. 1799

IN THE run-up to the local elections New Labour, the Tories and the Liberals fell over themselves to announce plans to tackle anti-social tenants and crime. They always end up referring to problems on council estates as if council tenants are the lowest of the low.

On most estates the problem isn't that 'bad' people live there, but that everyone is suffering from lack of investment, poverty and no prospect of things getting better. It's not surprising that most teenagers end up spending their lives hanging around their estates.

Many families live in overcrowded conditions with nowhere for kids to play, have friends round or do their homework. There's nowhere to go, with councils closing youth clubs and community centres.

Pensioners on my estate in central London often talk about how proud they were to get a council flat when they first moved in. Decent, affordable council housing was a prize for many who lived in overcrowded and insecure private housing.

Many council estates were thriving communities with active tenants' associations. But 25 years of cuts have run down the bricks and mortar, and also demoralised tenants. New Labour's only solution is to privatise council housing. The threat of privatisation is revitalising the tenants' movement.

A new generation of tenant activists are demanding that the government stops scapegoating council tenants, and invests in council housing and provides decent local facilities.
ALAN WALTER, Central London


Refugee children being isolated in Britain's schools

I WORK as a learning support assistant in a town near enough to major ports to be affected by the so called 'swamping' of schools by refugee children. We do have refugee children attending this school-some 15 out of a total enrolment of 700.

There are usually only one or two per class. Their grasp of English varies, but most speak or understand little on arrival at the school. Despite the obvious difficulty that this language barrier causes, current thinking is that they are better off in the classroom.

This immediate forced integration causes many of the children to sit in class in total isolation, unable to understand what is going on and vulnerable to bullying.

Until recently these children were taken out of class every day so that someone could work with them. We helped them with English skills and acted as a mentor to assist their adjustment.

I believe that schools are afraid to be seen to target funding on asylum seekers because of public misconceptions regarding the amount of state help these people receive.

The reality of New Labour's pandering to the British National Party is that some very frightened children are now sitting in chaotic classrooms, lost and unable to communicate. They are as isolated and rejected as their adult counterparts within wider society.
LEARNING SUPPORT ASSISTANT, Kent


Speaking out for Palestine

I WAS in Hebron as part of an international solidarity delegation when the Israeli army invaded the city. Words can't describe how horrific things are there. There's been a curfew for a month, and if you put your head out of the window Israeli soldiers shoot at you.

While I was there the Israeli army used teargas canisters on an ambulance and killed eight people in a day. Israeli soldiers fired a rocket at a doctor from the hospital who ran out to help people. He was severely injured. What sickened me most was the way that after all this Israeli soldiers would enter the hospital and have the gall to ask doctors if they wanted anything.
GHADA RAZUKI, East London

DR K Davis writes (Socialist Worker, 27 April) on why Socialist Worker does not appear to condemn Palestinian suicide bombings. In fact Socialist Worker has always made it clear that socialists do not support the targeting of Israeli civilians. However, it is wrong to equate the suicide bombers with the actions of the Israeli state.

There can be no comparison between the Israelis killed in the suicide attacks and the hundreds of Palestinians slaughtered in Jenin, and the over 1,500 killed since the new intifada began. We do not equate the violence of the oppressed with the oppressor. Young Palestinian men and women become suicide bombers because of the desperation they feel at the oppression of their people.

There can never be peace in Palestine until there is justice for the Palestinians.
RICHARD SUNDERLAND, Leeds

I RECENTLY attended a press conference given by Professor Derrick Pounder at Dundee University. Professor Pounder is the head of the forensic medicine department there. He was part of an Amnesty International delegation that visited Jenin refugee camp after the Israeli assault on it.

The Israeli army has 'buried the evidence of mass killings of civilians and combatants', according to Professor Pounder. After the air attack on the camp the Israelis sent in armoured bulldozers to demolish the homes of the camp's inhabitants. Civilians were given no opportunity to escape.

'I could smell the corpses under the rubble,' said Professor Pounder. It is impossible to estimate how many people died. The Israeli government has refused to allow the United Nations mission into the camp to find out what happened-this is because of its guilty mind, as Professor Pounder's account shows.
JAMES ALLINSON, Dundee

I'M AN avid reader of Socialist Worker and Scottish Socialist Voice, the paper of the Scottish Socialist Party. I'm outraged at the present crisis that has fallen once again on the normal people of Palestine.

This is another example of the double standards of the US government. The US could have put more pressure on the Israeli government to end its incursions into Palestinian land.
TAM OLIVER, Edinburgh


Communists in Italy back the alliance

THE FIGHTS against neo-liberalism and war are the issues that unite the social forum of the whole world. Blair's New Labour is the antithesis of these principles.

These are the reasons the Communist Refoundation Party (UK branch) asked Italians in England to vote for the candidates of the Socialist Alliance in last week's local elections. The Socialist Alliance has fought against the war. Its policy of creating alliances shows how to overcome divisions on the left. Another world is possible. Let us build it together.
ENRICO MANDELSTAM, secretary Communist Refoundation Party (UK branch)


Postal points

HAVING travelled from Aberdeen to lobby the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh as part of a postal workers' CWU union delegation against privatisation, I was astounded to see a Tory MSP given a platform. The Tory MSP supposedly wanted to defend postal workers' jobs and public services.

This is sheer hypocrisy from the party that began the attacks on the working class. The CWU leadership should wake up now and mobilise rank and file members. Cosy dealings with all party MSPs will not save the Post Office. To hell with alliances with the Tories and the bosses. We need workers' struggle and we need it now.
SCOTT SUTHERLAND, Aberdeen

THE International Criminal Court (ICC) was established at the United Nations last month. The ICC will be a permanent court for trying individuals accused of committing war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Some 66 countries have signed up to the court. The US has said that it will not cooperate with the ICC, even if it involves a case of international terrorism.

The world will become less safe if the sole superpower behaves as judge, jury and executioner when dealing with global terrorism.
ROB BENNETT, West London


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Article information

Letters
Sat 11 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1799
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