THE PROBLEM of debt repayment is at its most acute in Africa where countries already blighted by war are also forced to spend billions repaying or simply servicing debt. This means that there is no investment in infrastructure, education or health. As a campaigner for refugees in Glasgow I have been working with the African community to stop deportations.
Many people have fled countries with a history of war and poverty, where foreign aid has often been tied to Structural Adjustment Programmes demanded by the IMF and the World Bank. The resulting privatisation and trade rules have been a disaster for the economy. Any benefits have been cancelled out by the demand of debt repayment.
People have been deported from Glasgow to the Democratic Republic of Congo, where according to the World Health Organisation the average life expectancy is 43.5 years. It has $13.8 billion debt.
The areas of Glasgow in which refugees are placed have their own problem, such as decaying housing stock, few amenities and unemployment. A recent Rowntree study by council ward found that Glasgow was the worst area for child poverty in Britain. One third of children hospitalised have been found to be suffering from malnutrition. Gordon Brown’s economic policies at home have widened the gap between rich and poor.
Brown and Tony Blair present plans for aid to Africa are a disgrace. They will only marginally reduce infant mortality. Millions will still die.
Some 85 representatives of many organisations met in Stirling last week to discuss mobilising opposition to the coming G8 richest countries summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, in July. The most important topic was the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh on 2 July, where the demand to drop the debt is central.
There will also be a protest at the Dungavel refugee detention centre. People are determined to oppose the representatives of the world’s rich and show Brown and Blair’s promises to end poverty at home and abroad as the cynical sham that they are. We want to fight for a better world with open borders, no more war and an end to poverty. Join us in Scotland in July.
Margaret Woods Glasgow
Wrong on Sri Lanka?
In Socialist Worker, 22 January, Barry Pavier wrote, “The Sri Lankan government has used the tsunami disaster as a cover to exert its authority and launch a new offensive against the LTTE [The guerrilla group often known as the Tamil Tigers].”
This is utter nonsense. The Sri Lankan government, immediately offered relief to all areas. But the LTTE refused any help. The majority of the Tamils live among the Sinhalese in the south. The Tamils in the north are gagged and dissenting LTTE opponents are not tolerated.
The LTTE wants to portray itself as the sole representative of the Tamils in Sri Lanka but it is not. The Sri Lankan government had offered the north and east regional power sharing on a democratic basis.
The LTTE is not in favour of this as they know that the majority of the Tamils will not vote for them.
The LTTE is no socialist organisation. It is a dictatorship.
Ranjit Wimalaratne by email
I was deeply saddened and provoked by Barry Pavier’s article. He said that the Sri Lankan army entered into refugee camps and withheld the relief from Tamil areas. In fact, Sri Lankan forces saved thousands of civilians from the flood waters and even sacrificed their lives to save some of the children from the Tamil community in the north and east. The Tamil guerillas disliked this interaction and made refugees flee the area.
Kapila Ediriweera by email
Your report that, “Most Tamils live in the north and along the east coast, and have been there for at least 700 years” is absolutely wrong. Tamils have been the indigenous inhabitants of Sri Lanka since time immemorial. Ancient Tamil literature shows that the Tamil culture prevailed in Sri Lanka in very early times. It totally misleads and adds credence to the doctrine that the Sinhalese are the original settlers of Sri Lanka and that the Tamils came in later.
Appapillai Rajendra Dunellen, US
What you say may be true (Socialist Worker, 22 January). All the people in Sri Lanka suffer because of the generations of corrupt, immoral and innefficient politicians we have had.
The current solution sought by the LTTE is almost total control of the north and east provinces. It seems your suggestion is give into this request. In the eastern province only one third is Tamil. Given the ethnic cleansing LTTE carried out in the northern province do you think it is a viable solution?
Senra Dekalb, US
Celebrate the struggle in China
David Leal (Socialist Worker, 22 January) argues that socialists should celebrate the rise of China, as a challenge to 300 years of world domination by people of European descent. We would oppose any attempt by the US, or Europe to hold China down. We should not automatically support the rise of China as a world power.
China has its own history of imperialist brutality, against the people of Tibet, and the Muslim population of East Turkistan. Socialists stand behind any struggle by the Chinese working class and peasantry against their rulers. We should have no illusions in the Chinese ruling class.
Richard Sunderland Leeds
China isn’t making a new world — it’s trying to rearrange the existing world order to get a bigger slice of the cake. A large part of China’s exports go to the US. Cheap Chinese goods help to prop up the US economy, and the US helps to keep the Chinese boom going. The boom is built on sweatshop labour and poverty wages.
There has been an enormous rise in workers’ strikes, peasant rebellions and urban riots. What we should celebrate is that these groups are refusing to accept the logic of the market.
Charlie Hore East London
Pensions is an issue for every generation
IN THE pensions supplement (Socialist Worker, 22 January) about, “one of the biggest assaults on workers living standards for decades”, Geoff Brown argues that current taxation should pay for pensions, based on “solidarity between the generations”.
Chancellor Gordon Brown and Tony Blair will play on this with younger people, who might feel they shouldn’t bear the burden.
But Geoff is right. Here in Manchester, there’s an inner ring road called Mancunian Way. I saw it being built in the 1960’s, by an earlier working generation than mine.
I’ve used it for decades, along with millions of us who are younger than those who paid for it. In this way, later generations receive huge capital subsidies—schools, hospitals, roads—from earlier ones.
Pensions raised through current taxation is simply a way of paying some of it back. And the younger generation will, in turn, get supported by the generation after them, in repayment for the stuff they leave behind for their use.
Paying for pensions with taxation allows for us to grab back from the rich some of what they’ve stolen from us and saves us from being individually vulnerable to stock market-based pensions becoming worthless due to the instability of capitalist markets.
Eddie McDonnell Manchester
Bookshop closes down free speech
Joe Gordon was recently dismissed from his job at Waterstone’s booksellers in Edinburgh for a comment made in an internet blog. Joe has been writing his blog on the internet since 1992. Two years ago, he griped about his job in the blog.
The manager of his branch now claims that Joe’s long out of date blog has brought the company into disrepute and has fired him for gross misconduct.
Joe has worked in Waterstone’s for 11 years and has an in-depth knowledge of books, authors and bookselling. It is incredible that a bookseller would fire someone for expressing an opinion.
Joe even offered to remove the comments from the website. Waterstone’s are free to sell books containing a huge variety of opinions. Yet Waterstone’s do not permit freedom of speech for their own staff.
Joe has appealed against his dismissal and is backed by his RBA union. His appeal was set for Tuesday of this week. Joe should be reinstated, paid back money and given an apology. Send emails in support of Joe and defending freedom of speech to the acting managing director of Waterstone’s to [email protected]
Alan Thomson Glasgow
Elections can throw US out
Iraqis are in the mood to start the democratic process that will lead to asking the occupying troops to leave.
Living under the Anglo-American occupation is a traumatic, humiliating experience. The abusive behaviour of the troops has no limits. They feel they are the owners of Iraq.
The abuse and torture of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Basra’s prisons is the tip of an iceberg. Iraqis do not know whether they will killed at a checkpoint, hit by a missile or crushed by a tank. In the land of oil there is no electricity, no gasoline, no cooking gas and no petrol. There is an election fever in spite of the safety risk involved, solely to get rid of the occupation.
Hussain Rustam Baghdad, Iraq
Get on this rebel ship
WHAT a marvellously thrilling film Battleship Potemkin is. And 100 years on it is still relevant today for US and UK soldiers in Iraq. The sailors of the 1905 Russian Revolution realise who their real enemies are and how decisive action can overcome fear of their officers and bring about change.
In one remarkable scene we see the widow of a murdered sailor urging the people of Odessa to rise up. Once they do rise up, we see just how workers can pull the rest of society into conflict with our rulers.
A packed audience at the Sheffield screening, introduced by Chris Harman, enjoyed a great political night at the cinema.
Phil Turner Sheffield
Close down Guantanamo
Although it was good news to hear of the imminent release of the remaining Britons held at Guantanamo Bay, we shouldn’t forget those imprisoned in this country. If the US government gets its way, Babar Ahmad, currently fighting extradition to the US on trumped up charges, could end up in Guantanamo himself.
The Guantanamo torture camp is an affront to human decency and should be closed down.
Alan Tremer Harrow, Middlesex
Deadly threat to our world
It is becoming increasingly clear that the choice before us is not, as Marx put it, socialism or barbarism. but worse than that. If we do not achieve socialism within the next few years (perhaps less than 20) the damage caused by rampant capitalism will make our planet uninhabitable for humans and other species.
Capitalism will never make the changes required to stop this destruction. We need a revolution now or there will be nothing left for our children and grandchildren.
Andrew Lowndes Cheshire
Making my role clear
WHILE I am a spokesperson for the Environmental Foundation (EFL), my articles (Socialist Worker, 8 and 15 January) were in a personal capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views of EFL.
Vinod Moonesinghe Sri Lanka