RECENT NEWSPAPER headlines screamed that four out of ten whites did not want to have a black neighbour, after a poll by MORI. We live in a racist society. But if the headlines were accurate we would have taken a significant backward step to a more segregated society. The problem is not what people were asked or what people said. It is the way the findings were reported.
The MORI poll's actual findings are not as stark as the headlines. The question, only put to 1,000 people, was, 'To what extent do you agree or disagree that you would rather live in an area where people are from the same ethnic background as you?'
Some 24 percent definitely disagreed and 29 percent tended to disagree. These first two groups alone add up to more than half of the survey saying they were happy to live in mixed communities. The third group, 21 percent, said they tend to agree. In other words they don't strongly object to living in a mixed community.
Yet this group has been lumped in with the 18 percent who definitely want to live in a racially exclusive area, to give the alarming figures in the papers. There was another important question in the survey. When asked what is to blame for a less cohesive society, most respondents said that longer working hours were the problem.
The second highest was listed as time spent at the TV/internet, third was the fact that people move around more. After these, came the people in the survey who listed asylum seekers (17 percent). So most people drew the conclusion that points towards the class division in society. Many ordinary people know the damage caused by long working hours. It's true that an individual worker, after reading the racist hysteria in the tabloids, may accept racist ideas. But these ideas are not fixed and can be challenged.
What's more, amongst 16 to 30 year olds, anti-racism is strengthening. So don't believe the hype!
Weyman Bennett, North London
Mumbai helped workers link up
THE WORLD Social Forum held in Mumbai, India, two weeks ago was absolutely amazing. I met some young Indian actors who were performing there who said meeting activists from the vast array of movements in India made them feel as though they had seen their country as a whole for the first time.
I was a speaker at a meeting against privatisation organised by ATTAC Japan. Among those attending were delegates from the Japanese post office, Philippines post office, French post and telecoms, Taiwan railways, and from the CWU union in Britain.
It was amazing to hear that our experiences were so similar. French postal workers said that following last year's strikes and the European Social Forum in Paris there had been a massive political radicalisation in the workplace. A 17 year old Japanese postal worker described the misery of working in the post in Japan but his story could have come from any one of us. I was able to talk to postal workers from all over the world.
I spoke about the recent unofficial strikes in Britain and the need for rank and file organisation. At the end of the meeting we decided to form an international network of post and telecoms workers.
Jane Loftus, member of CWU national executive (personal capacity)
Your gnashers are under threat
I PREVIOUSLY wrote and mentioned that the NHS 'new contract' in 1990 pushed 50 percent or roughly 8,000 dentists into the private sector. Many areas of England cannot get regular NHS dental care.
Even if they can, the maximum charge of £372 per course of treatment makes a mockery of the patients' charter, which states that 'patients are entitled to the treatment they need regardless of their financial status'. New Labour are introducing another new contract in April 2005.
A well-placed little bird told me that a local NHS trust is predicting 85 percent of the dentists who are left will leave the NHS as a result of proposed changes.
Dr David MacDonald
Strike on TV
WATCHING Strike: When Britain Went to War made me realise how much the media brainwashed us at the time. I was ten, yet I remember how the media portrayed the strikers as the enemy. If the media had acted responsibly they would have portrayed Thatcher as the ruthless dictator she was, trying to destroy an industry and union movement.
It is difficult not to draw parallels between Thatcher and Blair, and how he handled the firefighters' dispute last year.
Andrew Collingwood, York
A dose of the miners' spirit
ON THIS 20th anniversary of the Great Miners' Strike, I wonder if the time is ripe for medical experts to investigate the possibility of cloning Arthur Scargill's backbone to transplant into those Labour 'rebels' who voted for top-up fees for students?
Arthur Scargill was the liberals' nightmare, encouraging workers to use their own power rather than waiting for important people to give them titbits. I collected for the miners and they and their wives and partners were heroes. They backed Scargill totally and weren't bothered about that mythical ballot over the strike-that was a right wing invention.
Nick Brown MP isn't fit to lick their boots. The top-up fees shambles destroys another sacred Labour tract and proves once again that the SWP is right to distrust reformism.
Stewart Perkins, Shropshire
Why I'm for ban
I ENJOY reading Socialist Worker but I have a comment to make on the letter about challenging the headscarf issue (Socialist Worker, 17 January). I agree with Aysha Ali that Islam is a religion. Religion has always been a means of the ruling class to oppress the working class. If you want to fight capitalism successfully you must also fight religion. Banning all religious symbols from schools would mean a first step towards freedom.
Gundolf Hambrock, Germany
A ban boosts racists
THE BANNING of young women from wearing the religious headscarf or hijab in school is not peculiar to France. In England in 1990 Fatima Alvi and her sister Aisha were sent home on a daily basis from Altrincham Girls grammar school in Manchester, for refusing to remove their headscarves.
The school governors had previously turned down their application to wear the hijab on 'health and safety' grounds. I was a teacher in a neighbouring school. I launched an open letter in the NUT teachers' union calling on the school to drop the ban.
Arguments became very polarised. All the racists were for the ban. The open letter drew widespread support from many in the NUT. Finally the union's leader, Doug McAvoy, publicly backed the girls' right, stating, 'It is important that school uniforms are sufficiently flexible to avoid discrimination on cultural or religious grounds.' The Alvi sisters won their right to wear the hijab to school.
As the struggle against the ban in France develops, a lesson can be learned from Fatima. She told the press, 'Headscarf or not, people are entitled to make their own choices.'
Mark Krantz, Manchester
A future with less doctors
THE INTRODUCTION of student loans and top-up fees under this government can only be to the detriment of the nation's future. Our students of today are our teachers, lawyers, doctors, etc, of tomorrow.
If the government is concerned for the future provision of such professions it should not put profit before all else.
Gordon Simpson, Oldham
Shame on Lib Dems
THE WAY Jenny Tonge MP has been treated over her comments about Palestinians has been shocking. Robert Kilroy-Silk, with his filthy comment on Arabs, is hailed as a hero by the Daily Express, but the same tabloid has condemned Jenny Tonge for her outspoken opinions.
I have been to two meetings where Jenny Tonge has spoken. Some of the stuff she said would be disagreeable by Socialist Workers Party standards-her views on trade unions, and that socialism is going against human nature. She is a Liberal Democrat after all. However the reason for her sacking as a Liberal Democrat frontbencher was appalling.
Giles Bentley, Twickenham
The Hutton whitewash
A FEW words of support to yourself and the BBC. Regimes may be legal but it does not make them right. A democracy needs the right to challenge and question both our representatives and government. In times of war this becomes more important rather than less.
Patrick Cooper-Duffy, London
World jobless total is shock
WHAT A crazy world we live in! While there is an epidemic of overwork and increased pressure on workers, figures released last week showed that global unemployment had risen to the highest figure ever, 186 million.
Hardest hit were some 88 million young people aged 15 to 24, who face a crushing unemployment rate of 14.4 percent. The figures are a gross underestimate because they leave out hundreds of millions. There are, for example, 550 million people in the 'informal economy' who don't have a real job and live on less than $1 a day.
Think of the energy and talent that is wasted by all this. We could achieve some marvels in this world and capitalism prevents it.
Ann Jenkins, East London
Don't run down Doctor Who
CONGRATULATIONS on being such a superb paper. In your last issue, you published an obituary for Ian Murphy, an SWP member from south London. First of all, I'd like to extend my condolences to his family, friends and comrades, though I never met the man himself.
The fact that he was a remembered as a fan of Doctor Who caught my eye. It just so happened that I'd been discussing Doctor Who with a fellow socialist the previous day. We decided that the classic series, which featured an anti-establishment hero (who spent a lot of his time helping rebels defeat tyrants, kings, capitalists, military dictatorships and Nazi-like monsters) was one of the things that had helped us both grow up receptive to socialism.
I don't find it 'bizarre' or surprising that the late (and obviously much missed) Mr Murphy loved the programme. Don't tell the Daily Mail though, they're already convinced the BBC are a bunch of communists.
Jack Graham, Salisbury, Wiltshire
Update on Mikey Powell
PLEASE NOTE that the Mikey Powell campaign website address is shown incorrectly on your site. There is no 'www' in the address. It is simply
People will not get access to the site as it is currently listed. Many thanks for your support.
Alison Leslie, on behalf of the Powell family