Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1947

The Woodcraft Folk are out to “span the world with friendship”	 (Pic: The Woodcraft Folk)

The Woodcraft Folk are out to “span the world with friendship” (Pic: The Woodcraft Folk)

Money grabbed from Woodcraft Folk

The recent government decision to cut off department for education funding to the Woodcraft Folk has put the organision into jeopardy.

The Woodcraft Folk was formed in 1925 as a coeducational alternative to the imperialist and militarist Scouting movement. In its 80 years of existence it has promoted cooperation, peace, equality and democracy.

Even in the worst Tory years, funding was eroded, but never slashed to nil. It is hard to credit that a government — a Labour goverment — could attack the organisation that was once supported by the Labour Party.

There are those who believe that the goverment is punishing the Woodcraft Folk for its opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Rallies and pressure from MPs forced Margaret Hodge to make concessions, but this still leaves the Woodcraft Folk financially vulnerable and facing staff cuts.

When Tony Blair came to power he told the unions they could expect fairness not favours. The Woodcraft Folk has received no favours and precious little in the way of fairness.

Paul Bemrose, Woodcraft Folk Leader (personal capacity)

Chaos out of orders

As a friend of some of the men detained under control orders, I want the readers of Socialist Worker to know how they and their families are faring under these cruel restrictions.

The husband of one of my friends is under a control order. Her house was always full of her friends and extended family. Now, they will have to send photographs of visitors to the home office to be vetted, and some of them are anxious. No one has entered her house since her husband’s release.

She talks about continually watching the time to ensure that they are home by 7pm. She knows how hard it will be to be confined to their home in the light summer evenings ahead. Another woman, whose brother is detained under a control order and lives close by, has still not passed the vetting to visit him. Another of my friends was left alone without the support of friends and neighbours when her husband was admitted to hospital recently. Although her husband wasn’t there, her house was still under the control order.

His mother, who had travelled from abroad, stayed at the hospital — she could not comfort his wife at home because she had not been vetted.

My friend, P, who is disabled, is very lonely. He is in temporary accommodation without a phone. Some of his former friends prefer not to notice him in the street. They are afraid they will draw attention to themselves.

I phone my friend, B, every evening to keep him company. He was removed from Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital against his wishes. On arriving at his temporary accommodation the door had to be broken down to enter as no one had the key. He has lost 20kg in weight since his imprisonment over three years ago.

These men have not been convicted of any crime. They do not even know the supposed “evidence” against them. They are all observant Muslims. Is this a crime in a civilised world in the 21st century? Can we not demand a bit of human kindness now they are released?

Seven other Muslim men are still incarcerated in Belmarsh and need our support. This is the men’s message from their prison cells in Belmarsh, “Injustice is more than fate. It is man made and you must expose it.”

Ann Alexander, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities

Back the Lib Dems?

In a recent editorial (Socialist Worker, 2 April) you may have been right to oppose Tariq Ali’s argument that, outside Bethnal Green & Bow, votes for Respect and other anti-war candidates are wasted.

But in reality the majority of the electorate won’t get the chance to vote for a principled anti-war candidate.

If there are no Respect, Scottish Socialist Party (SSP), Green or other principled anti-war candidates, what do you do?

Clearly, you have to vote for the candidate or party that was most critical on the war (even if unprincipled).

Also, even if there are principled candidates standing, some anti-war activists will want to call for a vote for a candidate best placed to defeat a pro-war Labour MP.

This is the case in Edinburgh South. In this constituency, some anti-war activists have been setting up meetings where they argued that the Liberal Democrats are not far behind the pro-war MP Nigel Griffiths.

If the electorate in Edinburgh South feel that the best way to defeat Griffiths is by voting Liberal Democrat, then good luck to them.

I will, at the same time, be pointing out that the SSP still have the truly principled anti-war position, and that the SSP alone are the real alternative to New Labour in Scotland.

Alan Scott, Edinburgh

Who do we vote for?

In my constituency it looks like we’ll be faced with the choice of voting for either the sitting Blairite Labour MP, or for her Tory or Liberal Democrat opponents.

Obviously this is an appalling choice. All three candidates are neo-liberal warmongers.

I think millions of people around the country will also be in this situation.

What do other Socialist Worker readers suggest we should do?

Ben Windsor, South London

Egyptians are right to demand democracy

Robin Clarke (Letters, 9 April) is completely wrong to criticise the Egyptian movement Kifaya for only wanting the false democracy that we have here.

I was at the recent Cairo Conference and took part in a demonstration where about 250 of us were hemmed in by thousands of armed riot police.

In nearly 50 years of demonstrating I have never seen so many police. In a subsequent demo last week 400 were arrested.

The right to strike, the press and other means of expression are also strictly controlled.

In these circumstances it is extremely difficult to build a mass movement of workers, which is necessary to achieve real democracy.

Building small underground groups can only be a starting point. No matter how honest or brave they are, by themselves they can do no more than the reformist leaders in parliamentary democracies who also claim to speak for the people.

So every small step that increases even “bourgeois” democracy is a victory — it is a means of building the mass workers’ movement.

That is why the Cairo Conference — a unique achievement in the Arab world—is so important. It is why the comrades of the Kifaya movement deserve our respect and support.

Jeff Hurford, Bridgend

Horror of women’s prisons continues

Margaret Halliday, a former Holloway prisoner, shows courage in speaking out against conditions in Holloway Prison (Letters, 9 April).

Her experience of the jail, housing rats and mice as well as vulnerable women, is a shocking indictment of HM Prison Service.

Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons, in her report released last month, describes the infestations and poor standards of hygiene which plague this prison.

Last year Holloway recorded two apparently self-inflicted deaths — Julie Angela Hope and Heather Waite. In May 2004 another Holloway prisoner was taken to hospital and remains in a coma.

Clearly, the jail is unable to provide a safe and decent environment.

In March 2005 the Howard League published its submission to the UN congress on crime prevention. It expressed serious concern at the increase in the use of prison for women.

The charity will recommend that only those women who are convicted of serious and violent offences should be held in custody.

Pauline Campbell, Mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, who died in the “care” of Styal Prison in 2003

New Labour fails the test

Last week education secretary Ruth Kelly referred to “the injustice of the 11 plus” which leads to a “two tier” system.

She’s right! But then why do our school children still suffer the injustice of this test?

I have written to the sitting MP, Beverley Hughes, and the other candidates seeking common cause for the introduction of measures to do away with this test in Trafford.

Mark Krantz, Respect candidate for Stretford & Urmston

Why radical bookshops die

Judith Orr (Socialist Worker, 2 April) is right that many small bookshops were hit by the abolition of the agreement which fixed the retail price of books.

But I’m not sure this is the whole story for radical bookshops. There were about 100 such bookshops in the 1980s. Most were local centres of militancy.

Because of this, the defeat of the miners, for example, was a serious blow. Another, given the politics of some shops, was the overthrow of Stalinism.

Running a radical bookshop requires commercial skill, but also political will. The commercial climate didn’t help, but neither did the political climate of the 1980s and 1990s.

Fergus Nicol, London

Beyond the blunder dome

The Millennium Dome has sat idle, at the daily expense of £1m, for over four years.

Having been bought by Anschutz Entertainment Group plans are under way to build a 23,000 seat auditorium, cinema and commercial promenade.

Most of those working there will be low paid agency workers.

The firm claims that its development will bring regeneration, but the homes built will be luxury apartments, rather than affordable housing.

Iain Taylor, Greenwich Young People’s Council (personal capacity)

No faith in Alex’s article

I thought Alex Callinicos’ article on John Paul II (Socialist Worker, 9 April) was far too generous to a man who was, when all’s said and done, a monster of reaction.

There are many great activists, from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King, who took up the struggle for a better world from a religious perspective.

For all their belief in the supernatural they were progressives — on the right side of the barricades. John Paul II was not. His leadership of the church was deeply conservative — anti-gay, anti-socialist and anti-women.

Sasha Simic, London

More Tory hypocrisy

Wonderful. Michael Howard, the man who in 1994 overturned the act that ensured local authorities had to provide legal camp sites for Travellers is now returning to the scene of his crime.

He is bashing one of the most hounded sections of society to grab a few votes. That he recently described himself as a man concerned with fair play would be funny — if he didn’t have a half-chance of actually getting into power.

I would urge readers not to forget the inequalities and injustices Travellers face in Britain.

Trevor Byrne, Trefforest, South Wales

A seal of disapproval?

The Canadian government’s decision to allow a seal cull is not in response to depleted fish stocks — human activity has caused this.

The harp seal’s fur feeds burgeoning new markets in China, Russia and Eastern Europe. The carcasses are turned into pet food, and the pelts exported for around £30 to £50 a time.

This has been going on for decades and will not abate while profit can be made.

Mark Plummer, Bristol

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Sat 16 Apr 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1947
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