The Scottish council of the Unison public sector union has passed a motion supporting the protests against the G8 summit which are due to take place in Scotland this July.
The motion was put forward by our Glasgow branch. It supports both the Make Poverty History (MPH) demonstration in Edinburgh on Saturday 2 July and the counter conference the next day called by G8 Alternatives.
Our motion explains what G8 Alternatives is about and calls on the union to affiliate to the organisation, provide support and invite speakers. It also encourages all Scottish Unison’s branches and affiliates to do likewise.
An amendment from Edinburgh strengthened the motion by emphasising Unison’s participation in MPH. It urged Unison members to attend and support the protest at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on Monday 4 July.
The fact that Scotland’s largest union is backing the anti-G8 protests is very significant. Activists in other unions across Britain should also try to get their unions to support the MPH and G8 Alternatives demonstrations.
Jim Main, Glasgow
Memories of the poll tax struggle
I read the article on the aniversary of the poll tax demo (Socialist Worker, 9 April) with great interest, especially as my name was mentioned! I thought I’d tell you about my experience.
Stockport Anti Poll Tax Group was one of the first to be set up outside of Scotland, but it only lasted a few weeks. Set up within the local Labour club, this was my first experience of what we now call “New Labour”.
Local right wing Labour activists turned up en masse at the second meeting. We sat and watched in amazement as they all elected themselves on the commitee and effectively shut it down. Labour did not see the poll tax as an election priority.
A few months later, however, on my way home from work, I stumbled upon a couple of local women out petitioning against the poll tax, completely off their own steam.
I suggested that we get a meeting together at the local pub and they agreed. The Cale Green Anti Poll Tax group was born with great success and out of the claws of the Labour Party machine.
At the height of the movement you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the famous “Pay No Poll Tax” posters in windows. This was a fantastic mass civil disobedience movement that grew spontaneously across the country and culminated in that historic demonstration in London.
Inevitably the local council began to issue court orders for non-payment. When my case came up I had decided I wasn’t going to pay a penny. We tried to argue the case legally but the outcome was inevitable. They gave me a one month sentence.
Prison was pretty grim. Strangeways, Manchester’s main prison, was rendered unusable after the riots there, so they put us in police cells around the area.
I got tonnes of mail every day, messages of support from all kinds of people, most of whom I had never met. This is what really kept me going through the ordeal.
Most of the inmates respected me for what I was doing. They used to call my cell “the office” as I had all my letters and political posters on the wall.
Eventually I was shipped off to a proper prison — Walton, near Liverpool. On my first day I was met by a black scouse inmate who asked me what I was in for. I explained and he immediately greeted me with the fist salute and exclaimed, “No poll tax!”
I think in the end we got the last laugh because the local council was embarassed by the whole affair as we turned each prison case into a big campaign. They wanted us to all give in and pay up when they threatened prison but we stuck to our guns.
The anti poll tax movement was a great struggle which brought down Margaret Thatcher. I was very proud to be a part of it.
Andy Smalley, Aberdeen
Rover and the market
The death of Rover will affect over 25,000 people. It is in situations such as this that the fundamentals of New Labour show their roots clearly. At the base of those roots sits none other than the “Iron Lady” herself.
For all his rhetoric, Tony Blair is a Thatcherite. He knows, and will very soon see, the devastation that 21st century Thatcherism can bring. And yet he stands by, out of weakness, principle, or stubbornness — we shall probably never truly know why.
Under a free market economy, Rover must die. It isn’t standing ably on its own two feet, and so must fall. There are no crutches in the free market — the weak must go to the wall.
It is this kind of “economic Darwinism” that cost millions their jobs in the 1980s and 1990s, and will do so again. So Rover is led to the slaughter and mass British car making dies “not with a bang but a whimper”.
Blair has a simple decision — either intervene with government aid and save jobs and livelihoods, or let all those jobs go and hold onto his Thatcherite principles. It is clear what decision he will make.
Charles Norton, Oakham, Rutland
Kevin Ovenden is right to say the skills of the Longbridge workforce could be switched to more socially useful production (Socialist Worker, 16 April). We need to support the workers and quality jobs.
But it would be a mistake to argue that the government should be supporting more car production. Cars cause massive environmental damage and kill millions of people every year. And car travel and production are both already massively subsidised by governments throughout the world.
If Rover was to compete with the big car firms it would take billions of pounds of investment — money better spent on pensions and public services.
We need nationalisation not only to save the jobs, but also to start planning for an alternative transport system based on public transport, walking and cycling that meets human needs, not the oil companies’ profits.
James Woodcock, East London
Crossrail ignores the needs of local people
Many residents in Tower Hamlets, east London, are concerned about the impact that the Crossrail project in its current form will have on the borough.
We do not agree that it is necessary to build intervention shafts in residential areas — tunnelling could, and should, be done from either end.
We oppose dumping of spoil from the works in Mile End Park. This is a valuable green area in one of the most densely populated boroughs in the country. It should not be taken away, even temporarily, from the community.
We are concerned about the extra air pollution that will be caused by dust in a borough which is already one of the most polluted in the country.
We also oppose the use of conveyor belts past people’s homes to transport spoil. And we do not see the necessity for a station at Whitechapel when there will be one at Liverpool Street.
There are alternatives, but these have not been properly considered. There has been no proper consultation over Crossrail and the needs of local people are being ignored.
We call upon all the parliamentary candidates from both of the borough’s constituencies to make a public pledge, before the 5 May general election, setting out their position on Crossrail should they be elected to parliament.
Jackie Turner, Coalition of Concerned Residents against Crossrail, East London
How you can help France’s ‘no’ vote
The opinion polls in France currently show that a substantial majority of the electorate plans to vote no in the 29 May referendum on the European Union (EU) constitution.
More importantly, this majority against the constitution has a strongly left wing coloration. It comes in the context of an upsurge of strikes and demonstrations in France.
One of the few arguments remaining for the supporters of the constitution vote is that voting no is an act of political isolation from the rest of the European left.
They claim voting no represents a type of French nationalism, rather than being an expression of rebellion against the neo-liberal EU.
To counter this political blackmail, we at Project K, a European network of Marxist journals, have launched an international petition in solidarity with the left wing no vote. We hope to eventually publish the petition in the French national press.
We are asking you to gather signatures for the petition from leading trade unionists, politicians, representative organisations, left wing intellectuals, artists etc in Britain. Please e-mail me at [email protected] if you can help.
Sebastien Budgen, Project K, Paris, France
ID cards via the back door
Home secretary Charles Clarke is intent at introducing ID cards and a database of everyone living in Britain even though the ID card bill fell in parliament before the election was called. He plans to introduce fingerprinting of anyone getting a passport.
You might think it’s a bit out of order to fail to get a bill through and then press ahead regardless with putting things in place to smooth the way for ID cards. You’d be right.
It eloquently shows Labour’s attitude to even the most inadequate democracy. NO2ID held a short celebration after the bill fell before the general election, but we are gearing up again for the coming battle should Labour win and start the process all over again.
Guy Taylor, NO2ID
The case for not voting
I sympathise with Ben Windsor’s desperation over who to vote for (Letters, 16 April).
If I vote for my current MP on the basis of his opposition to the war in Iraq, and Tony Blair gets his third term in office, I would have to live with the fact that my vote helped put him there.
I would have helped legitimise in the eyes of the world the very things I oppose and most despise. I cannot in all conscience do that.
If Ben cannot face voting for warmongers in his area, and there is no suitable alternative, he shouldn’t vote.
I know this is not a satisfactory answer, but a ludicrously low turnout would question the legitimacy of the incoming government.
Alan Haynes, Chatham, Kent
Respect for pensioners
The National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) is planning to send a questionnaire to every parliamentary candidate in the general election.
It’s vitally important that every Respect candidate responds to this questionnaire in depth — please do not just tick the boxes!
This means obtaining a copy of the NPC Pensioners’ Manifesto, reading it and actually putting down Respect’s policies on pensions and issues such as health care and transport.
These are all vital issues to pensioners and Respect has by far the best policies in these areas. We must get this across to pensioners and their representatives.
Remember there’s 11 million of us wrinklies out there, and you know we vote in higher numbers than any other age group. So come on Respect, let’s go and get this vote!
John Johnston, Secretary, Manchester Pensioners’ Association (personal capacity)
Blair and the drugs barons
I recently received a letter inviting me to send information to Crimestoppers about local drug dealers.
This is part of an expensive, high profile “Making Scotland Safer” campaign that includes billboard and magazine ads. I sent the following reply:
“I object to taxpayers’ money being wasted on stirring up a climate of fear in aid of New Labour’s election campaign. I’d like to shop Tony Blair for helping drug dealers by bombing Afghanistan.”
Christine Bird, Glasgow
From boomers to bombers
The fact that Tony Blair’s government is now trying to kill off the Woodcraft Folk really sums up everything about New Labour (Letters, 16 April).
Blair’s generation in the 1960s dreamt of the libertarian values of the Woodcraft Folk — peace, equality, democracy. Even Blair wore a CND badge.
Yet the “baby boomers” have become “baby bombers” and are now angry that young people actively opposed their criminal war on Iraq in huge numbers.
It seems that Blair now only likes young people when they are out fighting (and dying) for him in Iraq.
Christian Hogsbjerg, Leeds