Great politics on the picket lines
DURING THE Connex rail strike on Tuesday of last week myself and another comrade went down to the drivers' picket line at Orpington, Kent. The response we received was brilliant. People welcomed us when we said we were from Socialist Worker. There was a real willingness by the strikers to talk about the issues behind their dispute and the wider political situation facing workers today.
One driver said, 'We want to drive trains, not be here on strike. We've been forced into this.' Their mood was not at all defensive but one of confidence and resolute defiance. They were saying, 'We've had enough of management's bully boy tactics and lies. The company's threatening letters go straight in the bin now.' They were really pleased about the high level of public support they've already received.
They also talked about wider issues such as safety in the wake of the Paddington crash. One driver said, 'Connex are not just taking the piss out of us, they treat the passengers like cattle.' There is a real change in the mood amongst workers which is not at all like the defensive mood that was around under the long Tory years. We have seen it on the rail, on the buses and in recent council disputes. People want to fight and they want to talk about capitalism.
If anyone hasn't yet felt the breeze blowing through the recent private sector disputes, visit the next picket line in your area for the refreshing air of workers prepared to fight and win.
COLIN WELSH, South London
They jailed my good friend for having a heart
A DEAR friend of mine, Stuart Tokem, was sentenced to a year's imprisonment for his actions at last June's J18 protest in the City of London. He is a good and caring person, and wants only to see a better world. We were all there to have a good time at J18 until a woman was run over by a police van. We were all shaken up and enraged, Stuart more than any of us.
The day was about being anti - capitalist, anti Third World suffering, anti fat cats and against the alienation that young people feel. It should, then, not come as a surprise that the violent defenders of that system would fight tooth and nail to stop such a protest, and to victimise those who took part. A police officer kicked Stuart, and when he hit back it became a criminal offence.
The Southwark Crown Court judge who jailed Stuart said he was sentencing him as a 'deterrent'. But what made me sicker than anything was the sight of HMS Belfast moored on the Thames next to Southwark Crown Court last Friday. That was the venue where just a few months ago all the brutal murderers and dictators were invited to a British weapons jamboree. How can anyone talk about a justice system when dictators are welcomed and people like Stuart are imprisoned for fighting for a fairer future? Pleases send letters of support to Stuart Tokem, DN7072, HM Prison Brixton, Jebb Avenue, London SW2 5XF.
JESS HUDDLE, North London
LABOUR mayoral candidate Glenda Jackson addressed a 200 - strong audience at a London mayoral hustings in Walthamstow's Ross Wylde Hall recently. Jackson opened the debate with a defence of New Labour. She stated that the government was providing additional funding for the health service and that generally Labour had created a positive effect. She staunchly defended private funding in healthcare and education, and the sell off of London Underground. In reply Glenroy Watson, speaking in place of Ken Livingstone, vigorously opposed tube privatisation. No representative could be found to speak for Dobson. The mood of the meeting was summed up by the final show of hands: Livingstone 174, Jackson 1, Dobson 0. Around 60 members of the audience signed up to get involved in the campaign for the London Socialist Alliance. This issue has struck a chord with Londoners, providing a marvellous opportunity to build a left alternative to Blair.
DAVE HOLDSWORTH, East London
The struggle in Indonesia
HAVING FAILED to deal with the crisis in the Indonesian economy, finance minister Bambang Sudibiyo has proposed increasing the salary of those at the top of the state apparatus. Meanwhile we watch millions of Indonesian workers suffering. Many small peasants are still existing below the poverty line. The workers have worked hard only to enrich a few people called the employers. What the current government should be focusing on is not the life of a few at the top but the Indonesian working class. We are now preparing for May Day. Beginning now, we will spread the message to tell workers why we are proposing to make May Day the workers' day and a national holiday.
Yours in solidarity, DITA SARI and MAI HARI, National Front for Indonesian Workers' Struggle (FNPBI), Indonesia
The BBC's Panorama programme has launched an outrageous attack on the ambulance service. The programme blamed ambulance crews for the disastrous outcome of an underfunded service in crisis. Qualified technicians were referred to as little more than drivers with some first aid skills and paramedics as inadequately trained killers.
Journalist David Rose cynically used the grief of three families whose relatives had died after emergency ambulance treatment to attack ambulance crews. Our sympathy goes out to those families, but we should not make the mistake of blaming overworked, hard pressed ambulance crews. The blame should be laid at the door of a Labour government that refuses to properly fund our NHS. Front line ambulance staff deserve better than to be undermined by Panorama lies and Labour betrayals.
D DEAN, paramedic, London Ambulance Service
The lottery is a mockery
RESEARCH from Bristol published by Camelot last week has shown who the real winners and losers are with the National Lottery. The research measured ticket sales and grant awards in different parliamentary constituencies and showed that class was a decisive factor in both cases. The multi - ethnic working class East Bristol constituency had the highest ticket sales.
People in this area were shown to be paying out £1 million a month, or £3.35 per person per week. By contrast, in the affluent Bristol West constituency spending was only £1.91 a week. But whilst ticket sales were 25 percent higher in the east, the money spent on 'good causes' was over 250 percent higher in the west. The National Lottery represents unofficial taxation on working people and still more redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.
MARK FARMER, Bristol
Why Neath Remploy must stay
I AM writing to protest at the threatened closure of Neath Remploy factory. I was born with cerebral palsy. My school days were spent with months lost to hospital treatments, physiotherapy and operations. I spent a year of my late teens in a Spastic Society assessment centre in Welwyn Garden City. I was assessed as needing sheltered employment. For a few months I worked with the local council cleaning up the beachfront, then as an odd job man at a children's home. Then I got work at Neath Remploy which changed my whole life. We need Remploy factories to be local. If the Neath factory is closed and the factory is moved further away some boys would have to give up their jobs. Don't forget there are young disabled people coming up. What will they do? I feel sad to think that some young disabled boy in Neath today won't be given a 'life' because there is no longer a Neath Remploy.
GARETH WILLIAMS, Neath
The future of capitalism
THE PAGES of the Herald newspaper here in Scotland have raged with a debate about the future of capitalism in the new millennium. Some letter writers have been praising the 'virtues' of capitalism, claiming that increasing wealth justifies capitalism's continued existence. People were quick to point out, however, that capitalism has produced only in the interests of a tiny minority. 'Capitalism has no human agenda,' wrote one person. One name came up time and again in the debate-Karl Marx. Marx's vision of a socialist society, which had nothing to do with the monstrosity of East European 'Communism', seems to be alive and well and spurring new generations of people who want to fight back.
GRAEME STEWART, Glasgow
I WAS invited to speak to north London's Finsbury Park RMT rail union branch about the London mayor election. The branch expressed their clear support for Livingstone and anger at the Labour Party's decision to bar the RMT from voting for their candidate. The branch then permitted me further time to discuss police racism and events in Seattle. I was amazed how quickly the meeting opened up into a wide debate on the general state of capitalism. In a meeting of 22 workers, 12 bought copies of Socialist Worker.
UNJUM MIRZA, North London