Zimbabwe and solidarity
I was delighted to see the article in your paper about our successful protest outside the high court (Blow for ministers in Zimbabwe case, SW, 13 August).
The United Network of Detained Zimbabweans (UNDZ) was set up to highlight the hypocrisy of the British government, which on the one hand condemns Robert Mugabe’s regime and on the other sends those fleeing persecution back to Zimbabwe.
Our high court victory on 4 August, which suspended the deportation of Zimbabweans, is only a temporary one. The home office is determined to resume deportations of asylum seekers to Zimbabwe as quickly as it can.
There are still 26 Zimbabweans in detention across the country. The UNDZ needs support for its awareness campaigns and funding to keep up the pressure on the government.
One of our ideas is “twinning” detained Zimbabweans with British activists and socialists to keep in touch with them — and in some cases to act as guarantors so that they can be released from detention
If you would like to help with this initiative and get involved with the UNDZ please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07904 132 448.
Noble Sibanda, UNDZ coordinator
It is with great sadness but with gratitude for a long life well spent in the struggle for human emancipation and liberation in Africa, that we have learned of the death of Nigeria’s greatest labour leader. Pa Michael Imoudu died at his home in Edo State on 22 July, aged 102.
Pa Imoudu was born in the early years of the last century when Nigeria was in the grip of British colonialism. After his early education he started his formal working career as a lineman in the department of posts and telecommunications, before moving on to the Nigeria Railway Corporation.
It was during his stint there that Imoudu developed a deep interest in trade unionism and politics. His was fired by the colonial dialectic that exploited African workers on the basis of their class and their race.
He organised and became the first president of the Nigeria Union of Railwaymen in 1940, and his tenure in office was marked by unprecedented militancy.
In 1945 Imoudu was one of the leaders of a general strike that was ostensibly over a cost of living allowance for workers, but was also about the continued existence of British colonial rule.
The strike was rock solid and lasted 44 days. It is said that this unprecedented strike demystified colonial rule and made independence for Nigeria inevitable.
Even though Imoudu resigned from active trade unionism in the early1960s, he was still very active in workers’ struggles against the African elite that had assumed the position of the departing colonialists.
I remember meeting Pa Imoudu in the 1980s during the uprisings against the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in Nigeria. He was dressed in his “struggle clothing” — native dress decorated with native charms stating that “workers are prepared to fight”.
Pa Imoudu’s life of struggle against oppressors, both black and white, leaves many valuable lessons for the younger generations of class fighters. The greatest honour we can do him is to cleanse Africa, nay, the world of all the oppression, filth and dirt of capitalism and bring into being a socialist society.
Tokunbo Oke, South London
See the full version of this obituary Pa Michael Imoudu
I have just arrived back from Sri Lanka. During my stay there I was shocked at the lack of aid reaching communities affected by last year’s devastating Boxing Day tsunami.
The Sri Lankan government is holding back much of the aid money it has received — and it has imposed a 100 metre restriction zone around the coast.
This prevents the rebuilding of homes within 100 metres of the coast, but allows for the construction of hotels.
Thousands of people are still living in uncertainty, without livelihoods or proper homes. They have seen nothing of the aid money that flowed into the country following the tragedy.
Now the government is threatening to evict everyone living within 100 metres of the sea.
Over 100,000 people demonstrated in the capital Colombo on 12 July against the government’s poor response to the tsunami and the 100 metre rule.
People are waiting for the Sri Lankan general election, which is due at the end of this year when president Chandrika Kumaratunga’s six-year term comes to an end.
But the current government is now claiming that elections are not due until December 2006.
The town of Peraliya, on the south west coast of the island, lost 200 of its villagers in the tsunami disaster.
It is one of many places where people are receiving no aid from the government. Politicians are refusing to help them rebuild their homes where they are, while at the same time providing nowhere else for them to go.
The injustices go deeper still. People affected by the tsunami had been receiving food rations to compensate for their loss of livelihood—but these have now ceased.
There is no escaping the fact that the government is holding back the aid money.
The Sri Lankan elite is using the effects of the tsunami to clear the coast for the expansion of luxury tourist resorts — while the tsunami’s primary victims are left with nothing.
Alison Smith, Bristol
Azelle was another victim of shoot to kill
I would like to say on behalf of the family and friends of Azelle Rodney, who was killed in the street by police on 30 April, that we all fully support the family of Jean Charles de Menezes.
Members of Azelle’s family were present at Parliament Square recently in support of the de Menezes family and in opposition to the shoot to kill tactics that the police are carrying out.
The de Menezes case has been in the spotlight recently due to the alleged terrorist attacks in London. But Azelle’s family still cannot understand why his case hasn’t had the profile it deserves — perhaps because of the early negative rumours that were leaked by the police.
Tracking down someone and killing them like an animal is not humane. The police are supposed to be trained—they had ample time in both of these cases to arrest or physically stop them.
Regardless of what they thought may happen, these are the risks of joining the police force, just like the army.
Metropolitan Police commissioner Ian Blair is damaging relationships between the force and the community by reinforcing the idea that the shoot to kill policy is OK.
Three months later we are still waiting for our questions to be answered. Why does this take so long? The officer involved is still working with the public on a day to day basis—it’s descpicable.
Susan Alexander, Spokesperson for the Azelle Rodney family campaign
Robin Cook: what is the fuss about?
The mainstream media’s coverage of Robin Cook’s death has been sycophantic and nauseous.
The ludicrous assertion that Cook was the finest parliamentarian of our time is largely based on his response to the Scott Inquiry on arms to Iraq.
But it was Paul Foot who had already unveiled the official lies that were at the heart of the matter.
However, if Cook was the finest parliamentarian of our generation it does cast an interesting light on the bunch of job seekers, no-hopers and opportunists who currently dominate parliament.
Individuals don’t change things — and Cook changed nothing. He eventually managed to stagger out of the New Labour government over the Iraq war — but where was he on all Blair’s other wars? He supported them.
And unlike Respect’s George Galloway and a small number of honourable anti?war MPs from other parties, Cook never spoke against the Iraq war on any of the massive protests organised by the Stop the War Coalition.
Actions speak louder than words. Cook’s epitaph should read “useless whinger”.
Mick Gosling, North London
The legacy of CLR James
Sebastian Budgen’s obituary of Pierre Broué (SW, 13 August) rightly praises Broué’s important contributions.
But it was highly regrettable that he made a snide remark about CLR James at the same time, lumping him together with Eric Hobsbawm.
James, the author of the classic book The Black Jacobins, remains one of the most important anti-Stalinist left historians of the 20th century.
His scholarship on Hegel and his own innovative theory of state capitalism still provide insight in understanding the modern world.
And James remains a beacon of hope for millions of anti-racist activists internationally.
Interest in his work has risen dramatically among a radicalising new generation since the 1999 Seattle demonstrations.
Broué’s legacy certainly ought to be honoured — but there was no need to simultaneously dismiss the enormous contributions of the Black Plato of our time.
Ravi Malhotra, Ottawa, Canada
Stopped for ‘disrespect’
Last week I was stopped by the police in Parliament Square for sticking two fingers up at the Churchill monument. I was posing for a photo and a police van happened to drive by at that exact same moment.
The police didn’t give their names or numbers, or tell me what police station they were based in. They also asked for ID, which one of the officers called and checked up on.
They gave at best only a vague description of why I was being stopped — something about having to show respect for other people’s beliefs “what with everything going on in London right now”.
Where does the law stand regarding swearing at public monuments in front of “lots of people”? Do I have grounds for making a complaint? And could anyone tell me what the reason for checking my identification was?
Name supplied, via e-mail
Blair is trying to divide us
Tony Blair’s plan to impose extreme legislation against civil liberties will not make a blind bit of difference. If anything, it will harden the will of those it seeks to punish.
After all, these “extremist” Muslim preachers were only given credence once Blair created the circumstances that made what they said more relevant to those who would listen.
Blair is trying to divide the Muslim community. But by targeting Muslims, he is dividing the country and shaping the fabric of British society.
You are either a “moderate”, in which case you agree with everything Blair has done, or not — in which case you get the book thrown at you.
Alan Haynes, Gravesend, Kent
No excuse for destroying art
Regarding Topple the Mighty (SW, 13 August) — if you start destroying art and culture because you dislike it, why not join the Taliban?
The Crusaders and Christianity in general destroyed many great “pagan” works of art. Please do not lower yourselves to that level.
Steve Mulligan, via e-mail
In July over 1,500 delegates from over 70 countries across the world attended the Second People’s Health Assembly in Cuenca, Ecuador.
They discussed how capitalism is destroying health and profiting from sickness—and how health workers and patients can be part of a movement to change it.
James Woodcock, East London