Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1965

Rose Gentle (left) and Reg Keys (right), the parents of British soldiers killed in Iraq, outside the high court last week demanding an inquiry into the legality of the Iraq war  (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Rose Gentle (left) and Reg Keys (right), the parents of British soldiers killed in Iraq, outside the high court last week demanding an inquiry into the legality of the Iraq war (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Military families take Iraq case to high court

Military Families Against the War launched a high court bid last week to demand an independent inquiry into the legality of the Iraq war.

It involves 17 families whose children have lost their lives in the war. Tony Blair has denied that the war was illegal. But the legal advice that was published just before the general election casts doubt upon this.

If it was illegal then my son died for nothing. His death was wrong. Over 80 British soldiers have died in Iraq so far. Every single day between 40 and 60 people are dying.

There are also links with the bombings in London. Even if it is proved to be legal, the war has still gone on too long. But if it is illegal someone has to pay for it.

The protest by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq, outside George Bush’s ranch in texas is a good idea. It is an embarrassment to them.

Bush and Blair want to turn their back on what’s happening. If things go wrong they say it can’t be their fault.

We are hoping to get an independent inquiry and then get the information on whether the war was legal. If it was illegal I would like to see Tony Blair pay for what he was done by being tried for war crimes.

Peter Brierley, Military Families Against the War

A very welcome return

It is very pleasing to see the return of the 1970s attitude towards industrial disputes at Heathrow. It is even more pleasing is to see this action being taken by a largely white workforce in support of Asian and female workers.

This is an excellent slap in the face to the racism being whipped up by the government and the press over the bombs in London.

Now we need to win the dispute and see all the Gate Gourmet workers reinstated. The T&G union leaders have said they will support the workers.

Early unofficial action by baggage handlers and other workers ruined Gate Gourmet’s plans.

But we have to be concerned that now the support action has been called off, the rogue management will stall the talks and try to demoralise the workforce.

We have to remember the months of anguish during the Sky Chefs dispute at Heathrow at the end of the 1990s.

If it becomes clear that this is what the union-busters are doing, then the pressure must be put on the T&G leadership to call on all trade unionists in Heathrow, and elsewhere if we can, to once again exercise the power they have to win justice for these workers.

To that end, within the first week of the dispute, local trade unionists together with others in the movement such as Respect members have formed a solidarity campaign to build support.

This is also beginning the arguments about how we can win this important fight for the trade union movement.

The solidarity action by Heathrow workers pushed the legal door open, now we need solidarity and support from all trade unionists to push it wide open and make sure they can never shut it again.

Roger Cox, West London

Time for jobless to hit back

I am one of the hidden unemployed in Britain.

In order to get some answers I wrote a letter to my MP wanting to know why the benefits system is rigged in such a way that I no longer qualify for any assistance.

I got an answer which amounted to nothing.

So much for using the democratic process when the politicians don’t want to know or understand.

The entire job centre set-up has got nothing to do with helping those without work back into work but everything to do with control.

When you walk into a jobcentre you are immediately disempowered.

The claimant is required to sign a jobseeker’s agreement. An agreement should a set of terms acceptable to both parties.

This is not what a claimant is faced with. It is a case of sign this or you get nothing. You have no choice.

The questions asked when you claim are invasive and bear little relation to the plight that the claimant is in, such as how much is your partner earning. It is you who is out of work not your partner.

Perhaps one way that those in this situation can strike back is to foul up the system. The politicians will not listen to us.

Having tried using conventional methods it is high time the hidden unemployed raised their voice by using more unconventional non-violent methods.

The whole system was devised by the Tories who had contempt for ordinary workers.

New Labour has condoned this treatment by letting this continue as it suits their ends to say that the jobless total is low. But it is not.

Tony Blair is driven by fear that he will be exposed by the truth that the unemployment figures are fiddled.

Those who have nothing have got nothing to lose.

One day the anger is going to explode in the prime minister’s face.

John Walker, Stevenston, Ayrshire

Why ‘binge drinking’ makes powerful worry

Tory MP and toff Boris Johnson recently used an article in the Daily Telegraph to denounce “binge drinking” after an evening spent in Carlisle.

After missing a train he went to a pub in the town centre and was “stunned by the noise, the crowd, the smoke and the astonishing quantities of alcohol that were being necked by the denizens of Carlisle.

“It was a coldish night, but everywhere there was a pagan self-nudity. The pavements were Jackson Pollocked with the results of eating a kebab on top of eight pints of lager.

“Faces leered and weaved towards me, pale and waxy with drink, and everyone seemed to be hurling strange oaths and invitations.”

Johnson’s lurid and exaggerated description of a Carlisle night out reveals the truth behind politicians, and the media’s hysteria about “binge drinking”.

The establishment, represented by people like Johnson, wants to control us. It can’t bear the idea of groups of working class people enjoying themselves at the end of a hard working week.

Throughout history the people who have ruled over us have been afraid of the working class “mob”. They become extremely uncomfortable when ordinary people come together, in protest or drinking, as it offers a hint of the power to challenge their rule.

Simone Murray, Carlisle

Protect children from this cruel act

I am a social worker and a member of Unison. I have just learnt that the Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act might be implemented imminently. This would mean that social workers would be asked to remove children from failed asylum seeker families.

Such a situation is faced by the Sukula family from Congo in Bolton.

This is unjust and inhumane. It would mean that our profession is brought in to enforce cruel legislation which violates human rights and goes against the current British childcare legislation.

The British Association of Social Workers and the National Union of Teachers have already opposed the implementation of this legislation.

I have requested that Unison too joins ranks to protect social workers. I have not received any response yet.

I would like to call on all social workers, senior practitioners, team leaders and district managers to oppose this draconian legislation.

All children, British and non-British, should be protected from any source of harm — including the reckless government we have the misfortune to suffer.

Inma Macias-Sanchez, East Kent

Unions are in workers’ way

The Heathrow walkouts and the continuing Gate Gourmet strike are a cause for celebration. But we should look far more critically at the trade unions than Socialist Worker did (It’s a fight for us all, 20 August).

There was spontaneous and inspirational willingness to struggle from below that was snuffed out by the union officialdom.

Organisations such as the T&G union are no longer a help to the struggle, if they ever were. T&G leaders agreed a deal with Gate Gourmet to cut conditions. The workers rejected it.

The anti-capitalist movement has shown how to resist in much more exciting ways than the unions. The sooner people leave them and build solidarity from the base the better.

Ann Wallace, South London

Statues must come down

Steve Mulligan (Letters, SW, 20 August) is wrong in mixing up the traditions of revolutionary iconoclasm and the destruction of art on ideological grounds.

Revolutionaries destroyed the statues of the royalist regimes in France in 1789 and Russia in 1917, and of Stalinism in Eastern Europe in 1989 as they were the symbols of oppressive regimes.

They were destroyed during a movement for liberation, not as a critique of the quality of the art on offer.

This is completely different from religious regimes or the Nazis destroying art works or banning art.

I am looking forward to the day when we can pull down the statues of Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill. I suspect I might have to join a rather big queue.

Jon Tennison, South London

Cindy’s camp is inspiration

I admire the protest by Cindy Sheehan (Bush is now losing in Iraq and at home, SW, 20 August) whose son was killed in Iraq. She is now camped outside George Bush’s ranch in Texas as a protest against the war.

Some idiot has driven a truck through the 1,000 crosses memorial to US soldiers killed in Iraq that she set up.

This seems to be the only response those who support the war have — more violence.

Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh

Middle East’s unity melody

The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s musicians originate from across the Middle East, including Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

The project came out of a friendship between Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim and the late Palestinian writer Edward Said. The orchestra put on an emotional performance of Mahler’s first symphony last week at the Proms in London.

Next week they will be performing in Ramallah in the Occupied Territories.

In a short speech Barenboim explained that though initiatives like thie orchestra would not solve the crisis in the Middle East they could begin to show alternatives to the current antagonism and ignorance.

Terry Cornot, North London

An exception to the rule

Sociaist Worker’s feature on the statues of London (Topple the mighty, SW, 13 August) is an important reminder of the ruling class symbols in the capital.

One of the exceptions is the statue of Sir Charles Napier that occupies a plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Napier was a leading figure in the British army and spent much time in India with less than happy results.

But when he was sent to the north of England in the 1840s to deal with the Chartists he made it clear his sympathies lay with them.

The erection of his statue was paid for by public subscription, most of the money coming from private soldiers.

Napier stands out as a rare depiction of someone who wasn’t a complete rogue.

Keith Davies, North London

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Sat 27 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1965
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