JOHN NEGROPONTE’S takeover in Iraq indicates a new stage in the American war and occupation—death squad democracy.
We can expect to see the introduction of death squads, financed, organised and controlled by the CIA.
These will be made up of former Ba’athist secret police, criminals and foreign mercenaries.
The squads will launch an undercover campaign of torture and murder against all the occupation’s opponents. Journalists, trade unionists, civil rights lawyers and political activists will all become victims.
This is the strategy that the US implemented in Central America in the 1980s when Negroponte was in charge there. It is what they intend to do in Iraq.
But it will not work, because of the scale of Iraqi opposition to the occupation and the lack of support for the puppet government of prime minister Ayad Allawi.
The CIA tried similar tactics in Vietnam and failed.
The Phoenix programme was a secret campaign of torture and murder that cost the lives of some 50,000 suspected Communists. But the US was still humiliatingly thrown out.
The lesson of history is that the next phase of the war will involve atrocities that will make Abu Ghraib look like a holiday camp. How will pro-war Labour MP Ann Clwyd square this with her well-known conscience?
John Newsinger, Leicester
AROUND 50 anti-war protesters were attacked by police and stopped from demonstrating on 30 June in Karachi, Pakistan.
The demonstration was part of the international day of action against the fraudulent handover of power in Iraq.
When the protesters started assembling, around 200 policemen and paramilitaries encircled the demonstrators with guns pointed at them. As soon as the peaceful demonstration started, the protesters were attacked by the police and were forced to disperse.
Nevertheless, we are determined to express solidarity with the people of Iraq and fight against capitalism.
Riaz Ahmed, International Socialists, Pakistan
Time to boycott Coke
IF YOU try to organise a trade union in Colombia, South America, you risk death. Eight trade union activists have been killed there in the last year for trying to organise inside Coca-Cola’s bottling plants.
The national conference of Unison, Britain’s largest union, recently agreed to support the call for a worldwide boycott of Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola uses cheap casual labour, but the Sinaltrainal trade union has nevertheless managed to organise in its plants against fierce repression.
Coke has sacked some 12,000 workers and intimidated others into joining “company unions”. The company has been implicated in the murder of independent union leaders.
But Sinaltrainal activists have kept on fighting. Earlier this year a hunger strike by trade unionists led to Coke agreeing to talks, only to withdraw the offer once the hunger strike was called off.
Sinaltrainal has called for an international boycott of Coke to force the company to recognise free trade unions. That call had huge support at January’s World Social Forum in Mumbai, India.
But many Western trade unions, including the TUC in Britain, have condemned the call, claiming a boycott would be bad for jobs.
Coke is a symbol of US imperialism worldwide. Coca-Cola’s vicious anti-union stance reveals the backdrop to the huge military support given to the Colombian government by the US and Britain.
Of all the reasons to boycott Coke, trade union rights are to the fore. Unison activists must now lead the way in convincing other trade unions and the TUC to come off the fence and join the worldwide movement.
Tony Staunton, Plymouth Unison branch secretary
Glastonbury: more than mud and music
LEE BILLINGHAM is right to turn the spotlight on the politics that are and always have been an important part of the Glastonbury festival (Socialist Worker, 3 July).
I had not been to Glastonbury for years and had been led to expect a corporate-sponsored mega-festival like Reading or T in the Park. But Glastonbury is still different.
Globalise Resistance had a stall in the Green Futures field. We sold hundreds of
T-shirts, signed up many more for our e-mail list and had scores of brilliant discussions.
Environmental concerns were prominent, but so too were anti-war and anti-capitalist ideas. It was mainstream AND political.
The media coverage has been cynical and dismissive—even from the Guardian, who sponsored the event! Not everyone fell over in the mud, had a bad experience on drugs or watched the football while waving flags.
The festival was an outcry against everyday life and a short escape from the treadmill of the work-eat-sleep regime.
There was also an understanding that in order to make our own lives less dreary, there is a need to address some of the big political questions facing us right here and now.
Guy Taylor, Globalise Resistance
No welcome for Dubya in Dublin
I WAS fortunate to be in Dublin two weeks ago to join the protests as the world’s number one terrorist dropped by for a flying visit.
Bush is so loved that the Irish state mobilised 4,000 soldiers, 2,000 police and seven Scorpion tanks to protect him.
The Irish police borrowed a water cannon from Northern Ireland to defend Bush from protesters. They even declared martial law in County Clare, where Bush was staying.
The total cost of this pantomime was A10 million, which works out at A8,500 for every minute Bush stayed in the country.
The anti-war response across Ireland was magnificent, with over 30,000 people marching through the heart of Dublin on Friday night.
As always there were some wonderful banners. One particularly acute one read, “Bush—there’s no oil here so fuck off!”
Despite all the security, a TV crew managed to get close enough to film Bush walking around Dromoland castle in his underwear!
Photos of the vest-clad president were splashed all over the front pages.
Like Bush’s trip to London last November, the anti-war movement made his visit to Ireland a PR disaster. There’s no welcome for Bush in Ireland—or anywhere else!
Sasha Simic, East London
A woman’s right to choose
ALTHOUGH I think the religious headscarf is a sign of feudal ideas, and therefore wrong, I also think the freedom of individuals to choose their own clothes should be recognised as a basic human right.
In particular, women should be able to cover their body or head without being deprived of their social rights.
Tribute to great trade unionist
ROSS PRITCHARD was a member and activist in the GPMU print workers’ union until his death from cancer in 2001.
Following his death, friends set up a memorial fund. In line with his wishes, we set up an essay competition as the best way Ross could be remembered for his committed socialist and internationalist ideals.
The trustees of the fund invite entries to the essay competition from GPMU members on a subject close to Ross’s heart, “Trade union organisation and recruitment in the 21st century”. The winning essay will be awarded a prize of £500.
Submit entries by 28 September 2004 to Ross Pritchard Memorial Fund, 1 Camden Hill Road, London SE19 1NX, or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Megan Dobney, South London
Ideas can be changed
LAST WEEK I helped leaflet for and promote Marxism 2004 in Kingston, Surrey. Five of us collected many names and numbers of people interested in the event.
One man came up to us and laughed as he told us that he was once a Thatcherite. “At that point, I wanted all you socialists shot,” he said.
But he is now marching with us and is opposed to Tony Blair.
After a long discussion he took away SWP registration forms for him and his sons. It just goes to show how people’s ideas can change.
Alex Montague, by e-mail
Cubans’ clear commitment
A COMMENT about Judith Orr’s article on Che Guevara (Socialist Worker, 26 June). I don’t feel that a simple “state capitalism” explanation for events in Cuba is sufficient.
I was part of a study tour to Cuba recently looking at its health services.
I found no evidence of a governing bureaucracy living off Cuban society. I heard no reports of oppression by secret police.
There was a clear commitment to the ideals of the revolution from officials, taxi drivers, casual acquaintances, hotel staff and musicians—a “spirit of Cuba” identified by many other visitors to the country.
We need a review of our analysis of what has occurred in Cuba since 1959 and perhaps a more sophisticated look at the Cuban Revolution.
Ron Singer, Medical Practitioners Union (personal capacity) www.mpunion.org.uk
That Groucho Marx quip
I WAS interested in Martin Smith’s article on the Marx Brothers (Socialist Worker, 26 June), but I feel I must point out an inaccuracy in it.
Martin said that Groucho’s daughter was denied entry to a swimming pool because she was Jewish.
As far as I know, he never had a daughter—it was Groucho himself who was refused entry.
Groucho replied, “My son is only half Jewish. Can he go in up to his knees?” This story appears in Son of Groucho by Arthur Marx.
Paul Daly, Luton
A brilliant book by Bunting
I AM so pleased you found space to publicise Madeleine Bunting’s book Willing Slaves (Socialist Worker, 3 July).
This is one of the best books I have ever read on how work dominates our lives. It is extremely well researched and should be read by every trade unionist.
John Appleyard, West Yorkshire
Nationalism in sport is a con
I CAN see why working class people get excited over football—it is an escape from the grim reality of life. But nationalism in sport is still a con aimed at brainwashing us into giving our lives on the front line in the next war.
Peter Crawford, Dorset