Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 1972

Together on the 24 September anti-war march (Pic:  Jess Hurd/http://www.reportdigital.co.uk

Together on the 24 September anti-war march (Pic: Jess Hurd/www.reportdigital.co.uk)


Is Britain segregated?

Trevor Phillips has got his facts wrong. The census analysts at the Greater London Authority, and leading researchers nationally, have found that London and the rest of Britain are becoming less, not more, segregated.

Any chair of the Commission for Racial Equality who does not know whether councils should print documents in several languages, or holy days like Yom Kippur should be respected, or whether “coloured” is an appropriate term, should seriously consider whether he is in the right job.

Lee Jasper, Mayor of London’s director of equalities and policing


I would like to think that talk of segregation in Britain is far fetched nonsense.

But I fear it could become a problem precisely because of the policies which New Labour espouses.

Racism and discriminatory housing policies may lead to more Muslims either wishing or being forced to live in areas which are predominantly Muslim.

Faith schools can also have a separating effect. Let’s all contest New Labour’s policies and stop segregation ever becoming a reality.

Sally Chung, East London


Joseph Choonara (Groundless fear of racial segregation, 1 October) rightly criticises Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) chair Trevor Phillips’ recent scaremongering that Britain is “sleepwalking its way to segregation”.

This is not the first time that Phillips has made sweeping media-grabbing statements which appear to blame black and Asian minority groups for the inequality they face.

And he has since gone further, criticising multiculturalism itself in language which could give succour to the far right.

This is the man who has also presided over office closures, job cuts and low pay for my union members at the CRE.

As a result workers are blamed by the public for the lower level of assistance the CRE provides.

Nor can New Labour be let off the hook. The government plans to abolish the CRE, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Disability Rights Commission and replace them with a single equality body.

This is being vaunted as a new all-singing all dancing champion of equality, but the reality is more likely to be a cost cutting exercise in line with Gordon Brown’s “efficiency” agenda of cutting thousands of civil service jobs.

The proposed budget is little more than the combined funding of the three current equality commissions, yet it will be be expected to take on three more areas of discrimination, and human rights as well.

Without stronger legislation and proper funding, this new commission will be little more than window dressing for New Labour’s alleged “commitment” to equality.

PCS union members at the three equality commissions are prepared to fight for decent funding for the new commission, not only to defend their jobs, but also to force the government to tackle the real causes of inequality. We want to give support and assistance to those who suffer most from racism, Islamophobia, sexism, homophobia and all other discrimination.

Sue Bond, PCS vice-president, personal capacity


New goal for us all

The reduction of chronic disease is not a UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG). While the political fashions have embraced some diseases — HIV-AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, in particular — many other common conditions remain marginal to the mainstream of global action on health. Chronic diseases are among these neglected conditions.

Chronic diseases represent a huge proportion of human illness.

They include cardiovascular disease (30 percent of projected total worldwide deaths in 2005), cancer (13 percent), chronic respiratory diseases (7 percent), and diabetes (2 percent). Two risk factors underlying these conditions are key to any population-wide strategy of control — tobacco use and obesity.

These risks and the diseases they engender are not the exclusive preserve of rich nations.

Quite the contrary. Chronic diseases are a larger problem in low-income settings. Research into chronic diseases in resource-poor nations remains embryonic. But what evidence there is shows just how critical it will be to intervene early in the epidemic’s course.

There is an unusual opportunity before us to act now to prevent the needless deaths of millions. Do we have the insight and resolve to respond?

With a new series of articles, for which we thank the superb efforts of Robert Beaglehole, The Lancet aims to fill a gap in the global dialogue about disease.

It is a surprising and important gap, one that health workers and policymakers can no longer afford to ignore. The call for the world to set a target to reduce deaths from chronic disease by 2 percent annually — to prevent 36 million deaths by 2015 — deserves to be added to the existing eight MDGs.

Without concerted and coordinated political action, the gains achieved in reducing the burden of infectious disease will be washed away as a new wave of preventable illness engulfs those least able to protect themselves. Let this series be part of a new international commitment to deny that outcome.

Richard Horton, editor, The Lancet


Crackdown in Brighton should be a warning

There must be an outcry at the fact that more than 600 people were detained under the Terrorism Act during the Labour Party conference.

Anti-war protesters, anti-Blairite pensioners and some conference delegates were all detained by police under legislation that we were told was put in place to combat violent fanatics and bombers — even though none of them was suspected of terrorist links.

None of those detained under Section 44 stop and search rules in the 2000 Terrorism Act was arrested and nobody was charged under the terrorism laws.

Yet the law says that authorisation to carry out a section 44 stop and search “may be exercised only for the purpose of searching for articles of a kind which could be used in connection with terrorism”.

John Catt was one of those detained. He was wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “Bush Blair Sharon to be tried for war crimes, torture, human rights abuse” and, lower down, “the leaders of rogue states”.

The stop and search form filled out by the police officer stated, under grounds for intervention, “carrying plackard [sic] and T-shirt with anti-Blair info”. The purpose of the stop and search was stated as “terrorism”. So now we know.

For the Sussex police, at any rate, an anti-Blair slogan is a ground for suspecting terrorism.

Mary Buncombe, West London


Holocaust memorial raises questions

As an anti-racism campaigner and chair of our local Unite Against Fascism group I read Michael Rosen’s article (League Tables of Pain, 1 October) with great interest.

I agree with Michael over the relative lack of attention given to Roma victims of the Nazis, and also the hypocrisy of politicians lamenting this genocide while avoiding or even excusing those carried out under the flag of British imperialism.

But I’m uncertain about socialists opting out of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) altogether. Perhaps in some towns that’s right, where the New Labour mafia have hijacked the day as another self-promotion PR opportunity.

But in York, for example, last year’s HMD event was a meaningful and moving joint vigil and march by Unite Against Fascism supporters, local trade unionists, the Jewish Society and others. The emphasis was very much on learning the lessons of the rise of the Nazis in order to effectively combat racism and fascism today.

We’re now starting to plan a similar event for next year. Do readers think this is a tactical error?

Ben Drake, York


Crack cocaine machines

Thank you for your article on casino gambling (Labour’s casinos gamble with people’s lives, 8 October). Slot machines are the money machines inside the casinos. Slot machines are called the crack cocaine of gambling and send thousands of people into misery every year.

Research and lots of news articles from around the world underline the social disasters connected to liberal gambling policy.

Recently a report from Victoria in Australia told us that every week a person commits suicide because of machine addiction.

Morten, Norway


Respect for the language

At a rally for Welsh language campaigners in Cardiff recently, speakers from Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society) called for campaigners to intensify their protests for a new Welsh Language Act.

The previous act (put in place by the Tories in 1993) does not do enough to protect the rights of Welsh speakers, said Catrin Dafydd, chair of Cymdeithas.

All the speakers there called for the Welsh New Labour government of Rhodri Morgan to put a new Welsh Language Act in place and to ensure that private companies provide services through the medium of Welsh.

Respect members attended and said that although we do not support Welsh nationalism, it is important to protect the rights of all cultures and languages, and that people should have the right to be educated in any language they wish.

Steve Rolf, Barry, Vale of Glamorgan


The record of the Bund

Thanks for Miriam Scharf’s excellent obituary (Obituary, 1 October) of the Bundist Majer Bogdanski. For the last 20 years of his life, Majer was an active member of the Jewish Socialists’ Group. He also contributed to and generously supported Jewish Socialist magazine. Through these channels he continued to pursue his Bundist ideals.

The Jewish Socialists’ Group is planning to host a celebration of Majer’s life at the end of November — and all who knew him will be welcome. Please contact us for details.

David Rosenberg, jsg@bardrose.dircon.co.uk


Gap at heart of Labour

While the treatment meted out to 82 year old Walter Wolfgang at Labour’s annual conference should be of no surprise it should not deflect from far more important issues.

The New Labour leadership were comprehensively defeated on several key policies and would have been defeated as well over the policy of occupation in Iraq if it had the courage to have allowed a debate — which it didn’t, knowing that the pro-war press would be non-critical!

Nick Vinehill, Snettisham, Norfolk


Left Party hit Tories’ vote

Ann Fowler (Letters, 8 October) says the German Left Party “split people away from the Social Democrats and allowed the conservative CDU to win”.

Fortunately, this is not quite true. The Left Party seriously damaged the German Tories. Bosses’ magazine The Economist produced opinion polls showing that the rise of the Left Party in East Germany split CDU support there almost in half.

Research by German broadcaster ARD shows that the Left Party gained the largest number of former non-voters of any party, as well as over 300,000 former CDU and Liberal voters.

At the same time, pressure from the Left Party pushed Social Democrat leader Gerhard Schröder to the left. This helped rally his own supporters.

Jacob Middleton, East London


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Letters
Sat 15 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1972
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