MANCHESTER HAS suffered at the hands of those who would deprive our thriving multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith city of an anti-racism festival on institutionally racist and inexcusable grounds. I do not want to live in a city which cannot celebrate its diversity openly and honestly.
Greater Manchester Police, of The Secret Policeman documentary fame, stepped in to cancel our Unite Against Fascism gig due to be held last Sunday. This forced it into the welcoming hands of Liverpool. Those of us who work and campaign hard against the fascist BNP are irate and deeply disappointed at this turn of events.
The BNP, who in an ideal world would not exist, must not be given any opportunity to set the agenda of our UAF festivals. We in Manchester are determined to see our city host a free event we have the right to hold. The BNP turned up at our successful launch event in Manchester in January, and their foul stench reeks in this relocation charade.
The BNP must not have any say in Manchester and we need to act now to drive out their racist, fascist and bigoted politics.
Diane Stoker, Manchester
THE MERSEYSIDE TUC totally condemns the actions of the police in preventing an anti-racist festival from taking place in Manchester. We live in a world where everyone should be equal, regardless of colour or creed.
Yet the Police Authority of Greater Manchester have made the decision to cancel a festival for 'fear of violence'. We can only assume that they mean the threat of the BNP.
The BNP are not members of the government, the European Parliament or Manchester council. But its threats of intimidation and violence seem to have more influence than the council (who supported the festival), the trade union movement and Unite Against Fascism.
We call for a full inquiry into the decision by police. In the meantime Unite Against Fascism relocated the festival to Liverpool and have the support of Merseyside TUC. Merseyside is a Nazi-free zone and the BNP have no following in our cities.
Alec McFadden, president of Merseyside TUC, president of Merseyside Coalition Against Racism, and Respect candidate
Racism at heart of torture
IF YOU wanted to understand what happened at Abu Ghraib, you could do worse than look at some of the reactions. Right wing US shock jock Rush Limbaugh said that the pictures of torture resembled something Madonna and Britney Spears might do on stage.
I find it hard to believe they would be saying this if the pictures were of US prisoners being tortured by Iraqis. There is a culture in parts of the West of 'acceptable racism' against Arabs and Muslims.
One book, The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai, discusses the Arab 'preoccupation with sex', their unwillingness to work unless forced 'by dire necessity'. Seymour Hersh, in his revelations about Abu Ghraib, discovered that the book was 'the Bible of the neo-cons on Arab behaviour'. Two themes predominated. 'One, that Arabs only understand force, and two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation.'
Only by viewing their captives as less than human could US and British soldiers have carried out this torture. Only by sharing that view could Western commentators make light of such behaviour.
Richard Seymour, South London
MORE THAN half of dental practices are refusing to accept new NHS patients. In 1999 Blair promised that within two years everybody who wanted an NHS dentist would have access to one. He lied. We should all have access to a dentist regardless of income or postcode.
John Appleyard, West Yorkshire
Election vicotry against New Labour's agenda
I HAVE just been elected to one of the West Midlands seats of the Unison union's health service executive. This is the leading body that organises health workers in the union. The left consolidated its position as a real opposition to New Labour in the union in the elections.
I was elected because I stood on a socialist platform of articulating the concerns activists and ordinary members will have about Agenda for Change. Sections of the union leadership are keen to get Agenda for Change through. This is the new pay system that New Labour wants to introduce into the NHS. Once staff read the small print they will see that this is a package that cuts away some of their most basic terms and conditions.
At the Unison health conference it was made clear that unless New Labour makes significant changes then the union is likely to recommend that members vote no in a ballot on Agenda for Change in October.
I also stood as an opponent of Labour's obsession with introducing the market into the NHS, which has led to foundation hospitals and the Private Finance Initiative.
I come from a branch that stands in the tradition of organising ordinary health workers to fight to change what's wrong. Members of the Dudley group of hospitals branch struck against PFI. I will continue to push for policies that put ordinary members first and fight for a rank and file strategy.
Mark New, Stourbridge
Task for autumn
AGENDA FOR Change is the biggest attack that health workers have faced since the NHS began. It is genuinely shocking that the big NHS unions have gone along with Agenda for Change for so long. All of the reports from the early implementer sites show that Agenda for Change is a disaster.
It is brilliant that the TGWU union is recommending a no vote in the ballot of its members. Agenda for Change is starting to unravel. Activists across the NHS need to work flat out to win a no vote in the ballots this autumn. It is urgent that we work together to stop this unacceptable attack.
Gill George, Amicus national executive (personal capacity) firstname.lastname@example.org
Great response in unlikely place
The LUTON Labour Party held a Big Conversation meeting with pro-war MP Margaret Moran and Robin Cook last week. Rather thoughtlessly, it was in the local Islamic centre. It was an all-ticket affair, and over 500 people turned up.
By the time the speakers had shut up, there was very little time left. It appeared that Moran was trying to close any debate down, as a mood of general hostility was clearly developing.
I pointed out that Gordon Brown was making £6 billion available for the continued occupation of Iraq, and contrasted that with what it could be used for over here, such as hospitals, housing, and education.
I got such a cheer that I decided to really go for New Labour. I concluded by calling Blair a war criminal and asking people to vote for Respect. Without exaggeration, more than half the audience were on their feet cheering. Handing out leaflets outside was difficult, as dozens of people came up and shook my hand.
If Labour can't hold an all-ticket meeting in a crucial area and convince their regular supporters, what hope have they got? I urge everyone to make a huge effort in the last week before the elections. Get active in supporting Respect, and get Blair out.
Ged Peck, Luton
Liverpool's twin success
STUDENTS HAVE been campaigning to twin the University of Liverpool with the Birzeit University in Ramallah, Palestine. Hundreds of students came to an extraordinary general meeting of the student guild but we missed quoracy by just a few students.
A couple of weeks later the Guild Council had a meeting. The council voted unanimously to pass the motion. The University of Liverpool Guild of Students has been twinned with Birzeit University Student Council!
Liverpool Friends of Palestine
The army-led killings go on
ON FRIDAY 21 May a group of 200 heavily armed men entered the communities of Flor Amarillo and Cravo Charo in the Colombian region of Arauca and perpetrated a massacre. According to witnesses the men were a mixed group of paramilitaries and Colombian soldiers from army units.
The men took away 13 local residents. On Saturday 22 May 11 of the victims were found dead with signs of torture outside the nearby village of Pinalito. A further two people are disappeared, presumed dead. E-mail addresses of those to write to to protest at this can be found on our website
Justice for Colombia
Two signs of real hope
THE FALL of the BJP government in India recently quite neatly mirrors the demise of the right wing Aznar government in Spain. We have two examples whereby the Project for a New American Century has been given its marching orders.
We will all wait to see whether the American people are ready to register their anger, and follow these excellent examples and throw out George Bush and his entourage.
Nick Shepley, Cardiff
Rallying in the north west
LANCASTER Unite Against Fascism held a public meeting on Monday of last week. Some 200 people attended the meeting. Many groups were represented. The British National Party were condemned for their appalling policies-both the ones that they make public and those they choose to keep concealed. The meeting was a huge success.
Ketlan Ossowski by e-mail
Hope for change in Hastings
HASTINGS Respect's launch took place on Tuesday of last week. At very short notice and with little publicity, 18 people came. People asked questions of Paddy O'Keefe, Ingrid Dodd and Muriel Hirsch, three members of the Respect slate for the South East. A highly enthusiastic audience raised a wide variety of issues.
A representative of the PCS civil servants' union spoke about their current pay dispute, and how Respect offers workers a real hope for change.
Andy Lawson, Brighton & Hove Respect
When a Blairite is a Thatcherite
APOLOGIES TO all if I maligned the SWP's predecessor, IS, by suggesting that it may once have included Stephen Byers (Socialist Worker, 22 May). However, if by chance you find yourself having to listen to some New Labour sewage falling out of Byers' mouth, shut your eyes. He speaks with almost the same speech-style as Sebastian Coe.
A mock-earnest, robotic, careerist drone. How appropriate that Thatcherite and Blairite lieutenants should sound the same.
Michael Rosen, North London
US was also to blame for crisis
ALEX CALLINICOS wrote in Socialist Worker (22 May) that the oil-producing countries raised the cost of oil to punish the US in 1973 over its support for Israel. Another factor was that the US revalued the dollar due to the economic strains of the Vietnam War.
Oil is sold in dollars. Oil-producing countries would have been badly affected, hence the increase.
Geoff Kerr-Morgan, Middlesbrough