Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 1977

Marching against death merchants at the DSEi arms fair earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Marching against death merchants at the DSEi arms fair earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Arms dealers beaten

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has announced that it is to sell its 62,000 shares in arms companies, following an article in the London Student newspaper and subsequent pressure from the AUT lecturers’ union and the student union on campus.

The announcement is a great victory for ethical investment campaigners. No longer will tuition fee payments go towards bombs and bullets, but will instead go towards education.

SOAS management are facing massive opposition to its cuts in library staff among other things, and it looks as though staff will be taking industrial action in the near future.

Managers even credited their decision to London Student’s coverage, no doubt worried at the response from students.

SOAS knew that the only course of action was to ditch the shares. Now it’s the turn of other University of London institutions to shed the remaining 708,000 shares in murderous arms companies such as BAE Systems and GKN.

Queen Mary holds 56,800 shares and King’s College has 111,800. UCL, St George’s, the Royal Veterinary College, LSE, Imperial, Birkbeck, Courtauld and Goldsmiths also have investments in companies that use your money to sell arms to some of the dodgiest regimes on the planet.

These include Colombia, Turkey, Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as the world’s biggest terrorist power, the US.

London Student has shown that putting pressure on our institutions works, and I’d like to congratulate Campaign Against the Arms Trade, SOAS AUT and the student union — one of the few genuinely principled unions in the country — on a fantastic result.

Now students should organise to pass motions in their unions condemning investments, and use protests, petitions and direct action to give the ethical investment movement the impetus to sweep arms companies out of our education system.

Patrick Ward, editor, London Student


Hands off ‘pirate’ radio stations

“Pirate” radio stations were blamed for the recent trouble in Birmingham. Whatever we think of that, we should oppose the crackdown on such stations which has been launched in London.

It is an attack mainly on the free expression of black people in Britain.

Powerjam 92.0, based in Battersea, south London, was one of 44 stations that had their transmitters seized in the latest joint operation between regulator Ofcom and the Metropolitan Police.

“Edutainer” Kwaku Bonsu, who hosts a Powerjam talk show, was right when he said, “It’s all about them wanting to quieten us. They don’t want us organising.”

The mainstream media is dominated by white people and by ideas, music and culture that do not connect with the majority of black people. “Pirate” stations are a small way for us to get back our voice.

Suppressing them means it’s a total white-out of the African Caribbean community.

Community radio has a track record of championing campaigns for justice and new musicians — Ms Dynamite got her break on “pirate” radio.

A host of household name DJs including Choice FM’s Daddie Ernie, Jiggs and “Soca King” Martin Jay also cut their teeth on unlicensed stations.

Everyone should get behind these stations and give them full support. Anti-racists have a duty to speak out.

Protest to Ofcom and your MP because otherwise an important element of media freedom is going to be extinguished.

Winston James, South London


Attacking our rights

The “revelations” by Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s former US ambassador, on the Blair government’s war in Iraq were big news recently.

Yet they need some questioning.

He is described in the Guardian as “defensive” about the non-existence of WMD in Iraq. He defends the government when he says, “I do not know anyone of any stature in 2002 who was going around saying they [the Iraqis] don’t have this stuff.”

In 2002, Scott Ritter, former United Nations (UN) weapons inspector, published a slim little book, War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know.

It was prominently displayed in high street bookshops for a mere £4.99.

Ritter’s views were clearly and publicly expressed on many occasions.

Even a cursory read of the book’s sleeve notes would have informed Meyer that Iraq’s chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities were destroyed in the years after the Gulf War, that sanctions prevented further weapons development, that forced “regime change” wouldn’t lead to democracy and that the consequences of the war for the Middle East would be truly dangerous.

Iraq, during nearly seven years of continuous inspection activity by the UN, had been certified as being disarmed to a 90-95 percent level—a figure which includes all the factories used by Iraq to produce weapons of mass destruction, together with the associated production equipment and products.

Despite describing himself as a card carrying Republican who voted for Bush, Ritter has called the president a “liar” over Iraq.

Of the allied case for war he went on to say, “Not one single piece of information was proved. We went to war based on garbage.”

His book includes a quote from Karl Kraus — “How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print.”

Heather Rutledge, Birmingham


Our liberties are still greatly under threat

Before we all start throwing our hats into the air in celebration of the governments defeat over the 90 day detention rule, let us not forget the effect of the draconian powers of arrest under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which comes into force on 1 January 2006.

This, coupled with the equivalent of a two month prison sentence without trial under the anti-terrorism bill, will still have potentially dire consequences for society.

The police will undoubtedly use these powers to the full against anyone who looks dark skinned or suspicious for whatever reason, thus alienating great swathes of our communities.

The involvement of the police in our political process is a scenario any secret police force would be proud of, and is a very sinister development in Britain.

We are indeed fortunate though that a substantial number of MPs put their conscience and country above party loyalty and voted to oppose this legislation.

However, given this country’s preposterous foreign policy in the Middle East, the threat of terrorism is set to continue. It may take another 7 July before the 90 day detention rule and perhaps far more ill conceived legislation is put before parliament again, and so called “sunset clauses” will disappear over the horizon.

In its shadow will be the ruins of our social cohesion and our prostrate civil liberties.

Alan Haynes, Gravesend, Kent


Should Glasgow see Klan pictures?

A debate has started in Scotland over whether school pupils should be shown images of US children at Ku Klux Klan gatherings in an exhibition opening at a Glasgow museum called Generation KKK: Passing The Torch.

The exhibition, by the photojournalist James Edward Bates who grew up in southern Mississippi, focuses on children — some aged as young as three — being indoctrinated into race hate.

One of the horrific photographs, which depict Mississippi communities from 1998-2002, shows a white boy beside a tree with a black doll hanging from a noose.

Some anti-racism campaigners, such as Robina Qureshi, question whether we need to show such photos and wonder whether they might encourage racism.

In contrast Tommy Sheridan from the Scottish Socialist Party has said they will be educational.

I think that Tommy is probably right, but only if there is a proper context for such images.

This inflammatory material should be handled with care. I wonder what other readers think.

Helen McConnell, Glasgow


How Chavez survived coup

I found the article on Venezuela in last week’s Socialist Worker very informative (Chavez and the Venezuelan revolution, 12 November), but I don’t understand what Hugh O’Shaughnessy meant when he said that president Hugo Chavez had outsmarted the plotters of the April 2002 coup.

They had Chavez in prison and from the footage of the coup, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, made by an Irish TV company, it’s clear that what saved Chavez’s life was a million working class Venezuelans surrounding the palace demanding his release.

Judging from Chavez’s expression when they brought him back, he thought so too.

Sarah Ensor, East London


No doubts on the issue now

Ken MacLeod (Science fiction can help us learn to change the world, 12 November) is right that in the early 1970s many on the left (including some in the Socialist Workers Party’s predecessor organisations) believed that nuclear power could be useful.

There was then a serious debate about this question and a clear decision taken against nuclear power.

I remember with pride the Socialist Worker front page of 28 April 1978 with the headline “Workers Power, Not Nuclear Power” for the demonstration against the Windscale plan.

Helen Sillers, North London


Conference to stop nukes

On 25 April next year the world will mark 20 years since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia.

The Mayor of London has agreed to host a conference, Chernobyl 20 Years On: Lessons for the Future, on 23 March next year.

It will examine the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster and how we can meet our future energy needs without resort to new nuclear power stations.

Although primarily for local authorities and NGOs, this should be one of a series of events against new nuclear power stations.

Margaret Hillier, West London


Sun’s lies on the terror law

The Sun newspaper is continuing to plumb the depths in its support for Tony Blair and his draconian terror laws.

Its front page on Tuesday of last week, the day before the vote in parliament on the proposed laws, had the banner headline, “Tell Tony He’s Right.” A blood spattered victim of the London bombings on 7 July was pictured alongside this.

The implication was clear — the victim was calling on people to back Tony Blair’s laws. But this wasn’t the case.

The man in the photo is John Tulloch, who is disgusted with the way his image was used.

John said, “This is using my image to push through draconian and utterly unnecessary terrorism legislation.

“If you want to use my image, the words coming out of my mouth would be, ‘Not in my name, Tony’. I haven’t seen anything to convince me these laws are necessary.”

Simone Murray, Carlisle


Giving with one hand...

Council tenants in Leeds who voted for an arms length management organisation (Almo) on the promise of getting investment to bring their homes up to a decent standard are angry that a deal has been done with British Gas to install central heating in their homes.

Not much wrong with that, you might think, except that those not on housing benefit will have to pay £3.50 to £4 a week extra on top of their rent. The Leeds Tenants Federation has called this scheme unfair and unethical.

Tenants are worried that once homes are brought up to a decent standard, Almos will then go private.

As Socialist Worker said in its coverage of the Defend Council Housing conference in Birmingham, “Don’t let the rich get their hands on your homes.”

John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire


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Letters
Sat 19 Nov 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1977
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