I was saddened and disappointed to learn that the PCS civil service workers’ union will not be sending any delegation to January’s World Social Forum (WSF) in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.
The WSF is an event of international social importance bringing together trade unionists, civil society groups, peace activists, environmental and human rights groups and others to discuss a wide range of issues, which are pertinent to PCS as one of the biggest unions in economically rich Britain.
The WSF also signifies a stand against the forces of neo-liberalism and globalisation, which threaten trade unions worldwide.
It is an opportunity to discuss on an international platform issues that affect the trade union movement such as job cuts, pensions, poverty, free trade and war, as well as a chance to show solidarity with others.
The trade union movement is and always has been an international movement and an injury to one is an injury to all regardless on which continent it takes place.
In August I visited Colombia as a PCS delegate and met Colombian trade unionists.
Despite the massive human rights violations that are faced on a daily basis, trade unions in Colombia are fighting exactly the same battles such as attacks on pensions and working rights.
I am sure this is true globally. The very fact that this year’s WSF takes place in Venezuela, with the social battles and changes that are currently taking place, makes it an important event.
I strongly believe that the PCS should reconsider this decision and send a delegation to represent us at such an important social event, and unite in solidarity with our brothers and sisters from around the globe with whom we stand side by side.
Marianne Owens Cardiff
The US is preparing a coup against Chavez
Your report of the recent conference on Venezuela (“Latin America 2005”, Socialist Worker website, 10 December) quotes Richard Gott saying, “We are seeing the fourth attempt by the US and the opposition to overthrow Chavez.” This is an important observation.
The US state department has questioned the legitimacy of the recent legislative elections in Venezuela on the grounds of low turnout. But, as the US government is well aware, the low vote total was caused in large part by a boycott and sabotage campaign mounted by right wing opposition parties that the US supports.
The boycott was spearheaded by the group Sumate, which is funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy. Its leader, Maria Corina Machado, was welcomed by Bush six months ago.
Such manoeuvres must be taken seriously.
They come after the abortive US-backed coup in April 2002, which was defeated by a popular uprising, the 2002-3 oil bosses’ strike, and the 2004 recall referendum.
Perhaps for the moment the Bush crew have their hands full in Iraq. But should there be any respite there then they might well move on to Venezuela.
The US has often used election boycotts to destabilise governments. They did it in 1984 in Nicaragua and in 2000 in Haiti.
I believe it is time to step up our solidarity with Venezuela.
Susan Pickering Norwich
Who has clean hands on climate change?
I appreciated your coverage of the international protests over climate change.
Having participated in the 40,000 strong march in Montreal, I’m optimistic that we are witnessing the birth of a great and urgently needed movement.
I do have one quibble with your article. You quote an activist who, while rightly criticising George Bush and Tony Blair, states that other countries are “pulling their weight”. This is simply not true.
Look at the example of Canada. Between 1990 and 2004 greenhouse gas emissions here increased by more than 24 percent.
Despite signing on to the Kyoto accord there is no sign of any slowing down of that rate. During the same period US emissions increased “just” 13 percent.
The federal and provincial governments are touting nuclear power as their “clean” alternative to fossil fuels—small wonder since the government has massively invested in mining and marketing uranium, and in developing and selling nuclear power technology.
A recent study of major industrialised nations ranked Canada second worst on environmental issues.
My point is not to let Blair or Bush off the hook, but to remind us that no matter what country we live in, the real enemy of the planet is at home.
John Bell Toronto, Canada
Free speech won for Scottish Socialist Party at Stirling Univeristy
A BIG campaign overturned the attempt by the student union at Stirling University to ban the student branch of the Scottish Socialist Party from meeting on university premises, and to close the society’s website.
These attacks followed complaints that the society had held meetings on Zionism.
This was deemed “outside its remit”.
The meetings were about the politics of Palestine and the Zionist tradition.
They were not anti-Semitic in any way.
The Socialist Society appealed for messages of solidarity and support and got a very good response.
If this denial of free speech had succeeded, we would certainly have seen it repeated elsewhere, which would have affected all who are opposed to Israeli government policy.
Stirling University has a long history of radical socialist activity.
Members of the present socialist society were actively involved in officially twinning with students from Bir Zeit University in Palestine earlier this term.
E-mail messages of solidarity to the group at
Marie Larrin Stirling
Attacking our rights over deaths in custody
The recent landmark action against the government, held in the high court, London, was important in highlighting the need to end prison custody for children.
Joseph Scholes, aged 16, and clinically depressed, was found hanged in his cell in 2002, in the so called “care” of Stoke Heath young offender institution, Shropshire. At the conclusion of his inquest last year, Mid and North Shropshire coroner John Ellery asked the home secretary to hold an independent public inquiry into Joseph’s death.
The limited remit of the coroner’s court meant that the coroner had been unable to consider vital issues such as the severity of Joseph’s sentence, the shortage of facilities for dealing with vulnerable offending juveniles with a history of self harm, and the arrangements for dealing with Joseph and other teenagers prior to sentencing.
Home secretary Charles Clarke and his predecessor David Blunkett ignored the coroner’s call for an independent public inquiry into Joseph’s death. Undeterred, Joseph’s grieving mother took her case to the high court.
At the end of the two-day judicial review Mr Justice Bennett indicated his judgment would be given after Christmas.
The home secretary must show moral leadership, and deal with the iniquity of prison custody for children, and child deaths in custody. Failure to deal with this shameful state of affairs will be further evidence of the weakness in Tony Blair’s government.
Pauline Campbell Mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the “care” of HMP & YOI Styal, Cheshire, 2003
Respect has a clear position
China Miéville (Letters, 10 December) is wrong to say the Respect conference did not commit Respect to supporting the religious hatred bill.
On the contrary, George Galloway in opposing the resolution I put calling on Respect to oppose the bill, made it quite clear that, if the resolution was defeated—which it was—he would vote for the bill in parliament, as he had already done in earlier readings. I think that means Respect supports the bill.
Jane Kelly South London
French left must unite
Sebastian Budgen (Socialist Worker, 10 December) poses some interesting questions for the French left.
One major issue is who should be the left candidate or candidates for the 2007 presidential election. It would seem to me that there should be a single candidate to the left of the Socialist party. This would give the best hope of beating Le Pen’s Front National—and even winning.
If all the left parties stand separately they will go out in the first round. There would have to be a democratic method of deciding a joint candidate. How about José Bové?
Sandra Tilier Birmingham
We can stop nuke upgrade
Many thanks for your article “New Nukes Will Be A Deadly Waste” (Socialist Worker, 3 December) in which you highlight the huge financial cost of Tony Blair’s plan for new nuclear weapons.
We can all learn a useful lesson from the US where public pressure on congress has resulted in defeat for George Bush’s plans for a new “bunker buster” nuclear bomb.
Similar efforts in this country could force Blair to abandon his pursuit of nuclear weapons. I hope readers will write to their MPs and urge them to sign early day motion 129.
David Rolfe Telford, Shropshire
Young people are picked on
A headline in a local paper reads, “No Go Zone For Yobs”—“yobs” being the new name for young people. A large area of north Manchester, already the Asbo capital of the country, is now a “dispersal area”, where groups of young people can be broken up.
Defiance of the dispersal order can result in up to three months in jail. Thus, young people can be criminalised on the mere suspicion of a police officer.
North Manchester is one of the most deprived areas in the country. What became of Tony Blair’s claim that he would be “tough on the causes of crime”?
Brian Rose Manchester
Anything to hide the truth
The revelation that George Bush considered bombing the Al Jazeera TV station, and the ban imposed to prevent the media printing details, show the British and US governments are determined to silence opposition to their war.
They talk of human rights and democracy in Iraq. But we have seen the evidence of torture and thousands of civilian deaths.
Alan Tremeer Harrow, London
Council tax doesn’t add up
The government seems to think that an increase of 5 percent in next year’s council tax is acceptable.
I also note that Gordon Brown’s pre-budget statement did not confirm that the £200 payment to pensioner households to help with council tax will continue into next year.
Average council tax per dwelling in 1997 was £564.
If council tax had risen at the rate of inflation since 1997, the average council tax bill in England would now be £708.
In fact it’s £1,009, a hike of 79 percent.
We need a local tax system that is fair. I hope this will be central to Respect’s election campaign next year.
Joyce Sheppard North London