Australia’s racist shame
In the worst racist attacks seen in Australia for decades, a mainly white crowd viciously attacked Lebanese or Muslim people in a riot that developed at Cronulla beach in Sydney on Sunday 11 December last year.
This violent outbreak of racism is the product of years of official government and media racism.
In the aftermath, Tory prime minister John Howard has even claimed there is no underlying problem with racism in Australia.
But Howard’s right wing, neo-liberal government has done more than anyone to encourage racist sentiment over the best part of the past decade.
It has consistently targeted people of Muslim and Arab background, first through anti-refugee racism and now under the guise of the “war on terrorism”.
Nor is Howard’s government solely to blame. In New South Wales, Bob Carr, the former state Labour premier, went out of his way to target “Lebanese gangs” in Sydney’s western suburbs as part of his “law and order” campaign.
The media also played a key role in stirring up the riots by publicising appeals by “locals” to “defend the beach” against people from the western suburbs in the week leading up to the riots.
This came in response to fights between lifeguards and Lebanese men at the beach.
Most of the people at the riots were mobilised by the racism in the media.
But far right racist groups were present at the riots. This is a dangerous sign that the official racism has allowed them a space to organise.
But there is hope in resisting the rise of racism in Australia.
This lies with the recent historic and huge union mobilisations against the government’s assault on workers’ rights and the majority opposition to the continuing war in Iraq.
James Supple, Melbourne, Australia
Petitioning can help the movement
The response to Socialist Worker’s petitions calling for the end to the occupation of Iraq over the past few months has been fantastic.
People have queued up to sign the petitions in town centres across Britain.
The government’s Iraq Policy Unit has recently sent us a response to all the petitions that have been sent in.
It has said that “UK troops will remain in until our task is complete… and not a moment longer.”
It says that the troops’ task is to “develop a security force of sufficient size and capability that can maintain order in a stable society”.
Many of those signing our petitions would argue that the instability has been caused by the occupation forces. The type of order they would like to create is one that benefits multinational companies, not the Iraqi people.
December’s International Peace Conference called for a weekend of action in March. This will be the next opportunity for us to make our voice heard.
As part of making these demonstrations as huge as possible, our message is carry on petitioning.
The more we get up Tony Blair’s nose the better.
Paula Champion, Socialist Worker circulation department
It’s right to back the bill
China Miéville is mistaken if he believes Respect does not support the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (Letters, 10 December). Respect conference voted overwhelmingly in favour and for good reason.
The proposed bill seeks to close a legal loophole by extending present racial hatred law to cover incitement of religious hatred against people of all faiths.
The present law only covers followers of some faiths, such as Jews and Sikhs who are also considered as racial groups, while giving no protection to Muslims, who come from many racial backgrounds.
Racists have exploited this loophole. The Nazi BNP publishes leaflets headlined, “Islam: Intolerance, Slaughter, Looting, Arson, Molestation of Women” and doesn’t worry about prosecution for incitement to racial hatred.
Its leader Nick Griffin stated on BBC’s Newsnight that Muslims expand their religion through rape, confident that he was unlikely to be charged.
This is a dangerous situation. Since 9/11 there has been a marked increase in Islamophobia and attacks against Muslims. Islamophobia is a form of racism not based on skin colour. Many Muslims face harassment and live in fear because of their religion and culture.
They have a right to equality of protection under the law.
Opponents of the bill say it will attack freedom of speech. It will not. Comedians will still be able to make offensive jokes against Muslims, just like they can against other faith and ethnic groups. Being insulting and offensive to people is not the same as inciting hatred against them.
Opponents also say we should oppose the bill because it is a cynical manoeuvre by New Labour to reclaim Muslim votes. This may be true, but it is also irrelevant.
Respect delegates concluded that this bill will help the fight against racism and that is why anti-racists should support it. I believe they are right in that decision.
Ger Francis, Birmingham
Climate change talks: victory or just hot air?
The recent talks on climate change in Montreal were a great step forward for the movement to stop the destruction of our planet.
The big demonstrations and public feeling around the world forced the world’s governments to sign up a new deal on greenhouse gas emissions after the Kyoto agreement expires in 2012.
George Bush didn’t want an agreement and his representative walked out of the talks. But the stance of other governments forced the US back to the table.
Katherine Branney, East London
Why exactly are campaigners calling the Montreal talks a victory?
We have the promise of an agreement in six months’ time with unknown limitations on emisisons and with the US — the largest polluter — excluded.
We have a follow-up to Kyoto for some countries when we know that Kyoto is grossly insufficient. If this is victory, then the Gleneagles G8 was a triumph of the greatest magnitude. I don’t remember the progressive movement saying this.
There were demonstrations about climate change during Montreal, and they were excellent as a sign that a new movement is starting. But let’s not fool ourselves that we have won anything from the people who are threatening to destroy the world for profit.
Rachel Seiffert, Middlesbrough
Geldof’s Tory role is another fraud
The Tories have hired Tony Blair’s court jester Bob Geldof, to try to give their moribund party some credibility with young voters by talking about Third World poverty.
Geldof is once again being used to lend “credibility” to a PR scam which will do nothing for the poor of Africa. The Live 8 concerts were a fraud and a circus on behalf of imperialism.
The G8 meeting in Gleneagles last year produced nothing in concrete terms for debt relief or fairer trade. Geldof gave these proposals the thumbs-up.
He was on the Commission for Africa which advocated neo-liberal privatisation as the remedy for Africa. All this Tory commission will come up with will be empty rhetoric and a reaffirmation of Geldof’s view that the problems of Africa have nothing to do with the polices imposed upon them by the World Bank and IMF.
Africans must develop their own economic systems free from interference.
What Africans don’t need is vacuous proclamations by a vain, pious hypocrite who is only interested in his own ego and being obsequious to power.
Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee
Your struggle inspires us
It is very interesting for left Russian students to know that our comrades in European countries such as Italy (Italian students develop a thirst for political discussion, 10 December), fight against neo-liberal reforms like we do.
We have used your articles about student protests in our propaganda.
We hope you will continue to speak about resistance to neo?liberalism. Greetings from the Urals.
Alex Kinzer, Perm, Russia
Governing for patients
I have just been elected as a governor of my local hospital after standing for the position as a member of Respect.
I stated that I would oppose any further moves towards privatisation and that patients must not be sacrificed to the profits of big business.
I stated that healthcare must not be based on profit and that the safety of patients must be a priority.
There were nine candidates for two seats. I was elected with over 200 votes more than the other successful candidate.
People are prepared to support someone who makes a clear commitment to socialist healthcare policies.
Janet Portman, Chesterfield
Will workers be in control?
So the Movement Towards Socialism in Bolivia could be set to nationalise the oil and gas industry (Nationalisation tops agenda in Bolivian elections, 17 December). Just how progressive this would be?
Nationalisation could simply result in industry being run by state bureaucrats, not workers. Capitalist bosses could just be replaced by state bosses.
The result could be that these industries would be more inefficient, if the state tries to direct production from “above”.
It could simply result in the rotten “state capitalism” that existed in Stalinist dictatorships like the Soviet Union.
If the intention is to redistribute profits to the poor, that would be good. However, what about the dangers of nationalisation?
What role will workers have in such nationalised industries in Bolivia? Will they be in control?
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
Bosses will go back on deals
British gas engineers in the GMB union were forced to strike before Christmas over management’s decision to close the final salary pension scheme to new workers.
This is despite bosses agreeing with the union two years before that they would keep the scheme open.
They then reneged on the deal saying that the union was “very aware that this agreement was not forever”.
This strike shows two things. First, that current workers are prepared to fight for future ones. Second, that bosses will try to go back on deals when they feel the time is right.
All the more strange, then, that union leaders have put their faith in a deal with the government over public sector pensions, which will raise future workers’ retirement age to 65 from 60.
Simone Murray, Carlisle
Beautiful win in Uruguay
After five weeks in prison, the Uruguayan activists charged with sedition were released just before Christmas. In November they had participated in an anti-imperialist demonstration against the Summit of the Americas.
Demonstrations, meetings, and hundreds of signatures arrived from dozens of countries calling for their freedom, finally triumphing over the right wing judges and the silence of most of the left parties.
The main square of the city was flooded with people after their release. In Uruguay 2005 ended with a beautiful victory.
Javiér Carles, Uruguay