Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1983

Is khat more dangerous than alcohol?

Is khat more dangerous than alcohol?

Must drug laws change?

The moves to outlaw khat in Britain should be opposed.

The leaves of the khat bush have been used for centuries by people in Africa, and immigrants have brought it here. It is a mild stimulant and causes few if any health problems.

This latest scare has flowed from the notion of “permanently intoxicated young Somalis” roaming the streets of London (as Mike Gapes MP put it). The demonisation of this community was heightened by the arrests after the recent shooting of a police officer in Bradford.

Somalis are under attack, and the outlawing of khat will be used as a further excuse by the police to raid homes and arrest young people.

Whatever problems there may be with khat they will not be helped by driving it underground. If drugs are dangerous then why should their supply be controlled by criminals?

Why is khat, used predominantly by African Muslims, outlawed while alcohol is made more easily available than ever? The permanently intoxicated are found more often outside a pub than a house where khat is chewed.

Fadumo Ali, South London

I’m appalled to learn that the government see the further incrimination and arrest of users as the answer to the newly discovered evidence of mental health problems linked to cannabis.

I have suffered from mental health problems which I feel without doubt are linked to the abuse of drugs. These drugs would predominantly include ecstasy, cannabis and occasionally speed (amphetamines).

I made the decision to quit taking these substances on my own due to the affect my mental health problems were having on the rest of my life and my behaviour.

I didn’t need to be arrested, I was simply motivated by improving my quality of life.

Being criminalised for taking these drugs would not have improved my quality of life but would greatly have damaged it.

People take drugs to avoid misery and unhappiness as a quick fix to their problems, a temporary escape from reality which can be extremely hard to confront and deal with most of the time for most, and at all times for some.

The only way to reduce the consumption of cannabis to better human life is to educate anyone who wishes to learn of the long term risks. The best people to teach them are people who have suffered from the relevant mental health problems in the first place.

Truth is the construction of increased freedom, not the repression of people for taking advantage of the freedoms available to them.

Alan Creswell-Laing, Manchester

Last year Labour foreign office minister Bill Rammell called for a campaign to “boycott cocaine”, to shame middle class drug users into giving up the drug.

He drew a parallel between South African wine during apartheid and cocaine today, saying that the cocaine trade was fuelling conflict in Colombia. Now Evo Morales, who came to prominence as a coca growers’ leader, has been elected as president in Bolivia, Rammell will be able to locate a source of fair-trade cocaine.

This would be a boost to the Bolivian economy, where the free market policies promoted by New Labour have made coca about the only profitable crop. It might also help New Labour’s middle class backers ease their consciences.

Hazel Warner, Birmingham

Debate on French left

The French riots were undoubtedly the voiceless speaking in the only language left to them. Walking around parts of Paris I wasn’t sad to see what had happened but glad because it showed that the life has not been crushed out of poor people here, especially young black or beurs (Arab kids).

Since the election of April 2002, when Le Pen got through to the second round, every racist type has come out of the woodwork. It is almost impossible now as a non-white person to walk around Paris without facing direct oppression. The police are just the sharp end of it.

The left here has completely fallen down on racism. They have consistently retreated when faced with direct questions because they are either unable or unwilling to identify racism, not visible ethnic minorities, as a major enemy within here.

If the left here doesn’t challenge racist arguments, doesn’t stop using the defence of the republic as an excuse to go to the frontiers of xenophobia, then the election of 2007 is going to be another disaster.

Thankfully there is still time to rectify these mistakes.

Neil Walker, Paris

Sandra Tilier (Letters, 17 December) writes that the best hope for change in France is to choose a single candidate to the left of the Socialist Party for the 2007 elections.

A movement has been launched to try to bring together the different elements in such a campaign.

The petition “For joint candidates in 2007 and 2008” was published in November, and has been signed by thousands of individuals, including many members of the Communist Party and the Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire.

For such candidates to emerge, meetings and joint action will need to take place, as happened during the No campaign in the EU constitution referendum.

Socialist Worker and Respect supporters who read French can find out more at

Colin Falconer, Saint-Denis, France

Evidence of Jesus’s class background

John Rose’s article (Judas of Galilee, 17 December) on Jewish radicals was most informative. However the myth that Jesus was a carpenter should be challenged.

The Aramaic “naggar”, translated as carpenter, also meant skilled or learned person. The latter interpretation is more likely as it is found in passages dealing with his erudition, nowhere is there a hint Jesus was any kind of craftsman.

Translators of Matthew seem to be aware of the confusion, referring to Jesus as a carpenter’s son, not a carpenter himself.

It is also claimed he was of Jewish royal decent, true or not it must have at least seemed plausible.

The lavish wedding at Cana shows he moved in society circles.

The high quality of his clothing is also mentioned — for which Roman soldiers gambled at the crucifixion — and he had wealthy supporters such as Joseph of Arimathea.

The image of Jesus as a humble craftsman was largely cultivated by 19th century evangelicals in attempts to appeal to the working class.

Omitted in the article was John the Baptist. Flavius Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews states Herod Antipas had him executed for fear of his popular support and influence among the masses. Josephus’ silence on Jesus himself was a source of some embarrassment to the church.

Keith Prince, Essex

Cameron’s record

The massed ranks of Westminster commentators have heralded David Cameron as a new dawn for the Tories.

But this bubble-faced Blair wannabe has a dirty secret, and it’s nothing to do with Ms Pain or fat lines of coke. It’s much more sordid.

David Cameron is probably the only person in Britain who supports the Iraq war more now than when it began.

In February 2003, he described himself as “confused and uncertain” about the invasion. In August 2005, at a speech to the Foreign Policy Institute, he stressed how vital the “pre-emptive” attack on Iraq was in confronting a “global Jihadist terrorist threat”.

The reasons for Cameron’s political journey are not hard to find. Advising him are a vicious group of self-styled neo-conservatives. They include his campaign manager and shadow chancellor, George Osborne, who has proposed massive tax cuts for the rich, and new Tory housing spokesman, Michael Gove, who has spoken in favour of reintroducing anti-gay Section 28, and who thinks it’s “time for a revival of jingoism”.

This clique were vehement cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq, and would be overjoyed to see further US military barbarism in the Middle East.

“Compassionate”? It seems the Tories are still good for a laugh, if nothing else.

Jacob Middleton, East London

Racism and capitalism

Like most Marx-led socialists, Parke and Ovenden (Race to the bottom, 7 January) assume that racism is linked to capitalist ideology.

I don’t think so. Racism is a product of the white supremacist creed that divides mankind into two groups — the white, superior “us” and the miserable “them” or others.

Capitalist oppression, on the other hand, springs from untrammelled greed that leads the capitalists to covet and grab what belongs to the same others.

The two notions are not necessarily related.

If capitalism is dismantled, it doesn’t mean racism will go. It is some inherent quality embedded in the white psyche.

It is a pity that socialists read too much into Marx and his class fixation.

Eddie D’Sa, by e-mail

Blogs are not whole answer

Richard Seymour (How the internet bloggers broke the story, 7 January) is right to point out the importance of bloggers in revealing the documents proving the readiness of the British government to make use of material obtained under torture in Uzbekistan.

But I don’t think bloggers can replace a socialist newspaper. There remains a question of access to the internet for many people.

In addition there is a difference between a blog and a paper which brings together news and analysis linked to an overall political analysis and an organisational form for changing the world.

The internet has transformed political comment, in many ways for the good.

But it remains an additional resource to our paper.

PJ Moore, Southampton

Migrant labour and decency

We read your article from last year (Migrant workers Midlands sit-down protest, 27 August) about east European migrant workers who took part in a sit-down protest over their conditions.

We, the Alex girls, think its disgraceful that people are being treated with such disrespect.

They are prepared to do these jobs and should be paid equally and fairly.

Beca Kilbane, Alexandra College Dubin

Time to fight over pensions

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said in his new year message that unions will need to “step up” their defence of pension schemes this year to deal with a “looming crisis”.

Hardly had he uttered the words when pension schemes at the Co-op and Arcadia suffered shattering blows.

It is time to take a stand. Some group of workers has to start fighting or every boss in Britain is going to worsen their scheme.

The union leaders must do more than “consult” their members.

They must campaign hard for action and make sure that everyone gets behind the battle.

Janet Fellowes, West London

Defend WTO protesters

Further to the report on the arrests during the Hong Kong anti-WTO protests (Socialist Worker, 7 January) there is now an international campaign to defend the 14 who are facing charges.

Their trial was due to take place this week.

Twelve of the 14 have already started a hunger strike to focus attention on the injustice which is now taking place.

It is very important that the international movement does not forget those who have been singled out.

Please send calls to drop the charges to Mr Donald Tsang, chief executive, special administrative region of Hong Kong, People’s Republic of China via fax 00852 250 90577 or e-mail [email protected]

Tanny Broderick, Newcastle
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Sat 14 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1983
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