Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1988

Protesting against Islamophobia in London last Saturday (Pic: Matt Saywell)

Protesting against Islamophobia in London last Saturday (Pic: Matt Saywell)

Attacking the powerless

Regarding “those cartoons” (The issue is racism, 11 February). I’ll spit feathers if I have to listen to any more right wing commentators fall over each other to salute the “courage” of pointlessly insulting Muslims.

How proud they must be to bravely offend the views of an already scapegoated minority community, backed only by the meagre resources of the government, judiciary, police, media and the most heavily armed military in history.

Free speech is important – too important to play silly bloody games with, far too important to reduce to the “right” to chortle at harmful racist stereotypes. Real courage is speaking out against the powerful, not the marginalised.

Ben Drake, York

I read the coverage of the cartoons in this week’s Socialist Worker – what a breath of fresh air you have brought to the whole issue.

What is happening is a racist attack on Muslims and not a serious critique of someone’s religion. Muslim reaction to the cartoons is a result of pent up frustration and anger over attacks that have gone on for years, and have rocketed since 9/11.

I’ve had heated debates with even left minded people. Having the full facts of the social context in which this is taking place is crucial to winning people over to what is really going on – racism.

Robin Tennant, Glasgow

During the 1970s a Sun cartoonist depicted striking workers as greedy, grasping, lazy, selfish and brainless.

When the proofs reached the shopfloor, print trade unionists refused to handle them. The Sun appeared with the cartoon blanked out.

A simple refusal to work to print a cartoon intended to ridicule and set worker against worker said more about human dignity and freedom than a coach load of philosophers could.

Barry Conway, Wigan

The British National Party (BNP), ever ready to fan the flames at the first sign of trouble, is flagrantly attempting to generate trouble by reproducing the cartoons on its website.

No doubt BNP leader Nick Griffin hopes to cause enough outrage that he can spend the next six months droning on about being denied his right to free speech. Of course, when Griffin refers to free speech he means the freedom to insult, lie and provoke.

John Constantine, Lancaster

The cartoons issue is an obvious act of racism and prejudice – or one would think so.

I am student at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (Soas). At our last union general meeting I was faced with opinions that genuinely shocked me – are the educated so naive that they assume the existence of freedom of speech?

John Rees from Respect gave a ten minute speech on the issue. Opinions were initially divided, but with discussion and debate, the correct decision was made – 48 votes to five to condemn the cartoons.

The printing of the cartoons is an aggravation and a blatant insult to the Muslim world.

Soas students have highlighted their anger. We stand united with Muslims and Arabs against the propaganda of the prejudice-driven media of our world today.

Maryam Darwich, Soas, University of London

Unions in Venezuela

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) sent two delegates to the World Social Forum (WSF), held in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas, in January. Two other self-funded CWU representatives also took part.

CWU delegates met with ordinary teachers working and living in the barrios (shanty towns). We also met the leaders of the recently formed UNT union federation.

The UNT was formed after the old union federation, CTV, supported an attempted coup against president Hugo Chavez in 2002, and then backed anti-Chavez strikes, both organised by the business confederation, Fedecamaras.

Changes introduced by Chavez have been likened to the introduction of the welfare state in Britain. This was confirmed when we visited the barrios and met with residents, teachers, Cuban doctors and financial and food cooperative workers.

Young and old for the first time have been given access to food, healthcare and education.

As you leave the barrio you immediately step into middle class areas. The rich and the middle class, who have seen their privileges eroded by Chavez, are prepared to fight to keep their wealth.

The media constantly runs anti-Chavez propaganda undermining the government whenever and wherever it can.

The UNT and Venezuelan trade unions held meetings throughout the WSF. Their main aim is the democratic election of workers’ representatives to defend and expand workers’ rights.

The private companies that insist that workers sign anti-Chavez declarations before they are employed were condemned and campaigns to expose and change this discrimination will continue.

Unions here in Britain should organise speaking tours by Venezuelan trade unionists. This will ensure that workers here can hear first hand the situation the people of Venezuela face and how solidarity can ensure they win democracy and empowerment of the excluded poor and organised workers.

Jane Loftus, CWU executive (pc)

Prostitution – is it just another job?

As a long term reader of Socialist Worker and a prostitute I share your support for the new measures (Debating prostitution, 28 January). However, I see in much of the debate the standard misconceptions and priggishness.

The work done by prostitutes, most people believe, is so awful that they surely must be forced to do what they do.

Most people find repugnant the idea of providing sexual services for strangers, but is it worse than the services required of hospital nurses?

To pity one group of workers and respect the other is to make a moral judgement of a particularly sanctimonious kind.

We don’t sell our bodies any more than nurses sell theirs. Like all workers, we sell our labour power or services. It is these services, not our bodies, that are commodified. Socialists oppose all commodification, not just that of sex, but under capitalism we try to live and feed our children.

My friend used to be a teacher. When she started working as a prostitute she said the big change in her life was “not having to face the daily humiliation and abuse”.

The punters may be sad and inadequate, but for the most part they are grateful and respectful. The work, like most work, is usually pleasant enough, occasionally tedious and sometimes exciting.

By the way, prostitutes do have orgasms, many “respectable wives” do not. What does that tell you about alienation?

Sex worker by choice

Stanley shooting: there is no justice

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) wrote to me last week to say that there will be no action taken against the police officers who shot and killed my husband Harry Stanley in 1999.

They took someone’s life, but nothing will happen. I’m disgusted – I thought something would be done.

The only good thing that came out of the IPCC report was that it said the police shouldn’t confer before writing up reports following fatal shootings.

It recommended that police shouldn’t be allowed to sit together comparing notes.

I’ve been through two inquests into the shooting and high court appeals, and now I don’t think very much at all of British justice.

We don’t seem to have any human rights in this country. We don’t seem to have any say. The police have all the power and can do what they want.

But I’m still fighting. Nothing I do can bring Harry back. But I can fight to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

That’s why I’m campaigning over shoot to kill policies alongside other families.

Irene Stanley, East London

Don’t force us into low pay

It was good to see Doctor Gerard Reissmann speaking out against the government’s plans for incapacity benefit (New plans mean blaming the sick, 28 January).

The government is trying to divide GPs from their patients, and the employed from the unemployed.

Unemployment is on the increase in this country, the official figure now stands at 1.5 million, exactly the same as 30 years ago when the Right to Work Campaign came into existence.

Tony Blair says that he wants to take a million people off incapacity benefit, but what jobs is he going to give them? They will be low paid or voluntary – not the type of job Blair and his supporters would apply for.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Outlook bleak as heat rises

The environmental outlook for planet Earth is bleak. Environmental disaster is the by-product of wanton individualism and greed.

Capitalism has corrupted human nature and has led to selfish, short-termism.

Karl Marx wrote at length about the internal contradictions of capitalism. However, he underestimated the complexity and solidity of capitalism.

Only now, when the planet itself is at risk are commentators starting to question the structure of our society.

At some point in our future the people of the world will realise that the only way to run society is within a system based around cooperation.

Without these ideals the environment will die.

Tom Porter, Staffordshire

Iran’s real weapon

The Iranian government has finally developed the ultimate “nuclear” weapon that can swiftly destroy the financial system underpinning the American empire.

That weapon is the planned Iranian Oil Bourse (exchange). It will be based on a mechanism that naturally implies payment for oil in Euros.

This represents a threat to the hegemony of the US dollar.

The last man to actually demand Euros for his oil was Saddam Hussein in 2000.

Bush’s “shock and awe” in Iraq was not about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities, defending human rights, spreading democracy, or even about seizing oil fields. It was about defending the dollar, and therefore the American empire.

Alan Haynes, Gravesend, Kent

Filthy spin of ‘friendly fire’

Of all the “spin” that is the currency of governments, the filthiest must be “friendly fire”.

When the bullets rip through the flesh, smashing bones with disabling pain it must be a great comfort to the recipient to hear the phrase, “It’s only friendly fire mate.”

When young bodies are blow to pieces beyond recognition what comfort it must be to the families to know that “it was only friendly fire you know” that mutilated your son, husband, father.

Why stop there? When the coalition troops empty their machine guns into cars filled with children and babies this can become “family fire”.

Blair and this government live in a closed world of darkness. It is only by the use of such childlike terms as “friendly fire” that they can then retreat back into the security and unreality of the nursery.

Derek Hanlin, By e-mail

Still have to smash BNP

The fact that BNP leaders Nick Griffin and Mark Collett have been cleared of some of the charges of inciting racial hatred will not alter anything in campaigning against their organisation.

Wherever the BNP raise their heads, racist violence follows. They should have no place in our society.

They’re not welcome here. So let’s smash the BNP by any means necessary.

C A Douthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Sat 18 Feb 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1988
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.