How long to reign over us?
Our headteacher called us all into the school hall one day and said she had something very grave to announce. King George VI had died. The whole nation was placed in mourning. Most people felt a high degree of reverence towards the monarchy, and as a mark of respect people didn't go out in the evenings.
The radio played solemn music all the time. The best thing about it was that we got a day off from school. Newspapers went on and on about King George's life and reign. But things have changed, thank goodness.
Reading the letters printed in some of the daily newspapers, I'm not the only one who objects to page after page of drivel about the 'wonderful' Queen Mother. TV viewers joined in complaining at being subjected to saturation coverage of her aristocratic life.
Things have transformed so that people no longer see themselves as subjects reigned over by the monarchy but as citizens. Some of these citizens now openly scoff at media claims that the Queen Mother more or less 'won the Second World War single-handed'. I bet she never had to spend nights down the underground frightened of being killed, or coming back up to find her house destroyed.
After all, if she was bombed out of one house she had quite a few others to go to. I was worried that when she died we would hear about nothing else for months. But significant numbers of people don't care, and life has continued as normal. The government has not managed to use her death to cover up its attacks on the Post Office and council housing.
In fact people are not prepared to allow the death of one of the most privileged people in our society to stop us fighting against the sell-off of public services.
MARY PHILLIPS, South London
Crime crackdown targets innocent and the vulnerable
THE FACTS raised by Jock Young about crime (Socialist Worker, 6 April) were brought home to me recently. My mobile phone was snatched on the street. Although shaken, I wasn't hurt. I didn't feel I had been a victim of a serious crime. But I was shocked by the behaviour of the police.
The media hysteria about street crime meant officers were desperate to make an arrest. Fifteen minutes after I had phoned the police they picked someone up and arrested him. The police pressured me to say if I would recognise him.
The officers said this was because he had run away when they pointed at him. It seems they picked up the first black teenager they saw.
They said that he would not have run away unless he was guilty. Clearly the police had no grounds to hold him, but pressured me to look at him in an identity parade. I refused. I was later told they found no phones on him or in his home.
Even then he was not released. He was held for at least four hours. Only after all of this did the police tell me he was schizophrenic. New Labour's drive to increase arrests means that racist police pick on the most vulnerable people and treat them like criminals.
ANGELA STAPLEFORD, East London
We side with working class
MAURICE COURCHA (Socialist Worker, 6 April) argues that socialists who support the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in Zimbabwe side with imperialism. He dangerously ignores the roots of the MDC. The MDC emerged out of a wave of militant class struggles that challenged Mugabe's neo-liberal agenda in the mid-1990s.
Unprecedented national strikes exploded against job losses and corruption in 1996. As the revolt gathered momentum, workers, peasants and students demanded an independent party to fight for their interests. The MDC was launched in 1999 under the leadership of Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Morgan Tsvangirai.
Maurice is right about the leadership of the MDC now being dominated by industrialists and white farmers. But MDC membership remains overwhelmingly working class and anti-capitalist in outlook.
As Mugabe unleashes a new reign of terror, Zimbabwean socialists and trade unionists have no choice but to organise a fightback in the space offered by the MDC. It is the success of this strategy that will allow Zimbabweans to discard the compromised MDC in favour of a genuine workers' party built from below.
GAVIN CAPPS, South London
This is a call for Arab unity
THE ENTIRE Middle East region ignited in protest last week. This followed Israel's re-occupation of Ramallah and their invasion of Palestinian president Yasser Arafat's compound. On the fourth day of demonstrations across Lebanon 3,000 protesters marched. They were led by Palestinian groups. Palestinian and Lebanese students marched through Beirut to the Egyptian embassy.
This protest was just one of three taking place in Lebanon. Demonstrators demanded that the Arab world at least severs its diplomatic and economic ties with Israel. Protests included a large contingent of Palestinian women's unions who chanted, 'Belgium cut its relations with Israel, and the Arab nations sit and talk.' Other protesters carried signs saying 'How many Palestinian victims before the silence is broken?' and 'Shame on the Arab states'.
'This is a message to the Arab world,' said Alia, a student at the Arab University. 'We can't be quiet.'
SONYA KNOX, Beirut
Act now to stop war
I AM very pleased to see plans for non-violent direct action over any attacks on Iraq. We have discussed this in our area with anti-war groups. The feeling is that, although we should do something after any hostilities or attack begins, we should take it a step further.
We should organise these activities before any attacks. Doing something that is effective also helps fight fatalism. We have seen that once war begins they will not stop. We must be proactive this time.
Opposition to war in Afghanistan showed us that we can win support from the many people who were 'don't knows'.
TONY MARTIN, Yorkshire
Don't waste your breath on Ali G
HOWEVER YOU might feel about Sacha Baron Cohen's persona Ali G, should anyone spend the money to see the film? Those willing to overlook the blatant sexism, racism and plain idiocy will still be grievously disappointed. The question for me was, why is Sacha Baron Cohen getting so much media coverage for producing such low quality entertainment?
In one of the scenes in the film Ali G gets elected to the House of Commons. He proposes to resolve the refugee problem by allowing only the 'fit and pretty' girls into the country.
Why is this movie, that is brimming with ridiculousness, making media headlines? Clearly Ali G has become another useless entertainer and film industry puppet. So let's not waste our breath by uttering the words 'controversial' and 'offensive', and put this imbecile to rest.
ELIZABETH OH, North London
Chickens come home to roost
THE MEAT inspectors' trade union, Unison, has again warned that chicken meat on sale in supermarkets may be unfit for human consumption. The union has warned the Food Standards Agency that 'chickens were regularly being repackaged in factories. They are sold in shops and supermarkets with their sell-by dates altered.
'We have seen ordinary broilers relabelled as organic for one major supermarket chain. Meat that is not fit for human consumption has filtered back into the food chain.' Despite the BSE scandal, the government and the food industry made the situation worse.
Food inspection is being cut and privatised. Tory cuts in food inspection have not been reinstated. Resources given to the Food Standards Agency to enforce decent food standards are pathetic.
Standing in a factory, producing burgers for massive food chains, it is not difficult to see the problem. It is impossible to tell where the meat came from, how old it is, or whether other types of meat are mixed in.
Manufacturers simply look for the cheapest source of meat. Profit rules over all other considerations.
MALCOLM POVEY, Leeds
On 8 March the queen came to Canterbury. Members of Kent Socialist Alliance prepared a huge banner. It read 'Fifty years of sponging – abolish the monarchy, for a socialist republic'. Unfortunately we had not prepared for the police. Before we could unfurl our banner we were stopped.
Police officers detained us before the queen turned up – on the pretext that we were acting suspiciously. Officers confiscated our banner. This is typical of how the 'armed body of men' protect the rich.
JOHN CURTIS, Ramsgate
A YEAR ago I was not interested in politics. But since the campaign against Bush and Blair's efforts to start a war against Iraq I have become a regular reader of Socialist Worker. The blatant nature of how they're trying to deceive the British and American people into an imperialist march into Iraq is absolutely disgraceful.
Two of the most popular and just campaigns in my view are supporting the Palestinians and stopping the war.
EDWARD DUDLEY, Canterbury