Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 2001

Kim (second left) and friends on the May Day demo

Kim (second left) and friends on the May Day demo


Amazing May Day in LA

Last week Socialist Worker published a picture of Kim Jones and her friends on the massive May Day protest for immigrant rights in Los Angeles, US. We got in touch with her and she sent this message to our readers

The day was amazing. I took a mission all the way from Santa Ana with my two friends. We ditched school, hopped on the metro and took a 35 minute ride there. As soon as we got there all we saw was people wearing white in the streets.

I could see everyone coming together as one, all fighting for one cause – blacks, Hispanics, whites, all sizes and all ages.

My friends and I didn’t really have anything prepared so we just got our knives, cut some boxes up and made the signs we were carrying. They read “puro pedo”, which means “bullshit” in Spanish.

I’m not an immigrant – I was born in Los Angeles. But my parents struggled and put their lives on the line to come across the border. Those fences didn’t stop them and now they’re legal, but still I feel that what many people in the US are thinking is totally unfair.

Many US citizens say that immigrants need to get in line, that all they’re doing is taking our money and our jobs. But immigrants have every right to be here, every right to want to live the “American dream”.

We’re all immigrants. If anything, the ones that deserve to be here are the Indians. But many people are ignorant and think that this place belongs to the whites, which is a total misunderstanding on their part.

I just felt as if I had to be there with my people. We are all humans, and no one is alien. No matter what, we should all be entitled to the same rights. Immigrants work and pay taxes on food and clothes. They are human just like all US citizens. If anything they should change the whole process of becoming legal because it takes 11 years and who really wants to wait that long?

I feel that the campaign should go even deeper, like the African-Americans who boycotted the buses for almost a year. Immigrants should show how important they are to the economy. I bet the US lost a lot of money on May Day. We should boycott and demonstrate to show how much we deserve to be here, and how immigrants are not criminals, they are just people.

Kim Jones, Santa Ana, California, US


The crisis in housing

The shortage of affordable housing is a scandal (Housing crisis shames Labour, 29 April). Unfortunately there is no alternative for many people but to turn to the private rented sector.

If that is not bad enough, there is the despicable attitude of private landlords towards people who rely on state benefits as their only source of income.

Many adverts for rented property include offensive phrases such as “no DSS” or “responsible working persons only”. I do not like being described as “DSS”. Being unable to work through illness or unemployment does not make a person irresponsible.

It galls me that those who make money simply by owning property should take such an attitude. Can what they do honestly be described as “working”? Sadly there is no chance that New Labour will provide social housing and relieve people from reliance on parasites.

Name and address supplied


Your feature on housing makes unpalatable if predictable reading. This government has no effective housing policy, relying on the market to solve the problem for the majority.

This leaves workers forced into heavy borrowing to fund mortgages to pay for Britain’s overheated housing market. Young people, many on low wages or servicing huge student loan debts, are forced into the private sector.

Here they will find no end of “buy to let” parasites charging rents that exceed the mortgage payments they would pay, were it possible for them to save any money for a deposit.

Many landlords have had little if any training on their legal responsibilities. You need to be licensed to run dog kennels, but no such inconvenience exists for most suppliers of residential accommodation for humans.

London has huge numbers of vacant properties and acres of derelict land that could provide space for public homes at affordable prices. This is one of the most important issues for local authorities, especially in those inner city areas where Respect is most active.

Bill Page, East London


Bant Singh deserves solidarity and justice

Readers of Socialist Worker will doubtless be interested in the case of Bant Singh. Bant is the leader of the All India Agrarian Labour Association in the Punjab, India.

At the beginning of this year he was campaigning for the rights of agricultural workers in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. On his return to his hometown, he was set upon by a group of hired thugs who beat him mercilessly.

Bant is the sole wage earner in his family and has eight children. As a result of the assault, he has had both his hands and one leg amputated. We believe the gang that attacked him was sent by local landlords as punishment for standing up to their domination.

While recovering from surgery Bant maintained his defiance of the landlords, telling his comrades, “They’ve only got my limbs – I’ve still got my voice!” 

In India, the campaign for justice for Bant is growing fast. There is an online petition that campaigners are urging people from across the world to sign and distribute. You can find it at www.petitiononline.com/Bant06/petition.html

As a gesture of solidarity, can I urge trade unionists in Britain to send donations to the “Bant Singh Treatment Fund”. Please send your cheques to the South Asia Solidarity Group, c/o Londec, 293-299 Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2TJ.

Rohan Nakkady, Kerala, India


Students biting back at Sodexho

Over 300 students and staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London signed a petition on Friday 5 May calling for a boycott of Sodexho, our current catering provider.

Sodexho’s services are employed by the US military at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. It is also the company responsible for serving up “turkey twizzlers” to school students in Britain.

Protesters are disgusted that SOAS’s management has failed to consult the student body. We are dismayed that Sodexho’s track record on issues such as staff welfare and the environment may not be taken into account in the tender process.

Sodexho has recently invested in refurbishments at SOAS and we think it’s likely that its contract will be renewed for a further five years.

This, along with the terrible food served in the canteen, leaves SOAS protesters with a nasty taste in our mouths.

We welcome any advice, suggestions and support from Socialist Worker readers. You can contact us at soasunion@soas.ac.uk

Clare Solomon, Co-president elect, SOAS student union, (personal capacity)


Media attacks on ‘foreigners’

Over the last couple of weeks the government and media have gone on a frenzied attack against “foreign” criminals.

It’s a shame Socialist Worker (Sweep away Blair’s regime, 6 May) not only had nothing to say about this, but joined in when it accused former home secretary Charles Clarke of “not knowing where his own prisoners are”.

These people have served their time in prison, so they are criminals no more. They should not then face the extra punishment of deportation.

The majority of “foreign” criminals who have been jailed commit minor acts such as working illegally or having false passports.

When a group of people such as asylum seekers are attacked a socialist newspaper should challenge the arguments head on.

Salman Mirza, Birmingham


Two faces of class anger

Election night showed us two very different faces of class anger.

On the one hand, we saw the breakthrough by Respect in Tower Hamlets. On the other, we saw the rise of the Nazi British National Party (BNP) in Barking & Dagenham.

The BNP claims to be the authentic voice of the white working class, which they allege has been forgotten by New Labour.

This view was given dangerous credit by the comments of Margaret Hodge MP and by recent populist claims that white working class men are the new downtrodden.

These claims are nonsense. While it is true that many white working class people in areas such as Barking face terrible deprivation, this is even more true of black and Asian workers.

A non-white worker in London is twice as likely to be unemployed as a white worker, and is far more likely to live in one of the most deprived areas.

However, it is true that New Labour, along with other established parties, has for years played down the whole issue of social class. This allows the BNP Nazis to pose as the champions of the white working class.

It is essential that the left responds to this correctly. We must expose the BNP as Nazis and racist thugs.

But we must also offer a positive alternative based on class solidarity.

Respect can build around issues such as health, education, housing and pensions that unite all workers, black and white.

Richard Sunderland, Leeds


Dynamism and the unions

Nicky Hayes (Letters, 6 May) is right to say the trade union movement lacks the dynamism and energy of the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements.

But surely we shouldn’t separate the two. Nicky seems to be saying we should abandon a key element of the struggle.

Do we honestly believe that the fight against global capital will be won quicker if we ignore workers’ organisations?

Of course it’s hard work. Workers have lost confidence and have been severely restricted in their ability to fight.

This means we should set about the long, hard task of rebuilding the confidence in the workplace – by taking the energy of the anti?capitalist movement onto the shop floor.

Tony Collins, Tube worker, London


Latter day witch-hunting

You are right to denounce Asbos as “the politics of fear” (6 May). They are the modern version of the witch-hunt.

The government dispatches “Asbo experts”, just as governments once dispatched witchfinders with the same political capital to be made from persecution.

Those victimised by Asbos are pilloried in the press and on official leaflets and posters. These are a latter day version of cruel “exhibition punishments”.

Victoria Townley, North London


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Letters
Sat 20 May 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2001
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