Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2004

Guilty of mass murder

After reading Peter Gill’s article on Aids (Aids: when ABC is wrong, 3 June) I must take issue with his statement, “The Brits, under Margaret Thatcher, paradoxically had quite a good record.” Thatcher’s government knew about the spread of HIV for several years before they started the first public campaign.

The World Health Organisation warned them about this virus, but they chose to do nothing. They still imported blood products from the US. This meant that thousands of haemophiliacs received contaminated Factor 8 plasma.

Hundreds more received contaminated blood from supplies in Britain. The Tories are guilty of mass murder. I was one of the people who received contaminated blood. In 1991 I received £43,500 in compensation.

A trust was set up for people who were infected like me. Last year the trustees informed the department of health that they were running out of money. The department said it would fund our trust, but only with the same amount as before.

But as our needs and health have changed the trust needs more. A business plan was handed in to the department of health last December and we are still waiting for a response.

Caroline Flint MP has said that they are looking at the “value for money” offered. Blair’s government is still covering up for the Tories.

Gary Kelly, Glasgow

Poverty is the major cause of Aids. HIV is a preventable virus, but the poor of the world seldom have access to information about how to remain uninfected. Structural violence is perpetuated by the rich institutions of the world.

Then there’s the Christian right, anti-sex, anti-contraception groups that have enormous political sway in the US. There have been 45,000 new cases of HIV in the US every year for the past decade. Monday 5 June was the 25th anniversary of the discovery of HIV/Aids.

In order to stop this disease we need to break the grip of poverty that banks, governments and global corporate interests have on people.

We need to offer inexpensive medications to treat those who have HIV and ensure that all individuals are educated on the causes of HIV/Aids and how to prevent it spreading.

Roger B Smith, Community HIV/Aids educator, New York, US

Hard facts needed on refugees

I was pleased to see Socialist Worker (The government is trying to deport my brother, 27 May) lead on the government trying to deport a British citizen as a result of the recent hysteria surrounding “foreign criminals”.

The article by Mark Brown was a welcome corrective to the lies of the mainstream media.

However, I don’t think Mark’s article has enough hard facts to assist socialists who have to carry these arguments. The debate should be about principles, but it is useful to have some numbers that we can quote.

Mark’s article had the flavour of those printed in the mainstream tabloid media to pander to readers existing presumed prejudices – mainly because the lack of hard facts led to too much vague generalisation.

I think a series of articles, or a special Socialist Worker or SR supplement tackling the lies around asylum claims, immigration, economic migration, health tourism, crime and deportation, need to be commissioned and published.

Tony Brown, by e-mail

Utopian realities

Matthew Beaumont’s article about utopias (Searching for a modern utopia, 3 June) was an interesting reminder of the importance of imagining what a world without capitalism – and the war and hatred it breeds – might look like.

The best utopians, such as Saint-Simon and Robert Owen in the 19th century, went beyond mere fairytale Neverlands, setting out plans for reforming the world. They wanted to put an end to poverty by creating a world run by reason, but their ideas remained unrealisable.

They couldn’t see an agent for changing society. Instead they relied purely on the power of dreams – the vain hope that enlightened individuals would be enough to build a new world.

In the 200 years since then we have witnessed developments in technology, science and industry which could have eliminated poverty. Those 200 years have also brought crisis, famine amid plenty, wars and impending environmental meltdown.

We have also seen the development of the working class. This class has the ability and the power to change society, but only if it acts collectively.

The ideas of solidarity and equality are forced on us by the very conditions of our lives.

While the idea of utopia is an inspiration to us, it is in the process of struggle that the new world will be built. It will be the result of experience rather than of dreams. That is why, as a banner read at a recent World Social Forum event, “Another World is Possible – But Only Through Socialism!”

Sam Caldwell, Cambridge

Film Ltd

It is very disappointing to hear that Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winning film The Wind That Shakes The Barley is to get a limited distribution in Britain.

Pathé, its distributor, has only made 30 prints available for film screens. Socialist Worker readers, especially those outside London, should phone Pathé on 020 7323 5151 and ask if the film will be shown in their area.

Katherine Branney, East London

Screwed on pensions

I am a manual worker living in Glasgow, the city with the lowest life expectancy for working class men in western Europe. I was sickened by the response of the lickspittles that call themselves trade union leaders to New Labour’s attempt to make the proles pay for the “pensions crisis” (New Labour plan to work us to death, 3 June).

I have been in shipbuilding for most of my working life. I was looking forward to wrapping it up at 60, but in the last two weeks I’ve had my company pension tell me my earliest retirement date has been raised from 50 to 55.

Two weeks ago the Labour government told me I’ve got to work another year and in return I’ll get £4 extra a week.

I’ve had nothing off this state except the NHS and they’re ripping the guts out of that. My education was crap and the second time I was made redundant they screwed me off the dole after six months.

I’ve been paying national insurance all my working life and when I look at the life expectancy for the middle and upper classes, which is ten to 20 years more than me, I can’t help feeling I’m being stiffed.

Every time I pick up a newspaper I read that some captain of industry is getting another multimillion pound bonus for sitting around all day.

In the yards we have places where the guys who are fucked are sent to work on lighter duties before they retire. In Govan it’s called Pet’s Corner, in Yarrow’s it’s Cripple Creek and in Barrow it’s called the Departure Lounge.

It’s time for some French leave, I think.

Shipyard worker, Glasgow

Canada’s crisis

Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper’s government has voted to extend the deployment of Canadian troops to Afghanistan by two years. Parliament passed the motion despite polls showing that the majority of people are opposed to the mission.

The snap vote was Harper’s way of trying to cut off the debate. But it backfired. The motion was carried by a mere four votes. It also galvanised the peace and justice movements. Petitions, letters and phone calls to MPs numbered in the thousands.

The government has attempted to convince the Canadian people that our troops are in Afghanistan for reconstruction. But violence in Kandahar province has escalated since troops arrived, and development projects are at a halt.

The peacekeeping myth is being dismantled by Canadian generals. Rick Hillier, the chief of Canadian defence staff, says that our job in Afghanistan is to “kill detestable murderers and scumbags”.

In the last week the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Auto Workers Union, local labour councils and the Canadian Islamic Congress have called for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

This October, on the fifth anniversary of the attack on Afghanistan, we will be marching to bring our troops home.

Sid Lacombe, Canada

Tony Blair’s new friend

The news last week of the arrest of several Libyan men from Greater Manchester on the suspicion they are connected to alleged terrorist organisations has highlighted the agreement Tony Blair has signed with the Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi.

These men may be deported to Libya to an uncertain fate under the “memorandum of understanding” that Blair signed with Gadaffi. In this Libya “promises” not to torture or execute deported “terror” suspects.

Gadaffi’s regime has been responsible for the torture and “disappearance” of thousands of innocent Libyan citizens who dared to speak out against his regime.

With the further destabilisation of the Middle East following the invasion of Iraq, Blair needs to secure alternative supplies of oil and gas.

Libya has recently discovered 39 billion barrels of oil and 54 trillion cubic feet of gas in a mere third of its land reserves.

Azeldin El Sharif, Manchester

A blow to imperialism

Like most supporters of the Irish freedom struggle, I knew about Britain’s role in death squads in Northern Ireland ( Britain’s chilling role in death squads, 3 June) for the past couple of decades.

However, it is very important to have the actual words of the government terrorists and conspirators in the public domain. It is a blow to British imperialism.

Roy Inglee, by e-mail

Highlighting injustice

I thought Simon Basketter’s article on the death squads in Northern Ireland was spot on and to the point in relation to Britain’s role in Ireland.

Fair play to Socialist Worker for again highlighting such injustices.

Davy Carlin, Belfast

Brit students self-serving?

Am I the only reader of Socialist Worker sick of hearing and reading about the “plight” of British students who won’t receive their degrees as a result of the lecturers’ action?

Most students seem to be blaming lecturers for their problems and bleating about their rights to a degree.

They should be turning their fire on the government and the vice-chancellors who have forced them to pay through the teeth for their education and refused to give the lecturers a decent pay rise.

In Greece students are occupying their colleges while lecturers are on all-out strike against attacks on education.

Why can’t British students be more socially conscious, like the Greek students, instead of the self-serving individuals they reveal themselves to be when they open their mouths on TV and in the papers?

Simone Murray, Carlisle

Asbos hurt vulnerable

Shortage of space prevented Socialist Worker from printing my report of the TUC disability conference in full (TUC disability conference, 3 June).

An important motion from the AUT and Natfhe lecturers’ unions highlighted the use of Asbos towards children and young people with conditions like Tourette’s and Aspergers Syndromes.

The motion was carried unanimously. Delegates were incredulous as they heard speakers outline how local authorities use Asbos to impose curfews or other punishments towards children and young people with mental health issues.

Blair’s Britain is a very bleak place in which to live, especially if you have mental health issues to deal with.

Criminalising young people through the use of Asbos is no solution, but is typical of New Labour.

Roger Smith, York

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Sat 10 Jun 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2004
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