Don't believe police thugs on any strikers
LAST WEEK I watched a good documentary on BBC2 on the Grunwick strike of 1977. The programme openly admitted that the strike was sabotaged by right wing trade union leaders who did not want to divert attention away from the prospects of Labour winning the 1979 general election.
In some quarters this has not changed. A few unions still seem to think that their members have to put up with appalling right wing policies and downright lies on the war but not rock Blair's boat. However, there was something particularly worrying about the programme. It reported that pickets threw a bottle that hit a police officer and covered him in blood, and this was made a prominent issue in the national press the next day.
I was by chance standing next to this 'demonstrator' on a garden wall at the time. He immediately jumped off, was grabbed by police and taken to the rear of the police coaches for what I assumed to be an arrest. I could clearly see from my vantage point that after a few words and a flashed document, he was released and returned to the crowd. He was one of the Special Patrol Group (SPG) agents provocateurs. But the programme, while admitting that the SPG were operative, assumed that he was one of us.
The incident taught me a lot about the way our internal security services operate. And it happened again during the miners' strike of 1984. At one picket in Yorkshire, I noticed that the pickets' hut suddenly burst into flames. The pickets were nowhere near.
Within hours, breakfast television was reporting how the 'pickets had set the hut alight themselves', but only the police were in the vicinity. I can never forget these incidents-plus the £10 and £20 notes they used to stick to police coach windows to taunt miners and their families.
Or the murder of Blair Peach at an anti-Nazi demonstration at Southall in 1979 for which not one police officer was ever charged. Rule number one: never believe a police story about strikes, or a hostile TV news report lazily regurgitating police sources.
Ged Peck, Luton
Should troops go now?
THE STOP the War Coalition is demanding that British and US troops withdraw from Iraq. But would such a withdrawal solve the problems facing the Iraqi people? Last year I demonstrated along with millions of others because I believed that war was not the answer. However, I cannot help thinking that Iraqis have no choice but to cooperate with Bush. Otherwise the reconstruction of their country will be blocked.
I am not saying we should not challenge US imperialism. The withdrawal of troops and US-funded companies might mean Iraqi people regain control over their resources. But they would still be forced to do business with capitalist and imperialist powers.
The Stop the War Coalition is right to draw attention to the cost to Iraqi people if the troops stay. But there is no simple solution to the situation in Iraq.
Trina Dacosta, Unison steward, Hammersmith and Fulham social services
NEW LABOUR ministers have floated the idea of a 'fat tax' on high calorie foods to stem the rise of obesity. If government ministers really wanted to help people stay fit, why don't they implement a 'fit bonus', by cutting tax on fresh fruit and vegetables instead?
Pete Shore, Telford
Postal workers deliver a blow against racism and bigotry
TWO WEEKS ago Chaz Curry was walking home through Exeter. Chaz is a postal worker and the deputy branch secretary for the CWU union in the south west. He saw an Afghani man being beaten up by two men and went over to help him. He pushed the men away and held them off until the police arrived and the attackers ran off.
We are very proud of him. It isn't an easy thing to do, especially when you are outnumbered. Our CWU branch is affiliated to Unite Against Fascism. And we are going to help organise local Unite meetings in Exeter and Torquay. Racist attacks have gone up massively in Torquay since the BNP became active there.
We are also promoting a 'conscience clause'. This means that if any of our union members refuse to deliver BNP election leaflets we will back them.
Fran Choules, Exeter
I COULDN'T disagree more with Rebecca Shtasel about the US presidential elections. George Bush is only president of the US thanks to the most staggering gerrymandering and corruption ever seen in the 'free world'. He only got away with it because half the US population became disengaged from the political process.
In Britain the Respect coalition has been formed, aiming to represent the views of millions shut out of parliament. There is no reason why this can't be done in the US. Swapping Bush for Bush-Lite will endanger the euphoria generated by the anti-war movement.
If now isn't the time to build an alternative to capitalism and war, when is it?
Adam Marks, East London
THE CALL for publication of the attorney general's advice about the legality of war has been taken up by opportunists including John Major and the Lib Dems. But the anti-war movement raised the issue months ago. A letter by Lawyers Against the War, calling for the publication of the advice and signed by over 70 lawyers, was published in the Independent on Sunday on 20 July 2003.
The government argues that convention stops them publishing the advice-very odd when New Labour is obsessed with rhetoric promising modernisation. In the face of massive opposition to an illegal war the government's position to hide the legal advice shows that their democracy is a sham.
Matt Foot, North London
But we need more articles
I WORK for Royal Mail here in Exeter. On our work floor scapegoating of asylum seekers and migrants for working class problems is a topical subject. Trying to educate people in such a complicated subject and argue that the capitalist system is the main problem facing the working class is a tall order.
The scapegoating is an obvious tactic that divides the working class, the Sun and the Daily Express being particularly vocal in this tactic. Your article in Socialist Worker (21 February), 'Oppose All Barriers That Divide Workers' made interesting reading. The idea that the government turns a blind eye to illegal asylum workers because they provide a cheap workforce was an excellent point to use in discussions.
I would like the paper to expand on this subject. We need to steer people away from nationalistic thought and towards class consciousness.
Simon Boardman, Exeter
Congrats to ex-BNP councillor
THANKS FOR the articles on BNP councillor Maureen Stowe's resignation. Her move on this can only be good for the people of Burnley. One problem though is how she could have been taken in by this vile bunch of thugs. She openly states that she is now frightened of what action BNP members will take against her. However, councillor Stowe has to be wholeheartedly congratulated on her brave move.
I ask the people of Burnley to listen to her. She knows what the BNP really are from first-hand experience. Hopefully this will be the beginning of the fightback to end any hopes the BNP had of running Burnley council.
John P Jay, Burnley
Listen closely to Chomsky
CHRIS HARMAN was a little economic in his portrayal of Noam Chomsky's position on how Americans should vote in the US elections. He does not simply suggest that they should 'vote Democrat holding their noses', as a quick check on the Chomsky Chat Forum hosted by Z-magazine reveals.
When asked, 'Will you advocate as a strategy in the 2004 election to vote for the 'anything but Bush' candidate, John Kerry, in states where the race is close, and for an alternative candidate like Nader where the Democrat has the state locked up?' Chomsky replies, 'I was personally in favour of the 'tactical voting' strategy you outline in 2000, even more so now.'
Malcolm Wilson, Glasgow
Poorest in a catch-22
THE unemployed, often forgotten by the complacent government and media, get a rough time all round. One particularly cruel mechanism is the administration of crisis loans.
To get a crisis loan you have to be 'unable to pay for basic living costs which could result in a serious risk to the health and safety of you or your family'. Basically you have to show you have absolutely no money.
But, to take an example, if you live in Glastonbury in Somerset you have to travel 20 miles to Bridgwater to get a warrant and then 20 miles back to Wells to cash it. How are you supposed to do this without money? It's a vicious catch-22 – if you can get through the procedure you obviously don't qualify!
Will George, Somerset
A whitewash on the Farm?
THE BBC'S programme Who Killed PC Blakelock? was pernicious drivel. In the interests of 'balance', they showed a reconstruction of both the police's and Winston Sillcott's version of his interview in police custody. But forensic evidence showed that the police version was based on the insertion of fabricated comments.
A lot of time was spent on how other police officers felt about PC Blakelock's death, but how the community felt about the death of Cynthia Jarrett during a police raid was passed over swiftly. The only people to emerge with any dignity from the programme were Winston Silcott and his friends.
Mark Harvey, East London
Act against gutter press
PERIODICALLY WE read strong words against the millionaire press owners-their greed, their tax evasion schemes, their lies about asylum seekers. What we never hear is what socialists can do to restrain them. This suggests that people are quite helpless before the power of the tabloids.
I was impressed by the example of the three chaps who went to the army presentation at Leeds University (Socialist Worker, 28 February). They didn't come away and tamely report the army propaganda but actively intervened, embarrassing the presenters with unsavoury facts. Likewise, can't the tabloids be targeted in some way?
Eddie D'Sa by e-mail