‘Cohesion’ is not enough
I remember Paul Moore doing good work as a Labour councillor in Burnley a few years ago against the Nazi British National Party (BNP). So I was disappointed at the weakness of his response to the report into the riots that hit the town five years ago (Burnley and the BNP, 10 June).
Paul is right to criticise the report for refusing to address or even refer to the activities of the BNP in sparking the riots and fuelling racism in Burnley. But this omission is a symptom of deeper problems with the report’s approach – and Paul’s criticisms should have gone much further.
In particular, Paul seems to have completely swallowed New Labour’s rhetoric of “community cohesion” as a response to “racial tension” in Burnley. We should be clear what “community cohesion” means – it is an attempt to avoid talking about racism and instead portray Burnley’s troubles as based on symmetrical “divisions” between “communities”. Its proposed solution to these divisions is to impose “shared values” from the top down as a remedy to multiculturalism’s supposed “failures”.
The result is a slew of high profile initiatives wrapped up in apolitical marketing babble – none of which addresses the racism, injustice and poverty that blight our towns and fuel the Nazis.
Moreover, while Paul acknowledges Burnley’s economic problems, he makes no criticism of the Labour government’s role in making them worse. The deprivation in towns across Britain is the result of Labour’s fixation on neo-liberalism and privatisation. We cannot effectively fight against the BNP if we refuse to mention these facts and criticise these government policies.
I worry that Paul’s loyalty to the Labour Party may have led him to button his lip on these issues. If so, he is doing no favours for himself, the working people of Burnley, or the Labour Party itself for that matter.
Carol Davis, Manchester
Students can and will fight back
The reason that Simone Murray (Letters, 10 June) has heard so much about the “‘plight’ of British students who won’t receive their degrees as a result of the lecturers’ action” is that this is precisely the impression that the government, and by extension the right wing media, wanted to give.
It was classic divide and rule tactics to try and divide students from their lecturers and thereby weaken the dispute.
She won’t, presumably, have heard about Cambridge university’s first quorate general meeting in years, which voted overwhelmingly to support the lecturers – as did the general meeting at Swansea university, and the campus wide referendum at Surrey university.
Nor will she have heard about the recent occupations against cuts and closures at Swansea and Sussex universities.
She does, albeit misguidedly, highlight an important point though. Attacks on left wing and union organisation from Thatcher onwards have also hit the student movement.
As a result the National Union of Students (NUS) is dominated by right wing careerists rather than being a fighting body that can consolidate and drive forward the movements on campus.
This applies as much to the defence of lecturers’ pay as to the anti-war movement. That is why organisations such as Student Respect, which is actively engaged in building the wider movements and intervening in the NUS to pull it away from the right, are so important.
Suzie Wylie, NUS executive (pc)
I would like to thank Ken Loach for telling the story of people like my great uncle Jack Grant and his wife Eily in his award winning new film The Wind That Shakes The Barley (Ken Loach interview, 10 June).
During the 1920s in Ireland, Eily used to ferry small arms and ammunition across Waterford bridge under the noses of British troops in her shopping basket covered with a tea towel and spuds.
Jack did time in Portlaoise prison for his efforts as an IRA despatch rider.
When I first met them at the time of the 1981 hunger strike they were physically unable to join me on the support march through their town – but they wanted to take part.
They had hated the ex?convicts dressed up in those black and tan uniforms and were not repentant for one second about defending themselves.
Now, despite the Daily Mail’s vitriol, many more viewers without the benefit of my family’s oral history will get a strong sense of why this story can never be repressed.
Nick Grant, West London
Poetry in the 1930s
I have greatly enjoyed the articles on the 1930s by Matthew Perry (The 1930s, 20 May, 27 May and 3 June).
I would like to add that the exciting political atmosphere at the time had a huge impact on the arts in Britain.
At the height of its powers, the Communist Party had the support of some of the most famous names in British poetry, including WH Auden, Stephen Spender, Jack Lindsay, Dylan Thomas and Idris Davies.
The poems of Idris Davies about the General Strike and the miners’ lockout of 1926 are still full of power.
They are so much better than the dry as dust things that pass for poetry in the endless collections coming out from Faber & Faber these days.
Phil Knight, Neath
Iraq’s occupiers may wish for Zarqawi back
There is much hand wringing and backslapping by George Bush and Tony Blair about the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. But his death will do nothing to stabilise the situation in Iraq.
Leaked US military documents spell out the true role that Zarqawi played in US strategic thinking. The US sought to bolster his importance to provide “proof” of the fictitious link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida.
After the WMD hoax had been exposed, another reason for invading Iraq was needed for US domestic opinion to support the invasion. Zarqawi provided the pretext to invent a new myth.
He also provided the US and British governments with the ability to brand all opponents of the Iraq war as allies of Al Qaida.
Like the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein, the capture of Saddam and the setting up of a puppet government, the killing of Zarqawi is another red herring. We have been told time and time again that “this” event will be a “turning point”.
The death of Zarqawi may be the worst news for the US and British governments. With Zarqawi gone the sectarian killing may stop. If it does, this may see the formation of united Sunni-Shia Iraqi resistance.
This would be the worst nightmare for the so called coalition. They may wish to see Zarqawi back if this scenario does materialise.
Alan Hinnrichs, Dundee
SW is top read for anti-war activists
I recently conducted a survey into the anti-war movement for my PhD research. I asked activists if there were any “alternative” or weekly news magazines that they read on a regular basis, and if so which ones.
Exactly half of the 42 respondents to that question cited Socialist Worker. That makes it by the far the most read publication among anti-war activists.
The two publications which came in joint second, New Internationalist and Private Eye, were regularly read by just five of the 42.
The results were all the more remarkable because the question was an entirely open one that did not nudge people in any particular direction.
This suggests that Socialist Worker is potentially very influential. The survey also found that after the internet, activists regarded the “alternative” press as their most useful source of information.
Some 39 out of 68 respondents to that question cited the “alternative” press as one of their three main sources of information about the Iraq war and the controversy surrounding it.
Ian Taylor, PhD student, Loughborough University
The knife and human history
I am 55 years old and have carried a knife daily since I was about 12 – not for “self defence”, but because it is an irreplaceable tool.
Sometimes I go for days without using it, sometimes I use it several times a day.
When I need to cut something, or a sharp point to create a hole, very little other than a knife will do the job.
Knives are probably the second tool developed by humans, after the hammer. They are an unparalleled survival tool under the most amazing circumstances.
Separating people from knives reduces them almost to the level of animals in terms of their ability to alter the world about them.
Tim Butler, South Carolina, US
Pensions and the arms trade
I was surprised to read in a recent edition of Public Servant magazine about the extent to which local authorities are investing their pension funds in the arms trade.
The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) claims that local authorities have invested £723 million in 15 of the largest international arms companies.
According to CAAT’s figures, one in three council pension funds is invested in Lockheed, which manufactures Trident nuclear missiles.
These investments are made without reference to voters or council employees.
I have written a letter to the West Yorkshire pension fund raising questions on this matter. I urge Socialist Worker readers to do the same.
John Appleyard, West Yorkshire
US’s 4x4 is bogged down
Regarding Jonathan Neale’s article on the crisis facing George Bush (What will happen if the US is forced out?, 10 June), it’s also worth mentioning the situation in Latin America.
Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez and others such as Evo Morales in Bolivia are threatening US domination in the region, taking control of their own energy sources, charging the US more and others, such as Cuba and Argentina less.
I believe that these countries also sense that the US is much weakened as a result of Iraq. Also of course Iran is cocking a snoot at the US and Britain.
The US’s 4x4 is stuck above the wheels in Iraq. Bush’s strategy seems to be to keep the troops there and leave them bogged down.
Ken Capstick, Wakefield
Ministers grab more powers
A friend of mine has brought to my attention a piece of legislation known as the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill.
In brief, this bill enables ministers to alter existing legislation without proper parliamentary examination.
One worrying feature of this new bill is to grant ministers the power to create new criminal offences with up to two years imprisonment, without consent from parliament.
A website www.saveparliament.org.uk has been set up to campaign against this bill. I personally have not come across this issue anywhere else except on the web.
Is it a big deal? Or is it just parliamentarian posturing, with no real expectation of being made into law?
Alex Naysmith, Stockport
What’s wrong with England?
Who will socialist football enthusiasts support in the world cup? I suppose that many will be against English nationalism, but what is wrong with supporting England? Not all England supporters are white, and very few are racist hooligans.
Anything that brings people of different races, religions and cultures together is a good thing – and if anyone is concerned about internationalism they can always choose a second team to support.
A Reid, Cardiff