I HAVE recently begun again to read Socialist Worker, and I must tell you how refreshing it is to see the truth in print once again. During my career in the armed forces under both Conservative and Labour administrations I would regularly read and reread my copy of the paper in full view of the hierarchy.
That caused a number of arguments and on more than one occasion interviews with senior officers about my 'attitude towards the service'. I became aware of blatant breaches of the Human Rights Act by the Ministry of Defence. Failing to raise support from my comrades, I took the matter into my own hands. Just before I was to start legal action against them, I was accused and found guilty of a crime which I did not commit and could prove I did not commit. However, I was still found guilty and served prison time. I know from first hand experience the lies that are told by this government regarding defence.
I served in both the Gulf and Bosnian conflicts, and worked with both conventional and less conventional weapons during that period. I know full well that the higher the rank, the bigger the cover-up. Of course Saddam had weapons of mass destruction-he may not have had them when we went to war, but we know he did once have them. Why? Because it was Thatcher and Reagan who sold them to him in the first place, and we've still got the invoices.
Why won't they allow the attorney general to be called as a witness at the trial of the Greenpeace protesters? It's because he would have been forced to tell the truth. This government is as corrupt, if not more corrupt than all the previous Conservative governments put together.
Blair and Bush are the real war criminals-I see that now. I'm ashamed to have voted for this government, but I did so simply because there was no alternative. Having been brought back into the socialist fold by a good friend, I know where my cross shall be going next time round. Oh, finally-where do I join?
Jim Poole, Lowestoft
Action now on pensions
I SWITCHED on the telly the other day to see workers from the Listers factory in Dursley being interviewed about another pension disaster. Managers had stuck a notice up telling them there was a huge shortfall in their pension fund, which meant the value of the pensions would be reduced by 80 to 90 percent. The company is currently in administration, but the workers walked out at the news about their pensions.
In a way I'm a product of Listers. My mum and dad met each other while working there after the war. My grandfather moved to Dursley from the Rhondda when there was no work to be had in coal. He worked in the Listers foundry. My favourite uncle worked in the same foundry. My brother worked there too. The factory has been subject to several takeovers. The various owners have ripped thousands of jobs out of the community. Now the workers have no security in retirement.
Capitalism has failed us yet again. So when are the trade unions going to harness that anger and force the government to protect our pensions? My pension scheme is under attack too. Pensions are important and Respect should put them high on the agenda in the forthcoming elections.
Could Socialist Worker produce an article explaining how pensions work, or don't work, and how capitalism rips us off through our pension schemes?
Phil Jones, Gloucester
Stop pussyfooting about in the PCS
I AM a member of the PCS union and went on strike over pay and a new performance bonus system on 16 and 17 February. The action was well supported in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. One union member in Witney job centre phoned me and asked if there was any point having a picket line as no one was going to go in.
But, like many others, I was disappointed and angry to learn that the executive of our group in the union was calling only two days further action on 13 and 14 April-a full eight weeks later. Nothing else is planned.
At a union reps' meeting in Leeds last week most speakers agreed there was a need to escalate the action if we are to win. Recently Witney office voted to strike indefinitely over the non-payment of a local pay supplement. Management caved in immediately. This shows that when members are serious about winning, management take them seriously.
The government can be swayed. They nearly toppled over Hutton and fees. We need to put pressure on the union's group executive to launch a campaign to win, not just token days of action now and then.
Kate Douglas, Oxfordshire
At last they're out
GREAT NEWS from Egypt. The five anti-war activists charged with plotting against the regime were acquitted last week. Ashraf Ibrahim, who was arrested in April 2003 after campaigning against the Iraq war, was set to be released at the beginning of this week. The other four activists have come out of hiding.
This is the first time in years that the high state security court has acquitted defendants. This is a victory for the anti-war movement in Egypt and around the world.
A demonstration was planned for Cairo this Saturday as part of the global day of action. Solidarity and an international movement are the best ways to help our friends in Egypt.
Peter David, London
Miners united with inner cities
IT'S 20 years since the Great Miners' Strike and the riots at Broadwater Farm. The two are very much linked both for the police bully boys, fresh from terrorising pit villages, and the black community that received the baton blows. Out of both struggles real meaning was given to the slogan 'Black and white unite and fight'.
I remember visiting miners' welfare clubs in South Yorkshire and witnessing the empathy miners began to show towards the struggles of black people against the police. They welcomed me with open arms, asking if I'd brought anyone else from Brixton to help fight the cops.
One of the main driving forces of my political action since I was a teenager has been the desire to avenge the slavery suffered by my ancestors. I must add to that a passionate wish to avenge the defeat suffered by the miners.
The day Margaret Thatcher drops dead will be a day for rejoicing in the former pit villages and the inner cities. Every strike and battle today is a credit to the combativity of working people, just as the miners and young people of Tottenham showed us two decades ago.
Gary McFarlane, North London
BNP's cynical manoeuvre
THE BRITISH National Party will cynically seize on any issue they think they can gain from. Their three councillors in Halifax are attempting to ingratiate themselves into the campaign to save Mixenden Community Primary School in Calderdale.
They tell people their concern is defending local services when it suits them, but they were absent from main council budget meetings and have voted for PFI privatisation in local schools. Tragically, the BNP is assisted greatly by the stupidity of Labour councillors, who voted for the closure.
The real campaign to save the school was started by parents, and the National Union of Teachers who are against the BNP.
Paul Sutcliffe, Calderdale
Inflated claims of prosperity
WAGE RISES of 2 percent are often described as 'in line with inflation'. Whose inflation rate is this? Last week three letters arrived at our house with news of price rises.
The nursery place for our three year old child is going up from £95 a week to £105 (a 10.5 percent rise), the after-school club for the seven year old is going up from £17.50 a week to £20 a week (a rise of 14 percent) and the council tax is up over 5 percent.
Taken together these bills absorb about half of my pay as a health worker. This is the true inflation rate that I'm facing.
Diana Swingler, East London
Bush has got to go
I AGREE with Rebecca Shtasel (letters, 6 March) that George Bush's defeat in the November US election will be a victory for all those who oppose imperialist war. If Blair was to resign in Britain-although Respect may not be replacing him in power-socialists will still raise a glass to celebrate.
Likewise, although it would be John Kerry replacing Bush-hardly a major change-I can't believe we wouldn't consider it a victory of all those around the world who hate Bush. That would be so whether or not Kerry continues with the occupation of Iraq.
Omar Cuba, Cambridge
Theirs is a state of terror
CHARLIE Kimber's article on the state (Socialist Worker, 13 March) was really helpful. Today, more than ever, socialists need to have the utmost clarity about the nature of our most dangerous enemy. The Spanish state moved very quickly to blame ETA for the recent bombings purely to manipulate the general election.
And never forget the Italian state security services were so intertwined with the Red Brigades terrorism in Italy the 1970s they were virtually indistinguishable.
Andrew Northall, Kettering
Antidote to defeatism
FOR MANY of us who directly experienced the miners' strike of 1984-5 the 20th anniversary of the strike has been marked, predictably, by the mainstream media and press with a lot of rewriting of history. A perfect antidote to this are the Marxist forums on the strike organised by Socialist Worker.
A group of us from City and Islington College attended our local one last week. Former miner Jyp's recounting of the strike brought to life what it was like to go through it.
One of my colleagues from work, who is a Muslim woman, said to me afterwards: 'I can really identify with the description of women in the strike-how they ended up doing things they never thought possible. A year ago I had never even been on a demo, but next week I will be speaking alongside George Galloway to help launch Respect!'
There was a good mix of longstanding and new activists at the meeting who debated issues such as whether supermarket workers can be an organised force like the miners, and how organised labour relates to the new movements against capital and war. Do yourself a favour and get down to your local forum (and take a mate!).
Sean Vernell, North London