WHEN I left school there were only two options facing me in the village I lived in near the Faslane naval base in Rosyth—the dole or working in forestry.
I had an uncle in the navy who said it was the least dangerous of all the forces and I would go round the world.
It was 1979 and I was 16 years old. At first it was a bit like a Boys’ Own yachting club, going to the Caribbean and the Antarctic.
Then there was the Falklands War. We were told we’d just wave the Union Jack and the Argentinians would go away.
I remember when the Argentinian ship the Belgrano was sunk and at first a “Yes!” went up. Then it was silent as we thought, “It could be us next.”
That’s when it hit us. This isn’t a game. I lost two good mates in that war. One of them I had gone on CND marches with in Faslane.
My job was a chef and a medic preparing people who needed transporting.
I was loading some Argentinian soldiers in body bags when one split open. It was horrific, with maggots coming out. It was the scariest thing that ever happened to me.
When we got back me and my mates didn’t want to drink in the local pub with all the flags hanging out. We couldn’t handle it.
As I was 18 years old I could vote. I voted for Labour’s Michael Foot because Thatcher used us and the war to get back into government. When she dies I’ll be dancing in the street.
After the war I helped raise money for the miners during the strike, spoke at CND rallies and got out of the navy as soon as I could in 1987.
I joined the marches against the first Gulf War, the war in Kosovo and now this one. Now I’m an artist and make statues, like political caricatures of Bush, Blair and Nick Griffin, that are used at demos and rallies.
I see it as my bit. Half of me looks forward to the marches. The other half wishes we didn’t have to do it.
I also want to help get ex-servicemen involved in the anti-war movement to build it even wider.
Dunkan Tickner, Portsmouth
Preparing for the London ESF
THE NEXT European Social Forum is due to be held in London in October.
It will be a brilliant opportunity to debate and organise resistance to globalisation, war and racism.
It will also be a great chance to discuss what sort of alternatives to capitalism are possible.
To repeat the success of the ESFs in Florence and Paris we need a massive turnout of trade unionists, community activists, anti-racists and others. Everyone should be publicising the event as widely as possible.
Gateshead Unison is working alongside other organisations to set up an international exhibition in the civic centre using Jess Hurd’s photographs taken at the last World Social Forum.
This took place in Mumbai, India, where 120,000 gathered to discuss “Another world is possible”.
In Gateshead we are also getting out publicity from non-governmental organisations and details of how people can get to the London ESF.
In addition meetings and seminars can be held to mobilise for the event.
The key is to throw the net as widely as possible and organise in every locality.
Simon Hall, international officer Gateshead Unison firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there a sticky problem?
I WENT to hear Michael Albert from the Znet website speak about the alternative media as part of last week’s Marxism festival in London.
He argued that if the revolutionary left was to make significant gains off the back of the anti-war, anti-globalisation movement, it needed to tackle what he referred to as its “sticky problem”.
He highlighted that although ever-increasing numbers of people are exposed to left wing politics, they have not stuck with those politics.
Albert thinks that this is because the left, while it is good at criticising the capitalist system, fails to convince people that an alternative is not just a possibility, but it is achievable.
Albert probably puts too much emphasis on this point, but nevertheless he does highlight an important problem.
How many meetings have you been in when the only mention you get of an alternative world is in the last minute?
It seems like it’s an afterthought.
We may be fighting defensive struggles, against the war, racism, fascism and cuts in social services.
But we shouldn’t forget what made us socialists in the first place.
It wasn’t just a hatred of capitalism but our belief that it could be replaced with a fairer system.
The SWP’s founder, Tony Cliff, used to say that he gauged the success of a talk by whether people went away feeling hopeful and ten feet tall.
We should bear that in mind, especially when we are discussing the latest atrocity, cuts in public services and other issues.
Another world is possible, and it is not just a dream.
SW reader, Manchester
Law and order an issue on estates
I READ your article on Labour’s by-election leaflets with interest
If the comments you attribute to them about asylum seekers are accurate, then things are worse and Labour has shifted even further to the right than I had realised.
You treat such comments with the contempt they properly deserve.
Nonetheless I would like to take issue with your comments about the material’s statements on law and order.
You seem to dismiss action against gangs as reactionary.
In my opinion this is a serious mistake. The left has traditionally been seen as weak on crime, and this has damaged its support.
Instead we should stand shoulder to shoulder with those in working class communities being torn asunder by anti-social elements.
We should encourage communities to take back control of the areas where they live and support them in efforts against anti-social elements. This is not a reactionary position.
Those who must deal with these problems on a daily basis may again form the left’s natural constituency if we take steps towards dealing with them.
Richard Hindes, Nottingham
Hunted down on the tube
ASYLUM SEEKERS who have fled persecution and suffered the Home Office’s grotesque asylum lottery are now being hunted down on London’s public transport system.
Immigration officers are arresting undocumented immigrants on London’s tube after they have been stopped for minor offences, such as travelling with no ticket.
Anti-racist activists have been spotting operations involving police, transport police and immigration officers for several months, and not just on the tube.
A report in the Observer two weeks ago exposed the fact that such operations are now part and parcel of the Home Office’s continuing persecution of asylum seekers.
A Home Office spokesperson told the Observer it is considering operating similar hunts in other parts of the country.
London mayor Ken Livingstone, who has spoken up in support of refugees, also boasts about raising the number of police in the capital.
He will provide immigration officers with more hunting assistants, so more innocent people are targeted under the racist stop and search policy.
Alan Gibson, East London
I AND many others take considerable offence to the use of the word Islamist (Socialist Worker, 17 July) to describe people who are fighting for whatever cause as it is always used in a derogatory, usually racist, context.
Can you not just clearly state the motives of a group without referring to the alleged religion of most of its members?
There’s enough widespread anti-Muslim propaganda from the gutter right wing press and media without adding to it.
I support you in most of your causes, but was a bit annoyed as I’ve not seen the use of the word Islamist here before.
Questions on revolution
I AM a 15 year old from County Durham and have just finished my GCSEs.
I have been following your articles on revolution for the past few weeks and I can do nothing but agree with you!
I have sufficient knowledge of the left wing to agree with its ideals. But I have also studied capitalist works to get ideas on both sides, and after my studies I have decided which society I would rather live in.
I find your articles inspiring, and each time I read one I feel like taking up arms against the government.
One thing I worry about, though, is the increased support for the right wing parties like the BNP.
Although a majority of the people I know are left wing, every day more of them are seduced by the right.
If a revolution did come, how many people would leave the ranks of the left and swell the ranks of the right? Would the country then get torn into a civil war between left and right?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter, and do you have any advice on how I could try to convince my friends back to the left?
SW reader, Durham
Sinister forces at work today
LORD BUTLER delivered his committee’s findings on the “intelligence” that led the country to war in Iraq.
This highly esteemed establishment figure was commissioned by the establishment to investigate the establishment and subsequently to get the establishment off the hook.
What Butler is saying is that the intelligence about the perceived Iraqi threat was “insufficiently robust” to prove Iraq was in breach of the United Nations resolutions.
Some of the intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was “seriously flawed” and “open to doubt”.
Butler goes on to say that the language of the government’s dossier on weapons may have left readers with the impression that there was “fuller and firmer” intelligence behind its judgements than was the case.
So basically the intelligence was rubbish, but it was presented in such a way that made it sound that Iraq was a clear and present danger to Britain, its people and interests.
The intimation is that the government had already decided upon invasion and war, and was seeking to twist the intelligence around to suit that aim.
The fact that Butler has refused to name names and, surprise surprise, has found nobody culpable, goes to prove the point that there are far more sinister forces at work within the British establishment.
There are people above the rule of law who are not accountable to anyone and who can, quite literally, get away with murder.
Alan Haynes, Kent
Brown or Blair? No difference
AT MY work I’ve had some conversations with people about chancellor Gordon Brown’s announcement that over 100,000 jobs will be cut in the civil service.
It has been very interesting how people understood what the civil servants are going through and how quickly they raised political questions about Brown.
One strand of debate was people saying, “Well, that’s put paid to anyone who thinks Brown would be any different to Blair as leader.”
Brown’s taken a massive swipe at workers. We know about that, having had our fair share of redundancies in manufacturing.
And also people talked about how it wasn’t simply “100,000”—it’s a person with a family and friends, and how are they going to cope?
People I work with pointed out that Brown had a choice. He could have taxed the rich or bosses to raise money. Instead he went straight for the workers. So whose side is he on?
Jerry Hicks, Amicus convenor for Rolls-Royce Test Areas in Bristol
Selective action is more effective
I DISAGREE that there needs to be a national strike across the civil service.
I believe that targeting revenue-generating departments, like income tax, VAT, even the DVLA, will be much more effective.
Also, if only selected parts of the civil service are on strike, then those not on strike can show solidarity by donating some of their pay.
This would mean that indefinite strike action would be more likely to succeed, and the lack of revenue would soon bring the government to its knees!
Huw Fryer, Neath