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THE BUTCHER Pinochet and his wife offering Margaret Thatcher a helping hand last week
THE LAW Lords' fudge over General Pinochet was greeted with shock and anger at a 50 strong protest in Coventry. Pinochet's atrocities began with the 1973 coup. Yet the Law Lords have ruled that he may only face trial for torture cases after 1988. Pinochet's coup was about defending the profits and privilege of the ruling class. His generals and rich bankrollers should face trial for every murder.
Sergio, an exile from Chile, is now the local MSF union branch secretary at Marconi Communications. He was tortured under Pinochet. Sergio remembers the solidarity shown by workers in Britain when he was in the concentration camps. He recalled how a guard once left a radio on by mistake during the news. It reported that British Rolls Royce workers were refusing to touch Hawker Hunter engines being supplied to Pinochet. That single act of solidarity gave him the hope to carry on. He said, "I felt invigorated. It was a turning point. I was not alone. I told the others and it boosted our morale."
Sergio is clear that only pressure from ordinary people has brought the Pinochet case this far. This pressure has made it difficult for the Law Lords to let Pinochet completely off the hook. We obviously cannot rely on these public school, right wing judges to stand up for ordinary people's rights. We need to cement the anger and solidarity ordinary people have shown against Pinochet into socialist organisation to prevent crimes like his ever being repeated.
DAVID BLUNKETT and Tony Blair promised so much before the election. Yet they are trying to turn the clock back to the grim old days of the 11-plus exam. Working class children were sorted into sheep or goats for the benefit of British industry. I was a goat. I remember the examit was a miserable experience and I hoped it would never come back. The 11-plus was an attack on working class kids who, despite the best efforts of teachers, were condemned to substandard education.
Blunkett's support for more selection is undermining the comprehensive school ethos. Once again our children are being told they are surplus to requirements, fit only for low paid jobs or the armed forces. In Neath last year Labour councillors chopped £265,000 from the special needs budget meant to support children with learning or emotional difficulties. Improve A few months later £500,000 was cut from the general schools budget. New Labour has been a huge disappointment. The need to improve our comprehensive schools is as important as ever.
TODAY AT 76 years of age I realise how badly I've been treated by the War Pensions Agency and Ministry of Defence. When I was a teenager I fought with the infantry in North Africa. I was a piece of cannon fodder that survived the war. On 31 December 1944 I was badly wounded in the head. This wound ruined my life and altered my personality. I was never given treatment. In June 1947 I was medically discharged with a small pension which was taken away in 1951. In 1991 I reapplied and was successful. But I was stopped at every turn when I asked for the 40 years of unpaid pension.
There was a medical which was a jokemy condition was blamed on my childhood. I have had a letter from the pensions office which has apologised for the way the Ministry of Defence treated me. But after moving house the whole case has had to start all over again. Frustrated, I wrote to Tony Blair but he passed me back to the War Pensions Agency. I recall the days when Labour politicians like Bessie Braddock helped people. Now it seems no MP will help. What can I do?
A PUBLICITY stunt designed to show Jack Straw's commitment to fighting racism backfired last week. School students from Villiers High School in Southall, west London, were at a House of Commons "Question Time" event with Straw and Tony Blair. They openly accused him of "dodging" their questions, like why Asian wedding ceremonies are not recognised for civil purposes in Britain, and why the asylum laws are being made tougher.
A few of the teenagers cornered Straw as he walked out. On the front page of their local weekly paper Straw is seen nervously adjusting his tie while the students press for answers. One of the students later reported, in the company of Ealing's director of education, that Straw was "talking through his arse"! The students were glad they could make their point in various radio and TV news bulletins. They claimed Straw didn't give one straight answer and concluded that Labour is not serious about tackling racism.
WHEN WE heard in Newark that the Labour MP Fiona Jones had been accused of fiddling her election expenses, people at first thought she had been fitted up. But since the truth has come to light, people are angry. Fiona Jones was Blair's favoured candidate. She won the seat the Tories had held for 18 years because people wanted to see the Tories booted out.
Now we hear she got two donations worth £16,000 which came from Colin Macleod, boss of the big Caledonian Mining company in the area. He had stood as an independent Conservative candidate in the local elections. But I remember in the general election campaign his factory next to the A1 road was covered in "Vote Labour, Vote Fiona Jones" posters. Macleod said he thought "a Blair government would be good for business".
Now the entire Labour Party locally has been suspended because of what Fiona Jones did. Some Labour Party members fear Blair will take the chance to impose what he wants locally without any democracy. Nobody wants to get the Tories back in the upcoming by-election. But people feel let down and angry that Labour hasn't delivered the change for the better that it promised.
ANDREW Harvey (Letters, 20 March) claims that there are "many decent police officers anxious to serve people from all backgrounds". Of course not all individual coppers are hardline racists or right wing thugs. However, on joining the police, individual officers rapidly become absorbed into the "canteen culture" which has racism, sexism, homophobia and anti working class politics at its heart.
A few individual officers may resist the pressure but these rarely last long. Police racism cannot be explained in terms of one or two "bad apples" but only in terms of what the police are there to do. They are there to protect the property and power of the ruling class. Socialists welcome any crackdown against police racism, any exposure of how deep the rot lies. But we should have no illusions in the system's ability to root out racism among its own defenders.
JOHN PRESCOTT admitted last week that privatisation is wrong as he announced the government's plans to improve bus services. He said the "free for all" of the deregulated industry had to end to improve the service. Yet he said this to an audience of bus operatorsthe same privateers who are currently making huge profits out of running buses. There are just four companies that dominate the £3.2 billion bus industryArriva, Go Ahead, FirstBus and Stagecoach. They get £1.4 billion in subsidies.
A Commons select committee is already investigating these highway robbers for forcing local authorities to pay up to five times the rate of inflation for a bus service contract. The big four have engaged in bus wars to drive competitors off the road. Passengers have had higher fares and a worse service. Bus drivers have had their pay and conditions slashed. Now the firms are meant to cooperate to produce a better service If Labour really wanted to improve public transport it would kick the privateers out of the bus and rail industry and fund an integrated service by taxing the rich.
THE USE of animals for medical research should concern us all. It is a system which promotes secure careers and considerable profits for those who practise it. Yet it allows those products to be re-tested on people under the illusion that they have already passed safety tests. One of the tests used is the "lethal dose" procedure which involves killing half of the animals used. Today there is a wealth of information to prove that extrapolating results from animals to people is misleading and leads to exploitation of animals and humans.