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EVERY NIGHT when I hear Tony Blair and the rest telling us how they have bombed Serbia to protect human rights, I feel sick at their hypocrisy. Turkey, one of the NATO partners who claim to be so concerned about Kosovan refugees, has been carrying out systematic ethnic cleansing against the Kurdish population in Turkey for 15 years. This has involved forcibly depopulating over 4,000 Kurdish towns, villages and hamlets, creating more than three million refugees. Over 30,000 people have died in a "dirty war" that has tried to deny the existence of 15 million Kurds in Turkey.
Not only do Tony Blair, Robin Cook and Co supply the Turkish regime with weapons that are used in the repression, they have also now aided the Turkish regime by supporting the suppression of the only Kurdish opposition satellite television station by the British regulator. I have myself walked through the ashes of Lice, a Kurdish town of what was 20,000 people. Before its devastation the only warning came from a Kurdish conscript soldier who came and took away his children. He told the teacher, "Take the children somewhere safe. There is going to be a massacre today."
Then thousands of soldiers in trucks, tanks and helicopters arrived and started to burn the houses and shops. People were shot as they ran from their houses. I stood in a room where ten people had been burnt alive. Our group of observers was eventually arrested by Turkish "special forces" in another small village that was still burning. The two Kurdish journalists with us were tortured and raped after we left. Last year 76 villages were burnt. Thousands of political prisoners remain in Turkish jails, including four elected MPs. Where is the outcry over these atrocities and human rights abuses that Tony Blair says he deplores so much? The silence is deafening and the hypocrisy sickening.
THE NEWS that there was a successful student occupation at Goldsmiths' College and at Camberwell Art College is an inspiration for students in Australia who are also fighting against market driven attacks on education. The opening up of universities to the demands of the market is an international problem. In Australia and New Zealand our rulers have been cutting education and introducing a "user pays" system. The rich get the best and the poor get a lifetime of debt or no access at all to higher education.
Occupations are the best way to stop the market on campus. In Australia the introduction of upfront fees at University Technology Sydney was halted due to a three day occupation. The 19 day occupation at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology 1997 won large concessions from university management. We wish you victory in your future struggles.
OVER 1,000 delegates and observers at last week's National Union of Teachers conference stood for a minute's silence in memory of Blair Peach. He was a teacher and Socialist Workers Party member who was killed by the police on an anti-Nazi demonstration in Southall 20 years ago.
The conference also gave a warm response to Alison Moore, a black teacher who was beaten up by racists outside her school last year. She called for anti-racist education to be prioritised in the national curriculum. Such developments were recommended by the Macpherson report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence.
Delegates agreed that the report and the discussion around it could give a new impetus in the fight for anti-racist education. Teachers from across Britain, other trade unionists and anti-racists will be marching on Saturday 24 April through Southall in London (assemble 1pm, Dominion Centre, The Green) to remember Blair Peach and build the fight against racism today.
WE DECIDED to go on the offensive following a successful conference against council housing privatisation held by tenants and residents associations and trade unions in the East Midlands of England. Tenants in Ashfield leafleted every council house and organised a petition against privatisation of housing which was expected to start after the May elections. We also put pressure on local Labour Party branches to insist that their manifesto says no to council house privatisation.
As a result many Labour Party wards have supported the tenants' campaign and the district Labour manifesto now states that Labour locally is against privatisation. The message is that it is never too early to take on privatisation proposals and work with trade unions to tell tenants what the consequences will be. You'll be on a winner!
THE IMPASSE in Belfast over Unionist demands that the Provisional Irish Republican Army disarm points to the need for pinpointing responsibility. There is nothing in the Good Friday Agreement that calls for IRA disarmament now as a precondition for Sinn Fein to join the new executive created by that agreement. In any case, RUC sectarian violence against the Nationalist community of British occupied Ireland, shows that the IRA's guard as protector of that community cannot be let down. The recent brutal murder of Irish civil rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson underscores that truth.
It must not be forgotten that it was sectarian violence in 1968 against peacefully demonstrating Catholics demanding equality in housing, voting and employment that brought the IRA back into existence in the first place. The RUC was and is complicit in the assault on the human rights of Catholics that makes it impossible for nationalists to trust it as an impartial non-sectarian police force. That is why the IRA cannot disarm until the RUC is abolished at it is presently constituted.
THE US and NATO have launched a vicious bombing campaign against Yugoslavia because that country refuses to bow to the dictates of foreigners respecting its sovereignty. Is it truly our goal to prevent "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo? If so, are we to assume that a million Palestinians will be allowed to return to what is now Israel to reclaim their land and property? Will the post World War Two ethnic cleansing of Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia now be reversed?
Now NATO has made it easier for President Milosevic to clear Kosovo of Albanians, as they form precisely the same kind of threat to the Yugoslav state as ethnic Germans did to pre World War Two Poland and Czechoslovakia. He now has the preservation of his country under war-time conditions to justify whatever measures he takes in Kosovo. I am disappointed there is not more of a peace movement against the bombing.
IN BELGRADE during the early morning hours of 3 April we were terribly distracted by the cry of newborn babies. NATO bombs hit the buildings of the Republic and Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs. We can confirm these are situated almost next to one of the largest maternity hospitals in the Balkans. We are not certain if the media blockade in your countries prevented you from seeing the sight of weeping mothers and their babies in the cold bomb shelter of the Belgrade hospital.
On behalf of the profession which does not accept racial, national and social differences, we call on you to raise your voice against the senseless bombing whose victims are the Serbs, the Albanians as well as all the other nationalities that live in multinational Yugoslavia. We ask you to explain to your fellow citizens that the warfare atrocities only increase the number of refugees, and by no means do they make the number smaller.
ALEX CALLINICOS (Socialist Worker, 10 April) argues that arming the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) would make the situation worse in the Balkans. He says a stronger KLA would "threaten the integrity of several states". It might very well do so, but since when have socialists regarded the borders of states as fixed? The Kurdish movement threatens borders, and so does the Irish Republican movement. If you support the right of national liberation then backing the KLA with arms is the alternative to either doing nothing about Serb atrocities or joining the supporters of imperialist bombing.
KARL MARX pointed out that the workers of each country have far more in common with each other than they do with "their" ruling class. That insight is important towards building struggles for socialism. Under Tito, Yugoslavia defeated fascism and overthrew capitalist relations without the assistance of Stalin, an outstanding triumph for the Yugoslav people. However, since Yugoslavia succumbed to private enterprise there is no longer a unified state. Serbia under Milosevic is a dictatorial state which has nothing to do with socialism. In these circumstances I find it impossible to support the Serbian state regime and its policy of "ethnic cleansing". I therefore support the US intervention and the assistance given by it to the victims of Serbian aggression.
I HAVE just received my home insurance renewal form. With it is a disclaimer from any damage resulting from the millennium bug. Aren't the insurance firms wonderful? Your insurance covers youunless something unexpected happens!