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Having your say on Balkans war

I AGREE with your articles (Socialist Worker, 10 April) on stopping the bombing. Where I feel you fall short is on suggestions as to what to do or what happens after the bombing. There are not many words addressed to the plight of the refugees. It is clear there can be no safe return for the Kosovans without protection from the Serbian regime. Certainly the bombing has worsened the problem of the refugees, so we have a larger problem. Would you consider an article defining your position on this important humanitarian issue?

I NORMALLY read your newspaper for its excellent coverage. However, I was disconcerted to find the last issue appeared to go off on a diversion. Clinton, Blair and Cook were "surprised" by all the refugees, but the attack on Yugoslavia was clearly intended to produce large numbers of refugees. They knew public opinion would react adversely to NATO's aggression, so they needed lots of refugees to divert attention away from the bombed buildings that fill our TV screens. I think there should be an end to the war against Yugoslavia, a reunited multi-ethnic Yugoslavia, and the trial of Blair and Cook as war criminals.

I AM writing to say how much I admired the article in your paper recently, "Century of Slaughter" (Socialist Worker, 10 April). I would strongly recommend that you reproduce it as a pamphlet. It sets out in a nutshell the inextricable link between capitalism and war. It explains and puts into perspective the reasons why this has been a century of bloodshed, famine, misery and poverty on a scale never reached before. Let the struggle continue.

BILLY BRAGG performed at a union sponsored gig in Auckland, New Zealand, recently where sadly he spoke in favour of the bombing of Serbia. He described it as anti-fascist. But it is a huge mistake to think Blair and Clinton are going to improve anything in the Balkans. History has shown that the US and its friends care little for ordinary people or democracy. We sold 15 copies of Socialist Worker outside the gig with the headline "No To War Hysteria".

TONY BLAIR calls opponents of war "appeasers of fascism". When I have fought the fascist presence on the streets or marched to close their offices down, I don't remember seeing Blair. Like many others I oppose this war because I oppose fascism and imperialism.

THE HYPOCRISY of Tony Blair, Robin Cook and George Robertson is breathtaking. When the IRA killed civilians, successive British governments treated with contempt their statements that the deaths were a "regrettable mistake while aiming at military targets". British prime ministers, Tory and Labour, have said that civilian deaths were the inevitable consequence of IRA actions and could have been foreseen. But now in Serbia and Kosovo, Labour leaders want to draw a distinction between NATO's "real targets" and the civilians who get killed. The IRA was sincere in its apologies. In contrast NATO leaders do not care who gets killed as long as they maintain their power.

Sucking up to New Labour

Which of these protests did the Guardian ignore?

Newcastle, Monday 12 April: 200 lorry owners complain about fuel prices—shown in the Guardian Newcastle, Saturday 10 April: 30,000 demonstrate against poverty pay—not shown in the Guardian

I'VE BEEN reading the Guardian for over 40 years. It's not wonderful but in the past it has been prepared to give some space to left wing views outside the mainstream. So I was appalled to hear the Guardian had sacked columnist Mark Steel, and I was proud to join the 95 people who picketed the Guardian's building in protest recently. A pensioner, a student, a Liverpool docker, Abdul Onibiyo and a Kurd all spoke at the protest about how Mark had given them support.

Apparently, Mark was sacked for "sloppy journalism". What a laugh coming from a paper that has to publish a daily column apologising for its factual errors. The Guardian boasts that Francis Wheen, who is an enthusiastic supporter of bombing Serbia, is Britain's most irreverent columnist. Mark was irreverent about private property and the distribution of wealth. To the Guardian, that is blasphemy.

The Guardian is ignoring trade union demonstrations like the one in Newcastle last Saturday to demand a living wage. It also ignores anti-war protests, printing every line of NATO's justification for bombing and killing civilians without question. The paper's coverage of the government's onslaught on comprehensive education has seen articles attacking teachers for fighting back and arguing performance related pay is a great idea.

Tories are bastards, but you know where you are with them. The slippery, cowardly liberals who run the Guardian wouldn't know a principle if it ran up their trouser legs. Why does the Guardian show such contempt for people like teachers and anti-war activists? The paper's editor, Alan Rusbridger, wants to suck up to Blair. He wants to shift the paper politically to the right to fit in with New Labour. That means not reporting protests or the government's shoddy treatment of pensioners, the low paid and refugees—and with it, getting rid of Mark Steel. I think Socialist Worker readers should send letters of protest to the Guardian.

CS gas payout

A MAN from Liverpool, Kevin Missen, has just won £7,000 damages from Merseyside police after being wrongly arrested and then sprayed in the face and eyes with CS gas spray. Kevin's "crime" was to be on a night out in Liverpool with his two brothers. His twin was arrested for urinating in a shop doorway. When Kevin tried to see what was happening to his brother, he was then bundled into another police van where he was handcuffed and sprayed.

The police tried to charge Kevin with being drunk and disorderly but this was later thrown out of court. The police claim that CS gas is safe and only used in defence. But this incident shows that the police use it in any situation, and how dangerous it is. CS gas spray should be banned now.

Rupert bares rotten teeth

RUPERT MURDOCH is clearly worried by the forthcoming Fairness at Work" legislation which will give trade unions a chance to fight for recognition. At his News International plant in Wapping, Murdoch has sent glossy leaflets and a 15 minute audio tape to every employee at their home urging them to vote for a company run staff association "with teeth". This is a cynical ploy to try to forestall real union rights by handing pay negotiations to a tame, company run outfit. Murdoch's leaflet could not answer its own question, "Why is the staff association better than a union?"

I went to help with a leafleting campaign organised by the journalists' NUJ union urging a no vote to Murdoch's scheme. I was struck by the excellent response. Nearly everyone took a leaflet. Another NUJ member who has been involved in many leafleting campaigns at Wapping also noticed how positive the atmosphere was.

Another day's leafleting resulted in two people ringing to find out how to join a union. Wapping was the scene of a huge union busting operation by Murdoch in the 1980s. Now there is a better atmosphere for unions there than there has been for years.

Manchester case shows police have not changed

EVENTS IN Manchester last week showed how little the police have really changed since the Macpherson report into the Stephen Lawrence case. Black musician Mark Ellison of Moss Side was paid £30,000 by Greater Manchester Police in an out of court settlement. He had sued the police for violently attacking him in the back of a police van in 1992. He compared police behaviour to that of a racist lynch mob and insisted he had not brought the case for money but "to make a stand against this type of police misbehaviour".

Yet despite making the payout Greater Manchester Police refused to apologise or admit liability. When the Macpherson inquiry came to Manchester last year, Chief Constable David Wilmott admitted that there was institutional racism inside his force. Just like Paul Condon's later admission, this was a response to growing public realisation of racism in the police. But it was a cynical response which aimed to get the police off the hook by claiming that they were only as racist as every other institution. Crucially, it led to no change whatsoever in the actions of the police.