PLEASE NOTE: For legal reasons Socialist Worker will not publish letters where only an e-mail address is given. Please give a home address.
THE OPPOSITION to NATO's bombing in former Yugoslavia has received scant coverage in the media. It seems they are not alone in seeking to silence any dissent at Tony Blair's role as chief propagandist for NATO.
At the very onset of the bombing the international committee of UNISON, one of Europe's largest trade unions, adopted a statement which, whilst condemning Milosevic's oppression of Kosovo, opposed NATO's actions. The committee is normally the competent body in UNISON to comment on international affairs, but the statement has never been issued. It went to a meeting of the national executive committee on 17 April but was conveniently allowed to fall off the agenda, leaving UNISON general secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe with the power to publicise or hush up the statement.
Many thousands of UNISON members are disgusted at the bombing. We are also angry that a government which consistently tells us there is not enough money for hospitals, schools and other public services finds £2 million a day for war. Our union could play a central role in building a movement to stop the war. Rank and file UNISON members should use the statement to move anti-war resolutions in branches and fight for the statement to be issued publicly.
MOST PEOPLE where I work, a large publishing company, support the war. But almost without exception they also have major doubts and are willing to listen to the anti-war argument. That's why the Stop the War pamphlet is so important. It's the only place where you will find a coherent explanation of the war. I have already sold a dozen, about one in three in my section, to people who are appalled at what is happening and are asking if there is an alternative.
There is very little hostility. A reader stuck the front page of Socialist Worker on the wall two weeks ago and it's still there. Next week sees a rally to launch media workers against the war. We have to make it as big as we can.
WHEN I went back to work last week and discussed the war with people, most people were horrified by what is happening. They also had a real sense of unease about the West's motives. But many people also felt ignorant about the history of the area. That's why the Stop the War pamphlet produced by Socialist Worker has been so good. People love it because it explains very clearly exactly what is going on.
One person said, "It's outrageous that the BBC and ITV don't show the same kind of information." Another friend gave it to her parents who also thought it was brilliant. Staff I work with bought it, as did students who loved its accessible style. In just a few days in one small college 42 copies have been snapped up.
IN exposing NATO's lies (24 April) Socialist Worker reminded us of the attempted cover up of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War. But US troops did not just kill 130 on that occasion. They massacred 400 to 500 people. Col Oran Henderson, who had been initially charged with covering up the killing, told reporters, "Every [US] unit has its My Lai hidden someplace." This military machine now wants us to believe it is engaged in a humanitarian mission in the Balkans.
OUR MEMBERSHIP have made it very clear that we are totally opposed to the NATO bombing of Serbia. NATO, with the sickening support of Tony Blair and company, is not only making the situation much, much worse for the refugees, but is also bombing to bits the homes, workplaces and lives of ordinary, innocent Serbian people. NATO doesn't want a peaceful settlement. A negotiated, peaceful settlement must involve all workers in all countries uniting to bring it about and stopping the butchery of NATO.
HERE IN Aberdeen we have set up an anti-war committee, following a recent trades council. It is broad based, involving the SWP, Labour Party members and trade unionists. We have bus workers, oil workers, telecom workers, local government workers and others involved, and with the students returning we are hoping to get them involved too. We also hope to try and feed our campaign into the annual May Day march in Aberdeen and make it a demonstration for workers' unity and peace. I am standing as a Socialist Worker candidate for the Aberdeen South constituency in the Scottish parliamentary elections. I managed to raise the issue of the war when I got on the local TV last week, on the Crossfire programme.
TONY BENN writes how public protests against the war are ignored by the media. The 11 April 5,000 strong rally was not even mentioned by the Guardian the next day. Blair is fighting two wars. One is against Serbia, fought with technological arms which kill the refugees they are meant to be helping. The other is fought through media manipulation, against those of us who are saying no to NATO. Just as the first casualty of war is truth, so the collateral damage is the collapse of liberal opinion in the face of the conflict. The protest movement does exist, across the country, and across the world.
ALEX CALLINICOS is quite right to argue (Socialist Worker, 17 April) that socialists should not support the Kosovo Liberation Army. In Serbia it is vital to argue for Albanian rights. In Kosovo it is just as vital to argue for unity with anti-Milosevic Serbs. Support for the KLA and arming them dovetails with support for NATO's war aims. And for us in the West, NATO is the main enemy.
THE SOUTH West regional council of the UNISON union recently voted against the war in the Balkans. The meeting had representatives from over 40 UNISON branches from Swindon to Penzance, representing workers in health, utilities and local councils. There was strong debate about what to do about Milosevic, the right of people to self determination, Western imperialism and Clinton's New World Order. Delegates recognised that Serb workers were organised in trade unions and had protested against Milosevic. The council agreed to support demonstrations and activities against the war.
TONY BLAIR claims the war is to defend refugees. Yet he is busy slamming the door on refugees with his new bill now going through parliament. I work with asylum seekers and every day I see the reality behind New Labour's war propaganda on refugees. In future those who make it through increasingly harsh visa checks will be denied any cash and will get food vouchers if immigration officials believe they are "destitute". In my area Kosovans are forced to live by scavenging for food thrown away by stallholders in local markets. Five or six people are sharing single rooms and using the beds in shifts. I see pregnant women who are malnourished and sometimes children who have not eaten for several days. Meanwhile in Kosovo every bomb that Blair drops risks murdering and maiming more refugees.
AFTER BEING told two weeks ago he would have to serve another 12 weeks, Taj Ahmed was told he would be released on Monday 19 April. Taj and Roberto Brollini were jailed in December for defending themselves against an attack by two Nazis. The news meant both Taj and Roberto got out last Monday. This is thanks to the campaign which saw Kirkham prison governor's fax jammed with letters of protest. On behalf of both men and their families, thanks to everyone who wrote.
I PICKED up a copy of your paper in Liverpool last week. I have never seen it before. It was very interesting and the article about "right to roam" struck a chord. I do a lot of walking. I don't stick to paths and go where I want. I do get really pissed off with all the fences with barbed wire on top. It is a real pain.
SURJIT SINGH Chhokar was brutally murdered by three men in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, in November 1998. Three white men were arrested and charged with murder. But just one man was brought to court, and he walked free after only being convicted of assault. Angry at this injustice, the family tried to meet with Labour's Scottish Home Affairs minister Henry McLeish, but he didn't meet them. They courageously confronted McLeish last week at a Scottish TUC fringe meeting, and forced him to publicly agree to meet them. Like the Lawrence family the Chhokars have shown tremendous determination, and gained a broad base of support for their fight for justice.