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I JOINED the protest called by the Anti Nazi League in Brixton, south London, two weeks ago against the Nazi bombing the week before. It drew together scores of black and white people who were absolutely sickened at what had happened. We gave out stickers and got people to sign petitions. The protest was a very positive step. I moved to Brixton 16 years ago from Northern Ireland. I wanted to be in a safe mixed area to bring my children up. I refuse to let the Nazis take that away from me.
The protest gave me confidence that virtually everyone in Brixton feels the same way. The police had said the protest was counter-productive. But we pushed them to acknowledge that this was a racist attack. When I got home I was horrified to see on the television that Brick Lane in east London had been bombed precisely at the time we were demonstrating in Brixton. That shows why we need more protests to draw people together, gain strength and make sure the racists do not build.
PROTESTS ARE growing at the threatened execution of black activist Mumia Abu-Jamal in the US. Mumia was framed for the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. A benefit event for Mumia took place in London on Sunday two weeks ago. And, in a magnificent act of solidarity, dockers in San Francisco struck for eight hours on the previous day to free Mumia.
Jack Heyman of the dockers' union, the ILWU, in San Francisco said, "There's beginning to be an awakening of working people in this country that enough is enough. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. There's beginning to be a spirit of protest developing again in the US and Mumia Abu-Jamal has become a symbol of that."
The US now executes a higher proportion of its citizens than any other industrialised country. It makes Bill Clinton's talk of human rights all the more sickening
IN BRITAIN, one of the richest countries in the world, working class people are dying unnecessarily from heart disease and cancer, according to two recent medical reports. For the rich, the number of heart attacks is falling so rapidly that for top managers and professionals under 65 the risk of a heart attack will soon be virtually gone. But the gap between the social classes is widening, not narrowing. The improvements in diet, increased exercise facilities and better medical care, are not available to the poor.
The less in control of your life you are, the more impossible lifestyle changes like stopping smoking become. Professor Michael Marmot, author of one report, also argues that working class people have more heart attacks because of stress. The cancer report is equally damning. Firstly it found once again that the rich get fewer cancers than working class people.
But, damningly, it also found that once diagnosed, the rich survive their cancers to a far greater extent. Between 1971 and 1990, 12,700 poorer people would not have died if they had the same chance of survival as those in the richest 20 percent of society. Britain has fewer cancer specialists than any country in western Europe, and ten times fewer than in the US. Professor Gordon McVie called his findings "a catalogue of terrible injustices".
New Labour pays lip service to the need to narrow the health divide between rich and poor, something the Tories explicitly had no interest in. But what these reports highlight is that the health divide mirrors the wealth divide. It seems unlikely that New Labour will do anything to tackle that. That task belongs to us.
THE TWENTIETH anniversary of the death of Blair Peach on an anti-Nazi march at the hands of the police provided us at Crofton School, Lewisham, with an opportunity to push anti-racist education. We held a whole school assembly of 1,000 students in the run up to the anniversary. We spoke of Blair Peach and how he had been killed by the police.
The students read out poems they had written about Blair and presented aspects of black history neglected in the curriculum. They all responded brilliantly because of the closeness of Stephen Lawrence to us. Two of Stephen's cousins are at our school. Our head teacher was so inspired she asked to sum up. She did so brilliantly and talked of how Blair had given his life to fight racism.
Afterwards all the students wanted to discuss the wider issues. The assembly has reestablished the tradition of whole school involvement and made a positive contribution to the atmosphere in the school.
|JAVED IQBAL (left) and his family with petition organiser Peter Burns|
THE LONG running campaign against the deportation of my family and me has now succeeded. We would like to thank the many readers of Socialist Worker who have supported us through 18 months of struggle. Our fight shows that even though New Labour's attitude to immigration and asylum is hardening, it is possible to build a victorious campaign.
Over the last year and a half thousands of signatures have been collected, and many meetings, lobbies and even a cricket match have been organised. Hundreds of people have been drawn into activity-black and white, young and old, trade unionists and community activists. Our success can only encourage others to take up the fight against the racist immigration and asylum laws and the hypocritical government that backs them.
THE ARTICLE which got to the roots of why wars happen (Socialist Worker, 17 April) would fit well in a pamphlet, "Wars at the End of the Millennium". It put across points which are rarely heard. It counteracts the hopeless apathy which puts wars down to human nature and says things have always been this way. The article connects the wars in the world today with capitalism. I was encouraged towards socialism after reading about ancient human history. We need more down to earth pamphlets, inspired by people like the Levellers and the Chartists who put their ideas in an accessible way.
MANY WORKING class people who voted Labour in 1997 must now be wondering what sort of monster has been released onto the world political stage. President Clinton and his puppet Blair are the ringleaders in the bombing campaign which is devastating cities, towns and villages in Yugoslavia. Blair attempts to justify this bloody war by insisting it is being done to assist the Kosovan refugees. Yet NATO bombs are actually killing these refugees.
Blair says that in any case all the blame must fall squarely on Milosevic regardless of who is dropping the bombs. This gives NATO the green light to drop their bombs indiscriminately. I am appalled at the enthusiasm with which Blair and his cronies have bent to their task, and they should be ashamed of what they are doing as the representatives of the ordinary men and women of this country. When the day of reckoning comes, perhaps Bloody-handed Blair, Turncoat Cook and Gung-ho George Robertson should also be indicted with others for their share of war crimes and this shameful military adventure.
MILOSEVIC IS the nearest reincarnation of Hitler we have yet seen in Europe. Serbian forces are on their way to surpassing in Kosovo the 250,000 they murdered in Bosnia and 100,000 in Croatia. You claim that NATO bombing has destroyed the opposition to Milosevic-what opposition? What have they done in the last nine years to help a single person who Milosevic decided he did not want in Greater Serbia? My father fought in the war to save Republican Spain in the 1930s. He bitterly despised the cowardly West for not standing up to fascism. Socialist Worker's attitude to the war in the Balkans makes me feel you are more interested in fighting capitalism than fascism.
IT IS true that the Kosovo Liberation Army has sought help from imperialist powers (Socialist Worker, 17 April). And yes, they are nowhere near as progressive a force as socialists should like. But life is not perfect. To condemn the KLA because they do not conform to socialists' pattern for freedom fighters is unsatisfactory. We must give the KLA recognition and critical support.
RON RICH was a founding member of the Knowle branch of the Socialist Workers Party in Bristol. For many years, right into his seventies, Ron would take the argument for socialism to anyone who would listen. He took Socialist Worker to regular readers in the area every week for as long as his health held out.
He had been an active member of ex-services CND for many years and maintained contacts with socialists from Australia to Russia. Ron combined a gentle strength with a compassion for others matched only by his hatred for the injustices of capitalism. Our thoughts go out to his wife, Doreen, and his son John. Ron will be joyfully remembered and sadly missed.