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Debating the war

Take the war into work

LABOUR MP attempts to defend the war - but didnt convince many at the SOAS college debate

I WORK for Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC). Last week I raised a motion to support the Birmingham Committee for Peace in the Balkans at work. The other stewards were unsure about raising the issue. I decided to go ahead anyway, and circulated the motion to members a few days before the meeting. At the meeting, even though people did have different ideas about the way forward in the Balkans, the vast majority agreed that NATO was making things worse.

I suggested we affiliate to the local committee as BVSC Workers Against the Bombing, and it was agreed that all 40 union members would give 50p towards the affiliation. As I collected the money, people were giving more than 50p. Non-union members were also coming up and putting money in, and also took union recruitment forms.

If all those who took forms sign up we will only have one worker not in the union, and I guess that won't be for long. Workplace groups need to discuss the war and affiliate to the movement against it as soon as possible. The war is stoppable if we mobilise.

Debate a success

WE ORGANISED a debate on the war in the SOAS college in central London last week. We were overwhelmed by the turnout, with over 300 people coming along to hear the arguments. Putting the case for the war were Labour MP Denis McShane and Guardian journalist Jonathan Steele Against were Alex Callinicos of the SWP and Tariq Ali, a prominent leader of the campaign against the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

McShane tried to defend the government's position, but was appalling and couldn't answer the arguments and questions from the floor at all effectively. One person who spoke from the floor said they had supported the NATO intervention in Bosnia, hoping it would do some good. But, they said, now it had just legitimised ethnic cleansing and this new war in the Balkans would bring catastrophe to both Serbs and Albanians.

By the end of the debate some people who had supported the war at the start had shifted to opposition. Out of the meeting we have now set up an anti-war committee involving students and staff. People in other colleges should organise similar debates. Don't be afraid of arguments. We can win hands down.

Anger at Porter's 'justice'

THERE ARE some things you shouldn't need to learn. Like don't hold your breath for more than three minutes, and don't trust judges to dole out justice. The recent court of appeal decision to clear Dame Shirley Porter and her sidekick David Weeks from the Westminster City Council "homes for votes" scandal shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, we have the best justice money can buy.

As a housing worker and UNISON activist in Westminster council, I know only too well what this judgement means. It not only lets the two of them off the charges of social cleansing, gerrymandering and misappropriation of about £30 million of public funds. It also gives a green light to any authority to act in the same way. There is some prospect that there will be an appeal to the House of Lords to reverse the decision. I suppose that might be successful, but I'm not holding my breath.


HOW CAN Tony Blair go to Kosovo and say he is a supporter of refugees coming to Britain when the Home Office is deporting people and denying them asylum every week? I am 12 years old and live in Newham, east London. In our borough alone there have been five fights to stop children in our schools, or part of their families, being deported in the past few years. I am currently involved in one campaign at my school, Little Ilford.

Jack Straw's announcement that up to 1,000 Kosovan refugees are to be let into Britain a week is totally inadequate. The number coming in a month would be under that at most third division football matches. The government should do more to help refugees from all countries.

Welfare attacks

NEW LABOUR'S plans to further "reform" the welfare system should be setting alarm bells ringing. As the "single gateway" is about to be piloted, disturbing details are emerging. The plans are an attack on some of the poorest in society, and also on unionised workers. If compulsory interviews for single parents and people on incapacity benefit were not enough, much of the work is to be privatised.

In areas where the government's New Deal is already being run by private firms, it is more expensive and less effective. Workers in the welfare system need to make common cause with claimants' groups.

Straw's priority

I RECENTLY attended a demonstration outside the Home Office called by the United Friends and Families Campaign. It was linking up all the victims of injustice, who had joined together and had a meeting arranged with home secretary Jack Straw. I was appalled at the response given by Jack Straw. When people who met him returned to the demo they said they had been told that to reform the Police Complaints Authority, in which the police investigate themselves, would take up to three years.

If Jack Straw and New Labour were serious about challenging institutional racism, surely it should be a priority to reform the way the police investigate themselves when people are killed in their custody.

United response

IN THE early hours of Saturday 24 April, the same day as the Brick Lane bombing, a shop owned by an Asian family was attacked in Ely, Cardiff. Some local youths hurled a home made petrol bomb at the shop window. Fortunately the bomb failed to smash through the window and no one was hurt. Police arrested four local youths.

The youths may have expected to stir up racial tension in an area that has high unemployment, but the reverse has been true. The shopkeeper reported that throughout the day after the attack many local people were offering support, checking the family were OK, and the local school sent flowers. Such black and white unity is essential to make sure it is the racist thugs who are left isolated.

Thanks for solidarity

I HAVE been in prison here in Turkey since 22 March charged with responsibility for articles about the Kurdish problem which had appeared in the newspaper Workers Democracy. On 6 May I was released from prison on bail. I still face charges, with a possible sentence of up to two years.

While in prison I have received messages of support from all over the world and heard about many protests demanding my release. I want to thank them for their solidarity. I hope that you will continue to show the same solidarity until the conclusion of my trial.

What I went through in prison showed me it was my duty as a human being to carry on the struggle. In this period in which NATO bombers commit slaughter in Kosovo while falsely claiming to be defending peace and the rights of an ethnic minority, I wish all comrades success in their struggles to bring an end to barbarism.


WHEN PAT Finucane, a Belfast solicitor, was murdered by Loyalists ten years ago, it bore all the hallmarks of collaboration between the RUC police and a Loyalist murder gang. Now a confidential 11 page document by the Irish government would appear to confirm this.

This will come as no surprise to the nationalist community, who have suffered at the hands of this sectarian police force. The RUC are 98 percent Protestant and have shown they will resist even the smallest reform. The British government and Loyalist politicians demand that the IRA surrenders its weapons before Sinn Fein takes its seats in the executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Yet they want the Orange state and the RUC to remain armed to the teeth. The only solution must be a complete disbandment of the RUC.

postal points

I HAVE to disagree with your remarks over the Balkan war. NATO is right to bomb and force the Serbs to give in. Why should Kosovan Albanians suffer and be ethnically cleansed? If the power we have now had been around in 1939, Hitler would never have killed so many Jews or Russians.

THE NATO bombing has brought widespread disaster in Kosovo. Before war erupted there were not refugees-now you can see on your screens a massive influx pouring over the borders of Macedonia and Albania. My message to Clinton and Blair is stop this bombing.