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Letters to the editor

September 26, 2003 | Page 4

What we buy isn't the real problem
Green light for cops to commit perjury

Exposing the lies Blair used for war

Dear Socialist Worker,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair--George W. Bush's loyal lapdog in Europe--suffered a humiliating backlash from the war in Iraq last week. In a parliamentary bi-election in Brent East in London, Blair's "New" Labour Party saw a majority of 13,047 at the last election turn into a 1,100 majority for the Liberal Democrats.

This is one of the largest turnarounds in British political history. The Liberal Democrats are seen by many as being antiwar (despite them backing the troops once the bombing started). Senior Labour politicians were clearly rocked by the result--and there is open talk of Labour losing the next general election.

It seems that every week an ex-Cabinet minister speaks out, calling for Blair to go. Blair's weakness is clearly the result of the massive antiwar movement which saw 2 million march in London on February 15, and will see another huge turnout on September 27, calling for an end to the occupations of Iraq and Palestine.

Our campaigns have exposed every lie that Blair told to justify his support for Bush. It should give confidence to U.S. campaigners who want to see Bush Jr. go the same way as his daddy.

Clive Searle, Socialist Alliance, Manchester, UK

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What we buy isn't the real problem

Dear Socialist Worker,
In her letter "Consumers share the blame" (SW, September 5), A. Heather Williams turns the real argument on its head. Her position that the market takes its cue from consumers, or that consumption determines production, is the reverse of the way it really works.

SUVs, for instance, didn't appear on the market in response to some consumer poll. They are the result of the competitive nature of the capitalist system. In order to stay ahead of their competitors, auto manufacturers must gain more profit than their rivals. This means, among other things, expanding their market: finding new people to buy their products, making new products to sell or finding new ways to sell their existing products.

Things like fuel efficiency only come into play in so far as they fit into the sales pitch. Real decisions about what gets produced and how are made by CEOs in boardrooms, not by the workers who actually produce the goods and services--or by the people who buy them.

Not only are the decisions made at the top, but that's also where the vast majority of the wealth that workers produce winds up as well. So to say "we're all to blame" not only lets the fat cats off the hook; it misses a fundamental reality. To simply say that billionaire CEO Bill Gates and minimum-wage-worker John Doe are both "consumers" and are therefore on a level playing field is ludicrous.

People like Bill Gates do consume too much--and have the resources to make whatever kind of purchasing decision they please. The rest of us have to do as best we can with the options and resources available to us.

To truly challenge the system and build a better world where production is used for human need instead of profit, we need to organize at our strongest point (where we produce), not at our weakest (where we consume). That's as workers using our combined strength in struggle--not as individual consumers at the mercy of the market.

Roger Dyer, San Francisco

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Green light for cops to commit perjury

Dear Socialist Worker,
In August, a crowd of more than 200 gathered outside the State of Illinois Building to hear political and religious leaders criticize Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto of Illinois' death penalty reform bill. Blagojevich vetoed the bill because it contained a measure that would allow a cop to be fired for committing perjury in a murder case.

Just last January, outgoing Gov. George Ryan pardoned four death row inmates convicted on the basis of confessions extracted through torture, and commuted all of the sentences of Illinois' death row inmates, finding the police torture victims as the most egregious example of the system's flaws.

Rally organizers repeated that they were not against the "good" officers, just the "bad" ones. But the police torture ring, headed up by fired Police Commander Jon Burge, set an example that many non-Burge officers followed--leading to hundreds, maybe thousands, of wrongful conviction cases based on perjured testimony. This is not a case of a few bad apples, but a systematic problem involving the Chicago Police Department and the State's Attorney's office as a whole.

One former Illinois death row inmate had a lot to say about Blagojevich's veto. "He signed the bill to video all murder confessions--knowing that it leaves room for officers to lie and do all kinds of stuff to get around the mandatory taping," the prisoner said. "Then he tells them it's okay to commit perjury, to wrongfully convict someone--and you can do it without losing your job. He vetoed a bill that would have a cop fired for committing perjury in murder cases--when other people go to jail for committing perjury. One of the most serious problems with the system is that prosecutors and officers don't fear repercussions for lying, misconduct and abuse."

It looks like anti-death penalty legislative and religious leaders aren't going to back down, but will continue to put pressure until the veto is repealed--and Illinois cops can be held accountable for their misdeeds. This was a great first step.

Joan Parkin, Chicago

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