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Letters to the editor

January 2, 2004 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Voting Kucinich would help the Greens
"Our country is not for sale"
Root for rebellion, not for France's navy
Harlem residents lose in plan

Ashcroft's "terrorism" net snares innocent

Dear Socialist Worker,
Attorney General John Ashcroft has been putting off many prosecutors and judges--people not usually known for their faint-heartedness--by instituting policies that force them to go for maximum punishments in the cases that they deal with. Now we know why.

A study by Syracuse University reveals that of 6,400 cases referred to the Justice department for "terrorism-related crimes," fewer than a third were charged, and only 879 got convictions. The median prison sentence was just 14 days! Embarrassed officials tried to spin this by saying that they were "disrupting terrorist conspiracies" before they could "fully hatch."

If we choose not to believe in Ashcroft's awesome "psychic powers," a more reasonable explanation is that hysterical law enforcement agencies have pinned the terrorism tail on every donkey in sight--including petty crimes like document fraud or immigration violations.

This government wants more convictions and jail time to justify its fear-mongering, no matter how badly it has to stretch the bounds of justice. They need police terror to push through their unpopular, anti-worker program of war, occupation and privatization. Our movement needs to expose their lies, expose their aims and bring more people into the struggle.

Shaun Joseph, Providence, R.I.

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Voting Kucinich would help the Greens

Dear Socialist Worker,
If we were again faced with Al Gore, or even Howard Dean, I would agree with you about not voting for a Democrat in 2004. But Rep. Dennis Kucinich would actually make a very worthy candidate.

As a Democrat with Green backing, he actually has a chance to win. His track record demonstrates honesty and integrity. He has clearly stated that he supports instant runoff voting, a "voter verified audit trail" and open debates.

We have a rare opportunity. If Kucinich wins, the Greens have a much better chance to be a strong, well-represented party. I voted for Ralph Nader last time. I like and respect Peter Camejo a great deal. I also like and respect Kucinich a great deal, and I believe what he says. At this time, he can win.

I would rather enact urgently needed changes than make an ineffective stand for the Green Party during this election. Once we have someone who shares our priorities in the White House, we can overhaul the system and clean out the corruption--and vote Green from a position of much more power.

Sabra Woolley, From the Internet

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"Our country is not for sale"

Dear Socialist Worker,
On November 27, an estimated 80,000 people marched on the central plaza in Mexico City to protest President Vicente Fox's plan to privatize state owned assets, as well as raise taxes on basic necessities such as food and medicine. The marchers were a broad coalition of unionists, workers, farmers, students and left-wing activists who came to voice opposition to the neoliberal agenda that has impoverished millions and is threatening to roll back many long-term social gains won through the struggles of the Mexican people.

Over 7,000 police were dispatched to patrol the area as demonstrators shouted, "Our country is not for sale!" Among workers and campesinos, there is widespread opposition towards the disastrous free-market policies best characterized by a decade of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the U.S. proposal to expand NAFTA into the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

While the decision by the Fox government to foist the costs on the poor demonstrates its usual servility to foreign investors, this also comes at the same time as the value of the peso hit a record low. Though Fox recently commented that the country "is doing wonderfully," the daily struggle of the majority of the population shows otherwise. That's why they took to the streets and will continue to resist the free-market orders from Washington.

Adam Meyer, Austin, Texas

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Root for rebellion, not for France's navy

Dear Socialist Worker,
Joe Allen's review of the film Master and Commander (SW, December 5) missed the boat when he recommended that readers see the movie and "root for the French." While the movie obviously celebrates British masters, commanders and the Royal Navy, Napoleon's France represented imperial ambitions as well.

France wanted to hegemonize the New World--including attempting to restore slavery to St. Domingue, the home of a successful slave revolution led by Toussaint L'Ouverture. In addition, France protected its privileged trading zones that included the slave colonies of South America.

Thus, in the film, the French ship Acheron was off the coast of South America to monopolize trade in commodities produced off the sweat and blood of slavery. At the time of the movie's setting, over 2 million slaves were toiling in the New World colonies.

But the impact of the Haitian revolution led by L'Ouverture inspired slave conspiracies and rebellions throughout Venezuela, Brazil, Jamaica and Cuba. It is against this backdrop of the slave trade and the fear of slave revolt that the shipping wars between England and France must be understood.

The brutality of the slave trade was a real part of any sailor's experience, as were their own means of resistance. A more realistic movie would have shown portside riots, fighting against impressment and mutinies over unpaid wages and poor rations.

If you must see the movie, don't "root for the French." Cheer for the sailors' mutinies and slave revolts that rocked both the French and English empires.

Martin Smith, Berkeley, Calif.

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Harlem residents lose in plan

Dear Socialist Worker,
In 1968, following student uprisings, Columbia University's administration was forced to shelve its biggest plans for expansion into Harlem in New York City. Recently, however, with cover provided by university President Lee Bollinger (who was known at the University of Michigan for opposing the attack on affirmative action policies), Columbia has decided to go forward with its Manhattanville project--a plan to build an entire campus in Harlem.

Supporters of the administration have argued that the project will produce a net-gain of jobs in the area. This is true. However, many will be professional jobs, unavailable to residents. The residue of service jobs created will pay the same sub-living wage that is paid to workers at the University Food Market and Columbia itself.

On top of this, as a result of the expansion, people will be displaced from their homes. And property values throughout the area will skyrocket, eventually making Harlem too expensive for most residents. In short, Columbia's development in Harlem will hurt, not improve, the standard of living for most residents.

This is what gentrification looks like. This is what institutionalized racism looks like. Like student and community groups did back in 1968, we need to build a struggle today to stop the expansion.

Brook Griffin, New York City

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