Certainly this situation reflects the political and social turmoil that has followed the counter-revolution in the former Soviet Union and it shows that backward and reactionary ideas are flourishing in the manure heaps of restored capitalism.
This act of spitting upon the heroic sacrifice of 20 million Soviet war dead is also made possible by a lack of historical knowledge among the population, particularly since there are now two generations who have no memory of the war. Fascists and the far-right will see an opportunity in any ignorance they find to rewrite history for then own benefit -- and this will not just happen in Latvia.
In Britain there has been a tendency to shy away from the truth about the Second World War dating back to the end of the war itself. Some readers may remember that the giant hoarding put up in Trafalgar Square for the VE Day celebrations proclaimed "Victory over Germany!" -- it did not, as the Soviet posters did, proclaim "victory over Hitler fascism". The slogans mirrored the attitudes of Britain's capitalist elite and the Soviet Union's socialist state.
During the decades of the Cold War the people of the western countries were told very little about the was on the eastern front. The devastation of the Soviet Union and the terrible loss of life were quickly swept under the carpet in the late forties and early fifties in order to prepare the ground for the anti-Soviet propaganda to come.
But we have all been shown countless war films produced in Hollywood, Shepperton, Pinewood and the like which mostly focused on the heroic actions of United States and British forces.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with honouring the courage of the Allies on the western front, the sea and air battles of Europe and the Atlantic, the war in the Far East and the war against Japanese militarism in the Pacific. What is wrong is the blacking out of our Soviet Allies and the lack of attention paid to the nature of fascism and the reasons why the war happened at all.
Now that half a century has passed there are fewer and fewer people around to tell it as it was. To everyone under 50 the Second World War is only a history lesson in school or a memory passed on by parents and older relatives and friends.
The situation today in Latvia shows how vital it is that the truth about our recent past is told and told in full. If it is ignored or if it is distorted the criminals of that past may crawl out to seek an unjust revenge. And, the racist, supremacist ideas which the fascists used in the 1930s and 40s can then be separated in people's minds from the barbarous crimes of that period and dressed in a respectability they should never be allowed to have.
This is especially important in this present period of capitalist crisis in which imperialist warmongering is wreaking destruction in country after country and creating a rising number of refugees and asylum seekers -- people who are already being targeted by racists and fascists in the prosperous countries of western Europe.
We need to make sure that young people are taught the whole truth. There is a real danger that the demands of capitalist production are starting to push state education along the path of training for work -- a concentration on basic skills and computer literacy. It was after all significant that the one time Department of Education and Science became the Department of Education and Employment.
Discussions of education should not simply focus on funding (important though that is) but should look at the content as well. We have already seen a scaling down of physical education and music in our schools. It is vital that history does not join this list nor must it be allowed to become unduly influenced by the private sponsors currently creeping into our schools by the backdoor. Above all the communists, anti-fascists and progressives must speak out and keep the truth alive!
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THE SAVILLE inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday began last week in the Guildhall of Derry which was the intended destination of the ill-fated march 28 years ago.
Fourteen marchers died and many others were wounded as British paratroopers opened fire on the unarmed civil rights protesters.
The inquiry isexpected to take many months but already there have been staggering revelations -- of a deliberate policy of shoot-to-kill endorsed by senior army officers.
A private memo has been produced from commander of land forces General Robert Ford to Sir Harry Tute, general officer commanding in northern Ireland, outlining army plans to stop the banned march at the point of maximum advantage to the army and to shoot on sight the young men believed to be the ringleaders of civil disturbance in Derry.
Another top secret communication from the head of the army, General Michael Carver, informed the then Prime Minister, Edward Heath, that it may be "imperative" to go into the Bogside and "root out terrorists and hooligans".
Francie Malloy, a member of Sinn Fein's national executive and a councillor, said in London last week that unless the Good Friday institutions are restored the peace process in Ireland could collapse altogether.
Speaking at a public meeting organised by the Wolfe Tone Society, he said: "It is still possible to move on and develop the Good Friday Agreement agenda if the institutions are re-established, but if this doesn't happen the collapse of the peace process will become permanent".
Malloy said that Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson had "applied a British-Unionist veto and collapsed into the hands of Unionism", and meeting with the Irish government in Dublin he had "given David Trimble's position" on the peace process. The Irish government told the British not to collapse the Good Friday institutions, saying this would lead to the collapse of the peace process.
Malloy also said that If the institutions are re-established, the legislation allowing the Westminster parliament to suspend them must be removed if the parties involved are to be allowed to let politics work in the north of Ireland.
He pointed out that Sinn Fein and the SDLP had worked on the Agriculture Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly, chaired by Ian Paisley, and had worked well together to tackle the crisis affecting farmers in the north of Ireland.
Malloy added that Sinn Fein is considering taking the British government to the European court for flouting the 1998 referendum result in suspending the inslitutions.
However he stressed that "the confidence of the nationalist community in the north of Ireland is higher than ever. Mandelson may stall the peace process, but the republican movement knows that equality and re-unification will be achieved, and that there is no alternative mechanism for resolving the conflict in Ireland."
John McDonnell MP reminded the meeting that the cross-border bodies had also been suspended by Mandelson, and said the Irish government and people had been shocked and amazed by Mandelson's failure to consult them over the suspension.
He described Mandelson as "very close" to the Unionists, adding that Labour MPs had "lost interest" in the Irish peace process and in consulting with the Irish community in Britain.
Speaking on behalf of the Justice for Diarmuid O'Neill Campaign, Diarmuid's brother Shane announced that following the recent inquest decision that Diarmuid's killing was lawful, the family was calling for a public enquiry into all incidents in which people had been shot and killed by the Metropolitan Police.
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by Caroline Colebrook
THE GOVERNMENT last week announced a new strategy to improve standards in hospitals by "naming and shaming" hospitals which do not meet minimum standards of co mpetence, cleanliness and so on.
Hospitals will be given hotel style ratings and those that fail, instead of being given extra support, will have their funding reduced.
A new health watchdog is to be established to inspect hospitals to see if they are performing well.
If they are deemed to be "failing", the hospital trusts will be given a choice, face cuts in funding or accept outside intervention to improve standards.
This policy closely mirrors the Government line on education, where inspections put enormous pressures on teachers, create a lot of paperwork and can lead to all round demoralisation.
The Government has already set its "hit squads" to work on several schools and whole education authorities. This often involves handing the administration over to the private sector -- in other words back door privatisation.
Renaming schools and bringing in "super-heads" is a policy that simply ignores the root causes of why the school was having problems and already three "super-heads" have quit, because there are no quick fixes ior the deep underlying problems.
The Government has also been moving the goalposts on what it means by "failing". Schools with reasonable average exam results can now be accused of being complacent and failing to stretch or pressure -- pupils enough.
And the Government has recently admitted that it intends to hand schools' administrations over to the private sector even when they are not "failing".
it seems this has been the real agenda all along -- to fragment and privatise the education system -- providing opportunities for the private sector to make profits.
Now it seems this process is to be applied to the health service, already fragmented into hospital trusts.
And if being a pupil in a school that has been "named and shamed" as failing is demoralising, then being a patient in a "named and shamed" hospital must be terrifying.
All patients want better standards in hospitals but gimmicky hit squads will not improve things.
Hospitals have for too long suffered funding shortages. They have been forced to contract out cleaning services to the cheapest tender on offer.
The wages and conditions of ancillary workers have been drastically cut -- sparking the longrunning Hillingdon Hospital dispute.
The companies that run these services have to make a profit. This can only be done by employing fewer workers on lower pay.
It is no wonder that hygiene standards have fallen and how infections are running rampant in hospitals.
The way to change this is to bring such services back into the NHS.
Many skilled health workers like physio and occupational therapists have found their positions undermined and wages cut as cash-strapped trusts bring in less qualified but cheaper practitioners.
This process is still going on. The Royal College of Physicians has recommended a new tier of "health care practitioner" to help free doctors and nurses to carry out more complex tasks. It might be better simply to employ enough doctors and nurses in the first place.
If this were part of a career structure to break down barriers and allow the unqualified to gain qualifications in stages, it would be a good thing. But it is really aimed to save money and allow trusts to get away with employing fewer doctors and nurses.
In the meantime the bricks and mortar of the hospitals are still being handed over to the private sector to be rented back by the NHS in Private Finance Initiative deals -- even though the Treasury select committee -- a Parliamentary watchdog -- only last week admitted that PFI deals are not the most effective way of funding public projects.
Chancellor Gordon Brown was accused last week of misleading MPs after Health Secretary Alan Milburn admitted that the 10,000 new nurses promised by Brown were already in the pipeline and paid for by the taxpayer.
The latest increase was in fact promised two years ago as part of an expansion promised by the previous comprehensive spending review.
This pledged to recruit 15,000 more nurses for the NHS by 2002. Mr Milbum admitted that the "new" 10,000 were included in the original figure.
Meanwhile the closures go on. The Stirling Royal Infirmary in Scotland is to lose its entire women's and children's directorate, including a state of the art children's ward and maternity services.
Labour beds, the neo-natal intensive care unit and in-patient gynaecology will be axed under plans drawn up by the Forth Valley Acute Hospitals Trust.
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CAMPAIGNING Labour MP George Galloway has challenged Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain to a public debate on the blockade of Iraq in Hain's own Welsh constituency. And if Hain doesn't take up the offer Galloway is going to hold a public meeting there on Iraq regardless.
The Scottish MP who has championed the plight of the beleaguered Iraqi people has booked Neath Town Hall on 8th May for the meeting to challenge Hain's version of the facts around the cancellation of the Mariam Appeal's mercy flight to Baghdad.
In a letter to the Glasgow Herald Galloway says:
"To be accused of a 'cynical and dishonest manoeuvre' (Peter Hain's letter 21/3) by an apologist for a sanctions regime which has killed more than a million children is like being told to sit up straight by the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Fresh from his 'triumph' in bludgeoning the hapless Alun Michael into the position of First Minister of Wales -- a famous success as we all know now -- Hain is the third foreign minister in just over a year to be given the task of defending the indefensible.
His claims are just ludicrous. If as he says I was interested only in a publicity stunt readers may ask themselves whether actually flying the aeroplane to Baghdad rather than cancelling it would not have generated more publicity.
Having agreed at Hain's diktat to reduce the numbers on board from 207 to 29, the UN Sanctions Committee in New York demanded -- in three hours -- answers to a long list of questions which could not be answered or, like the demand to know the precise purpose of each of the 29 people of board were, as our forthcoming court case will show, flatly illegitimate.
Hain makes the extraordinary claim that the Sanctions Committee OK'd the flighton the day I cancelled it. How could this be true when I did not answer their long list of questions? And if true would that not establish that the questions were a wrecking device?"
An Iraqi-born British doctor who had planned to go on the flight to attend an expatriates conference in Baghdad reports that he was visited by a member of Special Branch to warn him off.
Jerrard Misconi, a retired orthopaedic surgeon who has lived in Britain since 1964, says the plain-clothes policeman told him "we have reservations about this conference" and claimed it would give Saddam Hussein money, technology and a propaganda platform and allow him to recruit agents from those attending.
Thames Valley police confirm that a detective-constable had visited Misconi on behalf of the government and the Home Office admits that the police had called on "some Iraqis" who had been invited to the conference, which was discussing issues like dual citizenship problems.
George Galloway is going to lodge a protest with the Home Secretary at what he described as the "disturbing use of the police for a political purpose."
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THE GOVERNMENT last week announced that the proposed privatisation of British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) will be delayed until at least after the next election, adding to speculation that the controversial nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield in Cumbria may be closed within a few months.
Sellafield's problems have mounted steadily since it came to light that officials had deliberately falsified records.
This was followed by a damning report from the nuclear inspectorate on the management of Sellafield.
Customers of Sellarfield's services, including Germany and Switzerland have since suspended shipments of spent nuclear fuel as questions of the safety of the plant multiply.
And Irish energy minister Jose Jacob has called for the plant to be closed because of the high level of pollution in the Irish Sea coming from Sellafield.
He has been supported in this by the Danish and Swedish governments.
Joe Jacob and Danish environment minister Svend Auken are to put proposals for closing the plant before Ospar, the international convention which controls marine pollution in the Irish sea, north east Atlantic and North Sea.
They are also proposing to end nuclear reprocessing at Cap de la Hague in France.
Sellafield received a new blow last week when deliberate sabotage was reported ina high security area in the plant.
Wires were cut on five giant robots used for handling highly radioactive materials, putting the vitrification plant out of action for three days.
When Joe Jacob and Svend Auken put forward their demands for the plant to close, they were surprised that the British government did not voice any opposition, or deny a report that the plant is due to be closed soon.
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