Brussels shows the way
Some 5,000 Belgian car workers have been taking action against 3,500 job cuts by Volkswagen at the Forest Volkswagen factory in Brussels.
The workers have been on strike for over a week.
The car maker said on Tuesday of last week it would reduce the staff in Brussels to just 1,500 employees, a further blow to Belgium’s auto industry, which has already seen sweeping job cuts.
Some 3,000 workers gathered for a rally outside the factory last Wednesday, where they burned company flags and barricaded the entrance with a Volkswagen car.
As the strike continues, parts of the plant are occupied to force management into negotiations.
On Friday of last week workers blocked the major road in the Brussels suburb of Vorst for several hours with burning barricades.
The Volkswagen company wants to cut up to 20,000 jobs across Europe.
Jordy Maes, Brussels
I noticed that Volkswagen workers in Belgium have occupied their factory and held militant protests over plans to cut jobs.
What a contrast to the puny campaigns mounted by unions in Britain over job cuts.
When Peugeot announced it was going to close the Ryton plant in Coventry, sacking 2,300 people, the unions vowed to fight against this.
What did we get? A pathetic, patriotic poster—a dispirited couple hold each other, gazing mournfully into the distance, under the slogan: “You’re either Peugeot or England”.
We need some of the Belgium spirit over here!
Maria Marshall, Coventry
Can socialism solve climate crisis?
Martin Empson is right—socialists do have serious strategies to offer over climate change (Letters, 25 November).
A democratically planned economy would improve the quality of our lives while simultaneously protecting the environment.
It would allow us to transform all of our social relations, not only at work but at home too. By socialising domestic labour, for example, we could drastically reduce our energy consumption, while at the same time freeing women in particular from domestic drudgery.
The only losers would be the capitalists who sell us our privately owned washing machines, microwaves, cookers, etc. The capitalist market system is responsible for our “energy addiction” not us as individual workers.
So why is it that the green movement is dominated by those who “simply ask us to live our lives differently”? Perhaps it is because so many socialists are too busy with other things to engage directly with the many thousands of young people who are now flocking to the movement against climate change.
Join a local climate campaign group now! If there isn’t one, set one up. This movement offers us the best opportunity to raise anti-capitalist class consciousness that we’ve seen for a long time.
Roy Wilkes, Prestwich, Manchester
Virus of poverty
Despite economic growth around eight million people (40 percent of the economically active population) remain unemployed in South Africa.
Millions of people both employed and unemployed, are condemned to a life of poverty by the evils of low pay and mass unemployment.
Mass unemployment causes both individual and social misery. As unemployment grows, so does crime, rape, domestic violence and drug abuse, all of which destroy the sense of community.
This is why we talk of two deadly viruses destroying the lives of millions of people—HIV/Aids and the unemployment virus.
The government must declare unemployment a national emergency and make it public enemy number one.
The Right to Work Campaign aims to have the right to work guaranteed in the constitution as a fundamental human right.
The unemployment crisis is deeply rooted in the structures of the South African economy that is a semi-industrialised economy, dependent on the export of mainly raw materials and the import of high value goods.
With such high levels of inequality created by the national oppression of black people under colonialism and apartheid, South Africa was unable to develop a big internal market that could support the development of strong local industries that could to supply the needs of the population.
After the 1970s, South Africa’s economy experienced almost 20 years of decline in which many jobs were lost in agriculture, mining, manufacturing and in the retail industries.
But it was after 1994 that the unemployment crisis appeared as a major problem in its own rights as it became dissociated from apartheid and as job losses rocketed.
We can characterise the unemployment crisis as the intertwining of the legacy of apartheid with neoliberal globalisation.
Thabang Maseko, Right to Work local organiser Mdantsane, South Africa
A victory in Greek battle against repression
We are very happy that Greek courts have decided to free Javied Aslam, president of the Pakistani Community of Greece organisation, until the day when the case of deportation will be discussed.
This is a great victory for the anti-war movement. Javied was the voice of 28 Pakistanis who were kidnapped by Greek and British secret services after the London bombing of 7 July (Socialist Worker, 7 January).
The court demanded that he pay €30,000 (£20,000) guarantee. We are very proud that the Greek General Confederation of Workers decided to pay this. Anti-war, anti-racist and pro-democratic feelings are very strong among the workers’ movement in Greece.
This victory is a result of the mobilisation of the international and the Greek anti-war movement.
The huge demonstration on 11 November organised by the Pakistani community, Stop the War Coalition, and Campaign Genoa 2001, with the support of the trade unions, opened a mass wave of solidarity in Greece. Thousands of petitions were collected in a few days.
On behalf of Javied, we want to thank all the movements and individuals that supported him.
The battle will continue, because he we will now face a court case on deportation to Pakistan.
Petros Constantinou and Yiannis Sifakakis, Greece
Why socialists should love Borat
I have just been to see the film Borat, and could not disagree more with Paul Morris’s denunciation of it (Letters, 18 November).
The film satirises rich countries’ patronising attitude to other cultures.
Borat is created as a satire of the ignorant foreigner, and the failure of his victims to recognise him as a caricature reveals their racism.
Borat scores some goals against bigotry.
His exposure of the sexism and racism of the group of frat boys he meets is brilliant, revealing the utter moral squalour of the US ruling class.
However, there is much more to the film than this. The key concept is that of a fictional character interacting with real people. The question it makes us ask is how authentic any of us are.
And anyone who still doubts the brilliance of this film should consider the humanity it shows to the black prostitute Borat befriends—totally in opposition to the cruel way she is treated by the group of middle class etiquette teachers Borat satirises.
Socialist Worker should have praised this beautiful film.
Mark Donaldson, Edinburgh
Not so sweet at sixteen
i think that the world of politics is messed up. I’m 16 and I’m not allowed to vote, yet everywhere I go I am charged as an adult.
Please Mr Blair answer that one if you will.
Joe Everson, Warrington
Too tough on Friedman?
If the argument for socialism is a good one (and I believe that it is) then we do not need to resort to the gutter levels of rhetoric and faulty reasoning displayed in Chris Harman’s obituary of Milton Friedman (Socialist Worker, 25 November).
It is undoubtedly possible to show that Friedman’s economics are unoriginal, faulty and ideological without encouraging people to “spit on his grave”.
Socialism or barbarism? Which side are you on Chris?
Simon Drew, Brussels, Belgium
Cry over this spilt milk
On Sunday 19 November The Politics Show had a spokesperson from Farmers For Action making the case for dairy farmers to receive a fair price for their milk.
Dairy farmers currently receive between 17p and 19p for a pint of milk when it costs 20.3p to produce it. At this rate a dairy farmer goes out of business every three days.
Quite rightly, the spokesperson made the point that it is the supermarkets who are responsible for this state of affairs.
They do not pay the farmers a decent price, but the supermarkets make around 15p on a pint of milk.
Given that it is small dairy farmers who are suffering here I found myself sympathetic to the case being put.
Then all of a sudden, like a bolt out of the blue, the spokesperson launched a quite bizarre and outrageous attack on the number of asylum seekers getting homes in this country.
I found myself almost losing all sympathy at the plight of the small farmer.
John Curtis, Margate, Kent
The wrong priorities
The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has failed to flag to up to local authorities and secondary schools that they have until the end of this month to have Disability Equality Schemes in place.
These should set out in detail how disabled staff, students and visitors will be integrated into the life of the institution in compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act.
Ealing NUT put this on the agenda of a regular schools union forum with local authority officers.
To her credit the responsible officer admitted knowing nothing about this deadline.
Since getting the agenda she’d searched in vain on the DfES website for assistance.
To check our facts she also consulted union and disability sites to find that, indeed, we were right. So she rang the DfES to ask why they had nothing to say on the matter.
She reported back that she eventually had a grovelling apology from a DfES hierarch who assured her that something would be out on the DfES’ Teachernet website—a mere two weeks before the deadline.
How about that for getting your priorities right?
Nick Grant, West London
Stress of life on the buses
Being a bus driver is getting more stressful every day (Socialist Worker, 25 November). They should work fewer hours.
London mayor Ken Livingstone is always talking of the importance of buses in London, yet privatisation of the buses has led to greedy shareholders paying the skilled drivers less.
Shaun Parsley, Crawley, West Sussex