Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2037

A stressful existence

Thanks for the Management By Stress article (27 January). It is really important to emphasise the truth behind management concepts such as “key performance indicators”, “flexibility” and “appraisals”.

In our organisation, management have renewed the process of supervision and appraisals as being at the centre of the organisation’s operation. Our chief executive wanted to introduce 20 new key performance indicators, but a local manager managed to negotiate it down to seven!

Management in the workplace is about controlling workers and making them more “productive” for the lowest cost option.

If they don’t make us work harder with their management techniques, they usually land up giving us an enormous bureaucratic headache with the increase in unnecessary paperwork.

Ultimately, only sustained and extensive working class solidarity will be able to challenge this exploitative and alienated approach to modern human organisation.

Alan Scott, Edinburgh

Your article reminded me of a woman I knew who worked at a call centre. Monday mornings were dreaded because she would go to work and have to answer a queue of complaints from the weekend from irate customers.

Yet management expected her to speak as if she was smiling, as if she’d been waiting for this particular call all day. Her calls were monitored, phones had to be answered within three rings and calls were recorded for “training purposes”.

I doubt if there are many company directors who could do the job.

John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

A sign of change

Possibly the most significant demonstration in modern Turkish history has recently taken place. Nearly 250,000 Turks marched, all carrying the same placard saying, “We Are All Hrant Dink” on one side and “We Are All Armenian” on the other.

Some were in Turkish, some in Armenian, some in Kurdish.

The placards referred to the assassination of the Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink.

It was a dignified, silent march. The slogan “We Are All Armenian” deals a heavy blow to Turkish nationalism, racism and discrimination. It is like whole sections of the population going over to “the enemy”.

A section of the Turkish ruling class is fighting against attempts to resolve the Kurdish issue through peaceful means, to admit to the Armenian holocaust of 1915, to withdraw troops from Northern Cyprus, and to stop treating minorities as “foreigners”.

Steps have been taken in all these areas in recent years. Resistance to this is represented in parliament by the formerly social democratic Republican People’s Party. It now simply spews out rabid nationalism.

Outside parliament there are darker forces, which range from semi-secret units of the armed forces to the youth organisations of the two fascist parties. They enjoy a degree of support from parts of the state bureaucracy.

The “deep state”, shorthand for these shadowy networks, has long been part of the language.

The teenager who murdered Hrant Dink is a pawn in the hands of this “deep state”. He and a number of his accomplices were quickly caught. No one in Turkey believes that those behind them ever will be.

There is widespread revulsion against the forces which sabotage moves towards a more democratic and peaceful country, and which constantly try to whip up a frenzy of nationalism.

The procession gave heart to everyone who wants to fight against chauvinism, racism and nationalism.

Life will now be harder for the “deep state” and all that it stands for.

Ron Margulies, by e-mail

Prison deaths will be Blair’s legacy

The ongoing crisis in our prisons is lamentable. Already this year, two vulnerable women prisoners have died in the “care” of the state.

The jail population has risen by 20,000 since Labour took office in 1997, and further expansion is planned, despite a dwindling rate of crime.

Mother of five Caroline Powell, 26, died at HMP Eastwood Park on 5 January. Ten days later, Lucy Wood, 29, died while locked up by private company Kalyx Ltd at HMP Peterborough.

The demonstration outside Eastwood Park prison on 24 January was to protest against the death of Caroline Powell.

I was arrested for “aggravated trespass and obstruction of the highway”. I was charged, and released on unconditional bail to appear in North Avon magistrates’ court last week.

Caroline Powell’s father contacted me to indicate the family’s support for the protest outside HMP Eastwood Park.

Grieving and preparing for their daughter’s funeral, they were unable to join protesters.

Ms Powell was on remand at Eastwood Park prison, and so legally innocent when she died.

Prison death demonstrations will continue as and when necessary. Labour’s punitive penal policy, the absence of culpability when prisoners die, and a prison population out of control, will be Tony Blair’s shameful legacy.

Pauline Campbell, Bereaved mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died in the “care” of HMP and YOI Styal, 2003

Debating Respect’s selections in Birmingham

Socialist Worker (Debate at selection meeting, 3 February) reported a selection meeting for a Respect candidate in Birmingham.

I am concerned that a misleading impression is being created of the debates in Birmingham Respect.

There is no dispute on whether Respect should be a “representative and inclusive coalition”.

Our selection procedure is very open – any member is entitled to nominate themselves or someone else. Established branches select their candidate. For other areas a city-wide committee decides.

Last year out of the five Birmingham candidates selected, four were women. This year only one woman candidate submitted a nomination. All the other nominations were from Asian male candidates.

So far seven have been selected. It is wrong to problematise this, especially in light of the huge under representation of ethnic minority representatives in Birmingham City Council.

There are, however, 33 other wards in Birmingham for which we have not selected a candidate. I see no reason why we should not stand in other wards, and why we cannot find good women candidates to put themselves forward for selection.

There are several experienced SWP members in Birmingham who would make excellent candidates.

I hope they, and others, can be persuaded to stand on behalf of Respect.

Salma Yaqoob, Respect councillor, Birmingham

The question of the gender and ethnic balance of Respect candidates in Birmingham has shown up the weaknesses rather than the strengths of our selection procedure.

These weaknesses cannot be solved by standing female, white or African-Caribbean candidates in areas where we have little roots and an even smaller chance of victory.

In the past Salma Yaqoob has argued that we should stand a limited number of candidates to maximise the impact of our forces and our chance of victories.

To now effectively stand paper candidates would be a mistake as the resultant low votes would only serve to give ammunition to our enemies.

This will not help Respect widen its base after the elections are over, regardless of the appalling under representation of people from ethnic minorities within Birmingham’s council chamber.

Respect stands for the rejection of New Labour, which has deserted its traditional working class base as well as the ties within it that it forged with people from different backgrounds.

Yet, if our public, winnable profile only reflects one part of this then we will potentially cut ourselves off from other sections of the working class.

By doing this we hinder our chances of beating back our rulers over war, racism and privatisation.

Doug Morgan, Birmingham

Single status is a disaster

Simon Basketter’s report on the single status pay deal (When equal equals unequal, 27 January) reveals the mess that it has become in local government.

Serious shortcomings are being found in pay reviews. They have failed to achieve their primary objective of delivering equal pay.

It is bad enough that the GMB, T&G and Unison unions have failed to condemn the life-altering pay cuts being imposed on their members.

It is even worse that some are suffering these unjustified pay cuts on the basis of pay reviews that have a high margin of error.

When will the unions finally abandon their rose tinted view of single status and start supporting their members in opposing these pay cuts?

Why are council workers uniquely being expected to suffer such swingeing pay cuts and the stress and damage to morale they cause?

John Fricker, Cornwall

La Rose’s achievements

In addition to the many achievements listed in the article about the black socialist John La Rose (3 February), it should also not be forgotten that he was a founder member of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign (VSC) in 1966.

He was also a national council member of the VSC.

The VSC organised mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which had so many parallels with the war in Iraq today.

The VSC took the anti-war campaign out of the hands of the Labour left and the Communist Party, which wanted to confine it to mere lobbying for “peace”.

It thus laid the basis for the emergence of an independent left in the late 1960s. John La Rose’s contribution to this should be remembered.

Ian Birchall, North London

Opus Dei hypocrisy

So minister Ruth Kelly is worried about children being placed in the care of same sex couples. Isn’t she a member of Opus Dei?

The same Opus Dei who were considered such a danger to children by the then head of the Catholic church in England, Cardinal Basil Hume, that in 1981 he called for restrictions on its attempts to recruit children?

Keith Prince, Chingford

Media twisted facts on chant

The media has unforgivably defended Simone Clarke, the BNP ballerina. The Sunday Times and the Times printed an outright lie about anti-racist protesters outside the ballet.

Journalist Minette Marrin wrote that protesters undermined their cause by shouting, “We are Muslim, black and Jew, there are many more of us than you.

“By this threat confirming that a fear of mass immigration is not merely irrational racism. Brilliant.”

This is a distortion of this anti-BNP chant – which is actually, “We are white, black, Muslim, Jew” with the line “many more of us than you” referring to anti-racists outnumbering the BNP racists.

The paper has so far ignored my letters of complaint and the articles containing the lies remain on its website.

Marie Xenos, North London

Remember on Chechnya Day

Friday 23 February is World Chechnya Day.

On this day in 1944, Russian dictator Joseph Stalin ordered the deportation of the Chechen and Ingush population to Central Asia.

More than half of the 500,000 people who were deported died.

The Chechen people still suffer under Russia’s rule. Go to for information.

Katherine Branney, East London

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Article information

Sat 10 Feb 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2037
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