Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2043

Protesters gathered outside parliament during last week’s vote on Trident replacement (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Protesters gathered outside parliament during last week’s vote on Trident replacement (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Trident is an outrage

In the dim and distant past, namely the 1970s, I was a British soldier.

During my six years in the army, we regularly trained for NBC – Nuclear, Biological and Chemical warfare – putting on our “noddy suits”, the protective rubber suits that are supposed to protect you from fallout.

Having trained for the possibility of a nuclear war – and with many years to research and think about the situation, rather than rely on army propaganda – I have come to the inevitable conclusion that a nuclear war is completely unsurvivable.

I deprogrammed myself from the brainwashing that is the army way, and became Labour Party secretary for the Gordon constituency in north east Scotland, attending four Scottish Labour Party conferences.

Then the decision to replace Trident was announced. This, as the saying goes, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I came to the conclusion that Trident is not only a waste of billions of pounds but is truly a “weapon of mass destruction”.

Anyone who even thinks about using a weapon with this destructive power should be branded criminally insane and should be considered as not evolved into the 21st century.

Therefore, my position within the Labour Party was untenable and I resigned all posts and membership.

I also resigned posts I held within the T&G union. This was due to a change of job, but the union’s subsidising of a party that constantly fails to remove anti-trade union laws and threatens members’ pensions was also hard to bear.

If anyone really thinks that £20 billion will be the final cost of Trident, just look at the previous costs that the Labour Party has estimated.

The Scottish Parliament building was estimated at £40 million – its actual cost was £410 million. The official estimated cost of the London Olympics has just trebled.

I would urge any Labour Party member to bite the bullet (so to speak) and stop giving this party your money. Soon your tax will be going up to pay for the Trident replacement.

Brad Oliver, former Labour Party activist, Aberdeen

If necessary, Scotland will go it alone in the struggle to become not only nuclear free, but also a nation that actively promotes peace.

Less than half of all Scottish MPs – 21 out of 57 – voted for the Trident monster. With elections to the Scottish Parliament in about six weeks’ time, it is possible to bring about change.

Trident is the real terrorist threat to our world, and is closely linked up with the “ethos” that has led Tony Blair into disastrous wars. These have cost hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan lives, not just the untimely deaths of US and British soldiers.

The decision to go ahead with a new replacement for Trident is not irreversible. However, Britain lost an opportunity to work towards a culture of non-violent engagement.

We will still, in Scotland, work towards that “other world” that is, we know, possible.

Pat Bryden, Edinburgh

Don’t fall for Tories

It was disgraceful and utterly unacceptable to hear that apparently being called a “black bastard” is part and parcel of army life for all our black and minority ethnic soldiers who are serving in the armed forces.

And according to who? It was shadow homeland security spokesman (at the time of the remarks) Patrick Mercer of the Conservative Party.

Given that it’s the Tories, I don’t think it comes as a surprise that some within the party can “understand where he’s coming from”.

It just proves, one more time, that the Tory party are a bunch of malcontent closet racists looking for an axe to grind.

So-called compassionate conservatism is a misnomer and the Tories – whether in local or central government – should be treated as a Trojan horse or wolves in sheep’s clothing!

Asia Begum, East London

Alex Callinicos is right to blame Labour for the Tories’ revival (Labour to blame for Tories’ revival, 10 March). The war in Iraq and the cash for honours scandal have done Labour immense damage.

However socialists should not aim all their ammunition at Labour – the Tories should be exposed too.

Tory leader David Cameron wants to portray himself as someone who has broken from the Tory past, when he has done nothing of the sort.

Where I live in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, the Tory controlled local authority, with the support of Lib Dem and Green Party councillors, have closed nurseries and residential care homes, and cut home care, day care services and meals on wheels.

These are cuts in essential services and give a good idea of what a Cameron government would be like.

The BNP has four councillors in Kirklees. They failed to produce an alternative budget and didn’t bother to vote on what is in essence, a budget reminiscent of the Thatcher years.

We should ram home the message that a vote for the BNP is also a wasted vote.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

Threat to key William Morris collection

A celebration on 24 March at the world’s only museum dedicated to design icon William Morris will honour his life.

But the artists, musicians, poets and picnickers will also be protesting at a potential deathblow to his local legacy.

To save £56,000, Waltham Forest council in east London has voted for cuts that could lose Walthamstow’s William Morris Gallery millions of pounds’ worth of internationally important art.

From April, opening hours at the gallery will be halved and skilled curatorial staff will face the sack. Waltham Forest arts council chair Tim Bennett-Goodman says this puts the core collection at risk, as trustees might be forced to pass it on to a museum better able to curate it.

Morris was born in Walthamstow in 1834. Along with his work as a groundbreaking designer, typographer and political activist, he became a celebrated poet and novelist, and the inspiration for the Arts and Crafts movement.

Florence Boos, president of the US William Morris Society, points out the relevance of Morris’ ideas for today: “Morris was an enemy of the class structure, a foe of imperialism, a pioneer of ‘green’ thinking.”

Roger Huddle, East London
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Unions must fight for migrants

Some recruitment firms have called for the closing of the “loophole” in the work permit system that allows cheap IT workers to be brought in from abroad.

Amicus, the biggest private sector union, has rightly pointed to the discrepancy in wages between these foreign workers and their British counterparts.

However, Amicus national officer Peter Skyte’s response to this discrepancy is to call for a review not of exploitative working practices, but of the permit system that allows such workers to be here in the first place.

He told the Financial Times, “If companies can simply go abroad to find skills they need, they are not going to invest in developing those skills in the UK.”

Tighter immigration controls have never saved jobs – quite the opposite as they’ve undermined the unity of workers.

I’m a great believer in fighting poverty and supporting people escaping it.

As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence.” What say you to that Mr Skyte?

Salman Mirza, Second generation “foreigner” and long-time trade unionist, Birmingham

Lib Dems are not anti-war

Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey (Letters, 10 March) provides ample evidence that his party is not a viable choice for anti-war voters.

He believes it was right to invade Afghanistan because the country “harboured Al Qaida leaders”, but Al Qaida was virtually finished in Afghanistan by the time of the attack.

Harvey should really think this through.

Perhaps the solution to apartheid would have been to bomb the hell out of the townships that harboured (what US and British leaders considered to be) the “ANC terrorists”?

Harvey’s claim that we are “doing some good” in Afghanistan is laughable, unless he considers bumper harvests of opium poppies and steadily escalating deaths of British and coalition troops, thousands of dead civilians and the re-emergence of the Taliban to be some form of progress.

The Lib Dem position on Iraq and Afghanistan is based on opportunism.

Respect is the only party consistently opposing the warmongers on a principled basis.

Dave Goodfield, Manchester

Beautiful equations

Like Anindya Bhattacharyya (Individualism and freedom, 10 March) I thought the documentary The Trap was superb.

I think though that John Nash and game theory were treated a little hastily.

He wrote his famous equilibria before working for the Rand Corporation. His equations are beautiful but break down in the end because they see “players” as atoms that cannot change the “rules of the game” – exactly the objection socialists make.

When arguing with right wing economists it helps to know the contradictions at the heart of their theory – which means taking Nash a bit more seriously.

Jamie Allinson, Edinburgh

Up with dialectics

Rosa Lichtenstein is wrong about Karl Marx and dialectics (Letters, 17 March).

Marxism is a living political theory that explains the movement of history and our potential to change the future.

To remove the dialectic from it creates a mechanical and lifeless system that views change as an historical inevitability.

Such a theory was formulated by Eduard Bernstein and the theorists of the Second International at the beginning of the 20th century in an attempt to “stick to the facts”.

It produced paralysis, capitulation and collapse in the face of the imperialist First World War.

Lenin, having reread GWF Hegel in 1914, was able to break with this deterministic version of Marxism.

Some in the Stalinist tradition, such as the French Communist Louis Althusser, have sought to divide the young Hegelian Marx from his “mature” works. However Marx’s dialectical method runs throughout his work.

Rob Jackson, Manchester

It is true (Letters, 17 March) that Marx moved away from Hegel during his life, but that did not mean that he abandoned dialectics.

Marx turned Hegel on his head, rejecting his idealism while recasting the dialectic by setting it in a materialist foundation.

Marx refrained from the use of Hegelian terminology in Capital to make it more accessible, but that did not mean that dialectics was not central to this great work.

Marx used dialectics in considering capitalism as a total system while analysing its contradictions, such as that between exploiter and exploited.

The failure of the working class to overthrow capitalism so far does not invalidate Marxism.

Materialist dialectics remain a vital theoretical weapon in that fight.

Tony Phillips, East London

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Sat 24 Mar 2007, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 2043
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