Labour selection row
THE BLAIRITE Huw Irranca-Davies was last week selected as the Labour candidate for the Ogmore parliamentary by-election in South Wales. As a local Labour Party member I am disgusted that left winger Mark Seddon, clearly the most outstanding candidate, was excluded from the shortlist. A panel headed by the chair of the Labour Party, Charles Clarke, excluded Mark. Mark opposed the war in Afghanistan and Labour's Private Finance Initiative privatisations.
On these and other matters we need to hear the voice of true socialism. There is huge anger among local Labour Party members. Serious People are starving hungry for change, and we were offered the prospect of that, only to have it snatched away. Branch membership has collapsed in Ogmore over the last few years.
Mark's exclusion must be placed in the context of the shenanigans against Ken Livingstone and Rhodri Morgan, and in St Helens. Labour leaders feel it is OK to impose a right wing candidate, but members should not have the opportunity to vote for a serious left winger. We need a campaign to restore socialism to Labour Party politics.
The marginalisation of members who care about the founding principles of Labour must stop. I fear for the future of the Labour Party in Wales if our leaders cannot break their love affair with control freakery.
PAT FOLEY, Bridgend
Fighting war and big business for thirty six years
READING journalist George Monbiot's recent article in the Guardian about the growing privatisation of education in Britain provoked a thought of, 'This is where I came in.'
My entry into politics came with my first teaching job in 1966, with the then US president Lyndon B Johnson's 'Job Corps', announced as a chance for male high school dropouts to reclaim their education. This particular 'Job Corps' was leased to the corporation Litton Industries, later famous for backing and funding General Pinochet's right wing coup in Chile in 1973.
Some of us formed a branch of the teachers' union to protest against the commercialisation of what we thought was a social programme. We discovered the real purpose of this scheme was to bring young men from the working class up to an educational level to be inducted into the US army as cannon fodder for the Vietnam War.
The war, and the privatisation of education, was to continue-36 years on, little has changed.
TERRI BEHRMAN, North London
Blair's new offensive
THE PLANNED reduction of the right to jury trials as proposed in the Auld report is outrageous. It is obvious that the government is considering reducing the right to jury trials simply because it is fed up with juries acquitting defendants. Some media pundits have tried to defend the attack on the basis of previous 'perverse' jury verdicts.
These cases are extremely rare. It is strange to call jury verdicts such as the Clive Ponting acquittal perverse. It would have been perverse to lock someone up for telling the truth about the sinking of the Argentinian ship General Belgrano. It is crucial this year to fight New Labour's latest offensive on civil liberties, especially as it will lead to more convictions of innocent people.
MATT FOOT, North London
LOOKING FORWARD to the coming year, may I, on behalf of our branches, express the following hopes and aims for 2002.
- That the government remembers that today's older people paid, and are still paying, taxes for dignity in their old age.
- That Tony Blair fulfils his promise of five years ago to free pensioners from divisive, inefficient and expensive means testing.
- That the basic state pension, linked to earnings, is increased to a level sufficient to give independence and security.
- That nursing and care for older people is free at the point of need.
- That pensioners do not have to pay for hospital care by having their state pension reduced after six weeks in hospital.
- That we never forget the mark of a civilised society is how it treats the very young and the very old.
CLIFF FULLER, British Pensioners and Trade Union Association
Don't cop out over Kashmir
I WAS disappointed that your otherwise excellent article on Kashmir (Socialist Worker, 5 January) seemed to cop out at the end by an abstract call for workers' unity. This avoided the issue of the right of Kashmir and its people to self determination, even if that means unity with Pakistan.
Your description of both the suffering of the Kashmiri people at the hands of India's 'democratic' government and of the exploitation of the conflict by both sides was spot on.
What was missing was the question, what do Kashmiris actually want? The choice between Delhi and Islamabad may be a false one, but it is theirs to make, and they want to leave India. Socialists should not make the mistake of siding with the Indian ruling class against the people of Kashmir for the sake of 'unity'.
JOHN KENNEDY, Central London
New society is necessary
PAUL KNOPP (Socialist Worker, 5 January) asks whether socialists should accept laying off workers or cuts in pay as a response to global recession. He appears to accept the logic of capitalism-that profit is always paramount. Socialists reject this argument. We do not accept that workers have to make sacrifices for the good of the corporations.
In the immediate term big business should pay. However, it is important to challenge the capitalist system itself. We need to challenge the idea that there is anything natural about recession, or that the free market is the only way to run society.
Socialists argue for a different type of society, where workers control production, where planning replaces the market, and where people come before profit.
RICHARD SUNDERLAND, Leeds
Tony Cliff archive
AN ARCHIVE of documents connected with Tony Cliff's life as a revolutionary socialist is being assembled. When completed it will be deposited at Warwick University, which has extensive materials about the history of the socialist and labour movement in Britain.
Anyone who has a document, tape recording or picture that they think should be included in the archive should write to the Tony Cliff Archive, c/o SWP, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH. The money raised after Cliff's death in April 2000 has already been used to finance the publication of the first volume of Cliff's writings on the first anniversary of his death.
A second volume will appear later this year. Other plans include placing Cliff's writings on the internet.
CHANIE ROSENBERG AND DONNY GLUCKSTEIN
FOUR YEARS after being unlawfully sacked and hounded out of teaching by the Neath Port Talbot education authority, Skewen Junior School teacher Alan Powis has won his legal battle.
His initial sacking unleashed a storm of protests, petitions and campaigning, with fellow teachers, parents and former pupils all backing him against the bosses.
The council has now been found guilty of unlawfully dismissing Alan, and he is to receive an initial payment of £50,000 with more compensation to follow.
HUW PUDNER, Neath
IT IS a precondition for Britain joining the euro to slash public spending. However, France, Germany and other countries have higher public spending and yet have joined the currency. How can this be?
DAVID GOODMAN, West London
BRITAIN, WITH its low tax regime on the rich, is completely out of line with the rest of the European Union (EU). Britain has just about the worst welfare state in the EU and the biggest inequalities.
Successive governments have opted out of EU-wide social security arrangements with almost no opposition from trade union leaders. Trade union leaderships in Britain have sat on workers' militancy. Some union leaders favour joining the euro because they think it will put pressure on the government to improve the position of the working class. This is probably true, but only class struggle, which they refuse to lead, will make a real difference.
HUGH LOWE, West London