Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1788

Are children only drudges?

The government's latest education proposals will be a disaster for working class children. They will be a big step backwards towards the old way of having a proper education for the middle class and a very basic one for working people's children.

Estelle Morris, the education secretary, wants children to be able to do 'vocational' courses from the age of 14. That means large numbers of children will be pressured to drop 'academic' subjects like languages and instead get prepared for work. Those jobs will be in dead end areas like becoming a low grade person in a travel agents or some supermarket.

I am a school governor in east London. Lots of the children who come to school are from very poor backgrounds.

They fight to grasp wider horizons than the tower block, the dirty street and the minimum wage job. Morris and New Labour want them to be drudges, sent to a life of toil for companies and not worrying about any 'higher ideas'.

Why shouldn't our children be surgeons, inventors, engineers, poets or philosophers? Is Mozart only for the middle class? I am now a medical researcher. I was lucky enough to get through school and do A levels.

I came from a very poor family and I would have been under pressure to go for 'job training' at 14 if these proposals had been in force. Bit by bit, New Labour is dismantling comprehensive education. It would be nice to think that MPs, councillors and Labour Party members at every level will stand up for one of the basic ideas that the Labour Party was always supposed to defend.

Racism in anybody's language

FORTUNATELY MY English is good enough for me to say that David Blunkett is a racist bigot and his party is rotten to the core. He talked about using language and culture as a means to test our willingness to 'integrate'.

His voice echoed a long history of British oppression of its ethnic minorities. Language was the first excuse for Britain to keep Chinese people out of mainstream jobs (although often they decide against your names before your accents!) and public life. The 'language problem' was the result of long term social exclusion and ghettoisation.

It is about the unequal distribution of social resources existing between the mainstream society and the minority communities. In a local survey conducted in one of London's poorest boroughs, Newham, last year, it was admitted that over 70 percent of Chinese residents feel strongly that they are unable to access services because of a lack of language support.

It makes you think what the rhetoric of multiculturalism really means-survival by your own means. No wonder there's not much enthusiasm for 'integration'. Integrated into what? A system that shows no respect for people's needs.
HSIAO-HUNG, East London

We learnt and were inspired

We had a brilliant Marxist forum last week in Luton on Muhammad Ali and the spirit of the 60s. About 55 people attended the meeting, including people who came after seeing the posters. The meeting was held in the local Library Theatre. Author Mike Marqusee spoke about Ali and the civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1960s.

The talk was inspiring and many people left feeling fired up about the possibilities of fighting back against war today and the system that breeds it. Mike said, despite the attempts by the establishment to co-opt Ali today, that 'he belongs to us'-the oppressed and exploited across the world.

Alan Hooper, Socialist Alliance candidate from St Albans, thought the meeting was 'excellent' and that 'it was inspiring to hear the struggles of the 60s linked with our struggles and the anti-war movement today.'

Marc Scheimann, Green Party candidate for Luton, attended the meeting. He said, 'It was refreshing to learn that Ali's killer blow was not only in his punch but in his politics.'

The Abdi Dorre Family Campaign sent four people to the meeting to talk about the campaign to get justice for their brother and son, Abdi, who was killed in an attack in Northampton.

Aid to hunger strikers

THE HUMAN Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) has issued an urgent appeal for donations towards medical treatment and the rehabilitation of survivors of the long running hunger strike in Turkish prisons.

In October 2000 some 865 political prisoners in 18 jails began a rolling programme of hunger strikes against isolation cells and torture. By January this year over 40 prisoners and fasting sympathisers had died. A number of hunger strikers have now been released because of their serious health problems.

Many have suffered central nervous system damage, including loss of memory, sight, hearing and the ability to walk. But many could still be restored to health. The cost of caring for them is way beyond the resources of the HRFT. Please help by sending a donation. Cheques payable to 'Turkyye Insan Haklari Vakfi' (Human Rights Foundation of Turkey). Bank details: Turkiye Vakiflar Bankasi, Yenise-Hir Subesi, Demirtepe, Ankara, Turkey.

US$ account no 008-4000310. Euro account no 4005329. Turkish lira account no 1047.

Travellers face brutal treatment

TELFORD COUNCIL in the Midlands has established a special team called the Traveller Management Unit. This should be a group concerned with the plight of the travelling community.

It should be setting up designated sites for travellers and making sure that all the government guidelines about facilities being made available for transit families are complied with. Instead Telford council, in conjunction with the local constabulary, is carrying out a witch-hunt of travellers.

The number plates of all known travellers' vehicles are put on computer, and all movements of individual travellers in the Telford area are being monitored by the police.

The local council has been digging ditches and building mounds around common land to exclude travellers from such areas. This comes at a time when travellers' sites up and down the country have been closed down. This witch-hunt is being partly funded by the local business community!

Don't let post go way of rail

THE PROPOSALS by the Postcomm regulator to privatise the Post Office are absolutely unthinkable. It was through the actions of the public, the Communication Workers Union and the Labour Party that the Tories were overwhelmingly defeated in their quest to privatise the whole of the postal industry.

The government is the sole shareholder in Royal Mail, and it is the government that employed the regulator. I sincerely hope we can count on all Labour activists once again to unite with us in opposing Postcomm's proposal.

The Department for Trade and Industry should be rethinking the role of the regulator and bringing to account the board of directors of the Post Office. They have squandered the £1 billion profit postal workers have made for the Post Office since 1996.

Members of the public do not want another Railtrack and the regulator is clearly not looking at the best interests of the customer.
MICK FITZMAURICE, postal driver, Northampton

Struggle goes on in Serbia

I have just returned from a visit to Serbia. Unemployment is at least 30 percent, one fifth of the population live below the poverty line, and the gap between the highest and lowest earners is growing fast.

In both Belgrade and Novi Sad in Vojvodina bridges and buildings remain in rubble after the NATO bombing. Yet there has been a continuation of protest since the October 2000 revolution. Coal and copper miners called a strike last autumn following strikes among postal and telecom workers.

Radio employees have struck and last month bank workers barricaded themselves into their workplaces to prevent the closure of four of Serbia's banks. The trade union movement is still weak and divided over whether or not it should engage in dialogue with the government.

The main independent union, Nezavisnost, has been a major organiser of many of the strikes. Its position is that the October 2000 revolution changed the government but not the structure of power.

Postal points

TOO RIGHT, Brian Souter is an enemy of public transport-and the workers within the industry. A few years ago RMT members employed by Stagecoach Western/AA Buses in Ayrshire were on strike for a 20p per hour pay rise, taking the hourly rate up to something like £4.50.

Incredibly Souter was invited to address the Scottish TUC conference, where he sang his bastardised version of the Red Flag. Is that what the TUC means by 'partnership deals'?
DAVE KING, Stirling

Socialist Worker (9 February) highlighted the case of a postal worker whose take home pay is a measly £203.57 for a six day week. Compare that to Kath Pinnock, the Liberal Democrat leader of Kirklees council in West Yorkshire.

Pinnock gets an annual fee of £7,000 to work two days a month sitting on the board of the Regional Development Agency. This works out at £292 a day, more than a postal worker earns in a week. On top of this she gets £25,100 as leader of the council. Not bad for some!
JOHN APPLEYARD, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

THE QUEEN'S golden jubilee does not seem to have captured the same enthusiasm as the silver jubilee in 1977. I can readily understand that young people may not give two hoots about the royals, but what of the thousands of people who queue all day just to get a glimpse of the royal family? Why are they not celebrating?

Whatever the reason, as a republican I will not be dancing in the streets, and I understand there is a 'Stuff the Golden Jubilee Campaign'-anyone know their address?
LES HOLLEY, Hirwaun, Mid Glamorgan

It began with Bernie Ecclestone, it went through the Hindujas and Enron, and now it is about privatisation in Eastern Europe. New Labour is simply becoming more and more in hock to big business. It is no longer the people's party. It is the chief executives' party.
MARY DIXON, North London

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Article information

Sat 23 Feb 2002, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1788
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