Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2056

Why can’t we put the planet before politics?

Perhaps I am missing something, but I am concerned that Socialist Worker doesn’t do enough to fight for the environment.

Where are the articles about climate change? Or about all the waste that is hauled around the world poisoning the poor of the poorer nations?

But then I am unsure of just what we can do. Yes the environment is a class issue – the poorest will be the worst affected by climate change both geographically and socially. But it’s more than that isn’t it?

It’s about having a world to live in, and rich or poor – we’ll all be stuffed, just some more than others.

And yes it does involve attacking capitalism at it’s very root and replacing it with a new, socialist system.

But we’ve only got ten years to fix this problem. Are we going to overthrow capitalism and have a new society up and running in that time?

The only answer I can think of right now is that no, we won’t.

So what are we left with? Wringing our hands in despair? Consumer politics? Writing letters? Religion?

I want to know how I, and others, can be active within a revolutionary socialist context in that direction, because unless we have a viable world to live in, all the rest of the activism is in vain.

Personally I can’t see any more pressing issue than climate change at the moment, and it seems to be the issue that Socialist Worker is most evasive about.

Rachael Solomon, by email

Friends of the Earth (FOE) in Canada are attempting to force its government to keep to its commitments over climate change. Last month the group launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government after it abandoned its international commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

FOE says that the government is violating Canadian law by failing to meet its binding international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada is second only to Austria in the staggering size of its failure to meet its Kyoto target, with its greenhouse gas emissions more than 34 percent above its 6 percent reduction target.

In April the Canadian government set greenhouse reduction targets of 20 percent below 2006 levels by 2020. This would leave Canada about 39 percent above the Kyoto target for 2008-2012.

The Kyoto targets are far too low, and far too few countries have signed up.

I’m glad that FOE in Canada are taking action. Too many campaigns are about asking nicely if governments could act. We should follow the Canadians’ lead and look at what the campaign here could do.

George Peters, South London

Student success

Student Respect has had a great year as an activist organisation on our campuses. We have also had an impressive impact within the National Union of Students (NUS) liberation campaign conferences.

At the Black Students’ conference we successfully argued that organising a campaign to adequately defend black students is dependent on an uncompromising position against Islamophobia and the “war on terror” that fuels it. Our intervention means that NUS Black Students’ Campaign is now affiliated to the Stop the War Coalition.

We had unexpected victories in elections at the Black Students’ conference – with our candidates winning more votes than any other candidates in election to the NUS Black Students committee and also winning important positions such as women’s officer.

This provides clear evidence that the student population wants a leadership with strong political arguments that recognises the centrality of the anti-war movement. The success built on our earlier achievements at the NUS Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) conference.

Respect has good policy on many of the problems that LGBT students face, for instance with our opposition to means testing that disproportionately causes difficulties to LGBT students who are estranged from parents.

We won our motion against war and occupation in the Middle East, with delegates agreeing that the war had nothing to do with support for LGBT equality and that war and occupation are the worst conditions for liberation.

Student Respect’s success at LGBT conference was also an important step towards turning round the current introverted and individualistic state of LGBT politics towards campaigning alongside our movements against racism, privatisation and war.

Student Respect has established itself as the coherent and consistent left in the NUS liberation campaigns, and we are confident that we will build on our successes next year.

Dominic Kavakeb and Adam Lambert, Student Respect

New ideas needed to solve housing crisis

I am lucky enough to have managed to buy a house.

When reports say the cost of housing will be ten times the average wage by 2026, I worry for the future.

Six million houses have to be built by that year to keep up with demand.

But new housing has to be linked with transport and sites of employment. We have industrial areas in the centre of towns.

These should be moved out of town, and be rebuilt close to motorway junctions.

The town centre industrial areas can then be used for housing. Another thing that is a waste of essential space in the centre of towns are car parks. We need more park and rides, but not the type that eat up acres of land.

Look at Oxford. If they turned their park and rides into multi storeys thousands of houses could be built at those locations.

Potentially thousands more people could be housed in one town alone, while cutting down on car traffic, freeing the town for delivery trucks, buses and emergency vehicles.

Spreading an idea like this could soon mean millions of people being housed.

With this many houses being built the cost of houses would not rise. Those on lower wages could then afford to buy, instead of renting, leaving them with more money when retirement age is reached, instead of paying rent till the day they die.

James O’Brien, Reading

Childcare provided

Your story “Health Workers Left Holding The Baby” (Socialist Worker, 16 June) does not accurately reflect the events around the recent closure of the on-site nursery at The Royal London Hospital, part of Barts and The London NHS Trust.

The nursery service was provided by Buffer Bear under contract to the Trust.

While it is true to say that the Trust took the decision to close the nursery and terminate its contract with Buffer Bear due to serious concerns about the service they were providing, it is not true that staff who used the nursery were left without childcare provision.

Hospital staff – both those who used the nursery and those who were due to use it following maternity leave – were communicated with at the earliest opportunity.

All staff were found alternative local childcare arrangements which were negotiated at discounted rates.

All managers at Barts and The London NHS Trust are encouraged to support flexible work patterns for their staff who have childcare to consider.

And they were asked to be supportive of staff who were settling their children into new nurseries following the closure.

Ann Macintyre, Director of Human Resources Barts and The London NHS Trust

US benefits from tension

I was very interested in Richard Seymour’s excellent article (Socialist Worker, 16 June) on what drives US foreign policy.

We must be very careful not to allow the US – an economic competitor – to drive a wedge between the European Union (EU) and Russia over energy supplies or defence shields. It is only the US that will benefit from tensions in Europe.

Why on Earth do we still allow US bases all over Europe anyway – 13 in Britain alone? Would the US allow EU bases in the US?

I don’t think so.

And by what right does the US criticise Russia over democracy?

While democracy in Russia is imperfect, it does at least have a multi-party electoral system and proportional representation – so very different from the plutocracy in the US.

Andrew Stephenson, East Sussex

We don’t need protecting

The government has not “caved in” to the alcohol industry as Steve Rolles suggests (Letters, 16 June).

If anything it has caved in to the self appointed health police who think they know what is and what isn’t good for us.

The overwhelming desire is to increase the cost of alcohol to penalise us all for having a drink because of the irresponsible booze fuelled activities of a minority of people who have more money than sense.

Presenting the alcohol industry as an evil empire trying to market a potentially damaging drink to people only furthers the cause of those seeking to dictate how we live our lives.

Daniel Factor, Leyton, east London

Every little victory helps

I left Apartheid South Africa in 1977 and only visited when Nelson Mandela was released.

I am so pleased to see the flavour of struggle relight in South Africa with the million public servants’ strike.

In Australia we have suffered laws as bad as South African apartheid. And strike rates are lower than 1913 when records began, due to “WorkChoices” – a horrible industrial relations system.

The laws are so unpopular that our government had to change the name “WorkChoices” to something else and as our election is looming, we see our TUC (ACTU) drastically hold back struggle.

This is a mistake.

But people are so angry that little eruptions happen everywhere and the library workers at my university in Melbourne have won a temporary delay in taking away our weekend overtime.

Every little victory helps and we hope that with our demonstration against George Bush in September, we too will burst into more action.

Melanie Lazarow, Melbourne, Australia

It’s wrong to celebrate war

As a nation, Britain no longer commemorates wars – it celebrates them. That’s what last Sunday’s marking of the Falklands conflict showed.

Falkland’s veteran John Geddes said on television that it is time for the British to unite behind the Union Jack and remember the Falklands war and that it was 100 percent justified.

We are invited to cheer our “magnificent victory” and celebrate our imperial past at a time when hundreds of our soldiers are dying in George Bush and Tony Blair’s squalid oil wars which have divided the nation.

Is it not time we told the truth that the islands belong to Argentina and that we stole them in 1833 even though we had explicitly recognised Argentinean sovereignty over them in 1825.

The war didn’t need to happen as there was a Peruvian peace deal which gave Britain everything it wanted, but Margaret Thatcher went ahead with it anyway to get herself re-elected.

Mark Holt, Merseyside

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Article information

Wed 20 Jun 2007, 10:53 BST
Issue No. 2056
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