Labour can’t be fixed
Those former comrades of mine in the Labour Party (now New Labour), who were waiting for an opportunity to change the direction of their party, should now think carefully about how much longer they are prepared to wait.
Although I admire their commitment to the party and their sincerity, I think they should take a long and hard soul-searching look at where they stand in the Labour Party – which I admit was once a great party and vehicle for all the values they hold dear.
These values include publicly owned, democratically accountable public services, an NHS and education system accessible and free to all those who need it – and not only to those who can afford it – the right to be represented by effective unions, a decent living wage for all and a decent pension for the elderly.
Most of all, we need a free society governed by the principles of justice, fair play, civil liberties, honesty, equal distribution of wealth, and transparent and democratic accountability in politics.
Instead, Gordon Brown will continue full steam with further attacks on public services and privatisation. He appears to be working for the rich and powerful against the working people of this country.
Brown has made it clear that he will continue on the so-called path of reform of the NHS.
It should be clear by now that this means more privatisation, more hospital closures and more job losses for health workers.
In the London borough of Newham, where I am a councillor, the New Labour council is tirelessly experimenting on the people by introducing privatisation after privatisation.
The latest of these is the attacks on the council’s refuse workers, and the threatened privatisation of this essential public service.
If my former comrades still think there is hope in Brown’s New Labour and still think they can change the complexion and political direction of this party, then let us look at most graphic example of why this may be a fantasy – the recent addition to the New Labour ranks of the Tory MP Quentin Davies.
You can’t get any more toffee-nosed, right wing, anti-union than Davies.
If people like him feel comfortable in this party, then how can the many thousands of my former comrades who, like me, joined the Labour Party for those values outlined above, still feel comfortable with this party?
Once again, I appeal for some honest soul-searching.
I would advise my sincere former comrades to follow their conscience and values and say goodbye to the this right wing, anti-working class party.
Come and join the only viable alternative – Respect, the Unity Coalition.
Hanif Abdulmuhit, Respect councillor, Newham, east London and candidate for the Greater London Assembly
Strident against Trident
From 28 June to 3 July, students gathered in Peaton Glen Wood in Scotland for the Strident Tent State anti-nuclear camp, as part of the year-long Faslane 365 campaign.
Around 100 students attended over the six days. The mood of the camp was highly militant, with discussions about the links between nuclear weapons, other problems such as climate change, and the capitalist system.
The camp also saw a number of actions aimed at physically disrupting the functioning of the Faslane nuclear base.
On Sunday 1 July, as a response to the attacks on Glasgow airport, the camp democratically decided to abstain from blockading the base, but still registered a protest against Trident by holding a tea party outside the nearby Coulport base – beautifully wrongfooting the police.
On Monday, the camp resumed action with a vengeance, setting up blockades at five different points in time for the morning shift change. Thirty seven people were arrested during the course of the action, and one road was closed for over an hour.
While the politically bankrupt National Union of Students (NUS) leadership struggles to organise any effective opposition to tuition fees, let alone bigger issues like nuclear weapons and war, the Strident camp served as a welcome reminder that many students are still willing to take part in radical actions against war and capitalism.
The camp was run in a democratic and egalitarian manner, showing that those involved went beyond opposing Britain’s weapons of mass destruction and wanted to challenge all forms of oppression.
While the camp may be over, the Faslane 365 campaign goes on.
All socialists and anti-war activists should make the most of this opportunity to disrupt the functioning of Britain’s war machine, with the Big Blockade on 1 October looking set to be an exciting day of effective resistance to imperialism.
Sam Ross, by email
Equal pay shouldn’t mean levelling down
The local government unions’ briefings for the equal pay lobby on Tuesday of this week make no mention of how many of their members have been forced to contribute to the cost of councils’ equal pay shortcomings by having swingeing, often life-altering, pay cuts imposed on them.
These are the workers whose jobs have been downgraded by the unscientific pay and grading review process. Their stories may be found in Socialist Worker and on some labour movement websites, but not in national union publications.
Low paid women’s Equal Pay Act rights must be secured, but not at the expense of the right of other workers – women as well as men – not to suffer deductions from pay. The Equal Pay Act does not require pay to be levelled down.
The unions, after promising that “nobody should lose”, have betrayed many of their members by signing a single status agreement that provides for equal pay to be financed – in the absence of central funding – by cutting pay.
Pay cuts arising from pay and grading reviews have undermined employment relations, morale and goodwill and have caused an increase in days lost through stress-related illness.
Don’t the unions consider these to be issues that members should have been raising with their MPs on Tuesday?
John Fricker, Cornwall
Charities benefit from privatisation
As someone who works for a charity, it was good to read Bob Holman’s article (» Why are the big charities involved in public services?, 30 June) about the impact of charities on the public sector.
Charities are playing an increasingly large role in British society. It is vital that socialists and trade unionists have a debate about this role.
Charities are often the beneficiaries of the privatisation of our public services.
Bob concluded his article by saying that we need to back local charities, but this is not necessarily the answer.
Socialists need to work with local charities and service users to improve services now.
Privatisation becomes an attractive option if the services that you use are substandard.
We also need to enter into a dialogue with grassroot charities and service users about the effects of privatisation. This will include discussing democracy, accountability, profits, quality of service and workers’ rights.
It is also vital that socialists and trade unionists support workers who fight against their “charitable employers”.
Rachel Eborall, East London
No homes and no pensions
While a number of workers have been lucky enough to buy their homes, an increasing number through no fault of their own – through sickness or redundancy – have had their pension stolen.
They may lose their homes. Their mortgages may be taken over by so-called speculators with the sole aim of buying to let.
Take a look down many city streets – there’s an increasing number of once privately owned homes, now up for rent more often than not by the same private landlord.
Lack of investment in affordable council housing is the real worry for the future.
While the land and housing for sale remain in the hands of the new ruthless landlords of this world, our kids aren’t going to get up the property ladder.
All the housing stock will be in the hands of the new landed gentry.
Rob Trahearn, Birmingham
Inspired by Nigerians
I really loved your report on the Nigerian strikes (» Workers’ action brings Nigeria to a standstill, 30 June).
It made me think about strategy and gave me confidence that if we were in a similar situation here in Britain, we do stand a chance.
We stand with the needs and wishes of the workers and the oppressed, we might have setbacks but we have the ability, theory and practice to win in the long run.
Sophie Jongman, Gillingham
Don’t blame green fuels
It is not biofuels that cause starvation (» Biofuels are not an eco solution, 7 July), it is capitalism. The poor don’t have access to food because they don’t have enough money.
Shouldn’t you be blaming a system that is based on profits before need, not attacking attempts to create green fuels.
There is a lot of concern about the environmental impact of the rapid industrialisation of much of the Global South. Impressive then to note that energy supplies in Brazil – one of the biggest producers of biofuels – run on around 45 percent renewable energy.
Time is running out for the planet.
Biofuels as used at the moment may present problems, but surely they are better than the continued reliance on fossil fuels and the frightening prospect of more nuclear power.
Sabiha Ghani, Manchester
Nuclear power is not clean
Last year Tony Blair said that nuclear power was back on the agenda “with a vengeance”.
It is, we are told, a clean source of energy that will save the planet.
A new report by the Oxford Research Group argues that this is not true. Instead it points out that four new reactors would need to be built every month from now until 2070 to make a difference.
Even if this were possible, and that is doubtful, uranium will get harder to mine.
And the number of countries with nuclear weapons would grow, as would the level of nuclear waste.
The report concludes, “If a decision to go with nuclear power is taken then the UK will implement a flawed and dangerously counter-productive energy policy – one from which the blowback may be a lot worse than higher heating bills.” Read the report at www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk
Michelle Adams, Peterborough
We must save Remploy
I’m so proud that the unions are backing the fight to keep all Remploy factories open.
I don’t know how the people on the board and in government sleep at night. We may have a disability – but we also have a lot of ability.
We just need a chance to turn this company around.
Adam Jones, Birkenhead Remploy