Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2061

Decent council housing for all is needed in Britain (Pic: Ray Smith)

Decent council housing for all is needed in Britain (Pic: Ray Smith)

The real home truths

The advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently delivered a damning judgement on Crawley council’s campaign to sell off council homes. The ASA judged that a DVD distributed to tenants by Crawley council in West Sussex to promote the privatisation of housing stock had denigrated the membership of Crawley Defend Council Housing (DCH).

In doing so it had breached the ASA code in respect to substantiation, truthfulness and unfair advantage.

In a separate complaint made by Crawley DCH, the ASA considered that an earlier Crawley council newsletter was misleading in claiming that it would cost £60 million to bring council homes up to the minimum Decent Homes Standard as that sum also included future maintenance costs.

The ASA therefore concluded that the council had breached their code in respect to substantiation and truthfulness.

Crawley council had informed the ASA that the contents of the newsletter and the DVD were approved by their lawyers, the Independent Tenant Advisor (TPAS), the government office and the housing corporation.

It should come as no surprise that council tenants who speak out against the privatisation are vilified by a council with the support and knowledge of the government and a so-called “independent” tenants’ advisor.

A council spokesman commented in Inside Housing magazine that the authority was “baffled and disappointed” by the ASA’s decision.

The judgement raised issues for all local authorities running controversial consultations. He said, “We’re disappointed because our materials and methods were no different to those used in the 400 or so transfer consultations undertaken by other councils before ours.”

So there you have it. Thousands of tenants have been apparently misled into surrendering their secure council tenancies for an uncertain future in the private sector.

These tenants have been lied to and disbelieved in support of the government’s unethical rush to ensuring the future delivery of social housing is related to a profit-centred activity.

Michael Barratt, Council tenant and Crawley DCH

The government is in turmoil over whether to build new houses on greenbelts, floodplains or brownfield sites. It believes that the market can bring the housing market to a compromise between affordability and high prices.

A trickle of new houses would lead to no great decline in price and nobody can afford them except the parasitical landlords. If the prices were made affordable then the prices would fall. Capitalism has produced a situation where many are and will continue to lose out.

Repossessions are on the increase which is feeding into the lack of demand and affecting the supply. But no politician has stepped forward to offer alternative solutions.

The local Bristol news earlier this year revealed that the banks were holding on to 35,000 homes. These were removed from the market to keep the prices high. Bristol is not alone in this housing scandal. Simply releasing and renovating these properties would help with new property development. But that would upset the free-market apple cart.

Richard Stephens, Bristol

We need a united fight

Sorrel Weaver (» Letters, 21 July) argues that patriarchy “forms a backdrop to capitalism”.

Her assumption is that socialism will not necessarily end oppression.

Yet socialist writer Lindsey German rightly argues in her new book Material Girls that capitalism has reshaped women’s oppression in its own interests because it was needed as a cheap way to reproduce the next generation of workers.

The women’s liberation struggles sparked debate about how to win liberation.

Gains have been made, particularly for a small minority of women, but for most women little has changed and many feel that things have got worse.

We have an Equal Pay Act but we certainly don’t have equal pay. So we have to ask whether feminism is enough to win liberation?

The issue of class cannot be ignored. Most men are not rich and powerful, and a few women are.

This means that women as well as men are divided by class.

Wealthy women can afford expensive childcare and domestic help. They can more easily escape from an abusive relationship.

It is working class women who bear the brunt of women’s oppression, whether in the form of low pay or domestic violence.

Socialists argue that the struggle for women’s liberation is part of the struggle against capitalism. Let’s face it, not all women are on our side. It is women, such as Tory MP Ann Winterton, who have led attacks on abortion rights.

Sexism divides working class men and women. John Fricker (» Letters, 14 July) rightly argues that equal pay for women in local government should not mean other workers have to lose out.

Only united action by all workers can challenge these divide and rule tactics.

The fight for liberation this time will be led by women who have already led men and women in the Stop the War Coalition and in their trade unions.

Celia Hutchison, Manchester

Driving working class solidarity forward

I drove a bus around Haywards Heath during the last post strike. I paused at the sorting office picket line on several occasions.

On each occasion I tooted and gave a thumbs up in support. I got waves and shouted greetings in return.

I think it also gave a lesson in working class solidarity to the suited commuters on their way to the railway station.

Most magnificently of all was that on one of my journeys the pickets staged a Mexican Wave for me.

Later I held a breakneck debate with three other bus drivers about my intention to visit the post workers. I told them I was taking a few pounds as a token of support.

I asked for donations.

From one I got an adamant no. From the second I got a more fully engaged debate about whether strikes could win, solidarity and the future for bus workers.

The third driver instantly rooted around for some change to give to me.

Because I didn’t manage to get to the picket line again before it finished, I wrote the CWU postal workers’ union rep a cheque with a short letter. I also enclosed a copy of Socialist Worker.

The moral of this story is to use duck and dive tactics and from little seeds big things will grow.

Bus worker, Croydon

New thinking is needed on prison

I have seen the report showing how Pauline Campbell and Gwen Calvert, two bereaved mothers, were treated by male police officers (» Holloway protest against deaths in prison , 21 July) during a recent protest at Holloway prison against deaths in prison.

Those holding people in custody have a duty of care toward them.

The frequency of death’s under suspicious circumstances, attempted and actual suicide speaks of widespread neglect and active vindictiveness.

There clearly needs to be new thinking around the whole area of custody and suicide.

As a prisoner support activist, I am convinced that our judicial system, which is little other than a microcosm of the wider class divided society, is repressive of working class people.

Ill treatment in custody is not uncommon.

The police certainly get away with far too much and need to be shown up and opposed.

I totally support Pauline, Gwen and the others fighting for justice.

I am willing to support and help them in any way I can. I have already written to my MP.

George Coombs, Hove

We need a fighting union

Dave Prentis, the leader of the Unison union, has taken an initiative in building fighting unions by writing to Mark Serwotka of the PCS civil service workers’ union advocating joint action.

He wants to organise effective industrial action.

But I have just received a ballot paper from Unison with a strong recommendation that I vote to accept a deal on pensions. This deal leaves the rule of 85, which allows some workers to retire early, out in the cold.

It also means that there would be no industrial action to improve the government’s offer.

This all seems a bit two-faced. Please could someone explain what Unison’s strategy is. Are we a fighting union or not?

Heather Kay, West Wales

Morality and gambling

The Daily Mail newspaper recently celebrated its role in Gordon Brown’s decision to make a U-turn over super casinos.

Its front page headline was “A Very Moral Victory”. If super casinos are so immoral what does that make the Mail’s bingo website?

The Observer newspaper revealed recently that people were seemingly able to sign up to Mail bingo website with minimum security checks to play a number of gambling games. It also failed to have player protection references on the website.

This goes along with the Mail’s longstanding attitude towards the working class. It doesn’t want the people out on the streets enjoying themselves, where they can come together collectively and provoke fear among the forces of order.

Instead it wants people at home, gambling on the internet, safely cocooned inside their individualistic world.

Simone Murray, Carlisle

US’s plan B for Iraq?

Exxon Mobil, the US oil company, is getting anxious about the strength of opposition of Iraqi and Kurdish workers to giving away all of their oil rights to US oil companies.

So the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an Exxon Mobil funded think tank, is helping it to direct new government policy.

Michael Rubin, a leading neocon and resident scholar at the AEI, delivered a speech to the US foreign affairs committee attacking the Kurds and trying to gain support for Turkey. Is this US plan B?

Some 140,000 Turkish troops are massed on the Iraqi-Kurdish border ready to strike for the oil rich Kurdish city of Kirkuk where the Turkish military would give the US much more favourable oil concessions.

For more go to »

Mark Campbell, West London

A system built on fraud

The recent conviction of Conrad Black, the former owner of the Telegraph newspapers, on three charges of fraud and one of obstructing justice was most welcome.

Most of the media used the judgement to lay into Black as the “unacceptable face of capitalism”.

But what few mentioned was that Black was a key figure in the ruling class when he ran the Telegraph.

His papers were the most pro-war, pro-Israel and pro-US government in Britain. He was made a life peer by Tony Blair in 2001.

Politicians, royals and major figures were desperate to be seen with Black when he was at the height of his powers. Now that he has fallen from grace they want to claim he was beyond the pale and nothing to do with their system.

But Black was, and is, one of them. His fate has revealed the hypocrisy and double standards at the heart of capitalism.

Katherine Branney, East London

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Article information

Tue 24 Jul 2007, 18:14 BST
Issue No. 2061
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