Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2063

Workers at Remploy factories for disabled people are fighting against cuts (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Workers at Remploy factories for disabled people are fighting against cuts (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Debating disability

Pat Stack’s article (» Why are disabled people oppressed?, 28 July) on disability politics was a welcome foray into this issue, as was his talk at the recent Marxism festival.

Disability as an issue, in my view, does not have the profile that it deserves, even on the left.

Although Pat’s article was an excellent summary of many issues facing disabled people, there was one fundamental question that all disabled people face – at least in the background – which he did not discuss.

This question is what our attitude to treatment and “cure” should be.

The activist and theorist Vic Finkelstein saw that prejudice and exclusion by society are the ultimate factors defining who is disabled or not. He said that disabled people were trapped in what he called a “cure or care paradox”.

This meant that they were pushed by the structures of capitalist society to choose between adapting to society’s norms by having their impairment, condition or difference cured, treated or somehow remediated, or accepting a reduced quality of life.

In many cases this means a lifetime in care.

In such a situation, treatment for impairments is transformed from an option to something that is implicitly forced on many disabled people.

One might then ask whether in such a situation, medical treatment can become part of the oppressive apparatus imposed on people with impairments, many of who do not want their impairment treated.

Of course, one must be careful not to go too far in this direction.

There is not a capitalist plot to make everyone well, as one SWP member recently noted to me, and many disabled people would gladly do without their impairments.

Furthermore, some disabled people are able to make a free choice.

However, the question still remains whether medical treatment is sometimes something to be resisted rather than a solution to the problems faced by people with impairments.

Roderick Cobley, East London

As a person with a disability, Pat Stack’s article really touched my heart. The US is almost the same as Britain on this issue.

And it’s becoming worse with this war in Iraq because now 20,000 men and women in the armed forces are coming home with physical and mental health problems.

People with disabilities, including the deaf community, need to join forces around the world and demand stronger civil rights in terms of accessibility, discrimination and employment, as well as housing and transportation.

These laws need to get better. More or less a revolution for the crips!

Fernando Roldan, Los Angeles, US

Rulings hurt us all

Two important decisions were reached recently that impact on everybody.

First there was the House of Lords ruling earlier this year which decided that human rights laws should not be extended to safeguard 300,000 residents of private care homes in England and Wales.

This is despite those residents being placed there by councils.

Then Kirklees council’s scrutiny panel concluded that it is not their responsibility to intervene between sacked workers and their employer Unique Care, which was appointed by the council.

It also said that it was not its responsibility to review the practices of any private company it engages to carry out its public responsibilities.

If there was any doubt about how low in the list of priorities residents and staff rate in the rush to farm out public services to the private sector, these two decisions have ended it.

Kirklees council had a chance to step in and put right its actions for the benefit of all those affected by the Unique Care scandal. But it refused.

We must never forget that while the welfare of our vulnerable fellow citizens is a priority, it is also a fact that the other citizens of Kirklees who provide that care must also be protected.

Ray Deans, Huddersfield

TV failure

Having watched the BBC programme on India with Sanjeev Bhaksar reviewed by Socialist Worker (» A nation reduced to the punchline of a bad joke , 28 July), I was very disappointed as I felt it did not try to show India in a true light.

Bhaksar made no effort to integrate with anyone other than people of a certain class – mainly upper. He was not interested in the poor and their predicament.

Surely Sanjeev should have known that to make a programme about India he needs to not only research the really rich, but also the underprivileged.

Jayshree Lakha, Loughborough

Wealth gap means a worse society for us

Danny Dorling’s article on unequal Britain (» Unequal Britain, 28 July) showed just how bad poverty and inequality still are in Britain.

When those at the “top” enjoy incredible wealth, it really is a bad situation for everyone else.

We need to think about the effects of inequality on any society.

These are well known.

The more unequal a society is, the worse both physical and mental health tend to be.

Living in a country with a wide gulf between “rich” and “poor” is stressful.

High levels of stress reduce the ability of people to fight off illness.

This was proved in research by Richard Wilkinson of Nottingham University.

Social mobility is also reduced in an unequal society. Denmark has better social mobility than the US, because it is more equal.

Levels of trust are higher in more equal societies too.

There is also evidence that unequal cities or towns are more hostile than those with a small gap between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

People are also more willing to participate in politics if society is seen as being “fair”.

Well done for highlighting this issue. Inequality matters.

Is Gordon Brown listening though?

Graeme Kemp, Wellington

Let’s organise a global strike

I have been reading Socialist Worker and I support the socialist movement all over the world.

I think that solidarity and the unification of workers and unions all over the world will be the best action against global capitalism.

Capitalists and politicians are gaining access to the Third World with their troops.

They want to create a stable situation in order to send their investors – such as oil giants, companies, bankers, hedge funds – into these countries to dominate them.

But if the workers can become unified all over the world they will have huge power. This could stop this global capitalist system with well-organised global strikes.

Can you imagine what would happen if there was a world workers’ union which calls strikes in the European Union and the US for one week demanding an end to the war in Iraq and a better life for workers all over the world?

I imagine that George Bush and Gordon Brown would immediately remove their troops from Iraq.

I think that this kind of workers’ activity could be organised.

Altan Kayaoz, Turkey

Population is not problem

James Meehan (» Letters, 4 August) writes that overpopulation is the main environmental problem. This is a view that has been common among sections of the green movement in the past.

However, it is incorrect. There is no shortage of food worldwide. In fact there is an excess.

Giving Third World farmers access to modern machinery would mean that the world could support 12 billion people, twice the current population.

A rising population would not mean more cars. A major expansion of public transport would be able to meet everyone’s needs, without the environmental impact.

The solution is not to curb population, but to create a socialist society.

Richard Sunderland, Leeds

British troops hurt by war

The wars on Iraq and Afghanistan are not just destroying the people of those countries but the troops that our rulers send to fight them.

A new survey by the Kings College London military health centre of 5,547 British soldiers has revealed the impact of the war on the mental health of troops.

It focused on the 20 percent of soldiers who were deployed for over 13 months in a three year period.

It found that nearly one in four of those deployed for this length of time had “severe” alcohol problems compared with one in ten of those deployed for less than five months.

Some 5.2 percent of those who had spent over 13 months in conflict were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

This is compared with 3 percent of those who had spent less than five months deployed.

These people will be added to the long list of soldiers who are abandoned by the British government after serving their purpose in imperialist wars.

We should be pressuring New Labour to provide the soldiers with support.

Katherine Branney, East London

Observing the occupation

The numbers of Afghan civilians killed by US and Nato actions since 1 January this year is respectively 552 and 777.

Disaggregated data which can be added up is published at my Afghan Victim Memorial Project, at »

The data is available to the general public and is constantly being updated and revised.

Marc W Herold, University of New Hampshire, US

Morale boost for strikers

Any CWU postal workers’ union member in receipt of working family tax credits could get back their money lost through striking next year.

This is because their P60 will show reduced gross earnings.

Someone in the government forgot to include “strike action” in the tax credit rules.

This all needs to be verified by the union but is a good morale booster for those with families relying on one posties’ wage.

Michael Boyd, Glenrothes, Fife

I suffered at system’s hand

I know from experience that the US prison system targets black people.

My 20 year old son died in Clinton prison in New York.

Because we are regular people, I was indirectly denied visits. There were no letters, no calls, nothing during his whole time in prison.

I was also denied autopsy reports, any report or personal belongings because they said I was not next of kin. It was over a year before I received some information because of delaying tactics.

I am so outraged, hurt, sad and frustrated because it seems like no one cares.

Angela Everson, New York, US

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Article information

Wed 8 Aug 2007, 19:58 BST
Issue No. 2063
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