Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2065

We pay for the crisis

It’s quite possible that some of your readers may have missed the significance of the hundreds of billions of pounds recently injected into the economy by the world’s central banks to rescue the US sub-prime market.

Please remember that this is real money – not just numbers on a page.

Where does the money for the bail-out come from? Well it comes from us – the public. It’s my money and it’s your money.

Just imagine what else could have been done with this money. Those of us who have been prudent with our money are, in effect, being charged a tax to prop up careless banks and lenders.

Will they be asked to pay back all their commissions earned on making bad deals? Will they be asked to hand back their expense accounts, business lunches and company cars?

Will anyone actually get punished for these record breaking financial losses? What do you think? The lenders, having been bailed out by their supporters in the financial sector – using public money – will now continue to trade knowing that ultimately you and I will correct any mistakes they make.

And we won’t even be consulted about it – because after all they are more important than us and they know what they are doing, right?

Andrew Stephenson, Newhaven

The global credit crisis has exposed a grotesque faultline symmetry of oppression for the working class in the most important countries in the East and West.

The crisis began because poor US workers were tricked by those who Karl Marx called “swindlers” in the so-called “subprime-loan mortgage market” to take on home loans they couldn’t afford.

This particular crisis will be resolved because the central banks will use the surpluses bequeathed to them in part by the heavily exploited Chinese workers who are bearing the brunt of the global capitalist expansion.

John Rose, London

No proof that cannabis causes illness

Peter O’Loughlin (» Letters, 18 August) is being a little disingenuous about cannabis causing psychosis or schizophrenia.

It is true that in cases of people who already have a history of mental illness – or have latent schizophrenic tendencies – cannabis can make these problems many times worse.

Mixing drugs and drink together is not a good idea either.

However, there is no conclusive proof that smoking cannabis causes or provokes psychosis or schizophrenia in people who have no previous history of it.

This is what the recent – and I believe deliberately misleading – surveys always fail to point out.

These are the ones the anti-cannabis brigade always leap upon.

Stephen Davis, Sunderland

Not at all shook up over Elvis

Ian Birchall (» An unlikely rebel, 18 August) says Elvis Presley “challenged the dominant ideology”, and portrays him as a victim of the system, which he says exploited him for profit.

But the reality seems to be more contradictory. Elvis made an impact in terms of refusing to accept a divide between “black” and “white” music.

He challenged society’s sexual inhibitions, and was denounced for making “the devil’s music”. It’s true that the impact of this was significant – especially at a time of wider struggles over racism and sexual liberation.

However his politics did not always confront the system.

In 1970 Elvis met US president Richard Nixon. He denounced the Beatles as “un-American” because they opposed the war in Vietnam, and said that he wanted to work with Nixon in the fight against drugs.

It seems that the challenge that Elvis posed only went so far.

Sarah Richards, Bradford

Elvis Presley appeared on the scene at the same time that the Civil Rights movement was picking up steam in the US.

For that reason it is unilluminating to disassociate him from that period.

That he was a hugely successful white Southern singer, who appeared controversial only because of the way he moved his pelvis, is what enabled Pete Seeger to dismiss him at a concert in the 1950s.

I don’t remember the exact words – essentially he said, “The two worst names I’ve heard of recently are Orval Faubus (school segregationist and governor of Arkansas) and Elvis Presley.”

There was understandable polarisation. Elvis was a Southerner, had a platform, but didn’t express a view on civil rights.

He couldn’t appear “below the waist” on TV because he was too sexy. But with anti-segregation on the agenda, it was hard to take Elvis seriously as a rebel.

That isn’t to say he wasn’t a rebel in his own terms, but he was a creature of his times, and his times reflected on him as they did on everyone else.

Virginia MacFadyen, North London

Care workers are not to blame, profit is

I am pleased that the poor standards of care often offered to elderly people has been recently acknowledged.

However, the Select Committee on Human Rights Report on Health Care for Elderly People may be interpreted as an attack on nursing and care staff.

Poor treatment, such as elderly people not being given help to eat, is often attributable to inadequate staff numbers, poor resources and low staff morale.

The low value given to elderly care work means a high staff turnover. Nursing and residential homes are private and so run with a profit motive.

I have worked in homes where money has been invested in new equipment to monitor how fast we answer patient’s buzzers, but with no investment to increase staff numbers.

I have also worked in nursing homes where there is insufficient investment in essential equipment such as disposable gloves – used for washing and toileting.

Report after report is produced, along with government guidelines and frameworks, as to how we are supposed to improve care.

These will remain ineffectual unless the needs of elderly people are placed above profit – at the heart of service provision.

The government is keen to claim credit for increased life expectancy, but reluctant to ensure a decent quality of life for people no longer in work.

Care worker, West Yorkshire

Targeting climate campaigners

The government has made much of the “need” for tougher anti-terror laws.

Now it seems to have found a target – climate change protesters. Police have been told to use stop and search powers against protesters and to search the homes of protesters.

All this against those who want to protest peacefully.

Many of us may have significant disagreements with the politics of some of the protestors, and the solution to climate change that they advocate, but no one can doubt the seriousness of global warming.

Aviation is set to become the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide, yet flights are set to triple over the next 30 years.

If this is allowed to happen, then every other source of carbon dioxide would have to be cut to virtually zero to offset the impact.

The government has recently watered down the opportunity for a major expansion of the railways – yet it continues to support airport and road expansion.

As far as New Labour is concerned, it is profit before our children’s future and the right to protest.

Richard Sunderland, Leeds

China: not all about Mao

I thought Charlie Hore’s column on Mao Zedong (»  Mao and the Chinese Revolution, 18 August) was an admirably balanced account of what went on in China in the years following the Second World War.

But I wasn’t entirely convinced by the characterisation of the Cultural Revolution as being simply about Mao trying to wrest power from his opponents in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

It also reflected a genuine political struggle between those in the CCP who wanted to follow the “capitalist road” of market reforms and those like Mao who supported a “socialist road” of empowering the masses.

In the event the supporters of the “capitalist road” won – and today China’s rulers are making a great deal of money at the expense of its workers and peasants.

So it would be wrong to dismiss the Cultural Revolution as an obscure descent into chaos and violence for the sake of it. It was a very real political struggle – and Mao, for all his failings, represented the left.

Jiben Kumar, East London

Struggles in Hong Kong

Metal workers in Hong Kong have recently taken industrial action despite the criticism of the Construction Industry Workers’ Union (BWU).

The workers are taking action because many only have work for part of the month and the daily wage, 800 Hong Kong dollars, is not considered sufficient. It is substantially lower than wage levels prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Many workers have recognised that the BWU is not representing their interests and will be unable to reach a satisfactory pay agreement with the employers. They have begun to withhold their membership fees.

Public support seems high and workers are beginning to undertake more aggressive demonstrations – so I hope they will emerge victorious!

More information and an in-depth history of the dispute is available at »

Ben Kindler, Hong Kong, China

Alternative to neoliberalism

It is still not clear whether there will be elections in Poland this autumn.

If there are, the right wing populist Law and Justice party could get re-elected.

The problem is the lack of an alternative. Voters are offered neoliberalism in slightly different flavours.

Hope has come from the massive support enjoyed by the recent almost month long tent city organised by hundreds of nurses outside the prime minister’s office.

The nurses are organising further tent protests at the next two parliamentary sessions and in September there will be a health workers’ demonstration.

Other groups of workers will be supporting it.

If the spirit of the nurses’ protest can be expressed in a new political alternative that opposes neoliberalism and discrimination we will be able to radically change the political scene, and strengthen the fightback.

Jan Malecki, Poland

Insulting and degrading

Sanjeev Bhaskar’s TV programme on India (» A nation reduced to the punchline of a bad joke, 28 July) seems to be trying to show how “blessed” he is to be born in a developed nation though his roots belong to a “developing” nation.

This piece of work is insulting and degrading.

Mr Bhaskar seems to be telling the world what it wants to believe about India – that it is poverty stricken, malaria-infested, cow ridden, crowded and dirty.

He has attempted to undermine everything that is part of the Indian life right from religion to food.

Rituparna Prashar, by email

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Tue 21 Aug 2007, 19:11 BST
Issue No. 2065
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