Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2070

Students from Manchester University join health workers’ picket lines (Pic: Andy Cunningham)

Students from Manchester University join health workers’ picket lines (Pic: Andy Cunningham)

Making links at grassroots level

The wave of neoliberalism driving cuts in the NHS is the same force imposing fees and marketisation in our universities and other public services.

As students and union members, it is vitally important that we support the Manchester mental health nurses in their battle for the reinstatement of their union rep, Karen Reissmann.

Students from the University of Manchester – including members of the union executive – have joined nurses on picket lines, collecting money and offering support.

Around 100 nurses staged a loud and vibrant lobby of the Strategic Health Authority and attempted to present a petition to the chief executive.

Although they were prevented from doing this by security, the mood of the nurses remained defiant, and in the meeting that followed they agreed to further strike action.

The solidarity we showed with the striking nurses strengthened their resolve and increased the vitality of the pickets.

For students the experience was particularly meaningful, reaffirming our place as part of a broad grassroots movement, fighting for a better world that goes far beyond the campus.

Sundara Jerome and Liz McNeillie, Manchester University

All hope of reclaiming New Labour has gone

Bob Wareing’s deselection as parliamentary candidate for West Derby, Merseyside, shows the problems for anyone interested in “reclaiming” the Labour Party (» New Labour ousts key anti-war MP, 22 September). The Labour leadership clearly intervened to oust an MP with a fantastic record against war and privatisation, so as to parachute a Blairite into a safe seat.

It seems the West Derby Labour Party were happy to select Stephen Twigg, who voted for war, anti-terror laws and top-up fees. This shows the weakness of the Labour left, and how distant Labour has become from ordinary people.

West Derby badly needs representatives to stand up to the government’s attacks on working people, not cheerlead them, as Twigg will.

If Bob stands as an independent he will provide an important political alternative to represent the anti-war majority. The fact that he was unable to do this within the Labour Party shows the importance of building alternatives such as Respect. Anyone interested in this alternative should support his campaign.

Dan Swain, Merseyside

Bob Wareing’s deselection from his Labour seat reflects his opposition to the Iraq war and occupation and the unwavering support he has given to Merseyside Stop the War Coalition.

He recently convened and became chair of the parliamentary Stop the War group of MPs.

His deselection is a disgrace and therefore a pretty accurate reflection of the Labour Party under Gordon Brown – if you are actively against war and speak out against occupation you are not welcome in New Labour.

If Bob stands as an independent at the next election he will have the full support of anti-war activists in Liverpool.

Mark Henzel, Secretary Merseyside Stop the War Coalition (personal capacity)

Youth not to blame

Professor Green is right to point out the contribution that our poor educational system makes to the lives of young people (» Rapper interviewed on the demonisation of young people, 22 September).

As New Labour plans to build city academies and privatise our education, it is obvious that a decent education for all is not its priority.

Similarly, although we are encouraged to go to university to “contribute to our society”, they hardly make it easy by making us pay a ridiculous amount in order to do it.

The right wing media blames violent crime on music. But Professor Green’s point on how music is a reflection of where individuals find themselves in society – rather than a reason for it – is one of the strongest against this.

Young people want to listen to music that reflects their world and what they see in their day to day life – something they can understand.

Artists who come from the same background as us, but who have achieved something we admire, are surely good role models for us to look up to.

Most hip-hop doesn’t touch on gun or knife crime, instead it describes the social situations the artists have found themselves at one time or another.

Just because politicians like David Cameron and the mainstream media don’t understand the lifestyle of others – or don’t like an artist because they can’t make money out of them – does not give them the right to put the blame for crime on an artist’s way of life.

The effect of living in such an institutionally violent society has on young people is also an important issue to raise.

Police officers openly carry guns on the streets, the arms fair is welcomed in London and we see our leaders giving the go ahead to the killing of others across the world. How can anyone be surprised when young people carry guns and knives?

It’s very easy to play the blame game, but it is harder for politicians to face facts and realise that it is their policies that create the crime that is sometimes expressed in music.

Siobhan Brown, East London

Prison officers are working class too

As a worker in the prison service in a civilian grade, I was amazed at the secrecy and speed of the POA union’s unofficial action.

I have been a Socialist Worker reader and supporter for 30 years and I was amused by comments made in the letters page (» Letters, 15 September), which warned readers not to be blind to the “anti-working class nature” of prison officers’ jobs.

A large number of officers are ex-military, come from working class areas and on leaving school found few opportunities other than the services. Many were probably recruited at school.

Prison officers pick up the pieces of a dysfunctional society that creates chaos.

Having recently attended a drug awareness course at work, I was pleased to hear a 50 year old prison officer say, “I was born and bought up in Yorkshire. The destruction of the pits tore the heart out of our communities, leaving a generation faced with no hope. Is it any wonder there’s a rise in crime and drug abuse?”

The class nodded in agreement. Hardly the rantings of the “more reactionary parts of the working class”.

The exploitation workers face is not something prison officers are excluded from. And painting your average prisoner as some kind of Robin Hood is dangerous.

Robert Trahearn, Her Majesty’s Prison Service

The scourge of the supermarkets

I would like to thank Nick Broomfield for making the film Ghosts – which exposes the tragedy of the Chinese cockle-pickers who died at Morecambe Bay in 2004.

Like many I had forgotten about the disaster. The film shows that there was a lot more to it than a misfortune involving low-paid workers.

Nick showed that some of the culprits were supermarket conglomerates.

The supermarkets have the backing of the government, since many contribute greatly to the political parties.

Supermarkets are gaining more and more power and influence. They have broadened their market to cover many areas besides food produce – insurance, banking, electronics, books and DVDs to name but a few.

This means that there may well be a “super-conglomerate” franchise created, and who will be paying for this? Chinese workers and those in other undeveloped countries, that’s who.

I was wondering if there is a charity to alleviate for the exploitation of poor Chinese workers and their families.

If anyone could send me more information, I would love to help.

Sean Prenter, Belfast

The madness of the market

An economist on the Today programme said that we in Britain are fortunate because we have built very few houses recently so that prices are high.

On the other hand, in Spain far too many houses have been built. The result is that house prices have fallen and there is a severe crisis that will lead to a downturn in the economy.

Doesn’t this statement neatly sum up the madness of the market?

Hazel Sabey, West London

Explaining the credit crunch

Please can we have more articles like the one about the credit crunch (» Credit crunch could burst the debt bubble , 22 September), which makes complicated issues easier to understand.

It was so helpful as I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling very confused about this whole issue.

Despite watching the news and reading as many newspapers as I can about the crisis, only Socialist Worker explained it in a way that anyone could understand.

Most importantly it made me realise how working class people will be forced to pay for the greed and incompetence of the rich bankers and financial speculators.

Peter Dwyer, Bradford

Reason for Thatcher visit

Margaret Thatcher’s recent visit to 10 Downing Street showed that New Labour are Thatcherites, pursuing the same Tory policies of privatisation.

Because of this the Labour Party have lost considerable support from within the left in Britain.

Is it plausible that her visit was not only timed to take the sting out of the Tories’ climate report, but was also an attempt to woo traditional conservative voters?

New Labour are the new warmongers of capitalism.

Joss Griffiths, Nottingham

A passion for Gramsci

While being lucky enough to have a holiday in Sardinia, I visited the childhood home of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.

At a small museum off the beaten track, I was met by an enthusiastic volunteer who was clearly proud of the fact that Gramsci had come from his town, and was keen to hear about the British left.

His passion was refreshing and inspiring.

I donated my copy of Chris Bambery’s A Rebel’s Guide to Gramsci to their library. Pleased, he asked me to write a message inside – I just hope he didn’t think I was the author!

Phil Brett, North London

Lewisham remembered

A very successful commemorative walk took place on Saturday 15 September to mark the 30th anniversary of the battle of Lewisham, south east London, when the fascist National Front (NF) were smashed off the streets by local anti-fascists.

About 50 people attended including veteran protesters who gave amazing speeches describing what it had been like to be there.

It really made history come alive.

The walk was filmed and a DVD will be made, which will be an excellent educational resource.

Meanwhile aby-election was held in Whitefoot ward in Lewisham on Thursday 13 September.

The NF stood a candidate but there was a good anti-fascist campaign which resulted in the NF receiving just 95 votes (3.5 percent of the vote).

The fact that the NF member did not even say she was standing for the NF on the ballot paper shows how demoralised they are.

The result is another victory for anti-fascists, and is a lovely way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the NF march being smashed.

Ian Crosson, Lewisham
For details of the DVD go to »

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Article information

Tue 25 Sep 2007, 18:41 BST
Issue No. 2070
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