Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2074

Could banning flying save the planet?

I’m glad Jonathan Neale has made the case for limiting air travel in order to protect the world from catastrophic climate change (» Will it take a ban on flying to stop climate change?, 20 October).

It is unfortunately a common refrain on the radical left that technology will somehow provide all the solutions to global warming.

Not only does this mirror the argument of George Bush and big business, it ignores the fact that carbon neutral planes do not exist and stand little chance of being developed before the climate careers out of control.

The only fair solution, as Jonathan suggests, is to ration long distance air travel and ban short haul flights – while at the same time establishing subsidised international train services.

The alternative is the destruction of the very conditions that make life on earth possible.

Tom Wall, North London

Jonathan Neale’s article in Socialist Worker last week starts by pointing out that compared to the car or oil industries, the airline industry is a smaller but important contributor to carbon emissions.

He then proceeds to argue for rationing flights as a central part of any solution to climate chaos.

However, I think that this accepts an agenda put by the elite about where the debate over climate change should be. The scale of climate chaos is such that we need to take systematic radical action. That should mean addressing and tackling the central causes of carbon emission – not looking at offering right wing ideas with a radical spin.

Even if we do accept Jonathan’s overemphasis on flights, the solution offered is inadequate to the task. He rightly criticises solutions that let the rich off the hook, but then proceeds to propose a solution that does exactly that.

Rationing puts the emphasis on the consumer and accepts a logic that it’s our fault that the planet is in crisis. The airline industry is subsidised and makes enormous profits. It is big business that is the problem, and it is big business we need to tackle.

Helen Cooper, Norwich

Not born criminal

Your article on gun crime (» Campaign targets the poverty behind youth crime, 20 October) contains a strong point made by Danny Bryan. He says, “Youths aren’t born as gunmen.”

That is a point that cannot be overemphasised.

It is society that turns some young people into violent criminals who attach no value to human life.

The growing gap between the rich and the poor, and the fact that many young black people continue to be born into an environment that exposes them to drugs, gang culture and violence, are all factors that can drive people towards crime.

As long as this state of affairs is allowed to continue, we shall continue to experience black on black violence.

Simon Owoade, by email

You’re too optimistic

I do not agree with the optimistic tone of your article on Turkey’s threatened invasion of Iraq (» Turkish tensions threaten US in Iraq, 20 October).

The US neocons have been pushing for a foreign policy that brought Turkey closer and distanced the US from the Kurds of Northern Iraq.

General Buyukanit, since his appointment as Turkey’s chief of general staff, has taken a hawkish line on the Kurdish question and has only ever pursued a purely military line.

At a time when Kurdish parliamentarians are again coming under judicial attack, it seems as though Turkey is closing down any political solution.

I suspect that as a result of the US’s failure to secure Iraqi oil, they are secretly supporting such a Turkish invasion as a plan B for Exxon Mobil’s ambitions of stealing Kurdish oil.

Hevallo Azad, North west London

Demand Britain bans mercenaries

The government should outlaw private military and security companies from operating in conflict zones such as Iraq.

It appears that British security company Erinys International is the employer of the guards who opened fire on a taxi near Kirkuk in Iraq last week, wounding three civilians.

Erinys has encountered previous criticism for alleged prisoner abuse.

It is a founder member of the British Association of Private Security Companies, which has been involved in regulation talks with the British government.

Erinys representatives have met with officials from the foreign office’s Iraq directorate.

These latest shootings come in the wake of the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians shot by guards from US private military company Blackwater, and of two Iraqis killed last week by guards from Unity Resources Group, a security firm run by former Australian army personnel (» Innocents killed by corporate mercenaries, 20 October).

There have been hundreds of human rights violations by mercenary troops, yet not a single prosecution has been brought against them.

Gordon Brown must act now to bring these companies within the law.

The Labour government has refused to introduce any form of regulation.

The United Nations working group on mercenaries has this month renewed its call for the British government to introduce legislation to regulate the private military sector.

Paul Collins, War on Want

Being a ‘chav’ is nothing to aspire to

Pat Stack’s article concerning “chavs” and middle class snobbery (» Bob Crow, 'chavs' and the new media snobbery, 22 September) was excellent.

But I couldn’t help feeling that the last part somewhat missed the point.

It was also flawed in its analysis of the state of the British working class.

Stack suggests that to be labelled a “chav” is somehow an aspirational badge of honour.

It is something of a betrayal of the efforts of those who have worked hard to better themselves that this should be true for people who have grown up in working class families.

Many people have tried to free themselves from dependency upon the bosses, without the help of private education or nepotistic business connections.

Sadly, sections of Britain’s working classes are now – to use Karl Marx and Frederick Engels’ term – lumpenproletariat or “social scum”.

As the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky suggested, this class is open to fascist ideas and action.

Such people are apathetic to any type of political or social revolution, and involved in socially destructive criminal activity.

This class has thrived under New Labour.

Indeed as Marx argued, given its implicit dependency upon the capitalist state, the lumpenproletariat is very much a counter-revolutionary force.

As such, it is not a class to which we should aspire.

Rather a far greater and more urgent imperative that emerges is the organisation of the working classes in Britain towards revolutionary action for justice, equality and liberty.

Dave Webber, Wolverhampton

Nuclear gets a sub

John Hutton, secretary of state for business, recently said, “There will be no taxpayer subsidy and no hidden subsidies for new nuclear [power] if her majesty’s government reach[es] that decision.”

In Britain nuclear power does enjoy a very large hidden subsidy – it is required to pay only a small fraction of the cost of insuring fully against a Chernobyl style disaster.

If the government was serious, the nuclear industry would be required to pay the full cost, without any limitations on liabilities.

Robert Palgrave, by email

Judges can’t stop us

What a fabulous response the Stop the War Coalition put to the attempt to deny democratic popular protest in London.

I travelled to the protest on a coach packed full of anti-war demonstrators, young and old. The atmosphere in Trafalgar Square was electric.

Our sense of victory translated into elated chants of, “This is what democracy looks like!”

When activists realise that a strong peoples’ movement is capable of humiliating unelected judges, police chiefs, and even cowardly prime ministers – then we can begin to see what real democracy looks like.

Andy Abel, Bristol

No fee, but no win either

I appreciate my Unison comrade John Fricker’s frustration at the lack of a national debate in the local government unions over single status and equal pay (» Letters, 13 October).

But it’s worth noting that a major factor inhibiting an open debate is the opportunistic attempt by “no win, no fee” lawyers to encourage low paid workers to sue the unions, rather than take on the employers.

This is doubly frustrating as it both misdirects low paid workers’ anger and shuts down discussion and collective action in favour of legal processes.

We need to remember that the road to fair and equal pay remains collective solidarity.

Ben Drake, York

Liberal democracy?

The Great thing about democracy is that it offers us all a choice about how we are to be governed.

Take the election for a new leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberals are offering us the choice of Chris Huhne – a middle aged white man, educated at Westminster public school, or Nick Clegg, a middle aged white man, educated at Westminster public school.

With such a range of choice in our political system, why is it that so few people seem bothered to vote?

Sharon Jones, Staffordshire

No care for carers

Nobody wants to see workers singled out to receive detrimental treatment and reductions in earnings, in the way day centre workers in Glasgow are (» Glasgow day centre workers on indefinite strike, 20 October).

But we should not forget the vast army who go through hell for an illegal wage.

I am talking about the (largely) unpaid and unrecognised group of workers often referred to as “informal carers”.

Of the six million or so in Britain, only about 400,000 receive the government “pay” of £49 per week.

If you are on maternity leave you don’t get it, if you work and get over £89 per week you don’t get it, and if you are over 65 you don’t get it.

And if you look after more than one person (say, a sick mother and father), guess how much allowance you get?

That’s right, exactly the same as if you looked after one person!

Ian Sanderman, Dunoon, Scotland

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Article information

Tue 23 Oct 2007, 18:36 BST
Issue No. 2074
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