A system of discipline
The Socialist Worker article on disability benefits (» Why are we made to feel like criminals?, 22 December) asks why people claiming state benefits are made to feel like criminals.
Working class people who are not making profits for capitalists have always been treated like criminals. The benefit system is the latest way in which the system chastises and disciplines us.
In the chapters on primitive accumulation in volume one of Capital, Karl Marx describes the earcropping, flogging, branding and even hanging of “unlicensed beggars to force them into wage slavery” – “back to work” in New Labour speak).
The “personal capability assessment” is a test used to assess people for disability benefits such as incapacity benefit. It causes insecurity, fear and deliberate hassle – and is too much for some people.
Many who would be unable to hold a job down in today’s high intensity workplaces, like Pam Burrett in your article, are deemed fit for work.
But these tests also serve to discipline those in work, fearing the hassles of benefit claiming. Many people carry on working when they clearly should not.
Millions of working days are gained by employers from workers until disability or early death stops them.
In Plymouth both the local TUC and Unison union branches have long recognised the link between the harshness of the benefit system and the confidence of workers in the workplace.
That is why they support campaigns to defend and improve the benefit system, which we pay ever more for through 11 percent national insurance contributions.
The next attack is the introduction of the employment and support allowance.
This means less benefits, harsher tests and a steady supply of cheap labour for sweatshop bosses.
Socialists, trade unionists, claimants and welfare rights campaigners need to link up to defend our welfare rights and certainly not fall for divide and rule “scrounger” myths.
The bosses are making a killing, literally.
Sam Bennett, Plymouth Claimants Union
I applied for incapacity benefit after I broke my pelvis at college. Over time this became worse to the point where I couldn’t walk.
I saw incapacity benefit as a short term option while I waited for tests and operations to have it fixed.
I got incapacity benefit at first but then it was taken away from me twice even though I had the X-rays of my broken pelvis. The doctor at the medical exam said there was nothing wrong with me.
It is totally unbelievable.
Tony Buckingham, by email
Victory for Angolan refugees in Glasgow
The Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees is pleased to tell people that over the Christmas and new year period a major long term campaigning case came to a successful conclusion when Pastor Daly and his family received indefinite leave to remain in Britain.
This family had twice been detained for removal.
But determined demonstrations at the Brand Street headquarters of the home office in Glasgow, Dungavel detention centre, the Scottish Parliament, Glasgow city centre and outside the court resulted in their return to their homes in Glasgow.
These protests were organised by African asylum seekers and the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees.
The family still had a case going through the high court – which lawyers considered to be of major importance in legal terms – when the home office granted them leave to remain.
The courage of the family and the asylum seekers who demonstrated – none of whom had status at the time – was inspirational.
The campaign attracted the support of politicians, churches, trade unionists and hundreds of ordinary people across Scotland and beyond, including a 3 January demonstration at St Enoch’s Square in Glasgow.
Pastor Daly’s case gained worldwide press coverage particularly in France and across Africa.
People in Scotland found the idea that refugees should be arrested and returned to Angola – to a brutal regime which they had bravely opposed – completely unacceptable.
The subsequent campaigns were the inspiration for the wider defence of refugees which has been mounted across Glasgow, often to considerable success.
The Daly family have been tireless in their support of other refugees in the city.
Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees
Nuclear power stations increase cancer risks
The British government last week announced it was to give the go ahead for new nuclear plants to be built [for more see » Nuclear power is a dangerous waste of money].
It is a grim coincidence that on the same day as the announcement, the news broke of new research in Germany showing that the risk of leukaemia doubles for children living near nuclear power stations.
In the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, similar “cancer clusters” were found around places such as the Sellafield reprocessing plant in Cumbria.
Debate raged as to just how much this was due to radiation from the plant.
British governmental advisors have long said there is no proven link between cancer and living near a nuclear plant.
Considered to be an in-depth and rigorous study, this new research by the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection should nail any doubt that the nuclear industry causes illness among those who live and work nearby.
The British government is prepared to pour millions of pounds into new nuclear plants, with their track record of leaks, accidents and associated health risks.
This shows how cynically our leaders are prepared to use the issue of global warming to further their own interests.
Martin Empson, Salford
Ban the army from our schools
I agree very much with the recent Rowntree report that criticised the British army’s recruitment methods.
In particular the report highlighted the way in which the army starts targeting people at a very young age.
It also points out that the army “glamorises warfare” in order to recruit those under 16 years old and paints a false view of the risks and dilemmas of war.
This fits with my own experience of the army – which has visited my school several times.
They say they are offering “information” to school students.
But in reality they are trying to recruit and promote the army to people as young as 12.
The army make a big show of their weapons and equipment, but they don’t show you the consequences of war.
They don’t tell you about the reality of conflict or the people killed in wars.
I think the military should be banned from schools.
They should also be banned from putting forward such a false view of the army in order to recruit young people to the killing machine.
Lorna McKinnon, School student, Glasgow
Workers rock China’s rulers
The article by John Chen and Michael Liu (» Resistance and the Chinese boom , 22 December) revealed many of the problems that have accompanied China’s spectacular recent growth.
The answer is for Chinese workers to take control of the process of economic development and determine its course. After Maoist repression, they don’t need a capitalist crack down.
Hopefully, the Chinese will demand real democracy, not just economic growth. It is demands for free speech and freedom of assembly that must shake China’s ruling class.
Graeme Kemp, Wellington, Shropshire
Use the levy for strikers
Having been on strike through the recent postal workers’ dispute I fully appreciate the fact that the Burslem people now taking strike action over the problem of bullying bosses [see page 16] are going to suffer financially.
This is an exceptional case and funds for any hardship should come directly from the CWU union.
After the comments from Gordon Brown as to the legitimacy of our recent dispute I would go as far as to say let’s cancel our political levy to Labour and use the money to fight this assault on our members.
Allan, by email
We must back Democrats
I agreed with many of the points that Martin Smith made about the similarities between the Democrats and the Republicans (» Are the Democrats any different?, 12 January).
But I still feel a defeat for the Republicans in this year’s US presidential elections would be a victory for everyone who hates war and neoliberalism.
The Republicans have pushed the new phase of imperialism the world has suffered since 2001. They have increased the gap between the rich and poor in the US.
While Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will not reverse it, a victory for either of them would signify a change in the US – the first woman or first black president would be a huge step forward in a racist and sexist country.
There is little sign of a left alternative. So we have to back the Democrats this time.
Georgia Haste, Leeds
Vote anti-war for big award
There is a chance for everyone who opposed the war to keep the anti-war movement in the media spotlight and humiliate Tony Blair again.
Anti-Iraq war protesters have been nominated for the Channel 4 News award for the most inspiring political personality of the last decade.
The anti-war movement, headed up by the Stop the War Coalition, changed British politics, with its high point being the two million strong 15 February 2003 protest against the attack on Iraq. It has inspired millions around the world and would be a worthy winner.
Please vote by Friday 18 January by going to » tinyurl.com/3yl9ghor phone 09011 27 27 06 (calls cost 25p).
Katherine Branney, East London
Consumption benefits poor
The idea that Kenya’s economic growth rate of 7 percent hasn’t benefited the poor (» Kenya's rulers are allies of the West, 12 January) is ridiculous.
Say you put up a luxury resort in Kenya that’s targeted at the Hollywood rich who want to holiday in a place that’s paparazzi-free.
There will be plenty of construction jobs and opportunities in the building materials and transport industry. It’ll need a staff to guest ratio of one to one since Hollywood types are fabulously spoilt.
There will also be opportunities for others. The moral?
Conspicuous consumption benefits everyone.
Benson Njonjo Ndehi, Nairobi, Kenya