Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2087

Elections show that the US is as racist as ever

If Barack Obama is prevented from becoming the Democrat’s candidate for president it will be because the US is a deeply racist society.

In last month’s primaries in South Carolina and Florida, Obama secured up to 76 percent of the black vote, but as little as 10 percent of the white vote.

In an effort to further scare whites into “sticking with their own” former president Bill Clinton compared Obama’s candidacy with those in 1984 and 1988 of Reverend Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist.

Clinton was appealing to an age-old hostility to black civil rights, particularly in the Southern states, and trying to spread a none-to subtle message – vote for the black guy, and before you know it the blacks in your town will be making all kinds of demands.

Obama may not have the principles or the courage of Dr Martin Luther King, but the racist attitudes that King was fighting in the 1960s are the same that Obama is facing today.

For that reason I think it is wrong for socialists simply to have washed their hands of this contest.

A victory for a black candidate, while not necessarily advancing the position of the African American working poor, would nevertheless be a major snub for the racists.

Jane Wilding, New York

Georgia Haste (Letters, 19 January) writes that we should back the Democrats in the US elections because the very real possibility of having a woman or a black man as the next president of the US would be a huge step forward.

History shows us that the election of a Democrat president would not improve by one jot the lives of the US working class – including both women and black people.

There is no reason to believe that this would change if that president were a woman or a black man. Surely the example of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher demonstrates this.

Thatcher attacked working class women, destroying their jobs, families and communities because she was a loyal fighter for the capitalist system.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would be in hock to the very same vested interests.

John Curtis, Suffolk

A theory that beats sexism

Rebecca Pitt’s overview of Simone de Beauvoir’s writing and activism (» Letters, 26 January) was, in all ways, an exceptional introduction to this still highly important theorist.

De Beauvoir faced criticism from feminists because of her controversial relationship with philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

Feminist philosopher Michele Le Doeuff even claimed that de Beauvoir was subject to a “Heloise complex” – where a female thinker idolises a fellow male theorist at the expense of her own intellectual abilities.

Rebecca’s article points out that sexism and de Beauvoir’s theory of the “myths of the feminine” are still evident today.

In fact de Beauvoir seems to have expected that this would be the case, saying that, “after old myths are destroyed, new ones may be created”.

The myths are evident in representations of women in the media today, in which images of women depicted as meek and demure have given way to often highly sexualised caricatures.

Today, female “celebrities” who appear naked in magazines like Loaded are seen as liberated, despite conforming to chauvinist female stereotypes.

De Beauvoir should also be recognised for her political activism, such as her work campaigning for legal abortion (which was only achieved in France in 1975).

This is of increasing importance as legal rights to abortion are again under siege internationally.

Overall, de Beauvoir’s thought is to be commended. She understood the impact of social conditioning in casting aspects of life as “feminine”, challenging this tendency even within feminist thought, as well as espousing a class-based analysis of sexism and gender inequality.

Furthermore, her dedication to socialist theory and collective social struggle means de Beauvoir is of great importance today.

Jonathan Tipton, Preston

New report shows that migrants not to blame

The myth that migrants drive down wages has taken another blow this week.

A consultation document prepared for the Welsh Assembly concludes that migrant workers neither keep people out of jobs nor slow down wage growth. On the contrary, it said, immigrants are “filling jobs that local people do not want”.

The consultants, Experian, added that increased immigration since the expansion of the European Union in 2004 was not responsible for rises in unemployment in 2005 and 2006, and that increased migration has not affected wage growth, as the minimum wage prevented undercutting in the lowest paid jobs.

It was partly the repetition of myths that migrants lower wages that led to a worryingly high vote for the BNP in the Welsh Assembly elections last year. With more elections on the way in May, it is vital that these myths are demolished whenever and wherever they are raised.

Hopefully this new report will persuade the anti-war Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price to retract his statement of last November.

He told Welsh TV that local people could lose their jobs because of competition from people who are prepared to accept lower wages.

Comments like this are not just wrong – they are dangerous.

Martin Chapman, Swansea

Crackdown shows danger in Caracas

Another struggle has emerged in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela.

Last month the mayor of Libertador put through a decree to remove the street vendors from public spaces.

This informal sector makes up a large part of the Venezuelan economy, and the decision has taken the right to work away from roughly 15,000 workers.

This is not the first time that this has happened.

Violent clashes between the police and the street vendors were seen in 2004.

As a result of the latest change, various protests have also emerged, including a hunger strike and general defiance to the new law.

As can be expected the right wing media have jumped on the bandwagon of support for the traders as a chance to galvanise opposition to radical president Hugo Chavez.

However the mayor’s decision reveals some of the dangerous contradictions within Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution”.

The lack of consideration for relocation of the vendors shows the gap between the government’s rhetoric and the ongoing reality on the streets.

Steve Henshall, Caracas, Venezuela

Holocaust remembered

In our east London college of over 2,600 students, over 50 percent of whom are Muslim, we have been using a presentation on “Why do we remember the Holocaust?”.

Developed by staff the presentation examines why the Holocaust is both unique and of contemporary relevance to our students.

It documents why the Jews were selected for the “final solution” and how the Nazis systematically slaughtered Roma, Slavs, black people, gays, political and religious opponents, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled and the mentally ill.

It also notes how today’s fascists specifically target Muslims.

The response of students has blown away the demonising picture of the Muslim community as “antisemitic”.

Presented in the context of racism, religious hatred and persecution students were visibly moved and generalised very quickly as to why we should always side with all victims of prejudice.

John Peters, London

Migrants and midwives

Maternity wards are turning away expectant mothers because of “soaring demand” from immigrants. That’s the latest claim from the Daily Mail.

My son was born last spring in a major central London teaching hospital.

The midwives came from Africa, Ireland and the Caribbean, the feeding counsellors from Morocco and Portugal, the cleaning and catering staff from Eastern Europe and Africa, while the doctor on duty at the time of birth was French.

I am a migrant to this country and have worked since I arrived, mainly in childcare and therefore suffering poor wages.

Should I be turned away from the delivery room?

Carmela Ozzi, West London

New Labour’s broken pledge

So, yet another New Labour promise bites the dust, and this time it is single-sex hospital wards.

Back in 2002 I remember Labour promising to end mixed sex wards. Now health minister Lord Darzai says that this is no longer possible.

He says the goal was never to create single‑sex wards and that the government was only ever committed to single‑sex accommodation whereby wards are divided into male and female bays by fixed partitions.

Ad Williams, Anglesey, Wales

Unpalatable truths?

I disagree with Mark Fisher’s article (» Chickens, class and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall , 26 January). Here are a few facts about farmed animals.

Chickens go from egg to table in 42 days, sometimes even less. They are fed growth promoters and cannot be kept alive for even this short time without antibiotics.

Chicken meat clots arteries, triggers cancers and is one of the biggest causes of food poisoning in the world.

Also farms are not an efficient way of converting vegetable protein to meat. It takes about 10kg of feed to produce 1kg of beef.

Hazel Sabey, London

We can mock the rock

The government’s decision to use taxpayers’ money to rescue Northern Rock shatters one of the myths of capitalism.

Pro-capitalists argue that investors bear all the “risk” of an enterprise, and are therefore justified in reaping the profits.

However the government’s decision shows that, if an important business does fail, the state will step in to bail out the investors, making a mockery of the notion of “risk”.

Benjamin Kindler, Hong Kong

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Article information

Tue 5 Feb 2008, 18:05 GMT
Issue No. 2087
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