Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2094

Street artist Banksy’s take on Tesco’s power (Pic: Adam Di Chiara)

Street artist Banksy’s take on Tesco’s power (Pic: Adam Di Chiara)

Tesco is no friend of working class people

As a former Tesco employee for three years, I take issue with the glowing portrait that Terry Western paints of Tesco’s treatment of its workforce (» Letters, 22 March).

In the years that I worked for Tesco, retail profits went up but our pay increases went down – despite being pushed harder and harder by managers.

Tesco employees are far from content with their employer – a fact that is now hidden from the public as Tesco employees are no longer entitled to vote on their pay deal!

John Curtis, Suffolk

Nobody should be hoisting the flag for Tesco. It is true that it has been capable of producing affordable food for working class people for many years – but at what price?

In Britain farmers are regularly going to the wall because of unrealistic prices imposed by the large supermarkets.

Overseas producers fare even worse. Large chunks of agriculture in the Global South are given over to producing crops for the supermarkets. This reshapes local economies, and if a supermarket walks away it leaves people destitute.

In many areas when large supermarkets open up it spells doom for local shops. Where I grew up, a large shopping complex opened and within a year the high street was reduced to “pound shops” and charity stores. Nearly all the small traders went bust.

Meanwhile, the price of food is spiralling. “Food riots” are likely to become a reality – they are predicted for China within a few short years.

Transportation costs are also on the increase in line with global oil prices. Food now travels huge distances to get on the shelves.

We should act locally for the sake of the class globally. Tesco and the other large supermarket chains are part of the problem.

Working people are limited in the choices offered them by capitalism and will always need to eat. But buying food from Tesco is one thing, praising their contributions to our lifestyles, workers’ rights and upholding them as job creators is another.

Adam Di Chiara, East London

A history of brutality

On a boring afternoon at the end of a long school summer holiday in the 1950s my friends and I were aimlessly killing time in east London.

My mate found a rusty knife in the dirt. With nothing better to do we took it in turns to try to carve our names into a tree but the blade was too blunt, so I walked over to the old style police phone box and started to scratch my initials in the blue paint.

Without warning a giant of a policeman ran up behind me and smashed my head into the box. I bit my tongue, filling my mouth with blood. My head felt like it was going to burst and I saw stars.

The policeman took our names and addresses and I was driven the three miles to my home on his motorbike – cornering at speed and accelerating along the middle of busy roads. It was the most frightening experience of my life.

As my life unfolded I did again encounter the law and my experiences have left me with a mistrust of the police and an utter contempt for the law that I will take with me to my grave.

Whenever I have seen news footage of uniformed force against the defenceless I still feel the pain in my head and the taste of blood in my mouth.

British so-called justice has always practised one law for us and one law for them.

Today law is managed along business lines – entire lucrative industries have grown on the back of law and order. We have surveillance and tagging, the biggest DNA database in the world and dubious fines.

The highest prison population in Western Europe ensures private prisons will be profitable for years to come.

The young people of today are no more or less rebellious than any other generation. The difference is that their behaviour is a response to an increasingly hostile world.

But the human need for freedom will never be broken and I have every faith that they will become the people’s freedom fighters of tomorrow.

Bob Chapman, Essex

Throwing stones at the prison system?

The inquest into the death of a mother who died in the “care” of Styal Prison has highlighted the tragic consequences of locking up vulnerable women in prisons that cannot meet their human needs. 

A critical verdict has been returned on the death of Valerie Hayes, aged 42, who died on “suicide watch” at HMP Styal in 2006.

The jury found that documents were inadequately completed and there was insufficient communication between staff from different departments at the jail.

Shortly before her death, Valerie was seen ripping up a mattress cover, yet no attempt was made to enter the cell and remove it from her. She was later discovered hanging by a ligature fashioned from the mattress cover.

Following the inquest, Styal Prison Governor Steve Hall said, “This is far too complex an issue to involve simply throwing stones at the prison system.”

The day before Valerie Hayes’ death, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers published her report on Styal. It said Styal had failed to implement eight out of 12 recommendations to prevent women trying to hurt or kill themselves.

Someone should be held accountable for this failure.

Pauline Campbell, Bereaved mother of Sarah Elizabeth Campbell, 18, who died on ‘suicide watch’ in Styal Prison’s segregation unit, 2003

We need to fight ideology of war

As an ex-soldier I understand the conditions endured by members of the armed forces and I empathise with them.

But when the media ignores the plight of the Iraqi people, it propagates biased views of our country’s behaviour.

I’m not dismissing our troops, rather trying to encourage people to remember the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died.

On Saturday 15 March I joined the London demonstration organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

At the demonstration I heard ex British SAS soldier Ben Griffin giving a passionate and committed speech.

He had refused to carry on working for the armed forces because he knew of potential war crimes committed by Britain and the US.

I felt sick for a moment, as if I had been unconscious for my whole life.

I have been forced to question the British government, the army, the media and Western ideology.

My plea is for people to try to engage with politics, consider what is being said and don’t feel afraid to have your opinion.

It does count, I can assure you.

Matt Bushell, by email

Don’t change your name

I hope Socialist Worker does not take up Johnny Miller’s suggestion to change its name (» Letters, 22 March).

There is a bad tradition on the left of reacting to change by sticking the word “new” in front of something – mostly when principles have been abandoned.

We need a socialist society more than ever and the working class is the only force that can win it.

We will do people no service by dumbing down our politics in order to appear “modern”.

Tony Phillips, East London

March led to new politics

Seeing myself in a picture above Pat Arrowsmith’s article about 50 years since the first Aldermaston anti-nuclear march (» Organising against Britain's Bomb, 22 March) brought back memories of how I became involved in politics.

I was at an underground station in London one evening in 1958 when I was 23 and saw a group of people with buckets and paint talking about banning the bomb.

I went over and asked what they were doing. They said they were involved in a campaign for unilateral disarmament and were going out painting slogans on walls.

So I went with them. It was very exciting and led to me going on the Aldermaston march, the start of a whole new political life.

Mary Phillips, South London

China has helped Tibet

You are wrong about Tibet (» Tibet rises up against decades of oppression, 22 March).

Before the Chinese government took control of the region women were denied access to education and peasants were unable to purchase their own plots of land.

The Chinese seizure of the region resulted in the abolition of these practices. Independence would threaten these progressive advances.

Benjamin Kindler, Hong Kong

Fight racism from below

Alex Callinicos is right that the current assault on “multiculturalism” is coming from the racist right and that we should treat it with the contempt it deserves (» The White Season's shabby attack on multiculturalism, 15 March).

But we shouldn’t be entirely uncritical of the top-down, box-ticking “multiculturalism” so beloved by government bureaucrats.

Multiculturalism is no substitute for a combative anti-racist movement from below that unites people to fight oppression.

Jiben Kumar, East London

Ken and Boris are the same

I find your position on Ken Livingstone (» Why has Ken Livingstone stopped being red?, 22 March) inexplicable.

The Labour Party is drowning in Iraqi blood. Ken Livingstone rejoined Labour after the invasion. I would no more vote for someone who recommended scabbing than I would vote Tory.

Why do you prefer pro-business, pro-police, pro-capitalist Ken to pro-business, pro-police, pro-capitalist Boris Johnson?

Chris, by email

Oil is central to US military

We should consider the importance of oil to the US war machine.

The US warplanes resemble the horse archers of the Mongol Empire in that they rely on speed, rather than firepower or armour, to thwart enemy counter-attacks. This requires huge amounts of fuel.

The Mongols’ horses needed grass just as the US planes need oil. They were invincible on the steppes, but ran into trouble in the forests of northern Russia or in the deserts of Arabia.

Maybe that is why the US is wary of Iran, fearing that a blockade of the Strait of Hormuz could bring US forces to their knees.

George Carty, by email

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Article information

Tue 25 Mar 2008, 18:57 GMT
Issue No. 2094
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