Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2101

Striking postal workers showed the way to beat back privatisation in Royal Mail

Striking postal workers showed the way to beat back privatisation in Royal Mail

Competition threatens future of post service

Royal Mail is in crisis yet again. In 2005-6 Royal Mail Group made profits of £355 million. It has seen these shrink to £233 million in 2006-7, and down to £162 million in 2007-8.

Royal Mail Letters made a loss of £3 million in 2007-8, in contrast with a profit of £136 million in 2006-7.

It’s hardly surprising then that the initial report from the government’s review of postal services says that there is “now a substantial threat to Royal Mail’s financial stability and, therefore, the universal service”.

It states that the top 50 companies which post 40 percent of mail in Britain have benefitted from being able to switch to Royal Mail’s cherry-picking rivals.

But there have been “no significant benefits from liberalisation for smaller businesses and domestic customers”.

In January 2006, Royal Mail’s monopoly on collecting, sorting and delivering mail was scrapped by the regulator Postcomm.

Since then competitors have taken more and more of the profitable work through downstream access. This is where companies collect mail from big businesses “upstream” (cheap to do), and take it to Royal Mail to be delivered “downstream” (expensive to do).

By last year the likes of TNT had grabbed 20 percent of the profitable upstream market, including 40 percent of bulk mail posted by businesses.

This has been encouraged by a Postcomm ruling that if Royal Mail offers to collect and deliver bulk mail cheaper, then it has to allow rival companies to have cheaper downstream access to its delivery network as well. No wonder Royal Mail hasn’t won a contract for bulk mail since 2006!

This year is crunch time for postal workers and the service we provide. Royal Mail management is already attacking our pensions to cut costs, claiming it can no longer afford them.

We have to fight this, and we will. But unless the dire impact of postal liberalisation is reversed, then we will face repeated attacks on our wages, pensions, and terms and conditions.

The CWU union campaigned for and won the government review of liberalisation. Now it must demand that the result of the review is to stop Postcomm undermining Royal Mail in favour of its competitors.

Otherwise it will be confirmation that Labour no longer represents postal workers’ interests, and we must look to others to do so.

Simon Midgley, CWU political representative, Bradford & District Amal branch (pc)

Turkey’s tradition

Jamie Allinson wrote that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk “transformed Turkey to compete with the West” (» The birth of modern Turkey, 26 April).

However, the revolution of 1908 was the real turning point in the creation of modern Turkey.

Along with the “Young Turks” and their political party – the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP) – Armenians, Greeks and Jews played a central role in the revolutionary movement.

After a counter-revolution backed by the Sultan in 1909 was defeated, the Sultan was removed and replaced by a purely symbolic monarch.

Sharia courts were abolished, as were the concessions to foreign capitalist powers. A great movement for freedom grew up, including a flowering of the women’s movement.

After 1911, the new regime turned on its Armenian, Greek and Jewish allies. This was the end of any real democracy and also led to the liquidation of the Armenians in 1915.

Ataturk’s role was as military leader of the resistance to the imperialist attempt to break up Turkey. But the movement he led had been built by the CUP.

Unlike the CUP government, the republic founded in 1923 gave new concessions to foreign capitalists and privatised public utilities. Political opposition was ended by a series of show trials in 1926 ending with the executions of potential political rivals to Ataturk.

The Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin saw the 1908 revolution as one of three great revolutions triggered by the 1905 revolution in Russia – China and Iran were the others.

Leon Trotsky described 1908 as a “revolution in the tradition of 1789 and 1848”, emphasising the role of the masses in carrying out the revolution.

Turkey’s ruling class want us to forget that the multi-ethnic revolution of 1908 brought unprecedented freedoms. They want us believe that all progress was the work of a single man, now represented by the current Turkish state.

We need to keep the revolutionary tradition alive.

Cem Uzun, Istanbul, Turkey

Fantastic victory for Barrow People’s Party

Four members of the People’s Party were elected in Barrow, Cumbria, on 1 May.

We fought the election campaign on a number of issues very important to the Barrow community.

We’ve been heavily involved in the campaign against the council’s plan to close three schools and replace them with one academy.

We’ve opposed the spiralling council tax bills and fought plans to demolish over 130 houses in the name of “regeneration”.

Our members have been involved in the peace coalition since 2003 and have helped organise lots of anti-war demonstrations.

In the Ormsgill ward, a deprived ward in Barrow, we won all three seats.

The fascist British National Party put up two candidates. They put out more than four different leaflets and put a lot of effort into their campaign.

But they came last in the election and many were disgusted at their campaign.

Our election result wasn’t a shock because we’ve been working very hard with all the different communities in Barrow for a number of years.

There are lots of people in desperate need of help in Barrow and we’re in a better position than ever to keep building the campaigns against neoliberalism and war.

Jim Hamezeian, Barrow People’s Party

The dirty wound of police racism

The news that police officers involved in the death of Frank Ogboru will not face charges because of “lack of evidence” comes as no surprise.

Frank died in 2006 after being restrained by several police officers in south east London. Despite the fact that he told them he couldn’t breathe, the officers piled on top of him and he lost consciousness.

Far too many deaths in police custody have resulted in no charges. There is still no accountability, and without accountability people will never have any confidence in the police.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission was set up in 1998. But there’s nothing independent about it. In February 100 lawyers resigned from it because of its lack of independence.

Police racism is like a dirty wound left festering, while the government gives more powers to the police.

The campaign for justice for my brother Christopher Alder, who died in police custody in 1998, has been worthwhile – the amount of information that has come out as a result is unbelievable. We have to keep campaigning for truth and justice.

Janet Alder, Burnley, Lancashire

Saluting the dockers

I would like to congratulate the US dockers on their spectacular strike action on 1 May.

All 29 ports on the west coast of the US were shut down as part of “No Peace, No Work” day, in protest at the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Millions have shown their opposition to the war by marching in the streets, and now it is time to take that to the next level.

This is why we are campaigning for our student unions to boycott military recruitment.

The dockers’ strike shows the potential for concerted mass action to undermine support for the war, and provides encouragement to anti-war activists everywhere.

Dave Sewell, Manchester

Lie detectors for ministers

I hear that the experiment in the use of “lie detectors” has proved so effective in countering fraud among a group of social security claimants that the process is to be “rolled out” countrywide to all claimants.

My question is – when will it be used in the House of Commons to monitor our country’s leaders and the braying hangers-on lolling on the green leather benches?

Derek Hanlin, Porth, Mid Glamorgan

Marxism and oppression

It’s good to see that Alex Callinicos is someone who appreciates the importance of Karl Marx’s contribution to the ongoing struggle of the oppressed (» Why Marx matters, 26 April).

If we view Marx as an outdated dreamer, we will never realise the potential his work has to offer us now.

There is much to learn from Marx, and if nothing else we should take the inspiration to unite from his work.

He showed us that change is possible.

Ellie Mackay, South London

Species confusion?

Are you really suggesting in your article on the origin of war that hunter-gatherers, indigenous Australians for instance, were a separate species – “human-like” (» The beginning of organised violence, 10 May)?

Surely this is an implicitly racist confusion between evolution and social change. Please explain your position.

Gavin Edwards, Cardiff

Reclassified as criminal

Home secretary Jacqui Smith reclassified cannabis from class C to class B last week.

In doing so she went against scientific opinion, which argued that this was unnecessary and would not have any impact on cannabis use.

The move is designed to give the impression that the government is being “tough” on drugs.

But people will use cannabis no matter what its classification is. All the change will mean is that more people are unfairly criminalised.

Ruth Lorimer, East London

The politics of Persepolis

Zaheda Rahman is absolutely right that we should judge art by its own rules (» Letters, 10 May). Persepolis is undoubtedly a wonderful animation – but it is also political.

Zaheda appreciates this context and rightly says the film humanises Iranian people. My problem with it is that it only humanises Iranians who are secular.

The false dichotomy of the secular progressive on the one side and the religious backward on the other remains at best unchallenged, if not reaffirmed.

Persepolis has a pessimistic, distorted view of Iranian society. By watching the film we get the impression that this is the reality of that society.

We shouldn’t be afraid to challenge that view.

Naz Massoumi, Bristol

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Tue 13 May 2008, 19:09 BST
Issue No. 2101
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