We fund them, they whack us
I am fed up with our union giving the Labour Party hundreds of thousands of pounds while in government that party attacks us. I am a postal worker in the Communication Workers Union (CWU). New Labour is pushing 'joint ventures' and privatisation which are a huge threat to our jobs and conditions.
The government also allows Post Office bosses to get away with outrageous bullying and harassment of our members in the workplace. So what do our union leaders do? They donate £500,000 to Labour from central funds and tens of thousands more from local branch funds. This is buying the bullets which will be shot at us! In several areas CWU members have tried recently to donate some branch money to the Socialist Alliance. In a number of cases this has been ruled out of order as contrary to the national rules (although there is a debate about this).
Our union should allow its members to decide which political party best represents the policies the union believes in – opposition to privatisation, anti-racism, renationalisation of British Telecom, and so on. We should back the push for a change in our union's rules to make it clear this is allowed. But there are also other things to do immediately. Every CWU member who supports the Socialist Alliance or the Scottish Socialist Party should do a collection in their workplace.
I have recently been elected as a full time salaried union official. I have decided that I should take no more wages than I was earning before, so last week £100 went to the Merseyside Socialist Alliance and £50 to the Dudley strikers. It would be great if other left wing officials in the unions made similar donations so that we can get the biggest possible vote for the left when the election comes.
JANE LOFTUS, Merseyside
Blame poverty not children for schools crisis
Teacher shortages are ruining our schools and it is poorer families who are hit hardest. Last week the Guardian showed that schools with 50 percent of children on free school meals had 10 percent of lessons with supply teachers. Schools with 5 percent of children in this situation had only 3 percent of lessons without a permanent teacher.
On one day my form had all their lessons without their usual subject teacher. Those with special needs or who speak little English are left to cope on their own. They lose interest and end up in confrontations. In my school there have been three ballots to refuse to teach children because of assaults on teachers. Instead of blaming the system, teachers' anger has focused on the individual child.
But with the call for action by the NUT union there was a different mood in our union meeting last week. While some teachers wanted exclusions, others argued back, seeing the link between the crisis and the lousy conditions we suffer. Teachers felt more confident about standing up against low pay, cover, workload and underfunding.
MICHAEL DANCE, North London
Until recently I would not have heard anything bad about Tesco. Being stuck at home with ME, I have relied for my groceries on its superb Tesco Direct home delivery service. When it started Tesco Direct, most of the customers ordered by phone. Now with so many more customers on the internet, it's not profitable to continue the phone service.
This particularly affects the housebound and the elderly, who depend on home deliveries and find prices in local shops prohibitive. It's not just Tesco Direct customers who are angry about this. My delivery man tells me this means an increased workload for them. He and several of his fellow workers are so upset that they are considering resigning.
In the end, it wasn't the service Tesco was interested in, it was the profit. Capitalism can offer a superb service, but only to those who can afford a computer.
ANN VINALL, North London
Left wing Israelis living in the UK attempted to hand a letter of protest in at the Israeli embassy on the night that war criminal Sharon won the Israeli election. The Israelis had joined Palestinians and many others on the angry Palestinian rights picket on Kensington High Street near the embassy. I went with the Israeli protesters to the embassy gates. I heard them being told on the intercom that they could not enter.
Embassy staff refused even to come to the gate and take the letter! Embassy officials had locked themselves in, unwilling to face those few courageous Israelis ready to declare themselves unconditional supporters of the Palestinian struggle. It was a fitting start to the most appalling regime in Israeli history-its cowardice and complete inability to un-derstand the world around it was on display for all to see.
JOHN ROSE, South London
Poverty in US
My wife was told on 23 January that she had lost her job due to a plant closure. I am on disability and I make $169 per month on social security. I know I am an American, but I would just like to tell an outside newspaper what goes on over here.
I hope we will end this capitalistic, monopolistic way of doing business where you're just on a spreadsheet, not seen as a human being. We may lose our home if she can't find another job. Even though I am disabled, I am going to try and find a job and go back to work, and save our home.
LEON LAWSON, United States
All socialists should be aware of the disgusting exchanges at prime minister's questions on 31 January. Hague and Blair badgered each other over who had the best policy on mistreating asylum seekers. Hague let go with his usual reactionary bile and Blair, rather than standing up to this, tried to prove that he was the man to do the job of turning away asylum seekers.
The fact that the Labour benches cheered their leader confirmed that New Labour and old Tory are the same. Socialists must abandon New Labour before there is no one standing up for the interests of the working class.
ALEX DAVIDSON, Derbyshire
Railly fed up
your report on the shabby state of the stations on the WAGN Liverpool Street to Chingford line is just one small illustration of the chaos that privatisation has brought to the railways. Some £9.8 billion has been given to the rail companies since privatisation but still we, as ordinary passengers, are faced with decrepit stations, delays and fears over the safety of the whole rail network.
Maintenance workers have recently complained that Railtrack is putting massive pressure on them to lift speed restrictions even though the tracks they are working on are still not safe. What clearer sign could there be that rail privatisation has meant Railtrack and the operating companies putting profit before people's safety?
Despite its promises before the last election and huge public support for the railways to be renationalised, New Labour refuses to reverse the Tory policy of rail privatisation. Instead it wants to extend privatisation to the tube, air traffic control and our schools. Enough is enough-let's make privatisation Blair's poll tax.
GAVIN BROWN, secretary, East London Socialist Alliance
Those who supported the protests over Jšrg Haider's Freedom Party entering the Austrian government should know the fight goes on. Thousands of people protested recently [above] to mark one year since the formation of the Tory/far right coalition. In addition there is still a protest every Thursday. I am glad to say that in the past 12 months Haider's support has fallen sharply. We will keep up the battle.
KERSTIN, Linkswende, Austria
Join the debate on elections
The brilliant success of the Globalise Resistance tour and the growing support for the Socialist Alliance should surely make us all rethink what forms of organisation are needed to win real change in the future. The anti-capitalist demos and the left election challenges to Labour are all marked by a strong sense of unity, of stressing what we agree on rather than what divides us.
I know that the SWP was important to some of these initiatives being launched. But surely now the stress for all socialists should be on much broader formations than previously. I would love to see even more unity and less stress on a 'hard' socialist party. The united movement first, our own parties a very distant second, please!
ANGELA WRIGHT, West London
I am somewhat confused about the SWP's attitude towards elections and the Socialist Alliance. Is this really about trying to get elected or is it just about propaganda?
SOCIALIST WORKER READER, South London
I very much hope that Chris Harman is right (Socialist Worker, 10 February) and that things are changing for the better. But I want to see a bit more evidence before I am convinced. Can you explain why the Socialist Alliance and the Scottish Socialist Party only get about 5 percent of the vote at elections if there are so many people fed up with New Labour?
OK, these left alternatives are new and don't get the publicity they deserve, but if people really wanted a socialist alternative a lot more of them would vote for it.
TERRY HUCKER, Birmingham