Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2108

Students joined the picket line in May as teachers at the Withins school in Bolton struck against plans to turn the school into an academy (Pic: Bolton Anti Academy Campaign)

Students joined the picket line in May as teachers at the Withins school in Bolton struck against plans to turn the school into an academy (Pic: Bolton Anti Academy Campaign)

Hands off our schools – say no to academies!

I can’t believe that the government is standing by – and even cheering on – while Sellafield takes over a school in Cumbria (» Schools go nuclear, 28 June).

This is the plant where a leak of plutonium and uranium in 2005 was not even noticed for nine months. It was one of the worst nuclear accidents in Britain.

The Sellafield plant puts the environment and the people of Cumbria at serious risk.

Research has found, for instance, that radioactive contamination of the groundwater under the plant is much higher than previously thought, potentially threatening the drinking water of thousands of people, not to mention the environmental damage.

The government talks about giving young people role models. How on earth is Sellafield a good role model?

Even if it had a pristine safety record – which it certainly does not – it is still not fit to be in charge of children’s education.

Nuclear power is unsafe, expensive and harmful to the environment. The idea that nuclear bosses should be in charge of education beggars belief.

What exactly does Sellafield know about education? Why is it qualified to be in charge of a school? Why is it that the government can’t fund education itself rather than putting children at the mercy of unethical, profit-hungry and dangerous corporations?

This announcement lays bare the reality of the government’s academies programme. We need to up the campaigns against them before it’s too late.

Sarah Bannister, Keswick

Bolton Council’s arrogance in thinking it could smoothly impose alternative employers on their education workforce is coming unstuck.

The council plans to transform Hayward and Withins schools in Bolton into academies. But pupil protests and strikes continue to have widespread repercussions within the schools and across the town.

Several joint union meetings have shown determination to resist the academy plans. And the NUT union’s strike at Withins school established once and for all that privatisation – a change of employer – is a trade dispute and can be challenged with industrial action.

Whatever the outcome in Bolton, a precedent has been set that has implications for our ability to organise right across public services.

Barry Conway, Bolton

War and hypocrisy

There has been a sharp increase in the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the last few weeks, with both the hundredth death and the first woman casualty being recorded.

Of course we don’t know how many Afghan civilians have died this month or any month for that matter.

An analysis of the data from the BBC website may tell an alarming story.

It appears to show a trend of a steady rise in the number of troop fatalities starting in May or June and peaking in August or September.

In 2006 there were 33 fatalities between May and September and in 2007 this had fallen slightly to 28.

Since May this year there have been 15 soldiers killed – a higher total than for the whole two months of May and June in either 2006 or 2007.

Gordon Brown’s decision to send 230 more troops to Afghanistan can only make the situation worse.

The need for a vibrant campaign to bring all of the soldiers home from both Afghanistan and Iraq is more urgent than ever.

Graham Donaldson, Edinburgh

Cameron and Mandela

I was shocked to see that Tory leader David Cameron had himself pictured at the feet of Nelson Mandela when Mandela visited Britain last week.

Surely I am not alone in remembering that, when Cameron and Boris Johnson were students during the Thatcher years, Tory students produced a poster with the slogan “Hang Nelson Mandela”?

The Iron lady herself described Mandela as a “terrorist”.

Cameron has been forced to come out and say that this was a “mistake”.

But we should not be fooled by the cuddly image the Tories are currently trying to forge.

Underneath the facade the Tory party is the same racist, reactionary party of the ruling class that it has always been.

Joseph Kerr, North West London

Busting the myth of student apathy

I am writing about a fantastic experience I had last week at a further education college in Morden, South London.

After making contact with a politics lecturer and member of the UCU union on a picket line at the college, I was invited into the class to talk about Marxism and socialism.

The students, aged between 17 and 19, had a keen interest in understanding how our lives are shaped by the system we live in.

The range of questions they asked was really inspiring – from how the lives of women would be different in a socialist society and how we would organise transport, to what’s happening in Zimbabwe and the problems faced by the Russian Revolution.

They had fantastic anti-racist instincts and I saw a few of them on the “Stop the BNP” demonstration on the Saturday afterwards.

Every student had a job and two-thirds worked over 20 hours a week. These are the same young people who are demonised by the right wing press and criminalised by the state through Asbos and youth detention centres.

These students show not only that young people are interested in politics and changing the world, but also how ignored and neglected they are by establishment politics and the system as a whole.

They reinforced my belief that another world is possible.

Sian Ruddick, South London

Market madness threatens health

I’m dismayed to see that the government is continuing to promote competition in the NHS by calling for the expansion of “nurse-led” services in primary care.

This involves groups of nurses setting themselves up as independent “trusts” that compete for contracts to sell services back to the NHS.

It is an extremely bureaucratic process that diverts resources out of the NHS.

When I started working for the NHS in 1982, admin costs accounted for 4 percent of the budget. Today they have risen to between 16 and 17 percent.

Labour has invested money in the NHS but it doesn’t actually feel any better because of the way the NHS is organised.

Health workers are encouraged to compete with their fellow workers rather than co-operate to deliver a good service for patients.

Nurses who transfer out of the NHS lose their NHS pensions and are forced to pay themselves lower wages to try and undercut other trusts.

The market approach to the health service fails patients and workers and we need to fight against it.

Karen Reissmann, Manchester

White men are not oppressed

The front page of last Thursday’s Daily Express read, “White Men to Face Jobs Ban”.

This was in response to a new government equality bill that proposes to encourage employers to employ more women and ethnic minorities.

It was described by some as giving women and ethnic minorities “special” rights.

But the fact that such policies have to be introduced in the first place is precisely because women and ethnic minorities still face discrimination.

The bill would force employers to disclose the average pay gap between their male and female employees.

The right wing media whips up a panic over these relatively mild measures when the real scandal is that the pay gap remains.

Lucy Gallagher, Sudbury, Suffolk

Crisis can cut through media

Sadie Robinson writes about the power of the mass media (» How powerful is the mass media? , 21 June).

It is important to remember that all “mass” media organisations are fundamentally capitalist and therefore their ultimate objective is maximisation of profit.

They write about most subjects only from this standpoint.

The world is facing the biggest peacetime crisis since the 1930s, which is laying bare the myth of “prosperity for all”. No amount of

pro-capitalist propaganda in the mass media can disguise this.

Carl Looker, Hull, East Yorkshire

Irish protest against Bush

On Monday 16 June 1,000 protesters gathered at Belfast City Hall to protest against the visit of the warmonger George Bush.

Protesters replaced the Union Jack over the hall with the Iraqi flag.

The protest had the support of a wide range of organisations including the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Sinn Fein joined the demonstration against Bush, but it was in fact Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, alongside Ian Paisley, who had invited him in the first place.

It is indicative of how far Sinn Fein has travelled from its anti-imperialist roots, cavorting with George Bush while the world demonstrates.

As Eamonn McCann said at the rally, you are either on the side of the oppressed or the oppressor – you can’t have it both ways.

Seán Mitchell, Belfast

Labour shame over housing

Investment in council housing is at a low under New Labour – but did you know that the government is actually siphoning off council rents to fund general expenditure?

For some years councils have had to hand over a large proportion of surplus revenue from rents on the pretext that this would be redistributed to fund council housing in areas where there was a deficit.

However it is reported in Home News (the journal of Bournemouth council) that “rents will outweigh expenditure in 2008-9 to the tune of more than £180 million”.

When people desperately need low rent public housing, New Labour is actually diverting money away from council housing.

G Way, Bournemouth

Nazis will use crisis to build

It was good to see so many people on the anti-British National Party (BNP) demo on 21 June.

But this is only the start of a lot of hard work that needs to be done to stop the Nazi BNP.

The BNP will – just as the Nazis did in Germany in the 1930s – use the present failing financial system to spread their lies and get elected, with disastrous consequences.

It is as important as ever to make clear that they are a Nazi party.

Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness

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Tue 1 Jul 2008, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2108
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