Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2114

Police and protester at the climate camp last weekend  (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

Police and protester at the climate camp last weekend (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

The West, China and hypocrisy

It really does irk how Western governments are acting in a superior manner over China’s human rights abuses. It sounds like something from our colonial past – the moral West versus the uncivilised East.

This is despite the fact that we have illegally invaded two countries committing countless atrocities. There are no human rights for Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is not to say that China does not have major issues with human rights, trade union freedoms and Tibet.

But before we get carried away complaining about how Chinese police treat protesters we ought to look at the Climate Camp, where British police in riot gear harassed a peaceful protest.

The protesters are the conscience of the nation and rather than being hit over the head with a truncheon they should be given a medal. And the West calls China a police state?

Mark Holt, Chair, Merseyside Stop the War

These are our streets

A shopping centre manager and security staff attacked the longstanding Socialist Worker stall in Wood Green, north London two weekends ago. This is the latest incident in a long battle for socialists and community activists to run stalls down a high street that the shopping centre increasingly claims as its property.

Police arrested the manager for criminal damage to our stall. This is not a regular occurrence. The manager was bundled into a police car to the applause of a large crowd who had gathered in the street to protest against his actions.

The damage to our materials included the destruction of an aluminium table and the ripping up of our newspapers and books.

It is important that street campaigners know the law and use it where they can. Whether a pavement is owned by a private company or not, people have a right to campaign and sell registered newspapers on all public rights of way.

The response from passers-by to the incident was fantastic. Many of them stood around for over an hour to shout at the manager and security staff that the pavement was not theirs and that we had a right to be there.

We had been petitioning against rising gas prices and demanding the renationalisation of British Gas. It seemed that this issue was linked in the minds of the public who supported us against the attack with their increasing concerns over the privatisation of public space.

When private corporations begin trying to claim that something as public as a pavement is now private property, they can arouse anger among people who may previously have had little sense of politicisation.

We know it and the public know it – the streets are ours, and the corporations can expect a long and bitter battle if they attempt to take them away from us.

We will continue to return to the same pitch to sell Socialist Worker and agitate for a society in which greedy capitalists own nothing.

Adam Lambert, North London

They owe us back pay

Socialist Worker’s front page headline, “Tax the energy giants and cut fuel bills”, was true and perceptive.

Our ancestors gave the nation the infrastructure for a basic wage. We had a windfall tax on banks in 1981. Margaret Thatcher used it to defeat the miners and pay the dole through the 1980s.

Cedric Brown, the former chief executive of British Gas, and Thatcher’s fellow travellers owe us some back pay to get the low paid and the old through this winter.

Let’s renationalise without compensation and tell the European Union to get lost. We have tried their market solutions and we should not let these fat cats get away with highway robbery.

Burn your bills and organise for something better than this squalid cartel in power.

Chris H, Tolpuddle

Is windfall right call?

I agree that we “should not foot the bill for the energy barons” (» Tax the energy giants and cut fuel bills, 9 August). These rapacious profiteers give themselves vast salaries and huge dividends as fuel poverty grows.

However, is a windfall tax the right call? Who would receive the benefit – ordinary households or the government?

What guarantee would we have that the government would pass on the extra revenue (minus administrative costs) to the consumer? And how would this be done?

Should we not rather call for price controls? This would mean statutory intervention to prevent the energy barons, and their friends who milk our utilities and railways, from driving us into further hardship.

Unlike a windfall tax, price controls would be a logical “first step towards nationalisation” if the companies failed to deliver or if they decided to shut down and move abroad. The only solution then would be to bring the management of our energy needs back into public ownership.

Stewart Crehan, Stoke-on-Trent

Left should back McKinney not Nader

Although I have a great respect for Ralph Nader as a US presidential candidate (» Letters, 2 August), if I was a US voter I would be backing Cynthia McKinney.

Cynthia is far stronger in terms of ecology and socialism. She campaigns on a platform of “keep the oil in the soil” and has a record as a Democrat Congresswomen of pushing environmental legislation.

She has been at the forefront of anti-war struggles and was virtually hounded out of Congress because of her criticism of Israel and US imperialism.

She makes common cause with the social movements in countries like Venezuela and Bolivia. How many presidential candidates are friends of Palestine?

Unlike Nader she has been selected democratically by thousands of Green Party members across the US and has received strong backing from socialists outside the party.

With Rosa Clemente she is part of an all women, all African-American Green ticket.

She is a keen supporter of the death row political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal.

For those of us who are Green Party socialists, Cynthia provides a strong example of how green politics can be reclaimed from the likes of those European Green Parties who have moved to the right.

Dr Derek Wall, Windsor, Berkshire

Monbiot is wrong on nuclear power

The writer George Monbiot is right to say that we have to scrap coal fired power stations to save the planet. Where he’s wrong is his idea that part of the alternative could be nuclear power.

Nuclear power does not mean carbon neutral electricity. While the nuclear reaction itself doesn’t emit greenhouse gas, every other part of the process does.

Nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and the long list of regular incidents and safety breaches, have shown us that nuclear power is fundamentally dangerous.

It’s also inextricably linked to nuclear weapons.

The fight against climate change does not mean that we need to adopt discredited technologies such as nuclear power, nor unproven ones like carbon capture and storage.

Renewables – wind, wave and solar – could provide all the power we need, but they aren’t as profitable for private energy companies.

Proponents of nuclear power often call those of us who oppose it irrational. But the real irrationality is letting the market stand in the way of the real answers to climate change.

Elaine Graham-Leigh, North London

DWP leaders were wrong

Leaders of the PCS union’s group executive in the Department for Work and Pensions made the wrong decision in not calling a strike alongside local government workers in July (» PCS DWP executive wrong to say no to strikes, 12 July).

I also think the PCS pension deal was “shabby”, as it did nothing for new entrants.

We need solidarity across the unions not just within the PCS.

Robert Murray, South Tyneside

Sick facing oppression

The government’s benefit reform plans will mean more misery for the poor (» Benefits ‘reform’ will mean misery for the very poorest, 26 July).

When people with disablities apply for a job, the application form usually questions whether you have been on incapacity benefit or how many days you have been off sick in the last year.

Many disabled people apply for a huge number of jobs and never get an interview.

This is oppression.

Moreover these plans are not only going to affect current incapacity claimers but also future incapacity claims. Anyone can become disabled or get an illness.

If we don’t campaign against the government, incapacity benefits won’t be there for you, your families or your friends in the future.

Teresa Rayner, Bolton

Death of an Italian fascist

Admiral Gino Birindelli died in Rome last week. In 1971 he was in command of Nato’s Mediterranean fleet, which was based in Malta.

That year saw a hard fought general election on the island during which the admiral warned if the Labour Party was elected “Malta would lose its freedom” and that the party’s leader, Dom Mintoff would allow the Russians to use it as a naval base.

Labour did win, by a narrow majority, and Mintoff expelled the admiral from Malta.

On his return to Italy Birindelli was elected to parliament as a neo-fascist MP.

Mintoff succeeded in getting the naval base shut down. During the 1990s he was sidelined in the Maltese Labour Party, regarded as being Old Labour.

Elena Cachia, West London

Consultation was a sham

Socialist Worker is right to express anger at plans to sell off the Post Office card account (2 August), which would lead to further post office closures.

The recent six week consultation period on proposed closures was nothing but a sham.

In West Yorkshire, 63 post office branches were earmarked for closure.

Despite much local opposition, only two have survived.

One is in the Dewsbury constituency of international development minister Shahid Malik and the other is in the Pontefract and Castleford constituency of Yvette Cooper, chief secretary to the treasury.

John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire

Question over Jewish revolt

I was confused by Neil Faulkner’s article on the Roman emperor Hadrian (» Hadrian and the limits of empire, 2 August), particulary over its analysis of the Jewish revolt.

My understanding was that most Jews did not live in Palestine, and that far from supporting the Jewish revolt in Palestine, there is little evidence to suggest that they were sympathetic to its aims.

Is there not a danger that in attempting too direct a comparison between the ancient past and the present, Neil might unwittingly be opening the door to contemporary national myths?

There are dangers with this kind of use of the ancient past as can be seen from India to Israel.

John Game, Central London

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Article information

Tue 12 Aug 2008, 19:15 BST
Issue No. 2114
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