Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2115

We need renewables – not coal or nuclear

The idea that “the lights will go out” unless we have the Kingsnorth power station or nuclear power is wrong.

Nuclear power stations and “clean” coal-fired power stations cannot be built quickly enough to fill the supposed “energy gap”.

Most renewable sources of power are quick to build. And there are more than enough of them to meet Britain’s needs.

It is not true that renewables are “too expensive”. Although carbon capture and storage has not yet been demonstrated on any power station, it is likely that “clean” coal will prove to be one of the most expensive sources of electricity.

When all the environmental and hidden costs are factored in, nuclear power is also one of the most expensive sources of electricity.

There is a way of safeguarding against any possibility of a temporary shortfall in electricity supplies. The government should introduce a vigorous programme of “zero-carbon eco-renovation” of existing buildings.

Since most buildings are heated by gas, this would mean large savings in the amount of gas used for heating. If there is any shortfall in electricity supplies, some of the gas that has been saved by eco-renovation could be used for generating electricity.

Naturally, any gas that is used in that way should be burned in combine-heat-and-power units to make maximum use of waste heat from electricity generation. The Stern report has made it clear that we must start spending money now to avoid much larger costs later.

Renewables with energy conservation are the way forward.

Dr Gerry Wolff, Anglesey

You are right to highlight the large and aggressive scale of the police operation against protesters at Kingsnorth power station (» Climate protesters defy police, 16 August).

I live in Whitstable, Kent, and as I drove to work in Canterbury on the Wednesday of the climate camp, I passed a number of police transit vans. I thought I was hallucinating because the police markings were in Welsh as well as English – and Whitstable must be a good 150 miles from Wales.

When I got to work at the University of Kent I found that the police had requisitioned a large part of the university’s car parking space. The campus was full of yet more police transits from police forces across England and Wales.

Never mind the cost – financially and environmental – of drafting in so many police from so far afield, the whole operation was totally over the top. Especially when set against the aims of the protesters – defending the safety and future of the planet.

Tom Behan, Whitstable, Kent

US miners’ hidden tale

You were wrong to say that the Battle of Blair Mountain in West Virginia in 1921 involved federal aircraft dropping bombs (» The 1920s were a decade of defeat , 9 August).

It is true that such bombs were brought to our state and squadron leader Billy Mitchell wanted to use them.

But the bombs dropped were under the command of state and local government forces – to the delight and with the support of mine operators.

The union miners were led by Bill Blizzard – a genuine US hero. Bill and his Red Neck Army did not want a revolution so much as to bring the US constitution to West Virginia.

His son – now aged 91 – wrote When Miners March, the definitive history of the Battle and surrounding events (see »

Sadly our own children are not taught about the union’s heroic effort – it is not seen as politically correct in a state virtually owned by big coal to this very day.

Mainstream “academic” histories of both the left and right often claim that the 1920s were a decade of defeat for the miners – but this is a shallow understanding indeed.

Blair Mountain and the trials that followed were the furnace that tempered the steel of the next generation of union leaders in the West Virginia coal fields.

Bill Blizzard and his cadre of grassroots leaders would go on to organise virtually all of West Virginia in the 1930s.

Wess Harris, West Virginia, US


Our branch of the PCS civil service workers’ union is small but effective – with just over 300 members spread over a vast area.

Last week, the branch executive committee voted unanimously to support those arrested following strikes in Mahalla, Egypt, to write a letter of protest to the Egyptian embassy and send a message of support to the Mahalla workers.

Other branches should up the pressure as the so-called trial opens – an injury to one is an injury to all!

Tim Nicholls, Chair, DWP Dorset PCS (pc)

Nationalisation call can shed light on system

Surely it is time to call for nationalisation of the corporations and organisations that are so arrogantly hiking up prices?

We know it is very unlikely to happen, but such a call places the government centre stage in their relationship to the rich. They are, under the guise of spurious democracy, the executive agency of these robbers.

But such a nationalisation call makes the nature of the system clearer for many to see.

It reveals the relationship of the state to industry.

It also shows that only a force that can topple the state and take control of industry will rid the world of the crippling mess that is consuming us all.

That force is the struggle of working people themselves.

Nationalisation was a constant request in the 1930s.

When it took place after 1945 it was not to control the previous decade’s robbery by the rich, but to patch up war torn and wholly unprofitable industry.

Once the mending was largely completed and the political opportunities arose, privatisation entered the door.

Working people as taxpayers footed the bill for the repairs to industry and then suffered once the private sharks returned.

Nationalisation seems to me to be an apt rallying call for today to try and help blow up the balloon of a working class fight back.

Colin Frost-Herbert, Haywards Heath, Sussex

We’ll have sports under socialism

In his generally insightful article on the Olympics and sport under capitalism, I can’t help feeling Chris Bambery takes his conclusion a few steps too far (» Sport’s race to the bottom, 9 August).

Chris is, of course, right to slam the web of corporate and political horror within which the Olympics sits.

Under the current system there is an attempt to colonise our “leisure” time. The sports and games we love and invent are forever being squeezed awkwardly into tidy packages for sale back to us.

But to declare that human emancipation will see the end of all desire to compete seems to me to be throwing the sporting baby out with the capitalist bathwater.

I should perhaps declare an interest as a lover of both football and board games! But come on, will a socialist revolution really see us lose all interest in watching footie or playing chess?

Sports and games of one sort or another pre-date not only capitalism but all hierarchical societies and I can’t see them dying out.

Hopefully, freeing us from the constraints of capitalism will simply give us more time and space to play. Game on!

Ben Drake, York

Tabloids must say sorry

Colin Stagg, who was cleared 13 years ago of murdering Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common, has finally been awarded £706,000 compensation.

The response of the tabloids who hounded Stagg at the time of his trial was predictable.

The Sun bemoaned the level of the compensation and reprinted an old front page with the headline “No Girl Is Safe”.

When Stagg was acquitted the judge said the police in the case had “not merely an excess of zeal, but a blatant attempt to incriminate a suspect by positive and deceptive conduct of the grossest kind”.

The tabloids and police should finally apologise to Colin Stagg – an innocent man.

Josie Dwyer, Wolverhampton

Wrong on Tory 1979 election

Alex Callinicos is wrong to claim that the Conservative Party won the general election of May 1979 thanks to some “sea change” in the public mood (» What’s behind the return of Tories?, 9 August).

The Conservatives won that election by 7 percent.

However they had been 20 percent ahead of Labour in the Gallup opinion poll in February that year.

As late as November 1978, they had trailed Labour by 5 percent.

The Conservative victory in 1979 could more easily be attributed to election timing rather than the “sea change” explanation.

David Rolfe, Telford, Shropshire

Right to stop oath to crown

The move to scrap the allegiance oath to the crown has been a long time coming.

We already know that a number of MPs have crossed their fingers when taking it while saying an alternative under their breath.

In the courts witnesses are offered alternatives and so should be the case for our elected members of parliament.

Bob Miller, Chelmsford, Essex

There was Roman racism

Andy Ridley questions whether the Roman Empire was racist (» Letters, 9 August).

Capitalism has certainly created new forms of racism.

Pseudo-science has been used to claim that black people are “inferior” as a way of justifying slavery and imperialism.

And racial genocide has been turned into an industrial process.

But all class societies involve divisions fostered by the ruling class as a way of maintaining control.

Greeks and Romans were encouraged to think of others as “barbarians”.

Aristotle and Cicero regarded some groups as “natural slaves”.

These attitudes are no different in principle from many forms of cultural racism today – and the solution is to end all forms of class society.

Neil Faulkner, St Albans

Racism and capitalism

I agree that racism is a modern form of oppression (» Letters, 9 August).

I don’t doubt that there were many prejudices before capitalism and many hostilities encouraged by the world’s rulers.

But the division of the world into different “races” with ascribed inherent characteristics is a much more modern phenomenon.

It was produced by the clash of ideals of the French and American revolutions with the horrific reality of the slave trade.

It took many years for this racism to become entrenched.

The ruling class had to work hard to impose the idea of “race” precisely because it was a newly invented way of understanding the world.

Sabiha Ghani, Manchester

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Tue 19 Aug 2008, 18:36 BST
Issue No. 2115
Share this article

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.