Third sector’s assault
I couldn’t agree more with your article about privatisation and the third sector (» An ‘acceptable’ face of privatisation?, 13 September).
I work in a job centre where a lot of the work – work focused interviews – has already been hived off to the private and “third” sector. In my area a charity called the Shaw Trust has “won” the contract to deliver these interviews.
They get paid about 50 percent of their fee just for delivering the service. They also get another chunk, about 30 percent, for placing people who are on incapacity benefit (shortly to become Employment Support Allowance) into work.
This work only has to be for one week and for eight hours in that week! The last part of the fee is for placing people into jobs that last for 26 weeks.
This means that the company/charity can earn 80 percent of their fee for placing people into entirely inappropriate jobs that they are not able to do. It does nothing to help the unemployed, but gives the company large amounts of taxpayers’ money.
Already two of the companies that won the contract to do these interviews have gone bust and one is being investigated for fiddling the figures of those they have got into “work”.
Not only is this bad for the unemployed, it also throws a large number of highly skilled civil service workers onto the dole. So far over 30,000 civil service workers in the Department for Work and Pensions have lost their jobs.
Unemployment is now at its highest level since New Labour came to power and is set to increase. Workloads are increasing massively while the workforce needed to pay benefits is rapidly falling.
It can now take weeks and weeks to get a Social Fund loan and is taking longer and longer for benefit claims to be paid. New Labour’s policies are about making the poor poorer while lining the pockets of big business.
The new Welfare Reform Green Paper is bringing in even more draconian attacks on the unemployed. People could be forced to clean up graffiti in return for benefits. The Green Paper represents the biggest attack on the welfare state since it was introduced.
The PCS union needs to unite with all other unions to launch a massive campaign against all these attacks on our jobs and services.
Kate Douglas, Oxford
Your article on the big profits behind privatised services (» Big profits behind privatised services, 13 September) was absolutely fantastic.
I am no socialist worker, but I am no fan of capitalism. I had the fortune of working for A4e, the company mentioned in the article, and I am glad I did.
All I can say is it is an absolute disgrace what is going on in the “third sector”, and I have seen this first hand. These companies are putting nothing at all into unemployed people – they are used as a bargaining chip to make more cash.
Tommy Harrison, Bournemouth
A solution to crisis
The biggest ever bailout – nationalisation of lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – has failed to stabilise the financial system. Lehman Brothers has collapsed. More companies will follow.
Some argue that no amount of Keynesian intervention can stave off economic collapse (» Can state intervention solve the crisis?, 13 September).
That may be right. The unbridled shift to free market economics has produced a financial maelstrom that may prove unsolvable with conventional policies.
But all the intervention witnessed to date, in both the US and Britain, has failed a critical Keynesian test.
Increased government spending, tax cuts or public sector bailouts for banks will not work if central banks do not deliver the requisite monetary policy.
We saw this in Japan. Public sector spending, as a proportion of GDP, rose from 65 percent in 1990 to 175 percent in 2005. But this failed to stabilise property prices and prevent economic stagnation, because interest rates remained too high in the early years.
Keynes argued that interest rate expectations had to be driven down in tandem with increased public spending. Otherwise, bigger public sector debts would simply crowd out private sector borrowing.
If Japan had followed proper Keynesian policies, it would have averted much of the deflation that consumed its economy.
Governments of today have failed to deliver a true Keynesian policy. Central banks may be responsible for inflation, but governments set the goalposts.
And both believe that interest rates have to remain high in case “higher wages cement the recent rise in inflation”.
They fail to understand that wages for many ordinary workers are not going up, but instead are falling sharply in real terms.
The current crisis looks set to intensify. And by the time a true Keynesian policy is implemented, it may well be too late for conventional remedies.
Graham Turner, Author of The Credit Crunch, Pluto Press
Extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland
Women in Northern Ireland have more reason than most to be excited about the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, expected to be debated and passed this autumn.
An amendment to the bill calls for the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland. If passed this would give women here access to free, safe and legal abortions for the first time.
Today if a woman wishes to terminate an intolerable pregnancy in Northern Ireland, she must raise up to £2,000 to travel abroad. If this fails she must continue with the pregnancy.
Disgracefully all of Northern Ireland’s main parties oppose the extension of the act.
The politicians claim that no one in Northern Ireland wants to see the act extended. But no one told the packed audience in the Europa Hotel who turned up to the launch of the Alliance For Choice campaign recently.
The clear message was that the fight is on to correct the historic injustice against women in Northern Ireland. There is a real sense that we can win!
We are calling on the solidarity of our sisters and brothers in England, Scotland and Wales.
Write to your MP calling on them to vote for this amendment. Pass motions at your local trade union branch and ask for donations for the campaign. Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Muldoon, Belfast
Well done for exposing state
Full support must be given to Socialist Worker and its reporter Simon Basketter for exposing all the British government’s lies in its terrible complicity in the torturing of people at Guantanamo Bay (» British state is complicit in Guantanamo torture, 30 August).
It is the only paper that I’m aware of that does a good job at exposing the dangerous collusion of MI5 and the US government in torturing innocent civilians in its so called “war on terror”.
Concentration camps were used by the British state to kill thousands in the Boer War and more during the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya in the 1950s.
It was revealing to learn that – disgustingly – the British state bankrolled a similar sort of internment camp to be used in the same way in Diego Garcia, as it went on to “steal a nation” which has been well documented by John Pilger.
Internment camps like Guantanamo Bay are a dangerous scar on the face of the earth. For the sake of all of humanity I long to see the day when hellholes of this type are shut down once and for all and the innocent inmates released.
Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness
Cromwell’s real legacy
In light of John Rees’ narrative of the 1640s and Oliver Cromwell’s legacy (» Oliver Cromwell’s legacy, 6 September), I would like to point that there was nothing “English” about the “English Civil War”.
The upheavals of the era started with the Covenanters in Scotland.
And when Cromwell became Commander-in-Chief and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1649, his rule was far from one of enlightened progress.
Within months he had overseen the massacres of the townsfolk of Drogheda and Wexford, both of which were justified as “godly retribution” upon “barbarous wretches” who had dared to oppose Protestant land settlement and the transportation of Catholics.
Gajendra Singh, Edinburgh
The true cost of price rises
Many elderly and disabled people are now suffering from the high rise in electric and gas prices. They have pre-payment meters and they are cut off automatically when people don’t put money in them.
This is why electric companies are saying now that less people are disconnected by them – the poor disconnect themselves.
The government also knows this and this makes the government, led by an unelected prime minister, just as corrupt.
Anthony Rodgers, Sheffield
The US wants strong Russia
This is definitely no Cold War nor is there any real tension at all (» Is Caucasus conflict a new Cold War?, 6 September).
George Bush is no doubt ecstatic that Russia has started to take back the breakaway states that were previously within the Eastern bloc.
Now that the breakaway states like Chechnya are beginning to succumb to Islamic fundamentalism which the West is so afraid of, George Bush wants nothing less than a strong Russia to stop them.
Tim Romain, Maidenhead
In memory of Colin Crawford
I would like to inform Socialist Worker readers of the sad death of former comrade Colin Crawford.
Active in the Doncaster branch of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Colin helped build a branch at Doncaster College and School of Art and took part in several marches against the Poll Tax and the 1991 Gulf War.
An inspirational socialist and artist, his sudden death at the age of 37 was a shock to his family and I know he will be missed by many comrades in the SWP.
Michael Walton, Doncaster
Celebrating Eleanor Marx
Last week English Heritage put up a plaque to commemorate the socialist Eleanor Marx at Jews Walk in Sydenham.
There was a great crowd of around 100 people.
Speakers rightly said Eleanor Marx would be surprised how similar things are now to how they were in her time – Britain in endless wars, the gap between rich and poor increasing, and women still having to fight for equality in society.
It’s heartening to celebrate such an inspiring comrade. As civic occasions go, let’s have more like this!
Peter Robinson, South East London
Correcting a small error
A small error crept into my letter you kindly published last week (» Letters, 13 September).
The right wing mayor of Comison is not proposing the airport be named after Benito Mussolini but that it revert to its original name when built during the fascist dictator – in honour of the fascist Vincenzo Magliocco.
Marita Mariani, West London