Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2123

Police row reveals the racism of the state

The high levels of racism inside the Metropolitan Police, exposed by the Black Police Officers Association when they said that people from ethnic minorities should not join the force, comes as no surprise to socialists.

Almost everyone agrees that police harbour racists in their ranks, but what is being revealed here is more than a “few bad apples”.

Instead we are seeing evidence of systematic discrimination, which afflicts the police from top to bottom. Even some police bosses admit that black officers have to work twice as hard to win promotion as their white counterparts.

The disgraceful way that black police are being treated should prompt us to ask, if this is how they treat their own, how does the rest of black Britain fare in their encounters with the cops?

Racial discrimination in the police is not some aberration that can be ironed out by a new police chief, new policies, nor even so form of “community control” of the service. It is built into the nature of the state of which the police are a part.

The British state needs and promotes racist ideas because, as the revolutionary black leader Malcolm X said, you can’t have capitalism without having racism.

Policies that divide and rule the working class majority into competing groups are essential to keeping a tiny minority in power.

The role of the police is this respect is to act as enforcers of racist ideologies – which is why Socialist Worker’s reporting of the targeting of young black men on their way to this year’s Notting Hill carnival fits a pattern of policing that goes back generations.

If we are ever to break the pernicious hold of racist ideas in society it is important to know who are our friends and who are our enemies.

One thing is certain, the state will never number among our friends.

John Laurencin, East London

New Labour is fond of scapegoating the most vulnerable in society. Two of its favourite targets are Muslims and children. Now it has combined these in a new low by trying to whip up racist hysteria against Muslim schoolchildren.

Ed Balls has just announced £4 million towards combating “violent extremism influenced by Al Qaida” in our schools. Balls claims that teachers will not be asked to spy on children but if we notice something amiss then we should inform the authorities.

At a time when the fascist BNP is starting to make headway this sort of racist nonsense is disgustingly cynical and teachers should refuse to have anything to do with it.

My school is predominately Muslim and it will be a cold day in hell before I contribute towards making my students feel even more marginalised by parroting New Labour’s propaganda.

Mabel O’Sullivan, East London

Bank staff are crisis victims too

As the storm hits the financial sector and threatens the rest of the world, there is rightly anger at the fat cats who have made millions getting us into this mess.

However, it is worth bearing in mind that the majority of workers in the finance sector don’t earn anything like the bosses of Lehman Brothers.

Many of those whose jobs are under threat are back office workers – clerical and customer support staff – that are poorly paid and are struggling to juggle mortgage and debt repayments like everyone else.

I worked for Standard Life in Edinburgh for seven years and the majority of workers in that company are earning less than £20,000 a year.

Even where salaries are higher than average, such as for IT workers, final salary pensions have been axed and pay rises have been below inflation for years.

Workers in the finance sector are poorly unionised and so have put up little resistance to attacks so far, but that doesn’t mean that every worker in a suit supports the sort of activities that have led to this crisis.

At Standard Life, a move to close the final salary pension saw 1,000 workers join the Unite union, which shows some of the potential for resistance if the unions take the sector seriously.

Today with thousands of bank workers losing their jobs and thousands more facing an uncertain future, they are some of the first casualties of the crisis. It is just as much in their interest to organise and oppose such attacks as any other section of workers.

Joe Hartney, Edinburgh

Congratulations on your protest against the bank bail outs on Friday 10 October. Here in Brazil the big media normally refuses to show anything that could inflame the people.

However for some reason the major news television channel today showed your demonstration.

Guilherme Maringa, Brazil

Government’s ID cards are legalised stalking

Next month the government plans to issue the first wave of identity cards. Over the next eight years everyone will be issued with a card.

One sinister aspect of the scheme is the National Identity Register (NIR) – a huge database that backs up the cards.

There will be up to 50 pieces of information on every individual, and it will be up to us to ensure the details are correct.

The police, NHS, local government, vehicle licensing, and ultimately schools and universities will all be linked into the NIR, meaning that anyone with clearance will be able to access information about you.

That “anyone” could be a government employee or someone in a private company.

If it were an individual drawing together so much information about one person, anti-stalking laws might be able to stop them. But this is the government stalking the entire population so no such laws apply.

Last week a group of Dutch students discovered a way of cloning Oyster Cards, the electronic cards used on London’s transport system.

It really won’t be long before people start cloning identity cards too.

But the risks for activists and dissenters is particularly acute – see for more information.

Guy Taylor, South London

You are wrong about ‘clean coal’

The “facts” in your article about clean coal technology are simply untrue (»  We don't need coal or nuclear power stations to save planet , 11 October).

The German unit currently being completed will be on-stream in 14 months, while the one at my own pit, Hatfield Main Colliery, will be operational within four years.

The system at Hatfield takes 100 percent of carbon out of emissions. The technology is not being applied nationally because New Labour supports the ongoing massacre of the coal industry.

It supports the programme outlined by the last Tory government to close down the pits and make Britain dependent on nuclear energy. This was and is a political decision, not an environmental or economic one.

That fact is demonstrated by the way Britain now imports over 60 million tonnes of coal of the same quantity produced by pits closed by the Tories.

I would have thought Socialist Worker would have given the National Union of Mineworkers its support in demanding clean coal technology and a revival of the coal industry – not joining those kicking us while we are down.

David Douglass, Former NUM branch official, Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Gun crime: we need to talk

I recently read your article on what to do about gun and knife crime (» ‘My son was killed by a knife but he was failed by the system’, 26 July).

I lost a friend to gun crime a year ago. I think some young people need talking to by youth workers or someone they trust. I know that in Brixton they have a centre for people involved with guns and knives.

I often talk to young boys about having faith in themselves to do something.

They say they want to change but just don’t know how. I think all some young people want is love and care – and some guidance.

I feel someone should try and do something about it. I wish I could but I don’t know how.

Katie, by email

Private sector hell for carers

I have been a qualified nursery nurse for over 25 years and have recently begun working in the private sector.

After long periods employed in mental health services, I thought I would like the chance to work with young children – and enjoy lower levels of stress too.

However, my principles will not let me stay in my job.

The pay is atrocious and there are young qualified workers working here for less than unqualified ones because age, not qualification or experience, seem to be what counts.

We are expected to come to work before our shift starts, and all outside meetings, studying and planning are to be done in our own time – without pay.

It’s a disgrace that people who look after children are treated so badly by the government.

Karen Harvey, Tyldesley, Greater Manchester

Can arms give us a leg-up?

When the system was spending millions on the arms race after the Second World War, it served to help postpone the economic recession until the late 1960s.

But today, when the system has spent trillions on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this has not had the same effect.

Shouldn’t pulling billions out of capital investment and production slow down the tendency for overproduction and for the rate of profit to fall?

Heather Kay, South Wales

Rewards of imperialism?

“No to the bailout, nationalisation of the banking system as a whole, no repossessions, renationalisation of utilities” (» No bailout for banks – seize their profits!, 4 October) – this is all good, but there is an extra dimension that needs to be added.

Britain is basically clapped out after 30 years of neoliberal wrecking. Up to now we have benefited from imperialism.

Now the situation is being reversed and it’s hard to see how we can pay for the imports we are now dependent on.

Hitting out wildly at Russia and China and continuing with the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is even greater madness in this context.

We need to break with imperialism as a precondition to reconstruction.

I want to see Socialist Worker link the economic question with its opposition to the Iraq war and thereby multiply the power of a programme which is already looking sound.

Colin Buchanan, Glasgow

Conservative crisis?

The recession is having strange effects.

I occasionally have friendly dealings with a retired businessman, a nice chap who happens to be heavily involved in the Conservative Party, both locally and nationally.

I saw him recently and he greeted me, in his usual jovial fashion, with a hearty cry of “Capitalism is doomed! Marx and Engels were right!”

James Graham, Salisbury, Wiltshire

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Article information

Tue 14 Oct 2008, 18:24 BST
Issue No. 2123
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