Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2125

Which energy policies can benefit workers?

David Douglass argues that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology exists and makes “clean coal” viable (» Letters, 18 October).

But there is a world of difference between small pilot projects and technology that can be quickly applied to commercial power stations.

Leaving aside the enormous amounts of energy required to capture the carbon dioxide in the first place, there is also the problem of transporting and safely storing the huge volume of carbon dioxide that would be created.

The infrastructure to make this a reality does not exist and would be vastly expensive to build.

Climate scientists are agreed that carbon emissions must start to decrease by 2015 at the very latest.

CCS, like nuclear power, is an expensive red herring that cannot possibly achieve the reductions required in the time we have available.

Companies like E.ON are using the distant promise of CCS to allow them to continue to pollute as before, not to preserve jobs but to preserve their profits.

This does not mean that workers in the coal and power industries should have to pay the price for the move away from fossil fuels.

As trade unionists we believe that the trade union movement should use its power and influence to force the government and employers to properly plan the transition from fossil fuels. Workers in these industries must receive re-training, compensation and redeployment to jobs of equal value.

Not to do so will mean that we will all pay a very heavy price indeed.

Pauline Walker and Steve Wilkins, Kingsnorth Climate Action Medway

We would like to support the views of David Douglass calling for the use of clean coal. We have recently written to local MPs about the government’s policies on mining and energy.

Our letter calls for a serious expansion of deep mined coal, using clean technology.

It says, “This is a cheap, quick, and safe energy option that will give security of supply and value for money to the public.

“This action will create thousands of new jobs, will help to elevate the hard financial times that we are all suffering because of the energy crisis and downturn of the capitalist market, and we believe these actions to be an important long term solution to the energy problem.

“We are also for a diverse mixed energy policy which includes renewable energy sources – though elements of these will take longer to develop on the large scale that is needed to meet the country’s needs.”

Richard Buckwell, Eric Eaton, Keith Stanley, Nottinghamshire, Mansfield & Nottingham Trades Union Council

No profit in caring

I spent a bewildering afternoon at a local government workshop last week, organised by a learning disability service at a London council.

The aim of the workshop was to promote employment opportunities as an alternative to “institutional” day centres.

An array of presentations from consultants and various local authority “best practice” examples outlined the pros (no cons) of how to get vulnerable people into jobs, voluntary placements, or into supported businesses.

The most popular idea was that the council should set up social enterprises for the most able where they could find a more valuable role in society.

Examples included vegetable gardening and soap making. The council would fund these for three years after which it was assumed that they would become viable.

In the meantime these new “entrepreneurs” will lose their places in the day centres – one consultant enthused that it may even be possible to close some and make savings!

Why is it so galling to senior social care managers that vulnerable individuals should be able to go to a safe place where they can be creative, make friends and give their families a break?

And will they ever admit that, if we have had to nationalise the banks, maybe privatising social services is not such a good idea?

It is only with the support of dedicated professionals that these people are enabled to live as independently as is possible in the society we currently live in.

The tired old notions of “choice” and “independence” are used to justify the privatisation of essential services.

But the fact is that disabled and elderly people, substance users and their carers are now less able to cope because of the chaos brought about by the economic system that these ideals back up.

The market that is supposed to provide opportunities for independent living just isn’t there because real care does not make a profit.

Name withheld, London

Defence of the market doesn’t make sense

In his defence of market capitalism Dr Eamonn Butler makes an important error (» The Market vs Marx, 18 October).

He assumes that because capitalism has survived a number of severe crises it will always do so.

This kind of logic has been referred to as the “Christmas turkey” error – a turkey says, “The farmer always feeds us in the morning.

“Why should late December be any different?”

Capitalism has survived booms and slumps since its birth. Each time it goes through such a cycle there are changes.

Monopolies grow each time competitors fail in a slump. This makes the next slump potentially more disastrous.

A slump that bankrupts some producers in one sector is different from a slump that bankrupts a monopoly.

At the same time each boom creates more and more global interconnections. This makes a worldwide slump more likely and escape from such a slump more difficult.

Each boom also creates new layers of workers and increases urbanisation.

With this comes the potential to establish a new economic order.

Dr Butler might wish to “take capitalism every time” but that choice may not be on offer. He may be faced with the choice of socialism or barbarism.

Dick Pitt, Sheffield

Campaigning can drive back BNP

I was pleased to read of the drubbing the fascist British National Party (BNP) received in the Alexandra Park ward by‑election in Haringey, North London (» Campaign beats back BNP vote, 18 October).

A council by-election was also held in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire last week in which the BNP was pushed into third place.

The fascists built support after the 2005 London bombings, partly because one of the bombers had lived in Dewsbury.

But once they got elected they proved they are totally ineffective at anything except blaming immigrants.

Locally there are campaigns over a whole series of issues, and two really stand out.

There is the fight to defend local education and stop the building of an academy.

Then there’s the campaign to save 1,200 jobs at the Fox’s biscuit factory in nearby Batley.

People from different communities have campaigned together on these issues.

The BNP has nothing to say and its vote has halved.

Eighteen months ago it had four councillors in the area – now there is one. It can be beaten.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire

My son still faces injustice

On the day of the vote in parliament over 42 days detention without trial I saw MPs and human rights supporters on TV arguing that the time is too long and that detainees’ families should be compensated.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the government defeated, but how much does that matter?

Forget days. My son Babar Ahmad has been held for over four years without charge. Compensation? You must be joking.

There is a lot of verbal sympathy, beautifully worded speeches and statements, but Babar and many more like him are still in prison without charge.

Animals have more rights than human beings in the “peace loving” society.

Ashfaq Ahmad, South London

Police intimidation in Brussels

The report on RMT members joining a protest in Brussels (» Transport workers protest in Brussels, 25 October) missed out outrageous intimidation of the demonstrators.

We went to protest at the way European Union legislation has sometimes been used to make the defence workers rights effectively illegal.

The best example is the 2007 Viking ferries dispute in Ireland.

Last week we started marching to the European Parliament to hand out leaflets.

A convoy of armoured cars passed behind us. As we pressed on we found our way barred by a small army of riot police with water cannon.

It’s sobering to think that police forces – buoyed by the freedom that anti-terror legislation gives them – feel confident to respond to trade union protests in such a heavy handed manner.

Despite the intimidation, we were unbowed. We held a short street protest and rally before dispersing.

Alan Crowe, South London

Inspired by 1968 protest

Your article about Tommie Smith (» Olympic gesture of defiance, 18 October) brought back many memories.

I remember seeing the “black glove” gesture live on TV and recall that the BBC commentator was livid!

Of course, the year being 1968, the gesture had to be looked at in the context of other events that year.

The current economic mess of capitalism makes me think that those days of revolutionary thinking could soon return.

Mitch Mitchell, Cambridgeshire

Market fails the poorest

Your article on the book The White Tiger and what it says about modern India (» How India's poor pay for market's failings , 25 October) was fascinating.

The failures of the market are clear in the West – but they are utterly damning when you look at poorer countries.

The aim of market capitalism is not to end poverty – it is to enrich a handful at the expense of the rest of us.

Tahira Mistry, Heckmondwike

Sats are the new 11-plus

Most teachers think that Sats tests are educationally useless.

I agree with them.

Sats cause nothing but stress and misery. All this pressure should not be put on 11 year old children.

Nobody should be pressurised by useless tests that label children.

Students who do not do well at their key stage two Sats can be put into lower sets when they go to secondary school.

My dad says they are like the old 11-plus tests.

The primary school I go to in Hackney is really good.

But even here children in year six spend most of their time preparing for Sats and not much else.

I’ve told my mum and dad that I don’t want to do Sats next year.

Conor, Year 5, Hackney

More schools handed to rich

New Labour is still committed to privatising education.

It announced this week that pupil referral units, that teach students excluded from mainstream schools, could be run by private companies.

Private companies will not do a better job of educating kids. Their sole interest will be making money.

New Labour is handing over the welfare of the most vulnerable in our society to the fat cats – yet again.

Jenna Nixon, Sunderland

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Article information

Tue 28 Oct 2008, 18:37 GMT
Issue No. 2125
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