Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2128

Marching with the Right To Work Campaign in South Wales in 1979

Marching with the Right To Work Campaign in South Wales in 1979

Lessons from the past in struggle for jobs

The threat to the Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil shows that the new recession is not limited to the bankers (» Fears of job losses haunt Welsh Valleys, 15 November).

As in past economic crises, their side seeks to make our side pay for it with our jobs and our homes. Layoffs, plant closures, steel plants mothballed – it's like watching News at Ten back in 1980!

In those days, at the end of the news on Friday night they showed a map of where redundancies were taking place around the country. I expect they are dusting it off right now.

I was living in South Wales back then and was part of a movement that fought back. Through the Right to Work Campaign we visited factories, offices, mines and mills to win unity between trade unionists in work and the unemployed workers that Thatcherism was victimising.

We were a rank and file movement of the jobless and would turn up outside factories facing closure and urge a fightback. We stood on their picket lines, and they joined our marathon marches. We demanded the union leaders defend jobs and conditions.

Now it seems these tactics have become relevant again. And as always, the unemployed will be vilified and blamed, with humiliating schemes set up to demoralise us.

I have just signed-on again after more than 25 years working and have been told I may have to go on a compulsory 'back to work' scheme run by the British Legion. Poppy anyone?

There has to be a fight to defend our jobs and the rights we have won, and looking back to previous battles is not a bad place to start. After all, in the 1970s and 80s we learnt many lessons from the unemployed struggles of the 1930s.

Jon Flaig, Kent

I was on a government-funded training scheme provided by the private sector around five years ago. It was a disaster.

The New Deal advisor at my job centre told me that I'd have to attend for three months. When I asked what sort of training would be available, she handed me a leaflet with a number of courses highlighted.

When I got to the centre I enquired about the media and design course only to be told that, like most others, it did not exist.

There were 25 trainees but only one phone to make calls to arrange job interviews. There were four computers to use to find work, but only two were connected to the internet.

As unemployment bites, Gordon Brown is pushing training and skills up the political agenda. But if more of these private firms are involved, expect more lies, double speak and even fraud.

After all, while you are on the 'training' scheme you are taken off the unemployment figures.

Ian Mathew, Leeds

Fighting for gay rights in the US

Around 120,000 LGBT people and their supporters protested for equality across the US last week. They were angered by votes in four states to deny same‑sex couples the right to marry.

Tens of thousands marched in Los Angeles, New York and Seattle. But protests also took place in smaller towns where LGBT people often don't have a high profile.

Some involved only a few dozen people, and were often the first ever LGBT protests in their communities. Activists in a small Texas town reported, 'We thought it would just be four of us, but it grew to 18,' and said they were now inspired to launch a campaigning group.

Many placards compared the fight for gay marriage with the struggles of the 1960s civil rights movement.

Protesters pointed out that marriage between black and white people had been illegal in many states until 1967, and argued that the result of excluding same-sex couples from marriage means that people don't even have the right to visit their partner in hospital.

Most protests were called independently with less than a week's notice. National coordination has been provided by a website called Join the Impact, rather than by established LGBT organisations.

Demonstrators have clearly drawn inspiration from the election of Barack Obama. Obama is the most pro-LGBT president so far, acknowledging on election night that he was supported by a coalition that included both straight and gay people.

His election symbolises the possibility of change. Yet, while Obama stands for advances in LGBT equality, he does not support gay marriage.

More protests are planned for December and January. Continuing action on this scale, at the start of Obama's presidency, is just what is needed to shift public opinion and change the law.

Colin Wilson, South London

Who is to blame for Derby death?

The city of Derby is in mourning once again as another black youth has lost his life in a violent murder.

Last week Kadeem Blackwood was murdered in the Caxton area of the city. The question is why?

There will be those that talk about gang violence. But as someone who works with young people in the city, the question is, what circumstances caused this?

There are next to no youth clubs or community centres for young people, leaving them with little to do – a void that appears to have been filled with violence.

The lack of facilities has been made worse by the way the police have closed down black music events in the city. They even cancelled a Love Music Hate Racism free community event recently.

The police response to the murder was to contact the black-owned clubs and tell them to cancel events related to R&B and bassline house.

Young people here need facilities. They need decent housing, education and employment. They need prospects and hope. Until the government invests there will be more deaths.

Baby J, Love Music Hate Racism, Derby

Right wing moral panic drives attack on BBC

Isn't it amazing how one ill thought out, childishly sexist prank could create such a moral maelstrom?

Yet that appears to be the impact of the Ross/Brand phone farce. Every reactionary, moralist and opportunist has jumped on this particular bandwagon.

The Murdoch press has used it to continue their vendetta against the BBC, the Daily Mail has used it to further their never-ending crusade to save us from moral decline, and now politicians of every hue have climbed on board. Suddenly swearing is the thing getting everyone excited.

It is over 40 years since Kenneth Tynan first used a four letter word on the BBC, yet apparently we are all still meant to be shocked when we hear words on the telly that most of us use in our daily lives.

Newspaper editors, who print topless pictures and give us the goriest details of all sorts of crimes, can't handle bad language apparently.

Politicians who are happy to send people to kill and be killed in pointless and bloody wars are only concerned that we might use the term 'bloody' to describe what they are doing.

No doubt however the bosses at the BBC will issue edicts to soothe those that are suffering at the hands of all this profanity. They really are a gutless bunch of *!**!!?!

Pat Stack, North London

We do need to bail out banks

Having read Socialist Worker in the last few weeks it seems that you oppose the nationalisation of the banks.

In this respect you find yourselves the political allies of right wing Republicans in the US.

What about the terrible hardship to ordinary people that would be caused by a collapse in the banking system?

This position is absolutely disastrous. Of course distressed banks should be nationalised.

Bill O'Connor, by email

Shouldn't we be left of the Sun?

It seems to me that the working class is to the left of Socialist Worker at the moment.

The paper's demand for a windfall tax on the fuel firms is far too weak and will not address fuel poverty.

And recently the headlines of right wing papers like the Sun complained about bankers' bonuses – shouldn't we be to the left of them?

Jen Griffiths, Nottingham

Still fighting the power

The Black Panther artist and leader Emory Douglas spoke in London recently with an exhibition of his beautiful and powerful work (» Emory Douglas interviewed about the Black Panthers, 8 November).

The head of the Black Panther Alumni, Billy X Jennings, was there too. We took a picture of him reading his copy of Socialist Worker.

Emory and Billy were set to visit Derry, where they were to be hosted by leading civil rights activist Eamonn McCann.

They also spoke and exhibited in the grand committee room of the House of Commons.

It seems that 40 years on, the legacy of the Panthers is as big a draw as ever.

A visit to the Emory Douglas exhibition at the Urbis Gallery in Manchester is a must for every anti-racist.

Hazel Sabey, West London

Publish and be damned!

Socialist Worker rightly attacked the way the Labour government blocked workers' rights by opposing union-sponsored amendments to the Employment Bill (» Labour rejects union rights, 15 November).

Why don't you publish the names of all the MPs, particularly the union-backed ones, who voted against the amendments so that we can vote them out next time? What is the use of union money going to support MPs like this?

Graham Jones, Powys, Wales

An anti-racist to the end

Singer Miriam Makeba, who died last week, was active all her life in the fight against racism and for liberation.

The circumstances of her death underline that. She collapsed just after coming off stage at an anti-Mafia festival just outside Naples, near where six Africans were murdered in September.

Italian police had claimed, without a shed of evidence, they were drug dealers. Instead they were victims of a racist attack.

Paola Terracini, Italy

New Labour, old prejudice

Although New Labour claims it is helping disabled people, its constant stigmatisation of them as either fraudsters or work shy has created an atmosphere of fear.

Disabled activists are demanding that politicians and the media wake up to the damage their words do to us. We want access to meaningful education and training, leading to proper qualifications and job skills.

We also want justice in the workplace. Despite the various equalities and discrimination acts disabled people are still losing their jobs.

This is especially true if they have been in work for less than a year, as employers don't have to offer a reason to sack you.

Terri Rayner, by email

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Article information

Tue 18 Nov 2008, 19:32 GMT
Issue No. 2128
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