Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2173

Is Labour a friend to working class people?

The Tories and New Labour are no more than bullies who are competing with each other to see who can be the most vile to ill and unemployed people.

While money is being thrown at profligate banks, ordinary people have to jump through hoops to claim paltry benefits.

To force ill people onto Jobseekers’ Allowance (the princely sum of £64.30 a week) is callous at any time, but in the middle of a recession it is downright cruel.

Those who drew up this heartless policy clearly think £89.80 a week gives you a comfortable lifestyle. They should try living on that sometime!

This issue is just one of the reasons why I think neither party deserves anyone’s vote.

Karen Seymour, Mansfield

In the 1970s and 1980s, I truly believed that change would not come from the Labour Party. I subscribed to the Morning Star and donated to the Workers Revolutionary Party instead.

But 30 odd years down the line I feel that the time has come to make a stand for Labour.

It’s like having a cousin who you know needs a good kick up the arse.

It’s OK if a member of the family does it. But when it’s Rupert Murdoch trying to determine the next election I think it’s time take stock and give Gordon Brown the support he needs – to keep the Tories out.

Redgie, by email

Whatever the condemnation of Labour MP Hazel Blears (» Stand down, Hazel Blears we’ve had enough, 26 September), what right does Martin Bell have to attack her?

Martin Bell went to public school and Oxbridge, and from there has gone on to hold highly paid posts in television. He represents pure privilege.

At least Hazel Blears reached her position via a state school and a polytechnic.

Bell is a very wealthy man and so reinforces the extreme inequalities in Britain. He is no friend of the working class.

Bob Holman, Glasgow

I am writing to refute the article by Tom Walker on teenage mothers (» Labour's criminal assault on poor families, 10 October).

The Labour government is introducing “supervised homes” for young teen mothers. What on earth could possibly be more sensible?

Many of these so-called “mothers” are barely out of childhood themselves. They need all the support they can get.

I do not believe for a second that this move is “scapegoating” vulnerable people. Surely it’s compassionate to ensure that single parents have a roof over their head?

This is not a punitive measure. It is liberation.

Do not dismiss the Labour government when it is admitting, for once, that society is not perfect. Labour is attempting to address a major issue. We should not criticise it.

Emily, Cambridge

We need to build the party

The world crisis offers socialists a real opportunity. But we really need to jump at it.

I’m determined to help build the movement as much as my health will allow. I’m coming up to 96 now.

In 1943 I left the army signal corps. My experience in the war made me want to change the way the world was run.

Someone gave me a copy of What is Marxism? by Emile Burns. I still remember the excitement of coming across those ideas for the first time. That led me to join the Communist Party.

After the war, I built up a daily round delivering 22 copies of the Daily Worker newspaper.

I got my local library to stock 42 volumes of Lenin’s collected works.

This year the press is celebrating Charles Darwin. Marx, Engels and Lenin also built a scientific understanding of society but the press won’t celebrate them – that’s up to us.

We went out on the knocker, door to door, and built the party.

I remember people telling me that Marxism was “too logical”, but the ideas have held up.

Now I think that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) can build an organisation that could take a lead. But I’m worried that the activity of SWP branches is a bit random. We need to build the party urgently.

I don’t think Socialist Worker deals enough with questions of party building.

History throws up potential leaders. We need to meet them, draw them into activity and help them get to a point where they can assimilate Marxism.

We need Marxist theory, combined with down to earth practical work.

To me that means we need to go back to going door to door, canvassing and politically engaging with people.

We could be missing new leaders who are being thrown up by the crisis – we need to go out and find them.

We don’t want militants who just spout Marxism. People must live it.

Long-term socialist, Bristol

Probation service is all about ticking boxes

I could not agree more with my colleague from Hertfordshire probation (» Probation Officers congress meets , 3 October) on the state of the probation service.

My probation area, Essex, is facing massive redundancies even though we are chronically short staffed.

It is common for staff to do 20 to 50 hours unpaid overtime a month just to cope.

Any objection is punished with strict “work action plans”, disciplinaries and even dismissal.

Yet senior managers are quite happy to spend tens of thousands of pounds on award ceremonies where the chief officer and her lackies can wine and dine.

Winners of these crass awards get an all expenses paid holiday to Norway.

We now have such a shortage of qualified officers that their cases are being passed to poorly trained “service officers”.

They are dealing with high risk offenders but are only trained to deal with minor public order offenders.

The probation service is no longer about protecting the public – it is about ticking boxes.

It is only a matter of time before there is a serious incident.

When it happens, who will the managers blame?

Will it be themselves, dishing out directives from their ivory tower, or the overworked, bullied staff who do the work?

Essex probation officer, by email

Banks get billions while we get 5p

Do you remember the Farepak Christmas hamper fiasco of 2006, when over 100,000 people went without hampers after the firm collapsed?

Well, “only” three years later, some £240,000 has been sent to 5,900 former customers by administrators.

A total of 122,000 former Farepak customers put in claims of approximately £38 million.

They can now expect to receive just 5 pence for every pound they lost.

At the time City pundits and politicians shrugged their shoulders.

They said that this was a fault not of their making and that sometimes the market does not deliver.

They added that there would be no financial help for the victims of the collapse.

Then the financial crisis blew up and turned into the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

Not only were the banks bailed out with our money, but the politicians, who aided and abetted the neoliberal agenda, have carried on regardless.

It is this sort of behaviour that is stoking the resistance – and the day of reckoning for the ruling class.

John Curtis, Suffolk

Whose side are they on?

I am appalled, but not surprised, that a Unison union rep was told not to be “militant” (» Letters, 10 October).

After years of being a rep myself I was so disillusioned and dismayed at some of the things happening within Unison that I jacked it in.

Trying to get support from “the paid ones” – the regional officers – was like trying to deal with management.

They get £35,000 and a car, while reps work tirelessly and voluntarily for free.

Then, when the witch-hunting started, passionate reps became victims of dirty tactics and suspensions.

It all left me thinking, “Whose side are you on?”

Kelly, ex Unison rep

This is how to fight Nazis

Every socialist should go and see the film Army of Crime (» Did the ‘Army of Crime‘ die for France?, 10 October) and encourage others to go.

It is about an anti-Nazi resistance group, largely immigrant and all communist, in France during the Second World War.

Their leader is an Armenian poet and car worker.

The film is very clear about the class basis of collaboration and resistance.

It shows how the French capitalists welcomed the Nazis for their “anti-Bolshevism” and rounded up Jews with no German help.

This film will make those who think “free speech” should be extended to the Nazi BNP think again.

Ben Morris, Sheffield

Down with the Sun

Seeing the Sun newspaper get ripped up on stage was my highlight of the Labour Party conference.

The Sun is a sexist, anti-working class newspaper. It is full of offensive stereotypes, in particular targeting refugees and asylum seekers.

The press have a duty and a responsibility to report, inform and educate.

I am very pleased we have newspapers on the left like Socialist Worker that uncover the truth and expose the lies and propaganda we are spoon-fed.

Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield

The ‘people’s drink’? Nope

Roger Protz writes that beer is “the people’s drink” (» Beer ‘counter-culture’ hits back at the big brewers, 10 October). But the reality is very different.

Part of the fight for trade union rights over the past century has been the struggle not to get paid in pubs.

On the docks gangmasters would insist on paying their workers at the bar – and then expect to be bought a drink.

Deals between bosses and pub landlords put workers under pressure to drink away their wages.

Some, particularly in the construction trade, are still subjected to this today.

And Protz tells us we should “go to the pub and avoid the supermarkets”, and buy from craft brewers instead of multinationals.

But there is nothing socialist about backing “traditional” small producers.

These small businesspeople are profiting from our misery and exploiting workers, just as the mega-corporations do.

Alcoholism has devastated many working class communities. So forgive me if I won’t join you in celebrating the beer “counter-culture”.

Sam Peters, Barnsley

Response to SW petition

Thank you for your petition of 13 August 2009 addressed to the prime minister.

As you will know, the tragic death of Ian Tomlinson and other incidents have been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

It would not be appropriate to comment any further.

S John, Home Office

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Article information

Tue 13 Oct 2009, 18:11 BST
Issue No. 2173
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