Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2183

‘Clean coal can save the planet and the pits’

Socialist Worker seems to have come full circle – from supporting the Great Miners’ Strike of the 1980s to Sadie Robinson’s article arguing that there is no such thing as clean coal (» Why there’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’, 19 December).

If coal is killing the planet, where would we be if we’d won the Miners’ Strike, as we very nearly did? Would Socialist Worker now be demanding that all the mines should be closed?

There is another logic of course – if you’re going to stop using coal, then the only other source of base load power is nuclear.

Even if you destroy every green field and mountain we have left by putting turbines on them, they can’t provide the power we need. Indeed most of them simply provide massive profits and a ruined landscape.

The greatest source of climate change is not coal – it is deforestation. This is killing the lungs of the world and stopping carbon dioxide being converted back to oxygen.

Contrary to Sadie’s predictions, clean coal technology will be on stream at my colliery in 2014 – it is constructing the most sophisticated clean coal power station in the world. And carbon capture facilities are being built in Norway at this moment.

Clean coal has to be the answer, because coal production is the only game in town for most African, Asian and Latin American countries. They will either burn it as it is – dirty and straight into the air – or through clean coal technologies.

The miners’ union, all energy unions and the TUC support carbon capture and clean coal – and the survival and expansion of the British coal industry. We don’t just fight for jobs – we fight for our jobs as coal miners. Under workers’ control, against capitalism and wage slavery, in the safest and cleanest possible conditions – but also if we are going to work, as miners.

David Douglass, National Union of Mineworkers

Reading your article on the fallacy of clean coal reminded me of a heated discussion between a miner and an environmentalist during the 1992 pit campaign.

Both were socialists, but the environmentalist had her eye on the looming ecological crisis, and asked the simple question, “Is coal good for the environment?”

This debate was – and is – emotive. After all, Margaret Thatcher closed down the majority of our mines, devastating communities.

But my green friend understood that to divide the issues of jobs and the future of the planet means falling into the trap of thinking that our only choice is between dangerous jobs or no jobs.

Our governments don’t want us to think there are alternatives to the way we organise work or our lives – but there are.

People think about this every day. My dad was a miner, but he didn’t want my brother to go down the pit. He wanted him to have a real choice – the chance to be educated, and work in a safe and clean job.

Now we know more – we know that jobs should be green.

Louise Harrison, Doncaster

We should break up Britain

Graeme Kemp seems to miss the key difference between supporting Irish and Scottish independence (» Letters, 19 December).

Ireland has been on the receiving end of British imperialism for hundreds of years and therefore socialists should always support its independence from the British state.

Scotland, on the other hand, has played its part as oppressor in the bloody history of British imperialism.

Our first question should be, “Will the break-up of the British state be beneficial to the international working class?”

It is true that if there was a major increase in class struggle throughout Britain, the capitalist class could attempt to derail a strong workers’ movement by breaking up the country.

In such circumstances we would oppose national independence for Scotland.

But, as Lenin put it, “we need a concrete analysis of a concrete situation”.

The British state is currently in the spotlight on the world stage for its role in the slaughter of Iraq and the continuing disaster in Afghanistan, with a majority of British people against these wars.

Socialists have no interest in maintaining the unity of the British state.

This is the primary reason why I would argue for a yes vote if there was a referendum tomorrow.

Graeme also seems to believe that the unity of the British working class would be damaged by the break-up of Britain.

If Scotland does become independent, socialists should argue that this doesn’t stop trade unions organising jointly or workers striking together, as often happens in Canada and the US, for example.

Workers’ unity is about solidarity and collective struggle – such ideas aren’t limited to the boundaries of capitalist states.

Ben Wray, Glasgow

Call centres are also managed by stress

Simon Basketter’s article on “management by stress” in the car industry was fascinating (» Driven to destruction, 5 December). Similar techniques are used in telecoms, where I work.

My workplace is a call centre that deals with network faults for the government, NHS and police – all multi-million pound contracts.

We are paid about the same as parking attendants.

Not a second is wasted and every call must be answered within 20 seconds.

So, if a hospital reports their phone lines are down you have to put that job on hold if another call comes in.

You can imagine how much stress that causes.

All calls are recorded and they can record and play back your on-screen computer activity.

At least half of my colleagues have been off with stress or depression at some time within the past few months.

Those who take the most time off sick are generally siphoned off at the next round of redundancies.

Many people plough through, taking anti-depressants.

But as a young worker I simply cannot accept this as a model for the future. We all need to organise, encourage each other and fight back.

And we need to understand the system we are in. Your article is part of mapping this out.

Call centre worker, Manchester

We need to beat anti-union laws

Following the news that British Airways won an injunction to stop cabin crew striking for 12 days last month, I am drafting a couple of relevant motions to our union conference this year.

The motions call on our union – working with other unions – to make a direct challenge to the anti-union laws.

This type of legal action by the establishment will be something we see more and more.

With an incoming Tory government these attacks are going to get even nastier – although that is likely to be the case whoever is in.

It is time we came out fighting. As the law is, and has always been, on the side of the ruling classes, we need to move from small local victories to winning on a national scale.

It needs just one big high profile victory and this will inspire workers everywhere to come out fighting for our class.

Martin Hickman, Rochdale

It seems that the anti-union laws are being extended by the courts.

The unions need to take a tougher stand – and defy the law. That’s how they will win.

Sabiha Ghani, Manchester

Cut plans are even worse

Your article on the civil service compensation scheme draws attention to the sweeping cuts the government has announced (» Labour sets its sights on civil service workers , 12 December).

But it wrongly claims compulsory redundancy payments will be capped at three years’ pay.

In fact the planned reduction in compulsory terms is from a three year cap to a two year cap, a loss of tens of thousands of pounds to most civil servants.

And these will not be paid to those taking voluntary redundancy.

The devil is in the detail here, as almost all redundancies in future will be defined by the employer as “voluntary”, in order to slash jobs on the cheap.

This is a key battle for the future of our union, and in broader terms in deciding who pays for the crisis.

Andy Lawson, DWP North London PCS branch organiser (personal capacity)

Student loans big let down

The Student Loans Company (SLC) let students down on a monumental scale last year. It failed to deliver loans to thousands of students in their first term at university.

I am one of 3,000 students still waiting for our loan payments.

Thousands more had to wait months for the first payment to come through.

While some people believe that students have an easy time, the reality is different, as the reliance on loans shows.

This money is badly needed for food, accommodation and books, as well as going out and making friends in a strange new city.

The incompetence of SLC – a result of outsourcing and privatisation – has meant I have had to take out a credit card at a high rate of interest and borrow money from already financially stretched relatives.

Thanks SLC, and a Happy New Year to you too.

Amy Davis, Cardiff

Fascists fail in Hastings

The fascist British National Party (BNP) failed miserably yet again in the elections here in Hastings – this time in last month’s St Helens by-election.

Unite Against Fascism activists were in the thick of it as usual – delivering leaflets telling residents to reject the BNP’s vile ideology.

We covered the whole of the ward with these leaflets. Clearly St Helens listened, as people either didn’t vote or voted for others. The BNP got just 93 votes.

For me, it broke the myth that working people accept the BNP as some kind of protest vote.

They clearly see them for what they are. The fascists are not wanted here.

Chris Laverick, Hastings

Is climate chaos hyped?

I know it seems wrong to say it, but couldn’t it be that the case for climate change is being hyped up and exaggerated?

When people like Gordon Brown are telling us that we all have to make sacrifices to “go green”, I get suspicious.

Our rulers always want us to cut back. Climate change could just be their latest excuse.

The only evidence we have is what establishment scientists and world leaders are telling us.

But they lie to us about so many other things – think of the “war on drugs”, for example.

Can we really trust them on this?

Jane Gill, East London

BBC makes me swear

Why do BBC bosses get so worked up about swearing?

Warmongering MPs and generals are allowed to – very politely – discuss mass murder in Afghanistan unchallenged, but a bit of swearing and all hell is let loose. Get over it.

Sylvia Elgrib, Sidcup, Kent

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Article information

Tue 5 Jan 2010, 18:00 GMT
Issue No. 2183
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