The fight to save the planet is a class battle
Sara Tomlinson is absolutely right to argue that we need more trade union involvement in the campaigns around climate change (» Letters, 19 December 2009).
At least six national trade unions backed the climate demonstrations that took place on Saturday 5 December in Britain.
I am sure that many workers and trade unionists took part in the events – but most of them would have attended as individuals. This was reflected in the lack of union banners on the day.
The failure of the Copenhagen summit underlines once again the fact that the rich and powerful care little for the future of the planet. The solutions that we need require costs that they are not prepared to pay. Working people have everything to gain from fighting for the green jobs and collective solutions that will reduce carbon emissions.
There are two conferences that are coming up that can help to organise for this fight. The first is the Right to Work conference on 30 January in Manchester. Then on 13 March the Campaign Against Climate Change is holding its third trade union conference to help strengthen the involvement of trade unionists in the environmental movement.
I hope that Socialist Worker readers will do their best to build both these conferences, so that working people can start the fight for people and the planet.
Martin Empson, Treasurer, Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union group (personal capacity)
Jane Gill asks if climate change is being hyped as an excuse for cuts (» Letters, 9 January). The short answer is no.
Climate change is real and poses a serious threat that could cause economic catastrophe and the deaths of billions of people. Our rulers know this but do not want to take the measures necessary to stop it because it will hit their profits. So they call for us to make sacrifices.
We need to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. We need to properly insulate every house and building, and we need lots of free or very cheap public transport so people do not have to rely on cars.
These things would mean many more jobs for workers. But for bosses it means sacrifices.
Fighting to stop climate change is part of the fight to defend our class and build a new world based on human need and not profit.
Steve Wilkins, Kent
Jane Gill is right to be sceptical about the measures that Gordon Brown and Barack Obama propose to address climate change, but we must not throw the political baby out with their bathwater.
Their rhetoric of sacrifice is little different from the way in which we are being asked to pay for the bosses’ economic crisis. But the ecological crisis is real. We must insist on socialised and creative alternative energy generation as part of a newly organised society.
Nick Grant, West London
Real cost of benefits
We often hear about how easy it is for benefit claimants and how cushy it is being “off sick”. Let me tell you another side.
I am 51 years old. For the past 16 years I was unable to work due to having to care for my wife who suffers from multiple sclerosis.
During this time we had to claim benefits, like it or not.
For all of this time the value that the government put on my dedication to caring for my wife for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year was around £50 a week – the carers’ allowance that thousands of husbands and wives get for having to give up work to care for their loved ones.
I could have placed her in care, gone back to work and handed the full cost of her care over to the taxpayer – but I chose to look after the woman I loved.
Earlier this year I had to take the heartbreaking decision to place my wife in permanent nursing care.
I believe this costs the taxpayer in excess of £400 a week. So, by my reckoning, I have “saved” the government over £250,000 by caring for my wife myself.
The government has thanked me by introducing me to one of the most inefficient and degrading systems I have ever encountered – Jobcentre Plus.
First I had to sit on the telephone for over an hour in a busy and loud job centre before anyone even bothered to answer.
I then sat for a further hour answering questions. Then I had to have two interviews.
Shortly afterwards my doctor signed me off as being unfit for work due to depression. Such was the disbelief of the DWP that I now have to go through an independent medical.
I have no intention of staying on benefits any longer than is necessary and I am not complaining about the amount of money that I get, just the inefficiency of the benefit system that causes stress and heartache.
There are undoubtedly those who abuse the system, but for those of us who have little choice, be assured, it’s not pleasant.
James Forrest, Weston Super Mare
Questions on Scottish independence vote
Ben Wray is correct to point out that revolutionaries should always deal with the concrete situation around a possible referendum on Scottish independence (» Letters, 9 January).
However, before we make our decision on how we would vote, a number of issues have to be clearly explained.
Firstly, in their current referendum proposals the Scottish National Party (SNP) refuses to add an option of increasing powers for the Scottish parliament.
So why does SNP leader Alex Salmond respond to criticisms of his government as being a consequence of the lack of powers the Scottish parliament has?
Secondly, how can a Scottish capitalist state be independent from British capitalism when the British state owns the Scottish banks?
Thirdly, as the current proposals stand, the break up of Britain means an overnight break up of the welfare state. How will welfare provision continue?
In the next six months we face a general election with a choice between a Tory or Labour government.
For the left to get caught up in discussing an independence referendum is like attending an Old Firm football match and shouting for Partick Thistle.
It distracts us from the real, concrete situation.
Mark Porciani, Glasgow
South Yemen’s history of struggle
As a South Yemeni living in Birmingham I would like to add some points to your article about Yemen (» Yemen is latest target in US war, 9 January).
Firstly in 1990, North and South Yemen united.
Four years later, in 1994, South Yemen proclaimed independence.
North Yemen declared war and occupied the South, exiling its president Ali Salim Al-Beed.
The second point is about the current situation.
After years of oppression people in the South over the last few years have started a peaceful movement for independence for South Yemen.
The lack of international acknowlegement of this opposition makes it easier for Yemen’s president Saleh to mix these issues with the alleged presence of Al Qaida camps in the area.
South Yemenis widely believe Saleh to have allowed these camps to be built in the south in order to involve US and British firepower and further his grab for the South’s resources, which are still relatively unexploited.
But the people of South Yemen have a strong history of resisting occupations – including the areas that been hit by US.
Name withheld, Birmingham
The hypocrisy of Sir Digby
The New Year’s Eve broadcast of BBC Radio 2’s flagship programme, the Jeremy Vine Show, featured former CBI chief and New Labour trade advisor Sir Digby Jones.
Jones ranted about how “business” had been demonised throughout 2009 and said this should be stopped as we go into 2010, in order to “assist recovery”.
Ironic then, that Sir Digby just happened to be speaking from Dubai – a place whose recent economic crash epitomises the opulence based on greed and the exploitation of low wage labour that reflects the true nature of business throughout the world economy today.
This has created a recession that everyone is being made to pay for – whether involved in business or not.
Nick Vinehill, Norfolk
The US wants blood for oil
The US intervention in Yemen is all about control of oil (» Yemen is latest target in US war, 9 January).
Somalia is on the hitlist too, and the waters around this area are a crucial shipping lane.
Expect more blood for oil.
Thatcherism was a failure
The opening of the records relating to the early days of Margaret Thatcher’s government (» Thatcher behind closed doors, 9 January) brought squeals of delight from her admirers.
The right applauded each personal intervention from Thatcher, as she insisted that the vicious cuts proposed by her colleagues were “too small” or “not nearly tough enough”.
But it was also Thatcher who argued that the “invisible hand” of the free market was the solution to all our problems.
The recent world crisis has totally refuted this.
A generation ago Thatcher could thunder (after Ozymandias of Shelley’s poem)
“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
But today, of Thatcher and Thatcherism
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Sasha Simic, East London
Cold chaos is not inevitable
In Haywards Heath the following heavily populated estates were inaccessible because of snow: Bolnore, America Lane, Beech Hill, Sheppeys.
On Tuesday the first gritting wheelbarrow was seen in Haywards Road. It took until Wednesday for the lethal approaches down Perrymount Road to the railway station to receive grit. The snow started six days before.
Local authorities have washed their financial hands of protecting their populations, revealing the tax collecting nature of their existence, transferring money from the poor to the rich.
Haywards Heath and West Sussex are not alone – whole numbers of local authorities have been equally negligent according to the news media.
This should be a big cheer as you lie on the unsalted pavement with a broken neck.
Colin Frost-Herbert, Sussex
Snow hysteria about profits
Various bosses and representatives of business have taken to the airwaves recently, bleating about how terrible it is that the snow has caused such disruption to schools.
They are concerned because school closures mean parents have to stay home and look after their children – instead of making money for their bosses.
They want ordinary people to risk injury and dangerous conditions just to safeguard their profits.
Sarah Pocket, Lincolnshire