Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2185

Protesting against cuts at the University of Leeds in November last year  

Protesting against cuts at the University of Leeds in November last year 

Unity is needed to fight these education cuts

Our vice chancellor Michael Arthur’s decision to write a Guardian article (12 January) opposing university cuts marks quite a U-turn.

After all, it follows the announcement of 10 percent cuts here at the University of Leeds – that’s 700 jobs. This was on top of a series of “university reviews” which led to the loss of 54 jobs last summer and threatens many more.

Last term he told students, “any rumours they hear suggesting that the cuts are going to affect them fundamentally are actually quite misleading.” This was an accusation by the vice chancellor that the UCU was scaremongering.

So it is welcome that he now expresses concern over cuts. Unfortunately he also welcomes the government saying that “the needs of world-class institutions must be prioritised”.

The problem is that this kind of special pleading for parts of higher education, such as the Russell Group of research-intensive universities, plays straight into the hands of politicians like that unelected minister for everything Lord Mandelson.

This kind of “divide and rule” politics has ensured that higher education in Britain receives less investment than nearly every other industrialised nation.

We are now balloting for strike action against the cuts at Leeds, in defence of jobs and in defence of education.

Not only jobs are threatened – the right of academics to question orthodoxy and vested interests are being challenged by a ferocious top-down managerial approach that threatens to transform universities into “unifactories” and take a further step towards privatisation.

What is needed is a united defence of education against cuts that are aimed at bailing out corrupt bankers at the expense of working people. Young people are the future and it makes no sense to cut education in a recession.

It will take strike action to convince this and any other likely government in Britain today that investment in education is the way forward. A good ballot result at Leeds will start an effective fight back against the cuts.

Malcolm Povey, President, Leeds UCU (personal capacity)

The government’s planned cuts of up to £2.5 billion will ruin higher education.

We are in the middle of a recession – hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs and many will want to further their education or to re-train. Government investment should be pouring into all sectors of education.

Meanwhile the Royal Bank of Scotland plans to pay bonuses of £1.5 billion to its investment bankers. This is the bank recently bailed out with £45 billion of taxpayers’ money and part owned by the government.

The cuts in education and other public services are to pay for this banking swindle.

Those of us working in universities are being forced to fight to defend our jobs and to defend education. In doing so we will be playing our part in forcing the government to change its rotten priorities.

Lesley McGorrigan, Bradford

Not coal nor dole

No one knows whether carbon capture and storage – the technology better known as “clean coal” – will work (» Letters, 9 January).

It is completely untried and untested. But the idea allows the fossil fuel companies at least a few more years to continue making profits using traditional coal-fired power stations.

The growing movement against climate change shows that millions are not prepared to accept this argument.

If global energy production was run rationally, we would build and install renewable generators as fast as possible.

We would use the tried and tested technology of wind turbines, combined with some wave and solar energy production.

We would also reduce our power requirements by insulating buildings and maximise the efficiency of energy-consuming equipment.

But we are not having a rational debate, because the ruling ideas about energy are dominated by the politics and economics of energy.

The industry at the heart of the capitalist system – the fossil fuel industry and the web of banks and other interests associated with it – cannot continue to make profits in the same old way any more.

We are not prepared to accept any more pay cuts and job cuts and high unemployment when we urgently need to be working on solving the climate crisis.

There is no contradiction between supporting “Coal Not Dole” in the 1980s and calling for the shutdown of coal production now.

If the miners had beaten Thatcher, socialists would have cheered them from the rooftops.

Now we are calling not for mass sackings, but for retraining in renewable technologies like tidal power, wind and so on.

We must use Jonathan Neale’s new pamphlet to argue we need “one million climate jobs now”.

And we need to use the arguments in it to put the revolutionary party at the heart of the movement that is calling for system change not climate change.

John Cowsill, South London

Campaign has forced out missile makers

Raytheon, one of the largest missile manufacturers in the world, is leaving Derry in Northern Ireland.

This is a huge victory. It shows how a sustained and determined campaign can win – even against some of the world’s most powerful corporations.

The first occupation of Raytheon in April 2003 came after 62 people were killed in a Baghdad marketplace by a Raytheon missile.

During the Israeli assault on Lebanon in 2006, the plant was occupied for a second time. This time the mainframe computer was “decommissioned” and over £350,000 worth of equipment wrecked.

Nine men – the Raytheon 9 – were charged with burglary and criminal damage, but acquitted unanimously by a jury in 2008.

Last January, nine women (of which I am one) again tried to decommission the computer systems in the Raytheon plant, hoping to prevent or delay war crimes being committed by the Israeli Defence Forces in Gaza with the use of Raytheon weapons.

We too are charged with burglary and criminal damage. Our trial is set to start on 8 March, International Women’s Day.

Now it seems that Raytheon has finally got the message – as long as they are here, the Derry Anti War Coalition will continue to disrupt their evil trade.

Goretti Horgan, Derry

No-jury trials are attack on rights

The first trial without a jury for more than 350 years started last week, following a decision to allow it by the Court of Appeal.

It is argued that the court was forced to take this extreme measure due to the unique and exceptional circumstances of the case.

However, there is no doubt this is the thin end of a wedge that will be driven deep into the criminal justice system.

This is part of a New Labour agenda which has pushed through a whole host of regressive measures, setting the system back decades.

For example, the suspect’s right to remain silent in the police station has been eroded – a right which many criminal defence lawyers thought would never be compromised.

As we have seen with the use of non-jury Diplock trials in Northern Ireland, the ruling class can quickly and easily slash the processes and procedures that purport to protect our fundamental right to a fair trial, whenever it suits them to do so.

This is a bleak reminder that the rights we think are enshrined in the system and inalienable are concessions that can be ripped out from under our feet.

Sarah Robertson , East London

Gay rights in Portugal

The passage of the gay marriage bill through the Portuguese parliament on 8 January should be a cause for celebration for socialists everywhere.

There are still some constitutional hoops for the bill to go through before it becomes law – and a bill to legalise gay adoption was, sadly, unsuccessful.

But Portugal is now set to have a far more progressive position on same sex unions than Britain.

A British-style “civil union” bill was proposed by the Portuguese Tories, but was defeated in parliament.

Socialist Worker supporters can be proud of the leading role played by our comrades in Bloco de Esquerda (the Left Bloc).

Left Bloc MPs were at the forefront of the coalition, including the centre-left Socialists, the Communists and the Greens, which passed the bill.

Mark Brown, Lisbon

Wind wrecks the hillsides

David Douglass (» Letters, 9 January) correctly states that the only practical and viable alternative to “clean coal” is nuclear energy.

Hillsides full of wind turbines are not the answer – they are an environmental disaster.

Ian King, Doncaster

Land grab in Sudan

For those who have kept abreast of the Kinnocks since Neil betrayed the miners as the leader of the Labour Party, it will come as no surprise to hear Glenys Kinnock demanding that the “Western democracies” should put more effort into helping South Sudan.

Sectarian Christian militia the Lord’s Resistance Movement is flexing its muscles again and renewing its call for separation from the Muslim North.

It was this organisation more than any other that has contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

Is this the target of her affections? Or is she simply adding her voice to the loud noises coming from the US demanding a coup against the Muslim government, which is more aligned with China than the West?

What a great land grabbing exercise for America that would be.

Raymond Holmes, Bolsover

Banker scum owe us big

Even under the spotlight of massive public outrage, it seems that capitalists simply can’t behave themselves.

Top banker Stephen Hester, CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, earns what he claims is no more than “the going rate” (that’s £1.2 million a year).

He has found it hard to gather support for his plans to pay billions in bonuses this year, after he was forced to admit that even his parents think he earns too much.

While others pay for the hardship, this man earns more money than he will ever need.

While others lose jobs they need to feed their families, he keeps his – even though it is men like him who have exploited working class people for every penny they have.

How can this back slapping fat-cat culture possibly be defended?

Hannah Besford, Portsmouth

Two faces of same regime

The Tories are just one face of the cutting, privatising, pro‑imperialist regime. Its other face, slower on the uptake, is Labour.

No matter how reactionary a Tory policy may be, after a few months Labour adopts it. Soon they will no doubt be under the leadership of another Oxbridge entrist.

Don’t tell me about “the real face of the Tories­” – tell me how soon the Labour Party will be appearing as an entry in the obituary column.

Chris, Ireland

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Tue 19 Jan 2010, 18:59 GMT
Issue No. 2185
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