Should socialists vote for the Labour Party?
I teach in a primary school in London. At work people are aware of the despicable things Labour has done to our lives and education. During the London mayor elections in 2008 most teachers in my school voted Green or abstained. But things have changed. Teachers are talking about how scared they are of a Tory government – they started Sats, league tables and Ofsted. David Cameron has become the staffroom’s hate figure.
Many colleagues say they will vote Labour to keep out the Tories, despite how bad Labour is. I don’t believe Labour will be better than the Tories, but I know if a Tory government is elected then teachers will feel that the majority support Tory education policies. They will feel defeated.
These are people who could be attracted to a left alternative – but where they don’t have a left candidate in their area I stand with them in hoping that the Tories don’t win.
Jess Edwards, South East London
I’m not convinced by Socialist Worker’s arguments (» Who do you vote for?, 13 February) to vote Labour where there is no left alternative. I think that the Labour Party might have fundamentally changed – trade unions and workers have little influence over Labour. A Tory government could unleash the anger being held back by trade union bureaucrats. We should vote for left candidates where they stand, and where a fascist stands we should vote for the non-right wing party that can stop them. In 1979 the SWP argued Labour was moving left but the class wasn’t. Now Labour is moving right and the class is moving left. Parliament is a weak place of struggle for workers – our strength is in campaigns in workplaces and communities.
There are many who want to punish Labour – how do we stand with them if we call for a vote for it? What would increase workers’ confidence is a massive strike victory.
Steve Brown, Eastoft, North Lincolnshire
Simon Basketter is correct to quote Lenin’s analysis of Labour as a “bourgeois workers party”. There has always been tension between Labour’s commitment to British capitalism and its working class base.
The left is caught between a rock and a hard place. Not to vote Labour where there is no left candidate would mean a boycott in most areas, which won’t help our side.
John Curtis, Suffolk
Spread the fire
I am a political prisoner in Turkey. You have been sending Socialist Worker to me for over two years, but I could not say thank you because we were forbidden to write letters in any language except Turkish.
Receiving letters and publications in foreign languages was forbidden. I never read your newspaper on time because every copy was confiscated.
It was only possible to receive Socialist Worker by applying to the court, and then every decision about every single issue took at least three or four months. But at last the prohibition has been removed.
I am accused of being a member of MLKP, an illegal communist party. The state prosecutor demanded a life-long sentence for me. My case has been continuing for over three years, with a trial taking place every four months. Three of us share a cell – we are almost totally isolated from the other prisoners. But as a result of some important struggles, prisoners won the right to come together for ten hours a week, although this hasn’t been carried out properly yet.
The political atmosphere in Turkey is very changeable and gives us hope. The present political regime, which has been characterised by the domination of the generals and the higher bureaucracy for decades, is in trouble.
The crisis arises from conflicts within the dominant class, and the effects of the global economic crisis. The resistance of the Kurdish people, the actions of the working class and the oppressed, and the struggles of the anti-fascist left forces are also important.
We read Socialist Worker with pleasure and interest. It is important for us to follow international news from the view of a socialist newspaper. I hope you luck in your struggle towards socialism. I wish for the fire of the world proletarian revolution to spread more rapidly.
I send greetings and love.
Serkan Gundogdu, Tekirdag 1 Nolu F Tipi, Hapishane, B1 3G, Turkey
Netherlands: Students occupy to fight cuts
Student resistance took the Dutch government by surprise last week. The government saw the economic crisis as a golden opportunity to push through 20 percent cuts to the higher education budget.
But lecture rooms in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Nijmegen were occupied, and there were actions in Wageningen, Delft and Leiden. The details of the cuts have not been presented – they’re a public secret – but students decided to act before the government did. Students demanded university boards oppose cuts to student loans, and that the government stop cuts and invests in education.
Although the actions were symbolic, all of the occupations ended in victory. In Utrecht, students stopped the abolition of the independent student newspaper. In Rotterdam, the university is allowing occupiers to use the lecture room they took over as a permanent action centre against cuts. About 70 percent of students supported the actions. Workers also supported them.
The loudest cheers from the students in Amsterdam came when word reached us that the cleaners of the university had expressed their solidarity. It clearly shows what the real message of these students is – we will not pay for your crisis, and we won’t let our cleaners pay for it either.
Max van Lingen, University of Amsterdam
Homophobia and sexism at LSE
I joined the London School of Economics (LSE) thinking I was coming to a university where sexism and homophobia were a thing of the past. However, this week at our union general meeting I was proved wrong. LSE women’s officer Jessie Robinson proposed a motion to remove the Sun newspaper and FHM magazine from student shops because of their sexist content.
Jessie, and Anja Kahlo – head of the women’s society – were subject to homophobic and sexist taunts by members of the university’s Athletic Union, who mobilised for the meeting. The meeting was not halted. Only the student who threw a paper missile at Jessie Robinson was thrown out. The intimidation was allowed to continue and the motion was defeated.
The meeting showed that sexism and homophobia still exist on campus and in society. As a result, students are considering re-submitting the motion. We have also talked about the need to strengthen the campaign against sexism and homophobia on campus and in society.
Emma Kelly, London School of Economics
The right to work for all
Steve Acheson is one of 3,213 construction workers who were on a blacklist revealed in March 2009.
He is currently protesting outside Fiddler’s Ferry power station in Warrington, which dismissed him in December 2008.
I am a supporter of Steve. He is protesting to draw awareness to the use of blacklisting. Television and press coverage on Friday 5 February stated that the protest is about “British jobs”. But there are no foreign workers at Fiddler’s Ferry.
So not only is this is a ridiculous attack to undermine our “right to work”, but it also takes away from the real issue at the centre of this protest.
Steve says that his 14 month protest is in response to “a blatant unfair dismissal and the use of the discriminatory blacklist”.
Steve is a trade unionist and wants to defend and enforce trade union agreements, including the right to work, regardless of origin.
Janine Woods, Warrington
Fans oppose fascism
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) leafleters had a great response at the Aston Villa versus Manchester United game last week. Fans were angry that the English Defence League and the fascist British National Party were trying to spread racism on the terraces.
We built links with the Villa fanzine – some fans even came up to shake our hands.
We are going to leaflet upcoming games to build the counter-protest against the EDL demonstration in Dudley on 4 April.
We are also going to leaflet Birmingham City, Wolves, West Bromwich Albion and Walsall matches. To help contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Sadia Jabeen, Birmingham
Justice in Hackney
The army opened a recruitment centre in Hackney, east London, at the Kingsland shopping centre last year. Hackney is one the poorest boroughs in the country – and the army uses that to recruit.
I joined the Stop the War Coalition pickets outside the centre. Security guards tried to stop us from protesting and called the police. A month after the last protest I was walking through the shopping centre when a security guard approached me.
He pushed me in the chest and told me “you can’t enter this building”. He said I was banned. This was clearly due to my appearance at the protests, which was later confirmed in police reports. The police were called and I was arrested for burglary, later changed to common assault. My trial lasted a day. The charges were thrown out. All accusations that I had been abusive or violent were rejected. There was no justification for my arrest. This is a victory for the right to protest.
Ibrahim Avcil, Hackney, east London
Blair has no honour
Labour’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell defended Tony Blair on TV’s Andrew Marr show, saying he’s a “totally honourable man”.
Over one million Iraqis died because of the invasion and occupation.
We’ll never know how they feel about Blair. And we’ll never know how the family of Abeer Qassim Hamza al‑Janabi, the 14-year old girl raped and murdered by US troops feel, because they were also killed. But Campbell doesn’t count Iraqi opinion. His defence of Blair reminded me of 19th century thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson’s comment, “The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.”
Sasha Simic, East London