Occupation shows how real democracy works
I had the privilege of visiting and speaking to the student occupation at Sussex University (» Picket and occupy: lessons from Sussex University).
The whole place had a fantastic buzz about it and instantly my mind went back to the student sit-ins and occupations I had seen in my younger days in the sixties and seventies.
Within minutes I was being introduced to speak as an old 68er on the appropriate theme of worker-student unity.
The notes I had prepared for a fairly routine teach-in meeting were clearly not what was needed and I discarded them in favour of an improvised speech.
The students then debated the pressing questions of the moment: what to do if the police came to evict them in the night?
Should they have a demo the next day and if so when and where?
What was so impressive was the exemplary democracy of the discussion. Everybody was given a chance to have their say, everyone listened to with respect, followed by a vote which everyone accepted.
Nowhere else in our society, not in schools or hospitals or factories or any workplaces, or in universities normally, do we find such democracy.
But this, in essence, I thought, and said, is how we should run society.
Let’s hope students follow the example of Sussex up and down the country.
John Molyneux, Portsmouth
Scientific evidence can be our ally
Pablo Stern’s attack on evidence-based medicine (» Letters, 13 March) is mistaken.
It sounds like good Marxism to say that the findings of medical science will tend to promote the economic interests of big drugs companies. But although science is distorted by economic considerations, by and large it retains its integrity.
For example, agribusiness is run by reactionaries, but they cannot simply abandon the scientific method and invest their money in homeopathic fertiliser.
Mark Donaldson, by email
Alternative health is a billion dollar industry with the power to cause serious harm. It is right to insist, as Ben Goldacre does (» Science and the media, 6 March), that medicines be evidence-based.
But Goldacre also shows that 90 percent of the assessment of new drugs is carried out by the drug companies themselves.
The profit motive at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry means there is a huge pressure to come up with positive research findings.
In pointing to both to the false claims of snake-oil salesmen, and the flaws at the heart of the mainstream health industry, Goldacre deserves credit for empowered those fighting for proper “evidence-based” medicine at affordable prices.
John Parrington, Oxford
Not just Little Richard
Your review of Little Richard’s newly re-released CDs interested me.
Other rock ’n’ roll artists also played a big part in breaking down racial barriers in the US.
Bill Haley, for example, refused to play segregated theatres and lost a lot of money as a result.
He also employed Italian and Jewish Americans in his band The Comets – much to the chagrin of other “rockabilly” artists.
Buddy Holly and Bobby Darin were staunchly anti-racist. And Tony Bennett (not a rock ’n’ roller) entertained the Civil Rights marchers and shared a platform with Martin Luther King.
Alan Freed, the DJ who popularised the term rock ’n’ roll, was targeted both by the Ku Klux Klan and by the FBI for refusing to play white cover versions of R&B songs.
He was seen giving LaVern Baker, the black R&B singer, a peck on the cheek when he introduced her on stage.
In Britain, the Musicians’ Union stopped its members from playing at any venue that operated a “colour bar”.
Mitch Mitchell, Cambridgeshire
Nazis not left wing
Are fascists actually a bit “left-wing” in some way, as Malcolm Cowing suggests (» Letters, 13 March)? The answer is, of course, no.
Hitler and the Nazis, like the BNP today, made attacks on
“big business” and “international finance”. But this remains largely hot air.
The far right smashed working-class organisations like trade unions when they came to power in Germany, and banned left wing parties.
Genuine socialism means more democracy and the far right hate that.
Fascists will always need to have a “social” element to their programme to recruit and appeal to working-class voters. But we must not be fooled.
Graeme Kemp, Wellington, Shropshire
David Cameron is using BA strike to win his spurs
Anyone who thinks that it makes no real difference who wins the general election should look at the BA strike.
Willie Walsh is a union-buster and he has total support from Tory leader David Cameron.
Cameron is shedding his nice guy image with a vicious attack on BA strikers, the right to strike and trade unions having political representation. He called on scabs to cross the picket line.
Of course Labour doesn’t support the strikes either, but they called for a negotiated settlement.
Trade union finance is very important for the Labour Party – one reason the Tories are against it.
In attacking the Unite union and the strikers, Cameron is trying to earn his spurs.
He wants to prove that he can be a Thatcher-type figure who will to drive through cuts in the welfare state and attack the unions.
It’s vital that the BA strike culminates in a clear victory.
A Tory victory will encourage the ruling class and give support to other aspiring union busting bosses in British industry. A Labour victory will be a vote against them.
As socialists we can’t be neutral about this. We need to fight on both the industrial and political fronts. That doesn’t mean we canvass for Labour but it does mean we take sides between Labour and Tory.
Duncan Brown, Glasgow
Antisemitism on BNP curriculum
With a government commissioned report finding no reason to bar British National Party (BNP) members from teaching, it might be worth reflecting on the kind of education these fascists receive.
The BNP is currently in the process of republishing March of the Titans: A History of the White Race in a new four-volume edition.
This Nazi tome, the handiwork of BNP “intellectual” Arthur Kemp, is crammed with racist filth.
One of its most absurd and revolting claims can be found in a chapter called “In the shadow of the Ghetto” where Kemp asserts “Jews have ended up dominating the mass media forms of both the USA, and... of Western Europe.”
Kemp goes on to claim that this Jewish influence is set against the interests of “Whites”. Indeed, antisemitism is a persistent feature of this book and much other BNP literature.
How might a BNP teacher advise a Jewish pupil who was interested in a career in, say, journalism? The question should never need to be posed.
Fascism has no place in the classroom.
David Jamieson, Glasgow
Green Zone anti-imperialist
Richard Seymour is too hard on Green Zone (» An arrogant movie that justifies American wars, 20 March).
We see Iraqis protesting for water shrugged off by the occupying soldiers.
And the “maverick” CIA man’s strategy involves propping up a Baathist war criminal – hardly an idealised alternative.
But the crucial line is spoken by “Freddy”, the Iraqi translator. At the end of the film he tells Matt Damon’s character, “It’s not for you to decide.”
This is the message for the US and its allies.
Andy Stone, East London
Prison should help people
It was a pleasure to read a thought-out approach to society’s problems in Socialist Worker in relation to Britain’s prison crisis.
I think that if prison is required it should be to teach and train people to fit into society.
Jim Matthews, Dagenham
Invention of medical terms
Paul Coker’s official cause of death appears to be unknown to medical science (» Police criticised in death-in-custody Inquest , 13 March).
According to some civil rights groups “excited delirium” is “a controversial term to explain deaths of individuals in police custody”.
In some case it is a side effect of being tasered. Police action contributed to Paul’s death.
Nick Stone, Bristol
Greens back union rights
Jenny Franks writes (» Letters, 6 March) that the Greens don’t defend workers’ rights. But the Green Party calls for the restoration and extension of the rights of workers and trade unions, and does back some, if not all, strikes.
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader, is on the left of the party and stands a chance of winning a seat in Brighton.
If she won it would increase confidence to resist Tory (or Labour) attacks.
James Woodcock, East London
Stop money for Gordon Brown
How low can Gordon Brown and New Labour sink? First we have that unelected puppet Lord Adonis condemning the BA workers.
Then the Labour prime minister does exactly the same thing.
Please stop giving money to this vile creature.
Steve Miller, Leicester
Support TUC archive
Recently I visited the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University which is home to the TUC’s archive.
It holds Tom Mann’s papers and an impressive collection of material from the left, including the Socialist Workers Party.
The Centre is also very friendly and accessible.
It would welcome donations of printed materials, from pamphlets to minutes of meetings, leaflets to petitions.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 024 7652 4219.
Chris Bambery, West London
New website for Edward Upward
Readers may be interested in a new website about the socialist novelist Edward Upward.
It can be found at » www.edwardupward.info.
It includes a free electronic edition of his long-unavailable trilogy The Spiral Ascent.
Dave Allinson, by email
More on the deficit myths
Socialist Worker needs to start putting forward detailed arguments against the belief that the budget deficit means we have to have cuts.
Perhaps we also need a pamphlet on this issue?
Richard Milner, Coventry