Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2206

Bhopal – bosses have got away with murder

The conviction this month of seven former employees of Union Carbide is no victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who were affected by the 1984 disaster at the company’s plant in the city of Bhopal, India.

The disaster resulted from the accidental release of 47 tonnes of highly poisonous gas. The inhabitants of Bhopal, many of them living close to the plant, suffered and continue to do so.

At least 8,000 people died immediately. A further half a million were injured, many permanently. The chemical released, methyl isocyanate (MIC), causes unimaginable suffering.

Even today, people suffer and die as a result of the leak. The factory is now closed but chemicals remain in storage, leaking into the local environment.

The truly guilty were not in the courtroom. Whatever the immediate cause of the accident, its scale and impact have everything to do with the desire of Union Carbide’s executives to make maximum profits.

Despite being urged to build the plant away from the local population, Carbide chose its location to save money. It chose to use MIC because it was relatively cheap, despite the dangers of using the chemical.

To save money, broken pipes at the plant were patched up, not replaced. Workers who complained about the unsafe conditions were ignored. One, who went on a two-week hunger strike, was sacked. The alarm on the tank that failed hadn’t worked for four years – but it wasn’t replaced.

The US executives who have avoided the summons to appear on the charge of “culpable homicide” should be heading to jail.

Just as with the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico now, the Bhopal disaster is a bleak example of how capitalism is prepared to sacrifice people and planet. We have to ensure that we don’t wait 25 years for the criminals at BP to be brought to justice – and fight for a system where making money isn’t the priority.

Martin Empson, Treasurer, Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group

Activists and survivors have fought a campaign against the courts, the government and Union Carbide to get true justice for the victims of the Bhopal disaster.

Yet the lenient two year sentences handed down recently do little to allay the anguish and torment that survivors have suffered.

Meanwhile, the multinational bosses have shown scant remorse and remain impervious to prosecution, in comfortable New York retirement. It is a harrowing example of how capitalism puts short term profits before the environment and safety.

It also shows that multinational bosses are, quite literally, allowed to get away with murder.

Aidan Barlow, Warwickshire

The cruel game of capitalism

I am 22 years old, and I have Asperger’s syndrome, a condition on the “milder” end of the autism spectrum. I also have mental health problems and, as a consequence, I receive disability benefits.

It is very difficult to be disabled and live in capitalist society.

I do not like competition because there will ultimately be winners and losers.

In any light-hearted game, such as a game of cards, the loser usually loses gracefully, saying, “It is only a game.”

Sadly this is not the case with capitalism, which is cruelly “played” with real effects. If you lose the “game” of capitalism, you have sold your life to the devil.

I would really like to work and to contribute meaningfully to society. However, very few employers are willing to accommodate disabled people in the workplace.

I regularly dream of a socialist society where everyone can contribute. It is only in such a society that full employment can be achieved, and workers will be treated with dignity and respect.I sincerely believe that one day this will become a reality.

I do not “suffer from Asperger’s”.

This implies that people like me are a problem, that we need to be fixed because we challenge the smooth running of dog-eat-dog capitalism.

Capitalism loves to root problems within individual people, as opposed to questioning societal structures.

Name withheld, Chichester

The Con-Dem government is talking about scrapping benefits for some people who “don’t need them”.

It wants to means-test benefits and says that, this way, the money will go to those who really need it.

This is never what happens with means-testing. It just makes it harder for people to get the benefits that they are entitled to.

Heather Lowe, Birmingham

Good riddance to the Red, White and Blue

It was a great day for the anti-fascist movement recently when the Nazi British National Party (BNP) announced it will no longer hold its “Red, White and Blue” hate-fest.

The anti-fascist demonstration against the BNP’s Codnor rally last year was brilliant – well-organised with plenty of noise, banners, commitment and camaraderie.

Occupying the roads was a very direct and fun way of opposing the BNP.

It forced the BNP to cancel some speakers because their Nazi guests couldn’t get in.

Codnor shows that massive anti-fascist demonstrations work.

While the BNP cancelling the festival is fantastic news we cannot rest on our laurels.

It will have local covens of hatred which we need to demonstrate against.

We need to get out in large numbers to spread the anti-Nazi message wherever they stand for election.

The misnamed English Defence League (I’m English and it is not defending me!) is the street wing of the BNP and needs to be challenged in the same way.

Massive anti-EDL demonstrations, like the ones in Bolton and Leeds, are the answer.

The Nazis have been pushed back but not defeated. We need to keep at it until they are wiped off our streets and ballot papers.

John McDermott, Leeds

A radical answer to Greece’s crisis

Further to your article on the Greek financial crisis (»  Eurozone: How can we solve the crisis? , 12 June) there is a viable alternative that has been shown to work time and again throughout history.

The Greeks should adopt their own currency but, rather than borrow from private banks, the government should print the money themselves and spend it, not lend it, into society.

As this money is created interest free, it has no debt attached to it.

This money could be spent on vital requirements such as road, rail, housing and infrastructure improvements.

As long as the money is spent on productivity, there should be little risk of inflation arising from using government issued, debt-free money.

The rebellious American colonies issued their own money, colonial scrip, in 1775.

Their government lent it to farmers at a 5 percent interest rate.

Since the interest went straight to the government, it was able to use this surplus for public services as an alternative to taxation.

I believe the use of debt-free money by countries in the eurozone is a radical alternative worth considering.

Stephen Davis, Sunderland

The lesser of five evils?

John McDonnell represented the only chance for the Labour Party to turn back to the left.

He was held back by the right centrist MPs who are slowly killing the core of Labour beliefs.

His comments at the GMB conference were controversial but struck a chord with the union’s members.

Diane Abbott may be left wing, but she has said she will not take Labour left if elected.

However, she is a lesser of five evils so she has my backing for Labour leader.

Bernard Randall, Cambridgeshire

Back pleural plaques fight

I was a speaker at the GMB union conference regarding pleural plaques sufferers negligently exposed to asbestos.

I have campaigned for four years for justice for sufferers and to have the Law Lords’ ruling that pleural plaques is not a disease overturned.

The GMB will be holding a rally on 1 July outside the House of Commons.

With your help maybe we can get sufferers to support us in our fight for justice.

BT Legg, President GMB (boilermakers’ section), Swansea

Coup wasn’t workers’ fault

In an article about revolution, you assume that the people of Chile brought the coup upon themselves (» Why revolution? Our reply to the Financial Times, 5 June).

This misses the point of Salvador Allende’s goals and insults those who lost their lives.

Allende recognised that democracy always takes precedence.

Your assertion that “If the working class fails to use sufficient force to defeat the ruling class then worse bloodshed will follow” is despicable.

Anyone who fails to recognise the sanctity of human life is inhuman.

Edmund Potts, by email

Use the mood to mobilise

The atmosphere at my workplace is more political than at any time since the big Stop the War demonstration in 2003.

People are listening to the Tories’ daily drip-feed of doom about the cuts and they’re not buying it.

One woman asked “Why can’t we put up taxes and any rich people who want to leave, good riddance?”

Someone else asked why we didn’t cancel Trident.

A technician asked why she had to pay for something she had no responsibility for.

The protests on 22 June could be really big.

Andy North, Birmingham

Let’s hit BP in Britain too

US citizens are venting their anger over the BP oil spill.

BP stations across New York have been hit with paint bombs.

Even the police understand why the attacks are happening.

One cop said, “There are a lot of people pissed out there. We don’t know who is doing it. But we know why they are doing it.”

There are loads of “pissed” people here too – let’s have action against BP in Britain!

Nicola Stevens, West London

Bookmarks: an appeal

Bookmarks Publications is raising money to reprint the pamphlet The Nakba: Why Israel’s Birth was Palestine’s Catastrophe and What’s the Solution?

It was published in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes.

Israel’s ongoing blockade of Palestine demands that we continue to show solidarity and argue for socialist solutions.

If you would like to sponsor the pamphlet contact [email protected] or phone Sarah on 020 7637 1848.

Sarah Ensor, Bookmarks

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Article information

Tue 15 Jun 2010, 18:43 BST
Issue No. 2206
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