Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2209

Why did TUC chickens invite fox into henhouse?

The General Council of the TUC has invited David Cameron to address the TUC in September (As TUC invites Cameron to speak, we need a fightback not paralysis at top, 3 July). What could possibly have inspired an invitation to the man who is orchestrating the most vicious attack on the welfare state in living memory?

It seems that the leaders of the trade union movement believe that we need to get him to “engage” with us. It reflects the pessimism of some about the ability and willingness of the rank and file to fight to defend our services.

Activists are often lectured by the leadership about being “clever”, “smart” and “strategic” when organising resistance.

This invitation is therefore a clear code to warn activists about the dangers of “knee–jerk” calls for mass action.

Attempts to split Liberal Democrats away from the coalition are one of the key policies of the TUC. Of course, this should be a part of a strategy but it will not happen by friendly chats in the corridors of power.

Anyone who has been involved in negotiations knows that the employer is looking over your shoulder to see what level of organisation you have before deciding their next course of action.

Mass action that unites the trade unions with community organisations will be the key to applying the kind of pressure that is needed.

Let us not repeat the mistakes from the 1980s when the TUC leadership made speeches in support of the steel workers, miners and the printers.

But they warned activists not to be too radical, which would push the middle ground into the arms of the Tories.

Cameron and co are isolated and despised by millions in Britain.The TUC leadership needs to articulate and organise this anger.

The TUC must discuss how it is going to mobilise its seven million members in defence of the welfare state rather than trying to “engage” a Tory who is hell-bent in making us pay for his class’s greed.

Sean Vernell, UCU national executive (pc)

Not only is the TUC wasting its time inviting the prime minister into the hall, it is also turning itself into a biennial event from this year.

It seems that we need fewer “workers’ parliaments” – as some have laughingly dubbed the TUC.

The annual TUC is a very long way from being the model of a workers’ council that socialists regard as the highest form of workers’ democracy. But it at least offers a glimpse of what could be achieved if it were radicalised rather than mothballed.

Nick Grant, NUT national executive (pc)

Budget’s side-effect

The government’s emergency budget was obscene. I have proof of its ability to corrupt and deprave. I realised after hearing it, that I was talking like a Conning-Dem politician.

Concerned for my well-being I went to the doctor. She asked me, “Pain?” I answered, “Yes. I believe great pain is not only necessary but unavoidable.”

She enquired whether I had any dietary requirements. I replied that I liked all derivatives and swallowed any palliatives given to me.

When she suggested surgery, I said that I was in favour of deep cuts and the removal of 25 percent of my body.

She said, “We need to find the underlying cause and eradicate it.” She gave me some useful reading material – last week’s Socialist Worker. It acted like a good dose of common sense.

I have regained the knowledge that the underlying problem is capitalism and a good clear out is long overdue.

Alan Porter, Canterbury

Who pays war price?

The death toll of British soldiers in Afghanistan has passed the 300 mark.

At such a point, David Cameron’s remarks that “we are paying the high price for keeping our country safe” are the height of hypocrisy. Who is this “we”?

Afghan civilians, with a death toll in the thousands, are paying a high price, as are British troops.

Many of them joined the army because there were no other alternative employment prospects. On the home front, Muslims are coming under attack as a result of the government’s foreign policy.

My opinion is that Winston Churchill’s Second World War statement should be rewritten to say this:

“Never in the history of British imperialism has so much capital been spent on a policy by so few war criminals and at the same time paid for by so many civilians at such a high price.”

Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness

Tories’ housing plans will devastate lives

The Government is to link housing benefit to family size for tenants in social housing, cap the benefits paid to tenants of private landlords and cut housing benefit for people on Jobseekers Allowance.

This will result in worry, debt and homelessness on an even greater scale than at present.

There are record numbers of people on council housing waiting lists – 1.8 million and rising. Because of this, councils have housed more people with private landlords at market rents, so housing the homeless has become very lucrative for property companies.

It’s common for councils to move people into sub-standard and overcrowded homes, often in other boroughs, where they are far from friends and relatives.

If the current trends continue – with many unable to buy, and access to “socially rented” housing restricted – the private rented sector will become larger than the socially rented sector by 2013.

Governments have been happy to subsidise private rents even though it would have been cheaper to build council homes or to make use of empty properties to reduce waiting lists.

Council housing first emerged in Britain in 1919 as a result of tenants and unions organising against private slum landlords.

We need to do the same, and put an end to landlord profiteering for good.

Stephen Hack, Lambeth Defend Council Housing

Free schools cost more in Sweden

A Swedish newspaper recently ran the headline, “Free Schools Make Large Profits”. It reported that the education corporations are more profitable than most businesses – all of it coming from public spending.

The British government wants to copy this model.

In 1992 the Swedish government pushed through a reform that was supposed to let parents run schools.

The reality has been very different.

The schools are mostly run by corporations.

The schools are education factories with bigger class sizes, less supervised lessons, more unqualified teachers and often no libraries, special needs support, nurses or sports facilities.

The schools proportionally have more students from well-off backgrounds.

If a free school increases its intake, state-run comprehensives must be prepared to close down.

But if the free school goes bankrupt, the state school must take on extra students.

The free school system steals from the kids to give to big business. Fight the Tory government’s plans all the way.

Asa Hjalmers, Gothenburg, Sweden

VAT rise is tax on the poorest

Before the election the Tories said that they had no plans to raise VAT, yet they have done so.

This will affect the poorest people and the rich will not notice the rise.

I think that Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg is a disgrace for going along with this tax on the poor. I hope other Lib Dems will now challenge this coalition.

It will be very bad for people on low incomes if these millionaires are to continue in power for another five years.

Nick Agnew, Hatfield Peverel, Essex

Bosses should be ashamed

Over 200 workers have been made redundant at Pilkington’s Tiles in Salford (Socialist Worker, 3 July).

They received no notice whatsoever and were not paid for the final two weeks of their employment.

They now have to fill in numerous forms to claim a minimum redundancy payment – despite some workers giving 20, 30 and even 40 years service to the company.

The administrators KPMG and all the directors should be ashamed of their treatment of a loyal workforce.

Paul, by email

More burdens for the future

Getting a private pension in the present economic situation will cripple many people.

Many are already unable to meet their present outgoings after compulsory pension contributions have been taken from their pay packets.

I know of a case where a company folded and employees lost their jobs and thousands of pounds in pension contributions.

People in Europe save more than their counterparts in Britain. This means they have more when they retire.

But rents in much of Europe are lower than in Britain and wages are often higher.

Life in the private sector housing rental market in Britain is a life without rights.

It is no wonder that people want to buy their own homes so they can have some security.

Well, at least for the time they are able to keep up with their mortgage payments. It’s better that than no security at all.

Richard Lawrence, Ashford, Kent

Fighting for climate jobs

Sheffield Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC) trade union group launched the “One Million Climate Jobs” campaign in the city at a meeting on Tuesday of last week.

We heard speakers from the national CACC trade union group and the local Right to Work campaign.

About two dozen trade unionists had a lively and positive debate about how to take the campaign forward.

It has got off to a good start with the affiliation of the local government Unison branch.

There was agreement on the need to resist the cuts and the idea that we need jobs in transport, insulation, alternative energy and training.

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg is a Sheffield MP and we want to hold him to account for his reneging on pre-election Lib Dem promises on climate jobs.

Margaret Stone, Sheffield

England team not socialist

England’s World Cup debacle was down to the fact that the team was full of individuals whose egos have been boosted by the Premier League behemouth.

That’s the view of former England star John Barnes who said last week that “Football is a socialist sport.

“The teams which embrace the socialist ideology rather than having superstars are the teams that are successful.”

How true.

Simone Murray, Carlisle

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Article information

Tue 6 Jul 2010, 17:36 BST
Issue No. 2209
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