Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2215

A worker from eastern Europe at a makeshift camp in Peterborough  (Pic: Smallman )

A worker from eastern Europe at a makeshift camp in Peterborough (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Squatters show poverty

The tabloid press launched into a spiteful attack on poor migrant workers in Britain last week. The Daily Express newspaper ran a front page claiming “Britain’s Migrant Squatter Shambles—city under siege by jobless gangs”.

The city they’re talking about is Peterborough, where I live—and they have only told half the story.

The tragedy is that some of the Express story is true—there are migrants living in makeshift shelters in the woods surrounding the city.

These are migrants who are paid poverty wages to pick the famous “British” crops that supermarkets and farmers like to be so proud of.

These workers are treated appallingly by their employers.

Many of them are from eastern Europe and came to Britain to work and attempt to have a better life.

They have few rights to welfare or state support. Far from being scroungers, they are forced to live on nothing.

They are used and abused by a system that relies on their poverty-wage labour one moment, and rejects it the next.

David Cameron wants to be able to turn migrant labour on and off like a tap, with no respect for the people involved or their lives.

The people living in these so called “shanty towns” are not paid enough to rent a house or flat, and in any case social housing in this area is completely insufficient.

Bosses should be forced to ensure their employees are living in safe conditions, particularly when it is the bosses who make huge profits by paying them poverty wages.

These workers deserve dignity and rights like everyone else.

The Daily Express and other right wing newspapers are trying to whip up hysteria about migrant workers—and as socialists it is our job to stop their poison spreading into the working class.

Lynn Smitherton, Peterborough

Women’s power in working class

There are a huge variety of questions concerning women’s position in society today under advanced capitalism.

Symptoms of oppression continue that illustrate the deeper workings of the system.

These include women’s position in the workplace and in the home, and the way advertising seeks to portray women as models of consumption.

The madness and inequality of the system we live in—and the failure of new, “positive” feminism to address these problems—shows that we still have more to win.

The centrality of class—of poverty and the exploitation of working class men and women—remains crucial to understanding the struggle today.

The working class must fight together and organise in workplaces in order to bring liberation and socialism.

Thabang Maseko, South Africa

To dress as we like

Muslims have always disagreed over whether the Koran says that women should wear actual, physical veils.

For revolutionary socialists the debate is a simple one—we are against any law which tells women what they can or can’t wear.

The central issues are sexism and freedom of choice.

So when the patriarchal Taliban force women to wear veils, we have fought for women’s right to be unveiled.

When the French ruling class force women not to wear veils, we fight for women’s right to veil themselves!

There is no contradiction in this approach—in both cases, we must stand up for the right to dress as we please, because it is that right which is under attack.

And far from being an “emotive buzzword”, racism (and sexism) is the key to understanding why reactionaries in Europe are targeting Muslim women for this attack on liberty.

Sam Chambers, Nottingham

Don’t buy secular lie

I AM writing in response to Fariha Habr’s letter “Veil ban is not racist”, (Letters, 7 August). I imagine that in Qatar, where Fariha was writing from, many women do wear the burqa and are forced to do so by patriarchal society—so I can sympathise with her views.

However, in France, the legislation to ban the burqa has nothing at all to do with defending women’s rights. 

Only around 2,000 women wear the full veil in public—a tiny minority of the Muslim population.

The burqa argument is a diversion from some extremely unpopular policies courtesy of President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The legislation means an increase in racist abuse towards Muslims—especially women—and encourages women who adopt the veil to remain housebound. This is hardly a step towards liberation.

Anne James, France

Communal living is a part of the resistance

I found Kieran Allen’s criticism of socialist utopias (Dreaming of a better world isn’t utopian, 7 August) rather weak and narrow-minded.

Conditions for revolutions change with the times they are in.

We are now at the start of the 21st century, where revolution is likely to take place in all sorts of ways which certainly does not exclude people already choosing to live communistically under capitalism.

“Revolution”, the article states, “arises from the real movement of the working class.” But what is the nature of this real movement? And who are the working class? Allen does not define this at all.

I would suggest that today, when the vast majority of the world’s people are wage labourers, ways to bring about revolution may be equally as varied.

People living communistically are just as much part of the “overcoming” process as those that choose to organise strikes in workplaces.

They are rejecting the insanity and waste of capitalism and are tackling the divide-and-rule which keeps capitalism going as the ruling ideology.

This would not be the entire answer, but if the masses chose to collectivise, it would have an enormous impact.

By needing less, by consuming less, people would certainly need less money. What is more undermining to capitalism than that?

Lucy Lant, Bristol

Criticism erodes workers’ spirits

The quote attributed to Derek Simpson ( Put the emphasis on the fightback, 14 August) gives the impression that Unite union members are not prepared to fight government cuts.

This is incorrect. Derek Simpson does not have the power to make that decision.

The Unite union is driven by the membership.

In order to take effective action, the members need the confidence in their own ability to win.

Editorials such as this one only further erode that confidence.

It is counter-productive and plays into the hands of the people saying “Unions are finished, they are a waste of time.”

These are the same people that then attack workers’ rights, knowing that the union strength has diminished.

Socialist Worker should be highlighting the positive moves for member involvement made within Unite.

It should be encouraging every Unite member to get actively involved, not giving the the false impression that the decision has already been made elsewhere.

Ian King, Unite Convenor, Servicing and General Industries National Committee member. Doncaster

Unions should lead fightback

The trade union leadership in this country have been as quiet as mice about the massive cuts the government are planning. Why?

Millions of workers are worried about whether or not they are going to lose their jobs, and the union leaders are talking about trying to “raise awareness”. Pathetic.

It is clear that there is a growing anger among working people that we are being made the scapegoats for mistakes made by the greedy, filthy-rich bankers.

The message should go out loud and clear from the trade union movement: make the banks pay—stop the cuts! And if that means a general strike, then so be it.

Chris, Warwick

Leave council tenants alone

I am angered by David Cameron’s proposal to end council houses for life and to encourage short-term tenancy.

He expects workers to travel round the country in search of work, in the name of increased flexibility.

The stress of constantly moving house is sure to send anyone to an early grave.

And where are the jobs that workers on the road are supposed to take?

If Cameron gets his way we will have a situation like depression-era US, when Woody Guthrie quite rightly sang, “I am not going to be treated this way.”

Anna Lansley, Chichester

Make banks work for us

Bankers are greedy pigs? Absolutely! But the point should now be to change the world of banking, so we all benefit.

That means taking the banks into public ownership.

It should also mean involving bank employees and customers in the running of the banks too.

We must support a revolution in banking as well as opposing cuts.

Graeme Kemp, Shropshire

Socialism, not Labour

I agree with John Newsinger’s letter about David Miliband (Letters, 7 August).

What does Milliband know about unemployment? Has he ever had to manage on £65 per week?

I live in South Tyneside where all Labour supporters would like to see him as leader just because he’s our local MP.

I would rather have Diane Abbott, probably the best out of a bad bunch.

Would unemployment be much better under a Labour government?

Give me a real socialist government any day!

Rob Murray, South Tyneside

Researching construction

I am a researcher at the University of Westminster, working on a project that is attempting to capture and record the histories of construction workers who were employed on some of the highest profile examples of British post-war architecture and civil engineering.

Anyone with such stories please contact me on [email protected] or 020 7911 5000 ext 3370.

Download full deatails

Charlie McGuire, Coventry

It’s time for a new system

Thanks to capitalism we are on our way to becoming an impoverished island.

We have a worn-out, useless political system and a crazily expensive royal family (which cost us £66 million last year according to the Times newspaper).

To get out of our mess we must now change to a system of government of the people, for the people and by the people.

In other words, we need socialism.

David Lee, Eastbourne

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Article information

Tue 17 Aug 2010, 18:05 BST
Issue No. 2215
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