Thanks for support – and keep on fighting
I am writing to thank all the readers of Socialist Worker who have supported my campaign for justice.
Many will know that I was arrested outside the BBC, protesting against Nazi Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time.
Subsequently I was convicted of assault on a police officer and I have been sentenced to a 12-month community order, with 80 hours’ unpaid work, and have been fined £450.
The last week has been very humbling for me. I have now received over 600 messages of support. And invitations to speak at union meetings are pouring in.
Last week I spoke at a GMB branch meeting, the members voted unanimously to back my campaign and voted to donate £250 to the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) Defence Campaign.
Five national unions have backed my campaign—NUJ, PCS, CWU, NUT and RMT—along with individual RMT, NUT, Unite, CWU and PCS branches. Even a branch of the Prison Officers Association has sent me a message of support.
I did not assault the police officer. I believe I am being punished because I campaign and protest against racists and fascists.
All the support given to me has made me more determined to continue to fight to clear my name.
Please don’t forget the other UAF activists who have been arrested and face prosecution.
Weyman Bennett, the joint secretary of UAF, and Rhetta Moran, a UAF officer in Manchester, also face the possibility of being prosecuted after the Bolton protest against the English Defence League. Please back their campaign.
On 6 November, thousands of people will join the UAF national demonstration against racism, fascism and Islamophobia in London.
That will send a clear message to the racists that we are many and they are few—and to the police that our movement will not be broken.
Martin Smith, Socialist Workers Party national secretary and Unite Against Fascism officer
I was angered but not surprised that, despite the evidence, Martin Smith was found guilty of assaulting a policeman at an anti-fascist protest.
I faced the same charge when I was arrested on the Grunwick picket line back in the 1970s.
I was found guilty despite having numerous defence witnesses—including two union convenors, a general secretary, and the police doctor.
On the day I was arrested I was dragged onto a police bus and introduced to the cop I’d “assaulted”—who was dozing in the back.
When I complained he replied, “What do you expect if you support Pakis?”
Ken Montague, North London
Special needs are not a con
“The special needs industry is a gigantic con”, according to the Daily Mail reading of Ofsted’s SEN (special educational needs) review, released last week.
The line was that students are given SEN status to hide bad teaching and to line the coffers of greedy schools.
Getting a child classified as having SEN is no stroll in the park. For me it was a protracted battle that had me storming into my local education authority (LEA) on a weekly basis armed with letters from consultants, doctors and advocacy groups.
My son has a genetic disease that is progressive and neurological. It was diagnosed when he was three—yet when he started school, it took the Lambeth LEA nine months to award him a SEN Statement.
He was denied an education during those nine months because no school would enrol him without receiving funding for the additional support he clearly needed and which the Statement would allow him.
Ofsted’s review claims that “improving teaching and pastoral support” would reduce the number of children identified as having SEN.
But better teaching means teaching staff having more time to spend with students who are struggling. It is laughable to try and divorce the quality of teaching from the need for well-resourced, properly funded schools.
It’s also highly ideological. Thrusting the blame onto teachers diverts attention from the real cause of failure in schools—spending cuts that leave teachers with longer hours, bigger classes and less assistance.
It should come as no surprise to socialists that the majority of SEN-classified students come from “disadvantaged backgrounds”.
An attack on funding for SEN is ultimately an attack on working class students—not just on their education but on the chances they will have throughout the rest of their lives.
Xanthe Whittaker, South London
A new mood at TUC – now build resistance
Last week members of the Socialist Workers Party attended the TUC as delegates from various unions.
We found it to be one of the best in many years. The TUC can often be about horse-trading and compromise but this year we felt that there was a new mood of militancy and resistance.
In speeches from the platform and particularly in fringe meetings there was anger about the cuts and repeated calls for action and a concerted fightback.
Congress passed a motion calling for coordinated action to fight the attacks on the working class and finally committed to calling a national demonstration against these attacks.
It is now time to translate the motions passed into action and also to turn the talk of a coordinated fightback into a reality.
More than ever we need a rank and file, community-based movement to fight the Tories’ cuts.
We need to turn the motions passed at the TUC last week into what the employers most fear—concerted resistance to this attack on the working class and putting forward a real alternative to cuts and privatisation.
Sue Bond, Sasha Callaghan, Mark Campbell, Rachel Edwards, Paul McGoay, Andy Reid, Sean Vernell, Delegates to 2010 TUC
Tory cuts will hurt women the most
A couple of weeks ago we had an excellent 400-strong demonstration in Huddersfield against government spending cuts.
Women will bear the bulk of the impact of cuts. Some 65 percent of public sector workers are women.
Millions more jobs in the private sector depend on public sector contracts.
Most jobs in childcare are in the private sector and the majority of those working in childcare are women.
Cuts in local authority spending mean that many of these face either losing their jobs or having their terms and conditions squeezed.
Alongside proposed benefit and taxation changes—including entitlement to child benefit, tax credit and public service pensions—billions will be taken away from women.
A larger share of women’s income is made up from benefits and tax credits—25 percent compared to 10 percent for men.
We are told that there is no alternative to cuts and job losses. But the cuts are a choice—an ideological attack on working men and women.
On 3 October the Tories will meet in Birmingham.
We must confront them.
Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield
Poverty leads to corruption
There is another dimension to corruption that your article didn’t acknowledge (How corruption is built into capitalism, 11 September).
It is common on the right to claim that underdevelopment is the result of factors like corruption.
What this argument does not make clear is that a large segment of corruption in poorer countries takes place among junior officials and public sector employees.
These people seek alternative sources of income because their “official” wages are too low or irregular.
In this respect, corruption is the result rather than the cause of underdevelopment—which is itself bound up with capitalism.
Louisa Chan, South Korea
Workers unite, in work or not
George Osborne promises an additional £4 billion cuts in the welfare budget.
This superficially looks a straight divide and rule ploy between the struggling employed and “lifestyle” unemployed.
It is in fact an attack on everybody. We need unity across the working class.
Focus on yachts, helicopters, mansions—the trimmings of a disgusting class ripping into civilisation quicker than Al Capone’s machine guns.
Colin Frost Herbert, Sussex
Follow Telford and fight cuts
The magnificent show of resistance by defence workers in Telford, Shropshire was indeed a magnificent example of workers fighting back (Socialist Worker, 18 September).
Telford is not a rich area—it is where the Industrial Revolution began and workers are right to take pride in their jobs and fight cuts.
Hopefully, workers in Telford will soon be joined by thousands of others. The resistance must grow.
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
I support the Travellers
I live relatively close to Hovefields and Dale Farm, and was alerted to the issue of evictions of Travellers (Wrenched from their homes at an hour's notice , 18 September) mostly by the rabidly racist comments posted on my local newspaper’s website.
The website is moderated, but the comments are never removed. In fact, the paper’s editorial slant is severely anti-Traveller.
I visited Dale Farm with my wife a while back. I have never been made to feel more welcome, and found the people who lived there to be far more charming and intelligent than the sad bigots who want them evicted.
This whole episode is deeply shameful.
Doug, by email
Everyone can defend planet
While I have major reservations about how useful Climate Camp may be, it has nothing to do with ethical consumerism (Letters, 11 September).
To avoid catastrophic climate change, we should not rely simply on working class action.
The fight against the third runway at Heathrow was won by a coalition of middle class, often Conservative-voting local residents using a variety of tactics. We should recognise this.
Josh Moos, by email
I couldn’t vote in Labour poll
I got my union ballot paper for the Labour leadership election, from Unite.
To be able to vote I had to tick a box that says: “I support the policies and principles of the Labour Party, and am not a supporter of any organisation opposed to it”.
It added: “Please note: if this part of your ballot is left unmarked your vote will not be counted in these elections.”
That was a step too far for me. Did other people manage by being pragmatic?
Joe Fleming, South London