Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2225

School students take to the streets in Paris (Pic: Photothèque Rouge/JMB)

School students take to the streets in Paris (Pic: Photothèque Rouge/JMB)

Students worry Sarkozy

Less than a month ago French president Nicolas Sarkozy was asked about the dangers of a massive strike movement against his government’s pension reform.

He declared, “As long as the youth are not in the streets, I’m in charge. We must keep an eye on the youth like we keep an eye on milk boiling on the stove.”

Today Sarkozy should be worried.

The mobilisation against him has been moving to the rhythm set by the high school and university students that have gone on strike.

Students blockaded 350 schools last week with pickets every morning before marching through the streets. We have seen spontaneous demonstrations of the youth on a daily basis.

Unemployment among 18 to 25 year olds, already at 25 percent, is expected to increase by one million.

The government has sent in police against the school students’ movement.

Riot cops have violently broken up pickets, using tear gas grenades and rubber bullets.

In Montreuil, a multi-ethnic suburb of Paris, police shot a 16-year-old student in the head with a flash ball projectile launcher.

He now needs an operation and his vision is seriously threatened.

Media propaganda is being used to discredit the movement. This says, on the one hand, that there is a legitimate movement of sincere but gullible students being manipulated by the unions and left parties.

On the other hand, they say, a movement of youth from the suburbs is bent on destroying everything in sight and not at all concerned with the struggle against Sarkozy’s measures.

The struggle is at a decisive moment. The massive student action has coincided with national demonstrations and the open-ended strike in the oil refineries.

This has given confidence to the working class to go forward.

But the government will try to take advantage of this week’s autumn holidays in order to demobilise the school students’ movement.

Key to continuing will be what happens on university campuses, where the holiday does not take place.

Joint coordinated action—assemblies, local demonstrations—is needed to overcome any attempt at dividing and weakening us.

John-Samuel MacKay, Paris 7 University, France

There’s a real buzz in the air in France. You’d be hard pushed to find anyone who does not support the strikes. But what’s really inspiring is that young people have joined in.

Students in my local town have blockaded the gates of their colleges, closing them down.

Yesterday my daughter’s school phoned to say that they couldn’t be responsible for her as she’d gone out on strike with a load of other students. She was on strike again today—and plans to carry on for the rest of the week.

I asked her when they would go back to school, and she replied, “When Sarkozy gives in to our demands!”

Now that really pisses me off. My daughter is 15 years old—I had to wait until I was 30 before I went on strike!

Olly Duke, Béziers, France

NHS does have cuts

Pre-spending review cuts are already beginning to hurt the most needy.

When visiting a friend in Highgate mental health centre in north London, I was horrified to find the ward in which she had previously stayed was closed.

There were 16 empty beds in a mental health hospital in the eighth poorest borough in the capital—an area with the highest suicide rate in the country.

Our local mental health trust claims that there is bed under-occupancy. This is rubbish.

One of the patients I saw told me that she was rejected when she first attempted to get admitted to the hospital—two weeks before she attempted suicide.

The gates are barred to a lot of people with mental health problems, as too many know to their cost. Does it have to come to suicide attempts or something as traumatic to get a bed?

Disgracefully, Camden and Islington Mental Health Foundation Trust is planning to cut 100 beds—that’s two mental health units.

Mental health day care provision is also being cut, as are the jobs of those who care in the community.

The reality is that the trust has to make £5 million cuts, and beds are the most expensive and therefore easiest to cut.

This is prior to the new cuts imposed last week, and the impact that they will have on people’s mental health.

We need to oppose these horrendous cuts which hit some of the most vulnerable in society.

Shirley Franklin, Chair, Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition

Run over the Tories

The failed former Tory leader and infamous on-air giggler Iain Duncan Smith has told the unemployed to “get on a bus” to go and find a job.

The odious Duncan Smith should be under one. The man is a disgrace.

Alek Barbulg, East London

Trauma goes on for Paddy Hill, despite win

The Birmingham Six’s Paddy Hill has finally won his fight for intensive trauma counselling, 20 years after being released from prison.

It took nearly 17 years in jail before the Birmingham Six’s convictions for pub bombings in 1974 were overturned.

In a recent Socialist Worker (‘I was taken out of prison. But prison wasn’t taken out of me’, 11 September) interview Paddy spoke about how the six men have never been offered adequate psychological help or support.

Paddy told Socialist Worker, “I was taken out of prison, but prison wasn’t taken out of me. People who have deeply suffered can only begin to recover when they’ve been taken away from the trauma site.

“And I’ve never been taken away from that site—I live on my nerves every day.”

But he has now been given funding by Ayrshire & Arran, his local NHS health trust, for one month’s in-patient counsellling at London’s Capio Nightingale hospital with Professor Gordon Turnbull. Paddy will also receive one month of out-patient care.

There are deep concerns that two months of treatment is not enough to deal with the deep trauma Paddy has gone through at the hands of the state.

Paddy said, “I’m terrified that two months will simply let out the demons without giving me the ability to control them.”

The fight for true justice continues.

Mary Ainsworth, West London

Debt is no excuse to wreck welfare

Chancellor George Osborne has changed his tune.

At least when he presented his “emergency” budget in June he was honest enough to say, “We must remember that this was a crisis that started in the banking sector. The failures of the banks imposed a huge cost on the rest of society.”

The New Economics Foundation estimated the cost of this to be £1,200 billion, far greater than the whole of the government’s debt.

So when the Tories now blame Labour for the debt they are lying—it was the bankers.

Similarly, the Tories are lying when they say that they have to implement the cuts because of the debt.

The current level of government debt is only around a third of the level it was in the late 1940s, relative to the size of the economy.

This was the time the welfare state and the NHS was established. If the government could afford it then, why can’t they afford it now?

There is no economic reason for the cuts. The Tories are using the debt as an excuse to destroy the welfare state. A strong campaign against the cuts can win.

Blame the bankers and fight for the right to work.

Andy Wynne, by email

Sometimes they are right

Last week Simon Basketter revealed that George Osborne’s rich chums bullied him at school ( Exposing the myth of ‘ordinary bloke’ David Cameron , 23 October).

His crime was going to the wrong elite public school—St Paul’s rather than Eton or Harrow.

They would hold him upside down and drop him repeatedly on his head until he correctly answered their question “Who are you?” with the reply “I am a despicable ****.”

So the ruling class can be right on some things then, eh?

Sasha Simic, East London

BBC: report other news

The BBC sent 26 reporters and crew to Chile to cover the rescuing of the Chilean miners. This cost over £100,000.

The events were wonderful to see, but we could have watched the coverage from Chilean TV.

Why doesn’t the BBC provide the same minute by minute account of the strikes in France?

And why not send even half that number to cover the Viva Palestina aid convoy to Gaza?

Mark Porciani, Glasgow

Tories take us back to 1980s

The Tories have now proved their dislike for the working class. We need to be more like the French—they don’t stand for any rubbish thrown at them.

Britain was unfair under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, but David Cameron and his millionaire cabinet are taking us back to the 1980s.

Nicholas Agnew, Essex

No to new ‘green’ railway

Transport secretary Philip Hammond does not seem minded to stop the HS2 high speed rail line planned for Buckinghamshire. I think he is wrong.

I don’t live on the route and I’m no Nimby—but I do care about public services.

Why is £17 billon being spent on the railway, when it could be used for vital public services?

It makes Cameron’s “big society” seem more like a society for small minded little people.

Country people and trade unions should tell the political class we don’t want HS2, we want to keep the welfare state.

Robin Stuchbury, Buckingham

Why the wars if we’re broke?

We are subjected to the same old chestnut from politicians past and present about deficits, a weak economy, necessary cutbacks in social services, etc.

But the country must be awash with money judging by their continued extravagant and unwarranted aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan.

If the country does not have any money, then the authorities could invigorate the economy by ceasing hostilities against these countries.

William Burns, Edinburgh

10 November: follow France!

Students at Bournemouth University have voted to support the NUS and UCU unions’ upcoming national demonstration against education cuts on 10 November.

The demonstration—also resisting the rise of tuition fees—comes at a crucial time as chancellor George Osborne attacks the welfare state.

At a meeting of over 100 students, just one person opposed the motion, claiming that NUS leaders wanted havoc on the streets of London.

If only this were true.

We need every student to build organised resistance to the cuts and to link their struggles with those of workers.

Let’s follow the example set by French students and fight these cuts on the streets of London in two weeks time.

Gareth Hill, Bournemouth

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Article information

Tue 26 Oct 2010, 17:31 BST
Issue No. 2225
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