Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2249

Government cuts will ghettoise sick people

I have been following your coverage of the damage being caused by government cuts and it is clear that this is only the start.

In January next year, the government will raise the age threshold for the single room rent benefit from 25 to 35.

Those under 35 will be expected to live in shared accomodation. They will only be paid a fraction of housing benefit.

I have a mental health condition that makes it difficult to live with other people, particularly strangers.

But the government’s plans would slash my housing benefit to £59 a week—and I would lose my income support of £50 a week.

The Tories want to ghettoise sick people. They say benefit claimants shouldn’t expect to live in better conditions than poor working people—as if they have ever cared about poor working people!

It is a tactic to try to divide people and distract from the fact that the government is to blame for poverty and lack of basic services.

They say benefit cuts are an incentive to get off benefits, but being kicked into the gutter isn’t going to make me better.

I need the mental health services that they are cutting. Worrying about losing what little I have has made me more ill and unable to think about anything else.

Everyone should have decent housing—it isn’t something we should have to compete for. And the benefits system shouldn’t punish people for being ill.

“Living off the state” isn’t a lifestyle choice. It means constant uncertainty, stress and fear that with every budget, spending review and government brown envelope, something else is going to be taken away.

Emily Taylor, Birmingham

I’m on disability benefits because I have a condition that makes it difficult for me to walk.

But, after a doctor came round to assess me, I’ve been told I’m not entitled to them.

He didn’t even examine me properly.

He asked me to walk. I managed to get out of my chair but it was difficult and I can only walk a few steps before I have to hold onto something.

Yet he says I can walk unaided for 50 metres.

I’m in pain from the minute I wake up—but that doesn’t seem to matter.

He wrote in his report that I can cook a meal. How can I prepare and cook a meal if I have to hold onto the cooker to stand up?

He wrote that I’m motivated! I wrote back, “I am not motivated. I am depressed.”

He said my disability doesn’t stop me taking part in social activities. What social activities? I basically sit in a chair for 12 hours a day.

I wrote back, “I don’t take part in social activities, I have no life.”

This government are vandals. We’ve got to get them out.

Jackie, Leeds

Protest at election counts

No doubt everyone who went on the TUC demonstration on 26 March will have gone back to their workplace, college or anti-cuts group and talked about how great the demo was.

And all activists would have been faced with the question, “What next?”

The possibility of coordinated strikes by the NUT, UCU, ATL and PCS unions on

30 June clearly helps to make the argument for a general strike.

However, the forthcoming elections also give us an opportunity to keep the spirit of 26 March visible, even if there are no nearby socialist candidates.

The Sandwell Against Cuts group has decided to call a protest outside the local election count on Friday 6 May, where all local politicians will be gathering under one roof.

The idea has enthused activists in Sandwell in the West Midlands.

Think of the national impact such protests could have if every time the TV cameras go to town hall after town hall they are greeted with a lively anti-cuts protest.

Keep the spirit of 26 March alive. Let’s protest outside every election count.

Tony Barnsley, Joint assistant branch secretary, Sandwell Unison (pc)

Bye bye business

This government is doing its best to help the rich at our expense.

But as far as business is concerned, it could always be doing more.

So the bosses’ CBI organisation last week demanded the government cut corporation tax to just 18 percent.

It threatened that businesses could leave Britain if tax rates are “too high”.

Good riddance to them. Bankers and the rich caused the crisis in the first place. We can cope without them.

Melanie Hart, Liverpool

SWP meeting on Iran was a big step forward

The recent Socialist Workers Party (SWP) forum on “Egypt: The lessons for Iran” was a real success. Over 100 people attended, mostly Iranian activists and students.

They discussed the uprisings in the Arab world and how they relate to the “Green Movement”—the rebellion that swept Iran in 2009.

A representative from the Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network addressed the meeting.

Hannah Elsisi, a student who had been in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution, also spoke.

She vividly brought to life the capacity of the revolutionary masses to organise themselves, and to rapidly learn new ways of doing things.

Alex Callinicos from the SWP spoke about the dynamics of the revolutionary process throughout the region.

He said that the Green Movement itself had played an early and important role in this process two years ago.

Ali Alizadeh, a supporter of the Green Movement based in London, spoke about the development of resistance to the Iranian regime and prospects for its future.

The meeting was an important step in helping to start a dialogue between Iranian dissidents and the British left.

I hope that this will be furthered and deepened in the future.

Hediyeh Pourali, West London

‘Widening access’ is a sick Tory joke

I am applying to study a degree in medicine in 2012 and because I have a BA and MA I am not eligible for a student loan to cover my tuition fees.

As you know, most universities are now charging £9,000 a year.

It would cost me £36,000 for a five-year medicine degree and £9,000 for year one of a graduate degree.

That’s providing the NHS still funds the final year of the five year degree and years two to four of the four-year graduate degree.

Now, NHS funding might be removed or reduced for the fifth year of five-year degree programmes and the three years of the four-year programmes.

I am panicking. If this happens I can’t study medicine. And I am not alone.

Many graduates have been offered places that they are now considering turning down because they can’t afford to pay their fees up front.

The government said it wanted to widen access to professions such as medicine.

It is not widening my access to medicine. They are cutting me out. They are making graduate medicine a place for the rich only.

Rebecca McKnight, Manchester

Addicts need help, not cuts

The government stooped to a new low last week.

It chose to highlight how many people with addictions receive incapacity benefit.

The implication is that these people “don’t deserve” benefits because they are causing their own problems.

Addiction isn’t something people can control. And the reasons for those addictions aren’t the fault of addicts either.

People with addictions have often had very hard lives and alcohol or drugs are their only way of coping.

That’s society’s fault.

Caroline Shawton, Edinburgh

Defending Tony Souter

The case of Tony Souter shows the world that teachers are now living in (Socialist Worker, 16 April).

Hopefully Tony’s appeal will go his way, but how could it have gone this far?

The politics in the teaching profession are no different to the factory shopfloor.

It seems that if management takes a disliking to a worker, because they voice their opinion, they will be discarded.

Good luck Tony—we can’t let this happen!

Mr H, Coventry

AV: it’s not all about winning

I agree that the AV voting system will make it more likely that a centre candidate is elected than a left one (Socialist Worker, 16 April).

But do socialists contest elections simply with the hope of winning? No!

AV will mean people would be more willing to listen to our ideas.

It might mean the socialist candidate has less chance of winning, but they would get a higher first preference vote.

I think that would give people more confidence to take their arguments forward.

James, Surrey

A riot that still matters today

There should be great celebrations next week.

No—I don’t mean the royal wedding, but a more important anniversary. On 4 May it will be the 125th anniversary of the origins of Labour Day.

In 1886, people protested against the effects of capitalism in the Chicago Haymarket riots in the US.

It inspired many workers of the world that a change in the political system was needed, and it still has resonance today.

James Nugent, Surrey

Electing cops isn’t progress

The idea of electing police commissioners is dangerous.

It implies that we can vote in “decent” cops and get rid of bad ones. But the police as an institution are anti-working class and racist.

We shouldn’t fall for the idea that this is expanding democracy.

In a real democracy there will be no police.

Emma Jessop, Brighton

Pandering on race not new

Yvette Cooper’s measly response to David Cameron’s latest racist speech reminds me of the 1964 general election.

The Tories put up a candidate in Smethwick with leaflets reading, “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.”

Patrick Gordon-Walker, the Labour candidate, responded by saying, “Don’t blame us for all these immigrants. We’ve been out of power for 13 years.”

Walker lost the seat, but was brought into the cabinet anyway.

He stood in a by-election at a “safe” Labour seat in Leyton and lost again, also losing his cabinet post.

We must stand resolutely against racism whether it comes from Cameron, Nick Griffin or the Daily Express.

Mitch Mitchell, Cambridgeshire

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Tue 26 Apr 2011, 17:53 BST
Issue No. 2249
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