Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2255

Slashing benefits is making people ill

As a former NHS staff nurse, I am deeply concerned and angry about the government’s predisposition to targeting the most vulnerable members of society.

Disability benefits, and who should or should not be entitled to them, is a complex issue, and the government appears to have conveniently ignored the intricacies of the problem.

Areas of high social and economic deprivation have the highest rates of sickness, but this is often linked to severe under-funding. Many people in such areas finding it difficult to access the most basic health care services.

Many find themselves struggling with chronic illness and disability, simply because they cannot access services and treatments quickly enough.

Slashing disability benefits will not resolve this problem, but merely compound it.

We will have an increasingly sick and impoverished society, where more people will end up needing disability benefits for a longer period of time.

This is alongside a potential increase in the number of hospital admissions as the health of the nation continues to deteriorate.

Secondly, there is an assumption that individuals who are denied disability benefits are not entitled to them or are simply “scroungers”.

This is certainly not true. It is not unusual for individuals with very serious health problems, like kidney failure, heart problems and bone-marrow transplant recipients, to be denied benefits.

This is happening because these individuals are not being assessed by appropriately trained NHS healthcare professionals who understand the nature of their health problems, and the difficulties that they may face.

This has become an increasing problem. Many hospital consultants are forced to spend far too much time contacting local benefits offices, fighting for the rights of their patients. That a tiny amount of disability benefit fraud exists is no reason to cut the support to millions of people.

Michelle Holder, Cardiff

I thoroughly disapprove of the planned takeover of Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire by Circle Health.

Hinchingbrooke has been chosen because it’s the smallest district hospital. If the experiment fails the consequences are minimal—except for the public who use this excellent hospital and for its dedicated doctors and nurses.

Anne George, Willingham

Italy poll results bring hope

The results of the Italian local elections are still too fresh for us to quantify their full significance.

But, they surely reveal a country exhausted by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s shenanigans—whether or not it marks the beginning of the end to 20 years of his political domination.

Berlusconi deliberately transformed the election campaign into a referendum on himself.

But the prime minister’s latest political gamble has not returned the expected dividends.

The parties in his coalition have been severely punished in this contest.

Furthermore, the mayoral results in Milan and Naples marked a historic victory for candidates embodying the demons Berlusconi so often portrayed to scare the Italian people.

Milan was won by Giuliano Pisapia, a former communist standing for the centre-left Democratic Party.

Naples will be governed by Luigi De Magistris—a former state prosecutor who entered politics after being ostracised for his investigations into political corruption in the south.

Even more revealing is the way in which they achieved these victories.

They used tools outside of the traditional media and party approach.

With mainstream television networks and press being mostly against them, the Pisapia and De Magistris campaigns utilised the web in a brave and effective manner.

They spent their time focusing on local, urgent issues rather than allowing Berlusconi to dictate the terms of the debate—focusing once again around his persona.

More than anything else these two events show that the Italian public is not totally gullible after all and that an alternative to this government is possible.

Alberto Spairani, East London

Storm brews as football close to revolt

The world of football and Fifa can seem left untouched by the revolutionary fervour of the last couple of months. Yet a storm is brewing.

The corridors of the crisis-ridden Fifa headquarters in Zurich are far away from Puerto de Sol, Madrid or Tahrir Square.

But when Swindon Town FC announced that fascist ex-Lazio player Paolo Di Canio as their new manager, the trade union movement hit back.

Di Canio faced bans and fines for making fascist salutes while playing for the Italian club Lazio. In his autobiography he praised Mussolini as “basically a very principled, ethical individual”.

A local GMB branch which sponsors the club decided to cut financial support following the appointment of Di Canio.

Resistance and football go hand in hand. During the Egyptian revolution, the country’s militant football fans, known as “ultras”, put their experience of street fighting to good use by joining ordinary people in confrontation with the state.

And Barcelona’s “ultras” have now joined the ranks of resistance in the protest camps.

Perhaps football fans will go beyond indignation and start a revolution against Fifa.

Mark Bergfeld, East London

We should march and challenge

I don’t agree with Ruby (Letters, 4 June) that the women organising SlutWalk are reinforcing the sexual objectification of women.

I hate the word “slut”. You cannot reclaim or subvert a sexist term that is the modern shorthand for what the police and judges used to call “contributory negligence”—that how women dress or behave makes them sexually available without consent.

However, the young women organising the march are not reinforcing prejudice but challenging it. They are clearly seeking to bring in the streets that old slogan, “However we dress, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no”.

There are many discussions to have—not least the question of how we can develop a society free from rape and oppression.

As a socialist, and someone who has been raped and had to deal with how people responded to that, I think we have to create a world by transforming the economic and social basis on which words and ideas exist.

If we opt out of that debate, we are betraying a generation of women who need to fight for socialism as the only basis of liberation for women.

Elane Heffernan, by email

It’s economic conscription

New figures released by the Ministry of Defence reveal an increase in 16 year olds joining the army last year.

Sixteen year olds accounted for 1,400 of new recruits—an increase of 4.7 percent on the previous year.

This trend will rise with the scrapping of education maintenance allowance (EMA) that enabled working class students to get to and from college, and with fewer jobs available.

Socialists need to call this what it is—economic conscription.

This is another example why socialists need to link the fight against war and army recruitment on our campuses to the fight against cuts.

Matt Hale, Manchester

They can’t silence Tunisia

Protesters have taken to the streets of Tunisia’s third city, Sousse, for about three days now about the lack of support from government regarding work in tourism.

People have been told that Britain is stopping tourists coming which is why they do not have work.

This is blatantly untrue, with many tour operators offering discounts to encourage people.

The Tunisian government does not want people to know what is going on.

I know this as my fiance is Tunisian and taking part.

Both police and the military are out on the streets and threats of a further curfew and tear gas have been issued.

Samantha A Lee, by email

UK Uncut show imagination

The campaign group UK Uncut has used brilliant imaginative tactics that expose the consequences of banks greed and the irresponsible profiteering of finance capital.

They are in the best sense both shock troops and celebrants of the festival of the oppressed. They point imaginatively to a better way.

The only way we will get there is by being realistic—and demanding the impossible.

Name withheld, by email

Bankers do real damage

I watched Question Time on BBC One last week and a question came up about the effectiveness or otherwise of the UK Border Agency.

I was heartened when members of the audience defended migrants—especially when one young guy said, “One aristocratic banker can do more damage to the economy than 10,000 asylum seekers.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself!

Mitch Mitchell, Cambridgeshire

He is dead, long ago

I’d like to congratulate the sub-editors of Socialist Worker for turning my over-long article on Ratko Mladic, “The Hague will not deliver justice”, into something readable.

However, the way it was edited gave the impression that Franjo Tudjman, the first president of independent Croatia, is still capable of standing before a tribunal in the Hague to answer for his crimes in the break-up of Yugoslavia.

In fact Tudjman was allowed to die peacefully in his bed—and in office—a respected and valued ally of the West in 1999.

Sasha Simic, Hackney

UN was never force for good

William Burns wrote last week (Letters, 4 June), that the UN and Nato should be scrapped because they have shamefully moved away from “the reasons they were formed”.

This is not true. Both bodies were set up as an attempt to formalise and legitimise the domination of Western imperial powers and act as the police of the world.

Gwyneth Jones, Newport

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Article information

Tue 7 Jun 2011, 18:23 BST
Issue No. 2255
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