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Boundary changes are attack on democracy | We can win this class war | DSEi arms fair is a carnival for deadly hypocrites | Why does Topman promote sexism? | Kettling is a rights crime | Apple bans workers’ app | Help Innocent Empi’s family | Capitalis

Issue No. 2270

Boundary changes are attack on democracy

This week the Boundary Commission announced significant changes to parliamentary constituencies.

It will mean 50 fewer MPs in parliament and an “equalisation” of constituency sizes. I think this is something that we should be concerned about and I wondered what other readers thought.

I’m sure many of us are quite cynical about parliament and MPs. There is an old saying, “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”.

The saying partly reflects years of experience of Labour governments that have failed to deliver significant reforms for working people.

And of course, in the last few years we have had all the revelations about parliamentary corruption and MPs’ expenses fiddles.

So it’s easy to understand why some people might think it’s a good thing to get rid of some of them! But there are bigger issues at stake.

First, the proposals will make it more likely we have a Tory government after the next election—reason enough to oppose them.

Second, “equalisation” is actually about watering down working class constituencies and voting areas.

It means working class areas will be lumped in with more affluent areas. That will water down the potential to have real workers’ representatives in parliament.

Finally, the proposals also include a section to reduce the pressure on councils to register electors.

Experts suggest that would cut the number of voters on the electoral register from the present 95 percent of the adult population to about 65 percent.

The expectation is that the main categories of people dropping off the register will be the poor, the young, the black and the inner city dweller.

These proposals will make parliament less representative and less democratic.

The present bunch of MPs are pretty useless—with a few notable exceptions.

But this doesn’t mean we can’t elect real working class representatives in the future.

So we can’t stand back as the coalition waters down our rights and makes government less accountable to all of us.

Michael Lavalette, Preston


We can win this class war

Many of us who helped build the biggest march in British history have discussed what would have been needed to stop Tony Blair joining George Bush in the attack on Iraq.

In parliament there weren’t enough Labour MPs with a political backbone to vote against war—although plenty now say they were mistaken.

Discontent within the armed forces was significant.

Military Families Against the War was inspiring—but there was no mutiny in the British Army.

The trade unions were central to the great mobilisations in opposition to the war. But most people marched with friends, family and neighbours—not as groups of workers or as part of trade union delegations.

When the war started some workers did strike in protest.

If workers had closed transport, education, factories or transport, Blair would not have been able to take the country to war.

He was wobbling and had to be buoyed up by Bush and Rupert Murdoch.

This year, the March for the Alternative on 26 March was smaller than the biggest anti-war marches.

But here we saw the power of organised workers.

The trade unions marched in blocks, and the mobilisations were centred on the workplaces, not communities.

Building the biggest turnout for the march against the Tories in Manchester on 2 October is crucial.

It can act as a springboard for a massive strike wave and a wider rebellion, strong enough to stop the war the Tories will be planning when they meet in Manchester for their conference.

Their war on our class can be beaten by the power of our class if we act fight collectively and fight to win.

Mark Krantz, Manchester


DSEi arms fair is a carnival for deadly hypocrites

Yes, they came back, for one week only, to the London ExCel. Those heartless, thoughtless, conscienceless, money-driven morons were here again.

And they all have our government’s blessing.

Yes, it’s those bloodsucking scumbags, those friendly folks of the machines of death industry (or defence systems as they’re laughably called).

The Arab uprisings this year are a backlash to the Western-backed dictators, who are armed to the teeth by companies like BAE.

The people in those countries want a better way of life.

We are the last country to lecture others on freedom and democracy, when we have stifled theirs up until now.

As far as our leaders are concerned, it’s business first, and (foreign) human lives are an afterthought.

If you oppose war then the arms industry must be the epicentre of your stance.

Wars, oppression, torture, environmental damage, famine, poverty, refugees, public spending cuts and unemployment will continue as long as this horrific trade continues.

War should be a historic term, the arms trade should be too. “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

There were many opposing them this week.

Colin Crilly, by email


Why does Topman promote sexism?

high street fashion chain Topman got a shock this week when it discovered that not everyone finds sexism amusing.

The shop produced sexist slogan T-shirts, as is its style. But these ones were particularly offensive.

The most shocking one reads, “I’m sorry but...” and then has a checklist of excuses reading, “You provoked me; I was drunk; I was having a bad day; I hate you; I didn’t mean it; I couldn’t help it.”

I wasn’t the only person that found the T-shirts horrific.

They have now been scrapped after men and women bombarded the company with complaints.

Why does a multinational company think it’s alright to promote the excuses some men give for abusing women?

There is an everyday sexism in society which has stopped being shocking to people. But these ideas have a real impact on women’s lives.

We have low conviction rates for rape, attacks on services that support domestic violence survivors and a 17.5 percent pay gap between men and women.

The world can be a hostile place for women.

Amy Lee, Doncaster


Kettling is a rights crime

three “kettled” tuition fee protesters lost their court case against the police.

It shows that we do not live in a truly democratic society offering freedom of speech. 

Forced external imprisonment, forced urinary and faecal retention and forced deprivation of food or water are forms of mental and physical torture. 

This court verdict will discourage potential peaceful protesters from attending perfectly legal and pre-arranged demonstrations.

Let’s hope the protesters challenge this decision right the way up to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mark Richards, Newcastle


Apple bans workers’ app

Apple is very keen to cover up the work practices that workers making smart phones are subjected to.

A new game, Phone Story, was put up on the Apple-controlled App Store.

It charts the troubling supply chain that results in smart phones.

One of the games sees workers leaping from their factory building. This is a clear reference to suicides and attempted suicides by workers at Apple’s manufacturing partner Foxconn. Apple has since banned the game.

Apple is keen to boast about all the information accessible from its gadgets—but the truth seems harder to reach.

Susan McGuire, Glasgow


Help Innocent Empi’s family

Innocent Empi was a human rights activist from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

He became a key spokesperson for the Congolese community in Britain, working tirelessly to help people find safety here, and challenging the DRC government.

Innocent died suddenly on 30 August this year, aged 40.

He leaves behind a young family. We need to bury Innocent, but the family are penniless. Please give what you can.

The Innocent Empi Memorial Fund, HSBC sort code 40-31-24, account number 92817276

Anne Drinkell, by email


Capitalism makes us sick

I’m off work due to long-term sickness. I know a key element of my illness is that capitalism makes me sick—literally.

I want to see the whole stinking rotten system brought to an end, and replaced with a society made by us through the self-activity of working people.

Anything less is neither negotiable nor acceptable. The ruling gang in this state are proven criminals. I can only express my rage—and then my solidarity with those striking against them all.

Name witheld, Middlesex


Typical racism on Africa

Julius Malema, president of South Africa’s ANC Youth League, has become the subject of reams of news coverage, mostly with a nasty racist undertone.

He is depicted as a threat to international capitalism because he favours nationalisation.

He’s depicted as violent and power-hungry because of his use of the old anti-apartheid struggle song, “Shoot the Boer”, now constituted as hate speech.

Malema is depicted as a threat because his demands reflect anger at the slow pace of change since the fall of apartheid over ten years ago.

But we should have no illusions in Malema, not because of his lifestyle or demands—but because he is an ally of neoliberalism.

That is why he has been named one of Africa’s ten most powerful young men by international business magazine Forbes.

Cynthia Greggs, Cape Town, South Africa


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Letters
Tue 20 Sep 2011, 18:04 BST
Issue No. 2270
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