Standing up against sexism in colleges
The University of Portsmouth Student Union held an emergency general meeting last week. It debated whether the Athletic Union should keep producing a calendar of naked students.
This summer we discovered that unedited pictures of female students with no coverings had been routinely uploaded onto pornographic websites for the last three years.
Derogatory comments about the participants accompany the pictures.
The student union knew about this but chose not to tell students or those pictured.
It took no action over the issue.
This is one reason why I, as the student union women’s officer, opposed the Athletic Union calendar. So did the Socialist Worker Student Society and other students.
But this was not an isolated event.
Our student union is rife with sexism.
There are constant promotions with companies using sex to advertise their events.
Our own union organised a “wear 70 percent less against the cuts” day last year.
The vast majority of students were on our side on this issue.
After all, more than 98 percent of students aren’t in the calendar and don’t buy it.
Yet the president attempted to censor the student media to try and ensure people didn’t get involved in our campaign.
Many students have been outraged by the way the union has been more interested in its reputation than students’ welfare.
This is despite its supposed values of “inclusivity and transparency”.
We lost the vote by 150 to 23.
But the outcome of the debate wasn’t the most important thing.
What mattered was that someone challenged the dominant views in our union about women.
We stood up for the groups and individuals who have felt marginalised and excluded as a consequence of the calendar.
The campaign is not over.
Sexism, homphobia and racism have no place in our unions.
We won’t stop campaigning until every student feels comfortable in their union.
Becky Gardiner, Portsmouth
Is green the new red?
It might interest readers that I was denied entry to the United States two weeks ago. This was seemingly on the basis that I was going to speak with American campaigners about our successful campaign against the third runway at Heathrow.
At JFK Airport in New York I was escorted off the plane by six law enforcement officers.
I was then questioned for several hours by the FBI, the American secret service, and immigration officials.
Then I was sent straight back to London. No reason was given.
I have now learnt, via Fox News, that I was alleged to have made some threats against president Barack Obama.
That never came up in the questioning. I can only conclude that this was simply an excuse to deny me entry to the country.
Why are the authorities so keen to silence environmentalists? Is Will Potter right to argue in his new book that “green is the new Red”? Are they now seeing a green under every bed planting seeds of revolution and sowing sedition?
The scrapping of the third runway was a massive defeat for the aviation industry.
If this process were to be repeated across Europe and the US, it would harm the corporate interests of the industry.
Potter argues, “Much like the Red Scare and the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1940s and 50s, the Green Scare is using one word—this time, it’s ‘terrorist’—to push a political agenda, instil fear, and chill dissent.”
John Stewart, Chair, Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise
Socialist Worker is a big part of the Stop the War Coalition but is protesting to keep jobs making warplanes?
So war is bad but war jobs are good? Can you not see a contradiction in that?
Evey, by email
Labour councils should resist every single cut
The magnificent demonstration in Manchester of over 35,000 angry protesters shows the rising level of resistance to the government and the cuts (Socialist Worker, 8 October).
It is therefore outrageous that Labour councils around Britain are implementing cuts.
In Manchester they have already shut down the youth service and are proposing to do the same to Sure Start.
We have a vibrant anti-cuts campaign. But the main unions in the council refuse to defend services. They say that the council is forced to implement the cuts.
The council is now going to privatise these services.
This policy of the Labour Party and the unions is a disaster for our services and undermines the fightback against the Tories.
Unions need to fight to defend services and jobs in Tory and Lib Dem councils.
But they watch as services are destroyed by the Labour councils that are doing the Tories’ dirty work for them.
We must say clearly and loudly that Labour councils must not implement cuts.
We must defend every job and every service.
Labour councils and council unions must be part of the growing resistance to this government.
They must join with us and bring this government down.
Ron Senchak, Manchester
Strikes in Greece have inspired me
The biggest Greek public service workers’ strike ever took place on 5 October.
Non-essential services were closed down, while only skeletal emergency cover was provided in hospitals.
As British doctors we joined hospital workers from ten Athens hospitals with their banners on the huge demonstration.
Demonstrators shared their experiences and their anger with us.
Costas, a doctor from a big cancer hospital, told us how starved are of resources Greek hospitals already.
A social security worker told us of the wage cuts and unbearable work intensity faced by benefits workers.
They have to deal with the anger of the 25 percent of
the Greek population that are unemployed.
School students told us of the costs of buying books and materials.
Meanwhile we saw desperation in the faces of street beggars.
In Syntagma Square we saw police with helmets and gas masks hurling tear gas bombs and charging the crowd.
People are calling for all-out strikes in Greece.
This massive campaign needs to keep going and to save Greek jobs and services.
Anna Livingstone, East London
Impressed by Occupy Wall St
I’m a Yank and an old warhorse from the 1960s in San Francisco when things were blowing up.
I’ve found few movements that inspired me to actually get in the action, but I like what these kids on the Occupy Wall Street protests are doing (Socialist Worker, 8 October). They are really sharp and I am completely impressed.
They need the people with experience to back them and cover their backs. That’s why it’s good many unions are backing the movement.
The kids in the US owe banks $1 trillion for student loans alone.
Their futures have been stolen, the same as the kids in Britain.
It won’t be long before the ball will start rolling here.
Within two weeks, the movement has spread to every major city in the US. It is gaining momentum.
George Glasser, Barnsley
Off with their heads, again
Sasha Simic is right (Letters, 8 October). The royal family are the real face of the “something for nothing” society.
The monarchy has no democratic mandate from the public at all.
With no chance of becoming head of state themselves, ordinary people are still expected to fund this outdated institution.
All political posts should be elected.
Nobody should do a job just because their mother or father did it.
In short—we need a republic.
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
Tax group not what it seems
I believe it is high time that the Tory Tax Payers Alliance was exposed for what it really is.
It passes itself off as a champion of the Ordinary Joe —a harmless consumer group. In reality it is nothing more than a walking, talking version of the Daily Mail readers letters page.
Its spokespeople pretend to be concerned about wasting money. Yet they used up £36 million from public bodies last year pursuing freedom of information requests, mostly against Labour controlled councils.
They are currently trawling round to find out how much facility time union reps have.
But you never hear them complaining about the cost of the monarchy or how much tax money we lose because of tax havens for the rich.
Martin Shapely, Manchester
Thanks David Cameron
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our prime minister David Cameron and the Conservative Party.
I was brought up in a family of socialists.
I’m now 35 and up until May 2010, I’d personally been pretty nonplussed by politics.
However, three months of seeing what the Tory-led government is attempting to do to the working class has woken my passion for politics.
They have made me realise that the only way forward, and the only way to a fair society not dominated by the ruling elite, is socialism.
I’m now an avid reader of Socialist Worker and I have a copy of the Communist Manifesto next my bed.
Say no to four year pay deals
I would urge every tube worker to vote no to their proposed four-year pay deal (Socialist Worker, 8 October).
They should take the 5 percent offered for this year then go back to negotiating table each year.
The fact the bosses made the offer shows that they are weak.
I am an RMT union member who works for Northern Rail.
We have just accepted 5 percent for a no-strings one-year deal.
So this scale of pay rise is not unusual in the rail industry at the moment.
We shouldn’t give the bosses an easy ride—they don’t give us one when they have the whip hand.