Hitting kids won’t help
Labour politician David Lammy reckons the ban on smacking children was one of the reasons for last summer’s riots.
But smacking is not banned in the UK. It is allowed as long as parents do not use implements or leave a mark.
In 2002, I researched children’s views about smacking for Save the Children. Taking part were 189 children aged four to 11. What they said convinced me that “smacking” is violence.
Asked what a “smack” is, they said, “It means when someone hits you, hits you hard,” (boy, five years old) and “It’s a hard hit,” (girl, four). They also said, “It hurts a lot,” (girl, five) and “It’s sore, very sore,” (girl, four).
Asked why children are hit, two out of three said it was because they were “bad, bold, cheeky, or doing things wrong”. But more than half of nine to 11 year olds believed it was how the adult was feeling which resulted in a “hit”.
“I think the adults do it to express their anger,” (girl, nine) and “Because they are angry and take it out on the children,” (girl, 11).
What really struck me was the emotional impact of being hit by their mums and dads.
When asked “How do children feel after being hit?” four in five used one or more of the words, “hurt”, “sad”, “sore”, “upset”, “unhappy”, “unloved”, “heartbroken” and “awful”.
Many children said the same thing—“They feel that nobody loves them.”
The children acknowledged that they need to learn right from wrong and this means they may have to be punished. But they came up with many alternatives to smacking.
One ten year old boy said, “There are other ways to talk to them about it, send them to bed with no dinner, don’t let them watch TV, but don’t hit them.”
In any case, “smacking” doesn’t work and, in surveys, most parents thought it rarely led to the child learning acceptable behaviour but frequently made the child more aggressive.
In countries where smacking is banned, a UN report found that “parents have not been criminalised for minor infractions, the social authorities have not become more coercive and the youth have not become more unruly”.
Capitalism relies on a privatised version of child-rearing, where parents are encouraged to see children as their “property” (just like wives used to be seen as their husbands’ property).
Inevitably, the strain of trying to juggle work and childcare means that most parents “lose it” sometimes and hit their children even when they don’t think they should. The children most likely to be hit are two to five year olds—those most difficult to distract in other ways.
But the solution is not to allow big people to hit little people. Rather, it is for society to take more responsibility and provide the needed support.
As one ten year old girl said, “It isn’t fair … just cos they give birth to us doesn’t mean they have the power to hit us whenever they like.”
Goretti Horgan, Derry
Keep the fight up in Unison
I agree with Michael Bradley’s argument about remaining in the Unison union rather than moving to Unite (Socialist Worker, 28 January).
I know a number of left wing union activists who are moving from Unison health to Unite.
Many of these activists are fed up with Unison for understandable reasons.
They are fed up with the right-wing leadership, which has shown little opposition to job cuts in the NHS and the Health and Social Care Bill.
So I have a lot of sympathy for those moving from Unison to Unite.
They hope that Unite will be more democratic, more respectful of its members and better at leading a fightback.
But I have decided to stay in Unison. To me it’s quite simple—it is the union that represents more workers than any other in my workplace.
People are absolutely right to criticise Unison, but there is another side to the union.
Unison represents more health workers than any other union—and we saw its potential on the 30 November public sector strike.
To my mind it is vital that we stay in the same union as our colleagues. But we do need to fight to ensure that Unison is a fighting union.
Some people believe that we just need to elect left wing officials. I am of course for electing left wingers to union positions, but we need to do much more than that.
We need to ensure that our members feel confident, and believe that fighting back can make a difference.
At the moment this means talking to people and organising joint union meetings to discuss pensions.
It also means learning from those who are fighting to protect their pensions and defend services.
I don’t think leaving Unison is the answer but I will work with people from all unions who want to fight back.
Rachel Eborall, Shop steward, Unison East London mental health (pc)
Stop the asylum seeker housing sell off
We oppose plans by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to allocate contracts managing asylum seeker housing to security companies who manage immigration detention centres and forcible deportations in the UK.
In Yorkshire the preferred bidder is G4S and contracts could be signed by the end of February.
G4S has no experience of housing management.
G4S are the world’s largest private security firm. UKBA maintain that the housing contracts are going to partners with a proven track record.
In the case of G4S they lost the UKBA contract to supply escorts in forcible deportations after the death of an Angolan deportee.
Asylum seeker tenants already feel intimidated and threatened by the prospect of G4S as their managing landlords.
The new contracts will mean the privatisation of the whole of asylum seeker housing.
If the councils lose the contracts it will mean hundreds of families dispersed to private landlords often miles away from children’s schools or family doctors.
John Grayson, AdEd Knowledge Company and Sheffield Hallam University.
Also signed by 27 other researchers and university teachers in the fields of housing and immigration in the Yorkshire region
Who are you calling a Tory?
Anindya Bhattacharyya sounds spot on with his review of Madonna’s film W.E. (Socialist Worker, 4 February).
But I take issue with his claim in it that “Doctor Who has replaced its multiracial council estate with an English village and a Tory time lord”.
Tory time lord? I think not. Actor Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor has been marvellously subversive, with the sharpest dialogue in the show’s 49-year history.
“The Beast Below”, an episode screened in the run-up to the 2010 general election, featured rulers that were re-elected using a mind-wipe device.
This meant the electorate forgot their previous dreadful record in office.
And how brilliant was last year’s episode, “Let’s Kill Hitler”?
It featured Rory and Amy’s black best friend regenerating into their daughter, River Song, as they stuffed the Nazi leader into a cupboard.
A Nazi guard asks River why she was there. She replies, “Well, I was on my way to this gay Gypsy Bar Mitzvah for the disabled when I suddenly thought, ‘Gosh, the Third Reich’s a bit rubbish. I think I’ll kill the Fuhrer’.”
Sasha Simic, Hackney, London
Miliband’s policy vacuum
Embattled Ed Miliband says that David Cameron is showing a distinct lack of leadership by failing to curb excessive bank bonuses in the light of Stephen Hester’s massive payouts.
So why is Labour on average 5 percent behind in the polls while the coalition’s policies are in a shambles?
It’s because Labour has embraced Tory economic policy.
Bonuses are rewards for the role banks and their top executives play in supposedly kick-starting the system back into growth.
The fact that this hasn’t happened exposes the massive policy vacuum that exists in the Labour opposition today.
Nick Vinehill, Norfolk
We can’t trust Labour...
I support the Green Party because only they will return the railways, ships and buses to public ownership and build council houses.
Labour does not represent the working class at all. We ought to live according to our principles and I believe in a united planet of world peace.
We ought to do our best to make Britain okay. That never happened under Labour before so why would we trust them now?
Paul, via email
...but can we trust Greens?
I’ve just heard that the Green Party councillors here in Brighton are planning to vote for a cuts budget.
We voted Green at the elections because we wanted an alternative to the Tories and Labour Party.
What kind of alternative is this? Who are we going to vote for now? What does Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas have to say for herself?
The Green Party needs to get its act together and if they vote for cuts we should vote them out.
Sarah Hughes, Brighton
The employment tribunal of construction worker Dave Smith speaks volumes about the scandal of blacklisting (Socialist Worker, 28 January).
Dave lost his case against Carillion, despite them admitting he was blacklisted.
It’s therefore shocking that Carillion has been awarded preferred bidder status for academy schools.
What will this mean for the workers they employ there?
The ongoing electricians’ dispute shows that fighting back can build workers’ confidence to take on these companies—wherever they operate.
Ian Bradley, London Electricians’ Rank and File Committee
East German ‘democracy’
reading your article about workers blacklisted for standing up for health and safety rights (Socialist Worker, 28 January) I recalled a conversation I had many years ago.
It was with a woman who had been active in the opposition in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
She told me that you could say what you liked in East Germany so long as you didn’t try to organise anything.
It would appear that in Britain “democracy” operates in the same way.
Jon Tennison, South London
Is US now a police state?
We are being subjected to a police state where protesting is not being tolerated.
The eviction of Occupy Oakland (Socialist Worker, 4 February) exemplifies the suppression of our civil liberties. This includes the right to organise, one of the basic rights set forth by our founding fathers.
Police brutality is running rampant under orders from governors who have their pockets lined with Wall Street money.
Brandt Hardin, Tennessee, US