Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2291

Travellers at Dale Farm in Essex organising against eviction last summer (Pic: Smallman )

Travellers at Dale Farm in Essex organising against eviction last summer (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Channel 4 posters whip up anti-Traveller racism

I’m sure I’m not the only person to be angered by the crass and nasty advertisements for Channel 4’s “documentary” series Big Fat Gypsy Weddings.

Several of these ads feature pictures of young children and have the slogan “Bigger. Fatter. Gypsier” branded over their images. Let’s stop for a second and imagine Channel 4 doing this to any other minority ethnic group.

I’m not comparing the TV channel to the Nazis. But they used similar ways of alienating and smearing minority groups, such as Jews, gays, disabled people—and Gypsies.

The degree of alienation was cranked up and up until the “solution” to the problems of these groups was the death camps.

That was played out against a backdrop of catastrophic economic crisis, just as we are seeing today.

When times are as tough as they are now, it’s easy to poke fun at Travellers and ignore the deep poverty in their community to pretend all they do is get spray tans and dress up in fairytale gowns.

I do not believe for a moment that Channel 4 would advocate concentration camps.

But I do think the series has been made by a bunch of media people who are very disconnected from the people they are making their money out of—to such a degree that they are barely able to see them as people at all.

Author Owen Jones brilliantly exposes this process in his book Chavs.

It is also easy to pretend that many disabled people are lazy and “workshy” and deserve to lose their benefits.

We must not forget that a number of disabled people have been driven to suicide by the changes to disability benefit.

The defence campaign for the Traveller community at Dale Farm gave us a completely different view of the life of Traveller communities.

This showed women taking a lead. Far from being locked in to an arms race to the biggest dress they were united to save their homes from destruction.

The news coverage of Dale Farm made Big Fat Gypsy Weddings look stupid and their documentary making lazy.

In fact the documentary-makers look far more stupid and lazy than Channel 4 has tried to make the subjects of their programme look in these posters.

Lucy Cox, London

X Case–20 years is too long

February 2012 marks the 20th anniversary of the X Case. It represents 20 years of political inaction, cowardice and denial over the reality of abortion in Ireland.

In February 1992 the parents of a 14 year old attempted to take her to Britain for an abortion. She had been raped, and said she would rather end her own life than continue the pregnancy.

The Irish state issued an injunction preventing her from leaving the country. There was a public outcry and people took to the streets in their droves to express their anger.

The girl’s parents lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court. Before the hearing, 10,000 people took to the streets demanding that “X” should have the right to an abortion. On 6 March the Supreme Court bowed to pressure. It acknowledged her right to life and ruled that a woman has a right to abortion in Ireland if her life is at risk.

The following November the government, under pressure from the Catholic right, held a referendum, hoping to roll back the X Case judgment. They failed.

The X Case had changed how people saw abortion, and a large majority voted for a woman’s right to life-saving abortion.

The government vowed to legislate to this effect. But nothing happened, as successive governments, including a Labour coalition, failed to act. In 2002 they once again held a referendum to try and defeat the ruling. Again, they failed.

Here we are two decades later and nothing has happened. Politicians continue to pretend that abortion is not a reality in Ireland, and that 5,000 women don’t travel to Britain every year to have abortions.

This week the United Left Alliance will put forward legislation in the Irish parliament to allow women to access life-saving abortions in Ireland.

While this legislation will not help the thousands of women who are still forced to travel abroad for abortions, it is a vital step forward in the fight for free, safe and legal abortion.

Sinead Kennedy, Dublin

Threatened Rangers is no normal football club

Football fans in Glasgow and beyond have been stunned by the decision to place Rangers football club into administration.

If arrangements with creditors cannot be reached, particularly with the taxman, the club could go into liquidation.

The unpaid tax bill could be over £50 million—money that should have been used for hospitals and schools.

These events occurred in the same week that Portsmouth FC also went into administration, mirroring the “boom and bust” of the wider economy.

Football fans can no longer afford exorbitant ticket prices.

But Rangers is no ordinary football club. In recent years it has been trying to get rid of its sectarian past.

Until the late 1980s, when Graeme Souness became manager, Roman Catholics could not play for the club.

Rangers owner Craig Whyte has been described as having a “colourful” business past.

Some Rangers fans fear he is a venture capitalist whose aim is to asset-strip the club, and that the decision to go into administration is part of his game plan.

This drama is set to run and run, played out every night on television in Scotland.

It may lead many football fans to question capitalism and its crisis.

Jim Main, Glasgow

Unison has let us down – so I’m out

As a former Unison activist who recently left that union to join Unite, I read Michael Bradley’s recent article (Socialist Worker, 28 January) with interest.

I agree with much of it, but for some there is more to this than the pensions dispute.

There is something fundamentally wrong when an activist is at greater risk from their union than their employer.

I left Unison in October. Up until a couple of years ago I was an activist within it at regional level and even stood for regional and national elections.

I thought the idea of being part of a union meant pulling together to fight the common enemy. But this is very far from the reality.

If you are an activist and not in the Labour Party you will be treated like dirt.

And if you want to stand for election to a service group executive or the national executive you will most likely find yourself under an investigation to prevent you from standing.

If there was a trade union I could join that was not affiliated to Labour I would. I believe the problems in Unison are largely due to its affiliation to Labour.

Patricia Rowe, Somerset

Let’s unite the fightback

I’m a former criminal justice worker who recently received early medical retirement thanks to the help of my union. The same day as I retired, 32 of my fellow workers were made redundant.

We can’t let those who think they run our lives roll over any of us.

Every fightback must be linked and contain the seeds of the future we want. We must stand together or our communities will fall apart.

Lost, North west London

Carry on protesting

UK Uncut protester Steph Pike has been convicted of aggravated trespass by Manchester magistrates.

Her crime was to dress as a banker and hold a sign inside a branch of Barclays bank as part of a silent protest in November.

She has been fined £415. Solicitors fees will also have to be paid.

“I am proud of what I did,” said Steph in court, cheered on by supporters in the gallery.

“They can criminalise us all they like, but we will carry on being peaceful, we will carry on protesting, we will not stop!”

Mark Krantz, Manchester

It’s what they would want

Trevor Kavanagh, the political editor of the Sun newspaper, is outraged that five of its journalists have been arrested in relation to alleged corrupt payments to the police.

He concludes there is a “witch hunt” against the Sun’s publisher, News International.

This is what the Sun said about the riots last year: “The courts must be ruthless. The maximum sentence for riot is ten years. So let’s see it applied.

“Jailed thugs must serve every day.”

Should the Sun journalists be found guilty I trust the courts will be “ruthless” with them. It’s what they always wanted.

Sasha Simic, East London

It’s not about bad language

Your ideas about the reclaiming of words miss the point (Socialist Worker, 18 February).

One example you used is “queer”. I’m an LGBT activist who self-describes as queer.

Yes, people use this as a hate word against me and people like me. They also use “dyke”—and even “lesbian”.

They hate us, not the words we describe ourselves with.

Until homophobia ends, there is no word a queer woman (or man, or any member of an oppressed group) can use to describe herself that won’t also be used as a hate term.

By reclaiming a word used as an insult, we draw a line in the sand, we stop running away and can begin to fight.

I’ve often been called socialist as an insult, but I don’t see you clamouring to change the name of the paper.

Ruth Pearson, By email

The US left – a new hope

Barack Obama might be recovering the US’s economic fortunes (Socialist Worker, 18 February) but the poor are still suffering whether the economy gets back on track or not.

It’s hard to imagine the amount of hope invested in Obama here during the election.

But I am heartened that a real left seems to be now emerging in the US. That’s the Occupy movement, which has inspired millions.

Now we really do have change we can believe in!

Brian White, New York

Big clubs are all about profit

It’s pointless seeking personal scapegoats for the current financial plight of Glasgow Rangers FC.

These big clubs are private or public limited companies.

When they are successful their owners and shareholders amass large profits as a result of the passions of their “customers”.

Nick Vinehill, Norfolk

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Article information

Tue 21 Feb 2012, 18:24 GMT
Issue No. 2291
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