Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 2294

A previous Force Research Unit picture published by Socialist Worker. This one, from 1988, shows Gordon Kerr (circled) in the secret unit—he went on to run special operations during the Iraq war

A previous Force Research Unit picture published by Socialist Worker. This one, from 1988, shows Gordon Kerr (circled) in the secret unit—he went on to run special operations during the Iraq war


Force Research Unit: well done for printing pictures other papers won’t

Well done to Socialist Worker for continuing to expose the links between Philip Campbell Smith and Ian Hurst of the Force Research Unit (FRU) and their friends in high places (Socialist Worker, 10 March).

Is this the first time these spooks from that filthy unit have been pictured in a national newspaper? I think it is, but am happy to be corrected.

“Blagging” is only the half of it with the FRU, given its involvement in state-sponsored crimes, including murder.

The stench of corruption that emanated from the FRU still remains, like a bad smell from the days of the “Troubles”.

Colin Wallace and Fred Holroyd are just two brave people who told the truth about what the British state, in all its forms, was up to in Ireland—and they paid a price.

It’s good (and all too rare) to see that the sort of work that Paul Foot did, and Eamonn McCann still does, about British secret state mendacity in Ireland continues. There is still much to be unearthed about what FRU and its ilk did.

James Miller, an ex-MI5 agent, once said, “There are two laws running [Northern Ireland]; one for the security services and one for the rest of us”.

That the clock is now ticking on former FRU operatives is an excellent thing.

Paul Sillett, East London


Benefit attacks can have horrific consequences

The campaign against people on benefits being forced to work unpaid highlights a very important issue for socialists. It has been custom and practice for quite a few years now for jobcentres to make people work without pay for a wide range of employers.

One of my relatives experienced just this while out of work a couple of years ago.

He was made to work for months on a system for a marketing company’s computer, with the hope and expectation that there would be a job at the end of it.

But the company, after using his skills and time, just let him go. They did not have to pay him a penny in wages. My relative had realised that he was being used, but couldn’t quit for fear of losing his dole. He felt powerless to do anything and became depressed.

It’s no surprise that we hear of young people going as far as taking their own life.

Just recently there was a case in the Lancashire Telegraph, where a man had his benefits stopped and became very depressed and did take his life.

The verdict: cause of death “hanging”. Is that the real cause of death?

There are so many worthwhile jobs that need doing. Yet people are driven to despair because the economy is run for profit before people’s needs.

Anne Saxon, Lancashire


Driverless trains are a real risk

Last week the London Evening Standard perfectly illustrated why our public transport system is under threat and what’s at stake if we fail to defend it.

Monday’s front page had a statement from Tory mayor Boris Johnson, making a pledge to introduce driverless trains.

He claims that the public should get behind this as it will weaken unions and drop drivers’ wages. Because as we all know, slashing bus drivers’ wages has made buses cheaper.

The underlying implication is that train drivers have easy jobs.

But it took just three days for the same paper to carry a headline that exposed his myth.

On Thursday it reported the story of a tube driver managing, in the nick of time, to stop his train just as a small boy fell beneath it.

This rescue had relied entirely on the driver spotting the child in his CCTV screen.

If the train had been fully automated, this would never have happened—and the boy would have been killed.

It is technically true that a fully automated public transport system can be made to work, most of the time. But safety systems are about extraordinary incidents, not day-to-day events.

Kieran Crowe, North London


Celebrate Luddites this year

Your article on the Luddites (Socialist Worker, 3 March) was excellent, but there was one minor mistake.

The storming of Rawfolds Mill in Liversedge, West Yorkshire, was in 1812, not 1811.

Next month is the 200th anniversary of the movement. It is being celebrated with words, songs, plays and a monument facing the Shears pub, where the Luddites used to meet.

John Appleyard, Liversedge


Be careful when you use the word ‘austerity’

Sometimes, as socialists, we have to be careful about using words with a hidden class bias.

A case in point is the word “austerity”. As it has become more and more frequently used, I have got more and more angered by it. It pretends to be class neutral, but it’s not.

We all know that for the top 1 percent “austerity” is just a word they use to justify an acceleration of their plundering and vandalism.

For the next 10 percent, austerity means, at worst, slight adjustments in their lifestyle or consumption patterns as in the dictionary definition: “a reduced availability of luxuries, the state or quality of being austere”.

But for the majority of us austerity has a very different meaning—the struggle for a decent life, impossible choices, and the cancellation of cherished hopes and aspirations.

It means an unremitting life or death struggle for those on low or no income.

For the vast majority government “austerity” does not involve us adopting a slightly more austere lifestyle.

It causes hardship, sacrifice, suffering, privation, impoverishment and even destitution.

Rather than “austerity”, we should constantly use these words to describe government attacks on our class.

John Murphy, Chair, North West Region UCU


My experience of unfair workfare

I would like to relate my own experience of the government’s “workfare” scheme.

Last November an employment service provider contracted to the jobcentre sent me for a work trial at a call centre.

They made it clear that not attending “work trials” it organised would mean having my Jobseeker’s Allowance stopped.

After a three-day trial, they told me I had been accepted for a full‑time position paid at the minimum wage.

I was told a contract of employment would be given after I had completed a month probationary period. I have emails confirming this.

But after a month working a 40-hour week, the employer said I had not passed probation. I was dismissed without pay.

So I worked a month for nothing. And as the provider had told me it was paid work I had signed off, meaning I lost benefits as well.

No doubt they used this to inflate their statistics on how many claimants they got into work to the Department for Work and Pensions.

I am now back on benefits.

Keith Prince, East London


Just the ticket for Gaddafi

Sebastian Coe and co oversee tickets for the 2012 London Olympics.

Could they explain where the large number of tickets that were given to Colonel Gaddafi and his family are now?

I wonder how many Olympics tickets were supplied to other dictators. I bet they were for the finals rather than the handball.

Perhaps they could supply a list?

Derek Hanlin, Porth


HS2 will hurt this estate

The High Speed 2 (HS2) railway will have a terrible impact on the Euston and Camden area of London.

The government plans to build over a large part of the Regents Park estate without making any plan for how or where people will be rehoused.

I have seen some trade unionists saying it is wealthy residents that oppose HS2.

But it sickens me that the unions are backing a project that will rip the heart out of a community like this estate.

Fritz, North West London


Which side? Ed’s not sure

Millions of people are asking themselves why the Labour Party has not launched a mass campaign to save the NHS.

Why hasn’t Ed Miliband called for a million-strong march through the streets of London to protest?

Well, last week’s New Statesman provides a clue.

Rafael Behr, its chief political commentator, writes that Labour has “a holding position” regarding privatisation of the NHS. This is while it “works out what it feels more generally about private companies running public services”.

He continues, “I regularly ask people close to Ed Miliband where he personally stands on this question. He doesn’t know yet.”

John Newsinger, Leicester


Banks’ loans interest free

I want to know why the generous bailouts to the casino banks are being given for free.

How come they’re not being charged for these loans? They never lend gratis to the likes of us.

Surely their overdraft rates of 22 percent should be not just chargeable, but payable too?

Nigel Coward, West London


Food prices are the issue

Your column asked whether poor people are to blame for poor health (Socialist Worker, 25 February). I agree that the answer is “no”.

Poor people are not stupid. They know what they should be eating—but they cannot afford to buy it.

Instead they are forced to eat cheap foods packed with sugar and carbohydrates.

Just as people have campaigned for real ale, I think we should campaign for real food.

The aim would be both to lower prices on the best food, and raise wages and benefits.

Mitch Mitchell, March, Cambridgeshire


There’s one rule for us…

The Syrian regime’s constant attacks on Homs are appalling.

Talk of a trial at the International Criminal Court is appropriate.

And the same goes for the attacks on Fallujah in Iraq and Sirte in Libya.

Oh, but hold on a minute—it was the West that bombed those.

Clive Collins, South West London


West has its own agenda

I am surprised that you are using the same language to condemn Syria as the rest of the Western media.

You should know that the Western powers have an agenda.

I also notice that nowhere do you mention the aid given by Qatar to the so called rebels.

Sushma Lal, Pencarreg, Wales


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Letters
Tue 13 Mar 2012, 18:13 GMT
Issue No. 2294
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