Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2295

Campaigners formed a human chain around St Thomas’ hospital last week (Pic: Smallman )

Campaigners formed a human chain around St Thomas’ hospital last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)

We can still save NHS

The coalition’s attack on the NHS has unleashed a storm of anger with large numbers looking for how they can take action.

Opposition to the health bill shook the government after the massive TUC demonstration a year ago.

Activist networks and campaign groups such as Keep Our NHS Public and UK Uncut have organised protests and demos.

Activists within the British Medical Association and health professions have fought to get their organisations to take a stand. Hundreds of thousands have emailed and tweeted.

It is criminal that leaders of the TUC and the unions have taken no action until last week’s indoor rally. Their strategy has been to run a “Vote Labour” campaign rather than any serious attempt at a fightback.

This doesn’t just let the government off the hook. It leaves thousands of activists angry and frustrated. We have to channel that anger and argue the fight isn’t over.

We can make this bill inoperable by fighting every attempt at privatisation. Over 100 people at a recent estate meeting in Camden pledged to fight attacks by a private company.

And we have to build the rank and file networks into our hospitals and clinics so that we can organise the action we need to defend our health service against the attacks that are coming.

Candy Udwin, Chair Camden Keep Our NHS Public

Hosepipe ban keeps profits flowing

I don’t own a hosepipe. I don’t have anything to hose. But I’ve a good mind to go out and buy one, just so that I can engage in a little mild civil disobedience.

Seven water companies intend to impose a hosepipe ban from next month, the first for 20 years. These things never bothered me much in the past.

People with cars and gardens could make the sacrifice. But this time it’s different. Water companies are saying they’re going to have to charge us more if we want them to keep our taps running.

This smacks of disaster capitalism, if on a small scale. Firms are using the drought as an excuse to bump up their charges—and their profits. And like most “natural” crises, this one’s man-made.

Maintaining an efficient water system, repairing leaks and so on, comes a distant second to lining shareholder pockets.

The most recent figures show expenditure on infrastructure fell by nearly 15 percent in 2010—while combined profits soared 7 percent to £3.5 billion.

That’s our money. Since water was privatised by Thatcher in 1989 water bills have risen 45 percent above inflation.

Now they tell us there’s a drought, and somehow it’s our fault. We’ve got to pay. And they’re sitting on £3.5 billion they should be spending on pipes and sewers and reservoirs.

Never mind the hosepipe. Hand me that Kalashnikov.

Phil Mellows, Brighton

Shopping won’t help climate

Last week was Climate Week, a campaign supported by the likes of Tesco, Nissan and EDF, Britain’s largest producer of nuclear energy.

Tesco produced a list of ten ways to lower your carbon footprint. It suggests things like pumping up your car tyres, de-cluttering your car boot and buying more expensive electrical appliances. If only everybody knew that preventing climate change was this simple!

Tesco has introduced a limited amount of labelling showing the carbon footprint of its products. That way reducing the company’s emissions is made the responsibility of the customer.

They got help from the Carbon Trust, an organisation whose CEO and chairman both used to work for Shell, so they should know a thing or two about carbon.

To help with the Climate Week campaign I’d add one more suggestion: support your local shop and avoid the car journey to supermarkets like Tesco.

Graham Tate, Somerset

Get the frack out of Wales

Clean Coal Ltd intends to “gasify” the coal seam that lies within a mile of the shoreline in the beautiful Swansea Bay.

This involves pumping oxygen into the seam and then setting it alight.

At a public meeting of over 100, speaker after speaker pointed out the environmental and toxic hazards that would threaten the bay.

The same company is seeking to explore “fracking” projects in the nearby Loughor estuary and in the hills to the north.

Battle lines are being drawn in one big environmental fight to save the bay and to stop both gasification and fracking in South Wales.

Huw Pudner, Swansea

Royal family is the last thing Jamaica needs

Prince Harry’s visit was unwanted by the suffering poor and the working class of Jamaica, I have no doubt.

Back in the 1990s I was a student at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica’s capital Kingston. I was on the receiving end of a previous royal visit by her maj herself.

Students, none too impressed, expressed their anger in the inimitable Jamaican style.

On the walls of the new law faculty building the queen had come to unveil they daubed “Nanny fi we queen” .

This referred to Nanny of the Maroons, a freedom fighter who led her mixed tribe of escaped slaves in successful rebellion against the British back in the 18th century.

Fifty years since Jamaican independence, the British monarch still acts as the head of state. Jamaica’s elected governments are technically subject to the governor general.

This is the same royal reserve power that was used to depose the 1974 Labour government in Australia, and to rubber-stamp the US invasion of Grenada in 1983 that overthrew “the big revolution in a small island”.

There are small protest movements that give some hope for the future for Jamaicans.

But to become a properly sovereign state Jamaica needs to cut its ties with Britain.

Graham Campbell, Glasgow

Staying in Unison isn’t always easy

Huw Williams (Letters, 3 March) is quite right to argue that activists should stay in Unison, and not decamp to Unite on the grounds that it is the more radical union.

We need to be active in the unions where the class is organised in our workplaces.

But I have considerable sympathy for Pat Rowe and her decision to leave Unison (Letters, 25 February).

Unison’s regional office in the south west should be taking the lead in defending pensions, fighting the wage freeze and campaigning against plans to end national bargaining.

Instead it is busy silencing branches that actively challenge cuts and privatisation, and witch-hunting individuals who protest.

There is only so much an individual can do when the bureaucracy acts in such a high-handed way.

The most effective response is to build a mass rank and file movement strong enough to sweep them aside.

But, as divisions in the public sector pension dispute show, the rank and file is not strong or confident enough to do that yet in any of the unions.

Jeremy Guise, City of Plymouth Unison (pc)

Syria’s revolt is home made

Of course Sushma Lal is right that the West has interests in Syria (Letters, 17 March).

But the revolution is home made, and shouldn’t be dismissed.

We show solidarity by fighting our own regimes in the West.

The stand that the SWP has always taken is an absolute no to intervention.

Revolution is a process, full of pitfalls and difficulties. But the emancipation of the working class will always be the act of the working class.

Alice Saryazdi, Leeds

Games bring militarisation

The government proposes to site ground-to-air missiles in Oxleas Wood for the purposes of Olympic security.

Were a missile to be fired and successfully hit its target, what are the consequences for residents of London?

Dave Putson, Greenwich and Bexley Trades Council

Give our Jack the plaque

My Uncle Jack Kennedy, a bricklayer and stalwart trade union activist, has been shortlisted for a People’s Plaque by Islington council.

Jack was a key member of the building site safety campaign in the 1990s that exposed the terrible conditions and fatalities due to negligent bosses.

He was also a prominent figure in the campaigns to free the wrongly convicted Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.

Please vote for Jack at

Fintan Tynan, Brighton

Not fooled by Nazi BNP

A survey has found that more than half of British National Party (BNP) members are willing to resort to interracial violence.

This is no surprise. The BNP’s tradition goes back to the British Union of Fascists.

Matt Hale, Manchester

Running to beat fascism

Two Sundays ago I ran a half marathon to raise money for Unite Against Fascism.

I surpassed my expectations and completed the race in just over two hours.

I didn’t regret deciding to run, even when my back hurt and my feet were sore. I’ve raised around £300 and have more pledged.

Raising money at work isn’t easy.

But be prepared for surprises. Someone I worked with in the same section ten years ago gave me £20.

Rachel Edwards, Cambridge

Something to celebrate

Socialists in Wales have something to celebrate this week with the election of Leanne Wood as leader of Plaid Cymru.

She is a well known socialist and republican who was thrown out of the assembly chamber for referring to the queen as Mrs Windsor.

She has spoken alongside SWP members and other campaigners in support of the Stop the War Coalition and many other causes.

I hope the pressures of leadership won’t curtail her campaigning.

Of course we in the SWP don’t agree with everything that Plaid says and we can continue to state our differences honestly and fraternally. But for this week we should congatulate Leanne and wish her all the best.

Ian Thomas, Gwent

Memories of a movement

I am researching the anti-royal agitation around the Silver Jubilee in 1977.

I designed the original Stuff the Jubilee badge.

But I do not have any photos of the graffiti, demos and other movement events.

If you have memories or photos, especially from outside London, please email me at

Sherrl Yanowitz, West London

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Article information

Tue 20 Mar 2012, 18:10 GMT
Issue No. 2295
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