Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1865

Larzac success is a great sign for Paris

The Larzac festival in France two weeks ago was the biggest anti-capitalist event France has seen. Over 250,000 people attended. Besides the usual activists lots of people came to the festival out of the vast social movements that have swept France in the last six months. Workers have struck against the Tory government's plans to attack pensions.

There were lots of rank and file trade unionists there. People at Larzac discussed what had happened in those strikes and what was going to happen when people return to work in September. This was a step forward. The social unrest is not dead-it is just on a break for the summer.

Larzac was important for the European Social Forum (ESF) that is taking place in Paris in November. Activists from all over Europe will be coming together to discuss and debate organising the movement and what kind of world we're fighting for.

Larzac gives me a lot of hope for the ESF. There is a lot of talk about the social movements re-erupting against the government in September. I expect a big and angry turnout in Paris. The ESF is becoming key for mobilising. British trade unionists should be there.

Nicolas Van Lebeke, South London

I AM very excited at the prospect of the ESF and the chance of thousands of people going from Britain. At the hospital where I work I have begun to tell people about the ESF. I said that the people who rule in this society have their international gatherings and we need ours to work out our strategy and to feel strength from each other.

The response has been great. Already four black workers-two nurses, a cook and a healthcare assistant – have said they are coming. It would be great to see delegations from workplaces across Britain in Paris and it would help to create powerful networks when we return.

Diana Swingler, East London

For more information about the ESF go to or phone 020 7053 2072.

This group has no authority on sexism

ONE OF the most blatant confirmation that women's oppression is not just a thing of the past is the growing trend towards sexism in advertising. Everywhere you look these days we are subjected to images which treat women as sex objects. The one that really annoys me is the Easyjet 'Weapons of Mass Distraction' ad. We are presented with an image of a woman's breasts and nothing more.

It doesn't matter what women look like or think. This is the complete commodification of our bodies. The good news is that if you found the advert offensive you weren't the only one. I was heartened to see how many had been defaced and daubed with graffiti. It had 186 complaints against it to the Advertising Standards Authority-making it the second most complained about advert this year.

The authority ruled that the advert was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence because it is in the best tradition of British humour-like the Carry On films.

We should bombard the authority with complaints. Maybe, we should even visit them when they have their north east 'consumer conference' on 13 November. To lodge a complaint, write to the Advertising Standards Authority, 2 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HW or phone 020 7580 5555.

Maxine Bowler, East London

We are last in line for respect

I WOULD like to add to your article on women's working lives. I work in the post office counters in north London. I work at the counter all day long. Mostly, customers are understanding, but if they want lots of different transactions it's easy to make mistakes. We are not machines.

Our last boss used to spy on us, walking up and down behind us. It was so stressful, it made you more likely to make mistakes. They have these 'mystery shoppers', a post office employee acting like a member of the public. They time the queues and ask you questions, then send you a letter telling you how you did. We get the blame if the queues are too long, even though there's nothing we can do about it.

Last Christmas Eve a 'mystery shopper' timed the queue at seven minutes. It should only be five so we all lost our £75 bonus. But it was Christmas Eve-it was bound to be busy. I think management did it on purpose, just to spoil things for us. My husband is a bus worker who works nights. He looks after our child during the day. I have to rush home after work.

Dominique, North London

Rough justice

A GROUP of asylum seekers are being forced to sleep on the street in Brixton, south London. Under the government's Section 55 they have no right to accommodation or shelter whilst their cases are being dealt with. They are having to rely on charity from local people as they are forced to sleep outside the offices of the refugee council.

Among the asylum seekers are those who are ill. Some have had to be rushed to hospital after spending three nights outside. I spoke to a Palestinian man who spoke of why he could not go back. If you can help e-mail [email protected]

Debbie Jack, East London

Our hot summer

DESPITE THE hot weather and many people away on holiday we have had a series of successful events in Birmingham showing the great thirst to challenge the 'war on terror'. Firstly, 90 people attended a seminar with Mark Curtis, author of Web of Deceit, a book about Britain's real role in the world.

Then two weeks ago 130 people attended a Socialist Alliance meeting about Guantanamo Bay. A coach load of people from Tipton, where three detainees are from, came. Some 200 people came to a sell out screening of 'Power and Terror' by Noam Chomsky a few days later.

This means around 400 people attended events in Birmingham in less than one month. All this creates a great foundation for building the 27 September march. Blair may be on holiday but the mood against him has not gone away.

Sakina Karimjee, Birmingham

Union is the tool

I LOVED the article 'Why I Hate My Job' in last week's Socialist Worker. I work in a hardware shop. The men all work in sales, and give advice about the best tools to use for different jobs. The women earn less and are the cashiers, cleaners and secretaries. The men are in charge of supervising the women.

The boss allowed the area around the till to be used for a petition that had racist undertones. I decided to hide it. This meant a confrontation and a row. The petition was got rid of. I felt indignant. After that I felt that we, the workers, needed unity and I have been attempting to unionise the place.

Reader by e-mail

New Labour is failing the test

THE GOVERNMENT'S top exams adviser gave schools the green light last week to abandon GCSEs. My first reaction was that I was very excited. The exams are agony for teachers and students. But, knowing the Labour government, I had second thoughts. It never does things in the interest of our students. These plans are more about trying to deal with the crisis in the education system than improving education.

The elite Eton college immediately announced that it was junking GCSEs. Managers there know their students will go on to university. What teachers want is to see decent funding in schools and a battle by the NUT union over the SATs tests.

Marion O'Malley, East London

A class that can be welcoming

COLIN BARKER'S article (Socialist Worker, 9 August) about how immigrants enrich society was excellent. It shows what a ludicrous and inhumane system we live in when there is a shortage of trained medical personnel, and trained doctors and nurses amongst asylum seekers are prevented from using their skills.

Hostility to newcomers isn't universal. There is always a welcoming attitude from many. At a large meeting on a council estate a big cheer went to a speaker who said, 'If you live here for six weeks the people regard you as a Canning Towner.' I'm not proud of being British, but with that sort of attitude I'm proud of being part of the British working class.

Colin Yates, East London

Labour lets in death merchants

LONDON DOCKLANDS is hosting the UK's biggest ever arms fair on 9-12 September. Over 600 arms companies and suppliers have booked stalls promoting their state of the art weapons. Scandalously, the Ministry of Defence promotes the arms fair. It is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to help some of the world's most oppressive states sell weapons on our doorstep.

Planned events to oppose this include a 'facing the arms traders' protest at London docks on 9 September and a non-violent day of direct blockades on 10 September.

Nathan Jervins, London

Our website is a resource

SCOTLAND Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) has launched its SACC is a grassroots group set up to campaign for the repeal of the terrorism acts, to highlight their current discriminatory use and to offer solidarity to the communities most affected by them.

We hope that the site will become a valuable resource for everyone concerned with worldwide human rights abuses generated by the 'war on terror'.

Richard Haley, Scotland

Resistance in the valleys

AROUND 30 people attended a hastily called meeting at Skewen, near Neath, to discuss opposing an asphalt plant that Aggregate Industries want to build on the Neath Abbey wharf. Residents fought a successful campaign only a year ago to block a proposed waste plant on the same site. They are now gearing up for an even more difficult battle.

A huge fire at the newly opened and highly controversial incinerator plant at Crymlyn Burrows has led to fresh demands that the plant be closed permanently.

Huw Pudner, Neath

Marxism has changed my life

MARXISM 2003 was one of the best events I have been to. The speakers were fantastic. It has given me a new direction in my political life.

I have already done a stall around end the occupation of Iraq in Hamilton, south Lanarkshire, and I'm planning a lot more. Thanks again. See you all in London soon.

Gerard Quigley

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Article information

Sat 23 Aug 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1865
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