Legal setback for workfare schemes
Congratulations to Cait Reilly and Jamieson Wilson who took the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to court over the workfare scheme. Judge Mr Justice Foskett rejected their claim that the scheme was unlawful last week.
Most press coverage has focused on this and not noticed where the pair succeeded. In fact, they did manage to obtain declarations that the DWP had acted unlawfully.
The judgment’s defining principle is that the government can force people to take unpaid jobs under the threat of having their benefits taken away. But this should not happen if they have a good reason for not signing up.
In Reilly’s case, it hadn’t told her that the scheme was not (quite) compulsory, and that she could avoid it if she had a good reason.
Instead, the DWP told her the scheme was compulsory, with the practical result that she was compelled to give up an (unpaid) volunteering job which might well have led to a skilled job.
Instead she was made to work unpaid for Poundland helping that company to make as much money as possible during the Christmas rush.
In Wilson’s case, the department told him that he had to attend a training session. He was told that if he didn’t he might lose up to 26 weeks’ benefits. In fact, the maximum sanction they had power to impose on him was around two weeks.
Their solicitors, Public Interest Lawyers, estimate that around 20,000 people have seen their benefits removed under this scheme.
There will be a significant proportion whose benefits have been deducted unlawfully and may be able to bring claims against the department.
David Renton, employment lawyer, London
Stop the SNP leader from going nuclear
The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leadership, led by wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Alex Salmond, is manoeuvring to weed out it’s left flank.
This is especially apparent with the attempt to reverse a fundamental promise from the nationalists—to leave Nato (the Nuclear-Armed Terrorist Organisation) in the event of Scottish independence.
Salmond quietly said in June that he would argue for an independent Scotland to remain part of the nuclear alliance. Yet he insists he somehow remains opposed to having British weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde.
It seems to me that the SNP’s right wing is trying to neutralise its more radical elements. Its leadership insists that the Nato position “will be debated” at the SNP’s national conference in October.
Many SNP MSPs, as well as the party’s youth wing, are fundamentally opposed to this cynical, cowardly manoeuvring. An anti-nuclear demonstration will take place outside the conference. I urge all sane people to join it.
George Connolly, Glasgow
I was interested to read John Parrington’s article about Charles Darwin. Darwin was favourably inclined towards the earlier ideas of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, who suggested that the body shape of each species was related to its behaviour.
The ruling class in Darwin’s time and since stressed the “survival of the fittest” explanation of evolution because it could be made to align with capitalist economics.
In everyday conversation people talk about having the genes for this or that type of attribute. This coincides with the interest of the ruling class that wants us to believe society is ordered in its current way because it arises genetically and cannot be altered fundamentally.
David Percival by email
Biology has come a long way
John Parrington’s article on Darwin is marred only by its focus on Frederick Engels and the Russian researchers Lev Vygotsky and Valentin Voloshinov. Interesting as their ideas might be, evolutionary biology has come a long way.
I think the problem is the delusion that there is such a thing as a Marxist biology, which is different somehow to “bourgeois” science.
I expect Socialist Worker to make it clear that the domain of Marxism is the analysis of the social relationships that make up different forms of society. There can be nothing incompatible between Marxism and sciences such as physics and biology.
Adam Carlton, Ipswich
Anti-racist messages to bigots at Olympics
The people who made Olympic boxer Damien Hooper apologise for displaying the Aboriginal flag should lose their jobs. Was any action taken against people who displayed Scottish and Welsh flags?
The BBC Olympic commentary ran a piece on the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics and the fate of all three medallists. It showed the racism of Olympic hierarchy and black and white unity in challenging it. The report revealed the pride and knowledge of the three black athletes in the commentary box.
I bought a T-shirt at the Marxism Festival showing the salute. I felt uneasy that the silver medallist Peter Norman was omitted from the picture. But Socialist Worker printed the same image. Our marketing should reflect socialist principles.
Andrew Smith, south east London
Exception to a socialist rule
I read your online story about Leeds council sacking a leading strategist behind the racist English Defence League.
As socialists a general rule is that we should not take pleasure in anyone losing their job, but in this case I’m sure we can all make an exception.
Geoff Breeze on Facebook
Not paid for Olympic music
I watched the Olympic opening and found it quite good entertainment. But the musicians were not paid for their contribution by bosses Locog. However, the firm is charging £9.99 for the music on iTunes.
So I am releasing a royalty free version that I created from scratch to stop Locog greed. It contains no samples or any part of the original track and I am releasing it copyright and royalty free.
One annoyed musician by email
Support rebels unconditionally
Dave Tate’s recent letter suggests we should tread with caution when supporting the Syrian revolution because of possibly reactionary sections.
We shouldn’t overstate the reactionaries’ influence. There is a potential for ordinary people to shape their society. So we should unconditionally support the revolution in Syria, while remaining critical of those who seek to take advantage of it.
Martin Percival, Sheffield
Nolan was always on the right
I agree with your review of The Dark Knight Rises. But why didn’t you spot director Christopher Nolan’s obviously right wing politics in his first—or at least second—Batman movies?
John Pistelli wrote brilliant critiques of both (Google them!). Your piece at the time The Dark Knight came out glorified it as going back to Batman’s dark history.
Liz K, Newquay