Children should be heard and not hit
So let's get this right. After last week’s parliamentary vote you can smack your child – but only a mild smack – and take care to leave no signs of visible bruising, or you will be in trouble!
The really sad thing is that this vote is a blow to the progressive public debate about smacking, and makes it socially acceptable.
I remember taking my kids on a family coach trip to Margate with the play project I worked at, and being cross-examined by parents about my attitude to smacking.
While I could not honestly say I had never smacked my son, I argued that it felt wrong and it was wrong – it gave the wrong message to children about conflict resolution and was not an effective way to influence young minds.
What are you going to do when your eight year old son is 14 years old and six feet tall?
The reason that children are smacked is because they can be, not because they should be,
The central point is that children are human beings with rights, not the chattels of their parents.
One of the important principles when working with and bringing up children is to be honest, fair and consistent.
Children want to know why – and don’t even think about bullshitting, because they are not stupid.
How can you encourage young children to resolve their conflicts peacefully and then resolve yours by smacking?
But the government is used to such hypocrisy. It accuses young people of anti-social behaviour while planning to bomb the communities of Fallujah into submission.
In this rich country there are now officially over three million children living in poverty. Isn’t it inevitable that some of those children will display signs of dissatisfaction, or have difficulties fitting into the very society which seems to be excluding them?
Children need to have a place to go independently from their parent, if you accept the uncomfortable reality that for some children home is not a happy place.
While children need to get away from their parents, parents also need respite and support.
This is especially important when they are living in small flats and homes where there is no room for the kind of physical, creative, unsupervised and messy play that many of us enjoyed when we were growing up.
We need to campaign and defend young people’s services – especially, I would argue, the ones where children choose to go, such as adventure playgrounds.
Children will always find a place to play. But adventure playgrounds aim to preserve the freedom and choice for kids to be there or not, and to do things they want to do – even if, and especially if, it makes a mess.
Finally, I attended the Respect conference recently, and was inspired by the vision of the motions regarding youth and children.
Respect recognises that a decent society is judged by the way it allows its children the freedom to grow and learn, and discover how to be who they are.
It supports a society where every child really matters, and is welcomed and included into their communities.
Cathy O’Leary, North London
In praise of John Peel
John Peel, who died recently, deserves to be remembered by the left and anti-racists.
He supported the Anti Nazi League in the 1990s, and helped Rock Against Racism by playing bands which supported it on air during the 1970s.
He was also a central reason why Radio 1, despite the commercial rubbish, gives good airtime to cutting edge and black music.
This means that we are able to listen to a variety of music shows from jungle to dancehall on Radio 1. Peel fought hard for shows like Mary Anne Hobbs’s Breezeblock to be established.
He also gave great encouragement and advice to all of Radio 1’s specialist music DJs.
John Peel was “public sector broadcasting” at its best, and there is a danger that this may be lost.
How we discover new music may be different now, but it is important we keep on discovering, and that Radio 1 plays a central role in this.
This is the best tribute that Peel deserves.
Mark Porciani, Dumbarton
Arise, Lord Betrayal
Whatever your opinion of the miners’ strike of 1984-5 – and I think it was the right thing to do – it is gratifying to note the fate of Neil Kinnock, Labour leader at the time.
The man who refused to link political action with the miners’ industrial struggle against neo-liberalism has become a member of the House of Lords.
The thirtieth piece of silver has found its rightful home.
Following on from his long career as a European politician – whose distinguishing feature was the failure to root out corruption and waste – Kinnock has received the ultimate accolade from his masters.
I wonder how President Bliar will conduct future relations with the upper toilet now he has a fellow class warrior to deal with.
Ray Holmes, ex-miner, Mansfield
Why the north east voted no to Precott
I want to make clear why I – and many, many others – voted against a regional assembly for the north east of England last week.
There were two main reasons. First, I do not see the point of setting up a body with very few powers that will cost a lot of money.
It is the sham appearance of democracy without any content.
Britain is a very undemocratic country.
We should not be fobbed off with such measures as Prescott’s assemblies.
I want more genuinely democratic reforms, not a place for a few superannuated politicians and businessmen to get big expenses cheques for offering us their “thoughts”.
Second, there was a very strong feeling that, although it might seem a bit off the point, this was a chance to thumb our noses at the government, and John Prescott in particular.
Personally I wouldn’t vote for anything Blair and Prescott said was a good thing, even if it came in a box with champagne and bacon rolls.
It would have been nice to have defeated them over something more substantial.
But at least we embarrassed them over this.
I look forward to the defeat of many other Labour schemes. Let’s make sure they are defeated by good left wing alternatives, not desperate right wing ones.
Mike Sillers, Newcastle
Paul Foot memorial meeting in Punjab
I visited London last summer to attend Marxism 2004. I really enjoyed the event and found it to be most instructive. Being a schoolteacher, I was also able to make some links with the National Union of Teachers.
Unfortunately, I later heard about the tragic and untimely death of comrade Paul Foot, which saddened me a lot.
We have a small group of socialists in Punjab called Friends of Socialism.
We regularly read Socialist Worker, Socialist Review and other publications produced by the SWP.
Thus we were familiar with the writings of Paul. I was also lucky enough to attend his very good meeting at Marxism.
On my return we organised a memorial meeting in memory of comrade Paul Foot in Patiala, Punjab.
The meeting was well attended, and we were able to pay our respects by reviewing some of Paul’s writings.
I am now in the process of writing some articles about the life and works of Paul, with the aim of having them published in the Indian left press.
Kuldip Singh, Friends of Socialism, Patiala, Punjab, India
Paul Foot – a Tribute includes writings by Paul and the introduction to his forthcoming book. It is produced by Socialist Review. To order your copy phone 07745 343 663 or email email@example.com
Organising in Respect
The recent Respect conference showed a unity of purpose, and the debates on resolutions were of a high quality.
However, on one issue I believe that a mistake was made. A motion was lost which said, “Women, black and ethnic minority members, lesbians and gay men, and disabled people have the right to organise as specially oppressed groups within Respect.”
The principal reason given for opposing the motion was that Respect as a whole is dedicated to the rights of oppressed groups.
Experience tells us this is not nearly good enough.
History shows progressive organisations dedicated to the rights of oppressed workers are not necessarily very aware of the rights of women oppressed workers or of black oppressed workers.
A secondary reason given for opposing the motion was that members of Respect are free to organise special interest groups as they wish, so the motion is not needed.
I hope that women, black and ethnic minority members, lesbians and gay men, and disabled people take advantage of this right.
David Leal, South London
On humans and animals
I was saddened by last week’s letter which callously concluded that the best solution to the “fox question” would be “regulated hunting”.
When the great Paris Communard Louise Michel declared, “The origin of my revolt against the powerful was my horror at the tortures inflicted on animals,” she protested precisely against such exploitative notions which pit humans against our sentient fellow creatures.
It was a logical, consistent extension of her radical ideals, an expression of our common entrapment under capitalism.
Dan Jakopovich, London
Real issues seized by rich
Moir Hope (Letters, 6 November) argues that the fox hunting issue has been a rallying point for issues affecting rural people.
Certainly there are real problems. Over 90 percent of villages have no rail service, while 70 percent have no daily bus service.
This, however, is not what the pro-hunting lobby are about. The Countryside Alliance, and its hangers on, are the representatives of the rural rich.
The only reason why fox hunting is legal, while dog fighting, cock fighting and badger baiting are illegal, is that hunting is the pastime of the rich and reactionary.
Richard Sunderland, Leeds
Our number is up as well
Mayor Ray Mallon wants a casino on the Middlehaven site in Middlesbrough.
This means removing 300 residents on the St Hilda’s estate from their homes.
The plan means more debt and more crime.
Gordon Shippey, Middlesbrough
rutal reality of China
Elane Heffernan wrote (Socialist Worker, 30 October) that, according to the Beijing Women’s Conference, one in ten urban women will be engaged in prostitution at some point in their lives.
This statistic is depressingly evident in China’s urban centres.
The commercial sex trade is booming in cities such as Shanghai and Beijing.
Thoroughfares in and out of the cities are lined with innocent looking hairdressers and beauty parlours. Behind the facade are brothels.
The boom in the commercial sex trade is linked to the widening economic gap between urban and rural areas.
The poverty and lack of education of rural Chinese women makes it very difficult for them to access lucrative jobs in urban areas.
Gerry Badcock, Shanghai