426 is a lot less than 911
THE VAUXHALL Project, Lambeth Labour council's giant new housing scheme in south London, is designed to fit the needs of giant companies, not tenants. Wimpey Homes and another company, St George, have managed to swing a deal worth �440 million to them on a 38 acre site next to the Thames.
In return for this generosity the council will get �70 million of new development. The deal will see the Ethelred Estate flattened over a 14 year period. The estate presently has 911 council homes.
By the end of the project it will have 426 council homes, 109 housing association homes (with higher rents and reduced security of tenure) and 2,500 new yuppie homes for sale. Part of the additional building will come from the closure of a school.
Despite the huge reduction in council homes-much of it family housing of three bedrooms and above-the council claims that all the present tenants will be able to return. However, the families will have only two choices of where their new homes are to be and no choice at all if they are in rent arrears. Half of the tenants are in arrears-50 percent of them because of privatised Capita's failure to deliver a decent housing benefit service.
Glossy magazines have made promises of wonderful facilities such as a new leisure centre. The developers seem unclear if it will be accessible to all, or only those who can afford huge annual membership fees. Tenants are about to ballot on Project Vauxhall. A no vote would send shockwaves through the town hall and let property developers know that our homes are not for sale.
- TINA HUMPHRIES, South London
'People before profit' fits from PFI to Prague
AS a UNISON union steward in east London I recently did a meeting for a group of members in the health service. It was focused on "meeting your steward" and on increasing participation and activity among union members.
It was a real success with enthusiasm about building the union in the context of fighting declining conditions and poor pay in the NHS. There was also a great deal of support for the strikers at Dudley Hospital, hitting back at the Private Finance Initiative.
During the discussion afterwards the demonstration in Prague was raised. Far from seeming out of place, it flowed quite naturally out of the debate about the day to day difficulties we had earlier.
The slogans about "People before profit" and "The world is not for sale" fitted with Dudley or the NHS in east London just as much as with the campaigns against the IMF and the World Bank. Most of those present thought the unions should be backing protests like the demo in Prague and challenging the idea that financiers and managers should rule every aspect of our lives.
- DIANA SWINGLER, East London
Broad support for refugees
RECENTLY IN Guildford, Surrey, despite the worst storm to hit the town since 1968, 30 people made their way through the floods to a meeting of the Guildford Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers.
Speakers included peace campaigner Bruce Kent, local councillor Mohammed Raja and Unjum Mirza from the SWP. We had flooded the town with leaflets and put up posters around the estates. Communication Workers Union shop stewards took over 200 leaflets into the postal sorting office and every fire station in the area took publicity.
The Bishop of Guildford and several churches backed the initiative as did various minority groups, community centres and organisations such as Refugee Action, Amnesty International and Jubilee 2000. The meeting was lively and the discussion ranged from the war in Kosovo to the need to socially integrate refugees.
We agreed to organise to dispel some of the myths around asylum seekers through leafleting in public. A committee is to be set up and the meeting backed the next day's picket of Sainsbury's over the voucher scheme.
- ALLAN BORRELL, Guildford
Connect with the people
OVER THE last few years I have been involved with the homeless and other related issues such as poverty, isolation and social exclusion. I am shocked that none of these issues were included for discussion in the recent Marxism 2000 conference.
Surely there is a significant correlation between homelessness and poverty, and aren't they both significant byproducts of capitalism? Looking at the Communist Manifesto and SWP publications only the intellectually endowed stand a chance of immediately understanding them.
In order to move on the SWP needs to become more comprehensible if it is to attract and motivate greater numbers of common people to revolution. Unless the SWP is ready to address people's immediate concerns-homelessness, violence in the community, substance abuse, health and education, and so on-it will remain politically marginalised.
- ALAN HENRY, South London
A tribute to life's work of Jim Allen
THERE WILL be a tribute to the life, politics and work of socialist writer Jim Allen on Saturday 7 October in Manchester. It is organised by Jim's family, friends and local trade unionists from the TGWU.
It will take place at the Cornerhouse Cinema in Manchester and will combine extracts from Jim's TV and film work with reminiscences from family, friends and colleagues including Ken Loach and Tony Garnett. Jim left school and never read a hardback book until he was 21. He became a Marxist and editor of a miners' rank and file paper.
He made his name on the BBC working on dramas such as The Lump, Days of Hope and United Kingdom. He continued his working partnership with Ken Loach with films such as Hidden Agenda, Raining Stones and Land and Freedom. Jim said of his work, "After a film I hope the audience demand answers and action. I'm not keen on sending them to bed happy-I want them angry to get change." You can book tickets for the event by phoning 0161 200 1500.
- LORRAINE ROLSTON (Cornerhouse), Manchester
Will the left split the vote?
I WAS interested in your article about the presidential campaign by Ralph Nader in the United States (Socialist Worker 5 August). But although it seems heartening to have a radical voice in the election, I also have some questions.
My main concern is that if Nader gets, say, 10 percent of he vote the only beneficiary will be George Bush Jnr who will definitely defeat Gore. This will mean even more military spending, even more racism, even more attacks on US workers. You might say it makes no difference if Bush or Gore is elected, but I have little doubt that Bush would be worse-especially around issues like abortion and welfare "reform".
If this is true of the US, it is even more true in Britain. If various socialists stand at the next election and get 10 percent they could easily hand a marginal seat to the Tories. You might not care if Hague wins but I think a lot of people would. Socialists should approach elections with great care.
- ANGELA CALDER, Cambridge
Don't carp at plan for NHS
DOES SOCIALIST Worker ever consider its attitude before denouncing a government initiative? I have many doubts about Tony Blair and New Labour but I was very heartened by the latest plans for the NHS. More nurses, more doctors, more consultants and a crackdown on private work by consultants are signs that (at last!) this government is acting like a Labour government.
This shift towards the public services, which is also seen in the spending review, may have been forced upon New Labour by the protests which socialists have urged forward. Instead of always trying to find fault with the government, you should celebrate when it does something admirable.
- HELEN DOUGHTY, Birmingham
HONEST medical opinion about the doctored cigarettes that are sold to us for a vast profit should convince everyone, particularly socialists, of the revolutionary act of throwing the fags back in the tobacco companies' faces. As an addict for at least 50 years, I apologise to all those whose air I polluted. Pack it up. It's the biggest destructive anti-human habit in the capitalist system. Even the bosses know that but so what? It's profitable.
- DAVE DAVIS, South London
WHILE TRAVELLING in China recently a friend of mine heard a street rhyme which gives a flavour of the feeling in society: "Look north to the town hall. "Corrupt officials are everywhere. "Each should be shot. "None undeservedly." This is the attitude of employed workers and taxi drivers, on trains and at football matches.
- GORDON JAMIESON, East London