Bankers' scheme to grab homes
GLASGOW council has announced the privatisation of all 94,000 council houses in the city. Glasgow's houses are in a terrible state, but privatisation is not the answer. The reason Glasgow is the biggest council landlord in Europe is because of the failure of the private sector. Thousands of council houses were built after World War Two to replace the terrible privately-owned tenement slums that plagued the likes of the Gorbals district. The privatised Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) is not democratic.
Out of the 16 positions on the board of the proposed GHA, tenants will only have five representatives. Bad as it is, the council faces periodic re-election. The GHA will not. The government says it will take over Glasgow's housing debt of 1 billion. However, the GHA says it will borrow 1.6 billion. This will be at a higher rate of interest than the council can borrow at. So the debt will not disappear but will grow.
The bankers will make sure that they get their money back and will decide rents. As part of the transfer 20,000 homes will be demolished. If the smaller redevelopments in the city are anything to go by, little of this land will be used to build homes for rent. Most will be used to build homes for sale. Socialists will be fighting the plan, and for decent social housing at affordable rents.
- DUNCAN BROWN, Glasgow
Debt write-off for who?
TENANTS IN Glasgow are to vote on the New Labour council's plan to privatise all its homes. The council's 1 billion housing debt will be wiped out by the government. For years socialists and housing activists in Glasgow have called for the debt to be cancelled. If they can wipe out a debt for private companies, why can't it be done for public council housing?
- ANGELA McCORMICK, Glasgow
Teachers driven to despair
THERE SHOULD be a health warning emblazoned on each new teacher's contract-"New Labour kills". A teacher who received a critical Ofsted school inspectors' report recently killed herself.
She had been a successful and dedicated teacher for almost 30 years. It is a nauseating spectacle when men and women who have chosen a difficult job are penalised for their idealism with unrelenting criticism, impossible demands, and even with their lives.
Teachers are being scapegoated for an educational system in crisis-especially in inner-city areas which have suffered years of underfunding. My anger at the trashing of dedicated, successful teachers is rising and I am not alone in my anger. The hope lies in the realisation by many teachers of their "worth" and that, despite attempts to divide us, the solution lies in solidarity. Our allies are our students and their parents. "Education, education, education," was never a slogan for us.
- BETH STONE, East London
SOCIALIST Worker would like to thank all those who have sent condolences following the death of Tony Cliff, a founder member of the Socialist Workers Party. His funeral was due to take place on Wednesday and we will carry an account of it in next week's issue. Any further messages of condolence can be sent to us at Socialist Worker.
Proved right on Irving
THE CHALLENGE to fascism in University College Cork in Ireland last November was vindicated last week when the Nazi David Irving lost his court action in London. Irving was prevented from speaking in Cork by a mass protest organised by the Anti Nazi League here in Ireland.
This was the second time that Irving has been invited to speak by the university's philosophical society, and the second time that united action prevented him from doing so. To divert anger from a series of political corruption scandals and the failure of the "Celtic Tiger" boom economy to deliver, the government is playing the racist card around asylum seekers.
In the inevitable downturn of the Irish boom the potential for the rise of extreme right wing organisations cannot be underestimated. The Austrian situation highlights the urgency of building the Anti Nazi League. But fascism can only be defeated if the system which creates it is successfully challenged. To do this we need to build the fight for socialism.
- ROB BLACK and AOIFE BRESLIN, Cork, Ireland
Lessons for the schools
EDUCATION secretary David Blunkett's divisive scheme for teachers to apply for a new pay scale is under way. It has been greeted with anger and contempt by many. In Newcastle we have seen the successful launch of the STOPP campaign against the plan. Thirty teachers representing around 20 different schools voiced their rejection of the scheme, refusing to be bribed or to allow market-style competition into education.
The message to the union leaders is clear. Teachers are opposed to this scheme and want a serious campaign against it.
- TONY DOWLING, NUT rep, Newcastle, and ANNE MACDONALD, NUT rep, South Tyneside
The real Robbo
THE MEDIA tell us that all the problems at Rover Longbridge stem from the "bad old days" when arch-fiend "Red Robbo", Derek Robinson, was continually calling workers out on strike. As someone who worked at Longbridge for 35 years I am concerned that this nonsense seems to be at least half believed by many young workers at the plant. Rather than leading strikes, Robinson spent his time as Longbridge union convenor calling for workers' cooperation with the bosses. He was mainly responsible for establishing a system of "workers' participation". Shop stewards who had previously represented their members' interests were whipped away onto "participation" committees. As a result the close relationship between the shop stewards and the shopfloor, which was the source of union strength at the plant, was shattered. Militancy became meekness. Robbo and the leading stewards joined with management in signing a declaration calling for an end to all disputes. The weakening of shop stewards' organisation meant that when the company sacked Derek Robinson the stewards could not organise an effective fightback. Since then every worker at Longbridge has paid the price for trade union collaboration with the bosses, not militancy. I hope workers across Rover today will not repeat the mistakes made in my time and will rely on their own strength.
- FRANK HENDERSON, Wolverhampton
I'D LIKE to thank Tony Blair for the 75p a week increase in my old age pension-and I mean that most sincerely! However, as an OAP with diabetes having to exist on 69.41, I shall forgo the pleasure of two extra cups of tea a week. I intend to donate the money to the Socialist Workers Party. I receive Socialist Worker every week and compared to the gutter press tabloids it's like a breath of fresh air. Keep up the good work.
- FRANC HARFORD, Bristol$
SOCIALIST Worker's defence of asylum seekers is badly needed and has been excellent. On this issue it's important that we stand our ground and argue against all immigration controls. Those who defend asylum seekers in the mass media generally take it as given that "economic migrancy" is not acceptable. But once you have conceded that, you have accepted the need to sort out "genuine" from "bogus" refugees. That process is bound to be repressive. For us there can be no such thing as a "bogus" refugee. Capital doesn't accept national boundaries-why should workers be forced to? The slogan should be, "All immigrants welcome here."
- KATE HUNTER, Milton Keynes
AFTER watching the London mayoral candidates on television I came up with a great idea for a new game. It could be called "Name That Quote". What you have to do is take all the quotes by Labour's Frank Dobson and the Tory Steve Norris, mix them up and then try to work out which is the Tory. You might find it difficult.
- RACHEL GALLAGHER, Gravesend
I THINK it is dreadful that no second protest has been called against the Rover sell-off. I am ready and willing to go into action whenever someone declares a time and a place, and I am sure I am not alone.
Could Socialist Worker organise a demonstration? Anyone reading this should write to the TGWU union demanding another protest march.
- RENE THOMAS, York
THERE IS a sickening amount of prejudice against Roma Gypsies at present. There was a brilliant and timely programme on Radio 4 recently which serves as a horrific reminder of the consequences of such racist scapegoating.
The Roma Gypsies were nearly wiped out by the Holocaust. For example 70,000 Hungarian Gypsies were killed and 23,000 ended up in Auschwitz. Only 10 percent of them survived. "The Thousand Year Journey" is the UK's biggest celebration of Gypsy music and art, with a major film season. It is at London's Barbican Centre from Sunday 30 April to 14 May. The event is a valuable counter to the myths and prejudices about the Roma.
- G SUMNER, London