From Seattle to east London, and then Washington
AROUND 150 people came along to a "Carnival Against Capitalism" we helped organise at London Guildhall University last week. The brilliant evening shows that the mood seen in the Seattle protest against the World Trade Organisation still strikes an echo everywhere.
We had stalls from a wide variety of campaigns to kick the evening off, and ended with a dub band who highlighted the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The highlight was showing the Battle of Seattle video, and its inspirational depiction of how ordinary people could stand up to the power of the corporations.
A lively discussion after the film focused on the lessons of Seattle and how we could build on it. On 16 April major protests are already planned in Washington against a gathering of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. A suggestion made at our discussion was that we organise a local protest here in east London in solidarity with the Washington events. Dozens of people put their names down to get involved in building such an event, and also to build the protests planned to mark May Day.
- JAKE ROLLIN,
UNISON branch secretary, London Guildhall University (personal capacity)
Now they want to steal our homes
BIRMINGHAM CITY Council bosses plan to bulldoze 30,000 homes to raise the value of the 90,000 properties they propose to privatise. Tenants have not been consulted about the plans, despite assurances that they would be in the driving seat of the sell off.
Birmingham council says it wants housing to be resident controlled. In reality a handful of tenants will sit on the board, and the real decision-making power will lie with unelected management consultants and financiers-people who know nothing about housing management. You can be sure that none of them has ever lived in a council flat. The City of London has made it clear that it considers resident controlled housing to be a high risk when loaning money.
The government pays lip service to the idea of resident control but the bankers have no intention of allowing tenants to control housing. In the future tenants will face crippling rent rises every year as the new associations are forced to take out private loans at high interest rates.
We have been told for years that no money is available for housing. Now the government has produced millions of pounds to bribe tenants to agree to the sell off, and has agreed to write off Birmingham's massive housing debt. Deputy prime minister John Prescott wants to see the end of local authority housing in Britain within six years. Council tenants and workers everywhere should vote no to privatisation, fight for the money to be made available to have council housing bought up to standard, and campaign for real residents' control.
- PHIL BEARDMORE, Birmingham
Brown's fraud over vacancies
GORDON BROWN'S claim that there are one million job vacancies is based on fraud. As Socialist Worker pointed out, it is based on a figure of 340,000 vacancies notified to job centres simply multiplied by three. But the 340,000 is itself a false figure.
According to research by the Greater Manchester Low Pay Unit, the actual number of vacancies in Greater Manchester job centres is less than half the official figure. Sometimes it is as little as one third. If Manchester's figures do not add up it is very likely that the national figures (compiled in the same way) don't add up either. The government knows this. The Office for National Statistics stopped publishing local job centre statistics last June because they were unreliable. Brown continues to "prove" that those still unemployed have only themselves to blame.
New Labour's leaders are determined to spread the message that "work pays", so they deliberately exaggerate the number of jobs. Sometimes Brown is presented as a secret radical whose generosity is obscured only by Blair's insistence on spinning right wing stories to the Tory press. In truth Brown is absolutely implicated in New Labour's anti-working-class politics.
- ED MYNOTT, Manchester
Bosses catch our Pike
OUR LOCAL New Labour MP has outraged trade unionists with his comments about the TRW factories in Burnley, Lancashire, where 450 redundancies were announced recently. Peter Pike MP says that nothing can be done, and he backs the company which claims the problem is that Britain is not within the euro zone. However, Pike does not speak for everyone. Union convenor Caroline Kavanagh told local press, "I can say loud and clear that the AEEU and other unions have not given up on the 450 jobs, and certainly not thrown in the towel and accepted immediate defeat."
Socialist Workers Party members and supporters have leafleted the two plants calling for a fightback and strikes, and occupation of the factory. We have found that some people agree with us and we are trying to help build the resistance further. Meanwhile Burnley trades council is organising a public meeting in defence of manufacturing jobs in the area.
- STUART MARSDEN, Burnley
What I learned at Ripon school
THE VOTE by Ripon parents to keep grammar schools needs to be taken in context. Ripon Grammar is a small school and only a fraction of local children get places there. Rich folk pay for their children to attend but the school is also posed as the chance of a decent education and escape from the drudgery promised at Ripon City Comprehensive. I went to Ripon Grammar School and like many other pupils I went on to university, but not because we were all brilliant scholars. Like others, I was given the chance to resit exams until I passed. A small group was given extra tuition in maths to get us through exams.
My sister and many of my friends were sent to the comprehensives which had fewer facilities. Most ended up leaving school at 16 and working in one of the local factories. It was education secretary David Blunkett's job to ensure that every child has access to a decent education. But this has been twisted into supporting the Tory policy of selection, throwing millions of school students onto the scrap heap at 11.
- MARK WEEKS, East London
Protest rights are under threat
TRADE UNIONISTS on Merseyside are angry at police attempts to ban our annual May Day march. Liverpool police are insisting that the trades council should pay for the cost of policing on the day-which could run into tens of thousands of pounds. It is not the first time that this force has acted against the trade union movement. Activists here remember the disgraceful attacks on the dockers during their long dispute.
More recently, when socialists attempted to march in solidarity with the protesters in Seattle, individuals were arrested in their homes, held in detention and prevented from taking part in the process. The organisers of the May Day event are adamant that this march will go ahead with or without police permission. It will take place on Monday 1 May, and they are calling for the widest possible support.
- DAVE RENTON, Liverpool
It could cost �5,000 to study
I AM currently on a year off before I go to college, so I am going through the applications system. I feel that even since I first applied last year more financial barriers have appeared for working class students. At an interview at University College London this week, a lecturer mentioned that the college planned to put their fees up to �5,000 a year from 2001.
Recent quotes from Blair show his support for a two tier system. As with so many issues, New Labour's agenda here is totally different from that of ordinary people. As we struggle by with fees and no grants they talk of "bringing the market into education". The �1,000 fee was the beginning of a slippery slope.
- AGNES ROBSON, East London
THERE HAS been a U-turn by the government and Remploy management over the threat to merge the nine factories. Although we are still wary over what they are going to do with our factory in Neath, it appears we have a new breathing space. I would like to say thank you for all the help that was given by members of Neath SWP during the past few months.
- ALBERT DAVIS, TGWU secretary, Remploy, Neath
I AM a 17 year old student and have been a socialist for many years. I was wondering if it was possible to pose a few questions for you. You call yourself socialists yet you back Livingstone who openly supported the bombing of Yugoslavia-how is it possible to do this? You say you work for the good and rights of the common man-yet how can you when you support the fact that fellow workers from Yugoslavia are being slaughtered?
- BETH SAMBROOK, address supplied
MIKE ROSEN (Socialist Worker, 11 March) was spot on with his comments about religion and the media. I am a Roman Catholic but I do not believe that my church has a monopoly on ethics. But you should also look at your own position. There are millions of religious people in this country, many of them left-leaning. You should look at your own dialectical materialist views and wonder if you are alienating people unnecessarily.
- BRENDAN McMAHON, Derbyshire