Why they want us to keep taking the pills
THE BANNING of the anti-depressant drug Seroxat for people under the age of 18 highlights how multinational drug companies and their New Labour friends are putting profit before people's health. The ban was introduced after evidence released from the 1990s showed that children were twice as likely to experience mood changes and have urges to harm or kill themselves after taking the drug.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the company that produces Seroxat, had known about this research but pushed ahead with an aggressive marketing campaign. This has seen Seroxat become the most prescribed anti-depressant in Britain, with over 4 million prescriptions a year. GSK has netted huge profits as a result. Depression is estimated to affect six million people a year in Britain and contributes to a minimum of 5,000 suicides, making it one of the top ten killers.
In young men suicide is the fourth most common cause of death. Drugs are the main form of treatment, costing less than the more labour intensive talking treatments. Tackling the social causes of depression would mean paying decent wages, benefits and pensions, providing affordable housing, and tolerable hours and meaningful work. For children it would mean an education system not based on selection that brands children failures.
It would also mean providing more community support and ending the chronic bed and staff shortage in mental health services. Instead Blair has appointed two GSK shareholders to review the safety of Seroxat.
At the same time he is pushing ahead with plans to recreate the disaster of rail privatisation in the NHS, and to lock away more people suffering mental health problems.
Ian McKendrick, mental health worker, Oxford
IN SPITE of all the bad publicity over Seroxat, GlaxoSmithKline were hoping to open up a lucrative new market by pushing the drug on children. Many people do find anti-depressants helpful, and people should not stop prescribed medication without the advice of their doctor.
But their benefits have been exaggerated and placebos have been shown to work nearly as well in some drug trials. There is no clear evidence to show that mental illnesses such as depression have biological causes like physical illnesses. This is in spite of years of research, much of which has been sponsored by the drug companies.
They want more and more of us to believe that our distress, and even our children's distress is a symptom of an illness that can be treated with medication.
Tackling the real causes of human unhappiness starts with understanding the system that feeds the fat cats of companies like Glaxo.
John Cooper, community mental health nurse, Birmingham
I'm upbeat after CWU conference
AS A delegate to the CWU annual conference I came away feeling decidedly upbeat. Having seen off John Keggie's divisive Blairite agenda, the industrial conference displayed a renewed militancy. Many speakers stressed the need for the union to put the internal divisions of the recent past behind us and unite for the struggles to come.
For me, this desire coalesced around the passing of the motion on pay. This bought the controversial stand on London weighting back from a regional fight, to one the whole union membership can unite around.
On the political front there was also much encouragement to be had. Whilst delegates are not yet ready to open up the political fund, there was clear red water between the conference and New Labour. It was also great to see the conference pass motions in support of the FBU and George Galloway.
Another conference success was the rank and file paper, Post Worker. It was clear that conference delegates held the paper in high regard. The two biggest fringe meetings were organised by Post Worker. One was with George Galloway. He remarked that this was the largest and best union fringe meeting that he had so far attended. Now we need to organise for important battles ahead.
Fran Choules, Exeter
I AM writing to express my outrage at the way elderly people are being treated under this Conservative Labour government. Across Britain there are over 400 old people's homes which are currently threatened with closure and/or privatisation.
That puts the livelihoods of 15,000 elderly people at risk. Frail elderly people who are moved or who fear for the future are more likely to suffer an earlier death. How can any Labour politician live with themselves when the elderly suffer? No amount of spin-doctoring can cover up this heartlessness.
Janice Tilbrook, North London
French strikes like a carnival
I HAVE just returned from Marseille in France. I was impressed by the determination shown by the French workers in their resistance to the government's attacks on their pensions and on public services. The anger and level of solidarity shown by the 240,000 demonstrators who marched in Marseille on the 3 June was inspiring.
Workers are holding daily assemblies at the old port, in a carnival atmosphere, bringing together strikers from many different industries. Many people are no longer comparing this struggle to that of 1995 but to the great upsurge in strikes and political action of 1968.
Of course nobody can be certain about future developments and how the trade union leaders will act. The government is trying to divide and weaken the movement. But many workers have not been taken in and are standing firm. Some have been striking for weeks. The French workers are fighting back against the same neo-liberal attacks that are facing us all, and they need our support.
Let's send messages of support, and raise solidarity in our union branches. Their victory will make resisting the attacks over here that much easier.
Rob Hardy, Leeds
Our own palaces
WE HAVE all read the plethora of articles detailing the obscene use of money spent by Saddam Hussein on extravagant palaces and other ornate buildings. Our politicians tell us that such money would have been far better spent looking after and caring for the Iraqi people. I agree totally.
However, I would like to point out that the same thing actually happens in this democratic 'decent' society. Two examples are the Millennium Dome (original estimate: £399 million, actual cost: £1 billion), and the Scottish Parliament building (original estimate: £40 million, current cost: £375 million).
To think that we are told that there's no money to give diligent professionals such as firefighters and nursery nurses a living wage!
L Thomson, Fife
Poles all for EU?
THE RECENT yes vote in Poland on joining the European Union was backed by an unholy alliance of the Pope and all the main political parties, including the Communist Party.
The opposition to joining the EU was led by the far right and small farmers' party, and offered empty nationalist rhetoric. However, despite the vote, there is little real enthusiasm for EU membership. Unemployment is 18 percent and the government is pushing through a programme of economic restructuring and privatisation.
Among young voters the support for the yes vote was 20 percent less than average. An EU spokesperson said this showed the young are 'in step with their peers in the West who are concerned about globalisation'.
Peter Gee, West London
Geneva became a police-run city
THE immediate aftermath of the anti-G8 protests in Geneva will have a lasting effect on the city. In the days following the main demonstrations the police clamped down with real ferocity after they had been criticised for being 'too soft' on the 'Black Bloc'.
The problem for the authorities is that the clampdown hit local people harder than anyone else. I saw a group of young skaters jumped on by plain clothes police and roughly searched. Over 1,000 people were watching. Streets were blockaded, demonstrations corralled, and Geneva became a police-run city.
Resentment from local people ran high. One local told me that Geneva 'has had the kick up the butt that it needed'. Young people have been speedily politicised.
Guy Taylor, Globalise Resistance
Don't fall for lies about Black Bloc
HAVING READ Socialist Worker's report on the Evian protests, I feel I have to set the record straight. The riot in Geneva after the demonstration was not started by people provoking the police.
It was started, just as it was in Genoa, by police attacking protesters from NGOs, Christian and environmental groups. The rioting that continued through the night was ordinary citizens from Geneva, most of whom had not been on the protests.
Please don't fall for the propaganda of the right again. We can argue in private about the tactics various groups are using, but to criticise fellow protesters is both damaging and counter-productive. Antifa (the group vilified as the 'Black Bloc') blocked their bridge, just as Globalise Resistance blocked theirs, with great discipline and without any violence.
Shaun Dey, South London
Well done for Blair coverage
Congratulations on your hard-hitting newspaper and the graphic coverage of the aftermath of the results of the Blair lies. We too have been demanding action against Blair – our front page headline in the current edition of the Westminster Independent reads 'Arrest Blair'.
It is reassuring to see that another newspaper is willing to campaign so vigorously on this issue.
David Hetherington, editor, Independent Local Newspapers
Queen must get the bleach ready
BEING ON the dole myself, I can't say that I'm too motivated by R Tyler's suggestion (Letters, 14 June) that those of us who are unemployed should do the crap jobs in a socialist society.
In a socialist society I would hope that plenty of resources are put into developing technology that can alleviate the most tedious and miserable work and that everyone would be able to find respect, variety, creativity and fulfilment in our work for the benefit of us all.
For the shittiest jobs that couldn't be eradicated, I propose that they are reserved for the royal family, government ministers, media barons and any other corporate fat cats that have attacked the poor, cut benefits and driven us into dead end jobs – which pretty much covers all of them.
My dream job in a socialist society would be quality control for the cleaning of public toilets in London. It would give me great pleasure to look down on the queen and John Prescott scrubbing the bowls and say 'missed a bit'.
Pat Carmody, by email
Why no talk of Soc Alliance?
I BROADLY agree with the analysis in 'What We Think' (Socialist Worker, 7 June). However, in correctly describing the important opportunities for a 'viable left alternative', you don't mention the Socialist Alliance (SA). Is this a deliberate omission, an oversight, or does the significance of the SA go without saying?
I believe that the SA has the potential to be that socialist alternative and we are working to that end.
Glyn Robbins, SA National Executive (personal capacity)