Brutal policy against the elderly in homes
RAGE, the Relatives Action Group for the Elderly, is maintaining its fight. The campaign works with families, unions and community organisations to stop the rationalisation of public sector care homes for older people. Research produced by RAGE in 2001 revealed that up to 450 care homes and day centres were threatened by either closure, privatisation or transfer/partnership.
This would affect 15,000 residents and 13,000 staff. For residents, it may even lead to death. For staff it may lead to worse employment conditions, reduced pensions and greater poverty in old age (affecting mainly women), not forgetting the loss of democratic public services.
After the brief spell of court victories, recent judgements have gone against residents, and two cases are now earmarked for the European Court of Human Rights. RAGE are aware of 70 deaths nationally, but that is probably a conservative estimate.
On top of this the Legal Services Commission are refusing to adequately fund residents' cases. Justice is far harder to achieve in these cases, therefore. We are left with a radical and brutal social policy whereby old people are placed at the whim of ill thought out policies.
These are overseen by a new form of social services chief officer bureaucrat whose goals are not 'social care' as such but a form of 'bureaucratic and economic violence' known as Best Value. For further information on RAGE, including contacts, see www.RAGEnational.com
Mark Oley, National Citizens Advocate, Birmingham
In need of relief
A WHEELCHAIR-bound 56 year old grandmother, Biz Ivol, who suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), is on trial at a court in Scotland charged with supplying cannabis to other medicinal users. The present charges relate to a raid on her home in August 2001 and the court case has been postponed a number of times.
Biz has long been an advocate for the legalisation of the medical use of cannabis. In hundreds of years nobody has died as a result of cannabis use. Biz should never have been put in this position. She isn't the only one. We are ill, we know this stuff works and many of us won't get any better. Cannabis enables us to have at least a little bit of quality time in our life.
The state has proved how nasty and vindictive it can be over all this. It would be nice if they could give us some help but we'd settle for not being bothered by them.
Join up pay fight
THE low pay revolt is spreading across the NHS. There are the beginnings of a national feeling and people learning from each other. I was involved in the campaign at Homerton Hospital in east London which, although I think we could have won more, has made everyone feel that trade unionism works and that the privatised contractors can be beaten.
It's high time our Unison union consciously encouraged the spread of the mood. We should have a campaign across Britain that gets claims in for a living wage everywhere, demands a return to full NHS conditions and tries to drive the privatisers out of the NHS.
Diana Swingler, Homerton University Hospital Unison chair (personal capacity)
Where now after referendum in Italy?
THE NUMBER of people voting in the Italian referendum which would have allowed the extension of workers' rights did not reach the required amount of 50 percent plus one of the electorate. There were 12,188,917 voters, which was 25.5 percent. Some 86.7 percent of these were in favour of the extension of workers' rights and only 13.3 percent against.
The national secretary of Rifondazione Comunista, Fausto Bertinotti, said, 'We have lost. The injustice for some workers remains. Yet we must understand the reasons for this defeat.'
Some 90 percent of the political parties in parliament, the mass media and Confindustria (the association of the Italian corporations) engaged in an active boycott.
But this is not enough to explain the root of the failure. One of the reasons rests in the inability to transform a just battle into a common feeling, in the same way as the peace movement was able to do against the war in Iraq.
Today our duty is to build a barrier against neo-liberalism, and against the shattering of people's rights with the support of those 11 million voters. For these reasons Rifondazione Comunista in Britain and the 'Comitato per il Si' in the referendum have decided not to dissolve but to work even harder in the battle for the defence and extension of labourers' rights in Italy, as well as Britain.
Enrico Mandelstam, Partito della Rifondazione Comunista UK branch
United to stop BNP
THE UNITY marches on 28 June must be well supported to have an impact on the Nazi British National Party (BNP). The electoral threat of the BNP in the Black Country is extremely alarming. In May's elections the BNP got three councillors elected in the Black Country and came second in several wards where they had never stood before. The BNP are gaining votes with their soft electoral image and scapegoating of refugees.
If we don't want to see the BNP grow into a national force it is vital that the whole of the labour, trade union and anti-war movement, including Socialist Worker, unites against them.
Tony Barnsley, Sandwell Unison joint assistant branch secretary (personal capacity)
Get stuck into new movement
THE MOVEMENT that erupted in opposition to the war is not going away. In east Kent we saw demonstrations and protests in towns and villages more used to the summer fair. People in the retirement village of Birchington cast nearly 600 votes in the parish elections for Stop the War candidates, and two weeks ago saw a packed meeting for George Galloway in nearby Whitstable.
The meeting's size, anger and solidarity for George, and the asylum seekers who spoke, shocked local New Labour people who tried desperately to stop the meeting taking place. At the same time we see elderly people being evicted from care homes in the area and asylum seekers have been on hunger strike against Blunkett's latest measures.
Now jailed landlord Nicholas van Hoogstraten plans to house refugees in prison hulks off the Kent coast! Those of us who have been around a while must also see that things have changed. Socialist Worker is playing a brilliant role in providing a space for debating the way forward for the movement. We are on new terrain and we must throw away the old maps.
Jon Flaig, Margate
Say encore to protests
AT THE end of another day of strikes and protests against the French government's plans for pension reform, 150 protesters occupied the Opera House in Nancy. The riot police were quickly on the scene.
However, the director of the Opera House had dismissed the musicians and cancelled the performance for that evening. The perfect end to a great day!
Leon Kuhn, Nancy
Justice fight goes on
I HAVE been in prison since 1989. I was wrongfully convicted of murdering David Pickering. The principal witness has admitted to my family she lied in court. On two occasions the appeal courts have agreed that although there is no reliable evidence against me, I should still remain in prison. I am asking for your support in my fight against injustice.
I am at Springhill prison, Grendon Underwood, near Aylesbury, Bucks HP18 OTL.
PFI project smells bad
A GROUP of 50 local residents from Leith, Edinburgh, marched two weeks ago in protest against continuing air pollution from Seafield sewage works. This was one of Scottish Water's flagship PFI projects. This was meant to herald the way for a spate of similar projects.
But in the last two years noxious smells and irritant gases such as hydrogen sulphide have been discharged into the local area. At the root of the problem is the failure of the contractors to fit covers to the primary tanks dealing with the sludge, and that is simply because it costs too much for an already overpriced project.
The demonstrators chanted slogans against PFI and air pollution, and carried a giant jobby (plastic!) up to the Scottish Parliament. Some of the protesters were keen to point out that while the new parliament building had no cost limits when it came to local amenities, they were not so keen to sign a blank cheque.
Ian Hood, Edinburgh
Who has got real power?
MANY PEOPLE I have come across still carry the concept in their head that people in 'positions of power' are somehow superior to members of the public. I was surprised to find this attitude amongst people who had previously lain in the road to block traffic during anti-war demonstrations. People in government are no more important or intelligent than anyone else.
They are supposed to be servants of the population, not masters of it.
Socialist Worker reader