Aid for refugees is essential but so is political campaigning
Last Saturday 18 social work students from Liverpool Hope University joined the Social Work Action Network convoy to Calais.
Social workers from across Britain made their way to Calais, despite attempts by the police and the border agency to disrupt the trip.
The convoy joined the Stand Up to Racism protest at the “jungle” refugee camp and at Calais port.
The students in Liverpool had worked tirelessly over the previous four weeks to raise money and material aid to take to Calais and to send to Samos in Greece.
On Friday of last week eight tonnes of material aid was sent in a container to Samos. Later that night three vans set off for Calais.
The students were clear—this was not about charity, it was political solidarity.
Providing material aid that allows the refugees to live is essential. But it has to be tied to a political campaign to demand that the refugees are welcome in Britain.
That’s why last week’s combination of material and financial support with political protest was so vital.
On our return to Liverpool this week we have met and discussed how to take the campaign forward.
People have been deeply affected by their experience in France and are both angry and motivated to keep on keeping on.
Some of the students will be going back to Calais as part of any future Stand Up to Racism protests.
Others are going to Greece in May, as activist social work students, to work alongside and support campaigning networks of refugees.
All of us are involving ourselves in local meetings, demonstrations and campaigns against racism and for refugee rights.
The message home last week was loud and clear—refugees are welcome here.
Michael Lavalette, Social Work Action Network
Iain Duncan Smith is the real monster
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has a new £8.5 million workplace pensions campaign led by a computer generated monster called Workie.
Disabled people know who the real monster is—Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith (IDS), the butcher of social security benefits.
Workie is an appalling waste of public money.
In one year that same sum could give 18,813 people relief from the bedroom tax or fund 443 disabled people to live independently.
Some 18,000 disabled people were in receipt of Independent Living Fund (ILF) support and living full lives until it was closed on 30 June. Many feel imprisoned at home unable to take part in society.
Plans to slash another 40 percent off the DWP budget will mean more pain.
Paula Peters, South London
Traditions of struggle can help us win today
Gerry Mooney (Socialist Worker, 24 October) was right to argue that the 1915 Glasgow Rent Strike has shaped struggles since.
At the height of the strike up to 95 percent of rents weren’t being paid. Figures such as Mary Barbour helped build a united front backed by the unions of Red Clydeside.
I was proud to be part of a 21st century version of Mrs Barbour’s anti-eviction army, against the bedroom tax in Scotland. Like 1915 it was a movement dominated by working class women.
We pledged to form a human wall to protect the vulnerable should the sheriff officers be silly enough to attempt evictions. Spineless politicians were forced to act because we wouldn’t wait until the next election for something to change.
These traditions of working class struggle are important to remember because we can get results.
Marion Nisbet, Glasgow
South African students are radicalising
Students at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, rose against a proposed 10.5 percent tuition fee rise last week.
They were quickly followed by fellow students from Durban to Cape Town.
I visited Wits University last week on the day students in Cape Town stormed the parliament building.
The level of organisation of the students was admirable.
A large banner proclaimed that the Senate House itself had been taken over by the students. It was renamed Solomon Mahlangu House, in remembrance of a freedom fighter hanged by the apartheid regime in 1979.
It was obvious as we stood in the hall that the lives and aspirations and hopes of the students themselves were on the firing line, like their hero Solomon Mahlangu.
The students’ slogans have quickly radicalised from #FeesMustFall to #ZumaMustFall.
The world needs more young men and women of character like the students who continue to stand up for what they believe.
Tinashe Chisaira, Harare, Zimbabwe
There is an alternative to closures
How ridiculous that anyone could possibly suggest spending a single penny on subsidising cheaper, renewable energy to preserve the livelihoods of thousands of steelworkers.
But spending billions to guarantee decades of overpriced fuel and super profits to a dying nuclear power industry—that’s a different ideological matter altogether!
John Murphy-Blackburn, Salford
Brutality is a wake up call
we are living in exciting times. In many ways it is great that the Tories are becoming more vicious.
The more people who are affected by what they represent, the more we will have people on our side. Their brutality therefore makes us stronger—that’s how we should look at it.
Always be grateful for a wake up call. We are bigger than they will ever be.
Alan Cresswell-Laing, Manchester
Justice for Saro-Wiwa
It is 20 years since the executions of writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni colleagues by the Nigerian military government.
They were murdered for their successful protest against Shell’s destruction of the Niger Delta environment.
On 10 November we have two events to commemorate this day and to take action.
Sue, Jane and David, Platform London
Cowardly TUC should fight
This TUC cowardice is not unusual. All these so called leaders are interested in is their own knighthoods.
They will get rewarded for their betrayal by this corrupt medieval system.
Eric Purvis, on Facebook
Men fought for vote too
I’ve seen the film Suffragette and enjoyed Judith Orr’s article on the fight for women’s suffrage (Socialist Worker, 17 October).
Men also played a role.
At the 1906 Labour Party conference a debate on female suffrage was led by Ben Turner from Batley, West Yorkshire. He was also general secretary of the National Union of Weavers.
Turner spoke on a bill that would have enfranchised nine tenths of working class women but it was defeated.
John Appleyard, Liversedge, West Yorkshire