Socialist Worker

Union power needed

Issue No. 1940

Generations of workers have been thrown onto the scrapheap (Pic: John Sturrock)

Generations of workers have been thrown onto the scrapheap (Pic: John Sturrock)

By this time next year there will only be seven deep coal mining pits left in this country, and a further 520 miners will have lost their jobs at the whim of an increasingly avaricious free market system. As the pangs of a fuel shortage still rumble away in the distance, growing ever nearer, the government is sticking to its Thatcherite ideal of laissez faire economics.

It does nothing to intervene as the country continues along its path of industrial suicide, which it began in the heady heat of the greed obsessed 1980s. UK Coal are winding up their operations at Nottinghamshire’s Welbeck colliery. With the miners’ strikes of 1984-5 now a long forgotten memory, UK Coal can dismiss the 520 people in their employ, with any idea of a trade union backlash now beyond even a fantasy.

The pathetic truth is that for companies and businesses throughout the country, all action, no matter how morally reprehensible, can now be executed without any fear of meeting opposition from unions with the power to say to those who decide that simplest of restraining utterances, “No.”

It is unfair to say that the unions are entirely impotent — so long as a will to uphold their workers’ rights is there, their power will still exist, if only on an almost subliminal level.

However, in what has almost been a reversion to the black days of England’s industrial slavery in the dark satanic mills of the 19th century, the worker is now, as he has been at most points throughout history, a slave to his paymasters. And the Labour government is now almost as economically liberal as its Conservative forebears.

The unions were not emancipated from Thatcherite, neo-liberal greed, as everyone thought they would be when they voted for a Labour government in 1997. The unions are still shackled and largely without power.

However, now, more than has been the case for at least a decade, that power is needed, and we can only hope that eventually somewhere in parliament, someone will see that.
Charles Norton Oakham, Rutland

Burying bad news of ID card vote

On 10 February, two things happened. Firstly, a divorcee announced publicly that he had become engaged to his long-standing lover.

Secondly, the government managed to get the ID cards bill through a third reading in the House of Commons and on its way to the Lords.

Oddly, however, it was the first of these that was treated by the media as a huge story. The frightening milestone in the progress of New Labour’s sinister ID cards scheme was, in effect, buried by the avalanche of rubbish about Charles and Camilla.

Now I’m not suggesting that there was any conspiracy to eclipse the passing of the ID cards bill by announcing the joyous aristocratic nuptials on the same day.

But, post 9/11, we all know how New Labour is ever on the lookout for good days to bury bad news—and ID cards certainly qualify as bad news.

The cards will be compulsory and we will have to pay for them ourselves. Refusal to comply with the ID cards scheme will bring huge fines.

They will feed information about us into a massive databank which the government, police and security services will be able to access without our consent.

Compared to this, I think that the engagement of two toffs is rather trivial.
Jack Graham Salisbury

Islam and schools…

To deprive a Muslim child of their culture and language is a crime against humanity. The British education system is guilty of such crime.

The first wave of Muslims arrived with three or four languages, including English, but the next generation has had to learn English, making them misfits not only for British society, but also for the world.

Muslims have been discouraged from learning Arabic and Urdu, cutting them off from their cultural roots. They are unable to enjoy the beauty of Urdu literature and poetry.

Respect and tolerance of different religions, cultures and languages are essential for positive community cohesion. The solution to all these problems is state funded Muslim schools.

Muslim parents should be given educational vouchers so that they can send their children to private Muslim schools.
Iftikhar Ahmad East London

…and the colleges

University of Birmingham students have begun a bitter legal battle for their right to attend the National Union of Students (NUS) conference.

In October, elections took place at the Guild of Students (the students’ union) to elect delegates for the NUS conference. The turnout was high, and resulted in the election of 14 delegates, who happen to be of Muslim origin.

The principle of democracy would suggest that these 14 delegates should become the NUS delegates—but it seems democracy does not prevail at what is meant to be one of Britain’s most prestigious universities.

The Guild of Students annulled the results, on the basis of a “rumour” of allegations of “electoral fraud”. They have failed to prove the allegations have any element of truth in them. To add your voice to the protests, send an e-mail to [email protected]
Mahsoom Mohamed Birmingham

We are making an exhibition of ourselves

Two weekends ago it was difficult to recognise Newcastle or Gateshead. There were £3 million worth of police whizzing round, blocking roads and causing general chaos—the Blair circus was in town!

Tyneside has two major attractions. One is the fantastic new music venue, the Sage, and the other is the Baltic art gallery.

The Sage laid on all the pomp and ceremony for the Labour Party spring conference, while the Baltic exhibited one of the most angry anti-government exhibitions I have seen.

Artists Bob and Roberta Smith’s exhibition Help Build the Ruins of Democracy is a call to action. The exhibition space has been developed with visitors to the gallery, who have been invited to contribute their own texts and help create panels.

The first panel was a beautiful screen print that read “ART not WAR”. As you make your way round the space you are bombarded with various texts that read “Tony Blair is a zombie of death”, “Clare Short blew it” and “The Labour Party are weasels and vipers, forked tongued turncoats who have spattered British people’s faces with blood”.

Personally I was amazed that this exhibition was running at the very same time as the Labour conference. After I left the exhibition, I asked somebody what they thought of it. Their reply was, “Amazing, I went into an art exhibition and it was my voice.”
Linda Carruthers Newcastle

Blow to the ‘party of law and order’

Burnley BNP councillor Brian Turner has pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife and a police officer during an altercation at his home.

He was arrested and charged on Saturday 5 February after police were called to the incident. Turner will return to court for sentencing on 7 March. In the meantime he is on conditional bail and barred from direct contact with his wife.

Ironically Burnley BNP had just issued a leaflet on law and order and I here quote verbatim from it: “It is pointless to pass a law if that law cannot be enforced.

“Laws and rules are for honest people who will obey the rule of law, dishonest people need the threat of certain prosecution to discourage them.”

Wonderful! We all need a laugh now and again and who better to give us one than the pathetic BNP. Let’s hope councillor Turner is discouraged from further violent activity.
John P Johnston Burnley, Lancashire

We need to end this horror

I was sickened after reading your article Fallujah: The Truth At Last (Socialist Worker, 19 February).

It is not the first article to reveal the truth about the butchery being done under the direction of George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard and the leaders of the lesser members of the coalition, and I doubt that it will be the last.

The only hope is for members of the British Labour Party to put pressure on Blair and his supporters to pull out of this disastrous coalition.

If they don’t, they will only have themselves to blame for the hatred and desire for revenge that is bound to follow such hideous crimes against humanity.
Anthony Lawson Phuket, Thailand

Togo is still like a colony

I worked as a volunteer teacher in Lome, Togo, last year. The French still have military advisers there.

The feeling in the country is vehemently anti-French — the dictator Eyadema would not have been in power, or continued in power for 40 years, without their support.

The people of Togo say they are, in effect, a colony. The role of France in West Africa has largely been ignored and this looks, to the outside world, like another African country that just can’t rule itself.

Many people are still unaware of the French role in Rwanda, and their military support for the French speaking group.
Nikki Jones Bristol

Torture by Spanish state

I just want to bring to your attention what the Spanish government has been busy with this last week.

They have been arresting young Basque people who are members of a political group that is now outlawed.

The government is saying that they and Basque separatist group ETA are one and the same, branding them all as terrorist.

They then bring them to Madrid where they can hold them for five days and torture them for information.
Ciat MacRaghnaill via e-mail

Greetings from Latin America

I’m Argentinean and I love to read the news, even in different languages, and I am very glad you have an online newspaper (

Here, there are not many newspapers done by the workers — just some news on the web pages of communist or socialist parties — even though the social movements have been increasing in importance lately.

My respects to the English people, particularly the internationalist ones.
Cecilia Alonso Buenos Aires, Argentina

Wrong about partition

I’m glad that last week’s Socialist Worker had an article about the struggle for Indian independence. However, it is over simplistic to say that Britain partitioned India as an act of revenge.

The British promoted communal divisions in India in order to weaken the independence movement, not for the purpose of physically dividing the country.
KN Anish East London

McVictory for McLibel Two

The victory of the McLibel Two in the European court of human rights has brought to an end a remarkable story.

Fifteen years ago Helen Steel and David Morris were sued for distributing a leaflet criticising McDonalds.

The ensuing court case pitted them against a top legal team backed up by a massive corporation with unlimited funds.

Last week the European court ruled that their human rights were violated when they were denied legal aid.

Now the government may be forced to give legal aid to poor people in libel cases.
Tom Wall Hackney

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Sat 26 Feb 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1940
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