Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 1955

Stop this housing sell-off

The government is breaking its election pledges already — and just 500 yards from John Prescott’s sumptious headquarters. In the 19th century the philanthropist George Peabody founded the Peabody Trust and built decent housing for the benefit of London’s poor.

Our present government has pledged to build low cost housing, and central London is desperately short of affordable housing, especially for key workers.

We are tenants on one of the Peabody Trust’s estates, Vauxhall Bridge Road estate, and it has just been anounced that as our flats become empty they will be sold off to the highest bidder instead of being re-let to low income workers.

At the end of the 1980s, Westminster council did exactly the same thing and were prosecuted. Council tenants were, nonetheless, given the right to buy with a healthy discount to encourage home ownership.

However Peabody tenants will not have that opportunity. The flats will be auctioned off further fuelling London’s chronic affordable home shortage and depriving the London economy of skilled employees.

And what of the existing tenants? There are two extreme situations. Many tenants, including my family of four in a cramped one bedroom flat, are unable to move to more appropriate accommodation, despite spending years on the waiting list.

Single, generally more elderly, residents in two/three bedroomed flats are afraid to downgrade to single bedroom properties as, if they do so, Peabody Trust increases their rent to the maximum.

This policy was announced by the trust last week, without warning or consultation. In fact, it seems to be a well planned policy.

Despite being a few hundred yards from Buckingham Palace, the Vauxhall Bridge Road estate, consisting of 130 flats, appears to have undergone a deliberate running down process.

Would you be able to support us in our efforts to keep these homes for the purpose they were intended — and the purpose for which they are still so badly needed?

Richard Simpson, Secretary of Vauxhall Bridge Road estate tenants’ association


Proud to wear a cap and hoodie

Tony Blair is calling for respect on the streets. He doesn’t seem to understand that one doesn’t earn respect without showing some in the first place.

He is stereotyping young people today who wear hoods and caps as yobs and thugs. This just isn’t the case.

Most young people, myself included, do not commit crime or partake in acts of violence. The youths who do appear threatening are the same people who have been shown no respect by Tony and his government.

Take, for example, the closure of the youth centres, the selling off of playing fields in Portsmouth and the fact that there are no jobs for the younger generation.

Then the government moan about a group of friends, who have nowhere else to go standing on street corners, and they introduce phrases like “gang culture”.

Tony Blair has no respect for fashion or youth culture. Will Tony be going through his sons’ clothes and removing “unsuitable articles”?

The Respect party stands for equal opportunities for all (including those who wear hoods and caps) and closing the class divide. We believe that everyone deserves some respect.

Devout hoodie-ite and Respect member, Portsmouth


‘Non’ to the media lies

The no vote on the EU constitution in France is causing substantial waves within the French establishment and Europe in general.

It is essential that the experiences of the French activists who bought about this victory by campaigning so convincingly are relayed to others who think that another Europe is possible.

In France, but also in Britain, we are already seeing the media distort the arguments.

The French people were convinced that the Europe proposed in the constitution was not the Europe we had hoped for, the Europe that generations of working people have fought for.

The French left rose admirably to the task in hand. United, they managed to expose the constitution for what it is — an anti-democratic, neo-liberal, blueprint for a Europe ran by the democratically unaccountable.

Nearly 1,000 collectives were set up around France in which the voices of all those to the left of the social democratic third way can be heard.

The campaign in Britain must also pull the argument to the left in order to define the demands of the European people for democracy, social progress and, why not, socialism!

Kevin House, Member of the collective of the 18th arrondissement, Paris


We should say no too

I’d like to disagree with Howard Medwell (Letters, Socialist Worker, 4 June) who says the left in Britain should not get involved in a no campaign over the European constitution.

The left shouldn’t be mealy mouthed about our opposition to the proposed constitution. We should be as vociferous as possible in calling for a no vote. A compelling reason for this is precicely the very flag waving jingoistic nonsense the right would undoutedly be pushing.

The left should campaign distinctively, and should make it loud and clear that unlike the “little Englander” bigots we are internationalists and proud of it.

Colin Yates, East London


There’s little chance for peace in Palestine

I have just spent a month teaching in Palestine. Many people outside the region are hopeful that there will be progress towards peace, but such optimism is shared by few Palestinians.

The Israeli “security” wall is being built at many places in the West Bank at an alarming pace. The wall has been opposed by the EU and declared illegal by the International Court at the Hague.

But the Israeli government continues consolidating “facts on the ground” as fast as it can, not only by building the wall but also by settlement expansion.

It is essential that international pressure is put on Israel to stop taking Palestinian land and expanding the settlements. Boycotting Israeli goods is one way of applying pressure. Similar methods helped bring apartheid to an end in South Africa.

Not only does the wall steal large amounts of Palestinian land, but tens of thousands of villagers will also lose their livelihoods because their fields, groves and orchards are destroyed or made inaccessible.

Tony Davies, Edinburgh


Initiatives that do not help schools

Ruth Kelly, the education secretary, has commissioned a panel of teachers to look at how some schools are deemed to be succeeding in managing pupils’ behaviour.

I hope that they will focus on strategies to improve rather than contain behaviour. There is a consensus within the profession that improving pupils’ behaviour is best done in the classroom and as a part of teaching practices.

One wonders what happened to the initiative to build parity of esteem between vocational and academic study — increasing flexibility for 14-16 year olds.

The schools watchdog, Ofsted, found that 10,000 children from schools in England are “missing” and are in danger of being “lost to the system, becoming disaffected and underachieving”.

The figure no doubt includes a proportionately high number of socially deprived pupils.

Obviously the government’s highly publicised initiatives, such as learning mentors, internal support units and police in schools, have not worked effectively in tackling the behaviour and the disenchantment of the pupils concerned.

Husain Akhtar, Independent inspector of schools, and chairperson of the Asian Parents Group, Harrow


How is value created?

Marx’s contention that only “living labour” produces value (Marx's idea of value, Socialist Worker, 4 June) is surely wrong.

If a capitalist can operate his machines using no labour, then the resulting product has a price and can be sold on the market.

Surplus value will be produced once his fixed costs for realising the value of his machines is deducted from the revenues achieved on the sale of the product.

Labour inputs are not important if, on a given amount of fixed capital, variable capital inputs can be adjusted to produce the same or more output.

At the end of the day value will be realised in the price at which the commodity sells relative to inputs whether capital or labour.

Owen Savory, by e-mail


Basque still in prison

We want to remind your readers that the Basque political prisoner Inigo Makazaga (Basque activist detained in Belmarsh prison for four years, Socialist Worker, 26 March) remains in Belmarsh prison after being jailed four years ago. He is fighting against extradition to Spain.

He is awaiting the home office decision on his extradition, but this decision has been delayed for a considerable amount of time.

We are asking Inigo’s supporters to write to their MPs. A letter you can use is available,

e-mail basquecampaign@yahoo.co.uk to request copies.

Basque Campaign, London


A lesson from Canada

This was posted on the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s website in Canada:

In the public sector, 54 percent of employees reached settlements following work stoppages, compared to 23 percent who settled through direct bargaining.

This shows what workers must do to reach a settlement.

Gloria Bergen, Canada
Go to www.gov.on.ca/LAB/english


Like father, like son

Everyone knows that Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak wants to have his son run against him in the forthcoming elections (Socialist Worker, 4 June).

And he will lose the election, willingly, to his son. He then can rule through him.

H DeBucy, by e-mail


The new crusaders?

The parallels of the Christian crusades with the current settler state of Israel are striking

Neil Faulkner (Crusade and jihad, Socialist Worker, 28 May) writes that the colonising crusaders were “living on stolen land and surrounded by potential enemies. The crusaders were too few ever to feel safe… They were true robber barons.”

In the present time one only has to substitute the Zionists for the crusaders to see how once again Palestine is occupied, and all the while it is the colonisers that remain under siege.

This is a fortress that cannot be sustained without external support from the US and Europe.

S Yousaf, Glasgow


Things are getting worse

I am a counsellor in a suburban high school in the US. What I have witnessed during my 21 years as a counsellor is frightening.

I have witnessed a sharp decline in academic motivation and skills among teenagers. Most are all too consumed with working to purchase material goods.

From my point of view, capitalism and our “free market” are slowly eating away at our “middle class” and deepening and widening the social ravine.

I am happy to have found your website and organisation. I belong to the Green Party as there is no socialist party locally. But I am a socialist and support my brothers and sisters in Britain, France and Europe in general.

Michael A Piersol, Sinking Spring, US


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Letters
Sat 11 Jun 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1955
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