Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1960

Good to see you! Trade unionists welcome back the workmates they had defended

Good to see you! Trade unionists welcome back the workmates they had defended

You were part of victory at Rolls

The Rolls Royce Amicus Test Shop Stewards Committee in Bristol and the two individuals involved would like to thank Socialist Worker for the excellent coverage the paper gave to our dispute (Rolls Royce bosses in test of strength with workers, SW, 18 June).

It is fantastic for everyone involved to know that our fight was acknowledged and supported nationally as well as locally.

We hope that our efforts will encourage other workers in struggle to fight for what is right. Unity is strength.

The two fitters were welcomed back on site on their return to work by their colleagues.

John J Smart, Secretary, AMICUS Test Shop Stewards Committee

Mao’s contradictory role

Jacob Secker (Don’t fall for the lies about Mao, Letters, 2 July) is right to reject the notion put forward by Chang and Halliday in their recent book that Mao was worse than Hitler.

There is a world of difference between the deliberate murder of the Holocaust and the catastrophic failure of Mao’s Great Leap Forward.

But that doesn’t mean we should defend Mao or Chinese communism.

While it brought about some important social reforms, the Communist revolution of 1949 was essentially a nationalist rather than a socialist revolution. The real achievements of the revolution were national independence and the building of a modern industrial economy.

But given China’s extreme backwardness, itself a legacy of imperialist interference, this required extreme forms of exploitation.

Around one million Chinese are estimated to have died in the Korean War which established China’s ability to stand up to the major imperialist powers for the first time in over 100 years.

And economic development depended on holding down the living standards of both workers and peasants while more and more was squeezed from them for investment in industry.

So the Great Leap was an attempt to speed up the rate of development and had nothing to do with raising living standards.

The resulting famine was prolonged by Mao’s insistence on continuing his policies even when they were obviously failing disastrously.

Mao was a far more contradictory character than Chang and Halliday’s simplistic portrait allows for.

He was both the leader of one of the 20th century’s great revolutions and the head of one of its greatest tyrannies.

This was the result of fighting to overthrow the shackles imposed by the world’s major powers and of limiting the revolution’s objectives to building a national economy that could compete with them.

Simon Gilbert, Oxford

Clinton Fraser (Was Lenin the same as Mao?, Letters, 9 July) rightly says that “the real heroes of the Russian revolution were the people — they should be listened to”.

This was the unique ability of the Bolshevik party — a party whose membership was overwhelmingly working class (at that stage).

As elected leaders of the workers councils they could act as the nerve centre, listening to the wishes of the workers and arguing for a plan of action that would transform the workers’ will into a practical reality.

Even Martov (an opponent of Lenin and Trotsky) said, “Understand, please, that before us is a victorious uprising of the working class — almost the entire working class supports Lenin and expects its social liberation from the uprising.” 

Graham Hodgin, West London

Climate for a protest

The massive response to Make Poverty History has proved there is a growing radicalisation and a whole new generation of activists. One of the fastest “growth areas” of consciousness and concern is on climate change.

The Unison trade union conference last month voted overwhelmingly for protest action and hard campaigning to force governments to act. The 1,500 conference delegates understood the dangers and showed their anger over this issue.

When the limit of what MPs suggest is to turn off your television at the wall to conserve energy, the complacency is alarming. Most people recognise such attitudes as collaboration with the real culprits.

Industry accounts for some 60 percent of carbon emissions. The technology is there to cut them down to near zero, but the cost will have to come from their profits, so they just won’t act. 

Just as with poverty in Africa, when Tony Blair wrings his hands about climate change he is all the time lowering emissions targets to help his rich friends grab more cash at the expense of any future for hundreds of millions of people world wide.

The next great demonstrations must take place on 3 December, the international day of action on climate change.

At that time, the Kyoto Treaty will be under re-negotiation. There will be demonstrations in London and across the world. We have to force governments to act to regulate industry and to invest heavily in public transport and infrastructure to drastically reduce carbon emissions.

Tony Staunton, Branch Secretary, Pymouth UNISON

Monbiot plays into the hands of nuclear lobby

It's sad that George Monbiot feels the need to attack renewable energy sources (Climate change is the most important issue, SW, 9 July).

His argument — which effectively supports fossil fuel and nuclear energy as the alternative supply sources — is obviously flawed since however much energy efficiency we get we have to get energy from somewhere.

We’re not going to get more energy efficiency by attacking windmills. We’re going to get it by taking practical action on the issue, including the sort of programmes spearheaded by Alun Jones, London’s Climate Change Commissioner.

I know George would probably respond that we should reduce economic growth instead of building windmills, but there are two problems here.

First, where are we going to get the energy for even this from? Or does he prefer nuclear power and fossil fuels?

Secondly, he effectively invites the large number of people who still want sustainable economic development to choose nuclear power as an alternative to reduced levels of services.

Indeed the nuclear industry relies on the notion that its use is unavoidable to maintain living standards.

Monbiot is in danger of acting as a patsy for their propaganda. Monbiot’s message is at best incoherent, at worst very counterproductive.

Dr David Toke, University of Birmingham

Tesco policy takes away our humanity

Tesco’s sickness policy is an offence to modern day living, as several excellent articles in Socialist Worker have pointed out.

We are allowed 3 percent of our time off sick, even if you have a doctor’s note confirming that your are unfit to work.

If you are unlucky enough to go over the 3 percent then you are on the disciplinary system, which can lead to dismissal.

The implication is that you are no longer human, because humans will get ill, have accidents, even have to go to hospital.

I personally know of someone with breast cancer who was pulled in for taking too much time off sick.

A Tesco worker in Northern Ireland tried to start up a petition to get a fairer deal.

He sent sheets out to the shops to get signatures to give to the union so it could act.

But the staff were too intimidated and the union didn’t help.

I just feel these multinationals are tearing people’s lives apart, and don’t even recognise that all of us get older and for many that means they will get ill.

Tesco worker, by e-mail

Why were SNP on the stage?

I listened to the speakers at the Stop the War stage after the Make Poverty History demonstration in Edinburgh.

I particularly liked George Monbiot, Carolyn Leckie and Lindsey German’s contribution as well as — surprisingly for me — George Galloway’s. Thanks for that.

However, I do not understand the decision to allow Alex Salmond’s presence on this stage which was there for those who pro-actively support the Stop The War message.

The SNP has not contributed towards this message.

If they, as a party, felt strongly enough, they would not have voted in support of the SSP MSPs’ suspension in the Scottish parliament when they protested at the curtailing of the right to protest at the G8.

Karen MacLean, Edinburgh

Zimbabwe disgrace

New Labour oozes with supposed compassion over Africa and at the same time threatens to return refugees to Zimbabwe.

Return them to Zimbabwe? Some of them probably think that they have never left.

Anita Houlighan, East London

Let down by job scheme

I am disabled and very alarmed by this government’s plans for getting people back into work.

In my local area the main firms which supplied car plants have taken a hiding from Rover going bust.

Yet my MP says that this does not matter and that if you’re disabled you will be given training which will then help you find a job.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but do we not need employers first?

A typical training programme is to be a hospital cleaner. You get trained for 12 months, but at the end the local cleaning contractor will not employ you.

Private employers are simply not interested in employing disabled people.

And another problem is that once you tell the DWP your looking for work they will reassess you for disability living allowance. In other words you will be seeking work on a lower benefit in deeper poverty.

No more lies Blair, I have had enough.

Robert, Llwynhendy, Llanelli

Give young people hope

On the television this morning a policeman was complaining about the teenagers of Britian being “out of control”, yobs ruling the street, and so on.

When I was a kid there were youth clubs. But they’re not there anymore — they’ve all been closed down. That’s why teenagers are running around the streets — and they certainly know how to run away from coppers!

We need to give them interests and a sense of self worth. Now that we’ve won the Olympics bid, wouldn’t it be a fantastic thing to open up lots of sports centres to give those kids something to do?

Sue Fielding, Wakefield

Deadly glint of profits

Kalahari Bushmen demonstrated last week at the Natural History Museum in London at the opening of the Diamonds exhibition. It is sponsored by De Beers.

The museum has refused the Bushmen’s request for the issue of their eviction from their land — which many believe was to make way for future diamond mining by De Beers — to be included in the exhibition.

The museum is putting commercial sponsorship before objective education.

Kelly Watson, South London

Who deserves the Olympics?

I was appalled that London was awarded the Olympics. I had hoped that the world would snub Blair over Iraq.

Sally Corcoran, Manchester

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Sat 16 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1960
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