Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1967

A threat to the bosses or the workers?

A threat to the bosses or the workers?

Does binge drinking frighten the powerful?

I was staggered by Simone Murray’s assertion that “binge drinking” makes the powerful worry (Why ‘binge drinking’ makes powerful worry, Letters, 27 August). Simone must have been overdoing it herself if she seriously thinks drinking is on a par with protesting.

The two have nothing in common. Drinking is about drowning your sorrows because you can’t stand your meaningless life. Protest is about starting to demand collective solutions to our collective problems.

Drink, like other drugs, enslaves its victims, undermining their ability to think and act rationally.

The militant’s slogan is educate, agitate and organise, not piss up, puke up and hang over.

I often see the patrons of the nightclub opposite my flat puking, pissing and fighting each other after an evening of making the entertainment corporations richer.

I know the ruling class, unlike me, are sleeping soundly in their beds.

Abdul-Nasser Baston, North London

Simone Murray’s letter claims that “toffs” like Boris Johnson should leave well alone when it comes to working class binge drinkers who are only enjoying themselves. She claims that Johnson et al are scared of “mobs”.

I can’t begin to express my anger towards such an ill thought out opinion. Binge drinking is a symptom of alienated labour. It is a desperate escape from the weekly, monotonous low paid grind that is not an end in itself, but just a means to an end.

The core issue will remain to tackle the meaningless jobs syndrome and seek to find work that is an end in itself — and find a more natural, less destructive freedom.

OK, so that sounds simplistic — but it is achievable.

Binge drinking keeps our cycle of destruction going, and keeps the capitalists in ludicrous profits.

While we binge drink ourselves to destruction we are more likely to maintain our own working oppression, which is what Johnson and the establishment really want.

Belinda Webb, London

Those residents who wish to oppose any extension to opening times for nearby pubs may now take heart because no extension is possible without planning permission for those hours.

Objectors need only oppose the planning application for extended hours, which takes precedence over the licensed hours.

In Bexleyheath, Kent, this tactic has been successfully used by residents on one third of the local pubs and clubs, with other hearings on the remainder pending.

Ad Williams, Anglesey

Help shut down DSEi

Next week the largest ever gathering of heads of state meets in New York. Included on their agenda will be commitments on stemming the global flow of arms that fuels conflicts and undermines development.

The US will not be the only government torpedoing these commitments. Over the same days, in London’s Docklands, a government organised event — the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) arms fair — will see British defence ministers providing corporate hospitality for the world’s arms dealers and most repressive and conflict-ridden regimes.

With over 1,000 exhibitors and 20,000 pre-approved visitors, DSEi is probably now the biggest dedicated arms fair in the world.

Direct subsidies for the event amounted to £400,000 in 2003, with unknown additional costs for the work of civil servants and military staff. The £4 million expense of policing the event, which included heavy police violence against protesters, was also borne by the taxpayer.

Given the government’s love affair with the arms industry, such support should come as no surprise. The British government spends an estimated £890 million annually subsidising arms exports.

Since 1999 governments invited to shop at DSEi have included Colombia, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Israel and Nigeria, to name a few. They sample products ranging from fighter aircraft to small arms, manufactured by a series of companies complicit in conflict and repression.

For four days, London’s Docklands will be a microcosm of the global havoc caused by the international arms trade.

For the first time, a rising tide of opposition not just from campaigners but from east London residents, local government, the London Mayor, and even the Metropolitan Police, makes it genuinely possible to stop DSEi.

But only by making the protests on 13 and 14 September the largest ever will we send this message loud and clear. Join us.

Anna Jones, Campaign Against Arms Trade

Council workers are on the road to hell

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as the saying goes. And so it has proved with single status in local government.

Single status was sold to union members on the basis that there would be a 37 hour week and fair and equal pay.

Members were promised that “many will gain and nobody should lose” in the pay and grading reviews that would be used to deliver equal pay.

The trouble is that the GMB, T&G and Unison unions are, at national level, stubbornly maintaining a rose-tinted view of single status when their members are suffering the hell of pay cuts of up to £12,000.

Early reports, in 1999, of an £11,000 pay cut at Tendring District Council should have sounded loud alarm bells at the unions’ headquarters.

The reference to “increased sickness levels among demoralised staff” in a 2001 report should have caused more alarm.

2005 has seen an escalation of industrial action in protest against swingeing pay cuts as councils undertake pay and grading reviews to meet the 2007 deadline and to avoid the attention of predatory equal pay lawyers.

Many of the problems stem from the government’s failure to provide the funding for pay modernisation in local government. Council tax payers and workers have been left to pick up the tab.

John Fricker, St Austell, Cornwall

Chavez pays price for Cuban support

The presence of 20,000 Cuban doctors in Venezuela is to be welcomed. The agreement by Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, to supply oil in return for health and educational aid is a great idea.

But the ties between Cuba and the “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela cut two ways.

Cuba and Castro are the main force pushing Chavez into seeking alliances with the governments of Lula in Brazil, Kirchner in Argentina and Vazquez in Uruguay.

It is perfectly acceptable to negotiate trade and other agreements with these countries in order to weaken dependence on the US.

But it is another matter, when the Lula government is embroiled in a deep corruption scandal, for Chavez to visit Brazil and make a point of demonstrating his support for Lula.

We should do our utmost to defend the Venezuelan revolution but its best allies are not the neo-liberal centre left of Latin America but the working class, indigenous and rural movements which are to the fore in the fight against globalisation and privatisation.

Daniela Cassano, West London

Chubb action is the key

As a former staff rep for the RMT union at Eurostar, it is good to see my former colleagues making a stand (‘Lock up the bosses,’ say Chubb workers, 3 September).

The security industry has a tradition of low pay and long hours. I hope the fight by Chubb security guards on Eurostar will spur other groups to follow suit.

In the current political climate, with terrorism in everyone’s consciousness I feel clients should see security officers as an asset, not an expense.

C Jones, by e-mail

A British road to socialism

Chris Nineham wrote in Socialist Worker (Can we change the world without taking power?, 27 August) that “the Labour Party aimed to win elections in order to use the state to improve life for working class people.

“Marxists take the opposing view that the state cannot be used to transform society.”

Has Nineham never heard of the 1945 election, which Labour won, leading to the socialist transformation of British society. This included the foundation of the NHS, which we still have to this day.

British socialist transformation took place through free elections, not through a Marxist revolution like the one that took place in Russia in 1917.

What lasting benefits of that revolution still exist today? Zero in my opinion.

I am a member of the Scottish Socialist Party. I have been a socialist all my adult life and will continue to be. But with blinkered people like Chris Nineham around, who needs enemies?

Colin Littlejohn, Glasgow

These are the masters of war

I was shocked to read recently that Britain was third in the global league of arms sales to the developing world.

Britain signed $3.2 billion in arms transfer agreements in 2004, behind only the US and Russia.

Fourth in the league was Israel, which continues to sell arms to other oppressive regimes across the globe.

Jamie Jones, Newcastle

Damage done by Thatcher

In Essex we have conflict between Gypsies and non-Gypsy communities. Opposing ideologies take their traditional sides.

The left defends minorities and the right defends nationalist priorities. This ignites heated arguments, attitudes harden and hate overrides logic.

If the underlying cause of the problem had been explained to the opposing communities by socialists and the local media then common ground and unity may have been found.

It was the policies of Margaret Thatcher, who released councils from the financial burden of providing Gypsy sites, that actually caused this problem.

Thatcher’s disciples have caused far deeper destruction of British society than any terrorist.

Bob Chapman, Canvey Island, Essex

Robin Cook and arms sales

I read with interest Graham Young’s and Ged Peck’s letters (Letters, 3 September).

Cook’s “ethical foreign policy” meant that he cut small arms sales to Indonesia but not air weaponry.

As ex-military I will point out that there is a big difference between the two.

You can do something about one, but not so easily the other. Also more civilian casualties come from air attacks.

Donald Casson, Lancashire

Incinerators an issue here

I am a socialist in Italy where incineration of waste is a big issue.

There are clear cases of criminal activity damaging workers and people around the sites.

The job should be upgraded so there is more safety provision for workers. I would dearly like to set up a dialogue over this issue.

Marco Ciaccia, Genoa, Italy

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Article information

Sat 10 Sep 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1967
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