Socialist Worker


Issue No. 1985

Who’s watching us?

Who’s watching us?

The threat of ‘Asbo TV’

As a resident of Shoreditch in east London, I am outraged that we are being encouraged to sign up to “Asbo TV’.

The plan is that 1,000 residents in the Haberdasher and Charles Square areas covered by the Shoreditch Trust will have access to footage from 400 CCTV cameras. On screen they will also be able to access pictures of people who have had Asbos served on them.

If residents feel they have spotted a match, they can call the police. Eventually 20,000 households in Shoreditch can have this facility.

Big Brother, your hour has come!

The CCTV channel is part of an online community network project being set up in one of the country’s most deprived areas.

Some aspects of this are welcome, but the last thing we need is people spying on each other.

The Shoreditch Trust gets money from the New Deal for Communities (NDC) government fund. It is supposed to rebuild networks of people. Instead with this project it is destroying trust.

Launching the NDC in 1998 the Social Exclusion Unit said, “Effective policing strategies are essential but preventing crime and reassuring the public need not be left to the police alone. Often what is needed is for there to be a full-time official presence to keep an eye on what is happening and to take early preventive action.”

CCTV cameras and Asbos, backed by vigilante-style citizens, will be used to hound young people or anyone deemed an outsider.

There has been no proper consultation with the residents as to whether they want to turn their area into a spies’ paradise.

Perhaps the real reason for this scheme is to transform the area from one of working class community to one of high price flats for the better off. After all, Shoreditch is on the edge of the financial district around Liverpool Street.

Alison Willis, East London

A new book of great interest

I would like to recommend a book to Socialist Worker readers.

It is written by Dave Chapple, a Bridgwater postman who is well known in the area’s socialist and trade union circles.

The book, Henry Suss And The Jewish Working Class of Manchester and Salford, is Dave’s 90th birthday tribute to a remarkable Mancunian.

Henry Suss, born the son of a Galician Jewish pedlar in 1915, was a clothing worker in Manchester, who became an active socialist against Mosley’s Blackshirts in the Cheetham Hill district during the 1930s.

In his teens Henry joined the local socialist Theatre of Action, and campaigned for “Aid to Spain” during the civil war. Five years in the army in the Second World War were followed by Henry becoming a militant and well-respected trade unionist.

Henry joined the Cheetham Hill Branch of the Communist Party in 1936.

In Pendlebury, near Salford, Henry campaigned on the issue of rents and slum housing so effectively that in 1964, at the height of the Cold War, he was elected a Communist Party councillor, and re-elected in 1967.

Members of Respect will find some interesting material on the Communist Party’s campaigns.

Henry is still politically active in the Sedgemoor Peace Group, which campaigns against the war in Iraq, The book is available for £10 waged, £5 unwaged plus £2 postage, only from [email protected]

Diana Legge, Birmingham

Education destroyed

In 2001 my high school, Norton Priory was closed, demolished and we students were left with no choice but to amalgamate with a local high school.

Now my college, Runcorn and Widnes Sixth Form College, which is the area’s largest and best resourced sixth form facility, is facing amalgamation with the vocationally based Halton College.

I fail to see why a popular college with such diversity and atmosphere faces closure.

The proposal was kept hidden from students for some time and, in my view, was only announced when I alerted people.

Outraged at the proposal, I wrote to all local councillors, but received no significant response. So I then decided to construct a petition and in a short period of time managed to collect an impressive number of signatures. I then presented the petition to my local MP (Mike Hall - Labour) who by his own admission knew extremely little of the proposal. He assured me he would write to those responsible and report back.

Keeping his promise Mr Hall did indeed write to David Jones, the acting principle of my college who responded with a letter full of empty jargon which was then forwarded to me.

I have recently discovered that the proposal has now gone ahead.

This decision taken on behalf of thousands of students by a handful of out-of-touch politicians is deeply saddening. Not only is it alarmingly undemocratic, but it will also result in decent qualified staff being made redundant and/or leaving the area.

It will also result in less Halton students having the opportunity to go onto higher education.

This is just one example of what neo-liberalism is doing to education, attempting to leave us with no more than enough maths to be employable, enough English to know what products to spend our wages on and just enough basic vocational skills to enable us to do our dead-end, monotonous jobs.

Whatever happened to “Education, education, education” and “equality of opportunity”?

Student, Liverpool

Bird flu kills the poor

Bird flu can kill anyone, but so far in Turkey it has been killing the poor.

Chickens which had died from illness were actually fed to the three small children, who were the first to die in this current outbreak, by their parents. It may seem easy to blame the parents, but in the far east of the country, where this happened, no peasant family can afford to destroy their few chickens.

A striking picture recently in the press showed a small child sitting plucking dead chickens.

The picture is from the Kurdish town of Batman. Like most Kurdish towns, Batman has suffered from years of war, no investment, and a huge increase in its population as people escaped from destroyed villages into towns. There is unemployment and poverty everywhere.

Chickens are sold in the streets, and children are paid a pittance to clean them there and then. The ministry of agriculture has warned against the sale of winged animals in the open. But if this is your only way of avoiding hunger, no warning is likely to stop you.

The government’s inactivity when the first outbreak occurred in the summer has made things worse. Many of the 26 provinces with cases of bird flu are in villages which are now snowbound and difficult to reach. In the summer it would have been easy, now it is almost impossible.

The government seems more concerned with protecting an important sector of agriculture, and ensuring that the country’s tourism industry is not damaged, than protecting public health.

Roni Margulies, Istanbul

Link up with the Jenin Palestinians

There’s an Israeli armoured personnel carrier directly outside blocking the driveway and our host, the Minister for Sports, Marouan Washihi, apologetically offers us, the four members of the delegation from Tower Hamlets, accommodation for the night. The door of the house is open - a teenager on his mobile pops in and out. We have the ubiquitous Arabic coffee, plus cakes, fresh fennel and oranges, and talk about Hamas and Fatah. The guys showing us round belong to Fatah. Glimpses of their stories of imprisonment, torture, loss of relatives to Israeli gunfire or bulldozers, loss of land – the normal Palestinian resistance story – emerge during our visit.

We walk down a street in the camp and Amer, the Director of the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, points to a banner, “ This is the father and brother of Farouq”. There are posters everywhere of ‘martyrs’ the last being the 10 year old shot in November whose parents donated his organs to Israeli patients. Farouq is our main driver , a big gentle guy, born in Jenin camp. On our visit to a boys' secondary school we learn from the headteacher, “We often call in Mr Amer and Mr Farouq to help us”. The boys throw stones at the Israeli soldiers whenever they can, including rushing out of class when the army appears. But it is not these incidents he means. It is the violence between the boys, which they feel arises because of the enormous strain , the endless uncertainties, the real losses, and constant threat from the presence of the Israelis.

The delegation took money from our fund-raiser film-showing of ‘Arna’s Children’ to give to the project to rebuild the theatre in Jenin. The Free Theatre, bulldozed by the Israelis, was built by an Israeli-born woman Arna. The children who acted there were later to become the leaders in the battle for Jenin in 2002. We walked over the site, an expanse of cleared rubble, which also serves as the graveyard for those young fighters, while Yonathan our Swedish-Israeli contact took photos for the architects. After a few minutes Amer pointed out an Israeli tank some streets above, saying “We are attracting too much interest” and we moved on.

The Israelis were in occupation of Jenin for three of the four days of our visit. On the day they left there was a street demonstration of some hundreds of young people, a band, and “our forces” marching in uniform. Happy for photos to be taken, smiling; a young man dashed out to say welcome to Jenin and that he was ISM and this was his e-mail. Foreigners are seen immediately as friends, you are looked after with amazing warmth and hospitality. The morning we left our hosts gave us presents, trays of baklava, Bank of Palestine glasses, CDs of photos of our meetings, and told us the army were back, occupying twenty houses and a tower-block over-looking the camp.

We made excellent contacts and have come back with loads of concrete projects from an exchange of artwork, translation of medical research, sending books to stock the pitifully-stocked Al Quds University library, to fund-raising for specific things needed at the Centre for the Disabled, at the Girls secondary school, and so on. Hopefully this will lead to an exchange of people, they want trainers, teachers, musicians, artists, and sports coaches. There are so many ways for people in Tower Hamlets and East London to get involved to establish real communication and solidarity between the two areas. If you want to establish twinning in your area don’t wait for the council, Tower hamlets council passed a resolution in December blocking twinning. Our advice is just get on with it. Contact [email protected] for more information about our campaign.

Miriam Scharf, East London

The centre is to the left

Last week’s editorial (Why City bosses cheered Ken Livingstone, 21 January) on Ken Livingstone said “with Cameron rushing to take the Tories to the centre ground, the pressure on New Labour is to move in the same direction to retain wavering voters.”

I think this is an inaccurate formulation, and one that cedes ground to our opponents.

We know from in depth surveys of opinion that the British population is to the left of New Labour on most issues – so the “centre ground” of politics is actually far to the left of our government.

If Cameron and Blair’s political trajectories are converging, then it is even further to the right.

When the mainstream media seeks to dismiss Respect as extremists, we should be confident that we represent the “centre ground” of public opinion far better than the neo-liberal imperialists on its fringes.

Ben Windsor, South London

We need a campaign

I was delighted to read Sarah Cox’s (Letters, 21 January) description of the way that the book Tell It Like It Is is being used in Brent.

I have been inspired by reports of the book’s success. But it raises for me the question of launching a campaign to make the most of the gatherings where people discuss the book.

Surely we need a campaign to use all that energy and enthusiasm and talent.

We could start a series of local campaigns (exclusions, discrimination, legal challenges, curriculum matters for example) and a big national drive to lobby MPs, involve teaching unions and invigorate communities.

Let’s get started.

Winston Johnson, South London

A riposte to inequality

It was disturbing to read Iain Ferguson’s article on inequality in Britain, but a relief to see him refer to the work of Richard Wilkinson.

Iain mentioned the highly readable book by Wilkinson called the Impact of Inequality which is indeed a devastating appraisal of how inequality corrodes mental health and increases crime.

I would also recommend his previous book, Unhealthy Societies. Both books have just what we need – detailed, factual, well-argued proof that inequality hurts our minds and bodies!

I look forward to more articles in SW on inequality.

Graeme Kemp, Wellington, Shropshire

Irish Ferries: not a defeat

Liam Mac Uaid (Letters, 21 January) describes the Irish ferries dispute as a defeat.

This is what a lot of people are saying on the Irish left, which reveals only their pessimism about future prospects for a fight back by the Irish working class. It should be noted that a trade union demonstration of 100,000, with overwhelming public support has not been seen in Ireland since the early 1980s.

Was it not for this demonstration and, crucially, the occupation of the ship (The Isle of Innismore), a sell out by union leaders would have happened.

The first round of this dispute was a draw. All new staff (mainly from Latvia) will get the minimum wage (7.65 euros) all remaining staff we retain their terms and conditions.

Yes, more could have been won but without determined grassroots action Irish Ferries management would have got everything they wanted.

This deal allows the new staff to join the union once they are hired and build a fighting trade union from the bottom up, in order to beat social partnership.

This is exactly what socialists are arguing for in the unions as the Irish Ferries dispute has opened up a space for such a debate to begin.

Alan Kinsella, Dublin

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Article information

Sat 28 Jan 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1985
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