A force for revolution
Adam Webb’s article on the relationship between globalisation and revolution (Globalised revolution, 14 January) provided a welcome break from both the pessimism still prevalent on the left, and the triumphalism of the free market right.
Both assume that globalisation is a one-way process for the benefit of capitalism.
Webb showed how the relationships it forms between capitalism’s victims can be just as important.
His suggestion that “those moved by global justice” should “join forces with those moved by a respect for tradition” was particularly telling.
One left wing pessimist, the historian Eric Hobsbawm, wrote in his best-selling book The Age of Extremes that the global peasantry was now finished as a social force.
Ten years on, and we find mass uprisings of peasants in China, a vast landless labourers’ movement in Brazil, and Korean farmers disrupting the WTO’s meeting in Hong Kong.
These people are not passively accepting their fate under globalisation, but protesting effectively against it.
The relationship between the old and the new is central to a Marxist understanding of the world. When Leon Trotsky wrote about “combined and uneven development” in 1905, he was thinking of the way in which vast new factories could be built alongside desperately primitive agricultural work.
These contradictions created enormous tensions. The revolution of 1917 was led by the working class, in alliance with the peasantry.
Where Webb fell short was in his failure to locate the driving force of a potential global upheaval. Those working and living on the land, globally, bear the full brunt of capitalist brutality.
Their protests have inspired millions think of the Zapatistas in Mexico. But they are being replaced by an exploited army in factories and offices the world over. These workers are indispensable for the system, and that gives them great power.
With these workers able to strike the hardest blows, unity between capitalism’s victims becomes all the more important.
Socialists in the movement need to stress that unity, but keep clear the strategic importance of the working class. Webb’s conclusions would have been the stronger for doing so.
Jacob Middleton, East London
Was Hamas vote a step forward?
It is good that Socialist Worker ran an interview with Hamas MP Musheer al-Masri (‘We have the people’s support’, 4 February). But I feel the article should have carried more analysis.
Many on the left despair of the results, considering them to be a victory of religious over secular politics. Such a view is simplistic.
Hamas won because they appeared to be a more radical and trustworthy force than Fatah. The unacceptable compromises of the Oslo Accords lie at the heart of the party’s crisis, but more recent political mistakes destroyed their chances. These include sidelining younger and more militant activists.
The election shows the determination of the Palestinian people to fight for their rights. It is not a step back. However, nor is such a vote for a religious party which uses the terrible, despairing and counterproductive tactic of suicide bombings, a step forward. It marks the failure of a radical, secular left which has been suppressed by the discredited leadership of Fatah.
Mark Brown, Glasgow
Congratulations on your recent coverage of the pensions crisis in Britain. May I set out how British Airways (BA) pilots are facing a severe threat to our pensions, though concerns of the response from the company means I must remain anonymous.
The company says that financial crisis endangers both its own future and the future of its staff’s pensions. Yet just three months ago the Economist magazine wrote, “The airline industry is poised for an almost unprecedented boom”.
It went on to say that, “Perhaps the most conclusive indication of brightening skies is the boom in aircraft orders that is stretching Boeing and Airbus production plants to the limit.”
I also find it disturbing to see management make comparisons with our competitors in the US.
Nobody would dispute that the US airlines are not competing on a level playing field, but still BA has managed to survive through 9/11 through Sars and foot and mouth.
As pilots we have become among the most efficient in Europe while operating out of the most congested airfields in the world. Throughout these crises we have remained flexible and made considerable concessions.
During pay restructuring talks we were explicitly forbidden from using US pilots’ pay as a benchmark, but now with them at their nadir why do they now consider it appropriate to draw comparisons?
When I joined British Airways, I did so with the promise of a long career, including a retirement at the age of 55 with a final salary pension. It was on this basis that I signed my contract.
The root of our present problems is that BA has not been contributing enough historically to meet its obligations to the fund. BA has a committed, professional and flexible pilot workforce. Any attempts to alter the terms of our pension provision will be met with a firm and united front.
Do not underestimate the resolve of the pilots in countering this attack.
BA Pilot, Esher, Surrey
The market makes a mockery of innovation
Iain Ferguson’s description (Social care should not be a commodity, 4 February) of how Tory and New Labour governments have put the market at the heart of the social care system is absolutely accurate.
I work for one of the larger community care organisations in Scotland. During my time with the organisation there have indeed been “chances to work with people in innovative ways”.
Increasingly though, most of the “innovative ways” that the organisation develops are ones in which they look to methods of introducing more “commercial viability” to offset the severe limits on funding provided by social work departments.
Introducing potential social enterprise projects are seen as a key aspect of this “commercial viability” ethos.
I’m quite happy to develop “social enterprise opportunities” for the organisation in the hope that there might be a chance to work with people that we support in innovative ways.
But I’m quite worried by how the mainstream parties are pushing the “social enterprise” idea as some sort of alternative to traditional methods of funding social welfare.
Only in a society where we fundamentally redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest can we introduce a system of true innovation. All the mainstream parties have given up on this idea. We need an alternative.
Recycling development worker for community care organisation in Scotland
Haiti’s misery (The forgotten occupation, 4 February) has been reduced to incomprehensible “gang” violence by racist reports from Western media sources.
In 2003, some leaders of the army and death squads which participated in massacres in the early 1990s were trained in the neighbouring Dominican Republic by Canadian, US and French sponsors.
Aristide was then kidnapped in early 2004 by US Marines and told he had “resigned”. Ruling class sweatshop owners like Andy Apaid formed a government, which acquitted several murderers from the 1991 coup of any wrongdoing.
Hundreds of members of Aristide’s Lavalas party have been imprisoned. UN forces have carried out raids into Cite Soleil, killing demonstrators and in one case attacking a hospital.
Haitian sweatshops produce, among other things, Pocahontas pyjamas – often at rates well below even the minimum wage of $1.50 a day. Despite the massacres and attempts to suppress workers, the residents of Cite Soleil are resisting with arms.
Yet Haitian society may still be crushed.
It is urgent that socialists support the anti-occupation rebels and the workers organising to resist the multinationals.
Richard Seymour, West London
Defenders of our liberties
It is bitterly ironic that we must now rely on the House of Lords to protect our liberties in rejecting both ID cards, and the law against “glorifying terrorism” whatever it is to “glorify” and whatever a “terrorist” is.
You can be sure the government will now seek to destroy the Lords, as they do anyone else who opposes their Orwellian dictatorial progress through the cemetery of human rights in this country.
They won’t be replaced with anything democratic, but another “slave legislature”, rewarding the careerists and self seekers now replacing the traditional Labour members.
Victoria Townley, North London
Angry about Crossrail
Glyn Robbins (Shut out of the Thames Gateway, 28 January) convincingly shows how the development of east London will be used to benefit the rich and corporate interests while marginalising or driving out working class communities.
I found his arguments on Crossrail particularly important.
Although Crossrail is public transport it will not benefit local communities but is intended for commuters to the Docklands from leafy outer London suburbs.
Crossrail is nothing to do with replacing car use and it will generate extra commuting, increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
Respect is totally right to oppose the plan, as even with public transport we must look critically at the real benefits not the rhetoric.
James Woodcock, East London
Prostitution is not liberation
With regard to the article on prostitution (Debating prostitution, 28 January), do brothers and sisters really believe that women have come to the end of a 200 year struggle for their own liberation just to end up as whores for men?
What has feminism come to? What was it all about?
Supporting prostitution supports a mentality which keeps women as sex objects. That’s not my idea of liberation.
Helena Wojtczak, St Leonards, East Sussex
Let Sam Alim stay in Brum
Having lived in Birmingham since age 10, successful community cafe founder, publisher and activist Sam Alim is being asked to voluntarily return to his country of birth, Bangladesh, by the home office.
Sam Alim is the founder of Birmingham’s Fairtrade community venue Cafe One and creator of WhatsOnUk, a free progressive newspaper aimed at students.
The home office disputes Sam’s continuous residence in Britain, even though he has furnished evidence of this.
This has led to a refusal of leave to remain.
Sam’s departure could mean that its 50 strong workforce of students and graduates would lose their jobs, and Birmingham could lose one of its main activist hubs.
Tom Smith, Birmingham
Lining up with New Labour
Stephen Clarke, director of housing for Haringey council in North London, writes (Letters, 4 February) in defence of the virtues of Almos for council housing. Socialist Worker readers can make their own minds up on the merits of his argument.
What is interesting is that Mr Clarke, who is a public servant, feels able to make openly political arguments in what is a contentious debate over the future of council housing.
It is as if senior civil servants spoke out in defence of policies like ID cards.
Haringey does still have elected councillors, surely it is their job to defend New Labour policy, if they can.
Keith Flett, chair, Haringey trades union council