Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 2007

Shetland campaign – an organic experience

As a former resident of Shetland, I was heartened by the response of the Shetland community against Sakchai Makao’s threatened deportation to Thailand by a home office under pressure to try and claw back some perceived credibility (Community fights against deportation, 24 June).

There was never any doubt that the deportation order was anything other than political in nature. Sakchai was released on bail last week pending a hearing of his deportation case.

However, the community in Shetland rallied round and supported a very popular man. Hopefully, the pressure put on the home office will result in Sakchai’s appeal being ultimately successful.

In this time when foreign nationals, asylum seekers and immigrants face almost constant scapegoating by an increasingly right wing media and government, it is great to see that a community can look beyond the stereotypes.

To me, it is the organic nature of the campaign that is the most exciting and inspiring aspect of it all.

The campaign itself, sprang up from the www.shetlink.com message board, and it was through the use of the internet that Shetlanders managed to spread the word, gaining support and solidarity from people on the mainland and elsewhere.

This allowed them to arrange a protest outside the Scottish parliament at very short notice.

It was given the direction it needed by the work of the coordinator Davie Gardner, who made the connections with the media and worked tirelessly to secure the coverage that the campaign needs to be successful.

It has to be said though that until Sakchai wins his appeal the campaign isn’t over.

Anyone wishing to pledge their support can do so by signing the online petition, which can be found by going to www.shetlink.com

However, there are also many other people facing deportation. I hope we on the left can take heart from the Shetland campaign and continue to fight the racist immigration policies of New Labour.

We need to show that it is not those facing deportation who are unwelcome, but the government’s policies.

Euan Dargie, Dundee (formerly of Burra Isle, Shetland)


We need climate action

Climate change is the issue of our time. It is impossible to talk about the catastrophic effects on the planet, such as deforestation, global poverty and ongoing global conflict, without talking about climate change.

This problem requires a global solution. The best way to achieve this, of course, is to implement a global treaty to reduce carbon dioxide emissions – a Kyoto agreement with teeth.

Of fundamental importance in any serious strategy is the political will to make the necessary changes, to mitigate the impending climate catastrophe. This is a highly complex issue and there are no simple, or indeed single, solutions.

All strategies play their part – except in my personal opinion the nuclear option.

The socialist perspective, that individual action is not the answer, is not completely correct. Everybody who is able to buy locally produced organic food should do so.

We should be using our bikes more and our cars less, because this does have an impact. However, one area where individual action as a solution falls down completely is transport.

It is no good telling people not to fly if you don’t propose an alternative. Part of the answer is diverting the massive subsidy that the British airline industry enjoys, currently about £9.2 billion each year, into a genuine nationalised public transport system.

Our government spent £58 million on a PR campaign for GM foods in 1998, but only £1.8 million on promoting organic food. It is these political realities that we have to change if we are really serious about stopping the worst impacts of climate change.

If you want to get involved in making this a reality please go to www.campaigncc.org and locate your regional contact. Begin to build for a day of coordinated local actions across the country on 16 September and the international day of climate demands and protests on 4 November.

Mark Plummer, Bristol


Life in modern Britain: underpaid and abused

After years experiencing working time directive abuse, poor pay and low morale while working within the NHS, I decided to get out.

Actually I jumped ship, as I was becoming increasingly unpopular due to my trade union activities and anti-war stance.

I became a support worker and enjoyed the opportunity I was given to empower people with a range of complex needs.

Imagine my horror when I found that the very people I am meant to help, support, encourage and protect from abusers, get abused and bullied by their service providers!

I can list several serious cases of abuse involving service users, but I can also list just as many involving support staff. I have worked for this company for just over a year and I have been nearly stabbed, set on fire, punched and have been sprayed in the eyes.

I, along with four other members of staff, took a stance. We decided that enough was enough and that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

As you can understand, my employers have been slightly put out by the sheer cheek of their staff. The five that spoke to social services have suffered at the hands of their masters – three suspended, one moved and the last jumped before he was pushed.

I’m still poorly paid, the working time directive is abused and the staff all have low morale.

Phil Reilly, Wirral


Industrial action or legal action?

An employment tribunal in June ordered the GMB union to pay £1 million to 150 women workers in Middlesbrough. The union was accused of not representing the women during a dispute over equal pay.

This follows a series of other legal cases against employers over equal pay.

Workers represented by the solicitor Stefan Cross have won considerable compensation when women showed that they earned far less than men in equivalent jobs.

Such cases have sparked a huge debate in the trade union movement.

Obviously nobody on the left wants to see unions sued by members.

Nor do they want hot shot lawyers to enrich themselves winning isolated cases while ignoring the wider injustice of unequal pay.

But surely the union’s failure to take up these issues and fight collectively for an end to the scandal of pay inequality – for example through strike action – is to blame.

Many of the employers involved are in the public sector – hospitals, councils and the like.

Are the union leaders too scared of rocking Labour’s boat by creating problems for these bodies to fight for equal rights?

Chris Lasenby, Newcastle


Race or class in Burnley?

Burnley Liberal Democrat councillor Darren Reynolds writes with an understandable frustration, but also with a deep pessimism about the people he was elected to represent (Letters, 24 June).

Racism is an ideology, but not one invented by the people who fill councillor Reynolds’s surgeries. Instead notions of racial or national identity can only be understood in relation to class.

It is our rulers that are most concerned to mask the reality of class difference.

The modern nation was a creation of the rising capitalist class as it struggled for power.

We have had 400 years of propaganda promoting nation instead of class. The ugliest manifestations are overt racism and fascism, but the field is a highly contested one.

Working people may believe some nationalistic rubbish, but also be incredibly bitter about class differences.

Paul Burnham, North London


Don’t let BNP build here

Architects are furious, as it was confirmed last week that one of the three candidates for the presidency of the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) is a member of the fascist BNP.

The institute is held in esteem internationally and is one which all architects must be a member of. A hustings for candidates was pulled by Riba last week because of the opposition to the BNP.

It is important that all Riba members vote in the elections to show that architects are not willing to be used to portray the far right in a respectable light.

Fergus Alexander, Manchester


Burnley left must regroup

Paul Moore’s excellent article (Burnley and the BNP, 10 June) highlighted the ongoing role of the Nazi BNP in worsening race relations in Burnley. This town is still in the frontline of the fight against fascism.

But something needs to be added to this picture of the political crisis in Burnley, and that is the disastrous outcome of the May elections for the local Labour Party.

Labour lost five seats. Council leader Stuart Caddy came third behind the Lib Dems and the BNP. Labour is now down to 16 seats in opposition to a Lib Dem/Tory ruling coalition. There is deep disillusion with Labour nationally and locally.

It is time for the left in Burnley to regroup and challenge Labour from a pro-working class, pro-public services, anti-racist and anti-war position. It’s time for Respect.

Andy Makin and Maggie Smith, Burnley


Kick out these attitudes

Peter David is spot on (Letters, 24 June). It is especially daft to characterise Ivory Coast as “naive” – Toure and Eboue play for Arsenal, Drogba for Chelsea.

Presumably this naivety has crept up on them since the Premiership season ended?

In any case it’s hard to credit accusations of naive defending at other teams having seen Sweden’s second goal against England!

Yours, shamefully distracted by over-hyped corporate footie-fest.

Ben Drake, York


Read this pamphlet

I have just read Martin Empson’s pamphlet, Climate Change, Why Nuclear Power Is Not The Answer. It is brilliant. Thirty years ago I attended a demonstration at Windscale – now Sellafield – to hear the debates for and against nuclear power.

Nuclear power is expensive and dangerous. Fortunately, as Martin’s pamphlet points out there are alternatives such as energy efficiency programmes and the development of sources of renewable energy such as wind, wave, solar and tidal.

John Appleyard, West Yorkshire


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Article information

Letters
Sat 1 Jul 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2007
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