They’re drunk on profit
We have suffered months of moralising and a plethora of “initiatives” from the government over diet, binge drinking and alcohol abuse. Yet at the first serious test ministers entirely caved in to the big drinks firms.
Last week the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs recommended restrictions such as prohibiting alcohol advertising on television and in cinemas showing films to under-18s.
Such measures did cut cigarette consumption.
It also urged a ban on sponsorship by alcohol companies of sports or music events attended or watched by under-18s, after concluding that government policy has failed fully to recognise the increasing problem of alcohol abuse among young people.
According to the council’s research, of all the “psychoactive” drugs, alcohol has shown the most recent growth in use and causes the most problems among young people, with a marked increase in the number of young women drinking frequently and to excess. Alcohol is of course the least regulated and most heavily marketed “drug”.
Among the 6.8 million 16 to 24 year olds, almost 30 percent drink more than twice the recommended daily limit at least once a week.
The report accused the industry of seeking to increase sales by “fostering an attractive image of youthful vigour and carefree pleasure” through advertising and sports sponsorship.
But ministers decided that the booze sellers had to be left alone - because they benefit young people!
They back the Stella Artois tennis championship and football’s Carling Cup, with sponsorship money helping to fund youth sporting projects. But the damage is much greater than any gain.
In truth this is a disgraceful surrender to big business.
I will never again take seriously anything they say on drink or diet.
Mary Collinson, Norwich
Socialists fighting antisemitism
I live in an area which is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities in Europe.
I cannot say if there has been an increase in antisemitism, but I can say it has been socialists who have been at the centre of opposition when it has reared its ugly head.
At a recent meeting called to oppose compulsory demolition it was suggested that some areas had been excluded because they were “Jewish”. It was anti-Zionist socialists who argued hardest against this divisive nonsense.
My house was daubed with Nazi graffiti after I had highlighted in the press the rise in Nazi activity in the area which was overtly antisemitic.
Yet I, along with many of those involved in these campaigns, would be branded as an “antisemite” because I oppose the political ideology of Zionism.
Zionism accepts the same premise of antisemitism - that Jews and gentiles cannot live together in peace, hence the need for a separate “Jewish” state.
Unlike the Zionists, we do not accommodate to antisemitism. We fight it by uniting all in a fight for a world in which anti- Jewish bigotry and racism is destroyed
Yunus Bakhsh, Gateshead
Don’t line up with bigots over gays
John McPartlin (Letters, 16 September) argued that management were wrong to discipline Strathclyde firefighters for refusing to hand out safety leaflets at Gay Pride in Scotland and instead should have asked for volunteers.
It is certainly the case that no socialist should rest easy when fellow union members are disciplined by managers, even if this was clearly a situation where the equal opportunities policies of both the fire service and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) were being flouted.
But on the issue of volunteers it’s worth asking whether John would make the same argument (and would the firefighters have felt the same) if the issue was, say, a Black History event, or the Notting Hill Carnival, or rallies of other “minority” groups?
It can’t be right to apply a different criterion to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.
Would it be right to recognise some sort of “conscience clause” so that people with homophobic hangups are able to refuse to perform part of their role?
I teach in a college. Would it be OK for a homophobic or transphobic lecturer to invoke their “conscience” and refuse to teach a gay or transgender student? Clearly not.
Nevertheless, it looks like the Strathclyde fire service was very heavy handed in this case and has given fuel to the bigots in Scotland.
I don’t think such disciplinary action by managers should be given the green light by our side.
It only gives them more confidence to bully us on other issues.
Eight of the nine firefighters have apparently said they would attend and leaflet the Gay Pride event if given the choice again.
As a trade union and LGBT activist I’d have been demanding a commitment from the fire service employers to better educate its workforce about diversity and equality rights rather than take formal disciplinary action.
Howard Miles, Wakefield
Defend the workers
As a socialist and supporter of gay and lesbian rights, I am distressed by the mishandling by management and senior FBU officials of the ongoing situation at Cowcaddens.
All fire service personnel, including senior management, were asked if they would volunteer to take part in a Gay Pride march.
When none were forthcoming, management ordered selected members of the crew on that day to participate. They refused because they were being ordered. There was no attempt to win hearts and minds.
The order was then changed to leafleting the parade, but the damage was done and nobody would take part.
The punishment that followed was disproportionate. The officer in charge could have walked away from this situation but supported his fellow workers. For this action he was demoted.
He lost £5,000 off his wage and any chance of further promotion. This will impact on his pension.
The report in Socialist Worker on this portrayed it from the same perspective as the Sun.
If individuals can’t refuse to attend a march, firefighters will decide not to risk their pension and could end up on a BNP march.
The gay and lesbian section of the FBU should have run a campaign to win people to understanding the issues, not bypassed the main body of the FBU and turned to management to enforce attendance on the Gay Pride march.
This top down approach sets back the cause of gay rights, rather than promoting it.
Brown’s hymn of praise to more war
Anyone who still has hopes that Gordon Brown will be an improvement on Tony Blair needs only to read his article in the Sun on 8 September to have their illusions shattered.
Brown goes out of his way to reaffirm that Britain still stands “shoulder to shoulder” with the US. Indeed, he actually praises “the courageous leadership of Tony Blair”.
Brown makes clear how proud he is of “our heroic armed forces” and pledges whatever financial resources are necessary to win the war.
And, of course, the inevitable accompaniment to this commitment to foreign wars that are to be waged for years to come is a determination to curb civil liberties in Britain.
Brown says 28 days is not long enough for the police to hold suspects and reaffirms his commitment to ID cards and increased surveillance.
It is, of course, appropriate that his pledge of allegiance to the US Empire should appear in one of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers.
The message is clear - only the Stop the War movement can bring the troops home and stop future military adventures.
John Newsinger, by e-mail
Zionism and antisemitism
Socialist Worker’s resistance to ruling class efforts to blur the distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism (An attempt to smear anti-Zionists into silence, 16 September) is to be welcomed.
Michael Rosen is right to define Zionism as the political creed that created the nation state of Israel, which Zionists describe as the “Jewish homeland”.
Plenty of non-Jews are Zionists (such as most members of Western governments) in the sense that they are in favour of Israel being this Jewish homeland.
Michael unfortunately then goes on to contradict himself, arguing that the reality that the Zionist lobby makes US policy is an “anti-Semitic idea”.
Capitalism is the economic drive to war, but we need to confront pro-war ideologies like Zionism directly.
Roger Cox, Newcastle
Who are real “skivers”?
May I add to the criticism of Ken Livingstone in Socialist Worker (Editorial, 16 September)?
I was horrified to read that when speaking to members of the London Chamber of Commerce, he had called for the sacking of “skivers”.
Asked by a boss how she could deal with a member of staff who had been off sick for weeks, he said, “My advice is to sack them and let them make their case at the industrial tribunal.”
Keep your insults for the rich, Ken.
Hannah Frey, East London
Hands off Livingstone
I was surprised to read in Socialist Worker (16 September) such a vicious attack on London Mayor Ken Livingstone.
Of course he has made mistakes over a number of issues.
But the crucial dividing line in British politics at the moment is whether you are for or against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether you want the troops out.
Livingstone has an excellent record on such matters and has supported the Stop the War Coalition in many ways.
Please recognise him as an ally, not an enemy.
Jane Fowles, North London
Speaking out at Gore’s film
Hearing that An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s film about climate change, was coming to our local independent cinema, the Phoenix in East Finchley
I wrote to the cinema asking if there was a chance they would take some leaflets for the demo called by the Campaign against Climate Change on 4 November.
To my delight they wrote back not only agreeing to display the leaflets but also asking, “Would you be interested in an after screening talk about the film and the issues that are raised in it?”
Why not ask the cinema which is showing Gore’s film in your area if they would do the same?
The film is well worth seeing and you could leaflet the cinema goers after the show.
Fergus Nicol, North London
We can cut emissions
Brad Arnold (Letters, 16 September) says “reducing greenhouse gas emissions is unrealistic”.
In South Yorkshire we used to have a cheap fares policy on public transport, until it was destroyed by an unholy alliance of Margaret Thatcher and David Blunkett.
We now have far more greenhouse gas producing traffic and a string of new dual carriageways to prove it.
An avid car using friend tells me that she can’t wait to get her pensioner pass. And why can’t Britain’s coast be surrounded by undersea tide power machines?
Such improvements merely await the sort of commitment which Tony Blair gave to Iraq.
Ian Wallace, Sheffield