New lifestyle needed
Socialist Worker makes many of the right noises abut climate change, but I wonder how serious you are about the fundamental changes that are necessary in our lives if we are to really deal with this issue.
It will not be enough to have a little more public ownership, a few more buses and no expansion of nuclear power.
It would mean fewer holidays abroad, less choice in your supermarket, fewer air-conditioned buildings, very expensive or rationed petrol, and much else.
I see absolutely no sign of socialists recognising this reality. Yet without a positive campaign for a different lifestlye, the campaign can go nowhere.
It will be hard to persuade the majority of the population that they must accept such restrictions. But it is impossible if you are half-hearted in believing it yourself.
Be honest. Six billion people cannot live with a car for each family, two holidays by air every year and a supermarket stuffed with goods from all over the world. Let’s discuss what sort of global system is sustainable.
Mark Falmer, Birmingham
The recent demonstration demanding immediate action to reduce and then halt emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (such as methane and halogenated hydrocarbons) was nothing short of magnificent.
Bristol contributed at least three full coaches, (reflecting the full diversity of all Bristol’s communities) and many independent travellers to a truly international event, numbering at least 40,000 participants.
I say international as Britain was one of 48 countries where demonstrations took place. From Belarus and Nepal to the US and Bangladesh the peoples of the world are united with one voice calling for the urgent action that is required to avert the catastrophic destabilisation of our atmosphere.
In 2005 the number of people who came to London was approximately 20,000 with 20 countries being involved.
Looking at Saturday 4 November one sees continued growth, involvement and participation.
As George Monbiot clearly stated outside the US embassy, if we are to succeed in winning the implementation of the solutions at our disposal, (emissions could be cut by up to a third immediately if the political will existed to do so), we must “mobilise, mobilise and mobilise”. But this is only the beginning.
The action was about laying clear exactly what is at stake, for the planet and our place on it, but also promoting the solutions.
This is what the whole climate debate is about.
All that really matters in the end are the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If a mode of production, or method of generating energy, or transportation, or of keeping warm in winter does not reduce these levels, it is not a solution.
It really is that simple.
Mark Plummer, Bristol Campaign Against Climate Change
Record of Roger Kline
We write on behalf of the campaign to see the successful election, in the new year, of Roger Kline as president of the newly amalgamated union in further and higher education, UCU.
Nearly ten years ago we took part in the strike at Southwark College in south London over job losses.
It turned out to be the longest dispute in the history of further education (FE) and it ended in great bitterness.
The sackings were confirmed and several key union activists were victimised.
That defeat gave a green light for employers everywhere to try and tear up FE union agreements.
We were delighted, then, to hear that the recent dispute over increased workloads at London Metropolitan University - the longest dispute in the history of higher education - resulted in a rare union victory.
By coincidence, Chris Ryan was a union activist in both disputes, (he was at the centre of the Southwark dispute). Chris has told us, “Solidarity is the major factor in winning industrial disputes. However, solidarity is affected by the support (or lack of it) from national officials.
“The London Metropolitan dispute was successful due to the unwavering support given by the then Natfhe national higher education official - Roger Kline.”
Increasing workload is now one of the key issues throughout the education sector. Employers are seeking savings at our expense to compensate for the massive shortfall in government spending on FE and higher education.
As we all know, much of that money has been wasted on senseless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as being put aside for a replacement for the Trident nuclear submarine system.
Roger is committed to exposing this link between government waste on war and death and the failure to invest properly in education, as well as defending our working conditions.
We need to build a nationwide campaign activists’ network for Roger, a campaign which can then help to implement his policies after he is elected.
John Rose & Paul Holborow, London
Anti-war feeling shown strong on Merseyside
Around 900 people attended a public meeting organised by Merseyside Stop the War Coalition in Liverpool recently.
Tony Benn, Mohammed Anara from the Palestinian TUC, and John Rees spoke at the event.
The audience included trade unionists, Labour Party members, Respect members, as well as students new to activism.
It was the largest meeting of its kind in Liverpool since a rally with George Galloway in 2003.
The large attendance was due partly to the revitalisation of Stop the War groups following Israel’s attacks on Lebanon. Activists have now set up functioning groups in areas such as St Helens, Birkenhead and Aigburth.
During the day Mohammed Anara had visited trade union branches to raise money. We raised £2,134 at the meeting - enough to build a children’s playground. Tony Benn described the strength of the anti-war movement nationwide, and affirmed that resistance to war is as right as it ever has been.
John Rees acknowledged the vibrancy of Merseyside’s Stop the War movement, telling us how US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was openly shocked when she was confronted by thousands of demonstrators when she toured north west England with Jack Straw.
There was a real sense of optimism at the meeting, and many activists went home wanting to build the movement.
John Cooper, Liverpool
Please speak out against this film
I was disappointed that Socialist Worker had nothing to say on the film Borat. I have been shocked by the large number of critics who have given it praise.
Borat, as a character, endorses racism, anti-Semitism, gross sexism and homophobia. This portrayal of an immigrant from a “backward” “inferior culture” (similar to eastern Europe or Arab/Muslim countries, say) invites the audience to howl with laughter at immigrants and bigoted jokes and feel smug about the “superiority” of Western culture.
It is not the deployment of clever means to expose the bigotry in others - this cannot work if the main effect is that the character gets the audience to roar with laughter at bigoted jokes.
Borat stands for the destruction of progressive alternative comedy and instead returns to the 1970s, where Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson similarly felt it was open season for bigotry.
Pat Stack did a prescient Socialist Worker column a while ago on Ali G, rightly observing that there were different elements to that character but warning that it could take a racist direction.
Paul Morris, East London
Remembering Peter Fryer
I knew Peter Fryer (Obituary, 11 November) well from Hampstead Young Communist League in the early-1950s.
Moreover, as a Daily Worker reporter he was certainly a model for me.
When I opted for a polytechnic course on journalism rather than university, he told me I was making a mistake. He was right.
I stayed in the Communist Party after he broke with it over Hungary 1956. He was right again.
We went our separate ways, me out of party politics, into an activist/academic career, he into party Trotskyism. I lost contact with him but remained an admirer from afar.
He had a social commitment and research capacities that clearly surpassed his educational qualifications and particular political options. He will be remembered for his commitment to the Hungarian people and to black Britain, among other achievements.
Peter Waterman, The Hague, Netherlands
Never trust any policeman
Oh please - an anti-racist police force (Serving police officer writes on prejudice in the force, 11 November)?
Isn’t it within living memory when SWP members were actually killed by cops?
N Fischer, Canada
A change from the last time?
I was delighted to see the demise of US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the humiliation of George Bush in the elections.
It raises a question for me. Wouldn’t there have been a similar effect if Bush had lost the presidential election to John Kerry in 2004 and that therefore anti-war activists and socialists should have voted Democrat then?
Socialist Worker was very much against voting Democrat in 2004, but seemed a bit less sure this time round. What’s changed?
Angela Furey, West London
How long can I work in a day?
I work for gas company Transco. Sometimes I am forced to work for a continuous 24 hours and then have to face a long drive home. Is this legal?
My bosses tell me that since Transco is an emergency service the normal 11 hour continuous break in every 24 hour period does not apply.
I’m so tired sometimes I wonder how I don’t hit a cable when digging or have an accident on the way home.
I’m too afraid to ask my boss again and I’m not sure I’d trust his answer anyway! How many hours can I work within 24 hours legally?
Democrats are so spineless
As usual, Alex Callinicos (Letting Bush and Blair off the hook, 11 November) cuts to the chase. As an Englishman living on the other side of the rancid pond, I can attest to the fact that the Democrats - the so-called party of the people - are as spineless as their Labour Party counterparts.
And we shouldn’t expect much to change, in spite of last week’s significant shift in the balance of power in the two houses of congress.
The poet Wilfred Owen had it right all those years ago about war - young men have been sold “the Old Lie” long enough.
I support the troops. That’s why I say, bring them home now.
Mark Bates, Westborough, US
Class War’s racist practice
I was disgusted to read that members of Class War had burnt an effigy of Mohammed as part of their 5 November events.
I have never had much time for them, but this is a new low which shows they do not care about the racism and violence which Muslims face. It is the action of right wing Islamophobes.
Jane Hill, East London