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LETTERS: Time to take all the political issues into our workplaces

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Issue 2604
Gary Younge speaking at a Windrush protest in April
Gary Younge speaking at a Windrush protest in April (Pic: Guy Smallman)

At a recent workplace meeting organised by the Unison union in Camden, north London, about 150 came to hear Gary Younge speak. It was on “50 years since the assassination of Martin Luther King, why Black Lives Matter”.

The current scandalous treatment of the Windrush Generation no doubt helped increase attendance. And it was part of a discussion that also included King’s legacy, knife crime and institutional racism.

The meeting didn’t come out of nowhere though.

In the last few months the union branch has held a number of lunchtime meetings and workshops with topics ranging from pay and pensions to Holocaust Memorial Day and LGBT+ rights.

Future meetings are planned on why abortion is a woman’s right to choose and on Windrush and immigration. These are in addition to regular workplace stalls.

Although not all the meetings will be the size of the one with Younge, they have helped to improve the profile of the union.

And they have increased political discussion and debate about what the union campaigns around.

These are the kind of meetings that could and should be held in lots of workplaces.

Liz Wheatley

Camden Unison (pc)

In the hospital where I work there is abundant evidence that black workers are less likely to be selected for interviews for senior positions. And they are less likely to be promoted, less likely to reach higher pay grades—but more likely to be disciplined.

As well as joining demonstrations over Windrush, against the far right, and in support of refugees we need to take up issues of institutional racism in our workplaces.

My union branch is shortly to launch a campaign targeting these questions and fighting to win real change in the lives of black workers.

Name and address supplied

Don’t let our rulers label us

Those in power are always telling the rest of us to be defined by the circumstances of our birth.

They would have us believe that if you are born in one country that you can never belong fully in another and that your skin colour defines who you are. But, by struggle and resistance, we have made some progress.

And we should now welcome to that struggle trans people who also do not wish to be defined by circumstances of birth.

I thank the women’s liberation movement for pushing back restrictions on what I can be as a woman.

I thank the gay liberation movement for doing likewise for all of us and enabling my son to not be restricted in some straitjacket of who he can be.

My trans women sisters know what it’s like to be oppressed.

I have far more in common with them than with the Amber Rudds or Theresa Mays of this world.

We had an LGBT+ day in Swansea and it was great to see people marching together through the town to celebrate our diversity.

Everyone who wanted to fight against oppression belonged on that march.

We must not be defined by accidents of birth or the limited worldview of our rulers. They love to divide us and try to get us to blame each other for the problems they cause.

We must fight racism and transphobia.

Julia Richardson


‘Poor doors’, planning and using the system

I want to reply to Andrew Dickenson’s letter on planning (Letters, 25 April).

The planning system carves up the public realm in the interests of profit, unless we organise and fight back. It’s not enough just to realise that capitalist democracy is a swindle.

We need to contest the democratic space.

For example poor doors —separate entrances for owners and tenants—are a really contentious issue in new housing developments.

Data from hundreds of planning documents shows that now there is a three-way separation, with separate entrances for owners, for shared ownership and “poor doors” for tenants.

The recently-elected Labour council in Haringey may try to ban poor doors.

Bringing some ugly material into the public domain helps us to support good councillors. And to split them from council officers who think that poor doors are normal.

Paul Burnham

North London

Woman In White reveals Victorian society

I think your review of The Woman in White (Socialist Worker, 2 May) was way off the mark.

It dismissed the subject of Wilkie Collins’s 1860 novel as “a squabble over inheritance rights”and the BBC’s new adaptation as “entertainment on Sunday” with “quaintly dressed characters”.

The Woman in White pushed literary and social boundaries.

The first ever recognised detective novel, it delved into the vicious underbelly of the Victorian super-rich. It revealed forced marriage, legalised rape and women being traded as chattels, drugged and incarcerated in “insane asylums” if they were disobedient.

The BBC’s adaptation gives Collins’s cry against women’s oppression full amplification in the age of #MeToo.

I don’t think socialists should dismiss great works of art and literature that evoke “ruling class lives” as your reviewer appears to do.

We can look more deeply to assess what a work reveals about social relations. I hope Socialist Worker readers will watch the BBC’s adaptation and then go back to the novel for a gripping lesson in Victorian social hypocrisy.

Nicola Field

South London

Celebrate the Green gains

Why didn’t Socialist Worker highlight the achievements of the Greens at the local elections?

We went from 31 seats in the comparable elections in 2014 to 39.

They include five councillors in Lambeth and new ones in Birmingham and Sheffield.

We would have done even better under any sort of fair system.

In Hackney, east London, we won about 17 percent of the vote but have not a single one of the 57 councillors.

This was all done on a left of Labour basis. Celebrate!

Sarah Lawler

East London

Labour will win in general

Don’t read too much into the local elections.

Labour will do much better if there is a general election because young people will vote—they didn’t bother this time.

Harry Turner


Pride must be about protest

I am outraged that Pride Sheffield has said that this year’s event will be “a celebration, not a protest” and told people not to carry “controversial” political signs.

Pride’s roots are in political action and revolt.

We are not yet liberated, and while having fun and giving people confidence, protest also has to be at the centre of all Prides.

Sally Venables


Slurs about Muslims again

The Sunday Telegraph has paid £30,000 damages for an article by Andrew Gilligan that falsely represented the views of Mohammed Kozbar of Finsbury Park mosque.

It wrongly said he was a supporter of violent lslamist extremism.

Don’t believe further productions from this team, especially when they write about Muslims.

Zara Mohammed

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