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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 March 2017

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Worse-off women

We are the 99% - Take the wealth off the 1% Socialist Party placard, photo Paul Mattsson

We are the 99% - Take the wealth off the 1% Socialist Party placard, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge)

In London, the number of people sleeping rough has risen every year since the government began publishing figures in 2010.

Westminster, where the average price for a flat exceeds £1.3 million, has both the largest homeless population in the UK and the most planning applications to build luxurious basements - where the super-rich are now storing their cars, installing their home cinemas, wine cellars and swimming pools.

These aptly named 'iceberg homes', with more space below ground than above it, are sought after by the super-rich. Developers are increasingly choosing to extend the size of existing properties rather than building new ones, which means no pesky 'affordable' housing laws to contend with.

Although land is at a premium in London, purchasing vast swathes of it outside the city is still a popular hobby of the UK's billionaires - inventor James Dyson owns more than the queen!

The Tories like to kid themselves that giving us our two female prime ministers is some kind of magical feminist feat. It has done nothing to improve the lives of ordinary women.

If May was really a champion of women's rights, she might start by addressing the fact that women are disproportionately affected by benefit cuts, shouldering 85% of the burden according to one estimate.

I'd like an underground swimming pool, Theresa, but I spend 70% of my wages on one room in a flat (and I can't swim). Take the wealth off the super-rich 1% - because no one needs a private waterfall in their basement.

Ellen Kenyon Peers, Lewisham, south London

Farm fiends

When is a union not a union? When it's the National Farmers' Union, according to a report from the 'Ethical Consumer Research Association' - which describes it as an "English agribusiness lobby group."

According to the report, "as food production has globalised and the environmental movement has grown, consensus about how our food should be produced has broken down. Over the last 20 years... the NFU has hardened into an anti-environmental, free-market lobby group."

Using the term 'union' suggests an organisation where members have an equal vote, working in the interests of all workers in the sector. Not so the NFU, which actually works for the short-term interests of a small number of large-scale farm owners, directly against those of smaller farmers.

For example, by supporting mega-dairies which are driving small dairy farmers out of business. The owners of big farms, mostly in the South and East of England, have used the millions they get from EU subsidies to undercut and buy out small farms while outbidding them for any land that comes on the market.

They have also resisted any regulation, especially that favouring conservation, wildlife and the environment - unless big subsidies are attached! Meanwhile small farmers struggle to survive and are driven out of business by even short-term cuts in the price they get from supermarkets for their milk, lamb or vegetables.

But as well as representing the interests of Britain's biggest farmers, the NFU apparently has a structure which allows corporate members, but does not disclose who these are. The Ethical Consumer report raises concerns about a perceived relationship with multinational companies that determine the shape and future of British agriculture and food production - the agrichemical industry and the big supermarkets.

Agrichemical giants like Syngenta, who make the neonicotinoids that are killing bees, and big supermarkets like Tesco, apparently don't just lobby the NFU for support, they could be much closer to it than that. They can - and do - use their relationship with the NFU to put pressure on government, working against smaller farmers, against environmental campaigns, and ultimately against consumers.

Kate Jones, Swansea

Leon Trotsky

Leon Trotsky

Trotsky and Poland

In Poland under Stalinism, many people realised it was totalitarianism, not socialism.

Elections were falsified. The government bureaucracy was saying that power was in the hands of the people but it was not like that at all. It was a perversion of Marxism.

That is why Trotsky was so popular among youth in Warsaw, because he fought against the hypocrisy of Stalinism and the departure from the true ideals of socialism.

In the 1960s, Trotsky's writing became popular among young people discussing underground in Warsaw. The most famous group was centred around Adam Michnik, who at that time considered himself a Trotskyist.

Youth near the city who were studying in Warsaw created a group around Henry Szlajfer. These groups issued an open letter based on the ideology of Trotsky to the ruling Polish United Workers' Party. They were arrested, isolated from society and humiliated. In the late 1960s, some began to move away even from genuine Marxism because they were persecuted.

We all exactly saw the distortion of socialism, everyone saw what was happening around us. Only Trotsky did not betray the true idea of revolution.

Everyone wanted socialism as Trotsky described it. Young people believed in his ideas, and Trotsky was a hero for them. They thought there must be built up a new system based on Trotskyism.

100 years after the Russian revolution, that country lives under Putin's authoritarianism. Real democracy does not exist in Russia. But the ideas of Trotsky are still remaining.

Agnieszka Ford, Worcester

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In The Socialist 1 March 2017:


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