Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/510/3407
The paper that fights for workers and young people
Why you should read, write for and sell the socialist
Fighting for the low-paid
The successful strike action of Unison Whipps Cross Hospital domestics, porters and switchboard staff against contractor Initial Hospital Services last year was a magnificent example of how determination and unity in action combined with resolute union leadership can change the outlook and working lives of the lowest paid for the better.
Len Hockey, Joint Branch Secretary, Whipps Cross Hospital Unison (personal capacity)
But more than this, through the pages of the socialist newspaper these workers, particularly the more politically conscious among them, could see the significance of their campaign and the place it occupied in a capitalist society based on the exploitation of one class by another.
The emergence of the working class historically is the story of the struggle for an organised political identity; an independent press and a journal that could best take forward the fight for a socialist society.
While it is true to say that the roots of the Whipps Cross workers' victory lay in the experience of the effects of privatisation over the course of the previous decade, it was the political role of the socialist and its ideas that prepared the party members and supporters both outside the hospital and within the union branch, enabling them to intervene through numerous campaigning initiatives, building towards the success that was to follow.
The importance of the paper was shown practically in publicising nationally and internationally the struggle of these workers, in the resulting messages of support and crucially the financial assistance that was raised for the strikers' hardship fund.
A campaign of strike action can pass through twists and turns and the socialist helped play a vital part in the mobilising of solidarity including publicising strike dates and the many visits by other workers to our picket lines.
In my experience the socialist newspaper is an indispensable weapon in the fight against injustice and for a new society based on need not greed.
It should be bought, read, sold and written for by all who seek the rebuilding of the workers' movement on a principled and fighting basis.
Defending public services
In May 2007 the race was on in Waltham Forest to stop the withdrawal of the subsidy for school meals and the inevitable privatisation of the service as a result.
Nancy Taaffe, Waltham Forest Unison (personal capacity)
As socialists in local unions we know the implications of privatisation for school children, their parents, the teachers and the catering workers. We also knew that, as a result of experience of privatisation, there would be a fight back. But we did not know if we would win.
The socialist played a crucial part in publicising this fight, from the early meeting of catering workers in the council workers' social club, to the larger meetings at the town hall, to the 'pots and pans' demo through the streets of the borough.
The socialist carried interviews with catering workers giving personal examples of the nature of their work and the role they play in a school's life. The paper reflected the willingness of the workers to fight back and it also put forward a strategy to help win the struggle.
We sell our paper nationally on the streets and in workplaces so the dispute was being publicised not just in our area but around the country too. One of the biggest obstacles workers face is isolation. A paper that puts our case, reflects our willingness to fight and takes seriously the tactics needed to win a struggle is an essential in every campaign. We had that, we had the socialist.
Supporting skilled workers
The socialist has been a vital tool in the various struggles within Visteon – Ford's parts manufacturer - both locally and nationally over the last few years.
Rob Williams, Swansea Visteon convenor (personal capacity)
It has always been the most reliable voice for us, always supporting our fight, even when we faced criticism from all sides.
I am thankful for the paper allowing me the space to explain the background to the struggles of car workers globally, not just in Swansea or even just the UK.
It has been necessary to show how the major car makers have launched a brutal management offensive against millions of workers. Against this tirade the strategy of 'concession bargaining', put forward by too many union leaderships, has been an absolute disaster. It has only made the bosses more confident to roll out the next attacks on jobs, terms and conditions and pensions.
We may not have won everything in Swansea and the other Visteon UK plants, which are still in a perilous position but I believe that we have shown that it is possible to buck the trend and win victories in this period.
The articles in the socialist have also allowed us to come into contact with the 'Soldiers of Solidarity' rank and file Delphi workers in the US.
As usual, the paper has spread the word of workers' struggle internationally.
Taking the socialist forward
On important political issues, all the mainstream newspapers present news and analysis from the standpoint of their super-wealthy owners. The voice of working-class people only surfaces in so far as they deem it acceptable. This means that their newspapers contain news that is distorted to reflect the ideology of the capitalist class. A vast amount of news on workers' struggles in Britain and internationally is effectively hidden.
Judy Beishon, editor of the socialist
The role of the socialist is therefore vital. During the recent postal workers' strikes, Socialist Party members regularly visited over 100 picket lines throughout the country, so were able to provide the socialist with a range of reports that were not available in any other publication.
For trade unionists, community campaigners, young activists, environment campaigners and everyone else who needs or wants to know the truth, the socialist is a paper that gives it. It is unique in its coverage.
Its entire content is based on news, information and analysis from a worker's standpoint, but it is particularly unique in the way that it combines this with concrete guidance on how to develop workers' struggles, and in consistently arguing for and explaining socialist ideas.
At present, the socialist has designated pages for workplace news, international news, special features, Socialist Party news and an editorial.
It also has a monthly youth page and frequently designates space for letters, reviews and comment. It is not a paper that is written by journalists sitting in an office. It is mainly written by socialists and others who are actively involved in many campaigns (against war, cuts, privatisation etc) and workplace struggles.
To maintain this crucial character and to continue to provide useful reports and analysis, it is important that as many readers as possible contribute occasional or regular information or articles.
Has something made you especially angry? Have you read something interesting in a local newspaper? Have you been involved in a local campaign or in a dispute with your boss?
Do you want to comment on something that is in the national or international news? Have you just seen a film or read a book with a political message? If the answer to any of these is 'yes' at any time, then please send us something.
We would also like to receive short articles about everyday life; whether you are unemployed, working in a monotonous job, a single parent trying to get by on benefits or with inadequate childcare, or whatever else; please send us your experiences, which may seem mundane to you, but can be informative and interesting to other readers.
This does not mean that all articles should be grim! On the contrary, we welcome humour and positive anecdotes, so don't hesitate to write using your own words and wit. Many people think that they cannot write well or in good English, but don't worry about that. Just put down what you want to say and send it in, as the socialist has a small team of editors who can tidy up any loose ends.
Other material that we would like more of includes interviews with people that would be of interest to our readers and also brief true stories for a new 'them and us' column that illustrate the class divide in society.
We welcome feedback whether positive or negative. Recent feedback about the socialist's content has been overwhelmingly positive, but inevitably there will always be useful criticism that can be made. But most importantly, subscribe to the socialist, read it, write for it, and sell it.
It is not just a paper that aims to arm its regular readers with information and socialist analysis. It is also an indispensible tool for building the influence of the Socialist Party's ideas, for recruiting to the party's membership and for advertising and explaining the campaigns that we consider most important, such as the Campaign for a New Workers' Party. For it to play this role, it must be sold as widely as possible.
We do not have access to the massive number of shops, supermarkets and news-stands through which the capitalist newspapers are sold. We rely on Socialist Party members and supporters to sell our paper through party activities and people they work with, study with or know otherwise.
As soon as possible in the New Year we will be relaunching the socialist with full-colour on some pages and a major sales drive.
But don't delay in boosting the sales; every paper sold now will spread socialist ideas and provide essential finance, then in the New Year we can build on this further by making a substantial step forward in the paper's appearance, impact and reach.
What readers say...
"The socialist conveyed the anger and determination of our fight. The paper expressed the feelings and thoughts of thousands of fellow picketers across the country. It was good to read quotes from Scotland or Liverpool from strikers who felt exactly the same as us in east London.
"The socialist told the real story from the picket lines and dismissed the official un-truths released by the scheming and conniving Royal Mail bosses. I shall keep reading because this battle is far from over."
Simon Gibson, East London postal worker
"The socialist tells the truth and gives an analysis of why things are the way they are. I rely on it to know what's going on. Even in the local press some issues are not picked up. The socialist though is written by people on the shopfloor. It covers all areas of work, private and public."
Jamie Davis, Police support staff, Southampton Unison
"I find the socialist very helpful for giving members in my union who are campaigning for better terms and conditions, particularly pensions, examples of other workers who are going through the same battles, particularly when you can highlight success.
"It is also helpful when it carries articles from members who are in struggle within the union as this can give other Communication Workers Union (CWU) members the confidence to carry on as sometimes they feel isolated.
"The international articles can also help to overcome members' tendency to blame workers in other countries when work is offshored, as they help them to understand that they are all being exploited."
Bernard Roome, CWU national executive committee (personal capacity)
"The socialist has consistently argued the case for a national demonstration to save the NHS and its pages clearly show that Socialist Party members have been at the forefront of fighting for such a demo. The number of sellers of the socialist on the 3 November NHS demo was also a testament to that."
Paul Gerrard, Manchester teacher
"For people who are already interested in left-wing politics, the socialist is well written and clear. For those new to left-wing politics, the news about campaigns and industrial action gives a sense of being part of the working-class movement nationally and internationally. I'm most interested in the international articles because they cover issues that are not in the mainstream media."
Edd Mustill, Cambridge University student
"The socialist is an invaluable tool for trade unionists, community activists, workers, students and socialists.
By reporting on workers' struggles nationally and internationally, putting forward a programme and supporting workers' action to its conclusion, our paper plays a progressive and important role in the continuing struggle for socialism."
Jake Moore, Shropshire young worker and student
"The socialist covers issues you can't read about in the capitalist press, particularly workplace news which is written from the standpoint of workers and not the bosses."
Roger Bannister, Unison NEC (personal capacity)
"I have been disillusioned by Labour ever since we were thrust into the Iraq war. I agree with many of the ideas and views expressed in the socialist, and I would like to join the Socialist Party."
Alex Thorne, Nottinghamshire
"The socialist has a crucial role to play in spreading good ideas for campaigning. If you hold a successful event and write a report of it, other socialists around the country will be inspired to do the same."
Will Schafer-Peek, Southampton University student
"I have found the socialist a great read and very refreshing. I would like to get more involved."
Stephen Belfrage, Aylesbury
"The socialist provides very accurate information that you will not find in any other newspaper. It is much better than reading the mainstream tabloids, as you get the information you need instead of information you are force-fed."
Katen Verma, Derby student
Subscribe to the socialist
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To subscribe to the socialist complete the back page slip or phone 020 8988 8796 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm) to pay by credit card or to order a Direct Debit form. You can also subscribe online at www.socialistparty.org.uk/subscribe
In The Socialist 14 November 2007:
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
the socialist newspaper
International socialist news and analysis