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No cuts - stand up to the Tories
Six years and £650 million worth of cuts later, and it seems that finally Birmingham's MPs are starting to take notice.
During a debate in parliament before Christmas, Steve McCabe, Jack Dromey, Jess Phillips and Roger Godsiff took it in turns to denounce the massacre of local services that has taken place in Birmingham since 2010.
Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they'll be using their position to call on Birmingham City Council to resist the cuts to local services that the Tory government is demanding.
Despite the years of cuts, the council retains £389 million in reserves. These, along with the council's borrowing powers, could be used to set a legal no-cuts budget that meets the needs of the city.
This would provide an opportunity to build a campaign of residents and council workers to force the Tories to reinstate the funding stolen from Birmingham over the last six years. Liverpool City Council did just this successfully in the 1980s, under the leadership of Militant, the Socialist Party's predecessor.
Instead, Birmingham City Council's Labour group have demonstrated that they have been only too willing to carry out hundreds of millions of pounds of brutal cuts without firing a single shot in defence of the city's poor and vulnerable. Shame on them!
Nick Hart, Birmingham
Just days into the start of the New Year and the right-wing Daily Mail has launched another front page article attacking 'foreign aid', replete with pictures showing queues of poor people in Pakistan. The clear implication is that these are 'underserving people scamming the taxpayer', and that 'charity should begin at home'.
However, there's no reference to the "fat cat foreign aid contractors paid millions by the taxpayer" carried in its Mail on Sunday stablemate on 3 December.
That article followed up an earlier exposure by Global Justice Now of the Thatcherite Adam Smith International (ASI) trousering £329 million of overseas aid government contracts, doubling its profits and paying its directors "six-figure dividends". Many projects were identified as being of questionable benefit to the poor.
Facing parliamentary criticism over its profiteering ASI boss Peter Young (former head of the reactionary Federation of Conservative Students) briefed his staff to submit bogus testimonials from foreign agencies and government officials praising ASI's overseas work!
If the obscene levels of wealth hoarded by tax-dodging corporations and super-rich people were liberated for the majority then living standards could be massively raised both here and abroad.
Simon Carter, east London
As a retired teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the excellent feature on education in the last centre pages. Some of the proposals James Kerr made about making the curriculum less abstract and more meaningful reminded me of how I used to teach humanities before the introduction of the national curriculum.
I was trained as an Integrated Humanities teacher which meant we took a thematic and inquiry based approach to learning. One of my favourite topics was the Caribbean. The children were led to discover the art, poetry, music, food, history and geography of the region. I was free to develop certain aspects according to the interests and needs of any particular class. Group activities worked best, encouraging social skills and cooperation.
The national curriculum changed this way of learning and humanities teaching became more rigid and based on individual learning from the teacher imparting their knowledge. Children most definitely became more disaffected and I even got the impression that bullying increased.
Integrated Humanities encouraged young people to think and question for themselves. Not something the Tories would want to encourage - they might challenge the capitalist system!
Heather Rawling Midlands Retired Members' Forum NUT (personal capacity)
Call centres - unionise and fightback
I fully endorse the points Ned Hancock makes in his article in the Socialist about call centre workers.
Most call centre workers will have known nothing other than the experiences that Ned described and think that workers have always been treated with such contempt, and are constantly one mistake or one careless comment way from the dole queue.
Those workers who were at work when unions exercised their power more need to teach younger workers that it hasn't always and doesn't have to be like this.
Employers aren't safeguarding their businesses or customers by intimidating workers, they are getting away with what they can because of the low level of unionisation in the call centre industry and the constant refusal of union leaders to stand up to the bosses.
Unionisation is important but forging a new, fighting union leadership is even more important
Birmingham call centre worker
With the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution this year, it is inevitable that the capitalists will move might and main to stop workers from drawing the real lessons of 1917.
For the most part, this is likely to take the form of slanders including drawing a straight line from the revolutionary regime of Lenin and Trotsky to the degenerated Stalinist bureaucratic regime.
But the January 2017 issue of the BBC History magazine tries a different tack. In a feature on five key anniversaries in 1917, it simply isn't mentioned!
Instead the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire the same year is mentioned, completely ignoring the fact that it was the Russian Revolution which had a massive impetus to national liberation movements, a factor the Bolsheviks recognised with their convening of a Congress of the Peoples of the East.
The revolution had massive ramifications for the world, but it is only publications like the Socialist where a serious analysis of those effects and their relevance today will be read.
Iain Dalton, Leeds
Care crisis - socialist measures needed
Letter (extracts) to the Observer from Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool
Yet another investigation in addition to at least ten similar reports this year (Observer 11/12/16) confirms what everybody with a smidgeon of awareness knows - that there is a crisis in social care.
This crisis was inevitable since this fat cats' government seized on the banker-induced economic crash of 2008 as an excuse to slash expenditure on social provision.
Local authorities like Liverpool have butchered social care by complying with Tory cuts, and a further cut of £90 million is promised which in the words of Mayor Anderson could see Liverpool council unable to provide even statutory provision for deprived children and the elderly.
The solution proposed in your comment page merely fiddles with the problem. Reversing the cuts in inheritance tax is a start, but what about collecting the taxes being dodged on an industrial scale and increasing the taxes of the top 1%. The immediate cancellation of all PFI payments would yield millions for the NHS and social care.
These measures could be given teeth by 6,500 Labour councillors refusing to carry out any further Tory cuts, supported by a massive programme of industrial action to be initiated by the TUC in defence of those in society who are least able to defend themselves.
In The Socialist 4 January 2017:
What we think
Socialist Party news and analysis
Unite general secretary election
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist readers' comments and reviews