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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 January 2020

The Socialist inbox

Letters to the Socialist's editors

The Socialist inbox: letters to the editors

The Socialist inbox: letters to the editors   (Click to enlarge)

Do you have something to say?

Send your news, views and criticism in not more than 150 words to, or if you're not online, to Socialist Postbox, PO Box 24697, London E11 1YD.

We reserve the right to shorten and edit letters. Don't forget to give your name, address and phone number. Confidentiality will be respected if requested.

Views of letter writers do not necessarily match those of the Socialist Party.

Real socialism

Even Blairite Jess Philips now calls herself "socialist", as do all the Labour leadership candidates; and as did the SNP candidate who beat Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson in December's general election.

When I joined the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI, the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated) in 2002, only a decade after Stalinism collapsed in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, we were probably the only political trend that consistently used the word "socialist".

Many on the left said we were using old, unpopular ideas that were dead. The difference is the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.

Capitalism objectively is crisis-ridden and holds very little political legitimacy, not just for the working class, but big layers of the middle class.

But what is socialism? Is it a moral idea about equality and maybe raising taxes for the very wealthy? I think the next decade will show socialism is actually about working-class struggle.

As the working class moves into struggle the current radical generalised interest in socialistic ideas will develop into a real militant socialist consciousness.

Real socialism means working-class control and management of the commanding heights of the economy. It means a higher level of production and technique than even the most advanced capitalist technologies.

To obtain this a bitter struggle is required, with refined instruments tested in struggle like a party with a programme offering a way forward and based on the lessons of working-class history.

Matt Dobson, Glasgow

Defend pensions

Everyone has been enthused by the mass strike action in France and news that the government has been forced to make concessions on employee pensions.

But workers in France should be careful, we've been here before in Britain (in 2011 when a majority of trade union leaderships abandoned the public sector workers' strike action and sold out the pensions' struggle).

The French government has only temporarily backed down on the retirement age but still wants to cut workers' hard-earned pensions.

It is insisting on meetings with the unions to agree how to reduce overall costs, all aimed at persuading the public that existing pensions are 'unaffordable'.

The proposals have been welcomed by the 'moderate' CFDT union federation but the CGT union is calling on the action to continue.

In a recent interview, the CGT explained that: "The letter (from the government) changes nothing... This is not dialogue!" "He (the prime minister) tells us that we need 13 billion in savings and that we have to manage to find the solutions!"

"The way out is for ALL employees to strike together - then the government will have no choice but to withdraw its entire bill."

Martin Powell-Davies, Cumbria
Socialist Party members and trade unionists protesting against political policing at New Scotland Yard, photo by Socialist Party

Socialist Party members and trade unionists protesting against political policing at New Scotland Yard, photo by Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge)

Prevent attacks

Not only did the British state spy on the Socialist Party and other left groups, anti-racist campaigners, environmentalists and trade union militants - as very well documented by the COPS campaign over Met police spying - now they outrageously deem us all "terrorists" according to a Counter Terrorism Policing guide under the government's reactionary Prevent scheme.

In the North of Ireland and elsewhere, some of us spent decades campaigning against brutal state terror and repression, arguing against the blind ally of 'individual terror', while fighting for the rights of the nationally and religiously oppressed, and all other discriminated against groups.

Now in the schools in England, Scotland and Wales, where the capitalist state 'celebrates' the winning of rights for minorities - that successive right-wing governments opposed for decades - everyone from the Socialist Party to Greenpeace, is scandalously being demonised as potential "terrorists".

This is a serious attack on political and civil rights, and a dangerous signal to education authorities and reactionaries, that must be fought tooth and nail by the left and the workers' movement.

Niall Mulholland, East London

Prevent propaganda

In the light of the recently leaked police 'anti-terrorism guide' we, as socialists, trade unionists and community activists, must oppose in the strongest sense the suggestion that our organisations and campaigns are in anyway comparable to the violent extremism of the far-right, neo-Nazi and fascist hate groups active in the UK today.

This dangerous and unfounded theory that suggests that far-left and far-right are equal in their danger to the general public is being used to undermine us and our ideas.

Although the government has claimed that the leaked anti-terrorism guide has now been recalled, the fact that it was published in the first place shows the reality of the way we are seen by the government and the capitalist class. We are seen as a threat.

We should organise to fight back against these attacks and to defend those among us who are targeted by the government for standing against racism, climate catastrophe and all the iniquities of the capitalism system.

Gareth Bromhall , Swansea and West Wales Socialist Party

Unhealthy research

A recent Wellcome Trust survey outlined the extent of poor mental health among researchers due to a culture of overwork, bullying and harassment.

But I disagree with research culture lead Beth Thompson when she says: "No one set out to create a bad system that damages people's mental health, but we have unintentionally created a system that values the excellence of research outputs without paying enough attention to how that research is done."

It isn't an unintentional research system we have; it's come out of decades of marketisation. The logic of the market and capitalism itself to drive down costs and ramp up productivity or "outputs" with no regard for human or environmental damage done as a consequence.

As long as toxic work cultures in research are seen as an accident, any solutions posed will be misguided at best.

A Guardian article on the subject quotes a scientist doubting the efficacy of promoting a 'health culture' when the issue is in fact workloads: "Many colleagues feel that without the drive or ability to force institutional change, they have no option but to wait for an inevitable collapse of the system and try to pick up the pieces afterwards," he said.

Bea Gardner, Southampton

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Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

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In The Socialist 22 January 2020:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Council cuts continue... So must the fightback

Protesting is not terrorism

End climate change, end inequality, end capitalism!

Capitalism fails NHS services in Liverpool: scrap PFI!

Them & Us

What we think

To win back working-class trust Labour must take the 'Liverpool road'

International socialist news and analysis

Eyewitness report: workers' struggle in France on the boil

France striker speaks: real, deep anger needs union strategy

Iraq - a brutal legacy of imperialist intervention

India: Huge general strike but a missed opportunity

Workplace news and analysis

Royal Mail workers to reballot for strike action

Renewing the left in PCS

A win against academisation in east London

Belfast Hovis workers' all-out strike

Westex strikers read the Socialist

Ealing tax office strike continues

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Make a stand: set legal no-cuts council budgets

"If you think bus and rail services are crap, sign our petition to take them back"

Building Tamil Solidarity with youth and the unions

Readers' opinion

The Socialist inbox

Robert Burns: of the people, for the people


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