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The Socialist Inbox
Letters to the Socialist's editors.
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One law for them...
The Victorians were famous for draconian use of penal policy against the working class. But class law still applies in 21st century Britain.
Two cases of benefit fraud. Two entirely different outcomes.
A landlord in Pembroke Dock who received rent from the four houses she owned also claimed £30,000 ESA benefit without declaring the income from her tenants. A working-class woman in Runcorn fraudulently claimed her dead father's benefits and ESA. The women were of similar ages but they received entirely different sentences.
The woman from Runcorn was told by the judge: "The message has to be sent out to you and others like you that if you steal from the public purse, not only is imprisonment inevitable but a substantial sentence must be passed." She was imprisoned for five years and ten months.
Evidently the other judge did not get that message, because the landlord in Pembroke only received a suspended sentence. And the judge told her: "I find that, a woman of your age and character, that there is sufficient punishment for you to have this hanging over your head."
There is little sympathy among working-class people for people who fiddle benefits, mainly because it is so difficult for genuine claimants to access benefits. But the law is applied differently depending on what class you are in.
Dave Reid, Cardiff
Trade unions key
It was with great pride and satisfaction that I learned of the reaffirmation, at a special conference of the Socialist Party (England and Wales), to recognise the working class and their trade unions as the indispensable area of work for any organisation claiming to stand on the shoulders of Leon Trotsky.
The vote of 173 to 35, with zero abstentions, clearly indicates an overwhelming majority for that position, and heralds a fresh start for the Socialist Party in developing its forces in preparation for the stormy events which lie ahead. Fundamental to this will mean the continuation of patient and painstaking activity in the trade union movement and other organisations of the working class.
The following modified extracts are from a statement I submitted to the special conference. They underline the validity of our policy.
It is my opinion that the views of the majority of the Socialist Party represent a clear defence of the Marxist principles and methods on which we have always based our work: putting the working class at the centre of our activities; involving ourselves within the organisations of the working class, in particular the trade unions; and fighting to win workers to the ideas of socialism.
It is these ideas and these methods that sustained the stand of the 47 councillors in Liverpool during their successful campaign for additional financial resources for the city from the Thatcher government in the 1980s, when a number of councillors supporting the Militant newspaper provided the backbone and leadership to that struggle.
Similarly, the commitment of our former comrade Terry Fields, who was won from the firefighters' union into this tradition, enabled him to gain the Broadgreen seat in 1983 when Labour was defeated at a national level.
The fundamental element in this success was the support we had established in the local authority trade unions. On two occasions, 30,000 local authority workers, and thousands in the private sector, took strike action in support of the council.
That support didn't drop out of the sky. It was the result of many years of systematic work in the unions, overcoming bureaucratic obstacles and sabotage from the trade union leaders, which enabled us to build massive support for the ideas of Militant among the mass of workers.
Trade union work is not a bolt-on extra. It is a fundamental tenet of the ideas of Trotskyism on which the party has always based its activities.
Trade union work is never easy, and to rationalise the absence of consistent trade union work on the grounds that it is difficult, or even a waste of time, is to look for shortcuts to the masses. History is littered with the corpses of 'Trotskyist' groups who sought such shortcuts.
Tony Mulhearn, Liverpool
British Steel sell-off
What could better demonstrate the state of British capitalism than the news that the once-mighty British Steel is to be sold off to Oyak, the Turkish military pension fund?
This, along with the undemocratic crowning of Boris Johnson as head of the British government, surely demonstrates that the British ruling class has lost the plot! "Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad" seems so apt in 2019.
Ataer Holdings is the investment arm of the pension fund. Their bean-counters are now going through the books, and the official receiver is in discussion with Oyak.
The Socialist has always argued that firms which put jobs at risk, or claim they cannot afford decent wages and conditions, should be required to hand their accounts over to the trade unions so that their claims can be investigated. The bosses routinely deride this idea, of course, on the grounds of 'commercial secrecy'.
Of course, if jobs can be saved in Scunthorpe and on Teeside, those workers will be elated. However, this still leaves jobs at risk at a time when serious commentators in the Financial Times agree that a world 'slowdown' is in the offing.
The question is not if but when will a recession strike? Then we will see just how safe jobs are in many industries, including steel.
Ataer already owns 50% of the Turkish steel industry, which is dependent on the infrastructure projects, like major roads and railways, which have protected the Turkish economy by providing jobs when other industries, like tourism, have been in the doldrums in recent years.
As Chinese and Russian investment dries up in a new recession, these projects must be put in doubt. Will the Turkish capitalist government risk the anger of Turkish workers to protect British jobs?
Ataer and the Turkish government have been criticised for "lack of accountability." This will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of Scunthorpe workers. When has the management ever been accountable to them?
The Socialist Party has argued that an important industry like steel should not be subject to the gambling of the stock market and financial services. Instead, we say the government should nationalise it, and we fight for it be run under the control of the people who really understand steel: the workers who make it!
Of course, steel is just the latest in a long list of industries where 'the market' has failed us all. Like railways, electricity, gas and water, privatisation has led to real hardship both for the workers whose jobs are at risk and consumers who depend on them.
Mike Cleverley, Walthamstow, east London
Liberal coalition criminals
It was galling to see the Liberal Democrats' leader celebrating their win over the Conservatives in the recent Brecon and Radnorshire by-election.
It is only a few years since they were in coalition with the Tories they now paint as their enemy. And it was not as though the Liberal Democrat vote rose massively: only from 12,043 in 2017 to 13,826 in 2019, while Plaid Cymru polled 1,299 in 2017 but did not stand this time in order to maximise the remain vote.
When they pretend to be on the left, we should remember remember the Liberal Democrats for what they are: the coalition criminals.
Pete McNally, Welland, Worcestershire
In November 1967, the Labour government announced a 14% devaluation in the pound sterling. Jim Callaghan, the chancellor of the exchequer, resigned, and Prime Minister Harold Wilson appeared on TV to explain this catastrophic failure of his government's economic policy. He assured viewers that "the pound in your pocket" would not be affected, but of course it was, thereby destroying his own political credibility.
The succession of Boris Johnson to Tory party leader and prime minister, and his commitment that Brexit will happen on 31 October "do or die" even if it is a 'no deal', has led to a sustained devaluation of sterling. But there have been no ministerial resignations or appearances on TV.
A sterling devaluation can result in an increase in the wealth of the very rich, because "most of the biggest companies in the FTSE 100 generate most of their revenues overseas" (Times, 6 August). Consequently if "the sterling value of profits made from foreign assets goes up, the sterling value of dividends paid follows suit, as does the sterling value of the assets."
The decline in the British economy has been borne by the working class and sections of the middle class through the loss of comparatively better-paid jobs and a lowering of living standards, while these overseas revenues have provided 'the few' with rich recompense.
John Merrell, Leicester
20 Nov Elect Marion Lloyd!
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