Alexei Sayle - Dagenham - Disability - Get clever - Irate
Alexei for sale
Alexei Sayle admitted he had sold out to a Manchester audience in the 1980s: "While you lot are at the front of the demo selling Socialist Worker, I'm at the back selling the Radio Times." (Books, Socialist Review, October 2010).
Mark Krantz, Manchester
Democracy made in Dagenham
What the Dagenham women showed is the importance of rooting politics in the workplace (Interview, Socialist Review, October 2010).
When do Labour politicians talk about what goes on at work? When is the possibility of a democratic workplace ever raised? What does it mean to live in a democratic society if many workplaces are run according to the divine right of management?
To change what goes on in the workplace is to change everything. The Dagenham women had courage; they were cocky; they were willing to be cheeky; they refused deference to management or male union bosses.
They began with a small dispute and they brought one of the biggest businesses in the country to a standstill. There is the lesson: don't give in to injustices because you feel small.
Fight for what is right. Stand together. The Dagenham women have much more to teach us about how to move to a better society than Ed Miliband.
Alan Dent, Preston
Our survey says: unity is possible
Thanks for printing my letter (Feedback, Socialist Review, October 2010) in the last issue. However, I think the editing process somewhat blunted the point I wanted to make.
The letter highlighted a recent survey which found that 91 percent of people believe disabled people should have equal rights, but also that 90 percent have never had a disabled person in their house for a social occasion.
Both findings cannot be true. Much of the media coverage, predictably, preferred to believe the second. The Independent on Sunday (5 September 2010) said it showed that people present themselves as being more tolerant or liberal than they really are, and that "many choose simply to avoid people with disabilities altogether".
That is why I went on to say, "But common impairments such as epilepsy or depression are often unacknowledged or invisible. Lots of people don't realise they do know others who are disabled, and some may even be disabled themselves. Department of Work and Pensions research found that half of those it classes as disabled do not see themselves as such."
Why does this matter? If the first finding is more accurate (I think it is), there is potentially huge support for fighting attacks on disability benefits alongside the rest of the cuts. The contingent of disability rights protesters on the excellent Right to Work demonstration in Birmingham of 3 October suggests that such unity is very much a possibility.
Roddy Slorach, London
We need to get clever
I spoke at a recent Leicester Unite Against Fascism (UAF) meeting defending the right of Muslim youth to physically confront the English Defence League (EDL) (Frontlines, Socialist Review, October 2010). All groups mobilising, Hope Not Hate or UAF, need to do their work on the ground and recognise that by and large it has been Muslim working class youth in these towns that have been taking on the EDL with handfuls of white comrades.
While respecting self-organisation within our communities there needs to be unity on the ground, ensurance that there is proper representation as part of stewarding arrangements, and an understanding of the need for legal observers on demos to ensure that police tactics are monitored and to prevent large-scale criminalisation of young people.
Finally we need to challenge both local authority and police interference with events. We have clear evidence of Muslim young people being encouraged to keep away from mobilisations and indeed diversionary activities being set up. We need to get clever.
Saqib Deshmukh, Leicester
Irate over high rates
I have just one point about Sean Vernell's excellent article (There is an alternative, Socialist Review, October 2010).
It should be remembered that Ted Knight and other council leaders, while resisting making cuts, relied heavily on setting very high rate (now council tax) rises, sometimes between 30 percent and 40 percent. This split the support against the Tory government, as many ratepayers could ill afford such rises.
Harry Stannard, Leicester