Letters

A history of holding back Equal Pay

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Jane Hardy’s opening article on equal pay (March SR) makes fascinating reading. The following points supplement her account.

The 1918 War Cabinet inquiry that Jane mentions includes Beatrice Webb’s devastating minority report, that still repays reading. She argued that “the popular formula of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’…is so ambiguous and so easily evaded as not to constitute any principle”.

What about no deal?

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Sabby Sagall extols the virtues of remaining in the EU (Feedback, February SR): workers rights; equal pay provision; the 8-hour day. What he doesn’t seem to see is the way in which bosses in Europe as well as this country find many ways round these regulations: the Working Time Directive waiver, women still being paid less than men in practice, while 24-hour shift working patterns are at an all-time high.

Fashion matters

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Rena Niamh Smith makes some very timely and insightful points about fashion in her monthly column in Socialist Review. In particular it is really important that, as she argues, revolutionaries do not just overlook or dismiss fashion as something merely ephemeral, apolitical and not worthy of serious attention.

The ideology behind women’s oppression

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Jan Nielsen’s article (“How austerity hurts women”, February SR) very usefully showed the disproportionate impact of government cuts on the lives of women. There is also an ideological element to this.

The ruling class, via the media, government, education system, and so on, perpetuates the idea that women are naturally suited to certain roles. Those at the top of society need women to be defined by the services that they provide, and the products they consume.

The Zulus and war

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It was refreshing to read Barry Conway’s article on the Zulu victory at Isandlwana in South Africa (January SR).

It can’t be overemphasized that the British were defeated because of racist arrogance. Lord Chelmsford, leading the British invasion, couldn’t conceive of the Zulus as a serious enemy. So he didn’t follow standard procedure and set up a defensive perimeter around his camp, and then he fell for a clever trap set by the militarily experienced Zulus, drawing away most of his best troops.

On the middle classes

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I want to thank Leahy and Thomas for their comments regarding the professional middle class (Feedback, January SR). As the capitalist class shrink in numbers and the working class grow in numbers, professionals become more important as a managerial class. The professional class do not create surplus value; they facilitate its creation in the working class.

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