Solidarity 281, 10 April 2013

Behind Korea's war threats

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 12:45

In early April North Korea declared that it was cancelling the armistice which ended the 1950s Korean war and was “in a state of war” with South Korea. It threatened to hit the USA with nuclear weapons.

It has withdrawn 50,000 North Korean workers from a special industrial zone which is on the northern side of the Korean border but houses South Korean companies.

No-one knows what North Korea may do further. The 86-year-old Fidel Castro has called the situation “incredible and absurd”, and urged North Korea to restraint, while also denouncing any US military action.

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Portuguese government plans new cuts

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 12:42

On 5 April the Portuguese constitutional court ruled that some of the sweeping new government cuts (to holiday bonuses for civil servants and pensioners, unemployment and sickness benefits) were unlawful (5 April) were unlawful.

But Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho responded by reiterating his right-wing government’s intention to make the cuts. He says cuts are obligatory under the terms of an €78 billion EU/IMF bailout deal.

The court held that the tax rises which will take place under the 2013 budget are legal.

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Safe spaces where we work

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 12:27

Women transport workers have begun an effort to strengthen their union’s policy on gender violence in the workplace.

Customer-facing transport workers often experience being grabbed or forcibly kissed by male passengers and, in a male-dominated industry, often feel unsupported in responding to the issues.

A motion written for Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers union (RMT) bodies says: “management and the police have a tendency to minimise these incidents as drunken laddishness, failing to give appropriate support.

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Camden workers fight contract cuts

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 11:43

Local government workers in the London borough of Camden are facing an attempt by bosses to bribe them into signing new, worse, contracts.

The new contracts will increase working hours, and some staff are being told they could have to work as late as 10pm, and at weekends. The new contracts also institute local bargaining, meaning workers would be outside any pay increases or improvements to conditions negotiated at a national level.

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Civil servants continue strikes

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 11:31

Civil servants continued their industrial action on pay cuts, pension reform, and job losses with two half-day strikes in April.

The campaign began with a national strike on 20 March. A half-day strike involving all Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members, apart from HMRC and Home Office staff, followed on 5 April, with HMRC staff striking from 1pm on Monday 8 April. A planned 24-hour strike of Home Office workers due for the same day was postponed following a legal challenge.

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Unison officials sabotage democracy

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 11:25

A worker involved with the “3 Cosas” campaign spoke to Solidarity about their fight for equal rights and union democracy.


“3 Cosas” (“Three Things”) is a campaign organised by outsourced workers at the University of London, mainly cleaners in halls of residence and the university’s flagship Senate House building, but also catering staff, post-room workers, and security workers.

The three things we’re demanding are equal sick pay, pensions, and holiday rights with our colleagues who are employed directly by the university.

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Hollywood homophobia and economic crisis

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 11:18

Four years ago, the stars of the successful BBC comedy series Gavin and Stacey made the mistake of starring in an abysmal comedy known as Lesbian Vampire Killers.

The movie was quickly forgotten, but I was reminded of it recently when I saw the latest — and last — film by acclaimed American director Steven Soderbergh, Side Effects.

Soderbergh’s film could easily have been given a similar title, even though it was not in any sense a comedy. But the theme of homicidal lesbians is central to the plot, and the film absolutely reeks of homophobia.

Comments

Submitted by david kirk on Sat, 13/04/2013 - 10:18

I watched the movie and was really enjoying it when I thought it was a paronoid expose of big Pharma but then it became a Hitchcokian type thriller and I could accept that until this bizarre homophobic killer lesbian twist that comes straight out of the 1940s and this ruined it. Not only is the Lesbian twist hackneyed and bigoted, it was utterly pointless. The twist is surely that its a frame up whats the sexuality of Rooney Mara and Catherine Zeta Jones got to do with anything.

It made me think of many of the Hitchcock films which had slightly similar plots and homosexual characters and whether I should be so much of a fan of them. But actually think about it at least they had the excuse of being made in the 40s and 50s, plus there is often far more depth, ambiguity and nuance shown then in trash like side effects, Single White Female and Basic Instinct.
Plus Hitchcock adapted works by gay or bi-sexual writers like Patricia Highsmith, Thornton Wilder and Daphne Du Maurier and hired openly LGBT actors like Tullulah Bankhead and Farley Granger.

The great website TV Tropes identifies this homophobic Trope as "Psycho Lesbians
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PsychoLesbian

"For years, an unfortunate cocktail of censorship and bigotry rendered all lesbian characters on screen exclusively psychotic and villainous. Hays Code-era requirements that villainous and controversial characters be suitably punished meant that such characters would almost inevitably be toast before the credits rolled - and this convention has persisted long after the demise of the Code itself.

This trope can sometimes carry uncomfortable subtext: go straight or go crazy. Or at least have the decency of being bisexual so you can be of proper use for men."

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Has Syria's democratic revolution been hijacked?

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 11:02

We print US socialist Pham Binh’s criticism of the AWL’s analysis and attitude on Syria.

The article originally appeared on the North Star website.


As the Syrian revolution progresses, support for it abroad among Marxists recedes. [This shift to the right] parallels the evolution of petty-bourgeois Arab intellectuals such as Jadiliya who supported Syria’s peaceful demonstrators but recoiled in fear when these same demonstrators grew tired of being cut down by machine gun fire and took up arms to defend themselves.

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SWP: criticise, don’t “no platform”

Submitted by Matthew on 10 April, 2013 - 10:51

Solidarity has criticised the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) on its handling of allegations of sexual harassment and then of rape brought by a young woman member of the SWP against leading SWP organiser Martin Smith.

The SWP leadership’s approach, over two years and more, was to steer as near as it could to bureaucratic brush-off. The case is not closed: the woman involved should have the option of an independent investigation by labour movement people unconnected with the SWP and with some legal qualifications.

Comments

Submitted by AWL on Fri, 12/04/2013 - 10:15

At the National Union of Students conference (8-10 April, Sheffield), hundreds of delegates walked out when leadership-loyal SWP candidate Tomas Evans spoke. When SWP oppositionist Shereen Prasad spoke, the response was very different.

As we understand it, Tomas Evans was imposed on the SWP student group as their candidate for NUS Vice President Higher Education, because the previously agreed candidate, sitting National Executive member Jamie Woodcock, is an oppositionist. It also seems that Shereen Prasad, who stood for VP Society & Citizenship, was blocked from standing for the part-time section of the executive (where the left actually wins positions).

In the VP HE election, Naomi Beecroft, an anarchist feminist who sits on the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts national committee (but was standing independently), attacked the NUS leadership before turning to attack the SWP over the Martin Smith scandal. Following this, when Evans began his speech by defending the SWP leadership, right-wing (meaning, broadly, Blairite) executive members got up and walked out. They were joined by perhaps two hundred delegates, from right and left. When Evans spoke for the part-time position later in the conference, there was another walk out.

Workers' Liberty and our allies did not initiate the walk out. We in the AWL think there is certainly some hypocrisy from the NUS leadership involved. The left should take no lessons from these people on standing up for women's rights (or anything). No doubt some delegates were playing 'follow my leader'. And of course there are more general issues about walking out because someone is saying something you don't like. Nonetheless, we are not sorry it happened.

This is particularly the case because of the different response to Shereen Prasad's candidacy for VP S&C. Shereen and other SWP oppositionists asked the NCAFC for support; the NCAFC consensus was that the campaign could support Shereen if she made comments critical of the SWP leadership in her speech (which in the event she did). When she spoke, there was no walk out, but a strongly positive response to her criticism. The result: where Tomas Evans received 2.8pc of the vote for VP HE (just 15 votes), Shereen received 26.5pc for VP S&C.

These events must surely strengthen the hands of oppositionists in the SWP.

We think all this is very different from attempting to 'no platform' even loyalist SWPers or refusing to work with them in union branches, local campaigns etc. Tomas Evans was a representative of the SWP leadership on the national stage, and moreover one imposed against the will of SWP students. It is good there was revulsion against what he represented politically. The SWP leadership is responsible for what happened.

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