Solidarity 140, 16 October 2008

We need a workers' government!

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 2:26

“The markets rule the world. Maybe that’s why your conspiracy theorists make up all those crazy things. Because the truth is so much more frightening...”

So a top US businessman told the journalist Jon Ronson for his book Adventures with Extremists. It was a frightening truth like death is frightening — something scary that was, however, the way the world had to be.

Anything less than free-fire for “the markets”, would spell stagnation and collapse. So they said.

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Government cops out on smacking

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 2:22 Author: Cathy Nugent

“A smack is parents trying to hit you, [but] instead of calling [it] a hit they call it a smack.” — A seven year old (from It Hurts You Inside, Children’s Rights Alliance)

A proposed amendment to the Children and Young Person’s Bill, which would have outlawed the physical punishment of children, will not now be discussed or voted on in Parliament.


Submitted by david kirk on Tue, 21/10/2008 - 22:52

The hitting of children as punishment is obviously utterly wrong. It is obscene that children do not have the same protection against assault as adults.

However many parents who have on occassion smacked should not just be criminalised. In the society we live in the pressures and stresses on parents are massive. The time and space parents need to build for a truly nurturing environment to bring up children does not exist for most families. Parenting skills are often lacking and in many cases the sexual division of labour within the home mean men have nothing to do with nurturing children. In some situations smacking although un-excusable is often understandable.

We should continue call for a law against smacking as part of a programme for childcare and social care. We slso should point out the importance of reducing the working week and increasing holiday rights.

Submitted by Jason on Wed, 22/10/2008 - 10:53

Whilst it is true that part of protecting children should be a whole series of service provision- including rights for parents for flexible working, free 24 hour high quality children's centres, social housing, high quality public services for all workers and lots of help and support for parents- nevertheless the physical punishment of children and smacking should be outlawed.

This doesn't necessarily mean criminalisation of parents and certainly shouldn't be used as a weapon against working class families. However, it should be clearly illegal to hit children and when it is in the interests of the child to prevent abuse or suffering then legal sanctions are part of such an alternative.

As socialists we should be for a completely different way of running society- on the basis of workers' democracy. But that does not mean waiting for socialism before supporting or demanding progressive measures such as banning smacking and physical punsihment of children giving them the same rights as adults to not be assaulted.

Submitted by david kirk on Wed, 22/10/2008 - 21:18

Jason says:

"As socialists we should be for a completely different way of running society- on the basis of workers' democracy. But that does not mean waiting for socialism before supporting or demanding progressive measures such as banning smacking and physical punsihment of children giving them the same rights as adults to not be assaulted."

I agree we should back the ban but we should not necessarily back the penalties that might be imposed. Would we want under pressure parents and grand parents to be charged with assault? The law in this case and in all cases should be based upon the protection and welfare of victims (in this case the child) and the re-education of the offender so they will not inflict harm again. I think a mixture of child care support, parenting enducation and psychiatric help would be what we should advocate.

Submitted by Jason on Thu, 23/10/2008 - 09:38

I think there is of course a possibility of criminalising working class parents in way6 that is not supportive to even the children ostensibly meant to be protected. Legal sanctions should only be used in extreme cases I'd have thought- most of which may be covered by existing law.

Of course I'm no expert - this is the sort of law that would need to be planned consulting with children, trade unionists and other representatives of working class communities to draft. I do however agree with you and Cathy that there should be a law against smacking/physical assault of children.

Submitted by cathy n on Thu, 23/10/2008 - 14:24

The point about a ban on smacking is not to criminalise working class (or any other) parents who have occasionally not done well in a situation where they have felt unable to cope, for whatever reason, with the behaviour of their children, and used a smack. The danger of criminalisation is the argument the government uses (this, from the people who frame the legislation!) It is a red herring. From memory, where the law has been introduced it has not led to a rash of adults being prosecuted for the occasional smack, it has led, reportedly, to a drop in routine physical punishment.

Adults who in anger and on impulse e.g. barge into, push, physically lash out at another adult are not generally heavily criminalised, even though the adult who is hurt is within their rights to make a complaint. So too with a ban on smacking.

The point about a smacking ban is to lay down a marker that physical punishment of children is wrong, that children have rights, and that children should be equal members of society in respect of their physical well-being.

The law would be about (re-)educating adults.


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Sex work: Government clampdown will endanger women

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 2:19 Author: Feminist Fightback

Last month Jacqui Smith announced at the Labour Party Conference that from October the government will be taking steps to clamp down on the sex industry in the UK.

The new measures will give police new powers to prosecute those paying for sex, to shut down “brothels” and force sex workers into compulsory rehabilitation.

She announced that the government would “start work to outlaw paying for sex with someone forced into prostitution at another’s will, or controlled for another’s gain”.

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De Menezes inquest: Why no accountability?

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 2:16 Author: Darren Bedford

Anyone who has ever taken part in direct action will have some first-hand experience of why the police force exists. Liberals and right-wingers may argue that battering Climate Camp activists or striking miners over the head with truncheons are unfortunate anomalies; stopping old people from being mugged is the real essence of the role of the police.

The reality is precisely the other way around; the police force fundamentally exists to defend, violently if necessary, the interests of the ruling-class; and any useful community defence function it may play is almost a by-product.

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Short industrial reports

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 2:12

LOCAL GOVERNMENT: On 20 August and 24 September Scottish local government workers staged two successful 24-hour strikes demanding a 5% pay-rise or £1,000, whichever is the greater. The employers’ improved offer was 2.5% rise this year.

The strikes were to have been followed up by longer selective action.

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SATS: Time to end "teaching to the test"

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 2:07

On 14 October the Government abolished SATS exams for 14 year olds. The decision seems to have been prompted by the fact that the private contractor (of course) which ran the SATS this year fouled it up and had to be sacked, and the Government had trouble finding a replacement in time for 2009.

But it is good that the 14 year old SATS are gone. The National Union of Teachers responded with a call for the suspension pending review (why not the abolition?) of 11-year old SATS too.

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Striking on different days in November

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 12:48 Author: Gerry Bates

Civil servants (PCS) and teachers (NUT) are set to strike in November against the Government’s two-and-a-bit per cent limit on pay rises — but on different days.

How the foul-up happened is a mystery. Both unions now have avowedly left-wing Executive majorities and top full-time officials. Both union leaderships make a big deal of wanting united action by public sector workers against the Government's wage-cut plans.

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Free education: demonstrate in 2009!

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 12:46

A coalition of student activists, in a campaign initiated by Education Not for Sale, is planning to organise a demonstration at the start of 2009 against all fees and for a living grant.

The demands are:

* No raising of the cap on top-up fees; halt and reverse the growth in international students’ fees; abolish all fees in higher education and further education – free education for all;

* A living grant for every student over 16 — at least £150 a week; and a living wage for nursing and other students who have to work as part of their course;

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No deportations to war zones!

Submitted by AWL on 17 October, 2008 - 12:44

Refugee rights and anti racist campaigners took to the streets of Sheffield on Saturday 3 October to protest against the inhuman treatment of asylum seekers by the authorities in Britain.

In particular they wanted to highlight the policy of locking up asylum seekers, sometimes for long periods, in detention centres — in some cases along with their young children. Over 100 people marched from Sheffield City Hall to the Peace Gardens to call for asylum seekers to be given the right to work and for an end to deportations to war zones.

Amongst those on the protest were:

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