Letters: HS2, Democrats' history

Submitted by AWL on 4 March, 2020 - 11:18

No strong case for HS2

There is a lot to agree with in Mark Catterall’s letter in Solidarity 536 - but I am less optimistic about the capacity argument for HS2.

High speed direct rail services between major cities could help to free up congestion, but at this rate the second stage of HS2 could be completed somewhere between 2035 and 2040, far too late to have significant impact on carbon emissions and reduce the amount of freight and commuters moved by road.

And where will capacity will be freed up? As I read it HS2’s congestion relief to the WCML is compromised by the failure to provide interconnection with the WCML. Given it will only run on two tracks, it cannot possibly serve all the cities in its zone of influence.

I agree about electrification of all existing railways. Back in 2011 Network Rail was investigating the complete electrification of the York to Hull line, but that was officially abandoned in 2016 by the then Rail Minister Paul Maynard.

Simon Nelson, London

The real history of LBJ

In making the case that Bernie Sanders will not be the equivalent of George McGovern, Eric Lee paints a rather skewedly over-favourable picture of Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ), who was US President following Kennedy’s assassination and till 1969. (How Sanders Wins, Solidarity 536).

Johnson was president at a time of vigorous social agitation from below, and responded to the pressure with reforms, as conservative politicians sometimes have done. That doesn't show that he was better than, say, Britain's 1908-16 Liberal prime minister H H Asquith, who also presided over reforms.

Eric mentions Johnson's enacting of new voting rights and civil rights legislation, as well as the initiation of basic Medicare and the “war on poverty”. Missing is the fact that Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam and tried to suppress proper reporting of it.

Even leaving aside Vietnam, Johnson unlike Sanders showed no evidence of a particular personal commitment to civil rights.

Under the pressure of the March on Washington in 1963 he was pressured into the Civil Rights Act, while still trying to keep many of the avowedly racist Southern Democrats onside.

He personally intervened to support the denial of seats to the 64 delegates from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party who challenged the all white and avowedly segregationist Mississippi Democratic Party at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

The war on poverty did provide some federal support for new initiatives, but later he would take from those pots to plough more into Vietnam. Some initiatives like the Job Corps training were abject failures, with more than 25% of those who took part in it still out of work, though the same money invested could have paid for college tuition.

Between 1964 and 1968 unionisation in the US public sector expanded by two million. Successful strikes against federal wage restraint helped to boost those incomes far more than the government assistance.

Another concern about equating Sanders with Johnson is that Johnson and his Vice Presidential nominee in 1968, Hubert Humphrey, raised huge sums from big business, far outstripping what Goldwater raised. Johnson was the safe pair of hands in that election.

Sanders has rightly eschewed corporate financing of his campaign. We want him to continue a stance that would make it impossible.

Will Sefton, London

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