Solidarity 358, 25 March 2015

Labour needs a socialist housing policy

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:45

Pete Gilman and Gemma Short

Housing is a crucial issue in this general election.

Britain is facing the greatest housing crisis since 1945. There is an acute and growing shortage for those on average and below-average income. Virtually no council housing has been built for decades, homelessness is increasing, private sector rents are soaring, and thousands are being forced to move to cheaper parts of Britain because of the cap on housing benefit.

High rents are forcing thousands of people, especially the young, into dependency, repossessions have risen to 30,000, estate agents are ruthlessly ripping off their tenants,

Industrial news in brief

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:38

Jon Johnson, Peggy Carter, Gemma Short and Charlotte Zalens

Members of the GMB, NASUWT and NUT, in the three schools in the Prendergast Federation in Lewisham, have escalated their strikes against the threat of the schools being turned into academies.

The unions will strike for two consecutive days on 24 and 25 March. The escalation is in response to the governors of the schools immediately beginning “formal consultation” about becoming academies rather than postponing it until after the election as they had suggested they might. Although the action will disrupt education at a critical time for some students, the unions felt they had no choice, and

Whipps Cross: PFI leads to hospital crisis

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:23

Rosalind Robson

Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone has been rated as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the whole of Barts NHS Trust which runs the hospital has been placed in special measures. The CQC say patient safety has been seriously compromised.

But the CQC failed to identify the background to the hospital’s difficulties — cuts in staff and the serious financial problems facing Barts NHS Trust, as the result of debts incurred under PFI contracts.

Barts Health NHS Trust has a £1.25 billion yearly turnover and a workforce of 14,000. It is the largest NHS trust in the country. The

Teachers: ending the 60-hour week

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:14

A recent National Union of Teachers survey found that the average teacher works a 60 hour week.

The average was already, in 2013, according to official government figures, 59.3 hours in primary and 55.7 in secondary, and it is increasing.

According to the government figures, teachers do 20% of their work outside of the school day, and according to a survey by the conservative union ATL, almost half work up to 10 hours over their weekend.

Something like two out of five teachers quit the job in the first five years, and mostly because of workload. An ATL survey found that 76% of those quitting

Two classes of calamity

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:07

Janine Booth

Edward Harold Physick was born in 1878 in Ealing, London, and from 1910 wrote under the name E H Visiak.

He became a clerk with the Indo-European Telegraph Company, but was sacked from his job when he wrote poetry opposing World War One. This short poem is from his 1916 collection, The Battle Fiends.

After the government introduced conscription in 1916, Visiak became a conscientious objector. After the war, he stopped publishing poetry, and spent the rest of a low-profile career writing novels, short stories and literary criticism.

Calamity by E H Visiak

The people mourn. Grief’s wireless

“Poor people can think for themselves”

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 12:01

In South Africa, the governing African National Congress (ANC) considers itself the only legitimate voice of the poor. Self-organising among the poor is met with brutal repression by the state and its organs.

Christoph Plutte and Anja Hertz talked to Ndabo Mzimela and S’bu Zikode of Abahlali base Mjondolo, a grassroots organisation of people living in informal settlements in South Africa who struggle for the dignity of shack dwellers and against evictions and repression by the state and its organs.

In 2014, South Africa celebrated the 20th anniversary of the first democratic elections. What

“Morbid symptoms” in Tunisia

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 11:55

Edward Maltby

The Italian socialist Antonio Gramsci once described the disarray in Europe after World War One in this way, “the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear”.

The Islamist attack on the Bardo museum in Tunis is a “morbid symptom” of the political deadlock in Tunisia in the years after the fall of Ben Ali. In a political climate increasingly dominated by rightwing political Islam, where the workers’ movement is fighting battles in the streets but without being able to offer a strong political alternative, the Islamist far right,

Time on whose side?

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 11:52

Colin Foster

As I write, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras is heading to Berlin for talks with Angela Merkel (23 March). He has sent a letter saying that the present limits imposed on Greece by eurozone finance ministers and the European Central Bank (ECB) “would make it impossible for any [Greek] government to service its debt”.

He “urges” Merkel to support an easing.

Let’s hope he succeeds. The trouble is that international left and labour-movement solidarity with Syriza is increasingly reduced to hoping that Tsipras does well in talks.

In May 2012 Syriza surged in Greece’s elections, and it looked

Identity politics made me a socialist

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 11:44

Elllie Clarke

My mum recently ran into an old drama tutor of mine and it came up during conversation that I had become an active socialist. Apparently my tutor laughed and said “Well, that was always on the cards for Ellie”.

It made me laugh thinking about the ill-informed 16 year-old my tutor had known. The one with more chip than shoulder, and an ego that would’ve made Kanye cringe. But it also made me think: was it really already on the cards back then?

True, the groundwork for my politics were laid a long time ago. I owe a lot of my worldview to my parents.

My dad was a brickie and fiercely proud of

Replace the exam boards!

Published on: Fri, 27/03/2015 - 11:39

Martin Thomas

“Your remarks about Quicksort seem on track to me”, replied Ursula Martin, professor of computer science at Oxford, when I wrote to her to check my view that the mark schemes for Edexcel A level maths require that algorithm to be done wrongly, and penalise doing it correctly. But, she commented ruefully, “changing the mind of Edexcel sounds a somewhat challenging proposition”.

Paul Curzon, professor of computer science at Queen Mary University of London and a big figure in the Computing At Schools network, also wrote agreeing with me. His best suggestion was to put a post on a web forum which

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