Solidarity 358, 25 March 2015

Labour needs a socialist housing policy


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.

Industrial news in brief


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.

Whipps Cross: PFI leads to hospital crisis


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.

Teachers: ending the 60-hour week

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.

Two classes of calamity


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.

“Poor people can think for themselves”

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.

“Morbid symptoms” in Tunisia


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”.

Time on whose side?


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.

Identity politics made me a socialist


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.

Replace the exam boards!


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”.

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