Year 2000 No. 85, May 17, 2000

Revolutionisation of Life on an On-Going Basis Is Synonymous with the Aim of Opening the Door to Progress

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Revolutionisation of Life on an On-Going Basis Is Synonymous with the Aim of Opening the Door to Progress

West Midlands: Birmingham Suburbs Suffer from High Illiteracy

London: Student Nurses Hold Vigil

Readers' Forum:
No.3: Experience of a Community and Environmental Activist from Wales

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Revolutionisation of Life on an On-Going Basis Is Synonymous with the Aim of Opening the Door to Progress

One of the biggest lures that the bourgeoisie dangles in front of the people to prevent them from wholeheartedly participating in opening the door to progress is that everything can be done but the revolutionisation of the act of living itself. Social form is considered irrelevant, and the anarchy and violence in society is attributed not to the fact that society is organised to fulfil the interests of the monopolies and the financial oligarchy and their cut-throat competition and parasitism, but to the behaviour of individuals and their motives.

The aim of the bourgeoisie is to divert the attention of the workers and the democratic forces away from the pressure that this social form is putting on all and sundry and on all facets of social life. It puts the people at the margins of society, unable to see the way forward, with a feeling of aimlessness and helplessness that they cannot control their lives and deal with the growing pressures arising from the anti-social offensive. At the same time, pressure is put on those who are at the forefront of organising that their responsibility is to adapt and improve the lot of the people within the status quo, and the bourgeoisie adopts a conscious policy of accommodating figureheads, "leaders" of the various communities, to promote the feeling that everything must be done but take up the revolutionisation of society, which is beyond the pale.

The bourgeoisie tries to convince the people that the problems they face are those of an individual person to be solved on an individual basis and not a reflection and a direct result, a component part, of the problems of society, which in the final analysis can only be solved by working to open door to progress and create a new society. Their propaganda, their ideological offensive, is that people must fend for themselves, that ultimately their fate is up to them as an individual, and to put difficulties in the way of and attach a feeling of guilt to demanding that society shoulder its responsibility. It is put forward that to suggest otherwise is utopian or irresponsible or both. This is accompanied, once this premise is accepted, with recriminations against, going as far as criminalising, all those that demand that their rights as individuals and as collectives should be put in the first place.

The bourgeoisie attempts to try and make its own values and way of living take root within society itself, to make these values the mainstream. The Thatcherite dictum that there is no such thing as society but only individuals is extended to suggest that the rights of the collective are illusory and their recognition immoral, and that the highest good is the pursuit of self-satisfaction as the consumer of the products of capitalist production for individual pleasure. The "advancement" of the self within society, self-satisfaction, hedonism, which is the aim of bourgeois living, is promoted. Insidiously, within the people’s movement itself, especially amongst the youth, such ideology is promoted in the form of "doing your own thing", the pursuit of "fun" as an aim, an "acceptable" aspect of hedonism, while simultaneously promoting chaos and violence and suggesting that this is the real face of "anti-capitalism" and thereby further taking steps to criminalise political protests and turn political issues into law and order questions.

In fact, the fulfilment of the individual can only come about through the revolutionisation of life on an on-going basis, through working to open the door to progress and bring about a new society, a society in which food, clothing and shelter as the first requirements of participating in life are available to all as of right. To become an inseparable part of this movement and to advance it is the primary responsibility of the progressive forces. This can be summed up in acknowledging the actual life experience of those who aspire to such a new society, whereas what appears at first to be the easy way out, the pursuit of self-seeking and self-serving in the narrowest sense, proves to be an invitation by the bourgeoisie to fall into a pit from which there is no escape.

For the advanced forces and class conscious forces, it has almost the force of an axiom that there can be no solution to the problems of the material and spiritual crises in society without a movement being built to enable society to progress, without working out every step in the advance towards a new socialist society. The advanced force then becomes the embodiment of that line, collectively and individually. The highest task is then solving problems on that basis and ensuring that the people arise who carry that line organisationally, whether it is despite of or because of themselves.

Such people, as our Congress Report says, "cannot live their lives with their social culture being detached from their politics, or with political culture which is circumscribed".

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West Midlands:

Birmingham Suburbs Suffer from High Illiteracy

Some of the poorest areas in Birmingham are being denied the basic right of being able to read and write. New Labour came to power promising that education standards would be raised and that schools in inner city areas would be properly funded. New figures have shown that the promises of the government are only broken pie crusts.

New statistics show more than 36 percent of adults in the Sparkbrook and Small Heath constituency are illiterate while in Ladywood the figure is almost 35 per cent. Other areas where more than 30 percent of the population are illiterate include Erdington, Perry Barr and Hodge Hill, in Birmingham, as well as Warley and West Bromwich West, in the Black Country, and Wolverhampton, North East and South East.

The region fares equally badly for numeracy, with 39 per cent of the population having serious problems in Sparkbrook and Small Heath, and 37 per cent in need of remedial help in Ladywood. The figures have been compiled by the Basic Skills Agency, which was set up to promote basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills. The agency completed a breakdown survey last year, which showed 20 per cent of adults across the country were illiterate.

The tendency in society is to think that standards are going up because of the hype of government propaganda. In actual fact, the number of people leaving school without the ability to read and write in reality is increasing.

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Student Nurses Hold Vigil

Hundreds of student nurses held a vigil yesterday evening outside the Department of Health in Whitehall. Their protest demonstrated their refusal to accept the low pay and bad living conditions that they have to endure, and to demand that the government recognises their worth.

Michael Walker, London officer for UNISON, said: "I don’t know how students are expected to survive. There’s only one word for it – exploitation." The student nurses accuse the government of taking no responsibility for their plight. They are expected to work 40 hours a week on the wards and then do their college work. They have to take responsibility themselves for their travelling expenses and the cost of their food, and as a result cannot avoid building up debt. The poverty and the effect of stress on the wards is making many student nurses quit at the end of their training.

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Readers' Forum

No.3: Experience of a Community and Environmental Activist from Wales

A community and environmental activist from Wales told a Workers' Weekly correspondent about some of the problems faced by the community in her area and what had brought her to join the May Day protests and demonstrations in London.

I can talk about Pembrokeshire, which is the county I live in, but it will be similar in Wales as a whole. Pembrokeshire is depressed economically, the number of people with jobs keeps declining and farmers are living in a nightmare. Their produce is fetching joke prices, less than the cost of producing it. They are not asking for subsidies, just a fair share of the sale price. What they are experiencing is the same as third world experiences, but they are generally not aware that the cause is the same. They are being driven from the land they have had in their families for generations. The prediction is that 50 % of farmers will be forced to give up within the next 5 to 10 years.

Most Pembrokeshire businesses (90% I read) are micro-businesses which just means less than 10 staff. Most are family businesses and they are the backbone of rural communities. But the authorities do not value them, they give grants and rate and tax breaks to the larger companies reinforcing the unfair struggle of those closest to the communities. Regulations appear designed to destroy small businesses as they cost the same as for the large powerful ones, and they keep changing, bringing increased costs year by year.

What people mind the most is that their children either grow up to nothing or have to leave the area for work, it is called an old people’s county.

But one result of this situation is that people forget the value of what they have got. We still have communities where you can shop and chat and meet lots of friends in the street, very little crime, a really beautiful environment near most people, and the friendliness and culture of an area where people haven’t forgotten the past or to take care of each other. There are many artistic types and pioneering types who can live on little and produce something of real quality that customers can trust.

If we started by building on our strengths we could develop a local economy with an explicit commitment to community and environment. This is the sort of thing that is needed everywhere in the world. We have a unique opportunity in Wales now.

The reason for this comes from two things: We have the National Assembly which we believe is the first government in the world with a constitutional commitment to sustainability, and the members of this government are excited by what this could mean for Wales. We have a major European funding opportunity known as Objective 1. It brings £1.3billion to West Wales and the Valleys which can be doubled by UK money Although this kind of funding does not have a clean history, and can often make things worse, we have an opportunity to get it right this time.

But there are different views on how this money should be used, and how to develop Wales. Those used to exercising control are determined to keep it, and they do not value the things that matter to Wales. They value GDP and inward investment, and large showy developments where they can cut a ribbon and be photographed, They don’t care about Mrs Jones’ village shop or the family farms. Inward investment is fine if it is coming to Wales because it needs to be there and will put down roots. But the inward investment they are looking for is not like that. It is either lured by grants and generous concessions, and then moves on leaving more mortgages and unemployment than before it came, or offers polluting businesses others do not want.

We fought amongst ourselves for seven years before rejecting Orimulsion burning with its high level of pollution, we presented a united front against plans to dump nuclear waste, and it withdrew, now council officials are suggesting importing other people's waste for incineration. But there has been too much conflict between conservationists and jobs-at-all-costs sides. We need to find a shared vision.

I hope to work now to build on our economic strengths, and to encourage local businesses to co-operate. This is their only hope to face the power of the multinationals. The organic sector has already agreed to deal as one with the supermarkets so that they can’t play the producers off against each other. We need to build up our strengths, the micro-businesses, the voluntary groups – Wales has more of these than any other area – the farming, craft and engineering and cultural skills and the pioneers, and the strengths of the natural environment, like organic and quality foods, pleasures like walking and cycling and renewable energy. If we build on what we already do right we will be able to offer a model of a healthy local economy, and develop or attract specialist businesses which can produce for the wider UK, Irish, EU or global economy. Staple goods and services like food and primary health care and heavy goods like energy and building materials should all be produced locally. But it’s fine to trade with the rest of the world in specialist goods.

I came to the May 1st protest because we have got to have an answer to the growing centralisation of power and wealth. People who work with nature and people who can take care of nature and human values must become empowered. We are custodians of a future worth having. The most powerful corporations on earth cannot do that, their power is pointless, it is destroying the world their children would want to live in. I love the spirit of the people on the protest, so did the children who came with me. I think people sense how important what they are doing is, that is why the protest is so joyful in spite of the odds stacked against us.

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