Socialist Youth - Socialist Voice July 2002

Socialist Youth Voice

July 2002


Kashmir, Israel/Palestine, Iraq…

        US helicopter gunships and jets attacked a house near Khandahar, Afghanistan, during a wedding on the 1st July, killing at least 40 and injuring more than 100. Hospital officials said that most of the dead and injured were women and children. An embarrassed US government claims that the deaths were the result of a "mistake". Whether this is true or not, this horrific incident is just another 'sign of the times' for capitalism - a more violent, unstable and oppressive system than ever before.

        More than 50 million people could die if the right-wing rulers of India and Pakistan go to war with nuclear weapons. Between them they have 350 million people living on less than $1 a day, yet they spend $17 billion on "defence". There are six times as many soldiers as doctors in these two countries. A dramatic impact would be made on the lives of some of the world's poorest people if this military spending were diverted towards peoplesneeds.

        Capitalism's failure to provide a decent future for ordinary people is further shown by the situation in Israel/Palestine where the impoverishment and repression of the Palestinian people has led to a vicious war of attack and reprisal that since September 2000 has left thousands dead. The desperation of the Palestinian people has led many to turn to the false methods of suicide bombings. While these methods are doomed to result in further suppression, they drive many ordinary Israelis into the hands of the reactionaries like Ariel Sharon. However, the further suppression of Palestinians will lead to an escalation of attacks and the enraging of the Arab masses of the Middle East region.

        Add to this the US Administration's beating of the war drums to prepare public opinion for war on Iraq. One hundred thousand Iraqis died in 1991 when US warplanes gunned down a retreating army. More than one million ordinary Iraqis have died since, as a result of US led air strikes and devastating sanctions. But Bush's threat to organise an invasion of Iraq would be the most horrific blow of all to the Iraqi people.

        A system that cares nothing for human life in war will care nothing for it in "peacetime" either. Multinational corporations are currently fighting all efforts to provide cheap retroviral drugs to "Third World" countries - these drugs would save the lives of millions of people infected with HIV/Aids. A recent UN report predicts that 70million people will dies of Aids in the next 20 years unless drastic action is taken - a number equal to the death toll in the two world wars. Last year 2.2 million people died of Aids in Africa. In sharp contrast, just 25,000 died in Western countries. The difference lies in the inability of most Africans to afford the multinationals' prices. A mere 30,000 of 30 million African HIV/Aids sufferers have access to these life-saving drugs.

        The last period has seem massive movements of young people develop in the form of the anti-capitalist movement. While this movement is growing daily, what is missing is an alternative to the rampant exploitation at the heart of the capitalist system. Socialist Youth believes that it is not enough to campaign for a more 'humane' brand of capitalism, but that this movement must put forward the socialist alternative. The fundamental basis of capitalism is exploitation, conflict and ultimately war in the pursuit of profits. Therefore, only by making a fundamental break with the capitalist system, and the establishment of a new form of society where peoples' needs come first and a decent standard of life is guaranteed to all can we remove the scar of exploitation, poverty and war from our lives.


No To Nice: What Kind of Campaign is Needed?

        Having been defeated last June, the government will put the exact same Nice Treaty forward for a second vote in late October. Because the Nice Treaty is important for Big Business, the government will attempt to pull out all the stops to get it passed this time. A defeat for Nice II would have serious repercussions throughout Europe. A lot has been said about the lack of information on what Nice actually meant last time around. It is unlikely that there will be any more clarity this time, but there will be massive spin and a media offensive to try and force people to vote yes.

        Last year's "No" vote reflected the anti-establishment mood that exists and in particular the anger people felt towards the arrogant way the government tried to ram the Treaty through. Opposition to Ireland being involved in a military alliance, reflecting the sentiment that still exists for neutrality, was an important factor.This time, they will wave the Seville Declaration that supposedly states that the Nice Treaty will not affect Irish neutrality. They will say that Nice is crucial in order to continue the enlargement of
Europe and that we shouldn't or can't hold back the whole of the continent or ruin the European project. They will point to the establishment of the European Forum as an indication that they have listened and taken onboard these concerns that people have.

        The reality is that Irish neutrality doesn't exist any longer in any case. The establishment here is hand in glove with big business and the political establishment throughout Europe. While opposition to involvement in military alliances will be important in the campaign, it is vital that the attacks on workers' rights and conditions that are a key part of this "European Project" are exposed.

        The government here is increasingly using Europe as an excuse for attacking the living standards of ordinary people. Local service charges have to be imposed because Europe says so. Privatisation has to be implemented because Europe says so. You can also see the outlines of the argument being put forward that Europe says government spending has to be curbed so we simply cannot meet workers' wage claims.

        By highlighting these issues, a "No" campaign can connect with the concerns of big numbers of working people and make voting no of real relevance to them. It will also be important to highlight the fact that a "No" vote will seriously weaken the government as it prepares for its assault on workers' living standards with a programme of cutbacks and privatisations.

        This is a must-win situation for the establishment and they will be much better prepared than last year. Given this, the Socialist Party believes that while groups will run their own campaigns, it is important that those who are opposed to Nice come together in some form with a view to having the maximum impact. We will work to see if an overall campaign can be established that would highlight opposition to neo-liberal economic policies that will result in privatisations, job losses and attacks on workers' lives; opposition to military alliances and the arms trade and to an undemocratic Europe dominated by big business. No to a Bosses Europe - No to Nice - For a Socialist Europe!


Shut Sellafield Now!

        The pills are in the post. Any day now our readers in the south will be receiving their free iodine tablets from the government of Bertie Ahern. These tablets are to help you in the event of a nuclear emergency such as an explosion at Sellafield. Please don't feed them to the cat. Believe me, in the event of a nuclear emergency, you're going to need all the help you can get.

        Tony Blair obviously doesn't believe in 'decommissioning' when it comes to nuclear power plants. British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) has almost 1,600 cubic metres of extremely dangerous liquid, high level waste which has to be constantly cool stored in tanks at the Sellafield site. An accident or malicious act, which say caused just 50% of the radioactive material to escape, would be the equivalent of 44 Chernobyls!

        BNFL's main business is to separate plutonium from spent nuclear waste fuel. Sellafield has a stockpile of around 70 tonnes of weapons-usable plutonium and this could increase to 150 tonnes over the next decade or so. Blair's defence of Sellafield is entirely linked to British establishment participation in the arms trade.

        The Observer reported (30 June) that 90% of Britain's hazardous nuclear waste stockpile is so badly stored it could explode or leak with devastating results at any time. The report stated that medium-level radioactive waste with the equivalent mass of 725 double-decker buses is being stored in a dangerous state. A source at Nirex, the firm in charge of disposing of Britain's nuclear waste, admitted the situation was "outrageous".

        The recent "postcard campaign" organised by Ali Hewson showed the huge numbers of people seriously concerned about the nuclear threat and the role of Blair's government. Blair and Co. however can tough out any number of "postcard campaigns", even if ten million cards were to be sent. Instead, what is needed is a mass movement of ordinary people throughout Ireland and indeed Britain to force the British government to cease the production of nuclear energy and the waste it creates, with the provision of jobs for the former workers. However, because of the role of British imperialism in asserting its dominance throughout the world, we cannot rely on them to disarm.

        Only by fundamentally removing the causes of war and the drive for profits and the building of a new society free from the chains of imperialism can our environment, our health and our future be guaranteed. Therefore, the campaign against nuclear energy and nuclear weapons must also oppose the capitalist system and put forward a real alternative, a socialist alternative. Unrealistic? Maybe you'd prefer the iodine tablet strategy then…


Benchmarking Report - Teachers: Joe's ATM Doesn't Pay Out

        After two years of being told that the benchmarking body would deliver significant pay increases to the country's 230,000 public sector workers, the reality is that for the overwhelming majority the increases are pitifully low. From the point of view of teachers, the 13% increase falls way short of the 30% the ASTI sought.

- By Ruth Coppinger (ASTI)

         Amazingly, INTO and the TUI leaders are satisfied, even though their own unions submitted even higher claims. Joe O'Toole, who has to defend the report because he likened it to an ATM machine, has heralded it as the "highest award ever available to teachers". He argued that the last significant pay rise for teachers was only 11%.
What O'Toole failed to mention was that teachers' pay fell sharply in the years 1988 - 2000 under his stewardship. An independent Deloitte & Touche report from April 2000 showed that teachers were paid 32% less after similar lengths of service than other post-graduates.

        O'Toole must have had some egg on his face when the two-year cut in the teachers' pay scale in the first print of the report was discovered to be a mistake and that the horrifically long 25-year scales were to be left untouched by the benchmarking body.

        The most salient point is that even 13% in not guaranteed. 3.25% will be paid some time this year, but it is totally conceivable that the government might never pay all of the rest. Already, there is the usual guff about the perilous state of the public finances. Moreover, the strings attached to its payment are so vague as to allow any conditions be imposed.

        Because of the stance of the ASTI, this report is nothing like the benchmarking originally envisaged by the government. The benchmarking body held off from introducing performance related pay (PRP); it gave teachers a few percent more than others; and the timescale for its payments will most likely be moved forward.

        Teachers and public sector workers should reject this report. The awards are an insult to workers who provide very socially necessary services and skills. These increases don't even keep pace with real inflation. They do nothing to help non-permanent teachers get a roof over their heads. They do nothing to compensate for the increasingly challenging job that is teaching.
Now is the time to unite all public sector workers in a campaign for real and significant pay increases.

Defend Sacked Principal

        Tomas Ó Dulaing, Principal of Gaelscoil Thulach na Óg (Dunboyne, Co. Meath), may have already been sacked by the time you read this article.

By Stephen Boyd.

        Tomas came into conflict with the school's board of management and patron body over the teaching of the Catholic sacraments for communion. Tomas believes that the sacraments should be taught to Catholic children outside of normal school hours so that the Protestant children don't have to be segregated from their Catholic school friends during these lessons. It now seems that his brave stand against bigotry has cost him his job.
80% of parents signed a petition supporting Tomas Ó Dulaing and the stand he has taken against the sectarian bigotry of the Catholic dominated board of management and patron body, An Foras Patrunachta.

        These bigots are completely out of touch with reality of life in modern Ireland and the vast majority of working class people will be disgusted by the way Tomas Ó Dulaing has been treated. The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO) gave Ó Dulaing legal representation and assistance with his case. However they haven't been prepared to go any further.

        There are INTO members in 38 schools run by An Foras Patrunachta. These teachers should have been balloted to take industrial action to force An Foras Patrunachta to completely back down and reinstate Ó Dulaing without any conditions and to respect the wishes of the majority of parents in relation to religious teaching.

        Schools under the patronage of An Foras Patrunachta receive state funding. Socialist Youth believes that the Department of Education should threaten to suspend and ultimately withdraw all of this funding unless this body ends its sectarian approach to religious education.


Low Pay, Exploitation & Discrimination: Young Workers Speak Out

        "Where I was working during my Leaving Cert there was no set wages, everyone was receiving different rates, although it was mostly below the minimum wage. The was no trade union rights and we were only given two days notice of our hours - Junior Cert students weren't given time off to study because there wasn't enough staff to cover for them."

        The words of Ashling Golden, a young worker from Crumlin, highlights the findings of two recent surveys (Dublin Employment Pact survey and the Clancy Report, see end of article) that show the level of exploitation of young people.

        The minimum wage of €5.97 has, in effect, legalised low pay for young workers. The government and the main establishment parties heralded the introduction of the minimum wage as the final nail in the coffin of exploitation - what do they take us for?

        In the north, the situation is just as bad. The New Labour government of "Tory" Blair has, like its counterparts in the south, enshrined exploitation and low pay in the introduction of the minimum wage of £4.10 an hour (only if you're over 21). Even the new chair of the Low Pay Commission claimed that he "couldn't possibly envisage" living on the minimum wage. What about all the young people who are exempted from this because they are too young or not as "productive" as other workers?

        However, the scandal is not confined to the miserable rates of pay, but also the way young workers are treated in general. Simon, a 17 year old from Belfast, told the SY Voice how he was fired: "I took a day's sick leave to get boots for the gardening job I was doing because I couldn't walk due to the blisters on my feet. When I called in sick, they said don't come back and they didn't even have to give me the pay I was owed!"

        Katherine from Lisburn described how she was fired from a major sports store outlet: "They fired all the staff that would have turned 18 during the next year and kept on all the staff that were 16 and 17. It was a blatant way of getting around paying us the minimum wage."

        It is absolutely clear that all the main parties, north and south, will not address this issue. These parties have been shown to be inextricably linked to big business. What is needed is a fighting movement of young people to campaign in the interests of young people.

        Socialist Youth stands for trade union rights for all workers and for the trade union movement to launch a campaign to recruit the thousands of young workers throughout the country. In the south, we demand €9 an hour minimum wage and in the north we demand £6 an hour rate to wipe out youth exploitation and low pay.

The Facts:

  • 20% of students from working class areas were working more than 24 hours per week during the Leaving Cert.

  • 78% of students were working up to 12 hours per week.

  • Average student wages range from €5 to €6.35 an hour.

  • 77% of students from the well-to-do Foxrock/Glencullen area go on to third level education, compared to 8% from the Dublin 17 areas of Priorswood/Darndale.


Oppose Racist EU Immigration Laws.

While EU leaders attending the June summit in Seville were wined and dined by the Spanish Royal family, 500 refugees and asylum seekers went on hunger strike to protest against the murderous policy of "Fortress Europe".

By Susan Fitzgerald

        Nine months ago, the bodies of eight asylum seekers were found in the back of a cargo container in Wexford. Traffickers may have physically sealed up the container in which the eight suffocated, but the Irish government, who reject over 92% of asylum applications, through their policies just as surely sealed their fate. Since 1993 over 2,000 people have died as a result of "Fortress Europe". Virtually all legal avenues of immigration have been cut off. Ten Years ago 90% of all immigration into the EU was legal, now that figure is nearer 10%. Despite this, people are and will continue to risk their lives in order to flee conflict, poverty and persecution.

        Regardless of this, at the EU Summit, Ireland, Britain, Spain and Italy pushed for sanctions against countries or origin of "illegal" immigrants. This effectively would mean penalising, by refusing aid or trade, some of the world's poorest nations. It would also mean that countries with repressive regimes would actually increase repression on those who try to flee.

        The rich countries of Europe have engaged in decades of exploitation and robbery of the resources and people of the ex-colonial world. This is called £enterprise" and the "free flow" of capital. Simultaneously they militarised the borders to ensure there is no similar "free flow" of people, poor people that is.

        Nobody takes the decision to leave his or her home, their family, culture etc. lightly, despite what the more nauseating tabloids and many racist politicians maintain. A recent EU study confirmed that the main reason refugees seek asylum is not for what they can get in the country they seek refuge in, but the unbearable situation in their countries of origin. Nobody should have to leave their home due to war or poverty or repression, but for many, under capitalism, this is inevitable.

        Socialist Youth fight to defend the right to asylum. We campaign for refugees to be allowed enter legally and not be treated like criminals. We campaign for the right to work and the right to education for refugees and asylum seekers. In doing so, we fight for decent wages and conditions for all, regardless of nationality. We call for a massive housing programme to accommodate people currently on the waiting list along with refugees and asylum seekers.

        All these issues are very important and can literally mean the difference between life and death. But ultimately, we need to change the way society is run. Mass migrations caused by wars, environmental disasters and poverty expose the inability of capitalism when it comes to providing even the most basic needs of most people in the world. We argue for socialism, where the needs of society can be planned democratically and where exploitation no longer exists. This can be achieved through working class control and management of societies resources. Only such a society would enable people to move around the world by choice, not because circumstances force them to.


State Racism: The Reality

        European governments are currently brokering a deal with the Ghanaian government to allow illegal immigrants of any nationality to be "repatriated" to its detention centre.

        The reality of what this means was recently exposed when a camera crew interviewed people inside the centre and found that for many of them this was their first experience of Africa! Amongst many others, there was a Jamaican national who had served in a US army camp in Germany, deported after a late night out, and a person from Guadeloupe, a French colony in the Caribbean Sea, who possessed a FENCH passport. It doesn't matter as long as you are black.

        European immigration has decided where your real home is; in a west African ex-military dictatorship (supported by British arms trade) with a human rights record that includes no freedom of the press, no political opposition and a widespread tradition of female genital mutilation. European immigration policies racist? Of course not!

At Least the Stormont Gravy Train is Still Running

        The politicians in Stormont are certainly doing well for themselves. A staggering £4 million in expenses were handed out to MLAs for the 2000/2001 year alone. In just three years, over £10 million has been spent on MLAs' expenses.

By Gary Mulcahy

        Some of the expenses beggar belief. Michelle Gildernew received an incredible £14,769 in travel expenses alone; Ian Paisley must also travel in style: he received £14,218, presumably to get him from his North Antrim constituency to Stormont. The majority of MLAs received around £34,000 in expenses.

        True, the red-faced politicians voted to forgo another pay rise, but in doing so, they decided to give themselves more money by the back door. They voted to increase their allowances by £12,000!

        While the MLAs think nothing of spending thousands entertaining themselves at Eagles' concerts, family and childcare workers have been forced to take strike action to pressurise them to come up with the money to fund these essential services.

Why I Joined:

"Before I joined I had been looking for a party that would incorporate my own beliefs and also give me a strong allied voice."

        "The Troubles have been fuelled by the main sectarian parties on either side, and as a result I, as well as growing numbers of young people all over the north, have been attracted to the real fight against sectarianism. Double-edged capitalist policies have been the catalyst for extended violence and fear across the divide, and I will unite with any party that I believe actually promotes the idea of peace in Northern Ireland seriously, and not as a smokescreen. Socialist Youth provides this alternative, and relies on the truth rather than unscrupulous propaganda and political spin. I am proud to be part of a growing youth movement that genuinely works towards the interests of young people, and the people only."

- Chris Henry

"A few years ago, I started really noticing the growing gap between rich and poor in Irish society."

        "I wanted to make a difference, but I didn't really know of an alternative at that stage. I then gradually became interested in anti-capitalism and socialist ideas, and began reading books and pamphlets by different groups. After being involved in a few anti-globalisation protests, I saw that Socialist Youth was the only group to offer a socialist alternative to the big business EU. I first considered joining Socialist Youth because it was the biggest and most prominent socialist youth organisation around. I then joined, because after reading the Socialist Youth manifesto, and talking to their members, I realised that they, like me, stood for a fairer society, where people's needs are more important that corporate profit."

- Stephen Murphy


Fight the System: Join Socialist Youth

        We live in a world where the richest 1% own more wealth than the bottom 90%, where one in five children do not have enough to eat while the richest 225 people have a combined wealth of over $1000 billion. Welcome to the system that puts profits before people and greed before need - welcome to capitalism.

        It is part of the madness of the capitalist system that the world was recently brought to the brink of nuclear war by two states fighting desperately for control of a small area of land called Kashmir. Equally, the inability of capitalism to accommodate people with different national aspirations is seen in Israel/Palestine where the US capitalist establishment encouraged the Israeli re-occupation of the West Bank and the massacre of thousands of innocent Palestinians.

        But young people are fighting back. In June, 300,000 people, mainly youth, marched in the Spanish city of Seville. This was just the latest in a series of mass demonstrations that have made the names Seattle, Gothenburg and Genoa symbolic of resistance.

        The only real alternative to the madness of the capitalist system is democratic socialism. This is a world where our resources are used, not for enhancing the profit of big business, but for human needs. A world where the ending of sectarianism and racism will be possible, because the "divide and rule" tactics of the current ruling class will no longer be necessary.

        If you believe in the creation of this kind of society, you should join Socialist Youth. We have proved ourselves to be the best fighters for real revolutionary change in Ireland. In the south, we have campaigned vigorously against the growth of racism in Irish society, played a leading role in the anti-war movement, as well as being the only group to offer a real alternative in the anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist movement.

        In the north, we are the only youth group to fight actively against sectarianism, as well as naming and shaming those bosses guilty of low pay and extreme exploitation of their young workers. We are also playing an active role in the ongoing campaign for a skate park in Lisburn.

        But the key point is that not only do we campaign on all of these issues, but also challenge the root cause of all these problems - capitalism. We always point out the true reason for these problems in our leaflets, and explain that a permanent solution is only possible under democratic socialism.

        What you can do to help in the fight for a better future is simple - join Socialist Youth and International Socialist Resistance (ISR). The most important thing for revolutionary organisations, apart from our ideas, is our members. Without members, we are nothing. With members, we are everything and will be able to overthrow the dictatorship of big business worldwide and replace it with a democratic socialist society.

        The time for sitting around moaning about the problems that capitalism creates is past, now is the time for action. Socialist Youth and ISR have identified the problems, and we offer a clear alternative to capitalism. If you agree with us, it is absolutely crucial that you join today. Your membership, your effort in building a challenge to the capitalist system, could be the difference between victory for those who stand for a truly democratic, socialist society, and the continued rule of those who currently run the world for profit and not for human need.