In response to Simon Pirani’s furious reply (Letters, July 28), ostensibly to my article on the Durham Miners’ Gala, let me make the following clear.

Simon’s counterattack is made, wrongly, against the editors of the Weekly Worker, in that he says they made some “inflammatory” claim against him. Either he hasn’t actually seen the article (‘Past and present’, July 14), or he thinks I am an editor of the paper. The editors of the paper made no such attack on him or anyone else and certainly not in the article I wrote. I wrote it as a person quite independent from either the editorial or the CPGB or the paper as such. I do not speak for the Weekly Worker, as they will readily tell you, and they do not and did not speak for me.

So it comes down to the nature of what I said and what the article I was critical of said. I’m not going to plod through Simon’s article line by line, it runs from pages 38 to 43 in the Durham Miners’ Gala brochure. In it the case is made that Ukraine was an innocent party in a sudden and unwarranted attack upon it by Russia: “Factcheck: Russia’s war aims. Is Russia resisting Nato expansion? No.” I see now that the ‘Factcheck’ piece is not actually part of Simon’s article, although that was by no means made clear. It appears directly after his article and is an anonymous comment made by someone else. Page 43 follows directly on Simon’s piece on page 42 and is not credited. It now seems clear that he was not responsible for the ‘Factcheck’ follow up, which looks like a summary of his article - in which case, Simon, you have my sincere apologies: that was the way I read it. I accept that was a misinterpretation.

On the subject of the Donbas miners themselves: yes, it is true that the National Union of Mineworkers, such as it is today, did make a political decision to support one side in the war. Miners, of course, form the bedrock and support for the anti-2014 coup militia, while the miners’ leadership, under Sergey Yunak, supported the coup, as did a section of the Donbas miners. Mines on the pro-Russian side have been hit, as have those on the anti-Russian side; miners on both sides have been killed. I strongly disagreed, and continue to disagree, with taking a side in this war.

The ‘Factcheck’ summary which follows Simon’s article is, in my view, pro-Nato and therefore pro Nato’s ambition to break up Russia in preparation for the forthcoming global conflict with China. In my view that section is indeed pro-imperialist. But if Simon is not responsible for that piece, then my understanding of his actual article was in error. I accept his piece couldn’t be called pro-imperialist or pro-Nato, and I apologise for this misreading of his article and for attributing the offending follow-up piece to him.

I did not impute anything in particular to Dave Temple, the man usually responsible for the brochure, other than to congratulate him on its excellent production, with the exception of that ‘Factcheck’ piece, which I strongly disagree with.

As to Bruno Kretzschmar’s criticism (Letters, July 28) of my failures, well, you’re right, mate: neither me nor the working class in general is ready to abandon the transcendent demands for progress, which require actual material substances like steel and concrete and the means by which to produce them. Half of India’s population live without electricity, often on earth floors using camel dung to heat a pot to cook the family’s food. The demand for India’s vast reserves of coal and clean coal power to bring electricity and clean water and hygiene, sanitation, a higher income, longer life and reduced child mortality could be seen as a demand ‘for growth’, but only a person who fails to see the working class in the class struggle could possibly criticise that.

My daughter was 16 before we got our first inside toilet - transcendent demands like that, particularly in the winter, tend to focus your attention. Material progress certainly isn’t all we want, but, by god, a decent standard of life and place to live and grow is certainly a good start. The industrial capacity, technology and the means to bring everyone in the world up to a standard of living considered quite normal across the world is no acceptance of ‘capitalism’. Capitalism is the obstacle to us achieving higher human relationships and experiences, but we do actually need material improvements and progress along the way.

David John Douglass
South Shields

Another wedge

Comrades on the Labour left will be aware that voting in the current national executive committee election has been delayed. It should have begun on July 25, but due to ‘IT problems’ the ballot emails will now be sent out on August 3 at the earliest. Labour’s record with information technology is not good!

Those who are members of Momentum and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy will also have noticed that all is not well with the left slate. Whilst the CLPD and most other covens within the Centre Left Grassroots Alliance are backing the ‘Grassroots 5’, Momentum was only able to back the ‘Grassroots Voice 4’. It seems the legacy of Zionism from the days when Jon Lansman ruled the roost meant that Momentum refused to endorse Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who is well known for her role as media officer for Jewish Voice for Labour and a firm opponent of the witch-hunt.

Things changed when Momentum’s new national coordinating committee met for the first time following its own elections: the full slate of five were endorsed. However, it didn’t last long. Within days an emergency meeting of the NCG was called to withdraw the endorsement and revert to the ‘Grassroots Voice 4’.

The reason for the reversal: there was some doubt (apparently unfounded) about Naomi’s commitment to trans rights, so Momentum sought a clear statement from her, backing “the rights of trans people to self-identify their gender”. When this was not forthcoming (for reasons of protocol rather than politics), it was assumed that Naomi was sufficiently anti-trans to require her removal from the slate. Just as Momentum joined in the witch-hunt of the Labour left over fake charges of anti-Semitism, now we see the same organisation using the ‘trans self-identity’ wedge as a weapon to attack its opponents on the left.

I should add that ordinary members of Momentum will be blissfully unaware of these goings-on - the web page that contains links to NCG minutes has not been updated since June 4, and the explanation of the above decisions was only supplied to ‘certain key activists’. All the rank and file got was an email introducing the new co-chairs, Hilary Schan and Kate Dove, and the now obligatory plea to up their direct debit payments.

Momentum is not alone in elevating the trans issue to the top of the ‘good socialist’ check list. Another of the CLGA-backed candidates, Jessica Barnard, has just co-authored a blog article on the Tribune website, entitled ‘Labour must fight for trans liberation’. I will leave it to others to provide a full assessment, but I agree with those who say this is a complex, nuanced subject that requires extended reflection and respectful debate. So praising one side as the ‘liberators’, while branding the others as ‘authoritarians’, does not help. Worst of all, though, is the implied call for Labour to turn its disciplinary guns on those who’ve been the subject of a ‘complaint’ on this issue. It seems Barnard wants to initiate a whole new purge in the party - this time targeting all those who dare to speak out against ‘trans self-identity’.

Back to the NEC elections. Labour Party Marxists are calling for the left to vote for the full ‘Grassroots 5’ slate: Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, Yasmine Dar, Gemma Bolton, Mish Rahman and Jessica Barnard. Please use the postcode tool on the CLPD website to find the preference order for where you live. As ever, our support does not exclude criticism, but we recognise that the left has suffered a huge defeat in recent years, and these candidates can garner enough support to get elected and speak out against the right majority on the NEC.

Clive Dean


The newly-released groundbreaking film, Good luck to you, Leo Grande, is a powerful antidote to the militant feminism that is spreading like wildfire across the UK. This is working with Labour councils as far apart as Bristol, Leeds and Edinburgh, in order to close down sex venues, especially strip clubs.

The film stars Emma Thompson as Nancy Stokes, a former religious education teacher, who hires a sex worker, Leo Grande, played by Daryl McCormack. As Nancy Stokes embarks on a post-marital sexual awakening and Leo Grande draws on his skills and charm, together they find a surprising human connection.

Women paying for sex is the last taboo. Good luck to you, Leo Grande shows men how women like to be treated. With the number of reported rapes topping 65,000 each year, but only three percent going to court, a new way of reducing this high number of rapes is desperately needed. That means the introduction of healthy sexual relationship lessons as part of community and social studies in schools (which include the importance of a woman’s clitoris, when it comes to men’s love-making, as in the film).

It also means the legalisation of licensed brothels, similar to Australia. This goes one step further than the decriminalisation of prostitution advocated by independent sex workers, who see licensed brothels as a form of competition. All men should have their first sexual experience with an escort - a polite term for a prostitute. By doing so, men would learn how to respect and treat women (in Australia a session in a brothel is often given to men as an 18th birthday present.)

Good luck to you, Leo Grande - now on general release in cinemas and also available for streaming via the Hulu website.

John Smithee

Bargain travel

The UK has some of the highest train fares in Europe. Bus fares, even for short journeys are inordinately expensive. Often the cheapest way to travel is still by private car or by flying.

In Europe governments are slashing the cost of public transport. They believe this will relieve the financial pressure on households, whilst also helping get the economy moving and cutting carbon emissions. In Spain, for instance, a new trial that started this month sees free passenger travel on many inter-city routes. The policy costs €7 billion euros (£5.9 billion) and it is being paid for through a windfall tax on banks and energy companies. In Germany and Austria also there has been radical action to cut the cost of bus and rail travel.

In the UK, meanwhile, transport is the largest greenhouse gas emitter. Most of the impact comes from private car use. When Rishi Sunak cut fuel duty by 5p a litre in the spring statement, it cost the treasury £2.4 billion. A further 20p cut, which some Tories have proposed, would cost a further £10 billion. Passenger revenue from public transport is about £17 billion annually, so spending the £10 billion on cutting fares would mean bargain (or even free) travel for millions.

Alan Stewart