Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dr Ang Swee Chai speaks in Lewisham

 by New Worker Correspondent

Londoners turned up in droves last week to hear Dr Ang Swee Chai talk about her medical efforts and solidarity work that has made her a household name amongst the Palestinian community.
            Lewisham Town Hall’s council chamber was packed to hear her speak, at a fund-raising evening for Medical Aid for Palestine, about her decision, over 30 years ago, to use her skills to help the Palestinian Arabs and her own realisation that the Israelis were not the “good guys” in the Middle East.
Ang Swee Chai (far right) with supporters and Sir Steve Bullock
In 1987 the Palestinian leader,Yasser Arafat presented Dr Ang Swee Chai with  the Star of Palestine, the highest award for service to the Palestinian people.
            But it all began in 1982 when the Singaporean surgeon decided to leave London to help Christian Aid in a Palestinian refugee camp in war-torn Beirut.
The continuous attacks on the camp by the Israelis soon changed her naïve perception that the Israelis were simply defending themselves from Palestinian terrorism.
Later she was a witness of the terrible massacres at the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps, where some of her former patients were slaughtered.
Shortly after the young doctor came back to Britain for a while and spent her time campaigning for an end to the violence and played a role in setting up the charity Medical Aid for Palestine.
Then she went back to work in Palestine and was still working there until last summer and the most recent bombardment of Gaza by the Israelis, killing 2,131 Palestinians, including more than 500 children.
Dr Ang Swee Chai was arrested while travelling by the Israelis and held for two days and she is now banned by the Zionist authorities from returning to Palestine.
But, she reassured her audience: “There are many more doctors and health workers ready to take my place.”
Now her work is raising funds to help them deliver health care to Palestinians.
The photos she showed as she recounted her work in Lebanon and Gaza showed a story of repeated horror, bombardment, restriction and oppression that help the audience silent throughout.
“But,” Dr Ang Swee Chai added, “The children there are amazing. In spite of everything they are so full of life and fun and resistance. They are the future that ensures Palestine will never die.”
She went on to give figures that show both inside Palestine and as refugees throughout the world waiting for their right to return, the population of Palestine is now more than double what it was in 1948.
The meeting was also addressed briefly by Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock.
The Al Zaytouna Palestinian dance troupe, based in London, gave an energetic display of traditional Palestinian dances and Reem Kelani, a Palestinian singer, sang.  
Before the meeting local members of Palestine Solidarity, CND and Stop the War had laid on a magnificent spread of Middle Eastern food for all those attending.

Protest as vultures gather over Ukraine

By New Worker correspondent

ANTI-FASCISTS braved the biting early morning wind along the Albert Embankment at Vauxhall last Tuesday to protest at the wholesale privatisation of Ukrainian state property and other austerity measures imposed by the IMF and the EU and implemented by the new  Poroshenko-Yatseniuk regime.

Members and supporters of Solidarity with Anti-fascist Resistance in Ukraine (SARU) assembled outside the Park Plaza between Lambeth and Vauxhall where the Kiev regime had invited the capitalist fat cats of the world to a London “Investment Summit” to carve up the assets of the Ukrainian people for privatisation and plunder.
Ukrainian acting Prime Minister Tatseniuk recently said:  “We will announce the most ambitious privatisation programme for 20 years,” and the Kiev regime has promised it would “consider a draft law on the list of objects that are not subject to privatisation”.
Entry fees for the two-day businessfest were $2,550 (£1,628). According to the organisers the “Ukrainian Investment Summit is a common convergence point for current and potential investors from across the world. The conference opens the doors to collaborate with key government officials, major international investors and the top Ukrainian corporate.
“The Ukrainian Investment Summit also enables attendees to get the most up-to-date business information on Europe’s largest emerging economy. The conference stands out as an important meeting point for investment sector professionals as it is held at the most suitable time to appraise market performances and assess whether the reform processes implemented are on the right track.
“The summit is thus not just a business meet but also a discussion forum for key regulations that have the potential of impacting the global economy.”
Later that day at the same venue Ukraine Today, the newly-launched the first 24/7 global English-language TV broadcaster from Ukraine, hosted a gala evening for the fat cats.
The previous evening, 8th December, saw a wine and cognac reception at the Thames Pavilion, Palace of Westminster (House of Commons) hosted by  Tory MP John Whittingdale, who chairs the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group and supported by Adam Smith Conferences.

Kim Jong Il – a guardian of socialism

by New Worker correspondent
Yongho Thae, Michael Chant, Andy Brooks and Dermot Hudson

Friends of Korea met at the John Buckle Centre in London last week for the launch of a special publication to commemorate the third anniversary of the passing of Kim Jong Il and the dear leader’s immense contribution to the Korean communist movement.
            Leading members of the Friends of Korea committee including New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks, Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) general secretary Michael Chant and Dermot Hudson from the Korean Friendship Association all spoke on different aspects of Kim Jong Il’s outstanding contribution to the world communist movement. From Korea Yongho Thae from the London embassy of the DPR Korea talked about Kim Jong Il’s life-long work for the Workers Party of Korea and the Korean people.
            Then everyone rose to toast the memory of Kim Jong Il and launch the Friends of Korea committee’s first publication which was specially produced to mark the passing of the Korean leader who died at his post on 17th December 2011.
            Kim Jong Il, A Guardian of Socialism is a full colour magazine that contains a selection of articles by Andy Brooks, Michael Chant and Dermot Hudson about the life of the leader of the Workers Party of Korea as well a short biography and an introduction to the work of the committee..
                        In Britain the Committee to Commemorate Comrade Kim Jong Il was established last month  as part of a series of memorial events that have taken place in Korea and throughout the world and will continue until 17th December. The committee included the NCP, RCPB(ML), Socialist Labour Party, European Regional Society for the Study of the Juché Idea, UK Korean Friendship Association and the Society for Friendship with Korea (Northern Region).
             The events included the holding of a joint seminar called by the NCP and the Juché Idea Study Group on Juché and Songun politics that are the basis of Korean-style socialism while Dermot Hudson of the KFA took part, via Skype, in an international seminar organised by the International Committee for the Study of Songun Politics that also heard Skypelink contributions from Nepal, Singapore and India.
It also included the publication of Respecting the Forerunners of the Revolution is a Noble Moral Obligation of Revolutionaries – a keynote work by Kim Jong Il written in 1995 --  Kim Jong Il, A Guardian of Socialism and  a special issue of Independence Star, the journal of the Juche Idea Study Group of England.
A Friends of Korea meeting to recall Kim Jong Il’s immortal works and life took place on Sunday at Marx House in London and the month-long series of tributes ends with a formal ceremony at the DPR Korean embassy in London.
The Co-ordinating Committee of the Friends of Korea, which brings together all the major movements active in Korean friendship and solidarity work in Britain today.  It is chaired by Andy Brooks and the secretary is Michael Chant.  The committee organises meetings throughout the year, which are publicised by the supporting movements and on the Friends of Korea blog.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Anti-fascists block Golden Dawn supporters

by New Worker correspondent

ANTI-fascists gathered in Holland Park opposite London’s Greek embassy last Saturday to anticipate and oppose a demonstration by an assortment of English, Polish and Greek fascists in support of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.
Golden Dawn is the third largest party in the Greek Parliament. Around 50 of its leading members, including MPs, are currently awaiting trial in Athens for a series of crimes outlined in a 700-page document prepared by a Greek Public Prosecutor.
These crimes include murders, weapon offences, violent attacks on immigrants and others, and the use of a party structure as a political front for the operation of a criminal organisation.
The Greek government turned a blind eye to Golden Dawn violence, attacks on immigrants and against communists and other left-wing and trade union activists. The fascists acted to intimidate resistance to the extreme austerity programme forced on the Greek people by the European Union and the IMF – and to try to divert the blame on to immigrants.
But Golden Dawn’s extreme violence eventually forced the Greek government into a clamp down when supporters murdered anti-fascist Greek rapper Pavlos Fysass in September 2013, causing international outrage.
Petros Constantinou, a prominent member of the anti-fascist Antarsya whose supporters have been widely targeted by the extremists said:
““This is an extremely important development and no time should now be wasted in holding this trial and putting these criminals away for life,” Their murderous tactics have been tolerated for far too long.”
Last Saturday a rag-bag of British fascists, former and current members of the British National Party, National Front, English Defence League, Britain First and others joined forces with a handful of Polish fascists and an even smaller group of Greek fascists to stage a protest in sympathy with their colleagues awaiting trial in Athens.
But anti-fascists arrived an hour before the fascists were due to occupy the spot opposite the Greek embassy. After a long wait the anti-fascists were joined by a large group of young Antifa supporters who arrived running, with news that the fascists were on their way.
Police were forced to act fast and threw a cordon across the road to prevent the Antifa youngsters making contact with the fascists.
The fascists’ arrival was further delayed while police hummed and harred and decided to further block the road with two police vans so that the fascists and anti-fascists could not directly see each other.
Then the fascists – between 30 and 40 of them – arrived with banners and shouting slogans in support of Golden Dawn.
There was an exchange of slogans and chants delivered by megaphone. The anti-fascists consistently outnumbered and out-shouted the fascists.
After a while the fascists decided to give up and withdrew the way they came, heavily escorted by police while the anti-fascists cheered their departure.

London news round-up

Petition to rescue Imperial War Museum library petition

THE CIVIL service union Prospect has launched a petition to save the library of the Imperial War Museum, which is under threat from cuts in Government spending.
The library, which acquired its first item in 1917, is part of the museum that reopened in July 2014 after a £40 million refurbishment.
At the champagne reception in July to unveil the new galleries, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “When I launched our plans for the First World War centenary, I said the renovated IWM London would be the centrepiece of our commemorations – and what a fitting centrepiece it is.
“This wonderful museum succeeds in making this war relevant 100 years on – a national focal point in which we can all take pride and which connects the past with the present to ensure we never forget those who lost their lives to secure our freedom.”
But members of Prospect claim a £4 million cut in annual funding from the Government has left the institution facing the closure of the library and the loss of between 60 and 80 jobs.

Northern Line action rock solid

MICK CASH, general secretary of the transport union RMT, last Monday commended his members employed on the London Underground Northern Line over victimisation of a union activist.
He said: "Our members are standing rock solid, shoulder to shoulder with their victimised colleague and as we have said all along the union is determined to secure a just and fair outcome to this dispute.
Once again the TFL advice to the public is contradictory and dangerous. On their website they are advising people to re-plan their journeys and yet media outlets like the BBC are recycling the propaganda that there is a normal service.
That is clearly nonsense as special bus services are being set up in a desperate bid to ease the pressure.
This kind of misleading spin simply sends people down into deep tube stations that are already dangerously overcrowded. It's time to stop the propaganda and restart serious and meaningful talks. "

London’s killer pollution

AROUND 60,000 people may be dying prematurely every year as a result of air pollution caused by "dirty diesel", according to a panel of scientific experts quoted in the [Sunday Times].
The Government's scientific advisory body, the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants obtained the shocking figures by analysing the impact of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is mainly emitted by diesel engines.
Some 29,000 people are believed to die prematurely as a result of air pollution in Britain, but this excludes deaths as a result of diesel emissions. If diesel-related deaths are taken into account, the percentage of early deaths as a result of air pollution would rise from between five per cent and 9 nine per cent to between 10 per cent and 18 per cent.
Professor of Environmental Health Frank Kelly, who heads the King's College-based research group, says worst affected by NO2 are those in the inner cities who suffer from health problems such as lung disease, asthma and heart problems.
"Since more than 60 per cent of the population live in urban areas, where pollution is the highest, and they are breathing polluted air over decades, the additional small risk accumulates to these distressing figures," said Kelly. London is the worst-affected of all areas in Britain.
In a recent report published on behalf of Mayor Boris Johnson, it was claimed NO2 kills around 2,600 people in the capital every year. Johnson was forced to make an embarrassing U-turn earlier this year when he disputed a presentation by the King's College team that London's Oxford Street was one of the most polluted streets in the world.
On reading the findings Johnson tweeted: "Bollocks: ludicrous urban myth. London air quality better than Paris and many other Euro cities- and go to Beijing or Mexico City."
But following an exchange of letters with the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) of MPs Johnson backtracked writing: "We are not disputing King's college data, but rather only asking only that in future more rigour will be applied to public statements."
Joan Walley, who chairs the Environmental audit committee, says if the findings on diesel are correct "the problem of air pollution could be on a par with smoking in terms of lives lost".
Campaign group Clean Air in London is calling for diesel to be banned from the busiest parts of cities in the same way coal was banned some 60 years ago as a result of the Great Smog of 1952, which is believed to have caused the death of between 4,000 and 12,000 people.

New Era tenants march to save their homes

HUNDREDS of tenants living on the New Era estate in Hackney, east London, last Monday rallied in Berkeley Square outside the London offices of the American-owned company that is threatening to evict them and then marched to Downing Street to demand
The estate was built in the 1930s by a philanthropist to provide affordable homes for London workers but the bubble in housing prices in Britain but especially in London has seen the value of their flats rocket.
The estate was sold last March by a consortium of charities and private investors to Westbrook Partners, based in New York, who want to raise rents to the “market value” – three times what the tenants currently pay and well over the threshold that would be covered by housing benefit.
Ninety-three families now face eviction because they will not be able to afford the new rents. Many have lived there all their lives and they include elderly people, disabled individuals, single parents and NHS workers. They have accused the investors of “social cleansing”.

"It's social cleansing," said Lindsey Garrett, a health care coordinator with the National Health Service. "It's forcing ordinary working-class people out of London. It's wrong."

Meanwhile Mark Donner, the managing principal of the London office of Westbrook partners, has just bought himself a 12-bedroom mansion in south-east England. The grade II-listed mansion has a lawn tennis court, swimming pool, sauna, gymnasium and butler’s quarters.
Westbrook has also registered its ownership of the estate offshore in the Channel Islands to avoid paying corporation tax in Britain.
Company records show that when Westbrook executives took control of the UK-registered firm which owns the estate, all the shares were transferred to a Jersey-registered firm, at the St Helier offices of Volaw, a firm specialising in structured finance vehicles in the tax haven. Further tax on dividends from the investment could also be avoided if they were taken by the Jersey entity.
Parents, children and grandparents travelled across the capital on buses to the Westbrook Partners HQ in Mayfair amid growing political support for their cause and a new agreement by the property company not to change tenancy agreements or increase rents before July 2015.
Russell Brand, the comedian and political activist, Diane Abbott MP and the leaders of the tenants’ group led the protest and the march to Downing Street to present a 280,000-signature petition to the Prime Minister.
The shadow minister for London, Sadiq Khan, called on Westbrook to scrap its plans to evict 93 families from the east London estate and instead sell the homes to a social landlord that can keep the community together.
Speaking ahead of the protest Sadiq Khan told the [Guardian]: “The shameful New Era saga embodies everything that is wrong with London’s broken housing market.”
The company has a long history of buying up working class estates and evicting low-paid tenants in New York. Last week, Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York – where Westbrook is based – spoke out against the firm.
“Congratulations. London is experiencing what New York City used to experience,” he told Russell Brand in an interview broadcast on the comedian’s Trews show on YouTube.
“Our city government found a huge number of violations of our law by Westbrook for unfair treatment of tenants and attempts to interfere with tenants who organised for their own rights. I can’t tell you that what you are experiencing is news to us … Sometimes it is fair to say there is a limit to the amount of profit you should make, because you shouldn’t want to dislocate people from their lives.”
In April, Eric Schneiderman, the state attorney general, ordered Westbrook and other private equity owners of series of housing complexes to pay back $1m (£650,000) in rent to 1,700 tenants and make urgent repairs.
It followed residents’ complaints about “dangerous” conditions at the blocks and allegations that the owners’ management company, Colonial Management, blocked tenants and housing activists from organising and used intimidation tactics to break up peaceful meetings.
Pressure is now growing on the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, to act to protect the New Era tenants.
Support for the campaign to defend New Era estate has been widening in recent days and backers include the children’s author Michael Rosen and the comedian Mark Thomas.