Friday, December 30, 2005




HAPPY NEW YEAR!

For Peace and Socialism!


London District
New Communist Party of Britain

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Londoners protest against global warming

by Renee Sams

THE FIRST world-wide day of action to put pressure on the international climate change negotiating summit taking place in Montreal, the most important since the Kyoto Protocols eight years ago, saw demonstrations taking place in 30 countries last week-end.
In London around 10,000 people marched from Lincoln’s Inn Fields to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square with banners from UNISON, the NUJ Magazine Branch, Green Party, Respect and CND, and the demonstration was enlivened by the group of drummers from Globalise Resistance.
The march was organised by the Campaign for Climate Change and supported by the Green Party, People and Planet, Green peace, Friends of the Earth, and the Christian Ecology Link.
Many demonstrators carried placards calling Blair and Bush “climate criminals” and the march took a short diversion to deliver a letter calling on Prime Minister Blair, who put climate change a top priority at the Gleneagles Summit, to reaffirm his commitment to a new international agreement treaty with legally binding targets.
It also called for more to be done to cut pollution from carbon dioxide emissions in this country which have risen in this country since 1997 although the in its election pledges the government promised to cut them by 20 per cent by 2010
Friends of the Earth Nick Rau, energy campaigner said, “If the UK is serious about leadership on climate change then our Government needs to take action at home. It is not too late.”
In Montreal there was a big demonstration and five environmental groups delivered a petition signed by 600,000 Americans to the US Consulate calling on the Bush administration to take action to slow global warming.
Supporting the action was a delegation from the Inuit people from the Arctic Circle where the ice and permafrost is already melting and destroying the homes and livelihoods of whole communities.
Also joining in the worldwide protest were the people of New Orleans suffering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina held a Stop the Global Warming Party. This marks a major change in the United States where the number of people telling the opinion polls that they now believe that something must be done immediately to avert the threat.
There is now a broad agreement among scientists that the greenhouse gases will have to be reduced by some 80 per cent by 2050 if there is to be any hope of preventing climate change escalating out of control.
But Stavros Dimas, the EU environmental commission admitted that little will be achieved in Montreal but they hope that they will be able “to get an agreement to start negotiations”. Margaret Beckett, Secretary of Sate for the Environment was even less helpful only hoping that, “we can move forward instead of setting some arbitrary goal that cannot possible be achieved.”
In the developing countries they are already doing all they can to cut domestic pollution and develop renewable energy and are prepared to “play their part” in efforts to prevent an environmental catastrophe.
But the largest problem is still the White House, the biggest producers of polluting gases where President Bush, despite the shock of Hurricane Katrina is still adamant and refusing to join the other countries of the world in overcoming what is fast becoming the most urgent issue of saving the planet.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Defending rail safety regulations

by Rob Laurie

AROUND 300 protesters gathered at King’s Cross tube station last Saturday in a demonstration organised by the Fire Brigades Union against plans to downgrade safety regulations on the Underground.
Eighteen years have passed since the 1987 fire at London’s King’s Cross tube station killed 31 people, when rubbish in an ill-maintained escalator caught fire. In the aftermath of that tragedy the judicial inquiry chaired by Desmond Fennel recommended strict new safety rules on underground railways which were adopted and are in force to this day.
These regulations are now under threat thanks to changes planned by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister which are due to be introduced next year. Instead of the existing regulations they will be replaced by laxer rules allowing individual risk assessments of each station. As maintenance of the Underground is now in private hands, inspectors will be under commercial pressure to cut costs.
Local Labour MP Frank Dobson opened the proceedings by regretting the necessity for calling such a rally. Two other Labour MPs spoke: Jeremy Corbyn from the neighbouring Islington constituency urged the audience to keep up pressure on their MPs on the issue, while John McDonnell of the Labour Representation Committee denounced the rule changes as an unacceptable attack on the safety of Londoners.
Keith Norman, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, claimed that the proposed changes are an invitation to operators to cut corners in the interest of the commercial companies now responsible for maintaining the track and stations.
The general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack, recalled attending the funeral of Colin Townsend the fireman killed that night 18 years ago.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, concluded the rally by attacking Government plans to run the new rules in tandem with the old for six months in order to avoid them coming into force before the local elections next May.
He promised that any threats of a reduction in safety would be met by a huge ballot in favour of industrial action.

Gate Gourmet workers still barred

ALMOST two months after unions and management at Gate Gourmet signed an agreement, officially ending the long dispute, hundreds of workers are still picketing outside the factory gates, waiting to get their jobs back.
The dispute brought chaos to British Airways at the height of the holiday season last August when BA baggage handlers walked out spontaneously in solidarity with workers sacked by the Heathrow catering company Gate Gourmet.
The Gate Gourmet workers had been sacked after some of them walked out when the company brought in low-paid temporary staff at the same time they were negotiating redundancies.
The whole thing was a provocation to allow Gate Gourmet to sack its entire workforce and replace them with lower paid workers – without having to pay any redundancy packages.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union played a leading role in negotiating to get the baggage handlers back to work and in getting a deal with Gate Gourmet that would reinstate most of the workforce reinstated with acceptable redundancy packages for the rest in a deal agreed in early October.
Gate Gourmet refused to take back some active trade unionists. But last week Parmjit Kaur, a worker still waiting to get her job back, declared: “It’s not over. People think it is over but we are still picketing, we are still out of work, we come here, we put up a tent every day".
Kaur worked as a tray setter for Gate Gourmet for 11 years. She says: “It’s very hard. All I want to do is work but I’m not allowed to. I am not on strike; I am fighting for my rights. They have kicked us out with nothing.”
Last August she and her colleagues met in the canteen when workers were angry that the company had brought in temporary workers on lower pay.
They were told over the tannoy system – a message that many did not hear clearly – that they had to go back to work at once or face the sack.
“We were made to feel like criminals,” said Kaur. “We were told to hand over our passes and leave. We were escorted off the building.”
Meanwhile British Airways is accusing TGWU officials, including general secretary Tony Woodley, of encouraging the unofficial walkout by the baggage handlers.
The company has threatened three shop stewards with disciplinary hearings and claims it can prove their involvement beyond a doubt. Now it claims that the stewards have implicated Tony Woodley in giving private support to the walkout.
The union has warned that there could be a ballot for an official strike if the stewards are sacked.
A TGWU statement said: “We completely refute any suggestion of any involvement along the lines apparently suggested by anonymous sources.
“The TGWU dissociated itself from the unofficial action and did all it could to secure a return to work within deadlines set by BA.
BA is threatening to sue the union for compensation for the strike, which, it claims, cost it £45 million. This could push the union – one of the biggest donors to the Labour Party, towards bankruptcy.
New BA chief executive William Walsh is also trying to introduce new working practices at Heathrow and is in the middle of negotiations with the union over a £1 billion shortfall in the company’s pension scheme.
Last October’s Labour Party conference passed a motion calling for the abolition of the Tory anti-trade union laws that outlaw solidarity action, like that taken by the baggage handlers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bourgeois democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat

by Richard Bos

‘All bourgeois elections are the manipulation of the largest number of votes by the smallest number of people’ Andy Brooks

THE MARXIST concept of the state is fundamental to understanding that bourgeois state power (which in the last instance is based upon force) can only be abolished by use of force from the oppressed class. The working class can not simply inherit the bourgeois state, it must be “smashed” and the working class must create its own state organs. This was one of Marx’s most important conclusions after studying the uprising and eventual defeat of the Paris Commune.

The State is not neutral and devoid of class interests. It exists to defend the interests of the ruling class.

Lenin said, “The working people are barred from participation in bourgeois parliaments (they never decide important questions under bourgeois democracy, which are decided by the stock exchange and the banks) by thousands of obstacles. And the workers know and feel, see and realise perfectly well that the bourgeois parliaments are institutions alien to them, instruments for the oppression of the workers by the bourgeoisie, institutions of a hostile class, of the exploiting minority.” (VI Lenin, Collected Works 28, p. 247)

On the “left,” in Britain petty-bourgeois illusions and reformist ideas have always flourished, especially since the Second World War when, during the post-war reconstruction and imperialist exploitation of the third world, the working class was able to extract concessions from the ruling class. Even though social democracy can no longer deliver the goods and the earlier concessions have been grabbed back, those illusions still persist.

Marxist-Leninists will always make use of what exists to fight for democratic rights and liberties in the interest of workers, but never believing that those demands may be obtained other than partially and incompletely under capitalist conditions. The struggle for peace, popular action opposing the attacks of imperialism against national sovereignty, the struggle to defend the environment, the defence of the right to strike and other democratic rights will always be central to our tactical programme.

At the same time, Communists are clear that any success in such struggles under capitalist conditions will only be partial and of limited permanence, depending on the forcefulness, unity of action, and the fighting ability of the working class and the masses at that time. Lasting reforms and significant progress are part and parcel of an entirely different social and economic system: socialism.

Therefore, involvement in, and reform of, institutions of the bourgeois state (that means Parliament, the military, the courts and so on) are never included as any part of a revolutionary strategy, but are tactical matters. The attitude of Communists where these institutions are concerned (for example taking part in elections or not, military service or not (where it exists), and so on) are tactical issues, and our attitude would depend on the situation, on the “temperature” of the class struggle and balance of forces. In short, depending on what, at the given moment, under changing circumstances, best helps forward the realisation of our strategic aims.

The Communist Party of Greece, KKE, operating in a capitalist country that is dominated by the imperialist powers and working in accordance with the balance of forces as they exist there, has no illusions about the system. They answer the following question: Is free will under capitalism a deception?

And say:
“Engels said that free will means our ability to decide based on knowledge of facts. Thus it is an illusion to talk of the free will of the broad masses, even in those capitalist countries in which the right to choose formally exists. The middle class is proud of its bourgeois parliament, which it presents as a Temple of Democracy, and local government as approximating the institution of a people’s republic.

“During the past ten years in particular, very rapid developments have taken place with the result that the bourgeois parliament, both national and European, and the organs of local government have become transformed formally into organs and sub-organs of the bourgeois state. A number of institutions which had emerged within the framework of the bourgeois democracy through the struggle of the labour movement, have been transformed into blind organs of capital, into organs of class collaboration, into organs of buying off, bribery, manipulation.

“The great majority of trade union movement institutions have gone downhill on this wave. It is not accidental that the peoples of Europe do not feel any respect for bourgeois institutions. Our party is not content with this view which, deprived as it is of all political content, and does not represent any threat to the system. On the contrary, it may lead to the dissemination of even more reactionary, fascist views. We are working hard in Greece to prove why and how the bourgeois democracy has exhausted any leeway it may have had, and why and how the people, through their struggle, will push forward independent institutions generated by the people, which they will utilise to bring about revolutionary change in the society.”

Different revisionist currents claim that the “new world order” as well as the experience of the counter-revolutions in Eastern Europe, prove that the violent revolution is no longer a probability, that it is a hopeless dream, or not at all “necessary”. Somehow they will get a majority vote in parliamentary elections, and the popular will of the masses will prevent the return of the old order.

The new European Left Party formation comprises a hotchpotch of communist, socialist, Trotskyist and green parties. It is completely devoid of any Marxist analysis of the nature of the capitalist state and imperialism. It seeks to “transform” the EU into “another kind of Europe” of lots of nice things that no one disagrees with. It is another social-democratic project, desperately seeking the acceptance of its Brussels paymasters.

In Britain some revisionists state that violent revolution may still be a necessity in other parts of the world. However, according to them, the history, culture and tradition of Britain make this Leninist teaching obsolete and that there is a British Road to Socialism, to which the rules of the rest of the world do not apply! This, of course, is a fraud.

According to the Communist Party of Britain programme Britain’s Road to
Socialism: “What is needed instead is a new type of left government, based on a Labour, socialist and communist majority in the Westminster Parliament, one which comes about through the wide-ranging struggles of a mass movement outside Parliament, demanding the kind of policies contained in the AEPS (Alternative Economic and Political Strategy).”

They assume that support would be so overwhelming that the state, military, and financial institutions would have to allow themselves to be “democratised”. Those were the assumptions made in Chile during the Allende government of the early 70s which did all the things called for in Britain’s Road to Socialism, and, like the CPB, completely disregarded Marxist understanding of the nature of the bourgeois state and was drowned in blood.

The Socialist Labour Party sees itself sweeping the Labour Party aside, and winning a majority for socialist change by itself alone being elected as government.

Respect, led by the Socialist Workers’ Party, doesn’t even mention socialism in its policy documents, and looks to a liberal/reformist mixed economy agenda. Interestingly they don’t have anything to say about the EU.

What they all have in common is that they believe that they can win by imitating social democracy and playing the bourgeois election game. And they would all like proportional representation so they can boost their egos by having their own little slice of power as a reward for playing that game!

Real reality, unlike the “virtual reality” of the revisionists, tells us otherwise.

“The civilisation and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilisation and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge. Each new crisis in the class struggle between the appropriator and the producer brings out this fact more glaringly.”
(Marx: The Civil War in France)

The democratic facade of the bourgeois state is worth nothing more than a house of cards. It will immediately fall to the ground if threatened by social unrest. This understanding is essential if one is to develop a revolutionary strategy.

The Communists and the working class must be clear about what sort of enemy we actually stand against. The bourgeoisie will not wait a second to consider before it will make use of its violent state machinery to crush any serious attempt at revolt – in parliamentary traditional Britain as in any other country. The velvet glove soon reveals the mailed fist time after time, in any part of the world where imperialism is challenged.

Another quote from Lenin: “Take the fundamental laws of modern states, take their administration, take freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, or ‘equality of all citizens before the law’, and you will see at every turn evidence of the hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy, with which every honest and class-conscious worker is familiar. There is not a single state, however democratic, which has no loopholes or reservations in its constitution guaranteeing the bourgeoisie the possibility of dispatching troops against the workers, of proclaiming martial law, and so forth, in case of a ‘violence of public order,’ and actually in case the exploited class ‘violates’ its position of slavery and tries to behave in a non-slavish manner. Kautsky shamelessly embellishes bourgeois democracy and omits to mention, for instance, how the most democratic and republican bourgeoisie in America or Switzerland deal with workers on strike.” (VI Lenin, Collected Works 28, p. 244)

Exactly the same can be said of the industrial relations laws in this country, which are designed to create impotence in the trade union movement. The Prevention of Terrorism Act Section 44 has been used to expel Walter Wolfgang from the Labour Party Conference this year, and was used 4000 times by Hampshire police in September alone!

For many years the state has used it’s agents to infiltrate and subvert all working class organisations whenever they are considered a threat. It is reputed that, at one stage, almost half the membership of the Communist Party of the United States of America were government agents. Only this month, Edward Woodward, the former head of the Australian ASIO (the Australian state intelligence service), said that the problem in the Communist Party of Australia during the late 70s and early 80s was that often the most active member of the local branch was the government agent! The same kind of thing went on in Communist Parties throughout Scandinavia, Western Europe, and other parts of the world. The British experience will have been no different.

The ruling class completely disregards its own laws and regulations whenever it finds this convenient. Of course illegal surveillance is going on and will continue, probably in new forms and by different means. Regardless of this, the core of the matter is that preparations to “deal with” political opposition is regarded as appropriate and quite legal as long as this opposition is considered to be “endangering national security”.

From the Lenin’s Theses on Bourgeois Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat – 1st Congress of the 3rd International 1919, Collected Works
Vol28 pp 457:

1. “Faced with the growth of the revolutionary workers’ movement in every
country, the bourgeoisie and their agents in the workers’ organisations are making desperate attempts to find ideological and political arguments in defence of the rule of the exploiters. Condemnation of dictatorship and defence of democracy are particularly prominent among these arguments. The falsity and hypocrisy of this argument, repeated in a thousand strains by the capitalist press and at the Berne yellow International Conference in February 1919, are obvious to all who refuse to betray the fundamental principles of socialism.

2. “Firstly, this argument employs the concepts of ‘democracy in general’
and ‘dictatorship in general’, without posing the question of the class concerned. This non-class or above-class presentation, which supposedly is popular, is an outright travesty of the basic tenet of socialism, namely, its theory of class struggle, which socialists who have sided with the bourgeoisie recognise in words but disregard in practice. For in no civilised capitalist country does ‘democracy in general’ exist; all that exists is bourgeois democracy, and it is not a question of ‘dictatorship in general’, but of the dictatorship of the oppressed class, in other words the proletariat, over its oppressors and exploiters, in other words the bourgeoisie, in order to overcome the resistance offered by the exploiters in their fight to maintain their domination.”

Lenin further said: “The main thing that socialists fail to understand and that constitutes their short-sightedness in matters of theory, their subservience to bourgeois prejudices and their political betrayal of the proletariat is that in capitalist society, whenever there is any serious aggravation of the class struggle intrinsic to that society, there can be no alternative but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie or the dictatorship of the proletariat. Dreams of some third way are reactionary, petty-bourgeois lamentations.”

Nowadays those opposed to the concept of Dictatorship of the Proletariat say that they are opposed to “Stalinism”. But the political forbears of the anti-Stalinist “left” used all the same arguments in opposition to Lenin long before Stalin led the Soviet Union!

Many of illusions on the Left in bourgeois democracy manifest themselves in the various groups trying to replace the Labour Party by putting up candidates in elections. On the one hand they lie to the masses by elevating it to a strategy for achieving power, and denounce us Communists as traitors to the working class for not supporting them. On the other hand they say that it is a tactic that will give them a parliamentary platform and publicity from which to build a mass movement outside Parliament. Either way they show that they have no understanding of the nature of the state machine or the purpose of bourgeois elections.

The fact is that there are only two choices in an election for which party runs the bourgeois state in this country – Labour or Conservative. Labour’s links with the trade union movement means that there is the possibility of concessions being won – how much depends on the levels of working class action. Blair and company do not represent the whole party. The Conservatives are at least as reactionary as Blair, whoever is in charge. The masses are not fools and they know this.

It is the duty of Communists to expose the nature of the state and bourgeois democracy at every opportunity. Within that system which cannot now, and will not ever deliver socialism, the best we can get is temporary reforms for the benefit of the working class, which should not be ignored. It is through those struggles that awareness can be raised. Right now, it is only the Labour Party that can deliver those temporary reforms after organised pressure.

From the 14th Congress of the NCP

“Though the Labour Party is dominated by the class-collaborating right wing in the parliamentary party and the trade union movement, the possibility of their defeat exists as long as Labour retains its organisational links with the trade unions that fund it. The defeat of right wing union blocs in most of the major unions over the past two years demonstrates this possibility.”

“We reject the “parliamentary road” and electoral politics. The old Communist Party of Great Britain abandoned the revolutionary road when it adopted the British Road to Socialism. Its successors in the Communist Party of Britain and the Communist Party of Scotland continue this essentially social-democratic and revisionist policy today. The Socialist Labour Party, Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) and the Trotskyist Socialist Alliance express essentially the same theory. (Also Respect - RB)

The paltry votes won by all these parties – including the SSP whose modest gains in the Scottish Parliament were more than matched by the non-socialist Greens – show the futility of programmes that argue that the only way to defeat social democracy is in fact to imitate it. They call for social-democratic reforms while campaigning against the only mass force capable of implementing reform, the Labour Party itself. All of them end up attacking the Labour Party rather than the ruling class as the main enemy of the working class. Objectively they end up in the camp of the class enemy.

But the masses are often much wiser than those who claim to lead them and this is why these parties remain isolated amongst the working class despite all their pretensions. The Labour Party is not the enemy of the working class nor is it a barrier to communist advance.”

China Calls For Peace

CHINESE President Hu Jintao called for lasting peace and common development in London on the first day of his state visit to Britain. “We stand ready to work with the UK to strengthen mutual trust, expand exchanges and co-operation and make joint efforts for the well-being of the two peoples and a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity,” the Chinese leader declared.

Old China was the workshop of the world in the 18th century. New China is set to become the workshop of the world of the 21st century. People’s China has the fastest growing economy in the world. It will probably be second biggest economy in the world by the next decade. This has given a better life to the Chinese masses and working people across the world have also benefited from the growth of the Chinese market.

China and Britain have established a comprehensive strategic economic partnership that has benefited the people of both countries. Thousands of British people work, travel and study in China. Many Chinese now study in our colleges and universities while an overseas Chinese community has lived in Britain for generations. The Government should now move to remove all remaining Cold War barriers to trade like the European Union’s arms embargo on China and support Beijing’s efforts for the peaceful return of Taiwan to the jurisdiction of the People’s Republic.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Review : Kilombo

by Ray Jones

Kilombo, Pan-African Community Journal. Vol 8, issue 2, October-December 2005. £2. PO Box 21266, London W9 3YR. phone 07384 405307, email nkexplo@yahoo.co.uk

THE WORD Kilombo comes from the Kimbunu language in what is now Angola. It means a warrior village or settlement.
These were the organisational core of Queen N’zinga M’bandi’s resistance to the Portuguese invaders in the 17th century and the word represents, say the publishers, the unity of fighters in battle and their determination to achieve freedom.
Brave words, which the journal does its best to live up to.
For many of us in Britain Africa is probably still a dark continent as far as it’s politics goes. Well, here is our chance! From Cameroon to the Congo, from Kenya to Uganda, plus Black struggles in Britain and the United States, its all in Kilombo. But not in a dry academic style, because this is a campaigning journal and not just an educational one.
Readers will not agree with all of it, indeed not all the articles necessarily represent the views of the editorial board, but they will find it interesting and informative. The brief over view of the situation in the US by Kali Akuno, from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, for example, gives an interesting perspective and food for thought
The journal is well produced and easy to read and a real bargain at £2.

Parliament cleaners stage second strike

THE CLEANING staff of the Houses of Parliament staged their second strike on Wednesday in a long running dispute over pay after the parliamentary authorities refused to meet with the contractors and the cleaners’ union, the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
MPs and members of the House of Lords have been pressuring the parliamentary authorities to meet with the TGWU since July, when Parliament saw its first ever strike by cleaners.
Top civil servant Peter Grant Peterkin, Serjeant at Arms, who earns more than £100,000 a year in salary and benefits, and lives in a Whitehall mansion worth nearly £2 million, is refusing to meet to consider the cleaners’ claim for a living wage.
Currently the 140 cleaners are paid just £5.20 an hour; they receive no sick pay, no pension and minimum holidays.
The Serjeant at Arms says he is refusing to meet the union representatives because of recent questions posed in the House of Commons over the cleaners’ pay and conditions.
He told the TGWU: “Given the exchanges on the floor of the House earlier this week, the proposed tripartite meeting would probably achieve nothing.”
TGWU deputy general secretary Jack Dromey said: “In today’s democracy it seems inconceivable that unelected, privileged civil servants are blocking attempts by parliamentarians to get their cleaners a living wage.
“We have been overwhelmed with support by MPs and Lords but the stubborn refusal of the parliamentary authorities to act has led our members to decide they have no alternative but to mount picket lines outside Parliament once more.”

Housmans: 60 years of promoting peace

by Robert Laurie

LAST FRIDAY saw Housmans, the radical bookshop based near London’s King’s Cross station, celebrate 60 years of business. Pacifists founded it in 1945 and named it after Laurence Housman, the author and illustrator who was the brother of the poet A E Housman.
The shop has seen many ups and downs over the years, but with the King’s Cross area being redeveloped the future is bright once the London terminus for the Channel Tunnel brings more customers.
While the shop is still run by pacifists the stock is by no means exclusively pacifist. It gives shelf space to many left-wing publications from home and abroad including The New Worker, Sinn Fein’s Republican News and Revolutionary Democracy from India to name but three not devoted to the cause of non-violent struggle. The latest Harry Potter can also be picked up.
The shop has a strong stationery business, which in the past has enabled it to survive some difficult times. Special Branch officers anxious to keep up with the doings of left are rumoured to be among its customers.
Speakers at the anniversary party included Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP, who recalled that her interest in politics was awakened by the journals sold in Housmans. Brian Mister who was active in the Peace Pledge Union before the Second World War recalled the early days of the shop. The main speaker was however Walter Wolfgang, whose ejection from the Labour Party Conference hit the headlines.
He condemned the Government’s plans for a new generation of Trident missiles and looked forward to future successes for the peace movement.
The occasion also saw the launch of the Housmans Peace Diary for 2006, a publication which has been coming out for over 50 years. This year’s edition can be obtained from The New Worker office for £7.95 plus 50p P&P. Apart from being a diary it is an essential tool for all peace activists as it contains contact details of over two thousand organisations across the globe active in the cause of peace.

Friday, October 28, 2005

‘Put up or shut up’– Galloway challenges accusers

WHEN George Galloway addressed the United States Senate Committee earlierthis year, answering charges that he had benefited from Iraqi oil money, heemphatically rejected the charges and rounded on his accusers with counteraccusations over the illegal invasion of Iraq.
He made the Senate Committee look foolish in front of the world so it wasonly a matter of time before various US government agencies would set outto undermine his credibility.
And last week they came up with the goods – new claims of “smoking gun”evidence that £85,000 from Iraqi oil sales was paid into a bank accountbelonging to Galloway’s estranged wife, Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad.
They also claimed that another £250,000 was given to the Mariam Appeal –the charity launched by Galloway for Iraqi children suffering from cancer,caused by the use of depleted uranium weapons in the first Gulf War.
Galloway, now the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has repeated hisdenials that he ever received any money from Iraqi oil revenues anddemanded that the Senate committee charge him with lying – a criminaloffence – so that he can clear his name in court – or withdraw theaccusations.
And Galloway accused Senator Norman Coleman, who chairs the committee, ofcarrying out “sneak revenge attacks”.
He said he did not wish to answer for his wife but that she has spent manyyears researching the health effects of depleted uranium and that researchhad funding from many sources.
“Please, please charge me,” he said. “Please prosecute me and I will be onthe next plane to America to see you in court.
“I am demanding prosecution. I am begging for prosecution. If I have lied under oath in front of the Senate, that’s a criminal offence. Charge me andI will face them down in court as I faced them down in the Senate room.”
The Senate committee claims that Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian friend ofGalloway, channelled the money from the Saddam government to the MariamAppeal and to Dr Abu Zayyad.
But, in spite of the serious charges, Zureikat is still trading in Iraqand has made business trips to the US with the approval of the Americanauthorities.
He said he had meetings with them and they had talked to him about Iraqbefore the war but they had never mentioned oil or Galloway.
Galloway has accused the Americans of obtaining false evidence against himby torturing prisoners now held in Iraq.

The spirit of the anti-nazi struggle

Review


By Andy Brooks



Under the Wire: William Ash, Bantam Press, London 2005. Hbk, 292pp, illus.£16.99


Bill Ash, the Marxist writer, is well known to many of our readers for his novels based on the working class struggles in 1970s Britain. Some may know he gave up his American citizenship to fight the Nazis in 1940 when the United States was still neutral and then went on to become a successful script-writer after the war.
But what most of us didn’t know was why this young Texan chose to enter the fray by joining the Royal Canadian Air Force or what happened after his Spitfire was shot-down in 1942 over occupied France.
What followed is told in this gripping narrative of life evading the Gestapo and ending up as a reluctant POW in the camps. Bill’s courage never flagged. At every camp he plunged himself into work of the escape committees. Though their plans often ended in tears – Bill made over a dozen break-outs only to be recaptured – the efforts of the POWs tied down thousands of Nazi troops that would otherwise been sent to the front.
In telling his story Bill opens up the world of the RAF during the air-war with the Luftwaffe. He salutes his comrades in the skies, the resistance and in the camps who refused to accept that “for them the war was over”. And he does it with the wit and humour that runs through all his writings. Through his eyes we see the reality of fascist brutality and through his words we begin to understand the sacrifices that his generation made to rid the world of Hitler and Hirohito.
Producing this book for the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War was the brain-child of Brendan Foley, who first met Bill in the 1980s and wrote a screenplay of Bill’s wartime adventures. Bill says “most of the events in this book took place between sixty and seventy years ago, so I hope readers will forgive Brendan and me if we have tried to capture the spirit of the time, rather than the letter of it”.
Well there can be no doubt about that. Though the number of war-time memoirs must be legion Under the Wire stands out as a remarkable tribute to the men and women who gave their all to defeat the Axis. Well worth reading it can be bought from any high street bookseller or obtained from your local library.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Red enough!

Review


by Paul Barrett

Night of the Demon – a classic film you may have missed.

IN 1911 M R James wrote a disturbing short story called The Casting of the Runes. In it the supernatural terrors that lurked on the periphery of the story’s events were never confirmed.

Yet in the 1957 horror film Night of the Demon, based on this story, there is no doubt that the horror is real. This little B film is one of the few of its kind that deserves to be remembered long after its first release, and remembered, respected and in many cases it is still loved.

And now the entire story of the film and those who made it is available in a book by Tony Earnshaw – Beating the Devil – printed by Tomahawk Press.

It is a fascinating insight into the story of the film, the cast and crew and is a highly informative easy read. It revealed that a Charles Bennett, who collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on such films as Sabotage and The Man who Knew Too Much, wrote a highly literate script of the story under the working title of The Bewitched.

He was advised that any film version had no chance of the sought-after A certificate, with the censors likely to grant an X, even after swingeing cuts to the script and story. Then a chance meeting between Bennett and Hal C Chester, a small scale Hollywood producer and major hustler, resulted in a deal with Columbia Pictures to produce the film, with Chester’s name very prominent in the credits, while Bennett’s was not used.

Living in England at the time was black-listed writer/director Cy Enfield, who had been targeted by the fascist House of Un-American Activities Committee and had been considered a top Hollywood talent – though his inclination was to associate with the “brightest writers and directors”, ensuring that he was always prominent “at the Red table” in the studios’ cafeteria.

This of course sealed his professional doom in the “good old USA”. So Cy, whether a party member or not, was red enough to be driven from his country and astute enough to get out before the forces of reaction could jail him.

No doubt working well below scale, Enfield delivers a taut, tense and engrossing script. Incidentally he went on to great personal success, including the 1960s box office smash Zulu.

Night of the Demon, known in the US as Curse of the Demon, is a gripping little horror film that does so well what so few grossly over-budget films to today. It entertains, frightens and for the film’s duration almost convinces you that there really are ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night.

This enthralling little book is available online: www.tomahawkmedia.co.uk
RRP £13.50.

London flood risk ignored

THE LONDON Assembly last week issued a report warning that the risk of major flooding in London is not being taken seriously enough – especially in the East London Thames Gateway flood plain.
This area is downstream of the Thames flood barrier and is the scene of a massive increase in building and development. New estates of lucrative luxury flats are springing up all along the river banks.
There is confusion over who should maintain flood defences in the Thames Estuary, which is home to 1.25 million people. Around half a million homes are prone to flooding and the threat is growing.
Green Party leader Darren Johnson, who chairs the report committee said: “In New Orleans the world has had a tragic reminder of the threat from natural disaster and the impact that flooding can have.
“It is therefore vital that lessons are learned and action taken immediately to streamline responsibilities for flood defences and planning control in the Thames Gateway.
“Much of the development area is on the flood plain, which will put London at greater risk.”
The committee reckons that five per cent of east London’s defences are in a poor condition and the situation could be worse further down river towards the coast.
The report says that private landowners are responsible for maintaining many of the capital’s 2,400 defence structures but in many cases it is impossible to identify who owns the land.

Trouble on the Northern Line

SERVICES on the London Underground Northern Line have been seriously disrupted throughout last week after drivers from both Aslef and the RMT refused to operate the trains because of faulty emergency breaking systems.
RMT welcomed a decision by London Underground not to discipline or stop the pay of staff who are refusing to operate or undertake duties that could endanger the safety of passengers and staff.
But the crisis has led to renewed calls for a major overhaul of the contracts of private companies involved in the maintenance and running of the system.
The crisis arose after the emergency breaking system on the Northern Lines trains malfunctioned on five occasions.
The Northern Line operates under a public private partnership, involving the consortium Tube Lines, that was imposed by the Blair government against the wishes of the unions and the people of London.
Tube Lines also has a separate private finance initiative maintenance deal with the train company Alstom. It is supposed to maintain the brakes on the trains.
But the deals are so complicated that it is almost impossible to establish a clear picture of the structure of command and accountability. Currently the various private companies involved are all blaming each other for the faulty brakes.
JKC Henderson, a former manager of the Northern line in the 1960s, commented: “The peak period service required 100 trains, which is considerably more than many complete urban transport systems.
“Responsibility for the operations of the trains and the signalling and the maintenance of the trains, track and signalling came under a unified management and worked very well as a team.
“Of course we had bad days, but we were rarely running more than two or three minutes late at the end of a peak period.
“The present muddles which resulted from the splitting up of these responsibilities were inevitable and have affected the main line railways in a similar way.
“I understand that very few, if any, people with relevant experiences were included in the committees responsible for the present organisation, which were dominated by the Treasury.”
Bob Kiley, who is London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s appointed commissioner of transport for London, plans to use the current crisis to renegotiate the deals with the private sector and bring more control back into the public sector.
He said: “I think the lines of authority have to be clean and clear and they are not at the moment.”

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Booting out Blair

LONDON LABOUR MP Glenda Jackson last week said she would be prepared to act as a “stalking horse” in order to trigger a leadership contest within the Parliamentary Labour Party – if Blair tries to stay in power for longer than another year. This is good news as far as it goes. Blair should have been driven from office long ago for taking the country into an illegal war on the basis of lies and deceit.

But the Highgate and Hampstead MP said she thought she would be “extremely unlikely” to get enough votes. That does not say much for the courage of her fellow MPs. Perhaps the results of the local elections next May will stiffen their resolve. If Labour is still led by Blair, it is likely to do very badly. Labour supporters will not bother to turn out and millions of people will end up decidedly worse off with Liberal Democrat or Tory controlled local councils. A low turn-out will increase the danger of fascist BNP candidates doing proportionately better.

Just after last May’s general election Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin said he was prepared to act as a “stalking horse” if Blair was still in Number 10 by Christmas. Between the election and the Labour conference it seems the resolve of our elected representatives faltered and faded. This is definitely a reason to remind them more often and in more ways that the people of Britain want Blair out – and his warmongering policies.

Celebrating 60 years of the Workers’ Party of Korea

AROUND 60 people packed the meeting room at London's Marx House last Monday, organised by the British preparatory committee to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the leadership given by Comrade Kim Il Sung.

It was chaired by Keith Bennett and was one of several events in the London area last week which celebrated that anniversary. He opened the meeting with a summary of the roots of the WPK, its history and its impact on the world.

Comrade Yong Ho Tae from the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke about the recent agreement achieved at the fourth round of six-party talks on the nuclear situation on the Korean peninsula.

The agreement, if fully implemented, will lead to the complete de-nuclearisation of the whole peninsula after the United States has given the DPRK guarantees of its safety and two nuclear energy plants to solve the country’s natural shortage of energy sources.

In return the DPRK will then halt its own nuclear power station construction and weapons programme. But the US has a history of reneging on such deals and is already trying to dispute some aspects of the deal.

Comrade Tae stressed that the only way to deal with US imperialist bullying and aggression is to be strong and stand firm against it.

His speech was followed by a question and answer session, light refreshments and a film of the road the DPRK has taken after the devastation caused by the imperialist war of 1950 to 53 up to the modern, productive and beautiful country that it is today.

‘These mad dogs must be shot’


REVIEW


by Ray Jones

Revolutionary Democracy, Vol XI, No 2, September 2005. £2.50 plus 50p P&P. NCP Lit, PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

THERE ARE ALWAYS gems to be found in this journal and this issue is no exception. As well as a continuation of the debate on the economic policies of Che Guevara and Bettelheim there is a detailed analysis of the Warsaw Uprising, a look at Soviet democracy in the 1930s, an interview with Mao in 1938 and two brief but revealing pieces on Trotskyism by Krupskaya (Lenin’s wife) and much more.

The two articles by Krupskaya were written a decade apart in 1925 and 1936 but both have the same underlying criticism of Trotsky – that he never really understood the role of the masses under socialism.

And the later one shows that she had no sympathy for the Trotsky/Zinoviev/Kamenev opposition after the trials. The whole country, she says, demanded: “These mad dogs must be shot!”.

The Soviet Union and Stalin have been accused of many crimes by bourgeois historians. Among these is the betrayal of the people of Warsaw by not supporting them when they rose up against the Nazi occupiers in 1944.

Ulrich Huar puts the blame firmly where it belongs – on the Polish Government in Exile in London, who called the uprising without any coordination with the Red Army for their own political gain.

Readers may not agree with everything in Revolutionary Democracy (I’m particularly thinking of the criticism of the Lula government in Brazil in this issue, which seems one-sided) but having said that it’s a unique source of fascinating views and information.

Uniting communities

by Theo Russell

LONDON Mayor Ken Livingstone has joined with Liberty, key Muslim and Sikh organisations, community organisations, faith leaders, MPs, trade unionists, lawyers and opinion-formers to encourage public debate on proposed governmental measures to oppose terrorism.

The new campaign issued a statement and staged a mass meeting in Central Hall, Westminster, this Wednesday evening.

Signatories to the statement believe that some of the proposals risk alienating those sections of the community whose co-operation is essential to combating terror.

The campaign plans to lobby ministers and MPs explaining that there is grave concern amongst the overwhelming majority of the communities whose co-operation is essential to identify and defeat terrorists and their supporters.

Speakers at the meeting included: Ken Livingstone, Mark Oaten, MP Liberal Democrat, Scots Nationalist Alex Salmond MP, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, Frank Dobson MP, Sadiq Khan MP Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain, Rt Rev Colin Bennetts, Bishop of Coventry, Dan Judelson, European Jews for a Just Peace, Amrik Singh of the Sikh Federation UK, Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member, Dr Azzam Tamini, Muslim Association of Britain, CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, TGWU assistant general secretary Barry Camfield, Tony Benn Kate Hudson, CND Salma Yaqoob, Madeleine Bunting, journalist and Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition.

Safety dispute on the Northern Line

RAIL unions are calling for extra safety measures on London Underground’s Northern Line after an inspection revealed that a safety device was not working on eight or nine of the trains.
Drivers’ union Aslef advised tube train drivers working on the Northern Line to insist on having an extra person on board because of safety concerns.
The problem concerns malfunctions in a device that is supposed to “trip” in if a red light is passed. A recent examination of Northern Line tube trains showed that several tube trains did not have the trip working effectively. Either the mechanisms had eroded, were clogged with grease or were sagging.
Maintenance had been sub-contracted, but the firm involved has now been taken off the contract.
Under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, Tube Lines and Alstom are responsible for maintenance on the Northern Line. A spokesperson for LU said it had been pressing both firms to resolve the situation for several weeks and was now directing and overseeing the work of Tube Lines and Alstom.
“The fact that they have not resolved the situation is completely unacceptable,” he said.
Early discussions between ASLEF, RMT and the management have led to agreement that depot staff would be borrowed from other lines to test all Northern Line trains before Friday morning.
Aslef insisted on a second worker allocated to each train until the problem was resolved.

Rail unions slam ‘paltry’ Hatfield fines

AN OLD BAILEY judge last week imposed record fines totalling £13.5 million on rail companies for their part in the Hatfield rail disaster. The Balfour Beatty engineering company was fined £10 million and Network Rail – which has assumed the financial liabilities of the now defunct Railtrack – was fined £3.5 million.
Mr Justice MacKay said it was “one of the worst examples of sustained industrial negligence in a high-risk industry I have even seen”.
But rail unions RMT and Aslef were quick to point out that these fines are “paltry” compared to the Government grants being dished out to these companies – and that ultimately taxpayers will foot the bills.
The RMT pointed out that on the same day as the judgement, Network Rail had just concluded a new £110 million-deal with Balfour Beatty.
They also renewed their calls for an effective corporate manslaughter law that will not allow the guilty individuals to walk away with no penalty.
Andy Reed, national organiser of the train drivers’ union Aslef said the fines would “do little to instil a safety culture in a money-obsessed industry”.
“The fines imposed on the companies that breached health and safety regulations and caused the 2000 Hatfield crash are large and, on the face of it, could even look severe.
“But it is an illusion created by a society that looks for morality in its bank account.
“There is an assumption that you can solve any problem by throwing money at it. Well, you can’t. What price would you put on the four Hatfield dead?”
Reed argued that until individual managers are held to account, companies will not change their view that safety is a secondary consideration – because safety doesn’t make money.
He continued: “I fail to see how the company is guilty, but the people who run it are not. If I drive a car irresponsibly and crash into a bus queue, people don’t turn round and blame the motor.”
And he said it is time rail companies stop talking about their alleged concern for safety – and do something about it. “We will believe the leopard’s spots have changed when we see in-cab technology to enable drivers to see obstructions on the track ahead, when there is a legal limit on hours and when the UK has a modern and efficient signal system.”
RMT general secretary, Bob Crow described the £10 million fine on Balfour Beatty as “paltry”, pointing out: “Justice has simply not been done by the debacle of the Hatfield trial.
“Compared with the carnage caused, these fines are a paltry amount – and this is recycled public money anyway.
“Every penny that Balfour Beatty and Network Rail pay will have originated in taxpayers’ and fare-payers’ pockets.
“In Balfour Beatty’s case they will simply be paying back a fraction of the millions they have made at the public’s expense, and they will give a huge corporate shrug.
“Justice will not be done until Britain has a corporate manslaughter law that holds individual executives to account for negligence that kills innocent people.”

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gate Gourmet workers accept deal

THE DISPUTE between the Heathrow catering company Gate Gourmet and the workers it sacked last August after deliberately provoking them into an unofficial walkout has been resolved.
A mass meeting of 650 workers, organised by the Transport and General Workers’ Union, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a deal negotiated by the union.
Almost 400 of the workers will be offered their jobs back; others will take voluntary redundancy but 144 will face compulsory redundancy.
TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley said: “This has been a bitter dispute, with innocent workers victimised, which must lead to a change in the law.”

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Huge turnout for London anti-war march

AROUND 80,000 protesters took to the streets of London last Saturday to call for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq in a march from Parliament Square to Hyde Park, via Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly.
The organisers – the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain – were expecting a mass turnout so two feeder marches were organised, which joined the main march along the way.
Trade union banners were well to the fore in the march and the workers from Gate Gourmet – fighting for their jobs – received a great cheer when they arrived, carrying hand-written placards and TGWU posters.
The ranks of the marchers were swelled after incidents in Basra the previous week, when British tanks demolished the local jail to rescue two SAS agents who had been arrested for shooting dead a local policeman.
The two had been arrested disguised as Arabs and in a car full of guns and explosives – raising many questions about what sort of mission they had been on.
It is not surprising the army authorities did not want them interrogated by locals or their mission made public.
Last Saturday’s protesters all seemed well aware that the SAS men must have been up to no good, and their capture with the explosives puts a question mark over many of the so-called sectarian bomb attacks in Iraq, allegedly between Sunnis and Shias.
The protesters were also demanding an end to the supposedly anti-terror legislation that is undermining civil liberties in Britain.
The rally in Hyde Park was addressed by Sue Smith, whose son recently died in Iraq. She read out a letter she has sent to Tony Blair, accusing him of sacrificing young British lives to further his own political purposes.
“I am sitting writing this letter hoping that you will understand how we feel, but I know that you don’t,” she wrote.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Review:The Balmaidens of Cornwall

by Edwin Bentley

Balmaidens: Lynne Mayers, The Hypatia Trust, Penzance, 2004. illus., pp246, £20.00.

Capitalists don’t delude themselves. They are single-mindedly devoted to maximising profits and keeping down costs. No one can blame them for acting like this; it’s simply what capitalism is all about. That’s the mistake that liberal reformers always make; they believe that if everyone is really nice to one another, all will be well.

This book set me thinking about gender issues in employment. Where do we get the idea that that certain jobs are for men, and others more suitable for women? Given what I said about capitalists, the only real reason for discriminating against women or men in certain jobs is the fact of whether men or women are more productive. Patriarchal families, buttressed by religion, taught that the woman’s place is at home, at least within the property-owning classes, but this was simply an outdated social structure dating back to earlier stages of human development.

The early industrialists in Britain never thought for a moment that a woman’s place was at home bringing up children; they never deluded themselves with the idea that children should be at home with their mother. For them, a woman’s place was in the job where she could maximise profits for the capitalist. Women may not have been able to tackle certain jobs because they simply did not have the physical strength of men, but that really was the only consideration. Engels describes the industrial scene in England as one in which women and children were working in jobs that to us seem completely inappropriate.

The other day I read about a Belarusian footballer playing in this country whose mother was identified as a bricklayer, with the assumption that this fact was either surprising, amusing, or both. A lot of people still feel very uncomfortable about a woman tackling such jobs.

The industrial history of this country is not always one of a progressively increased participation of women in industry, at times it is quite the reverse. The involvement of women in very heavy industry, including mining and smelting, would have been viewed as scandalous in this country in the mid-20th century, whereas 100 years earlier it was the most natural thing in the world. Likewise, gangs of women agricultural labourers travelled the country in the early 19th century.

Bal is the Cornish word for mine, so balmaidens are women who work in mines. Throughout the history of mining for copper, tin, and other minerals in Cornwall, until the slump of the late 19th century, much of the surface work in Cornish mines was done by women. Digging and bringing the mineral ore up to the surface was done by men, but the job of breaking up the ore with sledgehammers, washing and sieving and preparing the rock for smelting could be done more economically by employing women and girls.

Mining was literally the only source of employment for the majority of the Cornish working class in the West of the county. Any woman who felt the need to earn money to support herself or to contribute to the family funds had little option. Lynne Mayers’ book captures the day-to-day drudgery of unavoidable hard manual work, but it also shows how women’s involvement in mining sowed the seeds of potentially revolutionary social change.

Mine work for women was viewed as temporary employment. It filled the years before marriage and children, and offered the chance of a job after the children had grown up. Men had the chance of a career structure, with the opportunity – however remote- of becoming highly skilled tradesmen, even mine captains (managers) or engineers. Women were confined to breaking, washing, and sorting ore, and there was little possibility of other employment.

The unspoken assumption is always that women manual workers are only doing the job to earn a bit of pin money, and there’s no need to take them all that seriously. That was the case in the Grunwick dispute 25 years ago. It is a factor in the current scandalous treatment of women workers employed by Gate Gourmet at Heathrow airport.

When they came together to work for the mine owners, the balmaidens entered into an environment where a large number of workers were organised to maximise efficiency of production. A balmaiden ceased to be a mere individual, and entered into powerful working relationships with all the other women working at the mine. These social relationships, an inevitable consequence of industrial production, are both necessary and dangerous for the capitalists. As soon as the workers see the power they have, as soon as they understand that they don’t actually need the bosses to tell them what to do, the whole class structure can come tumbling down. The women at Grunwick and at Heathrow glimpsed something of that reality, and the idea of these economic disputes becoming political terrified the capitalists, who went to any lengths to defeat them.
Although the balmaidens of Cornwall were at the bottom of the labour hierarchy, there were several occasions during the 19th century when they organised themselves. As early as 1806, balmaidens came out on strike in protest against working conditions and wages.

All theses strikes failed, because the women on strike could immediately be replaced by other workers, and so they were often forced to accept lower wages or increased hours. It’s impossible for us to say if there was any awareness of the possibility of economic issues leading to social change. One strike in 1882, provoked by mine owners trying to force balmaidens to work on Sunday afternoons, did result in victory for the workers, but it’s clear that the absence of trade unions in the mines, the lack of political awareness and agitation, and the ever-prevalent power of Wesleyan-inspired religion hampered the development of class solidarity.

By the late 19th century, when Marxist ideas had spread throughout Europe and the revolutionary spark had been lit, the Cornish mines were sunk in a deep slump that only ended with the First World War.

Mayers’ book is a powerful record of a fascinating chapter of working class life, filled with personal accounts and the small details of everyday life that help us to understand the reality of those who created immense wealth for the ruling class of this country.

TGWU recommends Gate Gourmet settlement

HOPES of an end to the gate Gourmet dispute rose last week after negotiations between the company and the Transport and General Workers’ Union produced a provisional agreement. The workforce has yet to vote on the proposal. Details have not yet been published.
The TGWU issued a statement: “Following intensive talks throughout recent days an agreement has now been reached between the TGWU and Gate Gourmet London Limited with assistance from the TUC to resolve the long running dispute.
“The agreement has to be ratified by the members of the union and the company’s board of directors.
“Details of the agreement will only be released on Wednesday, late afternoon, after they have been fully reported to all concerned on both sides.
“Both the company and the union are pleased that a way forward has been found, and if the agreement is ratified both sides have committed to working together to rebuild trust and confidence after all the difficulties of recent weeks.”

Friday, September 23, 2005

Review: Practical resistance?

by Ray Jones

Resistance in practice: the philosophy of Antonio Negri. Eds Timothy S Murphy and Abdul-Karim Mustapha. Pluto Press, 07453 2337 5. Pb. 272pp. £17.99.

ANTONIO (Toni) Negri had a meteoric rise in Italian academia and at a young age he was a full professor at the University of Padua in the field of State Theory.
In the 1950’s he became involved in militant politics, at first in a Catholic organisation and later in Marxist groups on the far left – outside of the influence of the huge Italian Communist Party (PCI) which was even then on the road of revisionism.
In the late 1960’s Italy, as with other countries, was convulsed by a wave of militancy led, at least at first, by students. But in Italy, with its history of secret organisations and clubs, the experience of resistance during the years of fascism and its weak political structure and economy, this period lasted until the late 1970‘s.
In the confusion of the period and in the ideological vacuum left by the PCI – which was trying to gain a share of government with the Christian Democrats – many leftist groups and movements were spawned believing that the end of capitalism was nigh.
In 1969 Negri was one of the founders of Potere Operaio (Workers Power) and Operaismo (workerist communist movement).
It was a violent period and violence was a factor in the theory and practice of many left groups. It took many forms, from robust stewarding organisations that protected meetings from fascists and the police to the clandestine terror of the likes of the Red Brigades and Prima Linea.
Negri by no means rejected violence but believed that it should be used to further the goals of working class movements, a tool of the movement and not isolated from it, and so he rejected the tactics of the Red Brigades. These beliefs did not stop him being arrested in 1979 on charges which included leadership of the Red Brigades, the kidnapping and murder of prime minister Aldo Moro, plotting to over throw the Government and having “moral responsibility” for violence.
Many of these charges were dropped, no link was ever found between him and the Red Brigades or the murder of Moro, but he was still sentenced to 30 years. Negri contrived to go into exile in France where he stayed, protected from extradition by President Mitterand, for 14 years before returning to Italy to serve the remainder of a reduced sentence.
Negri has remained active and in 2000, along with Michael Hardt (who also contributes to Resistance in practice), published Empire, which puts forward a theory of globalisation that has attracted much interest in some quarters.
Resistance in practice attempts to give an introduction to Negri’s theoretical work and in particular an insight into his ideas on the state, labour, capital and revolution. It’s not an easy task. None of his philosophical work is easy to understand without being immersed in the genre (regretfully he is far from alone in this) and the fact that he has constantly changed his position over the years doesn’t help.
But some things are clear: Negri rejects Leninist ideas on organisation – although he never succeeds in putting forward a plausible alternative; he supports theories of “autonomy” in which workers attempt to separate themselves from the capitalist state and build alternatives and he approves of the “rejection of work”.
Kathi Weeks, chapter five, points to the “rejection of work” as a central concept in Negri’s thinking, but this is not just a matter of supporting strikes and the reduction of working hours but it rejects the whole practice of waged work.
This may be appealing to workers doing long hours on a mind numbing conveyor belt system but it has profoundly reactionary consequences. In withdrawing from paid labour, workers are separated from the immediate conflict with the boss and isolated from the ideological and organisational support of the labour movement.
And it has further implications: socialism needs wage workers too. In essence this concept rejects the first stage of communism and demands a direct leap to full communism. In doing so it rejects the socialist stage and all the socialist states.
The leftist movements in Italy were defeated in the late 1970s and the repression was heavy – countenanced, sadly, by the PCI. But judging by an article in le Monde in 1998 in which he looks back at the period, Negri is uncritical of his own role and there is a danger that the new generation of anti-globalisationists are looking to Negri for theoretical guidance.
It’s up to Marxist-Leninist forces to offer better.

BA moves against Heathrow shop stewards

BRITISH Airways last Wednesday began legal proceedings against three shop stewards who had been involved in the unofficial walkout of baggage handlers at Heathrow last month in solidarity with the workers sacked by Gate Gourmet.
The baggage handlers’ walkout halted all BA flights in and out of Heathrow over a busy weekend at the height of the holiday season.
British Airways said that two of the shop stewards have been suspended on full pay and the other is continuing to work. They are all members of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.

Friday, September 16, 2005

George Orwell: ‘Enigmatic socialist’?

BOOK REVIEW

by Andy Brooks

George Orwell: Enigmatic Socialist: Editor, Paul Flewers, 192pp, £6.00. Socialist Platform, London 2005.

“JUST WHAT the world needs. Yet another book on George Orwell” the editor ironically notes in his introduction but then proceeds to justify this anthology drawn largely from the British Trotskyist press.

The reason, which becomes clear as one reads through these Orwellian essays, is the desire to reclaim Orwell for the “left” following his exposure as a police informer in 1996, coupled with an ongoing desire of British Trotskyists for a literary icon who they can call their own.

Unfortunately for them Orwell, the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair, was and remains an icon of the bourgeoisie whose vicious anti-Sovietism far outweighs the left social democratic principles he claims to uphold.

Though a prolific writer, Orwell’s literary fame rests almost exclusively on his two anti-communist satires Animal Farm and 1984. Without them Orwell’s works would still be gathering dust in libraries along with other forgotten Thirties writers. But these two books rapidly became ideological weapons of the Cold War to be quoted by reactionaries and Trotskyists alike in their denigration of the achievements of the Soviet Union and the Stalin leadership.

Almost compulsory reading in British secondary schools, dramatised and televised, 1984 and Animal Farm are Anglo-American imperialism’s equivalent of the Protocols of the Council of Zion. All are works of fiction.
The only difference is that the Protocols were used by the Czarists and later the Nazis to justify the persecution of Jews while Animal Farm and 1984 was used to justify the anti-communist witch-hunts that swept America and western Europe in the 1950s.

Orwell’s “socialism” is indeed “enigmatic” for Trotskyists because he was never a revolutionary socialist or indeed a follower of Leon Trotsky. Though he fought fascism in Spain and sided with the Spanish Trotskyist opposition, Orwell clearly did not believe that the working class was the engine of change. Workers are either the bleating “sheep” of Animal Farm or the powerless “proles” of 1984 who are bought off with a diet of cheap gin, pornography and rigged national lotteries. Nor does he have much hope for a revolutionary vanguard. The animals’ farm is run by greedy pigs while the “Oceania” of 1984 is led by a cynical and venal “Inner Party” of brutes and psychopaths.

The chief pig, “Napoleon” is clearly meant to be Joseph Stalin but at the farm the Trotsky-like equivalent is “Snowball” who helps himself to the milk and apples with the rest of the pigs when the animals take over. In 1984 Stalin is, of course, “Big Brother” while “Emmanuel Goldstein” fulfils Trotsky’s role though in this case Goldstein’s “book” is apparently a creation of the secret police and his whole underground resistance a honey-trap set up by those dreaded “Thought Police”.

This is not the place for a detailed critique of Animal Farm or 1984 and though the contributors to this book focus largely on these novels their approach is, needless to say given where they’re coming from, one-sided.

So what is the use of this book? Well if you are unfortunate enough to have to study Orwell’s novels for English Literature at school or college this fully annotated book is an excellent source to pillage and plunder. If your teacher or lecturer is not familiar with the authors you might even get away with passing off some of the observations as your own!

Turnham Green Peace Market

by Alan Rogers

SOUTHALL New Communist Party ran its usual stall last Saturday. On the basis of previous experience comrades had produced jars of a variety of jams and marmalades, which attracted some attention from the public.
The weather could have been kinder and the attendance at this year’s market was down.
However a lot of the jams and marmalades were sold, along with copies of the New Worker, Marxist Leninist literature, CDs (quite popular) and other goods.
Some of the conversations were heartening: the young black South African who bought Lenin’s Imperialism; the man (whose father had been a devoted member of Akel) who took part in our discussion with a woman (ex Scottish Socialist Party) who wanted to know what the differences were between the positions of the NCP, the Socialist Workers’ Party, Respect and so on.
And of course we met old friends and made an overall profit of £72.

Gate Gourmet workers’ rally at TUC

WHILE TUC conference was in session on Monday several hundred Gate Gourmet workers staged a rally outside the conference hall. Most of them are members of west London’s Asian community that supplies a large proportion of all the workers at Heathrow.
They held up banners and chanted “we want our jobs back” as they were met by Tony Woodley.
He told them: “Five weeks ago you were unfairly sacked by a ruthless, union-busting employer, but I can assure you that the battle goes on,” Woodley told the crowd.
The American-owned company claims it is losing money and desperately needs to cut costs.
The demonstrating workers won a standing ovation from conference delegates as they entered the conference hall.
Tony Woodley described Texas Pacific, owner of the catering company, as “a renegade venture capitalist company headed by American union-busting bosses”.
He accused the company of “plotting for a year to sack low paid workers” while “secretly recruiting agency labour on still lower rates on the orders of a cowboy capitalist from Texas”.
One of the workers, Umesh Dalal told the crowd outside the conference hall of how he had been sitting in the staff canteen last month when managers told workers they had been dismissed. He said: “I was on my tea break at the time so I was really shocked. We are determined to fight for justice and I want my job back.”
TGWU negotiations with Gate Gourmet have produced an offer to reinstate most workers but the company is still refusing to take back workers it described as “trouble makers”.
The workers are receiving solidarity support from unions in America, representing the workforce of Texas Pacific there.
Some Gate Gourmet workers have travelled to American to take part in rallies in Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The rallies are demanding the reinstatement of all the sacked workers and are being organised jointly by the Teamsters, Unite Here and the TGWU.
Across the Atlantic, Gate Gourmet has been seeking unreasonably severe concessions from its US employees. The unions have fought the demands, most recently compelling the company to reinstate health coverage that it had unilaterally revoked.
Jim Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, said, “We’re inspired by our London brothers and sisters’ determination to fight Gate Gourmet’s outrageous anti-worker behaviour. Labour unions are here to protect workers from unfair employer tactics like those of Gate Gourmet.”

Saturday, September 10, 2005

T&G demands law change after Gate Gourmet

THE TRANSPORT and General Workers’ Union is planning to table an emergency motion at the annual TUC conference in two weeks’ time calling for a change in Britain’s labour laws to outlaw the underhand practices of the airline caterer Gate Gourmet.
The union then hopes to take the struggle forward to the Labour Party conference next month. It is determined to put the Government and current labour law in the spotlight following one of the most bitter industrial disputes of recent years.
Relations between the TGWU and US-owned Gate Gourmet deteriorated last week after chairman Dave Siegel accused 200 of the 667 employees sacked after unofficial industrial action last month of being militants.
At the same time the union claimed the company had backtracked on a deal over redundancy terms. Gate Gourmet is now refusing to reinstate 200 of the sacked workers, claiming that they are “militants” – after the company had agreed to offer reinstatement or a generous voluntary redundancy package to its entire Heathrow staff.
“Siegel’s comments are offensive. It is nonsense to describe our members as militants. Mainly he is talking about middle-aged Asian women,” said TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley.
He also said: “The Gate Gourmet scandal has highlighted a number of important areas where employment law is tilted towards bad employers and against the legitimate rights of workers.
“We are going to be giving the Government no rest until these issues are addressed.”
A TGWU officer said the union’s focus was on two specific areas where it believed employment law was ineffective. First: “We believe that they prepared for and provoked an industrial dispute in order to sack workers.”
He said that were it proved that a company provoked unofficial industrial action; employees involved should have the same protection as workers striking legitimately. Such workers cannot be dismissed for 12 weeks after the action.
The move comes in response to revelations last month that Gate Gourmet had such a plan, and referred to it in leaked internal documents. The company did not deny it had considered the option, but said it had decided against exercising it.
The second area involves drafting in temporary workers on lower pay than full-time employees, particularly when there are plans for redundancies.
This issue could fall under the EU directive on agency labour. A third point covers solidarity action – also known as secondary action – an issue that is raised annually at TUC.
Secondary action is illegal in the Britain but the TGWU believes it is legitimate in some cases where staff at a parent company strike in support of employees providing services to that company via a sub-contractor.
Meanwhile Gate Gourmet is being investigated over allegations that it deceived British Airways about the cost of catering on its flights and operated a tax dodge.
A former supplier to Gate Gourmet has accused the company of making it sign a contract under which it made payments to the company’s European headquarters in Switzerland. Under the contract, Gate Gourmet received a “rebate” of £90,000 for every £3 million it paid to the supplier, Nesco Foods, of Feltham, near Heathrow. Gate Gourmet was allegedly able to take advantage of lower tax rates by receiving the money in Zurich.

Soldiers should not be above the law

by Theo Russell

A NEW campaign to challenge the culture of brutality and secrecy within the British armed forces was launched last Monday at a meeting in London.
The End Impunity campaign is calling for the armed forces to be made accountable for human rights abuses and is supported by a wide range of human rights groups and campaigns, including the families of soldiers who died at Deepcut and other army bases.
Paul O’Connor of the Pat Finucane Centre in Belfast spoke on the case of Peter McBride, who was shot as he ran away from an army checkpoint in Belfast in on 4th September 1992.
Two members of the Scots Guards were convicted of murder and received life sentences, but then given early release and allowed to rejoin the British Army. One was later promoted despite promises to the Irish government, and both served in the Iraq war.
Many human rights groups and leading lawyers from several countries have backed the demand for the soldiers to be discharged.
Leading human rights lawyer Phil Shiner, who is representing 50 families from Iraq, described how the truth about the abuses at the army’s Camp Breadbasket near Basra, have been glossed over by the Army and suppressed by the media.
He said the abuse was far greater than people have been told, with large numbers of Iraqis rounded up from the countryside, and said it was “open season for squaddies who wanted to give detainees a kicking”.
He gave the example of Baha Mousa, who died with horrific injuries across his body, with the skin on one side of his face taken off. Mousa was one of eight men arrested at a hotel suspected of involvement in a bomb attack, all of whom suffered prolonged beatings and sleep deprivation. One detainee was forced to cut another’s finger off.
Shiner described the court martial at the British base at Osnabruck in Germany as “a complete farce”, with the Iraqi families and himself denied any access. No charges were brought for murder or torture, instead an officer was charged with negligence.
He has sent a report to the Attorney General describing a policy of systematic torture and abuse with no accountability, and calling for a proper system of investigation by an independent authority, and public funds for families to enable them to participate in the process.
The meeting heard a powerful contribution from Jeff Green of the Deepcut and Beyond Families Group on their campaign for human rights, truth and justice.
“We are sick and tired of lies and cover-ups. At Deepcut, Catterick, Northern Ireland and overseas, bullies are getting away with murder. Zero tolerance is not enough – we need prosecutions. The families must be involved – they have no hidden agenda, just a need for closure.”
Leading human rights barrister Mike Mansfield, who has represented the Birmingham Six and the Bloody Sunday relatives, pointed out that the main concern of families was not the truth, but accountability, which he said “cannot be achieved through the ballot box”.
He described the Stephen Lawrence campaign as a major breakthrough, with an inquiry appointed by Labour which for the first time identified institutional racism in the police force.
But he warned the meeting that the same government has now effectively abolished genuine public inquiries in the future. In June Britain broke a commitment to the Irish government and Canadian judge Peter Cory to hold inquiries into four cases in the north of Ireland.
Instead the Inquiries Act was passed on 7th June. The first major change since 1921, this places any inquiry under the political control of the Government and excludes Parliament from the process.
Inquiries can no longer determine civil or criminal liability; the head of the inquiry will be appointed by a minister; restrictions can be imposed on public access and access to official documents. The Government now has power to halt an inquiry – including existing inquiries such as that into Bloody Sunday – or prevent the publication of its report.
Paul O’Connor ended the meeting by calling for MPs to be lobbied and questioned about the Peter McBride and other cases, and in particular to attempt to have the Armed Forces bill scheduled for November to be amended in line with the End Impunity Campaign.
The campaign has produced postcards addressed to MPs and can be contacted by email at pfc@iol.ie and the campaign’s website is at www.serve.com/pfc.

London civil service workers fight job cuts

THE PCS civil service union last week issued ballot papers for a one-day London wide strike followed by discontinuous action over planned Government job cuts in the Department for Work and Pensions.
The ballot papers were sent out last Monday to 10,000 members of the union working in the capital’s jobcentres, benefit offices, pension centres and the Child Support Agency (CSA).
The union is balloting its members as the axe has already fallen on more than 1000 jobs across London, leading to a deterioration of key services such as benefit payments and job broking services which the most vulnerable people in society rely on.
The cuts are part of a government drive to cull 30,000 jobs in the DWP across the Britain and a further 70,000 across the rest of the civil service, with London bearing the brunt of many of the cuts.
The ballot will close on 21st September 2005 and the result announced shortly after.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We are now seeing the disastrous consequences of arbitrary Government cuts on London’s jobcentres, benefit offices and pensions centres.
“As the jobs go the work remains and damage is being done to services that some of the most vulnerable in society rely on, such as benefits and getting back into work.
“Our members are working in increasingly intolerable conditions seeing the services they care about suffer as a result of crude cuts.
“Strike action is not a step we take lightly and we stand ready to reach a negotiated outcome that meets the interests of the public and staff, but the Government need to take stock of the damage its cuts programme is having and think again.”

Friday, September 02, 2005

Gate Gourmet offers a deal

GATE GOURMET, the Heathrow airline catering company that sacked 675 workers on 10th August after deliberately provoking a walkout in a strategy to replace the existing workforce with a cheaper one, last week started to offer voluntary redundancy terms to all its workers, including those who walked out.
The American-owned company is still seeking a big reduction in the workforce but, under pressure from the Transport and General Workers’ Union, British Airways and unions in the United States, it is now negotiating a deal.
Gate Gourmet says it must reduce costs if it is to survive. But British Airways has offered the company an improved contract with more money to provide in-flight meals.
BA is anxious to be able once again to offer its passengers hot meals in-flight and to avoid further solidarity action by BA employees in support of the sacked gate Gourmet workers, like the unofficial three-day walkout of baggage handlers three weeks ago. This walkout grounded thousands of BA flights at the height of the holiday season.
Both BA and Gate Gourmet have refused to comment on whether it has promised to help Gate Gourmet with the redundancy terms it is now offering. A figure of £7 million was mentioned in the press.
The package on offer is two-and-a-half times the statutory minimum and includes two times the weekly pay for every completed year of service.
The offer is being sent by letter to each worker this weekend.
But the dispute is far from over. The TGWU has warned that there could be wrangles over the treatment of staff who staged an unofficial walkout in protest at the cuts.
Gate Gourmet says it will not take back the most militant staff, while the TGWU is insisting that the 667 sacked strikers and the 1,400 other staff are treated equally.
Both sides said they hoped to resolve the dispute when the level of acceptances of redundancy is clear after the end of this week. The TGWU said that it held no brief to encourage its members to take redundancy.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic the union Unite Here, which represents half a million American hospitality workers, has threatened to take solidarity action if Gate Gourmet fails to reach an honourable deal with the sacked Heathrow workers.
Union president Bruce Rayner said the members would “take every lawful measure” in support of the Heathrow workers.
Unite Here and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters recently forced Gate Gourmet to restore the health coverage rights of its workforce in the US.
Rayner wrote to Gate Gourmet chief executive David Seigel saying: “I write to express Unite Here’s unyielding support for the Transport and General Workers’ Union members negotiating with Gate Gourmet in the UK.
“As you know, Unite Here and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have been negotiating with Gate Gourmet on behalf of 6,000 members working at your US kitchens.
“Let there be no doubt, we consider your assault on the union employees in London to be an assault on union members everywhere. We are outraged by such immoral behaviour and we expect that you will resolve this dispute by reinstating all of the fired workers.
“Failure to resolve the matter in the UK will certainly cause the unrest to spread across the Atlantic as our members will be forced to take every lawful measure possible to support our fellow union members.”

Review: The Facts on the Ground

The facts on the ground

by Robert Laurie

Maqlubeh or Facts on the Ground, London: Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association, 2005 pp. 28. £2.00 available from CADFA, PO Box 34265, London NW5 2WD. The group can be contacted by email at camdenabudis@btinternet.com.

ABU DIS is a small town in Israeli occupied Palestine separated from the old City of Jerusalem by the Mount of Olives. The population is about 10,000 excluding the students of Al-Quds University. Since 2003 it has been divided by the Israeli built Occupation Wall.

In April of this year a delegation of activists from north London visited Abu Dis to learn at first hand what life is like for the Palestinians under Zionist occupation. This pamphlet, written by Nandita Dowson provides a short account of that visit and is sold to raise funds to support the work of CADFA.

This work includes organising a return visit to London which takes place next month. While CADFA campaigns to establish formal twinning links between Abu Dis and Camden it also provides medical and educational aid through its various Links Groups.

The “Maqlubeh” of the somewhat curious title of the booklet refers to a traditional Palestinian dish which is served upside down from the cooking pan. Abu Dis has well and truly been turned upside down by both the Israeli occupation which began in 1967, the more recent construction of the Occupation Wall has made life much harsher.

Even before the 1967 occupation Abu Dis was affected by an influx of refugees following the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded in 1948 and the severing of links with Jerusalem and the rest of occupied Palestine. The other part of the title, Facts on the Ground, refers to the Israeli policy of rapidly expanding Zionist settlements on Palestinian land in strengthen their hand in any future negotiations over boundaries.

In a series of short chapters the booklet calmly describes the harsh lives of the Palestinians, often contrasting their difficult lives with those of the Israeli settlers. Israeli houses have swimming pools while Palestinians have an unreliable water supply provided by the Jerusalem municipality at extortionate cost. Palestinians are subject to severe and complex pass laws. The worst feature of life in the town is the Israeli built wall which cuts off the town from East Jerusalem. Farmers are cut off from their land, while routine tasks such as attending a hospital app-ointment are fraught with difficulty when the wall has to be crossed.

These difficulties are deliberately designed to persuade the Palestinian population to give up in despair and abandon their homes and farms to the settlers.Education is also disrupted as journeys to and from school are difficult for teachers and pupils alike. also covered are the problems facing young people and the health services.

This pamphlet is well worth buying both for the details of the reality of life under the occupation and to support the links between London and Abu Dis.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Why did Paul Coker die?

by Daphne Liddle

AROUND 100 family friends and supporters of Paul Coker, who died in mysterious circumstances in Plumstead police station on 6th August, held a protest vigil outside the station on Tuesday evening.
The event was supported by the Families for Justice Campaign, the Uhuru Movement and Greenwich Council for Racial Equality. It attracted support from many passers-by who had been unaware of the tragedy.
Paul came from a mixed family – an African father and English mother. They were present with his girlfriend, his sisters and their children as well as uncles and aunts, all deeply shocked by Paul’s sudden, unexplained death.
He had been arrested, allegedly for causing a disturbance, subdued by several police officers and then put in a cell. The next thing the family knew was that the police were informing them that Paul was dead – with no explanation of how it happened.
The tragedy is being investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. While that investigation is proceeding, the police are refusing to tell the family anything. An official post mortem has been inconclusive.
Feelings ran high a few times on Tuesday evening, with some of Paul’s friends expressing their anger to the police very forcefully.
Police officers based at Plumstead Police station over 10 years ago significantly failed to arrest the racist killers of black teenager Stephen Lawrence.
After the McPherson inquiry into Stephen Lawrence’s killing, which exposed the deep-seated institutional racism of the police who dealt with the case, big changes were supposed to have happened at Plumstead police station and it seemed in recent years that relations with the local black community had been improving.
Paul Coker knew Stephen Lawrence; they had attended the same school. Paul was the son of Sam Coker, a former councillor and political activist who had been among many at an anti-racist meeting at nearby Welling library that was attacked by British National Party thugs. Sam, a former Nigerian army PT instructor, had leapt out of an upstairs window in order to grapple with a couple of fascists in the street below. Paul also kept himself very fit.

won case


Paul Coker had won a compensation case against the police six years ago and had initiated a second legal action against the prison service, claiming he had been assaulted by a prison officer while serving a one-year sentence for burglary.
On 6th August police were called to Paul’s girlfriend’s flat because of a disturbance, the two had had a loud argument. By the time the police arrived the argument was over but 10 officers arrested Paul anyway.
Lucy, the girlfriend, said that police had barred her from the flat during the arrest. She said she could hear him screaming: “You are killing me. You are killing me,” in a way she had never heard a man scream before. Then all went quiet and the police carried Paul out. He was not struggling.
He was found dead at 6.45am but Lucy was not told until 11am and Paul’s mother was not told until 3pm.
Markhan Bajwa, who chairs GCRE, said: “Most of these deaths in custody involve young black men. I don’t know what happens when people go into a police station and end up dead. How can a fit young man go into a station and be dead within two hours?”

as long as it takes

During the picket of the police station last Tuesday there was a short ceremony as the family laid flowers by the police station entrance and their vicar said a prayer. Paul’s mother made a brief speech in which she pledged to her son to fight for justice for as long as it takes.
She told the crowd that Paul had been a fit and healthy young man and had written some poetry. One of his poems was entitled “Time is the master”. Patricia Coker declared: “Indeed time is the master and time will see that justice is done for my son.”

Gate Gourmet talks break down

THREE-WAY talks between the Transport and General Workers’ Union, the airline catering company Gate Gourmet and British Airways broke down in acrimony last Tuesday.
Talks may resume again within a few days but TGWU chief negotiator Brendan Gould said: “I am despondent and disgusted at the way things have been concluded and I feel very frustrated at the lack of progress. Everything we were working towards has collapsed.”
The sticking point in the negotiations is the refusal by Gate Gourmet to reinstate all the workers sacked three weeks ago after deliberate and calculated provocation by the company led to a walkout.
They have agreed to reinstate most of those sacked but still want to exclude those they label as troublemakers – meaning union activists and those who will encourage their fellow workers to resist cuts in wages and conditions. The TGWU is adamant that all must be reinstated.
This was part of a strategy by Gate Gourmet to replace its existing workforce entirely with an even lower paid one. The sacking led to an unofficial solidarity walk-out by BA’s baggage handlers that halted all BA flights from Heathrow over three days and cost BA millions.
The Texas-based Gate Gourmet claimed financial difficulties and says the terms of its contract to supply BA with airline food are causing its operation in Britain to make a loss.
During negotiations it set a deadline of Tuesday night for BA to come up with an improved contract – or Gate Gourmet would put itself into administration.
BA claims that just such a contract has been on the table for some weeks. But it said that Gate Gourmet must resolve its dispute with its staff before it can be implemented.
There are reports that, behind the scenes, the Government is putting pressure on Gate Gourmet to agree to a settlement because it is concerned that further strikes could paralyse Heathrow.
The sacked catering workers are mainly from the local Asian community, which supplies most of Heathrow’s staff. There is a high degree of sympathy for the sacked workers because of the way in which they were treated.
The TGWU asserts that Gate Gourmet’s threats to go into administration are simple blackmail.
TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley told a packed meeting of sacked workers and their supporters in a local Sikh temple that the company had planned to go into administration as a tactic to cut the workforce and wage levels.
“They always planned to do it,” he said. “They planned to go in and out of administration to put more pressure on BA so they could fulfil their cynical and well-thought-out plan. There was no consideration whatsoever for the effect on you, your families or the communities you live in.”
He said the dispute had implications for labour relations throughout Britain. “This is an issue for the whole country. Can a company walk into Britain and plan the cynical sacking of innocent men and women to cut costs and be allowed to get away with it? I say no.”
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told the meeting: “I sense the British public share our outrage about what has happened. For a company in Britain today to say ‘you are sacked and you are sacked and you are sacked …’ – that is not the way we do business. If this dispute is not resolved, that message will just not just go around this country but around the world.”
Local Labour MPs John McDonnell, Anne Keen and Piara Khabra are backing the sacked workers, many of who are facing serious financial hardship.
The root of the problem lies in Britain’s anti-trade union laws, dating back to the Thatcher era, which forbid solidarity strikes and prevent the unions defending the workers effectively.
The Blair government is also blocking the implementation of the European Union’s “Agency Workers Directive” which would provide temporary workers with same pay and conditions as permanent staff.
Trade unions throughout the EU have been lobbying hard to get this law approved.
If enacted, companies like Gate Gourmet would no longer be able to use agency staff as cheap labour at the expense of full time workers.