Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy New Year!
Best wishes for 2007 from all at the London District of the New Communist Party of Britain

Dagenham workers threaten strike

COUNCIL workers employed by Barking and Dagenham council who are members of the GMB and TGWU general unions last week voted overwhelmingly in a consultative ballot for strike action against the council’s proposals to deal with the Single Status and equal pay claims.
The two unions will now begin a process for a formal, official ballot to prepare for full strike action in the New Year.
GMB senior organiser Justin Bowden said: “Wow, I have run many ballots but never had such an overwhelming result as this one. The message is clear to the council and it must take notice of it.
“If not, then 2007 will begin with the very real possibility of strike action that would close schools and all services including dust and street cleansing, parks, libraries and offices

Bringing Palestine to Lewisham

MEMBERS of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Lewisham Stop the War Coalition were out in Lewisham High Street last Saturday 16th December, bringing home to the Christmas shoppers the reality of life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
With some supporters in traditional Palestinian dress and others in costume as Israeli soldiers, they enacted the humiliating procedures and searches that Palestinian people have to go through every day in their own country just to travel from one part to another.
Painted cardboard stood in for the notorious Israeli “apartheid wall” dividing the West Bank and those wishing to pass had to produce documents carrying information on their identity, educational and work record and their alleged political views and activities.
But when “Condoleezza Rice” (a campaigner in a mask) arrived with a bag containing billions of dollars, the guards at the wall welcomed her and allowed her through with no security checks.
Shoppers were asked how they would feel if they had to show such documents to soldiers of a foreign occupying force just to be allowed to go about their daily business.
Leaflets were distributed and petition signatures collected. Later the campaigners took part in a peace vigil, calling for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan.
There was a short candle-lit walk, speeches and singing by the Strawberry Thieves.

Friday, December 15, 2006

NCP charts its course!


by Caroline Colebrook

THE FIFTEENTH Congress of the New Communist Party of Britain took place at the Marx Memorial Library in London on the weekend of 2nd and 3rd of December this year. It was chaired by Alex Kempshall and attended by party delegates, fraternal delegates from other parties in Britain and around the world and by friends, supporters and observers.
It was an enjoyable experience for all who took part and the benefit of the changes to the Party constitution and rules made in the previous congress in 2003 were evident. The Party’s financial situation has improved and the extra year between congresses allowed the party to spend more time preparing this one.
This was reflected in the main resolution, prepared by the Central Committee, and other resolutions submitted by Party cells that went far deeper into various political and economic issues than ever before. The period of pre-congress discussion had been longer. More topics were covered in greater depth, including energy policy and nuclear power, education, housing, landownership, and advancing fascism in the shape of a more oppressive and controlling state machinery.
There were many amendments and resolutions from Party cells and districts on matters ranging from the environment to mental health and support for the recent nuclear test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
We were able to dig deeper into the contradictions and contending interests within the global ruling class as well as the main contradiction between capital and labour. Policy agreed at one Congress stands unless it is withdrawn or contradicted at a later congress. So every time we prepare a main resolution some comrades suggest we do not need to go deeply into what has already been agreed and is not controversial – and thus produce a shorter document. But it never works out like that.
If any topic is left out, someone will raise it. This means that at any congress every aspect of our policy is debated again and fine tuned in the light of recent events. Thus the policy is deepened, along with our understanding of the way the world works and what we need to do to achieve peace and socialism.
Congress is also an opportunity for comrades from all over the country to meet, to put faces to names and to meet and discuss with comrades from other communist parties in struggle all around the world. And the overwhelming message the fraternal comrades brought us this year was very positive. The most reactionary and dangerous elements within global imperialism – the American neo-cons – are being defeated in their attempts to impose world hegemony after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Their armies are being defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan. Latin America is turning leftwards, led by Cuba and Venezuela and Washington can do nothing because its armies are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. The economic hegemony of the US is broken by China’s rising economic strength, by Venezuela’s use of its oil for progressive purposes and by dissent from the European Union and Russia. Communist Parties around the world are advancing again and revisionist weaknesses and delusions are disappearing. The future is not certain but it is looking a lot better than it did three years ago.
Congress opened with a speech from NCP President Eric Trevett, in which he spoke of the coming 30th anniversary of the party’s foundation in July 1977, and the tremendous changes that have taken place in Britain and the world since then. He also spoke of the need to build the party and recruit new members. This is not easy in the current political climate when so many people are disillusioned and alienated from the political process and most political parties are losing members.
Furthermore, membership of the NCP calls for a higher level of commitment and sacrifice than most people who are new to the struggle are ready to give.
“Our party has made significant progress but has only modest influence in the Labour movement at present,” said Eric. “Among its successes are the establishment of its own premises, its own printing house and a weekly communist newspaper, the New Worker.
“Our members have been in action on many national and local demonstrations but we have a problem. We are not big enough to play a decisive part in the struggles of the working class.
“For this our recruiting efforts have not been sufficient to offset the natural wastage that arises from the deaths and incapacity of some of our members.
“This is a problem that has to be addressed. The deteriorating living standards of the people and the growing alienation arising from the privatisation process provide the basis for more success to recruit members into our party.
“A start has been made towards this in the foundation of the New Worker Supporters’ Groups, which involve non-party people at present who are becoming conversant with Marxist Leninist ideas and inspired by the ideas of socialism and communism.
“They are also becoming conversant with our strategy for uniting the working class around revolutionary concepts.
“We will be discussing these ideas in the course of this congress and I won’t anticipate them by discussing them in this brief address. But central to our work from this congress must be a conscious recruiting drive. It can’t just be left to exhortation but must be carried through in an organised way and with √©lan and political conviction.
“That is in some ways the main task facing the party at the present time.”
This was followed by a speech from our general secretary, Andy Brooks. He spoke of the primary contradiction in the world today between the Unites States and the rest of the world it seeks to dominate.
“The Bush administration represents the most reactionary and aggressive sections of the American ruling class bent on world domination. Supported by the most venal and craven sections of the British ruling class they have invaded and occupied part of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq and their guns threaten Democratic Korea, Cuba, Syria, Iran, Venezuela and anyone else who dares to stand in their way,” he said.
Andy went on to speak of the resistance to oppression: “The Iraqi people have defied the might of imperialism for over a decade and the heroic Iraqi resistance has moved from defence to attack effectively destroying Anglo-American imperialism’s dream of colonising Iraq and establishing an imperialist ‘Greater Middle East’. The Palestinians continue to defy the Zionist state and its imperialist masters. Throughout Latin America democratic forces have come to power with mass support. The Nepalese people have ended the autocracy of a hated monarch and the Lebanese resistance inflicted a heavy political and military defeat on the Israelis last summer.”
Andy talked of the record of the NCP in support of those resisting imperialist aggression: “Our party supported the Iraqi government when it intervened in Kuwait in 1990 and opposed the imperialist attack in 1991 that had been rubber-stamped at the UN Security Council. We supported the Iraqi government and people when they suffered under a decade of blockade and imperialist attack. We were in the minority, a tiny minority, arguing this case in the forums of the world communist movement at that time.
“We supported the Iraqi national resistance from the start when this opinion was also in the minority in the world communist movement. Now the overwhelming mass of communist and workers parties have closed ranks behind the resistance and we can take some comfort from the fact that the NCP has played a part in winning the argument for the correct line.”
Andy also spoke of the struggle for socialism in Britain: “We believe that the working class can never come to power through bourgeois elections but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on working class demands for social justice and state welfare. We believe that social democracy can never lead to people’s democracy but that doesn’t mean that we turn our back on social democratic movements that represent millions upon millions of working people in Britain in the unions and in the Labour Party.
“We believe that the class collaborationist ideas of social democracy must be defeated within the working class but not by imitating it in the countless variations of the British Road to Socialism upheld by the revisionist and Trotskyist movements in Britain today. The fact that these platforms do not work; that they are rejected time and time again by the same working class these programmes claim to advance never deters these pseudo-revolutionaries who believe they can change the consciousness of the masses through rhetoric and wild promises.
“Now we can all play that game and call upon imaginary legions beyond the British working class to advance along the revolutionary road. We can all invent a class that is seething with anger and mobilised for revolutionary change that is just waiting for the correct party with the correct formula to lead them to victory. Unfortunately as communists we have to work with the working class that exists and not the phantom of romantic leftism.
“Running left candidates without mass support against Labour divides the movement and the class and ignores the obvious fact that the only realistic alternate governments are those of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats that would be much worse than any Labour government.”
He concluded: “Socialism is essential to eliminate exploitation, unemployment, poverty, economic crisis and war. Socialism is the only solution to climate change, pollution and global warming. Let us work together to build the movement that will ensure that this century becomes the era of socialism.”
Delegates then warmly welcomed Comrade Jong In Song from the DPRK embassy in London who conveyed the greetings of Workers Party of Korea to the Congress and wished it well.
The financial crisis gripping the NHS sparked many contributions to debate in the Congress. Peter Hendy from the North West District of the NCP, who is a psychiatric nurse, told the Congress: “The NHS is suffering a financial crisis that can only get worse, despite record levels of expenditure.
“It is estimated that the NHS is £900 million in debt with no sign of the crisis abating. Health trust deficits are causing cuts in patient care and staff jobs. More beds, jobs and even whole hospitals face the axe to meet cash shortfalls.
“To cut costs and slash budgets has meant sacking workers, freezing pay and slashing services to the bone. Nurses and other health workers are being offered a pathetic 1.5 per cent pay increase – which at half the rate of inflation is effectively a pay cut.
“Twenty thousand workers are set to lose their jobs, 30 community hospitals are threatened with closure and 50 per cent of emergency departments could be axed.”
He also spoke on the crisis in mental health care: “High rates of suicide and of psychosis in prisons – estimated to be ten times higher than in the general population, demonstrate a complete failure to provide and develop appropriate services to meet prisoners’ mental health care needs.
“An unprecedented growth in the prison population demonstrates that prisons have now become the new psychiatric hospitals, warehousing society’s most vulnerable and stigmatised sections of the population.”
He went on to explain the reasons behind the crisis: the internal NHS market, in which “patients become no more than units of exchange in which managers conduct purchasing agreements”, the private finance initiative and the introduction of foundation status hospitals.
“Speak to anyone in the health service and they will describe a collective mood of demoralisation created by overwork and underpay,” Peter said. And he quoted a leftwing colleague: “When Margaret Thatcher left Downing Street, she shed a tear. I don’t want Tony Blair to shed a tear when he leaves Downing Street. I want him to be led away in handcuffs!”
Ann Rogers from the Southall NCP spoke against the Government’s plans to replace Trident with a new submarine-based nuclear weapons programme. “This is not a simple replacement,” she said, “this is an upgrade costing up to £75 billion.” Ann pointed out that this was in breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and also a threat to the environment. “War and weapons damage the environment worse than anything else,” she said.
Alex Kempshall spoke of the NCP delegation to People’s China and that country’s rapid economic growth and drive to eliminate poverty.
Stefan Eggerdinger, representing the Workers’ League for the Restoration of the German Communist Party (AWfKPD) told the Congress about his party’s efforts to expose and combat German and European Union imperialism.
Severino Menendez from the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE) also spoke of European Union imperialism, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. He pointed out that when Israel attacked and invaded Lebanon Bush and Blair delayed any response from the international community. Only when the Lebanese resistance was winning, were international peace-keeping forces sent, and then to the invaded country, not the aggressor.
He also spoke about the recent conference of communist and workers’ parties in Lisbon – continuing the annual international conferences initiated by the Greek Communist Party (KKE) and held in Athens in previous years.
Papagiotis Rentzelas of the KKE told the Congress that the US and EU were the leading imperialist aggressors in the world. He spoke of the EU assault on the hard-won social gains of European workers and the need to broaden the fronts of struggle.
Comrade Christodoulos Stylianou from the Progressive Party of Working People of Cyprus (Akel) paid tribute to the work of the KKE in initiating the international conference and spoke of Akel’s 80th anniversary earlier this year. He called for a just settlement to reunite his divided island and restore its full sovereignty.
Two comrades from the Marxist-Leninist Party of Turkey and Northern Kurdistan (MLTKP) spoke of their struggles to operate in conditions of illegality after raids and arrests on their party and other left parties in Turkey earlier this year.
They and many of their comrades are now in exile and they spoke of the desire to make links with communist parties in those countries where they find themselves.
In response to their appeal, the NCP Congress drafted an emergency motion of support, condemning the suppression of the left Turkish parties and calling for the release of all political prisoners.
Hanne Rosenvald from the newly-united Communist Party of Denmark spoke of the process of unification which had brought the party into existence a few months ago. She also spoke of international solidarity against the war in Iraq, the fight against racism and against attacks of fundamental rights. And she concluded with an account of her party’s struggle for democracy and sovereignty against the EU.
Michael Chant from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) spoke about the ruling class offensive against civil liberties and the targeting of Islam and revolutionary communism.
Explo Nani Kofi of the African Liberation Solidarity Committee spoke on the struggle in Africa for national liberation and how winning this was not the same thing as winning socialism. After national liberation the struggle continues to free the working class from bourgeois capitalist exploitation.
Neil Harris of Southall NCP spoke on mental health and civil liberties and proposals to imprison people on “behaviour orders”, in spite of having committed no crimes.
Stella Moutafis spoke, paying tribute to the work and dedication of NHS mental health staff in the face of huge cuts and shortages of resources.
Daphne Liddle spoke on the Identity Card Act and the huge database that would go with it, carrying detailed personal information on all of us. She pointed out that this sort of information would be invaluable to bosses, bank managers and to people who want to sell us stuff, so they could try to micro-manage our working, borrowing and spending to extract the maximum amount of profit from each of us.
Richard Bos of West Surrey NCP spoke on the opportunities presented by new technology for communists around the world to communicate and act in solidarity together.
There were many more contributions, on health, especially mental health care, the environment, the struggle for freedom and reunification in Ireland, on political work in factories and many other topics.
After two days of debate the amended main resolution and the other proposed amendments were all agreed. After the voting, comrades sang the Internationale, said their goodbyes and departed to their homes to prepare to implement the policies they had just agreed. As the Irish folk song October Winds says: “A little rest and then the world is full of work to do”.

Tis the season to be jolly...

…or not if you happen to be in that tiny band of bible-punchers and their Tory friends who are raging at the apparent disrespect shown to the Prince of Peace at the time of his supposed birth. A Tory columnist in the Daily Telegraph threatens to trash any greetings card that omits the word “Christmas” while the Daily Mail and the Sun have been banging on about employers who have banned Christmas decorations and councils, invariably Labour or Liberal Democrat, that have sought to rename the winter holiday “luminos” or “winterval” for fear of offending other religious minorities.
The focus for these latter-day religious reformers is the “Campaign Against Political Correctness” which claims to be defending traditional British values, whatever that means, against its wholesale assault by hordes of Muslims, liberals, atheists and other enemies under the bed during the season of good will.
Now that all the media pundits are joining in the fun it appears that most of these scare-stories are grossly exaggerated or simply urban myths. But the real point is that the “traditional” British Christmas has very little to do with Christianity and the fact is, it never had.
Exchanging gifts and cards, dancing round the mistletoe, gorging oneself on turkey and drinking oneself silly has nothing to do with Jesus’ teachings – a fact our Puritan forebears knew when they sought to ban all merry-making on Christmas Day.Nobody knows when Jesus of Nazareth was born, least of all the early Christians who never celebrated their founder’s birth, preferring to uphold the day of his crucifixion, which has never been in doubt. The early Christian theologian, Origen, condemned “Christmas” as an idea worthy of a Pharaoh, contending that only sinners, not saints, celebrated their birthdays – a principle upheld by some Christian sects even today.
Christmas is a pagan festival to mark the winter solstice that was known as Saturnalia in Roman times or Yule-tide by our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, while 25th December was sacred to Mithras, the Persian deity adored by many in the Roman legions. It may have been marked by solemn rituals but it was also accompanied by orgies of feasting and indulgence, when slaves became masters for the day and all rules were overturned.
The early Christian Fathers, who realised there was no point in trying to compete with the Invincible Sun God on his own day, simply appropriated it for their own Master and the celebrations continued under the blessings of the Church.
And why not? Most workers in Britain now get paid leave for one or two weeks over the Christmas and New Year breaks. For one brief moment in the year they can put their feet up, enjoy themselves and live the way the rich live every day of their parasitical existence. Unfortunately we pay for it when the decorations come down and the relentless pile of bills mounts up in January, while the rich carry on as if nothing has happened.
These “re-born” Tory fundamentalists would be laughable if they weren’t so hypocritical. Public holidays and statutory leave entitlements are not gifts from benevolent bosses. They were wrung from the necks of grudging employers over the years by the unions.
Nor are these Tory pundits well-suited for the role of religious reformers. If they were they should campaign for the return of the Sunday laws that the Tories abolished in the 1990s, which would not only restore the “Lord’s Day” but guarantee workers a fixed day of rest and ensure that those who have to work on Sunday get double-time-plus for doing it. Now that really would be something to celebrate.

Five million pound fine for detention centre

THE COMPANY running Harmondsworth detention centre, near Heathrow Airport, where hundreds of asylum seekers rioted in protest at conditions that had been condemned by the chief prisons inspector, has been fined £5 million for a series of performance failures.
The Government imposed this fine – which the private contractors will have to repay to the Treasury – after a damning report by Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons.
She found there a regime of intimidation that left 60 per cent of inmates saying they felt unsafe there. She described the “poorest” conditions she had ever found in a detention centre.
Relations between inmates and staff were poor and the staff were unable to recognise torture victims.
The day after the report was published there was a riot at the centre, which is run by the American security services giant Kalyx.

Thugs attack Iceland picket

STRIKING drivers and warehouse workers at the Iceland distribution depot in the London Borough of Enfield have told of brutal attempts last Thursday to break the strike by contractor DHL Exel.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union said that gangs of security guards, described as “thugs, no more, no less” by one picket, had been brought in.
“They are threatening, provoking and intimidating our people,” said TGWU senior industrial organiser Peter Kavanagh. “We are trying to deal with the police over a serious incident of assault. It has been a nasty start to what is a lawful strike and a peaceful protest. There’s no Christmas cheer here.”
Kavanagh said that DHL Exel must have spent a small fortune to bring in the private security guards and agency labour to get supplies out earlier than usual in an attempt to break the strike. But he said the goods being delivered may not be as fresh as they should be.
“DHL sent the refrigerated trucks out three hours earlier than normal but the Iceland stores weren’t opened three hours early,” he added.
“That means the refrigeration units would have had to stand idle waiting for the stores to open before they could be unloaded.
“You have to wonder what happened to those foodstuffs during the wait when they couldn’t be kept in proper refrigerated conditions. Iceland customers should be asking questions as we would.”
The TGWU said the amounts of money being spent trying to break the strike and undermine the DHL Excel workforce would have been better spent sorting out the pay dispute.
The one-day strike was called in protest at an imposed 2.4 per cent pay increase by DHL Exel and the failure of the contractor to pass on any of the productivity and efficiency gains made by the 115 drivers and 250 warehouse staff.
The Enfield site delivers to about 180 Iceland stores in London and across the south-east and East Anglia, including stores in Norwich, Norfolk, Ipswich, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Kent.
Further strike action is planned for Friday 15th December followed by Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd December.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The 15th Congress of the NCP

DELEGATES of the New Communist Party cells and districts, friends, supporters and fraternal delegates from other parties assembled last weekend in the historic Marx House at Clerkenwell Green in central London for the party’s 15th National Congress.
The Congress was opened by NCP president Eric Trevett, who recalled the tremendous things that have happened nationally and internationally since the NCP was founded in July 1977.
He spoke of the marginalisation and even liquidation of some communist parties, victims of the revisionist virus of “Euro-communism”, which paved the way for counter-revolution in the Soviet Union and other European socialist countries.
In Britain in the 1980s the defeat of the heroic miners’ strike – betrayed by the leaderships of the Labour Party and TUC who prevented effective solidarity support – which paved the way for first an onslaught on trade union rights and then on the wages and conditions of the working class.
Those were dark days but now: “Resistance to reactionary policies is growing and among the positive developments we see is China emerging as a world power in politics and in the economic field,” Eric told the Congress.
“In Latin America we see other countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua joining Cuba in opposing US imperialism.
“In the Middle East the patriotic forces of Lebanon fought US-backed Israel to a standstill and Israel has been exposed to an unprecedented extent as an aggressor state and a puppet of US imperialism.
“Here at home resistance is also growing as is evidenced by the massive demonstrations against the war on Iraq and the build up of local agitation in defence of the health service,” he added.
He finished with a call for positive action to build the New Communist Party.
Dozens of delegates made contributions, as amendments to the party’s main resolution and several other resolutions were debated. They brought to the debate personal experience of activity in a wide range of struggles.
The illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were top concerns, along with recognition that the resistance in those countries is succeeding in fighting the imperialist invaders to a standstill, who are now desperately casting about for a feasible “exit strategy”.
Concern over the future of the NHS was among the topics which attracted many speakers. In particular the shameful inadequacy of mental health services produced many passionate contributions from comrades who either worked in the field, were patients or close relatives of patients.
Congress agreed that the stresses of living under advanced and declining capitalism have produced an epidemic of stress and depression, while the traditional community structures of the working class that supported the morale of workers in struggle have been undermined by consumerism, individualism and alienation.
Other big concerns included opposition to the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system and the current attacks on civil liberties.
Fraternal delegates from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Greece, Spain, Denmark, Cyprus, Turkey, Germany, the African Liberation Support Committee and the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) spoke to the Congress.
All these comrades emphasised the recent changes in the world balance of power, as the United States has lost some of its power. This follows the strength of the resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan and the huge shift towards left-wing governments in Latin America, especially Venezuela, which the US is powerless to stop.
Many mentioned the recent conference of communist and workers’ parties in Lisbon, where the mood among communists now is upbeat and positive. Parties are growing in strength as they successfully defeat the poison of revisionism and class collaboration.
The Turkish comrades told a harrowing tale of violent oppression of their party – along with other parties, especially those who stand up for Kurdish civil rights and liberties. They have suffered raids and arrests and leading members are being held in jail. Their party is forced to work in conditions of illegality. The Congress passed an emergency solidarity motion in support of their struggle and calling for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Turkey.
And the nuclear test by the DPRK was recognised by Congress as a positive step towards the peaceful stabilisation of that region – a real deterrent to US imperialist interference there.
NCP general secretary Andy Brooks wound up the Congress by congratulating delegates for their hard work in producing a document that will chart the Party’s progress for the next three years. He praised the positive contribution the RCPB (ML) had made towards advancing communist unity through co-operation and dialogue with the NCP over the years.
The one certainty in life, Andy said quoting Marx, was that the only alternative to socialism was barbarism – the barbarism we saw in Nazi Germany and what we see today in Iraq; the barbarism we see in the starvation and poverty of much of the Third World and the exploitation and oppression of working people throughout the world. But this was a Congress of hope and conviction in the supremacy of the communist ideal. The 21st century, he concluded, will certainly be the century of socialism.
A collection raised over £450 and the last act of Congress, in accordance with NCP tradition, was the mass singing of the Internationale.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Unions condemn pensions talk snub

by Caroline Colebrook

OVER 1,000 local government workers last Wednesday, 22nd November, lobbied their MPs in Westminster and attended a rally at Central Hall Westminster organised by several public sector trade unions to press home their claim for a decent deal for the 1.5 million members of the local government pensions scheme. They included dinner ladies, teaching assistants, social workers, refuse collectors, home helps, police support staff and many other workers and the event was timed to coincide with a House of Commons debate on their pensions. But two days later the unions were accusing Local Government Minister Phil Woolas of a “hostile intervention” that effectively “spiked” talks between the Government and unions, at which progress was being made to settle the long-running pensions dispute.

Woolas had written to unions and the employers asking them to negotiate directly. But minutes before the employers were due to meet to consider fresh proposals from the unions, he made a statement in the Commons announcing a new pension scheme for England and Wales.

Neither the employers nor the unions knew anything whatsoever about the statement.

The employers and trade unions had written to Woolas explaining that significant progress was being made in the talks. Earlier in the week Keith Sonnet, deputy general secretary of the giant public sector union Unison, asked Woolas not to make any statement until after the talks had been concluded, but received no reply.

Sonnet said: “The Local Government Minister, Phil Woolas, has spiked these crucial talks in a totally unnecessary and hostile intervention. “We were making significant progress, with the employers just about to consider fresh proposals aimed at solving the long dispute.”

Peter Allenson, national organiser for the Transport and General Workers’ Union, said that the actions of Woolas in undermining the negotiations “simply beggared belief” and made him appear like “Calamity Phil”. “The TGWU was looking forward to a constructive set of talks with the employers based on our successful lobby this week. We knew what we wanted to achieve and we felt the omens were good for a decent set of negotiations,” he said. “But more importantly today will be seen as a slap in the face by a Labour minister for thousands of low-paid workers we are fighting for. It does Mr Woolas’ credibility no good at all.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “This is an absolutely irresponsible act. Neither the employers nor the unions knew anything about the Minister’s proposed actions. “He went to ground and ignored our approaches. Is this the way to engender partnership working or to promote good industrial relations?”

Unison is now calling on Woolas to allow the talks to continue in an attempt to reach an agreement, unfettered by the terms of the parliamentary statement.

Unless this happens, Unison says it will have no alternative but to move towards a strike ballot of nearly one million members in the local government pension scheme.

Last March more than one million workers did take strike action on this issue. Further strike action was called off to allow these talks to take place.

London Detention Centre slammed

ANNE OWERS, the Government’s chief inspector of jails last week delivered a damning report on the state of Britain’s largest immigrant detention centre at Harmondsworth, near Heathrow.
This is where 500 men, asylum seekers who have failed to convince the Home Office of their case and illegal immigrants are held pending forcible deportation to their country of origin.
Owers said the privately-run detention centre has fallen into “a culture wholly at odds with its stated purpose” since a riot happened there two years ago after a Kosovan was found hanging in his cell. She described her report as the worst she has ever issued. She discovered high levels of force used in the centre, with 60 per cent of inmates reporting that staff use bullying tactics and they do not feel safe. She said the regime was more appropriate to a high-security prison than an immigration detention centre.
Around 2,000 foreign nationals pass through Harmondsworth every month. Forty-four per cent complain of ill-treatment and intimidation by staff. The place is run by United Kingdom Detention Services.
Former inmates say the staff are “aggressive”, “intimidating” and “unhelpful”, especially to detainees who do not speak English. Some say they have been treated “like animals”.
Owers found that many complaints were not investigated. Basic items like tins, jars, nail clippers and leads were confiscated from inmates, many of whom ended up in solitary confinement as a punishment for bad behaviour. Restrictions were placed on inmates’ movements, including the ability to attend religious ceremonies.
Measures to combat suicide and self harm were “weak” and an action plan drawn up to tackle the problem was described as “purely a bureaucratic exercise which had no impact on the centre’s practices”.
Owers described an over-emphasis on physical security. She said: “Harmondsworth is not an easy place to run and the serious disturbance it had experienced had clearly affected the confidence of managers and staff. “However it had been allowed to slip into a culture and approach which was wholly at odds with its stated purpose, and inimical to the proper care and treatment of detainees.” She put some of the blame on the Home Office for not resolving problems at the centre.
The root of the problems lies in Britain’s harsh asylum laws, which do not give proper opportunities to desperate people to prove their cases. This ends up with terrified people being forced back to their home countries. Some are prepared to commit suicide rather than go back.
Any country must have an immigration and asylum policy but it must be fair and humane. It is no good blaming the low-ranking front-line staff for implementing inhuman policies that are decided at much higher levels.

A finger in every pie?

THE GMB general union has accused the food company Katsouris, which supplied Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s, of having a poor safety record and putting it mainly migrant workers at risk of injury.
The union says the company, part of the Geest group, suffers on average two or three accidents a day, though not all of them have to be reported by law.
In one incident last June, Dimple Muit, a 27-year-old immigrant worker at the Wembley factory in north London, lost the top of her finger as she cleaned out machinery. She said she had reported the faulty machine four or five times to her supervisor. She said the supervisor called for an engineer but managed to get the machine working again without one.
The next time the machines blocked, Muit put her hand in to clear it out and the machine roared into life, cutting into her hand.
Two weeks later Niten Chokshi was loading large bins full of chick peas into a lifting machine at the same factory. “I pushed the button and the whole thing fell on me,” he said through an interpreter. The tops of two fingers were sliced off and his hand was crushed.
The GMB is trying to win recognition at the company and has drawn attention a catalogue of incidents over the last three years.
The Health and Safety Executive has served seven improvement notices on Katsouris in the last four years. The GMB says that pressure from supermarkets forces suppliers to run production lines at speeds that can cause injuries.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

People's Assembly tackles new anti-Muslim racism


by Karen Dabrowska

STOP THE WAR Coalition last Saturday convened a people’s assembly in central London to help tackle the new racism in the United Kingdom which targets the Muslim community.
The aim of the assembly is to bring people together to discuss the relationship between Islamophobia and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to organise a campaign in response to war and racism.
It was convened after the head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, said that more than 200 Al-Qaeda cells were plotting at least 30 major attacks in Britain. The police are working to contend with some 200 networks, totalling over 1,600 identified individuals actively engaged in plotting terrorist acts here and overseas.
She said: “Killing oneself and others is an attractive option for some citizens. The threat is serious, is growing and will be with us for a generation.”
Opening the assembly, Stop the War Coalition chairperson Andrew Murray, described Islamophobia as the last resort of the warmongers to make up for their failure. “George Bush said he was getting ready for one last push. We too are ready for one last push to get the get the troops out of Iraq.”
Stop the War Coalition widened its aims to opposition to the racist backlash against Muslims and the defence of civil liberties.
Veteran leftist politician and president of Stop the War Coalition Tony Benn said there was no war on terror. There is a war on Iraq, Afghanistan and a threat to Iran. If the war was a war on terror, the British government would have called for a ceasefire when Israel invaded Lebanon.
“There is a war for power and oil which is being presented as a war on terror,” he said.
Tony Benn drew the assembly’s attention to invasions by the US marines: four invasions of Cuba, four of Nicaragua, seven of Honduras, two of the Dominican Republic, one of Guatemala, two of Panama and four of Columbia.
He criticised attempts to present Islam as a threat to the British way of life. All the great religions preach that we should live together. Now the definition of a moderate Muslim is one who doesn’t mind his country being invaded. Every hospital that has been closed could have remained open if there was no war against Iraq.
“The problem with Great Britain is that is cannot win the war on Iraq. But this presents us with a supreme opportunity to build a world where human rights are respected and we deal with environmental problems and poverty”, Benn concluded.
A second generation British Muslim of Pakistani origin detained at Guantanamo Bay, Moazzam Begg, received a standing ovation when he addressed the assembly. Begg described Belmarsh Prison in south-east London as “Britain’s Guantanamo”, where terrorist suspects are held without charge or trial.
On his return from Guantanamo, Begg said his greatest difficulty was seeing “the people I come from demonised in a way which has never happened before. I expected Britain would welcome people who had been persecuted but all the intrinsic values of this country which made me British are being eroded.
“Iraq and Afghanistan have a direct link to what happens in Britain but only Tony Blair does not understand this.”
Begg described the ordeal of Ibn Al Shaikh Al Libi, a Libyan captured during Operation Enduring Freedom, who was sent to a torture centre in Cairo. After he was raped and electrodes were applied to his testicles, he allegedly confessed that he worked on obtaining weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein.
This confession was used by Colin Powell to create a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda and a justification for entering Iraq.
Sumiya Hensi, a fourth year law student at Dundee University, and Esther Sassaman, a Jewish American working as a secretary in the university’s social work department, addressed the assembly together with their arms around each other, about a Special Branch pilot scheme monitoring Muslim students on campus.
“They come to our events, they question students and intimidate them,” Hensi said. “My parents have worked hard in this country, the pay their taxes, this is a real slap in the face.”
Sassaman described a petition organised by the students to defend liberty. “This is a pilot project which needs to be stopped before it spreads across Britain.”
Green Party MEP Jean Lambert warned that the collective right to protest is deeply restricted, freedom of speech is deeply compromised, passionate speech is now an incitement to terrorism and the British government is compromising its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, while remaining shamefully silent about Guantanamo Bay. “We need to defend our right to act against an illegal and unjust war.”
Tongue in cheek comedian Mark Steele ridiculed the Muslim threat referring to sawn-off veils and veils with serrated edges. “The British government is brilliant at opposing the racism of the past against the Irish, the black people in America and the Spanish Inquisition, but racism is on our doorstep and it is harder to oppose when it is on our doorstep.”
“What kind of society asks parents to rat on their children, lecturers to rat on their students?” asked Anas Al-Tikriti former president of the Muslim Association of Britain. His 20 years of work with Muslim youth forced him to conclude that British society faces a much greater risk from fraudsters, rapists, and paedophiles than from Muslim extremists.
Terrorists and extremists are driven by the state of politics (the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and the oppression of the Palestinians) not verses from the Qur’an.
The convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey German, said that the Jews were fully integrated into German society yet this did not prevent their persecution. “Tony Blair and Margaret Beckett have told the Muslims to stand up and be counted. They have stood against the war. The people who are being attacked are being demonised and we have to fight attempts to make racism acceptable.”
The assembly was also addressed by trade unionists, Sami Ranadani a political refugee from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, playwright David Edgar, Yvonne Ridley of the Islam Channel, Rose Gentle from Military Families Against the War, Craig Murray the ex British Ambassador to Uzbekistan and Ismael Patel of Friends of Al-Aqsa.
The assembly’s closing statement declared its solidarity with all the Muslims peoples in Britain facing a hurricane of official and unofficial legal, political and physical attacks in a climate of Islamophobic hysteria. It recognises these attacks as being essentially racist and anti-democratic.
It said: “They are driven by the same political agenda as has inspired the criminal and disastrous ‘war on terror’, which has laid waste Iraq and Afghanistan and presently threatens Iran and elsewhere.
“In particular we condemn the statement made by government ministers designed to isolate, demonise and even criminalise Islamic religious practices, choice of dress and cultural expression. We affirm that such diversity in fact makes an important contribution to the overall development of our society.
“We condemn terrorist atrocities such as the London bombings last year, which are in all circumstances, indefensible. However the assembly believes in common with the majority of the British people, that the key to tackling the treat of such atrocities is a change in the foreign policy of the government.
“It has subordinated this country to the aggressive foreign policy of the Bush government in its invasion of Iraq, its treats to Iran and its support for Israel’s aggression against Lebanon.”

Red salute to Russian Revolution



WORKING PEOPLE have held events to mark the 89th anniversary of the Great October Russian Revolution across the globe this month and last weekend comrades and friends came to the reception at the NCP’s Party Centre in London for their own celebration of the ten days that shook the world. As usual the print shop was transformed into a bar and buffet for the event and NCP chairperson Alex Kempshall kicked off the formal part of the evening of tributes to the achievements and sacrifice of the Soviet people throughout the 20th century.
Explo Nani Kofi of the African Liberation Support Campaign Network (ALISC), an old friend of the NCP, spoke of the importance of the October revolution to the national liberation movement. Friends of Korea were well represented with Ella Rule delivering a message on behalf of the Korean Co-ordinating Committee of Friends of Korea in the UK along with solidarity messages sent from vice-chair Dermot Hudson and the DPR Korea embassy staff.
Harpal Brar, the chairman of the CPGB (ML) and prolific writer on Soviet history stressed the contribution of Lenin and Stalin to the working class movement and Michael Chant from the RCPB (ML) spoke of the importance of revolutionary struggle in the 21st century.
NCP leader Andy Brooks recalled that the Soviet revolution had, in practice, ended the First World War while the Soviet Red Army had decisively brought about the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire in the Second World War. Finally the “red” home-made cake was brought out, as has become customary at NCP socials, and it was appreciated in the usual way.
Of course no NCP event can pass without a mention of the New Worker fighting fund. NCP National Treasurer Dolly Shaer recalled her long years of struggle which began when she joined the Young Communist League in the 1930s in a stirring appeal that raised £468. Friends slowly departed for last trains and buses as night closed but some die-hards kept the bar open till 1.00 am!

London news round-up

Police tracking Oyster cards

CIVIL liberties campaigners last week raised concerns over a 300 per cent increase in the police use of Londoners’ Oyster travel cards to monitor the public transport journeys of suspects. Officers now routinely use the smart cards as part of their investigations.
Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, who is also a surveillance expert, said: “That’s one hell of an increase. Are the people whose personal details are given to them notified in any way? It’s another step towards a surveillance society. If there’s a valid reason for asking and a valid outcome, let’s discuss it in the open.”
More than six million Londoners use Oyster cards to travel on buses and Tube trains every day. Heather Brooke, author of the consumer guide Your Right to Know said: “I am troubled by how secretly this has been done and the way the police have started to use this as a database almost as a matter of course.”
She said that in the United States the use of similar information has not always stood up in court because these cards can be borrowed or stolen.
“I can imagine there will be a whole black market in Oyster cards to prove you are somewhere or someone you are not,” she added. Brooke also pointed out that although the congestion charge end at 6.30pm every weekday, the surveillance cameras are never turned off. They automatically read number plates and check them against a database of stolen vehicles, outstanding fines and criminal offences.

London Olympic costs soar

THE PROJECTED costs of the 2012 London Olympics rose sharply last week due to massive extra security costs and unforeseen VAT bills. Estimates of the likely total costs now range from £3.3 billion to £8 billion. The original Olympic bid in 2005 put the cost at £2.3 billion to be funded by the National Lottery and London council taxpayers.
Then the Government drew up a separate project at just over £1 billion to improve the east London area around the projected Olympic site.
Estimates for the security needed have risen from £190 million to £1.5 billion while regeneration costs are also a lot higher than originally thought.
The plans included a 20 per cent contingency for cost overruns on the building programme but the Treasury now wants this increased to 60 per cent.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone is opposing this “absolutely breathtakingly ridiculous” increase on the grounds that would “give the green light” to developers to come in over budget. He said that London council tax payers should not have to pay more than the £625 million already pledged. The Treasury insurers argue that, given the track record of previous Olympic Games around the world, they are not scaremongering.

Workers thank Arsenal

THE REMPLOY Consortium of trade unions today thanked Arsenal Football Club and its supporters for their help in saving the jobs of disabled workers at the Holloway Remploy factory. The recent demonstration held by the disabled workers outside the new Arsenal stadium brought a change of mind from the company which has now committed to maintain the employment of the Remploy workers in Holloway.
The Remploy Consortium of trade unions has accepted the company’s assurance that they will rent a new factory equal to the size of the present Holloway site which will enable the disabled workers to be gainfully employed for now and the immediate future.
The old Remploy factory was sold under a compulsory purchase and will be demolished by March 2007. Remploy will rent a rent a local factory and equip it so that the needs of their disabled workers are met in time for the transfer for one site to the other without any lose of pay to the employees.

Bring all Tube contracts back in-house!

THOUSANDS of Londoners struggled to get to work last Monday as signal failures on the London Underground Central Line led to very few trains running. This was put down to failures by the maintenance company Metronet, which makes £1 million a week from its 30-year contract. It was also blamed for serious delays on the Circle and District lines.
The RMT transport union called again for all Tube infrastructure work to be brought back in-house “before the privateer contractors bring the entire system grinding to a halt”.
As the capital was plunged into chaos by engineering overruns and infrastructure failure on three of London’s essential Tube arteries, RMT renewed its call for the part-privatisation of the network to be scrapped.
“Privatisation of Tube infrastructure has demonstrably failed, failed and failed again,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.
“Only last week the PPP Arbiter issued a damning report on Metronet’s failure to deliver, and this morning Londoners have woken up to find huge chunks of the Underground network simply not working.
“Tube infrastructure work needs to be carried out by an organisation whose sole aim is providing a service, not by privateers whose main aim is to drain as much profit as possible out of the system.
“We have said time and time again that the PPP is a complex device designed to convert public money into guaranteed, risk-free profits.
“Today should also serve as a warning that plans to allow privateers to get their hands on the operations of the East London Line should also be scrapped.
“How many more times does this have to happen before the government bows to the inevitable and allows the miserable PPP to be buried once and for all?” Bob Crow said.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Southall celebrates October Revolution


A HIGHLY successful October Revolution celebration was organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain-Marxist Leninist last Sunday in Southall, West London, with speakers from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain-Marxist Leninist, the New Communist Party and CPGB-ML was attended by around 50 people.
Michael Chant, on behalf of the RCPB-ML, said that the Great October Socialist Revolution had “opened up a path for progressive humanity and made possible the progressive gains of the 20th century. In recent years that path has been blocked, beginning with the death of Stalin and the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“The revolution has objectively passed from flow to ebb, and it is the task of communists, not just to say how glorious the October Socialist Revolution was, but to unblock the path of revolution and progress.”
Giles Shorter of the CPGB-ML said the consequences of the Bolshevik victory would “continue to unfold long after the treacherous liquidation of socialism in the Land of the Soviets itself has been reversed.”
His talk examined the ideological and objective factors which allowed the Bolshevik revolution to succeed, and looked at the huge gulf separating Lenin and Stalin from Trotsky.
Internationally the First World War was the main factor which distracted the bourgeoisie, but internally it was the Bolsheviks’ correct political line 1917 which succeeded – in contrast to the revolutions of 1848 and 1871 – in winning the peasantry from being a reserve of the bourgeoisie to a reserve of the proletariat.
Even in 1922, Trotsky was claiming that the Soviet state would “inevitably come into hostile collision not only with all the bourgeois groupings… but also with the broad masses of the peasantry with whose assistance it came into power.”
Trotskyism, Giles concluded, represents “the most profound defeatism about the ability of the masses to make revolutionary history in the real world.”
Theo Russell thanked the CPGB-ML on behalf of the NCP and for organising the event. He said: “The October Revolution showed for the first time that the workers and peasants are able to take state power and keep it. The success of the Soviet state proved that socialism could exist in one state, refuting Trotsky’s theory on world revolution.”
He stressed Lenin’s constant emphasis on combating the revisionism which eventually brought about the downfall of the Soviet Union.
“The bourgeoisie celebrated what they thought was a historic victory in 1990”, he said, “but that victory has crumbled into dust and the economic and political crisis of the capitalist system is deeper than ever.
“The imperialists thought they could turn back the march of human progress, but now they are realising the limits to their power and learning that the forces for national liberation, peace and socialism can never be extinguished.”
The evening was rounded off with poems and songs from English, Indian and Pakistani comrades, and a performance by comrades from the RCPB-ML on piano and violin of Shostakovich’s Twelfth Symphony celebrating the 1917 revolution, The Dawn of Humanity.

pic: theo russell makes his point

Remembering the Soviet war dead

PAUL Kyriacou, the Mayor of Southwark and Philip Matthews of the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund last Sunday led a ceremony of remembrance at the Soviet war memorial, in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum, for the 27 million Soviet citizens killed in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany.
This year marks the 65th anniversary of the Battle of Moscow, considered to be one of the greatest battles of history. Nazi forces attempting to capture Moscow were halted and thrown back by the Soviet counter-offensive, which began on 5th December 1941.
Wreaths were laid by the Mayor, by the local MP Simon Hughes, on behalf of the House of Commons, and by the Ambassador of the Russian Federation.
Others who laid wreaths included the ambassadors of the Ukrainian Republic, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and other former Soviet Republics; a representative of the RAF Russia Association, the Royal British Legion, the local branch of the trade union Ucatt and the Russia Convoy Club.
The event was organised by the Soviet Memorial Trust.

London bus strike

THOUSANDS of bus drivers in north and west London employed by Metroline, owned by Singapore-based ComfortDelgro Corporation, took strike action last Tuesday in a dispute over pay. This is the first London bus strike in seven years.
The Transport and General Workers’ Union said Metroline bosses had failed to put more money on the table at last minute talks on Monday morning.
An initial offer of three per cent was increased through the negotiations to four per cent, but the union rejected it because it did not meet the drivers and engineers’ claim for a basic rate increase to £11 an hour from the current £10.43.
Further one day strikes are planned on 20th and 27th November if the dispute is not resolved.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

London news round-up

Eurostar cleaners ballot for strike

MORE THAN 100 members of the RMT transport union who are employed by OCS as cleaners on its Eurostar contract are to be balloted for industrial action over the company’s failure improve a pay offer that falls way short of eradicating poverty pay rates.
Members are to be asked to vote to strike and for action short of strike to back their campaign for a minimum pay rate that matches London mayor Ken Livingstone’s recommendation of a living wage of at least £7.05 an hour.
“OCS is paying cleaners as little as £5.50 an hour, even for nights, Sundays and bank-holiday work, and that is simply not good enough,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said last week.
“The paltry increase they are offering includes consolidation of a £10 weekly attendance bonus and boils down to an insult of 20p an hour and would still leave pay rates around £1 an hour below a living wage.
“I am sure that Eurostar passengers will be horrified to learn that the people who clean their trains and stations are paid at such miserable rates.
“If OCS can afford to pay their top director £175,000 a year and can stump up cash to sponsor a stand at the Oval they can afford to pay the people who actually make their money a decent wage.
“And it is no use Eurostar burying their heads in the sand either. Poverty wages are being paid to cleaners working on their railway, and they also have a responsibility to stop it.
“If OCS want to avoid industrial action it is up to them to come back to the talks table and negotiate decent pay rates,” Bob Crow said.

Rally against global warming

MORE THAN 20,000 people filled Trafalgar Square last Saturday in a mass rally to demand that the Government acts to tackle the threat of global warming.
The event was organised by Stop Climate Chaos and supported by over 40 organisations, including Greenpeace, Friends of the earth, Oxfam, Make Poverty History, Surfers Against Sewage, the Women’s Institute and the Ramblers’ Association.
It was timed to come just before the United Nations climate change talks in Nairobi and just after the Stern report into climate change.
Those who came included walkers from the West Midlands, cyclists from Somerset and one man who paddled his canoe from Oxford.
Ashok Sinha, the director of Stop Climate Change, said: “The event reflects how widespread the concern about climate change is. It is emerging out of the green box. People realise it’s not just an environmental question but a moral one.”
The Bishop of Liverpool, James Stuart Jones, was critical of the Government stance on the environment; he said: “Ministers have lent their support to the Stern report on climate change, but, sadly, lent is the word because they give support one day and take it back the next.” A large contingent of the protesters marched past the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square on their way to Trafalgar Square to highlight the US position as the planet’s worst polluter.

NHS workers descend on Parliament

MORE THAN 1,000 National Health Service workers and their supporters, last Wednesday, 1st November, travelled to Westminster to lobby their MPs to demand a stop to the cutting and gradual privatisation of the NHS.
The event was organised by NHS together – an umbrella movement including health service unions, patient groups, pensioner groups and hundreds of local campaigns who have come together to defend their hospitals and other NHS services.
This was the biggest lobby against NHS cuts since Labour came to power in 1997 and it included nurses, doctors, laboratory workers, health visitors, care assistants. In many cases their colleagues were working overtime to allow them to take the message to Parliament that the NHS is now not safe in anyone’s hands. For many it was the first time they had taken part in any political activity.
As the lobby proceeded a rally took place in the nearby Methodist Central Hall, where Dave Prentis, general secretary of the public sector union Unison described the event as “historic and defining”.
He said that the Government’s “market madness” means a “national crisis in the NHS is unfolding before our eyes.”
Prentis drew a huge cheer from the hall when he said that the “dedicated NHS workers who have delivered so much … deserve more than failed privatisation.”
An open-top bus, decked out in the NHS Together colours, toured the capital, drawing waves and hoots of support from passers-by and motorists, while frontline health workers – many in uniform – waited in the cold November sunshine to tell MPs of their concerns.
Maddie Nettleship, a nurse specialist from Gateshead, said the lobby offered an opportunity to “show the opposition of NHS workers to privatisation of the NHS and the cuts that go with that.
“I’m seeing colleagues very, very stressed, working with staff shortages and therefore not able to deliver the standard of care that people deserve.” general protest
And Mike Smith of South Durham, a worker in health service finance, explained that he had made the journey in order to make “a general protest about the way things are going in the NHS.
“People have not been replaced in a lot of departments and the work’s falling on those who are left, causing a lot of stress.”
Ian Macalear, a primary care mental health practitioner and member of Leeds Community Health branch, said that he was “hoping to alert MPs to our concerns about privatisation and the break-up of the NHS; that’s why I’ve come down today.”
Senior health care support worker Dave Anstein from Salisbury Health branch, stated simply that he wanted to “get someone to listen to us for a change, instead of not listening and doing what they want.”
Stephen Campion of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association told the rally that NHS workers had had “enough of waking up on a Monday morning to find out the Government’s latest policy on the NHS”.
And he caught the mood of the campaign perfectly when he told the rally that the Government needed to “stop, look and listen”.
Paramedic and Unison member Andrea Shields insisted that “the NHS is about treating people – not number crunching.”
And she had a message for politicians: “If you look after the NHS, we will be able to look after you.”
John Wood, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, who left his clinics in Lewisham, south-east London, to protest, said: “This Labour government is tearing it [the NHS] down.”
MPs from all parties made their way to the Methodist Central Hall to meet groups from their constituencies.
On the same day as the lobby a YouGov opinion poll, commissioned by the TUC, showed that voters are very concerned about the current direction of the NHS.
While 63 per cent say their own recent experience of the NHS is either “good” or “very good”, this does not translate into a recognition that the NHS has improved, with half (52 per cent) saying that the NHS has got “much worse” or “a little worse”.
Voters are also not impressed by the pace or the direction of NHS reform. Instead they want Government to work with NHS staff.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

London news round-up

Students protest over tuition fees

by Caroline Colebrook

THOUSANDS of students marched through the streets of London last Sunday to protest as the rise in tuition fees to as much as £3,000 a year comes into force with the new college term, which started this month.Demonstrators marched past Parliament and Downing Street before holding a rally in Trafalgar Square.
Recent figures from the admissions service Ucas show that 15,000 fewer students are beginning courses this autumn than last year, a fall of 3.7 per cent. The National Union of Students claims this drop is a result of the rise in tuition fees and the prospect of long-term serious debt before young people even begin their working lives.
Most students, especially those from working class backgrounds, will not only incur debts for their loans but also for their accommodation and subsistence living costs. This can total up to £33,000 by the end of a course.
Many students try to lessen this burden by doing part-time and weekend work during their courses but this reduces the time they can give to their studies and leaves them tired so that the quality of their academic work suffers.
The Government claims that the new package is fairer as the fees are no longer paid upfront and grants and bursaries are available to some disadvantaged students.
The National Union of Students has called for the policy to be reversed. It takes years to recover from that financial burden, particularly for women, due to career breaks and pay inequality
NUS president Gemma Tumelty said: “We really believe that debt will be a huge deterrent on students entering education. “This year there were 15,000 fewer students – that’s a huge concern to us, particularly when Government is trying to widen participation.”
Tumelty said that having to pay off student debt prevented graduates from investing in pensions and mortgages and contributing to society through spending.
“It takes years to recover from that financial burden, particularly for women, due to career breaks and pay inequality”, she said. “What is always overlooked is that education is a benefit to society as well as the individual.
“We’re the institutions producing doctors, nurses, engineers, and that is a huge benefit to society and therefore society should pay.”
A recent ICM opinion poll conducted for the NUS found that 74 per cent of the public felt higher costs would deter students. The survey of 1,019 adults in Britain found most thought estimated costs of £33,000 for a three-year degree course would put young people off going to university.
The NUS demand for the abolition of tuition fees was backed by the University and College Union (formerly Natfhe). UCU general secretary Paul Mackney said: “Anyone who believes that charging more for degrees is the way to encourage the most able candidates to apply to, or even consider, university is living in a dream world.”

Shop stewards fight to restore union rights

by Rob Laurie

LAST SATURDAY saw about 250 trade unionists from around the country meet at the Camden Centre in north London for a National Shop Stewards’ Conference, which focused on building the grass-roots campaign for a Trade Union Freedom Bill.
The conference was organised by the National Union of Rail and Maritime and Transport Workers, who’s general secretary, Bob Crow, delivered the opening address.
He observed that at present Britain’s trade unions are encumbered with more legal shackles than they had after Trade Disputes Act was passed in 1906 by the Liberal government and that nine years of a Labour government have done very little to undo the damage wrought by the anti-trade union offensive launched by Margaret Thatcher.
He called for widespread support for the Trade Union Freedom Bill which, while still not meeting International Labour Organisation standards, will be a welcome first step towards restoring trade union rights.
He was disappointed that the TUC while officially in favour has not put much energy into the campaign. Crow also argued that mergers are no solution to declining union membership, at present while density in the public sector remains high, in the private sector 91 per cent of the workforce is unorganised.
While the Tories claimed their trade union laws were about “levelling the playing field”, one speaker described the present “level playing field” as being like the north face of the Eiger, which forces trade unions to give employers notice of strikes, but allows employers to sack workers instantly by megaphone.
Perhaps oddly for a conference which sought to encourage a grass roots movement, most of the platform speakers were general secretaries or deputy secretaries. Among them was Jeremy Dear, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, who paid tribute to his members on the tabloid Daily Star who recently prevented the publication of a racist front page.
The fact that this action was illegal did not deter the journalists from taking this welcome stand, the first such action in decades.
Matt Wrack of the Fire Brigades’ Union noted that if, as we are often told, the class struggle is over, then the employers have not been taking any notice.
Both inside and outside the conference a number of grouplets called for trade unions to disaffiliate from the Labour Party and support one or other political party which would unite the working class on an unstoppable path to socialism.
The RMT itself has already tried this approach and supported the Scottish Socialist Party shortly before that organisation split over a court case in which the leader’s allegedly lively sex life came under scrutiny.
One speaker from Liverpool claimed that if only the working class elected enough MPs from his “United Socialist Party”, then the struggle would be speedily won, but unsurprisingly he was a bit vague about how this is might be achieved. A steering committee was elected to establish a National Shop Stewards’ Network which plans to hold a formal delegate conference next spring, which will be composed of bona fide trade union representatives. The planned network does not seek to replace any existing trade union structures but to offer them support.

Pensioners: ‘don’t leave us to rot in poverty’


HUNDREDS of pensioners rallied to Westminster last Wednesday to accuse Prime Minister Tony Blair of leaving millions of them to “rot in poverty” by denying them a decent pension before they die. The event was organised by the National Pensioners’ Convention (NPC) to demand an immediate rise in the basic state pension and the restoration of the link with average earnings.
The Government has said it will restore the link by the year 2012, but, as the pensioners point out, this will be too late for today’s 2.5 million pensioners who are currently living below the poverty line.
Some of the protesters made the point by dressing up in skeleton costumes. Others carried placards attacking the generous pensions that MPs have awarded to themselves.
The NPC is demanding a rise in the basic state pension from £84.25 a week to £114 a week, which is the minimum income guaranteed to pensioners who have no other income.
“The Government’s White Paper on pensions contains nothing of immediate benefit to today’s pensioners,” said NPC general secretary Joe Harris.
“Already one in five older people live below the poverty line and millions more are being forced into hardship by rising fuel and council tax bills.”
He accused the Government of being “breathtakingly complacent” on the issue by refusing to restore the earnings-pension link before 2012, adding: “Pensioners cannot afford to wait any longer – we need a decent state pension now.”
Joe Harris is calling for the balance in the National Insurance fund – more than £34 billion – to be used to pay for an immediate increase in the state pension.
“The question therefore is not whether the country can afford to provide a decent state pension for everyone, but whether MPs have the political will to do the decent thing. It’s our job to convince them they must,” he said.
Ironically, Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Anne McIntosh gave support to the rally, as has Tory leader David Cameron. But the pensioners were quick to remind them that it was their “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher who scrapped the link.
They say that if the earnings link had not been abolished by the Conservative Government in 1980, basic state pension would now be around £136 a week, compared with the current figure of £84.25.
The pensioners also handed in a petition of 100,000 signatures calling for action to end poverty among the elderly will be handed into Downing Street.
Meanwhile official figures released last week showed that 25,000 people died in England and Wales last winter as a direct result of cold weather and the illnesses that accompany it.
Gordon Lishman, a director of the charity Age Concern, said: “It is a scandal that so many people over 65 are put at risk every winter. More needs to be done for older people so that they can heat their homes adequately without worrying about the cost.”

Network Rail fine over Ladbroke Grove


NETWORK Rail, the Government-owned body that controls Britain’s entire railway infrastructure, last week admitted errors under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and some liability in the 1999 Ladbroke Grove rail crash.
The crash claimed 31 lives after the driver of a local Thames train went through a red light and took his train across the path of an oncoming Great Western express during the morning rush hour.
But that red light was notoriously difficult to see – especially with the early morning sun shining straight on to it so that the electric light was practically invisible in the more powerful sunlight. Drivers had problems with it on many occasions before and Railtrack, the privately-run company that preceded Network Rail, had been warned many times of the danger of an error.
Network Rail admitting risk creation but denied responsibility for the accident. Now it faces an unlimited fine, which is due to be set in December.

Peace protesters arrested in Parliament Square


FIVE peace protesters were arrested outside the Houses of Parliament last weekend as around 100 of their comrades erected tents on Parliament Square to commemorate the second anniversary of the Fallujah uprising.
The protest was also in defiance of a new “anti-terror” law that forbids unauthorised protests within one kilometre of Parliament.
The protesters demanded “No more Fallujahs”
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “Five people were arrested in Parliament Square yesterday afternoon on suspicion of unlawfully demonstrating without authority having failed to give their personal details when requested by police – contrary to the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act.
“One person was de-arrested shortly afterwards. The remaining four are currently in custody at a central London police station.”

Thursday, October 26, 2006

London lobby for asbestos victims

VICTIMS of the asbestos-related disease, mesothelioma, with their families last Tuesday (17th October) lobbied their MPs in Westminster in a mass lobby supported by the general unions Amicus and GMB.
They were protesting at a Government decision to withdraw approval for the use of an important drug in treating the condition, which could extend the lives of sufferers.
The Government body, the NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence), earlier this year withdrew approval for a drug called Alimta, which is used as a chemotherapy treatment for mesothelioma. This mean’s that Alimta is no longer prescribed for sufferers of this horrific, painful disease, taking hope away from many patients.
Mesothelioma is a form of cancer caused almost exclusively from exposure to asbestos. Many workers in Britain have been exposed to asbestos at one time or another, and many who have worked in industries such as construction and shipbuilding, now live in real fear of contracting an asbestos related disease.
Even before the lobby, 50 MPs had signed an Early Day Motion sponsored by North East MP Fraser Kemp which calls for extended access to the life-extending drug.
Over 40 MPs attended the lobby, with many of them sharing experiences of constituents who have contracted this illness. Equally lobbyists gave their account to MPs of how the disease had affected their lives, families and loved ones.
The event comes just days before Alimta manufacturer Eli Lilley prepares for an appeal hearing against NICE’s decision on the drug.
Just before the lobby, Ian McFall, head of asbestos litigation at Thompsons Solicitors who have led the fight to free access to Alimta, said: "This is a chance for every MP in the UK to put their weight behind this campaign. During this lobby they will be able to see first hand how mesothelioma has changed the lives of many hard working people and they will learn how Alimta can help some of these people to have a better quality of life."
John McClean, GMB National Health and Safety Officer, comments: "GMB fully supports this lobby. Mesothelioma sufferers have paid the price with their
health and their lives because of the negligence of employers. If the only
licensed treatment for mesothelioma is withdrawn, innocent victims will be sent away without hope."
Amicus’s Tom Hardacre, lead officer for construction who attended the lobby, said: "Amicus is fully behind this lobby, it is very important suffers are given every opportunity to enhance their quality of life. This drug at present offers the only hope for mesothelioma victims."
A young woman at the lobby told her harrowing story, of how Alimta had been withdrawn from her mother at the last minute, after being promised treatment by a her Primary Care Trust. Even before the withdrawal, chaos and frustration rained down on mesothelioma sufferers, with some patients receiving treatment and others just a few miles away being deprived.
Tom went on to say: "here we go again, the least able to defend and protect themselves become the innocent victims".
The final decision will be given after an appeal hearing later this year; MPs have promised to bring this injustice to the attention of Government Ministers, in time for action to be taken before the appeal deadline elapses. Amicus wholeheartedly supports this cause, and will encourage MPs to keep the pressure up.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mosley and the Battle of Cable Street


by Daphne Liddle

ON THE 4th October 1936 thousands of working class people in London’s East End, led by the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Independent Labour Party rose early from their beds to occupy four key places along the route of a planned march by Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascist Blackshirts in order to block its path. Throughout the day they stood firmin spite of mounted police baton charges, numerous arrests.By noon Gardiner’s Corner was impassable due to the number of anti-fascist demonstrators. Police tried to clear a route through Leman Street – but this was blocked by a tram, deliberately abandoned by its driver.Police tried to reroute the march through Cable Street. Anti-fascist demonstrators, the vast majority local residents, blocked Cable Street with barricades in three different places. Police fought their way through one barricade, only to be confronted by the second. Eventually the police gave up and ordered Mosley to abandon his march. They escorted him to the Embankment where his followers dispersed.This was a humiliating defeat for Mosley and eventually led to a cutting off of vital funds from his main financial sponsor, the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.The Battle of Cable Street marked a significant turning point and the end of any prospects of fascism becoming a truly mass movement in Britain as it had done in some other European countries.

Mosley’s BUF was not the first fascist movement in Britain. That was the Imperial Fascist League, founded by Arnold Leese, a former army camel vetinary who had served in India and the Middle East. This tiny group modelled itself on Mussolini’s fascist movement but, unlike Mussolini at that time, Leese was virulently anti-Semitic. He claimed this sprang from his vetinary objections to kosher animal slaughter practices.He was further influenced by the notorious forgery, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion – the same work that influenced the young Hitler.

Mosley began his political career by being elected Conservative MP for Harrow in 1918 at the age of 23. He soon found party discipline irksome andleft the party to become first an Independent Conservative and then simply an Independent. In April 1924 he joined the Labour Party, five months after it had formed a minority government supported by the Liberals.By 1925 Mosley was proposing a new economic policy based on the theories of John Maynard Keynes, whom he had consulted in drawing up his version of social credit policy. Mosley proposed the nationalisation of the banking system and a system of social credits to the unemployed to stimulate demand.When Labour lost the October 1924 general election to the Tories, as a backbench MP he accused the Government of wishing to be fascist but not having the courage.In May 1930 he resigned from Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government after it failed to adopt his economic policies and took with him a number of other Labour (or rather Independent Labour) members, including John Strachey, Dr Robert Forgan, W J Brown, Oliver Baldwin and his first wife, Cynthia Mosley,to form the New Party.The New Party tried to make a populist appeal to the unemployed as an alternative to the young Communist Party of Great Britain. But it failed to attract a mass following. Then Mosley visited Mussolini in Italy and was very impressed; he decided to form a Union of Fascists based on the New Party’s youth movement. He drafted a new programme, the Greater Britain and aimed to win fascist power in Britain.

One obstacle to making fascism popular in Britain is that it is a particularly nationalistic cult and in the 1930s was already identified firmly with Italian and German nationalism. So Mosley tried to prove that fascism also had British roots and tried to construct a British tradition of fascism. For this he seized upon the Ulster Volunteer Force, an organisation led by Sir Edward Carson in the north of Ireland in the earlier part of the20th century implacably opposed to home rule for Ireland.In 1914 Prime Minister Lloyd George had passed a Home Rule Bill through Parliament, giving Ireland its freedom. But Carson staged a rebellion in Ulster. The army was ordered to deal with this rebellion but the officers mutinied – the British aristocrat class fully supported Carson – and Parliament was forced to back down. Lenin at the time pointed out that this was an indicator of the true nature of class power in Britain.

Mosley gave the job to one of his lieutenants, W E D Allen, former Tory MP for Belfast West to mould the legacy of Carson and the paramilitary UVF to fit a fascist perspective. Ever since, the fascist extreme right-wing in Britain has had strong links with Protestant paramilitaries in the occupied six counties of Ireland.For Mosley himself this led to a strangely two-faced position as he had inthe past backed a united Ireland and had links with the Blueshirt Irish nationalists. One of the advantages of fascism as an “ideology” is that it does not have to adhere to rationalism or consistency – “faith”, strong emotions and “leadership qualities” are given priority.

Mosley’s vision of a fascist Britain included an Enabling Act to free the Government from parliamentary control while it introduced the new economic policy. Parliament would no longer have the right to dismiss a Government through a vote of censure. Parliament would be elected on an occupational franchise rather than on geographical constituencies and its role would be purely advisory; the Commons would advise on political and economic matters while the Lords would advise on moral and religious matters.Once every five years there would be a referendum and the population would be allowed to endorse the Government. If the people voted against it, the monarch would summon new ministers who, in his opinion, would be likely to win support in a fresh vote. Parallel to this would be an apparently self-governing industrial structure, a “corporate state” comprising employers, tame trade unions and consumer groups. Each corporation – governing a whole sector of the economy– would determine its own policies on wages, prices and conditions.

His promises of full employment did attract some working class support in those areas worst hit: the depressed textile industries of Lancashire, Leeds and London’s East End. But even in these places the fascists never gained a majority and were tainted by the anti-Semitic reputation of international fascism.

Mosley was not originally anti-Semitic but did not discourage it among his members when they attacked Jews. He was a great opportunist, seeking financial support from European fascists who were very anti-Semitic. When Jews and communists united to fight back, Mosley’s movement became very anti-Semitic. Arnold Leese, resentful that Mosley had stolen so many of his potential followers, was scornful of Mosley’s insincere anti-Semitism and labelled him a “Kosher fascist”.

Mosley sought but did not find support from Britain’s industrialists but did not admit this in public. Historian Robert Benewick wrote: “Among those rumoured to have contributed generously were Sir William Morris, LordInchcape, Sir Henry Deterling, Watney’s Brewery and the Imperial Tobacco Company. These rumours were, for the most part, without foundation.”

Some had backed the New Party before Mosley turned it fascist. Mosley did get some support from a section of the British aristocracy,particularly the friends and relations of his second wife, Diana Mitford and from the Cliveden Set, who toyed with the idea of supporting Hitler.Left-wing journalist Clive Cockburn, editor of The Week, certainly regarded the Cliveden Set as a pro-Nazi conspiratorial group. They did manage to spread some confusion among the German and British governments. DianaMitford/Mosley and her sister Unity possibly gave Hitler a false impression that the British aristocracy would support him.The BUF did gain some support in the London area, including a handful of intellectuals such as William Joyce, Raven Thompson and A K Chesterton, plus an assortment of disenchanted petty bourgeoisie and workers. But it never gained enough support from any class to say that it in anyway representedthe outlook of that class.The opportunism of the BUF, in allowing itself to be seen as anything tha ta potential recruit mighty want it to be, in order to maximise membership,lead to confusion and divisions and eventually more members were leaving than joining. Some who joined were obvious cranks and eccentrics, and their presence discouraged others.

Mosley did have one powerful supporter in the shape of newspaper baron Lord Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, the Sunday Dispatch and the London Evening News. Rothermere used his papers to promote fascism, which he seemed to interpret as a sort of armed Conservatism. He did not share the fascists’anti-Semitism nor their stated opposition to international finance capital.Rothermere backed off from supporting Mosley as Hitler’s fascism became more notorious, especially after the “Night of the Long Knives”. Rothermere was also disconcerted by the violence associated with Mosley’s mass rallies in Olympia in the early 1930s.This violence attracted a diversity of recruits who saw in fascism theembodiment of their own frustrated causes but who did not help the movement except in terms of recruitment statistics. Benewick wrote: “In 1933 and1934, particularly during Lord Rothermere’s boost the BUF had taken hold like wildfire and had drawn to itself every unstable person and adventurer of either sex that the town.”The BUF did provoke a great deal of opposition, which was mobilised by theCPGB – at the same time that volunteers were being recruited for the International Brigade to fight in the anti-fascist war in Spain.

These twin struggles against fascism at home and abroad helped to strengthen and shape the CPGB. Membership doubled between 1935 and '37.Following the seventh Comintern conference of 1935, the CPGB aimed to build a broad Popular Front against fascism based on Dimitrov’s analysis of fascism and the best way to combat it.The Labour Party’s attitude to fascism was to hope that it would disappear naturally if ignored. The leadership felt that strong opposition to fascism only drew attention to it and encouraged. So they did not support thePopular Front as a party. But many individual members did support it.

The first large open air fascist rally in London’s East End happened on 7th June 1936. The fascists claimed that 100,000 had attended but press estimates varied from 3,000 to 50,000. Among them were 500 uniformed Blackshirts. The rally provoked a hostile crowd of local residents which was attacked by police. It ended in a free-for-all of hand-to-hand fighting.In mid-July the East London Trades Council organised an anti-fascist march and rally in Victoria Park, with Labour MP Herbert Morrison to speak along with Sylvia Pankhurst. Fascists attacked the march, throwing stones as well as bags of flour and soot.The East End became engulfed in a frenzy of political activity, with meetings every night – for and against the fascists. The Home Office recorded police attendance at 536 meetings in August, 603 in September and647 in October. Nearly 300 extra police a day were drafted into the area.In Parliament Herbert Morrison described how the Jews in the area felt under this pressure: “I say, and I am sure the whole House will agree, that inthis country we are not prepared to tolerate any form of Jew-baiting.“We are not in the least disposed to look with an indulgent eye on any form of persecution. It is therefore necessary that public attention should be drawn to this danger.”Subsequently Mosley wrote in protest to the Home Secretary, Sir John Simpson, claiming that Jews were now the only people in Britain immune from attack! He argued that it was illegal to incite others to violence but felt he had as much right to attack Jews on their conduct in Great Britain as the Labour Party had the right to attack capitalists.This was the background to the Battle of Cable Street.

The BUF planned to assemble in Royal Mint Street near Tower Bridge and then march in four columns to meetings in Shoreditch, Limehouse, Bow and Bethnal Green. Mosley planned to address all four meetings. Various Labour local authority and Jewish groups had tried to get the march banned in vain. The Labour leadership and its papers, the Daily Herald and News Chronicle advised all anti-fascists to stay away.But the Communist Daily Worker called on people to come out, a previously planned rally in Trafalgar Square in support of Republican Spain was dropped, after pressure from Communist Party members living in the East End,and comrades were told to rally to defend the East End.

Benewick describes the scene: “On the morning of 4th October, the East End was transformed into an expectant Madrid. Red flags were draped from windows, and variations of the slogan ‘They shall not pass’ adorned walls throughout the district. Gangs of youths marched through the streets chanting ‘Mosley shall not pass’ and ‘Bar the road to fascism’.“Members of the Jewish People’s Council distributed a handbill which ended,‘This march must not take place’. Leaflets were distributed by the Communists calling for a demonstration at Aldgate. The Ex-Servicemen’s Movement Against Fascism distributed handbills calling on its supporters toparade. The national Unemployed Workers’ Movement boasted of a human barricade. The loudspeaker vans of the Communist Party and the Jewish ex-Servicemen’s Association echoed throughout the boroughs. Anti-fascist rallies were announced for 2pm at Cable Street and at 8pm at Shoreditch.”

Hundreds of thousands of people began to converge on the four places wherethe fascists had planned to meet.Some 3,000 fascists assembled in Royal Mint Street at 2.30pm. Even at the starting point, police had to baton charge anti fascists to try to clear away for the fascists.Throughout the East End, anti-fascist crowds – mostly local residents –blocked the planned fascist routes at strategic points. The path from Leman Street to Commercial Street was blocked by an abandoned tram. When police tried to reroute the march through Cable Street, it was blocked by barricades at three points.The anti-fascist crowds defied repeated mounted police baton charges. There were legends of one or two police officers trying to surrender to the crowd– much to their embarrassment. Eventually the police gave up and told Mosley he could not march that day.

There were subsequent fascist rallies and meetings but none so big again.On 3rd October 1937 Mosley – now banned from the East End – attempted a march through Bermondsey in south London which also met with implacable opposition from local anti-fascists.The communists stepped up their work among the East End residents on all sorts of local issues but especially housing. They backed rent strikes against exorbitant rents rises and won many working class former Mosleyites away from fascism. Workers soon learned that in any dispute with landlords or bosses, the fascists would take sides against the workers and consequently their support declined dramatically.Mussolini’s support for Mosley waned when he could not gain mastery of London’s streets. Mosley complained that this was due to Communist influence and underhand conspiracies – but that the local people really did support him. But in subsequent elections BUF support declined and Mussolini withdrew financial support from Mosley.

The BUF never recovered from Cable Street and the fascist movement wastotally discredited during the Second World War when Mosley and a number ofhis followers were interned as potential fifth columnists.After the war Mosley made several unsuccessful attempts to revive his movement under different names but his support was reduced to a small fringeof cranks and eccentrics. When racism reared its ugly head in Britain again in the 1970s neo-nazi parties like the National Front barely mentioned him.