Friday, October 28, 2011

Jobs and safety carnage on the London Underground



 London Underground (LU) is planning cuts which union leaders say are “a blueprint for jobs and safety carnage”. Some 1,500 jobs would go in plans detailed in LU’s Operational Strategy report made public by the RMT transport union on Monday.
 Amongst a raft of cuts-led proposals supposed to address the financial chaos left behind by the Private Public Partnership and the Mayor’s £5 billion assault on budgets, the report suggests:
•           The axing of more than 1,500 jobs;
•           Driverless trains with drivers replaced by “train   attendants”;
•           Closure of all ticket offices with just 30 stations having all-purpose “travel   centres”;
•           Across the board financial cuts of 20 per cent:
•           Freezing recruitment, ripping up existing staffing agreements and imposing a   system of overtime and part-time working;
•           De-staffing stations through an escalation of the existing job cuts programme   which would turn the stations into a vandals and muggers paradise.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “This document tells us everything we need to know about the operational strategy of London Underground – massive increase in fares alongside an unprecedented attack on jobs and safety.
 “Every single ticket office would be closed, stations left unstaffed and drivers would be thrown out of their cabs without a single thought for passenger safety.
 “In recent months we have seen from an escalation in cuts-led breakdowns just why the train and platform staff are so critical to safety on the system.
 “This ill-conceived and finance-led document ignores reality in favour of austerity and would impact on every single staff member on London Underground.
 “It would leave passengers stranded in tunnels with no means of evacuation and would turn the platforms and stations into a muggers and vandals paradise.
 “RMT will work with our sister tube unions and passenger groups on a campaign to ensure that this document and its prop
 London Mayor Boris Johnson has often hinted at the introduction of driverless trains and the TFL strategy paper speaks of, over the next decade: “the introduction of automatic train control across the network” – “increasingly drivers will not be needed” and “the new generation of trains will prepare themselves for service – even to the extent of arriving from depots unaided”.
 As booking offices close tickets will eventually only be available from machines that will only accept bank cards.
 The Oyster card will disappear and passengers will be encouraged to use the “wave and pay” scheme currently being tested where a bank card is used instead of an Oyster card. But it fails to take into account the increasing numbers of people who cannot get bank accounts or bank cards in the current economic climate.
 And passengers experiencing increasing hold-ups and delays from faulty trains, tracks and signals will wonder who is going to let them know what is happening or lead them to safety if the train has no driver.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

News round-up


 Church divided over St Paul’s protesters

ANGLICANS are divided over their attitude to the anti-capitalist protesters now occupying St Paul’s Cathedral Churchyard – the closest the demonstrators could get to the London Stock Exchange.
 On the first day of the protest, Saturday 15th  October, the Dean of St Paul’s, Giles Fraser, welcomed the protesters and told the police not to move them on from the church’s grounds.
 Since then a friendly relationship developed and the protesters have been well organised and well behaved.
 But many in the Church of England are critical of Fraser’s position. They complained the Cathedral was losing revenue from tourists due to the encampment – when local shops say the camp has drawn tourists and revenues have increased.  
Then the Cathedral was forced to close, supposedly on health and safety grounds.
 The tents are arranged at a distance from the cathedral doors, leaving plenty of free access for tourists and worshippers. And the camp is well organised, taking care of litter, sanitation and other possible hazards.
 There is continuous friendly liaison between the campers and the cathedral staff.
 Independent safety officers have said it presents no significant threat to the cathedral.
 The campers voted to stay put when senior church officials asked them to leave. Rumours spread that the Church was being pressured by City financiers to evict the encampment.
 A strong faction in the Church of England criticised Giles Fraser for his original act of welcome but others are supporting the protestors for their pro-justice stance, typically making frequent references to Jesus in the Temple.
The Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres is calling on the campers to leave but other clerics are threatening to resign if the protesters are forced from church land.

Teachers lobby MPs
 
THOUSANDS of teachers from all over Britain came to Westminster on Wednesday to hold a rally and lobby their MPs over the changes to their pensions, that will see them paying far more and getting far less.
 The rally and lobby are also a significant stage in the build up to the national strike of public sector workers on 30th  November.
 It is also significant for the first action to involve all the teaching unions together.
 The Government changes will raise the retirement age to 68 and increase pension contributions by 50 per cent in 2014. And the pensions paid will be linked to the consumer prices index instead of the retail prices index – meaning lower pensions.
 The changes affect teachers and lecturers in England and Wales, but workers in Scotland and Northern Ireland fear the same reforms could eventually be made to their pensions.
 Seven unions took part in the lobby, including the National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Head Teachers and the University and College Union.
 More than 20 unions are set to take part in the 30th November strike, which will be accompanied by meetings and rallies throughout the country. Many unions began balloting for the action this week.
 It is hoped that many hitherto un-unionised workers will become involved and that the mass strike action will spread spontaneously into the private sector as a general protest in defence of pensions and against Government cuts.
 Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the lobby was an opportunity for the government to “see sense”.
 “I see some real fear in the eyes of officials when we have our meetings about pensions,” he said. “They know that the unions are voicing the views of teachers.
 “Teachers don’t believe that they can take a full class of 30 14-year-olds or seven-year-olds at the age of 68. They are really angry.”

Organising curry workers
 
 THE BANGLADESHI Workers’ Union was quietly launched a week ago with the aims of bringing trade union representation to workers in Indian restaurants and curry houses throughout Britain.
 It already has 500 members and is in discussions with Unite and the GMB to become affiliate members.
 An estimated 100,000 Bangladeshi Britons working in the curry trade often find themselves exploited by unscrupulous owners who happily take advantage of their ignorance of the minimums to which they are entitled.
 One of the organisers, Muhammad Salim Uddin, of Brick Lane in London’s East End, has a decent job contract, with a decent wage and holiday entitlement.
 But many of his colleagues are not so fortunate. “I had a friend who worked for six years straight and never took a holiday," he says. "He was always working, never had time off. He didn't realise he was entitled to it. He knew nothing about sick leave. He just came into work all the time."
 But the small but growing band of restaurant workers and community leaders are hoping to change that, with the creation of the new union aimed at the curry trade and other industries where Bangladeshi Britons are prominent.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy London digs in!




By Caroline Colebrook


PROTESTERS from all over Britain and from many different backgrounds assembled around St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London last Saturday, intending to begin an indefinite occupation of Paternoster Square, immediately outside the London Stock Exchange.
 But their way was barred by a heavy police cordon. Paternoster Square, it seems, is private property, so they stayed put and began their occupation in St Paul’s churchyard.
 There were some verbal objections to the police cordon but no serious attempt to breach it. The demonstrators were peaceful, good humoured and totally non-violent.
 Yet within half-an-hour the City of London police reacted in a very heavy handed way and kettled the protesters, preventing them leaving or anyone else joining them until late in the evening.
 Police also tried to prevent the demonstrators sitting or standing on the steps of the cathedral in order to “protect” it.
 But the Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s, asked the police to move on, because he “didn’t feel that it needed that sort of protection”.
 He declared himself a supporter of the democratic right to peaceful protest and said the aims of the protest were in keeping with Christian values.
 “This morning I read a bit from Matthew Chapter Six, about how you can’t serve God and money.”
 A wedding party booked for the cathedral that day had to make their way through the crowd.
 It was a noisy and colourful assembly with many inventive hand-written placards and fancy dress, including one who came as Jesus Christ with a placard declaring: “I drove the money changers out of the temple for a reason.”
 Many were wearing Guy Fawkes masks as part of the “Anonymous Group”.
 Other banners and placards declared the protesters to be the “99 per cent” or ordinary people, who are fed up with the remaining one per cent holding all the wealth and power.
 The occupation was part of a huge global event. On than day similar occupations took place in around 1,000 cities around the world, inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstration in New York, which is now in its third week.
 Speakers on the first day included Wikileaks found Julian Assange, after police had insisted he remove his “V” Guy Fawkes mask.
 By the end of the day around 300 protesters remained in occupation. They had brought tents, organised food, portable toilets and a series of activities. Megaphone announcements urged campers to pick up their litter.
 By Sunday the tone of the police had eased and a good relationship with the campers had been established. How long that will last when the City authorities demand the camp is cleared is another matter. But since it is on church land and has church support at the moment there is little police can do.
 By Monday the campers were still there in force and as the City bankers and as traders made their way to work after the weekend they were confronted by peaceful but persistent challenges to their ethics and their greed.
 By Tuesday the campers were inviting the City workers to have dinner with them and engage in discussions.
 A handful of the protesters have worked in the City and know its ways from the inside but have turned their back on it because of the damage that capitalism in its most extreme form is doing to the rest of the population of the world.
 John McDonnell MP, leader of the Labour Representation Committee called for support for the occupation and tabled an Early Day Motion calling on MPs to support the occupation – the real “big society”.
 He had intended to speak at the rally in St Paul’s churchyard but was prevented from reaching it by the police kettle.
 McDonnell described the protesters as “inchoate and incoherent” and from a wide spectrum but said they deserved the full support of the labour and trade union movement.

Awkward Question Time for Lansley




by New Worker correspondent

PROTESTERS angry about cuts to the NHS  marched on an East London university theatre last week to demonstrate against the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley's appearance on Question Time, the BBC flagship politics programme, which was being filmed there. The protest, outside London University’s Queen Mary College, was organised by the Lewisham Keep Our NHS Public (Lewisham KONP) that was formed in February as a local branch of the national campaign to save the health service from privatisation.
Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) is a broad based, non-party aligned campaigning organisation that seeks to defend the NHS as a publicly owned and publicly provided service that stays true to the founding principles of the NHS as a service that is equitable, comprehensive and free.
The NHS is under threat, as never before, from the Tory-led Coalition government’s Health and Social Care Bill, which aims to transform the NHS into a competitive market where "any willing provider" can bid against NHS organisations to provide health services, allowing the for-profit private sector to take over large swathes of our health service.
One of the demonstrators had a ticket to attend the discussion programme inside, where he was called on to present a question the Health Secretary. Strong feelings against the Bill were evident among the audience and most members of the panel, who included Ken Livingstone and doctor/journalist Phil Hammond, who writes on health issues for Private Eye.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

London news round up


Sparks dispute stakes out Tate Modern
 
CONSTRUCTION workers campaigning against plans by a group of employers to cut wages by up to 30 per cent and tear up agreements on terms and conditions last Wednesday very early in the morning staged the latest in a long series of demonstrations outside London’s Tate Modern art gallery.
 The giant union Unite staged a demonstration of around 100 workers at the extension being built at the iconic former Bankside Power Station opposite the Millennium Bridge, just before the gallery opened to thousands of visitors.
 The key to the dispute is that seven rogue employers want to impose 30 per cent pay cuts and a worsening of employment conditions for thousands of construction workers by an arbitrary 7th December deadline – if they don’t capitulate, they face the sack.
  One of the “not-so-magnificent seven” contractors who want to impose the changes, T Clarkes Plc, has an electrical contract on the extension, currently under construction, at the Tate Modern.
 Unite regional officer, Vince Passfield, said: “By protesting outside such an iconic building, construction workers will be showing their employers just how fired up they are at the threat to de-skill their jobs and cut their pay by a third.
 "If these companies get away with this attack our members won't be able to pay for their mortgages or support their families.”
 Sparks also demonstrated on the same day outside Manchester Library.
 Similar demonstrations have hit construction sites throughout the country, including the Linsted Oil refinery, the Olympic Village in east London and last week Oxford Circus, where there were clashes with police.
 
Don’t destroy Remploy


REMPLOY workers descended on Parliament on Wednesday 12th October to urge MPs to keep their factories working, as the Government’s consultation into their future nears its end.
 The giant union Unite says that the jobs of 2,800 disabled workers are at risk because the Government would rather pull the plug and sell off the publicly-funded factories than invest in skilled jobs for disabled workers.
 The Government is currently consulting on the Sayce report, due to end in mid-October, which Unite believes is nothing more than a smokescreen to close Remploy’s 54 factories and throw 2,800 workers to the back of the dole queue.
 
No to posh parties in memorial gardens
 
MARITIME UNION RMT said last week that the proposal to hold Christmas parties for bankers in the memorial gardens to the merchant seafarers who have lost their lives since the First World War has been blocked by the Mayor of Tower Hamlets as a result of a protest campaign mobilised by politicians, unions, seafarers’ organisations and the local community.
 In a statement on the Tower Hamlets website Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “The Council do not wish to cause any offence to any of the parties involved. As it [the proposed bankers parties in Trinity Square Gardens] no longer has the support of Trinity House and the maritime community I have put a stop this event."
 Ward Councillor and Cabinet Member for the Environment, Cllr Shahed Ali, added, "These gardens are an important part of the borough's heritage and I am extremely glad the Mayor has used his executive powers to stop this event taking place."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Afghan War: Ten years too long




Julian Assange slates imperialism
By Caroline Colebrook

THOUSANDS of peace campaigners filled Trafalgar Square last Saturday for a rally organised by Stop the War, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Muslim Association of Britain to commemorate the tenth anniversary if the war against Afghanistan.
 In October 2001 US President George Bush used the excuse of the 11th September attacks to launch a war on Afghanistan that he had been planning anyway.
 He dubbed it the “War on Terror” and also used this excuse to invade Iraq in March 2003.
 The Stop the War organisation was founded in response to the attack on Afghanistan and has campaigned against imperialist wars in the Middle East ever since.
 The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Libya have cost the lives of many hundreds of British soldiers and more than a million civilians in those countries.
 The rally heard a long array of speakers condemning the wars and saw films displayed illustrating the history of the struggle for peace on giant screens.
 Speakers included 106-year-old veteran peace campaigner Hetty Bower. She told the rally of how, in 1914 at the age of nine, her father had told the family: “It seems we are at war; this is where the lies begin”.
 “We were told the Germans were cutting off the hands of Belgian children. The lies have changed now but they still go on,” said Hetty, and she made a plea for world peace.
 Speakers included Joe Glenton, a former soldier who refused to do a second tour of duty in Afghanistan because he had realised that “The Afghan people were not the enemy, it was the senior officers ordering us to shoot them”.
 He quoted the First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon about “the war is being prolonged by those who have the power to end it”.
 Guardian journalist Seamus Milne spoke of a war “not on terror but of terror”.
 Singer Brian Eno delivered a long list of the costs of the wars and what that money could be used for.
 Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, attacked those journalists who propagate the imperialists’ lies used to justify the horrors of war.
 Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union and Len McCluskey of Unite were among the speakers, who also included Bruce Kent, Tony Benn, George Galloway, Jemima Khan, John Pilger, Lindsey German and Jeremy Corbyn MP.
  Joan Humphries whose grandson Kevin Elliot was killed in Afghanistan spoke for herself and other families of soldiers who have died there. She laid the blame squarely at the feet of those who had ordered our army to invade Afghanistan.
 There were many writers, actors, musicians, academics and former soldiers who spoke – and schoolgirls new to peace campaigning.
 All around the Square there were stalls from different campaigns, performance events, art installations, and debates.
 One campaign called for the release of Shaker Aamer, a London resident whose wife and family live in Battersea, who is still held prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and for the release of Babar Ahmad, a 37-year-old British Muslim who has been detained without charge in this country since August 2004.
 At around 4pm the crowd assembled for a short march down Whitehall to present a petition at Downing Street.
 As police tried to herd the demonstrators into pens some campaigners staged a sit-down across the road (most had been on their feet for over four hours), which prompted police to kettle the area for a short time but there were no arrests and the protesters dispersed soon after.
 Earlier that afternoon in a totally separate event a small group of English Defence League members had presented a petition at Downing Street. After this a couple of their members had wandered up to Trafalgar Square.
 But if they had hoped to disrupt the peace rally or try to provoke the many young Muslims there they failed. A small group of police officers kept them completely surrounded until they left the square.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

EDL defied in Downing Street





 by New Worker correspondent

THE ISLAMPOHOBIC English Defence League last Saturday organised its women’s section, known as its “Angels” to present a petition to Downing Street calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to retract the remark he made when he described the EDL as “the sickest of all”.
 Around 50 EDL women and double that number of EDL men gathered in and around the Red Lion in Whitehall – but so did a counter demonstration organised by Unite Against Fascism and that outnumbered the EDL about three-to-one.
 A handful of the EDL women were allowed into Downing Street to present the petition – but not their chief organiser – she had forgotten to bring proof of identity.
 The petition attracted 780 signatures on the web site (though at least one person signed it five times and a quite a few including “Adolf Hitler” and “Eva Braun” are clearly spoofs).
 After presenting the petition the EDL supporters moved off to a brief rally outside the headquarters of the Liberal Democrat Party.
 One group of women taking part in the counter-demonstration told me that they had been attacked by a group of male EDL supporters on their way to the protest for carrying an anti-EDL placard. Police stepped in and prevented anything further developing.

Block the Bridge! Block the Bill!!





By New Worker
 correspondent


THOUSANDS of protesters, many of them doctors and other health service professionals, blocked Westminster Bridge last Sunday in protest at the Cameron government’s onslaught against the NHS. Many fear that the bill will lead to the wholesale privatisation of the health service and the end of the principle of comprehensive healthcare provided equally to all.
 Around 3,000 demonstrators, some dressed as surgeons, staged a sit-down protest on the bridge at 1pm, bringing traffic to a standstill on both sides of the Thames. The bridge, normally one of London's busiest, links St Thomas' hospital on the southern bank with the Houses of Parliament and the protest was called to highlight the Health and Social Care Bill, which goes to the House of Lords this week.
St Thomas’ is a leading teaching hospital and one of Britain’s oldest medical institutions. If the Bill passes, hospitals like St Thomas’ could be sold to private corporations, the staff put on private payrolls and beds given over to private patients.
UK Uncut, the anti-cuts group which organised the Block the Bridge, Block the Bill demonstration, said: "Today has brought together doctors, nurses, parents, students, unions, pensioners and children together in an unprecedented act of mass civil disobedience. We are occupying the bridge because the Bill would be bad for the NHS, bad for patients and bad for society."
            The protesters later held a "general assembly" in the middle of the bridge, similar to those organised by campaigners on Wall Street, where they discussed future demonstrations against the government's cuts.

Korean communists fighting history

Mun Myong Sin, Dermot Hudson, Michael Chant and Andy Brooks



By New Worker correspondent

NEW COMMUNIST Party comrades joined other communists at seminar last week at the John Buckle Centre in south London to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).
            The seminar at the London HQ of the RCPB (ML), called by the Friends of Korea co-ordinating committee, heard contributions from Korean solidarity activists on the achievements of the WPK and its great leaders Kim Il Song and Kim Jong Il, over the years.  
It was chaired by Dermot Hudson of the UK Korea Friendship Association and the discussion began with contributions from Michael Chant of the RCPB (ML), NCP general secretary Andy Brooks and DPR Korea London diplomat Mun Myong Sin on the importance and relevance of the Korean revolutionary experience to the world communist movement in the 21st century.
The NCP leader praised the feats of the WPK and denounced the hostile propaganda of imperialism against the DPRK in his contribution, which focused on the relevance and meaning of independence and self-sufficiency in Juche thinking.
 Michael Chant spoke about the importance and significance of the WPK and the great role of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and Dermot Hudson gave a succinct history of the Korean communists’ revolutionary struggle from the beginning of the struggle against Japanese colonial rule in the 1920s.
After a round-table discussion the seminar concluded with the unanimous agreement to send a congratulatory message to Democratic Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Day of Action against ATOS


by New Worker correspondent



DISABILITY campaigners around Britain last Friday staged a Day of Action against the private company employed by the Government to conduct tests on the disabled with a view to getting as many as possible off of long-term benefits and on to the much lower Job Seekers’ Allowance.
  In Islington nearly 100 people with a wide range of disabilities, their friends and supporters staged a protest outside a British Medical Journal recruitment fair where Atos was attempting to recruit doctors – many of them newly arrived in Britain – and other medical personnel to become assessors.
  There were speeches from the Islington and national Disabled People Against Cuts groups, Winvisible, PCS representatives, Mad Pride, student groups, Queer Resistance, Right To Work and many more.
  Campaigners handed out leaflets, reminding possible recruits of their Hippocratic Oath: “First do no harm….”
  They have also put pressure on the British Medical Journal to refuse to take recruiting adverts from Atos on the grounds that working for Atos is contrary to the good health of the patients.
  Atos assessments have repeatedly ignored the evidence of GPs and consultants in preference to a short, computer-based test to assess people’s ability to work.
  Assessors are required to carry out assessments in fields in whish they are not qualifies, such as mental health.
  They have declared people with terminal cancer and many other very serious conditions as fit to work.
  A recent study by the mental health charity Mind found that 75 per cent of the people it surveyed said the prospect of work capability assessment made their mental health worse and 51 per cent said it had left them with suicidal thoughts.
  Some people with mental ill-health and other conditions have committed suicide as a result of Atos decisions.
  Those who are denied long-term sickness benefit and transferred to Job Seekers’ Alliance are compelled to prove they are actively seeking work or they face losing that benefit as well and could become completely destitute.
  A former employee of Atos said: “The job was making me sick. It is against my principles to treat people with long-term illnesses in such a disgusting way. So I had to give it up.
  “People go into those interviews and talk openly to you because you are a nurse and they trust you.
  “Then your skills are used against them, to take away their benefits and destroy their lives.”
  The Islington event was covered by Channel 4 and BBC radio. Many speakers made the point that attacks on the most vulnerable is all part of the Government’s agenda to make the people pay for a financial crisis they didn’t create.
  One speaker pointed out that more than 40 per cent of the people who appeal against Atos decisions have their benefits reinstated and that figure rises to 90 per cent for those who have legal representation.
  But Government cuts to legal aid, Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and other legal support is taking away vulnerable people’s only defence against wrong decisions by Atos.
  In Brighton 50 people joined the day of action. Several different groups were there including Brighton benefits campaign, Solidarity group, others.
  Seventeen towns and cities around the country saw actions and protests outside Atos offices, including Oxford, Hastings, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Chatham, Manchester, York, Leeds, Chester, Plymouth, Bristol, Glasgow and Birmingham.




CABLE STREET: THEY DID NOT PASS!




By Caroline Colebrook
 
AROUND 1,000 anti-fascists gathered last Sunday near Aldgate East Station in London’s East End for a march to a rally in the St George’s Gardens to commemorate the historic Battle of Cable Street exactly 75 years ago.
  In that battle local people including Jewish immigrants and Irish dockers fought side by side to prevent Sir Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists (known as the Blackshirts) from making a provocative march through the area, designed to intimidate the local communities, especially the Jews.
  The resistance was organised largely by the local Communist Party. The Labour leadership at the time opposed direct action on the streets; nevertheless many Labour rank and file members ignored their leaders and took part.
 Hundreds of thousands of local East Enders barricaded their streets to deny the fascists access.
 With the main routes into the East End blocked police tried to clear a way through Cable Street where fighting between local people and police became intense, with many arrests and much police brutality as residents threw all manner of objects from upstairs windows on to the police.
 Eventually police gave up and Mosley never did get to march through the East End. His aim to split local communities and foment racist violence instead united local people in opposition to fascism.
 This contrasted starkly to events just four weeks previously when the Islamophobic English Defence League also tried to stage a provocative march through the same area.
 On the occasion the police were on the other side, confining the fascists to a brief bad-tempered static rally near Liverpool Street Station – inside the City of London. They did not get to set foot in the East End.
 Last Sunday the new local immigrant community – of Bangladeshi origin – played a leading role in celebrating the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Oswald Mosley and stressing that the fight against fascism and racism continues.
 Their organisations included the Bangladesh Youth Union UK and the Altab Ali Memorial group. Altab Ali was a victim of a racist murder in Whitechaple in 1978.
 There is still a large Jewish community in the area and relations between the Jews there and the Islamic Bangladeshis are warm and comradely.
 There were many speakers at the rally including 97-year-old Max Levitas, a veteran of the International Brigades, and peace campaigner Hetty Bower, aged 106 that day. The rally sang Happy Birthday.
 Bob Crowe, general secretary of the RMT transport union, gave a rousing anti-fascist speech. He said: “Fascists feed off scapegoats. But if you create a society where everyone has a house and a job then you have a society where the fascist cannot live.”
 Other trade union speakers included TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady and Gail Cartmail from Unite.
  The final speaker was Matthew Collins from Hope not Hate, who has recently had published a book about his experiences as a member of the National Front and BNP as a na├»ve and alienated youth before he realised that far from fighting for the white working class, these fascist organisations are profoundly anti-working class.
 He is now a dedicated anti-fascist activist and a class warrior for the whole working class.
 Matthew Collins closed proceedings in his usual witty way with a recollection of selling fascist newspapers just up the road in Brick Lane in the 1980's and early nineties and being given a rudimentary lesson in anti-fascism by an outraged local.