Friday, November 25, 2011

Don’t put the clock back say women marchers

  By New Worker correspondent

AROUND a thousand angry women, along with friends and supporters, last Saturday marched from Temple to Whitehall to demand that the Con-Dem Coalition stop making cuts that take away women’s chances of an equal life.
 The march, organised by the Fawcett Society, was a protest at the way the cuts are turning back the clock on women’s rights and freedoms.
 Many marchers wore 1950s style clothing – from French Haute Couture to overalls, pinnies, hairnets and head scarves with rubber gloves, to make the point that this was an age they did not want to go back to.
 In what it describes as its first nationwide "call to arms" in nearly a century-and-a-half of activism for women’s equality, the Fawcett Society urged people to turn out to deliver a message to David Cameron that his austerity measures threaten to "turn back time" on women's rights.
 Similar rallies were held in other cities, including Coventry, Bristol and Manchester, and finished with tea parties.
 In Oxford, a 1950s-themed "flash mob" took place with some marchers coming in handcuffs the most to chain themselves symbolically "to the kitchen sink".
 The Fawcett Society has previously shied away from militant feminism in favour of measured, persistent campaigning.
 But last week the number of women out of work reached 1.09 million, the highest in 23 years and Fawcett's acting chief executive, Anna Bird, said there was no time to lose.
 "We think we are very much at a watershed moment for women's rights in the UK," she said. "We think that the impact of austerity has brought us to a tipping point where, while we have got used to steady progress towards greater equality, we're now seeing a risk of slipping backwards. We cannot afford to let that happen."
 Women will generally be harder hit by cuts to benefits and public services such as SureStart children's centres, and will be more likely to take on roles, like caring for the long-term sick and elderly, which will plug the gaps once such state services have been withdrawn.
 But the Fawcett Society believes the most serious damage is being done in the jib market, as 65 per cent of the public sector workforce, female employees will be disproportionately affected by job cuts.
 The TUC last week released a "tool kit" guide to raising awareness about the impact of the cuts on women; it estimated that 325,000 of the 500,000 people who will lose their jobs as a result of public sector cuts will be women.
 Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "Is it any wonder that the coalition are losing the support of women voters? It is a triple whammy for women who are being hit hard by unemployment, the rising cost of living as well as cuts to benefits and services to young people."
 Many of the marchers had experienced first hand the impact of the cuts. Maggie Cowan, 59, from Walthamstow in north-east London, is one of those: after working in the careers service for 22 years, she was made redundant in July as an indirect result of local authority cuts to Connexions advice centres. Because of the closures, the organisation that employed her decided to close its head office. Of about a dozen of her colleagues, only one was male.
 Since September, she has had a part-time job on a temporary contract working with young people to try to keep them in education. But the summer was hard.
 "I was anxious,” she said. “Looking for work is difficult – because of my age and I accept I may not look like the best prospect," she joked. "I applied for lots and lots of jobs … I just seemed to be filling in application forms and sending off CVs left, right and centre."
 As her contract is due to end in the spring, Cowan, the breadwinner in her family, admits she is insecure. "I have to be really careful about how much money I spend because come next March I don't know what I'll be doing," she said. "There is pressure. The only other time in my life I haven't worked is when I stopped to have my children."
 Fawcett has outlined policies it wants the Government to take, including the ring-fencing of funding for SureStart children's centres and pressure on local authorities not to cut services concerned with combating violence against women.

LRC: Resistance is our role

Daphne Liddle winning the argument

 By New Worker correspondent
BANKERS are taking over the political protest and our role is to resist this Labour MP John McDonald told the annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee, which packed out the main hall at the University of London Union last Saturday.
 He spoke on the unprecedented austerity attack on our class, the need to defend ourselves and the need to present a concrete alternative model to oppose that of the bankers.
 He praised those occupying the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral, next to the London Stock Exchange and the threat from the City of London Corporation to evict them.
 “We should be campaigning for the abolition of the City of London Corporation,” McDonnell said.
 Symeon Brown, a community worker from Tottenham gave a moving speech on the effects of the cuts to services on the low income people of Tottenham.
 He said: “Prior to the riots there were protests against the cuts but they were ignored.
 “After the riots people were asking ‘Why?’ – as if they lived in a vacuum and had not seen what has been going on.”
 He described the local people, especially the black community, who had lost so much just before the riots as “victims of the most drastic cuts”.
 “You will never know unless you live there, so many people suffering so much. How do you feel when the very services on which you are reliant are being cut? Has a single generation ever lost more gains?”
 Phien O’Reachtigan also made a moving speech on behalf of the travelling community. He pointed out that their community is referred to as the Irish travelling community even though they have been in this country for 900 years.
 He told the conference that the people evicted from Dale Farm are still there in the area because they have no other place to go and that racist hate against them is not only tolerated but encouraged.
 “They keep telling us to go back where we came from. We are part of Britain. If all people were to go back to their original countries we would all go back to Africa. Our ancestors left there and they were all travellers once.”
 Steve Acheson, an electrician who has been blacklisted for many years for his trade union activities, spoke about the current long-running dispute between construction site electricians and the giant companies that are planning to cut their pay by 36 per cent and their terms and conditions.
 They have protested every Wednesday for several months now; focussing on a different big construction site every time and already one of the employers has back away from the plan to cut.
 Most of the resolutions to conference concerned the fight against the cuts and putting pressure on Labour leaders to present a real, socialist alternative.
 And most resolutions were uncontroversial, receiving near unanimous support.
 But the resolution from the New Communist Party concerning the Nato violent overthrow of the government of Libya – and the need to defend Syria from a similar attack, sparked a real debate that divided the conference chamber.
 Many delegates to the conference, although against Nato and imperialism in general, were unaware of the history of Libya and had swallowed western propaganda that it was an old fashioned brutal feudal Arab dictatorship.
 Moving the resolution, Daphne Liddle explained that Gaddafi had been given the demonisation treatment that so many leaders of small countries opposed to western imperialism have been given and that Libya had pursued many progressive policies, including setting up Opec to ensure that oil revenues went, at least to some extent, to benefit the people of the countries where the oil was extracted.
 This was fiercely opposed by some delegates but was also supported by peace activists who agreed that bombing civilian populations was no way to liberate them.
 One young woman Arab delegate also stunned the less-well informed delegates by explaining that the Gaddafi government has given full equal rights to women, protected them from male violence and angered some of the more reactionary and powerful forces in the country by granting women equal rights to inherit land.
 “But now they have Sharia law imposed and the forced marriages and child marriages, the stonings and beatings, the genital mutilation and the enslavement of women will all come back.”
 The motion was passed with 79 for, 48 against and 39 abstentions.

This conference opposes all interference by Nato and other imperialist forces in the internal affairs of Syria and/or Iran, following the outcome of the Nato intervention in Libya that has enforced a regime change, without any democratic mandate, for the sole benefit of western oil companies.
The Nato forces obtained a United Nations mandate to impose a no-fly-zone on Libya, ostensibly to protect human lives. They used this mandate to unleash a campaign of terror bombing that cost thousands of civilian lives and to support reactionary stooges, including elements of Al Qaeda, as a front for the violent overthrow of a government that used its oil revenue to provide a high social wage for the Libyan population and to provide generous and frequent humanitarian famine relief for other African countries.
The Libyan government has now been replaced by a divided group of puppets which include violent racists responsible for the massacre of many black African workers in Libya.
Nato is now seeking a UN mandate to impose similar carnage in Syria – a country of mixed ethnicities, cultures and religions, which is currently a secular state.
A Nato intervention in Syria can only destabilise the whole region, leading to inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-ethnic carnage and bloodshed.
We deplore the pretence of the defence of human rights to mask attempts to impose a new age of imperialist colonialism in the Middle East and call on the United Nations to defend the sovereignty of small nations against imperialist aggression.

International solidarity with Democratic Korea

Alejandro Cao de Benos and Dermot Hudson

By New Worker correspondent

FRIENDS of the Korean people from home and abroad gathered last Saturday for an international meeting of the Korean Friendship Association (KFA) in central London. Leading activists in the Korean solidarity movement including KFA President Alejandro Cao de Benos, Dermot Hudson from the UK KFA and others from Europe and Africa took part in the conference. But others from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Russia were prevented by the Foreign Office from entering the country.
November marks the 12th anniversary of the establishment of the Korean Friendship Association. Over the decade the KFA has become the authoritative and authentic friendship body promoting solidarity with the DPRK. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the KFA has been to spread an understanding of the DPRK among an audience of millions, particularly young people through the medium of the Internet and other resources.
                 While the morning session was devoted to internal organisational matters the afternoon was spent in open discussion on building solidarity with the DPR Korea.
 In his keynote speech KFA president Alejandro Cao de Benos said: "Frequently people around the world talk about 'personality cult' or 'state religion',  but out of their ignorance they cannot understand that the admiration and the lapel pin on the heart of every Korean comes from genuine respect towards a great man who did so much for others but never thought of himself. This is why is our duty and honour to safeguard the works and life of Generalissimo Kim Il Sung, to spread this knowledge worldwide and shield Korea, the country of Juche against any enemy attack”.
Solidarity messages were received from the DPRK embassy in London and the Pyongyang mission of the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front of south Korea and the conference unanimously endorsed a solidarity message to the great leader comrade Kim Jong Il .

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Arab spring or imperialist Trojan horse?

By New Worker correspondent

FRIENDS and comrades met in central London last Friday to take part in a debate on the Arab Spring and its relevance to the struggle against world imperialism. Prof Kamal Majid, a vice-president of the Stop the War Coalition, and New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks kicked off the discussion with openings on the recent upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, Nato’s invasion of Libya and imperialism’s growing threat to Syria.
The speakers reported the stance of the communist movements in Syria and Tunisia and the issue was taken up by other participants, who also raised the concept of the “national bourgeoisie” and questioned whether such a class now exists in the Arab world.
The meeting, organised by the NCP’s London District, was the fourth and last of this year’s series of talks on contemporary issues. A new series of talks is planned for the New Year.

Raising the flag for the Russian revolution!

Tony Nicolaides bringing greetings from his father

By New Worker correspondent

THE GREAT OCTOBER Russian Revolution is commemorated all around the world and every year the 1917 Bolshevik revolution that established the first workers’ and peasants’ state is celebrated by communists and progressive working people all around the world.
            And for many years friends and comrades have gathered at the New Communist Party Centre to take part in the Party’s traditional celebration of the greatest event of the 20th century. Guests included comrades from the Socialist Labour Party, Second Wave Publications and, as usual, the old print shop was transformed into a bar and buffet for the event.   
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 by reading a message from the RCPB (ML).
             This was followed by Tony Nicolaides, who read out a message that came, along with a very generous donation to the collection, from his father – a retired founder member of the party who now lives in a former Soviet Baltic republic. Tony briefly worked at the Centre in 1979 when his father, Nick, was the leading Soviet Weekly organiser in London.
Then John McCloud of the Socialist Labour Party spoke about the relevance of socialism in the 21st century and  Kumar Sarkar of Second Wave Publications  recalled the heady events of the past year at home and internationally.
Finally NCP leader Andy Brooks paid tribute to the sacrifices of the past, the need for struggle today and the certainty of victory tomorrow. Naturally, no NCP event can ever take place without a collection for the fighting fund. This year we marked the occasion by also producing a special NCP 2012 calendar for sale on the night as an added fund-raiser for the monthly appeal. That, together with the rousing appeal from NCP Treasurer Dolly Shaer and the commitment of all our friends and comrades, raised over £732 for the fighting fund!

  • We still have some 2012 calendars in stock at £3.50 post free from NCP Lit, PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.  Every month is illustrated with labour movement shots taken by our own photographers over the past year.

Remembering the Soviet sacrifice in WW2

By New Worker

VETERANS, local dignitaries, ambassadors and members of political and community organisations gathered in Southwark last Sunday for a ceremony of remembrance at the Soviet War Memorial in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum.
 They included the veterans of the Arctic Convoy Club with their distinctive white berets, who grow fewer in number very year.
 Local Southwark Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes was there, who is continuing to support their long struggle for recognition in a specific campaign medal, which they have never been granted.
 The previous Labour government extended the Atlantic medal to include them and granted them a lapel badge. But there is still no real recognition for the extreme difficulty and hazards of their journeys, in sub-zero temperatures and preyed upon by U-boats.
 Many suspect this is because the Soviet Union did recognise their heroism and granted them medals and the British state resents those who accept medals from socialist states.
 Now Prime Minister Cameron, after promising to award them proper medals before the 2010 election, has changed his mind apparently on account of the costs involved.
 Also present wearing authentic Soviet uniforms from the 1940s, were members of the British Second Guards Rifle Division Red Army re-enactment group, the largest of its kind in Europe. These enthusiasts, with their replica red hammer and sickle banner bearing a portrait of Lenin, triggered a positive emotional response from members of the London Russian community in attendance and other older people.

New trial for Stephen Lawrence murder suspects

by New Worker correspondent

THE MURDER of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in Eltham, south-east London, over 18 years ago, was just one of a series of racist murders in the area but made history because of police failures to pursue the case properly and because of his family’s determination to hold the police to account and to seek justice for Stephen.
 Stephen Lawrence, 18, and his friend Duwayne Brooks, were attacked in 1993 by five youths shouting racist abuse in 1993 as they waited for a bus.
 Brooks succeeded in fleeing them but Stephen Lawrence was overtaken and fatally stabbed.
 Police mishandling of the case compromised the evidence – by allowing the chief witness, Duwayne Brooks, sight of the suspects at the police station and so leaving his identification evidence open to being challenged in court.
 They also reacted slowly to collecting forensic evidence, leaving the suspects time to dispose of the weapon and contaminated clothing.
 The Crown Prosecution Service refused to bring a case and a private prosecution brought by the family failed because Brooks' evidence was ruled inadmissible.
 But now a new case is being brought by the Crown Prosecution Service based on forensic evidence on the clothing to two of the suspects using micro analysis techniques that were unavailable 18 years ago.
 Opening the trial against Gary Dobson, 36, and David Norris, 35, the prosecutor Mark Ellison QC on Tuesday picked out racism as the main motive for the murder.
 "The only discernible reason for the attack was the colour of his skin," Ellison told the jury. The way in which the attack was executed indicates that this group were a group of like-minded young, white men who acted together and reacted together. They shared the same racial animosity and motivation."
 The jury was told that the key to the case against Dobson and Norris was new scientific evidence which had not been available at the time of Lawrence's death. No one had ever been able to identify the youths involved in the attack – that remained true today, Ellison said.
 The new tests, carried out by a different firm of forensic scientists who specialise in reviewing old cases, had retrieved textile fibres, blood and hair linked to Lawrence on the clothing seized from the defendants when they were first arrested in connection with the murder in May 1993, the court heard.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Jarrow youth demand action for jobs

 by New Worker correspondent

  A GROUP of young, unemployed activists last Saturday strode proudly into Trafalgar Square at the end of a 330-mile march from Jarrow in the north-east of England to London in protest at the lack of jobs and Con-Dem Coalition cuts that are “affecting everyone apart from the rich”.
 The march began on 1st October and gathered support all the way along to be a couple of thousand strong by the time it reached Trafalgar Square. It was re-creating the famous Jarrow march of the unemployed from 1936 and the marchers delivered a petition to Downing Street as they passed on their way to the Square.
 All the way along logistics support from trade unions, especially PCS, GMB, FBU and RMT, provided food, accommodation and transport of baggage for the young marchers.
 The rally in Trafalgar Square was addressed by Chris Baugh on behalf of the PCS union, Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn, former AEI worker Ian Harris, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and RMT secretary Bob Crow.
 And one of the marchers, Lizi Grey, whose great grandfather, Michael McLoughlin, had been on the original Jarrow march, also addressed the crowd.
 The 17-year-old college student from Gateshead said: "The stories I've heard from his son – my grandfather – were that they were very well received in all of the towns that they went to, and we have had the same experience.
 "I think a lot of that has to do with communities feeling that the cuts are starting to bite and it's affecting everyone apart from the rich and the people making the decisions."
She added: "It's taken us five weeks to march the whole 330 miles but it feels amazing."
Chris Baugh spoke on the effects of the current “biggest attack on the working class since the 1920s”.
 He also spoke of the build up to the national strike of public sector workers on 30th of the month and the Government’s attempt to undermine support for it with a bogus offer of a “better” deal. “It’s like have £10 stolen from you and being offered £1 back”.
 Then he warned that the battle is not just about the pensions robbery and not just about the fight for a decent wage.
 “We must reach out to the millions of unorganised workers in the public and private sectors,” he said.
 Ian Harris spoke about the AEI factory where he had worked for many years that was closed suddenly “with no procedure at all”, no notice and no redundancy money. “The tax payers had to pick up the bill for that,” he said.
 MP Stephen Hepburn paid tribute to the dedication and enthusiasm of the marchers and to those occupying the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral.
 “That’s where the cancer is,” he said, “In the City of London.” And he pointed out the similarity of the attitudes of rich bankers in the City in the 1930s and now – only now “with a computer switch they can put hundreds out of work and put hundreds of families into misery”.
 Bob Crow and Matt Wrack both spoke about the socialist alternative to the capitalist system and of unity with workers all over the world where similar cuts are being made and working class resistance is growing.
 Claire Laker, a PCS officer from Mansfield, also addressed the rally.
 “Young people have shown that far from being lazy or scroungers, they want a future with decent jobs and education,” she said.
 "The marchers have received huge support up and down the country. People have fed them, put them up and made it clear they back our demands."
 She continued: "We think it is unfair that in the 21st century, young people are facing long-term unemployment.”There are almost a million young people out of work, and the jobs market is not getting any better."

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tax the rich for education!

by Daphne Liddle

THOUSANDS of students took to the streets of London on Wednesday to repeat the message of last year’s march against the tripling of tuition fees and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the privatisation of universities.
But this year the numbers were down to between 4,000 and 5,000 while police number were much higher, after last year’s dramatic student attack on the Tory party headquarters at Milbank.
Many students may have been deterred by a Home Office threat that the police had permission to deploy baton rounds — plastic bullets — if things got out of hand again.
This year’s demonstration was just as noisy and colourful but those not part of it would have had difficulty seeing much of it for the numbers of police. One photographer described it as a “walking kettle”.
The march, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, went from the University of London to Trafalgar Square — where a breakaway group had set up a small encampment — then via the Strand and Fleet Street to the City of London.
Very heavy cordons prevented the student march from any contact with the anti-capitalist occupation of St Paul’s Churchyard. The lead organiser of the demonstration, Michael Chessum, said: “Police intimidation is unacceptable and irresponsible” and accused police chiefs of acting in a “political and cynical manner to put people off attending”.
He added: “Our message to the Government is very simply: tax the rich to fund education. Students are not going to accept these drastic cuts to their futures. Young people won’t accept this.
“We are here back again and we will keep coming back until we win our demands that education is free and accessible to all.”
The students are a part of a huge and growing protest movement against Con-Dem Coalition cuts and their march was not the only protest in London on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day 300 electricians had brought traffic in the City to a halt in part of a very long-running protest against employers’ plans to change contracts without negotiation, cutting pay and conditions drastically.
And taxi drivers organised by the transport union RMT also held a protest rally in Trafalgar Square over attacks on the licensed taxi trade.
And all the major unions are now gearing up for the national one-day strike of public sector workers on 30th November — and many private sector unions are planning complementary support activities.
Unison was the first of the big unions to complete its ballot — a resounding yes for the strike with 245,358 and 70,253 against.
The Government tried to make much of a low turnout of 30 per cent. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis responded: “Unison is a democratic organisation whose members have the right to vote in strike ballots. There was a 76 per cent vote in favour of action and that democratic decision made by our membership is valid and legitimate and must be respected.
“Democracy in the UK is not perfect, and we all need to look at why turnouts have fallen. But for government ministers and business leaders to question the legitimacy of our result is a bit rich?.
“If you follow our critics’ own logic, they would all have a rather shaky claim to power.
“For example in 2010 the Conservatives received only 23 per cent of all votes that could have been cast.”
The unions last week rejected a Government ploy of an “improved offer” as merely a tactic to undermine growing public support for the big strike.
And the giant union Unite has exposed the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, for using misleading data to attempt to manipulate public opinion over public sector pensions.
The Government’s dirty tricks show it is really anxious about the planned strike — and others that are likely to follow it if the Government does not abandon its policy of cuts.
But this government has got to go; no one except the richest is safe from life-changing cuts to their standard of living and the poorest, the disabled, children and the elderly stand to lose the most.
And of course the very future of our NHS depends on this government falling.
We must keep marching, striking, occupying and protesting until they do go.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Two cheers for Ed

TWO CHEERS for Ed Miliband who came out in support of the St Paul’s protesters last weekend. The Labour leader said that the protesters camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London presented a stark warning to the political classes and reflect a wider national crisis in confidence about the values of those in business and politics.
But, while clearly keen to align Labour with today’s mounting anger against the capitalist class that is sweeping Britain and the rest of Europe, Miliband was careful not to endorse what he called the "long list of diverse and often impractical proposals" of the protesters
Writing in the Observer, Miliband described the Occupy London protest and others around the world as "danger signals" that only the "most reckless will ignore".
            "The challenge is that they reflect a crisis of concern for millions of people about the biggest issue of our time: the gap between their values and the way our country is run,” Miliband declared. “I am determined that mainstream politics, and the Labour party in particular, speaks to that crisis and rises to the challenge”.
            The Labour leader hasn’t stuck his neck out that much. He’s got at least half the Established Church behind him and he knows that most of the ruling class themselves fear a Greek-style backlash and want to distance themselves from the “let them eat cake” neo-con attitude that was the norm in Bush and Blair’s days.  And while he’s happy to lend half a hand to a few hundred tent people parked in St Paul’s churchyard he says nothing in support of the millions preparing for the biggest strike in British labour history on 30th November.
Last week the Cameron government made a revised pension offer to avert the public sector strike at the end of the month. The offer, which would exempt those who stand to retire within the next 10 years from the changes and gave slightly more generous upper limits, did nothing to allay the major areas of union concern such as increased pension contributions and later retirement. It was too little too late and it’s been justly rejected.
            Miliband talks about the gross inequalities in society. Like some of the media pundits or Anglican bishops we see more frequently on TV these days, he talks about the immense annual bonuses the City bankers pay themselves while their own staff are paid peanuts and the unemployed and the elderly are forced to eke out a miserable existence on a benefits system that is facing further cut-backs.
This certainly more than what his predecessor, the wretched Tony Blair, would have ever said, But Miliband is not making a case for social justice and he is essentially appealing to the bourgeoisie to accept reform and help those at the bottom of the ladder climb up a peg or two.
            Former Labour premier Harold Wilson once said that the Labour Party owed more to Methodism than Marx. Wilson may have been biased towards his own Wesleyan church but he was certainly right about the Labour Party.
Wilson, like a number of other Labour leaders in the 20th century, was a lay preacher. Though they were all dab hands at extolling the virtues of Jesus none of them seriously claimed that prayers not politics were the answer. But the politics they espoused were those of reform, social-democracy and bourgeois argument to deride and dismiss Marxist ideas and scientific socialism.
Working people have never got anywhere with pious motions or cringing appeals to the supposed good conscience of the bourgeoisie. Past victories were won only through confrontation with the employers and their state machine. Today the working class can only rely on the organised strength of the unions to defend their rights, now under massive attack from the ruling class and the Tory-led Coalition government. Resistance to the bourgeois onslaught on our living standards will get a huge boost with a massive turn-out for the pensions strike in three weeks time. Support the protest in St Paul’s but let’s make sure it’s solid on 30th November!

St Paul's occupiers help homeless

by New Worker correspondent

THE ANTI-CAPITA|LIST protesters currently occupying the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral have found an increasing number of London’s homeless joining them for the sake of food, warmth, security and companionship.
 So the protesters are opening a “welfare centre” tent. They are appealing to charities and individuals with expertise in social work, counselling, drug and alcohol services, welfare housing and mental health issues to work voluntarily at the centre.
 The encampment already has its own “university”, a bookshop, a kitchen and a visitor information centre.
 Malcolm Blackman, who has been at the camp since its start on 15th October, said: “We have a lot of people coming by, stumbling round the tents at night.
 “There’s a lot of friendly people here and food. There was a concern that it would undermine the image of the camp. But so far we’ve met every obstacle we’ve come up against, and the welfare centre will be a good way to address this one.”
 James McMahon, one of the homeless who has been helped, said he had lived around the cathedral for 10 years. He gets free food cooked by the camp’s chefs, and a canvas roof over his head.
 “I asked for a tent and was given one,” he said. “There’s a community here. I have welcomed these people to my home and they have welcomed me. There’s people I can sit with, eat with and have a conversation with. It’s the most human contact I’ve had in 10 years.”
 The Corporation of London and the St Paul’s authorities have now granted the encampment permission to stay until after Christmas.

Mary Rosser: a formidable Marxist fighter and organiser

Mike Hicks pays tribute to Mary Rosser's work
 by New Worker correspondent

COMRADES and friends of Mary Rosser assembled last Thursday evening at the Marx Memorial Library (MML) to pay tribute to a lifetime of work and struggle given by the late Mary Rosser to communism and the cause of the working class.
 The event was chaired by John Aitkin, chair of the MML and platform speakers included the library’s president, David McLellan, who is a Marxist scholar and writer, veteran communist and MML supporter Joan Bellamy, former MML librarian Tish Collins and current librarian John Callow.
 But the keynote speaker was Mike Hicks, Mary’s partner and veteran trade unionist, who led the fight against the Murdoch empire in the battle of Wapping.
 All paid tribute to the work Mary had done, both for the library and for the Morning Star, through the dark days of the late 1980s and 90s, when world communism was in retreat and Marxism-Leninism was under heavy attack, beset by revisionists, liquidationists, debts and bailiffs.
 Mary, educated in a Catholic girls school, had an inner core of steel and a capacity for relentless work and organisation that saw off many threats.
 From the floor Ivan Beavis, who had on occasions crossed swords with Mary, acknowledged the work she had done in securing the continued existence of both the MML and the Morning Star in very difficult times.
 Mary and Mike retired a few years ago to live in Bournemouth, her home town. But they did not stop fighting; they revitalised and reorganised their local Labour Party – and a large delegation from that party, led by Pete Willsman, was there to add their tribute last Thursday.
 David McLellan paraphrased Christopher Wren: “If you want to see Mary’s memorial, look around you.” The library is now thriving, thanks to charity status funding organised by Mary and now by trade union funds as well. But it would probably have been bankrupted, sold off and lost to the movement without Mary’s efforts.
 The event finished with Mike Hicks unveiling a plaque to Mary in the entrance to the library.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Vigil for victims of hate crime

Ken Livingstone

by New Worker

SEVERAL hundred people gathered in Trafalgar Square at dusk last Friday for the third annual Vigil for Victims of Hate Crime to the strains of Offenbach’s Barcarolle, played by members of London’s three LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) choirs (London Gay Men’s Chorus, Pink Singers and Diversity Choir) and the London Gay Wind Orchestra.
 The event, organised by 17-24-30 in partnership with the Harvey Milk Foundation, was a commemoration of all the victims of hate crime, whether to do with race, gender or religion but in particular those who have been persecuted for their sexual identity.
 And the event marked the second anniversary of the murder of Ian Baynham, an openly gay elderly man who was knocked to the ground and kicked to death by thugs shouting homophobic abuse.
 Speakers included Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, Beverley Smith on behalf of the Disability Hate Crime Network, former Labour London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Brian Paddick.
 Elly Barnes, a music teacher, spoke of her work to introduce LGBT awareness into Stoke Newington School and later other schools in the London Borough of Hackney.
 LGBT pupils in many schools suffer a miserable time as the butt of homophobic gibes. Barnes began by getting the word “gay” banned as a pejorative and at the same time teaching positive images of gay people and encouraging the celebration of diversity.
 Now the school is LGBT friendly and she is spreading the word to other schools, where she encounters teachers who were unaware that the notorious Section 28 (a law banning the teaching of anything to do with homosexuality in schools) has been repealed for many years.
 “All schools have a duty to protect young people – so for goodness sake head-teachers, you have no excuses, you have all the legal back-up you need to bring equalities to the forefront of your agenda, in fact you don’t need that as it is just the right thing to do! – do it tomorrow, you will be saving lives,” she concluded.
 Another strong speaker was Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician in America to seek election and succeed, in California, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
 Milk served almost 11 months in office and was responsible for passing a stringent gay rights ordinance for the city. On 27th November 1978 Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, another city supervisor who had recently resigned but wanted his job back.
 Despite his short career in politics, Milk became an icon in San Francisco and “a martyr for gay rights”, according to University of San Francisco professor Peter Novak.
 Stuart Milk told the people gathered in Trafalgar Square that LGBT people did not want to be “tolerated” – “a negative word suggesting something unpleasant” – they wanted their diversity and of all kinds of human diversity to be celebrated.
 At 8pm there was a two minutes’ silence followed by the reading of a list of names of victims of homophobia.
 The event concluded an hour later to the strains of Over the Rainbow.
 Similar events were held all around Britain and the world, including a small event at the Occupy the London Stock Exchange encampment at St Paul’s Cathedral.
  Mark Healey, organiser of the London event said: “We had a good turnout again this year, although I did expect more people following three high profile attacks in central London. The attack on Philip Salon that left him hospitalised for several weeks, the attack on the barman from Half-way 2 Heaven, and the brutal gang attack on the gay couple holding hands on Charing Cross Road.”

A Schism in the Church of England

THE CHURCH of England is part of the British state machinery — its bishops have an automatic place in the House of Lords and it is headed by the monarch. It is a vital part of the coalition of bourgeois business interests and aristocratic landowners that has ruled this country since 1688. The church owns land and businesses and collects rents and dividends and it plays a role for the ruling class in mind control of the masses.
But in order to exercise that control it must sustain belief in the myths of Christianity and its Bible. One of the most constant themes in that Bible is the teaching that greed is bad; that the love of money is the root of all evil.
Bourgeois capitalism on the other hand is based on the opposite idea that greed is good and that avarice is the motor that makes the world go round.
How does the C of E pull off the trick of preaching one set of values while living by the other?
Until now the Church has more or less managed it, using some of the best spin doctors in the world and keeping a low profile about their business interests. They did not fool all of the people all of the time but they fooled enough of the people enough of the time.
But the Occupy the London Stock Exchange encampment that landed in the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral has shattered the mask and exposed the hypocrisy. And it has also revealed that some on the lower ranking clergy are not so hypocritical.
For example, Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s immediate response to the occupation when it began on 15th October was to welcome it and to tell the police to go.
Behind closed doors this did not go down too well with some of his superiors and it certainly upset the Corporation of the City of London to think the occupation might be safe to stay as long as it liked, protected by the church.
That put the church authorities in a spot; having extended the hand of friendship at first it would take an embarrassing about-face to withdraw it and order the campers off straight away. So they tried other ways to put pressure and closed the cathedral on very spurious health and safety grounds. Their message to the protesters was: “We welcomed you but your presence is doing us untold damage; now go.”
It didn’t work. The encampment is one of the best organised and most considerate and safety-conscious there has ever been. They knew the C of E was closing the cathedral doors to spite its own face and they ignored it and camped on.
Meanwhile behind the scenes the City of London Corporation, the Home Office and the highest Anglican authorities prepared for a forced eviction of the encampment — provoking the resignation of Giles Fraser and part-time chaplain Fraser Dyer.
And, as the news that Britain’s top bosses (the one per cent) had raised their own pay and perks by 50 per cent last year while the remaining 99 per cent of the population suffered serious cuts in living standards — Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, remained strangely silent about the situation at St Paul’s and the neighbouring temples of Mammon.
Then the Right Reverend Graham Knowles, the Dean of the cathedral, who had closed the doors and then opened them, resigned, saying his position was untenable — meaning he had made a fool of himself.
Home Secretary Theresa May is now putting pressure on the Corporation of London and the police to serve an injunction on the protesters giving them 48 hours to pack up and go. The protesters have said as soon as they get an injunction they will challenge it through the courts.
But the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, does not want an injunction. He wants the protesters to agree to go peacefully. That is unlikely to happen. But the Lord Mayor’s Show is looming and the ruling class want the embarrassing encampment gone before it.
The Occupy London Stock Exchange camp may well soon be forced out but it will nevertheless already have shattered a part of the gilded edifice of Britain’s state machinery and the C of E will never again be able to pretend it is not a part of the rule of Mammon.

St Paul's eviction halted

taking Jesus at his word on the steps of St Paul's

THE CORPORATION of London, the Bishop of London and St Paul’s cathedral staff last Tuesday dropped plans to take legal action to force anti-capitalist protesters from their encampment in the cathedral’s churchyard.
 And on Wednesday Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams issued a statement calling for a “Robin Hood” tax on financial market dealings as a way of redressing the extreme greed displayed by City bankers while the rest of the country endures serious hardship resulting from the bankers’ actions.
 Dr Williams said he hoped this would meet the demands of the protesters and that it was not necessary to end the whole capitalist system.
 The statement was fairly obviously designed to persuade the protesters to go voluntarily whole avoiding the embarrassment of a forced eviction of people who are upholding the teachings the Church of England on Mammon worship and the lover of money as the root of all evil.
 Meanwhile the City of London Corporation said it had merely "pressed the pause button" on its legal bid to evict the protesters.
 Clearly, if they don’t go willingly the iron fist is still there inside the velvet glove.

News round-up

 Climate change and Africa

By New Worker correspondent

THE ANNUAL general meeting of Action for South Africa took place in East London on 29th  October with speaker from Swaziland, South Africa and the British trade unions, one month before the UN conference on climate change in Durban.
 The debate raised issues, like decent work, poverty alleviation, human rights which are the heart of the climate change debate.
  Africa is being hit harder by climate change than much of the world. Severe weather patterns are already disrupting agriculture systems, resulting in droughts, food shortages and migration.
 These effects will only worsen unless drastic steps are taken to reverse global warming.  According to the intergovernmental Panel on Climate change the continent of Africa will warm one and a half times than the global average.
  Michael Fletcher, delegate from Colchester Unite central branch, raised the issues of peace and war and how it affected climate change, with the burning of oil terminals in Iraq are Libya, producing more carbon dioxide and called for Trident missiles to be abolished and the money spent on war to be channelled into climate change.
 One of the motions passed at conference was to fight for the human rights of gay and transsexual people in Africa.
  Michael spoke about the victory of the people in Britain in stopping the privatisation of forests here and this was a contribution to the international struggle.  The conference ended in a friendly atmosphere of unity in the struggle foe climate change.

Farm workers protest
AGRICULTURAL Workers from across Britain demonstrated at the Houses of Parliament on 25th October to urge MPs to oppose the Public Bodies Bill.
 The Bill, if passed, would allow a process to start to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB), the mechanism for fixing legally enforceable minimum wages and conditions for agricultural workers in England and Wales.
 The agricultural workers' union, Unite, called the demonstration to try to persuade MPs to oppose both the inclusion of the AWB in the Bill and the entire Public Bodies Bill. The opposition Labour Party is already committed to maintaining the AWB so the targets were Liberals and other non-Conservative MPs.
  Unite national officer Cath Speight commented, “The abolition of the AWB will force thousands into poverty in rural areas. Wages will be slashed if the statutory floor of protection is removed. The AWB provides a framework for a more sustainable form of farming, not least in respect of attracting the future workforce and supporting skills and training”.