Friday, December 21, 2007


all the best for 2008
London District NCP

London news roundup

City courier sacked for asking for Christmas Eve off

PAUL WHIELDON, a member of the GMB general union employed for five years in the City of London as a pushbike courier has been sacked from his job by CitySprint because he requested that he be allowed not to work on Christmas Eve.
He wanted to spend the day with his partner of 18 years, Kim, who’s celebrating her 40th birthday on that day. The request was refused and he was sacked by phone. CitySprint operate all over England, Scotland and Wales.
Paul and his 40/50 push bike colleagues cycle between 50 to 60 miles a day in the course of a five-day working week for which they earn around £350, depending on the number of jobs and how fit they are.
The push bike couriers deliver in the centre of London. Paul and his other CitySprint push bike courier colleagues have had two pay cuts since 2006. In 2006 a delivery journey from EC1 to EC2 earned a courier £2.90. For the same journey they now earn only £2.20. If couriers are unable to work they do not get paid. There is no sick pay, no pension scheme or paid holiday arrangements. The couriers provide their own push bikes but are charged each week, by the company for a company uniform, rent for a radio, Citytracker equipment that gives them their delivery schedule, GPS equipment and goods in transit insurance. This amounts to an estimated total deduction from the pay of over £9.00 each week. Paul has been working on the American Express contract. For this he received a daily retainer rate of £60.75 which was paid to him by CitySprint and is paid for each job on top.
Terry Flanagan, GMB Professional Driver Branch Secretary said, “The courier business is full of companies like CitySprint who treat their employees in the most uncaring and unprofessional way. The constant driving down of prices in the delivery sector leads to ordinary workers like Paul being forced to work for very poor pay providing services to the very profitable financial sector, and being forced to pay for the equipment he needs to do his job. GMB have experienced low standards in the courier industry but we do expect them not to sack people for asking for time off at Christmas. Paul offered to work over the period between Christmas and New Year and asked only for Christmas Eve off to be with his partner Kim on her 40th birthday.”

Fight against mental health unit closure

PATIENTS and staff at a key mental health unit in Surrey are alarmed at a decision by the NHS trust to close it. They say the Henderson Hospital offers unique help to people with complex mental health problems.
The South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, which made the decision to close the Sutton-based hospital, said it recognised the tremendous contribution that the Henderson had made over the past 60 years in treating patients from many other areas as well as locals.
In a statement, the trust’s chief executive Peter Houghton said: “The trust can no longer afford to subsidise the hospital at the expense of other services. It is with great sadness that this decision has been taken.”
Medical staff at the Henderson say the closure has been forced by changes made to Government funding arrangements. A year ago, the hospital received national funding, and had a six-month waiting list. But then funding passed to local NHS trusts, and referrals dwindled.
Currently, only 12 of its 29 beds are occupied. Residential care is expensive but psychiatrists say the cost of treatment at the Henderson is recouped in the long run because, after patients leave, they tend to be far less dependent on other services.
The hospital does intensive work with people who have a moderate or severe personality disorder. This means they have enduring emotional and behavioural problems which can involve them harming themselves or others.
Many people at the Henderson have experienced serious neglect or abuse in earlier years.
A consultant psychiatrist, Dr Diana Menzies, said: “These are people who, if not treated, tend to come back through the revolving door and on to acute wards in psychiatric hospitals.
“Closure of the service will add to the impoverishment of psychological treatments. It will be the most vulnerable in our society who pay.”
A woman former patient described the difference the Henderson had made to her. The woman, who was treated at the hospital for a year when she was 25, said: “Before I had always been isolated. I was self-harming, and struggled to be by myself for any period of time. I was like a timebomb of self-destruction.
“But there you learn to let other people help and support you – and you do the same for them.
“Now I’m not involved in psychiatric services in any way. I’ve been completely discharged for two years. I’m working full-time, and I manage to live on my own. Basically I now have a life.”

Friday, December 14, 2007

London news roundup

Campaign against Climate Change

LAST SATURDAY’S demonstration in London against global warming was hailed as a great success by the organisers, the Campaign Against Climate Change as more than 6,000 people braved wind, rain and freezing cold to show their support.
Demonstrators carried banners with slogans like "cut carbon not forests" and "actions speak louder than words". Some posters carried a picture of George W Bush and the words: "Wanted for crimes against the planet".
Media coverage was good, with the march featuring on the front pages of the Sunday Times and the Independent on Sunday, and good reports from the BBC.
At the same time protests were held in over 50 countries, with over 10,000 participants in Taiwan and Germany.
The protesters were demonstrating primarily to save the planet and billions of people on it from the horrific tide of death and destruction that will come from the catastrophic destabilisation of global climate.
But the march stressed two main points, reflected in the route chosen. It started at Millbank near the House of Commons and marched past Downing Street, where marchers delivered a letter to Number 10.
The focus here was pressure on the British government to pass a strong Climate Bill. This will establish in legislation a cap for the whole of Britain’s emissions.
The campaigners pointed out that this made it different from other climate initiatives – very good in themselves but at risk of being cancelled out by an increase associated with another sector of the economy.
Also, they said, people cannot make meaningful reductions by their own individual efforts alone – these efforts will be wasted unless they are part of an overall plan coordinated by Government.
The march finished by the United States Embassy because clearly whatever is achieved in Britain will be no use in solving this global problem except insofar as it encourages other nations to act and gives a stronger hand to those working to achieve a global agreement that will establish a cap on the global total of emissions.
That is why the "National climate march" was part of a Global Day of Action with demonstrations and events in more than 50 countries demanding real action on climate from world leaders at the United Nations Climate Talks in Bali.
But the biggest block on progress at those UN Talks is still, as it has been for a decade or more, the United States.
In particular the Bush administration has both rejected Kyoto (in 20001) and cynically manoeuvred to sabotage progress at the UN Climate Talks. It still refuses to accept binding targets (the only basis for a meaningful treaty) in a post Kyoto agreement and demands action, first, from China and India despite the fact that these countries emit far less per person, are much poorer with fewer resources to take the necessary action and do not have a historical responsibility for much the greater part of the greenhouse gases currently in the atmosphere.
Most recently Bush has tried to derail progress on climate at the Washington Climate Conference on the 27th-28th September.
This was a transparent attempt to divert the world down a blind ally of "voluntary measures" and "intensity targets" and thereby pre-empt and derail real progress on absolute and binding targets (the only thing that can really work) at the official UN Talks in Bali.
This comes after he forced the final communiqué at the G8 in Heilegendam in June to abandon any firm emission reduction commitments.
Bush has been forced to change his language on climate but continues to be the major obstacle to progress. He may be on the way out but he is still doing damage and the cost of the delay he is imposing could ultimately be measured in millions of lives.
That is why the march finished at the US Embassy with a massive demonstration to show that people will not just stand by and allow Bush – or anyone else – to wreck the global effort to save billions of lives from climate catastrophe.
Meanwhile UN figures released last week show that greenhouse gas emissions in Britain have risen by nearly a fifth in the past 20 years. The figures leave out emissions from aviation, shipping and the carbon content of imports.
Oxford University experts claim that if these emissions were included then it would be seen that the lifestyle of people in Britain has a much greater impact on climate change than the Government likes to admit.


London bus pay dispute

MEMBERS of the giant union Unite employed by First driving buses in London are set to take strike action this Friday in the first of a series of strikes in a dispute over pay.
The average pay for drivers is £23,000 and members have resoundingly rejected a pay offer of 4.25 per cent on the basic rate with minor conditions improvements, which is lower than elsewhere in London.
The action will affect First Capital East services in Hackney, Dagenham and Northumberland Park garage; First Centrewest at Westbourne Park, Alperton, Greenford, Uxbridge, Hayes, Orpington, Acton, Willesden.
George Dodo Williams, Unite regional industrial organiser said: "While First enter the FTSE 100 for the first time, and the group boasts about the significant guaranteed increases for shareholders over the coming years, our members in London Buses who are helping to generate these healthy profit margins by their sweat and tears, are being hung out to dry.
"London bus workers have consistently delivered huge increases in efficiency and performance – more than six million passengers carried each day – a 40 per cent increase since the return of local government to London. Yet these workers in one of London’s top companies are being forced to take action to stake a claim to their share. They are however determined to achieve a decent settlement."

Defend Council Housing lobby in January

THE CAMPAIGN group Defend Council Housing (DCH) is planning a mass lobby of MPs on 22nd January 2008, calling on the Government to adopt the "fourth option" and invest in existing council housing and to build a new generation of first class council housing.
They are calling on all local groups and progressive organisations to send a delegation to the lobby and to mobilise support.
The lobby is timed to coincide with debate in the Commons on amendments to the Housing and Regeneration Bill.
Campaigners invite everyone to use their new leaflet to mobilise support for the "fourth option" and ensure that tenants, trade unionists and councillors from every area respond to the call by the House of Commons Council Housing group for evidence to support amendments to the Housing and Regeneration Bill.
They want MPs to be asked to sign early day motion 368.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Witness from the West Bank

Daphne Liddle recently met Comrade Fouad, a member of the Palestinian People’s Party, from the village of Beit Furik in the occupied West Bank, who has come to London on a brief speaking tour about the conditions and problems currently facing Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Daphne Liddle: What do you hope to gain from this visit?

Fouad: "Originally to build solidarity between our community and to meet people here to find out their views about the struggle. In addition to that I am interested to get to know more deeply the people who are active in building solidarity with Palestine and deepen my knowledge of the situation here.
I am very grateful for the invitation because on a personal level it gives me the opportunity to advance the twinning process in a more concrete form.
I will be taking part in the twinning conference and we’ll be taking practical steps to make it all happen. This relationship needs to be developed on an organisational level and there is a lot of work to so. That is why this visit is so important to build something definite that we can benefit from.

DL: How can people in Britain help?

Fouad: In Britain there is a strong sympathy here because there is a tradition of civil liberties and human rights, more than in some other places and because of this we want the friendship of the British people. Britain is so powerful internationally, so it helps if the British people can put more pressure on the British government through their politicians to help the people of Palestine. We want you to put more pressure on your government.
What I witnessed today on the street in Lewisham at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall, just talking to the people of Britain and telling them about the human rights problems, I was very impressed by the friendship shown.
We need to raise awareness of our problems and we hope that some of you will come and visit us.

DL: The British government in the past has played a role in creating the problems, for example through the Balfour Declaration and so on. How do you feel about that?

Fouad: "That’s really why I’m here. I was being a bit diplomatic before. The British people are now becoming more aware of their history and the wrong deeds of the British Empire. Your government helped to bring about this situation and it has a responsibility to be involved in resolving it to bring peace and justice. We want you to put pressure on your government.
At the same time we are asking people who are concerned to come and visit Palestine to see for themselves the reality of the situation.
You are interviewing me for a communist newspaper, I too am a communist, a member of the Party of the Palestinian People and we have friendly relations with many other communist and workers’ parties, including the Workers’ Party of Korea. They are among those who support our struggle.

DL: Do you believe that Saudi Arabia could do more to help Palestine?

Fouad: Yes, the Saudi government could put more pressure on the strong governments in the world. Money and charity are not enough, we do not want to be beggars, we want a free independent state and to support ourselves. The Saudis should support us in this.
Palestine is a full member of the Arab League; its laws say that if one member is in trouble the others should give support but this is not applied to us, we do not see it.
There are meetings and meetings but we do not see anything, nothing effective happens.

DL: We have seen lately some divisions among the Palestinians, is Islam a force for progress or reaction?

Fouad: The presence of Hamas in the government of Palestine is the result of Fatah’s failure to make progress. The people are not concerned about Islamic fundamentalism; they voted in revenge for the non-success of Fatah and not because of a commitment to Hamas. If you speak to the people they are far from being religious extremists.
When Hamas took over the government they suddenly discovered they were facing more political issues than religious. Hamas is now longer quite so popular. Why? It’s because elections are really a political matter and not religious. Hamas believed the people had voted for them for religious reasons so they started to push the religious aspects of their policy and the people did not accept it.
Fatah are doing a bit better now on certain issues.

DL: Is the legacy of Yasser Arafat still important to the people of Palestine?

Fouad: Yasser Arafat was a militant person and everybody respected him. But some of those around him grew corrupt. He led as a strong personality. As long as he was alive this corruption did not emerge but when he died it came out into the open.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation included everybody, it was an umbrella movement. Arafat was a great individual personality but people who were not so good were attracted to surround him. After he died they did not give good leadership and Hamas won support.
There has been a big confrontation with Hamas in Gaza and Fatah is now getting better organised. This is terrible that brother is fighting against brother when we should be fighting the common enemy.
Fatah needs to reorganise but it still has problems with people who were in the old leadership and who were corrupt. That’s why the people were turning to Hamas.
Now there is a new young leadership trying to move those people. Because of them Fatah was not operating professionally.
We wanted to build the first independent sovereign state on Palestinian land. And we as communists really supported the state at the beginning and had real hopes to build a government with human rights and a civil society.

DL: Does the Israeli occupation make it impossible for any Palestinian government to achieve progress?

Fouad: This is true but it is the job of Palestinians to confront this and fight against it. If it requires us to rethink and retrain ourselves and to build unity then we must do this to confront the enemy.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

London news round-up

A Palestinian voice in London

COMRADE Fouad from the Palestinian West Bank town of Beit Furik has been in London for a week for a busy speaking tour, telling Londoners of the plight of the Palestinian people and building friendship and solidarity in support of the twinning process. Last Friday he spoke to students at Goldsmiths College in New Cross; on Saturday morning he helped at the South East London Palestine Solidarity’s regular stall in Lewisham and on Saturday night addressed a packed assembly in Lewisham Mosque.
He told the crowd of the logistical problems created by the Israeli occupying forces that make the lives of Palestinians very difficult.
Israeli checkpoints cover all the roads in and out of towns and villages. Getting through these checkpoints can take hours of queuing to be searched and humiliated – affecting students of their way to college, sick people on their way to health centres and farmers on their way to their fields or to markets.
The checkpoints have erratic opening times, making normal routine living almost impossible.
Fouad also spoke of the big wall, built on Palestinian land, that has taken up a lot of the best agricultural land; he spoke of the mushrooming settlements that take yet more agricultural land – the economic lifeblood of the Palestinian people – and take up the sparse water supplies. Meanwhile Palestinians in summer, when their small domestic wells run dry, are forced to pay $7 for 10 cubic metres of water.
But many cannot pay – there 75 per cent unemployment in the West Bank in general and 80 per cent in Beit Furik.
During questions and discussion, Fouad said he did not have hopes of any positive outcome of the current peace talks in Annapolis because they did not address a single one of the Palestinians’ basic demands.

Tube cleaners’ massive pay victory

TUBE CLEANERS employed by Metronet – the company contracted to upgrade London Underground’s infrastructure – are to receive substantial pay rises when Transport for London takes over the failed privateer’s contracts. This marks a huge victory for a two-year campaign by the RMT transport union.
RMT last Friday revealed that Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has agreed that the London Living Wage of £7.20 an hour will become the minimum for some 900 cleaners on former Metronet contracts from the moment TfL take charge of them.
For some cleaners paid only the minimum legal wage of £5.85 it will mean an increase of at least £1.35 an hour – well over 20 per cent.
“This is great news that marks a significant victory for RMT’s Justice for Cleaners campaign, and Tubelines must be next,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.
“For more than two years RMT cleaners, supported by their colleagues across the Tube network, have been campaigning for the pay justice, dignity and respect due to them, and the first major victory is now in sight.
“We have lodged claims with all the cleaning contractors working on the Tube – including ISS, which is contracted to Tubelines – for £7.20 to be the minimum hourly rate, with a minimum £1 hourly night premium, for all Tube cleaners.
“No-one can accuse us of being unreasonable for asking for the free travel that other Tube workers already get, a minimum of 20 days holiday over and above bank holidays, sick pay and a pension scheme.
“It is nonsense that cleaning contractors who make millions cannot afford to pay a living wage to the people who do some of the dirtiest and most difficult jobs on the Tube, and the time has come to start bringing cleaning back in-house,” Bob Crow said.

SERTUC health and safety conference

AROUND 400 trade union delegates attended the South East Region TUC “Working together for Health and Safety” conference at the TUC’s London Congress House on Friday 23rd November.
They heard Lord McKenzie, the parliamentary under-secretary responsible for health and safety as he reported that last year two million workers took sick leave through stress and other work-related illnesses. not good enough
The conference was told that 241 died through accidents at work – though McKenzie claimed this indicated a downward trend.
The conference concluded that this was not good enough, especially in the construction industry – the most dangerous sector in Britain.
Mike Fletcher, representing the public sector union Unison North-East Essex Mental Health branch told the conference that the basic health and safety problem in his sector was shortage of staff and that attacks on psychiatric nurses were increasing.
He said that female staff left alone on wards – because of staff shortages – were particularly vulnerable to attacks from patients.
Mike called for the reversal of all privatisation in the NHS.
Ambulance workers also told the conference of the effects of staffing cuts, which endangered both staff and patients. They said that in the whole Norwich area at times only two ambulances were covering the whole area.
One delegate asked Lord McKenzie why his own health and safety department was about to be cut by 20 per cent.
Road sweepers told the conference they had no access to toilets while at work and had been told by employers that they could only use toilets at certain times.
Nevertheless it was a productive conference and showed a heartening rise in the number of ethnic workers in the ranks of trade union activists.
It concluded by calling for an improvement of health and safety in factories, construction sites, the NHS and education.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Broadening the battle to rescue Real Labour

by New Worker Correspondent

AROUND 250 members and delegates from affiliated organisations, including the NCP, attended the annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee in London’s Conway Hall last Saturday. The LRC unanimously approved some major rule changes to broaden its structure. Full membership is now open to all affiliates and individuals who are not members of parties that stand in elections against Labour. This gives the NCP full affiliate rights and now any individual member of the Party can join the LRC.
The LRC also welcomed two major trade unions – the train drivers’ union Aslef and the National Union of Mineworkers – as affiliates. Existing affiliates include the RMT transport union and the Fire Brigades Union.
The LRC was formed three years ago in an echo of the first Labour Representation Committee that founded the Labour Party, to recover the party for its original primary function to give representation in Parliament for the organised working class – the trade unions.
It suffered a set back earlier this year when LRC leader John McDonnell MP failed to get enough MPs to back his nomination to trigger a leadership contest when Tony Blair resigned.
This was in spite of a huge campaign in trade union branches and constituency Labour Parties all around the country that mobilised thousands.
Ironically this campaign resulted in a surge in Labour Party membership as people were persuaded to join and fight against Gordon Brown’s automatic succession to the premiership.
At the conference McDonnell thanked all those who had supported the campaign, including the affiliated unions and the Socialist Youth Network. But he acknowledged they had overestimated the political strength and integrity of the Parliamentary Labour Party. US colony
Veteran socialist Tony Benn was the first speaker, who began by saying that Britain is now “in effect an American colony” following Gordon Brown’s recent Mansion House speech, in which he pledged Britain’s continuing loyalty to the United States.
“We are now managed, not represented,” said Benn. He went on to say that New Labour policies in support of American imperialism have “alienated our supporters” but that “anger and mistrust are not the same as apathy”.
There was much discussion and anger at the conference over the way that the leadership of the “big four” unions had agreed to the changes in Labour Party conferences to remove all policy discussion from the conference floor.
“Now we have a conference where you can’t move a resolution. Why did the unions go along with it?” said Benn. He finished by saying: “I’ve stopped protesting. I’m too old now and protesting has become part of the culture. They take no notice. Now I’m demanding!”
Other speakers included CND leader Kate Hudson, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, John Trickett MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and Karen Reissmann, the Manchester mental health nurse who has been sacked for trade union activity and campaigning against closures and privatisation.
standing ovation
The conference gave her a standing ovation as a bucket went round for contributions to the Manchester Unison strike fund for the action that is demanding her reinstatement.
There were many contributions to discussion from the floor, including two from New Communist Party delegates. NCP industrial organiser Mike Fletcher spoke on the struggles of Unison members employed by NHS mental health services in East Anglia and voiced support to Karen Reissmann. And Daphne Liddle spoke on the plight of bonded labourers in Pakistan.

photo: Daphne Liddle making a point

Nepal: First successful revolution of the century

by Theo Russell

COMRADE C P Gujral, International Secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), addressed a highly successful meeting in London last week organised by the Britain South Asian Solidarity Forum.
Gujral gave a detailed analysis of the CPN(M)’s strategy as Nepal enters a decisive phase. The enemy, he said, was no longer the monarchy, but “US imperialism”.
“Actually we are now fighting US imperialism. The fight against the monarchy is almost finished. Even if we achieve the Nepalese revolution, imperialism will not allow it to be sustained.”
“Following last year’s mass uprising, an agreement was reached by the Seven Party Alliance (SPA), which included the UML (Communist Party of Nepal/United Marxist-Leninist), and the CPN(M), for an interim parliament and government to prepare elections for a new constituent assembly.
“The US was opposed to this process as it contradicted the interests of US imperialism. When it was agreed that the CPN(M) would enter the interim parliament with 82 members, the US threatened to stop all assistance to Nepal.
“When the CPN(M) entered the interim government the US threatened to ask its allies to impose economic sanctions on Nepal. But the United States’ policy met with total failure.”
Elections for a new parliament were set for June this year, but were postponed by the Election Commission for technical reasons, and since then they have been postponed again twice.
Meanwhile arms and money have flowed into the southern Terrai region to promote ethnic conflict and violence.
Gujral said the US had prepared two “ambushes” against the CPN(M). “The first was for the CPN(M) to lose the elections, and if it didn’t accept this, they, and any mass movement supporting them, would be declared as ‘terrorists’.
“The second was that if the CPN(M) won the elections, the US had prepared contras – the Terrais – and would claim that the elections were rigged by the CPN(M) and that these forces were fighting for ‘democracy’.
“The CPN(M) saw these two threats to be trapped and killed, but the CPN(M) was also working out how to win the revolution.”
In August the CPN(M) leadership adopted a strategy of a mass mobilisation, recognising a “serious mistake” was made in agreeing that only a new government could declare a republic, “when it should have been declared before the elections.”
The Maoists “made a clear demand for a republic backed by a mass movement and decided to withdraw from the government and to refuse to participate in or allow the elections.”
In September a CPN(M) motion to the interim parliament to declare a republic was carried with the UML’s support.
“The CPN(M) is now saying they will oust the Nepali Congress from the government via a mass movement, and a new government should be formed,” Gujral said. “This would make the US very angry as it opposes any CPN(M) participation in the government.
“The CPN(M) knows that if it becomes the head of the government the US will not tolerate this. Thus the CPN(M) has asked the UML to take power.
“US imperialism and Indian expansionism are opposed to this strategy, and would not tolerate a revolutionary government. So the next stage will definitely be very difficult.
“The US is not interested in Nepal’s resources or in economic control, but is afraid of the worldwide impact of the revolution in Nepal. People are looking to the Nepali revolution, because it would set a precedent for revolution for the oppressed, exploited and struggling people of the world.
“There is also a growing Maoist movement in India, and the Indian ruling class is very afraid of the success of the Nepali revolution and is ready to take any action.
“So the situation is heading towards a climax. It is very difficult to predict what will happen in the next weeks or months. It is a life or death struggle we are working out in Nepal, and the situation is very serious, so at this time we think international support is very important.
“We are preparing our people for the worst eventuality of foreign intervention.”
Gujral said Britain is supporting the peace process and there was an apparent diversion between British and US policy, and reported important developments in the CPN(M)’s relations with China.
“The CPN(M) has established relations with China, and the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu has issued a statement saying that China would not tolerate any interference in Nepal, including by India.”
This announcement followed “rigorous discussions” between a senior official of the Communist Party of China’s international department, Professor Wang. In an interview Wang said that if the US or India attempted to intervene in various ways in Nepal, China would not tolerate such actions if a certain limit was exceeded.
Gujral concluded by saying: “We are confident that we will eventually see the success of the revolution in Nepal, the first successful people’s revolution of the 21st century.”

photo: Peter Tobin, Mushtaq Lasharie and C P Gujral

The Next Step: A Sinn Fein Road Map

by Theo Russell

THE WOLFE Tone Society last Saturday held a well attended conference on Irish Unity at the London Irish centre.
Speakers included Sinn Féin’s Barry McElduff who represents Omagh in Tyrone on the Northern Ireland Assembly; Billy Leonard, Sinn Féin Councillor on Coleraine District Council, an ex RUC reservist and after initially joining the SDLP moved to Sinn Féin; Maurice Quinlivan, Sinn Féin’s Limerick representative and former convenor of the Wolfe Tone Society; Barry McColgan of Ogra (youth) Sinn Féin and Eibhlin Glenholmes, National Co-coordinator for Sinn Féin, an ex-prisoner and now working on Sinn Fein’s National Strategy on achieving Irish Unity.
Eibhlin outlined Sinn Féin’s current strategic challenges: the contentious issue of policing; developing engagement with the unionist community; building solidarity in Britain, and building an Ireland of equals.
She described engaging with the unionist community “a major challenge for us and I’ve no doubt for them as well”.
“Our intention is to break down all the barriers which prevent unionists from seeing our goal of re-unification as no threat – a massive mindset change for them. We are meeting with unionists on a day-to-day basis.”
The Northern Ireland Assembly election in March saw Sinn Féin achieve its highest ever vote in the north, gaining 28 MLAs and five ministerial places.
Billy Leonard said: “There is a sense among Ulster unionists – or two thirds of Ulster unionists – that the sense of ‘Britishness’ was always conditional. There was never complete trust in London and how things evolve in Great Britain and the island of Ireland will impact on that sense of Britishness.
“There is a saying that we unionists are ‘British in Belfast and Irish in Berlin.
“A new mood has been created by the Good Friday Agreement. We have seen peace and the growth of political debate, but the restoration of power to the north in terms of finance means that what happens in Belfast is really only distribution of the ‘London cake’.”
Barry McElduff said: “We do look to Dublin for leadership and responsibility – I look to Dublin as my capital. As far as I am concerned Stormont is only a stepping-stone.”
He added: “I have a problem with being denied the right to be Irish in the six counties. I have a problem when FIFA has problems with people from the six counties playing for the Republic.”
There followed a deep debate from the floor that ranged from British censorship and propaganda to Iraq and Afghanistan and recent pro-socialist developments in Latin America.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Honouring the Soviet war dead

THE SOVIET Memorial Trust last Sunday morning, 11th November, marked remembrance Sunday with a solemn ceremony at the Soviet memorial in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum.
Wreaths were laid by the Ambassadors of the Russian Federation, the Ukraine, Belarus and most of the former Soviet Republics – as well as a large number of veterans’ organisations. These included the Arctic Convoy Club, The International Brigaders, the British Legion and others.
  • Rob Laurie, a Central Committee member, laying flowers on behalf of the New Communist Party.

Third World Solidarity in London

by New Worker correspondent

ABOUT 45 to 50 people packed a committee room in the House of Commons to express serious concern at, and protest against, the repressive measures taken by Pakistan’s General Musharraf to silence opposition.
The meeting was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Third World solidarity and chaired by the APPG’s Dave Anderson MP.
Three MPs were amongst the speakers, including Khalid Mahmood and MPs from Birmingham and Leeds. Several persons from the media directly involved with Pakistan, namely, Mohammad Ziauddin, Saundra Satterlee and Amer Ghauri also addressed the meting.
All speakers expressed their serious indignation at General Musharraf’s latest measures of his dictatorial regime. Councillor Mushtaq Lasharie maintained that the so-called declaration of emergency was in fact nothing but a martial law. This was later echoed by several others.
The media speakers highlighted the growing struggle between the Pakistani media and General Musharraf. His loud and hypocritical talk about freedom of the press is presented with various repressive measures against the newspapers and the TV.
This is particularly crucial as most Pakistanis, deprived of adequate literacy, rely on the TV for their information. There was an advocacy of imposing foreign sanctions against the Pakistan government, but there were differences on this issue.
Earlier, the British Foreign Secretary had issued a four point statement to the APPG meeting, in which he asked the Pakistan government “to guarantee free and fair elections on schedule in January”. Lord Ahmad of Rotherham in his contribution suggested that sanctions should be applied exclusively against the army generals and their families, who should be regarded as terrorists as well.
A spokesperson of the Britain South Asia Solidarity Forum pointed out from the floor that the root of Pakistan’s perpetual problems lies in its feudal socio-economic set up. This was supported by Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, who maintained that the collaboration of the country’s clerics with the army constituted the basic problem. The meeting ended with a determination of solidarity with the people of Pakistan fighting for democracy and social justice.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NCP weekend school in London

NEW COMMUNIST Party members, friends and supporters last weekend attended a school at Party Centre in London to discuss fascism, the state, developments in Latin America and the effects of neo-colonialism in Africa. All the sessions were chaired by NCP general secretary Andy Brooks. Neil Harris on Saturday morning gave an opening, full of detailed facts and figures, of the class and economic forces behind fascism.
In the afternoon Daphne Liddle gave an account of the nature of the state machine in class society and traced the development of the state in Britain, especially from 1668 onwards.
On the Sunday morning Theo Russell spoke on the progressive developments in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and the rest of the South American continent and new left-wing governments defying the military and economic power of the United States.
And on the Sunday afternoon Explo Nani Kofi of the African Liberation and Solidarity Campaign spoke on the way in which neo-colonialism subverts and corrupts governments on that continent – and how the western media gives a distorted and partial picture of what is happening.
Each opening was followed by high level debate.

Red October at the Centre!

by New Worker correspondent
NEW COMMUNIST Party members, supporters and friends gathered in London last Saturday evening to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Great October Revolution in Russia.
Among the friends who came to say a few words and join in the festivities were Len Aldis of the British-Vietnam Friendship Association and Explo Nani Kofi of the African Liberation Support Campaign (ALISC).
They both spoke of the inspiration that the Great October Revolution had given to people in struggle all around the world – that oppressed workers had not only been able to overthrow a mighty imperialist empire but were then able to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat and start building socialism.
In doing so they turned an economically backward country, barely emerging from feudalism in some parts, into a world power.
NCP general secretary Andy Brooks said that perhaps the most important achievement of the Soviet Union was the leading role it played in the smashing of Hitler fascism. It then went on to challenge the rapacious greed of the western imperialist powers for their super exploitation of the developing countries.
NCP chair Alex Kempshall presented veteran comrade Alan Rogers with a bust of Lenin to mark the enormous contribution he has made to the party at all levels over many years.
Alan, many years ago, was in the Labour Party and then the Communist Party of Great Britain. Then he and Ann Rogers joined the Southall branch of the New Communist Party. They have both worked had in their district and on the Central Committee – and have also been active in CND.
Most recently Alan has been one of the treasured team of pensioner volunteers who keep the New Worker functioning in the sales and distribution department. Alan has been in charge of the subscription department but age and failing health have forced him to retire from this and the NCP decided to mark his retirement with a presentation. He was also called on to cut the 90th anniversary birthday cake.
A group of pro-Nkrumah young people dropped in for food and discussion and many other friends and supporters from different corners of the world came by.
The excellent food was supplied by NCP members and supporters and a collection raised £528 for the New Worker.
photo: Alan Rogers receives a bust of Lenin

Rally to defend the NHS

by Daphne Liddle

HEALTH service trade union members, patients and local community groups are set to descend on London in hundreds if not thousands this Saturday for a national demonstration in support of the National Health Service and to protest at creeping privatisation.
The demonstrators will assemble at 11 am on the Victoria Embankment by Temple Tube and march to Trafalgar Square for a rally on 3rd November.
All around Britain patients, local community groups have been joining with nurses, doctors and other health workers to campaign locally against cuts, ward closures and hospital closures and to support the demonstration.
While beds, wards, hospitals and jobs are being axed an escalating process of privatisation is happening as services and resources are being transferred to the public sector to be run for profit for shareholders.
There have been events all around the country in this demonstration organised by the umbrella group Keep Our NHS Public! won the backing
The campaign was launched in September 2005 and has won the backing of hundreds of senior doctors, academics, health workers and trade union leaders, celebrities, MPs and local campaigners for its launch statement.
These include public meetings in Manchester and Tower Hamlets this week and another in Shrewsbury on 7th November. The giant public sector union Unison is urging its members to support the demonstration.
Unison head of health Karen Jennings said: “We want your help to encourage as many members and campaign supporters as possible to join us on the march and rally in a mass show of support for the NHS – a world-class public service that takes care of our health and gives us all peace of mind.
“Help us campaign to defend the NHS and to celebrate its founding principles. Join the demonstration and send a strong message to the Government that big business and the profit motive have no place in our health service.”
Meanwhile in Scotland the union has welcomed a decision by the Scottish Information Commissioner to force Edinburgh Royal Infirmary to release its private management contract.
The union said that this would be an important precedent for other contract information.

wasting billions

Earlier this month a Unison report showed how using private firms to build and run schools and hospitals in Scotland was wasting billions of pounds.
It showed how these financial figures were kept from the public due to claimed commercial confidentiality.
Unison Scottish organiser Dave Watson said: “This decision is good news and could be the first step to a return to transparency in public finances.
“We have consistently said that such bogus commercial confidentiality is being used to hide the rigged calculations used to justify PFI and PPP schemes. All the figures should be provided for public scrutiny.”
The union has a number of appeals to the information commissioner challenging attempts by public bodies to keep information about private finance initiative and public-private partnerships secret by citing demands by contractors.
“While this decision will help, it also shows how important it is to bring companies involved in PFI/PPP contracts under the scope of freedom of information legislation,” Watson said.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The march they couldn't ban

by Daphne Liddle

THOUSANDS of peace protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square on Monday morning to call for an immediate withdrawal of British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and to defy a ban on demonstrations in Parliament Square.
Police had refused permission for the march, organised by the Stop the War Coalition, to Parliament to mark the first day back from summer recess for MPs and a debate on the Iraq War. To do this they used a law dating from 1839 used to bar Chartists from approaching Parliament.
But as large contingents of students arrived noisily in the Square – from Manchester University Students’ Union, Leeds Nottingham, London and many other places – clearly in an upbeat mood and ready for a confrontation if necessary, the police wisely granted permission for the march just 40 minutes before it was due to begin.
There were many other protesters – all the usual left-wing political groups, peace groups and community groups and a surprisingly good number of trade union banners.
The Communication Workers’ Union was present in force – the striking Royal Mail workers had staged a rally of their own in the Square before the peace rally and many members stayed on to support the Stop the War rally.
A long and powerful line-up of speakers in the Square all emphasised that the police decision to allow the march was based entirely on the weight of numbers who had come – a real demonstration of people-power against Government attempts to restrict civil rights.
Veteran peace campaigner Walter Wolfgang – famous for being thrown out of the Labour Party conference two years ago for daring to heckle Jack Straw – opened the speeches.
Other speakers included Brian Haw, who has maintained a protest picket opposite the House of Commons since June 2001, Stop the War leader Lindsey German, CND general secretary Kate Hudson, MPs Jeremy Corbyn (Labour), Elfyn Llwyd (Plain Cymru), John McDonnell (Labour), Bob Wareing (Labour) and George Galloway (Respect). Campaigning comedians Mark Steele and Mark Thomas were there too, and of course there was veteran campaigner Tony Benn.
Then the marchers set off for Parliament Square. Police had cleared a space on the pavement opposite the House of Commons – but it was nowhere near big enough for all the marchers. The grass area in Parliament Square was completely fenced off.
Eventually College Green was made available and police allowed marchers through from Whitehall, to the pavement opposite Parliament and then to College Green in small contingents – interrupted to allow traffic to pass around.
This led to delays and frustration – and a sit-down protest by some students in an effort to get the traffic stopped. Others began to move the fencing around the grass area. In the end police had to give in to this. People power had prevailed again.
If this march had happened almost anywhere else in the world, for example in Burma, it would have made the front pages of most newspapers and topped television news bulletins in Britain. But it was hardly reported at all. The BBC gave it about two minutes in its early evening local London news but nothing else. The Independent carried a picture with caption but no report; the Guardian website reported it but the paper carried nothing; the Telegraph ignored it.
The march was well reported abroad, with foreign news bulletins carrying much more information than the British.
This is part of a regular pattern that leaves the public in Britain completely unaware of mass popular political activity and serves to deepen a sense of futility and alienation from the political process that discourages hope and involvement.

Celebrating the Workers Party of Korea

by a New Worker Correspondent

THE MARCHMONT Centre in central London was packed on Sunday for a Friends of Korea celebration to mark the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea on 10th October 1945. It kicked off with a film show focusing on Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s work at home and abroad followed by keynote openings on the struggle of the Korean revolutionary movement by NCP leader Andy Brooks and Jong In Song from the Democratic Korean embassy in London.
Andy Brooks charted the history of the Korean communist movement which he said was inseparable from the life of Kim Il Sung, an outstanding communist leader and thinker who will always be remembered by working people all over the world. It began when in the 1920s when Kim Il Sung was the student leader who formed the Down with Imperialism Union. From student leader Kim Il Sung became the guerrilla leader; the ‘Young General’ who took up the gun to drive the Japanese colonialists out of the country. When Kim Il Sung gathered a small band of heroes to form the first guerrilla units to take on the might of the Japanese Army no one could have imagined that this would become the People’s Army that brought the American imperialists to their knees begging for an armistice in 1953.
Comrade Jong talked about the Workers’ Party of Korea, a monolith party based on Kim Il Sung’s thinking that developed Korean style socialism into the Juché idea – which elevates the philosophical principles of Marxism-Leninism as well as its economic theories – and focuses on the development and importance of each individual worker, who can only be truly free as part of the collective will of the masses.
Both spoke of the immense achievements of the DPR Korea under the leadership of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in raising the standard of living for the Korean masses of the north while upholding the banner of socialism at home and in the international working class movement.
Many friends in the audience had been to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and this was reflected in the general discussion that followed. The meeting agreed unanimously to send a solidarity message to Korean leader Comrade Kim Jong Il and then adjourned to relax and enjoy a buffet of Korean food and drink.
Friends of Korea is supported by the NCP, RCPB (ML), CPGB (ML), SLP and friends of the Korean people in the broader labour and peace movement. The society organises regular meetings and socials in London throughout the year and it hopes to hold other events across the country in 2008.
photo: Andy Brooks makes his points

Racism, Apartheid and Palestine today

by Robert Laurie

LAST THURSDAY Camden Trades Council and Camden Abu Dis Friendship Association held a well attended public meeting on “Racism, Apartheid and Palestine Today” at Transport House. The meeting brought together activists from the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa and the ongoing struggle for against Zionist occupation of Palestine.
The first speaker was Bahir Laaptoe a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggles in his native Cape Town and a refugee from South Africa who fled to Britain when he was caught with notes taken at his Marxist study group. While life for the majority black population was grim under apartheid they never had the South African Air Force bombing them as the Israeli Air Force regularly bombs Palestinians. He concluded by noting that the struggle in Palestine was a great inspiration to the struggle in South Africa: the Palestinian hijacker Leila Khalid was much honoured in South Africa by mothers who named their new born daughters after her.
Sami Joseph, a Christian Palestinian spoke next, opening by describing how, in 1948 his family were unable to return to their house when the Zionists invaded their village while they were away visiting a convent. He pointed out that Muslims never mistreated Jews and that before the Balfour Declaration Jews were actively welcomed in Palestine.
The meeting concluded with a recent visitor to Abu Dis graphically describing how the wall affects the Palestinian population. Several deaths of pregnant Palestinian women were caused by Israeli soldiers preventing them getting to hospital.
CADFA is one of many local groups active in promoting links between British towns and Palestine. Abu Dis is a suburb of East Jerusalem presently dissected by the huge wall erected on Palestinian land in order to drive Palestinians from their land to make room for expanding Zionist settlements.
It has organised a number of visits and supports a much needed clinic in Abu Dis. A visit for trade unionists is scheduled for later this month. The traffic has not been all one way: many people from Abu Dis have enjoyed visits to London.
For further details contact CADFA, PO Box 34265, London NW5 2WD email:

Friday, October 05, 2007

Met 'guilty of Menezes shooting'

JURORS at the Old Bailey last week were told that the Metropolitan Police force was guilty of "fundamental failures" in its "duty of care" in the case of the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, an entirely innocent man who was mistaken for a terrorist suspect. The Met denies the charges.
This is a unique case being brought under public health and safety laws after an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It is expected to last around six weeks.
The Crown Prosecution Service decided not to bring charges against any individual. Chief constable Sir Ian Blair will not give evidence and nor will the two firearms officers who fired the fatal shots.
But the office of the commissioner of police is charged with failing to ensure that the public and de Menezes were not put at risk during the surveillance, pursuit and detention of a suspected suicide bomber.
The court can impose an unlimited fine against the Met – and it could be millions – but it will be paid by taxpayers. The case opened on Monday; with the prosecution telling the court that the shooting at Stockwell Tube station on south London on 22nd July 2005 happened because of "fundamental failures" in planning.
Clare Montgomery QC, prosecuting, said the "disaster" of the Brazilian electrician’s death was "not the result of a fast-moving operation going suddenly and unpredictably awry".
"It was the result of fundamental failures to carry out a planned operation in a safe and reasonable way," she said.
"We say that the police planned and carried out an operation that day so badly that the public were needlessly put at risk and Jean Charles was killed as a result."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bringing the peace message to London

At the Cutty Sark Gardens in Greenwich, next to the fire-damaged veteran tea clipper – now under wraps and under repair – a large group of Peace Cyclists from all over Europe and beyond converged to bring the anti-nuclear message to Londoners.
The cyclists from France, Germany, Estonia, Norway, Georgia, Nepal and many other places were all young doctors or medical students who had ridden around Europe delivering their message against nuclear weapons.
They were greeted by the Lewisham and Greenwich CND with an array of banners and a map of London and the south-east of England. X marked the spot in the centre of Greenwich and concentric circles were drawn to indicate the levels of damage that would be done if a Trident or similar nuclear warhead landed at the centre. fired back
Campaigners pointed out that if Britain is prepared to use Trident missiles, similar missiles could be fired back.
Within the one-kilometre circle all buildings would be flattened; people along with all other living things would be vaporised leaving just a faint dark stain on the bricks.
Within the two-kilometre circle most buildings would be knocked down and people reduced to smouldering lumps of burnt meat, blown into piles by the blast.
Within the three-mile zone there would be some survivors frantically struggling over the bodies of the dead and seeking help. But there would not be any help – emergency services could maybe cope with thousands of casualties but not millions.
Even beyond that up to five kilometres there would still be heavy casualties and building damage. And beyond that millions would be affected by radiation and face a slow, painful death from radiation sickness.
The young cyclists had arrived in London to attend a conference, “Nuclear Weapons – the final pandemic: Preventing proliferation and achieving abolition,” which was organised by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and the Royal Society of Medicine.
A demonstration is being organised by the Stop the War Coalition for Monday 8th October, to call for the immediate withdrawal of all British troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. The demonstration will assemble in Trafalgar Square at 1 pm.Currently the Stop the War Coalition’s proposed march to Parliament is banned by the police.

Rally for Trade Union freedom

THE UNITED Campaign to Repeal the Anti-Trade Union Laws is organising a mass rally and lobby of Parliament for Thursday 18th October in support of the trade union rights and freedoms Bill.
PCS, the civil service union, has been taking a key role in this campaign, and is one of 24 trade unions supporting it.
The campaign aims to repeal all anti trade union laws and bring in better rights and protection for workers taking industrial action.
The timetable for the day is:

• 4.00 - 5.30pm assemble & demonstrate outside House of Commons;
• 5.30 - 7.30pm Rally in Committee Room 14, House of Commons.

Postcards to send to MPs asking them to attend Parliament 19 October to support the Bill and postcards supporting the Bill are available to download from the PCS website.
In 1906, the Trade Disputes Act created for the first time protection for trade unions promoting industrial action to further the interests of their members in a trade dispute.
It is ironic that, 100 years later, the legal restrictions on trade unions’ freedom are not only some of the most severe in the West – but significantly greater than those Parliament imposed a century ago. We now have our best chance in years to start dismantling these laws. Support is growing for a Trade Union Freedom Bill that would restore some of our rights – stopping strikes being banned from trivial ballot irregularities, allowing union members to take action alongside workmates who work for a different employer because of contracting and privatisation.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Qin's Army Rules Britannia

Derick McGroarty stared in astonishment at a 2,200-year-old, life-size standing terracotta soldier. "It's fabulous to see them face to face," says McGroarty at the The First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army exhibition that opened at the British Museum in London last month.
"I just can't imagine the sight of thousands of them standing together at their home," says McGroarty, a freelance travel writer from Southampton, England. He finds the different expressions on the soldiers' faces overwhelming and says it is a pity he did not have enough time to go to Xi'an, the place where the terracotta warriors were discovered, when he visited China 15 years ago.
In the dim light of the temporarily converted Reading Room in the heart of the museum, a dozen terracotta soldiers with their chariots and horses stand quietly, while on a huge screen a documentary describes how one of the world's most amazing treasures was discovered. On display are 120 objects including bronze bells, vessels and other artifacts, 12 life-size complete warrior figures and eight complete figures of new finds - acrobats, musicians and bureaucrats.
This is the first time the famous Reading Room is being used as a temporary exhibition space, covering 1,150 square metres.
"Don't you think it's perfect to have the exhibition in the dome-style Reading Room," asks McGroarty's wife Mildred. "It very much matches the mood."
The terracotta exhibition is being hailed by the media in London as the British Museum's most important exhibition in 30 years. A report in The Independent newspaper says the display will electrify the British public as surely as Tutankhamen's golden mask did in the 1970s.
Over the past two months, big posters scattered around the city have been creating an air of anticipation of the terracotta army's arrival from China. The souvenir shops of the museum are filled with mini statues of terracotta soldiers, postcards, albums and other related items.
Nearly 138,000 tickets have been sold for the seven-month exhibition, according to museum sources.
"It's not surprising," says Jane Portal, exhibition curator. "China has become such an important country to the rest of the world. It is growing so quickly, and of course it will be holding the Olympics next year. People are interested in it.
"The China we see today can trace its roots back to around 220 BC, and the reign of the First Emperor."
The exhibition features the largest group of important objects related to the First Emperor ever to be loaned abroad by the Museum of the Terracotta Army and the Cultural Relics Bureau of Shaanxi Province in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province. "It is the first time that finds at the mausoleum in Xi'an have been sent overseas in large numbers," says Wu Yongqi, head of the Qinshihuang Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum.
Portal says the chance discovery of the terracotta army astounded the world and the exhibition will provide a wonderful opportunity to see these extraordinary objects up close and to learn about an empire which at its height was the rival of Rome and was to prove historically more enduring.
"A face-to-face encounter with these extraordinary objects will give the visitor a chance to understand China's past, its present and possible future," Portal says.
The idea for the exhibition came two years ago, while Portal and Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, were in China as part of official efforts to boost cultural ties between the two countries.
"Neil MacGregor was bowled over by what he saw," recalls Portal who is also an expert on Chinese culture, adding that plans for an exhibition in the British Museum probably took root then.
Wu says China was also keen on the idea, and both museums have worked closely together over the past two years to turn it into reality.
"I hope this exhibition will help the British people learn something about China, about Chinese history, military and art 2,200 years ago," Wu told the media in London.
"So little is known about the First Emperor outside of China and yet he is such an important figure in Chinese history," says Portal. "I hope that people who come to the exhibition will get a sense of the grand scale of his vision - the fact that he wanted to carry on ruling over the universe, even after his death."
Apart from the life-size terracotta soldiers, the exhibition examines the First Emperor's life, his unification of China and his military prowess. It looks at his achievements, the innovations he introduced and the monuments he constructed. The second section of the exhibition focuses on his quest for eternal life.
According to Portal, the exhibition will also explore the myths and mysteries associated with this important historical figure.
During the seven-month exhibition, seminars and talks on Chinese culture and comparative culture studies, involving world-renowned experts and scholars, will be held.
The exhibition, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, will run until 6th April 2008.

China Daily

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Korean art for British eyes

NCP leader Andy Brooks and other friends of Korea met members of the art world at the Democratic Korean embassy in London last weekend at the opening of an exhibition of modern Korean paintings, panoramas and posters to mark the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Workers Party of Korea in October 1945.
The exhibition was opened by Pak Chang Sop, a People’s Artist and President of Korea Paekho Trading Corporation, a Kim Il Sung Prize winner, the highest award for an artist in the DPR Korea. Earlier in the month Pak Chang Sop had taken part in the 16th International Panorama Conference in Plymouth. Korean giant 3-D panoramas are known throughout the world and the draft of one covering the historic struggle against the sea building dams in Holland ran for some 35 metres down the side of the embassy grounds. Korean artists have produced historical panoramas in Syria, Kuwait and Mali but perhaps the most famous is the October War Panorama in Cairo which commemorates in dramatic detail Egypt’s victorious offensive across the Suez Canal against Israel in October 1973.
Also on display were works created by the new Korean technique of jewel-powder painting. The paintings are covered in jewel dust which then keeps the
artwork from decaying in any way. Even immersion in water
cannot affect it. Others on show were many oil paintings and posters demonstrating the vitality and strength of Korean art. In Democratic Korea all artists work in teams to produce art that serves the people. This brief two-day exhibition high-lighted some of their best and it certainly was a vivid demonstration of the superiority of the socialist system in arts and culture.

Struggles in south Asia

COMRADES and friends gathered in the Marchmont Community Centre in north London last Thursday to discuss the complex struggles taking place now in South Asia at a New Worker meeting, organised by the New Communist Party London District and chaired by Neil Harris.
Speakers included Pakistani trade union and civil rights activist and campaigner against bonded labour Mukhtar Rana, north London Labour Councillor and Third World Solidarity representative Mushtaq Lasharie, Kumar Sarkar from the British South Asia Solidarity Forum, Theo Russell from the New Communist Party and Suresh from the Nepali Samaj Society.
Mushtaq Lasharie began speaking about the current situation in Pakistan in the run-up to the coming presidential election. “President Musharraf is the most powerful man in because he is in uniform; he is the head of the army.” Musharraf has agreed to take off his uniform and quit the military in order to improve his chances of returning to power in the election.
“This presents a dilemma for the people of Pakistan,” said Lasharie, “the people don’t want to accept Musharraf in or out of uniform but they are afraid of putting up a candidate against him because this will legitimise the election. The alternative is to let Musharraf be returned unopposed. Supporters of a boycott could end up being excluded from the political process.”
Mukhtar Rana explained that Musharraf had taken power in a military coup accusing the former President Sharif of corruption. Sharif, a big landowner, had attacked the Supreme Court while the army – dominated by landowners – stood by.
“Musharraf claimed the credit for defending the court, putting an end to corruption – but he was the most corrupt of all.
“President Benazir Bhutto of the People’s Party promised good things for the working class. She fooled them; promising land reforms that would limit land holdings to 25 to 30 acres. Now there are giant estates of thousands of acres. The land reforms were not implemented. Benazir did not implement the reforms because she is a big landowner herself.”
He went on to explain that currently the United States is supporting Benazir Bhutto in the election while the British government is supporting Sharif to return, “but they are all corrupt”. Kumar Sakar spoke of changes in Indian society where a new middle class is emerging among the intelligentsia and those with well paid jobs in the IT sector who lived in comfortable enclaves with security guards.
“The new India is emerging as a super power,” he said, “but the other side of the story, the Dalits or untouchables and other disadvantaged groups like building labourers, women, Muslims and so on.”
He went on to give a history of effects of British imperialism – and now American imperialism – on developing Indian society.
Comrade Suresh explained that the monarchy in Nepal is only 250 years old. Most people are landless and were born into landlessness. But over the last couple of decades Maoist revolutionaries have taken over the remote areas and implemented land reforms.
They have brought of lot of social advances, for example illiteracy has been reduced from 33 per cent to five per cent. “The Maoists led a military struggle that forced the King to return power to the parliament and became part of a ruling coalition and were in charge of five ministries. But the government has come under pressure from the United States to suppress the Maoists and the people.”
The Maoists have been forced to quit the government because of corruption.
Theo Russell introduced a Marxist-Leninist slant on the reports already given. He said that US plans to dominate the world had failed through the Iraq War and that imperialism’s hopes of imposing a New World Order were “now a distant memory”.
There followed a deep and constructive discussion of all the issues raised.

London news round-up

NUJ photographer challenges police
SOLICITORS Hickman and Rose have served papers on Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for “battery” (assault) and breaches of the Human Rights Act, relating to freedom of expression and assembly, on behalf of the photojournalist and NUJ member Marc Vallée. Vallée, who is also a member of the International Federation of Journalists and the British Press Photographers’ Association, was taking photographs of the “Sack Parliament” demonstration protest in Parliament Square on 9th October 2006.
He received injuries further to action by Metropolitan Police officers, which resulted in an ambulance attending to give urgent attention and then treatment at St Thomas’ hospital.
The Metropolitan Police have yet to apologise for or offer any explanation of the actions taken by officers.
Chez Cotton of Hickman and Rose said: “This is a significant case because freedom of speech is one of the cornerstones of democracy and safeguards afforded to the press are particularly important.
“Mr Vallée was lawfully present to photograph a political protest outside parliament, yet received injuries at the hands of Metropolitan police officers.
“In these circumstances it is hoped that the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police will swiftly confirm that neither he nor his officers have any legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what the media record, and resolve this case urgently.”
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “We are delighted to be supporting Marc’s case. He has been treated disgracefully and it is important that such behaviour is challenged and proper amends made.
“Key democratic principles are at stake here and we are determined to do everything in our power to make sure that Marc gets justice.”

New anti-terror jail
THE GOVERNMENT is to build a new maximum-security jail to hold up to 30 terrorism suspects to replace the notorious Paddington Green police station, which was built in the 1960s and is now considered out of date.
Counter-Terrorism Minister Tony McNulty told Parliament last week that it was “well accepted” that the office-block-style Paddington Green has had its day.
The high-tech replacement will be designed to hold suspects for much longer as the Government hopes to bring in before Christmas a new Counter-Terrorism Bill that would allow suspects to be held for significantly longer than the current 28-days limit. When Paddington Green was built the limit was three days.
The new police station will allow High Court judges to authorise continued detention of suspects by video link without the suspects having to be brought to court.
The Government claims this will prevent the disruption of London traffic caused by security convoys carrying suspects around the capital.

NCP leader Andy Brooks and other friends of Korea met members of the art world at the Democratic Korean embassy in London last weekend at the opening of an exhibition of modern Korean paintings, panoramas and posters to mark the 62nd anniversary of the founding of the Workers Party of Korea in October 1945.
The exhibition was opened by Pak Chang Sop, a People’s Artist and President of Korea Paekho Trading Corporation, a Kim Il Sung Prize winner, the highest award for an artist in the DPR Korea. Earlier in the month Pak Chang Sop had taken part in the 16th International Panorama Conference in Plymouth. Korean giant 3-D panoramas are known throughout the world and the draft of one covering the historic struggle against the sea building dams in Holland ran for some 35 metres down the side of the embassy grounds. Korean artists have produced historical panoramas in Syria, Kuwait and Mali but perhaps the most famous is the October War Panorama in Cairo which commemorates in dramatic detail Egypt’s victorious offensive across the Suez Canal against Israel in October 1973.
Also on display were works created by the new Korean technique of jewel-powder painting. The paintings are covered in jewel dust which then keeps the
artwork from decaying in any way. Even immersion in water
cannot affect it. Others on show were many oil paintings and posters demonstrating the vitality and strength of Korean art. In Democratic Korea all artists work in teams to produce art that serves the people. This brief two-day exhibition high-lighted some of their best and it certainly was a vivid demonstration of the superiority of the socialist system in arts and culture.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

London news round-up

Safety protest on the tube

TUBE DRIVERS last week refused to operate trains on the Central Line after brake parts fell off a train on to tracks. The incident led to a safety check on the line with 85 trains being inspected and maintenance staff working through the night.
The check revealed a separate fault on another train and an investigation has been launched.
The RMT transport union says that passengers are being put at risk because corners are being cut. Union spokesperson Derek Kotz said: “We believe the public private partnership has undermined safety.
“There are serious fault lines and our members are always vigilant. We have to ask ourselves how something fell off a train – there are supposed to be protocols.
“We will not compromise on safety. This could have caused a derailment. If any of our members were disciplined for refusing to drive their trains we would ballot for a strike.”

Tower Hamlets gardeners to strike?

MEMBERS of the GMB general union employed as gardeners by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets are considering strike action following a pay dispute with a private contractor.
Fifty gardeners are being balloted by the GMB in the row with grounds maintenance firm Fountains and the ballot results are expected later this month.
Union officials accused the contractor of using taxpayers’ money in other parts of their business instead of meeting their members’ demands.
GMB official Bert Schouwenburg said: “Tower Hamlets Council is sitting on its hands and watching Fountains divert the borough’s taxpayers’ money to prop up their business elsewhere.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Good Day at Turnham Green

by New Worker correspondent

HOME-MADE marmalade, second-hand books and home-grown plants all sold well at last Saturday’s traditional peace market on Turnham Green in West London.
In just a few hours the New Worker stall had made a profit of £60. This contribution to our paper’s fund is of course very welcome.
But better still were the many conversations with people visiting the stall and the interest shown in the New Worker and New Communist Party literature.
Copies of The Communist Manifesto, our own The Case for Communism and other titles were sold.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Wembley protest against Palestinian team ban

MEMBERS and supporters of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, in conjunction with the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign and Jews Boycotting Israeli Goods are planning a Day of Action this Saturday, 8th September against a Euro 2008 qualifying match between England and Israel.
There will be events and actions throughout Britain but the most significant will be a protest demonstration at the match at Wembley.
This follows a decision by the Home Office last month to ban a Palestinian under-19s team from a planned tour of friendly matches against youth teams in Britain.
The Home Office refused visas to all the players on the spurious ground that they might abscond and become illegal immigrants here.
The Palestine National Youth Football Team was to have spent three weeks touring Britain and playing English football teams including Chester City, Tranmere Rovers, and Blackburn Rovers.
The tour had been organised by the University of Chester along with the Palestine and English Football Associations.
Rod Cox, spokesperson for the organisers said: “I regret to tell you that the tour has been terminated, not by a hostile blow from a distant enemy, but by our own government.
“The Consulate in Jerusalem has refused visas to every single one of the team and its support staff of coaches and officials.
“They have produced a written reason for the refusal but will not show it to us,” he said. “I cannot imagine the disappointment of the boys selected to play in the team. The chance to escape the most densely populated, and seriously deprived, part of the world, Gaza, and show the world that you can compete with the rest, if only the chains are taken from around your neck, well, its gone.”
The Entry Clearance Officer at the Jerusalem Consulate said: “The refusal has been taken at the highest level in London. It is in line with current immigration policy.” incredible
Cox described the decision as “incredible”, adding: “Only a few months ago Britain’s Foreign Office was considering funding this scheme under the ‘Engagement with Islam’ programme.
“They recognised that the positive nature of engaging people in sport both in Palestine and in the UK helps to keep young men out of the hands of the gunmen. But the ‘Engaging with Islam’ programme has been completely terminated, and no grants will be given this year,” he said.
The American-born Palestinian striker Morad Fareed expressed his disbelief at the Home Office decision, saying: “Football is one of the very few institutions that Palestine has to compete, to show our statehood, to be on the world stage.” siding with the enemy
The chairperson of Truce International, Nancy Dell’Olio, offered her support for the team, noting: “This decision will be seen in Gaza, where most of the team originate, as siding with the enemy. To refuse a national team admission solely on the grounds that they are too poor and deprived will not do Britain any good abroad.
“The lives of these boys, who have worked so hard to achieve the position they are in, are just being thrown away.”
A spokesperson for War on Want commented: “The refusal stands in marked contrast to the welcome given the Israeli national team, due to play England at Wembley on 8th September. This is despite calls for that match to be cancelled in protest of continuing Israeli assaults on Palestinian towns, including the bombing of the national football stadium.”
War on Want is under investigation by the UK Charity Commission for allegedly violating its charity status through political campaigning.
Palestinian football teams have been dogged by a lack of support from those in power. In 2005, Israel prevented the Palestinians competing on the world stage by detaining players in Gaza during a world cup qualifier.
They also prevented the entire team leaving Gaza for an Asian Cup qualifier against Singapore in 2006, and barred the team from re-entering Gaza for over a month after they competed in Jordan in June of this year.
On 31st March 2006, Israeli army artillery shells left a large crater in the centre of the field at Gaza’s national stadium, claiming this was in response to Qassam rocket attacks.

Metronet strike victory

STRIKE ACTION by more than 2,300 Metronet maintenance workers was suspended late on Tuesday night after more than eight hours of talks between RMT, the failed company, its administrator and Transport for London (TfL) yielded significant progress on the issues involved in the dispute.
But the transport union’s planned action for next Monday remains on, pending the outcome of further talks with the pension trustees’ board meeting, and pending consultation with the union’s reps on Friday.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said on Wednesday: “We now have in writing from the employer that the originally proposed pension-scheme rescue is withdrawn, and that a full scheme rescue will be placed before the TfL pension trustees’ board today, and is expected to be in place by Thursday.
“This means that our members will now actually have their pensions restored to them, which is rather different than promises from a man in an expensive suit.
“Further to the existing assurance that there will be no job losses or transfers during the period of administration, we also now have written commitments that any subsequent proposals will be subject to proper discussions through the existing negotiating machinery and the code of practice agreed at the time the PPP was introduced.
“This means that the threat of 691 job losses, tabled before Metronet’s collapse, and postponed by the administrator, has been withdrawn entirely.
“As a result of the detailed talks last night, the RMT executive suspended the current industrial action, although the action scheduled to begin next Monday remains on, pending the successful outcome of today’s pension meeting and consultation with our reps on Friday.
“Our members are to be congratulated for their rock-solid action, and can return to work with their heads held high after sustaining their strike in the face of enormous pressure and hostile media.
“It is their unity that has given their union the strength it needed to hold its position in this difficult dispute.
“The dispute has underlined the need to bring the maintenance of London Underground back into the public sector, and that is what our members and the vast majority of Londoners want,” Bob Crow said.
The strike closed two-thirds of the Tube network and affected 10 lines. London’s financial centre was hard hit as office staff struggled to get into work by other means. Many arrived several hours late; others gave up trying and stayed at home.”

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Livingstone apologies for slavery

LONDON Mayor Ken Livingstone last Thursday at the capital’s City Hall on the Thames made an emotional apology for the City’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Livingstone was overcome as he read an account of the brutal tortures suffered by slaves in Britain’s Caribbean colonies.
He angrily denounced the role of the City’s corporations in financing the trade. “You can look across there to see the institutions that still have the benefit of the wealth they created out of slavery,” Livingstone said, pointing through a huge window at the skyscrapers across the river.
“As mayor, I offer an apology on behalf of London and its institutions for their role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”
The Reverend Jesse Jackson praised the statement, saying Livingstone broke important ground with his remarks. The American civil rights leader said apologies should lead to reparations.
Livingstone did not explicitly mention restitution, but his tearful expression of remorse went further than a statement in March by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair on the 200th anniversary of the law that ended the slave trade. Blair expressed his deep sorrow, but did not make a direct apology.

annual day

He used the occasion to call for an annual day of commemoration timed to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition, held every 23rd August.
London played a central role in the slave trade, outfitting, financing and insuring many of the ships that ferried living cargo to plantations in the New World. Revenue from the trade helped fund the construction of London’s docks.
London is not the first city to apologise for the trade. The port of Liverpool, one of the largest European slave-trading ports, formally apologised in 1999.
Livingstone was joined by the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the London Community Gospel Choir, union leader Gloria Mills, Diana Abbott MP, Dawn Butler MP and R&B legend Beverley Knight.
Contributions included readings from the accounts of Oluadah Equiano who was one of the first slaves to produce an autobiography accounting for his life as a slave.
Lee Jasper read the passage that gave details of the way Oluadah was treated as a slave by his slave-masters, as the ship he was held in visited some 15 islands in efforts to offload the slaves to new masters.
Hopefully this event will be the catalyst for other cities and countries to follow suit and hold their hands up in similar style – the tragedy that is the slave trade was referred to as the African Holocaust.
Over a 400-year period, slavery statistics vary from a conservative 15 million slaves up to more realistic quote around 25-30 million Africans trapped and forced into slavery. At least 10 per cent of these people died in transit on the slave ships.

Tfl bids for Metronet

Transport for London is bidding to bring Metronet, the failed private consortium contacted to carry our maintenance on most of the London Underground, back into public ownership.
The Mayor of London’s transport authority last week announced that it had lodged an expression of interest with Metronet’s administrator and would make a formal offer by the end of next month.
TfL said that it “was in the best interests of all parties for an exit from administration as quickly as possible”.
The move follows the collapse last month of Metronet, which ran more than £2 billion over budget on repairs and refurbishments to nine London Underground lines, including the Victoria, District and Circle lines.
TfL would state only that it wanted to take control of the contractor on a “temporary basis”. But sources said that TfL executives were preparing to operate the business for two years, given the scale of inefficiency in the Metronet business and the time they believe that it would take to restore it to full health.
The decision would create a rift between Livingstone and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who pushed through the public private partnership that put Metronet in charge of maintaining most of the Tube infrastructure.
The Government refused to hand control of the Tube network to the elected mayor until after the contracts had been signed.
Livingstone had always opposed the privatisation and was elected on that basis.
When Metronet called in the administrators last month Brown insisted that the PPP was working. He said: “If Metronet pulls out, then another private company will be found to take its place.”
Metronet was four years into a 30-year, £17 billion work programme, split into two contracts. It was attacked for vast cost overruns and a system under which work was handed out among its five shareholders rather than awarded by competitive tender. The latter approach is used by Tube Lines, the other London Underground contractor. TfL set aside £750 million last month to ensure that maintenance and repair work on the Metronet lines did not grind to a halt, putting a further strain on London taxpayers. Tim O’Toole, the London Underground managing director, said yesterday that TfL wanted to put in place a “stable, economic and efficient structure” at Metronet as quickly as possible. He added: “We strongly believe that the best and most effective way to achieve our ultimate goal is for an early exit from the administration process.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fund raising in Charlton

COMRADES and supporters of the New Worker came together last weekend in Charlton, south-east London, for a fundraising garden party.
After two weeks of cool, damp weather the event was blessed with hot sunshine and a good attendance.
The back garden of a political activist receives little human time and attention but provides a secluded refuge for wildlife and a relaxing environment for weary campaigners to enjoy good food, drink and conversation.
Those attending included local members of CND, Palestine Solidarity, Greenwich Council for Racial Equality, the Labour Party, the Red Green Alliance, the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) and of course the New Communist Party.
A collection raised £76.91, which added to £16 donated the week before, made a total of £92.91 for the New Worker 30th Anniversary Appeal fund.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Metronet workers vote for strike

NEARLY 3,000 members of the unions RMT, TSSA and Unite have voted by massive margins for strike action to defend jobs and conditions at failed Tube privateer Metronet. In the three unions’ ballots, which closed last week, Metronet workers voted by a total of 1,369 to 70 to strike.
The strike votes were sparked by the failure of the bankrupt company’s administrators to provide guarantees that there will be no job losses or forced transfers as a result of the company’s financial collapse.
RMT and TSSA members also voted to strike over the failure to guarantee that there would be no cuts in pension entitlements.
Jennie Bremner, Unite assistant general secretary said: “This ‘yes’ vote gives Unite the mandate to take strike action against Metronet’s shameful plan to cut hundreds of jobs and outsource a further 1,000.
“These proposals come from the same management that were responsible for running Metronet into the ground. Unite is calling on the administrator to take firm action to put the Tube back on track and to cease operating the same policies that led to Metronet being taken into administration in the first place.
“We are available to meet with the company to thrash out a deal that will avoid industrial action. However this vote demonstrates our members’ willingness to take the company on to protect jobs and the future of the Tube.”
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said, “Our members have said with a single, united voice that they are not prepared to be made to pay for the failure of the PPP with their jobs, conditions or pensions.
“The work our members do is crucial not only to the day-to-day operation of the Tube but to the urgent upgrades that are slipping further behind schedule, and any further fragmentation of the workforce is out of the question.
“If we are to have the world-class Tube that London needs in time for the Olympics the only sensible answer is to bring the work back into the public sector.”
TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty said: “Metronet shareholders may be able to walk away from this PPP fiasco but it is our members who are being asked to pick up the bill with lost jobs, transfers and pension cutbacks.
“They have sent a clear message today to the Administrator and the Mayor that they will not stand for it. The long-term solution must be to bring this work back in-house to the public sector.” In the RMT ballot, there were 1,123 (98.3 per cent) votes to strike, with 20 votes (1.7 per cent) against, on a turnout of 51 per cent.
In the TSSA ballot, there were 127 votes for strike action (77 per cent) and 38 votes (23 per cent) against, on a 48 per cent turnout.
In the Unite ballot there were 119 votes for strike action (90 per cent) and 12 votes against (10 per cent).

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Jack Shapiro still going strong!

by Robert Laurie

Last Saturday saw veteran communist Jack Shapiro honoured by the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) at a meeting in Southall's Saklatlava Hall chaired by Harpal Brar.

Jack Shapiro was born in 1916 in the middle of the First World War into a Jewish family in the East End of London. His political career began in the Young Communist League. The nineteen-thirties saw the rise of fascism at home and abroad. London's East End was a major battleground. Jack was one of those communists who mobilised the people against Mosley's blackshirts at the 1936 Battle of Cable Street and on many other occasions.

He was also active in the rent struggles of that period sometimes erecting barricades to prevent landlords evicting hard pressed tenants. The housing struggles were an important part of the anti-fascist struggle because by taking a firm class line of opposing all slum landlords equally, including Jewish ones the anti-Semitism peddled by the fascists had a much reduced audience.

His contribution to anti-fascist struggles included assisting with rescuing Jewish children from Europe and taking over the bomb shelters in London's Savoy Hotel to highlight the poor provision for the less well off. Long before it became fashionable Jack supported the rights of the Palestinian people and opposed Zionism. In addition to opposing the British Road to Socialism Jack supported the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet split of the 1960s. Apart from his directly political work Jack was heavily involved with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf and in promoting the interests of the disabled in China. When the British establishment offered him an Order of the British Empire he rejected it on the grounds that he spent his life fighting to overthrow the British Empire. To this day his letters enliven the correspondence column in the Morning Star.

Jack's life was closely paralleled by his brother Michael who became a Communist councillor in Stepney. During the Korean War he lectured British prisoners of war helping them write letters home. For his pains he was denounced as a traitor in the House of Commons and forced to spend the rest of his life in China where worked for the Xinhua news agency. He also helped translate the works of Mao Zedong.

Appropriately tributes to Jack's work came from the London embassies of both China and People's Korea both of whom presented with small gifts to mark is services to proletarian internationalism.Keith Bennett, a friend of the Shapiro family, praised Jack as an outstanding Marxist-Leninist throughout his seven decades of political activism.

In replying to these well deserved tributes Jack responded by welcoming the growing resistance to United States imperialism even in the most unexpected places. He remained confident that while Britain had the oldest and most cunning bourgeoisie in the world they will be eventually defeated.

photo: Jack Shapiro, Harpal Brar and Keith Bennett