Tuesday, July 31, 2007

North Korean art in London

Londoners can see the finest examples of modern artwork from Democratic Korea at an exhibition in the heart of the capital. Works by north Korean People's Artists can be viewed for the first time in Britain at La Galleria in Pall Mall. The exhibition entitled Artists, Art and Culture of North Korea includes paintings, ceramics and wood-cuts plus a display of original posters from the Korean War.

La Galleria is in Pall Mall, at the entrance of the Royal Opera Arcade, one of the earliest arcades in London and just minutes away from Trafalgar Square and the West End. The exhibition runs until 3rd September 2007 at:

La Galleria

5b Pall Mall

Royal Opera Arcade

London SW1Y 4UY

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Full peace, justice and equality only possible through Irish unity

by Theo Russell

Michelle Gildernew, Sinn Féin minister for agriculture and rural development in the Northern Ireland, told friends and supporters in London last week that the meeting of the North-South ministerial council on 16 July in Dublin had been highly successful and constructive.

It was the first real meeting of the council with the Northern Ireland executive fully in place and not beset by crises, attended by 12 northern and 14 southern ministers.

Just after the meeting Dublin announced it was spending €650m on cross-border road links and restoring the Ulster Canal between Monaghan in the republic and Fermanagh in the north. Sinn Féin welcomed the news as a boost to the economies and tourism both in the north and in the Republic’s neglected and deprived north-west.

Speaking at Sinn Féin’s summer reception, Michelle said that almost 10 years since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement many issues still need to be delivered with much work still needed in the crucial area of policing and justice, due to be transferred to Belfast next spring.

Other issues requiring a major effort are the equalities and human rights agendas, aimed at tackling decades of social and economic discrimination against catholics and nationalists in the north, a key aspect of the Good Friday and Saint Andrews agreements.

Michelle pointed out that the two states were still duplicating work on health, education and many other areas, and said “the only way we are going to bring full peace, justice and equality to the island of Ireland is through Irish unity.”

She added “the best people to govern Ireland are the Irish themselves. Whether they are of unionist persuasion or nationalist persuasion they are the best people to decide Ireland’s destiny.”

Michelle told the New Worker correspondent that despite Gordon Brown’s promised £51 billion “peace dividend” for the north, “they aren’t giving us buttons”.

The package not only includes contributions from Dublin and money already allocated by London, but the proceeds of selling British bases to private developers. She said Sinn Féin wanted these bases to be handed over for use by local communities in the north.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Communist Party celebrates 30 fighting years!

MEMBERS, friends and supporters of the New Communist Party gathered in south-west London last Saturday evening to celebrate the founding of the party in 1977.
Among the speakers was Jong In Song from the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who delivered a message from the Korean Workers’ Party, retired MEP Richard Balfe, Ella Rule of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Keith Bennett and a Young Communist from Poland. There was a message of support from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
Jong In Song spoke of the current struggle of his party for direct talks with the United States. The armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953 was just that – an armistice, a temporary halt to the fighting – signed between the government of the DPRK and the US and leaving them still technically at war. The DPRK is seeking a permanent peace and normalisation of relations.
On the issue of nuclear weapons, Jong said: “We seek the denuclearisation of the whole of Korea – the whole of Asia and the whole world.” And he spoke of the system of socialism that delivers peace, social justice and an end to humiliation for all workers.
Richard Balfe spoke of the early days of the NCP and his friendship with NCP founder Sid French through their joint work in the Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society.
NCP President Eric Trevett spoke of the party’s history of struggle against revisionism and he paid tribute to members, including past members now deceased who gave their lives in the struggle for peace and communism.
A collection raised £778.10 – along with promises of another £1,800 to launch a special appeal for £30,000 for the New Worker.
photo: Andy Brooks at the celebrations

London news round-up

Boris to run for London Mayor

TORY MP Boris Johnson has decided to run as a candidate in the London mayoral contest next year. He has not yet been formally nominated by his party and will have to go through a selection procedure.
But it seems likely he will be chosen for his high celebrity status and well-known face to mount a challenge to Ken Livingstone’s hopes of winning a third term.
Johnson is known as an upper class jovial buffoon – not someone who is likely to be competent at running a vast and complex city like London.
But with disaffection with the Labour government running high and some of Livingstone’s policies – like support for London running the Olympics – very unpopular in some quarters, complacency would be a mistake.
Pensioners in particular would be in danger of losing their precious and hard-won freedom pass if Johnson became London Mayor – or for that matter of the mayorship fell into Liberal Democrat hands.
There is no evidence that Johnson has any clue what the freedom pass is or why it should be maintained.
His party is very much in favour of privatisation and would be likely to use London tax payers’ money to bail out the Metronet Tube company, which got its sums wrong when tendering for a Government contract to take on the repair and renewal of three major London Underground railway lines.

Don’t bail out Metronet!

THE RMT transport union is urging London mayor Ken Livingstone not to waste more public money on failed London Underground privateers Metronet and has called for the controversial public-private-partnership (PPP) contracts to be brought back in house. As the PPP arbiter announced that Metronet was likely to get an interim extra £121 million of the £551 million it has asked for to cover “cost overruns” on the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines over the next year, RMT renewed its call for the PPP contracts to be brought back in house.
Metronet is seeking £992 million for overruns for the first seven-and-a-half years of the BCV contract alone, and is expected to file a similar claim for its sub-surface lines contract.
“One-hundred-and-twenty-one-million is still £121 million too much, even if it is nowhere near the £2 billion more of taxpayers’ and fare-payers’ money that Metronet is looking for,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said last Tuesday.
“Even if the PPP was delivering everything expected of it, it would still be less than LUL delivered when it controlled infrastructure work in the public sector, and it would still be costing billions more.
“Metronet, and the PPP scam that has already allowed them to siphon millions out of the Tube network, have clearly failed and it is clearer than ever that these contracts should be brought back in-house before any more damage is done,” Bob Crow said.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friends of Korea rebut media lies

LONDON’S Marchmont Centre filled up last Sunday as friends of Korea along with others simply curious about life in Democratic Korea took part in a forum last Sunday evening that followed a debate on north Korea at the main Marxism 2007 festival of resistance earlier in the day.
NCP leader Andy Brooks, Ella Rule and Michael Chant all focused on the nuclear issue in their opening remarks but the meeting rapidly broadened into a discussion on Korean-style socialism as members of the audience who had been to Democratic Korea gave eye-witness accounts of what they saw to rebut some of the popular misconceptions about life under socialism raised by some of the audience.
Friends of Korea Chairman, Harpal Brar, welcomed the frank and open discussion, which included at least eight people who had personally visited north Korea, that hopefully opened the eyes of those who simply believe the lies and nonsense of the bourgeois media while encouraging others to take an active part in future Korean solidarity events. This was the first fringe meeting organised by Friends of Korea but it clearly won’t be the last!
photo: Andy Brooks, Michael Chant and Harpal Brar

London news round-up

RMT warned of Tube danger

by Caroline Colebrook

THE RMT transport union last week had repeatedly warned of dangers before last Thursday’s derailment on the Central Line.
Investigators say a roll of loose tarpaulin could have caused the Tube train to come off the rails in the middle of the morning rush hour, injuring 40 people and trapping hundreds for hours.
Six of the eight carriages of the westbound Central Line train between Mile End and Bethnal Green stations were derailed when a sheet of tarpaulin stored by the side of the track came loose as trains passed at 35 miles an hour.
The driver reported he had seen the obstruction and put on his emergency brakes but the sheet got caught under the wheels on the right-hand running rail, taking six carriages off the track.
Around 350 passengers were trapped to two hours in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Another 450 passengers were stranded on the train behind. Eleven had to be taken to hospital but fortunately no one was seriously injured. Nevertheless many were distressed as, initially, some thought the crash was the result of terrorist activity.
One passenger described the scene: “It started to rock unbelievably, really violently, the carriage filled with smoke and we could see sparks and there was a smell of electrical burning as the driver was braking.
“People were shouting and the driver’s voice sounded really shaky – he said he did not know what we had gone over but that we had derailed.”
The driver then walked through the train trying to calm passengers’ fears. Another passenger said: “The worst thing was the heat. Some people were having difficulty breathing but when the emergency services arrived, those were the first to be led away.” Two hours after the derailment the passengers were led to safety along the track.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said that it was the fourth incident in 18 months in the same area where private contractors were operating.
“This union has raised concerns over the bad storage of equipment by contractors in this area and wrote to London Underground back in April demanding an investigation yet nothing has been done.
“It has also been the third serious Tube derailment in less than four years, including the Chancery Lane derailment and the one at White City,” he said. RMT reiterated its call for London Mayor Ken Livingstone to take these private contracts introduced under PPP (public-private partnership) back in-house.
“Before Ken got elected as London Mayor he said he did not want ‘blood on his hands’ over PPP so now he has an opportunity to act in the interests of public safety.
“RMT is calling on Ken Livingstone to take these contracts back in-house before we have a disaster on our hands,” Bob said.

Jailhouse Rock

CAMPAIGNING folk singer Billy Bragg and Mick Jones, former lead guitarist with the Clash, have launched an initiative to get prisoners out of our overcrowded jails through rock and roll.
Last Friday the two went to Wormwood Scrubs in West London to hand over five guitars as part of Bragg’s Jail Guitar Doors campaign to provide instruments for inmates.
Bragg said: “We all believe people have to be punished for their crimes. I support punishment. But I also believe in rehabilitation. The question is, do we want to help people not to reoffend and to contribute to society? Getting them involved in music is one way we can do that now.”
The initiative has the support of Tim Snowdon, director of the charity Changing Tunes, which uses music to rehabilitate inmates in nine prisons.
He says the facts speak for themselves. “Sixty-one per cent of ex-prisoners reoffend within two years of release. But ex-prisoners who take part in a Changing Tunes programme have a re-conviction rate of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent.
“Most importantly that means there are fewer victims if crime, but it can also save people whose lives were in a spiral of destruction.”

Scotland Yard in new race row

THE METROPOLITAN Police force is facing serious complaints from a black, British-born youth worker of Somali parents after confidential surveillance tapes obtained by his lawyers revealed astonishing racist remarks from the officers in charge of his custody.
The supervisory officer described Fahmi Hassan as “an arrogant shit” and an “obnoxious Somalian”. The officer said Hassan “has lots of wants, lots of needs, lots of arrogance; nothing a good beating wouldn’t put right. Knows his rights, knows the law.”
One custody suite officer told his colleagues that Hassan was “an absolute knob head”. Then the sergeant adds: “There is a great film. Have you seen the film Black Hawk Down about an American helicopter that gets shot down in Somalia, Mogadishu.
“It is based on the truth. It is when the Americans very foolishly went into Somalia to suppress the warlords. There is no one in charge in Somalia. It’s just tribal factions. There’s no bugger in charge in Somalia.
“He’s a Somalian. They are very violent people I think. If you think about it, the ones who got out of Somalia are either the middle classes or the kids with guns. It’s that type of environment.”
Hassan had been arrested accused of assaulting a police officer and was cleared later at a magistrate’s court. Now he is suing the Met for wrongful arrest, assault and malicious prosecution.

Massive equal pay lobby

HUNDREDS of women employed by local authorities descended on the Houses of Parliament last Tuesday to lobby their MPs for proper funding for single status pay frameworks and equal pay for council workers.
The mass lobby – and accompanying rally – was organised by public sector unions Unison, GMB and Unite to protest at the lack of progress – 35 years after the Equal Pay Act and after 10 years of Labour government.
Unison head of local government Heather Wakefield said: “The fight for equal pay in local government is a century long.
We’re calling on the Government to put money where its mouth is and give women the money that they deserve.” She told a pre-lobby briefing rally that it was “an historic day”. We’re 10 years on from the signing of Single Status”, but there is still “a gender gap as wide as the Grand Canyon – it’s a scandal by any measure.”
And as lobbyers prepared to meet their MPs, Wakefield told them, to loud
applause: “It’s what women are owed – it’s not a favour; it should have been going in their bank accounts for years.”
Offering a potted history of the struggle for equal pay in local government – at around a century, much, much longer than most present probably realised – Wakefield paid tribute to the late Barbara Castle, who had brought in the 1972 Equal Pay Act under some duress, and told lobbyers to “keep banging the drum” for pay justice.
Dr Katherine Rake of the Fawcett Society told the rally: “Ten years into a Labour government, it is nothing short of a scandal that we have the biggest pay gap in Europe. At the current rate of change, it will take 80 years to close the gap for full-time workers and 140 years for part-time workers.”
Addressing the event, Diana Holland of TGWU Unite said that it was important to ensure that equal pay was not used as an excuse to bring down men’s wages – to “make equal pay a dirty word”.
And she said that a recent Equal Opportunities Commission poster summed up the situation with its slogan: “Get your daughter ready for working life – give her less pocket money than your son.”

Friday, July 06, 2007

Korea is One!

On 27th July 1953 US imperialism was forced to sign the armistice with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea that ended the Korean war.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Irish peace process: the next step

By Theo Russell

The question of the British Labour Party organising and standing in elections in the north of Ireland came under the spotlight last week at a highly successful meeting organised by Islington North Labour Party on the future of the Irish peace process.
The meeting brought together Martina Anderson, a Sinn Féin delegate on the Northern Ireland Policing Committee and director of the party’s unionist outreach programme; Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party; Rodney McEwan of the Ulster Unionist P and Paul Callaghan of the Social & Democratic Labour Party.
Martina Anderson, who spent several years in Armagh women’s gaol during the conflict, focused on the need to tackle poverty and deprivation affecting both communities in the north of Ireland.
She said there were 100,000 pensioners and 50,000 children living in poverty, and 3,000 people a year dying from poverty-related causes, and quoted accountants Price Cooper Waterhouse who described Northern Ireland as a “basket-case economy”.
Speaking of the class divisions in the north, she said “there are comfortable people in both our communities who want to keep our communities apart, who do not want a society predicated on equality and human rights for all the marginalised groups.”
Another key issue at the meeting was that of Irish unity. Paul Callaghan said the consequences of a divided country for past 80 years, and the conflict which arose from that, could not be ignored.
“The question now is to build a country which is reconciled with itself and bringing the unionist community into the mainstream of Irish political life, without which unity is impossible.”
He added that people in the north of Ireland should look to the Irish Republic’s National Development Plan when planning their own economic strategy.
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson disappointed everyone by speaking as if nothing had changed in the past decade. He said the unionist community was unhappy with “the release of terrorists, the actions of Sinn Féin ministers and attacks on the police. Sinn Féin wants to be in government while running guns, committing murders and running spy rings.”
He did however add that the DUP “wants devolution on a basis which would actually last.”
Rodney McEwan of the UUP claimed that “the British government made direct rule as uncomfortable as possible,” using cross-community issues such as the 11 plus exams and water rates to encourage the parties to make a deal on power-sharing.
But he sparked a lively debate when he called on the British Labour Party to “look seriously at organising in Northern Ireland” and “give people the chance to vote for a party of national power”.

photo: Sammy Wilson next to Martina Anderson