Thursday, June 26, 2008

Solidarity with Czech hunger strikers

MEMBERS of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament staged a protest in Whitehall last Saturday in solidarity with protesters – including hunger strikers – in the Czech Republic who are campaigning against American plans to install a massive missile system in their country. A number of leading political and cultural figures have joined a hunger strike in Prague. They are protesting at the Czech government’s continuing negotiations with the US to build a missile defence radar near the city.
The hunger strike is being organised on a “chain” basis, with people participating for 24 hour slots – the hunger strikers called an international day of action on the 22nd June to increase pressure on the Czech government.
The European Union has not reached an agreed position on the installation of the US Missile Defence system in Europe, despite the risk of the military bases putting Europe on the front line in future US wars.
They are essential to US war plans and any future US enemy will attempt to destroy them. Opinion polls show majority opposition to the system across Europe.
CND is asking supporters to write to their MEPs to express your opposition and demand a plenary debate in the European Parliament on the role of US Missile Defence in Europe.

BNP back confused Boris

by Caroline Colebrook

THE NEO-Nazi British National Party last week gave its support to new London Mayor Boris Johnson’s decision to drop the main anti-racist theme from London’s annual Rise festival.
Richard Barnbrook, the only BNP member of the London Assembly, strongly welcomed Boris Johnson’s decision to cut anti-racism from the Rise music festival funded by the Greater London Authority.
And then within a few days Boris was forced to ask a senior adviser, James McGrath, to resign in a race row after he said that African-Caribbean people should go back to the West Indies if they did not like the new mayor.
McGrath had been asked in a tape-recorded interview if Johnson’s mayoral victory would trigger an exodus of immigrants from Britain to the Caribbean, he replied: “Well, let them go if they don’t like it here.”
McGrath, the mayor’s deputy chief of staff who hails from the north Australian state of Queensland, made the comment in a meeting last month with Marc Wadsworth, a black activist and London-based journalist.
Hours after his comments appeared on an internet news site at the weekend, Johnson announced his senior advisor, who played a key role in his win over Labour’s Ken Livingstone last month, had quit.
“It is with great regret ... that I have accepted the resignation of my political adviser, James McGrath,” Johnson said in a statement.
Meanwhile Boris himself was making blunders by the hour. When interviewed on BBC television’s local London news programme, he seemed unaware that he had banned anti-racism from what has traditionally been an anti-racist festival.
He also seemed to be unaware that that he had barred the traditional Cuba Solidarity Campaign stage for being too overtly political.
It seems he had delegated the arrangements for the festival to an underling and had little idea of what the festival was or what his officers were doing with it.
And he had failed to read a crucial briefing about an agreement that his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, had negotiated with the Government to protect London council taxpayers from having to fund any escalation in the costs of the 2012 London Olympics.
Johnson said he was concerned about cost over-runs, but when asked in a BBC interview about the memorandum, he said: “I rather doubt that it exists. There is a doubt the agreement that was struck between the former mayor and the Labour Prime Minister about the exact extent of London’s obligations.”
He added: “There is a dispute at the moment between the GLA and the mayoralty and the Government about who is up for over-runs in so far as they may or may not occur. The details are far from clear.”
The mayor’s comments in a BBC interview were seized on by Ken Livingstone and the Government who both contacted the BBC to correct his mistake.
Livingstone described the comments as “bizarre” as the document is widely available. “I find this bizarre,” he said. “It was published in the House of Commons library, Boris could have seen it as an MP; I gave a copy to every member of the London Assembly.
“It specifies in writing, with the Government’s signature and mine, there will be no increase in the council tax and no increase in fares if there are any further cost over-runs.”
The Rise Festival started life in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence murder and McPherson Report as the TUC organised Respect anti-racist festival. The idea was taken up by Ken Livingstone when Mayor, who promoted seven annual festivals during his mayoralty. During the Livingstone years the name was changed from Respect to Rise.
The changes to the festival have antagonised the major trade unions who have always been involved in the organising and funding it.
For the past five years Unite has co-produced a programme of Latin American music and dance at Rise, a close fit with its organising campaigns, working with London’s Latin American community who are often on the margins of the labour market.
The Latin American show has gone from strength to strength and is seen as one of the high points of the Rise Festival.
Unite’s London Regional Secretary, Steve Hart, has tried to negotiate with the Mayor’s Office to resolve the impasse but has always come up against the same barrier: Unite is welcome to participate but it can’t participate if it involves Cuba Solidarity Campaign as its partner.
Steve Hart said: “The ban on Cuba Solidarity Campaign is the direct application of a political pre-condition on Unite in its sponsorship of the Latin American stage at Rise. Censorship is unacceptable to my union. I feel that I am left with no alternative other than to withdraw our intended funding of the Latin American stage at Rise in 2008.”
Samuel Tarry, who chairs Compass Youth and is London Young Labour’s anti racism officer said: “The fact that Boris Johnson, the new Mayor of London has already moved to make such a blatant political gesture is indicative of what we will come to expect from the new Tory administration at City Hall.
“You would have thought given the accusations of racism levelled at Boris Johnson from the Black and Asian communities in London during the Mayoral election then, he would have made every effort to dispel those ideas. Instead at a time of increased racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism he pulls the plug on the anti racist message of one of London’s biggest free music festivals.
“Given the momentum of the BNP at the moment and the fact that they openly backed his run for City Hall he has given them another opportunity to come out in support of his agenda and claim credit for this move”

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Worker pamphlets

The Case for Communism...£2.00

On Stalin................................£2.00
NHS Caught in Debt Trap...£1.00
All in the Family...................£1.00
Finding Sanity in a Mad World.................................£1.00
Killing ourselves to live.....£1.00
Arab Nationalism & the Communist Movement...£1.00
Dialectical and Historical Materialism (Stalin).......£1.00
New Technology and the need for Socialism..........£2.00

Orders to: NCP Lit, PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ
please add 50p for postage and packing and make cheques and postal orders payable to the "New Worker".

Thursday, June 19, 2008

London protests Bush visit

SEVERAL thousand demonstrators gathered in Parliament Square last Sunday evening at short notice to protest at George Bush’s last state visit to Britain as he arrived in Downing Street to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
A huge police operation, involving 1,200 officers – some on horseback, some with shield in full riot gear and steel barriers – barred any entry into Whitehall.
The protest began peacefully but as Bush arrived at about 6.30pm there was a surge towards the barrier and some clashes with the police. There were 25 arrests.
One protester, Suzanna Wylie, 29, was left bleeding from a head injury after being hit by a baton. She had been linking arms with protesters at the front of the crowd, trying to stop demonstrators surging forward.
She said: “I’ve been on lots of demonstrations before and every one of the Stop the War demonstrations has been peaceful.
“This time because Bush is here, specifically because Bush is here, because of his own security arrangements, they won’t let us demonstrate. If they let us demonstrate, there would have been none of this.”
Behind the surge traffic police promptly stopped any attempt at managing traffic around Parliament Square or in any streets in the area – which were congested with traffic.
Some drivers were hesitant to plough through the moving crowds of demonstrators, others were not. Eventually it was left to bus inspectors to intervene in a potentially very dangerous situation and direct the traffic.
Meanwhile the traffic police just looked on. They had clearly been given orders that only George Bush’s safety was of any importance.

Boris bans politics at Rise Festival

NEW LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson has decreed that London’s annual Rise festival is to drop its anti-racist theme. The festival originated as the Respect festival, organised by the TUC and major trade unions with the purpose of combating racism among young people and providing them with a great free music festival at the same time.
When Ken Livingstone was elected the first Mayor of London his office took over organisation of the festival, with the trade unions and the National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR) still strongly involved.
The name changed a few years ago to avoid confusion with the newly-formed Respect political party.
This year’s event has been set for 13th July and a spokesperson for Boris Johnson said this year’s festival would go ahead but without any anti-racist message.
“Boris has made a commitment to go ahead with the Rise festival this year but wants to emphasise its cultural and community dimensions.
Johnson, during his election campaign, was obliged to apologise for describing Africans as having “watermelon smiles” and writing about “piccaninnies”.
The NAAR commented: “The sincerity of Boris Johnson’s claimed commitment to opposing racism in his election campaign is shown to be false by the fact that one of his first decisions is to abandon Europe’s biggest anti-racist festival.”
Johnson has also barred the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s Big Cuba Fiesta stage from this year’s event.
The Greater London Authority’s director of arts policy, Munira Mirza, wrote to CSC saying: “It is no longer appropriate to have overtly political organisations involved in the programme or in the community area.”
CSC director Rob Miller responded: “It is outrageous that the new mayor of London has taken such a discriminatory position against Cuba Solidarity … We hope that this silly act of political censorship will even yet be overturned.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Free the Cuban Five!

Free the Cuban Five was the message of protesters outside the American Embassy in London on 5th June. The emergency picket was called by Rock Around the Blockade as part of the world-wide campaign for the release of the five Cuban political prisoners held in American jails for fighting terrorism.

Chinese short-film festival in London

A SERIES of short films showcasing the creative voice of 25 Chinese artists was launched last week at the Hayward Gallery in London's South Bank, Britain's largest arts centre.
Capturing the prevailing mood of life in China today, My China Now is a collection of 33 short documentaries, animations, art house films and features that are to be screened for the first time in Britain. Throughout June and July this year, the collection will be screened at the Hayward and selected venues across Britain as part of China Now, the country's largest ever festival of Chinese culture.
"With the limited funding, we try to commission Chinese artists to explore in a visual sense the transformation, economy, people's life and the human part of China," said Karen Smith, curator of the project, who is based in China.
"We want the artists who are not necessarily film-makers to make their own expressions through documentaries, youth culture or animation, and challenge the many negative British perceptions of China with humour, art, talent and freedom," added Smith who is considered one of the leading Chinese contemporary art specialists.
My China Now, in collaboration with Intelligent Alternative Beijing, approached 25 leading creative talents, each of whom is helping to define contemporary culture in modern China, and asked them to provide a film for the project that captured their impressions of China today. The collection includes 12 new commissions by China's leading contemporary artists Wang Qingsong, Cao Fei and Xue Li and award-winning film director Pan Baocheng.
The collection, which ranges from the social effects of urbanisation and the fascination with China's new wealth to skateboarding, fashion and pop culture, presents humorous animations alongside social documentaries to celebrate the diversity of life in China today.
Through a diverse range of subjects that address the burning issues of the times, the short films explore the many facets of everyday life in China, including alienation, consumer consumption, poverty, economy and human ambition. Produced by members of China's growing creative community, the collection contains 12 new commissions, 16 short films and five special edits.
The screening at the gallery will last until 30th July.
China Now is a six-month nationwide festival of over 1,000 Chinese events, including exhibitions, performances and activities spanning Chinese film, cuisine, comics, art, literature, science, technology, business, education and sport across Britain. It's intended to celebrate the Chinese culture in the run up to the Beijing Olympics slated for August.
Xinhua news agency

A Film from Germany

GERMAN street theatre came to London this week with the screening of The Funeral or the Heavenly Four at Marx House on Monday to an audience that included NCP leader Andy Brooks, Michael Chant of the RCPB (ML) and members of the London District of the NCP.
The 45-minute short, directed by Thomas Schmitz-Bender, is essentially a film within a film, covering an avant-guard Berlin street project to commemorate the defeat of the Nazis in 1945. The drama played over two days with many spectacular highlights, including a convoy of Soviet tanks at the Reichstag; speeches by veterans from the four Allied Powers, the funeral of the “unknown soldier” and a replay of last RAF raid on Potsdam with sirens wailing and a fly-past by a British bomber dropping leaflets for the next day’s events. And at the Glienicker Bridge, where spies were exchanged during the Cold War, the old border with the German Democratic Republic was redrawn in chalk across the road to mark a reunification that has brought nothing but disaster to millions of working people in eastern Germany.
The “heavenly four” are the Soviet Union, Britain, France and the United States that brought Nazi Germany to its knees in 1945 but Schmitz-Bender’s purpose was to point out that the German people themselves must act now for peace and not rely on others again for liberation.
The theme from Bertholdt Brecht’s poem, The Legend of the Dead Soldier, runs throughout the film which was introduced by Stefan Eggerdinger from the Workers’ League for the Restoration of the Communist Party of Germany (AWKPD) that played a major part in its production.

Public sector pay protests

Don’t blame us for inflation’

PUBLIC sector workers from many walks of life – including firefighters, health workers, prison officers and civil servants – descended on Westminster at midday last Monday to protest at Government efforts to cap public sector pay rises at two per cent, which they say amounts to a pay cut given the rising cost of living.
The Speak Up for Public Services lobby united all 26 TUC trade unions involved in public sector work to call for fair pay for public service workers.
On the morning of the protest the TUC published the results of a survey it commissioned from YouGov, which shows public backing for an increase in public sector pay.
The research shows 90 per cent of those questioned support the incorporation of housing and energy bills into Government estimates of the cost of living.
Ministers base public sector wage negotiation on the consumer price index, which excludes housing.
Sixty-eight per cent of those surveyed said it was “unfair if public servants regularly get pay increases lower than those in public companies”.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “This poll shows very wide public support for the fair pay principles at the heart of union campaigning.”
The trade unionists told MPs that public service workers show their dedication and commitment by responding to national emergencies, tackling floods and their aftermath, preventing the spread of foot and mouth, tackling terrorism and crime and delivering health, education, justice and welfare services to the country.
Yet below-inflation pay rises means real terms pay cuts for public service workers – and they deserve better, Parliament was told in no uncertain terms.
The Government and employers must be in no doubt that they face a wave of strikes over the summer and autumn if there is no improved pay offer, warned union leaders, including Unison general secretary Dave Prentis.
Speaking to a packed hall before the Westminster lobby, Prentis paid tribute to public service workers – “the unsung heroes of our communities, the extraordinary people my union is proud to represent and who are now bearing the brunt of a real attack by this Government’s unfair and unjust pay policy.”
“If you really want to tackle inflation, tackle corporate greed,” he said, urging MPs to stand up for the public service workers who voted them in, to treat them with dignity and respect, so they don’t have to worry about how they are going to survive.
However a large tranche of Unison members – those employed by the NHS – last week voted to accept a very poor pay deal that will give them a total rise of eight per cent over three years – at a time when the cost of living is rising very fast.
An individual postal ballot of 452,000 members working in the NHS saw 64.91 per cent of those taking part voted to accept the three-year offer worth 8.1 per cent – and more to some members.
This result means that Unison and the Royal College of Nursing, the two largest NHS unions, representing the overwhelming majority of NHS staff, have now endorsed the multi-year agreement.
But Unison head of health Karen Jennings pointed out that the union had negotiated a “re-opener” clause “that we will not hesitate to trigger if inflation continues to rise”.
Meanwhile further education unions have rejected the employers’ latest pay proposals, which failed to put any new money on the table when negotiations reopened on Monday.
Unison and the other five further education unions are seeking six per cent or £1,500, whichever is the greater. Instead, the employers came back with a proposed pay rise of three per cent over 10 months (which is only worth 2.5 per cent over the year). Like their opening offer, it provided no underpinning for the lowest paid staff.
And at the Unite annual conference in Brighton, joint general secretary Derek Simpson condemned the Government’s two per cent public sector pay cap as “a disgrace”.
Unite has 250,000 members working in the public sector, supported Monday’s lobby of Parliament.
Gail Cartmail, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “Our members work hard to keep this country up and running. They should not be forced to take the blame for inflation. Unless the government want to be facing a recruitment and retention crisis within the public sector they need to treat these workers with the respect they deserve.”

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Hands off Cuba! Free the Miami Five!

TERESITA Trujillo, representing the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba stressed that the country’s two priority campaigning issues are to end the illegal United States trade blockade around Cuba and for the release of the Miami Five.
She was addressing a packed meeting at the University of London Union, chaired by John Silberman and sponsored by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, Rock Around the Blockade and many other progressive organisations and individuals, including the New Communist Party.
Teresita Trujillo began with an account of the way in which socialist Cuba has faced up to problems and setbacks over the last four decades by periodically sparking mass national debates and consultations.
In the mid 80s the Cuban government, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, realised that it had been adopting the Soviet model of socialism when that model was not completely compatible with Cuban circumstances.
The whole population was actively engaged in the debate; constructive criticism was encouraged and this led to a programme of rectification of mistakes.
These changes made Cuban socialism strong enough to weather the fall of socialism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe.
It also made possible the necessary economic adaptations to the loss of trade and support from the Soviet Union.
Cuba faced a long and bleak period of hardship when the government “did not know when the next oil ship would come or how to feed the people”.
Once again the government called for a huge public debate and won a broad consensus of support for the painful process ahead.
But the country stood firm and united against US attempts to undermine it and to impose even harsher trade sanctions.
Now, 18 years on, circumstances have changed again and Cuba has allies in oil-rich Venezuela and other progressive Latin American governments – as well as new trade partners in China.
Another mass debate is underway to examine problems. “The government and party recognised the need for common debate on the efforts we need to make now to make the country more productive and prove that socialism works,” said Teresita.
She also pointed out that Fidel Castro, who has been in serious ill-health for the last two years, declined re-election as president. He did not resign, that would send quite a different message; he fought to the end.
His brother Raoul, the new president, referred to this process in his acceptance speech and the changes had to be carried by the parliament.
Comrade Trujillo went on to explain that the US blockade is still causing hardship and is seeking support and pressure on the European Union in a coming vote on trade with Cuba, calling for more flexibility. Only three European nations oppose this and the British government is the biggest and most influential of them.
  • Boris ‘should apologise to Tube workers’
LONDON MAYOR Boris Johnson owes a personal apology to every one of the London Underground staff assaulted, abused and spat on during last Saturday night’s alcohol-fuelled violence, the RMT transport union said today.
At least six staff were physically assaulted and another 50 spat at or verbally abused during a “booze party” on the Circle Line organised to mark the introduction of a “half-baked” alcohol ban imposed without consultation with Tube staff, says RMT.
“Johnson should apologise personally to all those who were assaulted and abused last night thanks to a half-baked gimmick designed solely as a publicity stunt and without a moment’s thought for the people told to implement it,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said on Monday.
“We have made it clear that RMT will support any measure that reduces anti-social behaviour and makes our members’ lives safer, but this ban was imposed in haste without consultation with Tube staff.
“We warned that it could put our members at greater risk of assault, but there is no comfort in being proved right when Tube workers have been injured and abused.
“It is no good Tube bosses repeating parrot-fashion that they would not expect staff to put themselves in danger when they have been put in danger by the Mayor’s publicity stunt.
“RMT’s advice to its members is quite clear: if they believe they are at serious risk they should exercise their right to refuse to work, to take trains out of service or close stations as appropriate, and their union will support them every inch of the way.
“Let us hope that the mayor will learn the lesson and start paying heed to the voices of those who actually go out there and try to operate a service,” Bob Crow said.
During the event police arrested 17 people and had to close six London Underground stations after a party involving thousands of revellers to mark the last day of drinking alcohol on the tube turned ugly.
Six assaults were reported on underground rail staff and police. Several damaged trains had to be withdrawn from service on a night of mayhem that had been dubbed “Last Round on the Underground” by revellers.

  • Thousands protest at Heathrow expansion
    THOUSANDS of protesters last weekend followed brass bands, stilt walkers and others to a mass rally at the west London village of Sipson – a village doomed to disappear if the planned Heathrow sixth terminal goes ahead.
    The demonstrators in the Make a Noise carnival then formed themselves into a giant word NO that was visible to passengers in planes coming into land at Heathrow.
    Seven hundred family homes in the village will be bulldozed to make way for the airport’s expansion if plans are approved later this year, in effect wiping out the community.
    They were supported by environmentalists who point out that is global warming is to be curbed the volume of air traffic needs to be reduced, not expanded.
  • Bus strike after sack of shop steward
    MEMBERS of the giant union Unite at CT Plus bus company, based in Hackney, east London, last Monday (2nd June) took strike action after a union shop steward was sacked. CT Plus buses provide Transport for London, school contracts and special need services.
    Unite members, who include includes bus drivers, supervisors, engineers and admin staff, voted overwhelmingly for action following the sacking of the union shop steward Denis Shine.
    Shine had only been in his steward role for four weeks when the company dismissed him for taking action over what he believed was a genuine health and safety issue.
    Unite regional officer, Adam Powell, said: “We are disappointed that it has come to this. We believe that the dismissal of our shop steward was particularly harsh and has seriously damaged industrial relations at the company.
    “Our members do not take this action lightly and it shows the strength of feelings. We believe that this is part of a wider seam of discontent in the workplace.” Further strike action is planned for Friday 13 June from 1.30pm to 7pm.