Saturday, December 18, 2010

Release Shaker Aamer!

By Theo Russell

New Worker supporters joined protesters marching from the site of the new US embassy in London, last Saturday, to call for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British prisoner being in the Guantánamo Bay military prison camp, where he has languished for almost nine years without being charged.
Over 100 people gathered in Battersea and marched to the Battersea Arts Centre where a major rally took place in support of Saudi-born Shaker Aamer.
Aamer had lived in the borough with his British wife and three children, and a fourth child has been born since his detention. At the time of his capture, in Afghanistan, he had indefinite leave to remain in Britain and had applied for British citizenship.
The US government claims he was supporting the Taliban, but Aamer says he was doing charity work. He has written from Guantánamo: "I am dying here every day, mentally and physically. We have been ignored, locked up in the middle of the ocean for many years."
He claims – echoing similar allegations by US detainees and victims of kidnapping and rendition – that he was tortured in Afghanistan, including by US personnel, and while British officials were present.
Ray Silk of the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign told the rally: "We are calling upon the UK and US Governments to make arrangements as soon as possible for his release."
Aamer’s case has been raised with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague, most recently by Hague in Washington last week, but as yet no release date is in sight.
Following his latest meeting with Clinton, Hague said he had "reiterated our position that we would like to see this gentleman returned to the United Kingdom and that is under consideration by the United States".
In November Amnesty International's UK director, Kate Allen, wrote to Hague asking for him to make a public statement calling for Aamer to either be "charged and fairly tried or released," and for assurances that the UK would be willing to accept him on his release.
Allen pointed out that when the government announced its compensation package for former Guantanamo detainees last week, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said the UK wanted to 'draw a line' under cases involving detention and alleged abuse overseas, “yet Shaker Aamer is still languishing in a cell at Guantánamo".
"Dealing with what the government calls 'legacy issues' in the 'war on terror' must mean ensuring justice for Shaker. William Hague should make it a priority that he is returned to his family in Britain", she said.
The coalition government has made it clear that it wants to avoid lengthy court battles over compensation, which risked putting the role of Britain’s intelligence services under scrutiny.
Steve Bell, head of policy for the Communication Workers Union and national treasurer of the Stop the War Coalition, said at the rally that Barack Obama “issued an executive order to shut Guantánamo, and yet still Shaker Aamer cannot come home. There is no reason at all that he should be held. It is a scandal that he is being denied his basic human rights."
Although small in size, Saturday’s march was highly symbolic and attracted major media coverage, including on the BBC website and from Press TV. It certainly achieved its aim of putting Shaker Aamer’s case firmly back in the spotlight.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Athletes protest at school sports cuts

TOP ATHLETES last Tuesday joined more than half a million schoolchildren, teachers and parents in urging Prime Minister David Cameron to overrule Education Secretary Michael Gove and drop plans to cut funding for England’s 450 school sports partnerships.
Pupils demanded that a minister explain why the coalition has made funding for school sport in England one of the casualties of its cost-cutting.
Tim Loughton, the Children's Minister, faced tough questioning when he met a delegation of students before a protest at Parliament supported by hundreds of primary and secondary pupils and teachers from across England.
Olympic gold medallists Denise Lewis and Darren Campbell also joined the protest. Scores of elite British athletes past and present have written to David Cameron condemning Michael Gove's decision to stop the £162 million-a-year funding for England's 450 school sports partnerships (SSPs) at the end of next March as "illogical" and likely to damage young people's health and fuel childhood obesity.
The schoolchildren, led by Debbie Foote, a 17-year-old pupil from Grantham in Lincolnshire, handed in a petition signed by more than half a million people at Downing Street.
She said: "This is devastating news, not only for young people today, but for the future generations who will miss out on the fantastic opportunities SSPs provide."

London school to house homeless pupils

THE QUINTIN Kynaston School in St John’s Wood is planning to build a hostel for homeless teenagers after discovering that several A-level pupils have been sleeping rough or on friends’ sofas after becoming homeless.
Head teacher Jo Shuter hopes to raise £3 million to fund the accommodation centre for the vulnerable students.
She said: "We have got young people not ready to live independently who need to be looked after and helped into adulthood. They have got nobody else to turn to."
Vincent, 18, one of the pupils, said: "It gets to a point where you think, hang on a minute, three months have gone past and I'm still sleeping in Hyde Park.
"I still don't have a coat; I've lost two-and-a-half stone. What am I going to be doing in a year's time? Will I still be here?"
He is currently living in a hostel.
Another pupil said of her homelessness: "I was terrified – and it's just really lonely."
A statement on the school's website said: "Every year we experience large numbers of sixth-form students who face the prospect of homelessness, and many of whom do in fact become homeless.
"Until recently these young people have been placed in local hostels in central London – unfortunately this is no longer an option for many of these students and they are absolutely desperate for some help."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

New Worker delays

The heavy snow and ice that has swept the country has seriously disrupted the distribution of the New Worker this week and deliveries to bookshops and individual subscribers are likely to be delayed by one or two days.

Students rock London with new protests

STUDENTS staged another day of protests last Tuesday against the proposed trebling of tuition fees and cuts to other education services with events throughout the country. They described it as Day X2, after Day X the previous Wednesday.
And the pressure they are exerting is having an effect on their main target, the Liberal Democrat leadership; Vince Cable has now declared he might abstain in the House of Commons vote on tuition fees.
In central London hundreds of students, organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, gathered in spite of snow and freezing winds and brought the whole area almost to a standstill as they defied police efforts to corral them and “kettle” them in one spot for hours.
Once again a police cordon barred them from their targets – Parliament Square and the Liberal Democrat Party headquarters. They made a brisk march ending in Trafalgar Square and then divided into small groups to foil police attempts at kettling.
Police blocked all exits and side roads but did allow students to leave in small groups but many stayed late to put their point across.
There were some heated clashes and a few arrests in and around Trafalgar Square and a total disruption of traffic and transport.
Meanwhile in Birmingham about 50 people peacefully occupied the city council main offices, though there were some scuffles outside.
In Lewisham on Monday evening a large group of students from Goldsmith’s College forced their way into a council chamber during a debate on local council cuts, being pushed through by the ruling Labour group after the government cut its budget by 29 per cent.
All but a handful had been barred from the meeting and they forcefully tried to exert their right to attend this public meeting. There were scuffles and arrests.
In Sheffield on Tuesday students demonstrated near Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's constituency office. About 200 students marched from the University of Sheffield to the Nethergreen Road office, but were moved on by police.
In Bristol more than 2,000 people joined a protest, marching and lighting flares in the city centre. There were clashes with police, including officers on horseback.
Those present included students from the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.
In Leeds, university and college students were joined by some schoolchildren in a 500-strong march through the city centre. Police prevented marchers entering Victoria Gardens Square, though students could not see any reason for this. Up to 60 pupils walked out of Allerton Grange School in the north of the city in support of the action.Marchers included some students who have been occupying a building at the University of Leeds since last week's protest.
About 30 students entered Oxfordshire County Council's headquarters in the city, while dozens more outside and in nearby Bonn Square chanted and held placards.
About 400 students staged a protest in Liverpool. A small number of students climbed on to the roof of an out-of-use footbridge on the University of Liverpool site.
More than 1,000 students joined a march through the centre of Manchester to a rally in Cathedral Gardens.
In Nottingham, about 150 protesters staged an occupation at the university. Occupations are continuing in a number of other universities, including University College London, Edinburgh, SOAS, Cambridge and Newcastle.
The continuing protests are having an effect. In Wales, the assembly government has announced that its students will pay thousands less in fees than in England.
Business Secretary Vince Cable, who is responsible for universities, said he might now abstain in the vote on fees.
He told BBC Radio 5 live his "personal instinct" was to back the rise but he was "willing to go along with my colleagues" if they chose to abstain.
Labour's Shadow Business Secretary, John Denham, says it would be "extraordinary and appalling" if the secretary of state did not vote for his own proposals.
The students have been winning support from the trade unions and Labour MPs. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the civil service union PCS, sent this message of support to students at University College London: "Students' protests against the attacks on education are an inspiration to the rest of us.
"This is part of a concerted attack by this Government to take away people's rights to education, work, welfare, healthcare, housing and more.
"The question ultimately is: who pays for this crisis caused by the banks? It's clear that students shouldn't pay for it and its clear that public sector workers shouldn't either.
"We should be unified in demanding that those who caused the crisis should pay for it.
"Keep up the fight, we can win."
And veteran Labour MP David Winnick said in the Commons last week: “As far as yesterday's demonstration is concerned it was marvellous and gives a lead to others to follow."

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Student anger erupts in London

By Daphne Liddle

STUDENTS took to the streets again in huge numbers in London and throughout the rest of the country to express their anger at broken promises and Con-Dem plans to raise tuition fees to up to £9,000 a year.
Student marches took place in London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Cambridge, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Southampton, Oxford, Leeds, Newcastle, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh and other places.
There have been occupations at many universities, including Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, Royal Holloway, Plymouth, Birmingham, London South Bank, UCL, Essex and UWE Bristol.
Thousands of senior school students have also walked out of their classes — it is they who will face the higher tuition fees if they succeed in getting a university place.
They are also protesting about the withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance — a means-tested benefit paid to students aged 16 to 18-years-old who stay in full-time education at a maximum of £30-a-week.
Young people that age are not eligible for jobseekers’ allowance nor are their families eligible for child benefit on their behalf.
It is a benefit that allows students from low income families to stay on and take A-levels and try for a university place rather than be forced to seek work. Without it many students would be denied the opportunity to try to get to university.
Thousands of protesters gathered in and around Whitehall and Trafalgar Square, intending to take their message to Parliament and to the headquarters of the Liberal Democrat Party.
Police were out in force in Whitehall determined to block the students’ route to protest at the Liberal Democrat Party headquarters and prevent it being trashed in the way that the Tory party headquarters were attacked and occupied a fortnight ago. The students targeted the Lib-Dems because of the promises they made before the last election that they would abolish student fees and under no circumstances support them being raised.
‘Why should the next generation have to pay more? The Tories are hitting working families, just like they did with the Poll Tax’.
Students clashed with the police cordon at the southern end of Whitehall and a police van was vandalised and police protective clothing taken from the van. Demonstrators hanged an effigy of Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and Lib-Dem leader. Students tried to deliver a letter to him, which read: “No amount of twisted reasoning from either you or Vince Cable can hide what everyone can see: you have lied to us.
“We call on you to withdraw Lib-Dem support for Conservative cuts to our education system, or face the disappointment and anger of a generation that has been betrayed.”
Around 3,000 protesters in Manchester congregated outside the town hall. The demonstration spilled onto Princess Street, causing traffic chaos in the city centre.
Police had directed the march to Castlefield, but a group broke away towards the town hall, and the rest followed later.
Around 30 officers blocked the entrance to the building as protesters sat down in front of them, chanting against education cuts and the coalition government.
In Sheffield, Nina Fellows, 16, said up to 200 pupils had left her school — King Edward VII, in Broomhill — to join the protest. She said many had brought in notes from their parents to excuse them from lessons.
“We’re going to be going to university, hopefully, in the next couple of years and we’re worried about our future,” she said.
More than 200 sixth-formers from Camden School for Girls attended the London march after sending an open letter to their teachers that began: “Walking out of school is not easy, but we have no other option.”
In London there were a number of arrests for violent disorder and reports that two police officers and 11 demonstrators were injured. Tom Lugg, 23, studying mental health nursing at Kingston University, Surrey, said: “It shows the young people of Britain are pretty angry. I don’t agree with what some of them are doing but we have to empathise.
“Why should the next generation have to pay more? The Tories are hitting working families, just like they did with the Poll Tax.”

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Firefighter lobby against cuts

FIREFIGHTERS from all over the country assembled in Westminster last Wednesday to lobby their MPs against further cuts in frontline services.
The cuts implemented so far to frontline services have already eroded the ability of fire and rescue services, to respond to emergencies.
The firefighters, organised by the Fire Brigades Union, told the MPs they have delivered the previous administration’s “modernisation agenda”.
Their reward has been cuts in the number of frontline firefighters to dangerously low levels, a pay freeze that amounts to a pay cut; and further attacks on pension rights and conditions of service.
They said that “modernisation” has produced a worse service and those senior Government officials and local politicians have misled the public.
Fire authorities are using a downward trend in dwelling fires and dwelling fire deaths to justify cuts in emergency response and are hiding increased response times from the public.
The firefighters explained that comprehensive research has established that quick response times matter and they believe there is a link to the record number of firefighter deaths suffered in the last five years and the year on year record insured fire losses.
FBU executive council member Jim Parrott said: “Over the last six years, the fire authorities in the south east have produced so called ‘integrated risk management plans’ that are nothing better than glossy promotion brochures.
“They have misled the public hiding cuts behind average response times and promoting a downward trend in dwelling fires and fire deaths as a fire service success. Our members demand an honest approach with standards that the public understand.
“Our members want a robust and rigorous approach to emergency planning that allows them to get on with their job as safely as possible”.
A large contingent of FBU members came from the North West of England, where regional fire chiefs are quoting the Government’s austerity measures to justify plans to cut frontline firefighter jobs.
Many of the proposals being hurriedly prepared will see corners being cut in standards of fire and rescue services and will mean those who dial 999 will have to wait longer for more thinly stretched fire crews to come to their rescue but will carry on paying the same for the service.
This will put the lives of the public and the safety of firefighters at increased risk. It will also increase the cost of fire losses, increasing insurance premiums, and could leave businesses unable to recover, further exacerbating the loss of jobs.
A national YouGov poll released in September shows the public oppose cuts to their fire and rescue service; 85 per cent of those polled oppose Government plans to cut funding in the fire and rescue service; 95 per cent of those asked thought that despite the economic crisis, we need to keep at least the same number, or employ even more firefighters and 95 per cent agreed that a rapid response to fires should be a high priority.”
Kevin Brown, FBU regional secretary said: “Plans are being drawn up to significantly change the front line fire and rescue service in every one of our brigades. The Government has said it will protect the front line of public services and lets face it, you don’t get much more front line than the emergency 999 service our members deliver.
“The reality is that over the past decade the number of firefighters has been squeezed whilst the bureaucracy has grown year on year and extremely top heavy corporate empires have been created to justify the high levels of pay enjoyed by a precious few.”
The North East region FBU was also well represented. Pete Wilcox, FBU regional secretary said: “Already, with our employers offering no pay rise this year, the Government’s two-year public pay freeze coming in next year and the potential for a three per cent hike in pension contributions announced last month by the Chancellor, firefighters are certainly paying a heavy price for the failure of speculating bankers.
“We know that social deprivation caused by recession goes hand in hand with increased risks of fire and we will not stand back whilst the poorest and most vulnerable in our society are compromised by these cuts.
“Cuts cost lives, it is as simple as that but it seems those who are in favour of these cuts are those least likely to need the fire and rescue service. We are calling on our local MPs and our fire chiefs to stand up for the fire service, to stand up for the public we serve and to stand up for the brave men and women who deliver our service on the frontline.”

Friday, November 19, 2010

Remembrance of Red Army heroes

By New Worker correspondent

DOZENS of people gathered on Remembrance Sunday at the Soviet War Memorial in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in Lambeth to remember the millions of Soviet citizens who died as a result of the Nazi invasion of their motherland and the Red Army heroes who smashed the invaders and delivered the world from the menace of Nazism.
Representatives of the embassies of former Soviet states laid wreathes, as did the local mayor, local MP Simon Hughes and representatives of veteran organisations.
These included members of the Arctic Convoy Club, the International Brigade Association and the British Legion.
Other organisations laying flowers included the Marx Memorial Library and the New Communist Party. The event was organised by the Soviet Memorial Trust.

Standing by the Seoul workers

By New Worker correspondent

NEW WORKER supporters joined others outside the south Korean embassy in London last Friday to condemn the puppet regime for its ongoing repression in the occupied south of the Korean peninsula.
Called by “Smash G20” the picket was called in solidarity with the workers who are defying police terror in south Korea to demand civil rights and an end to the American occupation.
For several hours they stood in solidarity with south Korea’s political prisoners and the protesters who had taken to the streets to condemn the puppet regime during the G20 summit in the south Korea capital last week. There was a heavy police presence outside the embassy and one protester was arrested for refusing to move away from the entrance.

The spirit of the Aurora

By New Worker correspondent

THE GREAT OCTOBER Russian Revolution is celebrated by communists all around the world and every year friends and comrades gather at the NCP Centre to take part in the Party’s traditional celebration of the greatest event of the 20th century. Guests included comrades from the RCPB (ML), Socialist Labour Party, UK Korean Friendship Association and Left Front Art and, as usual, the old print shop was transformed into a bar and buffet for the event.
NCP chairperson Alex Kempshall kicked off the formal part of the evening of tributes to the achievements and sacrifice of the Soviet people throughout the 20th century. Veteran communist Ernie Hunt from the RCPB (ML) spoke of the struggle against revisionism in the old CPGB; John McCloud of the SLP talked about the role of scientific socialism in the 21st century and NCP leader Andy Brooks recalled the sacrifices of the past, the need for struggle today and the certainty of victory tomorrow. Naturally, no NCP event can ever take place without mention of the New Worker and Daphne Liddle’s appeal for support, raising over £200 for the fighting fund.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Third tube strike brings bosses to the table

ELEVEN THOUSAND London Underground workers walked out on strike last Wednesday 3rd November for 24 hours in their fight against job cuts that threaten passenger safety.
This was the third strike so far in this dispute and after it London Underground bosses agreed to meet union officials for negotiations.
The Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union has agreed to the talks but the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) is not taking part.
Union leaders have offered to lift the threat of disruption over Christmas.
Workers walked out on the Tuesday night in protest at plans to axe 800 mainly ticket office jobs, which they say will threaten safety.
A fourth strike is planned for 28th November but union leaders have said they have no plans to disrupt services over Christmas and the New Year.
Gerry Doherty, of TSSA, said: "It will not be my intention to disrupt festivities. I will not be recommending to my members that they strike over Christmas and the New Year."
RMT's Bob Crow agreed but went on to say that could change if workers wanted to strike over Christmas.
Talks are to be held at the conciliation service Acas but TSSA said until it has consulted staff about a further 1,200 planned job cuts it would not be taking part.

Tories seek to cut London fire service

DURING the recent Fire Brigades Union strikes in London the fire service withdrew 27 fire engines from service and hid them away for use by the strike-breaking company AssetCo during the strikes.
But the last scheduled strike was called off a week ago, just before 5th November, for talks but the 27 fire engines have not been restored and remain at a depot in Ruislip.
Now the fire authority chief Brian Coleman is claiming that the absence of those 27 engines has made little difference to the level of service so they might as well by cut to save money.
Each fire engine in service has four shift crews of five firefighters so in total 540 jobs would be lost along with the 27 engines.
Coleman said the FBU action — during which the capital's emergency fire cover was provided by 700 AssetCo scabs using 27 fire engines — had highlighted an apparent surplus of equipment and firefighters.
The brigade has also been operating with FBU staff refusing to work overtime as part of their action against the threat of mass sackings if they do not accept proposed shift changes. London has about 5,500 frontline firefighters and 169 engines.
Coleman said: “We are really grateful to the FBU for showing us that there are possible efficiencies. The union has banned overtime for two to three months and London doesn't seem to have come to a halt.”
Brigade officers are due to report within a fortnight on the savings. The brigade is facing a 25 per cent cut in government funding — which makes up 60 per cent of its budget — over the next four years. It is understood that 260 firefighters are able to retire immediately, having completed 30 years' service. Other posts would be cut through two years of “natural wastage” and a continued recruitment freeze.
Mike Tuffrey, a Lib-Dem member of the fire authority, said: “In the very same week that the fire union and management are finally sitting down and talking it is truly extraordinary that Brian Coleman should produce this rabbit out of the hat' proposal. His badly-timed proposal will only fuel the worst fears of the workforce.
“The Mayor must overrule Brian Coleman and make it crystal clear to Londoners that next year's budget will not see any ill thought-out cuts to front-line fire services.”
A union spokesman said it vindicated their claims that cuts were at the heart of the firefighters' dispute and could result in up to 500 posts being axed.
Ben Sprung, of the FBU, said: "Coleman has denied our dispute had anything to do with cuts in the service for Londoners.”This proves that has been the agenda all along. He seems willing to put his vendetta against firefighters above the safety of London."
Coleman’s risk assessments are totally flawed and risk leaving Londoners in serious danger in the event of a major emergency. Like the fire extinguishers in most homes and workplaces, they may not be used for many years but when they are needed they must be there and in working order.
The FBU had already complained to Coleman about the failure to restore the 27 fire engines. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Government ministers and the London Fire Brigade abused us for proposing a strike on bonfire night. We cancelled that strike, and now they are withholding 27 fire engines from London firefighters and the people of London. It’s disgraceful and hypocritical.”
The 48-hour strike planned for 5th and 6th of November was called off at the last minute after the fire service management agreed to postpone – but not cancel – its threat to sack 5,000 firefighters and re-employ them only if they signed the new contract.
Since then negotiations have been under way but the threat to permanently cut the 27 engines and their crews makes a successful outcome unlikely.

Student anger at cuts erupts

By Daphne Liddle

VIOLENT protest against the cuts came to the streets of London last Wednesday as angry students broke into the headquarters of the Tory party in Millbank and set placards on fire outside, saying this was the only way they could force the Con-Dem government to take their protest seriously.
Around 40,000 students, lecturers and their supporters had filled the streets of London on Wednesday as they protested at the Con-Dem government’s plans to raise the cap on university tuition fees from just over £3,000 to £9,000 – and a list of other less well publicised cuts to adult education.
The march started in Whitehall near Horse Guards, went past Parliament for a rally on Millbank near the Tate Britain museum. Some marchers carried on to the Tory Party headquarters and succeeded in breaking in through the glass-fronted atrium.
Reporters from the bourgeois media pressed the organisers to condemn the violence, which they did but said they understood the anger.
Students came from colleges and universities across England to protest against the tripling of university fees, cuts to university and college funding and plans to scrap the educational maintenance allowance (EMA).
This means-tested benefit is paid to students between 16 and 18 from low income families to encourage them to stay in education and is paid as a maximum of £30 to the students. No child benefit is paid to any families in respect of children over 16. EMA allows the children of low income families to stay in education to take their A levels and seek entrance to higher education.
Many of the slogans and speeches on the march targeted the Liberal Democrats in the coalition because the Lib-Dem leaders had promised emphatically before May’s general election they would not under any circumstances support the raising of tuition fees.
Some students plan to try to use the mechanism for recalling Liberal Democrats contained in planned changes to the voting system, if they vote in favour of the rise in tuition fees.
Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), warned the Liberal Democrats they would lose the support of a generation of young people if they continued to back the tuition fee hike.
He also said: "We are taking to the streets in unprecedented numbers to tell politicians that enough is enough. We will not tolerate the previous generation passing on its debts to the next, nor will we pick up the bill to access a college and university education that was funded for them."
"This Government is abdicating its responsibility to fund the education and skills provision we desperately need just as every other country is investing in its future. We cannot and will not accept that miserable vision for our future.
"We will fight back against attempts to dismantle the funded education system we desperately need for economic recovery, social mobility and cultural enrichment. The Government's short-sighted and self-defeating cuts to colleges and universities must be resisted and that resistance begins now."
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said the union had hired hundreds of coaches from across the country, describing the protest as "a very significant event".
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The past few weeks have really brought home just how angry staff, students and the general public are with the Government’s plans for education. They can see past the spin and they don’t accept the need for such punitive measures.
Slashing taxes for big businesses whilst telling the public we’re all in this together exposes the Government’s true agenda.”

Vietnamese art comes to London

by New Worker correspondent

MODERN Vietnamese art is seldom seen in Britain so it was a pleasant surprise to see works from contemporary Vietnamese painters in a London gallery this week. But though the technique may be modern the theme of this exhibition, Spirit World, was largely traditional.
Works by eight of Hanoi’s most exciting and renowned artists are being displayed by Modern Art Vietnam at the West Eleven gallery in Notting Hill, just a stone’s throw from the Portobello Road, this week. Vietnamese art is little known and seldom understood in Britain and this selection, themed on traditional Daoist and Buddhist concepts, was specifically chosen to appeal to British collectors and the growing Vietnamese community in London.
Modern Art Vietnam is family run company established specifically to promote Vietnamese artists with the help of the Vietnamese Embassy in London, the British Council and the Fine Art Museum in Hanoi. Though the company has only been going for ten months it held its first successful exhibition of Vietnamese art in June and it has already established itself as a leader in what is fast becoming a new focus of interest amongst the Western art world today. Sadly the exhibition closes at the end of this week but Modern Art Vietnam promises to bring even more Vietnamese arts and crafts to London in the near future. Check it out on their website:

Spirit World: Contemporary Vietnamese Art is at the West Eleven Gallery, 5 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London W11 2EE from 9th – 13th November. 10.00 am to 6.00 pm. Admission free.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Unaffordable London

THE HOUSING charity Shelter last week warned that the Con-Dem Coalition plans to cap housing benefit at £290-a-week for a two-bedroom property or £400-a-week for the largest homes will mean many people on low wages or unemployment benefit or income support will no longer be able to live in London.
Housing benefit is claimed not only by the unemployed, pensioners and the disabled and sick – it is also claimed by thousands of Londoners in low waged jobs. And with benefit capped at £290-a-week most two-bedroom flats in the capital will be unaffordable for them.
Some Tory London councils are already warning councils outside the capital to prepare for a migration of low-income people arriving and seeking affordable accommodation.
Campbell Robb, the head of Shelter, said the cap meant claimants faced getting into debt as they would have to subsidise rents themselves.
The cuts were being done too quickly and could change the “very nature” of London.
Even the Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, accused his own government of risking “Kosovo-style” social cleansing in London.
Ministers say the housing benefit bill has got out of control and people will still be able to claim a maximum of £21,000 a year – which they say is “more than the equivalent of what most working families have to spend on their housing costs”.
That is a lot of money but they forget that the money does not end up in the claimant’s pocket but in the landlord’s. The cause of the high housing benefit bill is greedy landlords who are raking in taxpayers’ money.
The answer is to cap rents, not benefits. Bring back the Rent Act.
Labour says it will force a vote in Parliament on the plans.
Campbell Robb referred to a study on the impact of housing benefit changes on London, commissioned by Shelter from the University of Cambridge.
It examined the impact of the cap, due to come in from April 2011, as well as other changes to the way rates are set.
He said early analysis had confirmed fears many London boroughs would become “largely unaffordable” for people on housing benefit from 2011, and a “significant further amount” would do so by 2016.
The research assumes rents will continue to rise by 3.6 per cent a year – and does not include all proposed changes affecting private tenants on housing benefit.
Robb said: “It is absolutely clear from what they are saying, is that over the next few years a whole swath of London, a whole series of properties – two-bed properties and bigger – will just become more unaffordable for those on housing benefit.
“In effect what will happen is the rents will be higher than the housing benefit that people get, so they would have to find their own money to meet the costs of rent before they have even started thinking about clothes and children and all those kinds of things.”
He said he was concerned the cuts could change “the very nature” of central London, and other cities – and “could mean tens of thousands of households forced from the centre, creating concentrations of poverty and inequality”.
And he said suggestions rents would come down if housing benefit was reduced were an “heroic assumption” when they had steadily risen over the past few decades.
A separate report issued by the TUC and the Fabian Society, based on a YouGov survey showed that more than half of tenants cannot absorb a housing benefit cut.
Forty-nine per cent in private rented housing and 66 per cent in social housing – would face financial difficulties if their income fell, such as through a cut in housing benefit, according to the poll.
While the government is cutting housing benefit and mortgage support, more than half the population want to see greater support from Government for renters and mortgage payers who get into difficulties with housing costs or who face losing their home.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “It is no wonder the housing benefit cuts are causing such difficulties for the Government, even within their own parties.
“Ministers want us to believe that housing benefit is going to what they would call work-shy scroungers, yet in reality only one claimant in eight is unemployed. The rest are mainly low-income working households, pensioners or the disabled.
“Then they tell us that people can absorb a cut in their housing benefit. This poll shows that most cannot. One in three renters already says that the stress of keeping up their rent payments has hit their performance at work.
“Thousands of people will have to uproot and move out of homes where they may have lived for years and have settled lives. Children will have to move schools.
“Lone parents carefully juggling work and child-care will lose support networks and have to give up work.”

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Scabs injure FBU pickets

By Daphne Liddle

THREE Fire Brigade Union pickets were injured, two of them seriously, by scabs who deliberately drove vehicles at them at speed while Management is spreading smears to gutter press accusing pickets of intimidation, wanting to “stop firework night” along the usual claims of the high-life for senior FBU officials
The attacks happened last Monday during the second London one-day strike in a dispute over threats to sack more than 5,000 firefighters if they don’t sign a new contract on shift arrangements..
The first incident happened in Croydon fire station when a picket was knocked down and seriously injured by a speeding car driven by a scab.
Fire Brigade Union president Mick Shaw, who was there, described what happened: “A fire engine returned from an incident and drove into the fire station, its crew refusing to wind down their windows and talk to the pickets. But at least it drove slowly, at the brigade maximum of five mph, so that the pickets could get out of the way before they were mown down.
“It was followed by a car driven by the officers, and as the pickets tried to talk to the driver of the car, it accelerated suddenly and one of the striking firefighters was thrown up and into the windscreen, then several feet in front of the car.
“We asked the AssetCo employees who had control of our fire station for the first aid kit and some blankets, but they would not give them to us despite the obviously serious nature of the injuries.
“An ambulance was called at once, and the ambulance crew asked for an air ambulance. Our member was not able to move during the 25 minutes between being hit and being taken away in the ambulance.” The scab, a non-union manager, has been arrested.
The second incident happened in Dagenham when firefighter Graham Beers held his hand up at the side of a road to signal to the crew of a fire engine returning to the fire station that they should stop and speak to him.
“The fire engine swerved towards me and hit my hand” said Beers, who suffered a sprained and badly bruised hand.
In the third incident a fire engine was deliberately driven into the FBU London representative Ian Leahair, at Southwark fire station. This happened more than two hours after the strike ended.
There was a huge police presence at Southwark, and most FBU members were held in a police pen on the opposite side of the road. Just eight pickets were allowed.
When the scab fire engines started to return, the permitted eight pickets, in the midst of dozens of police officers, stood in front and asked the drivers to stop while they spoke to them.
The first two fire engines stopped for a couple of minutes but the third didn’t stop. It just kept coming. As the pickets fled before it, the fire engine actually picked up speed, and hit Ian Leahair and then one of the police officers, before the police finally persuaded the driver to stop.
By then, Ian Leahair’s legs and half his body were underneath the fire engine and he was clearly in pain.
FBU pickets yelled at the driver to reverse, but he would not do so until instructed to do so by the police. The policeman suffered a bruised leg. Ian Leahair has injured ribs. He was pulled out and helped to the side of the road.
After that, the police handled the arrival of the rest of the fire engines very differently. Police officers themselves stopped the fire engines, gave the pickets their couple of minutes, then cleared the way for the engines.
The police, in effect, began to protect the pickets from the strike-breakers.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This has been a day of shocking violence directed at London’s firefighters.
“An incredible pattern seems to be emerging. It looks as though the private company hired to do our work has instructed its drivers to drive fast through picket lines. We ended the day in the extraordinary situation where the police had to protect striking firefighters from recklessly speeding vehicles, which were driven by those paid to break the strike.”
The shocking behaviour of the LFB management will only increase the resolve of the firefighters and win them the support of Londoners and all trade unionists throughout the country.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Don't supersize our councils!

PUBLIC sector unions Unite and Unison both came out firmly against plans to merge three north London boroughs in order to cut administration costs.
The proposal to merge Westminster City Council, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington & Chelsea was given the go-ahead in response to the deep cuts announced by the Government in
Wednesday’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).
Peter Allenson, Unite national officer for local government, said: "The clue is in the name; local government means close to the local community.
"While the severity and speed of the coalition cuts puts horrific pressure on local authorities to cut services, we urge them not to rush into untested structures which could see service users unsure who to turn to when they need help.
"From cleansing services to child protection to social care, councils have to be close to the needs of their communities and the people who elect them and pay for them – and council workers need to know who is in charge.
"Supersizing the delivery of services like this means local councillors become insignificant and have little influence on the services they provide. Voters will soon become disenfranchised and wonder what they are paying for.
"People know and trust local services and have a sense of ownership. Councils play with this trust at their peril."
Unison is angry that it learnt about the merger green-light, not from the employers, but from the press.
Linda Perks, Unison regional secretary for Greater London, said: “The merger plans are bound to mean that services and standards will fall, as decision making becomes even more removed from local people. In addition, any mergers are bound to lead to significant job losses. This will add more London public sector employees to the dole queues and damage the capital’s already fragile economy.
“This announcement clearly demonstrates that the Government’s CSR really means Cuts Strangle Recovery! Unison demands that these three boroughs stop their political posturing and start to talk to the trade unions who represent some very worried employees across West London”.

London firefighters name new strike days

LONDON firefighters staged a successful strike on Saturday 23rd October in protest at management threats to sack all who refuse to sign up to new working conditions.
They also plan to strike on Monday 1st November and have announced another strike, for 47 hours, from Friday 5th November to Sunday 7th November.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Today London’s 5,600 firefighters did the last thing they wanted to do. They went on strike for eight hours, leaving the capital without their expertise.
“It was an orderly, disciplined but solid strike. Eight out of 10 of them voted in the ballot, and of those, eight out of ten voted in favour of the strike. All of them supported it on the day.”
“This wasn’t a fight we sought or wanted. London Fire Brigade wants changes in shift patterns; we are willing to negotiate changes. But we do expect to negotiate them; we won’t have them imposed on us by the threat of sacking all our members. That’s what LFB tried to do.”
But the LFB has so far refused to negotiate and the FBU has named 5th to 7th November as the date for its third strike in this dispute.
In an article in the Guardian, Matt Wrack gave more details on the process that led to the strike and why the union had no choice.
“Our disagreement with the LFB did not arise on 11th August,” he said. “There's a specific background, and a general one. The LFB was acting under section 188 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. If, 90 days after the start of this process, we have not reached an agreement which is satisfactory to the employer they have placed themselves in a position where they may legally fire all 5,600, and offer them re-employment on unilaterally imposed contracts.
It is a process which is designed to avoid having to negotiate a settlement. Why negotiate when you can sack everyone and invite them back on new contracts? It is also a process that is spreading; 26,000 workers at Birmingham city council have received similar letters under section 188; so too have 8,500 at Sheffield city council. It is a real return to Victorian values: "Do it our way or clear off!"
In the LFB our negotiations were originally about shift patterns.
“Until 11th August, talks were being conducted in what both sides recognised was a constructive spirit. Currently London firefighters work two day shifts a week of nine hours each, from 9am to 6pm, and two night shifts of 15 hours each, from 6pm to 9am.
“The employer wants a new system of two 12-hour day shifts from 8am to 8pm, and two 12-hour night shifts, from 8pm to 8am.
“We oppose this, for two reasons. First, it is known that the LFB wants to cut down on night-time fire cover, and the Fire Brigades Union believes that this is the LFB's main reason for wanting to change shift patterns.
“Having equal length day and night shifts will make it administratively easier to achieve. The justification for cutting night-time fire cover is that there are fewer fires at night. This is true, but the fires that do occur at night tend to be major ones, and are reported at a later stage. Night time is when most fire deaths occur.
“Cuts in night-time cover will mean some fire stations will close or certain fire engines will be withdrawn from service at night. This will certainly mean that sometime, a life will be lost which would otherwise have been saved.
“Second, the new patterns would make it very hard for firefighters with young families to see much of their children. Because of the physical demands of the job, frontline firefighters tend to be relatively young men and women, and many of them have young families.
“All the same, we've made it clear we are prepared to find a way through, and until 11th August I thought the London Fire Brigade were too.
“Here is what I think has changed. The London fire and emergency planning authority is chaired by Councillor Brian Coleman, a particularly aggressive Tory who seems to take pleasure in sneering at firefighters, and minimising the dangers and difficulties of their work and the skill required to do it. Coleman's most recent contribution to the debate was to confirm that the 11th August letter was ‘as good as’ a letter of dismissal, adding: ‘I'm quite relaxed about that... firefighters who don't sign the new contract won't be re-employed.’
“To get us back to work right now, we only need the dismissal letters withdrawn. But in the long term, an employer who shows some respect for our members' dedication and professionalism would work wonders.”

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Free the Miami Five!

By a New Worker correspondent

New Worker supporters and hundreds of other Londoners braved the pouring rain on Tuesday to take part in a candlelit vigil outside the US embassy and demand the release of the Miami Five. TUC leader Brendan Barber, veteran Labour politician Tony Benn and a number of other union leaders joined the daughter of one of the Cuban prisoners in calling for their immediate release during the early evening vigil in Grosvenor Square.
Five Cubans have been unjustly imprisoned in US jails since 1998 for trying to stop terrorist attacks against Cuba. The United Nations, Amnesty International and numerous legal, religious and human rights organisations have questioned the fairness of their trial and long sentences, and condemned the US government’s persistent refusal to grant visas to allow two of their wives to visit.
For more than 40 years, right wing Cuban exile groups based in Miami have killed almost 3,500 people in terrorist attacks against Cuba. To save lives, Cuba sent five men to Miami to infiltrate and monitor the groups. At the request of the US government, this information was passed to the FBI in 1998.But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI used the information to identify and arrest the five Cubans on 12th September 1998 in Miami and charged them with spying and conspiracy.
Cuba has acknowledged that the prisoners are intelligence agents, while confirming they were spying on Miami’s Cuban exile community and not the US government.
Two of the prisoners’ wives, Olga Salanueva and Adriana Pérez, have been refused visas ten times and have not seen their husbands for 10 and 12 years.
Last August, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber wrote to US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to protest about the “cruel punishment” meted out to Gerardo Hernandez, who was placed in a tiny windowless for the third time when seeking to appeal against his conviction.
“Not only is this cruel punishment being imposed without explanation, and preventing Gerardo from seeing his lawyers at a crucial stage in his preparation for Habeas Corpus, but it has also been imposed while Gerardo is experiencing health problems,” Barber said.
Eight Nobel Prize winners as well as 110 British MPs have also taken up their cause, writing to the US Attorney General calling for the immediate release of all five.

No more help for bad blood victims

ANNE MILTON, Public Health Minister in the Con-Dem government, last week ruled out raising compensation levels for the victims of one of the worst scandals of the NHS.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s the NHS purchased blood for transfusion from the United States without checking its origins. Much of it turned out to be contaminated with HIV and with hepatitis C
Almost 5,000 people contracted HIV and Hepatitis C after they were given contaminated blood products, which were given to patients suffering with haemophilia and other bleeding disorders.
An independent public inquiry into the matter was held in 2007, chaired by Labour peer Lord Archer of Sandwell. Lord Archer’s report called it a “horrific human tragedy”.
The independent inquiry was funded with private donations as successive governments rejected demands for a full inquiry.
The current scheme of pay-outs to victims is funded by private donations and charitable organisations.
While campaigners for proper compensation marched and lobbied outside Parliament Anna Milton ruled out a suggestion by a 2007 public inquiry to match those made in the Irish Republic.
Milton said she would look again at people infected with Hepatitis C.
Cardiff Central Liberal Democrat MP Jenny Willott said victims had deserved to have the recommendations “seriously considered”.
Milton was speaking in the first debate on private members’ Bills on a Bill sponsored by Pontypridd MP Owen Smith after the death of one of his constituents, Leigh Sugar.
Sugar, a 44-year-old haemophiliac, died in June of liver cancer caused by Hepatitis C he contracted through contaminated blood in the 1980s.
His family was among the campaigners in Parliament Square.
Milton told the Commons she would review the situation and report back by Christmas. She said she was “acutely aware that campaigners on this issue have been left hanging for far too long”.
Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson, who opened the debate, described Milton’s statement as “useless”.
He urged ministers to meet victims, some of whom were watching the debate from the public gallery, to “see what reaction they get”.
“They want closure on it, they’re fed up with it...,” he said.
“This government had an opportunity to make a new start, to bring closure to this great human tragedy and they have refused to do so,” he said.
Jenny Willott said 1,200 people had been infected with HIV, 4,670 with Hepatitis C and more than 1,800 people had died.
She added: “Since it has taken over 20 years to have an inquiry I think the least the victims deserve is to have the recommendations seriously considered, even those which are expensive.”
Speaking before the debate Owen Smith said he hoped it would be the first step to a full inquiry and a UK government-backed compensation scheme.
Margaret Sugar, who was among the demonstrators outside, said: “As he [Leigh Sugar] got ill, the more sick he became, he said to my daughter-in-law this has got to come out. Nothing will bring my son back but what I want is justice.”
Leigh Sugar’s cousin, David Thomas, 39, was also infected with contaminated blood in the early 1980s and has liver problems caused by contracting Hepatitis C.
He said: “It beggars belief we received this through the NHS. Successive governments for the last 20 years have known about the Hepatitis C virus and its cause through the receipt of contaminated blood products and have dodged the issue but hopefully now it’s getting the airing it deserves.”

London firefighters to strike

FIREFIGHTERS in London voted by 79 per cent in a ballot for strike action against management threats of mass sackings to enforce a change of shift patterns. The first two 24-hour strikes are planned for Saturday 23rd October and Monday 1st November.
The Fire Brigades Union has told London Fire Brigade Commissioner that he can avert the strikes by withdrawing his letter of 11th August, which began the legal process of sacking the capital’s 5557 uniformed and 41 non-operational firefighters.
The majority was 79 per cent and the turnout was 79 per cent.
Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This is a huge vote for strike action. Firefighters hate going on strike – but they hate being bullied even more. This vote demonstrates that London firefighters will fight these mass sackings every step of the way.
“The London Fire Brigade now needs to lift the sacking notices and start negotiating properly. I hope that even at this late stage, Ron Dobson will do the sensible thing, so that we can get round a table with him and sort out our differences over shift patterns without a gun being held to our heads.”
The union delayed setting strike dates for 24 hours to give Dobson a “last chance to do the sensible thing and withdraw the letters of dismissal so we can return to negotiating on the question of shift patterns” said FBU executive member for London Ian Leahair.
London firefighters have been taking action short of a strike, including an overtime ban and a ban on “acting up”, since Friday 24th September.
Meanwhile Dobson has already started to play dirty by withdrawing 27 fire engines to be hidden away for use by a private strike-breaking company during the strike.
Matt Wrack said last Thursday: “This is nothing but provocation. The result of our strike ballot is not even out yet, but the Chief Fire Officer has taken away 27 fire engines from local stations and local communities, when firefighters are there and ready to use them.
“The Brigade has a duty to consult with staff and public over reductions on fire cover. It failed to do so.”
The FBU acted after reports that: London Fire Brigade had last Thursday morning, unannounced, removed 27 fire appliances from frontline cover.
The appliances are to be used by strikebreaking service (AssetCo) in the event of a strike.
Removed appliances have not been replaced; stations where appliances have been removed have been re-designated as one-appliance rather than two-appliance stations; 27 appliances equates to almost a fifth of London’s entire fleet; staff have not been informed of any new mobilising arrangements. The FBU predicted it will cause huge confusion.

Lobbying against anti-union laws

By a New Worker correspondent

Trade unionists lobbied Parliament last week to persuade MPs to back a Private Members bill that would prevent employers from using technicalities to block industrial action.
John McDonnell MP has introduced the Bill to prevent employers blocking the democratic wishes of trade union members who have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action. Employers constantly challenge democratic union ballots on minor technical grounds which would have had no affect on the outcome of the ballot. Bosses organisations, and the Mayor of London, are now calling for a complete twisting of the basic rules of democracy to tighten the noose even further around workers necks.
John McDonnell’s Bill is already gaining broad support and to progress to its next stage 100 MPs need to attend Parliament for its Second Reading on Friday 22nd October. McDonnell, the chair of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), is also the Parliamentary Group convenor for the RMT transport union. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow has thrown his weight behind the campaign saying: “We know that there has been a new push from the bosses’ organisations, the Mayor of London and other Tory politicians since the election to try and get the Government to load the law on industrial action even further in their favour. We also know that the Thatcherites driving the ConDem administration are ideologically anti-union.
“With the cuts battle set to intensify this autumn there is no doubt that the Government and the employers will see the anti-union laws as an important weapon in trying to choke off workplace resistance to attacks on jobs and services.
“Now is the time for the trade union movement to rally round and defend the basic right to strike and the right to defend jobs, standards of living and public services. John McDonnell’s Private Members Bill is the focal point for the union fight back against the anti-union laws.”

Solidarity with the Workers Party of Korea

New Worker supporters joined other friends of Democratic Korea in the heart of London last Saturday. Over 30 people from all walks of life including workers, teachers, students and pensioners took part in the celebration of the 65th anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea organised by the UK Korean Friendship Association (UK KFA) and the Juche Idea Study Group and supported by the New Communist Party, Second Wave Publications and the south London Morning Star supporters group.
Dermot Hudson from the UK KFA and Shaun Pickford, the secretary of the Juche Idea Study Group both spoke about Korean-style socialism, the Juche Idea and Songun politics and NCP leader Andy Brooks highlighted the achievements of the Korean revolution as well as the immense contribution that the Workers Party of Korea had made to the world communist movement.
The exhibition, at the Marchmont Centre in central London, contained a large number of books and pamphlets for sale from the DPR Korea introducing the reality of the country and the Juche and Songun idea. Other progressive pamphlets and books were available from the New Worker, Second Wave and Morning Star stalls in the hall while the walls were covered with a collection of pictures of great leader Kim Il Sung and Marshal Kim Jong Il and others showing socialist construction and the unity of the people.

photo: a busy NCP stall

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

New Worker Pamphlets

The Case for Communism

Documents of the 16th Congress of the New Communist Party


The first 30 fighting years of the New Communist Party


People's China in perspective

On Stalin

Stalin & the BRS

Arab nationalism and the communist movement

All in the Family

New Technology and the need for Socialism

Orders to: NCP Lit, PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Solidarity with Democratic Korea!

By a New Worker correspondent
NCP general secretary Andy Brooks joined other communists at a seminar last week to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Workers Party of Korea (WPK). Chaired by Dermot Hudson, the seminar organised by Friends of Korea (FOK) and held at the London HQ of the RCPB(ML) heard contributions from FOK activists and members of the audience on the achievements of the WPK and its leaders over the years.
The NCP leader praised the feats of the WPK and denounced the hostile propaganda of imperialism against the DPRK in his contribution. Michael Chant of the RCPB (ML) spoke about the importance and significance of the WPK and the great role of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and Dermot Hudson gave a succinct history of the Korean communists’ revolutionary struggle from its earliest days to last week’s historic conference in Pyongyang.
DPRK London diplomat Jang Song Chol told the meeting about the importance of last week’s special WPK conference that re-elected Kim Jong Il to the post of general secretary of the Party, filled a number of other important Party posts and made some amendments to the rule-book.
The meeting concluded with the unanimous agreement to send the following message congratulating Kim Jong Il on his re-election last week.

Message of Congratulations
Adopted at the Seminar organised by Friends of Korea

October 5th 2010 (Juche 99)
London, England

To Comrade Kim Jong Il
General Secretary, Workers’ Party of Korea

Dear Comrade Kim Jong Il

This Seminar convened to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the Workers’ Party of Korea conveys to you its heartiest congratulations on the historic occasion of your re-election as General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, at the Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea on September 28.

Your unanimous re-election as General-Secretary of the WPK is testimony to the resounding confidence of the Korean people in your Songun revolutionary leadership based on the Juche principle, and in building a powerful and prosperous nation and a socialist system of the Korean people’s own choosing.

We also send our congratulations to all members of the WPK on the successful conclusion of the historic conference of the WPK and its important decisions to further strengthen it to fulfil its responsibilities under the national and international circumstances which it faces.

We have the utmost confidence that the conference marks another historic milestone in the forward march of the Korean nation, and that the Workers’ Party of Korea under your leadership is the sure weapon to defend the achievements of the Korean people. The conference has demonstrated that the unity of the Korean people and their leadership is unbreakable.

May we wish you on this occasion good health and long life, and assure you that we stand shoulder to shoulder with you in our common cause of building a new world, the world of peace, independence and socialism.

With warmest fraternal regards

Seminar organised by the Co-ordinating Committee of Friends of Korea

photo: Dermot Hudson and Andy Brooks

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Another successful Tube strike

THE LONDON Underground network was thrown into chaos by the second joint union strike against the planned cutting of 800 jobs – mainly ticket office staff. The 24-hour strike began at 18.30 on Sunday evening and lasted through until Monday evening.
Tube bosses claimed they had 40 per cent of trains running – a claim challenged by the unions RMT and TSSA who said the figure was nearer to 30 per cent – but with most stations closed and information confused few people could get on whatever trains were running.
Services on the entire Circle line were suspended. Services on seven other lines were part suspended, with special services on three other Tube lines.
At the same time many services on London Overground were part suspended due to faulty trains and signalling problems.
The strikers received solidarity messages from many other unions, including the TUC, Unite, PCS, FBU, Usdaw, NUT, NASUWT and NUJ.
But Tory London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has consistently refused to meet the unions and was absent at the Tory party conference during the strike, used the disruption caused by the strike to demand even more draconian anti-union laws to prevent strikes in vital services.
He told delegates to the Tory conference: “I want to speak directly to the three million people who use the London Underground network every day, and the first and most important thing is how deeply I regret the inconvenience you are suffering as a result of this strike.
"And I say to the leaders of the unions that this gesture is nakedly and blatantly political; that it has nothing to do with health and safety or improving the terms and conditions of work of your members."
RMT general secretary Bob Crow responded: "The cuts to ticket offices and safety-critical station staffing levels that RMT members are fighting to prevent in the action today are the same cuts that Boris Johnson opposed before he was elected London mayor.
"To attack RMT and TSSA members standing up for Tube safety is hypocrisy of the highest order on the part of the mayor.
"The anger of the mayor's Tube staff at his repeated attacks on them is shown in the rock solid support for today's action and the fact that hundreds of staff have turned back at the picket lines. The mayor's assault has hardened attitudes and reinforced the determination to stop these cuts."
Days before the strike the RMT released pictures of worn-away brake blocks on trains that with finance-driven maintenance changes would be forced into service, a move that the union says demonstrate that financial cuts are ripping to shreds safety and maintenance schedules with lethal consequences for passengers and staff alike.
London Underground have begun trialing a new schedule which will double the period between brake inspections on tube trains from 14 to 28 days – the pictures that RMT released are of brake blocks after 14 days of wear on the tracks and show in the most graphic detail that if the current schedule is extended the brakes will be grinding metal on metal creating the perfect conditions for a major disaster.
Boris Johnson is seeking to ban strikes unless the ballot produces a majority in excess of 50 per cent of all who are entitled to vote – a move that would give a field day to lawyers in disputes over who is entitled to vote. And he has the backing of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
Bob Crow replied: "The CBI and Boris want to tighten the noose of the anti-union laws around the neck of working people.
"The vast majority of Boris's crew would not be in power had this distorted and bastardised version of democracy been applied to London Assembly members."
London Underground boss Howard Collins claimed that even after the cuts “every station will remain staffed at all times”. Bob Crow said this was “nonsense” because many stations already run unstaffed on a regular basis.
TSSA general secretary Gerry Doherty said: “To use one of Boris’s own phrases – that is a pyramid of piffle.
"We would not have written to the mayor over six months ago asking him to talk to us over his plans to axe 800 ticket office jobs on the Tube if we were playing political games.
"He is a part-time mayor, part-time columnist and part-time game show host and he is not particularly good in any of those roles. Now he is turning a legal strike into a political game show.
"This is not a strike against central government. It is a strike against Boris’s plans to cut over 7,000 hours a week from ticket offices at all 274 stations at LU, purely a local government dispute."
Lianna Etkind from the campaign Transport for All pointed out that the cuts would make it much harder for disabled and older people to use the Tube network.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber also attacked Johnson’s call for more anti-union laws, saying: “The UK has some of the toughest legal restrictions on the right to strike in the advanced world. Already the courts regularly strike down democratic ballots that clearly show majority support for action.
“The CBI proposals are a fundamental attack on basic rights at work that are recognised in every human rights charter, and will be dismissed by any Government with a commitment to civil liberties.”

Friday, October 01, 2010

Tube dispute gathers steam

THE RMT and TSSA unions are stepping up their industrial action on many fronts in their fight to defend safe staffing levels at London Underground stations, after Transport for London (TfL) announced plans to cut 800 staff, whose loss will leave the network less safe.
This involves all sections of tube workers from ticket clerks to maintenance engineers and will involve work to rule, further strikes, the cancellation of weekend engineering works and a refusal to participate in the minimum £5 Oyster card top-up from Sunday 3rd October.
The overtime ban, which is already having a significant impact and causing station closures, remains in force and the staggered 24-hour strikes starting on 3rd October, 2nd November and 28th November are on.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “We have made every effort to resolve this dispute over safe staffing levels through negotiations and continue to pursue a settlement that will protect the safety of both staff and passengers and the quality of service to Tube users at all times and at all locations.
Following talks at Acas yesterday it is now up to London Underground management to come back to us with a positive response.
“Our members have shown their determination to defend the ticket offices, safety-critical station jobs and the whole future of a safe and secure tube network and we have announced the additional action today to push that campaign forwards.
“The Mayor and his transport officials cannot simply wash their hands of this dispute. Boris Johnson has said that he will stand up and fight for London against the Con-Dem government cuts – that’s exactly what RMT and TSSA members are doing on the tube right in the Mayor’s own back yard.
Rather than attacking us the Mayor, as chair of TfL, should instruct his officials to put safety first and withdraw the cuts that they are bulldozing through without agreement and with complete disregard for the consequences.”
Works hit by the overtime ban include major re-railing between White City and Marble Arch, as well as all work on signalling systems.
RMT has calculated that the cost to LU of the cancellations is already at least £15 million, cancelling out the saving the company claims it will make by removing 800 front-line staff.
The union also charged that LUL was running trains that had not been inspected within strict time-limits and was continuing to open under-staffed stations, in breach of safety rules and increasing risk to passengers and Tube staff.
Train brake blocks, cab equipment, chassis brackets and other critical equipment is supposed to be inspected at 14-day intervals, and the union has evidence that trains that have not been inspected for at least 22 days have not been taken out of service, as operating rules require.

GMB protest over hospital cuts

THE GMB general union this Wednesday staged a protest over plans by South London Healthcare NHS Trust to close the maternity and accident-and-emergency departments at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup.
The trust said it had to make the closures over the winter as it could not guarantee to keep the services running because of severe staffing problems.
The protest took place at the South London Healthcare NHS Trust Board meeting held on the 29th September at in Woolwich. The Board meeting will take place at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich in the dining room conference centre.
GMB called on trust staff and members of the public attend this meeting to tell the Trust just what these services mean to the local area.
Frank Macklin GMB officer said: “GMB members are very angry and disappointed with the Trust’s recent announcement to close the departments that provide an essential service to the surrounding areas.
“GMB believe that the decision to close these services is purely a financial one. GMB also has major concerns that the existing A&E department in the Queen Elizabeth hospital will not be able to cope as it is already operating at maximum capacity thereby increasing the risks of attacks on staff from the patients using this department on a daily basis.
“The Trust management has stated that they intend to close the departments temporarily, but GMB believe that these closures will be permanent.
“The news has come as no surprise to the neighbouring trusts which have been waiting for this day to come for a long time. Darrent Valley Hospital has said that as a result of the Queen Mary’s closure it expects to see another 7,000 patients in its A&E department and also it expects to deliver another 1,000 babies.
“It has also said that it has been actively recruiting midwives, consultants and nurses to meet this additional demand.
“Since the new Trust has been formed the emphasis has been on saving as much money as quickly as possible. Nearly every member of staff has seen their terms and conditions attacked as part of the Trust’s drive to make savings. There are currently over a 1,000 admin and clerical posts at risk of redundancy as well.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quds Day rally for Palestine

By New Worker correspondent

THOUSANDS of people joined the annual Quds Day Rally and march in London last Saturday, organised by the UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC).
The march was a peaceful, noisy, colourful affair supported by hundreds of family and community groups and political organisations.
Among the supporting organisations was a group of religious Jews in traditional costume who oppose Zionism as racist and oppose the occupation of Palestinian land. Their leaders walked hand-in-hand with the imams at the head of the march.
But it came under attack from three groups, who worked together as an unlikely alliance that said everything about their political opportunism.
The first was a group of dissident Iranians, claiming to be a Green Party but who were clearly from the American-backed opposition to the Ahmadinejad government. They tried to discourage support for the Palestinian cause on the grounds that it is supported by the Iranian government.
The second was a group of extreme right-wing fundamentalist Zionists, waving Israeli flags.
And the third and largest opposition group was from the English Defence League – a collection of football hooligans and other ill-informed “patriots” directed from the back by hard-core, long-standing neo-Nazis.
Amazingly these three groups were happy to make common cause and support each other, standing together outside the Hilton Hotel and causing the police to re-route the Quds day march as it made its way to Grosvenor Square and the United States Embassy.
Several provocative attempts by EDL supporters to attack the march were thwarted by police and those on the march remained calm and good-humoured and refused to be provoked.
Muslim youths on the march told the New Worker they were well aware of the EDL’s aim to spark a fight that, if they rose to the bait, would get them reported as violent lunatic Islamist fundamentalists in the right-wing tabloid press. They ignored the provocations.
The march passed into Grosvenor Square for a rally with speakers who put the blame for the continuing Middle East turmoil firmly on US imperialism with its massive financial and military backing of Zionist Israel, using the people of Israel as their surrogate military presence in the region.
A few EDL supporters made their way to the perimeter of Grosvenor Square but were kept firmly at the opposite end of the square by police.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Green thoughts in a green shade!

The South London New Worker Supporters Group held its annual fun-raising garden party in Charlton last weekend under the calming influence of shady trees and bird-song accompanied by the sound of fountains. There was also good food, drink and conversation and the event raised just over £18 for the New Worker.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Supporting the Korean revolution!

By New Worker correspondent

Friends of the Korean revolution were out again in London last Tuesday outside the south Korean and American embassies to condemn the latest imperialist war-games on the Korean peninsula.
NCP leader Andy Brooks joined protesters, including some who had come from Oxford and Southampton, in denouncing the US “Ulji Freedom Guardian” exercises of the American army of occupation in south Korea and their puppet auxiliaries. The protest was the latest in a series of afternoon solidarity pickets organised by the UK Korean Friendship Association and supported by the NCP, the For Bolshevism group and a number of other solidarity movements.
After a two hour stint outside the south Korean embassy the protesters moved on to Grosvenor Square to picket the US embassy chanting slogans in support of peace and Korean re-unification and reading out statements from the Democratic Korean media.
Dermot Hudson of the KFA said that the Obama regime had continued with the policy of Bush aimed at stifling the DPR Korea. “Ulji Freedom Guardian” is a rehearsal to invade the DPRK and that Obama is just the trendy face of US
Imperialism, he said. Other speakers also drew attention to the insidious attempt of the US imperialists to extradite Sean Garland, the leader of the Workers Party of Ireland and friend of the DPRK, and alleged computer hacker Gary McKinnon.
Passers-by stopped to chat with the demonstrators and some joined in the protest including a worker from one of the former Soviet Baltic republics and members of London’s Malaysian community.
Afterwards some picketers adjourned for a small social to mark the 50th anniversary of the Songun revolutionary leadership of Korean leader Kim Jong Il and plan for future events and meetings.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Justice demanded for Ian Tomlinson

by a New Worker correspondent

AROUND 200 protesters gathered at the London headquarters of the Crown Prosecution Service on the south bank of the Thames in Southwark last Friday to demand that the police constable responsible for pushing Ian Tomlinson to the ground with such force that he died minutes later should face a criminal prosecution.
The protesters were demanding further action be taken against Pc Stephen Harwood – and the CPS for shielding police officers who assault, injure and kill members of the public from facing criminal charges.
Members of the campaign for justice for the victims of police violence were there in force.
The event was noisy but there were no incidents. After a number of speeches there was a two-minute silence for Ian Tomlinson.
Tomlinson was making his way home from work, walking with his hands in his pockets through an area where riot police were clashing with G20 protesters on 1st April 2009.
Dozens of witnesses saw, and some filmed on their mobile phone cameras, as PC Stephen Harwood gratuitously pushed Tomlinson from behind; since his hand were in his pockets Tomlinson fell heavily and died shortly afterwards.
A week ago the CPS refused to prosecute because, they said, three post mortem examinations had given two different results. This decision was given on 22nd July – exactly five years from the shooting by armed officers of Jean-Charles de Menezes.
Understandably the family of Ian Tomlinson was greatly concerned by the lengthy investigation fearing a cover-up and the impact this whole process has had on their lives.
In April 2010, John McDonnell MP and leading civil liberties campaigners, MEPs and trade unionists wrote a letter to the Guardian to express their “growing concerns” about the investigation.
The Labour Representation Committee expressed outrage at the decision not to prosecute Harwood, Saying: “Today’s announcement illustrates that the police are a law unto themselves. Ian Tomlinson died in an unprovoked savage attack exposed on video yet that is not enough for the CPS to seek prosecution. Where is the justice for Ian Tomlinson’s family – who have described the decision as a “disgrace”?
John McDonnell MP, who chairs the LRC, said: “Given the stark nature of the video evidence it is hard to understand the CPS’s findings. An independent public inquiry is warranted.”

Friday, August 06, 2010

Hiroshima commemoration in Charlton

By New Worker correspondent

AROUND 100 people attended an event last Tuesday in the historic early 17th century Charlton House, south London, to commemorate the dead and injured victims of the atom bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 and to hear survivor Shoso Kawamoto tell his story.
The event was organised by Lewisham and Greenwich CND with Sydenham and Forest Hill CND and Beckenham and Bromley CND, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The event began with a bring-and-share picnic on the lawn behind Charlton House, after which the Mayor of Greenwich, Councillor Barbara Barwick, welcomed Shoso Kawamoto from the Hiroshima Peace Museum who spoke about his life in Hiroshima as a child in the aftermath of the bombing.
This was followed by a moment of silence in the Charlton House Peace Garden and then music will be provided by the One World Club.

The spirit of Beijing comes to London

By New Worker correspondent

JUST over a year ago the people of Charlton in south east London noticed council workers installing a variety of exercise machines in a corner of Charlton Park, close to the path where hundreds of people every day cut through from various estates to the village shops and bus stops, on their way to work, shopping or whatever.
The council workers also erected a couple of basket ball nets and a five-a-side football sized goal with a small kick-about area and a long wall with irregular hand and footholds for would-be climbers to make their way along.
The equipment was checked and then just left. For anyone and everyone to use, as and when they wanted to. No formalities, no joining a club, no commitments to turn up regularly. Just use as you want to, as the mood takes you.
And it has been a roaring success. It is almost continually in use at all times of day and late into the night. It has its busy times, mostly in the evenings but it is rare to pass it at any time of day and not find at least one or two people using it.
It is used by schoolchildren coming home from school, by young men and women, by early morning joggers, by the middle aged and occasionally the elderly. It is used by all shades and colours of Londoners as well as new arrivals from the Third World and eastern Europe. Women’s fitness clubs turn up to use it regularly, as do budding sports enthusiasts. Small children who cannot reach to use the equipment as intended find ingenious different ways to use it. People who have heard about it come from miles around to use it.
So far there are no reports of anyone being hurt using it, nor any serious arguments developing over it. And it has never been vandalised in any way.
Earlier this year two solid table-tennis tables were added. We thought that the wind would make outdoor ping-pong impossible. We were proved wrong. At first the tables were used mainly by young immigrants from the Far East but their enthusiasm has spread and now locals are taking up ping-pong.
The young men who used to meet regularly at a certain park bench at dusk to talk and trade in small paper packages have moved on – or given up and joined the free gym users. The spot is now much too public for that sort of trade. And the free gym undermines that trade in another way – it needs customers who are truly bored with their lives and there are now fewer of those.
The free gym was put up after a couple of Greenwich councillors who, in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, went out to Beijing just before the 2008 Olympics to study the way the Chinese authorities prepared there. Apparently they noticed these small free gyms erected in parks throughout the Chinese capital and thought they were a good idea.
Free access to sport for all was a way to get local people interested in the games. But did those councillors realise they were importing dangerous communist ideas?
They decided to try a couple in the London Borough of Greenwich to see how they worked out; they would then roll out the scheme to every park in the borough – and other boroughs might take it up.
Greenwich also pioneered the free swimming for over-60s scheme that the new Con-Dem government has just axed – even though it can hardly have cost the borough anything – a few extra people in the pool at off-peak times cannot have added to the running costs.
Likewise the free gym, once erected it cannot cost the borough much to maintain it.
But there are some in the new government who abhor in principle the idea that anything should ever be free. It is part of their ideology; they will claim it is unfair on the commercial gyms in the area that charge people a fortune so only the well off can afford to use them.
Will the borough continue with the free gym and expand it as planned? Or will the Government squash the whole idea as far too communist? We shall wait and see.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

When imperialism was stopped in its tracks!

By a New Worker correspondent
New Worker supporters joined other Korean solidarity campaigners at London’s Conway Hall for a celebration of the 57th anniversary of the Korean people’s victory in the Fatherland Liberation War on Saturday 24th July.
Called by the Juche Idea Study Group of England (JISGE) and the Association for the Study of Songun Politics the meeting opened with a talk by JISGE Chair Dermot Hudson followed by other contributions from Shaun Pickford and Kevin Cain calling for solidarity with the DPR Korea. Following a round-table discussion a message and a solidarity resolution were adopted by all present. Some participants in the meeting then went to south east London to a party to celebrate the Korean people’s defeat of US imperialism and its lackeys in 1953.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Comrades celebrate Party Day!

COMRADES friends joined New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks and Party Chair Alex Kempshall in celebrating the NCP's founding day reception on 10th July at the Party Centre in London. Michael Chant from the RCPB (ML) and Dermot Hudson from the UK Korean Friendship Association spoke of the NCP’s international solidarity and consistent work over the past 33 years in upholding the communist banner in Britain, while solidarity messages included greetings the Workers’ Party of Korea and from an old comrade who now lives in one of the former Soviet republics. No NCP social ends without an appeal for the New Worker and National Treasurer Dolly Shaer’s call raised £652 for the fighting fund!

Remembering the IB prisoners

by a New Worker correspondent

WHEN the Spanish war against fascism ended in 1939, the International Brigaders gathered for a final rally before leaving with their heads held high and the words of Dolores Ibuarri (La Pasionaria) ringing in their ears: “You are history, you are legend”.
But some were left behind; suffering the horrors of incarceration in Franco’s fascist jails and their story is not yet well documented.
And remembering these forgotten heroes was the theme of this year’s memorial event in Jubilee Gardens in south London on Saturday 3rd July.
Scores of people gathered in the baking sun, many of them relatives of those who had volunteered to fight against fascism in Spain in 1936 because they could see that rising fascism threatened to unleash a cataclysm on the human race.
The event, organised by the International Brigade association, began with speeches from Ramon Ganderias, deputy head of mission at the Spanish embassy, and from Sr Miquel Caminal, director of Memorial Democratic de Catalunya.
This was followed by the singing of the song Jarama, a one-minute silence and then the laying of wreaths at the memorial statue.
Dolly West-Shaer, daughter of Brigader Frank West and New Communist Party Treasurer, gave an account of her family’s shock when Frank did not return with the other brigaders and the discovery that he was still held prisoner at a time when Europe was hurtling towards war against fascism.
The Franco regime was engaged in the wholesale slaughter of its prisoners of war but DN Pritt, a Labour Party leading campaigner and barrister, “practically sat on the Foreign Office doorstep in his fight to get the remaining prisoners home and Dad was one of the 11 who were the last prisoners to come home,” Dolly told the crowd.
And he came with a harrowing story of his eight months imprisonment in the derelict monastery, San Pedro de Cardenas. The place contained 700 International Brigaders as well as hundreds of Basque and Spanish prisoners, most of whom were killed.
Prisoners’ health suffered badly from the lack of food and medicine – many of them were wounded. The German Nazis sent SS officers to interrogate the prisoners. German members of the brigade were shipped back to concentration camps where few survived.
Further to this the prisoners suffered continual physical attacks from their sadistic guards.
But their spirits did not succumb. “They set up classes in chess, languages, philosophy, sciences and Marxism; they shared their experiences of life in the international working class,” said Dolly. “And they survived!
“And left us a period of working class history that we can all be proud of.”
Christine Collins gave the crowd in Jubilee Gardens an equally harrowing tale of the experiences of her grandfather as a prisoner of Franco’s forces.
The event finished with the emotional singing of the Internationale.
photo:Dolly Shaer salutes the memory of the Brigaders