Monday, February 28, 2011

Supporting the struggle in Bahrain

By New Worker correspondent

LONDON comrades, including NCP leader Andy Brooks, joined hundreds of other protesters outside the Bahrainian embassy in London's Belgravia last Saturday in support of the pro-democracy demonstrations that have swept across the oil-rich Arab Gulf state.
The demonstrators called for a halt to the brutal suppression of the pro-democracy demonstrations, the release of all political prisoners and the end of King Al-Hamad al Khalifa's dictatorship in Bahrain.
Speakers included members of the Bahrainian community in London, Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn and members of the Stop the War Campaign.

Make the rich pay!

by New Worker correspondent

MORE than 100 protesters gathered outside Southwark Town Hall in south London last Tuesday night to tell Southwark Labour council: “Stand with us; Don’t do Tories’ dirty work; make the rich pay!”
They were lobbying a full meeting of the council that was set to implement cuts imposed by the Con-Dem government.
The protest was organised by Southwark Save Our Services and the Coalition of Resistance, who warned: “If the council push this budget through we will get: 580 vital council jobs cut including housing, children’s services, health and more.
“Early years centres cut; youth services cut; Orient St Respire Home cut; play schemes cut temporary accommodation cut; housing repairs, emergency furniture, hostels cut older and disabled people’s support services cut; day centres cut …” The list went on a long way.
At the rally outside the Town Hall Sue Cane from the local trades council spoke of the promises the Labour councillors had made during the election when they took control of the borough from the Liberal democrats to protect the jobs, wages and conditions of all their workers.
Tracy Edwards from the PCS civil service union spoke of billions of pounds in tax that the banks and other big businesses – who were rescued two years ago from economic collapse by taxpayers’ bail-outs – are avoiding paying by the use of tax havens and other measures.
And Tony Parsons of Southwark Pensioners’ Action called for more people to get involved in the fight against the cuts.

  • Lewisham

    AROUND 1000 people defied the rain last Saturday to take part in a Carnival of the Cuts. The protests began in the morning with groups with placards, megaphones and leaflets outside various libraries, unemployed centres, children’s centres and other places threatened by the cuts.
    At 1pm the protestors made their way to Lewisham Town Hall where they assembled for a noisy and colourful march through the High Street to Lewisham Library.
    Earlier in the week protesters had occupied New Cross library, which is threatened with closure.

Rallying for Livingstone in London

By Theo Russell

LABOUR movement and trade union activists came together last Saturday at the TUC’s Congress House for the third Progressive London conference, at which two of the main topics were Ken Livingstone’s campaign to become mayor in 2012, and mobilising for the TUC demonstration on 26th March.
Livingstone told delegates that spending cuts had begun early in London with the election of Boris Johnson, hitting every capital spending programme. He said the proportion of GDP going into wages has dropped from two thirds to 54 per cent in 30 years, and declared: “I’m delighted that my campaign is proudly supported by trade unions.”
Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, pointed out that the cost of servicing Britain’s national debt was less than any time between 1945 and 1977. “This is class warfare that we are seeing against us, and they try to make us believe there’s nothing you can do about it.”
He recalled how Margaret Thatcher, who at the time seemed unassailable, was brought down over the Poll Tax and predicted: “Justice will prevail – we will achieve what we want”.
Diane Abbott pointed out that the NHS is Britain’s largest employer, especially for women, and recalled the past struggles for minorities to achieve equal status, and said “in the new NHS, it will be last in, first out”.

Defending the NHS

By New Worker correspondent

DEMONSTRATORS protesting against proposed NHS cuts stood outside the headquarters of the British Medical Association (BMA) in central London last week while doctors debated and eventually voted overwhelmingly to oppose the Government’s plans.
An overwhelming majority from the BMA’s London regional council backed a motion calling on the BMA to dump its policy of “critical engagement” with the Con-Dem coalition and move to stop the health and social care bill in its tracks.
The debate was opened by BMA council chair Hamish Meldrum who stressed the importance of “separating some of the rhetoric from the reality” surrounding the Health and Social Care Bill.
Dr Meldrum highlighted the BMA’s opposition to the Government’s “reforms”, which were defended by Tory health minister Simon Burns and opposed by his Labour Shadow minister Diane Abbott.
Some doctors openly jeered Burns during his speech. When he finished the Tory minister had to face a string of questions from doctors demanding to know why the Government had not tested its plans and also why many of the key elements of the health bill were not included in the coalition’s manifesto.
The call for all-out opposition the NHS cuts is being debated in all the BMA’s divisions across the country and this will be the central issue on the agenda at a special representative meeting in March to agree on future national policy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What lessons can we learn from Queer DIY activism?

By Anton Johnson

AS GREATER London Association of Trade Union Councils LGBT Officer I get to go to a wide range of LGBTQ events in London and I am constantly impressed with the innovation and energy of the Queer DIY events. These events have the origins in the DIY and party scene of the early 1990s and have evolved with each new generation of participants.
The Queer DIY scene in the early 1990s gave rise to groups such as OUTRAGE! and ACT-UP London which did not sit easily with the more traditional Lesbian & Gay campaign organisations at the time, such as the then Labour Campaign for Lesbian and Gay Rights (LCLGR), while others such as Organisation of Lesbian and Gay Action collapsed into OUTRAGE! I straddled the divide as LCLGR community officer in the early 90s and a working relationship was developed where the skills of both types of work were recognised.
These approaches worked within the National Lesbian and Gay Rights Coalition that was set up to resist attacks on Lesbian and Gays in 1991 by John Major’s government – attacks that spanned the Operation Spanner to fostering regulations in Paragraph 16.
In 1992 the NLGRC organised a conference bringing together LGB / Queer activists together – to learn from each other in order to work together for liberation. The conference had speakers from LCLGR, UNISON, Lesbian & Gay Anti-Racist Alliance, Feminist Library, Queer Anarchists, Socialist Outlook now called Socialist Resistance and the then called Socialist Organiser and was supported by the then National Communications Union. This conference brought together LGBQ activists from different traditions in some joint working. With the NLGRC shutting down in 1993 that formal link ended.
Over the years connexions have been made between the formal LGBTQ labour movement organisations and the DIY activists that has worked well. From 1999 – 2002 Queer activists were involved in the high profile Freedom to be Yourself Campaign – the right to go naked – these activists marched naked at the London Pride in 2001 and supported LCLGR initiatives in the early 2000’s. Those same activists are still involved and linked to Left Front Art through their involvement with Q&A café and Behind Bars and other LGBTQ art events.
Queeruption that started in Brixton in 1998 and grew to be a successful gathering in different cities around the world till 2008 was a great example of LGBTQ grassroots activism that worked with the formal LGBTQ Labour movement – I attended the ones held in London and Amsterdam in 2004.
Today we see the large Behind Bars events and the smaller but incredibly creative clubs such as KAOS and Antagony bringing young LGBTQ people into activism – though a different activism – one that requires practical participation, one that says everyone’s voice is valid and heard, one that addressed racism, one that allows Queers to be themselves but be involved in political activism, one where there are no “leaders” but collective action and people are accountable – all the things union broad lefts state as an intention.
Some involved loosely label it as anarchism yet this is not how the majority label themselves – not at all in fact. What it does allow them is to be involved and fuse their activism with other areas – art/music/discussion/pleasure/sex. Behind Bars events in London and similar in other cities such as Berlin and Barcelona attract thousands of predominantly young LGBTQ people.
The organisers of these events are not hostile to trade unions or organisations as such – they are in fact members of the GMB but they do feel alienated from the structures, which they rightly see as overly hierarchical, not supportive of grassroots activism or their sexuality and culture.
The events such as Behind Bars are brought from nothing – simply an empty building – those skills and creativity go on to inform LGBTQ events such as ACTART and the annual Sertuc LGBT Network event in February. These activists have regular jobs – teaching, shop work, public services and so on. Yet they are able to inspire and mobilise people from their communities, which the traditional labour movement struggles to do. Why is this? For whatever reason many in the LGBTQ communities do not feel comfortable in the traditional labour movement structure. As stated many see it as a vehicle for opportunist careerists.
So how do LGBTQ activists in this area achieve the sort of working approach that union broad lefts aim for but fail to achieve in many cases? It could be that those Queers are shaped by their experiences and the struggles they faced from discrimination and possible alienation from their families and they have put into practice the ideal of collective working and creation of safe spaces.
The negatives that I have observed over the years are that quite often people in this scene revert to an individualist positioning and adopt a libertarian approach in other areas of life – end up in fact a Tory of the worst kind. Look at how many former 1970’s hippies now adopt assertive management policies to attack workers terms and conditions.
Though there are opportunities to exchange and for learning with the new onslaught from the Con-Dems we are seeing LGBTQ grassroots groups spring up all over the country in opposition to the Con-Dem ideologically driven cuts. In Brighton, London, Bradford and Manchester creative actions such as the recent one by Queer Riot in Manchester are coming together under Queers Against the Cuts, which now meets at TUC Congress House. Ronan McNern of Queer Resistance spoke at a anti-cuts rally organised by Lambeth TUC – since that rally he has decided to join the union covering his workplace.
There is a good exchange of ideas going on at the coal face – through the positive work being done. With Queer DIY activists joining trade unions, organising the unorganised, there is now an organising list set up by a GMB activist of over 200 male sex workers in London and they will be having meetings at Bonnington café in Vauxhall soon. A group of Queer activists is setting up a rural commune in Europe over the coming year.
Through initiatives such as Prolecult we have materials for the TUC National demonstration and regular Morning Star stalls and the New Worker at Queer DIY events.
Rank and file labour movement activists can learn the practical skills and new ways of communicating and of working while showing by example what communism means.
With the resistance against the Coalition government growing, if you have a Queer anti-cuts group in your area, include them. You will find they are very open to working together.
The Queer DIY scene gives a fresh injection into the practical aspects of communism and this allows for an exchange.

Thierry Schaffauser from Left Front Art will be one of the speakers at the New Worker public meeting on the Paris Commune in March.
The next Queers Against the Cuts meeting is on Monday 21st February 2011 – 7pm at TUC Congress House London WC1.


Joining Hands with Egypt's millions

By a New Worker correspondent

IT WAS to have been a demonstration in support of the struggle to end the Mubarak dictatorship. It turned out to be a festival of solidarity with the Egyptian people rejoicing at the departure of Hosni Mubarak and the end of his 30 years of tyranny.
Thousands packed the square to see scenes from Cairo’s Liberation Square beamed via a video link onto a giant screen and hear speakers from the labour and peace movement.
Last Saturday’s rally in London’s Trafalgar Square was called by the TUC, Stop the War and Amnesty International as part of a “Global Day of Action” in solidarity with the Egyptians, who had taken over central Cairo three weeks ago kicking off pro-democracy protests across the country that eventually forced the hated dictator to stand down on Friday.

Korea: A Birthday celebration in London

By a New Worker correspondent

LONDON comrades joined other friends of the Korean people at a seminar and reception at the RCPB (ML) headquarters last week to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the birth of Comrade Kim Jong Il.
The seminar at the John Buckle Centre was organised by the Friends of Korea committee and the proceedings were opened by Dermot Hudson, whose contribution was followed by those of Michael Chant and Chris Coleman of the RCPB (ML) and Andy Brooks of the NCP.
A message of congratulations to Comrade Kim Jong Il was unanimously adopted with great enthusiasm followed by a buffet reception and continued political discussion for some time on this happy occasion.
photo: Michael Chant

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bahrain's day of rage: Popular revolution spreads to the Gulf

By Karen Dabrowska

AS THIS issue of the New Worker goes to press around 3,000 pro-reform demonstrators have laid out blankets in the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the Bahraini capital, where a massive pearl sits at the apex of a circle of inward-sweeping arches.
Bahrain is the first Gulf state to which the popular revolution has spread, inspired by the examples of Egypt and Tunisia.
Bahrain’s security forces foiled plans for a mass gathering in Manama on 14th February. Rubber bullets and tear gas were fired at demonstrators. More than 20 people were injured, two of them critically in clashes in Shia villages that ring the capital.
According to the Bahrain Freedom Movement columns of Saudi army trucks crossed the causeway between the two countries in the wake of the coming protests. "This Saudi intervention will have incalculable consequences", the movement's London spokesperson Dr Saeed Shehabi told the New Worker, emphasising that Bahrainis are determined to pursue their peaceful revolution.
Bahrain's Interior Ministry said those involved in the deaths of two people have been placed in custody. "We express our regret over those who died or were injured in the latest incidents and extend our sincere condolences to their families and to the people of Bahrain," a statement on the ministry's website said.
On 16th February thousands of people gathered for a peaceful funeral procession for Fadhel Matrook (31) killed when clashes erupted during another protester's funeral procession, Nabeel Rajab President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said. Demonstrators took the body from a mortuary and marched to a cemetery with no police presence on the streets.

While demonstrators gathered in the Shia villages, among them Diraz, Daih, Newidrat and Karzakan in Manama, supporters of the government honked car horns and waved Bahraini flags to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the referendum (14th February) in which 98.4 per cent voted for a constitutional monarchy in which the Emir would become “king” and the state would change the country’s name to the kingdom of Bahrain. This was a resurrection of the abandoned 1973 constitution. The emir took this popular mandate as a carte blanche to deliver a heavily edited version of the constitution in 2002.

The pro-reform demonstrations were organised by Bahraini youth on Facebook (over 8,000 members) and Twitter.

Nabeel Rajab emphasised: “We are only asking for political reforms, right of political participation, respect for human rights and and end to the systematic discrimination against Shias. All the demands are to do with human rights and nothing to do with the ruling family and their regime”. But he warned that if the government continues to resort to violence the people may be forced to demand a complete change of those in power.
In a declaration circulated on the internet, Bahraini Youth For Freedom stated: "Our demands and aims are constructive, our means are peaceful, and they are not stained with the sectarianism and division that the regime has sown over the years. There is no difference between Sunni and Shia, rich or poor, between Bahrani, Ajami, Houli or members of tribes – we are all Bahrainis.
We all sacrifice ourselves for this beloved land. Let us be proud that we emerged on this day to demand our right to a dignified life that embodies our legitimate rights, and to create a state that represents our aspirations and dreams.
The demands made on 14th February were: A new constitution written by the people and the establishment of a body that has a full popular mandate to investigate and hold to account economic, political and social violations, including stolen public wealth, political naturalisation, arrests, torture and other oppressive security measures, institutional and economic corruption.
Tension in Bahrain has been fuelled by the by the ongoing trial of 25 Shia activists, accused of plotting against the state. The detainees have alleged police torture and being forced to sign confessions. Their lawyers withdrew from the case after the judge refused to investigate the allegations of torture and appointed new lawyers whom the defendants rejected.

Although it did not comment directly on the protests the government is clearly worried. An injured 21-year-old protestor is being flow overseas for medical treatment. Last week King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa granted each Bahraini family the equivalent of nearly $2,700 and media monitors began talks with newspaper publishers to draft new rules to limit state controls. The official Bahrain New Agency launched a multi-media service.

Bahrain is a small oil-producing state in the Persian Gulf whose majority (70 per cent) Shia population have long complained of discrimination by the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa family. The ruling family is strongly supported by both Britain and America. The US Navy’s fifth fleet is stationed there.

In a statement on Twitter the protestors said: “We would like to stress that 14th February is only the beginning. The road may be long and the rallies may continue for days and weeks, but if a people one day chooses life, then destiny will respond.”

The immovable royal family faces the unstoppable force of pro-reform protestors led by Sunni and Shia youth.

* Comrades wishing to support the demands of the Bahraini people can contact ARRAIGN: The International Committee to Pursue Crimes Against Humanity in Bahrain set up in London on 20th October, 2010. The committee is campaigning for a fair trial for a British national, Jaffar Al Hasabi, who was imprisoned and tortured on trumped up charges of planning to overthrow the government. It is also working to bring Bahraini torturers to justice through due process of law.

Monday, February 14, 2011

London protest round-up


HUNDREDS of trade union members, community groups, service users and agricultural workers descended on Old Palace Yard, Westminster last Wednesday 9th February, prior to lobbying their MPs.
They included agricultural workers representing thousands of public servants, all set to lose their jobs when the Government pushes through its reforms.
They urged their MPs to stand up against the coalition government’s so-called “public service reform” in the form of the Public Bodies bill.
The union Unite says that bodies as diverse as the Agricultural Wages Board, the UK Arts Council, the Forestry Commission and advice services all have a vital role in underpinning public life.
The union believes that sweeping these bodies away, in this manner, is an act of political vandalism which will shut ordinary people out of the decision-making process.


PROTESTERS besieged Wandsworth Town hall in south-west London last Wednesday 9th February to protest at cuts that include the closure of a very popular library, cuts of £600,000 to the Sure Start scheme, a 15 per cent cut in technical services, the withdrawal of age-related service concessions and increases for care for disabled children.
The schools repair and rebuilding scheme also faces drastic cuts and £165,000 is to be cut from services for children with mental health and learning needs – with nurses, therapists and admin workers losing their jobs.
The protesters pointed out that Wandsworth is a wealthy borough with £105 million in reserve and has no need to make cuts that wreck people’s lives.


A MARCH by Greenwich Council workers and unionists against cuts to public services and jobs will be held in Woolwich on 12th February.
Campaigners from Greenwich Save Our Services will march against proposed cuts to jobs, services and pay.
They say Greenwich Council’s plans to cull £67 million from its budgets is the “most devastating attack on our communities” for decades.
Paul Callanan said: “Now is the time to send a loud message to this Council. We will not accept these cuts. We call on the Council to get up off its knees, stop apologising and instead join with us, the people, the communities, the workers, students and the elderly and tell this Con-Dem government that we will not pay for this crisis, a crisis caused by bankers and financiers, a crisis of a system where profit comes before people.
“The tragedy is that these cuts are not necessary.”
The march through the town centre will start at 11.30am from Riverside House.

No Cuts! Lambeth people lobby town hall

by New Worker correspondent

PROTESTERS besieged a meeting of Lambeth Council in the town hall in Brixton last Monday evening to demand that councillors implement no Con-Dem cuts.
And among them was former Lambeth councillor Ted Knight, who in the 1980s made just such a stand against cuts being imposed by the Thatcher government.
He faced being surcharged, made bankrupt and disbarred from standing for re-election for making that stand.
But on Monday night he spoke outside the town hall, reminding the councillors inside that they faced no such penalties and had nothing personal to lose by making a principled stand against the cuts.
Over 100 protesters included dozens of service users – disabled people, campaigners fighting against the scrapping of the borough’s park rangers, pensioners, women’s groups, people who are defending council housing, campaigners to save the libraries and to save school crossing attendants.
The school crossing attendants have already scored a success by winning a reversal of planned cuts after threatening strike action.
Workers at the local Remploy factory – which employs people with disabilities – are also contemplating strike action after being threatened with closure and the loss of their jobs.
But none of the protesters present wanted to save one service just to have some other service cut instead. They all stood together and emphasised they wanted no cuts at all.
There are far better ways to resolve the Government spending deficit, caused by bailing out the banks two years ago, for example making large corporations and the very rich pay fair taxes, quitting the war and occupation against Afghanistan and scrapping the Trident nuclear weapons system.
The event was organised jointly by Lambeth Trades Council and Lambeth Save our Services and combined protests against impending cuts that threaten up to 1,000 jobs, the forced merger of Lewisham and Lambeth colleges, Tube station staff cuts, the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance, reduced fire service cover at night and serious cuts to benefits and pensions.
Speakers included Anita Wright from Lambeth Trades Council and Women’s Charter, Sean McGovern of Lambeth Save our Services and Councillor Kingsley Abrams, the only Lambeth Councillor to take a principled stand and vote against the cuts at a council meeting on 17th January.
Around 1,000 people also demonstrated against the cuts in Islington last Saturday. Ken Muller, speaking for the march organisers, Islington Hands Off Our Public Services (IHOOPS), said; “The march was a great success.
“It was at least as big as we hoped and included a cross section of the Islington community who are being hit by the cuts: young families, pensioners, students, public service workers and other trades unionists.
“Now the Con-Dem Government knows we mean business when we say we will resist its cuts.”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Free Shaker Aamer!!

By a New Worker correspondent

Human rights activists gathered outside Downing Street last Saturday to demand the release of Shaker Aamer, who has spent nine years in the US concentration camp in Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for any offence. Aamer, a Saudi Arabian married to a British Muslim and living in Battersea, was working for an Islamic charity in Afghanistan when the Americans invaded in 2001. He was picked up as an alleged supporter of Al Qaida and eventually taken to the notorious US detention camp where he has spent the past nine years and where, his supporters say, he has suffered torture and solitary confinement at the hands of his captors.
The previous Labour government and the current Con-Dem coalition have stated that they have pressed for his release, but although they have done so in public, in private they are both alleged to have encouraged the US government to keep him in captivity. And although President Obama promised to shut down Guantánamo, he has failed to do so and173 prisoners, including Aamer remain incarcerated.
The vigil outside Downing Street was called by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign which marked last week's anniversary of his illegal imprisonment by writing to Prime Minister David Cameron, Barack Obama in the White House and religious leaders calling for them to exert their influence to secure his release. Kate Hudson of CND and London Green MEP Jean Lambert joined the protest before delivering a letter calling on the government to take urgent action to return Aamer to his family.

Solidarity with the Egyptian people!

By a New Worker correspondent

Some 2,000 people marched through London last Saturday in solidarity with the Egyptian revolution in a Stop the War campaign protest that was part of a day of international solidarity actions in support of the Egyptian masses. Londoners, including members of the capital’s Arab community, assembled at the US embassy in Grosvenor Square and then marched for about an hour to the Egyptian embassy where crowds had already gathered shouting for Mubarak to go.

We must bring down this government -- as soon as possible!

by Daphne Liddle

“OUR AIM, in all the anti-cuts activity that is happening all around the country now, must be to bring down this government as fast as possible. We are all under attack and we will all suffer the longer it stays in place,” John McDonnell MP and leader of the Labour Representation Committee made this powerful call to action at a public meeting organised by Lambeth Trades Council on Friday 3rd February.
“They are cutting legal aid from welfare and benefit cases, from education cases (affecting children with special needs), from-deaths-in-custody cases, from immigration cases. They are taking legal rights away from the poor.
“They are cutting 14 coastguard stations – the ones that send out lifeboats to save the lives of sailors in danger, cutting 230 coastguard jobs to be replaced by a new technology system that has yet to be invented.
“They are selling the forestry commission – our natural heritage – to the highest bidders. They say wildlife protection laws will stay but there will be no one to monitor or enforce them.
“Even some of the Tories are fighting to save ‘their woods’. They’ll fight for trees but not to protect the disabled, the vulnerable and the poor.
“The Health Bill has been described as the end of the NHS. They are handing over control of the £80 billion funding – though this includes a cut of £20 billion – to family doctors to commission healthcare for their patients from whatever source.
“The GPs don’t want to take on this admin work but Bupa is offering to take the role off their hands and they are offering to take over NHS hospitals that are forced to close. This is the final privatisation of the NHS.
“The Education Bill: traditionally education is a gift from one generation to the next; the Tories have turned it into a commodity only available to the rich.
“Charges will creep into education and hospital services; the academies will ask parents to pay for certain services; there’ll be better faster health treatments for patients who can afford to pay a top-up charge in these new privately run hospitals.
“This is the demolition of the welfare state!”
“The Localisation Bill has ended council housing as we know it. They’re going to raise rents to ‘market levels’ at the same time as cutting housing benefits. Hey will tell the poor they cannot expect to live in a well-off area. It is social cleansing.
“Is this class war? Yes it bloody well is!”
“I sit in Parliament everyday looking at the Tory front benches and they are all millionaires.
“I was really pleased last year when the students did kick the shit out of their headquarters. For too long the Labour and trade union leaderships have been stuck in a cosy rut; too fond of tea and cakes and civilised negotiations. It needed shaking up.
“There is no negotiating with this government. It must come down!
“We must recognise our own strength. Our power is in our numbers and our power to withdraw our labour and the role of the trade unions is going to be critical to us.
“Workers are waking up all around the country. Forestry Commission workers are calling for a strike. Three hundred Remploy workers in this borough, threatened with the closure of their factory, are call for a strike.
“Also here in Lambeth park rangers and lollipop school crossing attendants are organising campaigns to save their jobs and succeeding; in neighbouring Southwark school speech therapists are doing the same.”
John McDonnell went on to outline the recent meeting of the TUC co-ordinating group and the decision to make the defence of pensions – especially public sector pensions – the first industrial action battleground.
He praised the student activists for taking the fight to the streets and for using direct action to draw attention to the huge corporations that pay little or no tax.
And he spoke of the number of anti-cuts groups springing up – including at least three umbrella groups that are coming together without sectarianism and build for the 26th March mass protest in London.
“But we need to consider what is going to come after 26th March. We have no choice; we must fight back with industrial action, direct action, lobbying, petitioning and whatever we can do.
“What is the alternative? This is the basis of how we must transform society. We must put public ownership back on the agenda. We must stop our councils collaborating with the cuts.”
McDonnell also spoke of the fight that must take place inside the Labour Party. “Another New Labour government like the last is no answer.”
The meeting, chaired by Anton Johnson, fielded three panels of speakers in succession, including Tom Taylor from PCS who spoke of “this demolition government” and student leader Callum Williamson who spoke about police trying to demonise students, the effects of scrapping Education Maintenance Allowance – and “all out class war”.
Sean McGovern spoke on how disabled people are being affected. He said that after years of being demonised in the press as scroungers and cheats they have become an easy target for cuts that will have a devastating effect on their lives.
Lawyer Lee Jasper spoke of the disproportionate effects on Black and Asian communities, who already suffer serious deprivation and the threat to civil liberties in the removal of legal aid.
Vernon McKern of Queer Resistance spoke about mobilising the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.
Ellen Lebethe of Lambeth Pensioners’ Action Group spoke on the effects of cuts on pensioners.
Councillor Kingsley Abrams was the only local councillor present and the only one who had voted against the cuts. “I represent a very deprived part of Brixton; we can’t afford to lose anything. I could not face the people who votes for me if I had voted to cut the little they have,” he said.
A member of the union Unite, he pledged his union would be at the centre of the fight-back.
Veteran campaigner Ted Knight made a rousing speech calling on the councillors to refuse to implement the cuts – pointing out that nowadays they have nothing to lose personally. They can no longer be surcharged and made bankrupt as he was when he made a stand against Thatcher’s cuts in the 1980s.
All agreed that the whole working class was under attack and must come together without sectarianism; that the first attack was targeted on the most poor and vulnerable; that the government must be brought down and must be replaced by something a lot better than “New Labour” and that there must be absolute opposition to all cuts.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Holocaust Day in London

Red Army remembered in solemn ceremony

by New Worker correspondent

SEVERAL hundred people gathered last Thursday 27th January at the Imperial War Museum to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.
The event began inside the museum’s cinema with a presentation called “Untold Stories”. This included a short film of the history of the Holocaust during which the Nazi regime turned cold-blooded murder of millions into and industrial process.
It mentioned that as well as Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and the disabled were also targeted victims of Nazi mass murder. The film also mentioned the later mass killings in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Sudan.
Children from two local Southwark schools attended. They had been studying the life of Holocaust victim Anne Frank and spoke about the impact these studies had made upon them.
Two young students sang to the audience and music was also provided by professional violinist Roland Roberts, who played a Caddish. This was followed by a prayer lead by local Rabbi Alan Greenbat.
Everyone then moved out of the cinema and walked to the Soviet War Memorial and the tree planted ten years ago in the grounds of the War Museum to mark the Holocaust.
They were led by a party of 13 standard bearers from the British Legion and other veterans’ organisations.
There were speeches from Philip Matthews, chair of the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund, the local Mayor Tayo Situ and local Liberal-Democracy MP Simon Hughes.
Alexander Sternik, Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Russian Federation, also spoke. He said: “Today there is an overwhelming feeling in our hearts – anything like this must not ever happen again!
“No doubt can be cast on the facts telling that during the World War II the Nazi leadership conducted a carefully thought-through, monstrous policy of genocide against the Jewish people. This has been confirmed by innumerable eyewitness survivors, thoroughly documented by war crime investigators and historians.
“As you all know, the 27th of January has been officially recognised by the UN as the Holocaust Memorial Day.
“On this very day – the 27th of January 1945, the Soviet Army liberated prisoners of the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp – the largest “death machine” of the World War II.
“Those who tend to forget this historic fact or liken the Soviet Army to the Nazi criminals should ask the survivors of this camp whether the advancement of the Russian soldiers was not a matter of life and death for them and in fact for the enslaved nations of Europe.
“Between 1941 and 1945, six millions Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Among them: three million Jews in Poland, more than half a million in Hungary, hundreds of thousands in Russia, Slovakia, France, Belgium, Holland, and so on.”
Many were pleased to hear these words after the film on the Holocaust had failed to mention that communists, socialists and trade unionists had also been victims of the Holocaust – and had played a leading role in the underground resistance to Nazism throughout occupied Europe.
Furthermore the film had given the date of the liberation of Auschwitz but failed to mention the Red Army’s role in this – or in defeating Nazism.
Indeed the worrying impression given is that today’s schoolchildren are being taught a history of the Second World War from which all mention of communism or the Soviet Union have been completely removed.
Then followed the wreath-laying ceremony, led by Mayor Tayo Situ, Simon Hughes MP and representatives of the embassies of the former Soviet republics.
The veterans’ organisations came next, with the Arctic Convoy Club well represented as usual and other progressive organisations laid wreaths, including the New Communist Party and the Communist Party of Britain.
The came the Last Post, the Exhortation, the two-minute silence, reveille and closing remarks.

Queers Against the Cuts launched

By Anton Johnson

LEFT FRONT ART convened a meeting of Queers Against the Cuts on 27th January at the Society for Co-operation in Russian and Soviet Studies Library in London bringing together a diverse group of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) groups and individuals to look at how to get the LGBTQ communities involved in the anti-cuts campaign and see that they are not marginalised within the anti-cuts campaigns.
Representatives from Unison LGBT, CWU, Labour Representation Committee, Socialist Workers’ Party/Right to Work, Socialist Party LGBT Group, Queer Resistance, TUC LGBT Committee, Sertuc LGBT Network and Left Front Art came.
The meeting was positive in that it was recognised that there is activity going on either in the union LGBT groups – such as Unison or self-organised Queer groups in Manchester and London.
The meeting agreed to support the Pink/Black bloc that had been organised for the anti-cuts demonstration in London on 29th January, along with a range of future activity.
And it agreed to act as a co-ordinating hub, noting the work being done by Queer Resistance and Queer Riot.
Future proposed activity includes: leafleting for the TUC demonstration on 26th March with some street theatre in Old Compton St and a public meeting in March.
The meeting agreed that the idea of a LGBTQ block on the TUC march would be taken back to the TUC LGBT Committee so that they could look at facilitating that.
The meeting noted the invisibility of LGBTQ in the anti-cuts campaigns and events. It was agreed to approach these campaigns to make sure the LGBTQ voice and issues are heard.
Two coming anti-cuts conferences were announced: the Right to Work People's Convention on 12th February and the Progressive London conference on 19th February.
There is to be another planning meeting of Queers Against the Cuts on 8th February in central London, where co-ordinators will be agreed to take the work forward.
If anyone is interested in being involved with Queers Against the Cuts please email
The next meeting of the Sertuc LGBT Network is on 9th February at 6 pm in TUC Congress House, Great Russell St WC1. Any Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Trans trade union member in London, South East or East of England is welcome to attend.
At the meeting there will be a report back on anti-cuts work in the region. For more information about the network you can contact its secretary: Thierry Schaffauser (GMB) on email