Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bahrain's struggle for freedom

By New Worker correspondent

The struggle of the Bahraini people for democratic rights was the topic of the meeting of the Metropolitan New Worker Supporters Group last week. London supporters were briefed on the developments in Bahrain by Karen Dabrowska who has written many articles for the New Worker over the years. This was then followed by a general discussion on the current struggles throughout the Arab world.
The Metropolitan supporters group is chaired by Andy Brooks and it meets every month in the Sid French library at the Party Centre in south London and membership is open to all regular readers of the New Worker .

No to War!

by Theo Russell

Peace campaigners gathered opposite Downing Street on Sunday for an emergency protest called by the Stop the War Coalition against the Western-led military aggression against Libya.
Left Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn told protestors that the action “is all about oil, it’s about control, and it’s sending a message to the rest of the region that we can do this if we want to,” adding “I fear we will are going to be involved in a ground war”.
“There is unbelievable hypocrisy here. Thirty people were killed in Yemen on Thursday, last week protestors were shot in Oman, and the Saudi army is now occupying Bahrain.”
Condemning the Arab League’s support for the so-called “no-fly zone”, Corbyn asked “Which leader of the Arab world is not under pressure from his own people who want human rights, freedom and democracy?”
“You reap what you sow, and we have sold arms to every country in this region. Only three weeks ago we were happily trading and buying oil from Colonel Gaddafi’s Libya,” Corbyn said, and added that as yet there is no undertaking from the British government not to us use cluster bombs or depleted uranium weapons.
George Galloway of the Respect Renewal party reminded the protesters that Sunday marked the eighth anniversary of the launching of “the Shock and Awe savagery against Baghdad”, and predicted: “This bombardment of Libya will not succeed. This will be a long war, and the radicalisation of the Arab world will proceed apace”.
Recalling the involvement of European colonialism in North Africa, he said “the last time Italian forces were in Libya, they were wearing the uniforms of Mussolini Fascism. Only last year Silvio Berlusconi agreed to pay €5 billion in compensation for war crimes committed during the Italian occupation of that country.”
And he recalled that “the Algerians had to give one million martyrs to drive the French out of their country.”
Galloway said that when asked last Saturday which Arab countries were participating in the operations in Libya, a senior Pentagon spokesman had replied: “those countries prefer that their names are not mentioned in public”.
Linsday German of the Stop the War Coalition said “the coalition government is taking us into a third war in this region,” and said “The people of Libya will not be helped by this intervention, they will be harmed, just as the people of Iraq and Afghanistan have been harmed.”
She said Cameron, Sarkosi and Berlusconi were using this opportunity “to cover up their failed domestic policies by launching another war.”
“The Arab League signed up to this attack as a quid pro quo so that Saudi forces could enter Bahrain. There are now 400 political prisoners in Bahrain, including the leader of the opposition, yet there’s not a word from our government or the BBC.”
German ended by listing the demands of peace campaigners: “Hands Off the Middle East, no interventions, stop all the wars, and bring all the troops home”.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Police officer taped his own offence

A POLICE officer engaged in trying to arrest a student during one of the anti-tuition fees demonstrations at the end of last year incriminated himself, it appears, when he apparently forgot he was wearing equipment often carried to record suspects as he chased the 20-year-old.
He detained the student, who suffered a chipped tooth during the incident on 9th December, after he breached a cordon.
The Met officer then discussed making up reasons to arrest him with two colleagues, internal investigators believe.
All three are on restricted duties and warned they face a criminal probe for conspiracy to pervert justice. They could also be sacked.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Remembering Marx

At Highgate…

By New Worker

A NEW COMMUNIST Party delegation joined other communists and progressives in saluting the memory of Karl Marx at the annual ceremony in Highgate Cemetery in north London last Sunday.
NCP leaders Andy Brooks and Alex Kempshall, along with Robert Laurie, and Daphne Liddle from the Central Committee represented the New Communist Party, along with New Worker supporters from London. The turnout included Library committee members, members of other communist parties around the world and delegations from the London embassies of socialist countries, including Cuba, People’s China and Vietnam and the Sudan, and Iraq many of whom laid flowers at the grave.
Every year a representatives of the working class movement are asked to give an address and this year Robert Griffiths, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, opened with a brief tribute to Marx and the Paris Commune. This was then followed by a keynote speech from the Cuban ambassador Esther G Armenteros Cárdenas.
She spoke of her first encounter with the name of Karl Marx as a schoolgirl in Cuba. The day after the Batista regime was thrown out, for the first time she and her schoolfriends were free to play on the beach that had been fenced off for the exclusive use of the very rich – certainly not for young black children from very poor households. As they were playing a small plane from Florida passed over, scattering pamphlets that called on them to fight the new “Marxist dictatorship”.
Comrade Cardenas and her friends were well pleased with the new freedoms and improvements in living standards and within a few weeks, thousands of workers who had never heard of Marx before, were ready and willing to fight to defend their Marxist state – as they did in the Bay of Pigs incident.
The ceremony on Sunday ended fittingly with a rousing chorus of the Internationale!
photo: Andy Brooks at the tomb of Marx

...and the Party Centre

by New Worker

THE IMMENSE contribution of Karl Marx to the cause of socialism was remembered by comrades and friends at the New Communist Party’s London Centre last Saturday at a reception to mark the 128th anniversary of the passing of the founder of scientific socialism.
As usual the main meeting room and the print shop were transformed for the bar and buffet and during the formal part of the celebrations tributes to the work and struggle of Marx were given by Dermot Hudson of the UK Korean Friendship Association, John McLeod of the Socialist Labour Party, Ernie Hunt from the RCPB (ML) and NCP General Secretary Andy Brooks.
No NCP event goes by without a collection for the New Worker and Dolly Shaer from the Politburo spoke graphically about the struggle to ensure that our communist weekly comes out every week. The comrades responded by raising some £200 for the fighting fund. Most comrades left at 10.30pm but the die-hards kept the bar open till well gone twelve!

photo: digging deep for the fighting fund

For service to the movement

By New Worker

ROBERT LAURIE’S long service on the committee of the Marx Memorial Library was recognised at a presentation at the Star pub in Highgate Village following the graveside address at Marx’ s tomb last Sunday.
Robert, a member of the Central Committee of the NCP, resigned from the Library’s governing council when he moved back to Scotland last summer. But he follows the progress of the library through its newsletter and keeps in touch when he comes down to London for events and meetings.
The gift was presented by the Marx Library Chair Fred Williams and it was appropriately an inscribed whisky decanter, which Robert said would be put to good use when he got back home!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Progressive London conference

“The worth of a city is how it treats its people”.

By Theo Russell

LABOUR movement and trade union activists came together at the TUC’s Congress House in London on 19th February 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.
Linda Perks, secretary of Unison’s London Region, told the session on spending cuts that in the coming financial year 80,000 public sector job losses were expected in the capital along with “increased charges across the board”.
She said the “Pathfinder” bodies replacing NHS primary care trusts and supported by private companies, would see “large trusts gobble up failed ones”, and said “in 10 years there will be no NHS hospitals left, and hospitals could be listed on the Stock Exchange”.
“Academy schools will also effectively become private businesses, while whole college and university departments and London’s three Royal Mail sorting offices are expected to close,” she said. “This will have a major impact on employment in London and lead to a huge rise in welfare benefit costs.”
Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe, who is leader of London Councils, said: “Tory health advisor David Halpern is proposing European-style ‘patient hotels’, in which patients and partners are shown how to clean wounds, to put in drip lines, and manage their own treatment.” He said this was part of a wider Tory agenda of renouncing government responsibilities, such as providing lollipop ladies to ensure children get to school safely.
On the vital question of the role of Labour councils in implementing cuts, Pipes said: “It’s pointless protesting against councils where cuts are being made. Protests should be against those people who question the foundations of almost every service.”
This position was supported by Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, who said: “Not all Labour councils are the same – some engage more than others”. He gave the example of Greenwich, which was sacking Unite stewards and “acting like the worst Tory councils”.
James Mills, from the campaign to save the Education Maintenance Allowance, said that getting rid of EMA would actually cost millions more and was therefore driven by Tory ideology. According to the Audit Commission, “NEETs” (people not in employment, education or training) cost far more in benefits than if they were doing courses.
He said the think tank “experts” who proposed scrapping EMA now all have jobs at the ministry of education. Looking at the grim prospects for young people, Mills said some middle class families were “auctioning” their children for city internships costing up to £4,000.
He also quoted Katharine Birbalsingh, the teacher who became the star of the Tory conference with a rabid attack on comprehensive schools, as describing young people on EMA as “i-pod-listening goons”.
McCluskey said 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”.

Ireland – “A depression, not a recession”

Mitchel McGlaughlin, senior Sinn Féin negotiator, told the session on Ireland: “When Sinn Féin proposed transferring fiscal powers from London to Belfast it was opposed by every other party. Now every party in the Assembly supports that idea”. The Treasury’s response was to warn if this went through grants would fall by £300 million.
“The banks are now targeting small businesses under EU laws which allow them to change the terms of loans, making peoples’ savings and homes liable,” he said.
McGlaughlin called for a “coalition of the left” after the election in the Republic, saying that “replacing Fianna Fail with Fine Gael will not get a stable government. It won’t be long before people’s anger boils over again”.
He also warned: “The Franco-German pact at the last EU summit giving Brussels control over government deficits, will not be subject to a referendum and so rules out the indexing of wages and prices.”
Michael Burke, an expert on the Irish economy, said the country was experiencing “a depression, not a recession, with a 20 per cent fall in economic activity”.
“The government deficit is now twice the level of GDP as Greece and three times that of the UK. And the Fianna Fail-led coalition is cutting unemployment benefits by a quarter to encourage emigration as a safety valve”. More than 100,000 people have already left Ireland since 2007, many young and skilled.

London: “A tale of two cities”

Labour front bench member John Trickett told the final conference session that one in five households in London with work are also in poverty and described London as “a tale of two cities, with the shameful sight of US-style food parcels being handed out”. Of the 200,000 new jobs created in London in 2010, almost 95 percent were only part-time. Meanwhile average pay at Barclays Capital went up almost 50 per cent in 2010-2011 to £236,000.
He said: “After 1945, when the national debt was 250 per cent of GDP (compared to around 70 per cent now), we built an NHS, we built an education system, and we built affordable housing.”
Diane Abbott described the erosion of hard-won rights for women and minorities in the NHS, one of the main employers in London, and said “in the new NHS, it will be last in, first out. We are fighting for nothing less than the NHS itself.
“On top of this women will now have to work to the age of 65, housing benefits are being cut, and tuition fees are being tripled”. She added that she had voted against the introduction of tuition fees and the Iraq War.
Shadia Edwards-Dashti from Students Stop the War said that in higher education “social sciences are being bled dry, the very source of ideas”. She called for “a broad education, accessible to all and to all communities” and pledged that students would continue to fight despite being “kettled like cattle and deprived of liberty”.

Livingstone: bring back rent controls

In his keynote speech Ken Livingstone said spending cuts began early in London: “Under Boris Johnson every capital spending programme has been cut except the bike hire scheme sponsored by Barclays.”
He predicted fares in London “will eventually increase by 50 percent”, and 13,000 fewer new houses would be built during Johnson’s term. He also quoted research showing that most of Johnson’s campaign donations had come from hedge funds – among the most reckless and profitable financial speculators in existence.
“All this is happening,” he added, “in the richest city in Europe, with a GDP 20 per cent ahead of the next richest city, Brussels, and twice the European average. Despite this London has by far the worst poverty and social inequality of any major city in Europe.”
Livingstone said: “During his three years in office “Boris has held seven press conferences, 43 meetings on policing, 60 meetings with government ministers, and 70 meetings with bankers.”
He called for the restoration of the rent controls which were abolished by Margaret Thatcher, pointing out that New York still has controls on private rents even now.
“The proportion of GDP going into wages has dropped from two thirds to 54 per cent in 30 years. There is no crisis requiring international intervention in the immediate future,” he said, adding that Britain’s national debt was substantially higher than the European average “because we need weapons to fight America’s wars – against the Soviet Union and now against Middle East”.
Referring to the election of Ed Milliband, he said that “for the first time since John Smith I’m confident that we have a Labour leader I can talk to,” adding that John McDonnell was “the first left-wing Labour candidate to get onto the leadership ballot for 20 years”..
“I’m delighted that my campaign is proudly supported by trade unions.”
On the vital question of how Labour councils should respond to spending cuts, Livingstone recalled the stand taken by George Lansbury and 29 Labour councillors in 1921, who went to prison for refusing to implement a large increase in the rates in Poplar, East London. ”The worth of a city,” he said, “is not its buildings and towers, but how it treats its people”.