Friday, September 30, 2011

Vigil for Yemen at Downing Street

by New Worker correspondent

MEMBERS of the Yemeni community in London held a silent protest opposite Downing Street last Saturday to demonstrate against the killing of peaceful protesters in Sanaa by troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The vigil, timed to coincide with more mass protests in Yemen, was a silent one, with protesters standing with tape over their mouths with the message “Silence Kills” and placards listed the number of deaths and called for freedom rather than slaughter in the Yemen. Many held the red, white and black Yemeni tricolour and others had it painted on their faces.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Judge saves London fire engines

A HIGH Court judge last week granted an adjournment, delaying applications to wind up AssetCo, the private company that owns the fire engines used by the London and Lincoln fire brigades.
 This will give the company another month to negotiate a deal with its creditors to wipe out debts of over £100 million
 Mr Justice Floyd, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, granted applications to adjourn moves until 28th September to wind up the firm in favour of allowing the company to open negotiations with its creditors on a deal that will recover some of their lost investments.
 Last May the London Fire Brigades Union had expressed alarm at a move to bankrupt AssetCo, which owns London’s fire engines and 50,000 pieces of safety critical equipment.
 The union warned that any such move could see creditors move to sell the company’s assets to recover their debts.
 Northern Bank based in Belfast, had lodged a creditors’ petition – a move to bankruptcy – over a £1.3 million debt owed by AssetCo.
 The company warned shareholders it could only pay parts of its loans and informed them of the move by Northern Bank.
 The deeply troubled company is still in the running to secure a contract to train London’s firefighters. It is playing a key part in the Capital Training Solutions consortium, one of three preferred bidders to be chosen by the end of the year.
 Challenged by the FBU, the London fire brigade said its financial experts had examined each member of the consortium, including AssetCo, and confirmed the bidders were financially “stable”. This was only days after the company told shareholders it could not pay off all its loans.
 Ben Sprung, London FBU regional organiser said: “The company, which owns and maintains our fire engines and 50,000 pieces of equipment, is staring bankruptcy in the face. We could end with all London’s fire engines and kit being put up for sale to settle the debts.
 “Profits have crashed; the share price has collapsed and top staff, including a new finance director, have recently left.
 “It now can’t keep up all its loan payments and there is a move towards bankruptcy.
 “London fire service first said it had guarantees this could not happen but could not produce them. Now it says it has contingency plans if it does happen but they won’t say what they are.
 “There is a serious crisis looming and the only ones raising public concerns are the capital’s firefighters. It is a scandal that the ownership and maintenance of critical equipment is in the hands of a company which has reached this state.
 “There are serious issues of public safety here. The fire authority needs to set out what it has done and what fallback plans it has. The mayor needs to get a grip on this before it’s too late.”
 Currently the Mayor’s office, the heads of London Fire Brigade, AssetCo and its creditors are engaged in emergency negotiations to keep the fire engines on the road.
 They will probably reach a deal but it will probably end up with London council tax-payers footing the bill.
 The creditors named include state-owned Halifax Bank of Scotland which is owed £12 million and energy company, EDF, which suggests AssetCo may not have paid fuel bills for premises they run in London.
 Others include FD Direct, the Inland Revenue. They will still be big losers.
  FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Privatising emergency services is stupid and dangerous. The long, slow death of AssetCo is a perfect illustration of this.
 “We still do not know what is going to happen to London and Lincolnshire’s fire engines.  They are, we believe, going to be the property of AssetCo’s creditors when AssetCo finally goes under.  I call on the London Fire Brigade and the Government to bring the fleet and their maintenance back into public ownership.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Keep religion out of government

By New Worker correspondent

MILITANT atheists took to the streets of London last Saturday for a march and rally in the capital calling for an end to religious privileges and for European institutions to remain secular.            Several hundred people took part in the march organised by the Secular Europe Campaign that was originally launched in 2008 to challenge the enormous power and influence of the Vatican within the European Union. A similar protest was held in Rome the same day against the huge three billion euro tax exemption the Vatican enjoys.
But the British campaign is broader and "aims at representing all the issues around secularism and human rights, including opposition to state-funded faith schools, rejection of religious tribunals and support to equal rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender citizens."
Marco Tranchino, who is organising the Secular Europe Campaign, said: “Wherever the Pope goes now he will be sure to face criticism and protest. We want to keep the impetus going that started last year at the Protest the Pope event, and encourage all people who believe in separation of religion from the state to join us.”
Tranchino says that the Vatican has far too much influence on the institutions of the European Union and it was time for that to be challenged.
“We have the support of feminist, gay and secular groups from all around Europe and large numbers of individuals who are following us on social network sites. We hope that this will send a message to the governments of Europe and Great Britain that alarm is growing at the undue influence of religion on political decision-making. We want a secular Europe where there is room for everyone, whether they have a religious belief or not, where policy is directed only by elected politicians, not by priests who are answerable to no-one.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fighting talk at the TUC

by Daphne Liddle

THE ANNUAL conference of the TUC in London this week has set in motion plans for massive public sector strikes to defend pensions, including at least one, and possibly several, national strikes in November that could involve over two million workers.
This is in the teeth of threats from the Con-Dem Coalition to bring in new anti-union legislation and the disapproval of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of the giant union Unite, set the tone. He said: “This debate could be a ritual. We have it every year. Unanimously vote for the composite and then get on with working within laws which we do not really expect to be changed.
“It is time — past time — that we took a different approach. This composite makes it clear what is needed. Let me read just one sentence from it:
‘Congress calls on the TUC to develop an industrial strategy of resistance so that workers are not left to fight alone against draconian laws and exploiting bosses.’
“What does it mean? It will mean learning from the student movement’s struggles to support decent education.
“It will mean building on the impetus of the magnificent trade union march for an alternative this year, the biggest in our movement’s history.
“It will mean learning from our best fighting traditions. But it cannot mean meekly accepting the laws as it stands. Unite has spent enough time going in and out of courts arguing for the basic right of employees to collectively withdraw their labour. At British Airways and elsewhere.
“Of course we must win the argument for trade union rights. Use the language of fairness and freedom which resonates with those who are not our members. But let’s also say — if tax avoidance is lawful and unpunished. Let’s plan for anti-union law avoidance in the same spirit.”
He added that “coming to the end of 13 years of Labour government with the Thatcher laws still in place is a stain on Labour’s record. And a betrayal of its historic mission and purpose of advancing working people’s rights....
“Law is an essential thing for a civilised society of course. But class law, pushed through a parliament full of expense cheats, by a cobbled-together coalition which no-one voted for is not going to paralyse me and it should not paralyse our movement.”
McCluskey promised to bring Wisconsin to Westminster if the Government tried to outlaw the strikes. “Our rights — including the right to organise and struggle together for a better life for working people — are not the gift of ministers or judges. They are ours to assert.”
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “We will give them the biggest campaign of civil disobedience their tiny little minds can ever imagine. Bad laws have to be broken,” he said. “If going to prison is the price for standing up to bad laws, then so be it.”
Ed Miliband made a bland speech that was more union-friendly than any made by Blair or Gordon Brown. But he was heckled when he called for strikes to be postponed until negotiations had finished.
Bob Crow of the RMT said: “You can’t play political games when workers are facing the biggest all-out attack on their rights and their livelihoods since the war. A Labour leader who doesn’t stand by the workers is on a one-way ticket to oblivion.”
Matt Wrack, the leader of the Fire Brigades Union, said he thought the speech was “pretty feeble”, adding: “It was almost like he wanted to tick a box criticising strikes.”
Union leaders also had plenty of anger over Prime Minister David Cameron’s response to last month’s riots, with references to the “feral ruling class” and a return to Victorian values of the “undeserving poor”.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber spoke of the riots: “The Prime Minister chose to describe these events as ‘criminality pure and simple’. But it isn’t so simple and what happened in August actually revealed deep fractures within our society.
“A society that ranks among the most unequal anywhere in the developed world; where a super rich elite have been allowed to float free from the rest of us; where a generation of young people are growing up without work, without prospects, without hope. None harder hit than the black youngsters held back by an unemployment rate approaching 50 per cent.
“And yet as they have retreated to Victorian language about the undeserving poor, they have said nothing about moral disintegration among the rich. The financiers with huge assets sneakily channelled through the tax havens. The out-of-control traders and speculators who razed our economy to the ground. The super rich tax cheats whose greed impoverishes our schools and hospitals?.“And in a year when we commemorated the 25th anniversary of Wapping, let us say loud and clear that moral standards must apply to you too Mr Murdoch.”

Friday, September 09, 2011

They did not pass!

By Caroline Colebrook

THE ENGLISH Defence League (EDL) boasted that their planned march and rally in the East End of London would be a national event marking a turning point in the fortunes of the far-right violent Islamophobic organisation of neo-Nazis, football hooligans and other thugs.
 They intended to hold their march through Tower Hamlets’ Muslim community. But that community, along with anti-fascists from Hope not Hate, trade unionists and other activists campaigned for a ban on that march that that was aimed at bringing provocation, hatred and violence to the East End.
 They produced a 25,000-signature petition to Home Secretary Theresa May.
 The police have officially still failed to recognise the EDL as an extremist organisation but, after the riots of last month, the Metropolitan Police decided to support the request for a ban on the march.
 But the EDL still insisted on their statutory right to a static demonstration.
 Meanwhile Unite Against fascism organised a big counter demonstration.
 One the day the whole area of Aldgate and Whitechapel filled up with hundreds of police vans – including contingents from Strathclyde, Norwich Cumbria in the morning.
 The UAF demonstration began at 11am in the east of the area attended by several thousand, including groups of Muslim youths from the local community, who patrolled their own streets. More mature members of the Muslim community also patrolled as official stewards with a main aim of keeping the peace and preventing damage or injury.
 The EDL demonstration was not due to start until 2pm and reports came in of large numbers arriving and causing trouble in pubs around the Kings Cross area and that members of the RMT transport union had closed access to the Tube Station to keep them out of London’s Underground.
 Then there were reports that some had reached the pubs around Liverpool Street, close to Aldgate. But it was getting on for 3pm before a small group appeared waving flags, shouting and gesticulating.
 They were soon joined by others but there were never more than around 1,000 at the official protest. Some stragglers and late-comers ended up wandering lost around the area.
 The thousands of police surrounding the EDL halted them in the main road in front of the Aldgate Tower for their rally.
 The UAF and their supporters marched up to the end of Whitechapel High Street but were kept well apart from the EDL.
 EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon arrived disguised as a mock rabbi. After removing his disguise he have a speech in which he boasted that he was breaching the conditions of his bail, imposed recently at Luton and South Bedfordshire Magistrates’ Court. He had appeared there for an alleged assault during a demonstration in April in Blackburn.
 Police charged into the EDL crowd to arrest him and there was some confusion over whether they had succeeded but by evening Yaxley-Lennon was definitely in custody. According to latest reports he has begun a hunger strike in protest at being denied his “human right” to insult, provoke and beat up those who disagree with him.
 After a couple of hours it dawned on some of the EDL members that their protest was not actually in Tower Hamlets. The Griffin that marks the City of London boundary was a couple of hundred yards to the east of the EDL rally. They were still in the City; they had not even set foot in Tower Hamlets.
 A few tried in vain to charge the heavy police cordon. Thunder-flashes were thrown and there were heavy scuffles and 16 arrests. Eventually police escorted them away across Tower Bridge and into waiting coaches.
 Later that evening a rogue coach full of EDL supporters strayed down Whitechapel High Street, where it stopped outside the mosque as those on board shouted insults and abuse.
 The coach was soon surrounded by angry Muslim youths who broke some of the coach windows. An EDL woman was injured in the fracas that followed but was rescued by Muslim stewards from the mosque.
 Police soon flooded the area, commandeered a bus, put the EDL members on it and sent them out of the area. According to some reports it then broke down, according to others the driver became so exasperated he simply stopped it and walked away.
 Once again the EDL passengers were on the street and 44 of them were arrested.

Migrant domestic workers protest

HUNDREDS of migrant domestic workers gathered last Sunday in Old Palace Yard, Westminster to demonstrate against the Government’s proposed changes to the domestic workers’ visa.
 The British government has proposed to change the domestic workers’ visa and remove some of the most fundamental rights of migrant domestic workers, which could leave them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.
 At present migrant domestic workers have some protections. They are allowed to change their employer without losing their immigration status, meaning if they are mistreated, they can leave and find new non-exploitative work to support their families.
 They can seek justice through the police or the employment courts without fearing they will be deported.
 If these rights are removed, unscrupulous employers will know they can abuse and exploit with impunity.
 Justice 4 Domestic Workers, the domestic worker led group organising the rally, and supported by Kalayaan and Unite the union in demanding that the Government does not return slavery to Britain and that:
•           Domestic worker visa rights are retained, including the right to change employer and recognition as a worker covered by employment legislation;
•           Those who come to the UK with diplomats have these same rights;
•           The UK government ratifies and implements the International Labour Convention on domestic workers
 Marissa Begonia, chair of Justice 4 Domestic Workers, said: “Where are we heading if the minimal protection we have is about to be removed, back to the century of slavery?
 “The domestic worker visa has been our escape route from abusive employers and enabled us to rebuild our lives from this exploitative situation.
 “The UK government acknowledged the need to protect migrant domestic workers in 1998 and implemented the domestic workers’ visa. Why take back what is proven as the best protection of some of the most vulnerable workers?
 “We urge the Government to uphold the honour and dignity of the United Kingdom and improve the current working and living conditions of domestic workers. The more vulnerable the worker is, the more protection they need.”
 Jenny Moss, community advocate at Kalayaan, said: “Removing the vital protections associated with the domestic worker visa will undoubtedly lead to an increase in abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. It is shameful that the UK government intends to return us to slavery for the sake of knocking 1,000 people from their net migration total.”
 Diana Holland, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “The domestic worker visa was introduced with all-party support to right a very serious wrong. It is horrifying to contemplate a return to the slavery and bonded labour before the visa. This Government cannot brush the issue of slavery under the carpet.”

Education workers to lobby MPs

AROUND 25,000 teachers and lecturers are expected to gather at Parliament on Wednesday 26th October in a mass lobby to protest against savage pension cuts in the education sector.
 The action is part of a joint campaign by seven leading education unions to draw attention to the myths surrounding the debate on pensions and to the severity of the cuts being proposed.
 The campaign, Decent Pensions: Securing the Future for All, aims to have a representative at the lobby from every school in the maintained, academy and independent sectors in England and Wales as well as from colleges and post-92 universities (approximately 25,000 in total), and many institutions are expected to send groups of staff to swell numbers even further.
The lobby is being held during the half-term holiday to avoid interrupting schoolchildren’s education and causing disruption for parents. But the seven unions have not ruled out further industrial action if the Government continues to erode pensions.
  Information is going out this week to schools, colleges and post-92 universities along with petitions to be signed by staff on behalf of their school or college.
  Organisers of the campaign issued this statement: “The fact that thousands of teachers and lecturers from around the country are giving up a day of their half-term holiday to come to London to lobby MPs shows just how high feelings are running. The profession is absolutely united in condemning the scandalous way pensions are being ransacked to pay off the national debt.
  “The public has a right to know that cuts could ultimately affect the quality of education for young people as high calibre graduates re-think their career choice. We will also be challenging the myths about how public sector pensions impact on taxpayers.
  “Teachers and lecturers never take strike action lightly and for this reason the lobby has been organised during half term, to ensure there is no disruption to pupils or parents.
  “However if the Government continues to erode pensions, which they know are both affordable and sustainable, teachers will be left with no option but to take further action, including strike action.
  “We urge the Government to listen to the message that this lobby sends. Teachers cannot stand by and see their pensions eroded for purely political reasons. It is entirely possible to avoid further disruption but for that to happen the Government needs to negotiate fairly.”

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

New Worker Pamphlets

Just out...

  •  The Poisoned Well
an insight into imperialist penetration of the communist movement
revised edition of articles first published in the New Worker in 2002

  • The Case for Communism

  • Documents of the 16th Congress of the New Communist Party

  • The first 30 fighting years of the New Communist Party

  • Communists in Britain today

  • 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

All prices include 50p postage and packing. Orders to:

NCP Lit,
PO Box 73
London SW11 2PQ

Saturday, September 03, 2011


by Daphne Liddle

ANTI-FASCISTS last week were delighted to learn that the Government has finally decided to ban a planned march by the Islamophobic English Defence League (EDL) through Muslim areas of Tower Hamlets.
This follows months of campaigning by Hope not Hate and a petition with over 25,000 signatures, backed by leading trade unions and local community activists.
But what finally moved Home Secretary Theresa May was the rioting a few weeks ago, which showed up how precarious is the police hold on keeping control when large numbers of youths defy them.
And it was the Metropolitan Police who finally asked for a ban.
But the ban May has imposed is a blanket ban for one month on all marches within six east London Boroughs: the City, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Islington and Hackney.
Some activists are concerned this will also rule out an anti-fascist counter demonstration and any other anti-cuts or anti-war demonstrations. They argue that anti-fascists should not rely on the state to stop the fascists but should do this by mass labour movement and local community action. They point to the crowds who came out and succeeded in stopping Mosley’s Blackshirts in 1936 — almost exactly 75 years ago.
But those working class and community masses, led by the Communist Party, fought mainly with the police who were trying to force a way through for the fascists.
This time the police are on the other side. They will be stopping the fascists from marching.
The EDL, according to latest reports, has insisted on its right to a static demonstration in Whitechapel Sainsbury’s car park. But it will be heavily “kettled”.
And if large numbers of anti-fascists flood the area next Saturday there is a real danger of an enormous three-cornered fight breaking out — which is exactly what the EDL want — and what the local community of all religions and ethnicities does not want.
Retired Searchlight editor Gerry Gable told the New Worker: “This is a crazy idea. Who do they think is going to stop the EDL? Look at the balance of forces. Starting a fight with the police would be completely insane.”
And the current Searchlight editor, Nick Lowles, wrote on the ban on the march: “This decision is a victory for common sense. The EDL clearly intended to use the proposed march to bring violence and disorder to the streets of Tower Hamlets.
“Their plan has been foiled.
“While the EDL might still decide to hold a static protest they will not now be able to march through residential areas and, most importantly, march past the East London mosque. A static protest will be far easier to police and it will probably also discourage a lot of EDL supporters from travelling.”
And he thanked the 25,300 people who signed the petition, the hundreds of people who donated to the campaign fund and the dozens of people who came out campaigning in Tower Hamlets.
The EDL are mixed collection of out-and-out neo-Nazis, football hooligans, former squaddies and a few bigots who have been taken in by their pretence that it is only Islam that the EDL wants to fight.
They have recently lost their Zionist supporters and the EDL is full of factional rifts. But this makes it more unpredictable. It is notoriously violent and was admired by Norwegian neo-Nazi Anders Breivik.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Our place in the sun!

NEW WORKER readers took a chance on the weather when they turned up for the Metropolitan supporters group garden party in Charlton last weekend. But rain did not stop play and comrades were able to enjoy good food and drink throughout the afternoon while the discussion ranged from the part played by the hidden hand in the union movement to role of Soviet and Anglo-American commanders in the Second World War. Our paper was not forgotten either and over £50 was raised for the New Worker.