Monday, January 23, 2012

Which way forward for the labour movement?

By New Worker

NEW COMMUNIST Party comrades joined a debate on the way forward for the labour movement at a conference in south London last Saturday organised by the RCPB (ML).  NCP leader Andy Brooks together with National Chair Alex Kempshall, Robert Laurie and Theo Russell from the Central Committee took part in the discussion that was kicked off by Michael Chant at the John Buckle Centre last Saturday.
 Comrades focused on what next after the success of the huge public sector strike in November, the struggle for peace and the building of the working class agenda throughout the country.
 The initiative of the RCPB (ML) follows the conclusions of their national consultative conference last November to develop the necessary organisation to resist the current bourgeois offensive against the working class. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

EDL attack East London Mosque

confronting the EDL in Barking
  by New Worker correspondent

MEMBERS of the violent Islamophobic English Defence League last Saturday evening attempted to attack the East London Mosque in Whitechapel after leaving an EDL rally in Barking earlier that afternoon.
 Police escorted them on to a train at Barking headed for central London, but a large number got off at Aldgate East and went into a local pub. According the reports, after drinking for some time EDL thugs barged into the pub kitchen and seized knives.
 They then went out on the street and made for the East London Mosque. But local residents turned out quickly and in large numbers to stop them.
 This led to a fight involving several hundred people, according to police reports. One man was seriously injured and taken to hospital and 15 people were arrested. All were later released on police bail.
 Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said she visited the area after she became aware of police being called.
 She said: "I was out visiting constituents when I saw the police cars. As far as I could see, the police were doing their job. There were a lot of young people around but the police are very adept at handling these situations.”
 Earlier that day over 150 EDL supporters had assembled from all over England near Barking Station in east London at the Barking Dog public house.
 As they became drunk and noisy, local people passing looked very concerned and hurried on their way. The EDL thugs chanted slogans, sang and claimed “We own these streets” and “You’re not English”.
 They then engaged in a short march past local shops. The marchers continually abused local shoppers and shopkeepers, especially those who looked as though they might be Asian.
 A group of around 50 members of United Against Fascism (UAF) mounted a spirited counter demonstration at very short notice.
 The march ended in a square beside the Town Hall with the very noisy EDL corralled by police at one end and the UAF at the other.
 Some local youths of mixed ethnicity wandered into the middle at one stage and observed the two groups for some time before turning and about a dozen of them joined the UAF group, joining in with the anti-fascist slogans and holding up UAF placards.
 Towards the end of the rally the EDL members suddenly decided to harass and intimidate press photographers present. Police then escorted them to Barking station.
 Gerry Gable, editor of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, told the New Worker, he was very concerned that the police had allowed a large number of them to leave the train together at Aldgate East, where they later tried to attack the East London Mosque.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Charity to take over Bexley library... a price

THE SMALL LIBRARY in Bexley Village in south-east London is to be taken over and run by a charity, Greener Bexley, which will introduce charges for many services that are now free.
 Regular users are critical of this move, saying they already pay for it through their council tax and it will create a two-tier service and discourage young people from using the library. And many are wondering if this is the shape of things to come for other council services.
 Bexley Council has agreed the library will be managed by charity, Greener Bexley, through a community group called Bexley Village Community Library (BVCL), which will take over the library in spring, saving the council around £40,000 a year.
 It will continue to offer free membership of the library but people will also be able to pay for memberships that provide extra benefits, at annual rates of £24 or £75.
 All customers will pay to use the desktop IT facilities but wi-fi access will be free. BVCL will not loan CDs or DVDs, but instead it will sell them while encouraging their return after use so they can be re-sold.
 David Hinds, of Hill Crescent, Bexley, is a regular user of the library. The retired grandfather-of-three said: "The bare bones of the agreement seem to be not quite what I was anticipating at all. I think it's all fairly appalling. I feel it's introducing a two-tier system."
 BVCL will run the library independently of the council’s library network, though the council will supply some book stock on an annual basis and a part-time member of staff with experience of running a library.
 BVCL is planning to introduce three levels of membership to the library:
* Reader’s ticket – free membership and free loans of stock, with some limits to the numbers of items which can be borrowed. Due dates and fines will apply.
* Library member – a £24 annual fee will see people join as full members of the wider charity. Benefits will include being able to borrow a higher number of books, keeping books for an unlimited time, a free period of use on the public computers, discounts in the cafe and priority booking for events.
 * Gold membership – customers can join as a “patron” for a £75 annual subscription. Members would be making a donation to the running costs of the library and attracting additional funds to the charity through Gift Aid. BVCL will reinvest income earned through membership in new library stock.
 Meanwhile the public sector union Unison is campaigning to defend library services from closure or being hived off like Bexley Village Library.
 Unison, the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), Voices for the Library, The Library Campaign, Campaign for the Book and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) last week announced they will hold a joint lobby of Parliament calling on politicians to protect vital library services.
 During the lobby, on 13th March, the campaigning group will highlight the importance of libraries in providing access to learning and as a vital lifeline for many communities. The lobby will take place at midday, on 13th March, at central Hall, Westminster.
 Heather Wakefield, Unison head of local government, said: “Cutting libraries is not an easy solution for councils to save cash – it is a literacy time bomb for deprived communities.
 “Community groups are being held to ransom by Government plans to force them to take over the running of services, or lose them. These groups don’t have the time, skills and resources to take over the jobs of experienced library staff.”

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Stephen Lawrence: Some Sense of Justice

by Daphne Liddle

GARY DOBSON and David Norris, two of the men involved of the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence on 22nd April 1993 in Eltham, were last Tuesday found guilty of the murder.
This follows a titanic struggle for justice by the Lawrence family, in particular Stephen’s mother Doreen Lawrence, in the face of police racism and hostility, presuming that Lawrence, being black and young, must also be a criminal.
The family were supported by a huge, spontaneous anti-fascist movement that mushroomed in south London after that murder and a spate of other racist killings, including Rolan Adams and Rohit Duggal, in the area at a time when the neo-Nazi British National Party had set up its headquarters in nearby Welling.
When the police and Crown Prosecution Service failed the Lawrences, the trade union movement funded a private prosecution against three of the five chief suspects.
But this collapsed because the evidence given by Stephen Lawrence’s best friend, Duwayne Brookes, the only eye-witness, was ruled inadmissible because a police officer had put Brookes in a position where he saw the suspects at the police station so that his identification evidence was deemed unreliable.
The suspects were released, believing that under the double jeopardy rules, they could never be charged again. They thought they had got off.
But the family did not give up. In 1997 the new Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw initiated the McPherson Inquiry into the police handling of the case.
What came out shocked the nation: the police contempt towards the bereaved family and suggestions of police corruption. The police force was found to be institutionally racist — meaning that black and ethnic minority people seeking justice usually had a worse outcome than white people in the same situation.
This state of affairs applied to many other institutions of the state and wide ranging changes were introduced to require these institutions to monitor themselves to make sure that black and ethnic minority people received equal treatment.
It did lead to some real changes in policing, particularly in London and especially when Ken Livingstone was mayor of London.
It also led to non-stop whingeing from sections of the bourgeois, covertly racist sections of the press about “political correctness gone mad”. The covert racists have not gone away and the struggles against institutional racism, especially in the police, are fought on shifting sands.
Dev Barrah who led the Race Attack Monitoring Unit of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality for a couple of decades found that the new senior police officers at Plumstead were good and willing to get to grips with race awareness. And then they moved on.
Others came and the process had to begin all over again. Some senior officers were clearly doing the race awareness work as a box they had to tick on their way to a good career.
Then came the “war on terror”, Islamophobia, the revival of the racist Stop-and-Search policy and Boris Johnson for mayor of London. Relations between the police and black and ethnic minority communities started to decline again — leading to last summer’s riots.
Cressida Dick, Acting Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, in 2006 had set up a dedicated cold case forensic team to look again at all the evidence in the Lawrence case.
This resulted in last week’s convictions of Dobson, who will serve a minimum of 15 years and two months, and Norris, who will serve a minimum of 14 years and three months.
This has brought some relief for the family — partial justice. Doreen Lawrence made it quite clear she cannot celebrate while her son lies buried and there are still more perpetrators to bring to justice.
There is no new evidence at the moment. But Dobson and Norris will soon realise they could never get parole unless they express genuine remorse and regret — and that must include a full account of what went on that night implicating the other attackers.
Dev Barrah also commented|: “No justice, no peace, what about the other three?”
Gerry Gable, editor of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, told the New Worker: “It was a great result,” and praised the efforts of Cressida Dick. But he also said it was only a partial victory so far — and that there are “bent coppers” still to be brought to justice.
But the most credit for the success so far has to go to Doreen Lawrence, whose single-minded determination has caused a sea change in policing in Britain. But, as she acknowledged the power of the “Stephen Lawrence legacy” she said: “I would rather have my son back and living his life than any legacy”.

Please feel free to use this material provided the New Worker is informed and credited.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Cornelius Cardew: composer, musician and fighter for the people's cause

Kerry Yong

by Theo Russell

MUSICIANS and political activists gathered on 17th  December at London’s Conway Hall to honour a great cultural figure, pioneering musician and fighter: Cornelius Cardew.
 Seven musicians – pianists and violinists – performed works celebrating working class, anti-fascist and anti-imperialist struggles, and the public premiere of Cornelius Cardew – TheContent of Our Song, a superb film by Stuart Monro (available on Youtube).
 By his early 20s Cardew’s talent was sufficiently recognised for the German modernist composer Karlheinz Stockhausen to employ him as an assistant. He said of Cardew:
 “As a musician he was outstanding because he was not only a good pianist but also a good improviser... I gave him work to do which I have never given to any other musician, which means to work with me on the score I was composing. He was one of the best examples that you can find among musicians because he was well informed about the latest theories of composition as well as being a performer.”
 Monro’s film provides further testimony to Cardew’s talent, in an interview with Sir Thomas Armstrong, then principal of the Royal Academy of Music (and hardly left-wing!). Armstrong explains his decision to give Cardew a post in spite of his left-wing views and activities, in the belief that would inspire a new generation of young musicians.
 Monro’s film shows Cardew’s complete integration of music with the political struggles of his time, with Cardew and fellow musicians performing from the back of a lorry on demonstrations.
 While teaching experimental music at Morley College in London 1968, Cardew helped launch the Scratch Orchestra, a large ensemble which anyone could join and for which he is probably best known. (A film by Monro of the orchestra, when he forgot to remove the lens cap, was described by one student as the “best avant-garde film ever”).
 The Scratch Orchestra pioneered a new style of participatory music involving music, ordinary sounds and day-to-day activities. It took music to the people, performing not just at concert venues but in village halls.
 In the early 1970s Cardew abandoned avant garde music and wrote the book entitled Stockhausen Serves Imperialism, which was critical of his own involvement with Stockhausen and avant garde music.
 He joined the People’s Liberation Music collective, which used culture to support the liberation struggle in Ireland, striking miners, and the fight against the revival of neo-Nazism
 Cardew became an admirer of Hardial Bains, the Canadian communist leader and leading anti-revisionist, who contributed the lyrics to the signature song of his later career We Sing for the Future. Cardew went on to be a member of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
 He died in a hit-and-run car accident near his London home in East London on 13th December 1981. The driver was never found, and some have suggested he was killed because of his political activities.
 The concert included revolutionary songs from Cardew’s Piano Albums, including the Thaelmann Variations, performed by Chisato Kusunoki, based on the theme of The Thaelmann Song (1934). It celebrates the German communist leader Ernst Thaelmann, who spent over 11 years in solitary confinement before being executed by the Nazis at Buchenwald in 1944.
 Two pieces were based on famous Irish patriotic songs from the 1798 United Irish Rising, Boolavogue, about Father Murphy who emerged as a leader of the rising and was tortured and executed by the British (performed by The Ivory Duo – Panayotis Archontides and Natalie Tsaldarakis), and The Croppy Boy describing the capture and execution of a young “croppy” (rebel), played by Haydn Dickenson.
 The Vietnam Sonata, celebrating the victories of the Vietnamese people, was played by David Griffiths. The Worker’s Song, an industrial folk tune which with new lyrics by the Progressive Cultural Association beginning with the words “I am a worker and I say it with pride”, was performed by Lesley Larkum on violin.
 The concert ended with We Sing for the Future a piano solo performed by Kerry Yong, which Cardew described as “for youth, who face bleak prospects in the world dominated by imperialism, and whose aspirations can only be realised through the victory of revolution and socialism”.
 Cardew may not be widely known today, but this event will contribute towards making Cardew’s unique contribution and ideals relevant to the struggles we face today.
 In the words of the concert programme: “Cardew was a leading figure in the struggle against racism and fascism, organising the youth to take control of their future, and rousing the workers in defence of their rights.”