Friday, February 17, 2012

Commemorating the life of Kim Jong Il

Comrades Dermot Hudson, Andy Brooks, Michael Chant and Mun Myong Sin

By New Worker correspondent

FRIENDS of Korea met in London’s historic Marx House last Saturday to commemorate the life of Kim Jong Il, the Democratic Korean leader who sadly passed away in December. But this was no solemn occasion but a celebration of the life of a revolutionary devoted to the Workers Party of Korea and the democratic people’s republic that has been a red bastion in Asia since its foundation in 1948.
            New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks, who chaired the meeting, said it was fitting that we should recall the life and work of Kim Jong Il in the building where Britain’s first Marxists, like Harry Quelch, worked and provided Lenin with rooms to edit and print the underground Russian paper, Iskra, when the Bolshevik leader lived in exile in London.
            The event, organised by the Friends of Korea committee, began with a short documentary film about Mount Myohyang, a national park in Democratic Korea that Kim Jong Il personally helped to conserve for the Korean people. This was followed by contributions from two leading members of the friendship committee on the life of Kim Jong Il. Michael Chant from the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML) spoke about the Korean leader’s efforts in building the Korean communist movement over the decades while Dermot Hudson of the Korean Friendship Association opened on the development of the Juche idea and Songun politics under the direction of Kim Jong Il.
 Comrade Mun Myong Sin, a diplomat from the London embassy of the DPR Korea then joined the panel for a question and answer session which developed into a general discussion on life in Democratic Korea today.
The Co-ordinating Committee of Friends of Korea consists of the European Regional Society for the Study of the Juche Idea, UK Korean Friendship Association, New Communist Party of Britain, Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) and the Socialist Labour Party, and another meeting is planned for March.

Campaigning in Lewisham against war

by New Worker correspondent

Members of Lewisham Stop the War braved the intense cold weather last Saturday to hand out leaflets and information opposing Western intervention in Iran or Syria.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bloody Sunday book launch

Julieann Campbell speaking

by New Worker correspondent

A new book recounting the remarkable story of the campaign fought by the Bloody Sunday families has been published by Dublin-based Liberties Press, marking the 40th anniversary of the massacre. Setting the Truth Free: The Inside Story of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign was launched in London last Friday at the Bookmarks Bookshop in Bloomsbury by the author, Julieann Campbell, and leading Human Rights lawyer Gareth Peirce. Campbell’s uncle was among the Bloody Sunday victims, and she now works for the Bloody Sunday Trust which runs the highly successful Museum of Free Derry. The speakers highlighted the fact that the campaign for justice for the 1971 Ballymurphy massacre in Belfast, in which 11 unarmed civilians were murdered by the Parachute Regiment, still continues. Unlike Bloody Sunday, there was no international media presence, and as a result no photos or film of the killings.

Setting the Truth Free is published by the Irish Liberties Press and it is available from most high street bookshops or directly from the publisher at €13.99.

Friday, February 10, 2012

International law and justice

By New Worker Correspondent

CAN THERE be true international justice when different countries and systems have such different values and concepts of justice?
 This was the theme of an enlightening debate among senior international lawyers and scholars last Friday evening at the Brunei Gallery lecture theatre at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (Soas).
 The debate, entitled “International justice: between impunity and show trials” was chaired by Dr Stephen Hopgood of Soas.
 The main speaker was Stephen Kay QC – the man who had been appointed by the Court at The Hague to defend Slobodan Milosevic, much against Milosevic’s will because he had wanted to defend himself.
 Kay had stepped in at short notice to replace the controversial lawyer Jacques Vergès, who defended Khmer Rouge leaders and Nazi war criminals, as he could not attend because of bronchitis.
 The debate was opened by Finnish lawyer Martti Koskenniemi, international lawyer and a former Finnish diplomat. Currently he is professor of International Law in the University of Helsinki and Director of the Erik Castrén Institute of International Law and Human Rights. He is well known for his critical approach to international law.
 “Every trial is a political trial and a show trial,” he began, “which represents the power hierarchy and set of values of the country.”
 He argued that every trial is a connivance of all parties to agree with and support the ethics of the court.
 Then he went on to speak on the role of the show trial – where everyone knows the outcome before it begins and the purpose of the trial is a political statement. Being the defendant in a show trial does not automatically make them either innocent or guilty but the procedure in the court has little to do with this. And usually far more evidence is brought than necessary in order to lengthen proceedings and keep it in the headlines.
 Stephen Kay agreed with this up to a point. He stressed that the trial of Milosevic had definitely been a show trial to divert world attention from the very illegal Nato bombing of Belgrade – which has never been challenged in any court.
 Milosevic had been aware of this and from his point of view it was hopeless to try to win so instead he tried to do what he could to challenge the legal validity of his accusers.
 Kay also spoke at length on the continual shifting of the definitions of human rights, crimes against humanity in international law – which began at Nuremburg and were controversial at the time – but have shifted with the political winds ever since.
 The question of sovereignty was another thorny issue and international law has now shifted to allow Nato to make military interventions in other countries “to protect civilians” – a pretext that can give them almost carte blanche.
 Other speakers included Polina Levina and Robert Murtfeld and there was a good debate that included many lawyers and law students in the well-filled lecture theatre. There was no concluding statement but the general view seemed that international law was seriously flawed but better than nothing and that it should improve with time.
 It raised many serious points about the power of vested political interests to determine the meaning of justice but did not involve the dialectics of the class struggle.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Wheelchair protesters block Oxford Circus

 DISABLED campaigners in wheelchairs last Saturday blocked Oxford Circus – one of central London’s busiest junctions – for two hours to protest at Con-Dem Coalition cuts to welfare and disability benefits.
 The group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) was backed by the activist group UK Uncut, which aims to pressure wealthy businesses into paying their fair share of taxes. The UK Uncut activists met at Holborn Tube – closely monitored by police, and set off for a roundabout trip on the underground, followed by the police.
 This gave the wheelchair users the opportunity to get to Oxford Circus and block it across the northern end of Regent Street with a line of wheelchairs chained together and chained to railings at either end before the police could stop them.
 Within about 20 minutes, with traffic stationary and congestion spilling over into other streets, around 300 people were standing at the junction, chanting, playing drums and waving placards against the welfare reform bill, which was last week given a mauling in the House of Lords where even Tory peers could not stomach some of the savage cuts to the most vulnerable people in the country.
 This week the Bill goes back to the House of Commons where Prime Minister David Cameron said he would undo all the amendments the Lords had made.
 After the road had been blocked for just over an hour, police asked over a loudhailer that the protesters move, which they refused to do. Eventually, at around 2pm, they unchained themselves and left voluntarily.
 Planned cuts to the Disability Living Allowance under the bill could see 500,000 disabled people losing money, according to the charity Mencap.
 Many of the disabled people taking part said they had never before joined a demonstration but felt angry at both the proposed cuts and the associated rhetoric from both ministers and the media.
 "The tabloids have created this idea that we're scroungers or fakers," said Steven Sumpter, a 33-year-old who travelled from Evesham, Worcestershire, starting at 6.30am to join the line of chained-up wheelchair users. "This has allowed the Government to do this – I think disabled people are seen as a good scapegoat."
 Merry Cross, from Reading, Berkshire, said disabled people needed to work together to get their voices heard. She said: "We're seen as quite an easy target. We're not a natural community – we don't necessarily live in the same places, and we can find it hard to get together. That makes it easy for the Government to think they can target us."
 Changes to the disability living allowance were likely mean her losing care assistance at home, Cross said, adding: "I've had it continuously for 20 years and now, when I'm 61, apparently I can cope fine without it. It doesn't make any sense."

Speaking out about the Holocaust

Daphne Liddle lays flowers for the NCP

By New Worker correspondent

THE SMALL cinema at the Imperial War Museum was packed – standing room only – with a strange mixture of Second World War veterans, schoolchildren, representatives of the embassies of the former Soviet republics and local campaigners – along with an MP and various local Town Hall dignitaries.
 They had all come together to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, themed around the message: “Speak up, Speak Out” about racism, fascism, discrimination and injustice to prevent such horrors happening again.
 After a short film and a dramatic presentation of the famous poem by Pastor Neimoller “First they came…” by pupils from Notre Dame RC Girls’ Secondary School, situated opposite the museum, Vera Schaufeld gave a vivid account of her experiences as a child of the “kinder transport” that brought threatened Jewish children to Britain.
 She spoke of her sadness and confusion at being put on a train by her parents with hundreds of other children and of the hundreds of parents waving goodbye to their children. None of them realized at the time it would be the last time they saw each other.
 Vera said she was lucky in Britain to be taken in by a good, kind, Christian family who, after hearing the news of Kristalnacht, had taken part in forming committees to pressure the British government to move to rescue Jews from Europe who were threatened by the Nazis.
 They saved some of the children but they could not save their parents. And when war between Britain and Germany broke out the kinder transports stopped. The last train was stopped in the station and the hundreds of children on board had to disembark. Not one of them survived the war.
 On the theme of Speak up, Speak Out, Vera stressed the importance of those ordinary people who had been moved, formed committees and campaigned.
 In her later life as a teacher of English as a second language, Vera sought out work among the refugee children of the Ugandan Asians who came to Britain in the 1960s and subsequently many other refugee children.
 After she had spoken Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman gave the memorial address and lead prayers.
 Then the company moved to the grounds of the Museum, where wreaths were laid at the Holocaust Memorial Tree and at the Soviet War Memorial.
 Among those laying wreaths were veteran organisations including the Arctic Convoy Club, representatives of the embassies of the former Soviet Republics, the local Mayor Lorraine Lauder MBE, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, former Labour MP Bob Wareing, members of the Moscow Second Guards Rifle Red Army re-enactment group, the Marx Memorial Library and the New Communist Party.

No to Nato intervention in Syria and Iran

John McDonnell MP and LRC chair speaking

By New Worker Correspondent

SEVERAL hundred peace campaigners, including many Syrians and Iranians, gathered outside the American embassy in Grosvenor Square last Saturday to protest at the preparations for new Nato aggression against Syria and Iran.
 The rally was organised by the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) and supported by many organisations, including a large delegation from the Occupy London protest.
 Speakers included Tony Benn, John Rees, national officer of StWC, Labour MP John McDonnell, CND chair Kate Hudson, Iranian activist Shirin Shafaie, actor Roger Lloyd Pack, Lyndsey German of StWC and many others. The event was chaired by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.
 Protesters carried banners saying: "Don't attack Iran" and "Hands off Iran and Syria", while the crowd joined together in chanting: "One, two, three, four, we don't want another war. Five, six, seven, eight, stop the killing, stop the hate."
 All condemned the double standards of Nato and the western imperialists, whose motive was to control the oil resources of the Middle East and warned that the horrors that have been unleashed on Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya must not be allowed to happen in Syria and Iran.

Health unions rally to save NHS

HEALTH service unions are organising a mass rally in central London involving patients and workers from all fields within the NHS to lobby the House of Lords as the Health and Social care Bill reaches its final crucial parliamentary stages.
 On Wednesday 7th March the giant union Unite, with 100,000 members in the health service, is holding the lobby of MPs and peers in the Houses of Parliament on the afternoon of 7th March, with the message that the Bill’s proposals are ‘untried and untested’ and will have a negative impact on patients’ welfare.
 Then in the evening of the same day – under the banner of the joint-union campaign All Together for the NHS campaign – nurses, midwives, doctors, physiotherapists, managers, paramedics, radiographers, cleaners, porters and other employees from across the health service will join with patients to fill Central Hall Westminster for a 6pm “Save our NHS” rally.
 The Bill is hugely unpopular with NHS employees and patients, who have major concerns over the effect the draft legislation will have on healthcare by pushing through competition and markets on to the NHS, and allowing the private sector to take over delivering NHS services.
 The All Together for the NHS campaign has called the rally over concerns that an NHS with a future based on competition will fragment the health service, worsen the care available to patients, and mean continued uncertainty for NHS employees, with the quality of training and their terms and conditions likely to suffer.
 The pressure on the Secretary of State, Andrew Lansley, has been growing in recent weeks with more professional bodies joining the calls to amend significantly or withdraw the Bill completely.
 The March rally is intended to add to that pressure by demonstrating the broad coalition of opposition to Bill.
 TUC deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Some changes have been made to the Bill but not nearly enough. Only this week we have seen a private company taking over an NHS hospital for the first time, as Circle moves in to the Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire. This will be the future the NHS has to look forward to if the Bill stays in its current form.
 “Peers must listen to the concerns of the people that know the NHS best – the staff who work in it. Health workers fear the increased competition and the extension of markets will have a devastating impact on patient care, especially poorer people who will find themselves pushed to the back of ever-growing waiting lists.
 “But it's not too late for peers to make a difference and we hope our rally in early March will provide the opportunity for NHS workers and patients to send a loud message across Parliament Square to convince the House of Lords that this Bill would be a disaster for the NHS.”
 The lobby comes in the same week that the High Court will be hearing the Labour Party’s case that the risk register – what the NHS “reforms” will actually mean on the frontline in England – should be made public by health secretary Andrew Lansley.
 Unite has accused Lansley “hiding” the risk register from public scrutiny because he fears that it will reveal how the Bill’s proposals will adversely affect patient care and is frightened of the public’s reaction.
 Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The Coalition’s Bill will destroy the NHS.  It will place it in the hands of business and put profit before patient care.  Those who can pay will go to the top of the queue. The poor will get what is left.  And at a time of severe austerity, it saddles the NHS with a reorganisation bill of £4 billion.”
 He added: “Health secretary Andrew Lansley is an isolated figure who has, uniquely, managed to unite the health professionals and experts in opposition to the demolition of the NHS in favour of private companies. The Bill should be scrapped immediately.
 “Our NHS is our greatest national achievement. Only it ensures that access to health care is based on need, not wealth.  It has cared for generations of working people, improving their health and their life chances. And it places fairness at the heart of our society. But this is all in desperate danger.”
 The Bill is currently making its way through the House of Lords, expected to return to the House of Commons during the Easter period for final consideration. That means in a matter of weeks this will be law.
 For more information about the lobby and attending on the day, go to