Sunday, November 25, 2012

Students protest in London

by Daphne Liddle

TENS OF thousands of students from all over the country braved stormy weather and assembled in London on Wednesday to protest against the Con-Dem Coalition’s cuts and how they are affecting young people.
They are especially angry at rising tuition fees that are deterring many young people from seeking higher education.
"Education should open doors, but the government is slamming them shut," said National Union of Students (NUS) leader, Liam Burns.
"The damaging effects of recent changes to education have restricted access for future students and created new barriers for those currently studying," he said.
A recent survey published by the NUS indicated that voters are still angry with the Liberal Democrats on their broken promise never to increase tuition fees. The survey of 2,025 adults indicates 58 per cent of those with children under the age of 18 believe that MPs who broke their promise over tuition fees should not stand at the next election.
It found that 62 per cent of these parents aid they would not vote for an MP who had broken their election pledge on fees.
"Nick Clegg won the trust and votes of young people and their parents by signing the pledge, but has now lost them once and for all by breaking it," said Liam Burns.
Two years ago a similar protest saw the anger of some students boil over, leading to an attack on the Tory party headquarters and clashes with the police. This year’s march was more peaceful but the anger was still there.
The main march organised by the NUS but was joined by a separate feeder march by the more radical National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts.
After passing through central London and the Embankment the march went south of the river to end in a rally in Kennington Park.
Roger McKenzie, assistant general secretary of the Unison union, told demonstrators: "Tory education policies are turning the clock back to the time when education was the preserve of the rich.
"Young people, especially those from poor families, are already being put off going to university by the huge cost.
The loss of the EMA [Education Maintenance Allowance] has forced many others to drop out of school altogether.
"Young people, faced with a tough jobs market or an education they cannot afford, are left without options."
Liam Burns said that student anger at the tripling of education fees was not the only issue causing concern for students. He spoke of the lack of blighting the young generation as a result of education funding cuts, including the educational maintenance allowance (EMA), and high youth unemployment.
Burns said that today's students know they are going to be "tens of thousands of pounds in debt before they even graduate and they know there's little prospect of graduate employment".
He added: "There's a sense of desperation that people have. They're slowly seeing opportunities being taken away and are powerless to do anything about it."
Prior to the march in a U-Tube video, Burns told students: “You’ve got a lot to be angry about.
You’ve had your education systematically attacked across the board by the coalition. And even if you get to the other end, what have you got to look forward to?
“Youth unemployment is at an all-time high, getting on the property ladder is next to impossible and we don’t even have the safety net of pensions to look forward to any more.
“In a year in which there are no votes in parliament and no legislation coming before politicians, it’s about time we started setting the agenda.”

Thousands protest at Israel's brutal onslaught

By New Worker correspondent

THOUSANDS of protesters turned out in major towns and cities throughout Britain last week to protest at Israel’s latest brutal onslaught against the people of Gaza.
 In London protesters assembled near the Israeli Embassy in South Kensington in demonstration organised by the Stop the War Coalition.
 They brought placards, banners and flags and described Israel as a “terror state”. On a podium, speakers also condemned the British government and Foreign Secretary William Hague, who had said that the Hamas government in Gaza bore “principle responsibility” for the new outbreak of bloodshed.
 On Thursday the Stop the War Coalition said: “Unless something is done to stop the violence…we could see yet another humanitarian crisis….”
 Also on Thursday, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, a British-based NGO that works on human rights issues in the Arab World, called on Egypt to “take urgent action” to save the Gaza Strip in the face of Israeli strikes.
 The Israeli military frequently carries out air strikes and other attacks on the Gaza Strip, saying the acts of aggression are being conducted for defensive purposes. However, in violation of international law, disproportionate force is always used and civilians are often killed or injured.
 The attacks rage on while Israel keeps up its crippling blockade on Gaza, which it imposed on the enclave in 2007.
 The public sector union Unison issued a statement: “The escalation of violence following the assassination of Ahmed Jabari by Israel on 14th November will only lead to the loss of more innocent lives in both Gaza and Israel and will do nothing to lead to a lasting peaceful resolution of the conflict in which a viable, independent Palestine exists alongside a secure Israel.
 "In fact, the so-called Operation ‘Pillar of Defence’ is further proof of the failure of Israel’s six-year blockade, including the brutal attack on Gaza in 2008/9. Unison calls for an immediate cessation of violence and an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza.”
 By Monday over a hundred had been killed, including at least 13 children, hospitals were overwhelmed by the hundreds more who have been wounded, 1,350 sites have been attacked, two media centres bombed, injuring eight journalists, including one who lost his leg.
 Newly re-elected President of the United States Barack Obama blamed the victims. “There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."
 This from a US president whose first term was characterised by raining down missiles on citizens from outside its borders – in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia – and was comfortable enough with that to make jokes about his use of pilotless drone attacks.
 As for the possibility of a land invasion, which Benjamin Netanyahu is intimating could be imminent; Obama says it would be "preferable" if this could be avoided "because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they're much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded".
 Obama will give his unqualified support to Israel, whatever carnage and mass slaughter is inflicted on the people of Gaza.
 As will the British government, with David Cameron and William Hague both parroting Obama in supporting Israel's "right to defend itself" – by using the world's fourth most powerful military to bombard a defenceless population of 1.7 million Palestinians trapped in a strip of land which across its narrowest point is barely six miles wide.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A Plebs and Pigs banquet


Street theatre came to the City of London when hundreds of protesters from a Europe-wide coalition against the austerity cuts staged an alternative banquet outside the annual London Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday.
 As the Prime Minister and other guests arrived for the Lord Mayor’s Banquet, they were greeted with a surprise alternative “feast”, with people from austerity-ridden communities coming together to make sure that their message of “They do not represent us” was heard.
 With samba and European music playing loud, protestors were given appropriately small servings of “Austerity soup” and peanuts  from the hands of mock European leaders, who later gave speeches about the “benefits” of the austerity drive in Europe while  a number of champagne swilling bankers  chanted their support for the European leaders – in particular David Cameron and Boris Johnson.
 The Plebs & PIIGS Banquet was organised by a loose coalition of groups, including PIIGS United – Londoners from Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain – ahead of the European general strike on 14th November, which will saw people striking and taking action in countries across Europe, including Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, and France, as well as in Britain.
  Virginia Lopez of PIIGS United said: “Alternatives to austerity and authoritarianism exist. We should demand more, not less Europe: a real economic union, a common welfare state across European Union, including a common minimum wage and minimum health care protection, and most importantly, a real political union.
 “But a democratic one, not a European Union under the diktat of the European Commission and the corporations that lobby it. They do not represent us.”
 As well as PIIGS United, the full Plebs and PIIGS Banquet coalition includes supporters of Occupy London, Coalition of Resistance, Queer Resistance, Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC), Disabled People Against the Cuts, Greater London Association of Trade Union Councils, Peter Tatchell, NUS Black Students’ Campaign, Left Front Art (queer politics and arts collective), Globalise Resistance, Greece Solidarity Campaign, Londres Contra a Troika (Portuguese Resistance), 15M London Assembly (Spanish Resistance), Solidarity With The Greek Resistance (Greek Resistance), Wake Up! (Italian Resistance), New Communist Party and Art Protesters (Portugal/International) plus more.
  Coalition of Resistance’s Sam Fairbairn said: “Two years of Tory-led government has made it clear – austerity isn’t working. Across Europe policies of austerity are driving millions of people into poverty while it’s business as usual for the people who caused the crisis.
 “The governments tell us there is no alternative. They say that we are ‘all in it together’. The Mayor hosts his annual banquet at which he will entertain bankers who caused the crisis and the politicians who are making ordinary people pay for it.”
 Josie Reed, from Disabled People Against the Cuts, said: “Whilst the politicians, bankers and business leaders gorge themselves, exchange tips on tax avoidance and laugh about the banking bail outs … there are thousands of sick and disabled people who are faced with a future of abject poverty. Whilst Cameron and the mayor sit in the warm with a stomach full of caviar, our most vulnerable people have to choose between keeping warm or eating. The sick and disabled are being assaulted on all sides by this Government and it is creating a hidden carnage, a Tsunami of suffering.”

Left Labour prepares to fight more cuts

NCP leader Andy Brooks at the New Worker stall
 By New Worker       Correspondent
ONLY 15 per cent of the proposed cuts from the Con-Dem Coalitions have been implemented so far and the labour movement must prepare its strategy to raise the fight against the rest being implemented.
 This was the main theme behind debate at the annual conference of the Labour Representation Committee, which filled London’s Conway Hall last Saturday.
 John McDonnell MP and chair of the LRC opened the meeting by moving the national committee statement and paid tribute to the campaigning work against the cuts by a number of organisations that the LRC has supported.
 These included Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Black Triangle, who have “revitalised the disabled movement” and given inspiration to many others in refusing to accept the cuts and taking the fight to agencies like Atos, which are doing the Government’s dirty work.
 McDonnell also praised the Right to Work, Fight Workfare, National Union of Students, the Right to Protest, the pensioners’ Fuel Action, UK Uncut, Occupy and the squatters’ campaigns.
 And of course he praised the unions for their role in the fight against the austerity cuts.
 He warned of battles to come in this “triple dip recession”: more housing benefit cuts, the bedroom tax; these cuts are creating anger and resentment but these feelings need to be harnessed and resistance mobilised to build confidence.
 “There is a lack of confidence that leads to timidity and even cowardice among certain union leaders.
 “The LRC is a moral force; we draw a line in the sand and say: ‘This far and no further’. We must set the terms of the struggle. We cannot have Labour representatives implementing the cuts.
 “This is a battle between the capitalists and the ruling class and we are not going to pay for their crisis.
 “These cuts are decimating our communities and we need to build our campaign against the cuts in the communities.”
 He also called for support for the industrial struggle: for jobs wages, pensions and condition and spoke of the need to challenge union bureaucrats who are reluctant to act.
 “The motivation is coming from those who have most to lose,” he said a spoke of the battle of cleaners with various employers for a living wage in London that he had been directly involved in supporting. “These workers are the most oppressed but most courageous,” he said.
 He ended with references to the international struggle and added: “We are not just fighting for office but for systemic change”.
 McDonnell also won a loud cheer when he called for a campaign against the pay-day loan shark companies “with their bullying bailiffs”.
 The conference debated a number of resolutions and agreed to organise a coming together of Labour councillors to debate the most effective strategies in combatting the cuts.
 There was some heated debate among councillors present – some of whom had refused to vote for cuts and found themselves expelled from the Labour Party for doing so. Others argued that more could be done for the community by staying in office and making initiatives that support and strengthen communities.
 There were also calls for more emphatic support for a general strike against the cuts and the only measure that will really shake the Government.
 The New Communist Party tabled a motion against landlordism, which called for a campaign to “cap rents, not benefits”. It was passed overwhelmingly – as were most resolutions.
 In the afternoon international visitors reported on the struggles against the austerity cuts in France, Germany and Greece and two comrades from Columbia reported on the devastation being wreaked on indigenous communities by imperialist mining companies.
 Other major speakers included veteran Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Fire Brigades Union leader Matt Wrack and  the conference concluded with the traditional singing of the Red Flag.

Remembrance Sunday marks Soviet dead

Daphne Liddle lays flowers from the NCP
 by New Worker correspondent

AROUND 100 veterans, local dignitaries, embassy attach├ęs, trade unionists and members of progressive parties and organisations assembled last Sunday in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum to remember and lay wreaths in memory of the 27 million Soviet citizens who died in the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany.
 There were speeches from the local mayor, Simon Hughes the Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark, the Russian Ambassador and one of the veterans of the Arctic Convoys.
 Unfortunately Simon Hughes seemed to forget that this was a Soviet war memorial and his remarks were about remembering “our sons and daughters” who had fallen – in the First World War, the Second World War and all wars since including Afghanistan, where “our brave heroes” are “spreading [western-style] democracy” that is “the only true guarantee of peace in the world”.
 It was left to the veteran of the Arctic convoy to speak about the respect and welcome they had received from the Soviet and Russian people during and since the war.
 And the presence of the Moscow Second Rifle Division re-enactment group, with their authentic uniforms, style of marching and their hammer-and-sickle banner gave a much needed reminder of the heroes of the Red Army, who fought to defend their socialist motherland – but who are in danger of being air-brushed out of western historical records.
 Following the wreath laying, which included flowers laid by a member of the Central Committee  of the New Communist Party, there was a two-minutes’ silence and then the Last Post.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homeless families expelled from London

CASH STRAPPED London councils are planning to send thousands of homeless families to temporary homes outside London – some a long way from the capital – because the price of accommodation is cheaper there.
 This is in direct contravention of Government demands that people should be accommodated locally.
 But the Government’s cuts in jobs, benefits and the cap on housing benefit have produced so many newly homeless families that the councils are overwhelmed.
 These families are not necessarily without employment but low wages leave most of London’s homes – whether to rent or buy – priced well beyond their reach.
 But being sent to live far away makes it almost impossible for people in this position to hang on to their jobs. It also drastically disrupts children’s education, especially when the families are frequently sent from one temporary home to another.
 Councils are acquiring properties in Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Berkshire, Sussex and further afield to cope with an expected surge in numbers of vulnerable families presenting as homeless as a result of yet more welfare cuts from next April.
 They say rising rents in London coupled with the introduction next April of stringent benefit caps leave them in an impossible position, with no option but to initiate an outflow of poorer families from the capital by placing homeless households in cheaper areas, often many miles from their home borough.
 Draft guidance issued by ministers in May by former housing minister Grant Shapps says councils must "as far as is reasonably practicable" offer accommodation for homeless families within the borough.
 He issued this instruction after reports that Newham council planned to relocate households to Stoke-on-Trent.
 A survey of London council conducted by the Guardian shows London boroughs have acquired rental properties in Luton, Northampton, Broxbourne, Gravesend, Dartford, Slough, Windsor, Margate, Hastings, Epping Forest, Thurrock and Basildon, and are considering accommodation as far away as Manchester, Hull, Derby, Nottingham, Birmingham and Merthyr Tydfil in south Wales.
 The councils said the move was inevitable because there was virtually no suitable private rented temporary accommodation for larger families in London that was affordable within Government-imposed housing benefit allowances, which are capped at £400 a week.
 "It is going to be practically impossible to provide affordable accommodation to meet our homelessness duties in London," said Ken Jones, director of housing and strategy at Barking and Dagenham council, east London. "As the pressures increase we will be looking to procure well out of London, and even out of the home counties."
 All but four of the 33 London local authorities responded to the Guardian survey. Seventeen said they were already placing homeless families outside the capital, or had secured or were considering temporary accommodation outside London for future use.
 These included Kensington and Chelsea, which has moved a minority of homeless families to Manchester and Slough; Waltham Forest, which has acquired housing in Luton, Margate and Harlow; Brent, which has relocated some households to Hastings; and Tower Hamlets, which has relocated a handful of families to Northampton.
 Hackney council, which said it currently houses 93 per cent of families accepted as homeless within the borough and the remainder elsewhere in the capital, said it was "reluctantly looking to procure accommodation outside London".
 A new study from the Child Poverty Action Group predicts a wave of legal challenges from homeless residents, who will quote Grant Shapps’ guidance to support their claim that being forced to go to accommodation outside London is "unsuitable" because of the impact on their health or their children's education
 The CPAG report warns that thousands of homeless families already placed in expensive temporary accommodation in the capital face being uprooted for a second time. Councils could face the choice of picking up the bill for the rent shortfall for these households – expected to run to tens of millions of pounds a year – or moving the families to cheaper homes outside the capital.
 Alison Garnham, CPAG chief executive, said: "Families are facing the impossible situation of being told to move to cheaper accommodation that just doesn't exist with London's rising rents. London boroughs are staring at a black hole in their budgets as a result, with costs transferred from central to local government.
 "There's still time for Government to do the sensible thing and think again when these reforms are debated in parliament before thousands of London's families find themselves uprooted, overcrowded and thrown into turmoil."