Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Shining Star of Korea

By New Worker correspondent

Andy Brooks,Hyong Hak Bong and Dermot Hudson

LAST weekend Koreans marked the 72nd anniversary of dear leader Kim Jong Il, who steered the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea through the difficult times that followed the death of great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994. Democratic Korean leader Kim Jong Un headed the solemn tribute at the mausoleum dedicated to the two great leaders of the Workers Party of Korea in Pyongyang while other ceremonies were taking place throughout the country.
 Kim Jong Il devoted his entire life to serving the Korean people.in the cause of building a human-centred society, a cause which is espoused by the democratic and anti-imperialist forces the world over.
Following Kim Il Sung’s footsteps, Kim Jong Il led the Workers Party of Korea into the 21st century to build a strong and prosperous democratic republic. Kim Jong Il was a leading Marxist thinker who made an important contribution to the modern communist theory as well as an astute statesman who led the Korean people through thick and thin to overcome natural disasters, the imperialist blockade and diplomatic isolation.
While ensuring the DPRK’s defence against the threats and provocations of US imperialism and its lackeys, Kim Jong Il worked tirelessly to ease tension on the Korean peninsula to pave the way towards the peaceful reunification of Korea.
In Democratic Korea Kim Jong Il’s birthday has long been known as the Day of the Shining Star. This year it is being celebrated at a time when the Korean people are racing ahead at a new fast speed of socialist construction, upholding the slogan put forward by the new young leader, Kim Jong Un:  "Let us raise a fierce wind of making a fresh leap forward on all fronts of building a thriving country filled with confidence in victory!"
Across the world overseas Koreans, progressives and communists held their own events in honour of Kim Jong Il, who was born on 16th February 1942 and died at his post on 17th December 2011.
British and Korean women get together
And in London comrades gathered at the DPRK’s London embassy to join the Korean people to honour the achievements of Kim Jong Il by laying floral tributes in front of the portraits of the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il and meeting all the other friends of the Korean revolution.
 Andy Brooks, the chair of the Friends of Korea committee that had helped organise the reception, welcomed everyone to the event that had brought together so many of those actively involved in solidarity with Democratic Korea in London and the south-east.
In his opening the New Communist Party leader said Kim Jong Il had made an immense contribution to the arts as well as the theory and practice of the world communist movement. This was followed by a speech by DPRK Ambassador Hyong Hak Bong on the life and times of Kim Jong Il.
Dermot Hudson from the Korean Friendship Association talked about the meaning of Juché and Songun politics, then Michael Chant, the secretary of Friends of Korea and leader of the RCPB (ML) and Kath Cremer from the CPGB (ML) both spoke about the central role of the Korean revolution in the national liberation and world communist movement.
Finally Andy Brooks proposed a toast to the memory of the dear Korean leader to close the formal part of the proceedings and open the informal discussion that always flows between friends old and new at the bar and buffet.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tube strike success

by Daphne Liddle

TRANSPORT unions RMT and TSSA last Tuesday suspended planned strike action by London Underground (LU) workers just a few hours before a second 48-hour Tube strike was about to begin.
The first strike worked; it force LU management to suspend drastic changes that would cut nearly 1,000 jobs and close all ticket offices to allow for a negotiation process with the unions at Acas (the advisory, conciliation and arbitration service).
The proposed changes have not been defeated but forcing the management, backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, to delay the changes to allow the negotiations to take place is a significant victory for the unions.
It is a total rebuttal of Johnson’s high-handed approach and leaves him humiliated after his constant refusal to meet and talk with the unions.
Labour north London MP Emily Thornberry challenged the Mayor on the BBC’s Sunday Politics London show, saying: “How mad is it that you haven’t spoken to [Bob Crow] for five years? He has to call you up on LBC to talk to you. It’s not right.
“It’s nonsense why the leader of London is not talking to the leader of the Underground union.
“It’s just the most ridiculous bit of willy-waving I’ve seen. It’s just macho nonsense not to talk to the leader of the union.”
The result of the negotiations at Acas will probably be a compromise but it is a lot better than just giving into change by diktat.
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “After two days of intensive and detailed discussions through the offices of Acas we have now received proposals that halt the implementation of the job cuts set out in the HR1 document which gives us the opportunity to discuss all of the issues away from the pressure cooker.
“We now have a golden opportunity to look again in detail at all of the concerns we have raised about the impact of the cuts on our members and the services that they provide to Londoners. That is exactly what we have been calling for throughout this dispute.
“RMT is happy to discuss any issues with LU through the machinery of negotiation and we are glad that we have now got back to where we should have been right at the start of this process.
“It is unfortunate that we were forced and provoked into a dispute that we never wanted and we are now in a position to move on with the clear understanding that our action is suspended but if there is any further attempt to impose change from above the action will go back on.”
A statement from Acas read: “We welcome the news that the proposed industrial action has been withdrawn. Thanks all involved for their hard work/commitment over intensive talks with us.”
TSSA posted on Twitter: “We’ve suspended Tube strike as have agreed a process where all our serious concerns over safety and job losses can be addressed. Pleased that agreement on process lets us suspend strike immediately and cancel it later when agreement reaches us formally.”
In a letter to RMT members Bob Crow said that:
  • LU had agreed a station- by-station review of ticket office closures, which could mean that some will stay open;
  • LU will not implement its proposals until further consultations are held on 4th April;
  • During the discussion period, LU will put on hold all voluntary severance applications received.
He said the negotiations would include a full equality impact assessment of the proposed changes.
Crow added: “This is what we were asking for all along and thanks to the support and solidarity you have shown, sense has finally prevailed. Nevertheless we remain firmly against these cuts which we will continue to resist in our discussions with management. I will be sure to keep members fully informed of any further developments.”
And he told reporters he had no regrets about the strike: “They weren’t taking us seriously until we called the strike action and we got more done over that period of time when the strike action took place,” he said. “I think having a two-day strike was absolutely crucial.”
One union official was arrested during the strike for calling a strike-breaker a scab. Mark Harding, the Branch Secretary of Hammersmith and City RMT was ordered to keep away from further strike action until the case is settled.
The union is calling for the charges to be dropped and accused the police of making the arrest in order to intimidate other strikers.

The new European Communist Initiative

By New Worker correspondent 
Andy Brooks greets comrades
GREEK communists and their supporters met in north London on Sunday to hear a report by a leading member of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) on the new European Communist Initiative and the ongoing struggle against reaction, opportunism and social-democracy at home and abroad.
            The meeting room at the AKEL Cypriot communist centre in north London was packed for the Sunday lunch-time meeting called by the British Branch of the KKE to mobilise their members in Britain to register at the Greek embassy and vote in the forthcoming local and European Union elections in May.
            Comrades were greeted by New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks who summarised the NCP’s role in the Initiative of the Communist and Workers’ Parties of Europe and the NCP’s consistent stand against the European Union. This was followed by a lengthy report from Kostas Papadakis, a member of the Central Committee of the KKE, on the current situation in Greece and the struggle against the bourgeois offensive throughout the EU.
Andy Brooks said that the NCP had opposed the European Union and the Treaty of Rome from the very beginning when the Party was founded in 1977 and that the Initiative was: “An important first step towards building a common front amongst the genuine communist forces of Europe to confront the ruling class offensive that is seeks to impose the entire burden of the slump on the backs of working people.
“The Initiative is also the first step in building a popular campaign to challenge the myth of the ‘super-state’ that Franco-German imperialism and its supporters within the British ruling class spread to popularise the anti-people and dictatorial policies of the European Union and build the progressive platform needed to launch the fight in all members states for the break-up of the EU.”
This was followed by a far-ranging KKE briefing that began with an analysis of the Greek political scene and the bogus choices offered by the mainstream conservative New Democracy party, the old and new social-democracy of PASOK and Syriza, and the fascist Golden Dawn. They all “trade in fear and dead-end hopes” while  “the consequences of the capitalist economic crisis and the anti-people measures of the government-EU-IMF are becoming more and more tangible, unbearable, even more suffocating for the workers, unemployed, the poor farmers, the youth and the women from the popular strata,”  Kostas Papadakis said.
But there was a way out of the crisis and that way was by mobilising and decisively strengthening the KKE, Kostas declared.
“The workers, the youth, the toiling self-employed, the poor farmers, must help so that a dynamic labour-people’s opposition can be immediately revived in order to contribute to the struggle, in order to halt the anti-people offensive, the successive anti-people measures, in order to pave the way for the only path that can ensure the satisfaction of the people’s needs.
“And this can begin to happen with the participation in the battle of the EU parliamentary elections and the municipal elections, decisively voting for the KKE and the lists of the ‘People’s Rally’, which are supported nationwide by the party.
“The strengthening of the KKE is a guarantee for the working class and people’s interests. The KKE struggles, focused on the major and sharpening problems, for the regroupment of the labour-people’s movement, the People’s Alliance, in order to pave the way for an economy for the benefit of the people, with their own power.”
            The Greek communist condemned those pseudo-communists who revolve around the European Left Party and those like them who talk about winning office and reforming the EU.
“The way out is not to be found in ‘“Left governments’ on the terrain of capitalism” Kostas said.  “As the experience from the participation of communist parties in governments of EU member states shows, like the example of Cyprus, with the participation of AKEL in the government. This experience is in our assessment characteristic of the utopian view that the crisis can be halted or that there can be a pro-people management in the framework of capitalism. The same is true of Brazil where the Communist Party of Brazil participates in the government and manages capitalism with the people protesting in the streets.
“There is no room for the rationale of the ‘lesser evil’ which some people consider a possible Syriza government to be. Whatever evil, more or lesser, is now unbearable for the impoverished and lives of the workers deprived of rights.”
Meanwhile the Communist Initiative provides the basis to build a people’s movement in Europe against war, imperialism and capitalism.
Outlining the socialist alternative Kostas said the KKE programme was realistic and above all in the interests of the people and the service of the workers. “We have the power to overturn the situation today,” he declared. “With a strong KKE there is hope – there is a prospect.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sinn Féin calls for support for Haass proposals

By Theo Russell

SINN FÉIN MP Conor Murphy spoke to supporters in London last week at a public meeting in Westminster on the end of the Haass all-party talks, aimed at resolving challenging issues on flags and emblems, Orange parades, and dealing with the legacy of the past without any deal being reached.
He said last year had seen violent protests and intimidation by: “A small rump of unionism opposed to equality, sectarian marches, attacks on churches, homes and elected politicians” and he condemned “The failure, and in some cases complicity, of unionist leaders during all of this.”
There are 3,000 parades in the north every year but only a handful, in or near Belfast and Derry, cause problems and negotiations between communities in Derry have been successful.
Murphy said the two main unionist parties, afraid of alienating supporters with elections due in May, had refused to condemn the Loyalist outfits and effectively pulled the plug on the Haass talks using filibuster tactics.
“Both parties are openly consulting the views of these Loyalist groups, including people charged for disorder and violence. The Ulster Unionist Party no longer wants to discuss the issues, while the Democratic Unionist Party is trying to start a whole new process.” This would negate a year’s work including contributions from 600 community organisations.
Meanwhile Britain’s coalition government, which has done little in the north of Ireland apart from alienating a variety of groups while imposing savage austerity cuts, has failed to back the Haass proposals beyond a meek announcement that they “have merit”.
Murphy said: “Of course all of our communities in Ireland – just as in Britain – are facing the destructive impact of right-wing austerity policies, but we reject the farcical suggestion that the costs of implementation of the proposals should come out of the block grant to the north, which has already been cut by the coalition government.” 
But of greater concern to progressives in Britain is the disgraceful failure of the Labour Party to come out in support of the Haass process. Many at the meeting voiced concern at this, and Murphy called for Labour and other parties to put pressure on the coalition government.
Murphy said the Irish government was behind the Haass proposals, “But has done little in recent years to press for full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.”
He welcomed a statement from the main church leaders, and a rally in Belfast on 31st January organised by the Northern Ireland Congress of Trade Unions, supporting the Haass process.
On the positive side, Murphy pointed out: “Instead of walking away from the process, Richard Haass issued a strong statement saying the proposals should be implemented,” while Gerry Adams has also said that despite widespread disappointment there was still a "basis for a deal".

Tube strike solid

by Daphne Liddle

TRANSPORT chaos descended on London last week following industrial action by two major railway unions. London Underground workers paralysed much of the capital’s transport  in a two-day walk-out in protest at draconian cuts that would close all the ticket offices throughout the network.
RMT and TSSA were protesting at attempts by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and Transport for London (TfL) to impose cuts that will cost nearly 1,000 jobs and jeopardise passenger safety.
Seventy per cent of London Underground trains were out of action and since many trains are driven by members of Aslef, and not all LU workers are in unions that is an impressive impact.
RMT leader Bob Crow said the strike was rock solid. “RMT members have spoken with their feet and I thank you for your support for your union throughout this dispute. Keep it up!”
RMT released pictures of lethal overcrowding at Waterloo on Wednesday morning showing that TfL had “ripped up the safety rule book”. The union called for a full safety inquiry into deadly conditions as managers ignored every regulation in the book and exposed passengers to serious crushing and trampling risk.
Bob Crow together with Manuel Cortez, general secretary of TSSA, turned up early at London’s City Hall on the first day of the strike to challenge Boris Johnson to talk with them on his regular Ask Boris programme on LBC Radio.
Johnson refused to meet them face-to-face but there was a brief discussion by phone. Johnson refused to meet Crow and Cortez on the grounds that, with the strike plans in place, the unions were “holding a gun to London’s head”. He said he would only meet them if the strike was called off.
Crow replied that the document sent out to all London Underground workers informing them of the cuts, disguised as “modernisation” and without any consultation with the unions was a gun to the head of the LU workers. Crow said if this document was suspended then the strike would also be suspended to allow for talks.
The LBC host of Ask Boris, Nick Ferrari, expressed astonishment that Johnson had not met Crow for many years and said he thought Johnson would have met with “anyone, anytime anywhere” if it could avert the strike.
The union leaders also raised the issue of Johnson’s election pledge a few years ago that he would never close the ticket offices. Johnson replied that that was six years ago and technology had advanced so much since then, “Everybody’s got I-Pads and things,” so that ticket offices were no longer needed.
He said ticket staff should “come out from behind the glass” and be deployed on platforms and about the station helping and advising passengers. But with nearly 1,000 jobs gone there will not be very many of them doing that.
TSSA, which represents most of the booking clerks, points out that if a passenger is in trouble, the one place they can be certain of finding a member of staff is in the ticket office. If staff are wandering about a distressed passenger has little chance of finding them.
The unions also warned that a growing number of stops will become “ghost stations” with no staff on hand at all — a serious safety hazard where children can wander in and lark about as well as a muggers’ and drug-dealers’ paradise.
Supervisors, who ensure the safety of passengers, will be cut by 45 per cent and will now oversee multiple stations. In the many emergencies where trains can’t move, the supervisors may be stuck several stops away.
And if Johnson and LU can get away with these cuts they have, in future, plans to run driverless trains, all operated by computers. With the condition of trains and tracks deteriorating, due to previous cuts of maintenance staff, trains often break down or signals fail, leaving trains stuck in tunnels for long periods.
With no driver to keep in touch with controllers and let passengers know what is happening and if need be get them off and lead them to safety there would soon be some very serious accidents.
But the ruling class do not, generally, travel by public transport and to them all that matters is cutting costs so they can enjoy more tax cuts.

We need a pay rise!

MEMBERS of three local government unions – GMB, Unite and Unison –  staged a Day of Protest at continuing low pay levels and demanded a £1-an-hour across the board pay rise for all local government workers.
 Lunch-hour joint union protests were held outside town halls and civic centres in many towns and cities on Tuesday 4th February.
Local government pay has decreased in value by an average 20 per cent over the last five years.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Celebrating the achievements of Democratic Korea

 By New Worker correspondent
Shaun Pickford and Dermot Hudson

FRIENDS of the Korean revolution met to celebrate the 72nd anniversary of the birth of dear leader Kim Jong Il at London’s Marchmont Centre on Saturday 2nd February to hear a first-hand report from top DPRK diplomats about the current situation on the Korean peninsula and contributions from Korean solidarity workers who included New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks.
Shaun Pickford welcomed Thae Yong Ho from the DPRK embassy in London who recalled Kim Jong Il’s life in the service of the working people of Democratic Korea.  Comrade Thae also talked about the DPRK’s current peace proposals which were also raised in the interview given by Ambassador Hyon Hak Bong on Sky News last week. Comrade Thae said that the US war-games in south Korea were not defensive but aggressive. US imperialism has concentrated its nuclear submarine forces in the region and the Americans have repeatedly tried to blackmail and threaten the DPRK .
Comrade Thae said that the stories in the bourgeois media about the events surrounding the execution of the counter-revolutionary traitor in the DPRK were false. The US imperialists and their pawns were using the “human rights issue” as a second means of attacking and putting pressure on the DPRK while the British ruling class were attacking  the DPRK and Korean-style socialism because they want people to believe that there is no alternative  to capitalism. But there is and Democratic Korea upholds genuine socialism with free education and medical treatment for all, full employment and pensions, and full equality to all its citizens.
This was taken up by Dermot Hudson of the UK Korean Friendship Association who followed with contribution on the Juché and Songun politics that had transformed the DPR Korea into a modern socialist republic, while Alexander Meads spoke about the achievements of Kim Jong Il from his earliest days to his last at the helm of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Dr Hugh Goodacre spoke about Kim Jong Il’s proclamation of the programme for modelling the whole society on the Juché idea 40 years ago. This was a demand of the times and completely essential to prevent the rise of a new bureaucracy and the restoration of capitalism. The Juché idea is turning everyone into revolutionaries to build socialism – a magnificent achievement, an example for the working and oppressed people of the world.
But there are always dangers as NCP leader Andy Brooks stressed in a condemnation of the loathsome Jang Song Thaek, a leading Workers’ Party official who was shot in December after he was unmasked as a traitor who had embezzled vast amounts of money to live the high life abroad and reward his followers who were helping him plan a coup.
But: “The Korean people have closed ranks around Kim Jong Un and the Workers’ Party of Korea. They have taken firm and decisive measures to deal with Jang and smash his group to safeguard the people’s government and ensure that the country continues to build a modern socialist republic dedicated to the welfare of all working people.”
The DPRK diplomats took up many of these points during the question-and-answer session and during the informal discussion that followed.
The meeting was organised by the UK Korean Friendship Association (KFA) and the British Juché Idea Study Group, which regularly organises solidarity meetings and protest pickets in London throughout the year. The KFA also works side by side with the NCP, RCPB (ML), Socialist Labour Party (SLP) and the European Regional Society for the Study of the Juché Idea on the Friends of Korea committee, which also holds regular events in London.