Thursday, January 26, 2017

Southwark residents defend community hall

RESIDENTS on what is left of the Aylesbury estate, Walworth in Southwark have occupied Thurlow Lodge Community Hall that Southwark council is trying to close. The closure would also mean the eviction of Divine Rescue, a homeless charity and foodbank.
Locals have begun an occupation of the space and a meeting last week issued the following joint statement from Divine Rescue, the Thurlow Lodge occupation committee and Aylesbury's new TRA [Tenants and Residents Association] steering group: “Southwark Council intends to close or privatise Thurlow Lodge Community Hall and it has tried to evict homeless charity and foodbank Divine Rescue from Thurlow Lodge.
“This is both an attack on the homeless, disabled and poor clients of this charity and an attack on council tenants and residents on the Aylesbury Estate. By demolishing more than 2,000 council homes on the Aylesbury, the Council will create even more homeless people.
“Our occupation, determined opposition and the support of trade unions, campaign groups and the wider tenants’ movement has forced the Council to row back on their eviction threats and attempts to close the hall.
“The Council now claims it never tried to close the hall in the first place! However, it is still considering legal action against Divine Rescue and it has put the prospect of privatisation on the table by saying that the hall will be put out to tender.
“This is unacceptable. Tenants and residents on the Aylesbury are in the process of forming a new tenants’ and residents’ association which claims the right to manage this hall in the interests of the community, provide a secure home for Divine Rescue and fight for council housing for all.
“We are proud to state that the new TRA steering group has been offered the solidarity and assistance of experienced tenant reps in Southwark. We have every confidence that the new TRA will be able to successfully manage the hall and provide a full programme of events and activities.
“The new TRA is keen to work with the two remaining TRAs on the Aylesbury Estate to provide a genuine democratic voice for Aylesbury tenants and residents.
“We demand that the Council recognise the Aylesbury new TRA as soon as it is set up. We demand that the Council lifts all threats of closure and privatisation and accepts that Divine Rescue can remain, on its current rent. We call on Southwark Council to halt the demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and instead refurbish and properly maintain our council housing.”
Southwark council had issued a notice in October for the Divine Rescue charity to vacate the hall, despite having paid their rent in advance. The charity was ordered to vacate the building by 5th January.
The council has made the charity’s work harder over the last two years. Volunteers and service users were stopped from using the kitchen and homeless people were forced to eat next to bins.
The occupation group announced last week after a 40-strong public meeting that any representative of Southwark council would be refused access to the hall. So would housing association Notting Hill Homes or the Creation Trust charity set up to promote the regeneration. The regeneration has already seen residents kicked out of their homes and many priced out of London.
But Southwark council’s plan met a setback when the compulsory purchase orders issued to eight leaseholders were overturned, then an appeal was rejected.
Now the occupation is throwing a new spanner in the works. Messages of support have flooded in from trade unionists and housing campaigns.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Islamic Students honour Fidel

by Theo Russell

A meeting in memory of Fidel Castro at the Kanoon Towhid Centre in Hammersmith, run by the Islamic Students Association (ISA), heard speakers from several countries honour the leader of the Cuban revolution’s life and ideals last week.
Opening the meeting, Dr Kamran Fathi from the ISA said that Castro’s movement “inspired millions around the world from all races and religions, and many other countries in Latin America and elsewhere, with its ideals.”
He said the meeting would also remember the life of Hashemi Rafsanjani, a lifelong supporter of the Palestinian struggle who, like Castro, had always sided with the oppressed peoples of the world.
Bernard Regan, national secretary of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, spoke of the modern history of Cuba and the Cuban revolution, pointing out that education in Cuba is free at every level and that its literacy campaign had been adopted by many countries, including Spain, New Zealand and amongst indigenous peoples in Bolivia.
He said that starting in 1959 with no health service at all, Cuba now has more doctors working abroad Р50,000 Рthan the World Health Organisation, the International Red Cross and M̩decins Sans Fronti̬res combined.
“Castro’s help to developing countries has always been with no consideration for Cuba’s own interests. Its military support for the government of Angola in 1987–88 and the crushing defeat for apartheid South Africa’s NATO-backed military machine was a turning point in the history of southern Africa.”
Ramon Grosfoguel, a Puerto Rican professor based at the University of California in Berkeley, said that it was very important that an Islamic organisation was holding a meeting to remember Fidel Castro. He said Islam and Cuba held common values such as solidarity with other peoples, in Iran’s case with Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Puerto Rica, he added, shared a common history with Cuba, both becoming US colonies after the Spanish–American War in 1898.
Ramon said that Castro was not concerned with religious or political beliefs, but the humanitarian needs of the oppressed, and had acted with no concern for the consequences, “such as the many assassination attempts against him.” His legacy, he said, “could be summed up in one word – dignity.”
Masoud Shajareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London, spoke about the importance of solidarity with the oppressed: “Everyone, even Tony Blair and Adolf Hitler, claims to be nice and to help the needy, but in reality they contributed to the downfall of morality.
“Many people talk but take no action. Oppression needs to be challenged and donating money is not enough. It is not enough to pray five times a day, to fast, to memorise the Koran, you have to be active in supporting those resisting injustice, colonialism and oppression, whether in Palestine or Kashmir.”
Shajareh recalled the sanctions against Iraq in the 2000s that resulted in half a million children dying of starvation and compared Castro’s ideals with those of Ayatollah Khomeini, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Nelson Mandela and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah party.
In the discussion, Bernard Regan pointed out that although Cuba had made major breakthroughs in treatments for cancer, diabetes and hepatitis, “the US drug companies have blocked publicity about the new drugs and people in the US itself are suffering because they’re not allowed to import them.”

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rail unions fight for safety

by Daphne Liddle 

TRAVEL in London was brought to a virtual halt last Monday during a very successful strike action by London Underground staff in the RMT and TSSA unions, demanding the restoration of safe levels of staffing.
The problems have arisen over the last year after cuts to the Transport for London (TfL) budget made by former Chancellor George Osborne and cuts to staffing made by former London Mayor Boris Johnson.
More than 800 jobs have gone, ticket offices have been closed and control rooms at many stations often go unstaffed. This seriously endangered staff and passengers on at least two occasions: one case of dangerous overcrowding at Canning Town station and another at North Greenwich where a terrorist bomb was found, which fortunately failed to detonate. In both cases there was no one in the station control rooms to trigger emergency incident plans and it was only by luck that there were no mass casualties.
There has been an increase in the numbers of doors closing, trapping passengers’ hands, coats and bags leading to passengers being dragged along platforms because there are fewer platform staff and CCTV monitoring cameras have also been cut to save money.
Staff are concerned that before long there will be a major catastrophe. The new Labour Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has promised to look at re-opening some ticket offices and restoring 200 jobs, but the unions say this is nowhere near enough.
The strike led to chaos as people tried to get to work by other means — buses were packed and Clapham Junction rail station had to be closed because of dangerous overcrowding.There were dozens of picket lines across the capital and public support for the strike was high, despite a barrage of attacks on the unions from the media. Tory MPs called again for public sector strikes to be banned.
TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes was out visiting picket lines on Monday from 5am and said that the strike was solid. Just 10 of 270 stations were open.
He said: “I pay tribute to my members whose commitment to public service is so strong they are now prepared to forego a day’s pay today and strike if that’s what it takes to warn the public that the Tube is no longer being as safely run as it was this time last year.
“The strength of feeling on this issue is reflected in the solidity of the strike with just a few trains are running at the edges of the system.
“London Underground may tell you today that they are offering 600 jobs this year, but the Tube sheds 400 jobs per year through natural wastage. In reality the offer is just 200 and whilst it’s a step in the right direction 200 jobs cannot plug the gaping hole that’s been left in the system by devastating Tory attacks on TfL’s budget.”
The RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members are out in force across London Underground this morning in the fight for jobs and safety. The strike action is being solidly supported on every line, at every station and on picket lines right across the Tube network.
“This action has been forced on us by savage cuts to jobs that have reduced London Underground to an under-staffed death trap at a time of heightened security and safety alert.
“RMT members will not stand idly by while they see day in and day out the safety regime on the tube being slashed to ribbons. Even senior Tube bosses have admitted that we are absolutely correct in our assessment of the risks that are being taken as the impact of the 900 station job cuts hits home.
“The solution is in the hands of the Mayor and his officials. They need to come up with serious and urgent plans designed to address the core issues at the heart of this dispute and a schedule for staffing back up on the stations to a level our reps believe is safe and sustainable.”
Meanwhile the battle to preserve the role of guards on trains at Southern Rail continues — also an issue of safety for passengers and rail staff.
The day after TfL station staff went on strike across London’s tube network, Southern Rail services were cancelled on Tuesday, as well as on Wednesday and Friday, in the latest strikes on the commuter rail network.
In this instance the drivers’ union ASLEF was involved. These are the first walkouts of the new year in a long-running dispute at Southern over whether trains should operate without guards, leaving drivers to operate train doors.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A year of hope and struggle

RCPB (ML) Michael Chant and Chris Coleman propose the toast
by New Worker correspondent
Communists welcomed the New Year at the London centre of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML) in south London last weekend. NCP leader Andy Brooks and other London comrades met friends old and new at the John Buckle Centre, including diplomats from the Cuban embassy and many active in solidarity work, the cultural front and anti-fascist struggle.
            The rising temper of the working class in Britain and throughout the world was highlighted by Michael Chant during the formal part of the celebration organised by the London Region of the RCPB(ML). Imperialism suffered many setbacks in 2016, not least the defeat of their minions in Aleppo. But, as Cuban diplomat Jorge Luis Garcia pointed out, it was also the year that the leader of the Cuban revolution passed away and the Cuban people were now celebrating the New Year for the first time since liberation without Fidel. The Cuban people mourned the passing of their great leader and they are determined to follow in the footsteps of the revolutionaries who liberated the island to build a socialist society on the doorstep of US imperialism itself.
            Everyone rose to raise a toast for a New Year of struggle for peace and socialism during an evening that ended in the spirit of confidence and optimism that always grows whenever comrades meet.

Building solidarity with Korea

By New Worker correspondent

Korean Friendship Association (KFA) activists met in south London last weekend to plan future work and celebrate the birthday of Democratic Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The meeting was chaired by Dermot Hudson, who said Kim Jong Un had pushed forward the Songun and  Juche revolutionary cause following in the footsteps of the great leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Though western media had focused on Kim Jong Un’s remarks about Democratic Korea’s ballistic missile deterrent it had totally ignored the rest of his New Year address. In that call, Kim Jong Un put forward the great slogan "Let us accelerate the victorious advance of socialism with the great spirit of self-reliance and self-development as the dynamic force!"
 Self-reliance and self-development are the The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK's) secret weapons to smash the unjust and crazy US imperialist and UN sanctions. Moreover, self-reliance and self-development will protect the DPRK from "reform" and "opening up", and from the restoration of capitalism. Without a doubt self-reliance is the only correct way to build socialism and win final victory over the imperialists, Dermot said.