Thursday, May 17, 2018

Unions march for higher wage

 TENS OF thousands of trade union activists, peace and social justice campaigners marched through London last Saturday from the Embankment to a massive rally in Hyde Park to demand better pay and conditions for workers throughout the country in what has been described as the biggest London march for many years. It was organised by the TUC.
The workers were demanding a minimum wage rise to £10 an hour, a ban on zero-hours contracts and higher funding for the NHS, education and other public services.
Workers involved in current disputes including those at restaurant chains TGI Fridays and McDonald’s joined the march, along with railway workers striking to keep guards on trains, nurses, ambulance crews, postmen, teachers, civil servants and cleaners.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said before the march started that workers have had enough of low pay, poor quality jobs and constant cuts to public services.
She added: “There is a new mood in the country. People have been very patient but they are now demanding a new deal.”
Just before the march, the TUC published a new report it had commissioned that showed that workers are suffering the longest squeeze on wages in modern history.
It found workers were suffering the biggest relative real wage loss since the Napoleonic Wars. Even after the Great Depression and the Second World War, real wages recovered more quickly – in 10 years and seven years respectively.
A decade on from the financial crisis, real wages are worth £24 a week less than in 2008 and are not forecast to return to pre-crash levels until 2025, said the union organisation.
The TUC said the current stretch of wage stagnation was the worst for 200 years. By 2025 the average worker will have lost out by around £18,500 in real earnings, it was estimated.
Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, said it was the most important demonstration for 50 years. He said: “This is the start of a serious challenge for a new deal for all workers.
“The world of work has become a pressurised environment, based on a flexible labour market and bogus self-employment.”
Marchers arrived in Hyde Park just as it started to rain but that dampened no spirits. They gave a rapturous welcome to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who addressed the growing crowd.
He pledged that a Labour government will give workers “more power” to fight for higher pay. “Our whole movement exists to challenge the powerful and stand up for the powerless,” he said.
“We want to see workers across whole sectors, not just individual employers, get to bargain together to get the best deal for the workforce in their industry.
“Why should bar staff and waiters not be able to organise and support each other like London bus drivers can? It's time for a fundamental shift in power in our country – from the few to the many.”
Corbyn won huge applause from the crowds when he pledged the next Labour government would launch a ministry to guarantee workers' rights.
He promised to "take rail mail and water back into public ownership" and warned tax dodgers that a "Labour government is coming after you. We will tax properly".
He added: "This demonstration today is about workers’ rights, it is about collective endeavour but above all, it's a declaration that we're around to campaign as long as it takes, to bring about that social justice and that decency in society."

Remembering the Soviet victory against the Nazis

 by New Worker 
Andy Brooks with  James Taylor and Dermot Hudson

 MILLIONS of Russians took to the streets last week to celebrate Victory Day and the surrender of Nazi Germany on 9th May 1945. A massive military parade through Red Square in Moscow paid tribute to the millions of Soviet soldiers and citizens who died in the struggle to defeat the Nazis in the Second World War while other commemorations took place throughout the Russian Federation and much of the former Soviet Union.
            In London communists began the day by joining veterans, diplomats and local dignitaries at the ceremony that’s held every year at the Soviet War Memorial in the shadow of the Imperial War Museum in south London. Many then went on to Trafalgar square to join the “Immortal Regiment” parade called by the Russian community in Britain to honour those that fell in the fight against fascism.
            Hundreds of people, including many from London’s Russian community, gathered around the Memorial in the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park in Southwark on Wednesday 9th May to mark the 73rd anniversary of the Red Army’s victory over the Nazi hordes in 1945.
            Banners flying high, British and Soviet war veterans marched to the monument to start the ceremony that was opened by Charlie Smith, the Mayor of Southwark, and addressed by Philip Matthews from the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund and Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko.
This was followed by the laying of floral tributes by Southwark councillors, diplomats from the countries of the former Soviet Union, British and Soviet veterans and friendship associations. Officials from the Marx Memorial Library and communist movements that included a New Communist Party delegation led by NCP general secretary, Andy Brooks, placed their wreaths and flowers at the memorial which was unveiled on 9th May 1999.
The Soviet War Memorial is a bronze statue of a semi-abstract figure holding a bell that will forever remain silent. The memorial stone that commemorates the 27 million Soviet citizens and servicemen and women who died in the Second World War is inscribed with the words “We Shall Remember Them” in English and Russian. These words were solemnly repeated by all at the close of the ceremony that ended with the {Last Post} and two minutes silence to remember those who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom during the Second World War.
Finally the event ended with the traditional invitation from the Russian ambassador to join him in a toast to victory at the nearby marquees where vodka, wine and Russian food awaited them.

A Tribute to Neil Harris

Robyn Harris
by New Worker correspondent

COMRADES and friends gathered at the Party Centre over the weekend to pay tribute to the life-long commitment of Neil Harris to the communist cause. Neil passed away in March after a long battle against cancer. He was 59.
Leading comrades had paid their last respects to Neil at his funeral in Richmond in March. But they, and many others who knew Neil well returned to the Party Centre last Saturday for a memorial social to remember his life and his immense contribution to the work of the New Communist Party.
After finishing school Neil went to study at the London School of Economics. After graduation he had a number of jobs including working for the Co-operative Wholesale Society and a record store before taking up law. He scored in the top ten in the entire country in the law exam when he finished and for over 20 years he worked as a criminal defence solicitor in West London. He was proud to serve as a duty (legal aid) solicitor. He wanted to help the people who couldn’t afford to pay legal fees and he often extended his services to them outside of the courtroom and police station. He would encourage his clients to better themselves by looking for opportunities for them to change their lives.
Neil supported the Labour Party in his youth, even standing unsuccessfully for Labour in a council election in Berkshire, before turning to revolutionary politics, which he readily embraced when he joined the New Communist Party in the early 1980s, His enthusiasm and effort led to his inevitable election to our Central Committee in the 1990s. He remained on that committee and the Political Bureau until illness curtailed his mobility.
Neil loathed fascism and racism. He was active in the Rock against Racism campaign and the other anti-fascist movements that sprang up to combat the National Front and the British National Party. He was active in the fight against apartheid. He supported the unions and joined the solidarity campaign for the miners during their epic strike in the 1980s.
But above all he was a dedicated communist. While always on hand to provide legal advice to the Central Committee Neil was also an activist, organiser and writer who dedicated his life to the communist cause. Neil played a leading role in struggle against revisionism within the Party and drafted the proposals that were incorporated in the new Party constitution that followed. Neil sat on many NCP Congress committees
Neil organised and took part in many NCP meetings and was always ready to give out leaflets or carry the banner on protests and demos. He also wrote a number of keynote articles for the {New Worker}, in his own name as well as a couple of pen-names, which can be read online or in pamphlet form.
His last major effort, when his battle against cancer began, was a one-man campaign to improve St Peter’s Hospital, Chertsey, which revolved around the Help me sort out St Peter's! blog that he established in 2012 and remains on the Web as a record of his thoughts over the past six years.
Comrades who knew Neil well, including NCP leader Andy Brooks and National Chair Alex Kempshall, shared fond memories during the evening while Daphne Liddle and Theo Russell recalled Neil’s dedication to the movement over the years. Some of these stories were new to Neil’s widow, Robyn, but all of them reflected an eternal truth about a comrade whose life was so sadly cut short by a terminal illness.
Neil Harris was a man who enjoyed life and lived to help others. He loved music of all kinds. One of his favourite songs, Enjoy Yourself It’s Later Than You Think, was played at his funeral. It was, appropriately, played for his friends who had come to pay one last tribute to Neil’s memory.