Friday, February 16, 2018

Red Salute to Kim Jong Il!

Kim Song Ji, Andy Brooks and Michael Chant
by New Worker correspondent
Friends of the Korean revolution have been commemorating the anniversary of the birth of dear leader Kim Jong Il throughout the month at events in the capital and other parts of the country. And last week comrades and friends gathered to mark the Day of the Shining Star at the John Buckle Centre, the HQ of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML) in London.
Kim Jong Il steered the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) through the difficult times that followed the death of great leader Kim Il Sung in 1994. He devoted his entire life to serving the Korean people in the cause of building a human-centred society, a cause that is espoused by the democratic and anti-imperialist forces the world over.
Following in Kim Il Sung’s footsteps, Kim Jong Il led the Workers Party of Korea into the 21st century to build a strong and prosperous socialist republic. Kim Jong Il was a leading Marxist thinker who made an important contribution to 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.
Andy Brooks, the chair of the Friends of Korea committee that organised the meeting, welcomed everyone to the event to honour the memory of the Korean communist leader who died at his post in December 2011. The speakers, who included Michael Chant from the RCPB(ML) and Kim Song Gi from the London embassy of the DPRK, both spoke about the continued advances of the people of Democratic Korea and their contribution to international peace and progress. The focus was naturally the courageous initiative by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un that led to the creation of a united Korean sports team at the Winter Olympics currently taking place in south Korea and an easing of tension across the armistice line which, hopefully, will lead to a positive response to Democratic Korean peace proposals by the south Korean authorities.
This was followed by a lively question and answer session with the DPRK diplomat and a general discussion that continued, as usual, over refreshments after the formal close of the meeting.

LRC: preparing Labour for power

Singing the Internationale at the close of conference

By New Worker correspondent

MEMBERS of the Labour Representation Committee (LRC) met for a special general meeting in London’s Conway Hall last Saturday to debate the LRC’s continuing role within the labour movement.
The modern LRC was founded in July 2004 by left-wing members of the Labour Party, trade unionists and others with the aim of restoring the party to its founding purpose of defending working-class interests, fighting for social democracy and the public ownership of the means of production and distribution. It was named after the committee that founded the Labour Party in February 1900.
That aim has largely been achieved with the election of Jeremy Corbyn – one of the leading founders of the LRC – to the leadership of the party in 2016, his re-election after a challenge the following year, a mass influx of new Corbyn supporters into the party and at the end of last year the winning of a left majority on the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC).
It could be argued that the LRC has done its job – a task that seemed almost impossible in 2004 – but there are still battles to be fought. Some local authorities are still in the hands of right-wing Blairite Labour cliques who are wedded to Tory policies.
And the right wing is still committed to undermining Corbyn’s leadership, though so far all the plotting, slandering and double dealing seems only to have made his position stronger.
The first speaker on Saturday was Mick Brooks, the LRC’s political secretary presenting the National Executive Committee statement, pointed out that the LRC still has a vital role.
The mass organisation Momentum is doing great work campaigning for Corbyn to become Prime Minister and to counter the dirty tricks of old right-wing Labour MPs and councillors.
Mick Brooks said there was hope that the LRC and Momentum would be working together. “But,” Brooks warned, “the LRC is a properly constituted organisation; we have conference, we have elections. Momentum has a ‘democratic deficit’, which we hope will be resolved in due course.
“The LRC is not just a Jeremy Corbyn fan club. We are more about the policies and we need our own independence. For example, on the issue of Trident, we know Corbyn has always been in favour of nuclear disarmament. But currently the official Labour Party policy supports Trident so Corbyn is obliged to keep to that line.
“But we don’t have to make that concession and we can still campaign against Trident and keep reminding him until disarmament becomes official party policy.”
Mick Brooks warned that the radicalisation of the Labour Party is still in its early stages and is precarious. But the party is moving forward with the most left-wing leader it has ever had.
The debate was chaired by Matt Wrack, who is general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, about the Labour Party’s internal Democracy Review; about false accusations of anti-Semitism; about ending Labour councillors implementing Tory policies, especially in gentrification, demolishing council estates and replacing them with private luxury homes that the former residents cannot afford to live in.
A number of resolutions were discussed and voted on, including one from the New Communist Party on housing and the need to build more council homes, cap rents and raise tenants’ awareness of their rights in fighting evictions resulting from gaps in benefit payments by re-introducing the McKenzie’s friends of the successful anti-poll tax campaign. The resolution was passed unanimously.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell spoke briefly to the conference about the work of another conference he was participating in nearby discussing the economic nuts and bolts of taking utilities and services that have been privatised back into public ownership.
He spoke of new modes of public ownership, the creation of co-operatives involving workers in the rail, water and power industries and the users of the services in a way that would make it hard for a future Tory government to re-privatise them. He also spoke of compensating former shareholders of these industries by issuing Government bonds.
The conference finished with a rousing speech from Ian Hodson, leader of the Bakers’ Foods and Allied Workers’ Union, followed by the singing of the Red Flag and the Internationale.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

60,000 march to save the NHS

MORE than 60,000 people braved cold and rain and crammed into Gower Street in central London for the start of a massive protest march to Whitehall to demand that the Government must fund the NHS properly and halt the privatisation of NHS services.
They included nurses, doctors and all other kinds of NHS workers along with trade unionists, patients, pensioners, children and people from all walks of life who value our NHS and its provision of healthcare that is always free at the point of use.
But the NHS has been lurching from one financial crisis to another for three decades now as millions of pounds spent on it is diverted into private pockets.
When the NHS was broken up into separate ‘independent’ hospital trusts in the early 1990s the Tory government saddled the trusts with mortgages for the buildings and land.
Then came the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) schemes whereby the Government financed all new building work, repairs and renovation from private PFI consortia of big business corporations saddling the hospital with colossal new debts to be paid off over 20 to 30 years.
The consortia that funded these contracts then started taking over the running of the hospitals. Hundreds of old hospitals were closed and some new ones opened but with a steady reduction in the total number of beds.
The Labour government led by Tony Blair was equally as guilty as the Tories for accelerating this process of reducing the NHS whilst driving it deeper and deeper into debt.
More and more NHS services are handed out to private health companies who take routine work – and the NHS funding that goes with it – leaving complex and expensive cases for the NHS.
Still the cuts continue, especially to accident and emergency (A&E) units, so that during the winter crisis period the surviving units just do not have enough resources to cope and the spectre of patients waiting long hours on trolleys in corridors or even lying on the floors happens every winter.
NHS staff are worked to exhaustion leading to mistakes but miraculously only a few lives are lost. All this so the business-oriented government can say that the NHS is failing through poor financial management and we need a complete change – the end of the NHS and its replacement with a personal insurance system as in the USA – which will exclude those who cannot afford it.
Saturday’s march was organised by Health Campaigns Together and the People’s Assembly. There were other linked protests all around the country.
One of the speakers at the final rally in Whitehall was Nicky Romero, a mother from Bristol whose 15-year-old daughter died after being sent home from a mental health unit.
Her daughter Becky was found dead in July last year. An inquest found that neglect by the NHS service responsible for her had contributed to her death. Nicky Romero reduced many of the crowd to tears with her emotional speech in which she called for more funding for mental health care.
Another speaker was A&E nurse David Bailey, who told the large crowd that 120,000 deaths could be attributed to austerity. He said: “We’re just reaching a crisis point. In Oxford we’ve had 300 beds closed in a year.”
TV actor Ralf Little spoke of love for the NHS. He said that in an age where the country is divided over so many things, the National Health Service is well loved. And he accused Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of lying about mental health provisions.
Save Lewisham Hospital campaigner Tamsyn Bacchus, who carried a life-size vulture prop hovering over a bloody-painted NHS placard, said she feared Britain could morph the NHS into a US-style user-pays health service.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sent a heartfelt message of support to the marchers, saying that he will fight to stop the privatisation of the health service and promised NHS staff the resources they need.
“It can’t have escaped anyone’s notice that our NHS is crisis,” he said. “It is a crisis created by the Tories and austerity.
“In the face of all the evidence – patients being treated in hospital corridors, people dying in the back of ambulances, hospitals in dire need of repair – they are refusing to give our NHS the money it needs and needs now.
“The NHS will only survive if we fight for it.”

A life devoted to Korea

Theo Russell, Dermot Hudson and Shaun Pickford
by New Worker
Comrades and friends marked the 76th anniversary of the birth of Korean leader Kim Jong Il at a meeting last weekend called by the Korean Friendship Association (KFA) and the British Juche Society.
Kim Jong Il developed the Juche idea, applying it to all spheres of economic construction and for the promotion of north–south dialogue for the independent peaceful reunification of Korea. His modesty, faithful service, tireless work, total loyalty to Kim Il Sung and the Korean revolution, and undoubted ability meant that when the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) considered the question of the succession – and this was decided long before Kim Il Sung’s death – Kim Jong Il was the unchallenged candidate to be the successor to great leader Kim Il Sung.
When Kim Il Sung passed away, Kim Jong Il told the Korean people and the world that they could “expect no change from me” and under his leadership the WPK won further victories. Natural disasters were overcome. Imperialist diplomatic isolation was broken and the intrigues of US imperialism exposed.
Kim Jong Il, the great leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) who devoted his entire life to serving the Korean people, died at his post in December 2011.
Last Saturday supporters of the Korean revolution returned to the historic Lucas Arms to celebrate the Day of the Shining Star as it is known in Democratic Korea, and to hear solidarity speeches from KFA and New Communist Party (NCP) solidarity activists. The Kings Cross pub has been a working class venue for many years and was the place where the Committee to Defeat Revisionism for Communist Unity was founded to challenge the leadership of the old Communist Party of Great Britain in 1963.
Chaired by Dermot Hudson of the KFA, the meeting began with openings from Shaun Pickford of the KFA and Theo Russell from the Central Committee of the NCP. This was followed by a general discussion that revolved around the initiative of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un over the winter Olympics in south Korea and the latest American attempts to derail all attempts to defuse the crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Everyone praised the DPRK's socialist system and the proposals for reunification and calls to defend Democratic Korea against US imperialist aggression.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Haringey housing sell-off plan overthrown

  THE LABOUR Party Blairites entrenched in many local authorities and carrying out social cleansing by demolishing council estates and replacing them with privately owned luxury developments suffered a serious setback last week when Clare Kober, leader of Haringey council, was forced to resign.
This followed a defeat for her plans to sell off council estates, the civic centre and libraries in a massive £2 billion deal with the private company Lendlease. It would have been the biggest deal of its kind ever undertaken by a local authority in Britain and it was economically risky.
The existing council tenants were told they would be rehoused in the new accommodation that was to be built – but on a shared-ownership basis that few would be able to afford. And those who scrutinised the details found plenty of loopholes for former tenants and leaseholders to be excluded from returning
Local tenants had campaigned against the sell-off since it was first proposed, as did left-Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors. It was the sort of deal that gave Labour a bad name.
 Kober and her colleagues called their plan Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV). But Cllr Stuart McNamara (Labour) warned a scrutiny meeting just over a year ago: “If a venture like this failed the council would not have the financial reserves to bail itself out. It would also without doubt bankrupt the council and where will that leave tenants?”
And Cllr Zena Brabazon (Labour) said: “Most of us don’t have a deep understanding, but we’ve got the point that public land will turn into private land.
 Kober and her associates enjoyed corporate hospitality worth £770 from companies bidding to get the £2 billion contract. This included a dinner at the exclusive MIPIM property conference in Cannes, France.
The Labour Party withdrew its support for HDV recently after the Blairites lost their majority on the party’s National Executive Committee and after some pressure Kober agreed to stand down prior to the coming local elections in May.
The right-wing media are predictably championing Kober as a victim of left-wing Momentum bullies and sexists.
But Aditya Chakrabortty, a Guardian columnist who is a long-term resident of Haringey ironically says: “I’ve just been reading about the most terrifying place. For weeks, this ‘toxic’ neighbourhood with its ‘poisonous’ atmosphere has been all over the front pages and columns. It’s a land of revolutionary politics, of ‘ruthless attacks’ and ‘purges’. Hordes of Trotskyists reportedly roam its high streets – like wildebeest, if they only swapped the majesty of the Serengeti for suburban pound shops. It sounds, frankly, dreadful”  to finally refute this picture, saying: “It’s just the locals taking back control.”
He added: “Something bigger is going on here than a little poetic licence over one local authority – something that makes it important for anyone, anywhere who wants a different politics from the dross we’ve been served up by New Labour and Tories alike. Between them, the right-wing press and the Labour right are targeting Haringey in a proxy war against Corbyn.
“It makes an ideal spot: it’s where he was councillor for almost a decade before going into parliament, and it’s just a few minutes from his home.”
Hopefully this trend will continue and other Labour local authorities with plans in the pipeline to demolish council estates and replace them with luxury developments for the wealthy will also be halted.
 London Borough of Lambeth comes to mind. On Monday, Lambeth Council’s cabinet gathered to vote through Homes for Lambeth, the private company it has set up to demolish six estates – Knights Walk, South Lambeth, Fenwick, Westbury, Central Hill and Cressingham Gardens – and build and manage private homes on the cleared sites.
Even the location of the meeting ought to have served as a warning that the council can’t be trusted with construction projects.
This was the first day of full operation in Brixton Town Hall after an 18-month closure for a refit that was supposed to have cost £50million but is likely to end up coming in at an eye-watering £150million, or perhaps even more.
Reports last year concerning one of Lambeth’s earlier gentrification projects suggested that every new flat built on what used to be the Aylesbury Estate had been snapped up by wealthy foreign investors.