Friday, October 28, 2005

‘Put up or shut up’– Galloway challenges accusers

WHEN George Galloway addressed the United States Senate Committee earlierthis year, answering charges that he had benefited from Iraqi oil money, heemphatically rejected the charges and rounded on his accusers with counteraccusations over the illegal invasion of Iraq.
He made the Senate Committee look foolish in front of the world so it wasonly a matter of time before various US government agencies would set outto undermine his credibility.
And last week they came up with the goods – new claims of “smoking gun”evidence that £85,000 from Iraqi oil sales was paid into a bank accountbelonging to Galloway’s estranged wife, Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad.
They also claimed that another £250,000 was given to the Mariam Appeal –the charity launched by Galloway for Iraqi children suffering from cancer,caused by the use of depleted uranium weapons in the first Gulf War.
Galloway, now the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has repeated hisdenials that he ever received any money from Iraqi oil revenues anddemanded that the Senate committee charge him with lying – a criminaloffence – so that he can clear his name in court – or withdraw theaccusations.
And Galloway accused Senator Norman Coleman, who chairs the committee, ofcarrying out “sneak revenge attacks”.
He said he did not wish to answer for his wife but that she has spent manyyears researching the health effects of depleted uranium and that researchhad funding from many sources.
“Please, please charge me,” he said. “Please prosecute me and I will be onthe next plane to America to see you in court.
“I am demanding prosecution. I am begging for prosecution. If I have lied under oath in front of the Senate, that’s a criminal offence. Charge me andI will face them down in court as I faced them down in the Senate room.”
The Senate committee claims that Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian friend ofGalloway, channelled the money from the Saddam government to the MariamAppeal and to Dr Abu Zayyad.
But, in spite of the serious charges, Zureikat is still trading in Iraqand has made business trips to the US with the approval of the Americanauthorities.
He said he had meetings with them and they had talked to him about Iraqbefore the war but they had never mentioned oil or Galloway.
Galloway has accused the Americans of obtaining false evidence against himby torturing prisoners now held in Iraq.

The spirit of the anti-nazi struggle


By Andy Brooks

Under the Wire: William Ash, Bantam Press, London 2005. Hbk, 292pp, illus.£16.99

Bill Ash, the Marxist writer, is well known to many of our readers for his novels based on the working class struggles in 1970s Britain. Some may know he gave up his American citizenship to fight the Nazis in 1940 when the United States was still neutral and then went on to become a successful script-writer after the war.
But what most of us didn’t know was why this young Texan chose to enter the fray by joining the Royal Canadian Air Force or what happened after his Spitfire was shot-down in 1942 over occupied France.
What followed is told in this gripping narrative of life evading the Gestapo and ending up as a reluctant POW in the camps. Bill’s courage never flagged. At every camp he plunged himself into work of the escape committees. Though their plans often ended in tears – Bill made over a dozen break-outs only to be recaptured – the efforts of the POWs tied down thousands of Nazi troops that would otherwise been sent to the front.
In telling his story Bill opens up the world of the RAF during the air-war with the Luftwaffe. He salutes his comrades in the skies, the resistance and in the camps who refused to accept that “for them the war was over”. And he does it with the wit and humour that runs through all his writings. Through his eyes we see the reality of fascist brutality and through his words we begin to understand the sacrifices that his generation made to rid the world of Hitler and Hirohito.
Producing this book for the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War was the brain-child of Brendan Foley, who first met Bill in the 1980s and wrote a screenplay of Bill’s wartime adventures. Bill says “most of the events in this book took place between sixty and seventy years ago, so I hope readers will forgive Brendan and me if we have tried to capture the spirit of the time, rather than the letter of it”.
Well there can be no doubt about that. Though the number of war-time memoirs must be legion Under the Wire stands out as a remarkable tribute to the men and women who gave their all to defeat the Axis. Well worth reading it can be bought from any high street bookseller or obtained from your local library.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Red enough!


by Paul Barrett

Night of the Demon – a classic film you may have missed.

IN 1911 M R James wrote a disturbing short story called The Casting of the Runes. In it the supernatural terrors that lurked on the periphery of the story’s events were never confirmed.

Yet in the 1957 horror film Night of the Demon, based on this story, there is no doubt that the horror is real. This little B film is one of the few of its kind that deserves to be remembered long after its first release, and remembered, respected and in many cases it is still loved.

And now the entire story of the film and those who made it is available in a book by Tony Earnshaw – Beating the Devil – printed by Tomahawk Press.

It is a fascinating insight into the story of the film, the cast and crew and is a highly informative easy read. It revealed that a Charles Bennett, who collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on such films as Sabotage and The Man who Knew Too Much, wrote a highly literate script of the story under the working title of The Bewitched.

He was advised that any film version had no chance of the sought-after A certificate, with the censors likely to grant an X, even after swingeing cuts to the script and story. Then a chance meeting between Bennett and Hal C Chester, a small scale Hollywood producer and major hustler, resulted in a deal with Columbia Pictures to produce the film, with Chester’s name very prominent in the credits, while Bennett’s was not used.

Living in England at the time was black-listed writer/director Cy Enfield, who had been targeted by the fascist House of Un-American Activities Committee and had been considered a top Hollywood talent – though his inclination was to associate with the “brightest writers and directors”, ensuring that he was always prominent “at the Red table” in the studios’ cafeteria.

This of course sealed his professional doom in the “good old USA”. So Cy, whether a party member or not, was red enough to be driven from his country and astute enough to get out before the forces of reaction could jail him.

No doubt working well below scale, Enfield delivers a taut, tense and engrossing script. Incidentally he went on to great personal success, including the 1960s box office smash Zulu.

Night of the Demon, known in the US as Curse of the Demon, is a gripping little horror film that does so well what so few grossly over-budget films to today. It entertains, frightens and for the film’s duration almost convinces you that there really are ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night.

This enthralling little book is available online:
RRP £13.50.

London flood risk ignored

THE LONDON Assembly last week issued a report warning that the risk of major flooding in London is not being taken seriously enough – especially in the East London Thames Gateway flood plain.
This area is downstream of the Thames flood barrier and is the scene of a massive increase in building and development. New estates of lucrative luxury flats are springing up all along the river banks.
There is confusion over who should maintain flood defences in the Thames Estuary, which is home to 1.25 million people. Around half a million homes are prone to flooding and the threat is growing.
Green Party leader Darren Johnson, who chairs the report committee said: “In New Orleans the world has had a tragic reminder of the threat from natural disaster and the impact that flooding can have.
“It is therefore vital that lessons are learned and action taken immediately to streamline responsibilities for flood defences and planning control in the Thames Gateway.
“Much of the development area is on the flood plain, which will put London at greater risk.”
The committee reckons that five per cent of east London’s defences are in a poor condition and the situation could be worse further down river towards the coast.
The report says that private landowners are responsible for maintaining many of the capital’s 2,400 defence structures but in many cases it is impossible to identify who owns the land.

Trouble on the Northern Line

SERVICES on the London Underground Northern Line have been seriously disrupted throughout last week after drivers from both Aslef and the RMT refused to operate the trains because of faulty emergency breaking systems.
RMT welcomed a decision by London Underground not to discipline or stop the pay of staff who are refusing to operate or undertake duties that could endanger the safety of passengers and staff.
But the crisis has led to renewed calls for a major overhaul of the contracts of private companies involved in the maintenance and running of the system.
The crisis arose after the emergency breaking system on the Northern Lines trains malfunctioned on five occasions.
The Northern Line operates under a public private partnership, involving the consortium Tube Lines, that was imposed by the Blair government against the wishes of the unions and the people of London.
Tube Lines also has a separate private finance initiative maintenance deal with the train company Alstom. It is supposed to maintain the brakes on the trains.
But the deals are so complicated that it is almost impossible to establish a clear picture of the structure of command and accountability. Currently the various private companies involved are all blaming each other for the faulty brakes.
JKC Henderson, a former manager of the Northern line in the 1960s, commented: “The peak period service required 100 trains, which is considerably more than many complete urban transport systems.
“Responsibility for the operations of the trains and the signalling and the maintenance of the trains, track and signalling came under a unified management and worked very well as a team.
“Of course we had bad days, but we were rarely running more than two or three minutes late at the end of a peak period.
“The present muddles which resulted from the splitting up of these responsibilities were inevitable and have affected the main line railways in a similar way.
“I understand that very few, if any, people with relevant experiences were included in the committees responsible for the present organisation, which were dominated by the Treasury.”
Bob Kiley, who is London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s appointed commissioner of transport for London, plans to use the current crisis to renegotiate the deals with the private sector and bring more control back into the public sector.
He said: “I think the lines of authority have to be clean and clear and they are not at the moment.”

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Booting out Blair

LONDON LABOUR MP Glenda Jackson last week said she would be prepared to act as a “stalking horse” in order to trigger a leadership contest within the Parliamentary Labour Party – if Blair tries to stay in power for longer than another year. This is good news as far as it goes. Blair should have been driven from office long ago for taking the country into an illegal war on the basis of lies and deceit.

But the Highgate and Hampstead MP said she thought she would be “extremely unlikely” to get enough votes. That does not say much for the courage of her fellow MPs. Perhaps the results of the local elections next May will stiffen their resolve. If Labour is still led by Blair, it is likely to do very badly. Labour supporters will not bother to turn out and millions of people will end up decidedly worse off with Liberal Democrat or Tory controlled local councils. A low turn-out will increase the danger of fascist BNP candidates doing proportionately better.

Just after last May’s general election Erith and Thamesmead MP John Austin said he was prepared to act as a “stalking horse” if Blair was still in Number 10 by Christmas. Between the election and the Labour conference it seems the resolve of our elected representatives faltered and faded. This is definitely a reason to remind them more often and in more ways that the people of Britain want Blair out – and his warmongering policies.

Celebrating 60 years of the Workers’ Party of Korea

AROUND 60 people packed the meeting room at London's Marx House last Monday, organised by the British preparatory committee to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the leadership given by Comrade Kim Il Sung.

It was chaired by Keith Bennett and was one of several events in the London area last week which celebrated that anniversary. He opened the meeting with a summary of the roots of the WPK, its history and its impact on the world.

Comrade Yong Ho Tae from the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke about the recent agreement achieved at the fourth round of six-party talks on the nuclear situation on the Korean peninsula.

The agreement, if fully implemented, will lead to the complete de-nuclearisation of the whole peninsula after the United States has given the DPRK guarantees of its safety and two nuclear energy plants to solve the country’s natural shortage of energy sources.

In return the DPRK will then halt its own nuclear power station construction and weapons programme. But the US has a history of reneging on such deals and is already trying to dispute some aspects of the deal.

Comrade Tae stressed that the only way to deal with US imperialist bullying and aggression is to be strong and stand firm against it.

His speech was followed by a question and answer session, light refreshments and a film of the road the DPRK has taken after the devastation caused by the imperialist war of 1950 to 53 up to the modern, productive and beautiful country that it is today.

‘These mad dogs must be shot’


by Ray Jones

Revolutionary Democracy, Vol XI, No 2, September 2005. £2.50 plus 50p P&P. NCP Lit, PO Box 73, London SW11 2PQ.

THERE ARE ALWAYS gems to be found in this journal and this issue is no exception. As well as a continuation of the debate on the economic policies of Che Guevara and Bettelheim there is a detailed analysis of the Warsaw Uprising, a look at Soviet democracy in the 1930s, an interview with Mao in 1938 and two brief but revealing pieces on Trotskyism by Krupskaya (Lenin’s wife) and much more.

The two articles by Krupskaya were written a decade apart in 1925 and 1936 but both have the same underlying criticism of Trotsky – that he never really understood the role of the masses under socialism.

And the later one shows that she had no sympathy for the Trotsky/Zinoviev/Kamenev opposition after the trials. The whole country, she says, demanded: “These mad dogs must be shot!”.

The Soviet Union and Stalin have been accused of many crimes by bourgeois historians. Among these is the betrayal of the people of Warsaw by not supporting them when they rose up against the Nazi occupiers in 1944.

Ulrich Huar puts the blame firmly where it belongs – on the Polish Government in Exile in London, who called the uprising without any coordination with the Red Army for their own political gain.

Readers may not agree with everything in Revolutionary Democracy (I’m particularly thinking of the criticism of the Lula government in Brazil in this issue, which seems one-sided) but having said that it’s a unique source of fascinating views and information.

Uniting communities

by Theo Russell

LONDON Mayor Ken Livingstone has joined with Liberty, key Muslim and Sikh organisations, community organisations, faith leaders, MPs, trade unionists, lawyers and opinion-formers to encourage public debate on proposed governmental measures to oppose terrorism.

The new campaign issued a statement and staged a mass meeting in Central Hall, Westminster, this Wednesday evening.

Signatories to the statement believe that some of the proposals risk alienating those sections of the community whose co-operation is essential to combating terror.

The campaign plans to lobby ministers and MPs explaining that there is grave concern amongst the overwhelming majority of the communities whose co-operation is essential to identify and defeat terrorists and their supporters.

Speakers at the meeting included: Ken Livingstone, Mark Oaten, MP Liberal Democrat, Scots Nationalist Alex Salmond MP, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, Frank Dobson MP, Sadiq Khan MP Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain, Rt Rev Colin Bennetts, Bishop of Coventry, Dan Judelson, European Jews for a Just Peace, Amrik Singh of the Sikh Federation UK, Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member, Dr Azzam Tamini, Muslim Association of Britain, CWU general secretary Billy Hayes, TGWU assistant general secretary Barry Camfield, Tony Benn Kate Hudson, CND Salma Yaqoob, Madeleine Bunting, journalist and Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition.

Safety dispute on the Northern Line

RAIL unions are calling for extra safety measures on London Underground’s Northern Line after an inspection revealed that a safety device was not working on eight or nine of the trains.
Drivers’ union Aslef advised tube train drivers working on the Northern Line to insist on having an extra person on board because of safety concerns.
The problem concerns malfunctions in a device that is supposed to “trip” in if a red light is passed. A recent examination of Northern Line tube trains showed that several tube trains did not have the trip working effectively. Either the mechanisms had eroded, were clogged with grease or were sagging.
Maintenance had been sub-contracted, but the firm involved has now been taken off the contract.
Under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, Tube Lines and Alstom are responsible for maintenance on the Northern Line. A spokesperson for LU said it had been pressing both firms to resolve the situation for several weeks and was now directing and overseeing the work of Tube Lines and Alstom.
“The fact that they have not resolved the situation is completely unacceptable,” he said.
Early discussions between ASLEF, RMT and the management have led to agreement that depot staff would be borrowed from other lines to test all Northern Line trains before Friday morning.
Aslef insisted on a second worker allocated to each train until the problem was resolved.

Rail unions slam ‘paltry’ Hatfield fines

AN OLD BAILEY judge last week imposed record fines totalling £13.5 million on rail companies for their part in the Hatfield rail disaster. The Balfour Beatty engineering company was fined £10 million and Network Rail – which has assumed the financial liabilities of the now defunct Railtrack – was fined £3.5 million.
Mr Justice MacKay said it was “one of the worst examples of sustained industrial negligence in a high-risk industry I have even seen”.
But rail unions RMT and Aslef were quick to point out that these fines are “paltry” compared to the Government grants being dished out to these companies – and that ultimately taxpayers will foot the bills.
The RMT pointed out that on the same day as the judgement, Network Rail had just concluded a new £110 million-deal with Balfour Beatty.
They also renewed their calls for an effective corporate manslaughter law that will not allow the guilty individuals to walk away with no penalty.
Andy Reed, national organiser of the train drivers’ union Aslef said the fines would “do little to instil a safety culture in a money-obsessed industry”.
“The fines imposed on the companies that breached health and safety regulations and caused the 2000 Hatfield crash are large and, on the face of it, could even look severe.
“But it is an illusion created by a society that looks for morality in its bank account.
“There is an assumption that you can solve any problem by throwing money at it. Well, you can’t. What price would you put on the four Hatfield dead?”
Reed argued that until individual managers are held to account, companies will not change their view that safety is a secondary consideration – because safety doesn’t make money.
He continued: “I fail to see how the company is guilty, but the people who run it are not. If I drive a car irresponsibly and crash into a bus queue, people don’t turn round and blame the motor.”
And he said it is time rail companies stop talking about their alleged concern for safety – and do something about it. “We will believe the leopard’s spots have changed when we see in-cab technology to enable drivers to see obstructions on the track ahead, when there is a legal limit on hours and when the UK has a modern and efficient signal system.”
RMT general secretary, Bob Crow described the £10 million fine on Balfour Beatty as “paltry”, pointing out: “Justice has simply not been done by the debacle of the Hatfield trial.
“Compared with the carnage caused, these fines are a paltry amount – and this is recycled public money anyway.
“Every penny that Balfour Beatty and Network Rail pay will have originated in taxpayers’ and fare-payers’ pockets.
“In Balfour Beatty’s case they will simply be paying back a fraction of the millions they have made at the public’s expense, and they will give a huge corporate shrug.
“Justice will not be done until Britain has a corporate manslaughter law that holds individual executives to account for negligence that kills innocent people.”

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gate Gourmet workers accept deal

THE DISPUTE between the Heathrow catering company Gate Gourmet and the workers it sacked last August after deliberately provoking them into an unofficial walkout has been resolved.
A mass meeting of 650 workers, organised by the Transport and General Workers’ Union, voted overwhelmingly in favour of a deal negotiated by the union.
Almost 400 of the workers will be offered their jobs back; others will take voluntary redundancy but 144 will face compulsory redundancy.
TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley said: “This has been a bitter dispute, with innocent workers victimised, which must lead to a change in the law.”

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Huge turnout for London anti-war march

AROUND 80,000 protesters took to the streets of London last Saturday to call for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq in a march from Parliament Square to Hyde Park, via Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly.
The organisers – the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain – were expecting a mass turnout so two feeder marches were organised, which joined the main march along the way.
Trade union banners were well to the fore in the march and the workers from Gate Gourmet – fighting for their jobs – received a great cheer when they arrived, carrying hand-written placards and TGWU posters.
The ranks of the marchers were swelled after incidents in Basra the previous week, when British tanks demolished the local jail to rescue two SAS agents who had been arrested for shooting dead a local policeman.
The two had been arrested disguised as Arabs and in a car full of guns and explosives – raising many questions about what sort of mission they had been on.
It is not surprising the army authorities did not want them interrogated by locals or their mission made public.
Last Saturday’s protesters all seemed well aware that the SAS men must have been up to no good, and their capture with the explosives puts a question mark over many of the so-called sectarian bomb attacks in Iraq, allegedly between Sunnis and Shias.
The protesters were also demanding an end to the supposedly anti-terror legislation that is undermining civil liberties in Britain.
The rally in Hyde Park was addressed by Sue Smith, whose son recently died in Iraq. She read out a letter she has sent to Tony Blair, accusing him of sacrificing young British lives to further his own political purposes.
“I am sitting writing this letter hoping that you will understand how we feel, but I know that you don’t,” she wrote.