Thursday, April 26, 2007


Racist arson in Eltham

by Caroline Colebrook

OSMAN Atasagun, the owner of a the Cactus Tree restaurant in Eltham High Street, south east London, earlier this month returned from a holiday in Europe to find his business had been set alight and racist graffiti had been scrawled on the building.
A staircase leading to the first floor of the Mexican-style restaurant had been badly damaged and the walls of the ground floor and backyard were scrawled with racist graffiti, including swastika symbols and death threats.
The fire was spotted in the early hours of 12th April by a worker at a petrol station opposite the restaurant who alerted the fire brigade, who arrived and had the blaze under control within 35 minutes.
Atasagun told the local press: “I was very lucky not to be in there. It makes me mad as I didn’t deserve it. I’ve never had any problem with anyone.”
He said he believed the attack may be related to a threatening letter sent to him and to other shop owners four months ago.
The letter told them: “Get out from Eltham, get out from UK. If you don’t we are going to take you out from our country. England only for the British people. Give our country back to us.” It was signed by a group calling itself EBG.
Atasagun also said: “I think it was a warning. The fire was a personal attack to me but I’m more worried about my kids.
“Eltham is a racist place. We need to make it more secure. If it happened to me then it will happen to someone else tomorrow. People like me are not safe, even at night-time.”
In a separate incident Balakrishnan Kandiah, who runs the Wine Barrel off-licence, also in Eltham High Street, reported that on Good Friday six youths, aged in their 20s, beat up one of his customers and smashed £500-worth of his stock. They fled when police arrived.
He said: “I was at a counter and they threw a bottle at me. They come into my shop and fight. I do feel a victim.
“We have a lot of trouble and some action needs to be done.”
He commented on the fire at the Cactus Tree: “If it happened to them it could happen to us.”
Police are treating the fire as a racist incident.
Eltham gained notoriety in the early 1990s after the racist murders of Rohit Dougal and Stephen Lawrence. Since then it has become a much more mixed and relaxed place but its reputation attracts some racists to the area and there does seem still to be a tiny hardcore of serious vicious racists in Eltham.
Before the arson attack, Dev Barrah of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality’s Racial Attack Monitoring Unit (Ramu) had spoken to the New Worker on the problems of sustaining anti-racist work in the area.
He explained that is took time to educate senior officers in the police and in the local authority of the steps that are needed to counter racist violence, “You get everything working smoothly, and then they get posted; you get a new person in the job and you have to start from square one again”.
He added that some of these officers had a genuine interest in solving the problem while others saw “doing a few months in community liaison and countering hate crimes as a necessary addition to their CV on their path to ‘higher things’.”

Enfield school handed over to American company

SALISBURY School in Enfield, north London, is to be handed over to a private United States company, Edison Schools, to be managed for three years.
Edison Schools won a £900,000 contract – the first of its kind to provide direct hands-on management, namely to provide a head teacher and two deputies for Salisbury School for three years. As part of the deal, the incoming management team is supposed to improve test and GCSE results and reduce exclusion rates.
The National Union of Teachers rejected the plan as a waste of money.
Private companies have bid for and won contracts to run local education authorities and offer support services – and some individual schools since 1997.
And private firms are involved in running schools through the Government’s flagship academy programme.
Edison currently has partnerships with 50 other state schools in Britain, but to provide training and consultancy services rather than become their management team.
This deal is particularly unusual because the school is not judged to be failing, although it was in special measures up until 2003 and draws pupils from areas of economic and social disadvantage.
But it does have very high rates of exclusion, with an average of 200 pupils out of a school population of 1,200 being excluded a year, according to the new head teacher Trevor Averre-Beeson.
NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said the contract was a waste of money. “Money would be better spent on children’s education, whether it be more teachers, better resources or improving sports facilities, far better than lining Edison’s pockets.”

Strangers into citizens rally

THE GIANT public sector union Unison is urging members to join in the largest ever call for justice for migrants at a national day of action and celebration in London on 7th May.
Participants are being encouraged to show their true colours by turning out in a Union Jack T-shirt or with a flag to a rally in Trafalgar Square.
There, London’s faith, trade union, business and civic communities will stand together in support of the Strangers into Citizens campaign for immigration reform.
The campaign is calling for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants who have made new lives in Britain.
It proposes a two-year work permit for those who have been here for four years or more, with leave to remain granted at the end of that period, subject to employer and character references. compelling
Organisers say the case for one-off regularisation as part of the Government’s overhaul of immigration policy is compelling – on humanitarian, economic, fiscal and administrative grounds.
The midday rally is just one of a string of events taking place in London on the bank holiday, all celebrating the contribution of Britain’s migrants.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Unison has a clearly established policy of supporting respect for migrant workers and an amnesty for paperless workers. I would therefore urge all branches to support the walk to Trafalgar Square and the rally afterwards, which is being organised by Strangers into Citizens.
“While the precise demands being made by Strangers into Citizens around amnesty do not reflect specific union policy, this represents an opportunity to show broad based support for fair treatment for migrant workers and for some form of amnesty for paperless workers.”

Strangers into Citizens: 11 am, assemble Westminster Cathedral Piazza 12:30 pm, rally Trafalgar Square 7th May 2007.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Finding common ground in the north of Ireland

by Theo Russell

CONNOR MURPHY MP, the new Sinn Féin Minister for Regional Development in the Northern Ireland Executive, was in Westminster on Tuesday night to give an update on the recent dramatic developments in the peace process.
He recounted that as the 26th March deadline for restoring the Assembly and Executive approached, the Democratic Unionist Party, whose Executive and Officer Board had already agreed to power-sharing by sizeable majorities, asked for a six-week delay to keep its members on board.
Sinn Féin said it would only accept this delay if the DUP made a strong public commitment to power-sharing. By the time Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley appeared together on 26th March, their statements and a programme of work and events for the next six weeks had been agreed.
The two parties also discussed common issues, such as water rates and the promised financial peace dividend, and the fact that both parties represented working class areas and farmers in rural areas.
They also discussed various elements who might try to undermine progress. And it was agreed to keep lines of communication open in order to react jointly to any threats.
Murphy said that the North-South Ministerial Council had already worked on enhancing the role of the All-Ireland bodies, but its work was limited while only Northern Ireland Office officials instead of elected ministers were involved.
On policing, Connor Murphy said Sinn Féin had met twice with chief constable Hugh Orde, and next month the party’s Ard Comhairle (executive) will meet to appoint five members to the PSNI Policing Committee.
Sinn Féin is urging its local communities to co-operate with the PSNI, and although some in the PSNI recognised the need to overcome the force’s negative legacy, Murphy said the process would be “very slow and difficult”.
There are many promising areas of co-operation, such as the strong lobby from education bodies, including Unionists, for Sinn Féin to see through the changes it began under the previous short-lived Executive. That post has now gone to Catriona Ruanne MP.
The leader of the Unionist farmers’ organisation has already met with new agriculture minister Michelle Gildernew and has “absolutely no problem” working with Sinn Féin.
Murphy pointed out that the huge savings on security in the north had not been transferred to civilian spending. Years of under-investment in infrastructure have left the sewage and water systems are in a dire state.
He said Britain has a responsibility to contribute towards building a modern infrastructure, including an education system to produce a highly-skilled workforce.
Asked about issues people in Britain could take up, Murphy pointed out that the British presence still remains in the north, the British government still favoured the union, and is still responsible for issues such as truth recovery and collusion.
He said that Sinn Féin wants the British government to support Irish unification and an end to Britain’s last significant colonial role.

Looking deeper at Marxism

SIXTEEN COMRADES took part in last weekend’s New Communist Party spring national weekend school that covered Party building; the Multipolar World; Keynesianism and Bourgeois feminism.
Though most came from the Greater London area, one comrade came from Bristol two travelled down from Colchester and two others from Woking to listen to openings by Andy Brooks, Neil Harris, Daphne Liddle and Alex Kempshall and take part in the discussions that followed. And the New Worker was not forgotten – the school raised £138 for the fighting fund!
photo: Andy Brooks and Alex Kempshall

Solidarity with the Nepalese revolution

by Rob Laurie

LAST WEEK the British South Asia Solidarity Forum held a public meeting in support of the Nepalese revolution at London’s Conway Hall. Despite the fact that the planned speaker from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had to return to Nepal before the meeting, the audience enjoyed an inspiring range of speakers under the chairmanship of the Pan-Africanist leader Explo Nani-Kofi.
The main speaker was Peter Tobin from the journal Labour & Trade Union Review who gave the audience a detailed eye-witness account of the general strike early last year which saw the King of Nepal being forced to abandon his absolutist powers.
The strike saw even soldiers’ wives participate in anti-monarchical demonstrations. Such was the widespread opposition to the King the United States saw no point in continuing to prop him up. (At present His Majesty is struggling to maintain even his position as a constitutional monarch). He made the point that while the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist party of Nepal (Maoist) have been involved in often bloody conflict they, and other parties, have united to get rid of the King.
Theo Russell of the New Communist Party spoke next focussing largely on the Indian dimension to the events in its smaller northern neighbour. Reactionary forces in India fear the example of the workers and peasants of Nepal especially as the Maoist Naxalite movement has large support among the Indian peasant farmers.
Ella Rule of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) stressed the importance of the role of the Maoist party and said that the events in Nepal were a wonderful example for people here and in other oppressed countries. The evening was not solely dominated by the top table. While one member of the audience thought it was unwise for the Maoists to lay down their arms and go into government, most of the audience welcomed the recent course of events.

photo: Theo Russell makes his point

RMT wins tube dispute!

THE RMT transport union last Friday called off strike action by more than 2,000 Metronet Tube maintenance workers has been after the company this withdrew plans to transfer RMT members and posts to other companies.
In a dramatic about-turn Metronet informed RMT this afternoon that posts and individuals it intended to transfer to Bombardier would now remain in-house, and that it would not bring forward any further plans for outsourcing.
The company also agreed that escalator refurbishment would be brought back in house, and that it would also enter talks aimed at bringing cleaning contracts and lift refurbishment back in-house, and at ending all biometric booking on and off“This is the sensible outcome we sought for from the start, and it means quite simply that there will be no outsourcing of our Metronet members jobs,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.
“Our Metronet members deserve congratulating for standing solidly together to defend their organisation, jobs and conditions and to prevent further dangerous fragmentation.
“Their stand, in the face of hostile media attention, has been vindicated by the outcome of this dispute.
“I would also like to thank the other Tube grades who stood shoulder to shoulder with their engineering colleagues,” Bob Crow said.
The RMT also issued a statement welcoming a suggestion to re-integrate the rail network in Scotland.
As reports emerged of talks between Network Rail and Scottish Labour leaders over the possibility of the government-underwritten company taking over Scotrail operations, RMT renewed its call for a moratorium on the failed private-franchise system.
“We have argued from the start that fragmentation was the fundamental fault-line opened up by rail privatisation, and re-uniting track and train under Network Rail makes sound sense,” Bob Crow said.
“For the first time in a decade it would bring train and track back under a single, directly accountable body with a single command structure, and could provide the blueprint for ending the nightmare of rail privatisation once and for all.
“It would also mean that the huge subsidies going into rail operations would be spent on improving services rather than on lining shareholders’ pockets.
“Bringing the industry back together again will make it clear exactly who is responsible and will end the ugly spectacle of legal buck-passing in the aftermath of the disasters that privatisation has brought about.
“Public money should no longer be wasted on a franchise system that is discredited, inefficient, costly and dangerous, and it is time to bring the failed experiment to an end.”

Thursday, April 12, 2007

London news round-up

Cleaners call Ken’s bluff

RAIL and Tube cleaners last week staged a demonstration outside City Hall calling for a “living wage” of £7.20 an hour.
The protest comes after mayor Ken Livingstone announced that the amount should be set as a minimum for those working and living in London.
The transport union RMT says maintenance companies should set minimum standards of pay on subcontractors who employ the cleaners.
But the firms say they already work with subcontractors to ensure fair pay.
A spokesperson for the mayor said: “The living wage should be paid by the maintenance companies, Metronet and Tubelines, to these employees from the huge profits they make each year from the Public Private Partnership.
“The cost should not fall on London taxpayers and passengers,” he said.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Low pay among Tube and Rail cleaners is an absolute scandal and we insist on decent minimum employment standards.
“That means £7.20 an hour as the absolute minimum and a guarantee of 28 days’ holiday.”

Stop the fascists

The British National Party last week announced it is to stand a record 880 candidates in the May local elections and they believe they can win 100 seats. John Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham where the BNP won 11 seats last year, has warned that the fascists are targeting poorer areas and hoping to take votes from Labour.
The anti-fascist organisation Searchlight has identified 92 wards that could fall to the BNP.
The most effective way of stopping this happening is to join the growing army of active anti-fascists and trade unionists going door-to-door, countering the lies and disinformation that the BNP canvassers are telling people on their doorsteps. It is important that every one of our readers who can should join them. Contact the campaign on the

Fighting against bonded labour

by New Worker correspondent

AROUND 60 people – friends, family, campaigners for peace and human rights – and others gathered in Blackheath last Sunday to celebrate the 79th birthday of Mukhtar Rana and to raise funds for the Peace and Human Rights Trust, which is fighting to free bonded labourers in Pakistan.
Mukhtar has spent his life campaigning for trade union and civil rights in Pakistan; he has been jailed after clashes with government on several occasions, once for five years. Amnesty International adopted him as a prisoner of conscience and he is now living in London but still campaigning against bonded labour.
Last Sunday he was joined by fellow Pakistani exiles and campaigners Khyum Bhat and Amanullah Khan, founder member of the People’s Party of Pakistan and a campaigner against imperialism.
Amanullah’s brother Ehsanullah Khan was to have attended; he too is a political exile now living in Sweden, but the British authorities failed to give him a visa in time for the event.
The event began with a buffet lunch – a feast of great curries and assorted salads and fruit.
Then came a superb rendition of South African revolutionary songs and the Internationale by Lizzie, a singer from the left-wing choir Raised Voices.
That was followed by a showing of a documentary film about the plight of the bonded labourers in Pakistan. The labourers and their supporters fight an uphill legal battle with landlords and factory owners. But even when the labourers and their families are freed, there is another battle to find them somewhere to live and to provide food, shelter and, most difficult of all in the Sindh desert, supplies of clean water. That’s what the fund raising was about.
Speakers, including Mukhtar himself, Khyum Bhat and others spoke of their legal battles in Pakistan and of bonded labour and slavery throughout the world – even in the western imperialist countries.
After the event Amanullah Khan told the New Worker about the plight of his brother and their whole family. Bonded labour is outlawed in the Pakistani constitution but both brothers were charged in 1995 with “economic sabotage” for campaigning against it, which is a form of high treason and carries the death penalty.
Ehsanullah founded the Bonded Labour Liberation Front. But the power of the landlords and factory owners is strong and is supported by the ISI, Pakistan’s state security force. Two of the Khan family sisters have been murdered and the whole family had to move to Baluchistan.
The two brothers in Europe continue to campaign but cannot return to Pakistan without risking summary assassination by the ISI.
The event was a great success and raised several hundred pounds to help to provide clean water for the liberated bonded labourers.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

GMB slam Lewisham PCT

THE GMB general union has made a strong criticism of Lewisham Primary Care Trust over its failure to make proper provision for nursing care to people covered by the trust over the four-day Easter bank holiday.
GMB gave the PCT until 2.30 pm last Friday to give the union a guarantee that it would provide the necessary level of nursing care cover, over the Easter but no such guarantee was given.
GMB had been alerted to a possible shortfall in nursing cover over the Easter holidays within the trust by nurses employed by the trust who belong to GMB’s sister organisation and nursing specialist, the Community and District Nursing Association (CDNA).
CDNA reports that its member nurses have been told by the human resources team at the trust that they will be forced to take holidays over Easter, leaving a potential shortfall in nursing cover for patients recovering from operations in their own homes needing Community District Nursing Care.
The enforced reduction in staff numbers will increase the workload on already stretched nurses, who will be unable to cope.
GMB says that management must realise that just because they can finish at 5.00 pm on Thursday before a bank holiday and return to work on Tuesday at 9.00 am that nurses who provide patient care must continue to provide patient care.

RMT says Ladbroke Grove key lessons not learned

KEY LESSONS from the 1999 Ladbroke Grove tragedy have not been learned, the RMT rail union said last Friday as a £4 million fine was handed down to Network Rail for Railtrack’s role in the crash, which left 31 people dead and 400 injured.
Privatisation, fragmentation, the absence of train protection and the lack of corporate accountability were at the heart of the Ladbroke Grove tragedy, and each problem remained to be dealt with, RMT said.
“It is only right that the survivors and the families of those killed have heard the catalogue of failings that led to the disaster aired in court, but it was the wrong people in front of the judge,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.
“The Railtrack executives whose negligence led to the Ladbroke Grove crash walked quietly away a long time ago.
“Until we have an effective corporate manslaughter law that puts bosses whose negligence leads to unnecessary death and injury in the dock and facing the prospect of prison, justice will not be done, no matter how big the fines.
“After Clapham in 1988 we were promised automatic train protection, which would have prevented Ladbroke Grove and saved 31 lives, but we are still no nearer getting it because it is deemed too expensive.
“The Cullen inquiry into Ladbroke Grove insisted that the regulation of rail safety should be in independent hands, but that process has been thrown into reverse and key safety areas have been handed back to the commercial interests that will always put profit first.
“Cullen also pointed to the crucial role played by the guard in the aftermath of Ladbroke Grove, but only this week we have learned of plans to do away with guards on busy commuter lines in and out of London,” Bob Crow said.


by Rob Laurie

LAST Saturday saw the John4Leader campaign hold a large rally in London’s Shaw Theatre. National Union of Journalists general secretary Jeremy Dear presided over the event as hundreds of people enjoyed a day of speeches and entertainment in support of left Labour MP John McDonnell’s bid for the leadership.
After Jeremy Dear began by taking the Mickey out of Michael Meacher’s belated entry into the Labour leadership contest.
Then veteran left Labour campaigner Tony Benn headed a long list of speakers. He focussed on the likelihood of George Bush launching an attack on Iran in the near future while Tony Blair is still in office.
Benn expressed scepticism about British government claims that the ship on which the 15 Royal Navy sailors were detained was in Iraqi waters. He recalled that in a similar incident the Foreign Office belatedly had to make an apology to Iran for trespassing. “In any case,” asked Benn, “What are we doing in Iraqi waters?”
He concluded by deploring that while in America the Democrats in Congress have demanded that Bush set deadlines for withdrawing the troops, in the British Parliament Labour MPs are making no such demand.
Another former MP, Alice Mahon, made the same point about supine Labour MPs failing to deplore the introduction of super casinos or make any protest over Israel’s bombing of Lebanon.
Leading figures from the more militant trade unions made clear their support for McDonnell. Matt Wrack from the Fire Brigades Union, John Leach from RMT and Andy Reed from ASLEF all pledged their support. Unfortunately neither the FBU nor RMT are presently affiliated to the Labour Party.
The RMT was predictably expelled because some branches had affiliated to the now split Scottish Socialist Party and the FBU broke with Labour in disgust over their pay dispute.


While the leadership of these unions is campaigning actively, their self-imposed isolation does not help matters.
However former Labour Party general secretary Jim Mortimer deplored the failure of many unions, such as Amicus, which formally support McDonnell but do little to support the campaign.
A number of general secretaries imagine that Gordon Brown will be more amenable to trade union concerns than Blair and are anxious not to upset him by allowing anything as vulgar as an election to impede his progress to Number Ten.
Jeremy Corbyn MP urged the audience to tirelessly lobby their own MPs to ensure there is a proper debate about the future direction of the Labour Party.
When John McDonnell himself spoke he claimed to have 25 MPs certain to nominate him, with another 10 not yet ready to go public. It is clear that a great deal of grassroots pressure is needed to reach the figure of 44 nominations from MPs, which will secure him a place on the ballot paper.
Owen Jones of the Socialist Youth Network ridiculed Blair Loyalist Chris Bryant MP, who early in McDonnell’s campaign violently denounced him for being an extremist in advocating re-nationalisation of the railways – a policy supported by the Labour Party Conference. From the other end of the age spectrum Dot Gibson of the National Pensioners’ Convention urged Labour councillors to do more to resist Government policies rather than implement them.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007