Thursday, January 31, 2008

Remembering the Holocaust

DOZENS of people gathered around the Soviet Memorial in the grounds of the Imperial War Museum last Sunday to commemorate the Holocaust.
They included the Mayor of Southwark, Local MP Simon Hughes, ambassadors from many of the former Soviet republics, uniformed veterans, their friends and supporters and a platoon of youthful RAF cadets.
The event began with a short service conducted by Rabbi Alan Greenblat, who told those assembled that Holocaust Memorial day is to remember all the victims of Nazism: Jews, Romanies, gays, the sick and handicapped and those deemed by the Nazis to be “politically undesirable” – totalling many more than six million.
He also warned of the dangers of those who now try to deny the truth of the Holocaust and the importance of keeping the memory alive as the number of eye-witnesses diminishes every year.
Just before the wreath-laying Local Mayor Bob Skelly reminded everyone of the crucial role played by the Soviet forces in turning the tide of the war and what is owed to those who gave their lives fighting Nazism.
Those who laid wreaths included Robert Laurie of the New Communist Party, ambassadors from Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan, the Association of Jewish ex-Servicemen and Women, the North Russia Club, the Royal British Legion, the Russian Convoy Club, London Region Ucatt, the Marx Memorial Library, the Society for Cooperation in Russian and Soviet Studies and the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund.
photo: Robert Laurie laying flowers on behalf of the NCP

Bloody Sunday -- the struggle for justice goes on

by Theo Russell

SUPPORTERS of the Bloody Sunday justice campaign met last Sunday at the London Irish Centre in Camden to mark the 36th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and to discuss the wider struggle over collusion and the murder of civilians during the conflict.
Cathall McEllhinny, whose brother Kevin died on Bloody Sunday, said: “I find it hard to believe that 36 years later we are still waiting to hear the truth which I, the people of Derry and the people of Ireland know to be true.
“The families never gave up the struggle for justice, even when no-one was listening, when they were going through hardship, suffering and personal and family breakdowns”. which summer?
Concerns are growing over the delay in delivering the Bloody Sunday Inquiry’s report, 4½ years after the main sessions ended. McEllhinny said it was expected “in the summer” adding “which summer?”
Two representatives of another campaign on behalf of the Ballymurphy 11, now gaining momentum, also spoke. Relatives Briege Voyle and Alice Harper have been on a speaking tour of Liverpool, Birmingham and London.
The Ballymurphy 11 were murdered in their own streets by the Parachute Regiment during the first three days of internment in 1971. No-one has ever been brought to justice for the shootings, which unlike Bloody Sunday were not witnessed by TV cameras or journalists.
Briege’s father was shot 14 times and then kicked to death and his family could only recognise him from his hair.
Father Hugh Mullan was shot dead while trying to help an injured man, having spoken to the Army, and Frank Quinn was then shot trying to help Father Mullan.
Another victim was finished off at point-blank range after being wounded. This was another example of cold-blooded murder by the infamous Paras.
The families of the dead were later subjected to raids, beatings and taunts about their loved ones.
Harper said the families want an independent investigation into the killings, a statement of the victims’ innocence, and a public apology. “Just tell us the truth – that’s all we want, just the truth”.
Jennifer McCann, a Sinn Féin MLA (Assembly Member) from West Belfast, looked at the wider issue of justice for all those caught up in the conflict.
She condemned the “hierarchy of victims” with the families of the RUC and British military at the top, and said “all victims of the conflict and their families should be treated in the same way, and all are entitled to the truth about what happened.
“In the early 80s Thatcher embarked on a campaign to wipe out any opposition in Northern Ireland, and the British Cabinet rubber-stamped the loyalist death squads.
“Hundreds of Irish people were murdered by loyalist death squads who were armed and directed by the British armed forces. What we have here is a state which was involved in organised murder.”
Pressure from campaigners against collusion is forcing some action from the British government and the Northern Ireland Executive. Peter Hain’s appointment of the wife of a part-time RUC reservist, who was killed, as the Victim’s Commissioner for Northern Ireland in 2005 caused uproar.
This week four Victims’ Commissioners have been appointed representing both sides of the conflict, after agreement between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness.
McCann said “There is a need to be pushing the British state. The IRA has acknowledged its role in killing civilians but Britain has never done that. It’s a hard job but you have to keep at it.”
Hain also recently set up the Consultative Group, comprising seven unionists, one person from the nationalist community and two token international representatives, which will report to the British government.
Last week a broad coalition of victims groups released a statement calling for an international independent truth commission. Asked what form such an inquiry could take, McCann said Sinn Féin and the campaigners would support a body run by Canadian judge Paul Cory. lied to
Mary Pearson of the Troops Out Movement said “British as taxpayers have a right to know what the British Army has been doing in our name. We’ve been lied to for generations about what the British are doing in Ireland.
“We still need to be calling for a British withdrawal from Ireland, and a new MI5 headquarters has been built to move their people out of the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] now that Sinn Féin are on the Policing Board”.
Shelagh Connor of the Wolfe Tone Society said collusion campaigners should organise meetings with Ken Livingstone and sympathetic Labour MPs. She said support should be mobilised in the Irish community for Livingstone’s mayoral campaign as he was one of the first to take up Irish issues, and had set up the annual Saint Patrick’s Parade to mark the contribution of Irish people to London.

London newsround up -- February 1st 2008

BNP muscle in on police pay demo

BRITISH National Party member Richard Barnbrook took advantage of an open invitation from the Police Federation to all candidates for London Mayor to join their pay protest two weeks ago Jan Berry, chair of the Police Federation, told a journalist that they had invited all the mayoral candidates to attend although Metin Enver, a spokesman for the Federation, told the Evening Standard that they had not invited Barnbrook.
Police and prison officers are not allowed to be members of the BNP so it was inappropriate for Barnbrook to be invited in the first place and allowed to march when he turned up, complete with his councillor’s badge on his chest to make him feel important.
Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate, did object to Barnbrook’s presence. A former senior Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, Paddick said: “I felt very uncomfortable that there was someone from the BNP. I was aware of him being there and I pointed it out to Federation officials but there was nothing more that I could do. I was very uncomfortable that he was anywhere near me.”
Barnbrook came with a BNP television crew in tow to maximise the opportunity to hijack the police pay dispute to boost his mayoral campaign.

‘Flawed’ Tube privatisation

THE RMT transport union last week welcomed a damning report by MPs on the collapse of Tube consortium Metronet and the “flawed” part-privatisation of London Underground infrastructure. The report, by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, said that the PPP model was “flawed”, that the “risk” taken by the private sector was exaggerated, and that the contractors had been free to walk away relatively unscathed, leaving the public to pay.
RMT urged the Government not to allow the consortium’s disastrous collapse to derail Tube upgrades essential to London’s economic future and the success of the 2012 Olympics.
The union also renewed its call for ministers to hasten the transfer of Metronet contracts back to the public sector in order to end the continuing waste of public money – and to complete the job by bringing Tube Lines’ contracts into the public sector too.
“The committee has done a great public service by finally nailing the myths about the PPP,” RMT general secretary Bob Crow said.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hush...don't mention the slump!

THIS WEEK’S money market flap that spread panic selling across the globe at the beginning of the week may not be the herald of the final crisis of capitalism but it certainly looks like the start of a slump. That shouldn’t surprise us because slump is as much a part of the capitalist system as the booms they tell us can last forever.
Of course “slump” and “depression” are taboo words amongst bourgeois economists these days. They prefer to call what is a natural part of the capitalist phenomena “blips”, “downturns” or “recessions” largely because those words suggest that they will be immediately followed by an “upturn” – though this is invariably called a “boom” in the bourgeois media.
Slumps are caused by over-production when the markets are sated with more goods than people can buy – which, as Marx pointed out, would have seemed an absurdity in earlier epochs. In feudal days a bumper harvest would have meant more food for everyone. In the 1930s it meant starvation for workers thrown out of employment because the food could not be sold.
In those days importers would dump food into the sea to keep the price up. The European Union used more sophisticated methods like intervention buying to keep French and German agribusiness sweet at the expense of working people who paid extortionate prices for food. Meanwhile mountains of butter and lakes of wine would be stored and eventually destroyed or used as pig-swill to keep the price up. Now we have the final absurdity of paying farmers not to produce anything at all.
This method, however, cannot work for the industries that the capitalist world revolves round. Manufacturers squeeze their workers to compete in the drive for profit in the cut-throat global economy while encouraging their governments to urge working people to borrow more and more against their future earnings to buy homes they will rarely own outright and mop up the surplus in consumer goods. When they’re finally bled dry the bubble bursts and the downturn begins.
When the markets dip we’re told to tighten our belts to ensure that the exploiters don’t go without. When its over they say it’s all part of the normal economic cycle, much like the seasons, and we should be content with the crumbs from the rich man’s table which they call with unconscious irony the “trickle-down” effect because it is indeed a miserable pittance.
The system exists solely to ensure that capitalists and landowners can live like Roman Emperors by exploiting the overwhelming majority of the people who work in the factories and fields of the world and who produce the entire wealth of the world yet get only a fraction of it back in return.
Capitalism cannot solve the crisis of its own making. It is entirely based on extortion, oppression and war and so it will continue as long as we let the exploiters get away with it.
In 1917 the Bolsheviks lit a torch whose flames still burn throughout Asia and Latin America.
The ruling class fear the future. We welcome it for we have seen it work in the former Soviet Union and we see it today in the socialist countries of Asia and Latin America.
The Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Cuban people are building a new life for themselves while the great anti-war movements in the imperialist heartlands like Britain are joining forces with the liberation movements throughout the Third World to unite the class and march together towards a new tomorrow – a socialist society where there are no slums, poverty or racism; no exploiters, no bigotry and no war. This is the world we work for. This is the world Marx and Engels predicted and a world that will surely come to pass.

London news round-up -- 25.1.08

Council caretakers face £10,000 pay cut or the sack

THE LONDON Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham last week announced plans to dismiss its entire 110 workforce of housing estate caretakers unless they agree to an effective pay cut of £10,000 a year.
The council has told its caretakers that unless those who are residential give up their tied accommodation and take a 24 per cent cut in pay they will face the sack.
The combined cost for residential caretakers would amount to a 50 per cent salary reduction, meaning that they would lose around £10,000 per year.
Shortly afterwards staff were told by the Chief Executive, Billy Rae, that H&F Homes – the council-owned housing company – had become an accredited “Investors in People” company.
H&F Homes have given notice to quit their accommodation to 66 Caretakers, seven Caretaker Team Leaders and also seven Sheltered Housing Scheme Managers.
A total of 110 caretakers have been given notice in respect of the 24 per cent salary reduction and the first proposed redundancy will be on 30th May.
H&F Homes waited to announce these measures until after Government inspectors had finished their survey of the Borough’s housing stock to ascertain whether or not they would qualify for more funding to improve it.
But the inspectors have only awarded one star, saying that H&F Homes had “uncertain prospects for improvement”, a damning indictment of the company’s management.
Bert Schouwenburg, organiser of the GMB general union commented: “This brutal piece of mismanagement cannot be allowed to succeed. At a time when borough residents want to be reassured by the presence of uniformed caretakers on their estates, H&F Homes are looking to disband the service and replace it with a posse of estate cleaners on minimum wage, employed by some cowboy contractor.
“GMB will not let this happen and we shall do everything possible to protect our members’ terms and conditions, thus enabling them to continue serving their community.”

Police pay march

AROUND 18,000 police officers marched through Westminster last Wednesday in a protest at Government cuts to the pay rise that was recommended by the independent Police Arbitration Tribunal.
A message of support from TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said that that the Government made “a disastrous mistake” when it decided to ignore the independent Police Arbitration Tribunal recommendation of a 2.5 per cent pay award last year. Other workers in the public sector – including health workers and prison officers – were subject to a similar staging of their pay in 2007.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Police assault Brian Haw

POLICE officers from a territorial support group last Saturday beat up and arrested Brian Haw, the well-known peace protester who has maintained a non-stop vigil opposite the House of Commons for over six-and-a-half years now.
The incident happened when Brian Haw was peacefully filming a protest assembly that had gathered to demonstrate against and to defy a ban on protests in Parliament Square. The ban does not apply to Brian himself because it was drawn up and passed after he began his long vigil. It had been intended to illegalise his protest but it was worded to apply to new demonstrations – not to an existing one – and a court ruling upheld Brian’s right to continue his peaceful protest.
There have been many official attempts by both the Government and the London Borough of Westminster to get rid of Brian’s stand, along with his placards but he has survived them all and a copy of his small encampment with its placards and posters in the Tate Gallery has won prestigious awards.
He seemed to have been on civil terms with the local police but the territorial support group were something different. While he was filming one of them lashed out at him, forcing the camera into his face and causing a deep cut. They then arrested Brian for an unspecified public order offence and continued to assault him inside a police van. The police also attacked demonstrators who had laid down in the road with linked arms.
Without warnings the territorial support group moved in and began violently pushing and man-handling people to the pavement. One young woman was grabbed round the throat and dragged. Others were pushed from behind.
A demonstrator who tried to help Brian Haw was also arrested and beaten up.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said they were forced to act because the march contravened the Serious Organised Crime and Police (Socpa) legislation.
“They did not seek authority from the Metropolitan Police Service for the demonstration,” he said.

Friday, January 11, 2008


…or maybe not for millions of workers who returned to work this week after the Christmas break to hear that they’re going to pay for the capitalist crisis again in 2008. The police are furious at the scaling back of last year’s pay award, prison officers are threatened with a strike ban and the Brown government has told all public sector workers it wants to scrap annual pay deals and replace them with three-year settlements.
The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, tells us we’re in a “time of considerable uncertainty in the global economy” and Brown says the Government intends to maintain a stable, low-inflation economy with “the flexibility to make the right long-term decisions”. What this means is that the Labour Government expects a down-turn in the economy this year and it intends to put the entire burden of the slump on working people.
The threat to ban strikes in the prison service is a despicable tactic straight out of the Tory book. Strikes were outlawed in the prison service by the Tories in 1994. Labour opposed it at the time and the Blair government belatedly lifted it three years ago in return for a voluntary no-strike agreement linked to a pay review body with the Prison Officers Association (POA).
Now Brown wants to turn back the clock, claiming it’s in the interests of the public and the prisoners. Well it’s not in the interests of prison staff who launched a series of wild-cat strikes last autumn in defence of the union’s rights and agreements that have been abused by a government determined to impose a pay cut in real terms on all public sector workers.In the old days prison warders and police enjoyed preferential pay and conditions in return for waiving their right to take industrial action. Now the Government wants to take away all the sweeteners making all pretence of free collective bargaining meaningless. This is just the thin end of the wedge. Who’s next if Brown gets away with this?
Perhaps the millions who work in the rest of the public sector. They’ve been told that three-year pay deals would be good for economic stabilisation, the fight against inflation and for themselves and somewhat ludicrously that it would also enable them to plan ahead. In practice it means that the Government wants to continue imposing below-inflation pay rises on six million public sector workers tied to a three-year straight-jacket that effectively rules out strike action.
Well the problems of inflation and the economy are not those of the workers alone. The Tories returned to power in 1979 determined to push down wages, crush the unions and destroy free collective bargaining. They would like to return to Victorian days when “master and servant” rules applied; when the boss paid what he liked and sacked whom he liked and if you didn’t like your pay you just pushed off.
The Tories slashed income tax for the rich and sold off the public sector at cut-prices to make this country a millionaires’ paradise for the parasitical capitalists and land-owners who run Britain. Millions hoped that Labour would reverse this process when the Tories were ousted in 1997. But “New Labour” has done little or nothing to restore union rights – least of all for those directly employed by the state.
We have a fight on two fronts. The first is in the public sector unions to mobilise the members to defend their rights in the face of the new attack on their pay and conditions. The second is within the labour movement and the Labour Party itself – to defeat the class-collaborationist right-wing led by Brown and his cohorts and replace them with leaders answerable to the working class and prepared to defend the interests of the class in the unions and in government.