Friday, May 27, 2011

The Smiling Face of Imperialism

By Daphne Liddle

PRESIDENT Obama arrived in London on Tuesday to cheers and smiles from Prime Minister Cameron, the Queen as the rich and powerful eagerly sought to be photographed near the man who is described as the most powerful on the planet.
But just out of shot of most of the media’s lenses were hundreds of protesters with long list of issues and grievances.
When he came to power in 2009 Obama promised to extricate the United States from the illegal and unending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and to close the concentration cam at Guantánamo Bay.
But two years on there is still a US presence in Iraq to prop up the otherwise non-viable puppet state and in Afghanistan American and British forces are still fighting a losing battle and in the process still killing Afghan civilians, destroying their homes and driving the angry and bereaved people into the arms of the Islamic fundamentalists who are seen as the only defence against imperialist bombing.
Even worse, with the lessons of George W Bush’s ill-judged attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan, the humiliating failures to defeat to defeat the resistance forces and the damage the cost has done to the US economy plain to see, Obama is in the process of opening up yet another war – in Libya. And US imperialism is now also threatening Syria.
Democrat or Republican, the US ruling class cannot seem to learn from defeat and continues to sacrifice everything to achieve world hegemony – which continues to elude them as the working people of the rest of the world come together in mutual defence.
Among those protesting outside Buckingham Palace as Obama dined with the Queen were the family and friends of Shaker Aamer and campaigners against Guantánamo, wearing bright orange prison suits.
Shaker Aamer has been held in Guantánamo prison for over nine years now without charge or trial. His family in Battersea includes one child born after he was detained who he has yet to see.
There was also a large group of Libyan protesters supporting Gaddafi, with green flags and scarves, also calling for an end to Nato attacks on Libya, which are killing civilians and contaminating the country with toxic depleted uranium debris, and the embargoes which are making life hard for the people of the country.
A large group of Bahrainis took part in the demonstration, protesting about the use of Saudi troops against protesters there as well as Syrians showing their support for the Assad government that imperialism has targeted for sanctions.
CND and New Worker supporters and other peace activists joined the throng that included Peter Tatchell – protesting with a placard calling for the release of Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning who exposed US war crimes.
The murder of Al Qaeda front man Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in Pakistan recently could easily have given Obama the opportunity to make a face-saving withdrawal from the bloody mess of the Afghan war; to close Guantánamo and declare the ridiculous “war on terror” over and done.
But far from taking this opportunity to steer America into more peaceful waters and focus on the huge problems facing the US domestic economy, Obama is now eager to repeat Bush’s lunacies and lead his country into even more military escapades.
It will only result in more humiliation for US imperialism as its growing military, political and economic weaknesses are demonstrated on the world stage yet again.
Meanwhile Cameron is desperately hoping Obama will endorse his economic policy of savage public spending cuts, which is in deep trouble as popular opposition grows.
Obama has agreed to open up the White House top secret National Security Council to Downing Street and to establish a joint National Security Strategy Board comprising senior officials on both sides of the Atlantic.
Later Obama will visit Warsaw before attending the G8 summit in Deauville, France on Thursday and Friday.
If either Cameron or Obama really wanted peace and security they would stop invading other countries and allow the peoples of the rest of the world some peace and security from their ill-omened attacks.

Monday, May 23, 2011

MPs must stop war on Libya!

By New Worker correspondent

As Parliament debated the Libya conflict anti-war protesters chanted 'Stop Bombing Libya', 'David Cameron hear us say, intervention no way', 'One, two, three four -we don't want another war', “Hands off Libyan oil'.

The demonstration, which was organised by Stop the War Coalition, was addressed by Lindsey German, the coalition's convenor while protesters hoisted green banners with white lettering : "Hands off Libya".

“We are here today because they are debating the fate of Libya in parliament”, German said. “They got a UN resolution two months ago which allowed them to bomb and to impose a no fly zone to protect civilians. What have we seen since then? We have seen innocent people bombed, we have seen members of Gaddafi's family killed, and there is no end to this war in sight. Now in Parliament they are saying we want to extend this war, we want more bombing, we want more killing. We are not content with what we are doing and we want to do more – and we want regime change.

“I am against regime change. Regime change by the West is not acceptable. It is what they told us they would do in Afghanistan, that is what they said they would do in Iraq and now that is what they are trying to do in Libya. It is not up to the Americans or the British or the French to decide who runs anybody's country. It is up to the people of that country themselves.

“We know that people in Libya are divided on this question and that is a terrible tragedy. But they have to sort their problems out themselves. The people there [the anti-Gaddafi demonstrators] who believe that Nato bombs are going to help them are wrong. They will find they are wrong. They have already been told they have to support the war on terror, they have already been told they have to apologise for Lockerbie. We say this is not acceptable.

“There is no humanitarian intervention bought by bombs from 20,000 feet. There is no intervention by the Western forces which has ever done any good in this region and the people of the Middle East for the first time in many many years, have shown that they can change things. The revolution in Egypt has led to the opening of the Rafha crossing and the opening of the border with Gaza. You can bet nothing will be said about the Palestinian demonstrators shot down by the Israelis. We see the double standards involved here. If you support the West they support you. They supported Gaddafi for a number of years and now they think they can no longer get what they want by supporting Gaddafi so they turned against him. That is what it is about.

“The parliamentarians will take us into more wars at tremendous cost. This war in Libya is costing seven million pounds a day and at the same time the same parliament is cutting our welfare, is cutting services for the sick and disabled, is cutting education. There is one message we want to send loud and clear. The Arab people have got nothing to gain and everything to lose by siding with the West.”, German concluded.

Wanis from Sirte told us that the war has to be stopped because too many people have died in Libya without any result. “The war should be stopped and we have to discuss what to do. People are dying every day. The problem can be solved through discussion. If Gaddafi goes out we can't find a solution. He controlled Libya for 42 years and if he leaves now many people will want to be the president”.

David Baresford, an Anglican priest, said: “I am protesting because I feel strongly about this war. It is an illegal war. We are going against international law by waging war against a sovereign state. Trying to assassinate the leader of a sovereign state is against international law. If we can't observe international law ourselves how can we lecture other countries about following it. I think we haven't learnt a lesson from Iraq and we are repeating the same mistakes in Libya. People are dying, we are dropping bombs on people and killing them and that is wrong”.

Recently retired Michael Culver said: “We are attacking another country due to its oil resources, which is what we did in Afghanistan. We killed two and a half million people in Iraq – it is about oil resources. Gaddafi may or may not be a dictator but as far as I see the so-called opposition has largely been put in place by the CIA and MI6. It would appear that we just want to make sure we have a totally compliant government in Libya which just wants to make sure it sells the oil to Western oil companies. That is what it is all about. And probably getting rid of a few of our bombs – usually on other people in other countries who have never attacked us. As a British citizen I so utterly disgusted with this country but where can you go? You can't go to America because that is even worse. And all the European states appear to be pro this obscenity as well as pro the Iraq and Afghan obscenities”.

In a statement Stop War Coalition said that the Nato intervention in Libya is leading to full scale war. In just two months, we have gone from "no-fly zone" to "no-drive zone" to "let's assassinate Gaddafi". Now, the head of the British armed forces, General Sir David Richards, is calling for the destruction of Libya's infrastructure.Over 2000 bombing raids by the US, Britain and their allies have only produced stalemate and the western powers are facing another disaster in the third Muslim country they have attacked in the last decade.

General Richards makes it clear that included in the aims of the escalation he is proposing would be the killing of Colonel Gaddafi. This is yet more evidence that a war for regime change -- which is illegal under international law – has been disguised as a humanitarian intervention to "protect" the Libyan people.We know from the Iraq "shock and awe" experience, what destruction of Libya's infrastructure will mean for the Libyan people -- countless deaths, essential facilities in ruins, and the collapse of public services.

It is outrageous that a military officer like General Richards can make such overtly political statements. How long is it before he is calling for ground troops to invade Libya?A war opposed by the majority of the British public, which we were promised would be over in weeks and would -- according to the government -- "cost tens, not hundreds of millions", now has no end in sight. Stop the War has called a protest to demand that the bombing of Libya stop immediately and the negotiations to reach a peaceful resolution to the civil war, which have been proposed by a number of countries, now take place.MPs have got into the habit of supporting wars of aggression against foreign countries, with disastrous consequences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now is the time for MPs to represent the majority view of those who elected them to parliament, by voting to stop the bombing of Libya and to end the Nato intervention.

Hardest Hit: disabled show anger and fear at cuts

By New Worker

OVER 5,000 people with a wide range of physical and mental health problems last Wednesday came to Westminster to tell Parliament of their anger and outrage at a multiplicity of cuts from all directions that will affect their lives dramatically and could leave some totally destitute.
For most of those present just getting there was a mammoth task. A group of wheelchair users from East Anglia faced the problem that local trains could only accommodate two wheelchairs per train, so they had to travel two at a time and meet up again in London; likewise for the return journey. It made what was in any case a difficult journey a logistical nightmare.
Most needed friends, family or carers to come with them. And most had never been on a demonstration before.
Some were petrified at the prospect the demonstration might be “kettled” – confined by police in one spot for hours on end, denied access to toilets, drinking water and their medications.
But they came all the same. And for everyone who came there were dozens of others who would have liked to come but for logistical and/or health reasons just could not.
They carried placards saying: “I didn’t choose to be disabled” or “Easy target: cuts to the disabled disgraceful”.
The cuts they face are many and varied but add up to a frightening assault on their ability to live any sort of reasonable life.
The Disability Living Allowance – a sum paid to all registered disabled whether or not they have a job in recognition that living with a disability incurs extra expenses – faces cutting if not total abolition.
The replacement benefits will be administered by local authority social services who will assess claimants’ needs on an individual basis. The costs of administering these assessments will eat up half the available budgets.
Eligibility to mobility allowance – usually delivered in the form of a free travel pass or a car for the use of the claimant or their carer – is dependent on being eligible for Disability Allowance.
Without this many severely disabled people will be virtually imprisoned in their homes.
Local authorities are facing huge cuts and are closing all sorts of services like day care centres, places where disabled people can socialise.
Charities also supply support services for the disabled. The Government somehow expects charities, as part of the illusory “big society” to step in and replace the gaps left by the withdrawal of local authority services. But funding for charities is also being drastically cut.
Perhaps the biggest threat is the Government’s “Work Assessment” programme – forcing ever claimant of Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance or Income Support to have their condition assessed to see if they could do some work, and if they could, to transfer them to Jobseekers’ Allowance. This is paid at a much lower rate and is conditional on claimants being able to prove they are “actively seeking work”. If they cannot even this benefit is withdrawn.
The assessment is not done by people who are medically qualified but by employees of commercial agencies like Atos – who are paid thousands of pounds to reduce the number of benefit claimants.
The assessment is purely mechanistic and full of traps. Many are decreed fit for work simply on the basis that they were capable of getting to the interview. Those who can operate a mobile phone are assessed as being capable of computer work. The mentally ill are deemed cured and fit for work if they are not shivering and shaking in a corner.
Already hundreds of these assessments have been challenged in the courts and reversed – with the aid and support of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and law centres, which are also due to be cut in the near future. Yet in some cases the assessment agencies have ignored the court findings and still denied benefits to the claimants.
These assessments have already led to a number of suicides and this is likely to increase. The Government knows this and expects it.
Many disabled people would love to do a job that would give them economic independence. But most employers will not even consider them.
One marcher, Kathryn Harrington, who started at 5am to travel from Plymouth, is registered blind. She lives in supported accommodation – but funding for this has been cut by 40 per cent over the last year so there are no longer support staff available in emergencies.
She is an experience computer programmer but says: “When I apply for jobs I’m seen as a heath and safety risk.
Speakers at a rally before the short march included Jane Asher, president of the Arthritis Council, National Autistic Society and Parkinson’s UK. She said: "The Government’s cuts to disability benefits risk leaving the vulnerable people I represent impoverished, confined to their homes and without access to appropriate services and support networks.
“The Hardest Hit campaign is a chance for disabled people, their families, carers, charities and other organisations to come together to send a unified message to the Government – that these cuts must be re-thought.”
The Hardest Hit campaign has been organised jointly by the UK Disabled People’s Council and the Disability Benefits Consortium of over 40 organisations, including the NAS, Arthritis Care and Parkinson’s UK, who are committed to working towards a fair benefits system.
Mark Lever, NAS Chief Executive, said: “We have serious concerns that these cuts will result in people with disabilities missing out on vital services and benefits. Many adults with autism that we speak to are already extremely worried about the possibility of losing their support networks and financial lifelines.
“We hope the campaign will encourage the Government to rethink the impact their cuts may have on the very people they pledged to protect.”
The march was backed by many unions, including Unison, Unite, and PCS. Commenting on the Hardest Hit march, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Today's unprecedented demonstration by the disabled should make even the most hard-hearted members of the government think again.
“The march underlines just how much some of the most vulnerable members of our society have been hit by deep spending cuts that have forced the Bank of England to downgrade its growth forecasts.
“The cuts are hurting but they are not working.”

Fight to save children's services in Lambeth

by New Worker correspondent

HUNDREDS of people assembled outside Lambeth Town Hall last Wednesday evening to protest at planned cuts to children’s services in the borough.
The event was organised by Lambeth Save Our Services. In particular they are fighting to save adventure playgrounds, the Max Roach Centre and One-O'Clock-Clubs.
The organisers said: “We are now facing the myriad of cuts as they come through thick and fast, devastating everything we have fought for and built over the years.”
Protesters said: ““It’s so cynical how the council is running things down, they know young people can’t fight back and can’t vote. The council is saying they are protecting front-line services but they are not at all protected. We are not open tonight; we might not be open tomorrow night.”
Another said: “The kids at Max Roach are a family, they stick by each other. This will break down this family, the spirit and unity of the community. As a single parent my son doesn’t have a male role model, but black role models are exactly what the centre provides, they make sure our sons have something to aspire to. If people don’t stand up and fight together nothing will change, and things will just get worse.”
And another: “These are services that are well needed, well respected, and free. Businesses are looking to make money providing these services now; this is all a cover up to make parents pay for a service that they are entitled to.”

by New Worker

HUNDREDS of protesters assembled in Whitehall, Westminster, opposite Downing Street last Saturday to demand that the British government put pressure on Israel to end the siege of Gaza immediately.
The event – along with hundreds of similar events around the globs – also commemorated the Palestinian Nakba, or Great Catastrophe, in 1948 when the state of Israel was founded and Palestinians were violently driven out of their homes and their land was taken from them at gunpoint.
Palestinian refugees, 60 years after their dispossession, still hope to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbours, and they continue to demand the right to do so.
The event was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and supported by the British Muslim Initiative, Stop the War, War of Want, CND and the unions Unite, PCS, CWS and Unison.
There were speeches from Professor Karma Nablusi, Dave Randall, Andy Slaughter MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Baroness Jenny Tonge Reem Kehaim, Jody McIntyre and others.
Many spoke of the hopes raised by the uprisings in Egypt and other Arab countries and by the concord reached by Hamas and Fatah.
And there were calls for volunteers to join the next aid flotilla to Gaza.
A small group of Israeli nationalists tried to stage a counter demonstration on the opposite side of the road, by the gates to Downing Street, waving blue-on-white Star of David flags.
But pro-Palestinian demonstrators joined them with Palestinian flags and soon outnumbered them. Police moved to intervene but although there were heated verbal exchanges the incident passed off peacefully.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Red Roses for Victory Day!

by New Worker

THE WARM weather in April has brought on an abundance of early roses and great bushels of magnificent red roses made up the dozens of wreaths and bouquets that were laid at the Soviet War Memorial in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park last Monday to commemorate the Red Army’s Victory Day in the war against the Nazi hordes on 9th May 1945.
The annual event was organised by the Soviet Memorial Trust Fund and was attended by the local Mayor, Councillor Lorraine Louder MBE, local MO Simon Hughes, who led the wreath-laying ceremony.
They were followed by ambassadors and attachés from most of the embassies of the former Soviet Union and this year also a defence attaché from the United States embassy.
It was good to see him paying his respects to the heroes of the Red Army and the Soviet citizens who defeated over 60 Nazi army divisions but lost around 27 million lives in doing so.
There was also a representative of the British armed forces.
All the usual groups of veterans were there: the Arctic Convoy Club, the British Legion, The RAF Russia Association, the International Brigade Memorial Trust and the Normandy Veterans’ Association. There were also a couple of Soviet Navy veterans.
Former Labour MP Bob Wareing is a regular at these events and laid a wreath on behalf of the Society for Cooperation in Russian and Soviet Studies.
And there were similar floral tributes from the New Communist Party, the Communist Party of Britain, the Vietnam Friendship Society, the Marx Memorial Library and many more.
This year there was a group from the 2nd Guards Rifle Division – a historical re-enactment group, all dressed in authentic Red Army uniforms.
London’s growing Russian community also turned out in force and Polina Baranova, a young pupil at the Russian Embassy School, sang solo, unaccompanied, with a magnificent voice, a song by poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko, set to music by Eduard Kolmanovsky.
The newly appointed Russian ambassador, HE Alexander Yakovenko, in a speech before the wreath-laying, stressed how important it is to remember the horrors of the Nazi threat and never let that ideology rise up again. Ceremonies like this must continue so that our children remember and pass on the message down the generations, he said.
After the formal ceremonies he invited everyone present to join in drinking a toast to long life and health of the veterans and to the memory of all who fought and died defending the world from Nazism.
The embassies of the former Soviet republics had laid on speciality food, wine and many varieties of vodka.

RMT calls off strike

THE RMT transport union last Tuesday agreed to suspend strike action due to begin next week pending further an agreement by London Underground Limited to re-employ union activist Eamonn Lynch, who had been unfairly sacked, and to discuss further the position of Arwyn Thomas – also unfairly sacked.
An employment tribunal has already ruled that Lynch was unfairly dismissed; Thomas’s case is still to be heard but LUL has agreed to discuss his position in advance of the hearing.
At a preliminary hearing at the end of last year both Lynch and Thomas were awarded full pay while waiting the outcome of their cases – a condition that tribunals rarely make unless they think the workers have a very sound case.
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “This dispute has only ever been about securing justice for our members who have been unfairly dismissed.
“As a result of this agreement Eamonn Lynch can return to work with his continuity of employment and standard of living protected.
“We now also have an agreement to enter into further discussions with relation to Arwyn Thomas aimed at resolving his unfair dismissal case in advance of his Employment Tribunal.
“As a result we have agreed to suspend the action to allow those further discussions to take place over the next week.
“I want to pay tribute to the loyalty and determination of our members on London Underground who have continued to stand shoulder to shoulder with their colleagues Eamonn and Arwyn.
“Their strength and courage has been a shining example to the entire trade union movement.”
Throughout the dispute London Mayor Boris Johnson has absolutely refused to meet RMT negotiators and instead has berated Business Secretary Vince Cable for failing to formulate new anti-union laws to outlaw strike on the London Underground.
Cable responded by telling Johnson to “get off his backside” and talk to Crow and told Johnson it was his job to “reach out” to the unions.
He said that ministers were “not in the mood” to be blamed for Johnson’s “lack of strategy”.
Tory Employment Relations Minister Ed Davey apologised to Cable because Johnson “was behaving in an embarrassing way” over the impending strikes – that would have shut down the Tube network for three days this month and another three in June.
Davey said that Johnson should stop asking the Government to solve the problem and criticised him for failing to talk to the RMT for two years.
“Boris is trying to pass the buck when actually the buck stops with City Hall,” said Davey.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tomlinson "unlawfully killed"

by New Worker correspondent

THE INQUEST into the sudden death of Ian Tomlinson two years ago after he was pushed over by a police officer at the G20 protests in London last Tuesday delivered a verdict of unlawful killing.
Tomlinson was not involved in the protests; he was making his way home from work as a news vendor and walking through the area where police and protesters were gathered.
The 47-year-old collapsed and died after he was hit by a baton and pushed to the ground by Pc Simon Harwood at the protests in London on 1st April 2009.
The events were captured on film by protesters and sent to the press.
His family said the verdict was a “huge relief”, while the Crown Prosecution Service could reopen criminal proceedings against Pc Harwood.
The officer said after the verdict he had not intended to push him over. The jury decided Pc Harwood acted illegally, recklessly and dangerously, and used “excessive and unreasonable” force in striking Tomlinson.
Pathologist Dr Freddy Patel told the inquest that Mr Tomlinson died of a heart attack but the jury favoured the evidence of a number of experts who said he died of internal bleeding.
During evidence, the family’s lawyer Matthew Ryder QC said Pc Harwood had told “half truths” and “deliberately painted a false picture of Mr Tomlinson”.
Outside the hearing, Tomlinson’s step-son Paul King said the family hoped manslaughter charges would be brought against Pc Harwood.
Paul King said: “After two years, we’re really grateful that the inquest process has made a strong statement about how Ian died.”

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Republicanism in Britain celebrated

By New Worker correspondent

London communists marked the royal wedding in their own way last week by taking part in a special NCP one-day school at the Party Centre on the role of the British monarchy past and present. Chaired by Theo Russell discussions were opened by Andy Brooks on the role of Oliver Cromwell and the English republic followed by Neil Harris on the role that the monarchy plays today. Everyone thought it was time well spent and £50 was raised for the fighting fund as well!

photo: Andy Brooks opening the discussion

Thursday, May 05, 2011

May Day in London

by New Worker correspondent

New Worker supporters joined between 10,000 and 15,000 trade unionists, political activists and community groups gathered in warm sunshine in Clerkenwell Green outside Marx House for the start of the annual May Day march last Sunday.
The London march was, as ever, made colourful by the presence of large numbers of Turks, Kurds and other communities from the Middle East – all united in support for communism and many carrying portraits of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin as well as the heroes and martyrs of their own struggles.
The march to Trafalgar Square was headed by trade union banners – though not nearly enough of them to sustain the momentum of the fight against the cuts demonstrated by the huge rally in Hyde Park on 26th March.
There were a respectable number of trades council banners and some banners from local branches of the major unions. But the big union leaderships were missing.
The rally in Trafalgar Square was addressed by veteran Labour campaigner Tony Benn, who called for action from the "majority who create the world's wealth" to re-establish their rights over "the handful who control the world's wealth".
He continued: "All the gains that have been made have been made by people like ourselves, campaigning year in and year out. This week, local authorities have got their elections.
“We must use our vote to build on what the TUC did on 26th March, and work for a better society for ourselves and our children and grandchildren."
Sarah Veale of the TUC warned that cuts in public spending would have a devastating effect on public services. "It's going to have a particularly devastating effect on women, both as the providers and main users of services. It's given new meaning to the phrase 'women and children first', because that's where the cuts are going to bite," she added.