Saturday, April 28, 2012

'Social cleansing' in London

THE LONDON Borough of Newham last week approached Brighter Futures, a social housing association in Stoke-on-Trent, to house 500 homeless families because Government caps on housing benefit now make it impossible to house the families within the east London borough.
 Private rents in the Labour-controlled borough have soared over the last few years, exacerbated by the impending Olympics to be held mainly in Newham.
 The Government has responded by accusing Newham Council of frightening vulnerable residents.
 And Brighter Futures has rejected Newham’s proposal on the grounds that moving large numbers of families around the country would cause serious problems in providing vital social, health education and other services to support them.
 Newham Council is being accused of social cleansing but shadow housing minister Jack Dromey has told LBC, a London local radio service, that the authority has no choice.
 He said: “If the council in London is faced with a collapse in affordable house building, soaring rents in the private rental sector and the benefit changes that the Government has introduced, you put councils like Newham – which is a good council – in an impossible situation.
 “It’s Grant Shapps and the government who are responsible for this absolute scandal.
 “We warned that it would happen and it’s now happening on a grand scale.
 “These are decent families who are homeless through no fault of their own, who are desperate to find accommodation in London, but they are forced to move hundreds of miles.”
 Tory-controlled Westminster council is also understood to be considering a similar proposal.
 As part of its welfare reforms, the Government has introduced weekly caps on housing benefit of between £250 for a one-bedroom flat and £400 for a four-bedroom property.
 Local Housing Allowance, which is used to determine housing benefit payments, has also been changed so it is being calculated on the basis of cheaper rents – rather than on the mid-point of rents in an area.
 The cap on housing benefit has drastically reduced the number of private sector rental properties that are now affordable to the low paid and those on benefits.
 According to the Chartered Institute of Housing research, in a report issued in January this year, the top five areas of affordable property loss are:
      1. Westminster 20,700
      2. Birmingham 14,200
      3. Kensington and Chelsea 14,100
      4. Glasgow City 10,120
      5. Camden 10,000
      Total: England, Scotland, Wales 800,000
 Newham Council is offering to pay Brighter Futures 90 per cent of the local housing allowance plus £60 per week.
 But Brighter Futures chief executive officer Gill Brown says she will not agree to the request: "I think there is a real issue of social cleansing going on.
 "We are very anxious about this letter which we believe signals the start of a movement which could see thousands of needy people dumped in Stoke with no proper plan for their support or their welfare."
 She said previous efforts to relocate needy people had put strain on local public services and led to "the collapse of already vulnerable neighbourhoods and the rise of divisive right-wing extremism".
 Newham's mayor, Sir Robin Wales, blamed Government policies which had left his borough "chasing around the country trying to find ways to deal with people who are in need".
 He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We have got a waiting list of 32,000 – we've got hundreds of people looking for places to stay and the result of Government benefit cuts, which are still working through as well, means that many more people from wealthier parts of London are looking for places to live in London and they're just not there.
 "We have written to 1,179 organisations [housing associations] saying could you accommodate some people? We're not looking to push people all to one place; we're looking to find the best possible solution for citizens."
 Meanwhile, Westminster is said to be considering an offer from Smart Housing Group - a private association with homes in Nottingham and Derby – in conjunction with its partner councils Chelsea and Hammersmith, and Fulham.
 It has suggested it could provide properties for Westminster residents deemed "homeless" as a result of the cap – and if accepted, each of the three London councils would send 50 families.
 If the Government really wanted to cut the housing benefit bill it would cap rents, not benefits. The benefits end up in the pockets of greedy landlords, who are the true social parasites

London mayor candidates give no platform to BNP

KEN LIVINGSTONE, Labour’s candidate in the coming London mayoral elections, and Green Party candidate Jenny Jones, last week withdrew from a BBC London mayoral debate because the British National Party candidate was to be taking part.
 And spokesperson for Tory Boris Johnson said he had never confirmed his involvement, but would also "not share a stage" with the BNP.
 Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick has withdrawn too, but a spokesperson said it was not a result of the BNP's participation.
 The BBC said it was committed to giving the BNP "proportionate coverage".
  Announcing his withdrawal, Livingstone said: "The far right want to destroy our democracy and stand for the elimination of our basic rights. They cannot be treated as a legitimate part of politics.
 "We have been in negotiation about a debate with the main candidates for BBC London 94.9 – but only now have we been informed that the BNP had been invited to take part in this debate. 
 "I will not share a platform with the BNP and it is a point of principle to me that I never will do."
 A Green Party spokesperson also said Jones "would not share a platform or a debate" with the BNP's candidate Carlos Cortiglia.

Tower Hamlets strippers speak up and organise!

By New Worker correspondent

A PUBLIC debate on double standards adopted in respect of sex industry workers last week was organised in Tower Hamlets by the GMB  London Entertainment branch and the Equity Thames Variety branch.
 The meeting was supported by Sertuc LGBT network and chaired by Linda Keitz from GLATUC and member of the Sertuc women’s rights committee.
 Labour MP John McDonnell was invited to speak and expressed solidarity with the workers. He highlighted the double standard and the double morality between the pressure to close the adult venues because of nudity and all the companies who make immoral profit over people’s health and safety.
 He pointed out how the Olympics are used to cleanse East London of sex establishments while no word is said against the immoral practices of multinational companies who are using the Olympics to expand their profit and exploit workers.
 Edie Lamort from Equity talked about her experience working in office jobs before becoming a dancer and the contradiction she sees in having to justify herself as a stripper while she was suffering worse exploitation as an office worker but nobody cared for her at that time about her working conditions.
 She explained that her job allowed her to study and support herself while expressing herself in an artistic way as a performer.
 Vera Rodriguez from GMB said: “Nobody should tell us how to make a living. We want to save our job. It’s a real job that brings us an income in a time of recession.”
 She added: “We’re part of the community. We need to be united to improve our working conditions and stop having to justify ourselves. I’m not here for pity or compassion. I’m here to demand rights as a worker.”
 Clare Roderick talked about the different jobs she did and the different clubs she worked in Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
 She opposed the fees and the commission the workers have to pay to work and expressed the need for communities to co-exist with each other.
 Montana, a dancer in Tower Hamlets, opposed the concept of objectification, explaining that while working “this is the time when I decide to be beautiful and sexy”.
 She argued that most violence against women happens in marriage but that nobody tries to ban marriage like strip clubs.
 She questioned also how religions can be perceived as offensive to women and again nobody tries to ban freedom of religion.
 She opposed the ban on strip clubs saying: “The ban will force us to work in unsafe environment”. She added: “What is the difference if I use my body working as an actress in a theatre, on stage or in a strip club? In capitalism we all have to work and sell ourselves. I want to fight capitalism for all work, but meanwhile I need to work.”
 Keith Henderson, GMB organiser, said that he was very proud to organise sex workers and that GMB is ready to make a legal challenge in Parliament to change the law.
 Many interventions came from the audience about how to improve the working conditions, and what type of actions and organising could take place to oppose the ban and improve workers’ lives.
 The public talk appeared as a good start to better organise in the borough to oppose the prohibitionist measures. Many workers left their contact to the trade union organisers who promised to have a new meeting soon to decide the next actions and strategy.
 Overall, it was a successful event, well attended, with the hope and energy to change things for the better.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Support the Kurdish hunger strikers!

 by New Worker correspondent

MEMBERS of London’s Kurdish community and their supporters held a protest picket in the heart of the capital last week to show their support for Kurdish political prisoners on hunger strike in Turkey. Kurdish campaigners also took their message to the headquarters of Amnesty International that week to call on Amnesty to speak out against the grave human rights violations suffered by Kurds in Turkey.
On 15th February around 400 political prisoners in Turkey began an indefinite hunger strike to demand justice for jailed Kurdish Workers’ Party leader Abdullah Ocalan and to raise awareness of the continued persecution of the Kurds in Turkey. Within weeks, solidarity actions were taking place across prisons in Turkey and in Europe, with 15 Kurds from across Europe gathering in Strasbourg on hunger strike in solidarity with their compatriots in Turkey while the number joining the protest in Turkish prisoners has now topped 1,500.
The strikers’ demands are clear. Ocalan has now been isolated from the outside world, with no visit, letters or phone calls, since July 2011 – a total of 260 days. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Europe has both the authority and the responsibility to ensure that he is not being subjected to inhumane or degrading treatment on the prison island of Imrali, where he has been held since 1999.
 For his removal from isolation and for renewed dialogue for a negotiated settlement to the Kurdish conflict, these striking prisoners, politicians and solidarity activists are willing to put their own health on the line, but they need support.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Kim Il Sung: A life to remember

Myongsin Mun addresses the meeting

By New Worker Correspondent

FRIENDS of Korea met at London’s historic Marx House last Saturday to celebrate the centenary of the birth of great leader Kim Il Sung with a panel of speakers who have all visited Democratic Korea over the years.
 Kim Il Sung founded the communist movement that liberated the country from Japanese colonialism, defeated the might of US-led imperialism in the Korean War and led the drive to build the modern, socialist republic that exists today in the north of the divided peninsula.
Kim Il Sung advanced and developed Marxist philosophy throughout his long and active life – a theme taken up by the panel, which included Michael Chant of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), Dr Hugh Goodacre, John McCleod of the Socialist Labour Party, Dermot Hudson from the UK Korean Friendship Association and Myongsin Mun from the embassy of the DPR Korea in London.
Working people will be marking the centenary with celebrations throughout Korea and across the world said Friends of Korea chair Andy Brooks, welcoming the cultural programme that followed, which included a short film from Democratic Korea and Korean music. Hugh Goodacre and Myongsin Mun both gave rousing renditions of the Song of General Kim Il Sung while the young daughter of a DPRK diplomat delivered a piano rendition of the classic song written just after liberation in 1946.
Others performed more modern Korean pieces finally ending with a spirited rendition of James Connolly’s We only want the Earth led by contemporary composer Hugh Shrapnel.
 The Friends of Korea committee consists of the New Communist Party of Britain, Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML), Socialist Labour Party, European Regional Society for the Study of the Juché Idea and the UK Korean Friendship Association. The committee organises friendship meetings throughout the year in London, which are publicised by the supporting movements and on the Friends of Korea blog.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012


By New Worker correspondent

PEACE activists all around Britain and the world rallied in London on Saturday 24th March – New Year’s Day in Iran - to raise awareness of the dangers of a Nato attack on Iran – an action that is now definitely on the imperialist agenda.
 In central London members and supporters of Stop the War gathered in front of the National Gallery, overlooking Trafalgar Square, for speeches, music, poetry and a symbolic “die-in” to protest against Nato’s plans to bring death and destruction to the people of Iran as they did to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
 The campaign raised the issue of the role of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear watchdog since the appointment of Yukiya Amano to director general of the IAEA in July 2009.
 Wikileaks has revealed that the IAEA director general sees himself as "solidly in the US court on every key strategic decision", including Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme.
 Yukio Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, has been accused by several former senior officials of pro-western bias, over-reliance on unverified intelligence and of sidelining sceptics.
 Since then, the West's confrontation with Iran over its nuclear programme has deepened and threats of military action by Israel and the US have become more frequent.
 At the same time, the IAEA's reports on Iranian behaviour have become steadily more critical.
 In November, it published an unprecedented volume of intelligence pointing towards past Iranian work on developing a nuclear weapon, deeming it credible.
 But some former IAEA officials are saying that the agency has gone too far. Robert Kelley, a former US weapons scientist who ran the IAEA action team on Iraq at the time of the US-led invasion, said there were worrying parallels between the West's mistakes over Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction then and the IAEA's assessment of Iran now.
 "Amano is falling into the Cheney trap. What we learned back in 2002 and 2003, when we were in the run-up to the war, was that peer review was very important, and that the analysis should not be left to a small group of people," Kelley said.
 "So what have we learned since then? Absolutely nothing. Just like [former US vice-president] Dick Cheney, Amano is relying on a very small group of people and those opinions are not being checked."
 Don’t Attack Iraq day events were staged in Bristol, Birmingham, Llandudno, Newcastle, Oxford, Shoreditch, Wandsworth and Peterborough.
 One of the speakers at the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) conference in the United States on 24th March 2012 was Leila Zand, Programme Director, Middle East & Civilian Diplomacy, Fellowship Of Reconciliation. She said that rather than sharing her own views on the dangers of a war on Iran, she had asked friends in Iran what they would say. She read the following message that they sent her:
 “….Dear fellow American peace lovers, please deliver our message to your politicians.  We are not just a piece of land.  We are not oil.  We are not nuclear sites.  We are not evil. We are women, men, children.  We are people with dreams, jobs, families, with a baggage of 5000 years of experience.
 “When we talk about war we know what we are talking about. We have heard the shrieks of missiles. We have smelled the gunpowder.  We have run for shelters.  We have seen pieces of a human body in top of our trees and on our roof tops. We have lost loved ones. We know what war means. War was behind our windows.
 “We experienced war in our back yard. For my generation, killing, bombs, missiles, chemical weapons and terrorism is not just in Hollywood; is not a computer game; it is real. And that is why we don’t want evil to knock on our door again. We don’t want war.”