Southwark Labour Council has just announced a further swingeing £19m of cuts in its 2014/2015 budgets. South London RCG is on the streets every week, campaigning, organising and speaking out against cuts in services and benefits. Southwark is already one of the ten most deprived of London boroughs, with a slew of shameful statistics to its name. For example:
February has been a busy month for the Focus E15 Campaign, with organised and lively events stepping up the pressure on Newham's Labour council, and building the campaign. Lets hope March will be an even busier month, pushing the message - social housing, not social cleansing!
On Friday 21 February, the Focus E15 campaign held their 'Focus Fun Bus Big Day Out'. Focus E15 mothers and their supporters, including FRFI/RCG, and friends took thousands of signed petitions to hand in to Boris Johnson, mayor of London, at City Hall. Travelling on a decorated open top bus, the campaign was heard loud and clear as the bus went from Stratford, east London, to the embankment near Tower Bridge, singing and chanting 'social housing, not social cleansing', demanding the basic right of secure social housing, not insecure private-sector rented accommodation.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! Joined the London National protest against Atos called by Black Triangle, Disabled People against Cuts and others outside Atos head office.
A lot of new jargon is necessary to understand what is happening to benefits cuts at this time. But the strong message of the protest was that we had all better understand because any one of us could end up unable to work for the long or short term because of an accident, the onset of mental illness, disability or disease.
The £500 million contract from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) with the multi national company Atos Healthcare was set up in 2010 with the aim of testing all 1.5 million people on sickness benefits in the UK. The Work Capacity Assessment (WCA) is a computer-led points-based assessment by often medically non-qualified Atos staff to determine whether to move people from Disability Benefits (DI) and put them on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).
The Focus E15 campaign has now been fighting for social housing in East London for over six months. The Newham Labour council has responded with lies and spin, attempting to cover up their attacks on the working class, and their absolute complicity with the project of cuts and austerity. Below we republish, with permission, an exchange from the Focus E15 Mothers Campaign Facebook page. Daniella, a supporter of the campaign had written to councillor Ellie Robinson, the executive member for Safeguarding and Community Affairs, and received the predictable slippery reponse. Below this Jasmin Stone, one of the mothers leading the campaign, explains the reality of the behaviour of Newham council and the East Thames housing association. FRFI/RCG continues to support and organise with the Focus E15 Campaign. Social housing not social cleansing!
On Friday 17 January, Focus E15 mothers, their babies and supporters of the campaign held a tea party in the showflat in the East Thames Housing Association offices, with decorations, party poppers, balloons - the children had fun, the mothers were happy and the message was clear - secure social housing in London.
East Thames is the landlord of Focus E15 hostel, where the young mothers and babies who are on the homeless list of Newham Council, have been temporarily housed. The young mothers have been offered properties as far away as Hastings and Birmingham, in the private-rented sector, while East Thames has thousands of properties in East London and Essex, and Newham Council has boarded up properties in Stratford such as the Carpenters Estate.
After the party, we all made our way to Bridge House, Newham Council housing service building - we entered the foyer and explained to people there what the campaign was about, the management told us to leave because we were disrupting the people there who had meetings, however the people cheered and supported us as they too are battling for the basic human right of shelter. One woman in tears told us how she was was about to be sent to Birmingham where she knows no one.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! has worked wih Focus E15 mothers since October 2013 and with the determination of the mothers never to give up, the campaign is growing, linking up with others in similar situations and drawing in people who want to do something about the wholesale ideological attack on working class people. The only option is resistance as we take up the fight for secure social housing, against the bedroom tax and the benefit cap. As social cleansing intensifies, Focus E15 mothers show that collective action on the streets is the way forward as we fight together to stop the uprooting of individuals and families.
Victory to the Focus E15 mothers!
Join us every Saturday for a street stall 12-2 on The Broadway E15 (outside Wilkinson's) and alternate Saturdays for campaign meetings at Ithaca House, 27 Romford Road, London E15 4LJ.
Members of the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) joined 200+ protesters, including students, teachers, campaigns and people from the community assembled outside Lambeth Town Hall last night to tell the council they are against the bedroom tax, benefits cuts and the sell-off of Lambeth College.
Earlier that evening 60+ students, teachers and activists assembled outside Lambeth College on Brixton Hill to oppose the sell-off of the site to private developers. Campaigners are demanding the principal Mark Silvermann recognises the groups demands, which also cover issues such as expensive canteens and lack of childcare.
Members of the South London RCG with their big sound system joined protesters from the Save Brixton College campaign to take to the roads for a march down Brixton hill and around the Brixton market area. People joined on the way for chants and speeches on the microphone, explaining how the council is doing nothing to stop the sell-off of the college.
Protesters grouped together outside the Town Hall where our sound system was used to host an open-mic with different campaigns and speakers from many local groups.
(pic by Matthew Clarke)
A speaker from Save Brixton College
Tony from the Save Brixton College campaign - very good speaker
(pic by Matthew Clarke)
People passing by also joined in to say what they felt about the sell off of the college
Local lot Housing Action for Southwark and Lambeth (pic via @HousingActionSL)
Speaker from Lambeth Housing Activists and Unite Community (pic by Matthew Clarke)
Speaker from Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), explaining how disabled people are not only on the front line of government attacks on benefits and welfare but told us how DPAC are fighting back in a militant and organised way
People packed the Town Hall to make demands of the council inside, where they were told a number of facts such as in the 6 years to 2016-17 Lambeth’s core funding will have been cut by 50%
Campaigners from Save Brixton College held up the meeting with chants of “No Sell Off” to ensure that the council could not continue ignoring their cause (they eventually got a meeting organised for next month!)
(pic by Matthew Clarke)
A deputation was then given urging counsellors not to sell off short-life housing and to lobby government against bedroom tax - to a loud applause.
On Saturday 16 November, Focus E15 mothers, their babies together with FRFI and other supporters were out in force on the streets of Stratford.
A significant victory has just been achieved. The mothers have received a letter from East Thames, the housing association that runs Focus E15 hostel, saying that the support that was removed in September has been reinstated. This means that the council has had to backtrack on its decision to remove the £41,000 Supporting People funding stream to the mother and baby unit.
This victory is a result of the campaign led by the Focus E15 mothers and FRFI since mid-September. Nothing is achieved if we do nothing, but if we stand together, we can win.
Focus E15 mothers are determined to continue the campaign and now the battle is on to ensure that the young mothers are housed in social housing in east London where they want to live, close to their family and friends and support networks.
On Saturday, FRFI supporters and other campaigners gathered around the microphone as Jasmin, one of the mothers, led us in the chant: Labour council hear us say! Focus mums are here to stay!
Below is some of the press coverage Focus E15 have achieved so far:
On Friday 25 October 160 people packed into Bolivar Hall, the cultural venue of the Venezuelan Embassy, for the London premiere of Viva Venezuela - Fighting for Socialism, a new film produced by the Revolutionary communist Group.
On Thursday 10 October a lively event of 80+ people took place on the campus at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London to discuss the Walter Rodney book,How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
On Saturday 12 October, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! with Focus E15 Mothers and friends, family and supporters came together at Ithaca House in Stratford, E15. It was the first public meeting of the campaign, to update everyone about the campaign so far and plan ahead.
Young mothers and mothers-to-be from Focus E15 mother and baby unit are taking action because the unit has lost £41,000 of council funding from the council and faces closure. They have been warned to start looking for accommodation and some of them have been served with eviction notices from East Thames Housing Association, which administers Focus E15.
On Saturday 5 October, the Focus E15 Mothers campaign held a lively rally on the streets of Stratford, East London. Mums, children and supporters made speeches, petitioned and publicised the campaign, encouraging local people to attend a public meeting this Saturday (see details below).
The Focus E15 Mothers are a group of young mothers and mothers-to-be facing eviction from their homes at the FocusE15 centre, a hostel for young people in Stratford that includes a mother and baby unit.
Eyewitness report of mass arrests at East London demo against the EDL - 7 September 2013
On Saturday 7 September, 5,000 people assembled at Altab-Ali Park, named in honour of a young Bangladeshi textile worker murdered by fascists in 1978, in an attempt to stop the fascist English Defence League from marching through Tower Hamlets, East London, an area with a large Asian population. An FRFI supporter who was at the demonstration reports.
The Counihan-Sanchez family from Kilburn are continuing to resist attempts by Brent Labour council to make them homeless. The Counihan-Sanchez Housing Campaign (CSHC) are supporting the family and continuing to fight all evictions and cuts in Brent. The family of seven were made homeless by Brent after they declared £18 a week income from a plot of land in Ireland. Since April 2012, the family have been in shoddy accommodation in Ealing which costs Brent council £500 per week.
FRFI activists in London and Manchester are participating in the international campaign to demand that UEFA pull its Under-21s final football tournament out of Israel, where it is due to be held from 5 to 18 June 2013.
In London, on 24 May, activists assembled outside St Pancras International station to receive around 40 activists from several European countries, mainly France, who arrived to cheers and chants of Free Palestine! Boycott Israel! We then set off for a 250-strong march to Grosvenor Hotel in Park Lane where the UEFA annual congress was taking place. FRFI was among the coalition of groups which organised the day of action, along with Football Beyond Borders and Red Card Israeli Racism – which held a five-hour rally outside the hotel. A small group of intrepid activists even managed, later, to get past security and protest at the UEFA dinner itself. In front of guests including David Beckham and Alex Ferguson, one got onto the platform to denounce Israel and another stood behind UEFA president Michel Platini holding a flag.
Around 1000 - 2000 people marched from Waterloo to the Department of Health on Whitehall, to protest against ongoing cuts and the privatisation of the NHS. The march was backed by 10 London Save our Hospitals Campaigns, including 5 Labour MPs, 3 London Trades Councils and local branches of GMB, NUJ. Unison, and UNITE.
16 March 2013 – RCG supporters joined up to 5,000 people marching against the proposed sell off at Whittington Hospital in Archway, North London. The march started at Highbury corner and closed-off the busy Holloway Road as it made its way up to the hospital at Archway
The board of Whittington hospital has announced plans to sell off hospital land and to cut the number of beds by up to 50%, to as few as 177. This is on top of planned redundancies, as yet undetermined, that are hanging over the staff there. The board has announced that it wants the hospital to become a Foundation Trust and these sell offs and ‘economies’ are part of its bid for this. Whittington hospital actually has one of the lowest mortality rates in the country, a good nurse to patient ratio and a bed-occupancy rate of 97%. We say the hospital services should be kept at their current level with adequate provisions from the state, instead of trying to sell off buildings and land in order to make up for the shortfall.
RCG North London branch is holding a public meeting on Monday 18 March to discuss how we can stop the sell off at the Whittington. This will involve understanding the sell off in the context of a widescale attack on living standards and public services, launched in order to deal with the capitalist crisis. It also needs recognition of the disgraceful role of the Labour Party, which is positioning itself as an anti-cuts alternative to the ConDems, when in fact it has no programme to reverse the creeping privatisation that began under its watch. Not least of Labour’s crimes was the introduction of Public Finance Initiatives (PFI) in the NHS, which means many hospitals are now paying millions of pounds of interest each year to parasitic banks. This is why we say that one of the slogans of the movement to save the NHS must be: Drop the PFI debt!
The public meeting is at 7pm on Monday 18 March, upstairs at the Oak and Pastor Pub, 86 Junction Road, London N19 5QZ. Nearest tubes: Tufnel Park or Archway. All welcome.
Lewisham Hospital is being sacrificed to parasites. The government’s plans to remove its Accident and Emergency service, maternity wards, paediatric and other services in order to provide private companies with extraordinary profits, which furnish the pleasures of multi-millionaires.
The South London Health Care Trust (SLHT) has run up a deficit of £15 million over the past 3 years. In 2012 the cost of servicing its debt is estimated to have been £61m – nearly 15% of its income. The SLHT total debt burden exceeds £2bn.
Five hundred people attended a Stop the Sell-off meeting chaired by Jeremy Corbyn MP on Tuesday 12 February at Archway Methodist Church in Islington called by the Defend Whittington Hospital Campaign. Two weeks ago the Whittington Management Board announced that buildings would be sold, staff accommodation demolished, 570 jobs in nursing and administration would go, beds to be reduced from 330 to 177 and birth services to be capped at 4,000 per year.
The Director of the Board (£170,000 per annum) apologised for poor communication of these plans. He said the proposals were based on the belief that improvements in medical care depend on small local health care clinics, home support and care in the community.
Contributions and questions from the public showed that there is deep anger about the proposals based on the experience of the poor services that already exist outside of the Whittington Hospital itself which is the ‘safest’ hospital in England for mortality rates. This is because the patient /nurse ratio is good. ‘A Mid Staffs Hospital tragedy will occur if the proposed changes are made’ said one contributor to much clapping and support.
Labour MPs Frank Dobson, Emily Thornberry and David Lammy joined Catherine West, Leader of Islington Council on the platform. They spoke about their love of Whittington Hospital – but that was all they had to say. These Labour MPs offer no plans or strategies for defending public services. They hope to be lifted up on the shoulders of popular anger in order to return the Labour Party to government. The Whittington Management proposals are intended to prepare for Foundation Trust Hospital Status. This, like the Public/Private Finance Initiative was a major policy of the last Labour Government and has been disastrous for the NHS.
A speaker from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! pointed out that NHS services can only be defended if there is real opposition to the management and financial structures endorsed under Labour. Foundation Trust status was the swamp that dragged Mid Staffs Hospital into disaster for patients and the PFI debt time bomb of South London Health Care Trust has threatened Lewisham Hospital with closure. We must stand by the slogans; Cancel the PFI debt – No to Foundation Trusts.
On Saturday 26 January 25,000 people march through Lewisham, south east London, in a show of strength against plans to close Lewisham Hospital. No provision has been made for the 30,000 emergency admissions and complex cases every year that would need to go out of area if this hospital is lost. Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich (QEH), already struggling, would become responsible for providing A&E services to 750,000 people from Lewisham. QEH and Princess Royal Hospital Orpington are being bankrupted by unaffordable Private Finance Initiative schemes - £250 million that will be £2.5 billion when repaid. Matthew Kershaw, who has been appointed as a special administrator, has decided to axe Lewisham Hospital, a thriving busy hospital in a neighbouring borough. This is no solution.
RCG had a contingent on the march with our sound system and open mic allowing for music, chanting and speeches. We flew the flags of Cuba and Venezuela, giving our solidarity with the revolutionary movements in Latin America, building socialism. Cuba shows what is possible when a society's priority is not profit but the needs of the people and when those needs are met through a democratically planned economy. Cuba has over 28,000 health workers in over 75 countries and is training tens of thousands of medical students to go back and work in their countries. Venezuela, with the support of Cuba, now has tens of thousands of doctors in the Barrio Adentro programme providing primary care where previously there was none. Free health care for all Venezuelans is central to the progress of the Bolivarian Revolution.