Created: Tuesday, 15 February 2011 13:51
FRFI 219 February / March 2011
FRFI supporters around Britain have been participating in demonstrations against tuition fees, the cutting of EMA and the creeping privatisation of education. On 29 January FRFI joined the national anti-cuts march in London and the student and trade union march in Manchester, where sell-out NUS leader Aaron Porter needed a police escort to protect him from angry students.
Since the third national day of action against fees and cuts on 9 December, hundreds of people have continued to take to the streets to protest. Newcastle FRFI has been active with Students Against Cuts, whose members have been among the most militant and consistent activists, occupying shops that support the cuts such as Marks & Spencer, protesting against high-street chains including BHS and Topshop that are owned by Philip Green, millionaire tax evader and government adviser on the cuts, and targeting the Local Government Offices and Newcastle Civic Centre. This resistance has been met with political policing: the HSBC 3 – Mark Pearson, Patrick Reay and Toby Hobbs – were arrested following protests on 18 December. On 30 December over 30 people picketed Market Street Police station in protest at this criminalisation, before moving on to shut down a local branch of HSBC. HSBC has dodged an estimated £2 billion of tax since 1993, and is among the real criminals of the capitalist crisis. On 14 January, Prime Minister David Cameron was caught out in Newcastle as protesters learned of his ‘secret’ meeting with local primary school children at Newcastle’s Centre for Life. Protests quickly grew, leading to one arrest.
In Glasgow two FRFI supporters were arrested on 9 December during student protests. The Glasgow Defence Campaign has organised meetings calling for support, held street protests and built resistance to political policing (see page 4). On 22 January FRFI joined a picket in support of Irish Republican POWs in the East End of Glasgow, with a banner saying ‘NO to political policing!’ The next day, supporters joined the annual Bloody Sunday march. A speaker at the rally, who himself was shot in Derry on Bloody Sunday, was threatened by police for ‘swearing’ and at the end of the rally they detained and questioned him and another speaker.
In London FRFI is bringing the ideological battle against the cuts to the streets of Holloway, Stratford, Brick Lane, Wood Green and Brixton, with street stalls every weekend. We attended the National Shop Stewards Network conference, which voted in favour of an anti-cuts campaign prepared to hold Labour councils to account for the cuts they implement.
On 8 December David Yaffe, editor of FRFI, spoke at a meeting of the London School of Economics FRFI society about the cuts and the crisis, highlighting the parasitism of British capitalism, and the reasons for the latest attacks on education and welfare. Go to http:// tinyurl.com/4heyzrv to watch a video of the talk. Juan Carlos Piedra, from the London Living Wage Campaign and Movement of Ecuadorians in the UK, spoke about the impact of the cuts on low-paid migrant workers. David also spoke on 2 December to a meeting of students in the occupation of University College London.
Fight imperialism! Freedom for Palestine!
In Manchester, on 4 December supporters held a successful rolling picket, starting outside Lloyds Bank, which refused Palestine support charity InterPal an account; moving on to M&S; Schuh, one of the biggest stockists of Caterpillar footwear in Britain (Caterpillar also makes bulldozers that Israel uses to destroy Palestinian homes); Tesco, which consistently sells produce from the West Bank and finishing outside H&M which is in the process of opening new stores in Israel.
In Newcastle FRFI works alongside other activists in the Palestine Action Group (PAG), an open and democratic campaign which opposes all British support for Israel and stands in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. On 8 January PAG held a successful ‘Israel off your trolley’ event, targeting companies that support Israel, following an international call for action after Palestinian activist Jawaher Abu Rahmeh was killed in Bilin on 1 January.
In Newcastle and London FRFI supporters continue to demonstrate every Thursday outside Marks & Spencer, Britain’s biggest retail sponsor of Israel. There have also been regular pickets of M&S branches in Glasgow city centre. We have joined demonstrations outside the Israeli Ahava beauty products store in Covent Garden, London and against the sale of Dead Sea Products in Dundee. We welcome the news that, in response to campaign pressure, John Lewis has stopped selling Ahava Dead Sea beauty products, produced in illegal Israeli settlements, and that Premier Dead Sea Products has been forced out of Dundee after a militant and public campaign by the local branch of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.
Fight racism! Together we are stronger!
In Newcastle FRFI continues to play a leading role in Tyneside Community Action Against Racism (TCAR), bringing an anti-racist message to the streets of Newcastle with regular ‘speak outs against racism’ and meetings, presenting the argument that to beat the cuts we need to be united along class lines internationally and oppose all attempts to divide and weaken the working class.
Viva socialist Cuba!
The example of socialist Cuba is increasingly important to the anti-cuts movement in Britain as it demonstrates what can be achieved through a system which values human life instead of bankers’ profits. Rock Around the Blockade holds regular events, meetings and film shows. Recent screenings in London include Mission against terror – about the incarceration of the Cuban 5, political prisoners in the US. In Newcastle RATB held a packed out showing of Salud!, which explores the Cuban health care system and the role of Cuba’s legendary international medical brigades abroad. Salud! will be shown in London on 13 February, at a meeting which will look at the incredible contribution made by Cuban doctors in Haiti following the devastating earthquake on 12 January 2011. A representative from FRFI also spoke about the Cuban medics in Haiti at the London demonstration called by Haiti First! Haiti Now! on the anniversary of the earthquake.