Brent Council have reinstated Housing Benefit for the Counihan Family – 26 Nov 2012

The Counihan- Family Campaign (CSFC) has won the first victory in its battle with Brent Labour Council. On 26 November the council was forced to reinstate the Counihans’ Housing Benefit, in the face of a militant campaign in support of the family in Kilburn and beyond.

Brent Council withdrew Housing Benefit (HB) from the family when they declared they has made themselves ‘intentionally homeless’ in April 2012. Brent had refused to take any responsibility for the family, although Isabel and the 5 children were all born and raised in Brent, and Anthony is a bus driver working at Cricklewood Garage. 

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TUC demobilising opposition to austerity – 20 Oct 2012

On 20 October, up to 100,000 people marched through central London in the TUC’s March for the Alternative. The protest was no more than half the size of the demonstration the TUC called in March 2011, a protest which was accompanied by widespread direct action including the occupation of Fortnum and Masons. The TUC had worked hard to prevent any repetition, cooperating closely with the Metropolitan Police in its control centre, and beforehand, handing over the names of known activists presumably in the hope that they would be subject to preventative arrest. As a consequence, there was only one instance of direct action, when members of Disabled People against the Cuts (DPAC) blockaded Hyde Park corner for a short time, swiftly supported by an FRFI contingent. This year’s event had hardly any mention in the following day’s press. The calls for the TUC to organise a general strike that are being made by organisations of the social democratic opportunist left merely cover up for trade union inaction and opposition to independent action by those who do want to fight, particularly disabled people.

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War on the working class

During the three months to June 2012 the British economy contracted by 0.5%, with manufacturing falling by 0.9%. Now deep in a double-dip recession, the economy is currently smaller than it was in May 2010, and 4.3% below the early 2008 peak. Only Italy of the world’s leading G8 capitalist economies is performing worse. At the beginning of September, the OECD slashed an earlier forecast of 0.5% growth for 2012 to a 0.7% contraction. In November 2011 it had predicted 0.9% growth. Robert Clough reports

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End war on welfare! Take action against Atos!

Picket of Atos office in Glasgow

Atos is a gigantic French multinational firm specialising in the provision of management and IT services, boasting annual revenue of €85bn and 74,000 employees in 48 countries. In Britain, more than £3bn worth of public services have been outsourced to Atos across ten government departments.

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Austerity in Britain: undermining resistance

With 80% of the Coalition’s proposed public sector spending cuts yet to be implemented, the 20% that are in place are causing misery for millions of working class people. Tens of thousands are being evicted from homes across the country as housing benefit caps are implemented making their existing accommodation unaffordable. Raising the threshold for eligibility for Working Tax Credit from 16 hours to 24 hours work per week will cost 200,000 of the poorest families up to £3,900 a year. Council services for the disabled, for children and the elderly have been slashed; overall 400,000 public sector jobs have disappeared over the past two years. Median household incomes have fallen by 6.4% over the last two years and will fall by 0.6% this coming year, 1.5% for the poorest 20% of the population (Institute for Fiscal Studies, IFS). Robert Clough reports.

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Fight the Cuts

Fight the Cuts

The ruling class has unleashed a ruthless ideological assault on the working class. It has resurrected the Victorian distinction between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor with a vengeance. Its purpose is to divide the working class in order to make it pay as a whole for Britain’s ballooning national debt, and its principal weapon is the Welfare Reform Bill currently going through parliament. Amongst the many vicious proposals in this Bill is one to cap total household benefits at £500 per week, £26,000 a year, no matter how many children there may be. Their populist argument is that people on benefits should not get more than this, approximately the median individual wage. Yet, if this becomes law, tens of thousands of people will be forced out of their homes in London and other high-cost areas simply because the housing benefit they receive will come close to the new limit, leaving nothing for them to live on, particularly if they are disabled. It will also mean that when people lose their jobs, they stand a good chance of being made homeless and their children forced to move school as well. It is a new form of social cleansing. Robert Clough reports.

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Public sector pensions: trade unions start to capitulate

Public sector pensions:  trade unions start to capitulate

A week, Prime Minister Harold Wilson once cynically declared, is a long time in politics. It took little more than a week for TUC leaders to prepare the ground for selling out over public sector pensions following the huge strike on 30 November. Trade union leaders first agreed to postpone any further discussion of action until 10 December, and then agreed to a TUC drive to hold separate negotiations on the different NHS, local government employee, teacher and civil service pension schemes.

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OccupyLSX: resistance and the City

bwd  Set 1/2  fwd

As we go to press, the City of London Corporation is applying for a court order to evict OccupyLSX from its camp opposite the entrance to Paternoster Square by St Paul’s Cathedral. A press campaign against the occupation is now in full flow: ‘Junkie health hazard at St Paul’s’ screamed the London Evening Standard headline on 23 November. It shows the extent to which the Occupy protest has unnerved the ruling class since it set up camps in cities across the country on 15 October following the example of Occupy Wall Street in the US. Having worked hard to transfer blame for the crisis on to excessive public spending, the ruling class now faced a movement which pinned responsibility firmly back where it belonged: on to the banks and the financial sector. Barnaby Mitchel and Tom Vincent report.

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Millions on strike against pension cuts: what next?

As we go to press, millions of public sector workers are preparing to strike and demonstrate on 30 November against the ConDem Coalition’s attack on their pensions. Many of them will also be asking what next? Ballots of GMB, Unison, Unite and other trade unions have shown large majorities in favour of industrial action. Yet there is no indication from trade union leaders as to what further action they will be calling for. With unfulfilled union promises of a spring of discontent, then of a summer of discontent, and then of an autumn of discontent, are there any real signs that they are now going to organise a winter of discontent? TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told us back in March that the ‘phoney war is over’; all we will have seen by December, nearly nine months after that declaration, are two public sector one-day strikes. This is not going to strike fear into the ruling class.

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N30 in Newcastle


In Newcastleupon Tyne FRFI supporters joined the 22 picket lines across the city from the early morning. A key picket line was held at the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) Hospital including staff from RCN, Unison, GMB and UNITE unions. Nurses, physiotherapists, support workers, administrators and porters stood shoulder to shoulder, protesting against the attacks on NHS pensions and the privatisation of the NHS. Linda Hobson, critical care nurse at the RVI informed us ‘We shouldn't have to bear the brunt of the banking crisis with a 50% increase in our contribution rates, and none of that extra money going back into the pension scheme. In critical care we work 12 and a half hour rotational night and day shifts. It's hard.  To expect us to do these shifts at the age of 67 just seems unfair.’

FRFI supporters also joined UCU pickets at Durham University with ‘Durham Defend Higher Education’ who have been campaigning locally to take action against public funding cuts to higher education and privatisation.

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Royal Holloway University occupation – 2 Dec 2011

Royal Holloway UniversityOn Wednesday 30 November, students, at Royal Holloway University of London, including supporters of ‘Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!’, occupied the administrative centre of the university in solidarity with the N30 strikes and in protest against budget cuts being imposed by the university management.

Throughout the year there has been dialogue between the local UCU branch and the senior management over the planned redundancies of 22 members of teaching staff and a major restructuring of various courses, including the removal of Italian as a course and major attacks on the Classics and Philosophy Department.

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Electricians Protest against Balfour Beatty and Join LSX Occupation - 19 Oct 2011

This week Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! again supported the electricians taking principled unofficial action against the companies trying to pull out of the JIB pay and conditions agreement.

On the morning of Wednesday 18 October, we were outside Balfour Beatty's site at Blackfriars, with over 200 electricians and mounting a picketline at the staff entrances. This included blocking the lorry entrance on the bridge. A large placard marked 'closed' was held up at the main entrance and attempts were made to stop workers entering, explaining that this was a picket line. The police escorted people in if they made it through the crowd. Those going in got jeered. Many of them then stood on the building above looking out at the demonstration and the electricians spoke to them urging them to join the demonstration.

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Support the electricians! Down with deskilling and privatisation!

Wednesday 12 October, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined London electricians and supporters' for the weekly demonstration against the construction companies who are planning to withdraw from the Electrical and Mechanical National Working Agreements (JIB, Joint Industry Board) to drive down conditions and pay. The demonstrators met at the Tate Modern site in Southwark and marched over the bridge to Blackfriars to the Balfour Beatty site, occupying the road outside St Paul's cathedral and keeping the police on their toes.

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Victory for Democratic Rights as HSBC3 Exonerated!

The convictions of Mark Pearson and Patrick Reay - who were arrested for protesting against public sector cuts and tax dodging banks and companies in December 2010 - were overturned on Wednesday 28 September 2011 after a two day appeal at Newcastle Crown Court. The success of the appeal is a victory for the democratic right to protest in Newcastle and shows that it is always worthwhile challenging political policing.


Stop Political Policing!

The arrests and charges of the HSBC 3 were politically motivated, designed to intimidate protesters, and restrict future protests against the cuts and austerity measures.  As John Pilger said in his solidarity statement, ‘The arrests of Patrick, Mark and Toby starkly represent the most disturbing trend in Britain — the rise of an openly political police... At worst, the police can kill with impunity, it seems, and increasingly they arrest and prosecute arbitrarily those whose dissent which marks the line between democracy and a state of fear and compliance’.

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Real resistance not empty gestures

The working class faces massive attacks on its jobs, its living standards and its services. What is needed is resistance on the same scale: a militant movement based not just on those sections of the working class whose jobs and pensions are at risk, but including all those whose benefits are being slashed and who are losing the vital public services on which they depend. In the face of this challenge, the response of the trade unions has been woefully inadequate for all their fiery talk. In the run-up to the 26 March TUC demonstration against the ConDem government cuts, General Secretary Brendan Barber spoke of the ‘end of the Phoney War’. At the demonstration itself, Unite’s Len McCluskey declared: ‘We’re not prepared to stand idly by and let them dismantle our society… This is only the start. We need a plan of resistance including coordinated strike action,’ while Communication Workers’ Union leader Billy Hayes said: ‘We will be defined not by what we say from this platform but by what we do. If we have to fight, so be it.’

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Healthcare under attack in Newcastle


In Newcastle, the government’s widely ridiculed ‘listening exercise’ on the Health and Social Care Bill means little to people who are already finding it difficult to access essential healthcare services. The city centre walk-in centre, which last year treated 19,591 patients, and employed 26 staff, closed in May. The service was funded by the Department of Health, but delivered by private provider Care UK, with a contract value of £7 million. Figures on exactly how much Care UK made from the centre are not available as they are deemed ‘commercially confidential’, but overall the company draws 96% of its income from NHS contracts. In January 2010 company Chairman John Nash was exposed for donating £21,000 to the office of now-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, and the company is doing very nicely out of privatisation. Recent contracts include a £53 million contract to deliver services to prisoners and young offenders. The reason given for the closure of the walk-in centre in Newcastle was ‘cost-effectiveness’. The closure of a centre treating thousands of patients has been dismissed offhand: ‘we felt that the existing GP practices and NHS walk-in centres that are now available across the city provide a level of service that meets the needs of people’ (Dr Mike Guy, Medical Director NHS North of Tyne).  The fact that patients will have to travel further to visit a walk-in centre, or book appointments with increasingly oversubscribed GPs, is dismissed as irrelevant in the face of ‘considerable cost pressure which would need to be found from another service area’.

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