Letters - FRFI 250 April/May 2016

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Targeting Broadwater Farm

Simon Elmer’s article in FRFI 249, ‘The blitzkrieg of London housing estates’, shows the full ambition of the ‘social cleansing’ project. I would like to add that the government is not just interested in the transfer of public property into private hands for economic reasons. It is also making calculated political preparations for the future.

As the country faces the threat of another economic recession, plans are being drawn up to contain and control opposition. Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham is targeted for ‘dispersal’ because it has a long history of community organisation and resistance to racist police attack. The Residents and Tenants Association and the Broadwater Farm Youth Association have led the fight against the estate’s decline for the last 30 years, generating local employment and monitoring racist harassment.

For these reasons the estate has long been viewed as a threat to ‘public order’. Sir Kenneth Newman, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police from 1982 to 1987 had the estate top of his list of ‘symbolic locations’, along with Railton Road, Brixton and All Saints Road in Notting Hill. As a former Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and detective in the Palestine Police Force under the British Mandate, Newman developed his policy of ‘low level surveillance’ and ‘targeting individuals’. He said that   multi-ethnic communities should be subjected to ‘social control measures... as though they are terrorists’. He spoke about policing ‘ethnic ghettos’ to enforce ‘communal security’. This is how the repression of Muslim communities is being carried out today.

Of course the state can unleash sheer repression and terror against any section of the working class that defends itself against economic assault and state racism. But demolishing working class estates is another way for the ruling class to defend its interests. Broadwater Farm Estate is on the top of the list because of the long track record of resistance to impoverishment and discrimination.

Susan Davidson

North London


No to the academisation of our schools!

I teach at a community school in Camden, north London. Its achievements are evidence that state education works and is best placed to meet the unique needs of local communities. The recent announcement that every school will be an academy by 2022 is the latest in a succession of decisions which illustrate just how gravely the government misunderstands how our education system works.

We do not need academisation. We do not want it because it will not improve our schools.

As educational professionals we know what the priorities are in our schools. We know what is required to meet the needs of the young people we teach:

  • adequate funding to ensure the invaluable contributions of every member of every team can continue;
  • the space and time in our schools to enable our learners to learn in a way that actually benefits them;
  • to stop obsessing about meaningless outcomes and start properly focusing on the learning process;
  • meaningful systems of assessment;
  • parent and teacher governors because we need our schools to be run by people who understand and care about them.

And we need a Department for Education that actually understands the complicated world of education, or is at the very least willing to listen and learn from the people who do know.

We need to stand together and send a clear message to the government that these are our schools, that we as educational professionals know best, that governmental changes are making it increasingly impossible for teachers to support the students they care so much about and that the government has to stop and listen and start working with us if we are to ensure that our young people have the start in life they deserve.

Megan

North London


Why we should stay in the European Union

The June referendum on UK membership of the European Union has major implications across the political spectrum.

Lining up for staying ‘in’ are the Cameron wing of the Conservative Party, the LibDems, most of the Labour Party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens.

Those calling for a ‘leave’ vote include UKIP, Tory Eurosceptics, the far-right and most of the British left groupings such as the Communist Party, SWP, Socialist Party, Counterfire and Respect. The RCG has, it seems, yet to declare but seems to be leaning towards abstention.

The right-wing mainstream of the Leave camp (Brexit) is nationalistic, xenophobic towards migrants and Islamophobic. It supports a deregulation of commerce and industry adverse to the interests of the working class. It has no post-Brexit plan but a generalised atavistic nostalgia for Empire and national super-power status.

Conversely the left groups who support Brexit do so both in protest at the savage debt recovery forced onto Greece by the IMF, ECB and EU and against the ‘democratic deficit’ of the EU.

But Eurocapitalist brutality against Greece is essentially no different to any other capitalist brutality. How is the ‘democratic deficit’ of the EU any worse than the Westminster museum of first-past-the-post MPs, unelected Upper House, unwritten Constitution, in-house corporate lobbyists, shackled trade unions, and the muddled powers of the established Church, civil service and monarchy?

The European Union is a higher form of government than its constituent nation states. It has subsumed the Franco-German rivalry of the last two centuries and the Benelux national boundaries. It leads the world in civil, workers’ and LGBT rights and justice, health and safety, environmental protection, renewable energy, climate action and food standards. Its greater mobility to work, live and study should be championed and extended by all progressives.

British socialism, like all national socialism, is an oxymoron; patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Leaving the European Union will bring a carnival of racist, deregulated reaction. Such a move has no resonance with the anti-austerity parties and groups of southern Europe. Internationalists, Red or Green, should and must engage with the continent of Europe and with its Union to unite its struggles for revolutionary transformation.

Tim Summers (Green Party)

South London


 

… and

Why we should leave the European Union

While the EU referendum is of little interest to the working class, who are oppressed by capital whether its policies come from Brussels or London, it has caused a great divide in the bourgeois political class. Petty bourgeois businesses are in favour of leaving on the basis that less regulation will allow them to be more competitive in a market dominated by transnational corporations, who benefit massively from the free movement of capital. There is, on the contrary, a tendency within the broad left to support the Union, pointing to a handful of directives and regulations that have benefited workers and unions.

This ignores the role the EU has played in facilitating the interests of transnational corporations, allowing them a platform to lobby across states as well as enforcing neoliberal market discipline. The European Round Table of Industrialists, an influential lobbying group, pushed for market and monetary union as well as eastern expansion since the 1980s. They were pivotal in pushing for the mass sell-off of state assets in Eastern Europe during the 1990s and early 2000s, leading to dramatic declines in the standard of living and making these states reliant on Western capital and exporting cheap, low-skill goods to the West. The EU’s aggressive behaviour in relation to Greece demonstrates that the Union will not allow even reformist social democracy and will no doubt stand in the way of genuine socialist revolution. We must never forget that the EU is a bourgeois institution serving bourgeois interests and will eventually have to be challenged in order for the European working class to seize the means of production.

Ryan

Egham

FRFI welcomes further contributions to this debate. There will an article about the EU referendum in the next issue of the paper.


Justice for Kevan

A massive thank you to everyone who made it to my protest outside the Ministry of Justice in February. It was unfortunate the Supreme Court decided to give its judgment on Joint Enterprise at the same time, splitting my supporters, but the positive news gave a boost to everyone. On the day, a Dedicated Search Team was sent to trash my cell in an obvious scare tactic: the result is my decision to call another event for 21 July, 12.30-2.30pm to show we will not tolerate this abuse. This time, though, the target will be the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman headquarters in London, who have repeatedly refused to make the required recommendations to help improve my situation.

I have now spent six years detained within the notorious Close Supervision Centre (CSC) based on allegations proven in court to be false. Many of you will have seen the propaganda spread through the media by the MOJ about me, in order to reduce concern from the public regarding my mistreatment. Without more support the prison service will be emboldened to use increased levels of torture against me. Please take the time to attend the protest this summer. You can also sign my petition atwww.change.org/8/justice-for-kevan.

Kevan Thakrar A4097AE

HMP Wakefield CSC, 5 Love Walk, West Yorkshire WF2 9AG

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 250 April/May 2016


 

Occupy the universities, unite students and workers! (Website only due to limited space)

I've been reading about the Free University of Sheffield and their occupation of the Richard Roberts Auditorium and it is upsetting that they have now stopped the occupation, due to court orders issued by the University of Sheffield. I have absolute respect, solidarity and support for what they did in challenging the growing marketisation of higher education. However, upon their occupation of the university, I was concerned that their initial statement, stated that 'There are those who entirely fault management, and even individual academics...This is not our belief: we want to extend an olive branch to the managerial university. Despite its complicity with the decimation of the public university...our struggle is against this government and the neoliberal society' and that is where the problems lie.  A massive issue on the left in Britain is avoiding the emphasis on words like 'socialism/communism' and 'capitalism', emphasising words instead like 'this government', 'neoliberalism' and 'austerity' avoiding the idea that this would happen under all forms of capitalism and a truly free and democratic education can't happen under capitalism, even if you vote for Corbyn.

Despite making very reasonable demands, such as more student-teacher involvement, resistance to PREVENT, the HE Green Paper and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), as well as fighting against the casualisation of academic workers; as far as I can tell, they had no direct, revolutionary theory which is crucial alongside revolutionary practice to make an impact. I do hope that we all take notes and lessons from what they did and organise again in the future to try and dismantle the university and re-build it based on the ideas of a radical, critical pedagogy that promotes education as a practice of freedom. In order to achieve the free and democratic education engaged in a radical pedagogy, students need to be in solidarity with the workers in building an independent, socialist movement that breaks away from the Labour Party and the NUS (National Union of Students) and seizes the means of production, the likes of which can never happen by voting for NUS candidates, MPs or going to a demo or two.

We need absolute solidarity with all marginalised and oppressed students and workers of the world in order to dismantle the bourgeois state and build a socialist, workers state. Only then can the process of dismantling, decolonising and democratising the education system start to take effect towards the process of communism. But overall, I do have a lot of respect and solidarity for the Free University of Sheffield and their occupation and I do encourage and hope to see more of this happening in the UK (and the world ideally), which we are currently seeing as I write this, the student occupation at Sussex University over the deportation of a student, Luqman Onikosi. As communists and Marxist-Leninists, it is vital that we show our critical support and solidarity to the occupations of universities, but at the same time, engage in discussions and criticisms of such occupations in order to build a strong, organised student and workers movement, united in the building of socialism, at which point, can the transformation of education at all levels begin on a mass scale. I just don't think you can do so by being all 'respectable' to the toxic, bourgeois elements of the university that make it a space where neoliberal, imperialist capitalism thrives and preserves the status quo in maintaining Britain's status as an imperialist country. 

Victory to all marginalised and oppressed students and workers of the world!

Sylvia McCheyne, Manchester