Letters - FRFI 255 Feb/Mar 2017

Letters - Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 255 February/March 2017

Rise in the number of homeless children in Scotland

The latest homelessness statistics released by the Scottish government on 16 January show that there was a 17% increase in the number of children living in temporary accommodation in the year to September 2016. That takes the figure to 5,751 children. There was a doubling in the number of households with children or a pregnant family member being accommodated in bed and breakfasts while they wait for a house. All together Scotland’s 32 councils received 17,100 applications for homelessness assistance between April and September 2016. The charity Shelter estimates that 120,000 children across Britain spent Christmas homeless and in temporary accommodation.

These statistics show that fundamental change does not only require the ending of a Tory government but of capitalism itself. The SNP Scottish government pays lip service to social justice but in practice defends a system of inequality and injustice. In Edinburgh there are 49 streets where average house prices are over a million pounds. Private profit is placed before people’s collective needs. Housing justice for the working class and oppressed means socialism!

Dominic Mulgrew

Glasgow any time soon.


Oppose jobcentre closures in Glasgow

In an attempt to provide a dehumanising institution which is also value for money the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is undertaking a string of local jobcentre closures in Glasgow, affecting those people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit. Over the course of 2017 jobcentres will be shut down and merged with others, meaning one centre will serve a greater area. What is being hailed as a streamlining plan by the DWP will result in claimants being forced into travelling greater distances (upwards of three miles) to maintain their income; a further demoralising task in an already miserable system.

In Maryhill, our local jobcentre is being relocated to Springburn, so claimants will have to find a way to travel a round trip of six miles in order to sign on; meaning the risk of being late and therefore sanctioned is far greater. The increase of travel time, costs and sanction risk are leaving many people worried for their income, particularly those claimants who have specific travel requirements or who are caring for children or relatives. It is of little surprise that many of the centres due to close are in some of the city’s most deprived areas – it seems obvious that these supposed savings will be made off the backs of the most vulnerable claimants.

It is an odd feeling to be writing a letter to defend an institution like a jobcentre but the scale of the misery that this will cause is painfully obvious. This is not an isolated plan; closures and relocations are planned across the UK and soon there will be thousands expected to travel miles in order to claim their meagre stipend for another two weeks. This dismissive treatment of claimants cannot continue and we must provide support for those struggling with these closures both in Glasgow and any other places they are implemented.

Solidarity

Alyssa

Glasgow


One rule for them, poverty for us

In 2015 my disability benefit was threatened. I only got three points on the ATOS means test, which led to a six-month battle with the Department of Work and Pensions to qualify for my Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

People are being left with no food, no gas and no electricity. Landlords are evicting people. There is a false pretence that there is no money to go around. Oligarchs live in luxury, tax free. Rich Tory pensioners are bolstered with subsidies and our young people are the working poor.

At least 1,651 people have died due to Iain Duncan Smith’s bureaucratic system for PIP. Now he earns a small fortune for after-dinner speaking. How can cuts to PIP benefits be justified?

Amina Siegerson

Glasgow


US prison censorship

FRFI has received this letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in the United States, in response to our appeal against the non-delivery of the October/November 2016 issue of our newspaper to a prisoner.

‘This is to notify you that the publication in issue not only reports news, but advocates prison strikes. In particular, the article ends with the words “Victory to the US prison strikers! End prison slavery!” As such, it violates Department policy for the reason previously stated. Therefore, your appeal is denied.’


‘A crisis in maternity care’

According to a new report by the National Childbirth Trust, 50% of women experienced a ‘red-flag’ event – a warning sign of staffing problems – during their maternity care. The ‘red flags’ show delayed and inadequate care, including a lack of one-to-one care in labour. Basic care was made difficult or impossible by a lack of midwives. Units are at times stretched to dangerous limits – the average number of times units have had to close their doors to women due to reaching absolute capacity increased from five times in 2015 to eight last year.

The Royal College of Midwives says 3,500 more midwives are needed in England to provide safe care – many more are needed to provide quality care. Sustainability and Transformations Plans instead propose a cut of over 7,300 nurses and midwives by 2020. Applications to nursing and midwifery posts fell by 20% last year following the plan to scrap the NHS bursary and to replace it with loans.

Meanwhile there has been a 145.6% increase in agency spending over the last four years, an average hourly cost of £41.25 compared to £18.02 for an employed experienced midwife. Half the fee goes directly to the agency. Total spending on agency, bank and overtime midwives in 2015 was £72,698,201, which would cover the cost of 2,063 full-time, newly qualified midwives.

Staff are being forced to plug the gaps. 63% of midwives reported they do not have time to use the toilet during a shift, and half report feeling stressed, missing breaks and not completing things they need to. Women most in need of support will be the first and most affected. The NCT report describes the situation as a ‘crisis in maternity care’. Things cannot continue as they are.

Rachel Francis

South London


Trump ushers in new dark age

Happy New Year – although we’re going to have to get busy if that sentiment is to come true. I certainly won’t be sad to see the back of 2016. The courts are dragging my litigation, Obama didn’t pardoned me, and the parole board told me ‘nyet’ (oops – I mean ‘no’). Now an 800-pound gorilla is President here.

People say Trump and co are just fall guys for the dirt the ruling class intends to dump on the body politic. The reality, I think, will be darker. Trump can’t give what he says he will to the people, so he will blame ‘criminals’, ‘foreigners’ and ‘immigrants’ for capitalism’s failings, deflecting undeserved rage onto them and further diminishing a decaying society’s ability to unite.

Only the most fearless leaders will lead the masses to salvation amid a maelstrom of evil competitors. The ruling classes are pumping up nationalist sentiment and globalisation is in retreat. They have directed redistributed profits upwards, leaving too many people without resources to absorb the production that keeps the system running: a crisis of capitalist over-production. The traditional ruling class way of addressing such a crisis is war, for which it is gearing up. Nevertheless, the future does hold promise in the people fighting back.

Keep up the fine work and thank you for sending FRFI!

Bill Dunne #10916-086

Lompoc USP, 3901 Klein Blvd, Lompoc CA 93436, United States


New year, new struggles ahead

Let me send you and your close comrades warm, positive and hopeful Red Season’s greetings.

The year ahead will clearly be one of struggle, with Trump and his open racists and fascists running US imperialism and emboldening other right-wing elements and reaction.

Your good work with the paper and more needs to continue and grow. Even here, behind ugly prison walls in America, your voice is heard. Many, many eyes see your words. So keep up your good work and struggle.

In solidarity for freedom and justice

Jaan Laaman #10372-016

USP Tucson, PO Box 24550e, MA 02071, Tucson AZ85734, USA

 

Letters - FRFI 254 Dec 2016/Jan 2017

I, Daniel Blake: benefit sanctions and the ‘deserving’ working class

I have just come from a meeting of our UNITE Community branch. One woman who attended described losing her brother to addiction problems and the effect of DWP sanctions on his health. She had not seen the film I, Daniel Blake but had been told to take a box of hankies. In April 2014, Dundee Against Welfare Sanctions began campaigning outside our local burroo – jobcentre – and we were immediately immersed in the grim horror of welfare sanctions. Daniel Blake may be a fictional character, but we heard those stories over and over again: people arriving at DWP interviews with their portable oxygen equipment, folks just out of jail with nothing, the made-up claims by workfare agencies of missed appointments – sanctioned! Food bank!

So it is good that a couple of years later the issue of benefit sanctions is getting out to a wider audience. The film does a fair job of conveying the difficult experiences of those on benefits. Daniel Blake is portrayed as a respectable working class bloke fallen on hard times. He has a trade as a joiner and until his health breaks down would have been working past his 60th birthday. Such cases exist, but the working class folk we overwhelmingly met at the burroo were young people and women being recycled through the routine of temporary, unskilled, zero-hours work, then signing on.

Many tradesmen we know about are very comfortable. The property boom has been a massive job creation project for them. This is a better-off layer of the working class with relatively secure wages and work, a minority that has been least affected by the crisis. It is a concept of the working class that Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty clumsily deploy here, and it almost conforms to the reactionary concept of the deserving poor. Much more realistic is the troubling portrayal of the young lass that Daniel helps and the diverse queue at the food bank and on the streets.

Daniel’s individual protest at the burroo is cheering for its spirit and defiance but again, as the Glasgow fella berates the cops who arrive, the politics weaken: aye, the Tories are operating the sanctions regime but it was the Labour Party which brought them in, Ken!

Dundee Against Austerity attended a protest at the Scottish parliament timed to coincide with the film release. The nice suits of the SNP, the Labour Party and the Greens came out and pretended they cared. We pointed out that the SNP’s Welfare Spokesperson, Jeanne Freeman OBE had spoken on Radio Scotland about welfare reforms for two hours without mentioning sanctions or foodbanks. Both the SNP’s and Labour’s claims to be anti-austerity are equally false. We must build anew!

MICHAEL MACGREGOR

Dundee Against Austerity


Prison labour – a perfect capitalist model

Thank you for your letter. I read with interest your comments, in particular about sharing FRFI with other prisoners, which I already do. In fact, this is how I first came in contact with socialism when another prisoner, some ten years past, kindly leant a copy to me.

You ask about this prison, and my best description is that this place is a perfect capitalist model. It was built with the intention of performing the role of an industrial complex. There are many workshops here but most of the work is carried out for the Ministry of Justice.

For example, the print shop has state-of-the-art machines and one designed to ‘run’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, the print machines and cutters switch off at 5pm and so despite their expense, will never provide the required output to pay for their purchase.

The products from this shop are usually files and folders used by barristers at the High Court in the Strand. Also, they print leaflets for the DHS and other material for the Prison Service.

There is an engineering shop, and this also produces all the gates, doors and bars for prison maintenance and buildings.

Our friend Richard Branson has also employed two of the workshops here in recycling his ear-phones for his Virgin Airlines. Prisoners here untangle wires and replace the foam bits of the ear-pieces. There is also a DHL workshop that recycles white goods for a charity. In all these jobs, one starts on low pay and prisoners have to constantly ‘cajole’ their supervisors for their wages to be increased.

The majority of prisoners here are still housed in cells without a toilet or sink. If one needs to use a toilet, they have to use a night-sanitation system that is electronically controlled and allows a prisoner some six minutes to come out of his cell and use a communal toilet.

If you refuse to work then you are taken to the segregation unit and transferred to either Wandsworth or Brixton. They are only interested in utilising the prisoners for their workshops.

The prison estate is not designed for true rehabilitation. The people in power seem more concerned with accountability. Furthermore, where rehabilitation really fails is the lack of opportunity and support in the ‘real’ world.

Resources are heavily weighted on the side of supervision and surveillance. The prisoner is closely watched for any signs of deviance and the test for being recalled to prison is subject to the whims of probation staff etc,who can decide at any time whether an ex-offender is leading a ‘good and useful’ existence.

Accommodation is not provided and opportunities for employment are few and far between.

Prisoners often are released without a place to live and no real skills or qualifications. Add to this, the lack of any arrangements to earn and save a decent amount of money, then releasing prisoners, often with just the clothes on their backs, is a real recipe for re-offending.

The cynical would point out that this is the real design of the system. That there is no real desire or appetite to rehabilitate, that prisons are now designed to house all those who fall through the ‘cracks’ of our society and eventually find some security in the confines of our prisons which for a time utilise their labour. Until they are released again, once more into a society that is moving too fast to care, where you either learn to take your own place in the rat-race or spiral into debt or worse, consigned to the knowledge that prison is never far, ever beckoning like the proverbial workhouse.

HERPAL NIJJER A1888AK

HMP Coldingley

Woking GU24 9EX


Care work: casualised and underpaid

I recently started a job as a support worker. I receive minimum wage until 10pm, at which point the ‘sleep’ begins: I sleep at the home of the service user and am on call during the night. For this period, I receive what amounts to £3.61 an hour, whether or not the service user has actually gone to bed. This means, in reality, that I can end up being paid £3.61 to do the same job as I get minimum wage for at a different time of day.

When I requested one regular day off a week, so that I can plan things in advance and live my life, I was told that to do that I would have to change to a zero-hours contract. We are expected to be available 24/7.

Beyond this, I was let loose into a job where I am responsible for the wellbeing and even the lives of vulnerable people with a week’s training and two shadow shifts. I am expected to handle medication and finances and to know the ins and outs of each service user’s specific needs and routines, and the ins and outs of how to document and record everything (an absolute essential in care).

The National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 introduced a market into social care. This and subsequent legislation basically means that disability benefits act as a government subsidy to private care providers. These providers make huge profits by pocketing the benefits payments and overworking and underpaying the frontline staff. Of course, ‘austerity’ means that these benefits are increasingly paltry and increasingly difficult to get. For the companies, the profits have to be made up by squeezing the workforce even harder. The crisis is showing, once again, that capitalism cannot provide for the working class.

SÉAMUS PADRAÍC


SNP – no better than Labour or Tories on education

John Swinney has been the cabinet secretary for education in the Scottish government for nine years now. While he and the SNP are supposedly passionate about the ‘attainment gap’ in Scotland,

in that time inequality in education has got worse.

Children aged between three and five from poor households have a learning gap of 10 months in problem-solving development with their peers from richer households, and a gap of 13 months in vocabulary. In S2 (age 13) there is an attainment gap of 28% between the richest and poorest areas. In the last school year, 60% of pupils at Boroughmuir High in the well-off Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh attained three or more Highers (a qualification earned in the last two years of high school, equivalent to A-levels in England and Wales), compared to 0% at Castlebrae High in the deprived Craigmillar area. By age 22-23, low attainers in school are three times as likely to be unemployed (12% vs 4% and, in employment, earn considerably less (a difference of £23.45 per week for men and £44.94 for women).

The richest in Scotland are 3.53 times more likely to go to university at 18 than the poorest. The SNP is fond of flaunting Scotland’s free tuition, but in fact this policy has not benefited working class students, as it is funded by cutting student grants. Poorer students still graduate with the most debt. They are increasingly less likely to go to university altogether.

Child poverty rose from 19% in 2011/12 to 22% in 2014/15 in Scotland, and is predicted to continue rising. which indicates that inequality in Scotland, and in Scottish education, will only continue to grow.

ABBY AND SAOIRSE

Edinburgh


 

Fight the Overall Benefit Cap

I am a single parent with four young boys. At the end of July I received a letter informing me that I would be hit by the reduced benefit cap and that, come 7 November 2016, I would have to find £70.36 a week towards my rent of £96 per week because my housing benefit would be cut.

I started to go into a state of panic – where the hell was I meant to find this money? But one day when I was in the centre of Birkenhead I spoke with a group called Wirral Against Benefit Cuts, who were holding a stall on the benefit cap. One of them, Robert, who was also an FRFI supporter, helped me make contact with The Guardian which ran an interview with me on 31 October, and then BBC Radio Merseyside which broadcast an interview the same day. That evening we had a public meeting where both BBC and ITV news teams turned up. I then got requests to participate in a documentary for Channel 5 which I have now turned down because the programme (Life on benefits) misrepresents what I am fighting for.

What surprised me was to learn that after The Guardian interview there were people wanting to send me money to help with my rent shortfall and food. I was so grateful to these kind-hearted people, but I had to decline their offers as this was never about just me but hundreds of thousands of other families in the same boat and it would have been very wrong for me to have taken the money.

I put in for a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) in mid-October. I had to fill in a really complicated form and I wondered how a more vulnerable or less literate person would cope. So I decided to test it out. I asked at the local Wirral Council One-Stop Shop if I could see someone about DHP. When they said I had to fill the form out before I could be seen. I told them I could not read or write. They sent me through supposedly to get the help I would need in such circumstances. But in fact, when I was called up to the booth I was told that staff were not allowed to help me. I argued that this was discrimination against someone who could not read or write. When I went back for a second time, I was again refused help. I contacted a local councillor – who eventually said management were asking me to be less aggressive towards the staff! However, they finally said they would help me with the DHP application. This is what vulnerable people are going to face all the time.

Then I was called into the DWP to see a benefit adviser. She tried to talk me into getting a job to avoid the benefit cap. I told her this was nonsense: I would need to be on at least £1,000 a week just to cover my childcare costs, let alone afford rent, food, gas, electricity, water, council tax and travel costs for work. She told me to stop being so negative: I said I was not being negative, I was dealing with facts:

Who would take me on with four children aged three to eight?

What employer is going to give me 13 weeks of school holidays a year, six of them in the summer?

What employer is going to keep me on when I am having to always take time off if my children are sick?

I don’t stand a chance as a lone parent with four children to survive and keep a roof over my young ones’ heads unless I fight, and I hope one day this fight against the benefits cap will help everyone, as so many are only one paycheque away from being in my situation.  

LEIGH,

Wirral


An Italian prisoner writes

Thank you for sending me the last issue of FRFI. I read all your articles with great interest with an overall appreciation of their precise analysis and representation of the facts. They always reflect, in my opinion, the proletarian, anti-imperialist point of view of the newspaper.

Some days ago, I read in the Italian newspaper Manifesto something about the formation of a new Republican Irish movement in Newry, Ireland called Saoradh. Knowing the years of support you have given to the Republican struggle and seeing some references to the group as having a socialist perspective, I was hoping to learn more about it from you. Is that possible. Anyway, wishing you all the best after Brexit!

STEFANO SCARABELLO

Strada Statale 31, 50/A

15122 S.Michele/

Alessandria, Italy


Support Aravindan Balakrishnan

It is now one year since Aravindan Balakrishnan, who is 76, was incarcerated in Wandsworth prison. In 1971, he established the Workers’ Institute and began building the first revolutionary stable Base Area in the imperialist heartlands, working tirelessly to raise the political consciousness of people in Brixton through a Political Evening School, news bulletins etc. ... The state launched a campaign of terror, ending in 1978 with the closure of the Workers’ Centre and his arrest and imprisonment. In November 2013 he was again arrested, this time with his wife. The police orchestrated a media character assassination, screaming: ‘Cruel Maoist cult leader held three women as slaves for 30 years’. When two of the three women refused to back up these claims, it concocted yet more poisonous allegations to frame him. He was eventually sentenced to 23 years.

My 40 years living in his communist collective bears testimony to his groundbreaking revolutionary work – he has helped me to overcome depression and inspires me to live and develop.

His wife, other collective members and loyal friends are now fighting to clear his name and free him from political detention – for that we need a sympathetic lawyer and funds for an appeal. We are calling on all who support us in the just struggle to contribute in whatever way possible.

JOSEPHINE HERIVEL

BM 2785,

London WC1N 3XX


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 254 December 2016/January 2017

 

Letters - FRFI 253 Oct/Nov 2016

Build revolutionary popular resistance

Thank you for sending me your newspaper. Having learned English it gives me a great opportunity to learn more and to spread solidarity. I’ve already translated a number of articles from the June/July issue. I think you’re doing a great job in mobilising and organising amongst the working class. Please send me more information about the contemporary (revolutionary) movement in your country.

Concerning the political and economic situation in England, I think it was logical that capitalism’s overall crisis would gradually end up undermining the country’s welfare system. As a country that has based its economy on imperialist exploitation of other countries, Britain was able to keep its labour aristocracy (Marx and Engels already identified this phenomenon at that time). But after losing its hegemony, after World War II, and because of the entry of China and Russia into the capitalist race, UK imperialism has lost much of its industrial and financial influence in global markets. So, England does not have as much complete capability as it used to have; no Western capitalist country does. That is why they need wars, to dispute influence over potential global markets; at the same time that is used to try to weaken their competitors. Only wars can raise capitalism from the dead over and over again. In the meantime economic policy cannot allow the ruling class to keep its welfare (labour aristocracy) system any more. So, evictions, education and NHS privatisation, chauvinism, racism, labour rights cuts, political repression, benefit cuts, and so on... It is already happening all over the world, starting with the US. That is why it is so important to get people politically aware and organised within a resistance movement against imperialism in every country.

In Spain, political repression only allows revisionist ‘communist’ parties to do their shameful populist job, namely to anaesthetise political concerns and extinguish any revolutionary spark. Revolutionary activities in this country are labelled ‘terrorism’, that is why there are hundreds of political prisoners here. Nevertheless, the overall crisis of capitalism is sparking political consciousness and conditions are becoming favourable for anti-capitalists to organise in all labour, social and political fields.

We communists have to try to lead that revolutionary protest movement, and make our party bigger and stronger. In the meantime we should build as many solidarity bridges as we can with fellow international communist parties. Communists try not to disperse their forces – that means trying to organise revolution in our own countries.

Marcos Martin Pouce

Letters can be sent to Marcos at CP Valencia III (Prev), 46220-Picassent (Valencia) SPAIN


Zero hours and abuse for Subway worker

The sandwich chain Subway claims it treats its workers fairly and with respect. After putting up with being pushed, sworn and shouted at, patronised, and even physically assaulted for almost two straight weeks, I have a lot to say about the franchise, but neither fairness nor respect come into it. 

My boss’s attitude towards me was frequently aggressive and intimidating and I was expected to work overtime most days. My contract was zero hours and after a long day which had involved being hit in the face (with no apology), shoved past (without any ‘excuse me’), having a toaster almost shut on my hand, and having a toastie thrown at me – after working an hour’s overtime without being asked – he fired me on very unclear grounds and without notice.

After I had left the store he failed to pay me on two occasions. Then, when my dad approached him personally to ask for my wages, he proceeded to phone the police. He told them he had not paid me as I hadn’t answered questions relating to my pay. I had already given him all the necessary information.

In an ideal world my situation would be unusual. However, the majority of young people today entering the workplace are experiencing similar conditions.

I was lucky enough to know to fight for my rights by taking my boss to court, contacting ACAS, and even picketing the store. It is important that other young people are encouraged to do the same; otherwise bosses will continue to get away with exploiting us.

Abby
Edinburgh


Free West Papua

The Indonesian occupation and ongoing genocide in West Papua is one for which imperialism bears much responsibility. Yet it is largely ignored by the British left; this is disappointing given the scale of repression, killing, and imperialist complicity. In the process of decolonisation Australia, Britain and the US aided Indonesia militarily, economically, and diplomatically as they occupied West Papua. The Western powers, well aware that the 1969 so-called ‘Act of Free Choice’ was a sham, voted to legitimise the occupation regime at the UN. In private the US embassy said that the conclusion of the ‘Act of Free Choice’ in which selected West Papuan delegates were threatened and bribed into consenting to the annexation of their homeland – was ‘pre-ordained’, yet failed to criticise it in public. The US sought to maintain strong relations with the Indonesian leader Suharto. Since then Britain and other imperialist powers have furnished the Indonesian occupation regime with military equipment, police training, and diplomatic cover.

Estimates of the number killed range from 100,000 to half a million, torture is routine, and raising the West Papuan flag carries a 15-year prison sentence. Britain currently trains Indonesian ‘counter-terror’ units like Detachment 88 which have carried out massacres and torture in West Papua, and sells weapons to Indonesia. For an overview of the situation FRFI readers should read Warwick University’s ‘Politics of Papua’ report. Western companies profit from imperialist complicity; a major motive for the Indonesian occupation is the profits from mining by American-based company Freeport, as well as BP and Rio Tinto.

The ongoing self-determination struggle of the indigenous West Papuan people should have the full support of anti-imperialists and internationalists in the imperialist countries and around the world.

Papua Merdeka! Free West Papua!

Jamie Sims

Coventry


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 253 October/November 2016

 

Letters - FRFI 252 Aug/Sep 2016

Peckham residents take on greedy housing association and win

I am a resident in Peckham, south London. I heard about a 20% rent increase being faced by residents of a social housing estate, run by L&Q Housing Association. I got involved to help them fight against this unaffordable demand, initially simply by organising the residents to meet together, as they all felt the same but had not spoken to each other. It became clear that some residents paying the intermediate ‘affordable’ rent were being threatened with an increase that amounted to an extra £300 a month. L&Q is meant to be a not-for-profit housing association, providing low-cost social housing. With housing costs in Peckham already sky high, this rent increase would force many residents out of the area and possibly the city.

L&Q sent a Section 21 notice to tenants, giving them one week to decide whether to pay up or move out within six weeks. The residents took a multi-pronged attack, demanding more time to make a decision while bombarding L&Q with phone calls, emails, tweets and social media posts. They managed to get local media coverage too. At that point two local councillors got involved, arranging for L&Q to attend a residents’ meeting. Typically, no representative from L&Q turned up. Under pressure Southwark council tried to contact the chief executive of L&Q, but even they were fobbed off. Next a member of the London Assembly wrote to the chief executive of L&Q, demanding an explanation for the rent hike. All the while the residents kept up their pressure and confrontations with L&Q.

Finally, on 29 June, the residents of the estate received an email from L&Q stating that after consideration they would not be putting up rents after all and would be discussing rent increases and the intermediate rental scheme with the GLA. This is a major victory for the residents of the estate against their greedy landlord. Hopefully it will strengthen the fight to come against the new Housing and Planning Act and inspire others to fight back.

Eric Ogbogbo
South London


Nina Simone: revolutionary, gifted and black

What happened, Miss Simone? is a new Netflix documentary directed by Liz Garbus. It is about the life of American singer, songwriter, pianist and civil rights activist Nina Simone, who died in 2003. The documentary shows how Nina was battered not just physically by her husband, but through her experience of state racism. As she got older, Simone grew interested in communist thinkers such as Marx and Lenin; she famously once said: ‘We never talked about men or clothes. It was always Marx, Lenin and revolution – real girls’ talk.’

Through being politicised Simone started to write powerful songs to aid the civil rights movement including ‘Mississippi Goddam’ and ‘To be young, gifted and black’. She believed that it was ‘an artist’s duty to reflect the times’. And so she used her platform to speak out for resistance by any means necessary, echoing Malcolm X’s ‘self-defence is no offence!’

The documentary is a reminder of the need to fight against systematic racism, not only in America but also in Britain. In May 2015, on the streets of Kirkcaldy, Fife, a father of two died at the hands of nine police officers. Sheku Bayoh’s death has been surrounded by lies and cover-ups from the start carried out by Police Scotland and the SNP. Decades ago Simone realised that she was ‘a black-skinned woman in a country where you could be killed because of that one fact’. Despite allegedly living in a ‘post-racial’ society, the killing of black people by police happens again and again. We say no more deaths in police custody! BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Ruby
Dundee


The impact of immigration laws on health care

I want to highlight the impact of Britain’s racist Immigration Acts on the lives of asylum seekers and migrants.

I met an asylum seeker waiting for leave to remain, and her six-year-old daughter. Her daughter was born in London with medical issues that required specialist surgery and follow-up. The surgery was done in Birmingham Children’s Hospital in 2014. The girl was born in Hackney (east London) and then they were moved to Haringey (north London) then to Wolverhampton (West Midlands) and then back to Hornchurch (Essex). They left Hornchurch in March this year and were sent to Dulwich (south east London) then Wakefield (west Yorkshire) and are currently in a bedsit in Leeds (west Yorkshire). Her daughter has been out of school since March and has never had a hospital follow-up as every time one is organised, they have either moved and don’t get the letter or can’t afford the travel. Their accommodation is provided by G4S, who in 2013 were investigated for their appalling treatment of asylum seekers in housing. Dispersed asylum-seeker tenants were stripped of all conventional tenants’ rights in 1999. In 2013, investigations estimated the G4S part of the national contract handed out by the Home Office for asylum housing at £150m to £200m over five years.

The Immigration Act 2014 made changes to the charging rules for NHS care including introducing a health surcharge. Non-EEA nationals must satisfy the test for ordinary residence and have indefinite leave to remain. Ironically, those judged not eligible for free NHS care, in the sixth wealthiest country on earth, include those struggling to find the money to eat and clothe themselves and their children. I met a Chinese woman, settled in Britain, who gave birth a month ago: she had been sent a £8,884.81 invoice from the hospital finance department for her maternity care. She was tearful, frightened and unable to pay. It later turned out to have been sent in error as she has a British passport but it shows the kind of health care penalties migrants face.

Megan Lapujole
North London


BMA takes stand against racist immigration laws

In June the British Medical Association (BMA) passed the following motions:

‘That this meeting is concerned about the impact of charging migrants for NHS services. We ask the BMA, the BMA council chair and the international committee chair to:

i) run training workshops for BMA members about the influence immigration legislation has on doctors’ clinical practice;

ii) commission a report into the negative impacts of the Immigration Act on patient care and access to health services;

iii) run a public awareness campaign on the value of migrant health workers to the NHS;

iv) engage with other health unions and professional associations to issue cohesive guidance to all NHS staff (including administrative staff) advising them not to partake in any process of monitoring or deciding upon a patients’ migration status.’

I would like to congratulate the BMA for passing these anti-racist motions. The BMA has made an exemplary stand in the face of all the government and media attacks which seek to create a hostile environment for migrants and limit access to basic services such as health care.

There are groups, such as the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum in Newcastle, that are campaigning against the racist 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts and are demanding decent health care, housing and jobs for all. The BMA’s motions give added ammunition to these demands. All trade unions that represent NHS staff, including administrative staff, should follow suit, and work with migrants, anti-racist organisations, junior doctors and anti-austerity groups like Keep Our NHS Public to drive immigration checks and charges out of health care.

For more information on protests against the racist Immigration Acts see: fighttheracistact.wordpress.com

Mark Moncada
Newcastle


A Spanish political prisoner writes

I’m a 45-year-old Spanish communist political prisoner. I’m serving a sentence because of my militancy with GRAPO (the First of October Anti-Fascist Resistance Group). I’ve been in for 14 years and still have 16 years left.

I recently got your FRFI from a Galician revolutionary independentist political prisoner and I have to say that I got a pleasant sensation about your political work towards the working class social, economic and political issues. That gives me a new outlook on the existence of the class struggle in Britain and Ireland.

I paid special attention to [your writing on] the prison situation, especially to the Close Supervision Centres. I feel quite sensitive about those kind of dark and terrifying wells of torture, niches of impunity and abuse of power.

A few days ago I went to court myself over an alleged act of aggression from me towards four giant jailers in a solitary confinement unit in Seville high security prison. On the day for which I was charged, as you can imagine, I didn’t even have a chance to protect my head from the truncheon beating, as I had previously been handcuffed. The forensic scientist reported 27 truncheon marks on my back, a broken tooth, a broken rib and several boot prints all over my body, including my neck and face. Many cameras recorded the aggression and many other prisoners witnessed it. Nevertheless, the court didn’t take all that evidence into account. Besides, the judge didn’t allow my lawyer to give an account of events.

It goes without saying that Seville’s Council Court didn’t take into account my lawyer’s formal complaint against the jailers, in spite of all the evidence pointing them out as the only attackers.

Here we have a crystal clear example of the Spanish regime inherited from Franco. As you can see, not much has actually changed for the better.

Long live communism!

Marcos Pouce

Picassent Prison, Valencia, Spain


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 252 August/September 2016

 

Letters - FRFI 251 Jun/Jul 2016

Boycott the EU referendum

The coming European referendum will inevitably bear the stain of Britain’s bloody partition of Ireland. The wording on the ballot will read: ‘Should the United Kingdom [ie, Britain and Northern Ireland] remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ Socialists who participate in the forthcoming European referendum, indeed in any UK-wide referendum, will be giving legitimacy to the idea that the British have the right to vote on behalf of the Irish. Rather than succumb to the chauvinism of the labour aristocracy, socialists should raise the slogan: ‘Honour the 1918 referendum on Irish Independence!’

There is another, equally important reason why the RCG should initiate a boycott of the referendum. As the international capitalist system plunges into ever deepening crises, and as inter-imperialist conflicts grow ever more acute, the British ruling class, as David Yaffe has explained, ‘will have to make a choice between Europe and the United States.’ (FRFI 194, December 2006/January 2007.) Anyone who thoughtfully applies Yaffe’s analysis to the current situation will arrive at the conclusion that participation in the European referendum will mean support for one faction of British imperialism against another.

 

Read more ...

Letters - FRFI 250 April/May 2016

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

 

Letters -FRFI 249 Feb/Mar 2016

Bedroom tax victory

January 2016 marked an all too rare victory in the struggle against austerity. The Court of Appeal found in two cases that the so-called ‘spare room subsidy’, more correctly described as the Bedroom Tax, was ‘discriminatory and unlawful’ in relation to domestic violence victims with specially-adapted properties and families with severely disabled children.

The hated Bedroom Tax has caused huge additional suffering for the working class. Those whom the local authority deems to have a spare room have seen their housing benefit cut by 14%; two thirds of those affected have fallen into rent arrears and one in seven have received eviction risk letters. A study in the Journal of Public Health concluded that the tax had ‘increased poverty and had broad-ranging adverse effects on health, well-being and social relationships’.

One case was brought by a victim of domestic abuse, identified simply as ‘A’, who lives in a property with a designated panic room. The second was brought by the grandparents of a severely disabled teenager. Paul and Susan Rutherford also suffer from disability. Their three-bedroom bungalow was designed to allow carers to stay overnight. The High Court had dismissed their case in 2014.

This victory could have a major impact on the lives of thousands of people. Inevitably, in a typically punitive and mean move, the Department for Work and Pensions has sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court to defend its right to hound some of the most vulnerable people in society into poverty and despair.

RYAN KNIGHT

Egham


Floods and cuts in Lancashire

The recent floods which caused great damage to Lancashire and Cumbria areas have exposed how the government and councils do not care about the people on the ground. The Environment Agency’s funding for flood assets has fallen by 14%, and councils were inflicted with budget cuts of up to 40%, so funding to drainage boards and landowners who controlled river defence systems had to be reduced or cut altogether. There are even reports that the government were aware of the upcoming storms, but still did nothing to stop the serious damage that occurred; around 1,400 people are now homeless, and at least two people were killed. There has even been a £4m flood defence that has been scheduled for Kendal since 2011; it has yet to be realised. The flood budget for Lancashire is to be cut by 12% next year.

Meanwhile Lancaster’s majority Labour council offers nothing but more austerity. Under the budget put forward in November 2015 there are plans to axe the equivalent of 367 full-time jobs to help save £65m over the next two years. Other proposals include: removing funding for subsidised bus services; reducing libraries from 74 to 34 and closing five museums. It is of utmost importance that we organise.

LIAM WHEAR

Lancaster


Venezuela: lessons from Nicaragua

The recent defeat of the Chavista movement by the US-backed bourgeois opposition in the 6 December elections was welcomed by the BBC’s Radio 4 and others as ‘the end of the country’s socialist experiment’. But is it?

First of all, a little perspective. Starting with the 1999 presidential elections, this is the eighteenth national poll which the movement created by the late Hugo Chavez has contested, and only its second-ever defeat. All this it has achieved on the basis of mass popular support for its health, educational and land reform programmes and in the face of vicious US hostility expressed in the organisation of violence, economic sabotage and attempted coup (in April 2002).

Much soul-searching is taking place within the Chavista movement as to the causes of the recent setback and how to prevent it being repeated in the 2019 presidential elections. Venezuela has a large private sector and the country’s former governing coalition, the PSUV, is heterogenous, uniting worker and peasant forces with the Bolivarian bourgeoisie. While Chavez made no secret of his distrust of this ‘boliburguesia’, its influence on policy was significant and harmful, even during his presidency. Its influence seems to have grown under Maduro. In practical terms this has involved the Chavista forces in interminable dialogue with the very bourgeois forces that, egged on and funded by the Yankees, are seeing to overthrow them. The left of Chavismo has been sidelined and a large part of the worker and peasant base demoralised. This scenario is sadly reminiscent of Nicaragua in the late 1980s. In the face of unrelenting US-organised mercenary wars and economic blockade, the Sandinista government adopted its own version of perestroika.

This did not work, as the Sandinistas’ defeat in Nicaragua’s 1990 elections suggests and such tendencies in Venezuela are not likely to have any more success. As the Sandinistas’ founder Augusto Cesar Sandino put it: ‘Because of the direction the struggle is taking, the cowardly and vacillating forces are abandoning us. Only the workers and peasants will go all the way, only their organised strength will achieve victory.’

MIKE WEBBER

Aylesbury


Join the protest against the brutal Close Supervision Centres

Within the high security prison estate in England are hidden small torture units known as Close Supervision Centres (CSCs). The CSC system has been notorious for its brutality since it began back in 1998 yet has been allowed to expand at massive cost to the prisons budget. In 2001 another more oppressive level to the CSC was created, labelled the Exceptional Risk Unit (ERU), based at HMP Wakefield and able to hold a maximum of eight prisoners in solitary confinement. This was increased to 12 in 2012. In total approximately 50 prisoners are held in CSCs around the country

I am currently located in the Wakefield ERU, where I am subject to constant brutality and racist abuse. A protest has been organised in February in collaboration with many groups and individuals’ including MOJUK, FRFI, JENGA, Crossroads Women’s Centre and Movement for Justice against my ongoing politically motivated detention within these units, and to highlight the CSC’s barbaric and inhumane environment. Please make the time to attend this event, and write to your MP demanding change. I thank you all in advance for your much needed support.

KEVAN THAKRAR A4907AE

HMP Wakefield (CSC),

5 Love Lane,

Wakefield WF2 9AG

www.justiceforkevan.com

Join the protest:

Thursday 18 February 12.30pm–2.30pm,

outside HM Prison Service Headquarters, Clive House,

70 Petty France,

London SW1H 9EX


Hands off John Bowden!

Just to remind readers of FRFI that long-term prisoner John Bowden will be on trial at Greenock Sheriff Court on 11 March, from 10am.

John has been writing and organising in defence of prisoners’ rights for over 30 years. For this he is the target of screws’ brutality and the authorities refuse to let him be released. This latest assault charge is another attempt to keep him behind bars long after the tariff on his life sentence has expired.

Supporters of FRFI are calling on everyone to pack the public gallery in support of John and all those prisoners who face the brutality of the Scottish prison service officers at Greenock Prison and elsewhere. A victory for John would be a victory for all!

DOMINIC MULGREW

Glasgow FRFI


Season’s greetings

’Tis the season to be jolly, even if it won’t be by the time you get this. Thank you for your solidarity and continuing to send me FRFI for all these years. I wish more institutions on our side of the barricade had the capacity to endure and roll the struggle forward as you do. but maybe the new year will bring more of that. Solidarity! The future holds promise.

BILL DUNNE

USP Santa Barbara, California, US


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 249 February/March 2016

 

Letters - FRFI 248 Dec 2015/Jan 2016

Slave labour is good for business

In the 1930s work camps were established for the unemployed. This process is again unfolding in Britain today.

I have been unemployed for a little under three years. At first, I was claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) due to my poor mental health, reliance on alcohol and suicidal urges. ATOS judged me fit for work. My ESA was stopped. After a prolonged period of destitution, I signed on to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). My first claim was short-lived: a sanction for not using the correct website terrified me. I chose destitution over support. Recently, I have signed on to JSA again. Two weeks following my claim – before I had received any money – I was assigned a work placement, on pain of sanction.

I presently work 35 hours a week, without pay. I am a receptionist at an optician’s. To attain this placement, I had to undergo an interview and a trial period of two days. My ‘employer’, with a great deal of difficulty, has decided to take on a slave. However, they inform me that ‘this is not a ‘nine-to-five job’ and that I must show initiative. Alongside my duties – booking appointments, greeting customers – I have been given two tasks that are ‘above and beyond’ my station: I must reorganise a filing cabinet and create graphics to communicate how eyesight works to children. I reiterate: I am unwaged and my ‘employers’ will own all intellectual property that I have produced under their ‘care’.

My ‘boss’ gave me the details of his business plan last week. It involves keeping labour costs incredibly low: the short-term allocation of free labour from the Jobcentre to his establishment is by no means an accident. Slavery, it seems, is simply good business.

PETER THOMPSON

Newcastle


Abolish zero-hours contracts

Nobody, I think, has the idea that working in a fast food restaurant qualifies as a good or enjoyable job. I am an employee of Domino’s Pizza, working in customer service. There are of course the common negative experiences arising from clueless management, rude customers, and the strenuous nature of the work itself. But besides the content of the work, the form of work is a major, and perhaps more hidden and subversive, way in which fast food companies maintain a hold on employees’ lives and continue to dehumanise employees to little more than a commodity. The ill-effects of this have been intensified by the proliferation of ‘zero-hours contracts’.

Zero-hours contracts are sold to the public as being more ‘flexible’ and being able to suit the employment requirements of both businesses and employees. They have allowed fast-food businesses easily to overcome high labour costs in an industry with often-varying labour demands. Those of us who are employed on such contracts, however, are under no illusion about the power imbalances resulting in a workforce forever at the beck and call of their employers, sometimes only given notice of shifts an hour or so in advance, with an unreliable income as hours vary from practically non-existent to overwhelming.

The unpredictability of work and the lack of notice can result in intense isolation as it becomes almost impossible to arrange anything outside work – after all, you might have to suddenly drop everything you’re doing to go to work. The fact that zero-hours contracts often coincide with low (minimum) wages also contributes to this omnipresent wariness, as when you can’t predict the size of your next payslip, even the smallest luxury is tainted with guilt and caution.

Of course, these damaging experiences are of little consequence to management. There is no concern for the comfort or well-being of employees any more than there need be concern for the ‘well-being’ of a pizza. An employee plays the same commodified role to management as the goods they sell or create. The most important factor for the employers is to meet labour cost targets, delivery time targets and so on. Therefore managers make full use of the ‘flexibility’ of being able to call in employees at a moment’s notice, sending workers home even when they’re still needed at the store, and cutting corners by ‘clocking-out’ food before it is made or sent out on delivery. We need to demand the abolition of zero-hours contracts.

ALICIA MAYNES

Nottingham


Political repression in Galiza

Galiza is an oppressed nation of nearly two million people which has managed to preserve its own language and culture. The post-Franco ‘transition period’ paved the way for Spain to become a western capitalist democracy included in the EEC and NATO, by means of denying the right of peoples to self-determination and political repression against those who saw the ‘transition’ as a way to maintain the old oligarchic model. Since then, Galician militants have undergone political assassination, prosecution, torture, communication intercepts, solitary confinement and dispersal of prisoners.

In September 2013, the Spanish High Court conveniently claimed the existence of an armed group called Resistencia Galega, so that from that moment any Galician militant on trial could be accused of ‘terrorism’. At the end of October 2015, military police broke in and arrested nine people in their homes, throwing around the same accusations of ‘glorifying terrorism’ and ‘belonging to an armed group’, although all detainees’ activities just involve open political work in support of the nationalist project. Without any evidence, the judge accepted the police accusations and banned the organisation Causa Galiza for two years.

The persistence of political repression has caused the emergence of groups in solidarity with victims of state repression. Ceivar is a group that campaigns in support of Galician prisoners, organising protests and coordinating with prisoners’ families. For that reason, we congratulate FRFI for the great work in support of those imprisoned for their nationalist and revolutionary ideas.

ERMELINDA BARREIRO

militant for the independence of Galiza, Spain


Fight fracking! Resist eviction!

On 4 December, the longest-running anti-fracking camp, at Upton on the outskirts of Chester, faces eviction. The camp was set up in April 2014 to oppose ‘coal bed methane gas’, the evil twin of shale gas. Dart Energy has a licence to explore for this gas which expires in May 2016.

The camp became known as Upton Community Protection Camp and has huge local support: 85% of local residents in a recent survey were opposed to Dart Energy’s plans for the site. The camp is the longest running anti-fracking camp in the UK and the first to occupy the actual site where the drilling is intended. Residents grow some of their own food and various structures have been built on the site including a Solidarity Tea Hut for communal use. This camp has been, and still is, the only thing preventing iGas from drilling an exploratory fracking well.

On 6 November the High Court in Manchester granted an eviction order giving the campaigners 28 days to leave the site. The eviction can therefore take place anytime after the 4 December 2015.

Since then, campaigners from across the country have come to live on the site, building resistance by constructing towers, tunnels, tree houses, making lock-ons and securing the site to ensure the eviction team do not have an easy time trying to take the site over. Meantime, an adjacent site has also been occupied, just one mile away in Mickle Trafford, as iGas also has plans for this site. So come and learn how to protect this land. Let’s put a stop to this fracking industry everywhere.

JULIET EDGAR

Liverpool


Justice for Sheku Bayoh

The Scottish National Party has been generally unsympathetic and even antagonistic regarding the nationwide campaign for Sheku Bayoh, an unarmed black man who died in police custody in Fife earlier this year. Even more so when we compare it to the recent killing of a white school student in Aberdeen, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon showered that pupil’s family with condolences. In contrast Sheku’s family have reached out to a very silent Sturgeon to no avail. In fact SNP Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill has even accused the campaign of creating a ‘poisonous atmosphere’ and declaring an ‘open season of hunting Police Scotland’.

Meanwhile recent evidence that has come to light about one of these officers. PC Alan Paton’s brother-in law, Barry Swan, told the BBC the officer had a violent and racist history. Mr Swan said he had been a witness to the aftermath of a violent rampage by Officer Paton against his own parents. The officer was also known to boast ‘I am a total racist, I hate all blacks’.

So we would ask Police Scotland and the SNP: why is a racist thug allowed to serve in our police force? Why do the SNP refuse to answer our questions? Why was an unconscious man restrained with handcuffs and leg shackles? What really happened to Sheku Bayoh?

AMINA

Dundee

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 248 December 2015/January 2016

 

Beyond parody: Southwark's new fat cat role

'We’ll be honest. These are big roles. Budgets are down. And we’re aiming high.' So starts Southwark Labour Council's recent job advert. By aiming high, they mean paying a lot; £96,909 - £122,310 per year plus benefits. And the big role? 'Director of Modernise'. The council were immediately criticised for the ridiculous job-title, likened to the spoof job 'Director of Better' from recent BBC comedy W1A. Except there is nothing funny about it. And they certainly aren't being honest.

It's one of three highly-paid directorships, all aimed at trying to make social cleansing and council cuts palatable by dressing it up as regeneration and modernisation.

Their slick job advert claims 'we don’t just work for the community, we work with them'. In reality, social cleansing is well underway; any communities left are being forced out. The area's Heygate estate has been demolished. The council's role is criminal; the land was sold at just £50 million to private company Lend Lease, despite being valued at £150 million. The council paid a further £65 million to 'decant' the residents. It is destroying more council housing as it gets to work on the Aylesbury estate. There is a rush to construct private housing that no-one can afford. The job-advert ends with the line 'Unleash the Spirit of Southwark'. Not letting the new post-holders forget about the Heygate, Aylesbury, exploitative private landlords and cuts will be in the right spirit.

Rachel Francis

 

Letters - FRFI 247 Oct/Nov 2015

Big pharma puts profits before people

On 10 August, Turing Pharmaceuticals acquired the rights to Daraprim, the standard drug for the treatment of toxoplasmosis infections, which affects immune-compromised individuals such as AIDS and cancer patients. Over 60 million people in the US alone are chronically infected with the parasite T. gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Daraprim only costs about $1 to produce, but just days after the acquisition, Turing CEO and former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli hiked the price up by over 5,500% from $13.50 (£8.70) to $750 per tablet.

Shkreli described this as ‘a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders’. The annual cost of treatment for toxoplasmosis, could rise to between $300,000 and $630,000 per patient. This is a particularly egregious example of a widespread practice by large pharmaceutical companies for increasing sales and profits at the expense of the health of the world’s most disadvantaged people.

 

Read more ...

Letters - FRFI 246 Aug/Sept 2015

FRFI 246 August/September2015

Labour hypocrites

While the Labour Party’s latest shameful chapter saw it refuse to oppose the Tories’ swingeing cuts to welfare last week, there was a notable amount of praise from the British left for the albeit piffling number of Labour MPs – just 48 – who did defy the whip to vote against it. However, nearly a third (17) of these noble rebel Labour MPs also voted for NATO’s genocidal bombing of Libya in 2011. They were: Diane Abbott, Debbie Abrahams, David Anderson, Geraint Davies, Mary Glindon, Helen Goodman, Helen Jones, Sir Gerald Kaufman, Sadiq Khan, David Lammy, Ian Lavery, Michael Meacher, Ian Mearns, Madeleine Moon, Grahame Morris, Teresa Pearce, and Iain Wright. Given the comings and goings since the election, only four can say they voted against both – yet even they continue to swear allegiance to this irredeemable party of warmongering racist imperialism. NATO’s bombs massacred innocent civilians in Libya and plunged the country into a brutal civil war, and manufactured the devastating migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. Not only does this show that these Labour MPs don’t give a damn about the international working class, it exposes the pretence that they are willing to stand up for the British working class only as a matter of political expediency to further their own careers. It’s profoundly sickening that they receive any praise at all.

BARNABY HARRIS
South London


Home movies

The Sun’s revelation of a royal ‘home movie’ from 1933, showing Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen, her sister, mother and uncle, the future King Edward VIII, in the grounds of Balmoral practising Nazi salutes, set the press and the royals in a spin. With the exception of Edward, who anyway was later to prove unreliable by marrying a divorcee, let alone being chummy with the Nazi leadership, the commentators were all anxious to reassure the British public that the future Queen, aged seven, and her relations either didn’t know what they were doing, or it was 1933 and the fascists had hardly got going. After all, they said, the royal family subsequently showed their true mettle by patriotically remaining in London during the war and leading the nation to victory.

What they all failed to mention was the fact that the key feature of fascism, in both Italy and Germany, that was admired by wide sections of the ruling class, including the royal family, was its systematic attacks on and destruction of working class organisations and left-wing leaders. By 1933 this was well established. The ruling class had good reason to fear the potential threat to their privileges from the working class following the First World War, the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution and the upsurge in socialist struggle across Europe in response to the capitalist crisis. The ruling class regarded fascism as the vanguard in their struggle to protect themselves and to destroy socialism. Patriotic they may have become, but anti-fascist they never were and never will be.

Finally we are offered the excuse that the royals were and are understandably aggrieved by the killing of their Romanov cousins by the Bolsheviks. Unfortunately the truth is that the royal family were instrumental in ensuring that the Romanovs were denied asylum in Britain after the revolution, out of fear that the British working class might choose socialism. A brave lot, the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas (who changed their name to Windsor)!

CATHERINE STALLARD
London


Trauma and resistance in Gaza

I attended a reportback by David Harrold, from the Palestine Trauma Centre (PTC), of his visit to Gaza in April 2015. His eyewitness account, entitled ‘Grief and joy in Gaza’ was presented at a Stop the War meeting in Battersea, south London. The PTC works with traumatised Palestinian children and their families. 125,000 Palestinian children now need direct psychological intervention, having lost homes and/or siblings and parents. His visit took place eight months after Israel’s latest imperialist onslaught on the Palestinian people when Israeli forces killed 2,199 Palestinians including nearly 500 children. 3,374 children were wounded, with more than 1,000 left permanently disabled.

Harrold spoke of the Palestinian people ‘living in an abusive relationship’ with the Zionist Israeli state. He quotes Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ariel Sharon, who said ‘the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not make them die of hunger’, and spoke of Israel’s infamous ‘Dahiya doctrine’ which sets out to ‘destroy the community’s infrastructure to immerse people in the problem of survival, making resistance impossible’.

He showed a photograph of the yellow flags of Fatah and the green flags of Hamas together in Gaza which reminded me that in April 2014 Israel became very angry at the reconciliation deal agreed between Fatah and Hamas, and threatened to withhold tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Was the offensive against Gaza last year an Israeli attempt to sabotage the deal, to isolate Hamas and punish Fatah for the rapprochement? Fatah entered the conflict in July 2014 with missiles launched against Israel in the West Bank. Amin Maqboul, Secretary-General of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council said Palestinians were united against the Israeli assault: ‘We all know that the main Israeli goal has been to break up the national unity reconciliation. We will respond by strengthening our unity and reconciliation’ (Palestine Pulse, 10 July 2014).

Harrold went on to speak of therapy linked to resistance, quoting from the work of the revolutionary and psychiatrist Frantz Fanon: ‘His glance no longer shrivels me up nor freezes me and his voice no longer turns me into stone’. Harrold himself speaks of catharsis which echoes Fanon’s words in The Wretched of the Earth: ‘At the level of individuals, violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect’.

STEPHANUS
London


Free Steve Kaczynski!

We are writing to highlight the plight of Steve Kaczynski. He is a Scottish national who is currently in prison in Istanbul. In Turkey, as in many imperialist countries, political policing and the silencing of political opinion have become the norm. The sole reason why political activists like Stephen Kaczynski are arrested and kept in isolation is because of their work highlighting social injustice against the rights of women, workers, the poor and the oppressed. Stephen has a particular interest in Turkey, has participated in several International Symposiums against Prison Isolation, and has reported on the death fast protests in Turkish F-type prisons, during which 122 individuals died. Steve is a prolific writer and has written numerous articles and books, including one recounting the story of a father whose two daughters died in prison on death fast.

On 2 April 2015, the Turkish police and army terrorised the local community and attempted to disrupt an annual anti-imperialist conference that was being held at the Idil cultural centre. Steve and musicians from the band Grup Yorum were arrested, detained and tortured; Steve remains interned, in solitary confinement without charge. He is currently on hunger strike in protest at being held in harsh conditions, in isolation 23 hours a day, not being allowed to have any reading material, and being denied many of his visits.

Steve is a dedicated, progressive thinker and for decades has been a close friend to the struggle for national liberation in Ireland, and to workers’ struggles in Scotland, Wales, England and internationally. Steve has not committed any offence and we demand that he is released immediately.

The Committee for Freedom for Steve Kaczynski is organising regular demonstrations outside the Turkish embassy in London every Wednesday at 12 noon. Supporters are encouraged to attend, as well as to write letters of protest to the Ministry of Justice in Ankara: 06659 Kizilay, Ankara; telephone 90 (0312) 417 77 70; fax 90 (0312) 419 33 70; email ıThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Please also support Steve by writing letters and cards to: Steve Shaw Kaczynski, Maltepe 3 No.lu Hapishanesi, Yabancılar bölümü Büyük Bakkal Köy Mah, Yakacık Yolu Üzeri, No 13 Maltepe, Istanbul, Turkey.

CINAED DECANNTUN
Committee for Freedom for Steve Kaczynski


Justice for Sheku Bayoh!

On 3 May, 31-year-old Sheku Bayoh, who was originally from Sierra Leone, was violently arrested and died in Kircaldy it

the custody of the national police force, Police Scotland which was formed two years ago. Up to nine officers were involved in the arrest and used batons, CS gas and pepper spray, leg restraints and handcuffs against Sheku. As doctors and nurses struggled to revive him at Victoria Hospital, officers refused to remove handcuffs and leg restraints.

There have been 11 deaths in the custody of Police Scotland since it was formed.

On 7 June RCG supporters attended the funeral march, passing where Sheku was arrested and stopping outside the local police station. At the press conference which followed we heard details of the police operation of lies and attempts to smear and to intimidate the family into silence. Meanwhile the officers involved refused to release their notebooks or speak to the Scottish investigatory body, the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (PIRC) for a month after Sheku’s death. RCG supporters attended the launch of the Sheku Bayoh campaign on 25 July in Glasgow.

What then has been the Scottish SNP government’s response to this racist killing? Scottish justice secretary Michael Matheson stated he will not intervene in the police investigation into Sheku’s death and has rejected calls for PIRC to be given new statutory powers which would allow them to compel officer witnesses to be interviewed.

DOMINIC MULGREW
Glasgow

Support the campaign by liking the facebook page Justice For Sheku Ahmed Tejan Bayoh and donating to the campaign at Bank of Scotland: Sort code 80-47-68, Account number 10897861

Full IBAN: GB34 BOFS 8047 6810 8978 61


Strangeways: from book to film

The article about my book (Life in Strangeways: from riot to redemption) in FRFI 245 is truly appreciated. Many people are becoming increasingly aware of the book’s content and the prison system’s ways. It’s something I cannot forget and anything that exposes it is good. The book is now going to be turned into a film! That will be good.

ALAN LORD
Manchester

 

A message from Steve Kazcynski to FRFI

14 July 2015

I was recently sent no 245 of FRFI. I am currently in Maltepe No 3 L-type prison in Istanbul.  I was charged with membership of the DHKP-C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party Front) in early April and have been here since. I have been in isolation conditions so profound that for example I only learned the result of the UK General Election 10 days after it happened.  FRFI’s detailed analysis of the election was therefore particularly welcome.

I am currently on the 19th day of a hunger strike.  Friends have been sending me books and magazines but the prison administration’s ‘education commission’ has withheld some of them on the grounds they are considered harmful.  I have appealed against these rulings and on July 8 my appeal in relation to three of the magazines (‘Yuruyus’ or ‘March’ – a socialist weekly in Turkey) was accepted by a court. It is not clear at the moment of writing if these magazines will actually be given to me.

I have on occasion bought FRFI on demonstrations and I like its clear anti-imperialist stance. Its contempt for the Labour Party is also attractive to me. The LP’s near obliteration in Scotland was particularly well deserved.

Revolutionary Greetings

STEVE KAZCYNSKI

Maltepe 3 No.lu Hapishanesi

Yabancýlar bölümü Büyük Bakkal Köy Mah
Yakacýk Yolu Üzeri, No 13 Maltepe 

Istanbul, Turkey

Steve Kaczynski is a British citizen imprisoned in a Turkish prison. The Revolutionary Communist Group is supporting the campaign for his release. For more information about urgent action in support of  Steve email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or  Facebook Stephen Kaczynski at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100010119271355&fref=ts

 

LETTERS - FRFI 245 Jun/Jul 2015

A lesson in British ‘justice’

Kevan Thakrar’s parents had asked Manchester RCG to help organise a solidarity protest at the Crown Court in Manchester on 22 May when he was scheduled to appear for a pre-trial legal hearing. We produced a leaflet before the event and publicised it on social media, as did local activists from the Joint Enterprise Not Guilty By Association (JENGbA) group.

On the day, around 15 supporters attended the short court hearing, which was like an educational in the corrupt nature of the British ‘justice system’. Kevan has been accused of ‘common assault’ against a prison officer in Strangeways (see letter in FRFI 244). This is the latest chapter in the prison service’s vindictive harassment of him. The CPS firstly said they didn’t want to proceed with the case but the Prison Officers Association demanded it be heard.

 

Read more ...

Letters / FRFI 244 Apr/May 2015

Solidarity with Kevan Thakrar

Thank you to everyone who turned out to demonstrate in my support in London outside Prison Service headquarters on 16 February and to all those who helped create the banners, flyers and advertised the event.

Since then there have been significant developments. Firstly, the attempt to have me sectioned under the Mental Health Act failed. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is not something which a person can be sectioned for, so the psychiatrist refused to do the dirty work of the Close Supervision Centre Management Committee (CSCMC) and refer me to hospital.

Transfer to HMP Full Sutton segregation unit turned out to be their next attack. Greeted by a full riot squad on arrival, my treatment was never going to be good, but even I was shocked at the audacity of these discriminators who stormed my cell while I was praying, to assault me and provoke a reaction. Fortunately I did not fall into their trap; however this has only led to me being subjected to a continued and increasing level of harassment.

The problem for the CSCMC is this: I have a psychological report which stipulates that I should be returned to normal location as after five years on the CSC I do not need to remain under these conditions. It goes on to say that keeping me in these environments is exacerbating my PTSD, which is disability discrimination in violation of the Equality Act. The CSCMC does not want me ever to be able to return to normal location, hence their failed attempt to have me sectioned, but they know that with this report any judge in the country will rule against them if they fail to progress me.

As they are unable to get me out of their jurisdiction, their core aim is to provoke an incident to justify my CSC status. At the same time they subject me to treatment intended to worsen my mental health in the hope of facilitating my transfer to a hospital.

They have now informed me of their intention to allocate me to the Exceptional Risk Unit in HMP Wakefield. This is the very end of the line, indefinite isolation, nobody ever leaves, except those who die of old age. During my 13-day stay at Wakefield seg back in 2010, almost the whole first week I was starved, and not a day went by without some kind of threat being made by the officers there, including extreme racial abuse.

Targeting me through the courts, I must be the only prisoner in history facing prosecution for common assault, which stems from a false allegation by an officer by the way. Wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money attempting to force through a wrongful conviction to dirty my record and bolster their other schemes, they have recruited Manchester police and the CPS to help. With legal argument due to take place on 22 May at Manchester Crown Court regarding the validity of this case, only time will tell if this prosecution actually proceeds.

I need your support now more than ever. A protest is being organised outside Manchester Crown Court on 22 May and I ask for all those who can to please attend. Maybe I will hear you if you shout loud enough!

I really am in a desperate situation and the only real way out is with your support. We can stand together against this abuse and cause it to change for me and all the others who follow. The CSC system has been allowed to operate in secrecy since its creation in 1998, sending many prisoners insane. The time has come to put a stop to the ordeal. The protest on 22 May is the first real step in achieving this. I hope to see you there.

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE

HMP Full Sutton

Since writing this Kevan has been moved to HMP Wakefield, 5 Love Lane, Wakefield, WF2 9AG

www.justiceforkevan.com


HMP Frankland: bloody-minded, petty and bureaucratic

Following a recent ruling on sending books to prisoners, FRFI sought to send a copy of our Larkin publication Labour: a party fit for imperialism to Rangzieb Ahmed. In its latest act of spiteful harassment, the prison has withheld the book. We reprint their latest reply to our continuing protest over this issue.

Thank you for your letter of 5 March 2015. I would like to make the following observations. The book you refer to, Labour: a party fit for imperialism, was sent into the prison prior to the introduction of the new rules regarding the possession of books and the changes to the IEP [privileges] Scheme. Therefore, the book has been dealt with under the relevant procedures at that time which means it will be held in Mr Ahmed’s stored property until he is released or he applies to send it out of the establishment.

As stated in your letter, amendments were made to the Prison Service Instruction which came into effect on 31 January 2015. Family and friends are now allowed to order books on behalf of prisoners which are sent directly to the prison. However, these must be from one of the four approved suppliers which are Blackwells, Foyles, Waterstones, and WH Smith.

If there are any exceptional reasons, the Governor may allow friends and family to send books in direct, but only if it is considered appropriate for the situation.

Ms A Peters, CTU

HMP Frankland, Brasside, Durham DH1 5YD


Alienated call centre labour

I am working in a call centre in Manchester. I was surprised how call centre life is similar all over the world – I am not originally from Britain. Call centre workers are in the worst category in terms of human and workers’ rights.

This business has a dividi et impera lex (divide and rule policy): in our case workers from the EU earn less than UK workers. There is an unpleasant tension among workers, that keeps us quiet. Women are in a minority in supervisor or manager positions (and even in number of agents at the phones). In addition:

• We get no sickness pay.

• We cannot go to the toilet whenever we need to and have a maximum of 10 mins ‘loos and brews’. Breaks are strict and are totally at the will of the company.

• If we ask for holidays (or extra days off) we are obliged to give a satisfactory reason. I personally do not feel comfortable sharing my private life with people I work with.

• We won’t get our bonuses if we’re late by even one minute.

The contract I signed is designed in such a way that I can be sacked at any time and have very little chance to go against it.

I think call centre workers represent modern alienated labour as our natural biological time cannot be scheduled by a computer and we are pressed to answer the calls without interruption, one call after the other without even time to finish writing the report of the previous call.

I am writing this as I would like to gather as many people as possible to think about action to pressure the companies through a campaign, union or a lawyer/counsellor. In my case being ignorant of the law as a foreigner is a great advantage for the company.

Please get in touch with FRFI if you want to help start a campaign.

Nylde

Manchester


Newham Council locks down community centre

In December 2014, with no warning, the Upton Community Association in east London was closed by Newham Labour Council. When children arrived for nursery they found it padlocked shut. After 33 years, the 28 user groups – involving around 9,000 people in total, mainly from the Gujarati community, were left out in the cold. No MPs or councillors, nor Mayor Robin Wales have cooperated with the user groups since the closure that left many people without the services they relied on. See Facebook Save Upton Centre.

I am a volunteer at Upton Centre in Newham, and our community needs help and support to reopen our centre which many people used to use. The council forcefully locked us out of the temple and deities have been taken away from us that we used for prayers and ceremonial rituals; the closure has affected the health and quality of life of many elderly members of the community.

I feel Newham Labour Party has marginalised and discriminated against local Hindus. No warning had been given and while the stated reason for the closure is heating issues, the other half of the building, used by the One Love Centre who share the same utilities, remains operative.

As just one example, my sister Laxmi studied very hard for her GCSEs in languages but now cannot sit her exam in 2015 because it is too late for Ofsted to certify an alternative centre.

Hitesh Varsani

As you may be aware, our Upton Centre has been closed down, and we are doing everything to keep it open including protests, petitions and a campaign. The centre has been part of our community for over 30 years, and we can’t just see it closed now. We can’t let the centre go without a fight. The centre is like our second home, we can go there and take part in classes and activities. I have used that centre since I was a little girl for Gujarati classes and cultural Indian dancing, it is home to me. We need your support in helping us keep the centre open. 

I am extremely disappointed in the fact that the local MPs did not turn up to the meeting about the centre. No warnings or notes were given to us to let us know. It was a disappointment that our local MPs weren’t there to support us. I would like a written and public apology to our community from the MPs to explain why they were not able to attend the meeting. 

Pooja Pindoria


Estate agents: your new neighbourhood friend

Estate agents are the shopfront of landlords and property developers. Their offices now dominate high streets in many areas of London considered ripe for rent rises. They are now also posing as life-style choices and friends of the locality. In North London, Greene & Co have delivered tea-towels and brightly-coloured invitations to local homes to celebrate a ‘Bake-Off and Tea Party’ – a day of ‘fun and food’ in the local community together with Kentish Town Community Centre.

This is an insult to the growing housing struggles and the increasing use of food banks in an area where the working class is being priced out of existence.

MT Holmes

North London

Good news!

Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for sending the newspaper, it was great to get info from the outside world that was political and not the bloomin’ TV news!

Em Sheppard A73720J

HMP Send


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 244 April/May 2015

 

Letters - FRFI 243 February/March 2015

The impressionable Mr Clegg

I am not surprised to see Nick Clegg flaunting his recent visit to an acute mental health ward on Merseyside on his political blog, nor to see that the chief execs at Mersey Care NHS Trust are touting his visit as a major endorsement of the way they do business. However, as a lowly frontline member of NHS staff who happened to be working on the acute male in-patient ward that the deputy prime minister descended on that day, I can confidently state that Mr Clegg was afforded the least accurate picture of the state of mental health services in the Northwest imaginable. 

Members of staff who work long hours on the ward in question, week in week out, would have been hard-pressed to recognise it during Mr Clegg’s visit – under 15 minutes in length, although the road outside the building was cordoned off for at least eight hours and between 10 and 20 security officers accompanied Mr Clegg into the low secure mental health premises. All but five of the patients had been temporarily removed from the ward and taken to another department or spirited out on leave with staff, including all those likely to cause any offence to Mr Clegg with their swearing, unpredictable behaviour, illicit drug use or poor personal hygiene. Or to put it another way, any patients displaying the sort of symptoms likely to lead to their admission to an acute mental health ward.

Even with just five of our more well-mannered patients on the ward for Mr Clegg’s visit, there were at least twice as many staff present as there would usually be, or indeed as there were a scant few hours after his departure, when all of our less palatable service users had been returned to the ward and the all-singing all-dancing team of managers and executives had departed after their brief and painstaking rare appearance. 

A service user who was judged by management to be sufficiently non-abrasive to speak with Mr Clegg later told me he had felt embarrassed by the absence of patients and the abnormal glut of staff on the ward during the deputy PM’s visit. This member of staff shares in his mortification.

Clare

Merseyside


Socialist health care delivers

I enjoyed Michael Moore’s documentary Sicko at a film showing and discussion in Dundee. His comparison of the health systems of the United States and Cuba is powerful. Cuba’s recent achievement of the lowest infant mortality in the world at two per thousand in Oriente province and the deserved praise for its work against Ebola in Africa is more than proof that socialist health care delivers.

Meanwhile in Spain, thousands have marched to protest at the cutting back of medication for the treatment of Hepatitis C. NHS England has delayed the introduction of a highly effective but expensive drug that can save the lives of people infected with Hepatitis C. This is despite Sofosbuvir – which has been hailed internationally as a breakthrough – having the approval of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Capitalist health care is criminally negligent, internationally millions die for want of care and now the crisis means that while Hepatitis C affects 200 million people worldwide, the price tag means effective therapies are put beyond reach. There is no justification for this madness. Human beings not just can but actually have solved these problems through socialism. We must move forward.

Sean Malone

Dundee


Scottish independence: a Leninist analysis

One of the outstanding features of the RCG has been its persistent support for the right of oppressed nations to self-determination. Now that the RCG supports Scottish independence, an important question arises: why does the RCG – an organisation which is partly based in England – have branches in Scotland? A socialist organisation of an oppressor nation should not mobilise the oppressed of another nation; rather it should foster fraternal relations between the anti-imperialist organisations of both nations. The RCG has pursued this strategy successfully in the case of the Irish independence struggle.

If the RCG believes that Scotland is not an oppressed nation, why does it support the call for Scottish independence? Leninists are vehemently opposed to the right of oppressor nations to self-determination.

The RCG has repeatedly pointed to the existence of a deep and ongoing split in the British ruling class over its relationship with the EU and US. At the heart of this split, as David Yaffe and others have explained, is the issue of the City’s viability as an independent financial centre (see for example FRFI241, October/November 2014, p5). Is there any reason why the RCG has refrained from viewing the Scottish question in the light of this split, as a concrete manifestation of it?

While the RCG is correct to denounce the ‘unionists’ on the left as social chauvinists, it needs to bear in mind that Marxists never take sides in inter-imperialist disputes. This principle holds for intra-imperialist disputes as well.

Before workers can use Britain’s ‘constitutional’ crisis to their advantage, they must understand its nature and origins, otherwise they will become the unwitting accomplices of one faction of imperialists against another. The tendency towards the break-up of the United Kingdom is the result of the crisis which British usury imperialism has been experiencing for a number of years. RCG members have written at length and convincingly about this crisis. They have also written outstanding articles on the question of Irish independence. These comrades must now bring their insights to bear favourably on a Leninist analysis of the Scottish question.

Alec Abbott

North London


Reply

Thanks, Alec, for your recognition of the RCG’s theoretical contributions to the struggle against British imperialism. These would of course mean nothing unless we also had a record of real practical effort to build a movement to that end. Understanding the relationship between theory and practice, ‘the flower and iron of the truth’, to quote Scots poet Hugh McDiarmid, is the essence of Leninism and the antidote to dogmatic phraseology and inaction.

So what then of this concrete situation today whereby the sustainability of British imperialism, already under critical economic pressure, was momentarily threatened by an overwhelmingly and massive working class expression of a democratic determination to secede from the United Kingdom? Suddenly the sun seemed to be about to set on British imperialism without too much of a bloody struggle. It occurred at a time when working class political consciousness, organisation and resistance was at an historically low level across Britain. What it did confirm was James Connolly’s point in Labour in Irish History, that ‘successful revolutions are not the product of our brains but of ripe material conditions.’ There is much work to be done.

This recent phenomenon and the points you make about the EU and splits in the ruling class do require serious analysis and engagement – all contributions are welcome, Alec. Leninism demands that the specific characteristics of each situation be examined. We have been at pains to point out that we do not regard Scotland as an oppressed nation and have described the formation of the alliance between the ruling classes of England and Scotland as the source of British imperialism’s formidable strength. The situation was therefore not analogous to Ireland’s struggle against British imperialism.

The mass of the Scottish working class saw the referendum as an opportunity to express their complete opposition to austerity and its supporters in Westminster who were also pro-Union. It was a sign of new and real political movement, and communists had to be there rather than sit on the sidelines speculating about intra-imperialist splits. A Yes victory would have resulted in a major political crisis for the British ruling class; equally importantly it would have shattered the grip of the reactionary British Labour movement over Scottish workers and created conditions which would allow a direct fight for socialism. Recognising the class content of a Yes vote, the British ruling class pulled out all the stops to defeat it. It very nearly failed.

Michael McGregor


Revolutionary new year greetings

Let me send revolutionary Red Season’s greetings to you all. Another year of struggle has come to an end. A new popular movement against government repression has arisen here in the US. So far it is sustaining and growing. Of course, the cops keep killing young men and boys – especially black people and other people of colour – so this is a very necessary and timely movement.

Keep doing the important and solid work you do. Many of us look forward to FRFI news and analysis. Keep checking out www.4strugglemag.org – we are beginning a new schedule. Only two hard copies a year, but more online material.

Jaan Laaman #10372-016

USP Tucson, PO Box 24550e,

MA 02071 Tucson, AZ85734, US


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 243 February/March 2015

 

Letters FRFI 242 Dec 2014/Jan 2015

Israel out of FIFA

On 1 November FRFI supporters were among those who travelled with the Football Against Apartheid (FAA) group from London to Paris to attend the Liberte Pour La Palestine festival, jointly organised by EuroPalestine, Abna Philistine and Union Associations Palestiniennes France, and attended by over 6,000 people. FRFI comrade Igor received loud applause when he addressed the crowd in the main hall, calling for the support of football fans across the world to press their national football associations to expel apartheid Israel from FIFA.

On 2 November FAA was invited to a meeting in the Library of Resistance in central Paris convened by EuroPalestine where representatives from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Belgium, Morocco, Germany, Australia, Israel and Britain discussed plans for the future.

The meeting discussed various boycott campaigns – in particular those against Veolia, Hewlett Packard, G4S, Intel, Soda Stream, Teva pharmaceuticals and the Israeli football team. We resolved to strive for effective, innovative and coordinated activism in order to further the cause of Palestine internationally, and to focus particularly on three priority targets during the coming year: the boycott of Teva; the cultural boycott; general awareness raising in order to encourage action to bring about disinvestment from Israeli companies.

FAA’s specific targets were:

  1. Long term – Get Israel expelled from FIFA, in line with the demand made by the Palestine Football Association
  2. Medium term – get a motion for expulsion moved by a National football association at the 2016 and/or 2017 FIFA Congress.
  3. Immediate – build grass roots support at as many football clubs in as many countries as possible. From zero in one year FAA groups have been started at nine English Premier League, one Scottish and two French clubs, with immediate plans to add two Belgian clubs.

The assembled group felt that FAA has adopted original and imagina­tive tactics to encourage football fans from rival clubs to line up behind their unique club banners in unity against Israeli apartheid, and to highlight their support for the Palestinian call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions, and for Israel to be expelled from FIFA. We agreed to help FAA develop in France through a demonstration of unity of Paris St Germain Fans Against Apartheid and Olympique de Marseille Fans Against Apartheid at their match on 9 November. We also agreed to help set up the campaign in Belgium, where the national team is scheduled to play against Israel both at home and in Tel Aviv. Looking ahead there will be a mobilisation in Wales, where the national team is scheduled to play against Israel twice in 2015.

John Tymon
North London

For further information about Football Against Apartheid see https://footballagainstapartheid.wordpress.com/


The last Straw?

So could Jack Straw at last, face trial for the rendition and torture of Abdul Hakim Belhaj and his wife? (‘Belhaj wins right to sue UK government for torture’, The Guardian 31 October 2014)

It was Straw who, in 2001 as Home Secretary, proscribed the PKK. He has always championed Turkey for EU membership using ‘every political skill, high and low’ (as he wrote in his memoirs) and in 2012 was awarded the Order of the Republic of Turkey for his services. He showed his tolerance for fascists when he helped Pinochet escape justice in 2000. In addition to his MP’s salary Straw was paid £150,070 for journalism, speaking and consultancy work. He contemptuously dismissed critics of this largesse as ‘the hair-shirt brigade’ (Lancashire Times, August 2012).

Blackburn is the fourth most deprived borough in England with the fifth worst infant mortality rate. Bailiffs were used 4,812 times to recover unpaid council tax. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust will have to pay almost £1 billion in interest charges on PFI schemes by 2041. In the North West 13,081 houses are empty and boarded up. In Blackburn and Burnley 1 in 3 children live in poverty. Blackburn Food Bank has fed 10,300 people since it opened in 2012. Blackburn with Darwen Labour council has cut £70m since 2010 and will cut another £19m in 2015/16. (The Shuttle, September 2014).

This is Jacksy’s legacy. His prospective replacement, Kate Hollern, finds the situation ‘heart-breaking’, but her top priority is ‘social cohesion’ – ie no opposition.

Pete Lynch
Blackburn


Political ASBO

When ASBOs were first introduced by the last Labour government, activists knew that the notion of ‘anti-social behaviour’ would soon encompass political activity. Liverpool Rise for Palestine has now experienced it. Since July’s onslaught on Gaza, we have held almost weekly rolling pickets through Liverpool city centre, with frequent store invasions to demand the removal of Israeli goods or Caterpillar products from sale. On Saturday 15 November, cops produced an order under Sections 34 and 35 of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2014. These provisions, which only came into force on 20 October, allow police to disperse people from a designated area if they feel there is a likelihood of ‘members of the public in the locality being harassed, alarmed or distressed’. Although they did not invoke the order during our protest, it is clear that they are attempting to limit or bring to an end our regular pickets. Liverpool Rise for Palestine will continue its protests, however, and will be responding to these new powers.

Robert Claridge
Liverpool


Students grill Grayling over prison deaths

During a flying visit to Greenhead College in Huddersfield on 14 November Justice Minister Chris Grayling was put on the spot by sixth-form students of Law and Politics on issues ranging from the power of the High Court to ECHR. Uncomfortable questions were lost in a fog of his own repetitive rhetoric and he responded only with information he wanted us to hear. We were not given the opportunity to reply with any debate; instead we had to settle for his answer being absolute.

Since he had recently apologised for listening to MPs’ phone calls from prisoners, I asked when he was planning on apologising to the mothers of those who have died in prison since he had been in office. In typical Grayling parlance, he expressed his deep regret for suicides in prison, stating: ‘I would say to any mother that I am really sorry about the suicides in prison, I don’t like it to happen, I don’t want it to happen and I don’t know why it’s happening.’

He went on to say ‘there seems to be no pattern to the suicides except to say that there’s a lot of mental health problems’, and ‘it’s something I want to really step up to in the way we provide support to people with mental health problems in prisons’. He did not seem at all concerned with prison being a totally inappropriate environment for those with mental health problems, although he did say that he wanted to ‘develop more specialist centres that are equipped to deal with mental health problems’ and agreed there are far too many people with mental health problems in prisons. He said ‘we have a system in place in police stations to divert people with mental health problems into the NHS rather than the criminal justice system’ yet this still does not explain the staggering number of mentally ill people detained in prison, some of them ironically ‘for their own safety’ rather than for committing any crime.

Linda Davidson’s 21-year-old son Steven, who hanged himself in HMP Glen Parva after being sent there ‘for his own safety’ following an attempt to cut his throat, is one example that comes to mind; he had no criminal record and serious mental health problems. Grayling went on to state that the majority of deaths in prison are of natural causes due to an ageing prison population, whitewashing over the disgraceful increase in non-natural deaths in prisons since he’s been in post. He made vague assurances to students he was making every effort to prevent prisoner deaths.

Grayling spent the whole session squirming his way out of questions he didn’t want to answer about prisoners’ votes and so on. I asked why he denied there was a crisis in prisons when there’s a catalogue of assaults, prisoner self-harm, staff shortages serious concerted acts of indiscipline etc. To all of these questions he offered no coherent answer.

And then I asked a general question, which he definitely didn’t want to answer! I said given the dominance of Etonians in Parliament, would you say that the class war is over and the ruling class has won?

Lily Green
Huddersfield

 

Letters / FRFI 241 Oct/Nov 2014

The power of collective organisation in prisons

Eric Allison’s excellent piece in FRFI240 (‘Prison overcrowding – squalid and dangerous’, August/September 2014) raised some extremely important questions regarding what actually determines the ‘quality’ of prison regimes as well as the balance of power between prisoners and gaolers. Eric correctly answers the fundamental question that what in reality determines the treatment of prisoners is their ability and willingness to organise, resist and fight back, just as it does the poor and disempowered in the wider class-divided society.

In prison (a brutal microcosm of social control), the only true weapon possessed by prisoners is their solidarity and willingness to collectively fight back; this determines the nature of the regimes under which they exist. Eric quoted from Shelley: ‘Ye are many – they are few’. Such is the obvious numerical and physical advantage that prisoners have over those who guard them, an advantage so potentially powerful that even just a peaceful, non-violent collective withdrawal of co-operation (for example, a mass refusal to work or participate in worthless offence-related courses and programmes) would definitely result in the total collapse of prison regimes and their replacement with straightforward lock-down measures, removing the veneer of ‘treatment’ or ‘rehabilitation’ and reducing the role of those who operate and run gaols to that of simple gaoler.

Locking down long-term prisoners indefinitely is not a strategy the prison system likes to employ – it represents an acknowledgement that control over prisoners is lost unless they are firmly locked down. And because it inevitably generates tension and hatred there are psychological consequences for those directly enforcing the lock-down. Obedient and compliant prisoners create a far more satisfying atmosphere for those ‘supervising’ them, whilst maintaining a relationship of power that is the direct causal reason for the degradation of prisoners.

Potentially, prisoners can be the final and definitive arbiter in how they’re treated and what sort of conditions and regimes they live under, providing of course that they recognise a common interest and shared struggle, and organise accordingly.

JOHN BOWDEN
HMP Shotts, Scotland ML7 4LE


Challenging bigotry and censorship at HMP Barlinnie

I am due to be released from HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow on 19 September. First of all I would like to thank you for sending me FRFI. It’s good being able to read about what’s going on, stuff the tabloids don’t tell us about, so I’m grateful.

When you first sent me the paper back in March, I was told that I wasn’t allowed it. The excuse given by the officer was that ‘prisoners are only allowed to buy papers from the list in here, and it’s only papers that are bought with the prisoner’s own money, you are not allowed to have them sent in’. Soon after this I was also refused an Irish Republican newspaper called The Sovereign Nation, from the 32-County Sovereignty Movement, this time by a different officer, with the different reason that it was ‘sectarian’. A couple of days later I tried to take a book out of the library, called The Famine Plot by Tim Pat Coogan, about England’s role in Ireland’s greatest tragedy. The officer from the library told me it had been removed that morning as ‘it could encourage terrorism’.

When I pointed out that this was anti-Irish censorship, I was told by the officer to ‘hand in a complaint form’ – this said with a smirk on his face. So I did, along with an Equality and Diversity form, pointing out this was discrimination and censorship. The book was put back in the library and I was allowed both the Republican paper and FRFI. The governor replied to my complaint saying the officer had removed the book with what he thought was ‘legitimate cause’ and ‘we have confirmed with him that the Scottish Prison Service does not withhold or censor any books...we will ensure that we put in place a policy to ensure staff are aware of their role in the library.’

The head of security, who was dealing with my complaint, sat down with me after this and said the officer had an excuse that there had been complaints about the book. However the book was new to the library, and the excuse was never mentioned to me by the library officer, so it just appears as a clear attempt to brush the bigoted views of the man under the carpet. The head of security went on to suggest that perhaps I’d ‘taken things the wrong way in the heat of the moment’. It was clear he just wanted to drop my complaint and that nothing would be done about the officer’s suggestion that the Irish potato famine, which claimed over one million lives between 1845 and 1851 could encourage terrorism, and that the bigoted views of officers at HMP Barlinnie will just get covered up by their colleagues.

Kristopher Snowdon


Solidarity with DJ Taylor

I have heard from DJ Taylor in Connecticut. He is now out of the ‘medical unit’ unit he was on, having agreed to suspend his hunger strike following court intervention in order to open up negotiations about his transfer out of Northern Supermax and changes to Northern as a whole. It seems DJ will now re-enter the general prison population in late September, and he has given the court until then to address areas of contention.

DJ has felt let down by local media in his attempts to publicise conditions at Northern. ‘On the whole people couldn’t care less,’ he says. DJ again describes the hell of being force-fed.

He was delighted with the news regarding the release of Talha Ahsan and that Babar Ahmad will be released ‘this time next year’. He describes their imprisonment as ‘absolutely unjust’ and mentions the debates they had together which meant a lot to him. Again he expresses his appreciation for our solidarity.

GEORGE COOMBS
Brighton


Islamic State is also the enemy

Trevor Rayne’s article on the origins and consequences of the First World War (FRFI240) was excellent. It shows a clear link with the situation in the Middle East today and the advance of imperialism throughout the 20th century.

However, as communists, we should be raising our voices against the extreme religious movements that are on the march today in Syria and Iraq. Decapitating people and putting heads on spikes, just because they interpret the Koran slightly differently, are hardly the actions of a progressive movement.

We must be prepared to accept that my enemy’s enemy is not necessarily my friend.

JON KEMPSTER
East London


Censorship update

After months of fighting to receive a copy of FRFI 239, which carried an article about his harassment in prison, Rangzieb Ahmed writes from HMP Frankland:

‘The June/July edition of the paper which you sent me was previously withheld from me. Thanks to your support and letter to the governor I have now received it – but with the article removed.

Nothing new is happening with my case. My case in the European Court of Human Rights is on hold and my civil case in the UK will be heard in December. Thank you for all your help once again.’


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 241 October/November 2014

 

Letters / FRFI 240 Aug/Sep 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 240 August/September 2014

Prison censorship: stupid excuses, part 1

So HMP Whitemoor has banned FRFI again. I was originally told this was due to it being ‘a racist and anti-authority newspaper’, but after complaining about the stupidity of this claim, Governor Ruth Stephens, head of security, changed the excuse to the return address for FRFI being ‘a security risk’.

As I have no intention of returning my issue of the newspaper and definitely not prior to having read it, this new excuse is as ridiculous as the original one. It seems wherever I go, the attempts to restrict my access to FRFI are based on more and more desperate claims. Woodhill, Manchester and now here, all make up their own nonsense to achieve the same objective.

These restrictions always begin once I am mentioned in the publication, but strangely enough I have never once heard of any other newspaper being banned even though most of them have run stories about me on their front pages. Maybe if FRFI printed fantasy like the tabloids it would be deemed a respectable enough paper to enter prisons without so much difficulty.

KEVAN THAKRAR
HMP Whitemoor


 Frankland: stupid excuses, part 2

Meanwhile, at HMP Frankland Rangzieb Ahmed has once again had his copy of FRFI withheld, after issue 239 carried an article highlighting the harassment he has been subject to at the prison, including, ironically, having FRFI withheld. Following an FRFI supporter's complaint to the prison, including a copy of a recent prison ombudsman ruling that prisons should normally simply remove the offending article rather than withhold an entire publication, we have received the following from the security department at Frankland.

‘Thank you for your letter... The decision was taken to withhold the publication due to the possible issues it may cause at HMP Frankland. Mr Ahmed is will [sic] within his rights to submit an application to have the publication with the article removed.’


Support for US prisoner on hunger strike

Prisoner DJ Taylor is in the same US supermax prison as Babar Ahmed and, until recently Talha Ahsan. DJ is presently on hunger strike in order to draw attention to the corruption and brutality in the prison. When he began the strike, DJ was moved to the prison psychiatric unit and placed in an observation cell, where the 24-hour lighting meant he was deprived of sleep. At first he was naked, and has only recently been allowed underwear. After eight days without food or fluids a naso-gastric tube was inserted and he was force-fed while shackled to a trolley. Having worked as a nurse some years ago, I can well believe that this was horrendously distressing, especially given his severe state of dehydration. DJ passed out, sustaining a massive black eye.

DJ sends greetings to comrades and says our support means so much to him. His brutal maltreatment at the hands of the US, the 'global policeman' with whom Britain shares its 'special relationship' is truly shocking. I have written to assure DJ of our ongoing solidarity and concern. Please write to him: DJ Taylor #179983, Northern Supermax, 287 Bilton Road, PO Box 665, Somers, CT 06071.

GEORGE COOMBS
Brighton


 WHO praises Cuba

In July, Dr Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organisation said: ‘Cuba is the only country I have seen which has a health care system closely linked to closed-loop research and development… I keep a special place in my heart for Cuba and recognize the efforts of the Cuban government to establish health as an essential pillar of development.’

She and the director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), were attending the inauguration of a new medical development centre in Cuba. PAHO director Clarisse Etienne stressed: ‘we’re here to celebrate the genius, creativity, tenacity and perseverance of the Cuban people and the concretisation of a visionary leadership.’

Under socialism, Cuba has fostered a cutting edge bio-technology sector, developing the only advanced lung cancer vaccination in the world, alongside vaccines against meningitis B, pneumonia, diphtheria, pertussis and dengue. This year Cuba achieved the historically low infant mortality rate of 4.2 per 1,000 live births, one of the best rates in the world. Cuba has sent 135,000 health care professionals to 154 countries, and trains for free thousands of medical students from developing countries at the Latin American Medical School in Havana. Socialist Cuba continues to shine as a beacon of hope for human development.

SAM MCGILL
Newcastle

 

Letters /FRFI! 239 Jun/Jul 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 239 June/July 2014

Syria and the fight against imperialism

I’ve been fortunate to find FRFI and to feel welcomed by a community of likeminded comrades an ocean away from my cage. That being said, I found the recent article by Toby Harbertson (FRFI 238) antithetical to my socialist ideology.

Comrade Harbertson rightly identifies the Syrian ‘rebels’ as being primarily supported by the very imperialists to whom I will forever be opposed. I also agree that any true socialist/communist should work in any way possible to support and defend Brothers and Sisters of the Kurdish PYG.

However, when it comes to Syria (as in most proxy wars) the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend as Comrade Harbertson suggests. Syria is, for all intents and purposes, a dynastic monarchy led by one generation to the next by the Assad family – what kind of revolutionary cheers for a monarch? And a Baathist monarch at that! Have you no sense of history? In the 1960s the largest Communist Party in the Arab world was the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP). Within 20 years, leaders throughout the region – Hussein in Iraq, Nimeini in Sudan, Suharto in Indonesia and Assad (Sr) in Syria, would execute and imprison tens of thousands of communists in a purge of the ideology itself. Now, years later we as communists are supposed to feel joy because one group of imperialist oppressors is successfully killing another group of imperialist oppressors? And make no mistake Vladimir Putin is just as much an imperialist dog as Barack Obama. I fail to see the way in which a victory for either of these belligerent, militaristic empires does anything to further Our cause. I refuse to succumb to delusional nostalgia simply because the Hammer and Sickle once graced the flag of Russia (USSR). Stalinism (aka Putinism) is not communism and anyone who confuses the two has obviously never read Marx, Lenin or Engels.

In Syria I simply don’t see a side to cheer for. Do we cheer for Amerikkka, with its ever expanding military/economic empire? Do we cheer for Putin, who essentially runs Russia like a crime syndicate? Should we be happy when missiles from Russian helicopters blow the faces off of innocents or should we save our glee for the victims of western weaponry? I hope western ‘interests’ fail in Syria right alongside Putin’s interests. I wish there was a party of the people in Syria, but there isn’t and for Comrade Harbertson to pen such a biased article under the page heading ‘Fight imperialism’ is just surreal.

D J TAYLOR #179983

Northern Supermax,

287 Bilton Road,

PO Box 665, Somers, CT 06071, USA

P.S. After you published my letter in the April/May edition I received letters from some FRFI readers – these were most welcomed. Unfortunately I also received a few rejection notices from the pigs here at Northern because prisoners tried to write to me. I’m not allowed to receive letters which are recognisable as having come from other prisoners. I did receive one postcard from a prisoner named Charles Bronson @ HMP Wakefield but my attempt to respond was intercepted by staff. I don’t know if you are familiar with any of the prisoners who wrote to me but if so please extend my gratitude.


Reply from Toby Harbertson

Thanks to D J Taylor for his considered response to my article. Letters and contributions that raise important issues for socialists are always welcome in our newspaper.

Comrade Taylor argues that it is wrong for communists to take sides between US/British imperialism on the one hand and Russia’s oligarchy on the other. Essentially he argues that the correct standpoint is ‘a plague on both your houses’. While we appreciate all anti-imperialist sentiments, we argue that opposing imperialism in practice is a concrete question for each communist or socialist movement. We have no illusions about Russia’s determination to defend its own interests against the dominant imperialist powers above anything else. FRFI does not cheer for Assad but we recognise the right of Syria to defend itself against external aggression. How can we be most effective in opposition to imperialism and in solidarity with the working class internationally? The answer to this is by building a movement that strenuously opposes British and US imperialism in the ‘belly of the beast’. Building a movement against British imperialism is our most effective contribution in solidarity with the struggle of the oppressed in Syria. The defeat of imperialism in the Middle East will be concrete encouragement to anti-imperialist, socialist and communist forces everywhere.


Defend social housing activist!

On 16 May FRFI attended a picket of Highbury Magistrates Court in north London called by the Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group in support of John Tymon. John is a supporter of Football against Apartheid and regularly attends the Victory to the Intifada demonstrations outside Marks & Spencer in London with his ‘Gooners against Apartheid’ banner.

John is also active in the defence of social housing rights and with others has successfully organised to prevent bailiffs from evicting local people. On 10 April John and others were protesting against the eviction of a vulnerable young man for whom Camden Council has a duty of care. No fewer than 40 police descended violently on the defenders; John was knocked unconscious and remained lying on the garden path for 20 minutes before being taken to hospital by ambulance. From there he was smuggled into a police van, taken to a police station and charged with ‘intentionally obstructing a High Court bailiff’. The case was postponed until October and there is hope that the illegality of the arrest is such that charges against John will be dropped. For more details see kilburnunemployed.blogspot.com.

Solidarity to all who are organising in defence of social housing and against social cleansing.

ANN ELIOT

North London


No evictions, no JSA sanctions

An unemployed man in his sixties faces eviction from his Southwark home after his benefits were sanctioned for nearly a year. In March 2013. Mark Roberts was turned away from a job interview day at the local supermarket, on the basis that there were too many applicants. His local Peckham Jobcentre Plus then stopped his benefits because he had not ‘secured a job interview’. Peckham jobcentre imposes the highest rate of JSA sanctions in London.

Mark wasn’t told he needed to re-apply for housing benefit, or told he could be entitled to a discretionary hardship payment. He spent ten months on sanctions, dependent on friends for food, and fell into massive arrears on his rent as well as fuel bills. He still has £400 rent arrears.

Because of this his housing association, Wandle Housing, is seeking his eviction and Mark will be appearing at Lambeth County Court on 30 May. South London RCG will be joining other local social justice activists to demonstrate against the massive injustice being perpetrated not just against Mark but against thousands of other claimants.

Please join us to show your solidarity from 9.30-11am, Friday 30 May, Lambeth County Court House, Cleaver St, London SE11 4DZ (5-10 minutes walk from Kennington tube).

CAT ALLISON

South London


Grim reality behind the glitz of the Glasgow Games

This summer sees Glasgow hosting the Commonwealth Games, with an athletes’ village being built in the east end of the city. As the red carpet is rolled out, Glasgow’s Labour council will do its best to sweep the city’s poverty under it, with thousands facing welfare sanctions, work capability assessments, or bedroom tax arrears, while the cream of the British Empire descends upon the city for the spectacle that is the Games. Dalmarnock, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Glasgow, was wiped off the map to make way for the athletes’ village and the multimillion-pound Velodrome, with the claim that the village will remain as housing for the public, the supposed legacy of the games. However with prices starting at £95,000 none of the former residents of Dalmarnock can afford one of these ‘legacy’ homes. The finest example of the ironic juxtaposition of the Games is in Glasgow Central station where, under the clock counting down to the start of the Games, there is a food bank.

SCOTT

Glasgow


 

Resist ATOS trauma

I recently underwent an ATOS assessment as part of my eligibility for sickness benefit – I have suffered from severe depression since I was a child. My depression is part of a recurring medical condition. Last time I was employed, I had a mental breakdown. This is a pattern.

My appointment was at 11 am. I arrived with my father about 20 minutes early, having a panic attack. I was instructed to sit in a waiting room without being given a time for when I would be seen. By this point, I was crying and hyperventilating. I was kept waiting for an hour and a half. Another man in the waiting room had been there nearly two hours.

The assessment itself is disturbingly bureaucratic. The doctor read questions from a screen mechanically. At points I was reduced to tears. The doctor never paused, but simply asked the question again. Many of the questions were rephrased in order to catch me out. The entire assessment, from entry to the building until its conclusion, is designed as a form of trauma. I await results.

Not one party has said that they will do away with these assessments, or the profit creamed from them. Capita looks set to take the contract from ATOS, but the formula will not change. However, there is anger, bubbling just under the surface. While I was waiting, every conversation I overheard was furious and indignant. We are not passive victims and we will resist. The first soviet in Ireland was the Monaghan asylum in 1919. Here’s hoping.

JAMES

Newcastle


 

Life means life in Germany

I write to you from the deepest dungeon in Germany and wish to thank all the comrades who make it possible for prisoners to read the inspiring issues of FRFI.

Today I want to inform readers about a new judgment in Germany: at the end of March the local high court in Karlsruhe decided that Mr N, who was arrested in January 1962, has no right to be freed.

Back then, he shot two people dead. He has now been behind bars for over 52 years. It looks like he is going to become the longest serving prisoner in Europe. The inhuman and degrading system will not temper justice with mercy.

Mr N and I have spent a lot of time together on the prison exercise yard; he is an old but still lively man who loves life. It is a terrible shame that he will not be allowed to die a free man.

THOMAS MEYER-FALK

c/o JVA (SV), Hermann Herder Strasse 8, 79104 Freiburg, Germany

www.freedom-for-thomas.de

 

Letters / FRFI 238 Apr/May 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 238 April/May 2014

Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution – for a more humane world

A very warm greeting from Venezuela Bolivariana! I have been receiving, following and reading carefully all documents and notes of solidarity that you have sent us since the beginning of this continued coup attempt, which has already lasted more than two months and has caused more than 30 deaths in our country and indeed has unleashed the fury of the ultra right-wing sector of the Venezuelan opposition. 15 universities have been vandalised, several food markets burned, dolls that simulate revolutionaries hung on bridges, etc, etc. All this demonstrates the fascist character of a sector of the opposition, and shows that there are psychological warfare laboratories behind these operations.

The vast majority of people reject these actions and some sectors of the opposition people begin to wonder or reject such practices of the more radical wing of the opposition. We continue to battle and triumph and our people benefit greatly from the very important international solidarity given, from people like yourselves, who do not expect anything in return. We indeed are grateful to you.

We reaffirm our desire to build a more humane and just world!

Xoan Noya

Coordinator of International Relations
Youth Wing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (JPSUV)


Northern Connecticut supermax prison’s hall of horrors

I write to you from the bowels of the American penal colony to express my gratitude for your very existence.

While that may sound a little hyperbolic I assure you the sentiment is genuine, prompted by what probably seemed a small, and maybe even insignificant gesture – the holiday card enclosed with the FRFI December/January edition.

I wish that I had the ability to put into words how profoundly touched I was that brothers and sisters an ocean away would take the time to send a card to some lifer you’ve never met. This type of solidarity is simply unheard of.

I think it is, however, imperative for the brothers and sisters in Europe to look to the US prison industrial complex as a living, breathing, foreboding testament to just how bad things can get in a ‘modern western democracy’.

I read the letter of Kevan Thakrar at HMP Manchester [FRFI 236] and was so happy to hear of the people’s protest outside his window! Though I’ve never met this brother, the thought of how good it must’ve felt to witness that kind of support manifest itself before his eyes delivered the energy to continue my struggle clear across the Atlantic.

Of course here in the Northern Supermax such a beautiful scenario is simply not possible – we are in the middle of the wood. Nobody gets near the facility and I haven’t felt fresh air through a window in 20 years.

Here it is a true hall of horrors – screaming, banging, people regularly sprayed with mace, beatings, suicides, prisoners ‘playing’ in their own faeces, ‘recreation’ in small cages we call kennels (about 8’ x 8’) and so on.

So thank you for the card, and thank you for the subscription and most of all thank you for continuing to fight for and on behalf of the people ‘society’ views as disposable.

With unyielding solidarity

D J TAYLOR #179983
Northern Supermax, 287 Bilton Road, PO Box 665, Somers, Connecticut 06071, USA


In support of Focus E15 mothers

I saw the article in FRFI 237 about the young mothers in Newham, and it’s good to see how well organised and committed they are – this issue of social housing in London really does need to be highlighted especially when so many properties in London are being kept empty by property speculators motivated just by profit as opposed to social need.

JOHN BOWDEN

HMP Shotts


‘Universal mismatch’

I welcome the news that the government plans to scrap Universal Jobmatch, its shambolic mandatory job search website and spy device. The site has long been the subject of ridicule. The attempt to spy on a claimant by making him or her tick a box to allow Jobcentre staff access is not lawful. Claimants are within their rights to untick it. Jobcentre staff cannot make people use the site outside of the Jobcentre. Anyway, it is utterly hopeless.

The website cost around £20m to create. Despite this, it won the worst jobsite award by the industry award body which termed it a ‘mongrel of a website’. It is littered with pyramid schemes, bogus jobs, duplicates and jobs that do not pay the minimum wage. Many jobs do not meet the website’s terms and conditions and some are unlawful. The site even hosts illegal scams attempting to con people out of money or steal their identity. It did not change even after a Channel 4 report on this. 

There are times when I have typed ‘Newcastle’ into the search box and found the latest jobs were posted a week ago, I’ve typed in ‘retail’ and it’s given me sales jobs, I’ve typed in ‘waiter’ and it’s given me sales jobs. The system thinks a job as a Swedish-speaking Trainee Recruitment Consultant fits my criteria. It does not.

CAL

Newcastle


Lambeth Council puts market before people’s needs

It’s criminal that only 40% of the new proposed housing development in Somerleyton Road, Brixton will be available at council rents, whilst the rest will be private and unaffordable. A private two bedroom will set you back £335 per week.

Lambeth has a waiting list of 20,000 households and still are failing to put ordinary people first and build 100% public housing to help this problem.

According to official figures from the Valuation Office Agency, which monitors rental prices, rents in London will soar by 20% in the next two years – twice the rate of average earnings.

Once again Labour is unable to put the working class before its precious so-called ‘market’ and take the side of the people. Labour proves itself to be just as spineless, and useless as the Tories.

Anthony

South London


Errata

A number of errors crept into the article ‘The collapse of CAR and South Sudan’, FRFI 238, p12 at the editing stage.

1. ‘In 1991 Machar formed the SPLM, an SPLA splinter, to collaborate with the Khartoum government, which frequently used southern proxies to weaken the SPLA.’

This should have read ‘A split in 1991, when Machar left to form an SPLA splinter, led Machar to collaborate with the Khartoum government, which used southern proxies to weaken the SPLA.’

2. ‘Oil regions quickly became strategic areas of control between government and Machar’s group, the rebels occupied two of three oil states before they were driven out.’

‘Oil regions quickly became strategic areas of control between government and Machar’s group, the rebels, who occupied two of three oil states before they were driven out.’

A corrected version of the article appears on our website.

 

Letters /FRFI 237 Feb/Mar 2014

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 237 February/March 2014

Tony Blair and the spoils of imperialism

Imperialism pays its own well. At the beginning of January accounts filed by two businesses owned by Tony Blair – Windrush Ventures and Firerush Ventures – reveal combined cash assets of £13.4m, the product of a bumper year which saw Windrush Ventures draw in post-tax profits of almost £2m, a £650,000 rise on 2012. This income augments the former Labour Prime Minister’s growing personal wealth, which is estimated at £70m and includes a multimillion-pound London townhouse and a seven-bedroom stately home in Buckinghamshire.

Since leaving office in 2007 Blair has established a growing network of global consultancies, with clients including JP Morgan, Zurich International and the governments of Colombia, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Peru and Vietnam. On 15 December 2013 The Telegraph revealed that he made at least seven advisory visits to Guinea between 2011 and 2013, coinciding with a £3bn bauxite mining deal between the Guinean government and the Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala; Blair advises both. More recent meetings in August 2013 took him to the luxury resort of St Tropez, where he held discussions aboard a private superyacht with Egypt’s second richest man, Naguid Sawiris. They discussed the restoration of order in Egypt, where the tycoon has pledged to invest $1bn in spring 2014 alone. Sawiris has his own proposal to ‘restore’ order – banning protests for two years.

FRFI readers may be interested in their own personal meeting with Blair. Price tags reach up to £250,000 a session.

JACK EDWARDS

Birmingham


Disability cuts – a fight to be won

I am an autistic adult facing cutbacks to my support. Last year Manchester’s Learning Disability Partnership, run by the Labour council, reduced my support hours (individual budget) from 10 hours to six hours. After I appealed, they offered me an ‘increase’ to eight hours’ support, meaning I’d still lost two hours. After months of complaining and putting pressure on the council and Partnership, I went to an investigator, the ombudsman. Finally, my funding was reinstated and I was compensated for the lost hours and support payments. But only because I did something about it. My experience shows that there’s a fight that can be won against the ‘redefined social care offer’ and against Labour’s cuts.

I have a friend in a wheelchair and they’re trying to cut her 24-hour support, saying she doesn’t need it. She is paralysed and lives in a house without support – if there’s a fire she can’t do anything about it. There are cuts at every single level. I’ve been fighting over my hours for a year and now they’re talking about reassessing me again. We need to organise a campaign of people and get outside the Social Services offices on the panel days when they’re cutting funds and stop them – get on the megaphone so they can’t talk about cuts! I want to thank Manchester RCG for helping me in my struggle.

ZACH JACKSON

Old Trafford


Full-tilt towards fascism

On 30 January Parliament voted to amend the latest, already draconian, Immigration Bill so that British citizens who were not born here can be stripped of their citizenship if suspected of terrorism. Another racist amendment, preventing foreign national prisoners from opposing deportation on the basis that human rights law protects their right to family life, was defeated.

Both the parliamentary debate and the media coverage surrounding it showed the ingrained racism of the British ruling class, with MPs of all parties arguing over the relative merits of attacking foreign national prisoners, eastern European migrants or terrorism suspects. Among those MPs putting themselves to the right of Conservative Home Secretary Teresa May by supporting the latter amendment, which the government did not endorse, were Labour former ministers Hazel Blears and Keith Vaz, as well as one-time leader of Manchester council Graham Stringer.

The original Bill, introduced by Teresa May in October 2013, a contains a raft of restrictive measures, including a requirement for landlords and GPs to check the immigration status of tenants and patients. Anti-racism campaigners sometimes say that we are ‘sleep walking towards fascism’. With May in charge at the Home Office, and an ‘opposition’ filled with racists like Blears, it would be more accurate to say we are rushing full tilt towards it.

NICKI JAMESON

London


Spanish squat fights for survival

La Casika is a social centre in Madrid, which has been squatted for 16 years. It is now under threat of closure by the local authorities. It is a space for community self-organisation, through an assembly of the unemployed, a ‘Stop evictions’ campaign and a centre for all activists in the municipality. For 16 years, musicians, film-makers and poets have had this platform to express their art, and the working class has had cultural opportunities for free. La Casika defends direct action and free culture, so last Christmas we sneaked into the official parade to give away 2,000 children’s books.

Now we face closure. The authoritarian mayor and fascist police do not want this popular, anti-capitalist project to continue, as it is coordinating the efforts of many groups and that poses a threat to them. On 18 January around 4,000 people came out in our town to defend us. We will continue to fight in the courts and the streets against this corrupt capitalist system. As we say ‘support, defend and love’.

LA CASIKA

Mostoles, Madrid


Booker Prize author backs GDC

On 28 January, the trial of one of the ‘Glasgow against Atos 2’ was adjourned. It is now a year since two of us were arrested for using a megaphone on a protest against cuts in February 2013. On the eve of the postponed trial, we received this statement of solidarity from the award-winning Scottish writer and activist James Kelman:

‘People have a right to question. The police and legal system should do all in their power to support that right. Even when the subject under scrutiny is the authoritarian behaviour of the permanent state and its political apparatus. Instead of defending the people, the police and legal system protect the tyrant and attack, condemn and criminalise those who offer resistance. It is beneath contempt. People in Scotland are watching the actions of the police and the legal system here today. My best wishes to the Glasgow Defence Campaign.’

We urge others to follow Kelman’s principled stand.

GLASGOW DEFENCE CAMPAIGN

http://glasgowdefencecampaign.blogspot.com

 

Letters / FRFI 236 Dec 2013/Jan 2014

 

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 236 December 2013/January 2014

Protest outside Strangeways heard loud and clear inside

As I sat reading the last few pages of Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, on Sunday 3 November, in my cell on HMP Manchester’s torture unit (Specialist Intervention Unit) I was disturbed as usual. Loud noise coming from outside began to distract me and I heard my name…

So I was pleasantly surprised when I listened closer to the racket which then became a sweet melody. A protest outside the prison, demanding an end to solitary confinement and my transfer out of this hell hole, was reverberating throughout my cell.

I had never thought that an event like this could have such a positive effect upon me, but feeling the support in this way is so much more powerful than I expected.

I arrived at Manchester on 13 June for what was supposed to be only a three-month stay. The psychological warfare inflicted at all Close Supervision Centre locations has been supplanted with physical torture, such as starvation, deprivation of oxygen and natural light and, of course, assault. I needed this protest to defend against all these abuses as my voice has been too easily suppressed.

Thank you to everyone who came and all those who stopped to find out what it was about. Hopefully it has been enough to force a move for me into improved conditions and I will let you all know as soon as this occurs. I appreciate the time and effort put in by all, including those involved in the organisation who could not make the journey on the day. Even Ann Boleyn did not have a demonstration outside the Tower of London in the book, so it is nice to know I am cared about more than royalty! If the time comes for another demonstration I look forward to the sensation your support will bring.

Thank you again. Let’s put an end to torture in English prisons.

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE

HMP Manchester


 

Greek SWP’s role in fighting fascism

I am surprised, but not shocked, to note that you can witter through a whole article on Greek anti-fascism and the so-called failure of the left to defend migrants without once mentioning KEERFA. This is a left-initiated united front which has defended migrant workers on farms in Thessaly and actually led the march on Golden Dawn’s HQ which you praised! Is it possible that your omission is down to the fact that KEERFA was the creation of the Greek SWP and you cannot bear to admit it? Revolutionary honesty goes two ways, comrades!

Jim Nicholls

Dorset Socialists and Dorset SWP

FRFI reply

Where organisations lead serious campaigns, we do not censor their role because we may disagree with them, so we are happy to accept this additional information. Such actions by the Greek SWP, however, should be contrasted to those of its British counterpart, which loses no opportunity to tailor its anti-fascism to the requirements of its reactionary Labour Party allies. Your Greek comrades would be shocked to learn that Newcastle SWP members helped Labour councillors finger FRFI supporters for arrest at an anti-EDL rally in May 2013.


 

Money: the great economic swindle

Regarding the problems of imperialism, and whether socialism can provide any answers, one important point which is rarely discussed is the creation of money as a useful exchange system.

Most countries borrow money from a central bank. For example, since 1694 our government has been borrowing money from the Bank of England and the national debt has accumulated to well over one trillion pounds and can never be repaid under the present system. In the late 17th century, William Paterson, one of the instigators of the foundation of the bank, wrote: ‘The Bank has benefit of interest on money it creates out of nothing’. For this very admission the national debt should be repudiated. If a central bank is allowed to create money out of nothing with interest attached, then all governments could just as easily create the money interest-free and spend it into the economy, thus ridding themselves of the parasitical nature of the central banking system. We don’t have an economic crisis, we have an economic swindle. Most people, including politicians, economists, teachers, journalists and even bankers are ignorant of the creation of money. We need to educate others about the history of this major problem, otherwise we can only stumble from crisis to crisis, discussing issues of minor importance, with no real answer in sight. As Mayer Amschel Rothschild said, ‘Let me control a nation’s money and I care not who writes its laws’.

DAVID MATHIESON

Fife


 

Southwark’s social cleansing

The occupiers of Southwark’s most expensive council house in Park Street, now sold for a little under £3m, have finally been forced out by the council after a protest that began on 28 October against the sell-off of council property. Meanwhile, the last resident of the Heygate Estate at Elephant & Castle was finally forced out by bailiffs at the beginning of November. The Heygate Estate once contained 1,200 units of social housing. It was flogged off to private developers for the cut-rate price of £50m. When the development is complete, it will contain just 79 units of social housing. Compensation to former residents is barely a third of the price of the new private flats, the cheapest of which costs £350,000. A nearby private development, One The Elephant, contains precisely no social housing and no affordable housing. When pressed over this, the developers said it would have been too expensive to include the separate stairwell and entrance needed to maintain the ‘exclusivity’ of the private flats – obviously, you don’t pay those kind of prices to then have to mingle with the riff-raff!

Cat Wiener

South London


 

Whitewashing health inequality

A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal (5 November 2013) reveals that as part of the public sector cutbacks the Office of National Statistics is intending to stop collecting data on and producing analysis of inequalities in health.

So no longer will there be up-to-date figures on how deprivation causes premature death and shortened disability-free life expectancy. No longer will it be possible to see how infant mortality is disproportionately high in minority ethnic groups and amongst the working class. No longer will it be possible to monitor excess winter deaths among pensioners, and how fuel and housing poverty affect health. What better way for a millionaire government to squash an inconvenient and damning issue than to suppress the evidence?

GORDON TEAL

Leeds


 

Return to the sweatshop

Working conditions in British call centres are increasingly returning to the values of the Victorian sweatshop. I’ve worked in a call centre for nearly seven years. Rules are ever stricter, with a growing list of sanctions.

The time agents spend logged into the system is closely monitored. If an agent is late by one minute then they are docked 15 minutes’ pay. The same is true if a worker logs out of the system one minute early. If an agent is logged in but on an auxiliary code that prevents them from taking a call in the last few minutes of their shift this is classed as call avoidance and can mean instant dismissal. On the other hand, if someone takes a call three minutes before the end of their shift that lasts 15 minutes they would not get paid overtime, as this is only paid in 15-minute increments.

Breaks are also strictly monitored and the half-hour lunch is unpaid. The company will not allow a trade union.

SCOTT

Glasgow

 

 

Letters - FRFI 235 Oct/Nov2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

Zero-hour slave labour
I am writing to share my personal experience of the effects of the dismantling of the welfare state and the rotten benefits system in this country. This summer after graduating, I attempted to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance as I was only working three hours a week because of my zero-hour contract. However, due to the fact I live with my partner I am not entitled to any unemployment or housing benefit, even though my partner is also on a zero-hour contract working part-time for minimum wage. How can the state expect his salary to sustain both of us to live, eat and pay rent? This is the harsh reality of the punitive benefits system – it is designed to pay out virtually nothing, whilst maintaining the illusion of a class of ‘benefit scroungers’ and ‘skivers’.

I have now gained employment in the form of another zero-hour contract job, but am still struggling with financial insecurity as I am not guaranteed any hours in either. It seems that I may need to work three separate jobs just to gain full-time hours. Forcing the unemployed and the poor into accepting zero-hour and casual contracts is highly exploitative, as usually people are not entitled to be paid sickness benefit and may substantially lose out on any bonuses or financial incentives. This is very profitable for employers, who have less responsibility to pay for staff they may not need, creating a disposable work force willing to work in poor conditions for low pay.

However this causes constant anxiety for such workers, as my partner and I do not know from one week to the next whether we will earn enough money to pay our rent. As the banks continue to get bailed out and imperialist countries prepare for yet another war in the Middle East, it is the poor and the unemployed who bear the brunt of the crisis, stripped of basic welfare provision and left helpless.

LOUISE GARTREL, Glasgow

Release in sight?
How’s this for an oddity? I’ve just received a letter from my solicitor telling me that the parole board have recommended my release. No lifer testing – no town visits – no home leave – horrendous risk factors given to me by this prison – and yet I’m recommended for release?

I’ve still not had a reply from the Director of Public Prosecutions regarding the private prosecution of the forensic scientist involved in my case so I’ve been busy over the last few months sending out lots of data to the Ministry of Justice, Home Affairs Select Committee, Parole Board, Home Office – anyone I could think of!

Cardiff University has asked for permission to give the details of my case to a bunch of reporters who are doing a write-up on people fighting their cases, so naturally I agreed. Whether my case is actually used, who knows? But it should be made public knowledge – the more the public know, the less chance of a cover-up. Together we will win.

TERENCE ALLEN, A6119AD HMP Leyhill

Victory against censorship
I am writing to let you know that the governor has now allowed me to have your newspaper. Thank you for sending me FRFI and for complaining to the governor for not giving it to me. If it wasn’t for your letters of support and the intervention of the Prisoners Advice Service I doubt I would have been allowed it. So thank you and keep up the good work of fighting oppression.

ROSS MACPHERSON, A6791AD HMP Dovegate
(Since writing this letter, Ross has been released)

Sterling DPRK internationalism
I would like to add a couple of things to ‘Hypocritical outcry over Cuban arms to North Korea’ (FRFI 234). Apparently the sailors of the captured ship were held in Panama without Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) diplomats having access to them. Thus they were denied consular and legal advice, a violation of human rights and international law, by the US imperialists and their reactionary Panamanian puppets.

This contrasts with the treatment of Kenneth Bae in the DPRK. Bae, a US spy, was arrested for the worst acts of counter-revolutionary activity in the DPRK since 1956, which could lead to the death penalty or life imprisonment. He was afforded the assistance of the Swedish embassy (on behalf of the US which has no embassy in the DPRK) and offered the services of a lawyer which he declined.

All the DPRK was doing was helping Cuba out by repairing old weapons. It has given much international assistance to Cuba in the past, such as supplying free automatic rifles in the 1980s. It also sent KPA pilots to Vietnam during the war, and supported Egypt against Israel in the 1973 war. A sterling internationalist record indeed.

DERMOT HUDSON Via email

 

Letters /FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

Disabled and still fighting

As someone who is registered as partially sighted, and long-term unemployed, I have great sympathy with the thousands of disabled people made redundant from the Remploy factories in Britain. This scurrilous government closed the fifty-odd factories set up in 1944 to provide sheltered employment for damaged and disabled ex-service personnel returning from the war. With service personnel now returning from war zones all across the world, many losing their jobs and suffering the problems connected with war and redundancy, these places will be desperately needed in the future.

Despite government claims that Remploy workers would get jobs in the private sector, most have not and probably will not. Remploy provided gainful employment for many disabled people. It was a lifeline for many.

Despite my disability I spent 20 years in heavy engineering at the same company in Lincoln until Thatcher’s government came along. The company closed and I lost my job.

I thought perhaps I might have had a job for life, my own little house, and very little debt. Like many others I now have no job, huge debts and last year my wife and I faced eviction from our home – it was touch and go whether we ended up out on the street. When our endowment mortgage matured this year, we found it left us several thousand pounds short and the future looked bleak. Luckily we were able to pay it back but times are savagely tough.

Certainly most of our problems are exacerbated by this government, forcing many to live on the bread line – not that I have faith in any of the main political parties. However, like your paper I will continue to fight the system. I currently wear with pride my 26 July Movement T-shirt, given to me by comrades in socialist Cuba. Socialism is the only answer – we need to get out on the streets like the people of north Africa and confront the forces of reaction.

Robert Redford

Lincoln


 

Don’t give up the fight for justice

I really enjoyed reading FRFI 233 and Nicki Jameson’s well-written article about prisoners’ rights, as well as Helen Yaffe’s report on former Black Panther Assata Shakur. My heart goes out to Assata and I salute her for her continuing solidarity with other people and the price she is still paying for it. Although I have never been in direct contact with Assata, I’ve been a good friend of Sundiata Accoli, who is still serving time in the state of Pennsylvania, US and who was arrested at the same time as Assata.

In October last year, I was deported from England after spending 26 years, ten months and eight days as a hostage of the state. My solicitor and barrister have been fighting my case with the help of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. I feel confident that I’ll receive justice but no amount of money can ever compensate me for those lost years.

My thanks also go to FRFI for your ongoing help and support, and hopefully sooner rather than later we can all be travelling on that victory train. I also understand that I’m not the only person to have been wrongfully convicted on fabricated evidence and my advice to all those who’ve suffered such miscarriages of justice is to keep fighting and don’t give up! I’ll be happy to help and support with letters from Finland, where I am now, if others want to write to me.

PETER HAKALA

Mikkeli, Finland


 

Still detained under a Nazi law

Thanks to all readers and supporters who make it possible for prisoners like me to read FRFI. It is such an important voice, particularly in the times we live in at the moment.

I have finished my sentence of 16 years and nine months, but the German state is keeping me in prison for a so-called ‘preventive detention’ (PD) period of ten years. The PD was introduced in 1933 by the Nazis; in 1952 the Supreme Court of Eastern Germany outlawed the PD as a ‘specifically fascist’ law. But the courts in West Germany never get a guilty conscience, so they continue to use this Nazi law, with no sign that it will end.

Down with preventive detention! A clenched fist salute,

THOMAS MEYER-FALK

(www.freedom-for-thomas.de)

Buchsal, Germany


 

Mental torture at Woodhill CSC

The Close Supervision Centre system currently holds around 40 prisoners, 16 of whom are held at HMP Woodhill. Of these 16, only five of us have never been resident at, rejected from or are currently being referred to a mental health hospital, that I know of.

How can the prison system justify the detention of prisoners within the most oppressive conditions in the system when so many of them are suffering from severe mental health issues? And how can it be deemed lawful to force the few of us who have not yet lost our minds under these tortuous conditions, to mix with prisoners who are so mentally ill that they cannot be kept within the prison environment?

Where are all the mental health campaigners? How can such a blatant disregard for the care of the most vulnerable minds in prison be ignored? This is an issue which has gone unchecked for years, resulting in self-harm, suicide attempts and irreparable damage. An example of this is Lee Foye, who severed both his ears at Woodhill CSC in 2011. After being accepted into Rampton Hospital and once a full assessment of his mental health had been completed, he was able to come off all his anti-psychotic medication as it turned out he was ‘suffering from environmental stress at Woodhill’. How many of us will have to go the way of Foye before anyone begins to take notice?

KEVAN THAKRAR

now at HMP Manchester

 

Letters/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

Benefits system failing the poor

I am a school-home support worker working in two London primary schools and can see that some of our families are being driven to despair by an increasingly punitive benefit system. Such families are far from being the ‘scrounging scum’ the tabloid press derides; rather, they are decent parents who worry about their children’s future and are stressed out about the lack of jobs available.

One parent I know who could not apply for the required 14 jobs a week was ‘sanctioned’ whilst on jobseeker’s allowance, leaving her with a mere £40 a week for both her and her son to live on. She was forced to go to an emergency food bank. Subsequently her housing benefit was stopped because she was no longer receiving the full jobseekers! This is a Catch-22 nightmare. She is in a state of panic worrying if she will be evicted for non-payment of rent and she has been asking how she will feed her child.

In fact the shocking fast growth in food banks throughout the UK just highlights the failure of the current benefits system: last year more than 350,000 desperate people needed emergency food and this number will escalate as a result of the government’s recent welfare reforms. I hope that some of the parents will take inspiration from the Counihan Sanchez Family Housing campaign. Thank you for providing coverage of this as it inspires people to get organised in their communities and fight back against attacks on their security.

Ayesha Taylor

North London


 

Prisoner seeks assistance with case against negligent solicitors – can you help?

I am writing in the hope you will be able to help me. The problem I have is to do with a civil court action in the Central London County Court.

In 2005 I acquired the services of a solicitors’ firm to represent me in my appeal. For two years this firm ignored me and then forgot my case. When I complained, they denied representing me and would not return any of my property.

I then complained to the Legal Complaints Service (LCS) and the solicitors were found guilty of three counts of negligence. However, the LCS was unable to order to the solicitors to return my property. I appealed to the Legal Ombudsman with the same result.

During the investigation the LCS did not collect all the evidence I told them existed. As a result, I had to collect it myself. I then commenced County Court civil proceedings in 2009. The firm maintained a stance of denial. In 2011 the defendant found all my legal papers and sent them to a new solicitor.

I am still trying to proceed with the case, even though the Central London County Court has lost all the papers on three occasions, and I have not heard anything from the court since 2011. This firm deliberately withheld my case papers for five years and has caused me immeasurable damage and stress, as well as incalculable damage through loss of evidence that can now never be obtained due to data protection time limits on preserving evidence.

I have been held in segregation for the last three and a half years and have developed serious health problems as a result of all this. Recently there have also been some new developments in my case and the CCRC is currently reviewing it. This should have been done seven years ago if this firm had done as promised.

I have spent thousands of hours and thousands of pounds borrowed from family to pursue this issue, and I keep meeting obstacles because, I believe, I am an unrepresented prisoner with little legal expertise. I have tried to seek alternative legal representation before, but I suspect that no solicitor is willing to sue another solicitor. I am writing to you in the hope that someone will be willing to help me. I do not even need a solicitor – just someone who is willing to write letters to the court, who can do some internet research for me and who has a bit of civil court knowledge.

George Black A3887AE

HMP Whitemoor, Longhill Road, March, Cambs PE15 0PR


 

The case against Pervez Musharraf

News of the former president of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, being taken into custody is welcome. His time in office was full of allegations of abuses, which were confirmed in his memoir In the line of fire. His boasts include the illegal rendition of more than 500 people to the United States, many of whom were later found to be innocent but still languish in Guantanamo. He admitted to the many financial incentives the US offered for these people, as though renditioning of people was a legitimate way of increasing funds to Pakistan’s treasury. One could say it was a form of export.

It was Musharraf who gave the order in 2007 for the attack on the Red Mosque in Islamabad which left 1,300 people dead or missing, many of them women.

Musharraf also illegally detained judges, which is the basis for the current case against him. He did so after sacking the Chief Justice and imposing emergency rule. One of the motives for this was that the Chief Justice was questioning the government about the ‘disappearing’ of its citizens by various agencies – also, by the way, at the request of the US.

However, Pervez Musharraf could never have succeeded without the backing of the most influential institutions in Pakistan, the Army and the Intelligence Services.

The last and most significant atrocity committed by Musharraf is the torture that he has openly admitted. It was used not only against alleged ‘terrorists’ but also against survivors of the Red Mosque siege, lawyers, judges and ordinary citizens. It is applied wholesale in Pakistan – again encouraged by the US and other western countries.

Ironically, Musharraf returned to Pakistan under the pretext of bringing back ‘progress and security’ – yet the current lawlessness prevailing in the country is due to the decisions he and his successors made. And it is those very victims of his in the judiciary who could finally bring down justice on him!

Rangzieb Ahmed A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton, York, Y041 1PS


 

Was Chavez assassinated?

Thank you for the latest FRFI (April/May 2013). Superb stuff, especially on the Cuban elections and on Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. I would add one detail – that many supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution are convinced that Chavez was assassinated, through the introduction of radiation by CIA agents. This was one of the 638 ways to kill Fidel Castro exposed in a Channel 4 documentary a few years ago. As for US motives – where to start? The Comandante’s use of Venezuelan oil to benefit the people rather than monopolies? His friendship with Cuba? The list is endless.

To conclude: all progressives can say of Chavez what Engels said at the grave of Marx: ‘Above all he was a revolutionist. In the struggle, he was in his element. Humanity is shorter by a head and a large one at that.’

Mike Webber

Aylesbury, Bucks


 

Bedroom tax scam

I was recently told to pay the bedroom tax. I’m currently a student and working. Paying tax, living my life and getting by like most people I know. My housing benefit has recently been slashed since I have a third bedroom – which I did not ask for, like most of the residents in my block of flats. The housing association’s answer to the problem? Demolish all the blocks! Yes, despite homelessness being at at crisis point and housing associations in many areas putting people into B&Bs for lack of social housing, at the same time they’re knocking down 96 homes to build private flats. The housing trust has given me eight weeks to find somewhere else. They’ve been planning this since September 2011 and said nothing till now. My debt (I was already behind before they brought in the bedroom tax) will be taken out of any compensation. With no promise of somewhere safe I have to start from scratch. Meanwhile people on benefits are painted in the media in a bad light. The most recent example is Channel 4’s Skint, which shows people on jobseeker’s allowance mocking people in a full-time job. It’s all about creating scapegoats to distract from the reality of how the majority are treated. Is this any kind of fair representation? I’d like to see Channels 4’s programme ‘for’ welfare, if there ever is one.

Sam Knowles

Wythenshawe, Manchester


 

Thatcher’s real legacy

I was speaking to a prisoner from Wales following the death of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and he described how, as a boy, he had gone to work in one of the three mines near his home. At the time all three mines were visible from his front door. Soon there was no visible indication that they had ever been there.

After the mines closed, he and many others became unemployed, and my man was active in the demonstrations against the closures. I was told of extreme brutality by ‘army disguised as police’ which included ‘stabbing with pointed shields’ and stamping on the bare feet of demonstrators. My man knew miners’ leader Arthur Scargill and corresponded with him, and he shared a good deal of his pleasure in hearing that Mrs Thatcher had passed away. What he told me indicates what Mrs Thatcher’s ‘legacy’ really is and I was not surprised when he told me ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today [ie prison] were it not for her’.

George Coombes

Brighton

 

Letters /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

In memory of Hugo Chavez

In response to the RCG’s message of condolence and solidarity on the death of Hugo Chavez, we received this reply from the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Thank you very much for your kind message.

During this difficult time for us as Venezuelans, your words were greatly appreciated.

In spite of Chavez’s absence, we will always carry with us his example, perhaps the most important of which was his true dedication and constant perseverance to realise his dreams of independence, sovereignty, justice and solidarity.

Thanks again for your support.

SAMUEL MONCADA

Ambassador


 

‘All of Cuba is hurting for Chavez’

I was in Cuba on 5 March when the death of Hugo Chavez was announced. It had been clear from the night before that he was seriously unwell but his death still came as a shock. On the Cubavision evening news veteran newsreader Rafael Serrano delivered the government statement expressing condolences to Chavez’s family, describing Chavez as a ‘son of Cuba’ and rededicating itself to ‘the unity of revolutionary forces and the integration and independence of Our America’. Serrano was visibly moved as he ended the statement with the words ‘Hasta la victoria siempre!’

The following day as I walked around Havana the overall feeling was one of deep loss. As one man told me: ‘All of Cuba is hurting for Chavez’.

On 7 March I joined thousands and thousands of people queuing to get into Revolution Square to show their solidarity with Chavez and the people of Venezuela at a special memorial. People of all ages and backgrounds stood in line for up to six hours to pay their respects: military cadets, young girls carrying flowers, older men and women from the local CDRs, workers from the Havana West science institutes, Honduran students carrying their national flag.

Similar sites had been set up in cities across the country. In Santiago the first visitor to the memorial was Raul Castro, who placed a white rose in front of Chavez’s picture, before flying to Caracas to attend the funeral the following day.

FRFI READER

North London


 

Chavez’s revolution will carry on

Thank you for your letter. Yes, it was sad to hear the news about the death of Hugo Chavez. He did good things for Venezuela, especially for the poor. I hope this good work carries on after his death and they do not adopt this greedy capitalism. His revolution will carry on and hopefully be adopted by more countries.

I’m doing well. Regarding my civil case [against the British government and security services for alleged collusion in torture] we are still waiting for in camera documents from the government. The European Court of Human Rights has currently put my case on hold until the civil case is over. As you’ll have seen, the government is trying to pass through a law which will allow them to have secret courts for such cases.

Thank you for all your help in this difficult time and carry on the good work.

RANGZIEB AHMED A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton

 

Fighting evictions in Brent / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

Readers of FRFI will have been following the struggle of the Counihan Sanchez family in Brent, London, to get the council to provide adequate housing, not just for themselves, but for all families in need in the borough. Teenager SARAH COUNIHAN SANCHEZ writes here about her experience of her family’s fight to get Brent Council to face up to its responsibilities and provide proper housing for her family.

We all hear about cuts being enforced, but do we all know what they actually mean? Not everyone is aware of what is ahead, but everyone has the right to know how they are going to be affected if they have not been already. We must stand up and stand together and fight; we can’t be scared as it’s our homes we are fighting for. My personal experience of housing problems has opened my eyes to what people are facing and the sad thing is that there is still more to come.

Homelessness is not something you would expect to happen to you. Being evicted from your home is a very difficult thing and it is happening to more and more people. The cuts are affecting so many people and this is not right; these are some of the reasons our campaign started. Last year was a hard year and no one should go through losing their home the way so many families have. The campaign is now a big family and the positive thing about having these hard experiences is meeting people that share your views and that will fight with you for what is right and what we all deserve.

The Counihan Sanchez Family Housing Campaign (CSHC) has tried to make efforts with the councillors of Brent, asking them to sign a pledge against evictions in the area; this has been asked by different members of the campaign to different members of the council, with all of them refusing to do so. My mum Isabel Counihan Sanchez asked Muhammed Butt (leader of Brent Council) at a Labour Representation Committee meeting earlier this month to sign this pledge after he spoke about how he didn’t like the cuts, but he refused.

Our local authorities are meant to help us and fight for the people in the borough, but this doesn’t seem to be happening. I said to Mary Arnold (Kilburn councillor and Brent lead member for children and families) why can’t Brent be the first borough to stand up and say NO to these cuts. Why do the vulnerable people have to suffer and pay? People are being moved out of their homes, their communities, and away from their families.

After a Brent Fightback meeting earlier in January Jim from our campaign asked Brent councillor Claudia Hector to sign the pledge against evictions and cuts. She refused to do so, made untrue statements about the Counihan family and accused us of bullying her. We need councillors that are willing to shout with us, not against us!

The impression given by councillors when you talk to them is that they don’t like the cuts but they can’t do anything about it. They won’t take a stand, but they need to; we all do. People are being pushed out of their areas; the working class are being forced out of London. Bus companies are paying new drivers a lower wage than longstanding drivers receive for doing the same job! Who will drive our buses and trains? Where will children go to school? Who will work in shops, clean our streets and do all of the other jobs that need to be done?

We need to fight for our rights and show that we do not like how we are being treated and that we deserve more! Our councils have the power to fight for the people in their borough, and that’s what councils should be doing! The way councils treat people, sending eviction letters to people without helping them with where to go and sending people to houses to ensure people have moved, is just not right. People are receiving eviction letters for unpaid rent, but with rent being so high, jobs being hard to get, and benefits being cut, what do they expect? We do not deserve this, and as these people are elected and are doing this job to fight for people in the borough, we should be fought for!

No to evictions, no to cuts!

In 2013, we will be continuing to fight, and we hope everyone will continue to fight with us, we can achieve something if we believe it! 2013 needs to be a year of raising awareness, standing together and showing that we don’t agree with what is taking place.

CSHC intends to do this and to try and help people who are having housing difficulties and anyone opposed to the cuts. Everyone is able to join this campaign and join the fight. If we all come together, our voices will be louder.

Our next public meeting is on Thursday 31 January 7-9pm. Salvation Army,

55 Chichester Road, Kilburn London NW6 5QW.

To get involved in campaign events call Jimmy Mac on 07958 157 392. The campaign is on Facebook at Counihan Battlebus and Counihan Sanchez Housing Campaign.

 

Letters / FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

An Israeli ‘welcome’

Palestine is a dirty word in Israel as we who joined the ‘Welcome to Palestine Initiative 2012’ found to our cost.

Originally there had been 36 of us, but 22 activists were told they would not be allowed on the Israeli plane. On arrival at Tel Aviv airport, the rest of us presented our passports and were asked our destination. When we replied ‘Palestine’, we were quickly sidelined. My carer and I soon found ourselves locked in the back of an armoured truck with two goons with Kalashnikovs across their laps sat on a box of ammunition with a sticker of a sniper above their heads.

I am registered partially sighted and have the use of a symbol cane, not for me to get around but to simply indicate I have a problem.

We spent the next five days in jail and were then deported. Since the Palestinian prisoners were on hunger strike at the time we decided to join them but as the food was not very good this did not seem a problem.

After a few days we had a visit from Israeli robocops in full riot gear. They pounded down the corridor rattling the bars with the batons. Although what they thought the Palestinian hunger strikers were going to do in response after a couple of months without food we really did not know.

Finally after five days we were brought out onto the runway where our flight home was waiting only for the pilot to say he would only take two of us. However, the Israelis threatened to arrest him and impound the aeroplane which would only be released on payment of a fine of 12,000 shekels, and so he backed down. Despite this, the cabin crew were very supportive and seemed very sympathetic to our ordeal.

We then flew back to Manchester to a welcome from friends and supporters. However, the airport authorities made us wait until passengers hostile to our cause were let through. It seemed that there had been some collusion with the Israelis. So it seems that Palestine is a dirty word in both Israel and Britain.

Robert Redford

Lincoln


 

Peter Hakala – free at long last

I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for supporting my fight for freedom. Do not ever give in or give up fighting for all the innocent and wrongly convicted, I will always salute and honour you all in your ongoing work.

In prison there are many wrongfully convicted people. In my case a listed police informer was sent back to Australia before giving court evidence. There is no forensic evidence against me. So, yes, I am angry. I am angry because I did not manage to say goodbye and farewell to my loving parents when they died. I am angry for spending over 26 long and painful years in prison.

In October I was moved from Monster Mansions [HMP Wakefield] to Belmarsh and then handcuffed onto a flight from Gatwick – destination Helsinki, Finland, accompanied by four handpicked UKBA agents. I was handcuffed all the way, with one officer each side of me and the two others sitting side by side, and received no food or drink.

When we touched down in Helsinki my guards were surprised as there were no authorities there to meet them. Finally, a very tall young pistol-carrying airport policeman came over and wanted to know who they were and from where. My escorts gave the Finnish airport police the UKBA paper work. But the Finnish police wanted more clarification as to why a native of Finland had been flown out from England in irons, having served over 26 years in prison there, and who hadn’t done anything in Finland and wasn’t wanted there for anything.

The Finnish airport policeman finally contacted Helsinki police who have similar authority to Scotland Yard. Then he turned to the leader of my escort and ordered him to remove my handcuffs. Two Helsinki policemen then arrived and told me I was a free person and at liberty to travel wherever I wished in my native Finland. So I was finally free from the evil English system, whose representatives now left with their tails between their legs.

I was only given £26.50. I slept at Helsinki airport that night with four bags of luggage. Next day, some different policemen took me to a temporary destination from where I moved to my present location.

Inside English prisons I still have good friends who are honest and loyal; they remain very near to my heart. My friend Kevan T was bullied and intimidated at Frankland when I was there, and because I kept supporting Kevan the screws turned against me in Monster Mansion.

I want to say to the many whom I call friends, that I will contact you all in due course: Paul F, Kev T, Danny C etc. And I say to you all – be survivors and stay strong.

I salute FRFI for your past, present and future support. Please continue to send the FRFI paper.

Peter Hakala

Lahti, Finland

Peter Hakala is a Finnish citizen, arrested in Britain in 1986 and charged with rape. After a first jury could not reach a verdict, he was convicted at a second trial and sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff of ten years. He has always protested his innocence. In October, under the terms of the ‘Tariff Expired Removal Scheme’ for foreign national prisoners, brought in as part of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders 2012, Peter was put on a plane under armed guard and dumped in Finland.


 

Atos’s oppressive regime

After filling out a capability for work questionnaire sent by the Department for Work and Pensions, I was summoned to attend for a medical by Atos, the company employed by the DWP to get you off disability benefits onto lower benefits, and ultimately back to work irrespective of your medical condition. In the waiting room, one woman let out a scream and told the reception desk, ‘I can’t do this, I’m leaving’, only to be told if she left before her medical her benefits would be stopped that day. She bolted for the door anyway. My name was called and I was escorted to a side room. The medical started with a mental health questionnaire – dozens of questions I mostly didn’t know the answer to, so I had to make it up. Then a physical test – stand up, hands above head, touch your toes, walk down the corridor...Back into the room to have my chest, back, feet and hands examined. At this point I asked ‘Are you a doctor?’ He replied ‘I am a health care professional’. He seemed totally uninterested in my condition, asking hardly any questions. Everything I said was typed into a computer, but I have no idea what he wrote.

I feel under assault by Atos and its employees but I am writing this to let your readers know that if they are called to an Atos centre they should attend otherwise they will stop your benefits. But remember that if the decision goes against you, the percentage of people winning on appeal against Atos is high. The ruling class is determined to make the working class and the poor pay the most as it implements its savage cuts.

Terry

Manchester


 

Abortion bans kill

The death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, refused a life-saving termination by doctors at an Irish hospital, was the shocking but inevitable consequence of laws restricting women’s right to abortion.

Savita was admitted to University Hospital, Galway already gravely ill, and begged doctors to terminate her 17-week pregnancy. They refused, on the basis that there was still a faint foetal heartbeat, telling her ‘This is a Catholic country’. She died in agony four days later from blood poisoning following a miscarriage. On 14 October, 10,000 people demonstrated in Dublin against the country’s restrictive abortion laws. There were also mass demonstrations in India, accusing Ireland of murdering women.

Ireland has a near-total ban on abortion in any circumstances, including rape, being under 16, or as in this case, where there is a threat to the mother’s life. The situation is only slightly less restrictive in the north of Ireland, the only part of the UK where the 1967 Abortion Act does not apply.

Several thousand women every year are forced to make the journey to England for terminations, but not everyone can afford it. The Abortion Support Network, which issues grants to Irish women seeking terminations abroad, told The Guardian that in the last three years the women it has helped included 19 rape victims, 21 with severe health problems and 21 girls under 16. A further six, they said, had attempted suicide in the past.

An ‘inquiry’ has been set up into why Savita Halappanavar died and whether her death was preventable. But the answer is simple: she died because she was denied the termination she asked for. As Mara Clarke, director of the Abortion Support Network, put it:

‘I am not an expert on the abortion law in Ireland but I am an expert on what happens to women when abortion access is restricted. The avoidable, disgusting, tragic, heartbreaking story of Savita Halappanavar is what happens...Let’s stop talking about whether or not abortion is right or wrong. When you ban abortion, you change it from being an issue of morality to an issue of class’.

Cat Wiener

South London


 

Errors on Syria

In your article Syria: covert intervention and the failure of the British left (FRFI 229 October/ November 2012), you state in the final paragraph that Assad and the Syrian government ‘was complicit with the suffering of the Palestinian people, supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq and participated in the US-led rendition programme’.

The point on Palestine is open to debate and although I agree with you overall on this, Syria deserves some credit at least comparatively with regards to other countries in the region considering refugees and its opposition to Israel etc.

However, Syria didn’t support the imperialist invasion of Iraq in 2003, which this article states. It had troops in the coalition of the first Gulf War but strongly opposed the 2003 occupation of Iraq. Syrian ambassador Mikhail Wehbe said he believed that the evidence presented by the US to the Security Council on Iraq’s weapons had been fabricated and that weapons of mass destruction were a mere pretext for a war motivated by the interests of Israel and the US companies that hoped to profit from post-war reconstruction contracts. Pretty damning condemnation!!

I do agree with the majority of the article, although I think Libya needed much more mention as the left failed miserably on Libya and allowed racist lynching and mass executions across the country and even allowed for the flattening of Sirte and Bani Walid all in the name of its romantic notions of revolution. But on the whole, I agree with a lot of what the article is saying.

However, I had to bring this up as it’s misinformed and misleading.

Ryan O’Neill

Trevor Rayne replies:

In the article referred to, the author states:?‘The repressive government of Assad and the Ba’athists...supported the imperialist invasion of Iraq’. The confusion occurs because while Syria did oppose the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in 1991 it was the first Arab country to condemn Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait and it contributed 20,000 troops to the Coalition forces’ invasion of Iraq in that year.


 

Radiant

I hope that you are all in salubrious health and radiant in revolutionary communist optimism in these most advantageous times of permanent capitalist-imperialist crisis.

I recently read your dynamic and excellent paper and really desire to be included on any list you have for free subscriptions for prisoners.

Joe Valentine

Pelican Bay state prison, US

 

Letters / FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

Support Basque political prisoners! No to extradition!

On Friday 13 July, Basque national Benat Atorrasagasti Ordonez was arrested in the Leith area of Edinburgh. The raid on his flat was the outcome of a lengthy joint operation between Spain’s Guardia Civil and Lothian and Borders police. A judge at the National Court in Madrid made a formal written request to the British authorities to detain him under a European Arrest Warrant. They duly complied.

Benat has a job in Britain, where he had been living openly with his wife and two young children for ten years. He appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff’s Court on 16 July for an initial extradition hearing, where the court heard that he was wanted under two extradition acts: one in France dating from 2006 where he was sentenced to five years imprisonment in his absence, the other to stand trial in Spain. Benat’s solicitor told the sheriff that his client ‘does not consent to extradition and denies any wrongdoing in France or Spain’ and went on to emphasise that Benat had made no attempt to conceal his identity, pointing out that he had a national insurance number and paid council tax and energy bills.

The court set the next hearing for 7 September, subsequently put back to 8 October. He is currently being held in Edinburgh’s Saughton prison. The Edinburgh-based James Connolly Society is supporting Benat in his fight against extradition and is ‘calling on the SNP government to intervene and allow Benat and his family to get on with their life in Scotland.’ FRFI demands an end to the Spanish state’s ruthless campaign against Basque political prisoners, independent political parties and trade unions.

Free Benat! Free all political prisoners!

DANIEL MCGARRELL

Glasgow

There will be an event in solidarity with Basque prisoners on 24 November at Brixton Jamm in south London from 12noon until late. More information from London Basque Solidarity – contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Rangzieb Ahmed: a step closer to justice?

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has given permission for Rangzieb Ahmed and Salahuddin Amin to challenge the British government for infringing their human rights by colluding with their torture at the hands of the Pakistani intelligence services (ISI).

Both men are serving life imprisonment on terrorism charges.

Rangzieb Ahmed, from Rochdale near Manchester, was detained by the ISI in 2005 at the request of MI5. He was shackled, beaten and deprived of sleep as well as having three fingernails pulled out with pliers, and interrogated with questions supplied by British security services. He was also questioned and threatened directly by MI5.

In 2008 he was sentenced to life imprisonment as an allegedly ‘high-ranking’ member of Al Qaeda. The jury was never informed of his ill-treatment and, in rejecting his application to appeal in 2011, Britain’s Supreme Court threw out any suggestion of British complicity in his torture.

Now the ECtHR has written to the British government demanding explanations on a number of issues relating to MI5 involvement in the men’s mistreatment; if the court does not receive satisfactory answers by the end of October, it will proceed to a full hearing which, if successful, will almost certainly lead to the British courts being forced to quash the convictions. Evidence obtained by torture is not permitted under British or European law.

In 2009, Ahmed was visited in his cell in Manchester by two men identifying themselves as MI5, who offered him a deal – money and a reduced sentence – in return for dropping his allegations of torture against them. How long can Britain persist in its official cover-up, when it is an open secret that it has colluded with torture and ill-treatment of detainees throughout the so-called ‘War against Terror’? If the case of Salahuddin Amin and Rangzieb Ahmed goes to a full hearing, it will blow the issue wide open once again.

Write to

Rangzieb Ahmed (A6326AC),

HMP Full Sutton,

York YO41 1PS

CAT ALLISON

South London

 

Boxing legends

I just wanted to congratulate Matt Kelly on the superb tribute to Teofilo Stevenson in FRFI 228. Some readers may be unaware of the context of Teofilo’s remark about the love of millions of Cubans being more important than money. US promoters had been trying to arrange a fight between him and Muhammad Ali, and the stumbling block was that for it to take place, Teofilo would have had to defect to the US and turn professional, as all sport in Cuba is amateur. This he would not do. It is noteworthy that while Ali described with much relish the thrashings he would mete out to rivals as distinguished as Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, his attitude to Teofilo was vastly more respectful, suggesting that had they ever met in the ring, it would have been a draw. This should not surprise – Ali won the admiration of a generation for refusing to fight for US imperialism in Vietnam. Teofilo deserves no less for refusing to desert besieged socialist Cuba to ingratiate himself with the US rulers imposing the siege.

MIKE WEBBER

Aylesbury

 

Opposing British Army recruitment

It was great to read in the last issue of FRFI about the two young activists who stood in front of the British army recruiting stalls at an education and employment fair.

Given the free rein the British army has over the British media it takes a great deal of courage to go against the carefully constructed wisdom that the army can do no wrong.

The fact that these young men have been willing to do so at such a young age and so publicly is tremendous credit to their ability to think freely against a barrage of propaganda.

I hope they are as proud of themselves as I was to read about their actions.

Steven McAvoy

Glasgow

 

No Olympic legacy for the working class

Cat Wiener is right to point out the militarisation of the Olympic Games (FRFI 228). But it is also the most commercialised ever. I feel quite sick at the level of involvement of corporations such as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. The ‘Olympic spirit’ has been bought out by these vicious capitalists. I am a resident of the east London borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived and racially mixed areas of the UK, and the truth is that to the vast majority of people here, the Olympics are irrelevant. Even if they could get ahead of the queue of corporate hospitality clients, they could not afford a ticket to the Games anyway. For poor working class people here there will be no ‘Olympic legacy’: just imagine how much better the £12bn could have been spent on jobs and housing.

By the way, the article under the banner ‘Lessons of history for communists’ by Robert Clough in the same issue was brilliant. I do hope that this strand will become a regular item in the paper. It was pitched just right for the general reader and most useful.

JON KEMPSTER

East London

 

Fight for a more equal future

Your article ‘Poverty and inequality in Britain’ (FRFI 228, August/ September) was a hard-hitting expose of how divided life is in the UK today. It really is shocking.

Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson have exposed how damaging income inequality can be. In their recent book The Spirit Level, they show how a wide gap between rich and poor actually makes our physical and mental health worse. Very unequal societies like the US and Britain can be really stressful and make people ill. Research also shows that high levels of inequality reduce levels of trust between people and cut social mobility. The educational performance of school children is also hit hard by a divided society. Everyone is affected, but the poor suffer most.

The Equality Trust has done some fascinating research on this issue. I recommend looking at their website at www.equalitytrust.org.uk. A more equal society would make us healthier and more successful. That’s the kind of future socialists should fight for.

GRAEME KEMP

Shropshire

 

Letters / 228 Aug/Sep 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

Racism in Lincolnshire

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! received this email from Lillian Madden, whose parents were Jamaican immigrants, documenting her fight against racism in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. Racist oppression is endemic in Lincolnshire: local agribusiness depends on the ruthless exploitation of immigrant labour from Portugal and more recently Eastern Europe. It is estimated that a dozen or so gangmasters hold 70-80,000 immigrant workers in thrall, forcing them to live in appalling accommodation and paying them a pittance. In Boston there have been two attempts to organise anti-immigrant marches; in Gainsborough itself an EDL supporter was jailed for three months for having 17 anti-Muslim posters in his windows.

‘I am sending you this email hoping that you would publish my story because I have tried to go to The Voice newspaper and they have been ignoring my emails.

For the past eight years my teenage daughter, who is now 18, and I have been subjected to direct racism, physical assault on two occasions, and neighbour abuse and harassment from people and the police in Gainsborough where I used to live and where I had been brought up as a young child.

In 2003 my daughter and I went to live in Gainsborough to stay with my father. However, as soon as we moved in, we suffered constant racism and physical and verbal abuse. This included a police officer who made a racist comment and who said laughingly said that being called a ‘nigger’ is no worse than being called a pig. His colleague asked ‘what are you doing here anyway?’.

In 2005 I made an official complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), as a result of which a police officer was disciplined and another police officer was given ‘words of warning’. Although I believed the Lincolnshire police to be institutionally racist this was not acknowledged in the IPCC report. The Lincolnshire police did not have a Hate Crime Policy until I made the complaint.

I also made a complaint in 2006 and 2011 because my daughter and I were still being subjected to racism. On 14 June and 24 August 2011 I had bricks thrown through my windows which just missed my head. The police said that I was exaggerating and they wrote a letter stating that they could not protect me. I decided to flee my family home with my daughter because we were not safe. The police knew who the perpetrator had been because they told me and my family that they had caught him with evidence on him. However the next day he was released because he had a alibi.

There have been numerous racial incidents against my daughter and I which I have documented in a diary and I have newspaper articles regarding the severity of problems my family have been subjected to. However the police and the local MP, Tory Edward Leigh, and local LibDem councillors Pat O’Connor and Mark Binns choose to ignore what is going on in this racist and bigoted town.

I am still trying to pursue action against the police because I believe my daughter and I should receive justice after losing the human right to our home which has been in the family since the 1960s. My parents who are Jamaican came to the United Kingdom to work hard and support our family. I and my daughter, both of us born in this racist country, have, like many black people, lost all faith in the justice system.’


Action against Atos in Glasgow

As the war on welfare intensifies it is the poor, sick and disabled, the people on the front line of the cuts, who are being forced to fight back. Increasing public awareness of the Coalition’s punitive Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is opening up new possibilities for resistance.

The company hired by the government on a contract worth over £100m to carry out the WCA, private French multinational Atos Healthcare, has had its test centres picketed and occupied. On 29 June Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! in Glasgow united with the Black Triangle Disability Rights Campaign, the Accord Campaign and the Merrylee Matters Campaign, to successfully picket an Atos centre – the first in a series of monthly pickets. A planning meeting ‘War on welfare: time for action!’ was held on 27 June. In this ongoing struggle it is vital to remember that it was a Labour government which first introduced the WCA and hired the services of Atos in 2008. Founding member of the Black Triangle campaign John McArdle pointed out that the Labour Party is as much if not more our ‘class enemy’ as the ConDem government.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has condemned the WCA and called for its immediate removal. This is welcome but will not be enough to mount a real challenge to the ruling class agenda. Resistance must be built from the street level up involving and in solidarity with the claimants under attack.

Thousands of claimants have been driven into deeper sickness, poverty, suicide or death by the WCA. All those who have been or know someone who has been targeted need to unite and to resist. 40% of claimants who appeal against Atos decisions are successful, rising to 70% for those who take up legal representation.

In addition, in July the minister for disabled people, Maria Miller, announced the closure of 27 of 54 Remploy factories which help provide jobs for people with disabilities. With all 54 factories expected to be shut down in the long term around 2,800 jobs will be lost. It is the duty of all progressive people to unite around the banner of the Remploy workers and incapacity benefit claimants for welfare, disability, employment and ultimately human rights. Future plans for anti-Atos work in Glasgow are currently being put in place and a Facebook page has been set up,‘Glasgow Against Atos’. To get involved contact 07734 348 065 or send a facebook message.

DOMINIC MULGREW

Glasgow, Scotland


Remember Peter Norman

The usual cropping of the photograph of Tommy Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics regrettably always leaves out the third man on the podium, who supported their anti-racist demonstration – Peter Norman. This white Australian, who wore the badge of the Olympic Project for Human Rights on the stand, was in with the plan for the protest and he suffered, like Smith and Carlos, for his political courage. He was an Australian 200m champion in 1966 and broke world records during the heats of the 1968 Games. From a poor background, having to borrow running shoes to compete, he was left out of Australia’s squad for the next Olympics despite qualifying 13 times over. He was not invited to participate in a VIP lap of honour at the 2000 Games in Sydney. As a teacher of physical education in Melbourne he was a union activist and addressed rallies of striking dock workers there. His nephew Matt Norman made a movie of his brave uncle and comrades and friends Carlos and Smith, called appropriately Salute!, which was released successfully in 2008. Peter Norman died in 2006. We salute you!

MICHAEL MCGREGOR

Dundee, Scotland


Desperate protest at Woodhill CSC

Constant lock-down whilst prison officers are paid to sit drinking tea, eating cakes and watching TV has finally led to protest by prisoners housed in the brutal Woodhill Close Supervision Centre (CSC) in Milton Keynes.

No access to phones, showers, time outside, in-cell electricity switched off, mail not being delivered and the unit governor refusing to do anything about it has resulted in seven out of the 16 cells being seriously damaged. Prisoners took to smashing their cells in frustration as the officers sat back, knowing it would create more work hours for them and more pay. The wing was flooded several times until water was turned off and prisoners left to go thirsty. Then the fires started...

Prison cells are very confined spaces with little ventilation, so setting a fire inside can be extremely dangerous, especially when the cell has no call system for alerting staff, as it was smashed days before. Normal practice would be to remove the prisoner from the cell of the fire, but not at Woodhill CSC. A small hole big enough only for the fire hose to fit is opened in the cell door, then the cell is flooded, with the prisoner and his belongings left drenched. Prisoners are then left in these wet cells full of smoke as a punishment. For one prisoner it was different. During the protest he attempted suicide by means of a cell fire, having first barricaded his cell. This was the second time in two months that he had done this and he had to be dragged from the cell semi-conscious. Prison staff then callously carried him to the top of the stairs, stood him up and left him to fall. In less than 24 hours he was transferred before he could make a complaint.

The cells have now been repaired and the prisoners all blamed for the events, but at least three of the victims of the Woodhill CSC managed to get a transfer as a result of the

protest.

Woodhill CSC prisoner


Socialist footsteps

I was very touched to read the letter from Michael in Dundee about his father in FRFI 227. Those parts of the struggle he mentions in Ireland and South Africa and the big rally at the Pier Head in Liverpool and the visits to the Soviet Union and Cuba were like retracing my own footsteps and those of my family. And as a small act of solidarity with Michael’s dad, Gerry, I am enclosing a cheque of £50 towards the FRFI Fighting Fund. Please let Michael know how much his letter was appreciated.

GARRY DEARDEN

Essex


FRFI: what a socialist newspaper should be

I want to tell you how informative and instructive I’ve found your newspaper FRFI. I was sent the April/May and June/July editions and have been reading them article by article. Look at the difference between your newspaper and the newspaper and magazine published by the Socialist Party. Yours is a proper newspaper – theirs is just a recruitment sheet. Yours is an exemplary publication. I am just impressed with your clear thinking. You make absolute sense to me. I feel sick after reading one edition of The Socialist. Sick of hearing about the Socialist Party. They ram themselves down your throat. Your publication tells the truth. And that is what socialism is all about or should be.

Your positions on Cuba and Venezuela reflect my own thinking. My heart is compassionate and I am coherent and comprehensive in my thinking. I like to look at the world as a whole. Much of my thinking came out of the USSR. I am opposed to America and its criminal practices. They are the biggest terrorist force in the world. There is no depth to which this dead-hearted monster won’t stoop.

I like the practical and ordinary nature of your newspaper. It is giving people ideas. It is helpful and detailed and open minded. It is original news reporting. We need information because the official sources of news are not trustworthy. The truth is being blacked out. We can’t trust their newspapers or television channels or the government or the official opposition. The enemy relies on a system of permanent lies. Everything they tell us is garbled and cannot in any way illuminate the actual state of affairs. The press is used to cover up their illegal activities. The police are not directed to investigate the real criminals in our society. They are directed to intimidate and harass and bully and persecute and prosecute the people through all possible avenues. We are being criminalised whilst the mass murderers are knighted and live in golden palaces. The police are part of the looting system since they ensure it can be left to do as it wishes without any interference. We can’t separate the police from the looting and mass murdering rich.

Elijah Traven

Hull

 

Letters / FRFI 227 June/July 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

LETTERS

An appreciation of my father Gerry 1934-2012

My father Gerry, who died this May, was a Scot of Irish origin, like so many of us here. His Uncle Peter became a member of Sinn Fein in Dundee, having learned of Irish history from the Molly Malones of Dublin town when he was stationed there with the British army in 1919.

My dad was never formally politically active himself, but he understood justice and was prepared to stand up for it. As a young lad, my friends and I were  stopped and threatened by the police for an alleged break-in at a nearby factory. We were all quite badly shaken up. My father took them on by complaining and soon we had inspectors coming up to the house to take statements. They were nice as pie with my folks around but once, they arrived with just me in the house and like the sneaks and bullies that they are, tried to intimidate me into dropping the complaints. My father was furious and went on to challenge this behaviour as well.

He along with my mum and aunty and uncle came down to the RCG’s very first Free Speech Rally in the City Square which was called in response to police arrests and loyalist threats against Irish Hunger Strike solidarity campaigners in 1981.

I still see him bawling at the TV as the BBC News showed British soldiers and police trying to drive the Irish people off their own streets with hundreds of plastic bullets fired during the massive funeral of hunger striker Joe McDonnell. I see him in the front row with my folks as Albertina Sisulu addressed a large public meeting in the city to build support for the struggle against racist apartheid. At Zimbabwe’s liberation he joked about going to greet ‘Uncle Bob’ Mugabe. I see him joining hundreds of thousands of his own generation on the huge protest march against Margaret Thatcher in Liverpool in the early 1980s.

He was a shop steward in NALGO, the local government union, but despite overtures he never went near the Labour Party or succumbed to the culture of drinking and dining available to union reps. He knew about corruption too.

He and my mum were lucky enough to visit the Soviet Union in 1989 and were on their way to Cuba the following year. Like Che Guevara, my Dad’s granny was a Lynch, and in the 1950s he owned the same model of motorcycle as Che had when he toured Latin America – a Norton 500 ES! There’s a photo of me perched on it in 1958.

Of course there’s a price to pay for hearing out these wee stories of which I am very proud – but my generous dad’ll stand his round as ever! Here’s a pledge for £1,000 toward the Fighting Fund.

Venceremos!

Michael

Dundee


 

Solidarity with Gaza

‘You can’t go, you’re too young.’ I was 12 years old when, in August 2010,  my father first told me that there was a possibility of him going to Gaza with a solidarity convoy. All sorts of questions started going through my head. Would he ever come back? Would the Israelis detain him like they always detained people on the news? Well, I was only going to find out one way – by going with him. Obviously that was never going to be easy – as soon as word got round that I was going chaos erupted. My mum, uncles and most of my family’s friends were all against me going. But what can I say, I was a stubborn kid and when I look back now I’m grateful I was.

As soon as we had reached Al Arish city, where we would go to the sea port and collect all our ambulances and equipment from our ship, we were surrounded by Egyptian police. They claimed to be ‘protecting’ us from thugs –  only later did we realise that they were the thugs. They came to our hotel in the middle of the night, banging with their metal rods everything in their way. They stole all of our possessions, our cameras, money and most of our clothes. In the morning we gathered what was left of our belongings, collected our goods from the port and left for the Rafah border.

Once reaching the border the Egyptian forces told us that we weren’t going through no matter how long we stayed. After seven hours in the scorching sun I saw my father get dragged away by an officer – just as I was about to scream a hand was clamped over my mouth and I was dragged away as well. After struggling I found there was no use and let darkness take over me. I woke up to find myself tied to a chair and facing two officers. To say they interrogated me would be an understatement. What shocked me the most was when the officer handed me an empty gun and a couple of bullets and asked me to put the bullets in the gun. I told him I couldn’t. Then he asked me if I knew how to shoot. I told him no. 10 hours passed and the officers finally let me go and pass through the border along with the rest of the convoy.

When we entered Gaza it was as if we had walked into our own homes and were being greeted by  our own family. The elders chanted for us, the women showered us with flowers, children ran up to us with sweets and the teenagers lifted us up on their shoulders and took us to the streets. And to be honest, if going through 20 hours of being detained and getting beaten up by the Egyptian police is what it takes to stay another minute in Gaza, then without any doubt I’d go through it all over again.

LAYLA ADAM

Glasgow


 

Destructive apathy

What is apathy? The meaning of apathy from the dictionary is a lack of interest or energy. We the working class see apathy manifest itself through a distinct lack of interest in the way that our country is run by our elected representatives. This is not something that happened overnight; it is something that has happened over time through constantly being let down by the politicians that claim to represent us, the majority of Britain – the working class. Just a few weeks ago, George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was still pushing ahead with the aggressive cuts campaign/attack on the working class, slashing disability living allowance for thousands of the most vulnerable people in our country, and all the time telling us we are all in this together. At the same time, his father was eyeing up a £19,000 Fornasetti Architettura Trumeau writing bureau (a desk to you or me). Are we really all in this together, Mr Osborne?

The signs of apathy are there for everyone to see, proven in the turnout for the general elections which reached its peak in 1950 with 83.3% turn out and never since 1951 has the turn out reached above 80%, steadily declining through the years with a few peaks and troughs along the way, ultimately resulting in a miserable 65.1% turnout in 2010. Just as apathy did not appear overnight, it will not disappear overnight. In fact it may never disappear unless we the working class come together and stand up for what we believe to be right and organise. Only then will we find the antidote to the apathy poison that is destroying our societies.

DANNY M

Biggar, Scotland


 

Indian freedom fighters

I congratulate FRFI for publishing the letter from the comrades of the Communist Party of India (Maoist). The CPI (M) are genuine freedom fighters struggling for the well-being of the downtrodden and oppressed.

Maybe one day we could found a sister organisation in Scotland.

JAMES HAGGERTY

Glasgow


 

Deportation won’t stop

fight for justice

I thank you all at FRFI for your ongoing loyal support. On 25 April I was given a formal written notification from the Ministry of Justice that I will be one of the foreign national prisoners who will be deported back to my native country.

This new legislation could come into effect as early as May. I received my life sentence in 1987 and my tariff expired in 1996. According to the Ministry of Justice letter, if a person has served their tariff, even if the Parole Board refuses the prisoner’s release, the Ministry has been given the authority to overrule the Parole Board and deport the prisoner.

As you know, I have been fighting for truth and justice in my case and I will continue to do so when I am deported back to my native Finland. I have served over 26 years on falsified and fabricated police evidence. The forensic experts could not find any evidence against me. I am most certainly not the only innocent person convicted on false police evidence, but I am a fighter and a survivor and trust that with my good legal team’s help I am a winner and in due course will be on the victory train with all my helpers and supporters!

If I am deported I will remain in touch from Finland. I welcome letters from supporters and from others wrongfully convicted.

PETER HAKALA A3960AE

HMP Wakefield, 5 Love Lane

Wakefield WF2 9AG

 

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