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

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