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

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