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.

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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

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