Letters - FRFI 235 Oct/Nov2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 235 October/November 2013

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

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

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

LOUISE GARTREL, Glasgow

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

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

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

TERENCE ALLEN, A6119AD HMP Leyhill

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

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

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

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

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

DERMOT HUDSON Via email

Letters /FRFI 234 Aug/Sep 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

Disabled and still fighting

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Redford

Lincoln


 

Don’t give up the fight for justice

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

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

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

PETER HAKALA

Mikkeli, Finland


 

Still detained under a Nazi law

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

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

Down with preventive detention! A clenched fist salute,

THOMAS MEYER-FALK

(www.freedom-for-thomas.de)

Buchsal, Germany


 

Mental torture at Woodhill CSC

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

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

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

KEVAN THAKRAR

now at HMP Manchester

Letters/ FRFI 233 Jun/Jul 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013

Benefits system failing the poor

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

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

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

Ayesha Taylor

North London


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Black A3887AE

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


 

The case against Pervez Musharraf

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rangzieb Ahmed A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton, York, Y041 1PS


 

Was Chavez assassinated?

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

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

Mike Webber

Aylesbury, Bucks


 

Bedroom tax scam

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

Sam Knowles

Wythenshawe, Manchester


 

Thatcher’s real legacy

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

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

George Coombes

Brighton

Letters /FRFI 232 Apr/May 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 232 April/May 2013

In memory of Hugo Chavez

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

Thank you very much for your kind message.

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

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

Thanks again for your support.

SAMUEL MONCADA

Ambassador


 

‘All of Cuba is hurting for Chavez’

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

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

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

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

FRFI READER

North London


 

Chavez’s revolution will carry on

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

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

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

RANGZIEB AHMED A6326AC

HMP Full Sutton

Fighting evictions in Brent / FRFI 231 Feb/Mar 2013

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 231 February-March 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No to evictions, no to cuts!

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

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

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

55 Chichester Road, Kilburn London NW6 5QW.

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

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