Letters / FRFI 230 Dec 2012/Jan 2013

FRFI 230 December 2012/January 2013

An Israeli ‘welcome’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Redford

Lincoln


 

Peter Hakala – free at long last

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Hakala

Lahti, Finland

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


 

Atos’s oppressive regime

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

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

Terry

Manchester


 

Abortion bans kill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cat Wiener

South London


 

Errors on Syria

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan O’Neill

Trevor Rayne replies:

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


 

Radiant

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

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

Joe Valentine

Pelican Bay state prison, US

Letters / FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 229 October/November 2012

Support Basque political prisoners! No to extradition!

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

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

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

Free Benat! Free all political prisoners!

DANIEL MCGARRELL

Glasgow

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

 

Rangzieb Ahmed: a step closer to justice?

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

Both men are serving life imprisonment on terrorism charges.

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

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

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

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

Write to

Rangzieb Ahmed (A6326AC),

HMP Full Sutton,

York YO41 1PS

CAT ALLISON

South London

 

Boxing legends

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

MIKE WEBBER

Aylesbury

 

Opposing British Army recruitment

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

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

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

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

Steven McAvoy

Glasgow

 

No Olympic legacy for the working class

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

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

JON KEMPSTER

East London

 

Fight for a more equal future

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

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

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

GRAEME KEMP

Shropshire

Letters / 228 Aug/Sep 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 228 August/September 2012

Racism in Lincolnshire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Action against Atos in Glasgow

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

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

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

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

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

DOMINIC MULGREW

Glasgow, Scotland


Remember Peter Norman

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

MICHAEL MCGREGOR

Dundee, Scotland


Desperate protest at Woodhill CSC

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

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

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

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

protest.

Woodhill CSC prisoner


Socialist footsteps

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

GARRY DEARDEN

Essex


FRFI: what a socialist newspaper should be

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

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

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

Elijah Traven

Hull

Letters / FRFI 227 June/July 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 227 June/July 2012

LETTERS

An appreciation of my father Gerry 1934-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Venceremos!

Michael

Dundee


 

Solidarity with Gaza

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

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

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

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

LAYLA ADAM

Glasgow


 

Destructive apathy

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

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

DANNY M

Biggar, Scotland


 

Indian freedom fighters

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

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

JAMES HAGGERTY

Glasgow


 

Deportation won’t stop

fight for justice

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

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

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

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

PETER HAKALA A3960AE

HMP Wakefield, 5 Love Lane

Wakefield WF2 9AG

Letters /FRFI 226 Apr/May 2012

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012

The Communist Party of India (Maoist) is an underground guerilla party in India, well-known for its fight for the rights of tribes in the forest belt around central India, especially in the states of Chattisgharh, Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharastra and West Bengal. Their objective is the revolutionary overthrow of the Indian government. They are often referred to as Naxalites in reference to the Naxalbari insurrection conducted by radical Maoists in West Bengal in 1967. In 2006, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh branded the CPI (M) ‘the single biggest internal security challenge ever faced’ by the country. In 2009 the party became a proscribed organisation.


Condemn arrests and torture of Maoist activists in India

In February 2012, the police arrested activists of our Party, including senior cadre from Kolkata and Mumbai. On the specific intelligence provided by the murderous APSIB, joint forces of police and STF of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and West Bengal raided the shelters of our comrades in Kolkata and Mumbai suburbs and arrested at least nine comrades including two women comrades. Comrades Sadanala Ramakrishna, Deepak Kumar Pargania, Sukumar Mandal, Bapi Mudi and Sambhu Charan were arrested from Kolkata while Comrades Dinesh Wankhede, Aasimkumar Bhattacharya, Suman Gawde and Paru Patel were picked up from Thane in Maharashtra. Comrade Sadanala Ramakrishna is 62 and has suffered from serious health problems for many years. A revolutionary for more than four decades, Comrade Ramakrishna sacrificed his bright life for the cause of liberation of the downtrodden. Both the two women comrades arrested have been undergoing medical treatment for some time.

The police forces, known for the worst kind of cruelty, have been torturing these comrades mentally and physically while in custody. They have foisted several false cases against these comrades to ensure they languish behind the bars forever.

These arrests are part of Operation Green Hunt (OGH ie the ‘War on the People’) underway since 2009. The comprador ruling classes, in connivance with their imperialist masters, particularly with the US imperialists, have unleashed this brutal war of suppression in the poorest parts of India so that their neoliberal policies of plunder of resources can be unhindered. They are particularly targeting the revolutionary leadership and eliminating it. As the Pentagon itself claimed recently, the US Special Forces are not only actively involved, but also assisting their Indian counterparts on the ground in the counter-insurgency operations. This fact also shows us that the US has been sponsoring the ongoing OGH, making values such as freedom, independence, and the sovereignty of our country a joke. The exploiting rulers of our country are day-dreaming if they think this movement can be suppressed by wiping out its leadership.

The revolutionary movement cannot be crushed by arrests and murders. The bars of the dungeons cannot prevent revolutionary ideas from spreading among the masses. The CC of CPI (Maoist) strongly condemns these arrests and inhumane torture being inflicted on our comrades. We demand their immediate and unconditional release, as well as that of all of the political prisoners languishing in various jails in all corners of our land. We also demand the dropping of the false cases foisted against these comrades.

Statement from the Communist Party of India (Maoist) Central Committee, 2 March


A beginner’s guide to surviving prison

I read with interest your FRFI 225 about the legal repercussions for those involved in the August unrest. Taking my own history into consideration, I am not in a position to preach about such things. I do however think they were naïve to expect to be judged purely on the basis of individual actions rather than in the overall context of those actions. The harsh sentences are clearly intended as a deterrent to others. ‘They hate whom they fear’, as the Roman poet Quintus Ennius put it. I am glad that FRFI is educating people about this reality.

To those imprisoned, either awaiting trial or convicted, if this is your first time inside, I know it can initially be a shocking experience. The first few days are the most overwhelming. As the weeks and months pass, you will get used to it. ‘No one who has not sat in prison knows what the state is like’, said Leon Tolstoy. Although at first it may seem that you have been stripped of everything that defined your identity, remember that you still have responsibilities to yourself, your family and your ideals. You will need to develop a confident and cautious mentality, without pretending to be something you are not. But equally, you do not need to reveal everything about yourself, or try to control a situation through unnecessary aggression – it just attracts trouble. Avoid active drug users and dealers – a lot of violence and theft is obviously connected to drugs. Choose your associates wisely. You will undoubtedly meet many selfish arseholes in prison, but you will also find some genuinely solid and interesting characters. Prison can give you a more complete understanding of how society functions. If you have a release date, focus on the bigger picture. Try to spend your time productively - use the library, education department and gym (if possible). Develop an exercise routine. These things will help keep you in a positive mindset. ‘It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can!’ (Sydney Smith).

MA Cooper

A5920AL, HMP Whitemoor


Activists prevent council house sell-off

On 13 February, a group of activists prevented the Labour-run Lewisham Council in southeast London from auctioning off five council properties and are in the process of renovating them so that local homeless families can move in. On 3 March the first family – Azad Khan and Nashima Begum and their two young children moved into a three-bedroom house in New Cross, after being on the housing list for four years.

Lewisham has 17,000 people on its housing waiting list, with 350 families living in hostels and 1,000 in temporary accommodation. Yet it has 2,000 empty residential properties. Five were recently earmarked for a bargain-basement auction, with a starting price of £140,000.

So Lewisham People Before Profit went along to the Open Day and then refused to leave. Since then, they’ve been painting and decorating, checking the safety of gas and electricity supplies and in some cases installing new bathrooms and kitchens, with support from the local community. The council argues that the houses were never ‘purpose-built’ residential accommodation; that is a lie. I visited the house at Angus Street and while it was most recently used as a day nursery, it’s clearly a family house, with a garden, in a row of terraced houses. Ray Woolford, housing adviser to the campaign, says it cost just £1,000 to renovate the house – compared to the £40,000 a year spent to house each homeless family in inadequate and cramped temporary accommodation.

The organisation hopes the council will agree tenancies for the houses. Azad Khan told Lewisham New Shopper: ‘I am aware of the risk and that we do not have a tenancy agreement, but it is a risk worth taking as this is exactly what we need. I’m hopeful the council won’t chuck me out on the street with my young children.’ For more information about how you can support the occupation, visit http://www.peoplebeforeprofit. org.uk/lewisham/lewisham-pbp-news/99-defend-council-housing

While homeless soars, there are 5,000 residential council properties lying empty in London alone. It’s time for more people to follow the Lewisham lead.

Cat Wiener

South London


Withholding of publications – FRFI

Thank you for your letter dated 9 December 2011. I apologise for the delay in responding to you but it has taken some time to conclude my enquiries into this matter.

I am sorry that there have been problems with prisoners receiving your publication and confirm that there appears to have been a misunderstanding by staff which led to your publication either being withheld or returned to you. Offenders at HMP Manchester are encouraged to raise a newspaper order form, which is then forwarded to our approved supplier for processing. When it occurs that a publication is requested which is not ordinarily stocked at newsagents then this will be allowed to be sent direct from the publishers to the Correspondence Department and all staff have now been made aware of this.

In your letter you have stated that A6060AL Mr Nevers, a current offender, had a copy of your publication stopped. I can confirm that this was indeed the case and it was stopped because it had not been sent via the official supplier. I can only apologise for this oversight and confirm that steps are being taken to reunite Mr Nevers with his newspaper.

In conclusion, I can confirm that there should be no further interference with your publication.

RW Vince, Governor

HMP Manchester

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