Letters - FRFI 251 Jun/Jul 2016

Boycott the EU referendum

The coming European referendum will inevitably bear the stain of Britain’s bloody partition of Ireland. The wording on the ballot will read: ‘Should the United Kingdom [ie, Britain and Northern Ireland] remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?’ Socialists who participate in the forthcoming European referendum, indeed in any UK-wide referendum, will be giving legitimacy to the idea that the British have the right to vote on behalf of the Irish. Rather than succumb to the chauvinism of the labour aristocracy, socialists should raise the slogan: ‘Honour the 1918 referendum on Irish Independence!’

There is another, equally important reason why the RCG should initiate a boycott of the referendum. As the international capitalist system plunges into ever deepening crises, and as inter-imperialist conflicts grow ever more acute, the British ruling class, as David Yaffe has explained, ‘will have to make a choice between Europe and the United States.’ (FRFI 194, December 2006/January 2007.) Anyone who thoughtfully applies Yaffe’s analysis to the current situation will arrive at the conclusion that participation in the European referendum will mean support for one faction of British imperialism against another.

It is my belief that the development of the EU has reached the point where the formation of an all-European communist party is now the most pressing organisational task facing the European proletariat. Marx and Engels’ summing up of the lessons of the Paris Commune is most instructive in this regard. While giving wholehearted support to the Commune, they criticised it for having left the Bank of Paris, the nerve-centre of the French economy, in the hands of anti-proletarian forces, and for having failed to march on Versailles, the seat of the counter-revolutionary government. Applying these lessons to modern-day European struggles, and bearing in mind the vastly changed circumstances in which these struggles are taking place, we may say, in the language of analogy: the European proletariat must prepare for the day when it seizes the European Central Bank and advances on Brussels.

For a number of decades, the RCG has rightly expressed a commitment to the creation of an all-British communist party. In the current period, especially during the build-up to the European referendum, the RCG must give careful consideration to the role it can play in promoting the struggle of the European and British proletariat for state power. British socialists must not allow the squabbling factions of the British ruling class to determine where the British proletariat’s destiny lies. Rather they must use the coming referendum as an opportunity a) to raise awareness about Ireland’s oppressed condition, b) to expose the true nature of the split in the British ruling class, and c) to organise joint European-British discussions for the purpose of laying the groundwork for the formation of an all-European communist party, one which embraces both Europe and Britain. These are the tasks which British socialists must strive to fulfil, regardless of whether the British imperialists leave or remain in the EU.



Travellers, Gypsies and Roma unite against the Housing Act

Gypsies, Roma and Travellers from across the country gathered in Parliament Square in London on 21 May to demonstrate against the new planning laws redefining ‘Gypsy status’ and to hand in a 5,000 strong petition to the Prime Minister at Downing Street.

The rally, called ‘Dosta! Grinta! Enough is enough!’ was organised by a community-led steering group, supported by the Gypsy Council, the Traveller Movement, London Gypsy Traveller Unit, GRT Voice, The Travellers’ Times, HertsGATE, the National Alliance of Gypsy, Traveller and Roma Women and Munya Barnet. Along with the hundreds of demonstrators on foot carrying placards and banners, there were also four carts and horses festooned with flags and slogans.

The petition was against the reclassification of ‘Gypsy status’, which is used to determine a person’s eligibility to plan, develop and live on Traveller sites. To pass the new ‘Gypsy status’, Gypsies and Travellers will need to travel for three months every year, which will make many people homeless, or force them to the road.

‘It’s a Catch-22,’ said Yvonne MacNamara, CEO of the Traveller Movement. ‘The Travelling life has been effectively criminalised, but to settle and obtain legal authorisation for their homes, Gypsies and Travellers are being forced to “travel”.’

During the protest Ruth Barnet, a Holocaust survivor, spoke about the need to remember the past to inform the present. She said that during the Holocaust, up to half a million Roma and Gypsies were murdered by the Nazis ‘in exactly the same way and in exactly the same camps’ as Jewish people. It was time, she said, for governments to stop persecuting Gypsy and Roma people.


The Traveller Movement

Academies: ghetto schooling

In the last three years I have taught at two primary schools: a state school and an academy. On the one hand we have state schools set up to fail – with massive budget cuts from central government, administered by local councils. On the other are the academies – huge conglomerates linked to private business by a thousand links, whether private curriculum providers or G4S security. Neither model is capable of meeting the needs of working class children, but it is clear that academisation presents the greatest danger.

In May, my school moved to a shiny new building, with a new name and new uniform at a cost of £5.5m paid by the academy chain, the Education Funding Authority (EFA) and the Labour council. A new head was appointed on £65,000 a year, and an extra deputy head on up to £50,000 – in addition to an ‘executive principal’ (whom we never see), a Chief Executive and the rest of the management staff. The honeymoon period after the move brought in free tea and coffee for staff, and cake on Fridays. But within weeks four teachers and at least seven teaching assistants (TAs) were told their contracts would end in the summer. The four teachers were told we could reapply for two advertised jobs if we wanted. Seven TAs were told that five jobs would be advertised.

The school and its nearby partner high school have large ethnic majorities and take in some of the most economically deprived children in Manchester, consisting mainly of Roma, Pakistani, Afghan, Bangladeshi, Bengali, Syrian, Eastern European and poor British/Irish. In contrast to the state school two miles away, the amount of language support hours the academy provides to these children is zero. Teachers and support staff were taken off timetable to sit with Year 6s and read them their SATs questions, but many didn’t have the vocabulary to understand the questions.

In March the trust which owns the school was told by the EFA the school would face closure if it didn’t sort out its ‘weak financial position and financial management’. The warning shots have been fired and it will be the teaching staff and the children who will pay the price.



Kleptocracy tours

London now boasts a new tourist attraction: ‘Kleptocracy Tours’. Visitors can take a three-hour bus ride through the heart of the city, starting in Whitehall, calling in on Knightsbridge, South Kensington and its ‘Billionaires’ Row’, Hampstead and Highgate and finishing off at Baker Street.

Sites include some of the £170bn of British property held offshore by tax haven companies. The head of the National Crime Agency lamented that the attractions have a downside: ‘Prices are being artificially driven up by overseas criminals who want to sequester their assets here in

the UK.’

Last year, property purchases worth over £180m were investigated as the likely proceeds of corruption, almost all bought through offshore companies, according to the Land Registry.

But oligarchs, friends of secret police chiefs, drug barons and run-of-the-mill kleptomaniacs be warned; Her Majesty’s Government has announced that it intends that everyone who buys a property in Britain should be registered – this was not previously the case. Not that it would ever occur to them to use false identities, trust funds or pay others to register in their place.

And Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes, he would hardly have been surprised: ‘I naturally gravitated to London, that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the Empire are irresistibly drained.’    


South London

Justice for Giulio Regini

More than 40,000 people have been ‘disappeared’ in the first two years of Egyptian President Sisi’s rule. Thousands have been killed during suppression of protests, and by the death penalty. International attention has focused on the scale of repression following the murder of Giulio Regini, an Italian PhD student at Cambridge University, who was in Egypt researching trade union rights and activism. He went missing on 25 January. His mutilated body was found in a ditch on the outskirts of Cairo a week later.

A campaign to establish the truth about Giulio’s death has been launched by his parents in Italy and fellow academics at Cambridge. They suspect the involvement of Egypt’s security services. There is an online petition to the British government demanding a ‘credible investigation’ (https://petition parliament.uk/petitions/120832) with 11,000 signatories so far. However, the campaign says Downing Street has kept its response to Giulio’s death to a minimum. The imperialist powers compete to provide arms to Egypt – in April Germany and France signed arms and security contracts worth over $2.2bn. The Italian government is under pressure to find out who killed Giulio, but does not want to lose its trading relationship with the Egyptian government. Egypt meanwhile has blamed ‘criminal gangs’ for the murder.


North London

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 251 June/July 2016