Saturday, August 19, 2017

Remembering the Battle of Lewisham

by New Worker correspondent
ANTI-FASCISTS gathered outside the New Cross Inn, close to Clifton Rise, last Saturday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the historic battle between local communities and the National Front, who were supported by thousands of police, that saw the fascists forced to turn back and marked the beginning of the decline of the National Front (NF).
Last Saturday’s rally, followed by a march, was attended by dozens of veterans of the original battle and many gave an account of the battle.
The NF was founded in the late 1960s as a movement against immigration, especially from the West Indies, Asia and Africa, into Britain. It won ignorant white supporters by scapegoating immigrants for a shortage of decent housing, for unemployment, for high crime levels and for many other ills that were growing after the post-war economic boom had run out of steam.
But at its roots the NF was run by fascists and neo-Nazis, and was the enemy of all the working class.
The NF had been growing steadily for nearly a decade and was on the verge of becoming a mass party. In Deptford, a ward of the London Borough of Lewisham, in a local by election it had almost beaten Labour and polled votes more than the Tories.
In May 1977 police had arrested 21 young black people in Lewisham in dawn raids, claiming this “gang” was responsible for 90 per cent of street crime in London.
The local community rallied round and formed a committee to defend the “Lewisham 21”, and a protest march was held to demand justice for the “Lewisham 21”. It was attacked by a group of around 200 NF supporters, who threw rotten fruit and bags of caustic soda at the marchers.
The NF decided Lewisham was a good place to march to intimidate the local black population.
Before the NF march was due to start there was a mass rally in a local park addressed by local councillors, a bishop and other dignitaries whilst others went to block the route the NF were due to take.
Once the NF arrived and set off from their assembly point at Clifton Rise in New Cross, most of those at the rally in the park began to join those trying to block the route.
The NF were headed by their ‘honour guard’ carrying banners and flags with sharp pointed metal finials on the flag and banner poles.
The 500 NF were surrounded by three rows of police and mounted police were out in force. Most of the fighting was between the anti-fascists and the police as the police, using utmost brutality, tried to clear a path for the NF.
Members of the local community, black and white, came out of their homes and started picking up anything and everything they could lay their hands on to lob at the NF marchers.
Meanwhile another group of anti-fascists had occupied Lewisham town centre, around the clock tower.
The NF never made it to the clock tower. Police were forced to divert them into a side street to have their rally and then bundled them on to waiting trains.
But the anti-fascist protesters were unaware the fascists had gone and continued to fight with the police – who, in spite of their huge numbers, totally lost control of the town centre for a while as “the People’s Republic of Lewisham Clock Tower” was declared briefly.
Two hundred and fourteen people were arrested and at least 111 injured, including 56 police officers.
One black veteran told the crowd last Saturday: “Once we had seen the ‘master race’ running away in terror that was the end of their power to intimidate us.”
The Battle of Lewisham led to the foundation of the Anti-Nazi League and the decline of the NF.

No new Korean War!

Andy Brooks with the latest edition!
By New Worker correspondent
London comrades joined other peace campaigners outside the American embassy on Friday 11th August to protest against Donald Trump’s latest threats against north Korea. New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks and other members of the Central Committee gathered outside the centre of US imperialism in London to call on the US President to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis that is entirely of America’s making.
Some comrades sold the New Worker whilst others gave out Korean Friendship Association (KFA) leaflets to the crowd, which included a woman dressed as the “Statue of Taking Liberties” and a man wearing a Trump mask who had come along for the lunch-time protest in Grosvenor Square.
Even though the emergency protest was called at short notice by the Stop the War campaign and CND, there was still a good turn-out to hear the campaign speakers who later attempted to deliver a letter from the peace movements but were turned aside by US embassy staff.

Solidarity with Charlottesville

By New Worker correspondent

  ANTI-Fascists gathered outside the United States embassy in Grosvenor Square in London on Monday to show solidarity with the anti-fascists in Charlottesville, Virginia, after an American neo-Nazi drove a car into a group of protesting anti-fascists, killing one, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others.
The event was organised by United Against Fascism (UAF) and Black Lives Matter (BLM).
The incident was made all the more more appalling by the subsequent remarks from President Donald Trump, who condemned the violence from “both sides” and held the anti-fascists equally to blame with the violent, swastika toting, torch wielding neo-Nazis.
The neo-Nazis, who included former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader David Duke, praised Trump for his support for their cause. The praise for the Republican leader drew concern and condemnation from across the political spectrum, including from senior figures within his own party.
Trump's presidential campaign last year enjoyed broad far-right backing, and the Trump administration includes several figures linked to far-right and neo-Nazi groups.
Trump was later pressured into making a stronger condemnation of the neo-Nazis but back-tracked by voicing sympathy for their cause. They had been protesting at the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee – a leading general in the pro-slavery Confederate army in the United States civil war.
By Wednesday Trump again criticised "both sides" including anti-fascist protesters, whom he described as the "alt-left", a term popularised by the far-right.
Many of those gathered in Grosvenor Square on Friday evening were Americans living in London, declaring that Trump was making them “ashamed to be American”.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Grenfell Tower

Tragedy reveals vicious class war of the rich against the rest

By Theo Russell

Extraordinary events have taken place in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Britain’s wealthiest borough, in the weeks since the Grenfell Tower tragedy: a town hall invasion, the resignations of the borough's Chief Executive and Tory Council Leader, and the Tory-led council under siege from every side.
These events followed close on the heels of the election of a Labour MP for the first time since the constituency was created in 1974.
But the Grenfell Tower fire has also had a massive political impact nationally, showing that the reality of the Tory austerity policy is a vicious class war being waged by the rich against the rest.
Grenfell, together with Labour's superb general election campaign, which made austerity the number one issue, has helped to trigger a national debate about endless cuts, inequality and class injustice.
Now Britain’s massive housing crisis, criminally high rents, rampant property speculation, and growing anger, especially in London, with ‘gentrification’ and ‘social cleansing’, are under the spotlight.
Finally, the Grenfell fire has exposed a deliberately created system that provides genuine health and safety for the rich but not for the poor. Endless chains of sub-contracting and downgrading of checks made a tragedy like Grenfell virtually inevitable, and the only surprise was the horrific form in which it came.

‘The regal poor of Kensington’

Grenfell was the main topic at a recent meeting of Kensington South Labour Party, which heard how this class war is being waged in Kensington and Chelsea, not only against the poorest in the community but against anyone getting in the way of insatiable property speculators. The council not only turned a blind eye to this but actively encouraged it, and now they are paying the price.
Long before this awful tragedy in which over 80 people died and many more were injured, the council had been trying to ‘retake’ the Grenfell estate, and if possible move its tenants out of the borough and sell it off to developers for eye-watering sums.
Even in the wealthiest parts of the borough, home-owners who bought properties long ago, and statutory tenants with controlled rents, have been bullied and intimidated by property developers, who threatened to take them to the High Court if they don't sell up for a third of the current market price.
Sadly many, especially the elderly, caved in at the threat of legal action instead of challenging these sharks in the courtroom, including one family resident for over 100 years. Such residents have been dubbed ‘the regal poor of Kensington’, living in ‘shabby gentility’.
No doubt their experiences contributed to the loss of the Tory Kensington MP in the general election, alongside the fact that so many local properties are owned by absentee speculators who don’t even bother to register to vote.
Despite public Tory claims to have built 690 low-cost housing units since 2010, in fact none have been built since 1980. As a result there is nowhere to re-house the Grenfell survivors in the borough, whilst thousands of other homeless families languish on the waiting list.
Most of the Grenfell survivors have been put in hotels and B&Bs, and many offered permanent housing far away from their workplaces and schools. Under immense political and public pressure, the council has pledged to buy new family houses for them but have not said where these will be.
The meeting heard that residents in a recent luxury flat development in the borough showed their naked class prejudice, complaining that placing Grenfell survivors there was “bringing the social level down”.
The meeting also heard of the desperate Tory attempts in Kensington to stave off Labour candidate Emma Dent Coad’s victory, which came two days and three recounts after the election. Tory so-called ‘golden thugs’ harassed and intimidated council staff, standing behind them issuing threats and accusations. Unable to accept the result, the Tories wanted a fourth recount and only gave in when Labour observers called in a senior lawyer who warned the ‘thugs’ that they could be prosecuted.

Sadiq Khan disappointment

Labour’s 2017 manifesto was very positive on housing, promising “the biggest council building programme for at least 30 years,” to allow councils to build new housing and to bring back long-term security for tenants. But the meeting also heard that the new London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s housing policy was proving a huge disappointment.
Khan said very little on housing in his 2016 election campaign, and now councils across London are eagerly awaiting his GLA [Greater London Assembly] housing and regeneration strategy – but this it seems has already been watered down. Khan has already approved new projects with only 6–7 per cent ‘affordable’ homes (these are at rents not far below private commercial levels).
Last year Khan was nominated Evening Standard Man of the Year by building company Berkeley Homes, who have been denounced by Greenwich Labour MP Clive Efford for "sheer naked greed and opportunism" for their £1bn redevelopment of Kidbrooke Village. Efford said: “We constantly hear of the demands of the developer but there's precious little about what they are doing for the local community."
Khan has also reneged on his campaign promise not to increase public transport fares in London, freezing only some fares but not those for the great majority of travelcard tube users. London’s tube fares are the highest in the world after eight successive years of increases under Tory Mayor Boris Johnson.
But the struggles for justice for the Grenfell survivors, and for a return to mass building of genuinely affordable homes, are now in full swing. Kensington South Labour Party, which is working closely with the Justice4Grenfell campaign, has called on members and supporters to maintain constant pressure on the council to ensure that the Grenfell survivors are not dispersed far and wide outside the borough.