Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy New Year!

A Red Salute to Kim Jong Il!

Andy Brooks talking about Juche
 By New Worker correspondent

FRIENDS of Democratic Korea returned to the Marchmont Centre in central London last weekend to mark the 1st anniversary of the passing of dear leader Kim Jong Il called by the Juché societies in Britain, electrified by the news that the DPRK had successfully put a satellite into Earth orbit.
 The achievement of Democratic Korea’s independent space programme was a fitting tribute to the memory of Kim Jong Il and the new leadership around his successor, Kim Jong Un. And that was a point stressed by all four speakers at the meeting on Saturday organised by the Juché Idea Study Group and the Association for the Study of Songun Politics.
 But first of all everyone stood to observe two minutes’ silence in memory of Kim Jong Il. A screening of Korea Changing Sorrow into Strength and Courage was followed by thoughtful contributions from Dermot Hudson and Shaun Pickford from the Juché society on the life of Kim Jong Il.
 Dr Hugh Goodacre, a lecturer at the University of London, opened discussion on the meaning of Juché that was taken up by New Communist Party leader Andy Brooks in his own contribution to the discussion. He stressed the importance of independence and self-reliance in the philosophy of Kimilsungism and the Juché Idea.
 The general secretary of the NCP said that the DPRK and the Workers Party of Korea were under attack by right-wing and bogus “left-wing” revisionists as well as the bourgeois pundits who never even bothered to read what Kim Jong Il actually said. If they had they would see that Kim Jong Il had made an immense contribution to Marxist-Leninist theory and ideology.
 “In his 1982 work On the Juche Idea, Kim Jong Il brought together and systematised the Juché theory while his 1994 thesis Socialism is a Science affirmed that socialism would eventually become the economic system of the entire world because it is the only form of society in which people can be truly free,” Andy Brooks declared.
 All these points were triggers for a lively discussion amongst the activists and supporters of Korean-style socialism which could have continued well into the evening. But sadly time ran out leaving  just enough  to end  with the enthusiastic adoption by acclaim of a solidarity message to Kim Jong Un, the new leader of the Party and People of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The horror of Christmas

By Anton Johnson

WALKING through central London last Saturday following a union meeting I was struck by the crowds of people rushing about eager to consume, spend money they did not have on things they did not need, stepping over rough sleepers who were asking for money simply to have food.
 The crowds seemed oblivious and spellbound by the bright Christmas lights in the shops and street. Capitalism has adopted quasi-religious festivals in order to get working people to consume and get into greater debt on belief that they will be happy if they have the next item. This has manifested itself into addictive behaviour an automatic response to a carefully orchestrated campaign by business, which starts in October when shops put up Christmas decorations and announcements.
 Christmas of late though does not come to many who are poor, the elderly who cannot afford to stay warm because of the high prices and the growing number of homeless people due to the economic crisis. Even with the rising number of closed shops and empty shop units, whether in Oxford Street or another shopping centre in another town, people appear oblivious to what is happening to them and around them.
 The scene of today’s Christmas is another sign that this current system not only fails people but destroys people – the pressure the system places on people and families sees so called pictures of tranquillity translated into ones of domestic violence, alcohol abuse, despair, loneliness, misery, poverty and suicide. It’s a day that puts emphasis on the model family that many do not relate to and excludes many such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people.
 It is worth noting and congratulating the London Queer Social Centre organisers who this year are organising an event that LGBTQ people who are “orphans” from their families because of their sexuality, to come together in a communal setting.
 There is an alternative to this institutional misery – and Communists have the answer.
In the USSR of the 1920s the Bolsheviks, as part of the process to transform society on revolutionary lines, saw that organised religion was a shackle on the minds of the working class punctuated with festivals that they were obliged to participate in to keep them from thinking – just like today.
 The Soviet government launched an Anti-Religion campaign that included the abolition of Christmas. Children would protest to their parents not to dupe them and not have Christmas in their house, churches were systematically demolished or converted to more useful purposes for the people.
 By freeing the people from the organised religion and festivals such as Christmas their minds were free to engage in the process of creating a new world – one that made remarkable achievements, while the rest of the world was in squalor caused by the crash of 1929. The people of the Soviet Union enjoyed full employment, were free from the spectre of homelessness and starvation and had a first class health service that was free and accessible – unknown anywhere else in the world at that time – a achieved through science and planning not superstition.
 That world is an age ago and by the scenes in London and other cities it looks as though capitalism has seduced people with tinsel and flashing lights, messages to spend to be happy and superstition. We as communists need to keep on showing the examples that people can and did achieve an alternative to the current horror. The examples are in recent history.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mass protests hit Starbucks

 THE UK UNCUT campaign, supported by the GMB and PCS among others last weekend targeted outlets of the coffee shop chain Starbucks over its failure to pay proper taxes and its recent outrageous cuts to its workers’ terms and conditions of employment.
 The chain is among several giant multinational companies that have used loopholes in the law to avoid paying any corporation tax in Britain for several years.
 Last week the public campaign against it saw it starting to lose customers and money and Starbucks was shamed into agreeing to pay £20 million in back tax over two years.
 But the campaigners say it is not nearly enough and that companies like this should not be left to chose for themselves if and how much tax they will pay. Starbucks, until a few days ago had paid just £8.6 million in tax in Britain over the past 13 years on sales of £3.1 billion.
 Then the company further outraged campaigners by seeking to compensate itself by raiding the pockets of its already low-paid workers.
 Last week the 7,000 Starbucks baristas were told to sign revised employment terms that include the removal of paid 30-minute lunch breaks.
 Starbucks is cutting paid lunch breaks, sick leave and maternity benefits for thousands of British workers, sparking fresh anger over its business practices.
 On the day the House of Commons' public accounts committee branded the US coffee chain's tax avoidance practices "immoral", baristas arriving for work were told to sign revised employment terms, which include the removal of paid 30-minute lunch breaks and paid sick leave for the first day of illness. Some will also see pay increases frozen.
 Last Saturday UK Uncut protesters targeted scores of Starbucks coffee shops across Britain, briefly disrupting business on one of the chain's busiest trading days.
 Organisers from UK Uncut claimed to have targeted more than 40 shops – including Starbucks in Liverpool, Cardiff, Bristol and Shrewsbury – on the campaign group's biggest day of action to date.
 A handful of stores, including two in London's busy West End shopping district, were briefly closed down around noon yesterday, and police threatened to arrest sit-in protesters for aggravated trespass.
 At a flagship store just off Regent Street's busy shopping parades, about 40 activists and six children had joined the action.
 The protest then moved to Vigo Street, another side road off Regent Street, where about 60 campaigners gathered among customers sipping lattes and herbal tea, chanting: "If you don't pay your taxes, we'll shut you down."
 Zara Martin, 33, a protester who was handing out leaflets in the branch, said: "Everyone is being really quite cheerful and the response from passers-by is great, they are all smiley and interested in what we are doing. It's very encouraging.
 "Even if people don't agree, it's important that we're having the debate. I think the £20 million over two years is a bit rubbish. It's like, wow thanks Starbucks, but actually why don't you just pay your full tax like everyone else has to?"
Customer Paula McCaully, 42, with her partner Ian, said: "I was hoping for a coffee, but [the protesters] are right, of course, and we will boycott and get our coffee somewhere else, I think. Good for them, coming out on a cold day to stand up for what they believe in."
 On 4th December GMB presented a corporate ASBO to Starbuck over the company’s failure to pay its fair share of taxes and failure to pay a living wage to its 8,500 employees in 750 stores across Britain.
 GMB has members in Starbuck stores but the company does not recognise any trade union nor is there any collective bargaining on pay and conditions. Starbuck unilaterally decide what the rates of pay and terms and conditions are for their staff and reserve the right to make changes with no consultation with their staff.
 PCS, the union that represents tax workers, supported the UK Uncut protests. PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “We fully support this weekend’s action which, along with previous campaigns by UK Uncut and others, will highlight the fact that if large companies like Starbucks paid their fair share it would change the debate about public spending overnight.”

Bromley bin workers set to strike

THE GIANT union Unite last week announced that bin workers in Bromley will stage a series of strikes in the run up to Christmas and over the New Year.
 The union’s repeated calls to bosses at Veolia Environmental Services to reinstate four unjustly sacked workers for alleged gross misconduct have fallen on deaf ears, leaving Unite with no option but to issue strike dates.
 Strike action will begin on Friday 14th December 2012 and run as follows:
  Friday 14th December 2012 – 24-hour stoppage beginning at 00:01;
  Thursday 27th December 2012 – 48-hour stoppage beginning at 00:01
  Monday 31st December 2012 – 24-hour stoppage beginning at 00:01
 More than 80 per cent of refuse workers working out of the Churchfields refuse and recycling centre in Bromley, south London voted in favour of strike action in a recent ballot.
 The dispute was sparked by the sacking of four long-serving Bromley bin workers, with over 100 years of experience between them, for allegedly accepting a cash payment to remove excess rubbish. 
 That allegation has since proved to be false after an internal appeals process uncovered that the workers refused to accept any money.
 Onay Kasab, Unite regional officer, said “Despite our best efforts to get Veolia to see sense and re-instate the four workers, it has left us with no option but to take strike action.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Remembering Kim Jong Il

 By New Worker correspondent

FRIENDS of Korea met in London last weekend to pay tribute to the memory of dear leader Kim Jong Il, the leader of the Workers’ Party of Korea who died on 17th December 2011.
 Though a solemn occasion it was also a celebration of the achievements of Kim Jong Il and the people of Democratic Korea under his leadership. And this was vividly shown in the north Korean film screened at the meeting at the Marchmont Centre in Bloomsbury on Saturday.
 The film, a documentary covering the funeral of the Korean leader also showed how the Korean workers have turned their grief into action to carry on the work under their new leader Kim Jong Un.
 During the formal part of the meeting tributes were paid to Kim Jong Il’s work from Michael Chant of the RCPB (ML), Dermot Hudson of the Juché Idea Study Group and NCP leader Andy Brooks and a message was read out from John McLeod of the Socialist Labour Party, who unfortunately could not come in person.
  The meeting was organised by the Co-ordinating Committee of the Friends of Korea, which brings together all the major movements active in Korean friendship work in Britain today.  It is chaired by Andy Brooks and the secretary is Michael Chant.
 The committee consists of the New Communist Party of Britain, Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (ML), Socialist Labour Party, European Regional Society for the Study of the Juché Idea and the UK Korean Friendship Association.
 Meetings are open to all friends of the Korean revolution and the committee organises events throughout the year in London, which are listed by the supporting movements and on the Friends of Korea blog.