Letters FRFI 260: Grow Heathrow squatters show the way

Grow Heathrow squatters show the way

The Bolsheviks robbed banks to fund their activity. At Grow Heathrow we squat land and source waste food from skips.

Grow Heathrow is five acres of gardens, protest camp and community centre in Sipson – a village where people’s homes would be demolished by the proposed Third Runway at Heathrow. We celebrated our seventh birthday in March.

We aim to be a hub for organising, a base from which action against the Third Runway can be launched and a model for other organising. Key to the successful growth of many modern movements has been a consistent space, held by that movement and open to the public, such as Zuccotti Park in New York or Tahrir Square in Cairo. We aim to be that space for the movement against the Third Runway. Last year we provided a base and logistical support for over 700 protesters taking action against the runway, including mass theatre in the terminals and a bike blockade of the roads.

We have a close relationship with local residents’ associations and campaign groups. Our original members lived in the area for six months before squatting the space, forging these relationships. We were asked to take the site by the local community. The land we occupy had been an illegal dumping site.

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Letters - FRFI 259 Aug/Sep 2017

Corbyn and communist tactics

The election issue of FRFI (No 257) made the important points that Corbyn is backtracking on his radical promises, and that Labour councils are carrying out the Tory’s austerity policies. But the slogan ‘Don’t vote – fight for socialism!’ appears ultra-left in present circumstances.

Corbyn is something new – he is not Michael Foot or Attlee, Wilson, Kinnock or Blair – and his rhetoric and appeal is new. So the RCG needed to respond in a slightly different way to previous elections, not least because he was not chosen by the bourgeoisie or the worst kind of social traitors of the Labour Party, but elected by those previously outside the Labour Party, and in the teeth of opposition from the reactionaries. The response also needs to take into account the possibility that, like Labour leader George Lansbury, he might choose to resign on a matter of conscience.

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Letters - FRFI 258 Jun/Jul 2017

Shame-faced socialists

Dundee Against Austerity decided to assess what principled scope there was for using the Scottish council elections in May 2017 to build in the working class communities most affected by austerity. Our stall at the local shops in Fintry became a wee focus of interest and education: primary school bairns engaged us in discussions about the welfare cuts and sanctions that some of their parents – and of course themselves – were experiencing; women workers in private care provision told us about their low wages, local street cleaners expressed their fears about looming privatisation, people who had been forced by the DWP to take a job at Amazon revealed the shocking accident rate in the warehouses as massive machines were used to pick goods.

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Letters FRFI 256 April/May 2017

Deaths in Scottish prisons

What place do prisons have in our society to punish or rehabilitate? This is understandably a contentious issue but it is usually agreed that death is not a suitable endpoint of imprisonment. The figures however seem to run counter to this idea; there have been 121 deaths since 2012 in Scottish prisons. In 60 of these cases, Fatal Accident Inquiries (FAIs) have still not been undertaken.

At the time of writing, 24 deaths in 2015 and 2016 are awaiting FAIs, with the cause of death established in only five of them; one being the suicide of a 35-year-old man on remand.

In the cases where an FAI has been carried out, 98 examined deaths since 2010, 32 were by suicide. The youngest deaths to be ruled suicide were those of Andrew Stone and Jordan Barron, both aged 19, in Polmont young offenders’ prison, and Ryan McNeil, also aged 19, in HMP Inverness.

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Letters - FRFI 255 Feb/Mar 2017

Letters - Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 255 February/March 2017

Rise in the number of homeless children in Scotland

The latest homelessness statistics released by the Scottish government on 16 January show that there was a 17% increase in the number of children living in temporary accommodation in the year to September 2016. That takes the figure to 5,751 children. There was a doubling in the number of households with children or a pregnant family member being accommodated in bed and breakfasts while they wait for a house. All together Scotland’s 32 councils received 17,100 applications for homelessness assistance between April and September 2016. The charity Shelter estimates that 120,000 children across Britain spent Christmas homeless and in temporary accommodation.

These statistics show that fundamental change does not only require the ending of a Tory government but of capitalism itself. The SNP Scottish government pays lip service to social justice but in practice defends a system of inequality and injustice. In Edinburgh there are 49 streets where average house prices are over a million pounds. Private profit is placed before people’s collective needs. Housing justice for the working class and oppressed means socialism!

Dominic Mulgrew

Glasgow any time soon.


Oppose jobcentre closures in Glasgow

In an attempt to provide a dehumanising institution which is also value for money the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is undertaking a string of local jobcentre closures in Glasgow, affecting those people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit. Over the course of 2017 jobcentres will be shut down and merged with others, meaning one centre will serve a greater area. What is being hailed as a streamlining plan by the DWP will result in claimants being forced into travelling greater distances (upwards of three miles) to maintain their income; a further demoralising task in an already miserable system.

In Maryhill, our local jobcentre is being relocated to Springburn, so claimants will have to find a way to travel a round trip of six miles in order to sign on; meaning the risk of being late and therefore sanctioned is far greater. The increase of travel time, costs and sanction risk are leaving many people worried for their income, particularly those claimants who have specific travel requirements or who are caring for children or relatives. It is of little surprise that many of the centres due to close are in some of the city’s most deprived areas – it seems obvious that these supposed savings will be made off the backs of the most vulnerable claimants.

It is an odd feeling to be writing a letter to defend an institution like a jobcentre but the scale of the misery that this will cause is painfully obvious. This is not an isolated plan; closures and relocations are planned across the UK and soon there will be thousands expected to travel miles in order to claim their meagre stipend for another two weeks. This dismissive treatment of claimants cannot continue and we must provide support for those struggling with these closures both in Glasgow and any other places they are implemented.

Solidarity

Alyssa

Glasgow


One rule for them, poverty for us

In 2015 my disability benefit was threatened. I only got three points on the ATOS means test, which led to a six-month battle with the Department of Work and Pensions to qualify for my Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

People are being left with no food, no gas and no electricity. Landlords are evicting people. There is a false pretence that there is no money to go around. Oligarchs live in luxury, tax free. Rich Tory pensioners are bolstered with subsidies and our young people are the working poor.

At least 1,651 people have died due to Iain Duncan Smith’s bureaucratic system for PIP. Now he earns a small fortune for after-dinner speaking. How can cuts to PIP benefits be justified?

Amina Siegerson

Glasgow


US prison censorship

FRFI has received this letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections in the United States, in response to our appeal against the non-delivery of the October/November 2016 issue of our newspaper to a prisoner.

‘This is to notify you that the publication in issue not only reports news, but advocates prison strikes. In particular, the article ends with the words “Victory to the US prison strikers! End prison slavery!” As such, it violates Department policy for the reason previously stated. Therefore, your appeal is denied.’


‘A crisis in maternity care’

According to a new report by the National Childbirth Trust, 50% of women experienced a ‘red-flag’ event – a warning sign of staffing problems – during their maternity care. The ‘red flags’ show delayed and inadequate care, including a lack of one-to-one care in labour. Basic care was made difficult or impossible by a lack of midwives. Units are at times stretched to dangerous limits – the average number of times units have had to close their doors to women due to reaching absolute capacity increased from five times in 2015 to eight last year.

The Royal College of Midwives says 3,500 more midwives are needed in England to provide safe care – many more are needed to provide quality care. Sustainability and Transformations Plans instead propose a cut of over 7,300 nurses and midwives by 2020. Applications to nursing and midwifery posts fell by 20% last year following the plan to scrap the NHS bursary and to replace it with loans.

Meanwhile there has been a 145.6% increase in agency spending over the last four years, an average hourly cost of £41.25 compared to £18.02 for an employed experienced midwife. Half the fee goes directly to the agency. Total spending on agency, bank and overtime midwives in 2015 was £72,698,201, which would cover the cost of 2,063 full-time, newly qualified midwives.

Staff are being forced to plug the gaps. 63% of midwives reported they do not have time to use the toilet during a shift, and half report feeling stressed, missing breaks and not completing things they need to. Women most in need of support will be the first and most affected. The NCT report describes the situation as a ‘crisis in maternity care’. Things cannot continue as they are.

Rachel Francis

South London


Trump ushers in new dark age

Happy New Year – although we’re going to have to get busy if that sentiment is to come true. I certainly won’t be sad to see the back of 2016. The courts are dragging my litigation, Obama didn’t pardoned me, and the parole board told me ‘nyet’ (oops – I mean ‘no’). Now an 800-pound gorilla is President here.

People say Trump and co are just fall guys for the dirt the ruling class intends to dump on the body politic. The reality, I think, will be darker. Trump can’t give what he says he will to the people, so he will blame ‘criminals’, ‘foreigners’ and ‘immigrants’ for capitalism’s failings, deflecting undeserved rage onto them and further diminishing a decaying society’s ability to unite.

Only the most fearless leaders will lead the masses to salvation amid a maelstrom of evil competitors. The ruling classes are pumping up nationalist sentiment and globalisation is in retreat. They have directed redistributed profits upwards, leaving too many people without resources to absorb the production that keeps the system running: a crisis of capitalist over-production. The traditional ruling class way of addressing such a crisis is war, for which it is gearing up. Nevertheless, the future does hold promise in the people fighting back.

Keep up the fine work and thank you for sending FRFI!

Bill Dunne #10916-086

Lompoc USP, 3901 Klein Blvd, Lompoc CA 93436, United States


New year, new struggles ahead

Let me send you and your close comrades warm, positive and hopeful Red Season’s greetings.

The year ahead will clearly be one of struggle, with Trump and his open racists and fascists running US imperialism and emboldening other right-wing elements and reaction.

Your good work with the paper and more needs to continue and grow. Even here, behind ugly prison walls in America, your voice is heard. Many, many eyes see your words. So keep up your good work and struggle.

In solidarity for freedom and justice

Jaan Laaman #10372-016

USP Tucson, PO Box 24550e, MA 02071, Tucson AZ85734, USA