Letters - FRFI 259 Aug/Sep 2017

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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.

 

We should be more sympathetic to those whose anger and despair has brought them out in support of Corbyn. We should acknowledge that he attracted a high youth and black vote. We must not alienate these embryonic forces but work alongside them to show how Labour offers false promises.

The RCG’s 1997 slogan ‘Don’t vote, organise!’ was a more realistic alternative to voting, and would work now in building up the campaigns and struggles which will be necessary to fight austerity and the betrayal of Labour. These will lead to the building of a movement which will allow a party to arise that can fight for socialism. This is not 1920.

John Walker
Herefordshire


Reply from Robert Clough

It is not clear how Cde John arrives at his conclusion, which is that Corbyn’s leadership is something new, but that we should retain a slogan we adopted in the 1997 election, when Tony Blair had made absolutely clear what a reactionary he was. There is a difference, of course, not just in the fact of Corbyn’s leadership, but what he and his supporters have managed to do: close down every sign of resistance so that today there is actually no movement at all. Our slogan ‘fight for socialism’ is an appeal to those who are looking for a real alternative and are not content with an abstract appeal to organise. The issue is not just organising, but the political basis for it. It has to be socialism.

Fight for disabled people’s lives

According to government figures half of all disabled people found fit for work have their decisions overturned. So why is the system so wrong so often?

Figures for benefit fraud are less than 2%, so why is it talked about so frequently? Why do we hear more about ‘man claiming disability benefits climbs Kilimanjaro’ than the people who have died after having their benefits stopped?

A Freedom of Information request found that on average 90 people died each month between December 2011 and February 2014 after the DWP cut their benefit. Where are the stories about these people?

Forcing disabled people to go to work capability assessments is unnecessarily distressing and known to exacerbate existing health conditions. No money is saved by putting the disabled through assessments – after all of the admin fees and overturned decisions – so why are we being put through this harassment?

There used to be a high rate of success at the mandatory reconsideration stage, the internal DWP appeal. However, the DWP now aims to uphold 80% of its decisions – which it exceeds. No matter how inaccurate the initial decision may be, they will be largely upheld, leaving disabled people without desperately needed money and forcing them to continue to first-tier tribunals.

I call upon the people to stand with the disabled – for it’s a fight that cannot be fought alone. Many are too sick to appeal against decisions, many feel as if they cannot go on, and many have lost hope. We must support the most vulnerable people in our society. Something has to change – the DWP has blood on its hands.

Alex
Leeds


Durham TAs refuse to be divided by Unison

I’m a teaching assistant in Newcastle and a member of Unison. I’ve been following and supporting the struggle of the Durham teaching assistants against attacks on their wages and conditions.

They have been fighting heroically for the past two years, refusing to give up. In June they were offered a deal which would have seen nearly a quarter of TAs lose up to £4,000 a year. Instead of allowing themselves to be divided they stood together and rejected the deal and so the fight continues.

Unison would rather this was not the case. I don’t get anything in the Unison magazine celebrating the TAs’ struggle. They should be on the front page but there’s hardly ever a sentence. Instead I get phone calls offering me life insurance! Right at the beginning of the campaign Unison told TAs to accept the rubbish deals offered to them and it hailed the most recent one as a victory, praising it as a ‘breakthrough’.

General Secretary of Unison Dave Prentis had said that not one TA would lose out. With the new offer he said that the dispute had ended and that TAs were ‘now talking about protection with nobody losing’.

Well, the TAs saw through this, and the dispute has definitely not ended. For them to get anywhere they have had to do it independently of their union.

Unison – I don’t want you to sell me life insurance. I want you to inform me about the courageous struggle of the TAs and how I can support them. Stop stabbing them in the back.

Mark
Newcastle


Grenfell: inhumane Tories

Leaving the White City Estate in west London, I walked mournfully to the site of the Grenfell disaster, only a few hundred yards away. Proceeding down Latimer Road must feel like an entry into Hell. The pompous and fanatically mean Tory Council has always neglected North Kensington in comparison with South Kensington. The Tories are obsessed with cost-cutting at the expense of safety. Any architect would say that a sprinkler system is essential in case of fire. There were no sprinklers in Grenfell Tower. Outsourcing local services to cowboy private contractors has risks. Those flames swarming mercilessly through a building crammed with the capital’s poor were ignited by Tory values that subordinate delicate, priceless humanity to the grim figures in an account book.

Zekria Ibrahimi
London


Newham Labour council’s runaway debt

Debt Resistance UK continues to expose and challenge councils around the country who took out expensive and risky loans and are now paying back extortionate amounts of money to banks at the expense of local services. In July, Focus E15 campaign collaborated with Debt Resistance UK to produce the Newham Nag, a spoof of the Labour council’s Newham Mag which is handed out free to all residents twice a month extolling the virtues of this ‘shining example’ of a borough. The Newham Nag has the real news of the Labour borough of Newham and its Olympic legacy: rising street homelessness, ongoing social cleansing, plans to decant the remaining residents and level the Carpenters Estate, and a Labour Mayor on £80,000 a year with the same again in expenses.

In the Newham Nag it is stated that the equivalent of 80% of all council tax income collected by Newham is spent on paying interest on the council’s debt. However, the latest research by Debt Resistance UK is that Labour Newham’s debt repayments are now a staggering 125% of council tax (2016/17). Meanwhile Labour Mayor Robin Wales also sits on the newly formed North East London Sustainability and Transformation Plan and will be part of the team finding ways to cut £587m from health and social care budgets across north east London.

Join the Focus E15 campaign raising these issues on the weekly street stall and march with us on Saturday 12 August demanding decent, safe and secure housing for all and no to the demolition of council housing. Don’t let Labour boroughs off the hook. Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Social housing! Not social cleansing!

Hannah Caller
East London


US prison repression escalates

I wanted to send warm greetings to all of you and to your necessary work. I also wanted to say thanks for your support in FRFI 258. I recently received a letter from Birmingham RCG – good to get their support and solidarity as well.

So, I am still in segregation here in US prison in Tucson, Arizona. My official status is ‘pending designation to CMU [communication management unit]’. CMU is a repressive lockdown control unit that tries to limit and restrict all communication and contact with the outside world. Right now the decision whether to transfer me is with a regional office; then it goes to the DC headquarters of the Bureau of Prisons and the ‘terrorist office’.

I’ve been in captivity for decades. Since the first week I have been analysing the world and US events with little interference from the various prisons I’ve been in. So the situation now is clearly an escalation of repression. I do believe state repression, particularly in the prison industrial complex, is getting worse.

Of course, public resistance has also been on the rise and continues to grow. Struggle is definitely on the agenda. I receive some public support, but of course most of the time these prison bureaucrats get away with what they want to do.

I have been a long time reader of FRFI – your analysis is welcomed and well received. Men often ask me if I’ve had ‘another one of those British papers yet’! So thanks for your support – take care.

Jaan Laaman 10372-016

PO Box 24550, Tucson,

Arizona

AZ 85734, USA


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 259 August/September 2017