Thursday, November 25, 2021

Comrade you have fallen. Take my hand

by John Maryon

An important indicator of how caring and benevolent any society actually is can be seen from the way in which it treats those with serious disabilities or suffering the anguish of mental illness. Those unfortunate men and women need extra loving care to enable them to lead as fuller life as possible and to live with dignity without financial worries. There should also be greater awareness that those who care for others need more support. However in Britain today essential services have been cut back and it has become increasingly difficult for those in need to qualify for support.
    `Benefit sanctions have been used on the flimsiest of excuses when the patient may have been too sick to travel or was unable make the journey to attend interview for another genuine reason. Premature deaths, including by suicide, are associated with benefit sanctions. Cuts to legal aid have made it more difficult for disabled people to challenge the unfair decisions.
    The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is a computer based assessment programme for welfare claimants. The system is used to analyse the limited capacity for work component of Universal Credit (UC) . A number of private companies have carried out the work on behalf of the DWP. The test has faced strong criticism with concerns that it may deprive genuinely disabled people of support. A number of people have sadly died within weeks of being found fit for work.
    Universal Credit is a benefit claimed by 5.8 million people in the UK of which 40 per cent are in work on low pay. The benefit replaced a range of other benefits, including tax credits and unemployment allowance and is significantly less generous than the previous system. It was shown just how critically dependent those in poverty have become when ending the £20 additional Covid payment resulted in a large increase in the dependency on food banks.
    If anyone who lives in a council, or housing association, property has a spare bedroom the housing cost element of UC may be reduced. This is often referred to as the bedroom tax. This measure has hit disabled people below the qualifying age for State Pension Credit. Many need specially adapted homes with extra rooms for equipment or separate sleeping. They are now supposed to seek, smaller unadapted accommodation or face higher rent charges.
    The daily lives of those suffering disabilities is made more difficult by potholed pavements. Access to many public buildings can be extremely difficult for wheelchair users and a large number of railway stations do not have lifts to enable passengers to change platforms. The attitude of society must be changed and awareness increased of the problems that disabled people have to face.

The New Communist Party has a firm commitment and makes a number of important calls:

*Replacing the WCA scheme with an assessment programme carried out by HNS doctors and independent specialists.

*Ending the cruel process of sanctions.

*Abolishing bedroom tax for disabled persons.

*Restoration of full legal aid to challenge unfair decisions.

*The abolition of means testing for all benefits.

*Local authorities to finance workshops to employ more disabled persons.

*Firms to be encouraged to employ more disabled people.

*Scrapping UC and restoring fair targeted benefits.

The NCP believes that the pressures of living under Capitalism are responsible for much of the epidemic of anxiety and depression that is sweeping Britain and the Western world today. Money worries, long hours, job insecurity and social isolation due to changes in work patterns all contribute to the problem. All this is occurring at a time when Mental Health Provision has become the Cinderella of the NHS. Cutbacks to staff and facilities have not been matched by care in the community. Do-gooders just making an effort at Christmas to secure a better seat in heaven amounts to a denial of responsibility.
    Mental health services are desperately trying to cope and the problem is getting worse. Health trusts have been discharging patients into the care of GPs. who may not have the experience or resources necessary to deal with the challenges, or to private care providers. Drugs and psychiatric help can allievate the symptoms but when the patient returns to the environment of raw capitalism that may have contributed to their illness the condition could return.
    The NCP calls for greater funding for mental health services to be improved and expanded. Those who care for mentally sick patients at home should be given more financial and practical help, including greater opportunities for respite. We must mobilise the working class to fight against the destruction of our health service based upon need not profit.
    Communists believe that many neurotic illnesses can be tackled by improved working conditions along with better support from both health and social services. The ruling class has been brutally effective in undermining working class collective consciousness so that workers can feel that they are stigmatised and alone. The NCP calls on the Labour Party and the TUC to energetically campaign for shorter hours, lower retirement age and radical improvements in social service provision.
    Again the notorious WCA to which mental health patients may be subjected has it's negative effects. This test amounts to cruelty and can not only aggravate anxiety but also in some cases cause the condition to develop in those who did not have it.
    The NCP calls for a big investment in facilities to assist those trying to break alcohol and drug dependency. More trained staff and better access to centres for rehabilitation. Proper care by professionals is needed. The patients should not languish in prison or be left to die on the streets. Drug dependency issues must not be regarded as criminal and should be dealt with by well funded NHS and social service departments.
    Communists agree that those people with long term physical and mental health problems should be helped to develop their abilities as far as possible and become full members of society but at their own pace. Above all it is the removal of capitalism and its replacement by a caring socialist society that can provide great benefit. Comrades who have fallen will find many helping hands when we turn our socialist dream into reality.


Monday, November 22, 2021

On the occupation of Kosovo

Statement of communist and workers' parties


 Since June 9th  1999 the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohia has been under the occupation of the striking military arm of the Western imperialism, NATO, and the Serbs living in that area have become second-class citizens.

On that day, the so-called "Kumanovo Agreement" was signed, which started the NATO occupation of Kosovo and Metohia after the aggression of the western imperialist countries on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (March 24 - June 10). By signing that agreement, the Yugoslav Army was forced to leave Kosovo, and the Albanian terrorist pro-imperialist "Kosovo Liberation Army" took power in that territory, while NATO formed the largest military base in the Balkans, "Bondsteel". The aggression against FR Yugoslavia, the occupation of Kosovo and Metohia and the installation of the pro-imperialist separatist "Kosovo Liberation Army" in power in Pristina were done for the sake of expansionist and plundering interests of Western big capital.

A large number of Serbs and other non-Albanians were forced to flee their homes and flee to Serbia, while the rest of the Serb population left in Kosovo was subjected to constant torture and harassment by Albanian pro-imperialist separatist authorities in Pristina.

Since 2013, under the auspices of the European Union, meetings have been held in Brussels between the authorities in Belgrade and the separatist leadership in Pristina, at which the goal of the Western imperialists is to force Belgrade to accept the "independence" of Kosovo.

In the meantime, the Serb population has been exposed to constant pressure from the pro-imperialist separatist authorities in Pristina. It is completely hypocritical but also naive to expect that any negotiations on peace and prosperity will be conducted under the auspices of the imperialist power of the European Union, which, along with the United States and NATO, is the biggest culprit for the occupation and separation of Kosovo and Metohia from Serbia.


The Communist and Workers' Parties, signatories to this joint statement, demand the following:

 

    • That Washington, London, Brussels and other imperialist centers of power immediately stop putting pressure on Serbia to recognize the "independence" of Kosovo. Kosovo and Metohia is an integral and indivisible whole which, as its province, belongs to Serbia. Any change of borders is unacceptable and contrary to the interests of peace and prosperity.

     • That the puppet pro-imperialist government in Kosovo immediately stop all pressure on the Serb population living in that territory, as well as provide all refugees with opportunities to return if they wish!

     • The Serbian and Albanian people in Kosovo and Metohia should live in peace and unity and in the tradition of fraternal relations between Albanians and Serbs who, in the Second World War, fought side by side against the Nazi-fascist occupier!

    • The occupying NATO troops must immediately leave the territory of Kosovo and Metohia, and that southern Serbian province should return to the motherland. Only in that way can Serbs and Albanians live in that territory in true peace and prosperity!

    • NATO troops should leave all the territories they hold under occupation in the former Yugoslavia, as well as leave all the countries of the peninsula where they have their bases.

    • The Balkans belong to the Balkan nations and not to the USA, EU and NATO imperialists! NATO out of the Balkans!

 


Signatory parties:

1. New Communist Party of Britain

2. Communist Party (Switzerland)

3. Progressive Tribune of Bahrain

4. Syrian Communist Party (United)

5. Communists of Catalonia

6. Socialist movement of Kazakhstan

7. Communist Party of the People of Spain

8. United Communist Party of Georgia

9. Communist Party of Britain

10. Hungarian Workers' Party

11. Workers' Party of Ireland

12. The Pole of the Communist Renewal of France

13. Socialist Workers' Party of Croatia

14. Philippine Communist Party (PKP-1930)

15. Kurdistan Communist Party - Iraq

16. Communist Party of Belgium

17. Labour Party of Austria

18. Communist Party of Swaziland

19. Communist Party of the Workers of Spain

20. Party of Communists USA

21. New Communist Party of New Zealand - Te Pāti o Te Nuku Mauī Communist Party of  Aotearoa

22. Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)

23. Australian Communist Party

24. Portuguese Communist Party

25. Communist Party of the Russian Federation

26. Communists of Serbia

27. Communist Party of Germany

28. Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia

29. Belarusian Republic Organization KPSS

30. Communist Party (Sweden)

31. New Communist Party of Yugoslavia

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Boris is in trouble

Boris Johnson’s in trouble. Getting nowhere with Brussels over northern Ireland; under fire in the North Country for scrapping the HS2 Leeds extension; swamped with sleaze stories largely from his own camp – even the useless Keir Starmer is getting the better of him at Question Time in the Commons. No wonder Labour’s in the lead – the first for nearly a year – in the opinion polls.
    The Prime Minister’s woes are, of course, largely of his own making. He surrounds himself with people lesser than himself and then expects them to resolve problems that even he can’t resolve. His only asset has been a proven ability to get the Tory vote out when needed over Brexit and at the last general election.
    Brexit was, undeniably, a remarkable achievement for the Tory leader who had to drive the grandees out of his own party during the post-referendum battles that brought down David Cameron and Mrs May. Victory, however, came at a high price. The grandees have never forgiven him for his churlish behaviour nor have they abandoned their dreams of returning to the European Union. But the grandees aren’t the only ones.
    Johnson staked everything on a Trump victory in the American elections. “Britain’s Trump” believed that would lead to a “Treaty of Washington” that would create and Anglo-American free trade arena that would replace the Treaty of Rome. But it didn’t happen and it’s clearly not going to happen under Biden.
    The dispute with Brussels over the status of northern Ireland has only made things worse. The Northern Ireland Protocol that governs the post-Brexit customs and immigration issues and trade between the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom was meant to resolve the problem. Now the Government, under pressure from the Ulster Unionist parties, is threatening to suspend the deal outright.
    But many in the Tory camp fear that any unilateral move on northern Ireland will only add to their woes. They know that the American Democrats are mindful of the voting power of the Kennedy clan and the rest of the American-Irish lobby which includes Biden himself. And the Americans have made it clear that they’ll support the Irish government if it comes to an Anglo-Irish trade war.
    With no fall-back position Johnson’s been left floundering outside Biden’s international circle. “Global Britain” remains a dream despite hosting two major international summits in the UK over the past year and nobody now seriously talks about a “special relationship” with the United States.
    Some Tories clearly believe that taking Johnson out of the equation will renew the trans-Atlantic bonds they believe are essential for the survival of British imperialism. Others don’t want to rock the boat until after the next election. But for us the future of the Conservative & Unionist Party is matter of complete indifference. It’s the future of the labour movement that counts.
    These days all that Starmer & Co have to offer is the old Blairite claim that they are a tad more liberal than the Tories on social issues. But the choice for working people cannot be simply reduced to which major party is worse than the other. The choice clearly has to be for a Labour Party that reflects the demands of the street and not the differences between certain elements within the ruling class on how to best exploit those they oppress. Sadly the future doesn’t bode well with Starmer at the helm of the Labour Party.
    Labour must return to its core policies to keep its core voters. The “Welfare State” and the public sector must be restored and higher rate income tax raised to 1979 levels to help pay for it. The labour movement has the power to change the leadership and the direction of the Labour Party. That change is needed more than ever now.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Tory sleaze -- no surprise

No one should be surprised at the current Tory sleaze scandals that are rocking the Westminster bubble these days. The Tories are, afterall, the main representatives of the capitalist class in Britain, and corruption has always been the beating heart of capitalism itself. In Brecht’s imaginary city of Mahagonny the only crime was having no money at all. In British capitalism the only crime is getting caught.
    In the old days the landed gentry would look down on businessmen or indeed anyone else who actually worked for a living and claimed they “played the game” for the game’s sake and not for anything so venal as money. But it wasn’t true then and it certainly isn’t true now.
    The real ethos of the public schools which teach those who are born to rule how to behave is simply back-scratching, favours for favours and “jobs for the boys”.
    Though Boris Johnson has been under investigation by the standards authorities more often than any other serving politician in the last three years that, in itself, doesn’t mean much. The gold wall-paper and the venal lobbying pale into insignificance when compared to the Tory sleaze that finally sunk the Major government or the days of Lloyd George, when the “Welsh wizard” sold barrow-loads of titles and honours in the1920s to raise money for the Liberal Party.
    The Tories have slipped in the opinion polls over this. The latest found that almost half of the voters think the prime minister and his party are “corrupt” in the light of a recent lobbying scandal. Some 48 per cent of voters now think the Tories are “corrupt” whilst 47 per cent think the same about Johnson. But whether Labour can benefit from this is another matter altogether.
    Sir Keir Starmer has proved to be utterly useless as Labour’s leader. At Labour conference his camp told us we would see a Starmer come-back in the autumn. But few remembers his Brighton speech and no-one’s bothered to read his boring book. His only achievement has been in leading the purge of the Corbynistas in his own party that has disillusionned millions of Labour’s supporters and paralysed its campaigning activities across the country.
    Some Corbynistas say stay and fight. Others are once again going down the forlorn road of trying to build a new Labour party. The fight-back has prove ineffectual so far while the alternative to labour merchants are doomed to failure as it they have no serious support within the union movement.
    We must, obviously, expose the Tories for their corrupt practices but it mustn’t stop there. Venal Labour politicians and bloated union bureaucrats thrive on the jobbery of a labour movement that mimics the corrupt standards of our so-called “Mother of Parliaments”.
    Though the Labour Party is dominated by the class‑collaborating right wing in the parliamentary party and the trade union movement, the possibility of their defeat exists as long as Labour retains its organisational links with the trade unions that fund it. The defeat of right‑wing union blocs in most of the major unions over the past twenty years demonstrates this possibility.
    The Blairites and Zionists can be driven out of the labour movement but only through mass pressure from the rank and file in the unions and Labour’s constituency parties in support of genuine socialist policies that can rally millions of working people to the Labour platform.
    Meanwhile Starmer remains Johnson’s best card. The Tory leader has little to fear at the next election. Johnson can get the Tory vote out. Starmer can’t say the same for Labour.

Bristol’s ‘Wild’ West

by Ben Soton

The Outlaws. BBC TV series currently showing on BBC1, Mondays 9pm. Also available on BBC iPlayer. Created by Elgin James and Stephen Merchant. Directors: Stephen Merchant and John Butler. Stars: Rhianne Barreto, Darren Boyd, Gamba Cole, Jessica Gunning, Clare Perkins, Eleanor Tomlinson, Charles Babalola, Stephen Merchant, Christopher Walken.

Stephen Merchant’s Bristol-based sit-com The Outlaws has now been running for the last few weeks on Monday nights. Merchant has been responsible for an array of comedies including The Office, Extras and Small World.
    The focus of his latest drama is group of Bristolians undertaking Community Payback for a range of minor offences. The characters include a lawyer, a social media celebrity, a small business owner, a civil-rights activist, a student, and an American draft dodger who has been living in Bristol since the Vietnam war.
    Merchant takes a non-judgmental view of every member of this highly diverse group. The story includes flashbacks to the offences that led to each of them finding themselves wearing high-vis vests and clearing derelict waste ground. This results in an array of amusing scenes, often depicting sad situations. In one instance Greg, the lawyer (played by Merchant himself), drives into a police car whilst trying to avoid being caught with a prostitute.
    In The Outlaws Merchant attempts to show some of the issues prevalent in his home town of Bristol, which last summer hit the headlines when Bristolians threw the statue of the slave-trader Edward Colston into the Bristol Channel.
    Another character, Myrna (played by Clare Perkins), is a Black civil rights activist who took part in the destruction of the hated statue. Myrna finds herself doing Community Payback for towing away a police recruitment caravan in Bristol High Street. Her situation shows the price some political activists pay for a lifetime of commitment. She lives alone in a bedsit surrounded by posters and old books and finds herself kicked out of her own organisation by younger activists.
    Although some of us have done a bit better for ourselves, many of the issues depicted in the drama could apply to much of the country – the work-place bullying suffered by Greg the lawyer from his cocaine-snorting colleagues; Frank (played by Christopher Walken), the American who lives with his single-parent daughter, struggling to make ends meet on a low income. The drama also touches on the issue of drug-related crime; something not unique to Bristol.
    Everything changes when a bag-load of money is found on wasteland. John, the businessman (played by Darren Boyd), needs it to help his ailing business; however Myrna, surprisingly, believes the money should be handed over to the authorities. The consequences of this are likely to give the series an extra edge.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

UNITE: A new broom at the helm

by New Worker North West correspondent

Unite’s supreme policy making conference, which normally takes place every two years, was delayed by several months because of coronavirus and the pandemic,
    But last month the conference for Britain’s second largest union was held at the huge ACC Convention Centre, Kings Dock, Liverpool. Before conference all delegates, observers, guests, the press and media, were required to be self-tested at home for COVID‑19 using postal NHS kits from the National Test and Trace Service.
    The simple Covid lateral flow test produces a positive or negative result, which is then self-reported via computer or mobile telephone. Those with positive test results were advised to stay at home.
    People with negative test results were not checked at the ACC venue by security however, making a mockery of the whole process.
    Unite's Policy Conference kicked off at 1pm on Monday 18th October. It was attended by over 700 Unite delegates and dozens of observers, guests, Unite full-time officials and staff, fringe-events organisers, and the press and media.
    It was competently chaired throughout by Tony Woodhouse from the Union's Executive Committee and the new General Secretary, Sharon Graham, served as Secretary to Conference.
    In her keynote address, Sharon Graham set out her programme of change to transform the way the union operates. “Unite is going to be in the vanguard that can change what is happening to workers. Their voice must be heard. We have to concentrate on defending jobs, pay and conditions. We will not accept further attacks on workers’ living standards. It’s time we put a stake in the ground on that.”
    In her first speech to annual conference since being elected general secretary, the Unite leader warned that workers should not “pay the price for the pandemic” and compared the current economic situation with the 2008 economic collapse.
    “The post-Covid crisis is 2008 on steroids. The politicians have failed us during the COVID crisis; they were nowhere to be seen. There is no political saviour on a white horse coming over the hill to save us. We have to organise and fight for ourselves. That’s what the trade unions are for.”
    She focused on the many unscrupulous employers who have used the cover of the pandemic to fire-and-rehire workers to force wage cuts and attacks on their conditions. She said: “Employer after employer has used fire-and-rehire to make workers pay for COVID. One in 10 workers has suffered this fate to-date.”
    The new general secretary singled out one particular employer to point the finger at – British Airways (BA). She said: “BA’s actions on fire-and-rehire set a chain reaction which emboldened other employers to fire-and-rehire their workers. They became pace-setters for a drive to the bottom on wages and conditions.”
    Now it was time to build Unite’s power to change things by ushering in a new era of 'Combine' organisation, “deepening the union’s industrial focus”. She pledged to use the creation of ‘combines’ – “where we bring all our reps together by industry or sector to create collective bargaining at the level of whole industries or sectors”. The new combines would be fit for the 21st Century to tackle multinational employers.
    Sharon Graham highlighted Unite’s creation of a home-working agreement for bank workers as an example. This meant that instead of the agreement being put piecemeal to the Big Four high street banks, it should be put forward to all the bank chief executive officers for an industry collective agreement. She said: “The reality is if we don’t strike good agreements, we will pay the price of bad agreements taking hold.”
    Finally she spoke about what she termed “worker politics”. Her position on Unite and the Labour Party had been misconstrued by the media during her election campaign.
    She said her commitment to “getting back to the workplace” did not mean that Unite was abandoning politics.
    “Time to slay this particular dragon,” she said. “The idea that Unite is standing down from the political arena is totally wrong. Rather, we want to build a different politics, not top down but from the shop floor and the fabric of local communities up, in order to drive through the political process in an entirely different way.”
    On Wednesday afternoon, outgoing General Secretary Len McCluskey gave a stirring farewell speech to delegates. After a decade at the helm, assisting the merger of several unions including the old TGWU, engineers, electricians, printers, construction workers, banking staff, Amicus, MSF and others, he wished the incoming general secretary all the best for the future.
    It was a successful, uplifting, well attended delegate conference at the ACC Centre in Liverpool. There were many fringe stalls and meetings. The Liverpool Centre enjoys modern communications and state of the art technology, the Centre staff being helpful and professional. Disabled access outside the Centre to the entrance was poor, however, and complaints have been made about this to the General Secretary and the Centre management.
    Unite is facing the future as a massive, growing and strong union. It is democratically run by its Lay members and its Executive Committee – it is not controlled by its appointed full-time officials.
    Unite's education service nationally and regionally is second to none. Workers can obtain time off from work with pay to attend short courses on health and safety, shop stewards organising and specialist trade courses. Unite should however, organise more courses on the workers history of struggle, and the scientific philosophy of the working class: dialectical and historical materialism.
    Turn-out in the recent election postal ballot for a new General Secretary was too low. Unite needs to find ways to increase membership voting in such important elections.
    Unite is determined to remain membership-led in its campaigns for better wages and conditions, for equality at work, to embrace new technology, for a shorter working week without wage cuts, to rebuff the employers, particularly global companies, and to work constructively with a progressive, socialist-oriented Labour Party without allowing Labour to dominate Unite.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Joint statement on Paraguay


For the validity of the rule of law: freedom for prisoners with completed sentences

The undersigned Communist and Workers Parties denounce the Paraguayan government to the international community for the illegal detention of Carmen Villalba, who is still being held in the Asunción Women's Prison, in Paraguay, despite the effective fulfillment of her sentence.


In this regard, we note that Carmen Villalba was sentenced by a final judicial sentence to 15 years in prison plus 3 years for security measures, having served said sentence in July of this year and obtained a resolution of freedom for embezzlement in this case. In the same way, a firm sentence to 17 years in prison weighs on her in a case that, being extinct, should never have reached a sentence. In this case, Carmen Villalba has also exceeded 17 years of sentence, on July 4 of this year. Since then and to date, her legal defense has requested her release by compurgation, a procedure that has been subject to an unjustifiable and illegal delay, considering the constitutional guarantees at stake, such as freedom of movement, the principle of legality, among others.

In this regard, we first recall that Carmen Villalba was apprehended on July 2, 2004, remaining in preventive detention by order issued by the prosecutor Carmen Meza on February 28, 2005, within the framework of case 1129. Notwithstanding this , the criminal execution judge N ° 3 of Luque, instead of ordering the immediate release by compurgation of the sentence in its entirety, issued a resolution in which the nature of the detention of origin is unknown. All of this, based on mere formalities and in open contradiction with the provisions of the legislation that refers to the final calculation of penalties, taking into account the day of restriction of freedom (art. 494 Code of Criminal Procedure).

We consider that Carmen Villalba’sstate of detention constitutes an arbitrary situation and contrary to the rule of law, since she has fully served her sentence, duly established with the same law that is being violated today by not allowing her freedom. In addition, the context in which the restriction of Carmen Villalba's freedom is arbitrarily delayed significantly aggravates the situation.Her daughter Carmen Elizabeth "Lichita" is disappeared since last November, her sister Laura was arrested and her nieces María Carmen and Lilian Mariana were murdered in September 2020, mournful events that add to the murder of her son Néstor and the refuge in Argentina of several of his relatives due to harassment by the Paraguayan security forces.

For all the above, the national and international community demands the immediate release of Carmen Villalba, considering the fulfillment of her sentence. This situation, if it persists, exposes the Paraguayan State to responsibilities for violation of constitutional guarantees and human rights treaties.



SolidNet Parties:

Communist Party of Albania
Communist Party of Argentina
Party of Labour of Austria
Communist Party of Bangladesh
Communist Party of Belgium
Communist Party of Bolivia
Brazilian Communist Party
Communist Party of Brazil
New Communist Party of Britain
Communist Party of Chile
Colombian Communist Party
Croatian Socialist Workers Party
AKEL, Cyprus
Communist Party of Denmark
Communist Party of Ecuador
Unified Communist Party of Georgia
German Communist Party
Communist Party of Greece
Communist Party of Ireland
Workers Party of Ireland
Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan
Communist Party of Mexico
Popular Socialist Party - National Political Association , Mexico
Communist Party of Pakistan
Paraguayan Communist Party
Philippines Communist Party (PKP 1930)
Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain
Communist Party of Swaziland
Communist Party of Uruguay
Communist Party USA
Communist Party of Venezuela



Other Parties


Communist Party (Switzerland)
Union of the Galician People




Adult Fun

by Ben Soton

The Man Who Died Twice (The Thursday Murder Club, 2) by Richard Osman, Penguin. Hardback: 2021, 432pp, RRP £18.99. Paperback: 2022, 336pp, RRP £8.99. .

Richard Osman, the television presenter and writer well-known as one of the public faces of the TV quiz show Pointless, has now made a name for himself as a crime writer.
    His second novel, based around a group of septuagenarian sleuths, hit the book shelves earlier this year. In The Man Who Died Twice we meet the four main characters where they left off – living in a retirement community in the fictional town of Fairhaven in Kent.
    As with Osman’s first novel, we see a diverse group of pensioners getting up to mischief and delving into areas you would not expect. At the outset of the novel Ibrahim, a retired psychiatrist, is mugged and ends up in hospital. His friends, Ron, Elizabeth and Joyce, soon get their revenge on the mugger. Fair play to them.
    Much of the novel centres around the re-emergence of ex-spook Elizabeth’s former husband, who re-emerges after several decades with a bag of diamonds stolen from a notorious crook called Martin Lomax. The story takes us into the world of international organised crime and money laundering.
    Oman manages to explain that we live in an ultimately interconnected world, where petty-criminals are linked to bigger fish who are in turn connected to international crime barons. Suffice it to say, these crime barons through money laundering are linked to the world of high finance.
    According to data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and European crime-fighting agency Europol, the annual global drugs trade is worth around $435 billion per year, with the annual cocaine trade worth $84 billion. It poses the question as to whether the authorities turn a blind eye to drug crime due to pressure from finance capital. There are properties in some inner-city areas where residents are unable to open their windows due to the unpleasant aroma of marijuana and are told by the police that nothing can be done. Last year the global cannabis market was valued at $22.10 billion.
    Where do our pensioners fit in? Ultimately, they have experience on their side and to a certain extent no one takes them seriously. The police are portrayed incompetent; in the early part of the novel a drug dealer, whose home they are watching, brings them a cup of coffee.
    Meanwhile, our group are also from that lucky generation born between the last stages of the Second World War and the early 1960s. This generation benefitted from the strength of the socialist camp abroad; forcing our ruling class to give concessions such as the NHS. It is perhaps fitting that Joyce, who occasionally narrates the story, is a former nurse. Another effect of the strength of socialist forces internationally was a strong labour movement in Britain. Again, Ron is a former trade union leader. Strangely, Elizabeth, a former MI5 agent, made a career trying to undermine the things that made her generation’s life much easier than earlier, or to that matter later, generations.
    Osman’s novels have similarities to the Tom Sharpe comedies of the 1980s; namely comedies that shine a light on the dark side of society in a light-hearted and innocent way. I would not be surprised if Osman’s work does not soon hit the TV screens.


Saturday, October 23, 2021

Our Land – Our Precious Resource

by John Maryon


As a vital part of the earth's biosphere, the land we live on, along with the air we breathe and the water we drink, are basic for the survival of life, including our own. One of Lenin's first decrees was to abolish the private ownership of land in the countryside and to redistribute it from the church and aristocracy to the peasants. Land is too precious to be regarded as a tradeable asset for speculation or to form a basis for the accumulation of wealth. All land should belong to the people under common ownership as their birth-right.
    The private ownership of land allows for exploitation in the form of rent and access costs for living or any economic activity. Landowners can levy a charge whilst making no contribution in return. They did not create the land. Their regular income represents a never-ending drain on wealth created by others. Two-thirds of all registered land in Britain is owned by just 189,009 families whilst fewer than 5,000 landowners own 27 per cent. Land ownership is increasingly seen as a tax efficient speculative strategy by wealthy foreigners and off-shore fund managers.
    Britain's large land owners include the Church of England, pension funds and aristocrats. Many are pillars of the establishment with strong links to the Conservative Party. This class has ensured that the pledge in the Labour Party's 1945 Manifesto for a radical solution to the crippling problems of land acquisition was never implemented. The Royal Family are also large landowners, along with the Dukes of Westminster and Northumberland.
    Whereas Britain's 189,000 large land-owners are liable for council tax if they own property, they pay no tax on owning their land. In England it is estimated that less than one per cent of the population own half the land. If the land were distributed, each one of us would have about half an acre. The form in which agricultural subsidies are paid each year is being transformed post-Brexit and is currently estimated at £3 billion per year.
    The New Communist Party calls for public ownership of all land with provision for leasehold without charge for owner-occupiers. It is NCP policy to cap rents and impose proper taxation for land ownership that would close off-shore tax havens. The funds generated could off-set council tax, which is, in reality, a regressive tax measure.
    In urban areas, land ownership is the biggest factor in the cost of housing or productive enterprises. In 2020 the costs for building land, generally speaking, ranged from £300,000 per acre in Northern Britain to £1-million in the South. The most expensive land is to be found in central London, where the recent opening of Pandora's Box revealed a billionaires’ playground. The NCP regards the system of land ownership in Britain as obscenely undemocratic.
    Thousands of acres of public-owned land are being transferred into private ownership at an alarming rate. Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects, the conversion of streets into shopping arcades and the privatisation of utilities, along with the sale and lease-back of public buildings, including health centres, all contribute to this process.
    In the countryside the problems are no less acute. The number of small farms is in decline as they struggle to cope with the volatility of milk, beef and lamb prices. With the ending of the Milk Marketing Boards, many have been forced into contracts that expose them to full market forces. Tenant farmers have been affected by an increasing rent burden. Big business is taking over, and the large estates are increasing in size.
    Farmers have traditionally been stewards of the countryside. By being in close daily contact with the land they loved, they could take a pride in protecting wildlife and ensuring a good level of biodiversity on their farms. Prince Charles has himself been outspoken in his calls to protect the environment.
    With average house prices over 10 times the annual income of most rural workers, housing has become a growing problem. A dwindling stock of affordable housing for key workers such as teachers, nurses, police officers, and land workers has forced many young people to move out, leaving an ageing and increasingly isolated population. Villages are being turned into dormitories for wealthy incomers. Pubs, shops, schools and even churches are being converted into upmarket housing. Cuts and privatisations have devastated public transport and have led to a growing dependence on cars and a divide between those with and those without.
    The NCP calls for the urgent building of council houses, funded by local council bonds, to supply a basic and affordable social need. The NCP also calls for the restoration of rural bus services and post offices.
    Serious concerns exist about the potential damage from fracking to extract shale gas – often in areas of outstanding natural beauty. Contamination of the water-table with methane is a risk, and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) that had been locked away in the rocks is released when the gas is burned. The NCP is totally opposed to fracking in the UK.
    According to the Big Issue magazine, over 20 per cent of the UK population live in poverty, a high proportion of whom live in rural areas. With benefit cuts and fuel poverty caused by rip-off energy costs, the dependence on foodbanks continues to grow. Wages and conditions for agricultural workers in England and Wales are no longer protected by the Agricultural Wages Boards and many permanent jobs are increasingly being replaced with casual labour. The NCP calls for the full and immediate restoration of those Boards that were abolished.
    Land is a precious resource upon which we all depend. Those who work on the land should be respected and paid well. Our land and all the creatures that live on it must be protected and managed for the benefit of all the people. It is not a commodity to be used to line the pockets of the exploiting class.

For a United Ireland

Though northern Ireland dropped from the headlines this week the deepening row with the European Union over the future status of the occupied north continues to simmer as the Johnson government considers the latest compromise offer from Brussels.
    In December the UK and the EU reached an agreement on specific trade arrangements for Northern Ireland, including the implementation of a new Irish Sea border and post-Brexit border checks and trading rules for Northern Ireland. Now Johnson tells us he’s going to 'fix' these post-Brexit rules that are disrupting Britain’s goods trade with northern Ireland while his minions say that the latest offer from the European Union to slash regulatory checks and dramatically cut customs processes on British goods moving to northern Ireland isn’t enough. This is because the Johnson Government wants to go far beyond the confines of trade to rewrite the whole post-Brexit agreement with Brussels.
    Johnson’s demands range from stripping EU judges of power over Northern Ireland to the somewhat ludicrous call from their own backbenchers to scrapping metrification and restoring imperial measurements in what they still regard as a “province” of Britain.
    While there’s no sign of shift in Brussels or London there will be immense pressure on Johnson from the other side of the Atlantic to settle before Joe Biden lands in Glasgow for the climate change conference in November.
    Tinkering around the Northern Ireland Protocol may resolve the current dispute with the European Union but it doesn’t address the fundamental problem which is the continuing partition of Ireland.
    The New Communist Party welcomed the advances made under the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and the overwhelming endorsement of the agreement in the all‑Ireland 1999 referendum.
    But the NCP did not believe that this agreement could ever be a final resolution of the struggle for Irish national self‑determination. Though the agreement that ended the fighting provided the basis for the economic revival of the north it contained major flaws including the continued dependence on annual block grants from Westminster, and the continued presence of British troops in Ireland.
    We do not support devolution as an end in itself, but call for a complete end to British interference in Irish affairs, and any British state presence on Irish soil including civil, military, police or intelligence units.
    The NCP believes Sinn Féin is the leading force in the struggle for Irish national self‑determination. It is a broad alliance of nationalist and patriotic class forces that more than any other organisation can legitimately claim to be continuing the struggles of the United Irishmen, the Young Irelanders, the Fenian Brotherhood, the Land League, the Irish Citizen Army, and the Irish Republican Army.
    From our earliest days we have called for an immediate and unconditional end to the partition of Ireland, the withdrawal of all civil, police or military units from any foreign state, and the achievement of full national self‑determination and sovereignty in a united Ireland.
    We believe the Irish people have the right to use political or military means to achieve those goals, just as the British state realises its own interests in the same way.