Friday, April 21, 2017

President Kim Il Sung and Britain

by Dermot Hudson

The highly significant 105th anniversary of the birth of the great Korean communist leader, comrade Kim Il Sung, is a reminder of how important it is to reflect on the relevance of his teachings and ideas to Britain. How are the ideas of Kim Il Sung applicable to Britain?
Firstly, the great Juche idea is applicable to Britain because it teaches that every country and every people should be independent and masters of their own destiny. The Juche idea is expressed in practical terms as Juche in ideology, independence in politics and self-reliant in defence. These are policies that a new progressive government could and should implement. Although Britain is an imperialist country it is at the same time deeply subordinate to US imperialism and pursues the so-called special relationship.
A new government in Britain could apply Juche by leaving NATO and kicking out
US troops. This would be a basic prerequisite to achieving independence in politics. Kim Il Sung understood the need for capitalist countries to be independent, saying:  "Ours is an era when the people demand independence. Today even the people of the capitalist countries, to say nothing of the socialist countries, want to take the road of independence and especially the people of the Third World who were exploited and oppressed by the imperialists over a long period are advancing under the uplifted banner of independence."
            Kim Il Sung showed the way to independence for the peoples of the capitalist, socialist and Third World countries. Indeed, the Juche idea reflects the aspirations of the peoples of all countries for independence – this is an undeniable fact.
            To establish Juche and achieve both political and economic independence, Britain would need to break with international capitalism and imperialism by leaving the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The British people recently voted, decisively, to leave the hated EU. President Kim Il Sung condemned the predecessor of the EU, the Common Market, pointing out that: "The ‘European Common Market’, the ‘integration of the world economy’ and the like, loudly advertised by the imperialist powers today, all pursue the heinous, aggressive aims of strangling the economic independence of the newly independent states and subordinating these countries to their rule."
Indeed, as Britain prepares to withdraw from the EU the teachings of Kim Il Sung on building an independent national economy are highly relevant to the British people. When some big power chauvinists and revisionists tried to force the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to join the former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA or COMECON), a Soviet-led economic bloc dominated by the USSR and its Warsaw Pact allies, this was opposed by President Kim Il Sung. The leader of the Workers Party of Korea upheld the banner of self-reliance and the independent national economy, saying later that: "It has become more clear today that our decision to build socialism by our own efforts on the principle of self-reliance and not enter the CMEA was quite correct."
He defined the building of an independent national economy as: "Building an independent national economy means building a diversified economy, equipping it with up-to-date technology and creating our solid bases of raw materials, thereby building up an all embracing economic system in which every branch is structurally interrelated so as to provide domestically most of the products of heavy and light industry and the agricultural produce needed to make the country wealthy and powerful and to improve the people's living conditions."
            Instead of trying to strike free-trade deals with countries such as the USA (who will only exploit and plunder Britain through so-called ‘free trade’) and lowering wages in order to be 'competitive', Britain could take on board the Juche idea, the line of self-reliance, and build an independent national economy like the DPRK.
              The example of Juche-based socialism, which is the fruit of the leadership and teachings of the great leader Kim Il Sung, is an inspiration to the people of Britain in their fight for socialism. Democratic Korea has provided people with the right to work, housing is provided at a very low cost or even totally free (one could only sigh when you contrast this to the recent headline about house prices in London going up even faster). Education is also free up to all levels, including university and post-graduate study. School clothes and other things for children are either free or sold at 50 per cent of cost price. Mothers with more than three children can work a six-hour day but be paid for eight hours. The retirement age is 60 for men and 55 for women. Taxation, including local autonomy tax, was abolished in 1974.
            Free medical care was introduced in 1953 and buttressed by further legalisation in 1960 and 1980. All treatment including medicine is free and the state even pays travelling expenses to the sanatorium!
Such measures have not been taken in all socialist countries nor in rich countries, but have been taken in the DPRK because of the profound concern of the great leader comrade Kim Il Sung for the people and the belief that the country should shoulder full responsibility for the destiny and well-being of the people. President Kim Il Sung made sure that improvement of the people’s living standards was enshrined in the principles of both the Workers Party of Korea and the DPRK. Juche Korea became the model of socialism for the world, including Britain.
            Lastly, President Kim Il Sung always supported the struggle of the working people of the capitalist countries, including Britain, for their rights and for socialism. In 1983, for example, he declared: "firm solidarity with the working classes and peoples in the capitalist countries battling against oppression and exploitation by capital."
            At a time when many British progressives and communists had lost heart because of the overthrow of socialism in the USSR and the people’s democracies of eastern Europe, the DPRK stuck to the socialist road, showing that socialism was alive and not dead!
President Kim Il Sung met with a delegation of the New Communist Party of Britain in 1990 and also with a delegation of the Communist Party of Britain at a later date, as well as a leading British social scientist. Twenty-five years ago on the 20th April, 1992 President Kim Il Sung unveiled the Pyongyang Declaration: Let Us Defend and Advance the Cause of Socialism, which was adopted by 70 parties. Now over 258 parties, including five British communist parties, have endorsed it.
            In conclusion, the revolutionary activities and teachings of the great leader comrade Kim Il Sung are vitally relevant to British people today. The Juche idea authored by comrade Kim Il Sung lights the road of independence for the British people.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Gem of a Tower

By Carole Barclay

The Palace of Westminster is what we call the Houses of Parliament today. It was originally a feudal royal palace, although little remains from the middle ages apart from Westminster Hall, where Charles Stuart was tried and condemned to death for treason by Parliament in 1649, and a tower that was built around 1365 to house the personal treasure of Edward III.  By the 1600s the Jewel Tower, once part of the wall that surrounded the royal palace gardens, had been reduced to a public records store-room, and it remained an obscure part of the past until it was restored and opened to the public in 1956.
Sadly the moat, which was filled with water between 1963 and the 1990s, has been drained and the Parliamentary history exhibition was closed a few years ago. The Jewel Tower, a World Heritage site, is now run by English Heritage. The current displays include a model of the medieval Palace of Westminster, replicas of precious objects and areas of set dressing, including an 18th-century clerk's office. Whether this justifies the £5 admission charge for non-English Heritage members depends on how keen you are on the medieval period. But entrance to the garden, the small café and bookshop is free, so it’s worth a visit just for that if you’re in the vicinity.
The Jewel Tower is easily missed in the hurly-burly that surrounds the Westminster ‘village’ but it still gets around 30,000 visitors a year, mostly overseas tourists who have come to explore Westminster Abbey and Parliament. It is located on Abingdon Street, opposite the southern end of the Houses of Parliament (Victoria Tower).

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Crucible – a new look at a Miller classic

 By Andy Brooks
Back in the 17th century a wave of hysteria swept a small town in what was then the English colony of Massachusetts in New England. Based on the accusations of children, the largely Puritan settlers of Salem started an enquiry that turned into a frenzied witch-hunt that was used to settle old scores between rival factions in the town. Twenty people, 14 of them women, were executed and five others, including two infants, died in prison before the whole process was halted by broader public opinion.
Salem became such a by-word for superstition, bigotry and persecution that it inspired Arthur Miller to write this play during the notorious anti-communist “witch-hunts” of the early 1950s led by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the notorious House of Un-American Activities Committee.
The Crucible is a dramatic interpretation of the Salem witch trials of 1692 but it is clearly an analogy of McCarthyism, which hounded communists, and those whom the rabid Senator deemed to be ‘fellow-travellers’, out of their jobs. Those that refused to become turncoat informers were often forced to go into voluntary exile. Some were even jailed on trumped charges of conspiracy, subversion or being agents of the Soviet Union.
Miller himself said that the Crucible was “by far my most frequently produced play, both abroad and at home. Its meaning is somewhat different in different places and moments. I can almost tell what the political situation in a country is when the play is suddenly a hit there – it is either a warning of tyranny on the way or a reminder of tyranny just past.”
The current production by the Sell A Door Theatre Company and the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch began in February at the Queen’s Theatre in Hornchurch, another part of Essex now in Greater London, and will now tour the country.
It stars Charlie Condou, best known for playing Marcus Dent in Coronation Street, as the witch-hunting Reverend Hale, and Victoria Yeates of BBC’s Call the Midwife fame. It is directed by the Queen’s Theatre’s Artistic Director, Douglas Rintoul.
It’s currently on in Dartford and moves to Cheltenham next week. Check out the full details of the Crucible UK Tour on the web to see if it’s coming anywhere near you. It’s well worth a visit.

Witchery in Dagenham

by Carole Barclay

Valence House in Dagenham may seem to some an unlikely venue for an exhibition about the occult arts – but the Bruja exhibition, the word is simply the Spanish for witch, has considerable interest in the London borough that was once part of south Essex.
This modest display of sketches, paintings and ‘magic’ paraphernalia by Alisha Ward is tucked away in one of the rooms of this historic moated manor house, which goes back to the 13th century. It now contains permanent exhibitions on history and life in Barking and Dagenham, including displays from the old London County Council’s massive Becontree Estate.
Alisha Ward is an artist, illustrator and art student from London. She says that her work traditionally “takes the basis of the female form, using this as a catalyst for ideas which revolve around mental illness and the human condition, and takes a narrative form incorporating mythology, folklore, gothic, literature and pop culture references.”
In this exhibition in the Whalebone Gallery, Alisha combines the iconography of magic with her interest in folklore, film and the spooky side of life to create a narrative of the landscape of human experience.
It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area and the rest of the museum is packed with interesting displays that reflect life in the borough from the Stone Age onwards, as well as a gallery dedicated to the social impact that the building of a massive council estate in the 1920s and the subsequent arrival of the Ford Motor Company had on what had been a rural village on the outskirts of London. There’s a ‘cinema’ that shows newsreels about Dagenham on a continuous reel and a very good café at the nearby visitors centre.
Valence House is not the easiest to find if you don’t know your way around the estate, so take a map with you. The nearest stations are Chadwell Heath and Dagenham Heathway, but they are both a 20 minute walk away from the park. Admission is free and the museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 16:00; and the exhibition runs until 6th May. Admission is free at:
Valence House Museum
Becontree Avenue
Dagenham RM8 3HT
Phone: 020 8227 5293 or 2034

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tragic death of immigrant workers inspired a song of solidarity

Woody Guthrie
by Chris Mahin

The fire began over Los Gatos Canyon. It started in the left engine-driven fuel pump. The plane crashed 20 miles west of Coalinga, California, on 28th January, 1948. It came down into hills that, as one commentator noted, at that time of year are “a beautiful green, splendid with wildflowers … a place of breath-taking beauty.”
There were 32 people on board that day but the names of only four were recorded for history. The newspaper articles about the crash written at the time describe an accident involving a Douglas DC-3 carrying immigrant workers from Oakland, California to the El Centro, California Deportation Centre. Those accounts give the name of the plane’s pilot (Frank Atkinson) and co-pilot (Marion Ewing). They mention the name of the stewardess (Bobbi Atkinson) and the guard (Frank E Chapin). The newspaper stories did not, however, include the names of any of the 27 men nor of the one woman who were passengers on that flight, victims who were buried in a mass grave at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fresno, California. Those reports simply dismissed them as “deportees”.
One visitor to the crash site described the scene this way: “I was born and raised in Coalinga and can remember going to the crash site the day after the incident. My father, older sister, and I viewed the crash and even though I was about six years old at the time, I can remember it as if it happened yesterday. It was a cold and damp day and even though the reports were that the site had been cleaned up, this was not the case. The sadness of seeing the meagre possessions of the passengers and the total lack of respect by those who had the task of removing the bodies will be something I will never forget or forgive.”
Three thousand miles away, a man who had himself once been forced to leave his family to look for work took notice. Musician Woody Guthrie left his birthplace in Oklahoma during the Great Depression and then did plenty of “hard travelling” before ultimately ending up in New York. He was outraged by the callous indifference of the news stories that couldn’t be bothered to mention the names of the workers who died in the crash. Out of his anger came a song – Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee), a ballad in which he assigned symbolic names to the dead:

Goodbye to my Juan, goodbye, Rosalita,
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria;
You won’t have your names when you ride the big airplane,
All they will call you will be “deportees”

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, “They are just deportees”

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?

The song, as Woody Guthrie wrote it, was without music; Guthrie chanted the words. Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee) was not performed publicly until 10 years after the plane crash, when a school teacher named Martin Hoffman added a haunting melody and Woody’s friend Pete Seeger began performing the song in concerts. The song’s eloquent plea for justice for immigrant workers has stirred the conscience of fair-minded people in the United States ever since.
Often referred to simply as Deportee, the song’s continuing broad appeal can be seen in the fact that it has been recorded by wide variety of artists. Amongst the musicians who have covered the song have been Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Bruce Springsteen, as well as the Irish musician Christy Moore and the English singer Billy Bragg. The list also includes the Kingston Trio; Cisco Houston; Judy Collins; The Byrds; Joan Baez; Arlo Guthrie; Sweet Honey in the Rock; Hoyt Axton; Peter, Paul, and Mary; Roy Brown Ramirez, Tito Auger and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger; and Paddy Reilly, amongst others.
The 28th January 2017 marks 69 years since the plane wreck near Los Gatos Canyon. The lyrics of Woody Guthrie’s song about the disaster sound as if they were written just days ago, not more than six decades in the past. (This is especially true of the verse “They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.”)    
The great labour leader Mother Jones once said that we should mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living. On this 69th anniversary of a terrible loss, we should pay special heed to the appeal for the unity of all workers that rings out so beautifully from Woody Guthrie’s song. Today, we can honour the dead of 28th January 1948 best by speaking up in defence of the living immigrant workers of today – regardless of documentation status – and by demanding that the rulers of this country cease their cowardly attempts to use the immigration issue as a wedge to divide the workers of this country.