Arthur Scargill returns to Birmingham for 44th anniversary of Saltley Gate

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John Tyrrell, SLP President, introducing Party Leader, Arthur Scargill

On 6th February the Socialist Labour Party once again remembered the anniversary of Saltley Gate when 300,000 workers stopped work in support of the miners. This was on 11th February, 1972. 150,000 marched on Saltley Gate preventing deliveries of coke intended to break the strike. There were lines of workers marching east to west and west to east, the police intending them to pass each other. As they reached the gate Arthur Scargill gave the order over loud hailer to “Stop”. When this happened the order was given by the police “Close the Gate”. This victory shows how effective mass action is against unfair and anti-working governments, such as the one we have currently, are. It is necessary to remember and for the first time since the 40th anniversary held at Saltley Gate in 2012, Arthur Scargill returned to Birmingham to speak at the 44th anniversary, this time to a packed audience at the Priory Rooms in Bull Street, Birmingham.

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Arthur Scargill. Leader, Socialist Labour Party & Leader at Saltley Gate speaking on the need to exit the bureaucratic EU

As in 2012 Scargill’s speech focussed on current issues, notable the European Union and the crucial need to leave what he had predicted would become a bureaucratic organisation serving there freedom of movement of Capital and workers for the benefit of the large corporations. Their involvement in TTIP showed where their interest lay. He emphasised his disappointment with Labour failing to tackle these key issues, drawing back after Jeremy Corbyn’s massive majority to bring about significant change putting the need of people before corporate greed. The idea of sending submarines around the globe with unarmed Trident missiles was laughable. Corbyn had the chance at the Labour Annual Conference of insisting on stopping Trident and putting forward other changes he had articulated in his bid for leadership of the Labour Party.

As far as 1972 was concerned there was much to be learned about working people acting together in solidarity. It had proved that doing this brought about the changes they needed in the face of coercive and anti-union governments such as that in office now.

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New Style Radio presenter, George Gordon, speaks about Harold Crawford

George Gordon, a radio presenter at New Style Radio based at the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre in Winson Green, Birmingham, was in 1972 a shop steward. He brought his workers out then. Two years ago he mentioned the name of Harold Crawford, a Barbadian who had made a contribution to the support of the miners at that time. George pointed out that there was considerable apathy amongst African Caribbean workers and Harold Crawford galvanised them into action by convincing them of the need to give active support. Other sections of the community were brought together by organisations like the Indian Workers’ Association. We had come to realise that 1972 was supported across diversity and included women and men from various backgrounds. However it didn’t come about by chance, but through leadership from within sections of the community.

The meeting had started with a song from Banner Theatre’s 1972 production of Saltley Gate by Dave Rodgers. (I suggested this should be a candidate for an English National Anthem!).

Following George Gordon, Dr Kim Bryan, Secretary of the Socialist Labour Party spoke of other acts of solidarity in Britain at the time in the early 70’s, including rent strikes in Liverpool and beyond. There was no reason why such resistance should not come again. This was followed by an informative debate with those present.

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Guest speaker Jorge Luis Garcia Garcia from Cuba

Jorge Luis Garcia Garcia representing the Cuban Embassy spoke briefly on the situation since Cuba and the US had begun talks and exchanged visits late last year. Regrettably there was no time left for discussion on the important issues raised by the exceptional speakers.

An earlier meeting in London had discussed Cuban Futures at greater length and depth. A report can be seen here.

 

Photographs: Neil Barrington with thanks

Housing and Cameron’s deceit

PMQ’s this week Jeremy Corby questioned the PM on housing. We were treated once more to Cameron’s deceit.

Whoever built council houses the right to buy has meant that very many homes have been passed to private ownership. Among the people who have profited have been the landlords who have bought up multiple homes, charge extortionate rents and frequent allow people to use their properties for all sorts of things that affect the neighbourhood substantially devaluing neighbouring properties. They are out of control.

As the Daily Mirror points out Tory policy is to remove government from housing responsibility. In their eyes a £450,000 home counts as affordable. With homelessness likely to increase exponentially, while local authorities reduce their homeless centre, we have yet another horrific crisis intensifying. Corbin makes an effort to challenge, but his own party’s lack of support for him undermines him at every turn.

I note that in London, a group is producing a bulletin under the title “Socialist Labour”. It should be noted this is not to be confused with the Socialist Labour Party. This Party already has policies which oppose Trident, the bombing of Syria or any other country and the withdrawal from Europe. It is a Socialist Party founded by James Connolly at much the same time as Keir Hardy was regarded as the founder of Labour. They worked together in the Independent Labour Party and Connolly wrote a moving tribute to Hardy. In my view those wanting Socialism should join a party that has Socialist policies. Labour has shown itself to vie with the Tories to show who can be better supporters of Capitalism. Socialists know that’s not going to work. While Corbyn’s efforts have to be recognised already those expecting change are being disappointed. We have seen Hilary Benn support bombing of Libya from the front bench and the tussle on Trident seems insoluble.

Varoufakis starts a movement in Berlin

Interesting that Yannis Varoufakis has begun a new pan European movement in Berlin. His view of Europe that is being run by a cartel is shared, and has been for some time. Notwithstanding many who agree still believe our future is in Europe.

Across the world the desire for something different is emerging, something that is challenging the existing elite. In New Hampshire the people have selected Bernie Sanders as their candidate for the Democratic Party and Donald Trump the Republicans. The controlling elite will contest this to ensure they hold their power intact.

On Saturday last, 6th February, Arthur Scargill, leader of the Socialist Labour Party in the UK, spoke in Birmingham on the 44th anniversary of the Battle of Saltley Gate. Scargill then took a leading role in halting the 15,000 Birmingham workers marching in support of the miners. The police had intended that they march from east to west and west to east but that they should pass each other. When they were outside the gate Arthur Scargill gave the order to stop and the police gave the order to “shut the gate”. In all 30,000 had stopped work representing all sections of Birmingham society: African Caribbean, Asian, women and men. Their action culminated in the end of another appalling Tory administration. If there is such solidarity it can happened again.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party illustrates how the entrenched MP’s of Labour are joining opposition to him in spite of the substantial majority of Labour Party members voicing support. In Westminster the revolving door system is illustrative the in-built corruption and the stranglehold of the ruling elite over MPs of all parties. The lobbyists from the arms industry for one will not countenance an end to the outrageously expensive, and ultimately useless, Trident.

Austerity is not a necessity, it is a crime

Austerity is not a necessity. It has been constructed, like the idea of “terrorism”, to coerce people. The 1% have to let be known that the other 99% know their place in the world while they indulge. Not that even they will be any different on the day of reckoning. However while they have the power they are using it to impose austerity on us. It is a crime.

Local authorities are under threat as never before. They were given by central government for providing local services including the vital safety nets needed. These have been hard won over decades, if not centuries. Local councillors being asked what they can do wring their hands and say that nothing can be done. The dictatorship of Government is all powerful and there will be dreadful consequences. Well that’s certainly what they’ve been told. Who is standing up? If they won’t then we’ll have to. The great unwashed, the rabble. Who does this include? Apparently Dave’s Mum! It his reported that she has signed a petition against closure of children’s homes.

Cameron’s Mum isn’t the only one to complain. Tory MPs facing cuts in their locality are moaning and href=”http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/feb/09/cameron-buying-off-tory-mps-theatening-to-rebel-over-council-cuts”>money is being found to ease the pain. According to Labour 83% is in Tory land.

I met an acquaintance in my local Co-op store on Saturday. He stopped to tell me about the proposal to have just one homeless centre in Birmingham placed in Erdington. He told me how he loved
his job over decades of involvement. With the daunting prospect of around 300 people turning up each night he felt it was time to get out.

Austerity is necessary we are told by not only the Tories. Their former pathetic Lib-Dem partners believed the lie, and so did Labour who wanted a watered down version. Far from being a necessity, it is a crime being perpetrated by and elite on the majority with the most vulnerable at particularly high risk. The fair Britain we had battled for is being systematically dismantled. The money that should be used for what we have called “essential services” goes to maximising profit. Not only money but public assets are transferred at low or no cost to companies so that bosses of school chains have six figure salaries. Has education improved. Short of teachers children education is going to suffer. In the health service A & E and services are in decline as private firms cherry pick the services that they can control and profit from. Do MP’s benefit? The revolving door system in place at Westminster makes it inevitable as MPs are offered directorships for themselves and families on the first day through the door. The whole system is corrupt, designed to serve an elite supposedly put into power by us.

Inhumane and deceitful Tory Policies unravel

Article after article in current news articles are showing Tory policies unravelling before our eyes. Cameron and his privileged crew are shown to be conducting war at home and abroad which is basically class war. The truth has been held back but the truth is emerging all at once about the naked Toryism without even the pathetic Lib Dem coalition to hold their policies and acts back.

The list of horrors includes the sell off of assets paid for by public money on the cheap. £26bn short change of the public purse is the figure mentioned. The Royal Mail went making a few rich while others have to go without. Policies on privatisation unravel.

Then Jeremy Corbyn went to Calais to see the shameful migrant camp. Cameron picked this up at Prime Ministers’ Question Time talking dismissively about a “bunch of migrants”. Was this deliberate rather than a slip of the tongue as the Tories move in tune with the evolving far out right. Policies on migrants and migration unravel?

Libya and bombing of was debated but war elsewhere hasn’t been. In Yemen civilians are once again caught up in the mayhem as Saudi Arabia bombs with arms acquired from Britain. Britain is at war with Yemen without anyone knowing? Policies on arms sale and foreign adventures unravel.

A court decision has found that http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35418488 the bedroom tax has been used unlawfully against people with severe disabilities and in need of maintaining their safety. The Government is to appeal. Ian Duncan Smith and his department’s reputation for heartlessness and unfairness go ahead of them. We learn more of the effects of the their policies as that on the bedroom tax unravels.

Here in Bethlehem, many are struggling to find reasons to celebrate

“Here in Bethlehem, many are struggling to find reasons to celebrate. The cycle of fear and hatred seems worse than ever. And to be honest, many here feel hopeless and forgotten by the world.”
Holyland Trust.

Bethelem at the centre of Christmas celebrations is locked into an ever deepening crisis. This Christmas we will sing our carols and feast in remembrance of a joyous birth, but the reality in Bethlehem today is far removed from the hope and promise for the world we continue to believe in.

As politicians indulge in in-fighting whether to bomb another Middle Eastern nation those at the sharp end are not considered as a report on Channel 4 News made clear. No one asked the Syrian people what they felt was best. Who asked the Iraqis or Libyans? Today once viable states, however far from our view of perfect, have become ungovernable. The problem for the people of Bethlehem is that they remain occupied.

Midland Metro extension from Snow Hill to New Street

I took a walk along the short Midland Metro extension which at last connects the two main stations in Birmingham, Snow Hill and New Street. As a City Councillor and Cabinet Member for Transportation from 2003-4 I signed a document advancing this, but the new Tory Lib-Dem administration put it on ice. Some of them were after an underground system. Financially the case for the Metro just about stacked up, but an underground system? I knew the London Underground very well as I had lived and worked there for many years, but you sometimes have to walk considerable distances when changing trains! I had planned to present the then Lord Mayor, Cllr John Alden with a shovel with a map joining the Council House to his home in Harborne, together with a model of a London tube train, but the idea wasn’t approved by Sir Albert so I regret I let it drop. I did tell John about this later but he just gave me a puzzled look. (Journalist Paul Dale from the Birmingham Post and Mail, saw the shovel and model train in my office and questioned me about. He didn’t see the point either!)

I travelled by train from the Hawthorns into Snowhill, which is just as well because I found the Metro now stopped short at St Paul’s. Beyond that was a deep hole.

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I was expecting it to be joined up to the new extension since it was announced that trams would be testing it during October. Nevertheless you can see that people are very busy getting it ready.

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It’s not clear where the tram stop will be. Is that under construction? Presumably the buildings at the end of the platform will be part of a connection between rails and tram. There’s no sign of a platform outside Snow Hill (see below).

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The first stop is taking shape in Bull Street.

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Then right into Corporation Street. No sign of another stop here.

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But something seems to be emerging here outside the side entrance to New Street, now “Grand Central” Station.

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So welcome to New Street Grand Central Station.

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The alliance of the “unelected” and “unelectable”

David Cameron, Prime Minister, tried to bat away a question asked 6 times by the Leader of the Opposition beginning with reference to an alliance of “unelected” and “unelectable” during Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons. It seems that once again the PM is in danger of being a hostage to fortune. His derision combined with his inbred Etonian cockiness have left him off his guard.

The “unelectable” asked his own question today instead of his earlier tactic of using questions from crowd sources, which had been effective in putting Cameron off guard and from comments made by The Independent it appeared his best performance to date in this hot seat.

Earlier this week it was the “unelected” who delivered the coup de grace to PM and Chancellor, who responded by brazening it out, but with a much softer subtext claiming that someone was listening – not the usual modus operandi for the Bullingdon Club chums.

In the last coalition government the Conservatives went out of their way to prevent an advance in reformation of the Lords, against the wishes of their Lib-Dem partners. As the Telegraph noted it was because there are no votes in doing this.

So now hopefully the second chamber will cease to be “unelected” and Jeremy Corbyn will continue to draw in more people who haven’t habitually voted because of their disenchantment with the established elite.

The attributes of a political leader

Nominally the UK is a “Christian” nation, although migration has changed the demography with respect to religion, language and culture. When it comes to declaring the attributes of a political leader there are many contradictions. Clearly things haven’t changed much at the top when it comes to ruling Britain. The monarchy is entrenched and established white upper class if anything but British itself, backed by an established Anglican Church. No one of another faith or even denomination need apply. Any potential political leader is expected to bow the knee before it. (My view is that the state should be, and stay, secular.)

The recent elevation of a questioner to the leadership of the Labour Party has brought out a nervousness, not least among the now old adherents of New Labour. Any potential leader of Britain has to be seen participating in singing the anthem, however meaningless, saluting the flag and kneeling in front of the Royal Highness. That’s not all. There is, it is claimed, awaiting the incumbent of no 10 Downing Street a red button to be pressed at any time of emergency whether that be real or imagined. Nuclear conflagration would ensue potentially wiping out life on the planet. One nation has pressed the nuclear button in war to date, the United States of America, letting loose two nuclear weapons of very small size to that now available, the unbalanced state of Israel being perhaps having a significantly sizable arsenal. Nevertheless it continues to formal denial of their existence with NATO members joining in the charade – again in utmost secrecy – by deploying these weapons in submarines donated to Israel by Germany.

The current Tory leadership avows that sharing such information with a doubter would threaten Britain’s security. In actuality what is being done in secrecy is arguably a tremendous risk to us all. It allows no accountability in a nation that claims democracy as an underpinning essential.

If any of the supposedly desirable attributes of the leader are missing then hysteria ensues as the massed forces of the press whip up patriotic fervour. This will once more be unleashed on on 11th November as those who have sent the young into unnecessary and counterproductive combat cry crocodile tears over those who once more didn’t come back. Red poppies in place anyone who says differently will be mercilessly tried by kangaroo court and sentenced to ridicule and mirth. A white poppy? Try it.

Cuban Futures Conference, London, October 2015

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Rafael Hernandez addressing the Cuban Futures Conference opening plenary “December 17th and beyond” Embassies have opened in Havana & Washington, the Miami 5 are free, Cuba is off the terrorist list and Obama and Raul Castro shook hands. What’s next?

Members of the Socialist Labour Party attended the Cuban Futures Conference held at Congress House, TUC HQ in central London last Saturday, October 3rd 2015. The original Socialist Labour Party was set up by James Connolly who was also at one time a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) alongside Keir Hardy. The name was revived in 1996 as a response to the removal of Clause 4 from the Labour Party’s constitution under Tony Blair. The leader of the SLP was, and still is, Arthur Scargill. This took Connolly’s Socialism on board and setting a distinctive tradition strongly opposing the social-democratic and neo-liberal trends in both the Labour Party and politics in general.

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Bhagwant Singh, John Tyrrell and John Mcleod at the Cuba Futures Conference organised by Cuba Solidarity Campaign  

The SLP has been involve in two delegations to Cuba in the last decade. The first in 2008 was to attend the Conference Marxism in the 21st Century in Havana. It was then I became very much aware of a different perspective at work which was not confined to Cuba, but was having a far reaching effect on South American and Caribbean countries determined to counter the effects of their dominating neighbour to the north, the USA. Four years later it was apparent that joint organisations being developed like ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) were gaining momentum with Venezuela and Bolivia having elected Socialist governments and many others supporting the Cuban position, including Brazil and Argentina. Equador and Nicaragua also became prominent with their Ambassadors speaking at the London Conference giving testimony to Cuban achievement and leadership.

DSC00121SLP members in Cuba in May 2008 to attend the Conference Marxism in the 21st Century.        l to r Lily and John Mcleod, John Tyrrell, Shangara Singh and Sheera Johal

 

No one claims, least of all Cubans themselves, that they have found answers to issues confronting the world and humanity, but as speakers from a variety of backgrounds illustrated how Cuba was succeeding in many ways better than far wealthier states in health, in education, in food production and so on. This was against a backdrop of continuing sanctions in spite of the recent apparent thaw in diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US. Cuban speakers made it clear that they didn’t see a change in the United States intentions, rather a different approach characterised by “charm” rather than aggression. One told us the story of the frog and the scorpion when the latter, incapable of swimming to leave Cuba, asked the frog to carry him to the US. The frog replied that the scorpion would use its sting on him, to which the scorpion replied that he would drown if he did that. Half way across the scorpion did sting the frog who asked in surprise why he had done it. “That’s what scorpions do” came the reply.

Cubans are seeking five major outcomes from the rapprochement with the US, including the return of Guantanamo Bay. The release of the Cuban 5 from their long incarceration is seen as a major step forward, but on other other hand Cuban demands that the perpetrators of the terrorist act in bringing down a Cuban airliner, living in the United States, had not been brought to justice. The five Cubans were arrested after their attempts to do just that.

Cuba is characterised as a dictatorship and undemocratic by the standards of western governments with multi-party systems. However this needs to be countered by understanding how people are elected to govern at three levels: local, provincial and national. In practice it is far more democratic by being inclusive with a far higher level of voter participation normally found in the so-called western democracies.

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John Mcleod receiving gifts, including a portrait of Che Guevara, from a street committee in Santa Clara, Cuba, on behalf of the Socialist Labour Party in 2008.

The SLP delegations have been welcomed on each of their visits by local communities with festivities taking place in the streets or buildings where they live. Doctors, teachers, police and others involved in provision of services are involved as are members of the community of all ages. In Santa Clara and Havana we were treated to street theatre, dancing and delicious local products including food and wine.

Speakers at the London Conference this year demonstrated Cuba’s achievements in health, exporting doctors and nurses, while maintaining a high level of care at home. Indicators of child mortality at birth was 6 per 1000 compared to 8 per 1000 in the USA. (In the UK it is 5 per 1000. It was pointed out that Cuba used the NHS as a model for its care system. It was hastily qualified to the NHS as it once was!)

Schools and clinics we visited were not lavishly equipped but clearly they manage to carry out excellent work. Gifts of even basic commodities were received gratefully. As the Cubans we met pointed out “we have little, but what we have we share”. DSC00163

Visiting a school in Santa Clara, Cuba, 2008

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Visit to a centre for young people here seeing services demonstrating a rescue exercise. Fidel Castro used to visit regularly on his birthday.

The Conference was against a backdrop of events on and after 17th December, 2014 when there was an apparent thaw in relations between Cuba and its powerful neighbour to the north, the United States of America.

Later in April 2015 President Obama announced that Cuba is of the list of state sponsored terrorists.

So what of the future? How far have things changed? Cuban speakers were cautious believing that what they were seeing was a change in tactics by the US rather than a fundamental shift in their attitude to Cuba, aggressive posturing being replaced by a charm offensive. Cuba they still see as an undemocratic dictatorship as a one party state. The gains of the Revolution will have to continue to be defended, including “health, internationalism, educations, women’s rights”. Others, including the US can learn much from Cuba.

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Arleen Rodriguez with translator on Cuban Futures. The return of Guantanamo Bay remains unresolved as does the Blockade and compensation for 50 years of aggression.

It was felt that the support of many South American and Caribbean countries was instrumental in convincing the US that a new approach was necessary, as was world solidarity seen here today.  It was noted that Obama still talks about “trading with the enemy” while Kerry referred to the relationship as “neighbours” rather than “friends”.  A resolution to end the blockade will be taken to the UN. How will the Obama administration vote? Cuba will not be going cap in hand but proceed with a dignified conscience to maintain a dignified sovereignty based on a record of solid achievement.