Solidarity in the struggle against the housing crisis

On Saturday 20 October the Birmingham branch of the CPGB-ML took part in a protest organised by local residents and our comrades in Cambridge to stop the demolition of Montreal Square, a group of 18 houses built in the 1920’s for railway workers. The area is now owned by Cambridge Housing Society who plan to knock down the 18 houses and replace them with 32 flats.

At 2pm on the Saturday the local residents and campaigners assembled at Donkey Common, where a short rally was organised. Speakers from the residents association outlined their plight and their determination to stay put and were joined for ten minutes by local Labour MP Daniel Zeichner who stressed that he hoped the residents views would be taken into consideration. Comrade Lionel a local CPGB-ML activist spoke about the social cleansing of Cambridge and the need to strengthen the ties between all sections of working class in Cambridge who are victims of the housing crisis and pointed to the struggle of boat dwellers who themselves are under notices of eviction. Comrade Katherine from the CPGB-ML gave a message of solidarity from the party which pointed to the fundamental justice of the cause of Montreal Square residents and the CPGB-ML members then joined with others in taking over Mill Road (a busy shopping street) and marching the contingent back to Montreal Square for a final rally. Videos of the speeches and rally can be found on the CPGB-ML twitter account and you tube, and the text of a leaflet addressed to the Cambridge public is included below.

“The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) is proud to work in the campaign to defend Montreal Square from profiteers and we salute residents and campaigners for the magnificent work done so far to fight the threat of eviction and demolition.

According to think tank Centre for Cities, house prices in Cambridge are the third highest in Britain. The average cost of a city home is just shy of half a million with many luxury houses worth well over a million pounds. Clearly

Centre for Cities calculates that the top 6% of earners living in Cambridge take home 19% of the total income, whilst the bottom 20% of earners take home just 2%. It’s clear that there are two classes of people living in Cambridge, the rich and the poor. The Communist Party stands in defence of the poor, we are a party for the working classes, and the working classes in Cambridge need a Communist Party to organise their resistance to the money men.

If you are a high-flying millionaire entrepreneur operating in Cambridge’s so-called “Silicon Fen”, the cluster of 4,700 tech and life science firms with a £12 billion annual turnover and a cosy relationship with the university, then life is sweet.

But if you are one of the thousands living in poverty, under threat of homelessness and dreading the arrival of Universal Credit, the picture is very different. Local people watch aghast as all around them working class estates are bulldozed to make room for luxury flats, house-prices are driven stratospheric by an influx of well-heeled hipsters, and property speculators build houses for students whilst young workers are priced out of the city. The ugly offspring of the union between the corporate world of Amazon and Apple and the hallowed groves of academic circles turns out to be yet more social cleansing, tidying away the inconvenient poor.

There can be no permanent solution to the housing crisis under capitalism. It is only socialism that recognises housing as a primary social need, not as an opportunity for some capitalist to make his fortune. Workers must protect the houses we have, and fight for a socialist future. Join the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) today.”

Other Links:

https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/gallery/montreal-square-redevelopment-march-cambridge-15339263

 

Film Review: Black 47

black-47

Review of ‘Black 47’ now showing at the MAC, Cannon Hill Park

Black 47 has been described as a ‘revenge western’. Essentially the film is an Irish Rambo reworked for the 1840’s, and whilst the historical setting, villains and back story are a welcome change from the mundane LA, New York and Gotham, it’s another superhero story for the 21st century.

The film Black 47 will please most progressive film goers and by all accounts it has been a huge commercial success in Ireland. Depicting the grim scenery of Ireland in the period of the famine, it’s an action film that has pulled in audiences keen on something a bit more authentic, the same folk who’ll soon be going to watch ‘Peterloo’. The Wildcard Distribution chief exec Patrick O’Neill upon seeing his returns from the opening weekend gushed,

“It’s very rewarding to see audiences from everywhere in Ireland turning out in such numbers to experience Black 47 on the big screen. The results for Black 47 are a fine example of what can be achieved…” Screen Ireland chief James Hickey said that that they “are absolutely delighted to see Irish audiences coming out to watch this film in cinemas right across Ireland.”[i]

Much has been made in the press that Black 47 is the first film to deal with the famine of the 1840’s, and this writer is certainly not qualified to challenge this assertion. What we may rightfully ask ourselves is whether the famine is anything more than a backdrop to a film which is essentially another action film, this time in the setting of the Irish famine.

The central character, a Connaught Ranger ‘Feeney’ returns home from fighting in the British Army in Afghanistan and India. Upon his arrival he finds his mother dead and evicted, his brother hanged and only his sister in law and their starving children survive holed up in a squat. Our hero is witness to the widespread misery of Irelands peasant population as he wanders the landscape in search of his old life. His motivation at the start of the film is quite clearly to pay a mere flying visit to his native land, as he relates to what is left of his family that he is off to live in America. Before his plans can be put into effect he is witness to the eviction of his surviving family from their squat, and coming down from his horse to protest finds himself brutalised and in jail. Brought before an officer in charge it’s a matter of minutes before our hero is up to his neck in blood and guts having, single handed, killed about a dozen police in their own station, shooting hacking and chopping the hapless RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) with his gun, fists and kukri. From this point on it’s a blood soaked horse ride through Irish scenery, Feeney takes out a rent collector by lopping off his head, hangs the local magistrate (just after he sentences a young man to transportation), gives a bit of rough treatment to a proselytising Protestant preacher who’s dishing out soup to Catholics willing to renounce the papacy, before he kills the land agent (Kulak in our parlance) responsible for the family evictions.

At this point in the film our hero is being tracked by an old army buddy (played by Hugo Weaving, a Hollywood actor of wide fame) and an ambitious but young army Captain (who is accompanied by his aide Private Hobson, of whom more in a moment) on instructions from the British army to nip such rebelliousness in the bud. Upon catching up to this one man war machine, a shoot out inevitably ensues and the army captain’s orderly bottles it at the decisive moment failing to kill our hero when he has the chance. Back on his horse it’s a short gallop for Feeney to the next bloody encounter which takes place at the home of Lord Kilmichael (played by Jim Broadbent). This time it’s the orderly causing a ruckus, being a mere private his sympathies are with the poor and angered by the sight of starving peasants at the gates of Kilmichaels country seat, he pulls his gun on the guards protecting the house and its grain stores. Sadly for our private, he is not made of the super-hero material and is unceremoniously blown to pieces by the police. The local landlord and nobleman Lord Kilmichael now ventures off on his way to Dublin to personally escort his horde of grain for export and sale, the political point being made by the Director that the country was full of food whilst the Irish were being left to starve. All this takes place under heavy police guard, but that will never be enough to stop Feeney, who kidnaps the Lord from the local alehouse, assisted at a critical juncture by his old army buddy Hannah.

As Hannah is brought out the next morning to be executed by firing squad for his actions, the firing squad itself is shot to pieces by Feeney and into the square bursts a man on horseback who himself is blown to pieces on the orders of our loathsome young army captain who mistakenly thinks its Feeney on the rampage. Imagine the look of shock when he discovers that the Irish Rambo has sent in Lord Kilmichael as fodder. Gun fights now ensue and everybody gets their just deserts including our hero who manages to escape (though fatally wounded) assisted by old army buddy Hannah. Just before keeling over to die, the hero offers his old mate his last words of advice “get yerself to America”. Only in modern day Ireland could an Irish hero be this type of patriot.

In an interview with the Director, Lance Daly, it was said that no film on the Great Famine had been made for the big screen previously, despite its significance to Irish history. Daly is reported by RTE to have said “Given the singular importance of the Great Famine in Irish history, and that it has never been seen on our cinema screens before, our cast and crew felt a huge responsibility to make a film that was not only historically accurate [but] emotionally true”

Quite how the great famine was depicted in this film is anybody’s guess. Miserable wretched peasants, starving and under the whip of British colonialism, yes this is depicted in passing. The motive force of the film however, is the sole hero, the super human super-soldier Mr Feeney, depicted by James Frecheville. This, once again, is a story about a super hero. The masses are wretched and helpless, only an Irish Rambo (himself bound for America) can wreak vengeance on the exploiting class and its lackey’s.

The reality of life is that vengeance is meted out on the exploiting class by way of collective action against the exploiters. Rebellion is undertaken by the masses and not by lone heroes. The prevalence of stories about lone heroes is a result of the influence of bourgeois thinking on the arts and the minds of the people. Great acts of daring and courage are undertaken by individuals of that there is no doubt. Such acts when properly directed form a part of the great struggle of exploited humanity aimed against the enemy. The question of the relationship between heroes and the people influenced the development of the Irish nationalist movement, as it did in a great many other social movements. In Russia the Bolsheviks fought tenaciously against the theory of the Narodniks and socialist-revolutionaries who both advocated that by individual acts of daring (or indeed individual terrorism) the masses could be mobilised. Such theories elevated the role of “heroes”. J V Stalin speaking in 1938 said that,

“The theory of “heroes” and the “crowd” is not a Bolshevik, but a social-revolutionary theory. The heroes make the people, transform them from a crowd into people, thus say the social-revolutionaries. The people make the heroes, thus reply the Bolsheviks”

So, is it worth a trip to the cinema?

Whilst on this particular trip to the cinema it was a joy to see landlords, judges, rent collectors and such like meet their sticky end, it feels as though this film was a wasted opportunity to tell the real tales of rebellion, or even to present the people, the masses as strong, courageous, dignified and rebellious, it instead chose to portray them as meek, wretched and in some instances treacherous. The film was also a chance to break with the super hero narrative so all pervasive in the 21st century. How pathetic that the century which likes to constantly remind itself that it abhors the ‘cult of personality’ of the 20th is incapable of anything but the most narrow individualism and hero fantasy.

It remains the case that the history of those days is most accurately recorded by the people themselves, in the songs and stories of Ireland and it is a sad sight that the cinema which has so much potential as an art form is incapable of telling these stories and passing on the judgement of the people who lived through those agonies. Lance Daly correctly reflects that his central character would have been considered by the starving people of Ireland to “have taken the Kings Shilling”. A song written by K.T. Buggy in the 1840’s titled “Saxon Shilling” deals with this very issue, the most famous rendition of which was given by an honorary son of Birmingham Luke Kelly, and is a fitting tribute to this modern Irish super hero:

THE SAXON SHILLING.

Hark! a martial sound is heard—
The march of soldiers, fifing, drumming;
Eyes are staring, hearts are stirr’d—
For bold recruits the brave are coming.
Ribands flaunting, feathers gay—
The sounds and sights are surely thrilling,
Dazzl’d village youths to-day
Will crowd to take the Saxon Shilling.

Ye, whose spirits will not bow
In peace to parish tyrants longer—
Ye, who wear the villain brow,
And ye who pine in hopeless hunger—
Fools, without the brave man’s faith—
All slaves and starvlings who are willing
To sell yourselves to shame and death—
Accept the fatal Saxon Shilling.

Ere you from your mountains go
To feel the scourge of foreign fever,
Swear to serve the faithless foe
That lures you from your land for ever!
Swear henceforth its tools to be—
To slaughter trained by ceaseless drilling—
Honour, home, and liberty,
Abandon’d for a Saxon Shilling.

Go—to find, ‘mid crime and toil,
The doom to which such guilt is hurried;
Go—to leave on Indian soil
Your bones to bleach, accurs’d, unburied!
Go—to crush the just and brave,
Whose wrongs with wrath the world are filling;
Go—to slay each brother slave,
Or spurn the blood-stained Saxon Shilling!

Irish hearts! why should you bleed,
To swell the tide of British glory—
Aiding despots in their need,
Who’ve changed our green so oft to gory?
None, save those who wish to see
The noblest killed, the meanest killing,
And true hearts severed from the free,
Will take again the Saxon Shilling!

Irish youths! reserve your strength
Until an hour of glorious duty,
When Freedom’s smile shall cheer at length
The land of bravery and beauty.
Bribes and threats, oh, heed no more—
Let nought but Justice make you willing
To leave your own dear Island shore,
For those who send the Saxon Shilling. [ii]

[i] http://entertainment.ie/cinema/news/Black-47-is-the-No1-Irish-movie-of-the-year-at-the-box-office-on-its-opening-weekend/408146.htm

[ii] written by K. T. Buggy, 1840s The Spirit of the Nation: Ballads and Songs by the Writers of The Nation Dublin, James Duffy, 1845. p. 58 & Georges Denis Zimermann: Songs of Irish Rebellion (Irish political street ballads and rebel songs) 1780–1900

Birmingham congress closes

Whilst the Tory Conference met in central Birmingham, just a mile away a very different congress was taking place. The congress of the CPGB-ML, held over three days has elected a new leadership, adopted a new rule book, and passed a number of resolutions which will inform the future direction of the party in the immediate future.

Our new Chair, Ella Rule is joined by two Vice Chairs Joti Brar & Zane Carpenter. A new central committee will now carry out the important work which confronts us.

British workers demand Brexit!

BW Brexit

This weekend saw the UKIP conference in Birmingham. For every Neil Hamilton on the platform there were dozens of saner Brexiteers from amongst the various strata of  British society in the audience. Most are members of UKIP for one very simple reason; its continued opposition to membership of the EU. The ‘left’ in Birmingham like other towns, is made up of self-righteous, unthinking puppets. Rather than talk to delegates the Birmingham ‘left’ made a small demonstration outside the conference and claimed it was all part of fighting racism. The usual individuals turned up – that is the very same people who are rabidly hostile to Russia, invite known Mi5 operatives onto anti-war platforms in the town, and back the imperialist Labour party the hilt. The trotskyite delusion is a permanent revulsion. Needless to say, CPGB-ML had nothing to do with the ludicrous protest. We spent time during the conference talking to delegates, trying to gauge their attitudes on a range of subjects, sold lots of socialist literature to them and attempted to put some of our opinions on Brexit to them. Except for a tiny minority, we found that  most were willing to listen to our point of view whilst the only attempt at intimidation came from the local police.

British workers must not allow the referendum result to be overturned. Theresa May’s strategy and favoured proposals differ according to which day of the week it is, and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party has never held a clear and consistent position. The furore that continues amongst the ruling class is never-ending and the liberal media continue to propagandise for the overturning of Brexit.

Attacks on the Brexiteers & attempts to overturn the referendum

Divisions among the ruling class over Brexit continue to be clear for all to see: the liberal bourgeoisie continues to pursue its anti-people, anti-Brexit agenda and remains committed to overturning the referendum result. This has been particularly evident in newspapers such as the Guardian and Observer, which have been desperately pursuing every possible avenue for overturning the vote.

A recent line of attack has been to jump on what is essentially a student petition: “Predicting a young people’s revolt over the coming months, student unions – representing 980,000 students at 60 of the country’s leading universities and colleges – are writing to MPs… calling on them to back a ‘people’s vote’ before a final Brexit deal can be implemented.”

If a second vote on the referendum takes place and Britain does vote on the final deal, it is worth remembering that university students are not the only young people who were too young to vote in the referendum. For every student there are many more disenfranchised working-class teenagers. If these young people could be mobilised to defend their class interests, the pro-Brexit vote would only grow.

Government and opposition chaos

The divisions within the Conservative Party (and, therefore, the government) are mirrored by those in Labour. Both parties continue to tear themselves apart over Brexit, and this chaos of the bourgeoisie can only be welcomed by class-conscious workers.

The government finds itself at a roadblock. The sheer impossibility of the situation should long ago have led to the downfall of the government. The problem is that most bourgeois opinion is terrified of a Corbyn-led Labour government, as there is no guarantee that it can be dissuaded from implementing at least some measures inimical to imperialist interests, even though it is a better bet than the Tories for finding a means of escaping the Brexit vote.

The chaos looks set to continue, and will only be made worse by the deepening economic crisis, which is bound to take a further lurch downwards before long.

Foreigners are constantly blamed for the lack of jobs, low wages and poor social provision that are caused by capitalism, and workers are urged by bourgeois politicians and media alike to swallow the lie that if it wasn’t for ‘all the immigrants’ there would be jobs available at high wages for all native-born Britons, along with readily available housing at affordable rents and a decent level of social provision.

Free market economics is bad for Britain

The truth, however, is that capitalism, in its desperate drive to push down production costs, must inevitably try to push down wages and social provision, too – not only to maximise profits, but also to survive the competition from its rivals and to win the struggle over markets.

If immigration were stopped tomorrow and average wages rose, it would not be long before enterprises presently relying on cheap labour closed down altogether, with their capitalist owners either being driven out of business and/or deciding that their money was better invested abroad and/or investing in new machinery that would lessen the need to hire workers.

That is why, despite the constant increase in productivity (which ought to lead to a shorter working day and higher living standards for all of us), living standards for workers continue to be pushed relentlessly downwards all over the world.

According to Oxfam: “In 2015, just 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – the bottom half of humanity. The figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010. Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1 percent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1 percent.”

Foreign and native-born workers alike suffer as a result of this downward pressure on wages and benefits, whatever country’s labour force they happen to belong to. Our only possible defence is our ability to fight back – an ability that is lost if the working class is divided against itself, whether on xenophobic lines or any other basis.

Far from exciting hatred, working-class immigrants to this country should be treated with sympathy, since it is clear that the overwhelming majority who leave their countries of origin only do so because they feel they must in order to escape poverty, starvation, persecution or war.

Just like us, they love their families and are simply doing whatever they can to take care of them and secure their futures.

So long as capitalism exists, so long will workers have to fight every inch of the way to maintain reasonable living standards for themselves and their families – and will periodically suffer real deprivation as a result of battles being lost.

So long as capitalism exists, there will always be a reserve army of unemployed – both of local people and of people abroad – who are desperate for work. Competition among workers for jobs is built into the capitalist system, and so the proletariat must not allow itself to be tricked into believing that it is other workers who are the enemy.

The sole and only cause of this desperate situation is the continued survival of the capitalist system, which stands convicted of an utter inability to cater to the even the most basic needs of the overwhelming majority of humanity.

If capitalism was overthrown and replaced by a planned, socialist economy, in which all society’s resources were used to provide for the needs of the working people and their families, there would be no such thing as unemployment and no such thing as competition for jobs.

Every person would be found something essential to do, and all labour would enrich the whole of society. Under socialism we shall apply the fair, basic economic law of socialism: he who does not work, neither shall he eat.

 

Photos from Birmingham Home Care workers rally

Addressing Home Care strikers on Saturday, Unison West Midlands Regional Secretary Ravi Subramanian told workers that he has had a meeting with Labour council leader Ian Ward, who assures Ravi the dispute will be resolved in line with “Labour values”. If those are the same values which shafted the same workers earlier this year (after Labour secured a majority on the council once more after the local election), which introduced an extra 50 working days a year for bin men last year, then Unison strikers need to be wary. The Labour party in the trade unions is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Successful meeting “imperialism on Trial” held in Birmingham tonight

Eva Bartlett speaking in Birmingham

Eva Bartlett spoke in Birmingham tonight alongside Peter Ford (a former British diplomat), Michael Pike (Veterans for Peace) and Peter Kuznik (author).

The meeting was well attended considering the £11 door price and a low profile amongst what passes for Birmingham’s anti war movement.

The meeting represented everything that is best about the emerging opposition to corporate media lies but summed up neatly the impotent end product of nearly all speakers. Without coupling the fight against imperialism with the fight for socialism, no positive horizons open up for humanity and pessimism castrates what would otherwise be a fruitful critique.

We are sure that these talented speakers and truth seekers will eventually find their way towards seeing through the greatest lie of all, the anti-soviet, anti-socialist lies of the ruling class. When this is done, a great leap forward will be made in the struggle to end war and human exploitation forever.

For more info on what’s happening in Syria here: https://www.cpgb-ml.org/2018/07/10/news/syria-advances-to-liberation/

Venezuelan Embassy speak in Birmingham today

Marcos Garcia of the Venezuelan Embassy spoke at the offices of the CPGB-ML in Birmingham today.

A lively question and answer session discussed things as diverse as the success of the Petro, seizure of assets by ConocoPhillips, the issue of cadres in the Venezuelan revolution, the present strength of ALBA, the threat of war, and the development of trade and relations with China.

The Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninists) organises a weekly political study as well as regular talks, presentations and socials on Wednesday and Sunday every week.

Get in touch to find out more.

For more on the Bolivarian revolution read Resounding success for Nicolas Maduro.

Birmingham Worker candidates thank local voters

Birmingham-Worker-election-candidates

The votes this year for Birmingham Worker candidates mark a step forward, no matter how small, for working class people in the city. They also mark another step forwards for communists in Birmingham.

The offices of the CPGB-ML in Highgate, have been busy all month as comrades gave their time working on our first foray into electoral politics. Results in Stirchley and Brandwood were good first time efforts for Marxist-Leninists; we beat the great TUSC (trot-left social democrat) coalition in Kings Heath and we can build on our effort in Balsall Heath where we beat both the Tories & Greens to third place.

We’d like to express our sincere thanks to all our members, our supporters, those bin men who ignored the trots & union chiefs to spread the word, our neighbours and all those we met along the way. We’ll be in touch with everyone who left their name, address, email etc and if you didn’t but wish you had, fill in the form below. It’s another Labour council, and it’s going to be years of more assaults on working class interests. There’s not been a better time to join the Communist Party in Birmingham for decades. Get involved.

Results:

Brandwood & King’s Heath

Candidate Party Votes
Burgess Chris Liberal Democrat 479
Cox Patrick Green Party 658
Cremer Katherine Birmingham Worker 95
Franks Gordon John Conservative Party Candidate 1122
Gilliam Rob Liberal Democrat 293
Kaya Julie Green Party 392
Leddy Mike Labour Party 3350
Mackenzie-Lawrie Joshua Duncan Conservative Party Candidate 829
Murray Bill Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition 78
Trickett Lisa Labour Party 3395
Rejected Ballot Papers 19

Stirchley

Candidates Party Votes
Banting Philip Andrew Liberal Democrat 141
Lawrence Reuben Birmingham Worker 45
Locke Mary Labour and Co-operative Party 1856
Stanton Elly Green Party 155
Williams Owen Vaughan The Conservative Party Candidate 576
Rejected Ballot Papers 7
TOTAL 2780

Balsall Heath West

Candidate Party Votes
Fazel Ali The Conservative Party Candidate 139
Guest Martin John Green Party 98
Ibrahem Sammi Birmingham Worker 156
Issa Islam Ahmed Liberal Democrat 204
Malik Zhor Labour Party 1938
Rejected Ballot Papers 35
TOTAL 2570

Message to Polish voters in Balsall Heath West, Stirchley, Brandwood & Kings Heath

Message to Polish workers in Birmingham / Wiadomość dla polskich robotników i robotnic w Birmingham
The Birmingham Worker
GŁOSUJ NA “THE BIRMINGHAM WORKER” W BALSALL HEATH WEST, STIRCHLEY, BRANDWOOD ORAZ W KINGS HEATH.
PRZESTAŃMY SIĘ OSZUKIWAĆ
Laburzyści obwiniają Torysów, Torysi zrzucają winę na Laburzystów ale tak czy inaczej to nadal ta sama, stara śpiewka!
Radni Partii Pracy oskarżają za każde cięcia budżetowe i ataki na robotników Partię Konserwatywną sami odmawiając wzięcia jakiejkolwiek odpowiedzialności ale wszyscy doskonale wiemy, że tak na prawdę to Torysi są inicjatorami tych cięć a Laburzyści decydują kogo uderzyć w pierwszej kolejności. Council jest odpowiedzialny między innymi za:
– zmarnowanie ponad 6 milionów funtów w samym tylko 2017 roku próbując obniżyć pensje śmieciarzom w nadziei na żałosne oszczędności,
– zamknięcie 26 Children’s centres w Birmingham,
– podniesienie podatków miejskich (tzw. Council Tax) w 2018 oraz żenujące próby przekonania opinii publicznej, że to dla dobra społeczeństwa wstrzymano opłaty za kremację,
– testowanie granic ludzkiej wytrzymałości pracowników i pracownic socjalnych przez zmuszanie ich w praktyce do pracy przez nawet 15 godzin na dobę,
– wydawanie pieniędzy podatników na podróże dla Izraelskiego zbrodniarza wojennego odpowiedzialnego za tysiące zabitych Palestyńczyków.
Nadszedł czas aby odciągnąć karierowiczów od koryta i zastąpić ich miejscowymi robotnikami, tymi którzy nie boją się stanąć w obronie zwykłych obywateli!