Year 2000 No. 139, August 29, 2000
London Regional Forum:
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
London Regional Forum:
The Mass Party Press and Organisational Work
The Fightback in Defence of Local Public Services
The Campaign For Human Rights In Turkey
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London Regional Forum:
On Thursday 24 August the Party in the London Region held the third is a series of fortnightly Forums focusing on the "The Mass Party Press".
These Forums provide the indispensable opportunity for the activists and supporters in the London Region to deepen their grasp of the Partys tasks at this stage. They are at the centre of the work to facilitate the activists and supporters going into motion as an organised force, and not as individuals with some personal understanding of the work. With the focus of the deliberations being on the Mass Party Press, the link between the holding of these discussions and the work of organising is always kept in the forefront. In line with this orientation, the Forums are developing a form whereby study, discussion and organising work all find their place as components in welding the activists and supporters into a self-conscious force to advance the work in the region. And that this work is carried out in the context of the Partys overall line of march is guaranteed by the concern to focus on the Mass Party Press.
On this occasion, the participants had decided to start the Forum with study and discussion on The Line of March to a New Society, the political report on the work of the Central Committee to the Partys 3rd Congress. It was pointed out that the Partys work leading up to the Congress had been initiated at the Coventry International Seminar in 1994 when Comrade Hardial Bains, National leader of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) had delivered his now well-known analysis of the character of the period and the tasks of the international communist movement.
It was deemed fitting, therefore, that on the occasion of the third anniversary of Comrade Bains untimely passing on August 24, 1997, all those present should stand for a minute's silence in memory of the Partys dearest friend, mentor and guide.
The Forum then continued with further study and discussion of The Line of March to a New Society and the Partys recent history and work. The first part of the Forum concluded with discussion on the content of Workers Weekly and how all the Partys activist and supporters could make their contribution to further developing it by submitting letters on local matters or their views on particular issues. Everyone was encouraged to send in information and visual material for the Partys paper.
In the second part of the Forum a representative of the Party centre began a presentation on "The Mass Party Press and Organisational Work". He pointed out the important role that the Partys press plays in not just creating the means to organise the working class and people but also the means to organise the communists themselves. In this regard he stressed the importance of Workers Daily Internet Edition as a means for all the Party circles to develop their revolutionary discipline, self-consciousness and self-motion and raise their political and ideological level on a daily basis. At the same time as carrying out this constant work, it was pointed out that there is a need to identify the cutting edge work. This is what is key in deliberating on the link between the Mass Party Press and organising work. In order to further concretise the cutting-edge work in the London region it was proposed that all the activists consider the proposal that what should be taken up is the mobilising of the maximum numbers to read, study, discuss, disseminate and finance Workers Weekly.
In line with decisions taken at the last Forum it was decided to immediately launch a regular programme for the mass dissemination of Workers Weekly in London. The Forum also discussed the measures needed to raise funds for the Party and all those present made a financial contribution to the Partys work.
After three years of fighting to stop the closure of five Birmingham residential homes for the elderly the Residents Action Group for the Elderly (RAGE) and Birmingham branch of trade union UNISON finally thought they had won when the council backed off closing them. But this was not so. Birmingham Council now propose privatising all 30 of its residential homes, including the five originally earmarked for closure. Faced with this new situation, RAGE and UNISON have taken up the fight to keep all the homes in the public domain.
Similar things are happening elsewhere in the country. For example, in Blackpool the council is expected to close all its homes and staff at the homes are being made redundant. However, opposition to the closure plans has been initiated by the organisation Caring Alliance for the Residential Elderly (CARE).
It is not only residential homes for elderly people that are under attack. In Dudley there is a campaign to stop plans by the Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust handing staff over to Summit Health Care under a PFI deal in which the firm would build three new hospitals and lease them to the Trust for around 30 years. UNISON members have already taken strike action to stop the move with more action threatened if the NHS Trust do not back down.
In South Bedfordshire, council tenants, with the help of Defend Council Housing, have just defeated a plan by the District Council to sell off 6,000 homes to Pride Housing after wasting £300,000 on pro-privatisation propaganda. A similar campaign to prevent selling off up to 18,000 homes in Plymouth is just beginning, co-ordinated by UNISON, GMB and UCATT.
Attacks on locally owned and run public services should come as no surprise as they form part of a plan by the EU to privatise public services. In fact Caroline Lucas, a Green MEP, says according to the EC (European Commission) "services dominate European industry" (1) and it describes service liberalisation as the key to "the world economys future".
The MEP also states the expansion of trade in services is now a fundamental element of the economic policy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Proof of this is the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) which strongly advocates a move from the public to private service wherever possible. GATS came into force in 1995, the same time as the WTO was set up with the help of the EU, and is one of the agreements policed by it.
The Labour governments support for the privatisation policy means it has adopted the ideological position of the EU and corporate capital against the wishes and interests of the people and must be opposed by the labour movement, community organisations and all progressive people in a united national campaign.
The Charter for Social Justice agreed at a conference of CAEF (Campaign against Euro-Federalism) held in Birmingham on April 8 this year is a vehicle by which this can be achieved as the Charter links together all the issues referred to above with the EU. Members of nine political organisations including RCPB(ML) activists, four community groups (two of which were from national minority communities) and trade unions MSF, TGWU, UNISON, GMB and AEEU took part in formulating the Charter, thus indicating its unifying character on the issues concerned.
CAEF asks everyone to use the Charter wherever possible; raise it in trade union, community, ethnic or student organisations and ask them to support it financially and with solidarity action on behalf of those already struggling to achieve its aims.
Only by uniting nationally against the privatisation of local services and opposing the EU single currency can success be assured. If government policy and subservience to the EU is not successfully challenged the threat of privatisation will always be there even if the first round in the battle is won as in the case of the South Bedfordshire council tenants.
Copies of the Charter for Social Justice can be obtained from CAEF, 57 Green Lane, Merseyside CH45 8JQ.
CAEF would like to be kept informed of any activities and experiences around the charter so that they can be used to help the campaign.
Ron Dorman, Organiser CAEF
(1) Watchful in Seattle, Caroline Lucas, MEP. The Green/EFA, European Parliament
WDIE has recently received the August 2000 Bulletin of the Campaign for Human Rights in Turkey. The campaign was launched by the Liverpool Dockers Shop Stewards Delegation to Turkey, July 1996. The text of the Bulletin follows:
PRISON AUTHORITIES ATTACK INMATES
July saw a series of attacks by prison authorities on political prisoners, with inmates terrorised and injured. On 25 July at Bergama Prison bulldozers, ambulances and the fire brigade were mobilised around the prison. One prison cell was burnt down and two others were rendered unusable. The pretext for the authorities' attack was the alleged discovery of a prisoners' escape tunnel. All the prisoners have now been transferred to Buca Prison. On 5 July the gendarmerie attacked the political prisoners' dormitories in Burdur by pulling the walls down. The political prisoners were refusing to attend court hearings in protest against torture and maltreatment. After the operation all prisoners were transferred to different prisons.
Background to Prison Attacks
Attacks by the authorities on political prisoners are commonplace in Turkey. Other occasions when prisoners were either killed or injured in such attacks are: 21 September 1995 in Buca Prison; 4 January 1996 in Umraniye Prison; 24 September 1996 in Diyarbakir; 26 September 1999 in Ulucanlar Prison; 5 July 2000 in Burdur Prison. Successive governments have always targeted political prisoners, aiming to break their collective morale and solidarity within the prison system.
Most recently the Government's intention has been to prepare the way for the introduction of isolation cell (F-type) prisons. The aim is to separate prisoners so that they can more easily be subjected to systematic torture and intimidation (which can sometimes lead to deaths).
Widening Protest against Cell-Type Prisons
Two months ago the Turkish Human Rights Association launched a nation-wide campaign against these prisons. This campaign has wide support from human rights associations, democratic organisations, trade unions, and some political parties. EMEP (Party of Labour) has also demanded a general amnesty for political prisoners and all those unjustly imprisoned.
Recent protests in Turkey against the introduction of cell-type prisons include one-day hunger strikes by lawyers from Istanbul Bar and by the Intellectuals and Artist Initiative. The families of convicted and arrested inmates trying to protest in Ankara's Kizilay Square were attacked by police and 15 were arrested. Another group of families was also attacked, with 25 arrested. Members of TAYAD (The Support Association of Families of the Arrested and Convicted) who were travelling by coach to Istanbul to present a petition to Parliament were attacked in Adapazari. 30 people were injured and taken to various hospitals: 2 people had broken ribs (1 Aug).
Background to Cell-Type Prisons
Prison cells in most Turkish prisons have up until now been for multiple occupancy. One or two-person cells did exist previously, but were primarily used during periods of military coups, when their occupants were often tortured or killed. One of these special prisons, Sagmalcilar, was described by the Attorney General at the time as "a place for empty coffins." Under earlier anti-terrorist law, however, no official provision was made for the use of cell-type prisons. The law has since been changed using some clauses from British anti-terrorist legislation. Detainees as well as those convicted will now face being held in new cell-type prisons, as will anyone arrested under Article 312 for criticising the Turkish state. The prisons are designed only for political prisoners. Lawyer Ali Riza Dizdar (of the Contemporary Lawyers Society) has explained: "the government is trying to justify the introduction of cell-type prisons by describing them to the public as simply 'single rooms', 'rooms with toilets and kitchen.' Rehabilitation is a word frequently used in conjunction with them. In fact the intention is far from being rehabilitation. The real aim is to put political prisoners in total isolation, to make them completely vulnerable to any attack." As far as the debate on a general amnesty for prisoners is concerned, it is clear that if it is ever finalised it will not include political prisoners.
TRADE UNION RIGHTS ATTACKED
Ten trade unions have recently lost their collective bargaining rights due to the enforcement of restrictive criteria originally imposed after the 1980 military coup d'etat. Some 500,000 workers have been effectively de-unionised as a result. Unions affiliated to all the four main union confederations are affected. Astonishingly, leaders of Turk-Is, the largest union confederation, are nevertheless apparently in acceptance of the new practice. The other three confederations, DISK, KESK and Hak-IS are strongly opposed. The legislation withdraws rights from the many unions unable to meet the dual criteria requiring union membership by a minimum of 10% of the entire sector throughout Turkey and 50% plus 1 employee in each workplace.
Istanbul Union Branches Platform, OLEYIS, Gida-Is, Haber-Sen, Tum Banka-Sen have organised mass protest demonstrations. TUMTIS had a demonstration on 24 July, followed by DISK the next day. Workers are simultaneously under attack from the government's current policy of allowing only "zero" wage increases to public sector workers, supposedly in order to combat inflation. Inflation is at around 60-70 percent but only those workers who have collective bargaining powers have any chance of fighting to gain the wage increases necessary simply to maintain the value of their salaries.
International labour organisations such as the ICHTUR have made formal protests concerning the 10% criteria to the Turkish Ministry of Labour. They point out that since Turkey is a signatory to Convention 98 of the ILO, guaranteeing the right to collective bargaining, it should comply both in law and practice with these freely ratified standards. The Transport Workers' Union TUMTIS has appealed to unions in Britain and internationally to register protests with the Turkish Ministry of Labour. For further information in Britain, contact TGWU North East London Textile Workers Branch, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent press reports indicate that the British Government may be "set
to pull out of the project." Britain's Export Credit Guarantee Department
(ECGD) earlier planned to underwrite the UK construction giant Balfour Beatty's
involvement in the dam to the tune of $200 million of taxpayers' money. If
built, this dam on the Tigris River in south-east Turkey will cause the
displacement of 25,000 mainly Kurdish people, destroy Hasankeyf, one of the
oldest cities in the world, and could provoke water wars with downstream Syria
and Iraq. A July 2000 Government report (by the International Development
Committee) found that "the Ilisu Dam was from the outset conceived and
planned in contravention of international standards, and it still does not
comply. For that reason ECGD cover should not be given." Widespread
condemnation of the project has forced the British Government to express
doubts. However they have as yet made no formal announcement about withdrawing
support for the dam. The campaign against it will continue.
Contact: Ilisu Dam Campaign: e-mail: email@example.com
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