On Friday January the 2nd  train fares are due to increase again, again above the rate of inflation. We already have some of the most expensive fares in Europe. We also have the most fragmented service, and it is the case that the government is now subsiding railways (and the franchises) MORE than when British Rail was de-nationalised.

Between 1997 -2012 Virgin Trains’ West Coast Mainline paid £500 million in dividends after pocketing£2,5 billion in subsidies. By contrast, the publicly owned East Coast Mainline has returned nearly £1bn to the government since 2009.The arguments for public ownership are overwhelming.

The environmental case for switching to rail and other public transport is also overwhelming.

Hence, with the support of Action for Rail, the Peoples Assembly are teaming up Bring Back British Rail, Compass, the Green Party, the Campaign against Climate Change, We Own It,  and a variety of local groups to organise leafleting of commuters at railways stations on Monday January 5th. Later that week the Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, will be presenting her private members bill calling for public ownership of railways. The Peoples Assembly is looking for people who are prepared to volunteer to distribute leaflets at their local railway station.

Cornwall Branch and YCL member Owain examines second home ownership in Cornwall 

Cornwall and the South West region of England has a particular problem when it comes to second home owners. The region is a popular holiday destination for tourists and people seeking to move here and whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with either of those there is a less wholesome side to the region's status as a popular destination. There are many people from outside the region who are wealthy enough to be able to afford to purchase 'second homes' in the area which inevitably creates problems for local communities.

Most second homes are occupied by the owners for only a short period of time each year, as little as two weeks in some cases. The rest of the time they lie unoccupied or occasionally rented out for a short term outside of the holiday season. This creates problems not only in terms of destroying local communities and turning many places into ghost towns, but it also increases pressure on the housing market and serves to drive up rental and purchase prices making it particularly hard on younger people and those on a low income.

"The coalition government’s strategy aims to increase corporate profits and enrich the rich still further – it is not primarily about the deficit or the National Debt", Communist Party general secretary Robert Griffiths told the party’s political committee on Wednesday evening (the 3rd of December). He was speaking immediately after Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons.

Osborne announced further cuts in government spending on welfare benefits, public sector pay and pensions, local government and on other social programmes while handing more money to businesses in tax and rates relief.

No political leader in living memory has been so genuinely loved across the spectrum or touched so many people's lives.

Ken Keable, who is Secretary of the Communist Party's District Committee for South West England & Cornwall, posted this message on Facebook on the evening of Mandela's death. In 1967, through his membership of the Young Communist League in London, Ken was recruited to go on secret missions to South Africa to help the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party in their epic liberation struggle.

"My daughter Christabel phoned about half an hour ago to tell me the news that the great Nelson Mandela had died. Watching the BBC News Channel, which is devoting all its time to the subject, I see the British establishment giving us hypocrisy by the bucketful.

"The apartheid system was a crime against humanity and the British state was up to its neck in that crime. Britain’s diplomatic service did all it could, at the UN and elsewhere, to protect the apartheid regime from international sanctions. The City of London financiers invested in apartheid South Africa and profited from it. All the major British companies had their subsidiaries in South Africa, which practiced racism and supported the racist regime. Britain imported vast amounts of South African products, made cheap by the artificially cheap labour of the South African people.

The following piece was written by Bobbie-Jo in response to a yet another drone strike in Pakistan.

A US Drone killed my garden gnome
Now he's Shattered 'cross me garden
Seems he bore a strong resemblance
To an Afghan traffic warden
What the drones controllers fail to see
From their bunkers in The West
When a drone kills 6 or 4 or 3
They're people much like you and me
My garden gnomes just pottery
My heart breaks for the rest.

By Bobbie-Jo Treglown, Dorset Branch

 

It is with sadness that we report the death of Gordon Allen, 87, of St Ives, a life-long trade unionist, communist and constructivist sculptor.

Gordon was a highly skilled engineer who worked extensively in the aerospace industry for both Vickers and Rolls Royce. For many years he was responsible for training engineers involved in constructing the Concord. Out of a growing interest in modern sculpture he used his lathe and welding skills to create a significant body of sculpture that was critically acclaimed and widely exhibited, showing at the Royal Academy and increasingly in St Ives where he had moved to be near his architect son.

He especially loved and valued the work of Naum Gabo, the Russian Constructivist who moved to the St.Ives area with Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson soon after the outbreak of World War Two.

Gordon became a much respected and celebrated member of the St Ives art colony and he will be sorely missed by his extended family and many artist friends and colleagues.

On the 19th of December Eric Pickles and the Department for Communities and Local Government published the ever-so-helpful guide "50 ways to save: examples of sensible savings in local government".

Introduced by the Secretary of State himself, local authorities are confidently told:

Every bit of the public sector needs to do their bit to pay off the budget deficit inherited from the last administration, including local government which accounts for a quarter of all public spending. . . the message is clear - this is about a change in culture,

repeating the Government lie that the deficit is solely the fault of overspending by the Labour administration, and that the only solution is rapid, centrally dictated, liberalisation and privatisation of local services.

The document has many helpful solutions, including the ubiquitous "share back office services", the laughable "open a coffee shop in the library" and an all out attack on workers rights "scrap trade union posts".

The Communist Party utterly rejects the need for cuts in services and local government funding and calls for policies that will restore true local democracy and grant local control over financial and economic matters in line with the People's Charter.

On the 4th of December our District Secretary, Ken Keable, was interviewed on Dialect, a not-for-profit Bristol radio station.

In the interview, Ken not only talks about his book London Recruits - the secret war against apartheid (about an episode in the history of the Young Communist League, when YCL members, including Ken, went on secret missions to apartheid South Africa to help the liberation movement there) but he also answers questions about socialism, communism, the Young Communist League, the Communist Party and the Labour Party. He also mentions Bristol's part in the story of the London Recruits.

The interview (by Tony Gosling) lasts about 30 minutes, including a musical interlude in the middle. You listen to the interview by clicking the image above.

Over twenty people attended a busy day of discussion and debate in Exeter on Saturday the 1st of December. Hosted by the Devon branches of the Communist Party the event brought together people from the Labour party, Green party and other campaigning groups.

Workshops focussed on topics including class, imperialism and multi-national companies and the relevance of the Communist Manifesto today. District Secretary Ken Keable also spoke about the achievements and growth of the party in the South West over the past two years. The day ended with questions and answers from the party's General Secretary, Robert Griffiths.

Numerous requests were made to repeat the event in the new year, expanding the topics discussed and inviting other groups to attend and lead sessions.

As chair of the South West and Cornwall District of the Communist Party of Britain, I'd like, on behalf of the Committee, to wish all comrades, supporters, friends and visitors to this website warmest season's greetings.

We hope that everyone who is celebrating a festival at this time - Christmas, Hannukah, Yalda (to name but three) - will have a very happy time and that all of you will be able rest and enjoy yourselves.

We hope also that 2012 will be a year of success in the struggle for a just, democratic and peaceful future.

With best wishes

In comradeship

Liz Payne

District Chair

The District Women's Organiser reported to the District Committee in December, highlighting the plight of women in the face of the government's cuts agenda. A summary of the report follows.

Charter for Women logoThe Con-Dem cuts are affecting women both financially and emotionally. Examples are easy to find.

There is the young public sector single parent who has recently stopped paying into her pension fund and says she can't afford the expense of joining a union. Paying the mortgage and feeding and clothing the family are her priorities. This is a worrying trend and I'm sure she isn't unique.

Thousands of men and women marched in towns and cities across the South West to say "no!" to the ideological attack on public sector pensions. CPB members took part in almost every demonstration, marching side by side with their fellow union members, more often than not delivering hundreds of free copies of the Morning Star.

There were some logistical problems in our mammoth effort in supporting the Star, but these provided useful lessons for the next time, commented CPB District Secretary and District Trade Union Organiser Ken Keable.

Ken said, "The most important thing that happened on N30 was  that so many workers, mainly women, took part in mass industrial action for the first time. This raised their confidence, in themselves and in each other. They felt the collective strength of the labour movement. They feel stronger and they are stronger.

"Mass action like this can change the whole situation; it can put a bit of backbone into Labour politicians and strengthen the hand of the trade union leaders and negotiators. It should cause problems for the Lib-Dems, who need these people's votes, and widen the divisions in the Coalition.

"However", said Ken, "we still need to do more to get the message across that the country can easily afford good pensions for all by taxing the super-rich, by closing tax havens and loop-holes and imposing windfall taxes on the super-profits of banks and energy companies. People still don't realise just how rich the super-rich are, or the fact they they pay so little tax or, in many cases, none at all."

First reports from around the district follow below.