Friday, March 16, 2018

The Lewisham Train Fiasco

By Dermot Hudson

On Friday 2nd March I boarded the 17:39 train from Waterloo East to Orpington to get home. The train was operated by the South Eastern Railway, a privatised rail company owned by the Go Ahead Group, a capitalist monopoly.
The train actually arrived at 17:41. Not too bad I thought to myself, only two minutes late. Commuting on South Eastern Trains is a negative experience because they are continually late. “Signalling difficulties“, “broken down train“, “engineering works“, “weather”, you name it, there is always an excuse for the fact that they cannot do the basic thing and run the trains on time or nearly on time. I did not know what was in store for me!
It had been snowing that afternoon and there was still a bit of snow coming. There had been snow on and off for the past two or three days. It had not been the dire reports of 20cm of snow but just a few centimetres of snow, which should not have posed any problem. The DPRK and socialist countries never have these problems with snow.
The train pulled out of Waterloo East. It was crowded because there was no Sidcup train and they had told passengers for Sidcup to join the train and change at Lewisham. The train trundled into London Bridge and left London Bridge, however it got slower and slower. Eventually it came to a halt about half a mile or so from New Cross. This was at about 17:53. The train just sat there. After about 15 minutes or maybe longer the driver spoke to the passengers over the PA system. He basically said he did not know what was what and was “speaking to two signal boxes“ to find out. About another 15 or 20 minutes later the driver informed us that a train in front had stuck on a gradient on the approach to Lewisham. Later the driver said it was because it was a 12 car train. This announcement was met with derision by some passengers.
Time dragged on. We had been on the train over an hour. The driver appealed for a paramedic because someone in one of the carriages had suffered a fit (not surprising being stuck on a train). Meanwhile the heating and air conditioning went off because of no power, there were emergency lights only. Worse still, the only toilet on the train became blocked.
Meanwhile more excuses offered were offered and a great deal of conflicting information. At one point we were told that the train would be reversed back into London Bridge. It was learned that people on the first train had been evacuated and those on the second train had opened the doors and jumped off. Some people decided to take matters in their own hands and pressed the emergency door release and jumped out. This did not look a good choice however: firstly, on jumping out one risked landing on the third rail (600 volts at least); secondly, trying to walk along icy tracks in the darkness; thirdly, one would have to scramble down a snow covered bank in darkness. I also realised that I would need to walk to a bus route to get home. So myself and a number of other passengers stayed put.
The train eventually moved at 22:35, nearly five hours after it had left Waterloo East. What a disgrace! The privatised rail companies have a real ‘do not care’ attitude towards passengers. It is not simply a case of people having their evenings and weekends messed up by this kind of nonsense, but there are cases of people who have lost jobs due to train delays (which seem to be permanent and perennial on South Eastern Trains rather than the odd occurrence). In the days of British Rail (BR) generally problems like this incident did not occur because BR had their own shunting engines and locos that could move broken-down or stuck trains, but the toy-town privatised railways do not have their own locos only electric units. The BBC, taking the side of South Eastern Trains, blamed the incident on passengers escaping the train – but it was down to pure and simple incompetence by South Eastern Trains, who could not could not run a bath let alone a railway!
Bring back British Rail!
 Nationalise the railways without compensation!

Marx – thinker and revolutionary

Andy Brooks with comrades at the reception
by New Worker 

Karl Marx died in London on 14th March 1883 and his passing is marked by a number of ceremonies including the annual address at Marx’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery and the New Communist Party’s more modest annual reception at the Party Centre in Battersea last week.
Our numbers were down due to sickness and transport problems as NCP leader Andy Brooks explained during the formal part of the proceedings. National Chair Alex Kempshall was in hospital recovering from major surgery and a number of other comrades had sent in their apologies.
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx who with Friedrich Engels, wrote the Communist Manifesto and laid the foundations of modern scientific socialism. The immense contribution that Marx and Engels made in the struggle for the emancipation of the working class can never be forgotten Andy said and this was taken up by all the speakers that followed.
But the tributes began on a sombre note when comrades rose for a minute’s silence in memory of Neil Harris, who passed away at the beginning of the month after a long illness. This was followed by solidarity greetings from Dermot Hudson from the Korean Friendship Association and John Macleod from the Socialist Labour Party.
There was plenty of good food and drink for all, and £130 was raised for the New Worker following the appeal by Daphne Liddle.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Corbyn celebrates Chinese New Year in London

 By New Worker correspondent

Labour MPs, Chinese diplomats and nearly 200 members of London’s Chinese community braved snow and ice last week to celebrate the Chinese New Year at the annual Chinese for Labour banquet at the Phoenix Palace in London.
Guests of honour included Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn along with a number of other MPS and Labour peers, as well as Ambassador Liu Xiaoming and other senior diplomats from China’s London embassy.
Chinese for Labour Chair Sonny Leong welcomed guests, saying: “There is more to do in fully engaging the Chinese community, to bring them to Labour and empower them to make their greatest possible contribution to British society. And so we have developed our first ever Chinese for Labour manifesto, which sets out an agenda that we hope the Labour Party will adopt to engage with and serve the British Chinese and broader East Asian community.”
Jeremy Corbyn said: “Chinese people have contributed hugely to British life. With 7,000 Chinese-owned businesses in the UK, almost every corner of our country will have a Chinese-run business contributing to their local economy. From our creative industries to our public services, Chinese people make an invaluable and often overlooked difference to our country. So thank you for all your contributions.”
The Chinese ambassador highlighted Labour’s past contributions to Sino-British relations.
“Britain became the first major western country to recognise the People's Republic of China,” Liu Xiaoming declared. “Hong Kong's return to China was another highlight and it was followed by accelerated progress in China–UK relations.
“The China–UK comprehensive strategic partnership was established while Labour was in government. And the UK under Labour joined China in launching several high-level exchange mechanisms, including the annual Prime Ministers' meeting, the Economic and Financial Dialogue, and the Strategic Dialogue.
“Eighteen years ago, Chinese for Labour was founded. Since then, you have made great efforts to raise the sense of citizenship among the Chinese community. You have launched campaigns like the British Chinese Project to encourage them to get actively involved in politics.
“I look forward to continued contribution from the Labour Party and Chinese for Labour. I am sure your efforts will help improve understanding between the people of our two countries…In the new year, we look forward to strengthening the communications between political parties of our two countries. The China–UK Leadership Forum is a platform for such communications. We hope the Labour Party will continue to take an active part in this Forum.
“We hope to join hands with the Labour Party to advance China–UK relations, to deliver more benefits to the people of our two countries, and to contribute to world peace and development and promote the sound development of our bilateral relations.”
The Chinese for Labour Group is an affiliate of the Labour Party. It was formed in 1999 to promote the interests of Chinese people in the Labour Party and to improve the quality of life of the Chinese community in Britain.