No platform for fascists
We need to step up our efforts to inform people about the disguises that the British National Party (BNP) and fascists use.
I was involved in anti-fascist projects in the north east of England at the same time as BNP candidates were appearing in the media dressing themselves up as legitimate democratic politicians.
While they were putting up this smokescreen for the media, their supporters were sending me death threats at work and obscene mailings giving me the technical reasons why the Nazi gas chambers could not possibly have accommodated as many as six million Jews.
One evening earlier this year I was out delivering leaflets with other anti-fascist campaigners. We put a leaflet through the door where a very active BNP member lives. He came out in his underwear shouting vicious abuse at us and threatening to “knock our heads off”.
These examples expose the real value that the BNP actually places on free speech and illustrate the contrast between its public presentation and the actual behaviour of its members.
Every time the BNP is allowed to promote itself it fuels racism and racist attacks not just from their members but any alienated, disempowered people who will get satisfaction from finding a scapegoat.
It is vital that at a time when disillusionment with Labour is at an all time high and support for the Tories is increasing, that we fight on every front to prevent the BNP from reaping the benefits.
Viv Schwartzberg, Gateshead
Students and staff cheered as the chair of Northumbria university students’ union council read out the vote over “no platform for fascists”. The motion in support of no platform was carried by 135 to 54, with 11 abstentions.
Joe Finnon, the national student organiser for the BNP recently stood in the Northumbria students’ union council elections where he did not declare his fascist membership. He did not get elected, obtaining only 6 votes out of 510 cast – in part because campaigners “outed” him as a fascist.
The incident prompted the students’ union council to put forward the no platform motion.
In the debate, those supporting no platform explained that the debate is not about freedom of speech. Rather, the policy will prevent groups such as the BNP from using the buildings, facilities finances and most importantly the respectable platform of the Students’ Union to spread their message of race hate and division.
Rejecting the motion would send a message to Asian and black students, gay students, international students and others that Northumbria University is not a safe place.
The BNP may pose as a respectable political party but it does not play by the rules of parliamentary democracy. They will not debate honestly – they will lie and use the Academic Platform to gain respectability before proceeding to destroy free speech and academic freedom.
There are now moves for the students’ unions at both Northumbria and Newcastle universities to hold events on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Andrew Mullen, Northumbria university UCU
Southall and the Indian Workers Association
The Indian Workers Association (IWA) in Southall was set up in the 1950s as your article says (» How Southall’s Asians fought against racism , 24 November), but it was linked to the already existing IWA(GB).
This had been formed in 1938 by Shaheed Udham Singh, a revolutionary patriot from the Indian subcontinent.
It campaigned for the rights of Indian workers in Britain and for Indian independence.
Though formal independence was achieved in 1947, aspirations of working people remained unfulfilled. Communists continued to be persecuted and many came to Britain.
Among those who came to Southall were Vishnu Dutt Sharma, Ajit Singh Rai, Mohinder Singh Padda.
Even Piara Singh Khabra, who would later become Labour MP for Southall, claimed to be a supporter of Indian communists.
They began to organise the IWA (Southall). They were politically aligned with the Communist Party of India (CPI) and also kept close relations with the Congress party in India and supported the Labour Party.
Initially the IWA (Southall) played a very positive role – standing up against racism and supporting workers struggles.
It developed into a powerful body with a strong voice and a huge membership.
However, over time it was transformed into an election tool of the Labour Party.
This is a major factor in Southall remaining a Labour Party stronghold.
Virendra Sharma, the current Labour MP for Ealing Southall, has an office in the IWA building in Southall.
Other branches of the IWA maintained a greater distance from Labour.
There is a great need to re-establish the strong working class traditions of the Indian community and forge closer class unity with the British working class.
IWA organisations need to re-establish the revolutionary working class traditions on which the IWA(GB) was initially founded.
Salvinder Dhillon, Southall, West London
New Labour politicians have let down activists
I have been a life-long socialist and was a Labour councillor. I remain a member of the Labour Party.
I have just finished five years in the RAF. I have never had any money to speak of and am happy for that to remain the case as long as there is food in the cupboard and a roof over my head.
Having seen first hand the policies of the Labour government as a civilian, as a serviceman, unpaid councillor and activist, and as an employee, I have to say I am disappointed.
This is nothing new, you may well say.
Our Labour MPs have many traits such as drive and ambition.
They also have many excuses – such as sending their children to private school “because they want the best for their child”.
But what about our children? Shouldn’t Labour politicians have faith in the system they themselves regulate?
I see no creative socialist agenda from this government, only short-term tangents clumsily directed at the media. I intend to challenge this.
Socialism is not yet dead. It is skulking angrily in the shadows and bearing witness to the self-interest and vain ambitions of narrow-minded and grossly uncaring politicians who have failed their activists, their supporters and the people.
They must be held to account.
Ralph Baldwin, ex-Labour councillor, Newham, East London
Defending Karen is crucial battle
Victimised nurse Karen Reissmann and her union branch have been a symbol of hope and resistance for our city.
Earlier this year they went on strike to stop cuts in staffing and our services being privatised, and won.
Now, through sacking Karen, the management of her mental health trust are trying to smash the union.
Karen and her union branch have an incredible record of solidarity with workers resisting government cuts and privatisation of services.
They have given a voice to all of us who are trying to protect our public services and stood up for the most vulnerable in society.
It was good to hear Labour MP Tony Lloyd speak out for Karen on the demonstration in Manchester last week. But many people are asking why our other MPs and local councillors are not queuing up to support Karen.
Maybe because just as MPs in Westminster blindly backed Blair in his drive to war on Iraq, so our local leaders have, so far, blindly followed the privatisation agenda across Manchester.
We cannot let voices like Karen’s be silenced.
Nahella Ashraf, Manchester Respect
Can Indian struggle win?
The struggle in Nandigram (» Neoliberal policies hit a rock in India, 1 December) is an illuminating tale of a struggle against corporate power and its state backers.
But unless there is broader solidarity, the resistance, however heroic, will inevitably end in defeat and serve as an example to others of overwhelming state power.
A united grassroots movement of peasants’ and workers’ parties is needed. Then neoliberal policies really will hit a rock.
Mirek Szychowski, Australia
‘Red’ Ken employs Tory
I am astounded that London’s mayor Ken Livingstone has decided to employ “Tory Boy” James North as one of his key staff.
North is the former chief political advisor to the Tory leader of Birmingham council and was sent by Conservative head office to work in Birmingham after coming a distant fourth in the 2003 Scottish parliament elections in Fife.
Londoners have consistently rejected the Tories, so why is Ken bringing them in through the back door?
Mabel Brookes, West London
Politicians chase worm
Ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif has stepped back into the political scene in Pakistan.
His old opponent and also ex-premier Benazir Bhutto is already in the political scenario.
These two fishes have again dived into the political sea of Pakistan and are after the same worm.
If the elections in January go according to plan either Nawaz Sharif or Benazir Bhutto will sit in the seat of prime minister.
It is more likely that neither Sharif nor Bhutto would be able to win a majority and they will have to form a coalition with either independent candidates or other small parties.
Same scenario, same game and same faces. The only things that are changing are the worsening economic conditions and the reputation of our country. No civilisation is conquered from outside until it is destroyed from within.
Murad Ali, Barking, London
Mugabe is not Ian Smith
It was good to see Alex Callinicos recalling the brutality of Ian Smith’s racist regime in Zimbabwe (» The brutal and corrupt rule of Ian Smith, 1 December).
But he should not have compared Smith to President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe was a hero of the struggle to get back the country stolen by the colonialists.
Better a leader like Mugabe who challenges imperialism – and is willing to dispossess the white settlers – than those in South Africa who maintain an “economic apartheid” because they won’t challenge the interests of the Western powers.
Kenny Matimba, Brighton
Scots strikers are inspiring
The Glasgow daycare strike shows that if you stick together you can conquer the world or, in this case, the council in Glasgow.
I wish the social care workers in England had as much guts.
Cyril, Southsea, Hants
War crimes go unpunished
The trial started last week of a tourist accused of accidentally sparking a huge fire on Table Mountain in South Africa.
The fire tragically killed one person and the tourist is accused of culpable homicide.
If he did start the fire it was certainly an act of great irresponsibility.
But it was not an act of great vindictive mass murder such as our government has got away with in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These state killers have not been held to account.
The double standards make me sick.
Leanne Fretmall, Grimsby