Workers fight the BNP in Oldham
WE MET last week to launch Oldham Trade Unionists Against Racism and Fascism. Around 20 people, mostly local union reps and shop stewards from a range of unions including MSF, AEEU, UNISON, NUT, PCS and others, attended our inaugural meeting.
We plan to build on the activities already under way against the BNP here in Oldham. Our meeting followed the successful Anti Nazi League leafleting on 1 September, when over 200 people travelled to help local activists distribute leaflets through doors.
Many of us noted during that leafleting that among young people in the town in particular we found a sympathetic hearing, which is extremely encouraging. Now all of us in Oldham are focusing on building the 20 October Respect festival, which can be a major step towards building a movement to isolate and defeat the Nazis.
We will be taking our message into the workplaces and onto the streets in the coming weeks. In workplaces there is a real opportunity to bring people together and isolate racists, making them feel like the minority they are, and then that effect can spill over into the wider community.
We will be organising workplace meetings, leafleting and a newsletter as part of the campaign. We hope to see as many of you as possible in Oldham on 20 October.
TRADE UNIONISTS, Oldham
Police deny our rights
ON SATURDAY 1 September around 30 to 40 Anti Nazi League members and supporters travelled by coach to Burnley from London. We went to distribute leaflets against the BNP to local constituents and then go home.
We were dropped off at the Nelson bus station which is about 20 minutes drive from Burnley, and boarded another bus. Wondering why the full bus then hadn't moved, we realised that we were being encircled by the Lancashire local constabulary, 'police evidence gatherers' decked out in riot gear, and mounted police.
Persons making 'legitimate journeys' were told to alight, and each of us was recorded on a videocamera. I was incredulous that this was actually happening, that a simple act of telling the plain truth about the BNP could meet with such intimidation and suppression of basic rights.
OLIVE COOPER, east London
Threat to disabled people and unions
THE ARTICLE exposing BNP Führer Nick Griffin in Socialist Worker (1 September) was an excellent antidote to the easy ride he and his gang have been having in the media.
In the section about the Nazi contempt for the poor, it struck me that this contempt was also their attitude to anyone who is disabled. I have a neurological disease which didn't really affect me until a few years ago.
I'm now in the same help group as kids in wheelchairs who've got inherited forms of disability. History shows us that the Nazis' plans for the disabled are straightforward and very unpleasant.
Hitler's Nazis also gave us the experience of the smashing of independent trade union organisation, with all that meant. I was only really able to hang on to my job over the last four or so years, even though it was pretty obvious I couldn't do it, because of basic trade union organisation.
Smash that, as the Nazis actively try to do, and it would mean a very difficult and unpleasant life for anyone and their families who became disabled as the result of an accident at work or became too ill to work.
We're socialists because we want what is produced to meet human need, to make all our lives better. The Nazis have no time for anything like that. They want a heavy handed, dictatorial and oppressive state, and sod anyone who doesn't toe the line or fit in.
COLIN YATES, East London
Just what New Labour would like
THE AUSTRALIAN government's refusal to allow entry to the Afghan refugees is a stark example of how Western governments are attempting to dismantle the 1951 UN convention on refugees.
Since an Australian Labor government introduced mandatory detention for illegal entrants in 1992, there have been a series of measures designed to physically prevent refugees from claiming asylum on Australian shores. In January 2000 the Tory government (with no opposition from Labor) commenced negotiations to return refugees or hold them in 'safe' countries like Pakistan, Iran, Jordan and Syria in return for aid packages.
Refugees' claims would be processed by agencies like the UN, and some would then be dispersed according to strict quotas to developed countries. This is exactly the process Jack Straw had in mind when he called for the 'revision' of the 1951 convention in June last year.
It opens up the grotesque prospect of millions of refugees being stranded in camps on the borders of war zones in some of the poorest parts of the world, and refugees who make their own way to the West being automatically returned. This will do nothing to address the repression and misery from which refugees flee, but it will give confidence to racists to demand further attacks on ethnic minorities in the West.
MIKE GREWCOCK, East London
THE BUILDING of a giant incinerator plant near Swansea was halted for seven hours last week when anti-incinerator protesters took direct action to block the only gate into the site.
A 20 foot high steel tripod was erected and chained onto the gate before contractors arrived for work.
Two anti-incinerator campaigners took it in turn to stage a sit-in on top of the tripod. One of the protesters was Alan Thomson, Welsh Socialist Alliance candidate in the Swansea East Welsh Assembly by-election which is taking place on 27 September.
Over 20 local people gathered during the course of the day to support the blockade, and the action made the Welsh news on TV and hit the headlines in the local press.
HUW PUDNER, South Wales
Bush plan opposition
US PRESIDENT George Bush's plans to upgrade the Fylingdales radar station in Britain as part of his National Missile Defence system has angered local people living in Scarborough. Local people have never been consulted or given a chance to voice concerns. Disgracefully our Labour MP has refused to publicly oppose the plans for Fylingdales.
In Scarborough we have set up Scarborough Fylingdales Action Network, a group of people from various different groups who have joined together. Every Saturday we have a stall in the town centre which gets a huge response. An initial organising meeting attracted 12 people to our front room, and we have plans to send a delegation to lobby the Labour Party conference in Brighton. We have a public meeting planned for 11 October, and on 13 October there will be a demonstration and day of action at Fylingdales.
People in the campaign have been amazed at the response from local people and the eagerness with which people want to get involved in activity.
RACHEL BOYES, Scarborough Fylingdales Action Network
Anger on owed pay
CALIFORNIA CLOSETS is a multinational franchise making furniture, recently brought to an abrupt close by UK franchise holder Simplify Ltd. In the last week of August the company entered receivership. Staff have been left owed substantial amounts of money, in some cases thousands of pounds.
They were asked to sign a document suggesting that they were not in fact owed wages but had borrowed money from the firm. To date none of the owed wages have been paid, and customers who placed orders with Simplify's shop in the trendy district of London's King's Road have not received their goods.
As a former employee I wish to endorse the claim for back pay from my former employers and offer total solidarity to my colleagues. As a reader and subscriber of Socialist Worker newspaper for our workplace I hope we can count on your support!
DUNCAN WILLIAMS, West London
LABOUR'S DECISION to invite McDonald's to sponsor their conference is a disgrace. Until recently, I worked for McDonald's for five years. I witnessed and experienced bullying, demoralisation, workers being forced to do overtime, and being paid a pittance to work in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. So what do New Labour do?
To the thousands of low paid workers in the fast food industry in Britain they say, 'The Labour Party doesn't give a toss about you-profit is our new mantra.' Let's build for the Brighton protest on 30 September and say no more McConditions.
DEAN SCURLOCK, Cardiff
DOZENS OF anti-privatisation campaigners picketed a Brighton branch of McDonald's following the announcement of the company's £15,000 sponsorship of a reception at the Labour conference later this month in the town.
Protesters chanted 'McBlair says Big Mac-we say fight back!' and handed out leaflets detailing McDonald's disgraceful employment record, including the recent prosecution over the use of child labour.
The protesters attracted widespread support from passers-by, most of whom shared the campaigners' unease over the increasing links between the government and big business interests.
CHRISTINE BIRD, Brighton