Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2099

Many young people on east London’s Isle of Dogs were won to an anti-Nazi campaign in 1993

Many young people on east London’s Isle of Dogs were won to an anti-Nazi campaign in 1993

We can beat the BNP

Like many residents of Camden, north London, we were horrified when two local newspapers, the Ham & High and the Camden Gazette, printed an advert from the Nazi British National Party (BNP).

Camden is one of London's most diverse boroughs and we felt that giving publicity to the BNP and allowing them to masquerade as a genuine and democratic political party could only divide our community.

So the next day some of us got together to write a letter to the papers, expressing our opposition. We asked that the papers did not run any further BNP ads and also urged people to vote in the London elections to stop the BNP getting into city hall.

The editor of one of the papers defended his decision to run the ad as an issue of 'free speech' and later said that to shield readers from socially unacceptable policies was 'an insult to their intelligence'.

Within a couple of days a cross-section of local councillors, representatives of political parties, tenants group leaders, campaigners and trade unionists had signed the letter.

It was published in the following week's papers with about 50 signatories, and clearly showed how widespread the opposition to giving publicity to the BNP is.

A protest was also organised outside the newspaper offices, where we handed out leaflets and got the support of many passers-by.

We said, rather than refusing to print ads from the BNP being an insult to people's intelligence, to do so is an insult to all those people who have been killed in areas where the BNP have tried to organise.

Barry Walden and Liz Wheatley, North London

Commemorations to mark the 15th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence took me back to 1993 when many of us worried that the Nazi BNP were on the verge of a big breakthrough.

The fascists had just gained their first councillor in east London's Isle of Dogs, Derek Beackon. With the BNP stomping around the place like they owned it, many felt too scared to speak out.

Stephen's murder, plus a spate of other attacks in east and south east London, added to the feeling of intimidation.

Despite our own fears, a group of us on the Island who were in the Anti Nazi League got together to challenge the BNP.

We started out by leafleting workplaces in the hope of finding trade unionists who would join us. We then moved on to young people.

A lot of the younger Asian kids were very scared but once we started to get large numbers of people out leafleting the estates, they felt emboldened to start handing out stickers.

At first some of the older Asian lads rejected the mass action strategy. But once it became clear that we were winning that started to change.

The demonstrations against the BNP in Welling in October and in east London the following March showed that tens of thousands of people, black and white, were committed to fighting the Nazis.

In the end it was revulsion at racist attacks and the scale of the mobilisation against the BNP that caused them to lose their first councillor – something we should remember as the Nazis try again to make a breakthrough.

Sian Barrett, East London

Beware of Zimbabwe's fake friends

Socialist Worker has for many years rightly championed the cause of the democracy movement in Zimbabwe.

Your reports of how activists, like those in the International Socialist Organisation, have been beaten and jailed by the state reflect the dangers that those who fight for justice face.

But Gordon Brown's speech to the United Nations earlier this month highlights a very different kind of danger.

Brown addressed a session that was supposed to be discussing the situation in Somalia to call for international action to get rid of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

The imperialist forces are attempting to jump on the democracy bandwagon in an effort to deflect attention from their own disastrous records in Southern Africa.

Their efforts are part of a plan to ensure that any new government in Zimbabwe remains open to the West and the multinational firms that exploit the country's vast mineral resources.

The Zimbabwean working class, which has shown so much courage in the fight, must not be fooled by such trickery.

The tyranny of the 'free market' and its poverty inducing structural adjustment programmes is but the other side of the coin to the tyranny of Mugabe.

Amadika Smith, South London

Hearing Gordon Brown praising spontaneous strike action in a speech to the Scottish TUC conference almost caused me to fall off my chair.

It was only as I realised that he was talking about South African dockers who have refused to unload an arms shipment destined for Zimbabwe that I came to understand.

Taking effective strike action is fine, just as long as you are thousands of miles away – and are involved in a fight that our government wholly approves of.

Political strikes in Brown's Britain, with or without ballots, are of course completely illegal.

Neil Parker, Glasgow

Everything to fight for in NHS ballot

Your report of last month's Unison union health conference rightly points out that local branches will have the right to campaign against the government's three-year below-inflation pay offer in a forthcoming ballot (» Sharp words over health pay offer, 26 April).

I hope that health workers will take full advantage of that right. Our branches should listen to what the membership wants, not what is being dictated by our union's national officers who are trying to suggest members won't fight.

I have spoken to members in Oxfordshire who are very angry about this pay offer and want to take action against it.

We certainly do not want a repeat of last year when our conference clearly condemned the appalling 1.9 percent pay offer but the national leadership instructed branches not to campaign against it.

That offer was reluctantly accepted in a ballot. There is plenty of fight in our members, but they need to know that they will not be left in the lurch again.

I just wish that we could have coordinated some industrial action together with our brothers and sisters in the NUT, PCS and UCU unions who took strike action last week. Mass national strike action would have shown this government we really mean it.

Tracy Ellicott, Oxfordshire Health Unison (pc)

Election changes little in Pakistan

More than two months after the elections in Pakistan, not a single issue that can bring relief to the working class has been addressed.

Rather than dealing with poverty, unemployment and rising prices, the US-backed elite is making efforts to strengthen its own position – and is using all manner of repressive acts to do so.

Growing discontent among the working class, students and civil society activists can explicitly be seen in the huge demonstrations in various cities of Pakistan.

In these circumstances the International Socialists group in Pakistan has begun to gain some influence among the masses.

As a result of the rising popularity of socialist ideas the Rangers – a politically appointed military force – last month brutally beat Dr Riaz Ahmad, a leading figure of the International Socialists.

The new government has nothing to give to the people. The situation has become entirely intolerable.

A revolutionary change in the whole system is the only way to emancipate the people from this barbarous capitalist system.

Imran Shahid Bhinder, Birmingham

SW's website is a big hit

Socialist Worker's online coverage of the strike action on Thursday of last week was superb (» Fightback Thursday: wave of strikes against Brown's attacks, 24 April). The speed with which you had a vast range of reports and pictures on your site took me by surprise.

I particularly liked that you gave space to the small towns across England and Wales where teachers came out so solidly in support of the strike.

I hope that as a result of your coverage more people start to see Socialist Worker as an essential source of information about the labour movement.

R Hadfield, Derbyshire

No hope in Obama

Is Barack Obama a new hope for ordinary people (» Letters, 19 April), or a safe pair of hands for the US establishment? There's no doubt in my mind that he is the latter.

Obama is a shrewd politician and this explains his meteoric rise to the heights of US politics.

Adept at not dealing frankly with critical issues – note his flip‑flop answer to the use of nukes on so‑called terrorist camps in Pakistan – he is hardly anti-imperialist.

It may be too early to speculate what the US and the world would look like should Obama get elected, but we should not be under any illusion that racism and war will be eradicated.

Ben Cameron, West London

Fight for your rights

To the unemployed person who wrote to Socialist Worker asking if there are unions that organise among the jobless, the answer is yes (» Letters, 26 April).

Most unions accept unemployed workers into membership. But there is a difference between that and attempting to organise among the unemployed.

Historically, one of the best way for this to happen is for unemployed workers to start organisations among themselves, and then seek to make links with others, both employed and unemployed, who want to fight against the bosses and the government.

Jane Gold, Peterborough

Tipping point for Starbucks

Last month a US judge ordered the Starbucks coffee chain to pay back more than $100 million in tips that had been paid to staff supervisors.

The court ruled that it was illegal to use tips to subsidise the pay in place of giving them appropriate pay rises for accepting more duties and responsibilities.

Although tipping is not as common in Britain as it is in the US, there is evidence to suggest that a similar thing could be happening here.

By obtaining the staff rota for one popular Liverpool restaurant, it has been shown that the system used for the distribution of tips can be used to subsidise the wages of managers in place of giving them appropriate pay rises.

One floor manager has admitted her weekly wage is barely above that of one of the waiting staff but that the tips made it worth the extra responsibility.

Alex Hopkins, Liverpool

Is this justice in racist US?

I was shocked to hear the news on Friday of last week that a judge in New York acquitted three police officers who shot dead an unarmed black man just hours before his wedding.

Sean Bell and his friends were celebrating his wedding at a nightclub. The police officers fired 50 shots into his car as they were leaving the club, killing Sean and injuring his friends.

On the same day, another US judge jailed the film actor Wesley Snipes for three years for the heinous crime of failing to file his tax returns. Who needs the Ku Klux Klan when you've got a 'justice' system like this?

Jiben Kumar, East London

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Article information

Tue 29 Apr 2008, 18:01 BST
Issue No. 2099
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