How festival stoked-up the anti-racist cause
Since the recent Love Music Hate Racism festival in Stoke there has been a noticeable change in the mood in the city – a change for the better.
For years Stoke and the surrounding area was seen by some anti-racists as a no-go area. With nine members of the Nazi British National Party (BNP) on the city council, and the prospect of this week’s local election adding to their tally, many were afraid of making the first move against the racists.
The committed activists there often felt hemmed in and unable to act. Now, thanks to Love Music Hate Racism, Unite Against Fascism, Stoke City Football Club, and the city council, that feeling has started to break down.
Activists are using the simple but powerful message of unity against the fascists that rang out from the festival. They are getting a hearing from thousands of young people in the city who were always distrustful of the BNP.
There is a sense of the turning of the tide.
Staffordshire university student union has agreed to sell Love Music Hate Racism merchandise, and place banners in all of its venues. And you can’t go anywhere in Stoke now without seeing people wearing our T-shirts.
I was walking through Stafford Park a few days after the festival and came across a group of teenagers all wearing Love Music Hate Racism T-shirts. When they saw that I was wearing one too, they all stood up and cheered.
That there are now so many visible anti‑racists must be driving the Nazis crazy.
Whatever happened in last week’s elections, one thing is certain. We have proved that Stoke is full of people who hate racism and who can be mobilised to oppose it. We will certainly need them in the months to come.
Gary McNally, Stoke-on-Trent
Paul Murphy implies that the slogan “Black and white unite” oversimplifies the mixed and multi-ethnic nature of Britain today (» Letters, 6 June).
I disagree. The use of the term black to describe all those who face racism as a result of their skin colour was something we fought for in the 1970s.
It was a way of bringing oppressed people together, not a description of our pigmentation. In a system that continues its attempts to divide us, I believe the term black remains appropriate.
Carla Thomas, Newcastle
Sri Lanka coverage one-sided
I am amazed at the one‑sidedness of Ken Olende’s article about the conflict in Sri Lanka (» Horror of massacre of Tamils emerging, 23 May).
There wasn’t a word about the hundreds of civilians who were killed trying to escape from the Tamil Tigers, or that the vast majority of refugees from the fighting in the Eastern Province have been sent back to their homes. And no mention of the government’s promise of land to the homeless in the camps.
The article does not address the racist nationalism of the Tigers, the way they liquidated the left among the Tamil population, or the way they ethnically cleansed 100,000 Muslims from the north of Sri Lanka.
The first person to be attacked by the Tigers was a leading Tamil Communist. They never looked back.
Vinod Moonesinghe, Hokandara, Sri Lanka
Left must back Tamils
Salim Akhtar (» Letters, 30 May) points out that the Tamil Tigers expelled Muslims from eastern Sri Lanka in 1990 and asks why Socialist Worker talks about the Tigers “as if they are a good organisation”.
Socialist Worker does not wish to cover up the grave mistakes made by the group, but we understand that their resistance is a product of the vicious discrimination that Tamil people have long suffered at the hands of the Sri Lankan state.
The form that the Tamil resistance has taken has been shaped by the failure of the left to vigorously oppose that chauvinism.
As with other resistance groups, there may be aspects to the Tigers that socialists find hard to stomach – and we should criticise them on these points.
But the defeat of the Tigers was a victory for imperialism and Sinhalese chauvinism. It leaves the Tamils open to even more vicious violence.
Nisa Manoharan, North London
Shame of union leader who joined the enemy
So Alan Johnson, the former leader of my CWU union, is the new home secretary.
We should not believe he will be less right wing than his predecessor.
During a recent lobby of parliament a group of us spotted him and shouted, “What about the postal workers you’re privatising?”
His reply was abusive and dismissive.
Many CWU members were shocked by this incident, which was captured on mobile phones, I was not.
As health secretary, Johnson has been outsourcing NHS services to private firms. As an MP he supports privatisation of the post. As a union leader he was a right wing sell-out.
As home secretary there will be more of the same.
Bob Cullen, South Central No 1 CWU branch
Readers will doubtless be pleased that postal workers in London are preparing to strike.
Getting a yes vote took a lot of work, including meetings inside and out, before shifts and during breaks. Union officials toured offices to explain the dispute, Royal Mail’s response and the injustice of cutting jobs when the business is making a profit.
Our result shows that recession does not mean workers won’t fight back – especially when they see money being thrown at bankers and MPs.
Merlin Reader, CWU rep, London
‘No platform’ must not be a fetish
The position of no platform for fascists is important and should be maintained and fought for (» Letters, 6 June).
Nevertheless, it should not be turned into an absolute fetish which could damage the anti-fascist cause.
Yes, we should campaign against the BBC and other broadcasters giving the Nazi British National Party (BNP) airtime.
But when it is clear they are going to appear anyway it is to our advantage that they are confronted by anti‑fascists.
We can use the broadcast to label the BNP as Nazis and explain why they should not have been given the respectability that comes with mainstream media coverage.
If the left had got someone elected to the Greater London Assembly they would have had to confront the BNP’s Richard Barnbrook in the chamber.
Likewise successful anti‑fascist candidates in the recent European elections may have to confront various fascists who have also won seats, just as the Italian revolutionary socialist Antonio Gramsci confronted the fascist leader Benito Mussolini face to face in the Italian parliament in the 1920s.
John Molyneux, Portsmouth
Jail threat to journalist
The British state is gearing up for yet another attack on press freedom – this time with its threat to jail a journalist for refusing to reveal her sources.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland is planning to use the Terrorism Act to force Suzanne Breen, an editor of the Dublin‑based Sunday Tribune newspaper, to hand over material she has collated on the Real IRA.
If Breen refuses – which she undoubtedly will – she faces up to five years in jail.
The case goes to the heart of journalism.
As Breen says, “Compromising sources undermines the freedom of the press. If a journalist becomes a gatherer of evidence or witness for the state, they cease being a journalist.”
The National Union of Journalists is backing Breen’s campaign. Further details can be accessed from
Alan Gibson, East London
Helen was an inspiration
Thanks for the obituary of Helen Shooter (Socialist Worker, 30 May). Helen was a fellow student with me in Portsmouth from 1987 to 1990 and I am really sad to hear of her death. She was a fantastic, inspirational woman and she will be greatly missed.
Norman Strike, Essex
Army flag we won’t salute
During a visit to British troops in Afghanistan last month Gordon Brown launched the Armed Forces Day flag campaign – and so a new flag will be flown above our town halls on 27 June.
Brown’s move is an attempt to win legitimacy for unpopular wars. Even Labour’s own supporters are sceptical, warning that the day could be seen as a state‑sponsored military jamboree.
In Manchester there will be military bands and fitness sessions, and the new armed forces day flag will be on sale.
Stop the War campaigners say that the best way to safeguard the troops is to bring them home.
Instead of a new flag, what about the health provision that the physically and psychologically injured troops so desperately need?
Mark Krantz, Manchester
Don’t work with bosses
As a member of the Unite union, I supported the march for jobs held in Birmingham on 16 May.
Unite leaders disgracefully put Digby Jones, the former head of the bosses CBI organisation, at the front of a column of trade unionists. That man has nothing to offer working people.
Even more shamefully, our union leaders also excluded inspirational speakers from the successful Visteon factory occupation and Rob Williams, the victimised Linamar shop steward.
Nevertheless, the day did bring together workers so we could share our experiences – and our anger.
Phil Johns, Plymouth
In a meeting, can you hold?
Around 25 people from the call centre where I work came to a meeting last week as part of a campaign to set up a union. It was organised by the Communications Workers Union (CWU).
Workers from another centre nearby told us about their successful campaign to build a union and increase their pay.
Lots of people at my work are scared that management will simply get rid of anyone who joins the union.
Despite this three more joined the CWU, and many more took away union leaflets and joining forms.
Everyone signed a petition to demand we are paid the London Living Wage – it’s already been signed by 25 percent of the workforce.
Call centre worker, London