Bolton: Racism, police repression and defiance
The Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter-protest against the racist English Defence League (EDL) in Bolton (» EDL racists are forced to back off in Bolton, 27 March) was fantastic.
But it should have had many more Muslim people on it. The problem we faced was that the police and the council put huge pressure on our community not to attend.
They worked with the Bolton Council of Mosques to deter people from protesting. They spread fear throughout the community in the run up to the demo.
On the Friday before the demo there were council workers at every mosque after prayers handing out leaflets to people that said they shouldn’t go the protest.
“Mediators” stood on street corners trying to stop people coming into town.
There is now a lot of anger and people are asking why the police and the council, supported by the mosques, struck fear into our community.
Letting the EDL march can increase the levels of racism. I was walking home just before the EDL were escorted out of town, and a group of lads told me to “fuck off Paki”.
It reminds me of the riots in Bolton in 1981 when the police stopped Asian lads from defending their communities. The police were racist then and 30 years later I saw the same. They targeted Asian lads, not the racists coming to cause trouble and spread violence.
One thing is for sure – if the EDL come back to Bolton then the Muslim community will not listen to the police, council and others’ advice. We will go out in huge numbers instead of staying away.
I am one half of the anti-fascist rap duo Class Actions, who performed at the anti-EDL rally in Bolton. Having read all the media coverage it appears only Socialist Worker and a very small number of publications have attempted to expose the police violence.
I read your online coverage that gave an hour by hour account of Bolton.
Keep up the good work. It is disgusting that a lot of publications haven’t got the courage to even mention police provocation in passing. I hope more of the public read your publication.
Aslan AK, by email
Bolton was a show of strength and unity by Unite Against Fascism.
But what was most alarming about the day was the behaviour and brutality of the police. They seemed to be hell-bent on causing trouble with UAF and virtually ignored the antics of the EDL.
They bullied, and were intimidating and aggressive. They were completely out of control. At times I would move away from the trouble – police barging in to arrest people and drag them to the floor at my feet – only to walk into another spate of police harassment.
We have the right to protest, to democratically assemble peacefully and without fear of threat and intimidation from the police.
What happened in Bolton was terrible. What we witnessed was the true face of the police as an instrument of social control.
Pauline Wheat-Bowen, Huddersfield
I am glad that several hundred Asian young people turned up and I applaud their courage. I cannot understand the mosques’ mentality telling them to stay at home.
News has now spread about this and more and more young people are going to ignore the imams. I was at home watching white British people protesting on my behalf in Bolton, with just a handful of Asians there. I felt embarrassed.
I phoned people, they did the same and that is why so many then turned up. Our next turnout is expected to be much bigger. Long live solidarity. United we stand, divided we fall.
Abby, by email
Me and my girlfriend got the train from central Manchester to the Bolton protest. The train was full of EDL members. They were talking about their recent demonstration in London when the police escorted them to Parliament Square.
One of them said, “Yes, the police in London treated us with the utmost courtesy and respect, because they had experienced terror as well.”
I would say that this is quite a different experience to what most anti-fascists had in Bolton and London!
Daniel Gent, Manchester
One of the best features of the anti-EDL mobilisation was the presence of large numbers of trade unionists.
The PCS union can hold its head high. It sponsored a coach from London to the demo and is doing the same for Dudley. Fascism is a threat to ethnic minorities, but also to trade unionists.
We stand proudly against its attempts to eliminate workers’ democracy.
Louise Brightman, North London
Labour is to blame for failures
Duncan Brown (» Letters, 27 March) is quite right to say that socialists are not indifferent to the prospect of a Tory election victory. Those of us who lived under the Tories in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s know what a Tory government means.
But it’s also true that millions of longstanding Labour voters will say “never again” after Labour has failed to bring about even minimal redistribution of wealth after 13 years in office.
It’s not our job to defend Labour or to urge them to give it one more chance.
If Labour fails to win, there will be recriminations. The far left will be blamed for not giving the party wholehearted support.
We have to be quite clear that 100 percent of the responsibility for defeat would lie with Labour’s record in office.
Labour politicians learn very early on that they have no hope of changing the world – so there’s nothing left to do but line their own pockets.
As Tony Cliff, founder of the SWP, used to say, “Power corrupts, but lack of power corrupts absolutely.”
Ian Birchall, North London
Struggle in Edinburgh
The Unite union has been in dispute for nine months over the way Edinburgh council has chosen to implement its “single status” obligations.
It has decided to regrade all staff. This has resulted in a small rise for low paid women staff but a huge wage cut for all the other low paid staff.
The council wants to force the unions to accept its terms.
There has been little support from the union leadership for the members throughout this dispute.
I was dismissed recently for writing to the press in an attempt to explain the staff point of view. This came after seven months of suspension.
It seems we have returned to the days of Thatcher, and the union leadership has sleepwalked into it.
Paul French, Edinburgh
Worked to death?
Britain’s working culture claimed another victim recently when Tate Modern chef Nathan Laity, 23, died.
He had worked 14-hour shifts for 27 days straight. His immune system could not cope and he fell ill from tonsillitis. He did not take any time off work and died from the infection.
The pressure from bosses means that many people continue working even when it is dangerous to their own, and other people’s, health. What a sad indictment of the society Labour and the Tories have created.
Katherine Branney, East London
Big struggle can beat right
The extreme right is only succesful when the conditions of life get really bad, as history shows us (» ‘Fascists did not pass’, 20 March).
Every French government has supported the system and pushed the same policies, whether they were Socialist or right wing.
The base of the National Front in France is the middle class. This class either turns to the extreme right or the working class in a time of crisis.
If a real socialist struggle rises in France, as has happened a number of times in the last two centuries, the middle class will join it and the extreme right will be defeated.
Phillippe Dangin, France
Support the BA strikers
I am sad and a little more than disturbed at the lack of compassion being shown to the BA cabin crew.
They are only trying to protect the conditions that they have negotiated for over many years. Just stop and think.
Willie Walsh is only in transit at BA. He will move on, and could be in your workplace soon.
If he gets away with this action, just watch the rush by other like-minded chief executives to destroy wages, conditions and job security, for which the unions have fought for many years.
Just look at our bankers, MPs and bosses – they are all concerned with self- interest.
Be afraid, very afraid.
Joe Boyle, by email
Journalists not enemies
Richard Seymour’s review of Green Zone (» An arrogant movie that justifies American wars , 20 March) says that the film “vindicates a rotten profession”, namely journalism.
Many products of capitalist industry are rotten.
Most of us have to consume them because there are few alternatives.
But socialists shouldn’t attack the workers that produce those products.
Instead, we should target the bosses who force us to sell our labour power to make products over which we have little control.
Some journalists are willing warriors for the ruling class and should be exposed as such.
But they are a minority – albeit a powerful one.
Media workplaces are rigidly hierarchical, and journalists (most of whom are poorly paid) only win any say in what they produce through strong union organisation.
Don’t forget that you have allies inside the newsrooms.
Our task is to find and build relationships with them, while attacking the senior editors and managers who pull the strings.
If we want to win real change in the media, we cannot afford to write off journalists in the way that Richard does.
Dave Crouch, NUJ member,
BA solidarity is so sweet
Kevin Elliot worked for the Interflora call centre in Nottingham.
At the end of January, the company announced that the centre was closing and that the workers were all being made redundant.
Since then, Kevin had been getting steadily more frustrated that he couldn’t get a campaign going to fight the redundancies and keep the call centre open.
The others thought nothing could be done.
But last week he had a bright idea: he sent £50 worth of chocolates (at Interflora’s expense) to the British Airways picket line.
Interflora promptly sacked him.
He did not manage to stage a Vestas or Visteon-style occupation of the office, but what he did was better than doing a Woolworths-style conga out the door.
And it was also much funnier.
John Shemeld, Nottingham