Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2239

Teachers in the NUT union were among the trade unionists who joined protests against the English Defence League in Luton on 5 February (Pic: Dave Holes)

Teachers in the NUT union were among the trade unionists who joined protests against the English Defence League in Luton on 5 February (Pic: Dave Holes)

Why unions must fight to stop the racist EDL

In the early 1980s I worked at the Vauxhall car factory in Luton.

In my time there as a union steward, we were able to secure the right for Muslim workers to pray at the correct time of day.

The workforce was large and very multicultural. There was racism, but our need to act together continually undermined this.

For instance, during the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-5, workers who had been expelled from Idi Amin’s Uganda gave some of the most generous donations to the strike fund.

The stewards constantly pointed this out to any racist!

I am now a teacher in London. My students and their parents have fled war, persecution and poverty in other countries.

I am very angry that the racist English Defence League (EDL) should seek to attack the multicultural community of Luton—and portray the parents and students I teach as somehow “outsiders” and extremists.

My whole experience as a trade unionist and teacher has shown me that only when working people stand together are we strong.

The EDL is a threat to all of us. Its attack is concentrated on Muslims at the moment but to ignore this because we are are not Muslims is to fatally undermine the unity of our movement.

Trade unionists should be the first on the streets to oppose the EDL.

Dave Gilchrist, North London

When David Cameron attacked multiculturalism and Britain’s Muslims in his speech last week, he knew exactly what he was doing.

The coalition’s devastating cuts threaten the jobs and lives of millions. They risk provoking massive opposition—so they are trying to divide us by scapegoating Muslims.

Every racist bigot in Britain can now say the prime minister thinks the same as they do. Members of the EDL claim Cameron has “come round to our way of thinking”.

But on the day of Cameron’s speech, thousands of trade unionists, local people, anti-fascists and different faith groups united to stop the EDL rampaging through Luton.

There are two things we can all do. Get everyone to sign the statement opposing Cameron’s attack (see pages 8&9)—and build for the biggest possible turnout for the TUC’s national demonstration on 26 March.

Daniela Manske, Unite union rep

I couldn’t make the protest in Luton against the EDL, but thank you for the excellent rolling reports. It was fantastic to learn so quickly of our overwhelming presence in Luton.

They shall not pass wherever they choose to attempt to gather, but it’s urgent that they are stopped for good.

Andy Coles, Manchester

Resisting Cameron’s filthy lies

George Monbiot made these comments last week in relation to the latest tax dodge for big business: “I have realised that injustice of the kind described in this column is no perversion of the system; it is the system.”

Currently, companies based in Britain with branches in other countries have to pay the difference between Britain’s rate of corporation tax and the rate set in the other country.

The Tories want to stop this, so that major companies would pay no tax in Britain on profits made elsewhere.

No wonder the spivs in the City can award themselves billions in bonuses while the rest of us suffer job losses, repossessions and a life of permanent fear and uncertainty.

The parasitic elite and their government can only get away with this by diverting our attention away from them.

And they use thugs to silence protest—witness the behaviour of the uniformed hooligans at the student demonstrations against the trebling of fees.

But how would they best divert our attention? They would have to do something on the scale of whipping up racial hatred like Adolf Hitler did against the Jews in the 1930s.

While not suggesting that good old liberals like David Cameron would deliberately whip up racial hatred, it was a coincidence that his anti-Muslim speech coincided with a demonstration by the English Defence League in Luton recently, oddly enough against Muslims.

Cameron may not have links with extreme racist and fascist organisations, but there is no doubt that some in the Tory party have done in the past.

Most working people will see through this shallow attempt to divert attention away from reality.

There is an urgent need to rebuild our unions and build a fightback. All out for 26 March for the TUC anti-cuts demonstration. Join up at

Keith Henderson, Clacton On Sea, Essex

Challinor: an insightful, passionate socialist

The sad news of Ray Challinor’s death (Obituary, 12 February) reminded me of the time when, over 50 years ago, as a young student new to socialist ideas, I used to read his articles in Socialist Review.

Looking back at some of these pieces, I found the following from 1961. It shows Ray’s passion and historical perspective—and it’s as true today as when it was written:

“For the overwhelming majority of the working people the recent Tory government measures—increased Health Service charges, increased National Insurance contributions and…increased rents—are all part of… an attempt to whittle down the Welfare State and to attack workers’ standards.

“However, in a deeper sense, these measures accord with fundamental Tory philosophy… that people should be made to pay...for everything they receive, whether they be luxury goods or the necessities of life.

“They should never (except, conveniently, through inheritance and ‘sound financial investment’) get something for nothing.

“Those unable to pay their way...should be pitied, charitably helped—but kept on the bare minimum. Lest they grow indolent, the State should make their lot remain difficult… It is this idea, a guiding principle for workhouse administrators in the 19th century, that pervades all Tory social legislation.”

Ian Birchall, North London

What can we do to save our libraries?

Impressive news two weeks ago when thousands were involved in protests and demonstrations opposing the potential closure of their local libraries.

How do we stop them closing? Do we hold pickets, marches, or write to MPs and councillors?

All that is good. But at the end of the day if the financial thugs in Westminster are intent on still closing the libraries, what then?

We must organise maximum numbers. We could invite people to pay their council tax not to the council, the library closers, but to an elected treasurer of the anti-cuts group.

The wages of the librarians, cleaners and maintenance staff due to be sacked by the closure of the libraries can be paid out of this diverted council tax fund.

Any surplus can go towards replenishing books on the shelves.

What do we do when the library closes for the night?

The anti-cuts organisation can occupy and stand guard against the bailiffs.

We need to do for the libraries what we were too slow to do for Woolworths workers.

Colin Frost-Herbert, Sussex

Thanks to SW for coverage

Thank you very much for supporting Muslims with your coverage of the protests against the English Defence League (EDL) (People of Bury Park united to resist any attacks, 12 February).

We are not all bad people, and our religion is peaceful and beautiful.

I wish somebody would tell the EDL that Muslims are not just brown people—they are of every race and colour.

People don’t all abide by their religion and there is good and bad in all—so give us Muslims a break.

Islam does not say go around bombing people. People have their own minds and do what they want to—just like the EDL.

Shaheen, by email

Julie Walters is a class act

Actor Julie Walters’ visit to her old school last week ended up being quite poignant.

Her words about how films can transform people’s lives was inspiring.

But I think the Tories will be incensed with some of what she said.

In a world where the elite tells us class is dead, Julie explicitly talked about class and the lives of working class kids today.

She said, “If I was growing up here now, and I wanted to be an actor, I don’t think it would be possible.

“I got a full grant to do what I did.”

It’s depressing to think of the many ways Tory cuts are wrecking young people’s lives.

Cathy Thomas, Liverpool

We can split the ConDems

George Osborne’s softness on the banks is so bad that even Lib Dems are breaking ranks to condemn it.

Lib Dem Lord Oakeshott has resigned from the front bench over it, saying, “If this is robust action on bank bonuses, my name’s Bob Diamond.”

If we keep the pressure on, I think we can split the coalition.

Gemma Keeley, North London

Climate-proof our society

A new report says that the government should begin immediate work to “climate-proof” Britain’s infrastructure.

The Royal Academy of Engineering and several other engineering groups published the report, Engineering the Future.

It points out that our roads weren’t built to deal with things like higher temperatures.

We should campaign for investment to offset the impacts of climate change—and for measures to limit climate change at the same time.

Nicola Baines, Sheffield

Thanks from Rawmarsh

I write with reference to the dispute at Rawmarsh Community School (RCS), Rotherham.

Throughout the strike we have had immense and unwavering support from SWP members.

They have set up meetings, met parents and teachers, leafleted, set up marches and benefit gigs among many other things.

So I write with pride a message of heartfelt thanks from all the team. This is from the NUT members at RCS.

Ralph Dyson, NUT rep RCS

Internet didn’t cause revolt

The press seized upon the Egyptian regime’s release of Google corporate executive Wael Ghonim as the explanation for the mass mobilisations last week.

This is no surprise. The capitalist media thought that the era of mass protest and revolution was over.

Strikes were old hat and the working class movement was finished.

This partly explains their fixation with “social media” as being the catalyst of everything from the student revolt to the Egyptian revolution.

The internet is a valuable tool, but the real lesson of Egypt’s strike wave is that the press was dead wrong to write the working class out of history.

Jonny Jones, East London

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Article information

Tue 15 Feb 2011, 18:48 GMT
Issue No. 2239
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