AN IMPASSIONED debate on fighting racism and fascism at the TUC revealed a mounting determination among trade unionists to halt the rise of the Nazi British National Party (BNP). There was universal anger that New Labour's anti-union laws allowed BNP members to sue unions that expel them from membership. Vicky Knight from the Fire Brigades Union said, 'The Labour Party pandering to the right wing undermines at every stage our campaign against racism. 'Their approach to asylum seekers will fuel the fascists.'
Gerard Dempsey from the print workers' GPMU union said, 'This hardening of attitudes against asylum seekers should be confronted. People feel alienated and let down by the politicians. That's what the BNP feed off. People face tuition fees, selling off council housing, foundation hospitals and other issues. The BNP doesn't give a toss about those issues, but it exploits them and blames asylum seekers.'
Several speakers emphasised the potential power of the trade unions to draw together a massive campaign against the BNP and racism. Ghargi Bhattacharyya from the university lecturers' AUT union said, 'It can't be just about telling people not to be racist. We have to engage with people's grievances.
'We have to engage with people who accept racist ideas and show them there is a better, collective way to achieve what they want. We have to be that political alternative that is so lacking.'
The motion passed called for organising 'a major national event in northern England to sharpen the profile of the trade union movement in fighting racism and fascism'. The whole tone of the debate and motion was for trade unions, community groups and anti-racist organisations to come together to stop the BNP and to fight the racism it feeds off.
Refugee driven to his death
ISRAFIL SHIRI is the latest victim of New Labour's inhumane asylum policies. Israfil, a destitute young Iranian man, poured petrol over his body and set fire to himself in Manchester on Thursday of last week. He suffered horrendous burns and died on Monday.
He had told his friends he would do it to prove that this government cares more about animals than people fleeing torture and persecution. Israfil, who worked in a section of the military, fled Iran when he and his family were persecuted because he refused to follow orders that involved harming other innocent people.
He suffered from a complicated medical condition. He had been refused any medical treatment and made homeless from his Salford council flat since his application for asylum was rejected over a year ago. He got no benefits or support, was in great pain due to his illness and was terrified of being sent back to Iran.