Socialist Worker

Shock and anger across Oldham

Issue No. 1753

Shock and anger across Oldham

THE NAZIS' electoral success in Oldham has sent a hardcore of racists in the town onto the offensive. The leader of the Nazi British National Party (BNP), Nick Griffin, got 6,552 votes in Oldham West, 16.4 percent of the total votes, standing against New Labour minister Michael Meacher.

BNP member Mick Treacy got 5,091 votes, 11.2 percent, in Oldham East. Roger Woods, another BNP member, stood in another Oldham seat, Ashton-under-Lyne and got 1,617, votes, 4.5 percent. The result has given a number of racist elements in the town the confidence to carry out attacks on Asians.

The day after the election a gang scrawled racist graffiti on Asian graves in the Greenacres cemetery. They also smashed up and turned over a number of headstones, including those of young children who had lived little more than a month. The desecration of these graves shows what the BNP stands for-race hatred towards anyone who doesn't fit in to their vision of "white" purity.

A gang of racist thugs severely battered Mohammed Asif Kayini on the Sunday before the election and hospitalised him. News of the attack was hardly mentioned in the media. Tariq Aziz, a well known local anti-racist campaigner, has also been targeted by racists.

They chased one of his sons and a friend through the estate on Friday of last week. Early the next morning racists smashed a window in Tariq's house. The electoral boost for the Nazis comes after six weeks of press and police lies about Asians creating "no-go" areas for whites in Oldham and carrying out "racist" attacks on white people.

The Nazis have used these myths to try to stir up race hatred between the two communities. The Nazi National Front (NF) and Combat 18 have tried to march three times in the town recently, as well as the BNP contesting three seats in Oldham in general election.

The Nazis have poisoned the atmosphere in Oldham. "Oldham is like a ghost town," Tariq Aziz told Socialist Worker. "If you go out after 10pm it feels that everything has finished." "There's so much tension and we're scared," says Farzana. "We can't go to town now, and we don't let our children go any more." "The town centre's deserted now, especially on the weekend," says Peter. "Every pub is boarded up. Even outside the main area of the town there's quite a lot boarded up."

"Our sisters cannot go up town because they get racist comments shouted at them," said Ahad and Saleem. "If the police see young Asian men in town they try to kick us out. Local businesses are losing a lot of money. It's not just the town centre-Westwood East, a mainly Asian area, used to be really busy, but now it's empty of people."

"People are staying indoors because our area is very vulnerable," said Abdul from Glodwick, the area where Asians fought back over the bank holiday weekend. "We have to defend our community."

"All of this makes you feel nervous and distrust one another," said Cath. "When you see a group of young people you start to worry." This distrust is what the Nazis have stirred up and are trying to feed off.


'We can win people away from Nazis'

MANY PEOPLE have responded to the Nazis' vote with a determination to stop them getting a foothold in Oldham. Around 300 people from the local area and across the north of England gathered near Oldham town centre just three days after the election to stop a planned Nazi National Front (NF) march. The NF did not even show up.

Black, white and Asian people stood together against the racists. There was huge support for a united campaign to argue against the BNP and NF. Brian Beckinham, the branch secretary of Oldham NUT and a Labour Party member, said, "The vote last Thursday was a warning. We have to get the message across about what the BNP is. We need an organised TUC rally in the town, and a campaign in the area to win the youth from the BNP."

"We've got to stamp out racism and the fascists," said Paul Hargreaves, a member of the firefighters' FBU union in Oldham. "We don't want them here. The police aren't going to stop them-it's up to us." Dee Johnson, a long-standing anti-racist campaigner in Oldham, said, "The vast majority of people in this town are decent, hard working people who want the best for their family and tolerate other people. Only a small portion of the 12,000 people who voted BNP are racist. We can win them away from the BNP if we explain the issues to them. Working class people have got more to gain from being united to fight the causes of poverty and unemployment."

"The vote last Thursday was because of misinformation, neglect and the lack of a campaign from the Labour Party," said Mohammed Azam, a Labour councillor. "The trade unions need to get together and mobilise ourselves. We need to go back to campaigning, fighting and demanding things. Oldham suffers from deprivation, unemployment and bad housing. The far right are exploiting this. We have to work with and win the people they have been misleading."


Stop the NF march

Saturday 16 June 
Assemble 1.30pm, Oldham Civic Centre, Rochdale Rd


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Sat 16 Jun 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1753
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