TRADE UNIONISTS and campaigners met in Burnley last Saturday to discuss how to campaign against the Nazi threat across the north west of England. The mood at the conference, sponsored by the Anti Nazi League, was serious and determined after the election of three British National Party (BNP) councillors in Burnley and one in Blackburn.
Martin Gleeson and Imra Shoaib, two Amicus-MSF members from factories in Oldham, were among the 60 people who attended. 'I think it's really important for trade unionists to counter the misinformation that the Nazis put out,' said Imra. 'Many of them don't understand when they vote that the BNP is a fascist group.
'If they got into power they would trample on everyone. We have to educate people about the real facts over asylum seekers, not what the BNP says.' Labour MEP Glyn Ford opened the day's debates. 'The only way to make sure the BNP and its ilk go back into the margins of society is to campaign against them. That needs to be done across Britain and most intensely in the north west,' he said.
Jason Hunter, a Unison officer in the north west and Burnley resident, added, 'The Nazis are trying to pose as the opposition to New Labour. But we have to say that the solution to the problems we face is greater funding, and we need campaigns that unite the whole community around that.'
Mary Black, a campaigner in Burnley, talked about making links between trade unionists and the struggle against the Nazis. 'A collection of £140 for the firefighters outside a local mosque really impressed the strikers. It showed how in practice we can unite people.' Many at the conference condemned New Labour for its attacks on asylum seekers and Asians in Britain which have given confidence to the BNP.
Giovanni Holt, race and equality officer for the GMB union in Burnley, summed up the spirit of the conference when she said, 'This is a good step forward. But we have to get the message out to people and get active.'
- Rally to stop the BNP in Blackburn, Wednesday 4 December, 7.30pm, Bank Top Community Centre, Oakenhurst Road. Speakers include Martin Gallagher (chair Lancashire FBU), and ANL.
A RACIST attack in the Sighthill area of Glasgow early last Friday night has left an Iranian refugee badly injured and fearing for his life. The man, 32 year old Masood Gomroki, was set upon by a gang of young men. One of the attackers asked Masood if he came from 'Iran, Iraq, Turkey?' before they beat him and stabbed him twice in the stomach.
Masood now says he wants to leave Britain because he does not believe refugees can be safe here. The attack came hours after the Home Office announced its intention to scrap 'exceptional leave to remain' for refugees from some of the world's most dangerous countries.
Although government ministers and right wing newspaper editors continue to fan the flames of anti-refugee racism, the attack on Masood is likely to lead to a serious sharpening of racial tensions in Sighthill.
Following the murder of Kurdish refugee Firsat Yildiz Dag on the outskirts of the impoverished estate last year, the Sighthill United initiative has brought together asylum seekers and local residents in campaigns for regeneration of the community and against racism.
However, racism and despair remain a potentially potent combination within the estate, and New Labour's anti-refugee bigotry combined with its failure to regenerate the area is a constant threat to improving community relations.
secretary Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees