The biggest anti-racist event in the north of England for two decades struck a major blow against the Nazi British National Party at the weekend. Some 30,000 people joined the day-long Anti Nazi League 'Love Music-Hate Racism' carnival in Manchester on Sunday.
It united black and white, young and old, gay and straight, in a celebration of everything the Nazis hate. It signalled a turning point in the battle against the BNP, which was able to con its way into three council seats in Burnley earlier this year.
Most of those at the carnival, and on the march to it, were from the north west of England, with large numbers from Oldham and from Burnley, where the carnival was originally due to take place. 'It's a breath of fresh air,' Janet Alder from Burnley told Socialist Worker. She is campaigning over the death in police custody of her brother. 'You sense the racism the BNP have whipped up in Burnley,' she said. 'It's not just against Asians, but against black people like me as well. 'Seeing all these people today gives you the strength to fight back.' The carnival was overwhelmingly young.
Those who had turned out to see acts such as Ms Dynamite and Doves also knew the wider meaning of the event. Ijaz Yousaf and Habib Khalid had travelled from Shrewsbury. 'It's great that the bands have given their time for free. But we all have to do something,' they said. 'We need more of this unity to defeat racism.' There were queues at Anti Nazi League stalls as people signed up to join, take away campaign material, or ask what they could do.
The acts reinforced that message from the three stages, urging people to make the day the start of a big movement to expose and drive back the BNP. The sun shone. People relaxed, danced and enjoyed the music. They left determined to counter the BNP's poison.
Take battle to Burnley
ACTIVISTS WERE determined to use the success of the carnival to strengthen the struggle against the Nazis. 'I hope we can use today to launch an anti-racist, anti-fascist movement that can challenge racism wherever we find it,' Paul Moore, a Labour councillor from Burnley, told Socialist Worker.
'We can't allow the BNP to become normalised and legitimised.' There was widespread anger that Burnley's Labour council had stopped the carnival taking place in the town. This should have been in Burnley,' said Noxi, a black woman who lives in that town. 'We need the positive publicity and vibe. Burnley council should get the message – a future event like this must be held there to stop the Nazis before next year's elections.'
Campaigners were set to hand in a petition to the council on Wednesday of this week demanding that an anti-racist carnival take place there next spring. It has been signed by all the acts at the carnival and thousands more people. The TUC conference next week is discussing the fight against the Nazis. It must support and organise a massive anti-racist festival in Burnley. And everywhere people should join and build the Anti Nazi League to ensure that we create the kind of movement which can crush the BNP.
'TODAY HAS been a brilliant day. It shows that the Nazis are the minority. We, the anti-Nazis, are the majority. We have to go to the areas where the Nazis are building. Their ultimate aim is an all-white Britain. We saw the result of racism this week with the murder of an Iranian asylum seeker in Sunderland. We are here today to say we can stop that – black and white, young and old. This is the start of a mass movement to drive the Nazis back into the sewers. They want to appear respectable, and to con people into voting for them at next May's council elections. We need to organise. Today shows we have the power to crush the Nazis.'
JULIE WATERSON, national organiser of the Anti Nazi League
'ABOUT 20 of us have come up from the NDO post office in north London. It's all about mixing and blending, whether it's about people or about issues and the trade unions. It's disgraceful that the leader of Burnley council, which banned the carnival from happening there, is a member of the CWU union.'
TROY, north London postal worker and CWU member
'TODAY SENDS out a powerful message that the Nazis and their views will not be tolerated in this country. The Nazis appeared because we got complacent. There was a belief that if you ignored the BNP they would go away. In fact they got bigger. In the 1930s people ignored Hitler and he was allowed to take power. In Europe today we have Le Pen, Haider and Fini, and the party of Pim Fortuyn broke through in Holland. We cannot be complacent. We can all do more to stop the Nazis and challenge racist ideas.'
SHAHID MALIK, member of the Labour Party national executive and Burnley resident, addressing the crowd
'I'M HERE to support the Anti Nazi League and the anti-racist campaign in the north west. You hope that everyone involved today gets a sense of what anti-racism is. It's the opposite of what the BNP stands for. We stand for unity, diversity and multiculturalism. They stand for segregation and division. Music and musicians have a role in the fight against racism. Imagine if the Beatles only listened to English music – what would they have produced?'
'THIS CARNIVAL shows that we are the majority in Britain. It's a beautiful day and thousands of people have come out to show their support. Anti-racism is common sense to people like me. Poverty is the root of all this crap. But the leading figures in Burnley aren't breaking down anything. Education and the eradication of poverty are the fundamental things needed to break down racism.'
JIMI GOODWIN, Doves
'DAYS LIKE this are extremely important with the Nazis starting to become popular again. We have to keep making sure that our voices are heard. It's a really nice vibe. The vibe out there was really positive. It was nice to see such a mixture of different people – old and young, different cultures. When the media tries to make the BNP's values and standards look respectable it's extremely wrong. Racism is something that affects everyone – we have to do something about it.'
'WE WANT to unite everyone through music. Everyone needs to be alert to what's going on – it's not good. Today was wicked. We were at the forefront of the march giving it our all. We have to take part and encourage everyone. There's power in numbers. We all have to stand together. Black and white have to unite and smash the Nazis. If something like this happens in the future Heartless Crew have to be involved.'
Join the Anti Nazi League – phone 020 7924 0333