Socialist Worker

Burnley: tackling the Nazi conmen

by Theresa Bennett
Issue No. 1796

BURNLEY IN Lancashire faces the highest number of Nazi British National Party candidates of any town in the local elections on 2 May. The BNP is putting forward 13 candidates in 15 wards across Burnley. The Nazis hope to con working people into voting for them by presenting themselves as ordinary local campaigners. They aren't.

BNP leader Nick Griffin is convicted of inciting racial hatred and is a Holocaust denier. Other hardcore Nazis are leading the BNP's campaign. Tony Lecomber is a convicted nailbomber, and was also jailed for seriously assaulting a Jewish teacher. The media and New Labour are waking up to the danger. Home secretary David Blunkett is rightly blaming the BNP for stoking the 'fires of hate' that created last year's riots in Burnley, Bradford and Oldham.

At the launch of New Labour's election campaign Blunkett called for 'political parties to unite to fight the far right British National Party in local council elections'. This is a major and welcome shift.

In the wake of last year's riots Blunkett imposed a series of bans on activity by the Anti Nazi League and other campaigners who were trying to root out the BNP's poison.

His call now for united opposition to the BNP should mean the Labour Party throwing its resources into the campaigns that are already confronting the BNP's lies. It certainly means that anti-Nazis, particularly in the north west of England, can confidently approach the swathes of workers, trade unionists and labour movement activists who continue to put some faith in the Labour Party.

There is already a spirit of united resistance. Over 70 people in Burnley were out campaigning with the Anti Nazi League last weekend. The anti-BNP campaign in Burnley has brought together the trades council, anti-racists, community campaigners, a Labour councillor and socialists. People from Newcastle and Bristol joined the weekend's campaigning in solidarity.

Over 8,000 leaflets were delivered across six wards. Leaflets produced by the anti-fascist group Searchlight and the Anti Nazi League, exposing the BNP's lies, criminal convictions and Nazi ideas, are already winning some people round.

Every leaflet delivered and argument won on the doorstep boosts the confidence of the anti-Nazi majority and undermines the BNP. That is why anti-Nazis in the north west of England are calling for people to come from elsewhere to join their mass leafleting sessions.

Join the mass leafleting in Burnley, Sunday 28 April, 12 noon, Mechanics car park (behind town hall)

Poverty sows the seeds of division

THE 91,000 people who live in Burnley have suffered over 25 years of decline. Burnley is the one of the poorest councils in Britain. Children in Burnley suffer some of the worst levels of child poverty. Unemployment is higher than the national average, and many people in work are trapped by the eighth lowest wages in Britain.

There have been massive job cuts over the last year at the Michelin, Hurel- Hispano, Rolls Royce and Slumberland factories. Burnley has over 4,000 empty and derelict houses. Over £150 million is needed to renovate and repair them. New Labour is offering only £3 million.

Some of the boarded up homes have occupants who cannot afford to repair them. The council has a lengthy housing waiting list yet plans to demolish the empty homes.

Residents in Burnleywood, where last year's riots took place, are enraged that their dream of home ownership has turned sour. One man complained that his home was valued at just £8,000 and falling. Council policies have also bred racial divisions in housing and schools. Most estates and schools are either predominantly white or Asian. The racially mixed area of Daneshouse is part of the poorest ward in Burnley. Some independent councillors and the BNP deceive people with lies that Daneshouse gets preferential treatment and better funding.

The BNP scapegoats Asians for all the problems people suffer in Burnley. But it attacks white working class people too. So it wants to cut funding to Daneshouse, where 40 percent of the people are white.

The town's major employers have also created a legacy of segregation. The textile industry employed Asian and white workers but separated them into different shifts and grades along racial lines. Today Burnley council has an overwhelmingly white workforce-just 26 of the council's thousands of employees are not white. People are worried that the BNP will spark more riots.

Bob Hughes, a trade unionist, campaigned in Burnley at the weekend. He said, 'Ordinary people in Burnley are a thousand times more decent than you expect. A woman in the precinct told me she was terrified of the BNP. But she didn't know what to do.'

People feel let down by the main political parties. This disillusionment has meant that 11 independent councillors have got onto Burnley council. A few are from the left. But most are from the right and some have stoked racism, opening the door to the BNP.

Slamming it shut means a united campaign of all those opposed to the BNP, but also a serious fight from the left against the poverty people face. A chance to do that is this Saturday's protest to stop care home closures. Labour-run Lancashire County Council wants to close 35 of the county's 48 homes. Nineteen of them are in east Lancashire, which includes Burnley.

Black, white and Asian people need to unite to stop the cuts.

Demonstrate to save Burnley's care homes, Saturday 20 April, 10.30am, Bank Hall car park, off Queen Victoria Road, Burnley.

Do not pander

BLUNKETT IS right to call for united opposition to the BNP. But his belief that he can undermine them by cracking down on asylum seekers is the exact opposite of the truth. Blunkett announced new measures against asylum seekers last week. They give a green light to the BNP, which can argue that the government is bending to its pressure.

In France the Nazis of Le Pen's party grew whenever the government pandered to them. They shrunk when people directly opposed them. Blunkett's measures, of course, also mean greater suffering for refugees and discrimination against them.

Education secretary Estelle Morris and New Labour continue to push ahead with plans for more religious schools. That too will lay the basis for more division.

Thugs behind suits and ties

THE BNP is a Nazi party. The man who killed three people in London with a nail bombing campaign three years ago, David Copeland, was a BNP supporter. He said, 'My aim was political. It was to cause a racial war in this country, then all the white people would go and vote BNP.'

BNP leader Nick Griffin said about the party winning a council seat in east London, 'The electors backed what they perceived to be a strong, disciplined organisation with the ability to back up its slogans with well directed boots and fists. When the crunch comes, power is the product of force and will, not rational debate.'

The BNP is against trade unions, the health service and the interests of working people, white and black. It won't tell would-be voters that because, Griffin says, 'We need saleable policies. Permit me to use the language of marketing, because that is our line of business.'

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Sat 20 Apr 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1796
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