Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
Published in Brighton by Justice? - Brighton's Direct Action collective
ISSUE 313, FRIDAY 13th July, 2001
Race Against Time
"We took direct action ourselves, never again will we be pushed off our own streets, forced into hiding in our houses, keeping our heads down. 'Community leaders' have always sold us out. We're fighting back and won't be betrayed. This is 'anti-capitalism' at its most vocal, a community in revolt." Anon, posted on Indymedia website
Last weekend Bradford became the fourth northern town this summer to erupt into rioting, with the spark once again the threat of the British National Party (BNP) marching in a town with a large ethnic population. But with all the major political parties using issues like asylum as a cheap political football, backed up by the media fascists have been rubbing their hands with glee. BNP party leader Nick Griffin commented "The asylum seeker issue has been great for us. We have had phenomenal growth in membership. It's been quite fun to watch government ministers and the Tories play the race card in far cruder terms than we would ever use, but pretend not to. This issue legitimises us." As a recent report to the UN Human Rights Committee concludes "Negative presentation of asylum seekers has not only led to direct attacks on asylum seekers but also an underlying greater hostility towards all those from ethnic minority communities, and heightened racial tensions. In our view, the recent riots in Oldham and Bradford are to an extent directly linked to the above."
Even before the general election the BNP have been helping to whip up the resentment felt by many whites who feel their own needs are being ignored in favour of people of other racial backgrounds. Of course, the Asian people of Bradford, Oldham and Burnley are not the cause of unemployment and poor housing, but in the eyes of some, egged on by the BNP, they remain the most immediate and plausible target for their anger.
In Britain such talk helped Griffin poll 16.4% of the vote in the Oldham West, the largest ever for a fascist party in a parliamentary election. Now the fascists are eyeing up next year's local elections with the hope of winning council seats around the country.
As one anti-racist put it, "We must engage in a real debate with those who voted BNP. They are not nazis and their grievances, many of them real, must not be dismissed out of hand."
Or as Rev Kenneth Leech wrote in the foreword to 'Brick Lane 1978': "The battle against racism and fascism cannot be won by outsiders who march into an area, chant slogans, and then march out again; it can only be won by the most dedicated, rooted and persistent commitment to undermine and destroy the injustice and neglect on which such movements thrive".
But the riot was not just about the BNP. It might have been an initial spur, to ignite the massive anger but the explosion was a long time coming. One person commented "The people of Bradford had had enough, from a political and economic system that is based on exploitation and discrimination". One Asian added "Look mate, this is a high unemployment area, a fucking BMW garage in here is an insult to this community, why shouldn't we burn it?"
The tactics of stirring up race hatred, of blaming other ethnic minorities for the problems such as bad housing are not new. A look into the past shows how diverse groups from churches and communists to Jewish ex-servicemans groups stopped the spread of fascism by offering concrete support in improving peoples living conditions.
During the 1930s and 40s Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists was trying to get a stronghold targetting the East End of London. Solley Kaye was one of those involved in fighting them. "You had massive unemployment, immense poverty, social services nowhere near what they are today, terrible slums. The fascists had their strongholds in places like Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, South Hackney, parts of Poplar, all of which were on the edge of Stepney where the large Jewish population lived. So that they could involve people on the basis of envy, fear, or whatever, they said 'the Jews, they've got your houses, the Jews, they've got your jobs.' Even though we were all living in bloody poverty with bugs crawling all over us in the night.
"At the time the Communist Party together with some very courageous Church people, organised the Stepney Tenants Defence League, and all the tenants living in bad houses were being involved in a fight to get the repairs done and the rents reduced. There were some people being evicted from a block of flats called Paragon Mansions, Phil Piratin (later to become a Communist M.P.) heard about it. He went there and got the rest of the tenants to organise barricades to stop the bailiffs coming in." Some of the tenants were members of the British Union of Fascists, but they didn't want anything to do with them after they saw who their real allies were.
The turning point came in 1936 when a quarter of a million people stopped Mosley's party marching through the East End. His party never recovered with another veteran anti-fascist Mick Mindel recalling, "The victory on 4 October 1936 was very sweet. Of course the fascists did not stop their attacks in the East End but it made many young Jews recognise the need to stand up and fight and realise that together with non-Jews they could defeat the racists and fascists. Our experience was like that of many young Asians today who learn the lessons of struggle through direct experience: they see their families attacked and some decide to stand up and be counted."
This country has had a wake up call - if we don't get our act together then racism and fascism will continue to grow. On the other hand, as journalist and activist Ally Fogg told SchNEWS, "The British Asian uprising of 2001 could be a healthy, momentous occurrence IF the people involved keep sight of their targets - racist police, racist system, racist state. If they get sucked into thinking that it is Asian v. White, then it could be disastrous for race relations and for the wider struggle for justice and equality."
As for New Labour. Well they, like the police, are blaming the riots on a hardcore of 'mindless hooligans' and 'outside agitators' (now where have we heard those phrases before?). While places like Oldham and Bradford are crying out for greater integration between the different communities, New Labour have got something else in mind: tear gas, water cannons and other new toys to help riot cops crush anyone who dares to fight back.
* Recommended reading: 'Keep the Red Flag Flying' by Phil Piratin (one time councillor and Communist MP who helped
** 'Out of the Ghetto' by Joe Jacobs
** 'The 43 Group' by Morris Beckman. Excellent account of how fascists were kicked off the streets of East London in the 40's. A pilot film about the group should be out soon, and the producers are currently looking for funding to make a longer version. Any rich benefactors out there who'd like to help make this happen get in touch via SchNEWS.
ONE IN THE EYE
Yesterday the government finally rejected plans for Hastings' bypass, but as usual the debate is between either jobs or the environment. However, earlier this month Friends of the Earth published a report, "New Jobs Without New Roads", showing that a sustainable regeneration strategy for the town could create up to 2,570 jobs for local people for significantly less than the £130 million cost of the bypass. Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth's Transport Campaigner, said: "The last prop supporting the case for the Hastings bypasses has been kicked away. We knew they wouldn't solve the town's traffic problems. We knew they would be environmentally destructive. And now we know they aren't needed to bring new jobs."
* 21st July East Sussex Transport 2000 celebratory walk. Meet at Bexhill Station at 10.20 a.m or Hastings Station at 1pm. Tel 01323 646866
* Critical Mass in Brighton this Monday (16) 4.30 pm, outside St. Peter's church. Bring wheels (connected together in bike form, we presume), whistles, water, etc.
The London Stock Exchange is launching a new index of 'ethical companies', called FTSE4Good. Companies involved in gambling, tobacco-manufacturing, porn, nuclear power or arms manufacturing are excluded. But the index includes corporations like BP which has investments in Tibet, Shell - involved in human rights abuses in Nigeria, and GlaxoSmithKline which tried to prevent South African Government getting cheap anti-AIDS drugs. SchNEWS wonders where they looked up the definition of ethical...a corporate bullshit dictionary?
Terminalator 5: I'll Be Back
Across London and the Thames Valley aircraft noise affects people's lives, in London alone one million people live under the flight path to Heathrow. The number of planes in the UK is increasing at a rate of 4% each year and aviation is a major contributor to global warming. HACAN ClearSkies is opposing the 5th Heathrow Terminal, which will increase the number of aircraft and hence noise. The extra terminal will also attract more traffic on top of the colossal 3,750,000 cars already visiting daily. There's a '12 Steps to Terminal Britain' rally of the BAA (British Airports Authority) AGM at 10am, July 24th outside QE2 Conference Centre, Westminster. www.hacan.org.uk or 020 8876 8332.
The peat works on Hatfield Moor near Doncaster, run by Scotts, was occupied for the day by activists recently. Peat mining is a seasonal activity, so if work is stopped during the summer it sets their targets back quite a bit. If Scotts carry on at their current rate there will be no peat left in the area within three years. The area supports a great diversity of wildlife (around 5,000 species). After pixieing for the day and seriously affecting the peat harvesting everyone left the site, no arrests were made. More info from email@example.com
**SchNEWS gardening tip: Stop using compost that contains peat, it's destroying an irreparable habitat, and leaf mould works loads better anyway.
The "Gardening Industry" is now worth £2.6 billion a year, spurred on by programs such as Ground Force encouraging suburban conformity of decking, water features and ornamental plants. But gardens can become a haven for wildlife, so rather than spend a fortune on the latest garden design trend why not grow useful and attractive native plants, which are easy to grow. Get a list of plants native to your area at www.nhm.ac.uk/science/projects/fff
At a "citizens' jury" in Medak District, Andhra Pradesh, India, 19 small farmers, inc. 13 from the untouchable (dalit) caste, called for a halt to foreign funding of their Govt's Vision 2020 by the World Bank and the UK Govt. They oppose a reduction of farmers in the area, land consolidation and displacement of rural people, forced mechanisation of farming, and contract farming, and want control of their land back, with no interference and forced 'development'.
Let Them Eat Cake
The Guinness Trust - a registered social landlord busy buying up council housing round the country, recently had another slice of the cake trying to squeeze the Homes For Change housing co-op. The HFC are wanting to buy the building they have spent years maintaining, but their 'partners' Guinness want far more money than the co-op's independent valuers suggest for the place, and are threatening to pull the plug on them. A decision was to be made at a Guinness Trust do at Apsley House, the Marchioness of Douro's gaff on Wednesday, when the co-op sweetened things up by giving them a scale model of the building - as a cake!!! It's won them a 6 month reprieve. firstname.lastname@example.org
Globalisation makes it easier for money and capital to move around, but harder for people to move - unless they are cheap labour. Fortress Europe keeps the EU economic zone free from 'unwanted aliens' (ie people without money). No Borders resists borders worldwide, and fights deportation of asylum seekers [www.deportation-alliance.com]. This summer they are holding camps on the frontiers of Fortress Europe: Last week a camp was held on the eastern edge of Europe, at Krynki, Poland - where campers were greeted by scenes reminiscent of the martial law days: not only border guards and police turned up but also water cannons, a helicopter and a tank! Other camps held last week were: Tarifa in Spain - a frontier between Europe and Africa where 1,000 Africans are arrested by the border police every month; and Lendeva Slovenia - a border soon to become a new militarised EU frontier. Next camps are at Genoa - 21-24th July, Frankfurt 28th July-5th Aug and Tijuana [Mexico] 24-26th August (email@example.com). Visit www.noborders.org
GENOA WHAT I MEAN?
Its yer no-nonsense SchNEWS guide to Genoa: Any problems crossing the Italian border hang around and email firstname.lastname@example.org or tel +39-333460372 coming from France, coming from Switzerland tel.:+41-763302443, coming from Austria tel +39-3480345857. Try to get to Genoa by the 18th as then the real crackdown starts. In the west of Genoa is the "red zone" where, only G8 delegates, cops and residents are allowed. Police are apparently making 1,200 ID checks a day, so don't look dodgy, although it seems gas masks are not forbidden to carry, (but they are hard to get hold of).
The Convergence Point has space for 20,000 people, lots of info, and the venue for the public forum. Get to it from Stazione Brignole and walk down Via le Brig. Partigiane towards the coast until you reach the parking lot. A few hundred metres away in Via Cesare Battista are 2 schools (press centre, independent media centre, computer access and meeting space). Bring a tent and sleeping bag for accommodation as hotels are limited, Carlini Stadium (in the east) can hold at least 1,200 people where the White Overalls are converging, more places to be announced. The social centre Terra di Nosuno has some resources and camping area. But it is in the west of the city and so may be easily isolated, but it could be useful for staging entry to the Red Zone, get to it by Bus 35 (not 35/ to the mountains!) from the principal square in front of the pharmacy to stadium Lagacchio. English speakers are wanted in Genoa for helping out in the legal support office, if you wish to help call 0039 0118178142. This number can also be used as a contact for English speakers going to Genoa.
Dates: 18th Concert at Convergence point, 19th Migrants international march, 5pm, Principe Square, 20th Direct actions to surround and enter the Red Zone, 21st International March, 4pm, Corso Europa. More info: www.genoa-g8.org and italy.indymedia.org.
Convergence from 16th at Bologna Social Centre TPO www.ecn.org/tpo/ with a mass bloc of people leaving for Genoa on the 18th at 6pm from Bologna central station. If people are interested they should email email@example.com with the subject line 'GENOA'.
* If you can't get to Genoa, there are actions at Campsfield Detention Centre (nr Oxford) 19-22 July. Join refugee groups and the Wombles in solidarity with G8 protestors and refugees at a protest camp. Also Critical Mass from Oxford Station on 21st, see www.wombleaction.mrnice.net/camp.htm or call 07900 653990 for more info.
* Genoa solidarity action Birmingham - 'defending the right to protest' outside McDonalds off Corporation Street, 21st 1pm 07980415577 S26brum@hotmail.com
CRAP ARREST OF THE WEEK
For being a 'litterer': A mother became the fifth person in Cork to be given a short prison sentence after refusing to pay the additional council tax of £140 to have their rubbish collected. Those who put their rubbish out anyway - including people from Householders Against Service Charges, have been called 'litterers' and imprisoned. Now they've found another way to make sure the rubbish gets sorted: put it at the gates of the Cork City Hall. There once was a council from Cork, Which made all its taxpayers baulk, Some refused to pay, To have their rubbish taken away, Saying "jail us, we don't give a fork." http://struggle.ws/wsm/news/2001/hsac_jail_may15.html
SchNEWS in brief
Forget about live ammunition, plastic bullets, water cannon, and Genoa's missile defence system, cops in the U.S. might soon have a new weapon to use on demonstrators: stink bombs! Yep, those playground novelties are making a comeback albeit more souped-up and on the side of the establishment rather than a bunch of naughty kids. Pam Dalton of the Monell Chemical Senses Centre in Philadelphia has come up with right whiffy substance which she says "smells like shit only stronger. It's very powerful." SchNEWS reckons the cops have always acted like shit, and we're sure this latest offensive will get right up the noses of anti-capitalist protesters, but being dirty unwashed anarchists they ain't gonna notice any difference anyway! We wonder how long it will be before clothes pegs, like gas masks, will be banned?
Cor-blimley-theyre-practically-giving-them-away book offer
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Last updated 13th July 2001