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Unity Anti-racist and anti-fascist magazine February 2018 Issue 21
ÂŁ2 (where sold)
Inside this issue Workers and students all out for 17 March demonstration Camden council Unison and Queen Mary University get organised, pp18-19
Lessons from Auschwitz Reports from UAFâ€™s educational trip last November, pp12-15
September/October 2016 Unity
Unity February 2018
Campaign against racism in the year ahead
Unity magazine is distributed free to members of the National Education Union for use with young people in schools. To get copies for your school, NEU association or division, please email info@uaf. org.uk. The magazine is also sent free to members of Unite Against Fascism. Other individuals, union branches or organisations who would like to receive copies should email the UAF office at firstname.lastname@example.org. For advertising or editorial enquiries, please email info@ uaf.org.uk or write to: Unity magazine, c/o UAF, PO Box 72710, London SW19 9GX Production team Brian Richardson, Alan Gibson, Sabby Dhalu, Weyman Bennett Cover photo Anti-Nazi demonstration in Vienna, 13 January, by David Albrich Unite Against Fascism 020 8971 7426 email@example.com uaf.org.uk Facebook: Unite Against Fascism Twitter: @uaf Unite Against Fascism PO Box 72710, London SW19 9GX Stand Up to Racism firstname.lastname@example.org standuptoracism.org.uk Facebook: Stand Up To Racism Twitter: @AntiRacismDay SUtR, PO Box 72710, London SW19 9GX Love Music Hate Racism email@example.com lovemusichateracism.com Facebook: LoveMusicHateRacism Twitter: @lnternational Love Music Hate Racism PO Box 66759, London WC1A 9EQ © Unite Against Fascism Printed by TU Ink
I wish you all a Happy New Year in a world that feels very strange and threatening. With Brexit on the horizon, an already horrific number of stabbings of young black men on our streets already this year, and the NHS clearly in crisis, I want to reflect on the issues which affected us most in 2017, and look ahead to 2018. In 2017 we saw the continued rise of Islamaphobia with increased attacks on Mosques and individuals. In December, Ofsted said inspectors would ask young girls why they wear the hijab in school as part of the inspection. This created a wave of social media activity among our members and many others who were appalled at this suggestion. The decision to single out Muslim children for questioning is clearly unacceptable. No school children should be targeted on the basis of their race, religion or background. The decision is dangerous in a climate in which violence, abuse and attacks on Muslims are increasing and to which visibly Muslim women and children are particularly vulnerable. It is a kneejerk, discriminatory and institutionally racist response
that will violate civil liberties and create a climate of fear and mistrust in schools and should be retracted. The NEU is proud to be the first ever education union partner in Refugee Week which takes place from 18-24 June. The theme this year is a celebration of the 20 years of Refugee Week and we will be encouraging schools to take part in activities such as: reading 20 books about refugees or written by refugees; following refugee journeys in geography; and listening to stories from refugees arriving during the last 20 years. I will be speaking at the Refugee Week Conference in February and telling delegates about the NEU Refugee Voices Project and resources for teachers which are launched at the end of this month. Our policy on welcoming refugees is one of which the NEU is very proud and groups of our members regularly take aid to refugees in Calais. Also in 2018 the NEU will be advising schools on ways to tackle racism and sexism against staff and young people. Best wishes Kevin Courtney Joint general secretary, National Education Union (NEU)
News in brief..............................................................................................................................................4-5 Grenfell residents look out for inquiry whitewash���������������������������������������������������������������������������6 Spotlight on Football Lads Alliance��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������7 Claude Moraes, MEP, on the tasks ahead for anti-racists���������������������������������������������������������������8 Viennese on the march against Nazis���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������9 Care4Calais on helping refugees stranded in northern France������������������������������������������10-11 UAF educational trip to Auschwitz�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������12-15 Lessons for today from Grunwick play������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������17 Anti-racism in the workplace����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������18 Students get set for 17 March�����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������19 Obituary: Ambavalaner Sivanadan, 1923-2018������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 20 Fighting the Trojan Horse Islamophobic outrage��������������������������������������������������������������������������21 Blacks Lives Matter takes the knee.....................................................................................................22 A farewell to Cyrille Regis, 1958-2018.................................................................................................23
February 2018 Unity
News round-up Love Music Hate Racism kicked off a busy 2018 with a superb gig in Birmingham headlined by Kioko, a local electro-reggae band, who were supported by Steel Pulse founder Basil Gabbidon, Zara Sykes, Elektrik, Vital, Kurley and Nawima Jazz. Fantastic music was backed by powerful speeches from the Justice for Grenfell campaign, LMHR’s Lois Browne and Kadisha Brown-Burrell, whose brother died in police custody. Eleanor Smith, the black MP who last year won the Wolverhampton South West seat once held by Enoch Powell also spoke. Kioko will be playing a string of LMHR gigs this spring, so get ready for some great times. Better still, if you want to organise an LMHR event in your home town, contact us. The campaign is aiming to repeat the spectacular ‘Impact day’ it achieved last year, in the run up to United Nations Anti-Racism day, which saw industry stars such as Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, Stormzy and many others don LMHR T-shirts and blast out the image to their followers. We’ll be on the 17 March demo, loud proud and militant, and we’ll be back at the Notting Hill Carnival in the summer, spreading the message. That’s just the start. LMHR will have a presence at many of the major music festivals this summer, and the campaign is urging its supporters to work with organisers of local community festivals across the country to get them to adopt the LMHR message. Trade unions are also supporting the
LMHR gears up for a bumper 2018 campaign. The National Education Union has run a training course on how to use LMHR within the national curriculum, and the campaign will be laying on entertainment, while getting across its message at union conferences. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the great carnivals organised by Rock
Against Racism, the forefather and inspiration for today’s Love Music Hate Racism. We aim to mark those anniversaries by expanding our network of local groups that can use the inspiration of music to break down bigotry and hatred, and we need you to get involved. l Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Islington SUTR protestors say ‘hands With less than 18 hours notice around 50 people demonstrated outside McDonald’s on Seven Sisters Road, north London, in early December after a woman wearing a hijab was refused entry the previous day. A video showing the incident had spread online the previous evening. In the clip, a security guard tells the unnamed 19-year-old, ‘it’s just a matter of taking it off’, and indicates to his head after she asked him if her hijab was the reason she wasn’t allowed in. The woman, who lives in the area, then continues to film the incident and told the security guard: ‘It’s not just a matter of taking it off. I wear this for religious reasons and I’m not ashamed of it, and I will stand in line and I will get the food I want, because this isn’t OK.’ A non-Muslim member of the public
then intervened, telling the security worker: ‘You can’t stop her coming in here.’ Islington Stand Up to Racism helped gather protesters outside the cafe, who chanted: ‘Islamophobia, no way. Muslim people, here to stay’. They urged passers-by to boycott the fast-food chain altogether. Holloway Labour councillor and joint chair of Islington SUTR Rakhia Ismail spoke to protesters: ‘This is the heart of the most diverse borough in London. We have several mosques in this area. Most of the people going in there are Muslim parents and young people. Our hijab is not good enough but they are asking for our money. As much as they apologise, it was wrong in the first place and Muslims should boycott McDonald’s totally.’ She was joined by 14-year-old
Unity February 2018
The family of Rashan Charles reacted with frustration and fury at the news that the police officer involved in his fatal restraint will not face criminal charges. As we reported in issue 20 of Unity, Rashan died after being chased into a shop and wrestled to the floor in East London on the 22 July. In January the Crown Prosecution Service announced it had ‘considered the matter and decided the evidential test for a prosecution for common assault is not met. We will not be taking any further action regarding this offence.’ The family responded by stating they did not understand this decision, particularly in light of the availability of CCTV footage which shows Rashan being forcibly restrained. His great-uncle, John Noblemunn, told the Independent newspaper that: ‘This gives the green light for any officer to attack any black youth…We’re saying that this cannot be allowed to continue.’ Lawyers for Rahsan’s family were informed of the decision just hours before the six month deadline for the CPS to file common assault charges expired. This meant that they were denied the
opportunity to launch a judicial review or appeal under the victims right to review scheme. This decision comes just a couple of months after the long-awaited publication of a government report into deaths in custody, written by Dame Elish Angiolini QC, and Labour MP David Lammy’s review of the treatment of black, asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system. Dame Elish described the disproportionate number of deaths particularly of black men at the hands of the police as a ‘serious issue’ and concluded that: ‘Where there is evidence of racist or other discriminatory treatment or other criminality or misconduct, police officers must be held to account through the legal system.’ Meanwhile Lammy found ‘widespread racial bias’ across the criminal justice system. The outcome in Rashan Charles’ case shows that there is still a very long way to go, and there remains real concern that, despite commissioning Lammy’s report, the government has baulked at implementing his recommendations in full.
Photo: Biddy Partridge
Rashan Charles’ family protest at CPS verdict
Hugh Masekela, 1939-2018
Unity salutes a great antiracist fighter We will carry a full obituary in our next issue
off our hijab’ Tower Hamlets against the FLA Highbury Grove pupil Arkan Aqiil, who was elected to Islington’s youth council on a platform of standing up against racism. ‘We have to fight Islamophobia or it spreads like a germ,’ he said. Following the incident McDonald’s did apologise to the woman concerned. However, protesters felt that this was not good enough. The incident should never have happened. We were clear that it was no accident that this happened just 4 days after Donald Trump tweeted his Britain First racist filth. This incident shows that when politicians speak racism it often gives others permission to act in a racist way. We showed McDonalds they were wrong. We are angry and we won’t stand by and allow this to happen without.
Anti-racists in east London are circulating a petition against the Football Lads Alliance’s plan to hold a demonstration through the area. The initiative follows the police allowing a march by small group of racists, including fascist thugs, through Tower Hamlets on Saturday 21 October. The FLA’s founder John Meighan tweeted support for the march. On being questioned about support from far right groups, he said: ‘I support anyone protesting against Islamic terrorism’. He also said he respects Tommy Robinson, founder of the EDL, who also supported the march (see page 7). The FLA says it is against terrorism, violence and racism. So why support a march targeting the East London Mosque? Sheila McGregor from Stand Up To
Racism in the area said: ‘We have a proud tradition of stopping fascists from marching in the East End, so we have started a petition to it make clear we don’t want a repeat march. ‘We got an excellent response petitioning in early January outside the East London Mosque and at the Maryam Centre nearby. Petitions have also started circulating at the local Queen Mary University and in some schools. We intend to get the petition into Tower Hamlets college, local fire stations and Labour Party branches. ‘The wife of someone who marched against the fascists in Cable Street in 1936 took it round her sewing circle. So we are asking everyoneto sign. Our aim is 10,000 signatures that we can then present to the local council and police authority.’
February 2018 Unity
Grenfell: the fight for justice How to stop a whitewash
Residents riled as inquiry chair refuses requests
vividly remember the 14 June. I was working from home and the sun was flooding into my flat on a beautiful, bright sunny day. In the adjoining block a mixed group of elders were enjoying a summer party. These were the sights, sounds and smells of multicultural London at its best. Just eight miles away, however, a nightmare was unfolding. Grenfell Tower was still aflame. Over the course of 60 hours the homes of hundreds of people was transformed into a blackened tomb. The deaths of dozens of people was a consequence of the contempt that the rich and powerful leaders of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea had for the real multicultural London that Grenfell encapsulated. Since then we have seen the best of humanity. The way in which young black and Muslim men – so often maligned, marginalised and criminalised – struggled alongside firefighters to rescue and comfort residents was an example of the best, as were the neighbours and friends who rallied round, offering food, shelter, clothing and counselling. But Grenfell also exposed the worst of humanity. Even before the tragedy, the contempt with which the council ignored those who demanded refurbishments was a disgrace. The contempt with which they locked the town hall doors on those demanding answers in the days after was sheer cowardice, and the subsequent sluggishness with which they have addressed people’s needs is an outrage. At the opening of the public inquiry I was, frankly, disgusted by the arrogant
Residents have organised several silent marches since the tragedy
expectation that those who had lost loved ones should rise to their feet in deference when Sir Martin Moore-Bick entered the room. He then strode out of the room immediately after delivering his opening address without allowing a single question to be asked. That inquiry is only happening because the bereaved, local residents and their supporters have made it crystal clear that they want answers. What justice can this inquiry deliver? Families have been broken and lives lost forever. There is a genuine fear among many that Moore-Bick’s deliberations will be a whitewash. This is an understandable concern and one which has been exacerbated by his refusal to appoint local residents or Black and Minority Ethnic people to the inquiry’s expert advisory panel. Nor has he granted core participant status to wellrooted local activists. A whitewash is by no means a foregone conclusion, however. We have allies who know how to fight for a modicum of justice. 2017 was also notable for the announcement that three former senior South Yorkshire police officers, that force’s then lawyer and the then secretary and safety officer of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, are now facing trial over
Photo: Jess Hurd
We need to campaign to make sure the Moore-Bick inquiry into the tragic fire does not end up exonerating the guilty, says Brian Richardson
the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans at the 1989 FA Cup semi final. Why? Because of the determination of the families and friends of the dead who formed the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and fought for 28 years. The other great justice campaign of our times was the one waged by the family of Stephen Lawrence. Not only did it reveal the insensitive and incompetent police investigation into the black teenager’s murder in 1993, it also exposed the institutional racism that infects wider British society. The Grenfell justice campaign has already achieved a huge amount. That an inquiry was announced within months is no doubt due to the public outcry. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign, key trade unions such as the Fire Brigades Union, MPs, community campaigners and radical lawyers have pledged their support and provided practical assistance. The challenge in the year ahead will be to galvanise that support and ensure that we achieve an outcome that will be a fitting testament to those who perished, a comfort to those who survived and a safeguard for the future. For further information about Grenfell go to @officialJ4G or https:// justice4grenfell.org
Unity February 2018
Football Lads Alliance The mask is slipping SUTR members leafletted the FLA march in London in October. Paul Sillett reports on the response, and the alliance’s plans
tand Up To Racism supporters took an anti-racist message to the Football Lads Alliance’s 15,000-strong demonstration in London last October as it went past Downing Street. Those opposing the demonstration included NEU joint general secretary, Kevin Courtney. Some FLA marchers took SUTR leaflets that asked pointed questions about the politics of the organisation’s leadership, but marchers mainly displayed hostility towards SUTR members, with threats and racial abuse. Ostensibly a demonstration against all extremism, the FLA march attracted known racists and various fascists. Ex-English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson attended for some of the march, and was treated like a celebrity by many. Friend-of-fascists Katie Hopkins also tweeted support for the FLA. Speeches by FLA founder John Meighan and ex-soldier Phil Campion were reminiscent of UKIP rhetoric, such as: ‘We want our country back’,...’political correctness has gone too far,’...’we’ve lost freedom of speech. I’m not allowed to say anything anymore.’ Meighan had earlier criticised shadow
Taking to the field for refugees
Anti-racists stand up against the FLA
home secretary Diane Abbott who had signed a SUTR statement expressing concern about the nature of the FLA. Show Racism The Red Card had also signed the statement. The FLA has increased its Islamophobia and racism since its first march last June. Meighan revealed his true colours when he defended Donald Trump after even Theresa May had criticised him for retweeting the fascist group, Britain First. Meighan also backed a small march in Whitechapel, east London, in October – on the same weekend as SUTR’s annual conference – which was led by fascists and aimed at the East London Mosque (see page 4). The FLA has since linked up with Veterans Against Terrorism, which supports ex-UKIPer Anne Marie Waters. The FLA supported and attended a veterans demonstration in Edinburgh in November and is doing so again in Newcastle in February. Contrary to FLA claims of being against the far right, Meighan rubbed shoulders with Toni Bugle, a former candidate of the far right English Democrats. Moreover, the FLA speaker that day was Bill Weir, an EDL supporter. The FLA is now suffering a faction fight.
Two of the FLA social media administrators have savaged Meighan. Those in the FLA who back far right groups and want to confront anti-racists are one factor behind the tensions. Another is the accusation that Meighan is taking much of the FLA merchandise for his own largesse. SUTR supporters have leafleted a number of football grounds over the FLA issue, and have mainly met with a warm response. In some areas such as Cambridge, Sheffield and Scotland, supporters from various clubs have met to discuss their attitude to the FLA. The mayors of Tower Hamlets and Newham in east London have written to West Ham United, regarding its own and fans’ concern over the FLA’s presence in the ground. Show Racism The Red Card got behind SUTR over this issue and spoke at its October conference. The FLA has a foothold in some clubs, but are relatively quiet at many games. A number of Black and Ethnic Minority football fans who the FLA courted have also distanced themselves from the orgnisation. FLA splits are to be welcomed. Anti-racists, however, will need to keep campaigning as the Islamophobia that the FLA feed off intensifies. Students from Chesterfield College, as part of a National Citizen Service project, organised a Charity Football match last October to support local Syrian families who have been resettled from Aleppo. The students organised a raffle, with prizes from two gyms, two coffee shops, Nandos and Chesterfield Bowl. The players got individually sponsored, and their families, Stand up to Racism supporters and the Syrians’ families all cheered on the match. Chesterfield Football Club and two local councillors attended and spoke before the match, thanking the students for their efforts. Over £250 was raised, which bought Christmas presents for the refugee children. The National Citizen Service has since invited SUTR to speak to groups of students later this year.
February 2018 Unity
Tasks ahead for anti-racists Confronting the dangers
Populism on the advance The far right across Europe is encouraging mainstream political parties to shift rightwards, giving more space for anti-immigration, Islamophobic and antisemitic organisations to capture support. Claude Moraes says the left must act to stop it
n recent years the increasing electoral success of populist extremist parties has been redrawing the political map of Europe, presenting a clear and growing threat to the EU establishment and centre-left and centre-right governments. Although far-right parties failed to claim power in a number of recent elections in Western Europe, they received a significant share of the vote, and have undeniably been responsible for a large-scale shift towards the right of mainstream political discussion. In France, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany and elsewhere, populist parties are now optimistic about their prospects for electoral growth and increasing political influence. By putting more pressure on moderate parties to radicalise their platforms, the far-right have now become the driving force in policy formulation. These radical right populists are not only winning substantial vote shares but their success is also encouraging mainstream political parties to embrace right-leaning positions in order to win votes. The far-right populist Freedom Party (FPÖ) has already changed the policy landscape in Austria. Since the 1980s, the FPÖ has been associated with antiimmigration xenophobia, antisemitism and, more recently, Islamophobia. Although the party’s presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, was defeated by his Green Party competitor in 2016, the FPÖ won 26 percent of the vote in the Austrian elections in October and has now formed a coalition government with Sebastian Kurz’s victorious centre-right People’s Party. The FPÖ has been using anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric as a rallying tool for a number of years. Austria’s experience of the substantial flows of migrants that came through on the way to Germany in 2015 was an undeniable factor in the FPÖ gaining political ground. The rightward shift of Kurz’s People’s Party was seen as a response to the success of the FPÖ. Kurz proposed new restrictions on immigration, a stricter stance on crime and terrorism, and limits
Claude Moraes, MEP
on social benefits to immigrants, which proved popular with Austrian voters. In Germany, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) gained 94 seats in the Bundestag federal elections last October. Support for the extremists is particularly high in the former GDR, where years of unemployment and perceived discrimination have bred resentment against the political establishment and immigrants. It is the first time such a hard-right party has sat in the German Parliament in more than 50 years. Another strong result for populism was the election victory of Andrej Babiš in the Czech Republic. Described as a soft populist, Babiš has surfed the wave of discontent with the status quo. Babiš, like a growing number of mainstream politicians in Europe, shares a reluctance to join the Euro and has expressed hostility to the EU’s migrant policy in his election campaign. With Poland and Hungary already run by Eurosceptic populist parties, we see that while populism poses a considerable threat to mainstream governments in Western Europe regimes, it has already become the status quo in eastern and central Europe. In response, the EU must take action to protect the Union’s core values which are under threat from these nationalist populist movements. There is a process, based on
Article 7 of the EU Treaty, which could ultimately deprive Hungary and Poland of their EU voting rights. The EU needs to be prepared to use Article 7, if only as a warning to those member states that may consider copying Poland and Hungary. We cannot stand by and watch as fundamental rights are breached in both countries. Action is needed before the situation gets worse and we get an increase in populism. Following a vote in the European Parliament last spring, the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee which I chair has already started the Article 7 process for Hungary. Our committee has begun work on a report looking into the situation in the country and recently held a hearing to examine the situation of the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights with the Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister and several experts. The European Parliament has also taken steps to trigger the first stage of the Article 7 procedure regarding Poland in November. Recent legislation adopted by the Polish government raises serious concerns for judicial independence and the separation of powers. Labour MEPs, along with socialists and democrats in the European Parliament, continue to speak out against these reforms and stand up for the values laid down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which Polish citizens now find under threat. In addition to the judicial reforms in Poland, there are also Bills on the table in the Polish parliament that may threaten the right to peaceful assembly, the functioning of NGOs, media freedom, and sexual and reproductive rights. The EU is taking concrete action to protect is core democratic values, and Labour MEPs will now lead calls for the European Parliament to play a stronger role in enhancing the dialogue between countries like Hungary, Poland and the EU. We need a clear and unambiguous position to ensure that the rule of law is upheld in all member states. Populism’s rise in countries with some of the strongest economies in Europe
Unity February 2018
Austrian anti-racists rally Facing major dangers cannot be understood with conventional explanations focusing on unemployment, austerity and general economic malaise. Writing in The New York Times, Professor Matthew Goodwin, of the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent, asserts that a growing body of research shows that the populist surge has more to do with cultural values than economic forces. This is reflected in increasingly vitriolic anti-immigrant sentiment among populist politicians and their supporters, matched by rising demands for ‘traditional’ cultural values to be protected. It is this cultural backlash that is central to making sense of why millions of citizens across the west are pushing back against immigration. Voters are turning to parties that want to curb ethnic and cultural diversity in the name of defending perceived traditional national values, ways of life and identity. Last November, US president Donald Trump showed support for a British far-right leader by retweeting their messages. There is no explanation or apologist who can account for Trump’s latest actions in promoting Britain First, racism and fascism. We on the left cannot and have not let this go unopposed. By retweeting Britain First, Trump is legitimising racism and Islamophobia and encouraging the far-right. It is only right that senior politicians in the UK have spoken out to condemn Trump’s far-right retweets. We have also seen an immediate response from the grassroots with petitions, direct action calling for the government to cancel Trump’s visit and protests organised by Stand Up To Racism to oppose such atrocities. It is this kind of direct action that is necessary in the fight against the legitimation of the far right. The centre-left across Europe now, more than ever, needs to find and sustain an appealing counter-argument that promotes our core values of fairness, equality and social justice in order to provide a cultural alternative to populism and far-right extremism. And, if we are to stem the ongoing shift to the right and avoid the irreparable fragmentation of the political centre in Europe, underlying economic, social and security issues that have aided populism’s growth must be addressed. The way to respond to populism is to fight the fear it plays on. But you can only fight fear if you offer a plan to your citizens. Until the left presents a credible alternative that addresses peoples’ underlying fears, Europe’s mainstream parties will continue to drift rightwards and voters will keep turning to populists for answers.
Anti-racists in Vienna demonstrate against the FPÖ in October
Protestors resist as Nazis join Austria’s government Austria’s racist Freedom Party has joined a coalition government. David Albrich reports on the fight back
nti-fascists from Unite Against Fascism called the entrance of fascists from the so-called Freedom Party (FPÖ) into the Austrian coalition government in December, ‘an appalling and disturbing development’. That such a move has happened is a warning for all anti-fascists. The Conservative OVP’s decision to form a coalition with the FPÖ reflects its adoption of many of the far-right party’s racist policies. Little wonder then that the FPÖ recently accused the OVP’s leader, Sebastian Kurz, of stealing many of its aims. In 1999, when the FPÖ were last in coalition in Austria, EU member states froze bilateral diplomatic relations in response. Their response to this latest outrage is one of utter silence. In contrast, Austrian anti-fascists in the group, Left Turn Now, won a court case in December against Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache. The judge called FPÖ leader Strache ‘snivelling’. Strache had sued the organisation for ‘slander’ over an anti-fascist banner and wanted ‘compensation’ for the “offence caused” Despite the FPÖ claiming to have junked its past, last September, 60 of its
supporters were involved in racist and antisemitic attacks. That the FPÖ will control key ministries, such as defence and social and home security, means that Muslims and refugees will be increasingly targeted. Weyman Bennett, UAF joint secretary, said: ‘It’s shocking that a party like the FPÖ , with its roots in Nazism, now shares government in Austria. The FPÖ, at all levels, has fascists within it. The FPÖ should be opposed, not treated as a normal organisation. When the FPÖ had six ministers last in government, in 2000, around 300,000 people demonstrated magnificently in Vienna. Anti-fascists have campaigned valiantly against the FPÖ in Austria. We send our solidarity and will continue to stand with them.’ Sabby Dhalu, the UAF’s other joint secretary, said: ‘It should be unacceptable that the FPÖ, with its far right core, is facilitated by mainstream politicians like the OVP. Those from the far right, such as the Front National’s Marine Le Pen, will be encouraged by the OVP’s disgraceful move. Minorities, particularly Muslims, now face an openly scapegoating government.’
February 2018 Unity
Care4Calais Responding to a massive crisis
Of broken promises, dreadful conditions, and great generosity Volunteers working to help refugees, many of them children, endure terrible conditions in northen France, report on their campaign to raise funds and awareness
hen the Calais ‘Jungle’ was demolished in October 2016, many believed that somehow the 9,000 refugees who were living there would miraculously disappear. But 15 months later, the situation is worse than ever, with 3,000 refugees sleeping rough in the woods, in ditches and under bridges in and around Northern France. At the time of the demolition, refugees were promised that their applications for asylum either in the UK or France would be processed, as long as they agreed to be transferred to one of the Welcome Centres. But the system – along with many of the centres – was simply not equipped to deal with the numbers. As a result many refugees left the centres, scared and dispirited by the broken promises, the lack of medical and legal support and, in some cases, opposition from local populations. Among them were several hundred unaccompanied minors who have a legal right to be in UK under the Dublin Regulation (which says that if you have close relatives in the UK, you can apply for asylum here), and the Dubs Amendment, which promised to allow 3,000 vulnerable refugees under the age of 18 into the UK. To date just 750 minors have been transferred under both Dubs and Dublin
Look what you can help us achieve
Care4Calais volunteers get ready to distribute sleeping bags to refugees
combined, and the British government has halted the Dubs scheme. With freezing temperatures and no reliable access to food, fresh water, sanitation or shelter, conditions are dire. Many refugees have resorted to wrapping themselves in plastic at night to try and keep warm
because the French police have been confiscating and slashing their tents. Sami from Afghanistan, for example, who looks much younger than his 13 years, is just one of hundreds of unaccompanied minors in northern France, trapped in a country which doesn’t
The response to our #Coat4Calais campaign has been amazing. Right across the UK people have been raiding their wardrobes to donate their warm winter coats to refugees sleeping outside in these plummeting temperatures. And the celebrities have been pitching in too, not only with their pre-loved coats, but with incredibly generous donations from Ricky Tomlinson, Vanessa
Redgrave, Joely Richardson, Joe Pasquale, Hayley Tamaddon, Julie Christie, the Rt Hon Diane Abbott and Lord Alf Dubs. Our aim is to give a warm winter coat to every one of the 3,000 refugees currently sleeping rough in and around Calais. But there’s still more to do, so if you’d like to help spread the word and keep one of the refugees warm, here’s how: l Take a picture of yourself holding up
Unity February 2018 want them, but is unable to leave. In response, both the French and UK governments have turned a blind eye, perhaps hoping that if they keep quiet, some 3,000 refugees will somehow just go away. In January, Theresa May did agree to take in more child refugees, although figures have yet to be announced. But with around 750 refugees in Calais, 250 in Dunkirk, 400 in Brussels, 1,500 in Paris and 400 in Caen, the situation is definitely not going away. And the shameful fact is that, based on both the number of asylum seekers per head of population, and the number in relation to GDP, the UK has taken well below the average number of refugees hosted by other countries in Europe. So it’s fallen on the shoulders of charities such as Care4Calais to do what they can to alleviate the suffering of the refugees. Night after night volunteers comb the woods, ditches and areas beneath bridges, in order to distribute food, water, sleeping bags and warm clothes to the refugees hiding there. Founded and run by a group of volunteers, Care4Calais works very much on the ground, delivering essential aid and support to refugees in Northern France and other areas. But we’re also passionate about encouraging the wider public to be more welcoming towards refugees. To date, we have raised and distributed over £1 million-worth of aid, thanks to the incredible generosity of the British public. Our most recent #Coat4Calais initiative has seen thousands of refugees receiving warm winter coats donated by both the general public and celebrities. To continue our work, we need to raise further funds as well as keep collecting donations of warm winter clothes, waterproof boots, sleeping bags and food. We’re always incredibly grateful for whatever you can give, so if you are able to help, visit www.care4calais.org. We also need to keep up the pressure on the government to stop shirking its responsibility and show the compassion and common humanity which will pave the way to a solution. To do this, contact Citizens UK or Safe Passage. Whatever you do, you’re making a big difference. the coat you’d like to donate and post it on social media with a message such as: ‘Show you @Care4Calais by donating a coat to a refugee this winter.’ l Donate your coat at our nearest donation point – see: https://goo.gl/ ULD9dG l If you can’t give a coat, simply visit https://goo.gl/scNsbD and buy a coat for a refugee for £25.
Film review: A case to answer
A powerful exposé of the government’s inhumanity Joanne Holland recommends following the stories of child refugees in northen France via this new film
ue Clayton’s film tells the harrowing story of the thousands of unaccompanied child refugees stranded in northern France and across Europe. They came to Calais, hoping to travel onto the UK, seeking a life free of terror, famine and the wars waged by the West on their homelands, making hazardous journeys to get there. What they find is an aggressively enforced border, paid for by the British government and violently enforced by the French police. As more refugees congregate, the Jungle Camp forms. The viewer hears, first-hand via heart-breaking interviews, that there are many unaccompanied minors in the camp. The Jungle is crowded, often volatile and poorly resourced. We think things could not possibly be any worse for these children but we are wrong. The camp, for all its terrible conditions, will later come to seem like a sanctuary when we learn what comes after; the refugees had after all created things such as a school, a youth centre, a library – albeit from tarpaulin and plywood. Disbelief reaches new levels when we learn that the French police tear-gas the camp knowing the children are inside. This is part of their agenda to terrify the refugees into submission ahead of razing the camp to the ground. After the camp is burnt down, the next chapter in the unfolding horror begins for the children. A three-day period of registration begins but the children do not know what they are registering for. Some are allowed to live in metal containers behind a barbed wire fence, some are not. Some simply disappear Eventually some are sent on coaches to centres all over France to await asylum decisions by the UK government. For its part, we
learn that the Home Office has restricted its promised ‘help’ mostly to making changes to the two laws – Dublin 111 Regulation and the Dubs Amendment – to enable it to refuse entry to over 90% of the vulnerable children those laws would have allowed to come to the UK. We watch as the children in the centres go hungry, freeze in inadequate clothing and lose hope. There is a suicide among the children, the one we know of. The fate of the disappeared children is unknown. In the UK activist lawyers fight the government. They lose. The government declares the Dubs scheme closed and says no more children will be allowed into the UK. Angered by this, the French authorities close the centres. We see the children drift back to the only place they know in France; Calais. There is no camp any more so tonight, tomorrow night and every night until we force it to change they sleep out in the woods in freezing temperatures, although many are too terrified to sleep because the French police come in the night to slash their tents, take their coats and stamp on the phones given to them by charities. They survive on food parcels handed out by organisations such as Care4Calais. This deeply distressing film is a call to arms, and one we all need to respond to.
February 2018 Unity
UAF educational trip to Auschwitz Lessons from the Holocaust
‘Never Again’ message powerfully reinforced
Around 50 people joined the UAF’s and LMHR’s annual trip to Auschwitz in November. Below, Lorna Brunstein gives her personal reflections, while three other members of the group report over the next three pages
The infamous gateway into Auschwitz 1, with infamous inscription ‘Work Sets
‘My story maybe helped make the enormity
signed up for the UAF trip to Auschwitz this year with some apprehension. Both my parents were Holocaust Survivors and I had already visited Auschwitz twice before, in 1989 with my parents and sister, and then in 2005 with just my mother. This time was different. My mother, Esther Brunstein, died in January last year aged 88. She had been a prominent and powerful public speaker. She ‘found her voice’ in the 1990s when Holocaust Denial, perpetrated by revisionist ‘historian’, David Irving, reared its ugly face. She could be silent no longer. In her words: ‘To deny the Holocaust is to deny my very existence.’ A survivor of the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz, a slave labour camp in Germany, and Bergen-Belsen, she campaigned relentlessly on an anti-nazi platform up and down the country at every opportunity. It was her mission, to let everyone know what had happened to her, and to always make connections with contemporary abuses of human rights – the plight of refugees, asylum seekers, evils of racism, antisemitism – and to guard against complacency,
warning the Holocaust could always happen again. ‘Always be vigilant. A single act of bullying, name-calling, discrimination, can be the first step that leads to the gates of Auschwitz,’ she said. Having already been to Auschwitz, one could ask me as to why I wanted to go again. I thought long and hard, but felt it was fitting and appropriate, in the year of my mother’s death, to revisit that site of horror, and to bear witness, as she could go no more, and to, maybe, say goodbye. My youngest daughter Alicia, 26, decided to come with me. I was this time going back as ‘me’ in my own right, as a mother and a daughter. I was of course very pleased Alicia wanted to come, but anxious and concerned as to how the experience might affect her. Looking back now I know that it was absolutely the right thing for us to do. We were with a group, around 50 of us, who were an amazing bunch of people, all so supportive and respectful. We shared the experience together, young and old, and confronted the unimaginable and unspeakable, drawing strength, solidarity, tenderness and
compassion from each other. To try to describe the enormity of Auschwitz is really beyond words, and although I thought I was prepared, I was surprised to find that visiting for the third time still did not enable me to be in any way more prepared for what I saw and felt. A few significant moments of this visit stand out for me: l Finding the remains of the site of my mother’s ‘accommodation’ Barrack 8. On our first family visit in 1989, I remember the confusion and panic my mother felt when she was frantically looking for Barrack 8, to try to anchor a memory, and was told by the guide that, as a Jew, she wouldn’t have been in Auschwitz 1, the work camp, but in Birkenau, Auschwitz 2, the death camp, a couple of kilometers down the road. The two camps could not be more different. Auschwitz 1 (Arbeit Macht Frei) is a museum preserved in time, full of exhibits, information and very crowded, whereas Birkenau, a vast, bleak site that has been respectfully left to decay, apart from a few buildings with minimal signage. It was when we arrived at Birkenau that the memories for my mother came flooding back. We didn’t
Unity February 2018
Stories of great resistance lifted our spirits By Vala, LGBT+ officer, Bristol University Students Union ur trip could not have come at a more opportune time, with Warsaw seeing a 40,000 strong far-right, nationalist march just a week before. It was both saddening and maddening to see a country that has lost so many lives to fascism once again being lured into its clutches. On our first day we were taken around the historic Jewish quarter, Kazimierz, once home to a quarter of Krakow’s population (some 60,000-80,000), where now but a few hundred Jewish people live; a living legacy to the horror the Jewish population of Poland suffered. We solemnly walked around the Jewish Continued on page 14
Photo: David Rosenberg
s You Free’
y of the genocide more “real” for our group’ find Barrack 8 then, but on this recent visit our guide was able to point out where it would have stood, and I spent a few moments there, silently telling my mother we had found it and wishing she could have shared that moment with me. l Standing at the selection point in Birkenau with Alicia. I remember my mother telling me that at the selection point the infamous Dr Mengele decided her fate and that of her mother with a flick of the thumb. I stood at that point with Alicia who, at 26, is 10 years older than my mother was when Mengele made the choice of life for my mum and death for her mum. My grandmother, age 45, was sent directly to the gas chambers. My mother never saw her again; ‘she did not pass selection for life’. For Alicia and I it was a hugely profound moment to go back 73 years and stand on that same spot, as mother and daughter, to be there together to bear witness. It was an immensely powerful affirmation of life in the face of so much unbearable tragedy. l The birch trees by Crematorium 3. A powerful moment was being shown by our guide the birch trees by the ruins of Crematorium 3, where my grandmother
most likely took her last breath of fresh air. I had not seen this spot before on my previous visits. There was an air of calm and stillness about it. The trees were beautiful. I looked up at the sky and felt the rasping wind on my face and with tears welling up inside, thought of the grandmother I never had the chance to know, and how proud my mother always said she would have been of me. I left a stone. Alicia and I stood a while, hugged and then walked on. l Gathering soil from shoes. A final memory was in the coach, on our journey back to the hotel. I am an artist and I make work that draws from my family history exploring Inherited Trauma, which I believe firmly manifests itself in subsequent generations. I had asked everyone if on the coach on our return they would scrape some soil off the soles of their shoes. We collected a fair amount in a plastic bag. Apart from what I carry in my heart and head, the only other thing that remains and holds a memory for me is the soil. It carries our history and is a witness. Our group walked round the whole site in the footsteps of my family and all those others who passed through
Auschwitz. I have those remains and I will make an artwork using that soil. Being able to talk about my mum and what she went through I felt gave the trip an added personal dimension. To contemplate Auschwitz and the enormity of the genocide through one human story maybe helped make it feel more ‘real’ for others in our group and bring it closer to home. Before leaving, we all sang the Partisan song in Yiddish together – a testament to hope and resistance in the face of enormous struggle against the odds. We left devastated, but afterwards strangely uplifted, with our heads held high. Having gone back with my daughter to the place where my mother only just survived and where my grandmother tragically didn’t, confirmed for me that I will always, in whatever way I can, challenge the evils of bigotry and hate. I will hold onto the ideals and values of my mother’s Bundist socialist upbringing that never left her through those darkest days – Equality, Freedom and Justice. That was her greatest legacy. Thank you so much to the UAF for letting Alicia and I share the experience with you.
February 2018 Unity
The Nazis stripped Jews of all their possessions and stored them for future use
Stories of great resistance lifted our spirits From page 13 cemetery, previously ransacked by Nazis for building materials for concentration camps, now rebuilt in monument using the broken tombstones of the dead. We then crossed the River Vistula into what was once the Jewish Ghetto. Among the stories of horror from the ghetto – of children being murdered, people being shot down while trying to escape – there were also huge acts of resistance. A united front of resistance fought against the Nazi terror, using both violent and peaceful means. While this never led to a general uprising, as seen in the Warsaw ghetto, their strength in solidarity and courage is something all anti-fascists should embrace today. Our second day, following talks from David Rosenberg and Donny Gluckstein on the history of Jews in Poland, and the build up to the Holocaust respectively, we departed for the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp. This was a harrowing day for us all, which found us crying on the shoulders of our compatriots, who not 24 hours before had been strangers. Nothing can prepare you for the atrocity of such a place, where the seemingly abstract statistic of 1.3million (recorded) murders becomes so real, when it is presented as children’s shoes and locks of hair. The sheer scale of the
Birkenau camp was astounding, with barracks stretched as far as the eye could see. It was only here that we could truly see just how mass murder on an industrial scale could be carried out. This was made so much more real when one of our number was trying to find the barrack that had imprisoned her late mother – an active, anti-Nazi herself. What particularly struck many of us was the striking similarities between the growing antisemitism that led up to the Holocaust, and the growing Islamophobia we are seeing today. Then, synagogues were desecrated, today it is mosques. Then Jewish women were forced to remove head coverings in the presence of Nazis, today Muslim women are having their hijabs ripped off. The atrocities of the Holocaust did not start with Auschwitz, it started with ‘othering’, with casual racism, with scapegoating. And this is what we are seeing today. Fascism did not end with the liberation of Auschwitz, and it is up to each of us to take a stand when we encounter or witness an act of discrimination. It is only through this that we have any hope of defeating the rising far-right, before it ends up at the gates of a concentration camp once more. I’d like to share a song our Jewish comrades sang, in Yiddish, in front of the Birkenau memorial; a song of resistance that travelled from the Vilnius ghetto around Nazi-occupied Europe: ‘Beneath our tread the earth shall tremble: we are here, we are here!’
The group’s guide at Auschwitz 1 by the relative of a Holocaust Survivor
The Nazis’ crimes By Sheila McGregor, Tower Hamlets SUTR n 1939 Poland was overrun from the West by the Nazis and from the East, by Soviet troops. All resistance in Krakow was brutally crushed. Polish monuments were overturned, university professors victimised, Polish radio replaced by Nazi radio which was broadcast publicly in the streets. German and Ukraine became the official languages. Yiddish was banned and Krakow’s 69,482 Jews were ordered to wear a white armband with a blue Star of David. In March, 1941, Jews in Krakow were ordered to cross the River Vistula into Old Podgorze. Around 37,000 were squashed into 320 houses. The frontages of the houses facing inwards were cemented into the shape of tomb stones and became an external wall. Life was tough. Families often lived four to a room, one in each corner, sharing kitchens and toilets. Food rations were inadequate. The Plac Bohaterow Getta was used to assemble Jews to be deported. It was also the one open space for people to play and enjoy themselves. Women often took chairs to sit and carry on knitting and sewing. People tried to make it as normal as possible. In the far corner is a pharmacy, Under the Eagle, which employed the only non-Jewish people in the ghetto. They bore witness to what happened. It is now a
Unity February 2018
The Plac Bohaterow Getta in Krakow’s fomer Jewish ghetto, with the Under The Eagle pharmacy in the left-hand corner
are writ large in Krakow’s ghetto museum where you can pull open drawers with photos of the Jewish people from the ghetto, and listen to stories from survivors. There were three transports out of the ghetto of about 2,500 each. Most were taken to Blezec concentration camp to die. On the night of 14/15 December, at 7.45 pm, the Ordnungsdienst rounded up the last remaining Jews. By then everyone knew what awaited them and if they attempted escape, they were butchered. Babies in their cradles were stacked up in threes behind the Pharmacy and then shot. There are three concentration camps at Auschwitz, which was chosen for its transport links to the rest of Europe. Auschwitz 1 is now a museum. The prisoners had everything taken from them. Anything useful was sent to German factories – human hair, for example, was turned into rugs. Much was found and is now on display. The suitcases, labelled with names and addresses, show that people had no idea what lay in store for them. And those shoes, those tiny little shoes…. At the beginning the Nazis meticulously photographed every prisoner. There are rows and rows of photos in one of the corridors, each with the person’s name and occupation. Later, the prisoners were just branded on their arms. All were made to wear thin blue and and white striped ‘pyjamas’.
Auschwitz Birkenau, camp 2, is vast. The huts were made of wood and only a few have been preserved. The rest have perished with time. But the railway and entrance buildings are still intact. The whole area is surrounded by fencing which reminded me instantly of the fencing the Tory government had built at Calais to keep out refugees. There is one wagon on the site showing how prisoners arrived. Packed with up to 700 hundred people, travelling sometimes for several days, some died en route. Small wonder that people were not surprised to be offered a shower at the end of the line. The Nazis blew up nearly all of the barracks when they evacuated the camp. The worst work in the camp was carried out by the Sonderkommando – young, fit Jewish men. They blew up one of the gas chambers with help from the Polish Resistance who provided them with the explosives. At the memorial site, our companions from the Jewish Socialist Group sang the Yiddish Resistance fighters song from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1944. It was an incredibly moving and privileged moment to share: ‘Never say you have reached the very end, When leaden skies a bitter future may portend, For sure the hour for which we yearn will yet arrive, And our marching steps will thunder: we survive’.
Media hounding of Muslims echoes that made against Jews by Rachel Williamson, Manchester Student Stand Up to Racism othing can express how genuinely terrible a place Auschwitz really is – no matter how much you prepare, it will always be so much worse than could ever have been imagined. We toured the premises of both Auschwitz 1 and Birkenau, witnessing the dismal living conditions and hearing of the disgusting, dehumanising treatment the prisoners faced daily. One thing that really stood out was learning about the ideological run-up to the Holocaust; the media campaign against the Jewish people and the acts of violence against them. We heard stories of Jewish men having their beards cut off in the street, and being forced to remove their headdresses when in front of a German. These events sound chillingly similar to some of the racist attacks happening in Europe and across the world today – the ‘othering’ of Muslims, the scapegoating of refugees and other migrants. When we allow these things to happen we allow ourselves to move closer to ‘the final solution’.
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Unity February 2018
Theatre review Grunwick strike brought to life
An inspiring strike brings a strong message for today Phil Turner went to see We Are the Lions Mr Manager at the Old Market Gallery in Rotherham. He tells Unity why every reader should make sure it plays in their locality
Photo: Homer Sykes
strike by mainly Asian women workers 40 years ago became one of the greatest displays of black and white unity on the picket line Britain has ever seen. The walkout at the Grunwick’s mail order photo processing plant in north London in June 1976 lasted two years and became a turning point in building a militant anti-racist movement which was to drive back the seemingly unstoppable Nazi National Front at Lewisham in August 1977. This new play by Neil Gore paints a powerful picture of hidden working class history and a moving portrait of one inspirational fighter in particular, 4ft 10in Jayaben Desai, who led the battle for freedom, equality and human dignity. She issued a warning to factory bosses: ‘What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo. But in a zoo there are many types of animals,’ she said. ‘Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips, others are lions, who can bite your head off. We are the lions Mr Manager.’ As Mrs Desai, Medhavi Patel is herself an inspiration – perfectly capturing her spirit, a passionate life force that feared nothing and no-one as strikers faced down thuggish violence meted out on behalf of racist union-busting boss George Ward and the state which colluded to undermine solidarity; to say nothing about MPs such as John Gorst pulling strings in the background for the National Association For Freedom. But for the first time, thousands of workers from miners to dockers – who had marched for Enoch Powell only a few years before – delivered fantastic solidarity during mass pickets in a magnificent show of black and white unity. Post workers blacked mail that the firm relied on. However, it was the failings of the TUC and trade union leaders which, as the play shows, let the strikers down. Promises of action never materialised. As Mrs Desai said, official trade union action
Jayaben Desai on the Grunwick’s picket line in 1976
was like ‘honey on the elbow’. ‘You can smell it, you can see it, but you can never taste it.’ It’s a great piece of theatre, with enthusiastic audience participation on the picket line as cops always took the bosses’ side, regularly attacking pickets and arresting strikers. The set by Carl Davies is ingenious, with Daniella Beattie’s clever lighting and film clips. shifting the action and mood. At least one young Asian woman was moved to tears during Patel’s performance in Rotherham, which was touching and compelling. The writing is sharp and funny, totally demolishing the myth of Asian women being passive and quiet. Patel also has a hilarious take off of
posh Anglo-Indian Ward. The strike broke the idea that Asian workers were willing to go along with lower wages. Gore is also a talented actor, switching from the more hiss-boo panto characters such as manager Malcolm Alden and NAFF founder John Gourier, with vivid cameo portrayals – while also playing guitar and singing songs such as Hold The Line Again. A famous photograph shows Mrs Desai holding a placard which bore the legend ‘The Workers United Will Never Be Defeated’. The lessons are clear for today. We need black and white unity – and we need more leaders like Mrs Desai to stop defeats being snatched from the jaws of victory.
February 2018 Unity
Camden Unison Anti-racism in the trade unions
‘What we have done can be replicated in every workplace’ Liz Wheatley explains how her union branch has made the campaign against racism a central plank of its work, and the orgnaisational dividends that have resulted
ost trade unions nationally and locally have very good policies on opposing racism. Our branch is no different. Over the years, Camden Unison has affiliated to anti-racist campaigns, joined protests and taken up inequalities in the workplace. However, in recent years the government has increasingly used racist scapegoating to maintain its position, in particular blaming refugees for the economic crisis. Therefore we decided it was important to have a much higher profile to our anti-racist campaigning. We started by organising a very successful
collection for refugees in Calais, which was delivered there by stewards, and followed this up with Stand Up To Racism stalls in the workplace where we sold badges and publicised local and national activities and events. Along with other Unison branches, we organised a SUTR meeting and Love Music Hate Racism gig at the union’s national conference on the eve of the 2016 referendum. The event was successful, with speakers from campaigns, the Green Party and Unison, and raised funds for Stand Up To Racism as well as reinforcing an anti-racist message in the union.
Basil Gabbidon addresses Stand Up to Racism’s fringe meeting at last year’s Unison national conference
Over the next year, we continued to have regular stalls in the main council building and collected again for Care4Calais. Members have often said they are pleased to see the branch taking the campaign against racism seriously, and we have recruited new members to the union. As well as the stalls, badges and leaflets, and making sure our banner and delegations are at anti-racist events, we have taken up issues such as why black workers are under-represented in secondments and promotions, and worked closely with the Black Workers Group. At last year’s national conference we again organised a SUTR meeting and gig, with Basil Gabbidon of Steel Pulse performing and speakers including Roger McKenzie, one of the union’s assistant general secretaries. This was very successful with a lot of delegates attending, and raised almost £3000 for SUTR. It was sponsored by three regions and 29 local branches of the union, which meant the issue of fighting racism was raised in all of those local areas. We are already planning our event at the 2018 conference, and have written to all regions of the union asking them to support and publicise it. We have also sent delegates to the SUTR trade union conference and attended the March Against Racism on UN anti-racism day in 2017 and will be doing so again this year. I’m proud of how seriously Camden UNISON has taken campaigning against racism in recent years at a time when Donald Trump has tried to spread his racist and bigoted policies round the world and Nazis and far right parties are getting elected around Europe. But we are no different from any other union branch. What we have done can be replicated in any workplace. We face a number of struggles ahead – over pay, cuts, to defend the NHS – and we need to be united. Combatting racism is an integral part of that.
Unity February 2018
Students have played a central role in the recent demonstrations and campaigns against racism
Nadia Abdurahman Sayed from Queen Mary University says students face many issues linked to the rise in racism
he General Election last June proved wrong all those who said that young people are apathetic and not serious about politics, as millions of young people voted for Corbyn and cost the Tories their fantasy of a majority in Parliament. What these pundits don’t realise is that while they sat back, students have been spurred into activity by the horrific rise in racism, whether that’s the Muslim woman scared of being attacked on her way home from college, or the young black man worried about violent harassment from the police. Young people have broken the myth and have continued to do so by being at the forefront of every struggle against the rising tide of racism. Let’s remember the demonstrations against Trump from his inauguration to his vile Muslim ban. Those demonstrations had students and young people at the heart of them. Campuses have been on the sharp end of racism in the past few years, from
Photo: Guy Smallman
Students on the move Apathetic; no way
Organisation on our campuses is key the Prevent agenda to the uncertainty around EU students. It is absolutely disgusting that our fellow Muslim students are being spied upon and their freedom of speech taken away under the Prevent programme. Students are also concerned about the refugee crisis. The government has backtracked on the Dubs amendment, leaving child refugees to the mercy of traffickers and worse. That’s why so many students supported and joined the Convoy to Calais last December. And how about our fellow EU students? It’s an absolute disgrace that they are being cynically used as a bargaining chip in the Tories’ Brexit negotiations when education and freedom of movement are our rights. They are rights that we will continue to fight to defend. There are problems on the campuses, but it’s not Muslims or EU migrants. The problems are the cuts to our education and staff, the rising tuition fees and the little financial support students receive.
It’s great to see the rise and anti-racist politics advocated by the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. It was great to see Abbott, the first black female shadow home secretary, at the SUTR conference last October. Let’s hope she becomes the first black home secretary. But we can’t just rely on them, or be complacent about what’s been achieved in the past. We need a strong anti-racist movement on the streets, and to do that we need to be organised. That means going back to our campuses and building for the Stand Up To Racism March on 17 March. It would be great to see different campuses bringing 40, 50 or more students to the demonstration, all coming together for a loud, proud and energetic student bloc. The far-right is on the rise across Europe, but our history from Cable Street to the Battle of Lewisham show that we’ve smashed racism and the far-right before and we can do so again. We need a mass anti-racist movement if we’re going to drive the racists off of our streets.
February 2018 Unity
Obituary A Sivanandan, 1923-2018
Trojan Horse outrage
Pioneer in building ‘communities of resistance’
The racist campaign against Muslim teachers in Birmingham in 2014 has met with a campaign to win justice. Bridget Parsons reports
Christian Høgsbjerg pays tribute to one of the great anti-racist thinkers and activists of the past 50 years
he Sri Lankan-born thinker Ambalavaner Sivanandan, who sadly died age 94 early this year, was one of the great black radical intellectuals of post-war Britain who made an outstanding contribution to the struggle against racism and for social justice After moving to London in 1958, perhaps Siva’s greatest achievement was to revolutionise the work of the Institute of Race Relations during the 1970s – turning it from a liberal institution dispassionately studying ‘race relations’ into the radical resource for anti-racist activists it has been ever since. We send our deepest condolences to Jenny Bourne and Siva’s family and all at the Institute of Race Relations and their journal Race & Class. Born in 1923, the son of a postal clerk, Siva grew to intellectual maturity in what was then the British Crown colony of Ceylon. He discovered left-wing ideas and became a Marxist while studying Economics and Political Science at the University of Ceylon in the mid-1940s. In 1958, a decade after Ceylon had become independent, he moved to Britain, bringing his anti-colonialist and anticapitalist thinking with him. He arrived into a city where a racist backlash against the ‘Windrush’ generation was under way, manifested by the Notting Hill ‘race riots’ and the killing of Kelso Cochrane. Unable to find work using his Economics degree, Siva retrained as a librarian, and in 1964 was appointed librarian to the IRR. In 1972, he led a successful revolt against the conservative management of the institute, and became the new director, and later editor of the IRR journal. As he later reflected, ‘the joint struggles (of Asians, Africans and West Indians) that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s defined us as a people and a class and a people for a class, and had made Black not the colour of our skin – but the colour of our politics. Hence the academic journal Race subtitled ‘a journal for race and group relations’ was turned into Race &
Class, subtitled “a journal for black and Third World liberation”.’ As a theorist Siva made acute analyses of the changing nature of British racism, always seeing racism as a Ambalavaner Sivanandan political question. Yet he never saw the victims of racism as passive, and did much to help recover the hidden histories of resistance, eloquently noting how ‘black struggles in Britain’ were ‘woven’ out of a multitude of ‘strands’, whose ‘pattern was set on the loom of British racism’. The peak of his influence in struggles themselves came in the 1970s, when many in the Asian Youth Movements found in Siva a brilliant, inspiring orator who spoke powerfully to their concerns. In the 1980s, his socialist principles about anti-racist strategies went against fashionable ideas then under way. For example, Siva countered elitist, liberal ideas around ‘Racism Awareness Training’ with an insistence instead on the necessity of multi-culturalism coming from below, through the building of cultures and ‘communities of resistance’. In the 1990s, Siva wrote an awardwinning novel about his homeland Sri Lanka, When Memory Dies, and became known to a much younger generation of anti-racists and anti-capitalists thanks to his collaboration with Asian Dub Foundation. Overall, as an educator and thinker, Siva will be deeply missed by many thousands of activists over different generations not only in Britain but internationally. And he will rightly long be remembered and honoured by those whose lives he touched. In one of his last interviews in 2013, Siva said: ‘Unless we on the Left begin to fight the political culture of neoliberalism, we cannot get off the ground for a real struggle to come together.’
he cases against teachers involved in the so-called Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham were discontinued last May with the panel judgment stating: ‘There has been an abuse of the process so serious that it offends the panel’s sense of justice and propriety. What has happened has brought the integrity of the process into disrepute.’ On 3 November more than 300 people attended a meeting organised by the Muslim Engagement & Development organisation (MEND) supported by Birmingham Stand Up to Racism and Muslim Parents entitled Trojan Horse: The Facts. Speakers included NEU joint general secretary Kevin Courtney, Salma Yaqoob, John Holmwood, author of Countering Extremism in British Schools?, Tahir Alam, former chair of governors at Park View school – the centre of the controversy – Andrew Faux QC, and Peter Oborne, journalist and broadcaster. The meeting considered whether a hoax letter, a media scrum and political motivation led to the stigmatising of a whole community, discrimination against outstanding teachers and school leaders, and exam failure for a generation of school children. Courtney explained powerfully how the former teachers’ NUT union, now merged with the NEU, had successfully defended a number of teachers caught up in the hoax. He gave numerous examples of how Trojan Horse has been used to push through the government’s Prevent strategy, and how Islamophobia is
Media have fueled the lies and people have believed in them
Unity February 2018
Teachers and parents vow to continue fight affecting the lives of both students and staff in schools. ‘We have had tales of Muslim teachers having to trim their beards and women teachers who are thinking about stopping wearing the hijab. And Muslim teachers who are afraid to talk about their faith.’ Faux legally defended some of the teachers involved. He said the teachers at Park View had been told ‘the conduct of prosecuting lawyers was so bad that it would undermine confidence in the regulatory process to publish any decision’. He said that normal school events, such as boys and girls doing PE separately, were viewed as evidence of a radical agenda. The same practices ‘that had been lauded in 2012 as evidence of engaging pupils in education’ were now being cited as evidence that something was going badly wrong. He concluded by saying that before the whole hoax affair ‘a generation of Muslim children were given a path to high academic attainment (at this point the school was in the top 14% nationally). After Trojan Horse those from the most conservative backgrounds are now at risk of being driven back to home schooling (and results have dropped down). This is the true cost of the populist simplistic message put out by politicians.’ Holmwood asked why individuals who should have been celebrated for their dedication and contribution to equal opportunities and community cohesion were, in fact, subject to an abuse of power by government and education officials. The government claims that its intervention has helped Muslim students. The opposite is true. Park View was once one of the most successful schools in England. Now its results are below the national average. It was rated inadequate until last year when Ofsted declared it ‘good’ – still below the ‘outstanding’ it achieved before Trojan Horse. ‘There is only one exemplar the government gives for Prevent and that’s Trojan Horse,’ Holmwood said. ‘If you feel strongly about the civil rights aspects of Prevent, you have to confront Trojan
We have had tales of Muslim teachers who are afraid to talk about their faith Horse. Otherwise you allow the Prevent agenda’s one supposed “success” to stand unchallenged.’ One young teacher who addressed the meeting spoke movingly of how he had grown up in the inner city suburb of Alum Rock and had personal experience of the low level of education and low aspiration in the area. He had returned to his old school as a teacher and was passionate about raising standards. He was in his first term of teaching when the school was hit by the Trojan Horse scandal. He was barred from teaching and it took three years for the NUT to get him reinstated. However, he is having huge difficulty getting employment, and has been told he has to have an observer in the classroom at all times. Another young teacher who lost his job over Trojan Horse told me: ‘I am not teaching anymore. I’m in construction. My aspiration for teaching is shattered. My desire for public service is broken. I wasn’t going to come tonight because for three years nothing has happened. There hasn’t been a united front or people coming together. Media has fuelled the lies and people have believed them. I am hoping for a public inquiry. I just want the truth to come out. It’s like Hillsborough and Grenfell. People are still suffering.’ A woman leaving the meeting said: ‘So many people didn’t come today because they were afraid. Frightened by the paper saying it was cancelled. Frightened to be called an extremist. We need courage.
Courage and to stand together.’ The following statement was accepted by the meeting with no dissent: ‘The three-year process has destroyed many promising careers. A parliamentary inquiry has found there was no sustained plot or extremism in these schools…Once outstanding schools are still suffering from the stigma with a generation of children denied the excellent education they would have received before Trojan Horse…There is fear that political and media pressure interfered with the conduct of Ofsted in the investigations in these schools, and the government inquiries were appointed with a political agenda and driven by that agenda. There is a prevalent understanding that the Trojan Horse affair has been used to silence Muslim voices in education and beyond. We the undersigned call for an independent inquiry into the abuse of power which took place before, during and after the various Trojan Horse investigations.’ This is not the end of the Trojan Horse hoax affair. A great injustice has been done and the campaign for an independent inquiry continues.
Holmwood and Therese O’Toole’s book Countering Extremism in Schools? – The Truth About the Birmingham Trojan Horse Affair, is available at Bookmarks Books – https:// bookmarksbookshop.co.uk
February 2018 Unity
Politics and sport Colin Kaepernick
Black lives matter takes NFL players have protested against US police racist violence. Brian Richardson looks at the record
t the end of 2017, the American men’s lifestyle magazine GQ named Colin Kaepernick as one of its ‘Citizens of the Year’. The accompanying article noted that this was not the first time that Kaepernick had appeared on its cover. In September 2013, the then San Francisco 49ers quarterback had featured after leading his National Football League (NFL) team to within a single score of victory at Superbowl XLVII, the climax of the previous football season. This time round, however, the reason was very different. Kaepernick has never hit the same heights again but his appearance was not due to his sporting prowess. He did not play a single game in 2017. Instead, Kaepernick’s recognition was due to the silent protest he began originally in 2016 against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matters campaigners. Since then, a number of athletes at all levels, professional, amateur, college and school, have ‘taken a knee’ when the national anthem has been played at the start of matches. It has often been argued that sport and politics should not mix. For many fans and amateur enthusiasts, sport is simply an escape, an opportunity to follow one’s favourite team. At the elite level, however, the situation is vastly different. Sporting triumphs at international tournaments are invariably used by politicians to promote patriotism, and they are quick to associate themselves with successful athletes. Not surprisingly Donald Trump could not stop himself from wading into the issue. He characterised those participating in what became known as ‘kneegate’ as ‘sons of bitches’ and suggested they should be ‘fired’. This is, of course, the same Trump who suggested that ‘some very fine people’ had participated in the white supremacist march in Charlottesville that culminated in the murder of Heather Hayer. Despite the widespread praise he has received, Kaepernick’s sporting career is in jeopardy. The quarterback is the pivotal player in any gridiron team. It is a tough
sport where injuries are inevitable. GQ noted that there were around 90 starting or reserve quarterbacks in the NFL in 2017 and suggested that Kaepernick is ‘indisputably, undeniably, flat out better than at least 70 of them’. And yet, not one single team was willing to employ him even though he was a free agent. As such, he joins a distinguished line of athletes who have made a real sacrifice. The then Cassius Clay is famously said to have hurled the gold medal he had won at the 1960 Rome Olympics into the Mississippi River in protest against the racism that he returned home to. That story is probably not true. But what is not in doubt is the sentiment that lay behind the claim. The ‘Louisville Lip’ was also subjected to vicious attacks for adopting an increasingly outspoken stance against racism. Politicians and the business consortia that backed Clay were furious when the now professional fighter changed his name to Muhammad Ali and announced he had joined the Nation of Islam in the immediate aftermath of his spectacular defeat of Sonny Liston in 1964. Within days fresh attempts were being made to induct Ali into the army to fight in Vietnam. When he was finally brought before the draft board his response was emphatic: ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong’. Again, he might not have added ‘No Vietnamese ever called me nigger’, but his meaning was crystal clear. He was immediately stripped of the world title he had captured from Liston. His boxing license was rescinded and he was unable to earn his living for three years. In 1968, two black American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, came 1st and 3rd respectively in the final of the Men’s 200 metres at the Mexico Olympics. The next day they bowed their heads and raised black-gloved fists when the national anthem was played at the medal ceremony. Consider the famous photograph of this incident closely and you will notice that the athlete who came second has a circle on his tracksuit similar to that which can be seen on those of Smith and Carlos. It is the badge of the anti-racist
Peter Norman, Tommie Smith and John Carlos protesting in 1968
‘Olympic Project for Human Rights’ campaign and was worn by that athlete, the Australian Peter Norman, in solidarity with the American duo. All three athletes were ostracised by their respective authorities. They remained lifelong friends, however, and when Norman died in October 2006 Smith and Carlos were pall bearers at his funeral. That protest occurred just months after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, which we featured in the last issue of Unity. That horrific event sparked a wave of anger across Black America. In other fields, people increasingly questioned King’s integrationist approach with many turning towards
Unity February 2018
Obituary Cyrille Regis, 1958-2018
An inspiration in the fight against racism everywhere Nick Grant salutes a great footballer who helped kick racism not only off the terraces but in wider society too
different forms of black nationalism. It was also during this period that the Black Panther Party, which had been founded ‘in the spirit’ of Malcolm X in 1966, enjoyed a brief, spectacular rise and equally dramatic decline. April 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. Today, in the era of Trump, many people may feel that little has been achieved. As we discussed in our Civil Rights series, however, gains can be won. Those struggles should inspire us, and protests such as Kaepernick’s and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, are an indication that a new generation is engaged and ready to carry the baton forward.
ne of the very lucky things about my life has been that as a Baggies* supporter I witnessed Cyrille Regis plus Laurie Cunningham and Brendon Batson come into our team in the late 1970s. Nicknamed ‘The Three Degrees’ after a popular black female singing group of the day, these players created so many magic moments that lots of other clubs’ supporters appreciated them too. So Cyrille’s shockingly sudden death on Sunday 14 January aged 59 will genuinely be felt well beyond his Midlands football fan base. He’d grown up on Harlesden’s Stonebridge Estate, close to where I have lived for 40 years, and went to what was Cardinal Hinsley secondary school. He played non-league football for Hayes until Baggies nicked him from under the eyes of many club scouts. There were other England internationals in that side, such as Bryan Robson, Len Cantello and Derek Statham. Yet Cyrille and Laurie shone as cavalier attackers playing with the power, grace and freedoms of the world’s greatest players. Laurie was sold to Real Madrid in 1979. Cyrille stayed put. His strike against Norwich at home was Match Of The Day’s goal of the 1981-2 season and epitomised his joyful, direct style of play. Yet the impact of Cyrille’s success went far beyond football. He was a beacon of excellence and achievement at a time when racist politics were also very popular, especially in this part of the UK. In the summer of 1976 I worked in the soft drinks warehouse of the famous Mitchells & Butlers brewery in Cape Hill, Smethwick, on the western borders of Birmingham. I was threatened with my life when some of the guys found out that I had been covering over their ‘If They’re Black, Send Them Back’ stickers with ‘They’re Welcome Here’ ones. I was not actually attacked, however, because my uncle was a black-belt judo instructor. But remember that Smethwick was
once Oswald Mosley’s parliamentary constituency in the 1930s, and was the place where a victorious Tory candidate, Peter Griffiths, had ousted the sitting home secretary, Cyrille Regis on the field Labour’s Patrick Gordon Walker, as MP in 1964 using the slogan ‘if you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour’. So there was no strong local reason why Cyrille and Co would thrive at The Hawthorns. Full credit goes to the club management – especially 1950s Baggies idol and England centre-forward Ronnie Allen – for scouting Cyrille and Laurie, and then new manager Ron Atkinson for bringing in Brendon. Few black players were breaking through into top-flight football then. Those that did, such as West Ham’s Bermudan striker Clyde Best, were regularly showered with bananas when they took the field. Anti-racist activist Leroy Rosenior has spoken of how his family never went to see him play again after his QPR debut in 1985, where home supporters sitting next to them spat racist shit throughout the match at him. But Cyrille helped turn that around by force of his skill and personality. He was infamously sent a bullet in the post when picked for England, which he turned into another motivation to play better. Cyrille; The Specials, The Beat and UB40 in local music; Lenny Henry on TV and stand-up; Rock Against Racism in music nationally; the Anti-Nazi League in politics all shaped me and millions like me as proud anti-racists to this day. In Latin grammar regis is the genitive form of the word for king – rex. He certainly was king of The Hawthorns. Thanks Cyrille. Loved you. * West Bromwich Albion FC