Tuesday, 29 May 2007

40th Anniversary of Occupation of West Bank, Gaza & East Jerusalem

MAKE A STAND - Say NO to occupation

Cardiff demonstration marking the 40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem calling for its' END

Tuesday 5 June at 5.30 pm
Aneurin Bevan Statue
Queens Street

With music, speakers and dance to raise awareness and call for the END of this brutal occupation.

If you are able to lend a PA system for use outdoors please email me.
If you want to travel with us to the big ENOUGH! occupation demonstration in London on Saturday 9 June, email flas6eeny@hotmail.com or eisoj@care2.com


Ghaith Nassar
Palestinian Solidarity Society
Cardiff University

RESPECT is proud to be the only political party in the UK that has a commitment to opposing apartheid Israel and support for the people of Palestine in its' founding statement and constitution

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Lessons from the Past - The Asian Youth Movement

This election saw the biggest ever attempt by the fascists to gain a foothold in Wales. Fortunately, they failed to get a single candidate elected. We reproduce, to start a debate on how we fight racism and fascism in Wales, this thoughtful article by Tariq Mehmood, written when the media and politicians united to condemn all those involved in the disturbances in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford, Tariq Mehmood asks us to learn from 1980s experiences of fighting racism and fascism -- and for black and white to defend their communities together.

Twenty years ago, on 11 July 1981, many British cities were ablaze with youthful rebellion. Then, as now, the fascists were out holding marches and meetings and creating mayhem in black areas. Unlike their present showing in general elections, then they were trounced.

The media -- joined by an assortment of odds and sods presented as "community leaders" -- then as now in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford, condemned the Asian youth of the 1980s as the perpetrators of criminal activity and "mindless thugs", bent on wanton destruction. Some of the middle-aged "community leaders" today, including MPs such as Marsha Singh, were themselves youths at that time, and were engaged in activities not dissimilar to those they are condemning today. I went on many a demonstration with Marsha Singh, chanting "Labour-Tory both the same -- both play the racist game!"

Bradford city has always had a proud history of resistance to racist and fascist provocation. There are uncanny similarities between the present situation in northern England and the conditions 20 years ago, which led to myself and 11 other Asian youths being arrested and imprisoned on charges of conspiracy and possession of explosive substances. In the mid-1970s, the fascists threatened to march through Manningham. Thousands of people in Bradford demonstrated peacefully and ended up in a rally in the city centre. Unlike now, the police then tried to keep the youths in the city centre, so that the fascists could have their rally in the heart of Manningham. The youths broke through the police lines and rushed up Lumb Lane to defend Manningham from fascism. There then ensued terrible violence in which the police fought pitched battles against the youths.

The youth of that time was forced to learn there was no other course than self-organisation. But in order to organise, we had to learn about the nature of the enemy we were organising against. We were forced to try to understand what racism was.

We knew of its devastating effects in our own lives. Our parents worked in dirty run-down mills, we lived in ghettos and had few prospects in front of us. White gangs were attacking us, but why? At school we were embroiled in battles against racist youth and racism within the educational system. But what was racism and from where did it spring?

We came to understand racism was an ideology used in various ways to portray us -- that is, black people -- as sub-human. Sometimes it was used to divide us as workers in the factories and mills, sometimes racism meant we became a political football, kicked about by both Labour and the Tories. There were many expressions of racism in our day-to-day existence. We began to understand that it had a base in history and did not arise simply because we were now here in this country.

We began to ask why had we come into this country in the first place? This led us to our own histories. We learnt that contrary to what the history books had taught us, the British came to India and Africa not primarily on humanitarian missions, but to rob and pillage. This was the major cause of the poverty of our countries of origin. It is here we learnt of capitalism as a system, and racism as an ideology that had developed, changing with the changing times to the present era in which we came of youthful age in Bradford. And it was now being used by neo-fascist organisations.

Following the riots of 1976, Bradford's Asian youth formed themselves into the Asian Youth Movement (AYM). The AYM then spent many years in not only helping young people organise, but also building unity among wider sections of the population. It united with all manner of oppressed layers of British society. One of the alarming developments of the present situation in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham is that there has been a dearth of organised progressive voices.

In the 1970s and 1980s there was a broad abhorrence of fascism in the British populace.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of anti-fascists always met just a handful of fascists whenever they showed themselves. I was in my mid-twenties and had learnt through bitter street experience that the major problem was not the fascist gangs, but racism, the oxygen that fascism needed to feed on. I grew up in Bradford, and was quickly forced to learn, even at school -- especially in view of the terrible racist violence of the playground and the journeys to and from school -- that black minorities in this country had no choice but to organise to defend themselves, and then seek alliances with progressive white people.

We saw black and white as political colours. While trying to forge unity among Afro-Asian youth, at the same time we actively encouraged white youth to work with us, as we believed the necessity of uniting all people against common enemies. Racism, we believed, was a common enemy not only of black people, but of all people. But we also believed that our primary task was to organise ourselves, as we were the direct targets of racist and fascist gangs.

The youth of today need to look to their immediate histories, as we did in our time, and learn from the experiences of those who had organised before us. In the late 1970's, Asian youth formed organisations in almost all the cities in which they lived. I was involved in the formation and activities of a number of these organisations, in places such as the East End, Southall, Birmingham and Bradford. The objective of the youth then was not in fighting against white people, but against racism. The fight was born out of poverty and degradation, of being effectively imprisoned in the inner-city ghetto, with no apparent hope of escape. We too were faced with similar situations, and had no choice but to come together and organise. When we organised we became stronger. By uniting ourselves, we were gaining a public voice. We developed systems in which we could quickly mobilise to defend people under physical attack, while at the same time challenging publications in the media that tried to denigrate our communities or organisations.

When people begin to organise, the state agencies do not just sit by as idle observers. It is not in their interest to allow the independent development of militant organisations.

Following the rebellion of 1981, the state moved quickly to buy off the leadership of the emerging youth movements. We were offered youth workers. We argued that we did not want youth workers but work. The most active and effective time of these youth organisations was when we funded our activities from the money we raised ourselves. As soon as we applied for funding and received it, our organisations began to decay and eventually die. By getting money from state institutions, we became answerable to them. As soon as they controlled our purse strings they controlled us. The lesson from that time is that people's organisations must be responsible only to the people.

Even though the gangs that attacked us in the mid-1980s were coming from run-down white working-class neighbourhoods, we believed that without white workers and progressive white people coming out against racism, we stood no chance. Unlike now, 20 years earlier, especially in towns like Burnley, there were many popular organisations all fighting for their particular demands, such as trade unions, left organisations, tenants associations, women's organisations and even Labour Party members, who took part in anti-racist activities. Those who fight for their own rights learn the meaning of the suffering of others and can see the logic in forging unity.

Situations like this create the conditions for the building of effective anti-racist unity. Following racist violence, our areas became flooded with well-meaning white comrades from different white left organisations. They wanted to organise against racism and pick up a few members along the way. We pleaded with them to go and organise in white areas where the racists live and people are in need of education and organisation.

Progressive and anti-racist white people should look for the rise in racism not in black but white ghettos. It is in the deprived white areas where the far-right is gaining strength.

On 11 July 1981, police fought pitched battles with youth in numerous British cities. For nearly two weeks before this day, there were sporadic flare-ups with racist and fascist gangs and/or police officers raiding black communities. People of Bradford, especially young people, decided not to place their faith in the hands of the police and organise the defence of their different localities. We were confronted with the questions: what is defence? What is legitimate in one's self-defence?

In those days, just like today, racist and fascist gangs were attacking us with all manner of weapons, including petrol bombs. We decided that it was our right to defend our communities, and ourselves by arming ourselves with petrol bombs. We built some and kept them hidden for safekeeping.

However, the main focal point of our activities was in the mobilisation and organisation of the broadest possible numbers of people. We divided into groups, often of hundreds of people, and spent the day patrolling our streets. Echoing their actions of 7 July 2001, two decades earlier the police had advised people to stay indoors as well. In view of our history of the mid-1970s, and the actions of the police towards our communities, we did not trust them to defend us. We made a call for people to come out. And they did come out in their hundreds. Wherever we went, people came out and offered us drinks and sweetmeats. A few fascists did show up in the town centre but these were seen off by mostly white youth.

The evening came. We went to the city centre. There was no fascist invasion. A few bored police officers got involved in a skirmish with some white youths. I was arrested in the confusion that followed this. The petrol bombs were not used.

A few weeks later we were charged on terrorist charges and imprisoned. Our arrest was met by a massive sense of outrage by Bradford's community. The Bradford 12 Defence Campaign brought thousands of people, from right across the country, out on to the streets to defend the right to self-defence.

The police and the courts argued that petrol bombs could not be used as weapons of self-defence. We maintained that it was our right to arm ourselves as we were faced with attackers who were similarly armed. After a nine-week trial, we were all acquitted. The lesson from that trial is that people under attack have the right in law to defend themselves appropriately. The most important components of defence are community-based organisations, clear in their aims and objectives. These must be responsible to the people they are defending. And without organisations, we are defenceless.

The present situation in Bradford and other northern towns is not born out of something unique in these cities. The fundamental causes of violence are not the questions of the colour of skin, but poverty and a feeling of helplessness. Hope can only be found in organising and in uniting with principled anti-racist and anti-imperialist forces.

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Your RESPECT Candidates - Vote RESPECT tomorrow!

KAREN TYRE - South Wales Central

A lifelong socialist, Karen has been active in many campaigns against war, sexism, racism & privatisation from the anti-poll tax movement to the Stop the War Coalition. Karen is a UNISON rep for the Vale of Glamorgan Social Services workers who has played a key role in fighting against staff cuts and attacks on public services.

Karen says:

One of the crucial issues for me as a union rep is linking up the RESPECT campaign with the issues of the public sector wage freeze and the assault on public services. Resistance to these was seen yesterday on May Day, when civil service workers went on strike and other trade unionists held protests.

I organised at work for us to show solidarity with civil service workers on that day and collected money to donate to the PCS strike fund.

People are really hungry for an alternative to the major parties and RESPECT is that alternative. We want to lay down roots in this campaign.

PAUL LYNCH - South Wales West

I'm 40 in August. I was born and raised in Swansea. After leaving school I served a four year apprenticeship to become a carpenter and joiner, and at the age of 30 I studied social sciences part-time.

In 2000 I was diagnosed with ME/CFS. I was virtually housebound for two years but I have been slowly recovering over the last three years.

Whereas going to an anti-war demo was a major achievement just a few years ago, I now chair the very successful Swansea Defend Council Housing campaign which recently saw 72.1% of tenants in Swansea vote a resounding 'NO' to housing stock transfer.

I have also been a campaigner for disabled people since 2001.

I am a traditional Labour voter, except, like millions of others in this country, I can't vote Labour anymore because they have gone over to the right.

I was strongly opposed to Blair's wars even before they started, so I became involved with Stop the War Coalition. I also want to defend our public services from Gordon Brown and that's why I became chairman of Swansea Defend Council Housing and have pledged to continue campaigning to defend our public services.

I am also proud to be a member of Unite Against Fascism.

AHMED AL-JEFFREY - South Wales West

Ahmed has lived in Swansea for the past 14 years and has been one of the most active anti-war campaigners ever since 2001.

A musician and MC, and student at Swansea University, Ahmed recently came second in the elections for Student Union President fighting the election on an incredibly political and progressive platform for RESPECT.

He has played a key role in bringing Swansea's Muslim community closer to the movement and the RESPECT campaign

We won a minimum wage - Now we need to fight for a living wage

Many RESPECT activists & elected representatives are signatories to this petition - why not add your name?


I am an activist and a public sector worker from Merseyside. I am running a petition on the 10 Downing Street website in support of a living wage, which has 380 signatures so far. Please can you take a minute to read my e-mail and if you wish to sign, click on the link below and fill in your personal details.

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to take steps to replace the national minimum wage with a living wage based on the level of pay and conditions that enables a full-time worker to make ends meet for themselves and their family. Official regional living wage figures should be announced such as the one given by Mayor Livingstone for London (and increased by the GLA in April 2007 to £7.20 an hour).

I have also now started a blog to run alongside it, which will be regularly updated and expanded over the coming months, with useful information including what the living wage campaign is about, who supports it, and details of recents news stories and events :

The information below is copied from my blogsite :

Why a living wage?

The national minimum wage does not allow many workers to escape poverty. The Low Pay Commission do not take into account peoples actual needs in setting the NMW. In the UK 4¼ million adults aged 22 to retirement were paid less than £6.50 per hour in 2006. Two thirds of these were women and a half were part-time workers. A living wage could ensure that no workers receive poverty pay or have to rely on benefits, and could allow contract workers to lay claim to the same pay and conditions as staff directly employed by government and local councils.

Some would say that a living wage would actually harm poor people by losing vital jobs. This is exactly the same argument that was trotted out innumerable times against the introduction of the NMW. And what was the effect of the NMW ? According to the government's own evidence last year to the Low Pay Commission, "UK academic research to date has not found any firm evidence that the adult minimum wage has reduced employment rates or raised unemployment; this is consistent with the available international evidence."

Why now?

In the USA since 1994, over 120 city and state governments have passed living wage ordinances following pressure from local campaigners. Living wage campaigns have raised levels of pay and provided benefits like health care for thousands of workers. Studies there have shown that the living wage has had no significant adverse impact on jobs, business or the economy.

Following pressure from campaigners, London mayor Ken Livingstone has given his backing to a living wage in London. A living wage unit has been set up in City Hall, through which figures for the London living wage are calculated and published. Implementation has so far proved a thornier problem, but the publication of the figures has already started to change the pay bargaining landscape. It follows on some notable victories for low paid workers, in particular cleaners in East London Hospitals and cleaners in Canary Wharf and the City of London, thousands of whom have secured a living wage. Last year QMUL became the UK's first first living wage campus :

The college council committed itself to making Queen Mary the first "living wage campus" in the UK. This means no one will be paid less than a living wage (currently set at £6.70 an hour), or receive fewer than 28 days' holiday and 10 days' sick pay. Crucially, the change includes all staff on campus, not just those directly employed by the university. Queen Mary's cleaning staff are going to get a rise.
For Christine Martin, cleaning supervisor at Queen Mary for 12 years, the living wage will make a huge difference. Martin is employed by the university's cleaning contractors, KGB, and receives £5.20 an hour - the £5.05 minimum wage plus a pitiful 15 pence an hour as supervisor. "It is difficult to survive in London on this kind of money. Sometimes you think you might as well not work for what you earn," she says. "I do a second job and have to claim housing benefit just to make ends meet, so the living wage really has given me something to look forward to."
Guardian April 11, 2006

London's problems are not unique. Everywhere you go around the country, there is poverty pay, and there is a need for a living wage. A living wage in every region in the UK would be a huge boost to millions of low paid workers.

Jean Lambert (Green Party MEP) said in support of my petition

British people work some of the longest hours in Europe yet 7 out of 10 people working over 48 hours per week say they would like to work fewer hours. For many however this is impossible as they simply cannnot afford to do so. It is currently possible for someone to work more than 60 hours a week and still be paid less than £11,000 per year. The number of people living below the poverty line in the UK is higher than the EU average and continues to increase. The long hours culture is endangering our health and acting as a detriment to our family life. We can't have a culture that says you can not rest. We need a national living wage immediately to ensure this changes and everyone can make ends meet without working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Labour Party councillor Richard Bertin (Vale of Glamorgan) added these comments

Yes we have now thankfully got the minimum wage, and yes it is helping thousands of low paid workers. But with the economy doing so well there are repercussions one of which is the rising house prices. Unfortunately, the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow and this needs to be addressed now ! - How ? By rightly establishing a national living wage to ensure that we improve the lives of those on low pay and also do our bit to remove poverty from the 4th largest economy on the world - Great Britain. We need a living wage and we need it now!

Thanks for your time

Nick Wall