A Yorkshire trade union rep’s viewpoint
4 articles from The Socialist
London bombings – Workers maintain class unity
When I read newspaper stories of the arrests in West Yorkshire, I realised that the Dewsbury bomber was the son in law of Farida, a Unison member I visited only three weeks ago.
I knew that she’d be devastated. Farida, a community worker attached to Birkdale High School in Dewsbury, is a well-known and dedicated worker who helped hundreds of young people and their families. She is an extremely popular member of staff and the wider community. I visited her last month because she has been off work with angina for a while.
I rang the school and spoke to the steward. Word had already got out. I explained the need for discipline, things would get tough in the workplace. I also rang the head teacher and offered the union’s help in dealing with any difficulties.
Unison has a very strong membership after our campaigning helped to keep the school open and we have a lot of respect there.
Later, Farida rang me. She was distraught. She knew nothing of her son in law’s plans. Her health was not good; she had been forced to flee her house and her car was impounded. She was terrified of the BNP who live up the road from her. She wanted to clear her name – could the union help?
We offered legal and welfare assistance, but the family and community had already got that organised. She asked me to attend a community meeting that evening to discuss the bombings.
I passed through two police cordons on the way. There are bomb scares every day. The meeting was made up of religious, community, police and political leaders. There were appeals for calm and sympathy.
The local MP said we could not talk of ’causal links’ with Iraq, these were bad people who the Muslim community must actively seek out and report to the police.
If young people come out with inappropriate remarks, their mothers should clip them around the ear! Implicit in this was blaming the Muslim community for the bombings.
At Birkdale School the press are offering money to staff and pupils for stories about Farida. I was proud of the union steward who sent them away. He was concerned about Muslim pupils becoming uptight at the way Farida was dragged into this. There is a real danger of a backlash developing.
Then news broke that the fourth bomber is from Huddersfield. He attended the school – Rawthorpe – where I have worked for nine years! He left two years ago. Jermaine was an A star student who converted to the Muslim faith when he was 14.
The press switched their attention to Rawthorpe, offering students money for stories and photos. In this poor, run-down estate there have been plenty of takers.
The staff has had to endure 18 months in ’special measures’ for schools with problems imposed by government inspection unit Ofsted. Unison is fighting to save the jobs of seven support staff who were unfairly dismissed.
They need this problem like a hole in the head.
This is a mixed-race school with a majority of white students. There is a much bigger fear of a backlash from either parents or pupils against the minority Muslim population.
More union meetings are planned to counter any threat of racism. Whilst there is tension in the air, events have not yet sunk in. Most people are in shock or confused.
Our public activity against war and terrorism has been successful. People are not stupid. They see the link between Blair’s war and the terror attacks.
This mood will soon turn to anger. It is vital that this anger is channelled in the right direction. Racist and fascist forces are only too ready to exploit confusion.
The trade union leaders in particular have a big role to play in ensuring class unity prevails. At grass roots level, socialists can play a critical part in ensuring racism does not take hold.
BNP fail to capitalise
Most Londoners will be relieved that the far-right British National Party (BNP) failed to capitalise on the 7 July attacks in the Becontree council by-election held just one week later.
Becontree is in the borough of Barking and Dagenham, where the BNP had some success, winning their first London seat since the early 1990s.
Some anti-fascist campaigners feared that after the bombings the BNP could make another break-through.
An election leaflet produced days after used a photo of the No. 30 bus destroyed at Russell Square with the caption "Now perhaps it’s time to listen to the BNP". They also tried to tap into anti-war sentiment by blaming Blair "for taking us into an illegal war".
On the day Labour’s Alok Agrawaz easily took the seat with 1171 (59.8%) with the BNP second on 378 (19.3%). Clearly nobody should be complacent. We need to keep answering the BNP’s lies.
And we are still saddled with a Labour council which offers nothing to working people but more years of cuts, privatisation and attacks on working conditions.
Blair’s 2003 warning
The condemnation and analysis of the bombing by the socialist was spot on.
Having overseen mass murder in Iraq, it is nauseating to see Blair and Bush cry crocodile tears over the victims of the monstrous atrocities in London.
The victims’ relatives want answers and the public want protection. Who is responsible for the creation of the perpetrators of this mass murder?
Blair and his cronies were warned as to the consequences of invading Iraq.
"Next time a large bomb goes off in a western city, how far did this policy (Iraq) contribute to it?"
That was not the quote of a ’leftie’ or a ’liberal wimp,’ that was leading Tory Kenneth Clarke speaking in the Commons on 27 February 2003, shortly after two million people demonstrated against the war.
Blair chose to ignore that message and the consequences are being suffered in the most appalling way by innocent people on their way to work.
"You feel people staring at you"
Kedara (not her real name),a young Somali woman living in London, attended the Trafalgar Square rally on 14 July and the London Socialist Party meeting.
She told the socialist about feelings in her community.
"Since the bombings, many Somalis have felt too frightened to go out alone. It’s hard to carry out your normal routine. You feel people are staring at you as if you might be a terrorist.
"One friend of mine has had youth knocking on her door at night ever since that terrible day. She’s heard her neighbour’s son saying: ’Al-Qa’ida are living here’. She won’t let her children play outside any more. What will she do now the school holidays are coming? She can’t keep them inside 24 hours a day!
"Bin Laden is a rich man and a brainwasher. Al-Qa’ida are merciless, slaughtering children. Islam is a religion which teaches unity, not hatred and killing. If they want to fight, they should fight the leaders not the people. But bin Laden was financed by the Americans to start with. They don’t represent the interests of ordinary Muslim people.
"They take advantage of young people who have no hope for life but are promised paradise after death. Youth know the discrimination we face, not getting a job as soon as employers simply hear your accent, or see you have a Muslim name. They see politicians like Blair breaking their promises, some hope perhaps that maybe the terrorists will keep theirs.
"These people preach revenge for Muslim brothers and sisters in Kashmir and Chechnya, Iraq and Fallujah. Of course that makes people listen. Blair and Bush should get the troops out and leave Iraqi people to sort out their own problems.
"I was pleased to see so many people in Trafalgar Square calling for unity and the Socialist Party campaigning against terror and against war. We must offer hope for all working people and fight for better conditions together."
From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales