by Caroline Colebrook
THE FIRE Brigades Union was the co-sponsor, along with Philosophy Football and Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, of a packed event in the Offside Bar in the City Road Islington designed to raise funding and awareness of the current massive campaign running in the capital to prevent the neo-Nazi British National Party from gaining enough votes to win a seat on the Greater London Assembly in the May local elections.
Entertainers included comedian Shappi Khorsandi and the grime theatre of Decypher Collective – four young men who presented a rap poem about the way capitalist production methods entrap young workers both physically and mentally. Top of the bill was singer Billy Bragg.
He performed a Woody Guthrie number from the early 1940s, telling fascists they were bound to lose and the Internationale. He was presented with a £2,000 cheque from the FBU towards his Jail Doors Guitars programme which tours Britain’s prisons, giving guitars to prisoners and teaching them to play them as a way of raising morale and rehabilitation.
The prisoners find it easy to connect with the history of blues music and the music of people like Guthrie and Johnny Cash.
Two films were shown, one of the 2007 Hope Not Hate Campaign as the campaign bus toured council estates all around the country where BNP candidates were standing, bringing entertainment, music and anti-fascist campaigning to working class people.
The other film, Who Shot the Sheriff? marked the 30th anniversary of the 1978 Rock Against Racism Carnival and explored the role of music in mobilising anti-fascists against the National Front in the 1970s. It also showed the longstanding links between the rock band The Clash, which played at that event, and the FBU. The Clash raised money for the FBU during a strike in 1978.
That carnival is to be remembered and repeated with a Love Music Hate Racism Carnival on Sunday 27th April in Victoria Park, east London.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack paid tribute to the thousands of volunteers and Searchlight regulars who have been working hard in recent week, distributing anti-BNP leaflets and the Hope Not Hate news sheet – Save the City we Love produced in conjunction with the Daily Mirror.
He and Billy Bragg both warned how plausible the BNP is becoming to some working class people who have been let down by the Labour government.
Billy Bragg is a native of Barking and reported that the BNP there are claiming to be “The Labour Party your mum and dad voted for” – taking up issues on the doorstep like housing, jobs and NHS cuts.
The BNP lies through its teeth and blames immigration for everything but both Bragg and Wrack emphasised the need to rebuild the Left, to take up these issues and fight for all working people as the best way of destroying BNP credibility.
Thousands of young trade unionists are becoming involved in leafleting and campaigning against the BNP – many who would think twice about campaigning for New Labour.
The civil service union PCS is a major sponsor of the coming Love Music Hate Racism Carnival, which aims to inspire another mass movement against racism and fascism and to mobilise a vote against racism in the Greater London Assembly and local council elections taking place a few days later.
PCS paid tribute to the group of political activists who got together 30 years ago with a group of musicians to form Rock Against Racism.
It was a movement formed in reaction to rising xenophobia and racism fuelled by Nazi organisations such as the National Front.
Bands including The Clash, Steel Pulse and the Tom Robinson Band helped create a political movement among music fans – the most memorable event being the Rock Against Racism “Carnival against the Nazis” in April 1978. beginning
A huge rally of 100,000 people marched the six miles from Trafalgar Square through London’s East End – the heart of National Front territory – to a concert in Victoria Park. The concert and march spelled the beginning of the end for the NF in the face of a young and diverse mass movement.
PCS is proud to support the “Love Music Hate Racism Carnival 2008 – Rock Against Racism 30th Anniversary”. The Carnival will see a diverse range of musicians uniting against racism and fascism. A lively carnival procession will also take place through London beforehand.
Acts confirmed so far include: Babyshambles RAR Allstars featuring Very Special Guests Jerry Dammers and Roll Deep, The Paddingtons and many more.
Billy Bragg will be there of course – as he was 30 years ago, a member of the massive audience at the event that politicised his career.
Speakers will include PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, Tony Benn, Derek Simpson (Unite), Weyman Bennett (LMHR) and Gemma Tumelty (NUS).
The public sector union Unison is also getting involved in combating the BNP threat encouraging people to vote as the surest way of seeing off the fascist organisation and stop it spreading its politics of hate.
Last year, the union played a key part in preventing a BNP breakthrough. It proves that local action works. But, the union says, there is no room for complacency.
The BNP currently enjoys the highest levels of support for a fascist party in British history. Doing nothing is not an option.
Unison branches and regions are working alongside other trade unions, local political parties and community groups to prevent the BNP making any electoral gains this year.
The London Hope Not Hate campaign is looking for volunteers on Tuesday 30th April to help with leafleting at every London Tube station. Anyone wishing to help should contact the campaign at www.hopenothate.org.uk and give details of which Tube station they would prefer to cover.