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Oldham Youth Resist Racist Provocation
YOUTH AGAINST Racism in Europe (YRE) supporters went into the Glodwick area of Oldham on Sunday to show our support for the community but also to find out the truth about what was happening.
Local people told us that the spark that triggered the explosion on Saturday afternoon was an attack from National Front (NF) supporters on Asian women and children in the area.
"We phoned the police but they weren't coming, so we had to defend ourselves", was what everybody told us. But while not being able to defend its citizens from fascist attack, the Manchester police proved capable of sending in riot squads to prevent further Asian self-defence from happening. The results were seen on our TV screens, with almost the entire community out on the streets. However, while community self-defence is entirely justifiable and was necessary, some of the acts done that night weren't.
"After the police attacked, it all got out of control and people were just attacking everything that was there", one youth told us. From another person we heard: "They smashed the windows of the local post office and looted it. The guy who owns it is a well-respected member of our community. Many people who live here are unemployed and had to get their money from this office. Now they'll have to go all the way into town to get it. This is just not good".
"Of course", he went on to say, "I was out there until 5am. My kids were out there as well".
While virtually the entire community was on the streets, others were concerned about their careers. Asked about how to go on after the riots, someone told us: "The first thing that should happen is that some of the community leaders should be fired. They are just after money and good jobs. When a TV camera is there, they come out and give nice statements, but they are out of touch with the rest of the community".
This view was shared by most of the other people we spoke to. When an Asian Oldham Labour councillor turned up in his limousine, some youth took delight in kicking his car. The councillor also only stayed for a few seconds and then moved back to safety.
YRE members stayed for the entire afternoon and into the evening. Discussing with local people we highlighted the positive aspects of what had happened.
Different parts of the Asian community were standing united for the first time against a common enemy. And the community had shown that it is able to defend itself against police racism and fascist provocations.
However, it would be a mistake to respond to the NF's war on Asians with indiscriminate attacks on whites. All Asian community members know about the bad social conditions in their areas and they know that it is their own leaders that have sold them out. But the same is the case in the white communities which face the same problems of poverty and unemployment.
Only working-class unity will be able to solve these problems. The police won't be of any help, nor will Labour or Liberal councillors. Their policies serve the rich who run this country.
Racism will only divert the common interest of the Asian and white communities in Oldham.
But the Oldham working class needs now to be united in struggle against the common foes of bureaucrats and poverty.
Asylum Hysteria Poisons Climate
TORY LEADER William Hague indignantly denied the charge that his inflammatory comments on asylum had helped to create the climate for the open racist attacks that took place in Oldham before the Asian youth responded.
Yet the 'asylum card', played by both Tory and Labour politicians, is only a thinly disguised variant of the 'race card', based on a similar mix of lies and scaremongerning
The 'bogus claims' of asylum-seekers, the Tories suggest, are revealed by the fact that most applications (about two-thirds) are turned down. In many cases, this is for utterly bureaucratic reasons, such as 'non-compliance' with application procedures. Applicants have to fill in a 19-page form in English, without legal aid, within 14 days. In 1999, around 1,000 applications were rejected for 'non-compliance'; in 2000, over 26,000 (about a quarter of all applicants) were rejected for this reason.
Even when they have jumped all the hurdles, however, many genuine asylum-seekers are turned down. Recently, for instance, the Court of Appeal (17 May) over-ruled one of the Home Secretary's high-handed decisions. Straw had rejected the asylum requests of three Pakistanis on the grounds that Pakistan is on the Home Office's 'white list' of 'safe countries' despite being ruled by a vicious military dictatorship. The judges pronounced that Straw's decision was 'irrational'.
When in opposition, Straw himself denounced the 'white list' policy as 'designed to justify the unjustifiable'.
If they are not bogus, why do asylum-seekers use such 'devious' means to get into the country? The tabloids highlight cases of refugees hiding under trains, paying smugglers to carry them in small boats or conceal them in containers. Yet these desperate people are not trying to avoid discovery, as the papers imply, but are simply striving to get into the country so they can actually apply for asylum. Both Tory and Labour governments have put up so many legal and bureaucratic hurdles that it is now virtually impossible for people genuinely in need of asylum to enter Britain legally.
Feature: Asylum: Tories And Labour Play The Race Card
In The Socialist 5 December 2009: