In addition to the BNP, supporters of the National Front (NF) and other fascist organisations have gathered in the area bringing their racist filth with them. At least we can be thankful that the NF were prevented from holding a march in the town which would have been a calculated insult to all the people of Oldham.
Despite this correct decision by the local police, the fascists' provocations have not been stopped. There have been reports of deliberate damage to Asian shops and premises and many accounts of racist abuse being hurled at Asian residents.
It's not hard to understand the very real concerns of the Asian community in Oldham. People of Pakistani and Indian origin only account for around 12 per cent of the population in Oldham West and Royton and just four per cent of the population in Oldham East and Saddleworth.
For this minority to find groups of neo-nazi racists loitering around the town and to learn that one of the candidates is the national leader of the BNP is undoubtedly cause for concern. The police, whatever their intentions, did not inspire confidence and failed to demonstrate clearly and quickly that they would protect the Asian community wherever necessary.
The fascists meanwhile were clearly hoping to exploit an incident of a few weeks ago in which an elderly white man was badly beaten by some Asian youngsters. This act of thuggery should certainly be condemned. And it was immediately condemned, including by the local leaders of the Asian community.
Not surprisingly the incident was splashed across the national press -- a flood of prominent coverage rarely given to the dozens of serious assaults and cases of harassment meted out to black and Asian people up and down the country.
What is also abundantly clear from all of this is the profoundly anti-working class nature of the far right and fascist organisations. They claim to care about the many economic and social problems experienced by the white working class, but in reality they serve the interests of the most backward sections of the rich ruling class and offer nothing but working class disunity and strife.
They hinder progress for the whole working class by denying the fact that no ethnic group has a monopoly on hardship and denying the fact that advance can only come about if people stand in struggle together as a class.
Like so many towns, especially in the north of England, Oldham suffers from high unemployment -- running at around 9.5 per cent in the East of the town and 11.5 per cent in the West. This is not the fault of the Asian or the white community -- it is the bitter fruit of capitalism, the root cause of the long period of decline in Britain's manufacturing industry.
Those who peddle racism aim to focus attention away from the real problems people face. They help to conceal the real enemies of the working class and divert people's frustration and anger at innocent minorities living around the corner.
Racism and fascism are poison to our class and have to be defeated everywhere. It is vital that fascist and racist organisations are trounced at the election. The surest way to administer the order of the boot is to VOTE LABOUR in every constituency and speak out against racism wherever it raises its ugly head!
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by Caroline Colebrook
LABOUR seems set to win next Thursday's general election with a good majority, but there is great danger in taking things for granted -- the disastrous result of the 1992 election proved this.
The Tories, in the run-up to the election, have seemed unable to put a foot right.
They have promised to cut taxes -- mainly for the rich -- only to have their sums pulled apart and shown to be hopelessly unrealistic.
They have tried to play the race card and it has rebounded in their face. A recent ICM poll found that the majority of voters are happy to welcome economic migrants, including those who are unskilled, because of the economic contribution they make when they get here.
And in skill shortage areas economic migrants are regarded as essential. Most people want a legal channel to be opened for controlled numbers of economic migrants.
The Tories' promises to pensioners are all related to cutting taxes and will do nothing for the poorest pensioners.
Labour is making all sorts of promises on pensions except the one that pensioners want -- the restoration on the link between earnings and pensions.
But though they pretend to turn a deaf ear, the Labour leaders are hearing the pensioners' campaign loud and clear.
Chancellor Gordon Brown is promising to link the minimum income guarantee -- a means tested top-up on the basic pension for the most hard up -- to average earnings.
what they want
This is not what the pensioners want -- they want to do away with humiliating means tests -- but it indicates that Gordon Brown has their demands very much in mind.
Many workers may feel the Labour government has not fulfilled their hopes and expectations, but some real reforms have been wrung from the bourgeois state under this Labour government.
Scotland and Wales have achieved important measures of devolution. The hereditary peers have lost their ancient grip on the House of Lords.
The peace process in the north of Ireland has not run smoothly or fairly but it does exist and the republican communities do now have some level of representation in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
There is a long way to go but there is at least movement.
On racism, the police force in Oldham has demonstrated that it has failed to get to grips with the McPherson report recommendations.
But some of its severest critics on this are other police forces and without a Labour government there would not be a McPherson report.
The right-wing Labour leadership is facing growing popular opposition to further privatisations, especially the London Underground, and support is mounting for the renationalisation of our utilities, especially rail.
Full trade union rights have not been restored but the right to membership and recognition are now law -- unthinkable under the Tories. And trade union membership is starting to grow again.
Trade union militancy is also growing as some major unions have shown a marked shift to the left in their choice of leadership.
It is this shift within the organised labour movement that will put the necessary pressure to wring more reforms for the working class from a Labour government.
This could not happen under a Tory government.
This is the best deal that can be had from a bourgeois election and it is worth having. And to secure even small advances for the workers will take more than just voting.
Pressure must be mounted through growing campaigns and through stronger working class organisation and unity.
And this of course is a vital prerequisite for bringing about a real change -- a socialist revolution and the installation of a workers' state.
In the meantime, bothering to vote is the very least we can do.
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by Renee Sams
OVER 2,000 people attended the funeral service for Shiblu Rahman last Sunday in Stepney, east London and more than 1,00O followed his coffin all the way to Newham where he was laid to rest in Woodgrange Cemetery.
Shiblu Rahman was stabbed to death outside his home in Bow, east London on 1 April.
He died of multiple stab wounds after a horrific l0-minute attack by four white racist thugs.
He managed to stagger to his home where his wife called the emergency services but it was too late. He died later in hospital.
Many organisations were represented among the mourners, including local trade unions, local churches, Tower Hamlets Borough councillors, a representative of the Greater London Authority, the Anti-Nazi League, the National Assembly Against Racism, the National Civil Rights Movement and the High Commissioner of Bangladesh.
Over the last 30 years there have been many racist attacks and murders in east London and the Asian community is asking the question: why have there been no convictions?
Evidence suggests that in many areas of Tower Hamlets, Asian communities are still living in fear of racist attacks.
On the estate where Shiblu was killed, there have been many incidents of arson attacks, blood being smeared on peoples homes and general harassment of Asian families.
The council and housing associations have proved slow to act on issues of racist harassment and all too often it is the victim who has to move rather than the racists.
Despite the McPherson inquiry, local people say that at ground level the situation is as bad as ever.
The Rahman family are organising a campaign to fight for justice for Shiblu and they are backed by the National Assembly Against Racism.
* At the spring conference of the National Civil Rights Movement held in Leicester the day before Shiblu's funeral, participants heard for the first lime that police now acknowledge a 300 per cent increase in racist attacks following certain speeches by Tory leaders.
NCRM chair Suresh Grover told the conference: "At this critical time in the election campaign we have seen a dramatic increase in racist attacks."
The campaign has been saturated with calls for help and advice from families and individuals suffering from racist harassment.
Suresh told the New Worker: "I am currently dealing with 45 family campaigns and in other areas of the country there are many more.
Participants al the conference also heard that in Devon and Cornwall there exists a disease more dangerous that foot and mouth. Racism, individual and institutional is rampant throughout the southwest.
Recent Home Office figures reveal a 358 per cent increase in racist incidents reported in this area the second highest in the country.
An Observer special national feature reported that racist attacks are ten times more likely to take place in rural as opposed to urban areas.
That makes the tourist area one of the most dangerous areas for isolated blacks and Asians to live.
There is serious under-reporting of race hate crime as immigrants and even some ethnic minority people born here have a grave distrust of the police.
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THE CYPRIOT Communist Party AKEL has come out victor in the island's general elec tions beating the ruling Democratic Rally (DISY) by a neck.
The fiercely contested poll a turnout of nearly 92 per cent gave the communist party its best result in 75 years. AKEL, the Progressive Party of the Working People, garnered 34.71 per cent of the vote. The Democratic Rally was close behind with 34.1 per cent.
This leaves AKEL biggest single party in the Nicosia parliament with 20 seats. The Democratic Rally retains 19. The Democratic Party won nine, the Movement of Social Democrats got four and the United Democrats one - all down one seat from the previous parliament. Three new parties, New Horizons, the Fighting Democratic Movement and the Ecologists, entered parliament for the first time winning a seat each in the 56-strong House of Representatives.
The Democratic Rally's government has been under fire for years -- blamed for the stock exchange crash amid accusations of insider dealing by ministers.
Government ministers have been accused of nepotism and graft particularly in the building industry and the public as a whole is angry at the staggering rise in crime, shown by the almost nightly bomb blasts and arson attacks and the alarming increase in drugs and prostitution.
The first task of the new parliament, which meets on 7 June, is to prepare legislation for the divided island's entry into the European Union.
The growing support for the communists makes AKEL well placed to challenge President Glafcos Clerides when he comes up for re-election in 2003.
AKEL like most of the Cypriot parties supports joining the EU. Many Cypriots believe that EU membership will hasten the end of the Turkish occupation of the north. AKEL calls for a federal solution to the problem once the Turkish army goes and AKEL leader Demetris Christofias pointedly referred to the Turkish Cypriots as "compatriots" in his victory address.
This gesture of good-will was not returned by the puppet leader in northern Cyprus, Rauf Denktash, the veteran Turkish Cypriot politician who administers northern Cyprus on the back of the guns of the Turkish army, dismissed the results claiming they showed that "Greek Cypriots have no intention of finding a solution" Denktash is bitterly opposed to Cyprus's entry into the EU without a settlement as it would further isolate his "repubiic of northern Cyprus" which is recognised only by Turkey.
Turkish premier Rulent Ecevit was more circumspect. While not commenting on the elections directly he said Cyprus' admission to the EU without a "permanent solution" to the island's division would "create extremely negative" consequences.
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by Steve Lawton
"THEY can make history," Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams MP said on the eve of launching the Party's election manifesto last week, amid confidence that it will increase public support and consolidate earlier successes.
Contesting local and British Parliamentary seats in the occupied Six Counties of the north of Ireland for the first time, it has put up candidates for all 18 constituencies.
Gerry Adams said: "A stronger Sinn Fein mandate in this election will strengthen the peace process and strengthen our ability in the June negotiations to secure a decent, civic policing service, real progress on demilitarisation and progress on implementing the Good Friday Agreement."
The manifesto surveys the path of change that has gripped all of Ireland and, at a number of stages, the British political scene in recent years.
As the persistent failure to uproot the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and advance British military disengagement remains an aggravation to a durable resolution of conflict, a reelected Labour Government will be found under the spotlight again.
The manifesto clearly targets this problem, which the Ulster Unionist Party threatens to deepen, as the priority ahead. But it does not overshadow the overall leap that has been made by the last six to seven years of republican and nationalist pressure, at great risk and with loss of life, to bring British military occupation, unionist domination and loyalist terror to an end.
Declaring that Sinn Fein has been "in the front line" of demands for demilitarisation, policing change, fair criminaljustice and human rights, the manifesto said: "We have honoured every commitment made under the Good Friday Agreement and we now demand that others do likewise."
The Irish Republican Army's ceasefire, above all, has made this prospect possible, but its patience is being sorely tested by the antics of unionism which the British government must reign in.
Sinn Fein, increasingly in tune with grassroots demands and to an extent across communities, is concerned that the peace process should open the door to social and economic change benefiting working people as a whole. The manifesto points out that Catholic males are two times more likely than Protestant males to be unemployed, while Catholics constitute 70 per cent of long term unemployed.
The manifesto makes it clear at the outset that as the only all-Ireland party, the aim is to achieve a united Ireland based on a practical atmosphere of peace, justice and equality.
To that end, Sinn Fein specifically calls for the right of Six County-elected MPs to attend proceedings of the Irish Parliament where Sinn Fein currently has one MP, and for all of Ireland's citizens to have the right to vote in referendums and presidential elections currently denied to the north.
Advancing this all-Ireland cooperation strategy, the manifesto said David Trimble, leader of the UUP and Assembly first minister, must "bring an end to [his] unlawful actions" -- that is, the blocking of two Sinn Fein ministers from the cross-border ministerial council.
He has also threated to resign as first minister on 1 July as we go to press, unless the IRA hand over its weapons. In fact, it has responsibly engaged the relevant decommissioning body as it itself long ago acknowledged.
Such provocations during the marching season will have given succour to loyalist gangs who, yet again, have launched mob assaults, arson attacks and gun raids on Catholic homes and buildings in republican and nationalist areas of Belfast in particular.
Residents and activists accuse the RUC of inaction and complicity which is why Sinn Fein insists the British government must change the policing legislation.
The manifesto makes four points about policing: "It does not give us common ownership of policing for all; it does not remove the unionist ethos and emblems; it does not provide for real democratic accountability; it does not provide for the mechanisms to identify and expel the torturers and abusers of human rights." And Sinn Fein demands the shutdown of the Special Branch.
Sinn Fein local and Parliamentary candidates, election agents and workers are being targeted by loyalists. Some have been assaulted, and death threats against leading Sinn Feiners, like their South Antrim candidate Martin Meehan and his family, have regularly been made. Two of his sons were recently on the receiving end of loyalist gun attacks in their homes.
Michelle Gildenew, who set up Sinn Fein's London office and is the candidate in the key Fermanagh/South Tyrone seat, said she will not be intimidated by the wrecking of their election offices (including the Bobby Sands memorial) in Enniskillen.
"There are reactionary forces at work here," she told Republican News (24 May), "that are running scared of a Sinn Fein victory, a victory that is looking more likely with every passing day."
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