Friday, 24 May 2013

Woolwich - stand together against all those who want to divide us

It's been a difficult few days in South-East London.

It was only while I stood near my home in Sydenham with other trade unionists on Wednesday evening, as part of a lively and united protest against fire service cuts, that it was confirmed that the news from Woolwich wasn't just reporting another tragic London murder story. 

As it soon became clear, this was a barbaric attack which would be seized upon by all those reactionary elements who want to use prejudice and hatred to try and divide communities. By that evening, the EDL were already parading through the middle of Woolwich. 

Schools, of course, have continued, as ever, to educate our young people and to seek to keep our communities together against all those who would tear them apart. I sent a brief message of support to staff at Mulgrave School, where children had been frightened by the events unfolding nearby them on Wednesday.

It should be be remembered that people in South-East London have a proud tradition of uniting together against attempts to divide them. I was just one of the many Londoners who, along with my relatives and friends, took part in the mass demonstrations which helped to win the closure of the BNP's headquarters in nearby Welling.

I think that the statement issued by the Greenwich Socialist Party (posted in full on sums up the response of many local trade unionists and socialists to these tragic events. Here are some of its key points:

"The unprovoked, barbaric and vicious murder of an unarmed soldier in Woolwich  is a horrific event which must have been profoundly traumatic for the people who witnessed it, and, of course, an appalling tragedy for the victim, and the victim’s family and friends. Local residents showed incredible bravery in intervening to try and assist the victim.
The Socialist Party completely condemns this attack just as we condemned 7/7, 9/11, and all similar attacks aimed at indiscriminate slaughter.
The attackers apparently claimed to be acting in the name of Islam, and in protest at the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the vast majority of Muslims will be as sickened and horrified by this attack as the rest of the population. The brutal imperialist occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in the deaths of over one hundred thousand civilians, are not the responsibility of ordinary soldiers, but of the governments that took the decision to invade and then occupy.
Terrorism is a completely mistaken and counter-productive method of struggle. It was the mass terrorism of 9/11 which gave George Bush a ‘justification’ he could use to invade Afghanistan and then Iraq. 
One of the attackers in Woolwich called on the people of Britain to overthrow the government. It is the same government which continues the occupation of Afghanistan, that is carrying out terrible austerity measures on the working class of Britain. However, this brutal killing will be used by Cameron to try and bolster support for this incredibly unpopular, weak and divided government.
In the wake of this killing the racist thugs of the EDL have already cynically tried to use the event to whip up racism against all Muslims. From whatever section of society mistaken and damaging methods of struggle arise, the only way to combat them is for all working people – from all backgrounds - to unite to build a movement against racism, against terrorism, but also against the endless austerity of capitalism.

This is not the first time working class people in Greenwich have had to stand firm in the face of attempts to divide. Just a 2 minute walk up the same road is the Kings Arms pub which was bombed by the IRA in 1974. The community in Greenwich resisted those who tried to whip up anti-Irish hysteria at the time.
In 1993 Stephen Lawrence was murdered in Eltham just 20 minutes away. A mass campaign against racism was mobilised which resulted in the far-right BNP’s headquarters in Welling being shut down.
It is important now, more than ever, that working class people in Woolwich and the country as a whole remember that history of solidarity and struggle. We must stand united against any attempts to divide us in the wake of this tragic event"

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