Sunday 20 October 2013

A proud record of anti-racism

A much younger Martin marching against the BNP
Misplaced allegations from opponents are, perhaps, an inevitable part of an election campaign, and are often best ignored. However, now some opponents have questioned my record as an anti-racist, then I feel that I have to respond.

I should stress that this mud has not been thrown by the other candidates in the Vice-President election but by a prominent member of the Socialist Workers' Party from East London NUT who is also opposing my re-election onto the NUT National Executive from Inner London as well.

I attended a meeting last week to discuss the nomination process for the two Inner London seats on the National Executive which will be elected early in 2014. Since, if I am elected Vice-President this term, I would not then be contesting my existing seat on the National Executive next term, I had always understood that other candidates would wish to seek nominations for the Inner London seats for the 2014-16 elections. 

What was clear from the meeting was that, even if I am not successful in being elected as a National Officer, some others on the Left wish to challenge me for the National Executive seat. I respect the fact that, although it is unusual for a sitting member of the Executive to be challenged by others on the Left, other candidates have every right to stand against me. I have enough confidence in my record and standing in the Union to believe that I would be successfully re-elected to represent Inner London.  However, I would hope that my record would be honestly presented. 

Regrettably, at the meeting, a question was raised about my anti-racist credentials and particularly how, on June 1st, while others were demonstrating against the BNP and the English Defence League in Central London, I was supposedly "paddling my own canoe" in Lewisham. 

If such an accusation is being made to my face, then it concerns me what is being said behind my back! Let me try and put the record straight, using the articles on this blog which already fully explain why I was in Lewisham on June 1st and also explain the campaigning work that I and others in Lewisham Trades Council had carried out in the preceding days in response to the horrific murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich.

The posts that I made on May 24,, and on May 28, , show how we immediately responded to condemn the attack and also to condemn anyone who wanted to try and use the attack to divide our community. 

Working with those at the Lewisham Islamic Centre who were being directly threatened by the BNP, who had accused them of 'training' the men responsible for the murder, we quickly organised a 'unity rally' to take place on the next Saturday and alerted the police that there could be a sizeable turnout from the local community. I hope that this publicity helped persuade the Police to then ban the BNP from marching in South-East London as they had planned on June 1st.

As my later post makes clear that "while the LIC and NUT had felt able to call off our planned rally in the light of the ban on the BNP's march, leaving some of the protestors who would have rallied in Lewisham to travel to the Westminster counter-protests instead, three of us from Lewisham Trades Council kept our promise to provide protective stewarding outside the mosque, just in case of any attempted provocation from either the BNP or EDL". Indeed, to have left nobody looking out for any possible splinter groups attacking the Mosque would have been quite irresponsible.

The fact is that this is just one of a long record of anti-racist campaigns  that I have been involved in over decades. For example, other posts on this blog record marches against the EDL e.g and protests against far-right attacks e.g.

Long before blogs were even invented (!) I was involved in campaigns against racism, such as supporting educational materials produced by Youth Against Racism in Europe, and taking part in the successful campaign to make sure that the BNP's Headquarters in South-East London was closed down after the murder of Stephen Lawrence.

I also helped to lead one of the campaigns which I think that Lewisham NUT can still be most proud of, when, in 1998, we helped to make sure that the local community and trade union movement united in a show of strength to oppose the racist attack on Lewisham NUT member Alison Moore in the grounds of her primary school. Our campaign brought hundreds together to oppose racism in a mass rally in a local community centre and made sure that Alison had the confidence to return safely back to her place of work.

A video showing the campaign and with an interview I gave to London Tonight at the time is available here:

In conclusion, I am experienced enough to know that not everyone will agree with my views, and that elections give an opportunity to test out the support for those views amongst union members. However, I hope that anyone making allegations about my record as an anti-racist will think again before repeating them as part of the upcoming election campaigns.


bill j said...

These accusations are very disappointing Martin. I too attended the Lewisham Islamic Centre with you and around 50 others. This was very important given the direct threats made against the Centre by the BNP. I was very pleased to see the work you had done and I know it was very much appreciated in Lewisham.

Felicity said...

I've known Martin as an effective anti racist and anti fascist for many years.The only organisation we are both in is NUT.
Felicity Dowling Cheshire West NUT and Liverpool Anti Fascists