News - February 2001


24th February 2001

Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action

The dust seems to have settled after the departure of the Edwards' from the BNP. While they join with the Bloomsbury Forum (including former BNP strategist Eddy Butler) to try and set up a rival organisation, the BNP have pulled the rest of the organisation together; even John Tyndall, the man deposed as leader by Nick Griffin in a bitterly fought leadership contest last year, called for unity in his 'New Year message'.

Writing in Spearhead he attacked the Edwards' and their new found friends, claiming "such division delights the enemies of our race and nation" and calls on the other organisations to join the BNP: "It is time now for the others to sink their differences with the BNP and unite under its umbrella."

Another sign that reports of the BNP's collapse were ridiculously exaggerated is the announcement that the bi-monthly Identity magazine is now to be produced on a monthly basis in full colour.

With the General Election likely to be in May, the BNP look set to stand only a few candidates, preferring to save their resources for local elections. This is the strategy successfully pursued by many Euro-Nationalist parties (FN, Freedom Party, etc.) where local success first has led to national progress subsequently. Griffin explains: "Since we have neither the time nor the resources to convert all that sympathy into widespread support before the next general election, it would be a piece of folly to throw too much into that contest, when it would inevitably be at the expense of the effort we need to put into the council elections that experience has already shown we can win."

We hope that the Left doesn't claim some obscure 'victory' in the coming months when the BNP announce a low number of candidates for the General Election, it is merely in line with a thought out strategy that has been shown to work elsewhere.


13th February 2001

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown ( Reproduced from The Independent )

'White man kills a black man, all hell breaks loose; black kills another black, it's an embarrassment'

Mention the possibility that violence between ethnic minorities may be as bad as white racism against black, and that such conflicts have been denied too long, and the so-called "ethnic minority leaders" will accuse you of everything from ignorance to irresponsibility. Yet that is the obvious and unspoken implication of a succession of recent assaults and murders, including that of Damilola Taylor

Nobody doubts that Damilola, a recent arrival from Nigeria, was victimised by gangs that included black British children. If he had been bullied by young white thugs and then found stabbed to death (allegedly) by one of the bullies, these same leaders would be doing the rounds, ferociously insisting that the crime was racially motivated and not the inevitable result of bad schools, violence in society and too many knives in circulation - the three explanations we have been given so far by various representatives and spokespeople in Peckham.

They insist that there is no problem between the various "black" communities in the area and that there has been a wonderful swell of renewed unity as a result of this terrible death. I remain sceptical. If this is true, why are the killers being sheltered by those who know them?

The same protection surrounded a gang of Asian and Afro-Caribbean youngsters who viciously attacked a group of Somali students in Southgate in North London in 1999. Bodrul Miah, an Asian, repeatedly stabbed 18-year-old Abdul Osman, a bright student at the local college. The gang members were convicted last month, but the police, local MP Stephen Twigg and the college principal still insist that ethnic difference was not a key motive for the attack.

Local Somalis beg to differ. One said to a reporter: "We believed it was a race murder. The Somalis are a different culture, a race apart, and they were picked on by the Asians. Nowadays when a white man kills a black all hell breaks loose; black kills another black and it is an embarrassment."

This weekend, news broke of Asian gangs in Oldham who have been attacking white people. Many anti-racists will find this even more of an embarrassment. In their eyes white people can only ever be perpetrators, never victims of anti-white violence. It is true that serious assaults are mostly committed by white thugs, and that white racist gangs have been as busy as ever, terrorising black, Asian, mixed-race, refugee and other groups. But we need to move our attention to the increasingly brutish behaviour of young men in other communities too.

In west London, particularly in higher education establishments, simmering rivalries periodically explode between Muslim and Sikh gangs, and these only ever get reported in the local papers such as the Ealing Gazette. A young Muslim female barrister tells me that the courts in Birmingham are full of Asian members of criminal gangs. A violent gangland culture is emerging across the races.

Gangs are not new in this society, nor is the violence associated with them. What is worrying is the spread of this behaviour. There isn't a single community that can afford to remain smug or superior. Gang members unite under a common identity, real or invented. So white kids beat up "Pakis", "chinks" and "black bastards", who in turn retaliate or victimise refugees or other newcomers.

Ethnicity is only one of the fault lines. You also get gang battles within groups, a point that well made by Home Office minister Paul Boateng, who this morning launches "Young, Gifted and Dead", a poster campaign in London's Harlesden area, where drug and turf wars have left eight black men dead in the past eight months.

But whether it is interethnic rivalry or drug-related criminal activity, surely it is time to address these developments? We have a vast amount of credible research into race discrimination, but barely anything on these new problems. Funders are squeamish about such research because of fears that such information will make white racism worse.

First of all, white racists need no convincing that we are a thoroughly bad lot. Sure, right wingers will rush around "proving" that all social problems are caused by immigrants and their offspring. But they do this anyway, with or without evidence. The Home Office, universities and think tanks need to take bold decisions and begin some serious research that can then be used for social policies.

We need to know exactly what is going on, and to make the information public. The causes are likely to be multi-layered and diverse. These gangs flourish in places where, for years, all public amenities have been eroded by a market-led cuts. Oldham is one such area, as is Southall, where once there was a well equipped leisure centre (now a supermarket), youth clubs and cinemas. Maybe the young people are displaying tribal tendencies as a response to a homogenised world, and they are undoubtedly feeling the alienation of all young males who have little self-esteem or prospects.

In some Asian communities, economic deprivation used to be managed through strong family bonds. Asian families are more solid than many others in this country, but there are signs of disintegration and conflict. Third-generation Asian children are Thatcher's children; they cannot communicate with their parents, and seek out gangs to make new bonds. We must find out how racism and religious discrimination makes beasts of victims.

I remember a young Bangladeshi student of mine in Bethnal Green who was horribly mutilated by a gang of white neo-Nazis. After the attack, he became so violent himself that we had no option but to expel him. Black boys may be underachieving in schools partly because of an internalised sense of hopelessness, which they have picked up by observing how racism ground down their parents. And we may hate what they stand for, but we should invest more money in finding out more about the thoughts and lives of young white racist gangs too.

This does not mean that I think we should busy ourselves understanding antisocial behaviour without passing judgements. We must condemn gang violence, and condemn it whatever ethnic group is involved. Unless we can weep equally for black and white victims of these outrages, our anti-racism is a sham.


Martin A. Lee ( Reproduced from San Francisco Bay Guardian, 5th February)

12th February 2001

Friedrich Hebbel, the great Austrian dramatist of the 19th century, described his country as "the small world in which the great world holds rehearsal." If that's the case, we're in trouble.

A year ago, the far-right Freedom Party, led by Jorg Haider, sent shock waves rippling through Europe when it joined the Austrian government as an equal coalition partner. A Porsche-driving, populist firebrand with a proclivity for making pro-Nazi statements, Haider built his party into a major political force by scapegoating immigrants and trawling the sewers of ethnic prejudice for votes.

Shocking levels of anti-Semitism persist today in Austria, where 50 percent of the population believes that Jews were responsible for their own persecution, according to a survey published by the Austrian newsweekly Gor, and 37 percent said they were "not sure" they could shake hands with a Jew. Catering shamelessly to this constituency, the Freedom Party emerged as the top vote-getter among the Austrian working class and people under 30 in what proved to be the strongest showing of a right-wing extremist movement in Western Europe since World War II.

The future belonged to Haider and his cohorts, or so it seemed.

But the Haider juggernaut encountered significant resistance as soon as the conservative People's Party of Austria broke its preelection promise and formed a controversial alliance with the Freedom Party. More than one hundred thousand demonstrators gathered in Vienna on Feb. 4, 2000, to protest the inauguration of the new regime. And the European Union immediately imposed diplomatic sanctions.

All this was grist for Haider's mill. Resigning as head of the Freedom Party, he passed the baton to Susanne Riess-Passer, otherwise known as "the king's cobra." But Haider remained the party's behind-the-scenes boss, while ruling as governor in the southern province of Carinthia. Taking aim at his critics, he declared that any political figure who supported E.U. sanctions against Austria should be prosecuted for not standing by his or her country. He accused his opponents of "political treason" and launched more than 100 libel suits against journalists, artists, and academics as part of a far-ranging effort to intimidate and muzzle dissenting voices.

Gerhard Botz, a leading Austrian historian of the Nazi era, accused Haider of endangering freedom of speech by attempting to "criminalize" his critics. Haider's defamation suits often ended up with judges who were viewed as friendly to the Freedom Party. For legal representation in these cases, Haider turned to the former law firm of his Freedom Party confidant, Dieter Boehmdorfer, who is currently Austria's Justice Minister. (Imagine John Ashcroft with a German accent.) Before heading up the Justice Ministry, Boehmdorfer served as Haider's personal attorney.

Boehmdorfer's performance as Austria's attorney general has been so odious that he alone among cabinet officials was singled out for condemnation in a report by three European "wise men." Specifically, the report took Boehmdorfer to task for failing to reject a suggestion by Haider that government critics be jailed.

Asked to assess the impact of the E.U.'s diplomatic boycott against Austria, the trio of experts concluded that such measures had become counterproductive by encouraging just the kind of xenophobic and reactionary sentiment they were designed to punish. Based on their recommendation, the seven-month-long sanctions were lifted in September.

Haider gloated at the E.U.'s tactical blunder, while Boehmdorfer issued veiled threats against Freedom Party detractors. "Even the liberty of the press has its limits," the Justice Minister declared.

Vowing to stop biased reporting, Haider's minions in the government set up a regulatory body to monitor the "objectivity" of the country's national broadcast media. Austrian state television and radio were deluged with complaints from Freedom Party stalwarts. "There has always been a degree of interference, but of late it has reached an unprecedented dimension," Daniella Spera, Austrian TV's main news presenter, disclosed in October. "Top politicians are calling so regularly it is nearly impossible to work."

Numerous print media professionals also complained of personal attempts at intimidation by government officials. In November, the Austrian journalist's association warned that press freedom was at risk after Haider's party launched a vicious verbal attack against the Austrian Press Agency over a dispatch that ruffled the feathers of the de facto Freedom Party führer. "You can't blame the reporter when the facts do not please you," said Astrid Zimmerman, head of the Austrian journalists' trade union.

The critical art and culture scene was subjected to an array of repressive policies, including the termination of state subsidies for numerous cultural workers and progressive social programs. The Independent Women's Forum in Vienna, for example, saw 80 percent of its budget dry up overnight. Many of the victims of the funding cuts – from community radio stations to independent theater groups – had one thing in common: their opposition to the government.

"Austria doesn't have a very big tradition of dissenting, democratic structures, and I'm very concerned about the consequences," said Konrad Becker, head of Public Netbase, a community Internet service that provides online facilities for more than 1,200 cultural and political projects.

Netbase had its funding slashed last April. It is one of many cultural institutions struggling to survive after the sudden withdrawal of subsidies in the Haider era. On a not-to-be-missed Web site (, Netbase describes its running battle with the Austrian government since the Freedom Party muscled its way into power.

A stand-up comedian named Hubsi Kramar also was targeted for retribution by the Freedom Party. Kramar dressed in Nazi regalia during an anti-Haider parody; he was subsequently arrested and charged with violating the law against displaying fascist symbols. But here's the punch line: no one gets arrested at annual meetings of Waffen-SS veterans in Austria, where Nazi medallions are worn in earnest.

Herr Haider has spoken at such events on several occasions, always to an appreciative audience. German television clips showed him praising the "decency" of the notoriously brutal Waffen-SS. Although he caught a lot of flack for this, Haider did not recant. Late last year, he caused another stir when he addressed a mountaintop reunion of SS members and other Hitler soldiers. Haider described the Third Reich vets as "good citizens who had sacrificed their youth."

But Haider had few kind words for independent artists on the dole. He denounced them as lazy, wasteful spongers ("pseudo-intellectual ne'er-do-wells"), while endorsing subsidies only for art that represents the deepest yearnings of the Austrian Volk – waltzing and yodeling, presumably. In the world according to Haider, the right of an individual artist to create uncensored work, and the right of the Austrian public to enjoy this creation, is clearly less important than the innate "right" of a distinct ethnic entity called "the people" to protect their own culture from sinister foreign influences and decadent liberal incursions.

The Freedom Party's aggressive cultural strategy is the brainchild of Andreas Molzer, Haider's advisor on cultural affairs. Until recently, this Rasputin-like figure was the publisher of Zur Zeit, a virulently racist Vienna newsweekly, which raved about "the dogma of the six million murdered Jews" and the "epoch-making economic and political successes of the great social revolutionary," a reference to Adolf Hitler.

Emboldened by the fact that few Austrian politicians would condemn openly racist, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic material in the media, Haider went for the jugular. He called for a ban on all antigovernment demonstrations and backed new laws to allow increased police surveillance and eavesdropping on private citizens. But it appears that Haider, in his zeal to strangle dissent, may have gotten carried away.

In October, several top Freedom Party officials, including Haider and Justice Minister Boehmdorfer, were accused of paying police for confidential files on their political rivals and critics. The bribery charges were triggered by the publication of a devastating book by Josef Kleindienst, a disillusioned Haider acolyte and ex-head of a police union affiliated with the Freedom Party. Titled I Confess, the book detailed how sympathetic police officers were bribed to provide information about Haider's foes. "Of course, it was clear we were breaking the law," Kleindienst acknowledged, "but it was more important to help the party fight its enemies."

More than 80 police officers were implicated in what became known as "the spy affair." Eleven police working with a senior intelligence unit were suspended from active duty pending the outcome of an inquiry by state prosecutors. Boehmdorfer quickly proclaimed that Haider was "above suspicison," a comment that raised concerns of political meddling in the judiciary.

On Feb. 5, 2001, Haider’s lawyer announced that investigations into his role in the police syping scandal had been dropped. But several officials remain under scrutiny, including Hilmar Kabas, the erstwhile leader of the Freedom Party’s Vienna branch. Kilbas reportedly ran an extensive spy network that purloined data from police computers on a regular basis. He resigned his party post in January amid disclosures that he spent an evening in a Vienna brothel courtesy of the Austrian taxpayer.

All this was not good news for a political party that had campaigned loudly against government corruption and "criminal foreigners." Nor did the government’s harsh spending cuts and ambitious privatization program go over well after the Freedom Party had promised to fight for the "little man." Recent setbacks in two regional elections confirmed that Haider’s party was suffering a popularity slump. But Austria’s charismatic far right strongman has a long record of rebounding from adversity.

Tens of thousands of protestors gathered once again in Vienna – as they have been doing on a weekly basis throughout the Freedom Party’s turbulent first year in power. "The fundamental concerns have not changed," said Max Koch head of SOS Mitmensch, one of the groups coordinating the demonstrations. "Attitudes towards foreigners, Thatcherite changes in social spending and the workforce, regressive policies regarding women – the year has not been a good one for Austria."

True to form, Haider lashed out at the opposition. "You have to understand, our enemies have declared war on us," he told a recent gathering of Freedom Party faithful. "I declare hunting season on those who are hunting us."


10th February 2001

Red Action's exasperation with the British Left, frequently aired here and elsewhere on a myriad of subjects, from anti-fascism to multiculturalism to working class rights, to paedophilia to Irish Republicanism, (prior and since the cease-fire) to name but a few, is routinely denounced or misrepresented as 'sectarianism'.

Generally the RA membership respond by claiming that the Left have no 'instinct' for politics, working class politics that is. At least part of the reason offerred is that the Left is not in the main working class itself. As a consequence it rarely knows whether in the real world it is winning or losing. It stands to reason that such an observation is automatically denounced as sectarianism.

Now sectarians are most often condemned for picking fights for reasons other than those stated, and for picking fights most of all with people from whom they otherwise appear (and are) politically indistinguishable. For most sects to be 'distinguished' in such a fashion is their raison d'etre. Not so with RA. As things stand RA finds itself quiet effortlessly at odds with the orthodox Left on practically everything. If anything, over time the distances between us appear to be accelerating. Take this recent passage from an article 'No Immigration controls' from this weeks Weekly Worker (8/2/01).

"In a contribution from the floor Tina Becker (CPGB) suggested that the demand for 'No Immigration controls' was essential. Louise replied that as a lawyer involved in the field of immigration and asylum law, she was "in favour of the removal of all immigration controls." She condemned the affluent west's attitudes to those in 'third world' countries; noting that, "If there's oil we will go in and milk it. But we'll keep it's poor people out." There was a SPONTANEOUS CHEER (my emphasis) around the room when she pointed out that the logic of abolishing border controls pointed to the the ending of NATION-STATES. However such a vision is not for public consumption, it seems."

Hardly surprising on the one hand, and yet quite unbelievable on the other. And there's more. "Louise Christian concluded her speech by remarking that the policies now portrayed as radical were mainstream Labour Party ideas in the 1980's. This point was echoed by comrade Bradley who thought that, "We are not marginalised anymore. We have the majority of people behind us, because our politics are common sense now."

When considering that comrade Bradley probably 'spontaneously' raised the roof as well during in the proceedings, the idea that the call for 'common sense politics and the abolition of nation states' can be considered at all logical, much less, that such sentiments have 'majority' support is frankly startling.

Delerium aside, the collective instinct on display does deserve attention. What does it really tell us about the state of mind of what's left of the Left in the present day? Quite a lot actually.

In the first place there is the striking lack of inventiveness. The LSA think that by stealing Labour's old clothes from the 80's, the majority will automatically fall in behind them. Conveniently forgetting in the process that when Labour wore them, Labour didn't have the majority behind THEM! Even worse, now that the LSA is the ONLY party claiming to be socialist in most elections, the votes being accrued are little better than the likes the WRP,SWP,CP and so on were getting in the '70's. 'No longer marginalised'? Not in the real world.

Lack of instinct and analysis apart, the other striking thing about the Left is the absolute lack of honesty. For instance, along with liberal fellow travellers, they claim stridently as is the fashion, that refugees fleeing tyranny etc should be welcomed and allowed certain dispensations amounting to preferential treatment over ordinary migrants and (whisper it) the indigenous working class, for whom despite the hand-wringing and crocidile tears, there is little genuine affection. Then we are informed that economic refugees should have parity with political refugees. Now it is revealed that the whole enterprise is a strategm pointing toward the 'ending of nation-states.' They don't care do they? Even the BNP wouldn't normally make that one up. Now they don't have to.

And if of course the call for 'open borders' is supported not for humanatarian reasons as is claimed, but is instead part of a conspiracy to destabilise nation states such a revelation totally undermines in the eyes of the public the case for an enlightened attitude to immigration. Furthermore by denouncing as racist, anyone who has the temerity to question the underlying rationale, the Left goes some distance to undermining broader anti-racism as well.

All this, and much more has been pointed out many times before to little effect. However the 'spontaneous cheer' ups the ante to a different level. Now that the cat is out of the bag, perhaps at last we can have an 'adult debate' so to speak, on the wider implications. So here are a few questions to kick it off.

1. If nation-states are now 'a legitimate target' when was 'the principle' of national self-determination dispensed with?

2. If people are not organised on a national basis, then is it not also obvious people will not be organised on a democratic basis either. Any problems with such a scenario?

3. If there is no formal democracy and therefore no political accountability whatsover does this not make the world, with the active connivance of the Left, the playground for transnational corporations?

4. If nations states are now deemed a legitimate target, what is to replace them?

5. Considering that socialism exists in recognisable form nowhere on the planet, might it not be time to consider why the Right is winning and the Left is losing?

Finally, if the Left is not 'shaping the future' is it running the danger of being shaped by those who are?

(Replies can be posted on the discussion page)


7th February 2001

This site was offline from 4th - 6th Feb due to technical problems with the previous hosting company. Any mail sent to the addresses or posts submitted to the discussion page during this time will have been lost and should be re-sent.


7th February 2001

By Danny Morrison

A Dublin friend rang the other night to say that he had just been to the most depressing public meeting in his life.

It was organised by the Irish Republican Writers Group (IRWG), ostensibly to mark the twentieth anniversary of the hunger strike, but it didn't. No plans were announced on how to honour the ten dead men, but another public meeting was announced for Belfast.

What depressed him was that the night was devoted to one attack after another on Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin and the great 'sell-out'. Ex- prisoners Tommy McKearney, Brendan Hughes and Anthony McIntyre were on the platform. It appears they have nothing else to talk about.

Last year in a series of letters to this paper members of the IRWG complained about personalised attacks on themselves by other republicans in order to discredit their criticisms of Sinn Féin.

But as I pointed out back then it was actually the IRWG who specialised in personal attacks on the integrity of Sinn Féin leaders, as the intemperate writings in the first issue of their magazine, 'Fourthwrite', proved. Gerry Adams was "a modern day de Valera".

Brendan Hughes criticised republicans "who have big houses and guaranteed incomes" and spoke of a confident British counter- insurgency strategy to "mould leaderships which they could deal with", which isn't far from calling someone a collaborator.

Brendan was quoted in 'The Observer' once again going on about their big houses, big cars, big offices, big suits.

I asked him why was he attacking Gerry Adams so much, a former comrade. He expressed surprise and denied that he was attacking Adams. He told me who he was actually referring to, a former Belfast man who lives in County Louth and who is now a relatively wealthy businessman. I pointed out that that individual left the Republican Movement when the ceasefire was called. But a few weeks later, Brendan, in an interview, got stuck into Gerry Adams once again, this time naming him.

Ciara Twomey, the partner of Anthony McIntyre, and a member of the IRWG, was the main moderator for the Alternative Republican Bulletin Board (ARBB) which propagated IRGW statements on the internet. Last October the British Ministry of Defence issued gagging notices against several newspapers prohibiting them from naming an IRA informer working for MI5 whose codename was 'Steak Knife'. It was alleged that in order to protect 'Steak Knife' from a UFF assassination bid in 1987 Brian Nelson, at the behest of MI5, diverted the UFF to Ballymurphy man Francisco Notarantonio whom they killed.

After this MI5 story postings appeared on Ciara Twomey's ARBB speculating who the informer was. Alex Maskey was named as a suspect. So was Seamus Finucane, Jim Gibney, myself, Tom Hartley, Eddie Copeland and Martin Meehan. According to the Board's policy statement its purpose was "to foster an atmosphere of congenial, intelligent debate." Personal attacks will not be tolerated, it claimed.

Here is a flavour of some of the things it published: "It [Steak Knife] must be Gerry Adams. His book was a flop. If it [his money] didn't come from MI5 then he must have stolen it from the Republican Movement."

Or this: "It's not Paddy Doherty. He works for the Special Branch."
Or this: "Can I have £10 on Martin McGuinness."

Ciara Twomey is from the USA and has lived in West Belfast for about a year. When I phoned her and asked where was the intelligent debate, the comradeship, she defended the remarks and posted a notice saying that I had sounded intimidating.

When two ex-prisoners complained personally she closed the Board and claimed that she WAS intimidated. (This happened shortly after the killing of Joseph O'Connor when the IRWG carried out its 'inquiry', concluded that the IRA was responsible, which led to named being bandied about.)

The website of the IRWG, however, carries on the tasteless tradition of the ARBB. It publishes a section called 'The Angry Rebel'. Out of twelve postings nine are anti-Sinn Fein or anti-IRA, one is anti- British and another is anti-Catholic Church.

Under the spoof 'Speech by Sinn Fein Yuppie' it attributes the following, which says a lot for the author's perverted mentality: "We shall never forget you Paddy Sands. Your death on hunger strike in 1985 was the catalyst for the struggle which has achieved all the goals we ever wanted."

And another speech: "We are here today to pay tribute to those four men who went 53 days without food during the first H-Block hunger strike in 1980.

The hunger strike leader Raymond McCartney is an inspiration to us all." Raymond McCartney is clearly singled out because he is still in Sinn Fein.

Yes, we are all thick Paddies in the pockets of MI5 and hadn't the brains to work out our own peace process or what was in the best interests of our people.

During a recent documentary on the history of Long Kesh Brendan Hughes said that what he missed most and felt sad about over the years was the loss of comradeship.

We know what you mean, Brendan.