News - October 2000


October 24th 2000

Eight out of ten British adults resent refugees because they believe they consider Britain a "soft touch".

Two thirds consider there are too many immigants in Britain and nearly in four in 10 feel that those settling should not maintain their national culture and lifetstyle. Russel Twisk of Reader's Digest who commissioned the research said: "This widespread resentment of imigrants and asylum seekers has worrying implications in a society that has traditionally prided itself on its racial tolerance."

The survey Britain today - 'Are We An Intolerant Nation?' was published on October 23.

The figure of 80% who believe that there are too many imigrants here, is even higher than that of France which was itself shocked by figures of 60% earlier this year. Unlike Britain, France at least has had a high profile far-right party for more than a decade and a half on which the racialisation of social issues can be blamed. In Britain by contrast the far-right were forcibly driven of the streets by Anti-Fascist Action in 1994. Something that they themselves concede. Since then their electoral showing has increased ten-fold. The level of denial and introspection of the Left is partially demonstrated by the fact that the ANL site which carries all other items of news related to anti-fascism/anti-racism from around the world has not even carried the story. Ditto for the UK Left site. As we have repeatedly stated 'the Left is not winning the argument'. As a consequence the pattern evident elsewhere in Europe, of the far- right filling the radical alternative vacuum previously occupied by the left, is threatening to repeat itself over here.
The Left is not winning; Does the Left care?


October 16th 2000

Under the title 'Official anti-racism and the white working class' a senior member of Red Action addressed a seminar organised by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) at Brunel University on August 9. The CPGB paper 'Weekly Worker' subsequently described the contribution as 'controversial'. Though Red Action agreed to take part on the understanding that the issues raised would receive a wider airing through the organisation's press, no further comment has been forthcoming from the CPGB in the months since.

A similar vow of silence on this critical issue seems to be in operation across the Left. On September 5 when the Red Action delegate called for 'a review' of current LSA strategies and tactics the resolution was decisively defeated. But at the same meeting as LSA minutes show, the London steering committee agreed to both 'sponsor and participate in' the AFA debate on October 1 which posed the question: "Can the Left beat the BNP?"

On the day, the speaker repeatedly promised by the SWP, failed to show. The Socialist Party too declined the offer to defend it's record from the platform. Despite five weeks notice Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party was unable to come up with a speaker it felt comfortable with. All the other organisations bar the CPGB who agreed to participate in the discussion effectively boycotted the event entirely, sending neither participants nor observers. What are we to make of such behaviour? Are the Left so out of touch that they think they are actually winning the argument or are they simply avoiding discussion for fear of losing it? Is it a case of collective funk or has 'no platform' been extended to include militant anti-fascism?

Over the last two and a half decades, with some honourable exceptions, the commitment of the British Left in the physical fight against the far-right has been negligible. Now that it has become a battle of ideas rather than a battle for control of the streets the Left is once again found wanting. During the build up to the Wick by election in Hackney, the LSA candidate admitted that due to their presentation on the issues related to asylum seekers, 'LSA canvassers were encountering serious problems'. Of all LSA policies this is undeniably the Achilles heel. Yet despite attracting a mere 134 votes, less than 10% of the vote, in what the LSA previously boasted was one of it's 'heartlands', a result which brutally exposes the hollowness of the claim that slogans like Refugees Welcome Here! are proven 'vote winners' in working class areas, no discussion, candid or otherwise, much less a change of course is in the offing, in the short term at least.

With a probable twelve months to the general election at most, the LSA seems to have adopted the tactic of 'playing for time' - while losing!. Of course if they wait until after the general election for the necessary revamp, the BNP with a voter base of over 1,000,000 could conceivably be registered as 'radical alternative' in the mind of the mainstream parties media and public already. If so, any attempts by the conservative Left to attempt to reinvent itself then, may already be too late.

The full text of the Red Action address can now be accessed at A Return To Winning Ways in the 'Race and Class' section.


Ulrike Moser (Reproduced from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 2000)

October 13th 2000

EHRINGSHAUSEN. So she's the one, the person causing the stir. At first glance, she appears likable. Corpulent, resolute, while at the same time obliging, amiably firm: simply a solid woman. Her ruffled blouse is buttoned to the top, her hair is tinted red, and her neck bears silver jewelry set with small turquoises. Nothing about Doris Zutt is noteworthy. If you did not know her, you would probably overlook her on the street.

Ehringshausen is inconspicuous, too, neither idyllic nor isolated. The community of 10,000 is nestled in a valley between northern Hesse's low mountains and Westerwald forest. It is a place without attractions, and tourists seldom find their way here. But thanks to Mrs. Zutt and others in the community, there is one thing that makes this town on the map.

In the March 1997 local elections, 22.9 percent of Ehringshausen's voters cast their ballots for this woman and her party, the National Democratic Party (NPD). Since then, the NPD has held seven seats on the town council and two on its executive board. It is now the third-strongest party, behind the Social Democrats and the Independent Voters Association (FWG). Ehringshausen has become the extreme right's bastion in Hesse.

Not so long ago, the council group leaders and party chairmen of the Social Democrats, Christian Democrats and FWG received some mail from Mrs. Zutt and her husband, Alfred. The postcard from the island of Rgen, where the Zutts spent their vacation, shows the globe and several naked posteriors. Its caption says, "This world has only one ozone hole, but plenty of assholes." This may be relatively harmless, but it shows the tone the Zutts have brought to local politics.

The restaurant in the train station run by Mehmet Demirbuga could hardly be more dismal. Two tables, five gambling machines, plastic flowers above the counter, and a pervading musty smell of old smoke. The Turkish man, who has lived in Ehringshausen for seven years, has five children and worries about them. "I'm constantly afraid something will happen to them," he says.

Calm vanished from the town several months ago. Someone smeared SS runes on the wall of the Lutheran pastor's house, and "Death to the FWG" and "intellectual arsonists" on the town hall. Someone has stuck stickers from the "Young National Democrats," the NPD youth organization, on the car of the independent mayor, Eberhard Niebch. A few days ago, the Social Democrats' council group leader Jrgen Mock received a letter signed, in English, "German Watch." The letter closed with the threat: "The day of reckoning will come."

Besides being involved in the town's political life, the Zutts also run a store called Patriots' Meeting Place that attracts visitors, all from the same scene, from all over Germany. You cannot miss the Patriots' Meeting Place in the center of Ehringshausen. A banner in the colors of the Reich's war flag red, white and black waves on the corner. The sign on the door reads: "Two years of books and CDs to preserve the people." The displays in the window include a portrait of Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's party deputy,with the caption "I don't regret anything," books by Holocaust denier David Irving, and a map of Germany showing the borders before World War I and before the end of the World War II. The store offers bomber jackets, CDs by right-wing skinhead bands and such curiosities as perfumes to match the customers' convictions: Nationalist for men and Valkyrie for women.

Mr. Zutt runs the store. One daughter helps out. Their son has a branch store in the northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In Ehringshausen, the NPD is a family business. Another daughter has a seat in the town council; her boyfriend is on the executive. Mr. Zutt has been a member of the council since 1989. The police once removed him for cursing the other councilmen too offensively. When speaking with "unpatriotic" journalists, the aggression in Mr. Zutt's voice is impossible to miss. He says he collects all articles about the NPD, along with the names of their authors. "Later I'll tell some, 'This is what you wrote about us back then.'"

No one knows how many members the party has in the community. "No figures," Mrs. Zutt says. But some of the seven representing the party on the town council are not members, indicating that the membership cannot be that large. But their support in the town is all the greater even if almost no one in Ehringshausen supports the NPD in public. What no one can really explain is why the party is so successful in this town.

Ehringshausen's economy is based on the iron- and plastics-processing industry. Immigrant workers were brought into the small town in the 1960s. Today, foreigners make up 10.5 percent of the population, but Turks and Italians are not the primary targets of resentment. Envy and spite are directed mainly against ethnic German immigrants from Russia, who are seen as enjoying special privileges. The unemployment rate is unspectacular here: 8.2 percent.

Jrgen Schlingensiepen, the town's Protestant pastor, thinks the roots of right-wing extremism go deep in Ehringshausen. "People here have voted farther to the right than the rest of the country since 1900," he notes. Just under 80 percent voted for the Nazi party (NSDAP) in 1933. In Germany as a whole, the figure was 43.9 percent. There was and still is continuity especially among the Zutts. Mr. Zutt's grandfather is said to have played an important role in the NSDAP, and his father was a founding member of the NPD. But does that really explain things?

The Zutts' home lies in the center of town, and their activities also seem to be at home in the midst of the community. The NPD has gained recognition for being visible in Ehringshausen, often more visible than the other parties. The Zutts attend every community festival. And they seem to express widespread anxieties and fears when they exploit resentment and fan fears with their slogans: jobs for Germans first, construction sites for Germans first. "German," says Mrs. Zutt, "is the language of the blood." Not everything was bad in the Third Reich, she adds.

Such slogans are good for attracting votes, but when the party is in office, observers say the NPD does not do its part. "The NPD does not want to accept any responsibility," Mr. Mock says and notes that when the council decides whether to increase municipal fees, the NPD representatives abstain or vote no.

Politicians from the three other parties agree that they underestimated the NPD for too long. It has been represented in the council since 1989, when it received 6.3 percent of the vote. That figure increased to 13.6 percent in 1993. Then, in March 1997, it rose to 22.9 percent, and Ehringshausen was no longer so inconspicuous. "We failed for years to take the NPD seriously," says Mr. Mock.

No one had reservations about working together with the NPD. On the contrary, when Mr. Niebch was elected mayor in 1992, the deciding votes were cast by the NPD. One year later, Mrs. Zutt even became chairwoman of the environmental committee with the votes of the Christian Democrats and FWG. "That was a grievous mistake," the Christian Democrats' council group leader Werner Neu now says.

Now, the parties plan to act in unison against the NPD. Before the state parliament elections last year, the town's two pastors sent every household an open letter saying: "Ehringshausen's democratic forces will not tolerate our community being ruled by hate, malice and mindless nationalism." The Zutts sued every signatory for libel without success.

No one knows how to keep the NPD from repeating its success in the next local elections. Mr. Schlingensiepen hopes the Zutts will increasingly discredit themselves in the eyes of voters, especially as their positions become increasingly sectarian. Mr. Zutt now wears a "Thor's hammer" around his neck.

The couple celebrate midsummer and midwinter festivals, as the Nazis did. This year, the Zutts staged a "national German baptism" for their grandson, reciting "Germanic sayings" and the "genealogical table." Mr. Mock would prefer not to rely on the deterrent effect of such performances. He sees only one clear solution, and not just for Ehringshausen: a ban on the NPD. Such a suggestions only makes Mrs. Zutt smile, though less amiably than before: "Then even more people will join us."


12th October 2000

AFA members attended the Refugees Welcome Here meeting on Tue 3rd October and as at previous meetings the message AFA put across was not embraced by the dominant SWP within the campaign.
One major point was when it was suggested that a meeting in one area where the refugees have been placed (and are under pressure from the local community) should have as a speaker a Labour MP. AFA intervened by stating that as Labour were to blame for poor housing, lack of local services, unemployment etc then it would be unlikely that their involvement would bring the two sides together. The return was that although Labour were to blame not all their MPs were disliked. Again we pointed out that the party was seen as the enemy not individuals. As this argument heightened AFA were accused of shouting and being generally aggressive.
The evening came to a head when after saying that they were desperate for people to put themselves forward for the committee and voting in 2 people ( one who was not even in attendance), when AFA proposed one member to go on the committee we were told that this would have to be discussed at a further meeting. AFA asked the chair why we were not allowed the same rights as those within her particular organisation. This brought a heated response from the floor, with accusations that AFA had not done enough to merit inclusion: were too aggressive: had walked out on previous meetings; hadn’t attended meetings etc. These comments were put across in typical sectarian mode. Unfortunately AFA could show what we had done, where we had attended and why we had carried out certain actions. AFA stood our ground, disproving all comments and opening up the whole room to the real reasons behind the accusations. The usual lines that we hated the left; thought they were middle class were all aired and for some it would have been an eye opener.
Against this background some proper discussion regarding nursery places for children and about work that is being carried out in advance of refugees being placed in Edinburgh did take place.
To further disprove the SWP line activists went to distribute leaflets for the campaign days later only for it to be cancelled.
In another unrelated meeting it seems that in an area in Renfrew shire the council are meeting with tenants groups, community groups, church groups etc in an attempt to pave the way for refugees to be placed early 2001.


10th October 2000

'The voting took place Sunday, but the margin victory became clear only yesterday and the hand-wringing began'. Following on from last week when the Norwegian far-right Progress Party outstripped the ruling Labour party to become the most popular party in Norway with an approval rating of 35%, Europe took another lurch to the right Sunday with Belgium's Vlams Blok emerging as the biggest political force in the country's second city Antwerp in local elections held across the country.

It defied liberal pollsters who had (as usual) predicted its demise. Instead it increases its share of the vote in Antwerp to 33% from 28% in 1994 the last time local elections were held in Belgium. In Austria again contrary to liberal predictions that he was finished, Herr Haider defiantly returned to centre stage by taking part in a German war veterans commemoration. Many now believe that with EU sanctions against Austria lifted, Haider is in pole position to be Chancellor in a couple of years time.

In Denmark too the far-right influence on the successful No campaign against joining the Euro, was at one time considered so prominent they actually agreed to scale it down, lest supporters of other parties might be disencouraged to vote no. A similar pattern with the far-right is emerging as the radical alternative, is also visible in Switzerland, and Sweden not to mention Germany France or Italy.

In all this one thing is abundantly clear. Hand-wringing apart liberalism offers no answers. There is clearly no proven antidote to Euro-nationalism across Europe. Britain appears the one exception to the rule - so far. Despite claims to the contrary this has nothing to do with liberalism (and very little to do with the orthodox Left either), which makes the recent London Socialist Alliance boycott of the discussion dealing with the political strategies needed to curb the surge in support for the BNP almost inexplicable.

London Socialist Alliance minutes reveal that the LSA Steering Committee which had just knocked back a resolution from Red Action calling for an 'urgent review' of existing strategies, agreed "to sponsor and participate in" the AFA public meeting on Oct 1. In the event LSA spokesman Mike Marquese pulled out a few days before, and the Socialist Workers Party, despite making repeated commitment to participate, failed to show up either. The Socialist Party who were also offered a platform, evidently found other tasks more pressing. The CPGB (and Red Action) apart none of the other sponsoring organisations even turned up in a personal capacity.

In 1985 AFA was founded because the Left were both unwilling and incapable of confronting the far-right physically. Fifteen years on, the left appear unwilling to even discuss the political changes needed to make them capable of confronting the far-right politically. History repeats itself, this time as farce.


October 9th 2000

The following article is taken from The Guardian on 6th October. It confirms RA's analysis that it is the far right who are increasingly perceived to be the radical alternative to the status quo. While some on the left would say there is 'no better time to be a socialist' the facts continue to suggest otherwise.


Andrew Osborn

The Progress party under 'King Carl' Hagen is soaring in the polls. It wants a vote on halting all immigration in Oslo

For the first time since the second world war the far right is on the march in Norway, and real power is within its grasp.

According to opinion polls, the extreme right, anti-immigration, Progress party has outstripped the ruling Labour party to become the most popular political force with this affluent country's 4.5m people.

Its approval rating has soared as high as 35% and its charismatic leader, Carl Hagen - or "King Carl" - is being touted as the next prime minister.

With less than a year to go before parliamentary elections are held, alarm bells are ringing and Norway's reputation as a tolerant society is under threat.

The Progress party has won support by promising all things to all voters, and by promising to cut taxes and spend more of the country's oil revenue on improving the welfare state. It also wants to bundle the elderly off to Spain, where health care is cheaper.

As the party has become more popular, Mr Hagen has done his best to rein in some of its more outspoken members and play down its hardline immigration policies.

But his most radical ideas are unchanged. The party's manifesto advocates abolishing development aid to the third world because, it says, the money is spent on "arms and luxury goods" for the elite. Poverty, it argues, is a result of poor countries' inability to organise themselves.

Norway already operates a restrictive immigration policy but Mr Hagen would go further. A maximum of 1,000 immigrants a year would be allowed, and asylum seekers who broke Norwegian law would be repatriated.

The party also wants a national referendum on whether any more foreigners at all should be admitted - Norway has about 250,000 - and it is keen to test new arrivals for Aids.

The party is compared by some to Austria's far-right Freedom party and France's National Front, but it insists that it is not racist.

"We're a new political breed," says the silver-haired, rather portly, Mr Hagen, sitting in his smart office in the parliament building in Oslo.

"We combine the best from social democratic thinking and the best from conservative thinking."

Norwegian society is under attack, he warns, and too many immigrants will spark social unrest.

"Let's not be naive and blue-eyed. If you have too many immigrants you will get social conflict. You can like it or dislike it, but that's a fact."

And, he says, the problems have already begun, especially in eastern Oslo, known as Little Karachi because it has so many Pakistanis.

"We have knives in schools, which we never had before, and we have gangs shooting at each other."

Asked if ordinary Norwegians feel as he does about newcomers, Mr Hagen is categorical. "Opinion polls for the last 10 years have shown that they agree with me."

Akhenaton de Leon, director of the Institution Against Public Discrimination, agrees that hostility against immigrants is widespread and says the rise of the Progress party is a symptom of this. "We have problems in paradise. Police harassment is rampant in this country, and racial discrimination in the housing and labour markets is widespread."

He says he has seen intolerance increase in the past few years. Clients have told housing agencies to let property to whites only, even the most menial jobs require unreasonably high language skills, and black people often find it difficult to get into to nightclubs and restaurants.

"Mr Hagen is a clever populist who is dangerous for society," Mr De Leon says. "If he enters into a coalition with the Conservative party it would be a disaster for the integration process in this country."


October 5th 2000

Reproduced from Anti-Fascist Action

In a display of abject political cowardice the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), having formally accepted and subsequently confirmed an invitation to speak, failed to turn up tp AFA's 'Can The Left Beat The BNP?' debate.

The invitation to the SWP was made precisely because they disagree with AFA's analysis of how to fight fascism, and the purpose of the debate was to put the two contrasting strategies into the public arena. While AFA is confident in its arguments, based on 15 years practical experience, the SWP obviously are not. The deliberate failure to notify AFA that they would not be sending a speaker means it was impossible for AFA to organise a replacement.

Red Action, Class War and the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) spoke from the platform and although Red Action was the only group actually in AFA all three organisations broadly agreed with much of AFA's analysis - making the debate one-sided. Mike Marquese, an independent from the London Socialist Alliance, although invited, belatedly found out he was on holiday and was unable to attend. The Socialist Labour Party were unable to agree a speaker but did send two representatives who spoke from the audience.

With most of the Left boycotting the meeting an opportunity for productive discussion was lost. We can only assume they do not take the threat from the Far Right seriously, despite being beaten in virtually every election where they have stood against the fascists since the general election.

On a more positive note were the areas of agreement on AFA's analysis from the two organisations not active in AFA - Class War and the CPGB. Both groups, and Red Action, agreed that society is moving to the right, not to the left (as the rest of the Left believe) which indicates that the strategy of the Left isn't working. Unlike the Far Right who have reinvented themselves to suit the situation, the Left, at least most of them, continue as before with their failed strategies. The speakers all agreed that the Left doesn't represent the working class and unless they are prepared to accept reality and change then there is a very real danger that the Far Right will become the radical voice for the white working class; as in Europe. As the Red Action speaker put it, there has to be "new thinking, new strategies, new language".

There was also agreement on AFA's assertion that the State has no positive role to play in the fight against fascism, which is in stark contrast to the ANL, especially in regards to their collaboration with the police-linked Searchlight operation and their 'Jail All Nazis' slogan. The Left must be challenged on their ongoing support for the pro-State anti-fascism of the ANL as opposed to the class-based anti-fascism of AFA.

The CPGB, in acknowledging that AFA had fought the BNP to a standstill in the early 90s, and provided the Left with the space they currently enjoy, declared that "the Left owes AFA a debt of honour".

The fact that AFA is trying to initiate debate on the Left about how to meet the challenge from the BNP is significant. Equally, the fact that most of the Left is scared to debate is, as the Red Action speaker pointed out, a result of their "crisis of confidence". The immediate target for AFA is to build on the common ground displayed at the rally and turn the talk into action.