FRFI ‘banned from May Day’ by Labour sectarians / FRFI 203 Jun / Jul 2008

FRFI 203 June / July 2008

FRFI comrades in all areas joined the annual May Day international workers’ day demonstrations. In London we marched with Turkish communists and Latin American community activists. In Edinburgh comrades marched with banners of Che Guevara and the Cuban 5. In Manchester FRFI and North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group NWASDG joined the demonstration there.

In Newcastle Tyneside Community Action for Refugees (TCAR), Rock Around the Blockade (RATB) and FRFI formed a militant anti-imperialist contingent on the annual Tyne and Wear May Day march. Advertised speakers for the end rally included Colin Moses, Chair of the Prison Officers Association (POA).  The POA is currently in dispute over the pay and conditions of its members, which are under attack, as are those of all public sector workers. However, as FRFI has consistently pointed out, POA members are at the forefront of attacking and abusing prisoners and the union unashamedly defends those who are caught doing so. It also campaigns for greater weaponry with which to inflict pain, including on imprisoned children.

FRFI supporters erected a banner behind their stall reading ‘POA – enemy of the working class’ and distributed leaflets exposing the racist, anti-working class nature of the POA. We called for solidarity with the prisoners who have experienced systematic abuse over decades by POA members. No one expressed any objection to our banner or leaflets until the rally had finished when Martin Levy, chair of the May Day Committee and Communist Party of Britain (CPB) member, demanded that we take down the banner immediately or face being ‘banned from May Day’ next year, fuming that if we attempted to take part he would have us removed by the police.
Three weeks later a comrade in TCAR received the following email:

‘Dear comrades
It has come to my attention that the organisation who are promoting the Northern Conference Against Racism have attacked the Prison Officers Association at the recent May Day Rally in Newcastle. The “Tyneside Community Action For Refugees”, who are organising the conference, along with the “Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!” group and the “Rock around the Blockade” campaign for Cuba are all fronts for the Revolutionary Communist Group. While the LRC supports any measures which raise the consciousness and awareness of these issues and defends the right of any organisation to pursue them in their own way, ie fronts etc, we cannot condone a blatant attack upon fellow Trades Unionists in such a negative way. Specifically; a banner was raised at the May Day Rally by the group, accusing the POA of being “enemies of the working class”, which is clearly false from start to finish, being that the POA is an important section of the said “working class”. How can a section of the “working class” be “enemies” of itself?

While some will be critical of some of the leaders of our movement, we cannot allow these sentiments and criticisms to be confused with the people they represent, ie the working class. The slogan “POA – enemies of the working class” makes no sense!

The LRC stands for the unity of all campaigns, both in the Labour Party and in the community, which seeks to unite and bond together opposition to attacks on the Trades Union movement and builds solidarity with those who fight for the principles of socialism upon which the movement was founded and which continue to develop.
The Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! group and the RCG have been banned from next year’s rally.
Fraternally, Steve Brown, LRC Northern Region Co-ordinator’.

Some of this nonsense is not worth even engaging with. but the attacks by both Martin Levy (CPB) and Steve Brown of the Labour Representation Committee  (LRC) on FRFI have to be understood in the context that their organisations have consistently supported and covered up for the imperialist British Labour Party. The CPB is committed to the ‘parliamentary road to socialism’ and the LRC’s entire reason for existence is ‘rebuilding the Labour Party’. These organisations nominally oppose the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, but do nothing to dissuade anyone from joining the party leading that occupation. Both call for a vote for Labour in elections and the LRC actively recruits members to it. Similarly, while they would never publicly own up to supporting brutality against prisoners, in reality they do nothing to support those who are beaten or murdered by prison officers. Instead they defend the ‘rights’ of the brutalisers. Labour has introduced 3,000 new criminal offences and the gap between rich and poor has increased. As a result of this inequality, alienation and repression the prison population has spiralled out of control. The overwhelming majority of prisoners are poor and working class. So-called left organisations like the CPB and LRC not only fail to support those at the sharp end of state repression, but when their view is challenged, reach for the same weapons their Labour Party taskmasters would employ – censorship and threats to call the police.

May Day is international workers’ day. It belongs to the workers – all of us. Not to the CPB, the LRC or anyone else. They are in no position to ‘ban us from May Day’ as though it were their personal property. It is not our analysis that is confused, as Mr Brown suggests. We are clear. We defend the working class. As our article on last year’s POA strike said: ‘Most prison officers are from the working class but, like the police, they are hired to protect the ruling class by enforcing its laws and punishing those who do not obey them. They are the defenders of inequality and privilege.’

Fight racism!
Despite such sectarian attacks reparations are well underway for the Northern Conference Against Racism, being organised by TCAR on 21 June in Newcastle. Organisations around the country have expressed their support. The conference is a vital step in building alliances against the continuing attacks
of the racist Labour government. Visit to book your ticket in advance.

In Manchester comrades from FRFI and NWASDG held a ‘speak-out against racism’ on 10 May and in London FRFI continues to demonstrate monthly at Communications House Immigration Reporting Centre and has supported recent demonstrations against deportations to Democratic Republic of Congo and in support of protesters in Harmondsworth detention centre.

Free Palestine!
15 May 2008 was the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Israeli state. In London comrades joined the march for Palestine on 12 May and on 15 May held a Street University outside Britain’s biggest retail sponsor of Israel – Marks & Spencer on Oxford Street with talks, theatre and music, spreading the news to the British public about the history of the occupation. A similar demonstration outside and inside M&S in Newcastle called for an end to the siege of Gaza and all British support for Israel. Come and join us in solidarity with the Palestinian people!


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