The press portrayed the recent events in Bradford as race riots - the reality is that these uprisings have primarily been against the far-right menace and racist policing. They have also been an outbreak of frustrated anger against the reality of life for whole sections of society in Britain today - both black and white. It is significant that this is almost 20 years to the day after Britain’s cities erupted against racist policing and the policies of Thatcher’s Tory government, there has been a series of uprisings revealing the simmering anger against Blair’s Britain. But none of the press has revealed the true sequence of events.
Hundreds of mainly young Asian men had gathered in the central Bradford Centenary Square, and waited for hours in a peaceful show of strength against the National Front (NF) threatened march. There have been wildly inaccurate reports in some of the media about Asian and white gangs fighting. During the whole day, whilst it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between who was who amongst the whites, the atmosphere was most definitely not anti-white from the Asian youth, but was understandably suspicious.
However, the huge police presence was provocative and as events unfolded it was clear they were there to stop the counter-demonstrators, not the fash.
NF spotters had been in and out of the Square throughout the day, moving and regrouping in a number of pubs close by, but numbers were small. Shortly after mid-day, a well-known Nazi activist entered Centenary Square, where he had a conversation with police officers and then left the square. As a local activist pointed out
"this individual is extremely well known to police and has been involved in many acts of intimidation and violence over the years."
Events came to a head when word went round that this individual and a group of NF fellow-travellers with him were in Addisons Bar, just off Centenary Square. Soon a crowd gathered outside with the intention of seeing them off.
The fascists emerged and, as usual - standing behind a riot police line, taunted the crowd to attack them and hurled abuse. One lone Asian man charged them and ended up on the floor where he was repeatedly stamped on, whilst the police only three feet away waved their batons to keep the anti-fascist crowd from aiding him.
This was the turning point. The police pushed the crowd back – charging them with mounted thugs and the riot then kicked off because of outrage at the police protection of the fascists and arrests of a number of Asian youths. Police only regained territorial control after some hours as the bulk of the youths involved in the earlier counter-demonstration retreated and regrouped in Manningham, an Asian area of the city not far from the centre. Again, contrary to the media myth, it was not a case of Asians simply having a go at whites or the police. Indeed, reports some press reports show acts of courageous bravery by Asians protecting elderly whites in the mayhem.
The crowd which gathered outside Addisons bar was totally mixed – Asian, white and black. The Fascist strategy of getting events portrayed as a race riot was achieved thanks to the local police.
Tensions had been increasing in Bradford in the weeks preceding the proposed NF march. Rumours were rife and many young people were getting ‘prepared’ for the expected arrival of the NF determined that they would not be able to run amok in the city.
Capitulating to empty NF threats, the city council, on police advice, cancelled the Bradford Festival due to be held the same day. Their excuse was that they could not ‘guarantee public safety’. Alongside the presence in the square, local youth had organised mobile contingents in case of fascist attack throughout Bradford
The maximum the NF had turned out on any event in Lancashire was 25. Most people were outraged by this decision, seeing it as giving in to NF threats. As one anti-fascist activist put it: "NF 1, Bradford 0". There were unconfirmed rumours that there had been arrests of known fascist activists approaching Bradford and that the Leeds contingent, seven of them, were boozing in Leeds city centre.
In the wake of the resulting riot "community leaders" tried to blame the riots themselves on ‘outside agitators’. They don’t seem to realise that a layer of Asian youth, in particular, have had enough of police abuse when organising to defend themselves. The facts speak for themselves. All of those arrested were local except for one individual "35-year old Scarborough man, David Appleyard, who was remanded to Armley jail, Leeds, accused of racially aggravated disorder. He allegedly confronted a group of Asians after a long, tense vigil in the Central Centenary Square." (Guardian). Mr Appleyard is a well known NF activist - the only outside agitators in Bradford on the day.
No Platform activists were present at the events in Bradford. We picked up a number of fine new contacts on the day including some of the Asian youth present.
Bradford: Lectures from New labour on 'anti-racism' and the reality behind this - July 2001
In the wake of the riots the words of home secretary, David Blunkett, show how little the politicians comprehend what is happening. Arguing for the introduction of water cannon he said, "all history shows that if you allow disorder to take over from democracy then fascism will win".
Actually, Mr. Blunkett, an ailing ‘democracy’ (where we only have a choice as to which group of tame politicians is going to shaft us – Asian, black or white); limited alternatives; available scapegoats; economic misery and insecurity are the conditions in which fascism grow. It’s also the reason why people resort in desperation to "destroying their own communities" (to use the words of prime minister Blair), or at least what is left of these communities after decades of government policies that have already ‘destroyed’ – but ‘peacefully’. These conditions are the end result of the present governments policies, which the self styled ‘anti-racist’ Blunkett has been so eager to enforce.
In Bradford, as in Oldham and Burnley, schooling is becoming increasingly segregated not simply as a result of demographic change but largely because of economic factors where those that can afford to send their children to more ‘successful’ schools do. The middle classes are able to move out of poor areas leaving the poor whites and Asians to fight over the crumbs left. Government ‘regeneration programmes’ leave different areas of a city fighting over access to limited resources rather than fighting together for decent funding.
As for local politicians and "community leaders", in the words of the CRE’s recent report on Bradford … "political leadership has been weak in … operating within a ‘double deals’ culture to avoid ‘disturbances’ and to ‘keep the peace’ " – in reality feathering their own beds – "So-called community leaders are self-styled, in cahoots with the establishment, and maintain the status quo of control and segregation through fear, ignorance and threats".
The NF are simply stepping in to turn up the divide and rule tactics already employed by those in power. Their dirty work prepares the ground that the electoral fascists of the BNP to try and gain votes.
In a recent BNP statement – "No Time Like The Present" - it is clear that they know where they can gain support, at least in the short term. They state –
"…the Tories are in ever-deepening crisis, New Labour are hell-bent on a hugely unpopular ‘whether it moves or not, privatise it’ campaign, a serious economic recession is looming … - all these factors are combining to give us the greatest opportunity for growth and for real political progress for several decades."
In the present vacuum even a lunatic can sound profound to some fools. In practice, the fascists offer nothing different from the others, they just simplify the use of scapegoats. They are as terrified of the possibility of working class people – Asian, black or white – fighting to defend their conditions as any other status quo politicians. The BNP alternative to ‘Labour privatisation’ is ‘BNP privatisation’, the only difference is in their willingness to impose it with open violence and terror.
Again, in their own words:
"... the BNP accepts that the private enterprise system is the one which functions with the greatest dynamism and efficiency. We therefore favour most parts of the economy operating under private ownership and control" (May 1994)
The fascist history of attacks on trade unionists, such as the recent threats to NUT activists in Oldham, speaks volumes for their hypocritical lies about standing up for white working class rights. Behind the mask are the same old puppets and boot-boys of the rich and powerful.
We can only rely on ourselves. Working class people in Bradford and across the UK are the only force able to offer any fighting alternative to more poverty and more fighting over the crumbs that fall from the tables of those in power. If we are at each other’s throats we all continue to lose – Asian, black and white. If we do not stand up and fight it is scum like the NF and their electoral fraud friends in the BNP who will try to fill the vacuum.