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Readers' Letters

Gazette letters: Birds in flight, racism and Brexit

PUBLISHED: 08:00 23 February 2019

A swan attempts to fly. Picture: MARIANNE
 BEVIS (CC BY-ND 2.0)

A swan attempts to fly. Picture: MARIANNE BEVIS (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Some birds just can't fly, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

And I don’t mean ostriches and kiwis. I mean the birds we see around us every day – swans, moorhens, pigeons and the like.

They can get in the air and pump their way along through brute force, but that’s not really flying. Or, at least, it’s not the graceful flying we would expect to see – more the airborne equivalent of a plod; inelegant and thudding.

Coming west along the canal from Victoria Park, a swan, neck outstretched, seemed to almost fall past me; honking in panic as if it had no idea where its enormous wings were taking it.

A far cry from the swifts and swallows, wagtails and even crows that soar effortlessly around the neighbourhood.

This morning, as I walked to work past De Beauvoir Square, a couple of pigeons flapped pointlessly as, scared by a passing squirrel, they practically fell from their perch, their bodies too heavy for the effort they were putting in.

The coots on the New River Path, as they trip over their oversized claws running away from passing dogs, will only resort to taking off from the ground when all other routes of escape have been exhausted – flying simply does not suit them.

Still, they fly better than us, free to explore the city canopy – eyeing up the arrival of fresh nesting and feeding spots ready to settle in for spring and the rearing of chicks.

Recently the Hackney Gazette printed a statement from Hackney Stand Up To Racism (HSUTR) in solidarity with Diane Abbott following abuse she experienced on a recent episode of Question Time, writes Sasha Simic, Hackney Stand Up To Racism, full address supplied.

Last week, it ran a letter by someone called Imran Khan in response to that statement which was nothing more than character assassination of me.

Mr Khan did not comment on the abuse Diane Abbott received on Question Time except to use it to launch a personal attack on me for the “crime” of being a socialist. Racist bullying of a black MP seems acceptable to Mr Khan because I am a socialist.

Mr Khan also smeared my colleagues in HSUTR with a grubby package of distortions, half-truths and downright lies.

Far-right politics are very keen on the fable that there’s a hidden controlling hand behind every fight for social justice.

That myth is at the heart of Mr Khan’s letter.

Khan argues that Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) is a front organisation for the Socialist Worker’s Party (SWP). That’s a lie.

SUTR is an alliance of activists from a variety of different political parties, trade unions and community groups which exists to stand up to resurgent racism and the growth of fascism in society. We are united by an understanding that racism, racists and the far-right can be stopped, but only if the anti-racist majority unite in action against them.

SUTR is necessary because we are at a very dangerous point in history.

We live in a world where the presidents of the US, Brazil and Italy are open, unapologetic racists and neo-Nazis are part of the government of Austria and are the official opposition party in Germany.

In the UK Theresa May’s government has deliberately fed, encouraged and fostered toxic anti-immigrant racism. The Tories have consciously constructed a “hostile environment” against immigrants – a policy that led to the “Windrush” scandal last year.

Racism at the top of society has increased racism at the bottom.

Police in England and Wales recorded a 40 per cent increase in violent hate crimes against religious minorities in 2018.

Most religious hate crimes – 52pc of all offences – were carried out against Muslims.

But just because racists find new victims to oppress doesn’t mean they abandon their previous targets.

Recent figures show that violent antisemitism is rising sharply across Europe with France reporting a 74pc rise in offences against Jews and Germany recording a 60pc increase in such attacks.

History shows that racism and racists can be confronted and beaten because the vast majority are against racism and know that it is wrong. About 250,000 marched in London against Donald Trump’s visit to the UK last July.

In October, 250,000 mobilised against the neo-Nazi AfD in Berlin. The year ended with the rise of a mass movement in Hungary against Viktor Orban’s far-right regime.

SUTR exists to organise mass struggle against the racists and the fascists on every front.

Sectarian divisions among anti-racists opened the door to Hitler in Germany in the 1930s. We will not repeat their mistake today.

I have been an organised anti-fascist all my adult life and have been part of movements that have beaten back the National Front, the BNP, the EDL and, more recently, the so-called Football Lads Alliance.

We can push the racists back into the gutter where they belong.

On March 16, people will march on the streets of London, Paris, Berlin, Athens, New York and 22 other cities in their hundreds of thousands as part of the UN International Anti-Racism Day.

It will be a demonstration of our commitment to the promise: “Never Again!”

Imran Khan is quite wrong about Stand Up to Racism writes Richard Kirkwood, University & College Union, on behalf of Hackney Stand Up to Racism, full address supplied.

It is not the front for any political organisation, On the contrary, it is a broad-based organisation that brings people together to build solidarity with refugees and to confront racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism. This is its strength, as demonstrated by its ability to mobilise large numbers in demonstrations and conferences to confront racism and the growth of the far-right. All these people, including the Trades Union Congress, most major trades unions and many ethnic minority and community organisations, are involved with Stand Up to Racism not because they are manipulated (as Mr Khan’s slur implies) but because they want to stop the growth of racism and the far-right.

What is true nationally is also true of Hackney Stand Up to Racism, which is made up of supporters from different political parties, community organisations, religious faiths and trade unions, as well as people of no political persuasion. We can only assume that Mr Khan has not come to any of the well-attended meetings we have organised over the years. Our last public meeting, held on Holocaust Memorial Day, saw around 100 people listen to Jewish speakers who had recently visited the Auschwitz death camp, and to a leading anti-racist Hackney councillor. What brought people together was a common determination that never again would such horrors occur.

If Mr Khan agrees that unity in stopping racism is a worthy aim he should be ashamed of making baseless slurs about Stand Up to Racism. We are proud of local MP Diane Abbott being president of Stand Up to Racism and disgusted at the way she has been treated. Every supporter of Hackney Stand Up to Racism is committed to working together to ensure that the demonstration in central London on March 16, the UN international day against racism, is a success.

Sadly not all politicians have accepted Brexit is now inevitable following the acceptance by parliament of the Brady amendment, writes Christopher Sills, Dunsmure Road, Stamford Hill.

It is the duty of all politicians to persuade the European Commission and the other European leaders that it is in everyone’s interests to ensure that any temporary difficulties are reduced to the absolute minimum. Fortunately some European leaders appear to be getting the message.

The real problem is that up to 21 ministers are so determined to keep Britain in the European Union that they do not understand the consequences of success, which would make a no deal look like a teddy bears’ picnic.

This is because there would be about 16million leave supporters who would be determined to throw out all existing MPs.

The problem is what replaces them with Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jeremy Corbyn being favourites for prime minister, all of whom would be disasterous but for different reasons.

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