Saturday, October 03, 2009

Unwanted guests in Manchester

MANCUNIANS are steeling themselves for trouble next week when the so-called English Defence League (EDL) intends holding one of its demonstrations against "Islamic extremism" in the city centre. In reality, the EDL attracts right-wing hooligans and people who are against any kind of Muslim, and violence has occurred wherever they have appeared.

Manchester city council, local religious leaders and MPs have appealed without success to the Home Office to ban the demonstration The council said it feared ordinary shoppers could find themselves caught up in a melee. The Home Office insisted it had no power to stop a static demonstration, and the police would know how to maintain order.

North-West union officer and anti-fascist campaigner Alec McFadden writes: “The North West TUC in conjunction with Searchlight and Unite Against Fascism will be the umbrella organising body to prevent the fascist “English Defence League” holding a demonstration in Manchester on the morning of Saturday 10th October. We urge all Anti-fascist Activists, Trade Union delegates and trade unionists to make this a priority".

Meanwhile another bunch of undesirables is arriving in Manchester this week in the shape of the Tory party annual conference, and two of their guests from abroad deserve a special mention. One of these is Polish right-winger Michal Kaminski, now the leader of the European Conservatives, who will speak on Tuesday.

Kaminski is a member of the Law and Justice Party in Poland, whose leaders were accused by Lech Walensa of moving away from democratic ideals.

Yorkshire and Hunberside Tory MEP Kenneth McMillan-Scott had expressed serious concern over his party abandoning its alliance with mainstream conservatives like German Chancellor Merkel to form a Conservative and Reform group with east European right-wingers. “Despite what David Cameron has said there are already indications that some of the members have links with extremist groups and I feel very, very uncomfortable with that,” he said recently.

McMillan-Scott decided to stand against Kaminski for vice president of the European parliament, and defeated him. But following an angry call to Cameron from the Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Timothy Kirkhope, leader of the 25 Conservative MEPs, was ordered to step aside so that Kaminski could take the position. McMillan-Scott, who has been an MEP for 25 years, has been deprived of the Tory whip, i.e. expelled from the group.

Michel Kamininski made headlines in Poland in 1990, when, as an MP, he travelled to London to pay homage to General Augusto Pinochet. As a young man he supported the National Revival of Poland, nowadays linked with the British National Party, and a Catholic organisation, the Christian-National Union. He remains anti-abortion and opposed to gay rights. While he was spin-doctor for President Kaczynski,they campaigned against the Lisbon Treaty arguing that it would force Poland to accept gay marriages under the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In an interview due to be broadcast, Kenneth McMillan-Scott said he was uncomfortable that Mr Kaminski had been in the National Revival of Poland for three years. “It is homophobic, racist, antisemitic — they use the Nazi salute, they are linked to the BNP through a thing called the European National Front — it is a deeply unpleasant organisation",

The second Tory guest to raise a row is Roberts Zilc, MEP and leader of the For Fatherland and Freedom Party in Latvia. A US-educated former Finance Minister, Zilc has denied attending ceremonies in Riga to commemorate the Latvian SS. "My party has never justified Nazi war crimes or glorified Nazi military groupings", he insists, saying he could not understand why his party was being picked on when other parties' MPs and MEPs had attended the ceremonies.

While Zilc tried to separate himself from the charge which Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband had levelled against Latvian leaders, leading Tories William Hague and Eric Pickles were accusing Miliband of not knowing his history and making an unjustified "slur". They claimed that the Latvian Waffen SS legion was just a a conscript unit following orders. Hague said Miliband was "endorsing Soviet propaganda". But in fact the legion included volunteers, who swore an oath of allegiance to Hitler, and members of a Latvian SD detail which had been involved in Nazi genocide. Besides, if the Latvian "volunteers" were all unwilling conscripts, and the politicians from parties like Fatherland and Freedom regret the Nazi past, why were they celebrating it.

Response from the Jewish community appears mixed. Lord Janner, former Labour MP and chair of the Holocaust Education Trust, said "My relatives in Latvia were all murdered by the Nazis and I think it is appalling that anyone would so much as say a good word about the Waffen SS and those who today follow in their trail. it is vile that members of this party have marched in honour of their memory".

There was condemnation of the Latvian SS and its Tory apologists from the Community Security Trust and the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre. But as for the Polish EU vice president, "The Board of Deputies of British Jews said they had looked into Kaminski's background and found nothing objectionable."

Which is more, I am sure, than they would say for me!

Some European Jewish leaders, including a Chief Rabbi of Poland, were not so enamoured with Kaminski, or prepared to excuse the Tories' alliance.

But then Kaminski's party is in government, and he leads the largest group of MEPs allied with the Tories in the European parliament. Their party's reactionary views are no worse than those to be found in the Israeli government or among some religious leaders. As a matter of fact Kaminski was in Tel Aviv recently as the guest of the Israeli government. So he has been declared kosher by the Jewish Chronicle's awful editor Stephen Pollard.*

Which is no reason why he or the Latvian right-winger Zilc should be welcome in Manchester.

* for a different response to Pollard's see what Tony Lerman, former director of the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, had to say:

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