Bristol - Deportation - The Sun
The rebel alliance (Bristol branch)
Recently Bristol Anti Cuts Alliance held a public meeting with Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, which saw over 250 activists come together to discuss how to progress the fight against the cuts following the 26 March demonstration (Feature, Socialist Review, April 2011).
It's worth saying something about the Bristol Anti Cuts Alliance, which has achieved significant success. It came out of discussions held by socialist teachers in the NUT in the Avon and Wiltshire area. It was initially envisaged that some form of public sector alliance should be formed but in reality the Anti Cuts Alliance has become a much wider organisation.
It now has over 40 local organisations affiliated to it, including 23 union branches as well as non-union organisations, ranging from the local Disability Equality Forum to a group set up by medics called Medicine and the Big Mac Society campaigning against the multinational junk food industry, Bristol Older Peoples forum and a tenants' association.
We have held two demonstrations in Bristol against the cuts which have been 4,000 and 3,000 strong. We also held a debate with a Tory spokesperson for the Big Society, Charlotte Leslie, who is also the MP for Bristol North West; around 90 local people attended and were able to pass on their views!
The Alliance has been able to establish local groups in some areas of the city which can respond to cuts in their particular area. Alongside this, groups have been set up such as the Welfare and Claimants. The Health Group has produced an excellent pamphlet on the changes to the NHS and how they will affect local people. The monthly city-wide open organising meetings for the Alliance are attended by between 40 and 70 people.
Socialists need to continue to develop the Alliance and bring in wider forces, deepening the anti-cuts movement and forging stronger links with local workplace organisation.
It has the potential to forge a network of activists which can raise solidarity with workers when they are fighting back and help give us confidence that we can and must resist together. It is the crucial arena for socialists to be centrally involved in. We have no time to lose.
The hand that didn't rock the cradle
I have just read Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys on which the film Oranges and Sunshine is based (Films, Socialist Review, April 2011 and I wish the film had been as hard hitting as the book.
Margaret Humphreys is the whistleblower who revealed the horrific story of 150,000 children forcibly deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a "new life" in distant parts of the empire between 1929 and 1967.
Mothers who had left their children, often in temporary care hoping to be reunited with them when they could better cope, would be told that their children had been adopted in Britain. The children in turn were told that their mothers were dead.
Part of the plan was to populate colonies such as Canada and Australia with "white stock". The Archbishop of Perth, welcoming these "orphan boys and girls" in 1938, said, "If we do not supply from our own stock we are leaving ourselves exposed to the menace of the teeming millions of our neighbouring Asiatic races."
The children in Australia remained unaware that they had a mother who was alive in Britain. It was Nottingham social worker Margaret Humphreys who brought the story to public attention. Very few reunions took place, as by the 1990s many of the mothers were dead. The reunions that did take place were heart-rending because of all the wasted years.
The book is far more revealing than the film which largely centres on Margaret's story. I think the film, would have been stronger if it had done more to expose the individuals and institutions that created and concealed this barbaric process. They seem to have got off far too lightly.
The Sun and racism
I'm writing with reference to Weyman Bennett's excellent article about the 1981 Brixton riots in last month's Review (Column, Socialist Review, April 2011.
At the time of the march from Deptford to New Scotland Yard over the New Cross fire, I worked in the Fleet Street area. As the marchers came up Fleet Street, the windows of the offices of the Sun were flung open and I saw and heard the staff there bawling racist insults and they were chucking things out of the window which made me feel totally disgusted. It was no surprise to find the paper later carrying lying rubbish, as Weyman points out.