It is 20 years ago that Blair Peach, a socialist teacher, was murdered by the police. On 23rd April 1979 he had travelled to Southall to join thousands of others, black and white, in the protest against a National Front meeting. Thousands of police was mobilised in order to protect a mere two dozen of these miserable fascists. They occupied the heart of Southall and engaged in an orgy of racial abuse and vicious violence. They killed Blair Peach, seriously injured many others and arrested hundreds of people and prosecuted over 700.
This year, on Saturday, April 24, demonstrators marched through Southall to commemorate Blair’s death and demand a public inquiry into the events of April 1979. The demonstration which took place under the name of the `Blair Peach 20th Anniversary Committee’, bore all the hallmarks of an SWP front given the control they seemed to have of the Rally in Southall Park, the vanloads of placards (the Anti-Nazi League seemed to have sprung back into existence!) and the leaflets distributed.
It was therefore not surprising that their leaflets and speakers, consistent with SWP’s masquerading as the extra-parliamentary left-wing of the Labour Party, seemed to have forgotten some of the `detail’ of the political circumstances of 1979. Much was made of the fact that now there was a Labour Government it opened up an opportunity to get a public inquiry put in place. What was conveniently `forgotten’ was that at the time of Blair’s death we also had a Labour Government. The Callaghan Government of 1979 should take the major responsibility for the death, injury and suffering that occurred in Southall. Had the then Labour Government been as zealous in implementing the Race Relations Act, securing prosecutions and convictions against the National Front for inciting racial hatred, as it was in sending in 5,000 police to protect a few fascist thugs, then Blair Peach may well have been alive today.
Southall comrades who recall the true events of April 1979, not only condemn the Callaghan Labour Government for the attack on the community and its friends, but also recall that the present Labour MP, Piara Khabra, was then one of the leaders of the Indian Workers Association (Southall). The IWA(Southall) played a despicable role in initially opposing the protest against the National Front and then demoralising protesters under Gandhiite pacifist slogans of `peace and unity’.
Harpal Brar, speaking at the start of the demonstration on behalf of the Socialist Labour Party brought greetings from the Executive Committee of the SLP and its entire membership. He said : Blair Peach fought against racism, for socialism and the unity of working people of all colours, nationalities and religions. As a result of Blair’s dedication be became a victim of police brutality on that fatal night. He also has become a symbol of resistance to racism.
While saluting Blair’s memory, Harpal Brar said, there should be no reason to mourn. It should be remembered, and the police should take heed, that the laws of history are stronger than that of a policeman’s truncheon. Blair Peach’s ideals will live on way beyond those who are responsible for his death.
Harpal Brar continued: `Our’ Labour Government is telling us that it is bombing Yugoslavia for `humanitarian’ reasons. 19 NATO countries representing 600 million people, using sophisticated weapons, are pounding 10 million people in tiny Yugoslavia. This is the same Government who have cut lone parent benefits, implemented racist asylum and immigration legislation, etc. This Government is depriving the people of this country of its human rights. The Labour Government has a policy of war and aggression abroad and curtailment of our rights in Britain. We must expose the hideous nature of the Labour party. Too many people have a soft corner for the Labour Party, but we must recognise it for what is is – a bloodthirsty party of imperialism.
He concluded by calling upon everyone to oppose the war in Yugoslavia and also to mobilise for the May Day ‘Reclaim Our Rights’ March.