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Pat Wall

Bradford Trades Council Banner
Destroyed by Fascists

(October 1974)

From Militant, No. 226, 11 October 1974.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On Saturday 18th May two members of the Bradford Trades Council, brother Garry Armitage (National President of the Woolsorters Society) and brother Keith Narey (NUPE Shop Steward) were violently assaulted by a group of some thirty youths.

The two brothers were carrying the Trades Council Banner for assembly on the platform of the Labour Party Young Socialists demonstration against racialism, a campaign fully supported by the Trades Council, which has its own sub-committee against racialism.

The Bradford banner, a magnificent pictoral emblem of considerable value recently restored, has been the emblem of the local labour movement for some half a century.

It was carried on the Jarrow march.

The two Trades Council members were some way away from the main assembly point of the demonstration when attacked by the fascist thugs assembled around an old Mosleyite Union Movement banner.

It is interesting to note that THE POLICE AT FIRST REFUSED TO INTERVENE ON BEHALF OF OUR BROTHERS and virtually had to be dragged into intervention by onlookers. Obviously Bradford Westgate was not London Red Lion Square!

The local Labour and Trade Union Movement were full of praise for the conduct and stewardship of this tremendous peaceful demonstration, but what would have happened if the incident had happened nearer the main demonstration? The Trade Unions and YS stewards would have been more than a match for these misguided pawns of the faceless fascist leaders.

Would the police have been so reluctant to intervene, and what of the press? The incident received some brief mention on local TV and a few tiny paragraphs in the press. One can imagine the headlines which would have followed if local Trade Unionists had dealt with this unprovoked attack on our members. One can also imagine the sentences the court would have given in the circumstances.

Two young men were charged by the police and the case went before the Bradford Magistrates Court in June to be deferred for the defendants to appoint a solicitor. A couple of weeks ago the case again came before the Bradford magistrates. It lasted less than ten minutes. The police prosecutor and the defence agreed to the two accused being bound over for twelve months.

The defence solicitor made a statement that the defendants strongly protested their innocence. By this device Trades Council witnesses were prevented from giving statements.

One trade unionist who arrived a few minutes late to find the case concluded, made enquiries as to the outcome. He was informed by an official that the case had been quickly concluded and that the bench “had concluded that it was a small fracas between rival factions.”

Members of a movement ten and a half million strong are a “rival faction”! A vicious attack on a national trade union officer is a fracas!

The Trade Council’s statement makes plain our position on the incident and on the beginnings of the emergence of extreme right wing groupings. However some comment must be made about the justice dispensed by the courts.

We did not seek to be involved with the court. Its decision shows the nature of capitalist justice. Contrast this decision with the Shrewsbury 24. Des Warren received three years and others lesser prison sentences. What were they accused of? Riotous assembly – did this not exist in Bradford? Conspiracy – how did these people arrive at the same point and assemble around a flag? No proof was ever produced to show that those sentenced at Shrewsbury either attacked persons or damaged property. It happened in Bradford.

In my opinion the lesson is abundantly clear. In a class society justice serves the interests of the exploiting class. It is entirely Utopian to believe that the menace of racialism and fascism can be dealt with by the courts. Only the mobilisation of the enormous strength of the Labour Movement around a clear socialist programme to transform society can provide a guarantee against reaction.

The Bradford Trades Council seeks support for its statement. It would welcome donations to its funds for the purchase of a new banner. One thing is certain, our new banner will never be without adequate protection. We have learned our lesson. It is important that the whole movement does the same.

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Last updated: 3 December 2015