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WHEN I founded the Anti-Racist Allliance (ARA) in November 1991, my friend John Haylett acted as a mentor and champion of the cause in the labour movement.
Without his help, ARA affiliation by a clutch of unions, including the TGWU, and scores of their branches, would not have been possible.
They provided the political support, mobilisation and money that was the backbone of the ARA.
Together with fellow Morning Star doyen and ARA executive committee member Ivan Beavis, John introduced me to general secretaries and fellow anti-racist stalwarts Ken Gill and Ken Cameron.
Firefighters’ leader Cameron became ARA treasurer. Comrade John, then Star editor, put countless articles in the paper supportive of the vital work of the ARA combatting the fascist BNP, racist attacks and murders and the Conservative government’s institutional racism.
We couldn’t have wished for a more dedicated and consistent ally. John’s peerless wisdom helped steer the organisation.
The ARA became Europe’s largest black-led anti-racist movement, with backing from the major faiths, the Labour Party, Lib Dems, TUC and community organisation throughout Britain.
There’s been nothing like it since. At a time of alarming far-right resurgence in Europe, including the Islamophobic English Defence League and Football Lads Alliance in Britain, such a movement is sorely needed again.
John’s Liverpudlian candour, humour and tenacity were a huge asset. The ARA was instrumental in getting the BNP’s “nazi bunker” headquarters in Tory-controlled Welling, south-east London, closed down.
And the BNP’s first councillor Derek Beackon, defeated. But perhaps the ARA’s finest achievement was helping Doreen and Neville Lawrence set up their Justice for Stephen Lawrence Campaign, after the murder by racist thugs of their 18-year-old son.
This became an international cause celebre. And I was able to introduce parents Doreen and Neville Lawrence to Nelson Mandela, a game changer for the campaign.
We also twice got new laws to make racial violence and harassment specific criminal offences. Before then these were civil matters, with the burden of taking court action on the vulnerable victims and not the police.
Eminent Jewish lawyer Geoffrey Bindman drafted the necessary legislation and leading Tory MP Sir Ivan Lawrence, a prominent member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who worked with the ARA, helped get the legislation passed by Parliament.
Those were the golden days of black and Jewish collaboration in Britain, something which has been put under threat by the false accusations of anti-semitism against Jackie Walker and me, leading to our expulsion from the Labour Party as part of the anti-Jeremy Corbyn purge.
Thank heavens for the support Jackie and I have received from fair-minded people and leftwingers in the community like Jewish Voice for Labour and the Jewish Socialists’ Group.
At this extremely traumatic time, John has given me comfort and solidarity, the same as Star editor Ben Chacko, who has published an unrivalled amount of positive news media coverage that should make those comrades who have appeased, capitulated and apologised to the right-wing enemy within blush. Comrade John, we venerate you, a true hero of the intertwined working-class and anti-racist struggles.
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