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The panel. Picture from Eric Segal’s facebook page.

Aylesham’s ‘Club Ratling’ hosted a commemoration event on May 5th to recognise the struggle nationally and locally in this former mining village. Had the strike ended in victory and the pits stayed open, there would be more of a choice of locations for this event. As things stand the Ratling was the only option. But here you find a community used to pulling together to make the best of a situation, and what a great spirit there was. Music was provided by the Snowden Colliery Brass Band and later their Male-Voice Choir. Socialists of different tendencies showed up to show respect and support. Two Socialist Workers’ Party members had a stall, letting people know about the annual Marxism Festival and selling a great 12-page special paper with some of their best articles from the 1984-5 period. I was helping out at the Red Stuff Shop stall and selling the latest Kent International Socialists’ bulletin. 47 sold altogether! The Socialist Party, TUC, and RMT also participated, but most of the people enjoying and creating the festivities were the locals themselves. The famous strike is remembered as a loss, but a loss that gave people a glimpse of what might be possible. “Although there was a great deal to celebrate,” said the first of six speakers, Terry Harrison, “this has to be a commemoration rather than a celebration”.

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I delivered this letter yesterday. The Mosque was attacked by some EDL dickheads, one of whom has been arrested. Some people have raised issue with the Surah quote, saying it was out of context or I should have used the full version. However, the people who thought it was inappropriate were non-Muslims, and I had three Muslims who though it was fitting. I know almost nothing about Islamic scripture so I still don’t mind if anyone wants to correct me.

“Members of Gillingham Mosque,

It is a relief to hear that nobody was hurt in the attacks on your place of worship, and a relief that you dealt with the material damage fairly quickly. Once again the English Defence League has responded to extremism with its own extremism, lashing out at a community that has nothing to do with the violence in Woolwich and are the first to condemn such actions.

“To kill one man is to kill all mankind, and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” – Surah, 5:23

Local anti-fascists have already been checking up on the Mosque and other affected Mosques and Islamic centres around the country, showing their concern for a diverse faith group that is so often demonised. It must be demoralising knowing that the group who is most often seen talking about Islam in mainstream media is also the group that understands it the least. Even more troubling is how easily their racist rhetoric and chanting catches on. But remember that you will always have friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, to rely on every time populist racism flares up. The majority of people oppose the message and tactics of the EDL and don’t want to see a fascist Britain.

Stay safe and continue to educate people on your religion and the cultures surrounding it, for if the members of the EDL were truly informed, they would have nothing to hate.

In solidarity,”

The letter was signed by East Kent Unite Against Fascism and 44 individuals, one of whom left their own message: “I have always been proud to be born and bred in Medway and will defend my home from people who often look down on it, but yesterday I felt shame for the first time. Racists out of Gillinghan, don’t let the Islamophobes divide us.”

Today I got to be a first-time voter, in the Kent County Council elections. I was very excited Imageabout this, despite being in a very conservative area and having no real faith in our parliamentary democracy. This is a similar contradiction to watching England play football. For me an ideal world is one without states and borders, but every so often I can suspend this and become patriotic for 90 minutes.

I voted for Jo Kidd, the candidate for the Green Party of England and Wales. There are a ton of socialists and closet-socialists in the Green Party so I’m hoping it might go that way, rather than social democracy. In some places I might have voted Labour, if there was a good trade unionist running, or possibly in Whitstable, I would have voted for the Labour candidate Rita O’Brien, who leads the East Kent Keep Our NHS Public group. But the Labour party doesn’t look like it will reverse its rightward trend any time soon, nor is it likely to take more effective action on environmentalism than Blair or Brown. Climate change really needs to be more in the foreground now, as well as the jobs that will be created by green energy.