Peter Windeler speaking on behalf of Stockport Trades Council 27 January 2022
As you may be aware, Trades Councils bring together trade unions in particular localities to fight and defend workers’ rights and working conditions. Although I am now a representative on behalf of teachers, in the 1980s I was a representative of bank workers in particular, a delegate to Stockport Trades Council from the Manchester Barclays branch of the bank workers union.
I worked as a lending officer at the Moseley Street branch of Barclays. It was a hectic job. More and more work was being done by less and less staff – as is the way with work. However, one customer who was Austrian would often ask me to chase up his pension from the Austrian government, as it was frequently delayed. I am afraid that one day I must have shown a bit of impatience and to my surprise, the customer asked me to see something. He rolled up his sleeve and on his arm was the tattoo of his death camp number. Needless to say, whenever that customer came in any other work pressure I may have felt evaporated immediately and from that moment on I gave this holocaust survivor my undivided attention.
Two weeks ago, I marched with the Stockport Trades Council banner on the Kill the Bill (the Policing bill currently going through parliament) march in Manchester. From St Peter’s Square we marched up Moseley Street, where I used to work in the bank. The street is named after the Moseley family who made their money in the factories of Manchester and whom Oswald Moseley came, the leader of the British Fascists in the war and an avid supporter of Hitler. Ironically before working in the bank, I worked for Avon Moseley, a rubber factory in Ardwick which had been one of the Moseley family factories. The conditions that some workers toiled under would have been recognised by Charles Dickens. Some workers in the factory worked in workshops in cellars, winding by hand large machines that looked like the old fashioned clothes wringers, these were the colanders that mixed the rubbers’ compounds to make synthetic rubber. The workers who had worked for many years had backs misshapen from their years of toil.
The holocaust holds a very special place in the lives of all trade unionists. The Holocaust Memorial Day remembers all mass killings, not just those committed against the Jews by Nazi Germany.
At the moment I am reading Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman, a novel on the war in Russia. In a footnote he explains that during the first two days of the Nazi occupation of Kiev 30,000 Jews were executed and in the following 6 months 100,000 were killed. Also, he describes the notorious gas vans that the Nazis used to kill Jews and others during their invasion.
I learnt that the gas vans were an invention of the Russians, first used in Stalin’s purges in 1938-39. One victim of the purges was the writer Isaac Babel who was Jewish and is famous for his Red Cavalry Stories. His short story, The Story of My Dove Cote, is about his life as a child in the Ukraine in 1905, the year of the first Russian Revolution, and the death of his grandfather in one of the pogroms that year.
We must always be vigilant and never allow the perpetrators of genocides to be able to get away with it. Whether it is Assad in Syria or closer to home Harold Wilson’s Labour Party, whose government in the 1960s assisted in the genocide of 500,000 in Indonesia. Only last Sunday, The Observer reported on Britain’s secret propaganda war, with more evidence that has come to light revealing British involvement in the incitement of hatred against the victims and the heavy involvement of GCQH. This is a long-standing story, in 2002 the journalist John Pilger, wrote about how the British Royal Navy was involved in escorting the killers.
To quote Pilger:
There were bodies being washed up on the lawns of the British consulate in Surabayo, and British warships escorted a ship full of Indonesian troops down the Malacca Straits, so that they could take part in this terrible holocaust.
So, Stockport Trades Council says:
Never Forget the Holocausts!
Never Forget all the victims of Nazi Persecution!
Never, ever again must anything like it be allowed to happen!
Unity and Solidarity!