Monthly Archives: March 2021

Bangladeshi Workers

This was written, and translated, by Abdus Salique. It was performed by Dishari and published in the 1980 collection Bricklight, Poems from the Labour Movement in East London, edited by Chris Searle.
Abdus Salique, the founder of Dishari, a Bengali musical band was born in Sylhet in 1950. He was already an accomplished musician by the time he arrived in Britain in 1970. His passion for singing and writing songs came from his mother who was also known for her musical talent. Growing up in rural East Pakistan (modern day Bangladesh), intoxicated with the socialist fervour of the renowned Bengali politician Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani (1880 – 1976), Mr Salique became naturally drawn towards the activities of the local Trade Union. In 1976, in response to the horrific condition faced by Bangladeshi factory workers in East London, he produced the Trade Union Song – calling for the Bangladeshi works to join the union to resist and take action. In 1979, he set up Dishari Shipli Goshti (Dishari group of artists) funded by Inner London Education Authority to deliver Bengali music and poetry workshop at local schools with a view to tackle racism

Trade Union Song of Bangladeshi Workers

We were called from a distant land,
Counting the waves
Of thirteen rivers and seven seas
With hopes of better life.
We are the workers!
We labour in the factories and the workshops,
If we unite
We can grasp our rights in our hands
.
Of course we must unite
If we want to defeat the racist
If we want to break the teeth
of the bloodsuckers who exploit us.
We must stand together
Under the trade union banner!
Trade Union!
Trade Union!
Trade Union!
TRADE UNION!

Abdus Salique

SPG

From New Youth, No. 4, 1984.

Special Patrol Group

The S.P.G. are merry old souls.
They like nothing better,
Than being on patrol.
If it’s anti-racist or extremist
a political involvement
You can rely on the lads
for instant dissolvement.

With their batons and shields
And their ford transit carriers
they all rally round,
for the “S.P.G, barriers”
Whether it’s Toxteth or Brixton
It don’t really matter
The boys aren’t really bothered
Whose head they splatter

Radicals or Commies
They’ll treat you the same
When the force is on duty
And they set out to maim
A smashed football hooligan
with beer in his guts
Has the fight taken out of him
With a kick in the nuts.

Rioters and protestors
are their speciality
and the lads can cover
for the odd youth fatality.
So is it the swagger, the gear,
or the smirk on his face?
Or his whole disregard for
the Human Race?
That makes this young “groupie”
stand out by a mile
amongst his contemporaries,
of the Blue rank and file.

Yes, if you’re a racist
and a shit through and through
Join up with the group,
It’s the only life for you!

T.W.

Action Pact/The Mekons

Review from Leicester zine Linda Lovelace For President, issue 1, 1985.
I saw Action Pact loads, the hideously bad ranter wasn’t me!

A Benefit for African Famine
Action Pact, A Popular History of Signs, The Mekons, The Push, and a pathetic poet
Ambulance Station, Old Kent Road, 12.04.85

The venue, a disused ambulance station, was suspect to say the least, The cider bottles gave it a touch of Woodstock. We even had one chap ask if we had any acid! Half of the so-called punks with 20 inch mohicans acted like a bunch of hippies. And don’t a lot of vegetarians wear leather jackets……
Anyway, the Push kicked off (surely not the same Push who supported “slowly stagnating” Sister Crow in May 1984)
They were great – real Theatre of Hate wall-of-anger stuff. Then we got bored watching the glue brigade mess around and nipped out. We returned to see the Mekons prove themselves more than the Membransey “Never been in a riot” suggests. Unfortunately they didn’t play this (or I missed it). We did get some slices of luscious lunacy and folk-Fall frenzy (told you I was Garry Bushell). These were replaced by a hideously bad ranter who was too much of an egotistical prat to bother remembering whole chunks of his own poems (I use the term loosely). He even does a cover version of Russians in the DHSS – and leaves out massive pieces of that; he should be put in a swimming pool full of bleach.
A Popular History of Signs were a fairly good Gang of Fourish outfit who could be on TOTP tomorrow given sufficient backing.
I enjoyed their set but not many danced!
Finally at 2am !Action Pact! proceeded to tear the safe “punk” scene to shreds and pose a pretty big threat to the hype and tripe of the pop world. Tribal drums, Killing Joke grating bass, pains of broken glass for the guitar sound and of course George’s mixture of anguish and Motown that blasts their messages of thought and action to the masses. Although Suss of The Swiss, London Bouncers and Who’s to Blame? were sadly absent the twelve pieces of energy and activism made it worth the journey. A semi-riot of youthful exuberance seized band and crowd at the start of the set and this exploded into a total death pogoing contest when they closed the set with two groovy numbers from days gone by; the megahellthrashscreechydeath mix version of 1-2-3-4! Rockaway Beach and a stupendous Roadrunner that served to show !Action Pact! are one of the slickest bands to carry the Punk banner. All tonights takings went to African amine which shows their hearts are in the right place.

You Have No Authority Here

A lockdown poem.

You Have No Authority Here

The door’s locked closed / the pandemic / and government
dropping the bottle / have seen to that / shoes ain’t worn
much / since this time last year / these days the heft of me /
is chips not beer / no-one’s telling jokes inside / none of the
lads / are getting the ride / Saturday night shirt / not seen
a Saturday / in a month of Sundays / every wry barmaid’s
initials writ clear / in the dust / on the bottles of beer / fruit
machine lights / wink through the window still / nothing
profound / there’s two plums on the bandit / lend me a pound

Tim Wells

Puerto Rican Obituary

This poem was first read in 1969 at a rally in support of the Young Lords Party, an anti-imperialist Latino youth group in New York. Along with the Black Panthers, the Young Lords worked in their community supporting demands for fair and affordable housing and decent health care, and ran free breakfast programs for children. They linked their neighbourhood militancy to a call for the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and elsewhere, third world liberation, an end to the oppression of the poor and people of colour, and the building of a socialist society. The Young Lords were destroyed by U.S. government provocations in the mid 1970s, but Pedro Pietri continued on as a radical activist and poet. He saw no distinction between these roles.
“I realised who the real enemy was, and it was not the Vietcong in their black pajamas, but the mercenaries who invaded their country.” On fire with rage against the system, he wrote, “Puerto Rican Obituary,” first published in a collection of his work with the same title by Monthly Review Press in 1973, as well as eight other volumes of verse. Pedro Pietri died of cancer, aged 59, on March 3, 2004.
The New York Times commented that “three decades ago, a poem ignited a movement.”

Puerto Rican Obituary

They worked
They were always on time
They were never late
They never spoke back
when they were insulted
They worked
They never took days off
that were not on the calendar
They never went on strike
without permission
They worked
ten days a week
and were only paid for five
They worked
They worked
They worked
and they died
They died broke
They died owing
They died never knowing
what the front entrance
of the first national city bank looks like

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
passing their bill collectors
on to the next of kin
All died
waiting for the garden of eden
to open up again
under a new management
All died
dreaming about america
waking them up in the middle of the night
screaming: Mira Mira
your name is on the winning lottery ticket
for one hundred thousand dollars
All died
hating the grocery stores
that sold them make-believe steak
and bullet-proof rice and beans
All died waiting dreaming and hating

Dead Puerto Ricans
Who never knew they were Puerto Ricans
Who never took a coffee break
from the ten commandments
to KILL KILL KILL
the landlords of their cracked skulls
and communicate with their latino souls

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
From the nervous breakdown streets
where the mice live like millionaires
and the people do not live at all
are dead and were never alive

Juan
died waiting for his number to hit
Miguel
died waiting for the welfare check
to come and go and come again
Milagros
died waiting for her ten children
to grow up and work
so she could quit working
Olga
died waiting for a five dollar raise
Manuel
died waiting for his supervisor to drop dead
so he could get a promotion

Is a long ride
from Spanish Harlem
to long island cemetery
where they were buried
First the train
and then the bus
and the cold cuts for lunch
and the flowers
that will be stolen
when visiting hours are over
Is very expensive
Is very expensive
But they understand
Their parents understood
Is a long non-profit ride
from Spanish Harlem
to long island cemetery

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Dreaming
Dreaming about queens
Clean-cut lily-white neighborhood
Puerto Ricanless scene
Thirty-thousand-dollar home
The first spics on the block
Proud to belong to a community
of gringos who want them lynched
Proud to be a long distance away
from the sacred phrase: Que Pasa

These dreams
These empty dreams
from the make-believe bedrooms
their parents left them
are the after-effects
of television programs
about the ideal
white american family
with black maids
and latino janitors
who are well train
to make everyone
and their bill collectors
laugh at them
and the people they represent

Juan
died dreaming about a new car
Miguel
died dreaming about new anti-poverty programs
Milagros
died dreaming about a trip to Puerto Rico
Olga
died dreaming about real jewelry
Manuel
died dreaming about the irish sweepstakes

They all died
like a hero sandwich dies
in the garment district
at twelve o’clock in the afternoon
social security number to ashes
union dues to dust

They knew
they were born to weep
and keep the morticians employed
as long as they pledge allegiance
to the flag that wants them destroyed
They saw their names listed
in the telephone directory of destruction
They were train to turn
the other cheek by newspapers
that mispelled mispronounced
and misunderstood their names
and celebrated when death came
and stole their final laundry ticket

They were born dead
and they died dead

Is time
to visit sister lopez again
the number one healer
and fortune card dealer
in Spanish Harlem
She can communicate
with your late relatives
for a reasonable fee
Good news is guaranteed

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
Let them know this right away
Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
Now that your problems are over
and the world is off your shoulders
help those who you left behind
find financial peace of mind

Rise Table Rise Table
death is not dumb and disable
If the right number we hit
all our problems will split
and we will visit your grave
on every legal holiday

Those who love you want to know
the correct number to play
let them know this right away
We know your spirit is able
Death is not dumb and disable
RISE TABLE RISE TABLE

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
All died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Hating fighting and stealing
broken windows from each other
Practicing a religion without a roof
The old testament
The new testament
according to the gospel
of the internal revenue
the judge and jury and executioner
protector and eternal bill collector

Secondhand shit for sale
learn how to say Como Esta Usted
and you will make a fortune
They are dead
They are dead
and will not return from the dead
until they stop neglecting
the art of their dialogue
for broken english lessons
to impress the mister goldsteins
who keep them employed
as lavaplatos porters messenger boys
factory workers maids stock clerks
shipping clerks assistant mailroom
assistant, assistant assistant
to the assistant’s assistant
assistant lavaplatos and automatic
artificial smiling doormen
for the lowest wages of the ages
and rages when you demand a raise
because is against the company policy
to promote SPICS SPICS SPICS

Juan
died hating Miguel because Miguel’s
used car was in better running condition
than his used car
Miguel
died hating Milagros because Milagros
had a color television set
and he could not afford one yet
Milagros
died hating Olga because Olga
made five dollars more on the same job
Olga
died hating Manuel because Manuel
had hit the numbers more times
than she had hit the numbers
Manuel
died hating all of them
Juan
Miguel
Milagros
and Olga
because they all spoke broken english
more fluently than he did

And now they are together
in the main lobby of the void
Addicted to silence
Off limits to the wind
Confine to worm supremacy
in long island cemetery
This is the groovy hereafter
the protestant collection box
was talking so loud and proud about

Here lies Juan
Here lies Miguel
Here lies Milagros
Here lies Olga
Here lies Manuel
who died yesterday today
and will die again tomorrow
Always broke
Always owing
Never knowing
that they are beautiful people

Never knowing
the geography of their complexion

PUERTO RICO IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE
PUERTORRIQUENOS ARE A BEAUTIFUL RACE

If only they
had turned off the television
and tune into their own imaginations
If only they
had used the white supremacy bibles
for toilet paper purpose
and make their latino souls
the only religion of their race
If only they
had return to the definition of the sun
after the first mental snowstorm
on the summer of their senses
If only they
had kept their eyes open
at the funeral of their fellow employees
who came to this country to make a fortune
and were buried without underwears

Juan
Miguel
Milagros
Olga
Manuel
will right now be doing their own thing
where beautiful people sing
and dance and work together
where the wind is a stranger
to miserable weather conditions
where you do not need a dictionary
to communicate with your people
Aqui Se Habla Espanol all the time
Aqui you salute your flag first
Aqui there are no dial soap commercials
Aqui everybody smells good
Aqui tv dinners do not have a future
Aqui the men and women admire desire
and never get tired of each other
Aqui Que Paso Power is what’s happening
Aqui to be called negrito
means to be called LOVE

Pedro Pietri