Opposing state racism and the far right in the UK

July 13, 2018

Donald Trump will be greeted by mass protests — complete with a large blimp of Trump as an orange baby in diapers that has clearance to fly overhead — on his four-day visit to the UK following his contentious appearance at the NATO summit.

Trump’s visit comes as the Tory government led by Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be entering the final stage of a crisis that began with the 2016 “Brexit” referendum on leaving the European Union, underlining just how unpopular its right-wing policies are. The Labour Party, led by left-winger Jeremy Corbyn is poised to win new elections. But the right is also growing in Britain today, with government-encouraged scapegoating of immigrants as a dominant issue in the national political debate, and far-right organizations mobilizing on a scale not seen in decades.

Here, we reprint a leaflet from revolutionary socialism in the 21st century to be handed out at the anti-Trump demonstrations, which provides an overview of the political conflicts and struggles playing out in Britain today.

U.S. PRESIDENT Donald Trump stands for racism, misogyny and imperialism — but he is far from alone. We cannot let ourselves pretend that Trump is an isolated problem.

Here in the UK, Theresa May is struggling to push through a Brexit deal while holding together a government torn between defending the interests of British capital and keeping hold of the Tories’ reactionary social base of voters.

Her government has shown that they will never stand up to Trump or what he represents. They are too desperate to cling onto their “special relationship” with the U.S.

Hostile Environment

Whether in the U.S., the UK or the EU, enforcing borders always means detention, deportations and death. May’s “hostile environment” policy [a set of government measures consciously designed to make it as hard as possible for migrants to stay in the UK] brought the logic of borders into every corner of society: Landlords, employers, doctors and teachers are all now expected to double up as immigration enforcement.

Students protest in London against Trump’s inauguration in 2017
Students protest in London against Trump’s inauguration in 2017 (Steve Eason)

Millions of people were rightly outraged at the horrifying state-sanctioned treatment endured by the Windrush Generation [immigrants invited to the UK between 1948 and 1971 from Caribbean countries that were part of the British Commonwealth, but who nevertheless faced victimization]. In the aftermath of the scandal, politicians across the political spectrum argued that what happened to the Windrush Generation was wrong because they should have been recognized as citizens. This is not enough: citizenship can never be a fully inclusive category, and no one should be persecuted for crossing borders. No one is illegal.

Islamophobia

In 2001, the U.S. and UK governments launched their “war on terror,” killing hundreds of thousands of people. Whenever governments want to bomb and occupy a country, they have to dehumanize the target population. Today, the targets are Muslims.

Legitimizing lslamophobia has been essential for the government to get away with its military interventions overseas and repression at home. In the name of opposing terrorism and radicalization, the government has pushed through measures that would have jailed supporters of Gandhi and Mandela. We have seen increased state surveillance while the Prevent anti-radicalization program embeds distrust of Muslims in public life.

Anti-Migrant Racism

The New Labour, coalition and Tory governments have all backed tax-dodging businesses while people face underemployment, precarity, falling wages, benefit cuts, housing insecurity, and vital services, including health care, being cut and privatized. Rather than blaming the rich and powerful, we are encouraged to blame each other. The easiest victims for scapegoating are migrants.

It isn’t migrant workers who are keeping wages down, privatizing services and allowing a housing crisis to unfold. From Grenfell to the University of London cleaners, migrant workers are often at the forefront of battles to improve all our lives.

Migration and Labor Rights

Employers want to take advantage of workers who will accept lower wages and worse conditions, and for various reasons, that often applies to migrant workers. On top of that, employers can leverage insecure immigration status to exploit workers more intensely.

When the government introduces measures to further marginalize migrants, it is an attack on all of us. For example, the 2014 Immigration Act meant that the NHS, which used to provide free health care to all UK residents, now requires health care workers to act as immigration police. As the campaign group Docs Not Cops explains:

Charging migrants for health care is the first step to normalizing charging for everyone. Once the government has a charging system in place, it becomes much easier to gradually expand this to everyone else, regardless of nationality. Racism is being used to undermine our society’s commitment to universal health care, and the values of social solidarity which binder society together.

Keeping migrants vulnerable requires institutionalized repression and racism. It gives the state more power over all our lives.

No Borders

After Windrush, Labour announced that it would close two detention centers, end the hostile environment policy, and stop indefinite detention on immigration grounds.

Those measures might make the immigration system less cruel or a rational — but they won’t end the inherent violence of borders. There would still be a network of detention centers across the UK, hyper-exploitation of migrant workers, secretive deportation flights in the dead of night, and people trapped at the French border facing abuse from the police and risking their lives to get to the UK.

European states and capital have pillaged the world militarily, economically and environmentally. At a time in history went over 65 million people are displaced worldwide due to conflict (and 51 percent of refugees are children), it’s not enough to only demand free movement within the EU.

The Mediterranean is a mass grave for people seeking a better life in Europe. The Italian government prevents rescue boats carrying migrants from docking. Greek islands have become open-air prisons. Far-right parties are winning power in Italy, Hungary and Austria.

In the words of writer and poet Warsan Shire: “No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

Fortress Europe must be dismantled. We should fight against hostility to migrants and the violence of borders. Make unconditional solidarity with all migrants the policy of every union — and the Labour Party.

Far-Right Threat

On June 9, around 15,000 people joined a racist march in London — the biggest demonstration organized by the far right since the Second World War. It drew support ranging from the right of the Tory Party and UK Independence Party, through to supporters of the Football Lads Alliance, the Democratic Football Lads Alliance and ex-English Defense League leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (alias Tommy Robinson), as well as virulent white supremacists and fascists, and international figures like Geert Wilders from Holland. They also had support from Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s former chief strategist, and the American alt-right.

This followed thousands demonstrating in other cities since the jailing of Yaxley-Lennon for jeopardizing a child abuse trial, and over 500,000 signing a petition for his release. Large racist mobilizations are a threat in themselves, and they allow fascist groups to embolden their supporters and increase the likelihood of renewed electoral challenge from the far right.

We need to fight racism, from the state and on the street, as well as the ruling-class divide-and-rule tactics that stoke it, including austerity. This is the basis of the unity we need to fight for a world without wars, climate change or poverty — a socialist world to end capitalist barbarism.

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