On Saturday 16 April 2016, the Revolutionary Communist Group joined the the Peoples Assembly demonstration demanding both Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation and an end to austerity in this country.
Thousands gathered in Gower Street, to protest against the government’s increasing attacks on the working class, before marching to Trafalgar Square. The RCG contingent was strong, and very motivated despite the grey weather.
Side by side with anarchist and antifascist comrades, the RCG led chants, blasted music and provided an open mic for discussion, debate, and speech. Inspiring and thought-provoking contributions were made by RCG members, supporters, and the general public alike.
Interwoven with political rallying was rap and spoken word, raising the spirits of those marching. Housing petitions were passed around, and badges and copies of FRFI were sold throughout the day.
Comrades were openly criticising the Labour party, whose local councillors have been implementing savage cuts across the country. For example, we asked will the Labour Party refuse to evict those affected by the housing bill if it goes through parliament? So far they’ve refused to comment on the issue, so why were so many on this march calling for a Labour vote? Our invitations to the Labour supporters to engage in debate on the open mic over the nature of their party were met with uncomfortable looks, and silence.
On Tuesday 5 April, a protest called by the Croydon branch of the Revolutionary Communist Group took place outside Lunar House in Croydon, the (Home Office) UK Visas & Immigration HQ, to raise awareness in opposition Britain’s latest racist Immigration Bill.
The colourful and lively protest started at 10.30am, a busy time at the centre when migrants are effectively being told what to do with their lives, giving them a chance to get involved and have their voices heard. This is the building where deportations are processed, in many regards the epicentre of Britain’s racist immigration controls.
The RCG raised money for the All African Women's Group to attend, a prime example of migrants living on the breadline in Britain while being threatened with deportation. As well as other RCG comrades from South and North London branches, other supporting organisations in attendance included: Black Women's Rape Action Project, Class War, CPGB-ML, Focus E15, Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary, the Pan-Afrikan Community Society Forum, Women Against Rape and Queer Strike.
The RCG ran an open mic on its sound system throughout the picket. RCG comrades stressed that as an imperialist and oppressor nation, Britain’s immigration controls are inherently racist, explaining that the latest Immigration Bill is an unprecedented expansion of the powers to detain individuals, to seize property and earnings, and generally invade privacy, all on the mere suspicion that a person is living and working in the UK ‘illegally’. A new criminal offence for people without the right papers will result in 12-month jail sentences and unlimited fines. 'Deport first, appeal later' provisions have also been expanded to people claiming asylum on grounds of human rights. Restrictions on asylum support threaten families with hunger and homelessness.
This is happening to defend imperialism in a period of economic crisis, the result of a decaying capitalist system. RCG comrades communicated the Marxist analysis that imperialism is the root cause of racism in Britain, and handed out flyers explaining this clearly, re-emphasising that any anti-racist movement which does not struggle against the British state and British imperialism cannot hope to combat racism.
British imperialism needs a special 'super-oppressed', super-exploited layer of cheap labour, to depress the average wage and maximise profits for the capitalist class, and which is easily dispensed into the reserve army of unemployed labour needed for capitalism to function, especially during a period of capitalist crisis. Racist and sexist discrimination is the expression of capital's need for this super-oppressed layer. This, we explained, is why, for instance, we currently see mostly black migrant women hospital cleaners striking, because they earn less than the living wage with no sick or holiday pay. The threat of deportation and dismissal is used to discipline black and Asian workers so that they are less likely to fight for their rights as workers and human beings. Immigration controls tighten in a period of crisis because the labour shortage becomes a labour surplus.
RCG comrades also called on the people working inside Lunar House to refuse to implement deportations, including PCS union members who recently marched against racism in London – a position that clearly amounts to disgraceful hypocrisy of the highest order. Britain’s warmongering role in creating the so-called refugee crisis was also highlighted, along with the fact that the UK is nowhere near ‘full’ because at least 700,000 empty homes exist in England and Wales as a result of a parasitic and decaying capitalist economy that has to prioritise profit ahead of people. The contrast with socialism was also made – while Britain has reluctantly promised to accept 20,000 Syrians over the next five years, Venezuela immediately offered to resettle 20,000 with open arms.
Representatives from the All African Women's Group spoke passionately about the suffering, neglect and destitution they had experienced at the hands of the British state and called on Home Secretary Theresa May to stop the deportations that are separating families and ruining lives.
Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary, organisers of the now well-known Surround Yarl's Wood protests against detentions of immigrants, stressed that we cannot rely on authorities to take a miraculous progressive turn, and that it was up to campaigners to build a movement that forces the state to end detentions and deportations.
Queer Strike made the important point that while the government has taken credit for legalising gay marriage, it has continued to distress, oppress and interrogate LGBTQ migrants and deport them to countries where they face lawful discrimination and murderous persecution – countries homophobia was exported to by British colonialism.
The purpose of the protest was really underlined by a Sri Lankan friend of a Focus E15 comrade who called from inside a detention centre. With a phone put against the mic to amplify his voice, he told those gathered how immigration officers had raided his home in the early hours of a Sunday morning no less, and pleaded for his freedom. This is just one anecdote of the oppressive reality for migrants living in racist Britain.
So the message was loud and clear: anti-racists must build a mass anti-imperialist movement if solidarity with migrants and refugees against Britain's racist capitalist immigration laws is to be effective on the necessary scale.
Fight the racist Immigration Bill! Stop deportations! End detentions! Britain out of the Middle East! Stop imperialist war!
On Saturday 19 March, the London branches of the Revolutionary Communist Group joined the ‘Refugees Welcome Here’ march, which marked UN anti-racism day.
The march was organised under the name Stand Up to Racism, a trade-union-funded umbrella campaign. Around four thousand people marched from Portland Place to Trafalgar square.
At Piccadilly circus supporters encountered around 100 members of the fascist group, Britain First, with banners reading ‘Veterans before refugees’. Protected by police, they made little impact on the demonstration of colourful and vocal anti-racists.
On Sunday 13 March, the RCG joined the national demonstration in central London against the Housing and Planning Bill.
The Bill, currently going through Parliament, is the latest assault by successive governments on the very concept of social housing (see this article in FRFI 248). Under its provisions, Right-to-Buy will be extended to the tenants of housing associations, with massive discounts. These discounts will, in a double whammy, be funded by forcing local councils to sell off their highest value properties. The Bill will also introduce a ‘pay to stay’ rule for council housing, where households earning above £30,000 ((£40,000 in London) will be forced to pay anything up to full market rent. It will strip away security of tenure in council housing, and even the limited definition of ‘affordable’ housing will be transformed to mean homes for sale – the government’s vaunted ‘starter’ homes that ‘start’ at £450,000. In addition, the ‘Planning’ aspect of the Bill will force councils to identify and make available public land for private development.
The RCG held our customary ‘open mic’, with an impromptu speakout on Waterloo Bridge after Class War and others broke through police cordons to protest against a car from the yuppie estate agent Foxtons. From then on the march spilled out over the whole road, temporarily bringing traffic to a halt.
There was a justifiable anger against the vicious, greedy conservative government over the Bill amongst all those on the march – many of them social housing tenants drawn into political action for the first time. However, as the speakers from the RCG, and from Architects for Social Housing pointed out at the opening rally, the Housing and Planning Bill is just one part of the sustained assault on social housing. As those of us who have been involved in campaigns over housing in Labour boroughs such as Newham, Southwark and Lambeth know to our cost, much of the destruction of working class estates is already being carried out under Labour council ‘regeneration’ plans. That is why the RCG carried a placard denouncing Labour’s social cleansing in London, and why Class War handed out posters of the many many Labour councils involved in social cleansing in London.
So we have to ask: will the Labour supporters who carried banners on the march and the Labour MPs such as Diane Abbott and John McDonnell who spoke at the rally at the end actually stand up for social housing and against the sell-off of working class estates? Will they call for non-implementation of all aspects of the Bill? And will they support the local campaigns from Focus E15 in Newham to Save Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth in their stance against their own local councils? The fight against the Housing and Planning Bill is a vital one, but it is just one battle in the war to defend secure, affordable and decent housing for all.
Video of RCG speaker Nicki Jameson at the opening rally: