Racism, Imperialism and the Working Class

Revolutionary Communist No 9, June 1979

Discussion Article


The British imperialist state is engaged in a systematic, organised and continuous offensive against black and immigrant workers in Britain. No other terms can describe the extent and the ferocity of the attack that the British state has unleashed against black people.

The scale of the state’s operations against black people and the brutality of the methods it uses can be compared only with the British state’s war against the nationalist population in the North of Ireland. In the black and immigrant areas of Britain, the police, including the notorious Special Patrol Group, engage in daily harassment and intimidation. Using the SUS and Immigration laws the police stop, question, detain, raid, and beat up black people as a normal routine.

Not only are black people harassed on the streets by the police, but also their homes are raided, their possessions smashed and themselves beaten. Thus recently in Manchester the home of the Ahmed family was raided in the early hours of the morning. The police broke furniture, ripped out the telephone and beat up members of the family. They then charged two of the family with assaulting police officers. It must be remembered that this case is one amongst hundreds.

Immigration laws are used to split up families and to ‘discipline’ immigrant workers, to prevent them from defending themselves by trade union or political organisation. The 1971 Immigration Act is used to terrorise all black people. Random passport checks, raids on homes and factories are used supposedly in the search for ‘illegal’ immigrants. Black people are picked up at work and disappear into the detention centres in which the British state hold up to 300 so-called illegal immigrants at any time. Always the onus is on black people to prove that they are not illegal immigrants. No black person is safe from these laws. Recently a 17-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant named Abdul Azad was visited by the police while at work. They informed him that his mother had been murdered. They then took Abdul Azad into custody. They were completely uninterested in the murder of his mother, it merely gave them an excuse to ‘prove’ that Mr Azad was an illegal immigrant. Abdul Azad described the treatment he received at the hands of the police:

‘From Friday onwards, they started saying “They are not your parents”. Saturday or Sunday ... they made me sign a paper ... said if I didn’t sign they would hit me more. At about 1 in the night, three of them came. One looked like a boss. He said: “Kill him”. I was hit so much I felt sick. Then they took me upstairs, hit me again and made me sign the paper.’

Abdul Azad was kept on remand for three and a half months and recommended for deportation.

The police attack is particularly concentrated on black people’s social and political gatherings. They raid clubs, discos and meetings, provoking, questioning and arresting at random. They used over 1,600 police at the 1976 Notting Hill Carnival in a massive operation designed to intimidate black people.

The similarity of methods used by the British state against black people and those used against the Irish people is more than coincidence. For just as Britain can only rule Ireland by force and terror so the British state can only force and terrorise black people into acceptance of the oppressed role which they occupy.

British imperialism, still one of the strongest and most brutal imperialist powers, has oppressed and continues to oppress nations and peoples throughout the world. Their countries impoverished by years of imperialist exploitation, workers have been forced to seek work in the imperialist centres, including Britain. In Britain the capitalist class and their state has ensured that these workers from the oppressed nations suffer continuing racial oppression, forcing them into the worst jobs, with the lowest pay and the worst conditions.

Throughout the post-war boom massive discrimination was used to ensure that black people and immigrant workers continued to occupy these jobs and to form a special oppressed layer within the working class.

Today, in a period of capitalist crisis, racial oppression means that black people are suffering most acutely the attack which the capitalists have unleashed on the working class. The unemployment rates of black people are far higher than for the rest of the population. They are concentrated in the lowest paid jobs and as such suffer acutely from falling living standards.

From the early 1960s onwards barriers to the further immigration of workers from oppressed nations have been erected. At the same time the British state has taken special measures, measures of force and terror to prevent and defeat any attempt by black people to fight the oppression from which they suffer.

That is why today, as the conditions of existence of black people worsen, as their suffering intensifies, the British state has gone on the offensive against them, using its police, its SPG, its courts and every other means at its disposal.

That is why the harshest penalties are exacted for any sign of a fight back, any sign of defence by the black and immigrant population. So when white racist thugs attack black people it is the black people who defend themselves who commit a crime in the eyes of the state. When white racists attacked the Virk brothers recently, it was the Virk brothers who received sentences of up to 7 years for defending themselves. Their attackers went free.

That is why when black and immigrant workers fight to improve their conditions and wages they face directly the might of the British state. So when the Grunwick workers were fighting for union recognition, one quarter of the Metropolitan police force was used to defeat their strike.

The British state’s attack on black people has starkly revealed the political weakness of the working class movement. The present leadership of the Labour Party and the trade unions has done nothing to oppose this attack on black people. On the contrary it is a Labour Government which has presided over the sharpest and most brutal phase of the state’s attack. The leadership of the Labour Party and trade unions has supported that attack either by remaining silent and hiding the full extent of the attack or by directly supporting the use of immigration controls.

No working class anti-racist movement exists capable of clearly and unequivocally standing with black people and against the British state. The responsibility for this rests entirely with the British left. The issue is surely simple enough. An offensive has been unleashed against black people. In this struggle only two sides exist – with black people or with the British state.

The British left has been completely unable to decide where it stands.

While reality daily reveals that British imperialism is and can only be racist, that it must inevitably attack black people, those like the Communist Party (CP) have spread the myth that British imperialism can be reformed: that the British state can be purged of its racism. While black people suffer daily attacks from the police, the CP says that the British police force can be democratised. While immigration laws are used simply and solely against the oppressed the CP says that they need not be and that the British imperialist state could operate non-racist immigration laws. While the Labour Government attacks black people, and shows it is capable of doing nothing else than obediently carrying out the wishes of its imperialist masters, the CP says in fact that a left Labour Government will fight racism, that it will democratise the police force etc.

Nor do those supposedly to the left of the CP – the SWP, IMG – have anything better to offer. Instead of building an anti-racist movement clearly opposed to the British imperialist state, instead of exposing the extent and purpose of the state’s attack on black people and the complicity of the Labour and trade union movement in that attack, the SWP, IMG etc have concentrated on allying themselves with the Labour and trade union leadership in a sham campaign against the National Front — the Anti-Nazi League (ANL).

All the major organisations on the British left – the CP, SWP, IMG – have joined the ANL. At the very time when the British imperialist state’s attack on black people reaches unprecedented heights, the British left has decided that the real threat is the National Front. While it is the case that the National Front has engaged in murderous attacks on black people and constantly beats and harasses black people, the essential point is that the National Front has been strengthened and encouraged by the racist British state. Moreover no effective defence against the National Front can be conducted without confronting the British state.

This latter point has been proved by the ANL. It has refused to take up the state’s attack on black people. It is terrified of any confrontation with the British state. The result has been that it is incapable of even the limited objective of fighting the National Front.

In fact it is doing the ANL a favour to say that it has proved incapable of defending black people even from the National Front. The ANL has never intended to defend black people from attack from any quarter, neither the State nor the National Front. Its purpose has been to divert attention from the real issue facing the working class, that of building an anti-racist movement against the British state. Accordingly the ANL and its supporters have ensured that the terms anti-racist and anti-fascist have come to be used interchangeably. Staunch supporters of the British state’s immigration laws, such as S Bidwell, and the ‘left’ of the Labour Party have given their support to the ANL precisely because it has diverted attention away from the state’s (and the Labour Government’s) attack on black people and immigrant workers.

The result of the left’s refusal to confront the British state and to confront the present racist Labour and trade union leadership, has been that black people stand alone to face the onslaught.

The purpose of this article is to establish the political basis for an anti-racist movement. To show that British imperialism is necessarily racist and can be nothing else and therefore that the struggle against racism is a struggle against British imperialism. The article will also establish that the present leadership of the working class movement – the Labour Party and trade union leadership – is allied with British imperialism against black people. In showing this it will become very clear that the basis for an anti-racist movement is a very simple one – complete opposition to the British imperialist state and complete opposition to those within the working class movement who are the agents of British imperialism.

Imperialism and racism

Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism. This means that capitalism is no longer able to develop the productive forces systematically, except by attacking the working class, stepping up exploitation and intensifying oppression. Production is dominated by monopoly firms; the export of capital becomes more important than the export of commodities. The world is completely divided up by the imperialist countries into colonies, and ‘spheres of influence’. This domination divides the world into oppressor and oppressed nations: a handful of advanced capitalist countries exploit numerous backward capitalist countries, impoverishing them and holding back their development. The price for this domination is paid by the masses in these countries who are condemned to brutal exploitation, unemployment and starvation, while groaning under viciously repressive regimes.

This development of capitalism into imperialism is not an accident, a ‘wrong turning’ which capitalism has taken. It is a necessary and inevitable development of the essential tendencies of capitalist production. Capitalism’s insatiable thirst for profit drives it to ceaseless accumulation. In order to obtain as much profit as possible capitalists must continually raise the productivity of labour by investing in labour-saving machinery. Although this will increase the mass of profit, the decisive factor which determines investment is the rate of profit, that is, the ratio of the mass of profit to the total investment in wages, machinery and raw materials. Profits do not come from machinery and raw materials but are created by the workers alone. As the capitalist invests in labour-saving machinery, the amount laid out to exploit workers declines relative to the amount laid out on machinery and raw materials. Thus while the mass of profits rises relative to the amount laid out on wages, it declines relative to the total investment. The rate of profit falls, not because the labourer is less exploited or less productive, but because he is more exploited and more productive.[1] This is the central tendency of capitalist production which drives it into crisis and which determines the course of its development.

The decline in the rate of profit forces the concentration and centralisation of capital, leading to the creation of huge agglomerations of capital in the form of multinational corporations which control sources of raw materials overseas, secure foreign markets and export capital beyond national boundaries. The pressure of these tendencies intensifies national oppression by the imperialist states, and heightens competition between imperialist countries, leading to periodic redivisions of the world, brought about through international wars.

The domination of the oppressed nations by imperialism leads to their systematic underdevelopment. Such development as takes place in these countries is conditioned by the interests of imperialism. Massive unemployment, poverty and starvation are created and reproduced in the oppressed nations to bolster up the profits of imperialism. To contain the inevitable rebellion by the masses against these conditions, imperialism establishes and supports repressive regimes in these countries.

British capitalism was the trail blazer for imperialism. Long before the rise of competition from European and American capitalism, British capitalism had butchered its way round the world, hacking an empire out of the bare flesh of the indigenous population of Asia, Africa, and South America. Although the Empire no longer exists, British imperialism is alive and kicking, as reactionary today as ever, fighting to the last to maintain its place in the imperialist system.

Thus British imperialism supported the Shah of Iran. Thus British imperialism props up white domination in Southern Africa. Thus British imperialism wages a vicious war against the Irish people.[2]

This worldwide carnage and exploitation by British imperialism is the basis for racism in Britain. Racism is nothing else than the systematic oppression of the indigenous population of the countries conquered and exploited by imperialism. The backwardness and poverty of these countries was explained, not, of course, by the plunder and exploitation of imperialism, but by a supposed natural inferiority of oppressed peoples. A racist ideology was developed in order to justify the barbaric treatment by imperialism of the people of oppressed nations. Racism is the necessary and inevitable result of imperialism and will only be defeated with the defeat of imperialism. Any struggle against racism in Britain which does not struggle against British imperialism will inevitably fail because it leaves the basis of racism untouched.

The racism and racial oppression within Britain today is a particular form of imperialist oppression. It is the form taken by national oppression within the oppressor nations. As we have seen imperialism is the inevitable development of the inherent tendencies of capitalism. Racism in Britain is a result of the operation of these fundamental tendencies. One of these is the need for a ‘reserve army of labour’.

In Capital Marx describes the ‘General Law of Capitalist Accumulation’. He shows that, in order to allow capitalist accumulation to take place, there must exist an ‘industrial reserve army’.

‘Independently of the limits of the actual increase of population, it creates, for the changing needs of the self expansion of capital, a mass of human material always ready for exploitation. With accumulation, and the development of the productiveness of labour that accompanies it, the power of sudden expansion of capital grows also ... there must be the possibility of throwing great masses of men suddenly on the decisive points without injury to the scale of production in other spheres. Overpopulation supplies these masses.

‘Capitalist production can by no means content itself with the quantity of disposable labour-power which the natural increase of population yields. It requires for its free play an industrial reserve army independent of these natural limits.’[3]

Capitalism needs a reserve army not only to allow uninterrupted accumulation, but also to control the level of wages.

‘the general movements of wages are exclusively regulated by the expansion and contraction of the industrial reserve army ...

‘The industrial reserve army, during the periods of stagnation and average prosperity, weighs down the active labour-army; during the periods of over-production and paroxysm, it holds its pretensions in check. Relative surplus-population is therefore the pivot upon which the law of demand and supply of labour works. It confines the field of action of this law within the limits absolutely convenient to the activity of exploitation and to the domination of capital.’ [4]

Accumulation at once increases the demand for labour and increases its supply ‘by the “setting free” of them’. But the capitalists cannot leave the provision of a reserve army to the spontaneous operation of capitalism, they will, if necessary intervene with their state. Attempts by the working class to combine against this law of capitalist production are attacked by the ruling class as infringing on the sacred law of supply and demand.

‘But, on the other hand, as soon as ... adverse circumstances prevent the creation of an industrial reserve army and, with it, the absolute dependence of the working class upon the capitalist class, capital ... rebels against the “sacred” law of supply and demand, and tries to check its inconvenient action by forcible means and State interference.’[5]

Imperialism and the reserve army

Marx was writing in a period when the tendencies of capital toward the formation of a world economy had only begun to assert themselves. However, half a century later, these tendencies had given such definite shape to capitalism that it had clearly entered a new and highest stage: imperialism.

The surplus population was no longer confined to this or that country, but had taken on international dimensions. Lenin emphasised that international migration occurred because of the division of the world into oppressed and oppressor nations. In an article on ‘Capitalism and Workers Immigration’, Lenin wrote:

‘Capitalism has given rise to a special form of migration of nations. The rapidly developing industrial countries introducing machinery on a large scale and ousting the backward countries from the world market, raise wages at home above the average rate and thus attract workers from the backward countries.’[6]

International migration is vital to imperialism today, and in advanced capitalist countries, migrant labour forms a sizeable section of the working class. Table 1 shows migrant workers as a proportion of the labour force in various imperialist nations in 1974:

Table 1 [7]











The overwhelming majority of foreigners in advanced European countries are drawn from nations underdeveloped by imperialism: Ireland, Southern Europe (including Southern Italy), North Africa, India, Pakistan and the West Indies.[8]

Lenin went on to point out that the immigrant workers not only came from oppressed nations, but that they form an oppressed section of the working class in the imperialist countries:

‘One of the special features of imperialism connected with the facts I am describing, is the decline in emigration from imperialist countries and the immense increase in immigration into these countries from the more backward countries where lower wages are paid ... In France, the workers employed in the mining industry are, “in great part”, foreigners: Poles, Italians and Spaniards. In the United States, immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe are engaged in the most poorly paid jobs, while American workers provide the highest percentage of overseers or of the better-paid workers. Imperialism has the tendency to create privileged sections also among the workers, and to detach them from the broad masses of the proletariat.’ [9]

Imperialist oppression creates the conditions where these workers are faced with a choice of staying in the oppressed nations and barely subsisting or else migrating to the imperialist nations in search of work. Those who migrate are generally young, single, unskilled and with few dependants. They may not know the language of their new country and are certain to be subject to all sorts of controls and restrictions by its state.

When the capitalists in the imperialist nations need to expand their labour force they must do this without undermining profitability and therefore turn to this international reserve army for cheap labour to perform the worst jobs. Forced into these jobs, immigrant labour comes to form a distinct and oppressed stratum within the working class.

Imperialism oppresses immigrant labour within the imperialist nation in order to maintain this special stratum of the working class. It does this through formal, legal mechanisms, and by maintaining discrimination. In this way the oppression of nations is reproduced within the imperialist state as racial oppression.

Immigrant Labour in Britain

As the first major capitalist power to dominate the world, British imperialism has a lengthy history of exploiting immigrant labour. Throughout the nineteenth century, the immigrant Irish formed an oppressed section of the working class. Later in the nineteenth century, Russian Jews migrated to Britain to escape Czarist pogroms, and were as ruthlessly exploited and oppressed as the Irish. The use of immigrant labour by British capitalism and the existence of racial oppression within Britain is not recent but stretches back to the early years of the last century.

The post-war history of immigration and of racial oppression in Britain is entirely bound up with the needs of British capitalism and can only be understood in relation to those needs. Immediately after the Second World War, British capitalism went through a period of extremely rapid growth.[10]

In 1947, British capitalism, which a decade earlier had proved incapable of employing millions of British workers, was now hungry for labour-power to produce its surplus value:

‘we shall require a larger labour force than can be expected to be available unless special measures are taken to increase it. ... The prospective labour force ... falls substantially short of what is needed to reach the national objectives. The Government therefore appeals to women who are in a position to do so to enter industry. By doing so they will actively help in the national effort ... The Government also appeals to those who can do so to contribute to the national task by staying on at their work instead of retiring. ... Foreign labour can make a useful contribution to our needs. The old arguments against foreign labour are no longer valid. There is no danger for years to come that foreign labour will rob British workers of their jobs. The Government intends to seek every means of employing in civilian work the Poles who are here or who are coming here and who are unwilling to return to their own country. It also intends to extend the recruitment of displaced persons from the Continent to work here, ... foreign labour is the only substantial source of man-power which is open to us – especially for the under-manned industries ...’[11]

Lacking a sufficiently large reserve army of labour which would allow capitalist expansion to proceed unhindered, the ruling class used its state to attempt to solve its problems. 115,000 Poles entered Britain under the Polish Resettlement Scheme. 77,000 displaced persons were brought to Britain as European Voluntary Workers (EVWs). EVWs were bound to a specific job for three years and could be expelled for misconduct, accidents or ill-health. British trade unions were viciously hostile towards the foreign workers, and succeeded in negotiating severe restrictions in relation to redundancies and their entry into skilled jobs. In addition, Italian, German and Ukrainian POWs were admitted for settlement. [12]

These workers were directed into the worst jobs: heavy unskilled labouring in many cases. Sizeable numbers of immigrant workers were employed in agriculture, coal-mining, brick-making, construction, domestic work, hotels and catering, textiles, foundries, clothing, and the National Health Service.[13] Between 1945 and 1957 there was a net immigration of more than 350,000 European nationals into the United Kingdom,[14] together with a similar number of Irish workers. As the European economies expanded, this migration petered out.

However, a new source of labour-power was opened up – from the British colonies in Asia, Africa and the West Indies. Migration from the West Indies was never greater than 1,000 per year until 1951.[15] Traditionally, West Indians used to migrate to the United States, but the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act limited such migration to 100 per year. West Indians turned to Britain as a source of employment. And so ‘coloured immigration’ developed. Henceforth, the ex-colonies, which had been under-developed by British imperialism, were to supplement the reserve army of labour.

The British partition of India in 1947 gave rise to massive population movements across the new borders. The resulting settlement of these refugees intensified the pressure of population on the land. This inevitably encouraged emigration from the Punjab. Similar pressures, combined with poverty and unemployment encouraged emigration from areas of Gujarat in India, from Mirpur in Pakistan, and from the eastern areas of what is now Bangladesh.[16]

Table 2 [17]

Immigrants as % of economically active population in GB

New Commonwealth


Irish Republic


Non-EEC European




Old Commonwealth




Total (Rounded)


These migrations have made a major contribution to the growth of the labour force in Britain as Table 2 shows. The largest single group is that from the so-called ‘New Commonwealth’ – that is from the parts of the British Empire with black populations. The importance of immigrant workers, and of black immigrants is understated in the national totals because of immigrants’ concentration in certain urban areas.

Some 41% of all immigrant workers, and 49% of black immigrant workers are in the Greater London area. Another 17% of all immigrant workers and 22% of black immigrant workers are concentrated in three conurbations: the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, and South-East Lancashire. The proportions of all economically active persons in these areas is 15% and 13%, respectively. Thus 58% of all immigrant workers and 71% of black immigrant workers are located in just four major urban areas, compared with 28% of all economically active persons.[18] The significance of this concentration will become clear when we examine the specific way in which capitalism exploits immigrant labour in Britain.

The harsh economic and social reality of racial discrimination is posed particularly sharply for black women. The 1971 census revealed that 50% of all immigrant women worked, compared to 43% of all women, and this represented a striking increase over the period of the post-war boom. Women work out of economic necessity and are concentrated in the jobs with the lowest pay, least skill and training, and poorest conditions. Black women, within this context, are concentrated in the worst jobs of all because they have no alternative. Between 1951 and 1971 the number of married women who worked increased from 24% to 50%. For the age-group 30-44, 43% of all married women worked full-time, whereas the figure for those born in the New Commonwealth was 74%. These women work out of necessity in the worst jobs, and the services necessary to relieve them of domestic toil, in particular childcare, have decreased sharply over the same period. Why is this the case? The significance of these figures is that during the post-war boom women, alongside immigrants, were a chief source of cheap labour, hence a significant rise in the proportion of all women, and in particular married women, who worked. It is a feature of capitalist society that in periods of boom women are drawn into employment to meet the needs of expanding production, when cheap unorganised labour is required. Any nurseries or services provided to help women who work will have to be cheap, and therefore of the lowest possible standard. Indeed the state and the capitalist class will do all they can to avoid providing anything at all. One of the advantages of female labour is that it can be readily dispensed with at the onset of the crisis, or women can be forced into part-time or ‘home work’ in even worse conditions. Just as the state seeks to rid itself of the immigrant labour it ‘no longer requires’, women have to contend with arguments that they should give up work to ‘reassume’ their domestic responsibilities.* Black women face both sets of views – they are dispensable because of their colour and their sex. The sections of this article which follow on employment patterns in particular British industries clearly illustrate this point.

The position of immigrant workers in Britain

There is a popular social-democratic argument in the British labour movement. It makes two points: first, that although immigrant workers may suffer discrimination their oppression as workers is more important than their oppression as immigrants; secondly that anyway the condition of immigrant workers is not all that different from that of indigenous workers. Thus two ‘left-wing’ academics tell us:

‘Immigration from the “coloured” countries of the Commonwealth is often assumed to have brought a significant new dimension to the pattern of stratification in Britain. ... The effect has been to single out inequality between white majority and black and brown minorities as a distinct and allegedly potent basis of cleavage in British society; to encourage diagnosis, explicit or implicit, that the coloured population is a sub-proletariat, a new dark-skinned under-class beneath the white social order. In fact, there is little sense to such characterisations. They ignore the heterogeneity of circumstances among coloured people, and the concomitant diversity of discrimination in form and impact. They also obscure the overriding common features in the dependent condition of both white and black labour.’[19]

By denying that immigrant workers are an oppressed section of the working class, these academics cover up and obscure the essential divisions in the working class movement imposed by imperialism. In that sense they present themselves as ideologues for the privileged layers of the labour movement and in particular the Labour and trade union leadership. It is a similar argument to that used to attack the struggle of the republican workers in the North of Ireland.[20] If they were to admit to a fundamental division in the working class, it would immediately undermine the claim of the trade union and Labour leadership to represent the working class as a whole and would expose the narrow self-interest which lies behind their policies.

In fact immigrant and black workers form an oppressed layer within the British working class.


Table 3[21]

Socio-economic distribution of economically active males – 1971


All in UK

W Indian



Foremen and supervisors – manual





Skilled manual workers





Semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers





Total manual workers






Table 3 shows that the black population is overwhelmingly working class, and in particular that the proportion of semi-skilled and unskilled workers is far higher amongst blacks than amongst the total population. Representation amongst white collar workers, foremen, and managers and professional workers is far lower than for the rest of the population, except amongst the Indians, who are comparatively highly represented amongst professional workers. The weaker position of women in the labour force is shown by the fact that while only 0.6% of UK born women were foremen and supervisors in 1971, only 0.1% of New Commonwealth born women occupied such positions. On the other hand 25.8% of economically active women born in Great Britain were manual workers, as opposed to 39.0% of New Commonwealth women. (Department of Employment Survey, Table G6 p146)

The social-democratic argument goes further than this denial of specific oppression, to a denial that British imperialism needs to exploit immigrant workers at all. That sort of thing only goes on abroad, it seems.

‘British policy and practice vis-à-vis coloured immigrants cannot be simplistically ascribed to the needs of British business for cheap and readily exploitable labour. Interpretations of that kind, and associated descriptions of migrant labour as an under-class, have much more application to Germany, Switzerland and some other Continental countries which have recruited large numbers of foreign workers into low-grade jobs.’ [22]

Yet the ruling class is well aware of the role that immigrant labour plays. A report by the Department of Employmentsays that immigrants:

‘are concentrated in conurbations where the pressure of demand for labour has usually been relatively high and in semi-skilled and unskilled jobs to which it is difficult to attract other workers because of such features as low earnings, a need to work unsocial hours and/or unpleasant working conditions. (They share these characteristics with earlier migrants to Britain and with migrant workers in other Western European countries.)’[23]

All the evidence supports this conclusion. Wright quotes several personnel managers. The following is typical:

‘The Ministry of Labour had coloured people. We wouldn’t look at them at first, but eventually we succumbed. It was a case of necessity: there was no one else. Well, there was the Irish, but they were dreadful.’[24]

But it was not simply a lack of labour as such, but a lack of certain kinds of labour. Other managers:

‘You couldn’t get a good white worker unless you were prepared to pay over the odds, and good coloured people are better than bad white people. You can’t get white people to do the menial tasks that have to be done in any foundry, not even the floating workers like the Irish. ...

‘There was a shortage of labour and coloured workers were available. There were certain jobs the white workers steered away from and the coloured workers filled the bill. ...

‘It wasn’t easy to obtain unskilled labour. Non-coloured labour won’t have it. It’s hard work under rather bad conditions. ...’[25]

During the post-war expansion, white workers were moving into more skilled jobs, and out of manufacturing into the service sector.

‘Analyses by the Department of Applied Economics at Cambridge indicate that though total employment in what they describe as the goods sector of British industry fell by 745,000 between 1961 and 1971, the number of people employed in that sector who had been born outside the UK increased by 272,000; an increase of 317,000 in the number of people born outside the UK who were employed in the services sector accounted for rather less than a third of the total increase in employment in that sector of 1,065,000.’[26]

As one of Wright’s managers remarks perceptively:

‘After the war there was firstly a shortage of workers and secondly, a sense of freedom amongst the workers generated by the attitude of the people coming home from the forces. They felt that because they had fought for freedom, they deserved a job, and could pick and choose so they didn’t like settling down. We tried employing continentals and refugees, etc., but it didn’t work out in our industry. The Chairman after the war wouldn’t have foreigners (this meant coloured workers). He died in 1949, and in 1950 the succeeding Chairman employed Indian workers.’[27]

Immigrant labour is of vital importance to British capitalism. It has certain specific characteristics, different from other labour, which imperialism exploits. It is not simply extra labour, brought in to fill any jobs because of a general shortage of labour. Immigrant labour has been brought in to do the very worst jobs at the lowest rates of pay; for example in foundries and car factories. Secondly, immigrant workers have been used extensively in industries which require shift working during unsocial hours and at a lower premium than other workers. Thirdly, extensive employment of immigrant labour has reduced the cost to capitalism of important public and social services. Finally, the fact that these workers come from outside Britain and are younger means that their demands on social services, and thus the cost to capital, are lower than for the working class as a whole. This means that immigrant labour forms a distinct section of the working class, whose jobs, earnings, and conditions of work are worse than those of most workers in Britain. This kind of labour is essential to British imperialism, for the reasons given above, and imperialism must maintain it as an oppressed section within the working class.

Immigrants as cheap labour

Immigrant labour forms a source of cheap labour-power for the capitalist, to keep wages down and in this way helping to maintain the rate of profit. A recent survey summarised in Table 4, shows the relative earnings of black and white workers in 1974:

Table 4[28]

Median gross weekly earnings of black and white male workers 1974






55 +

White men






Black men






Blacks as a % of whites






Immigrant labour is employed to do a job at below average wages or to do the worst jobs without having to be paid more than the average. This becomes clear on examination of certain of the industries where immigrant workers are concentrated. A few examples make the essential point.


Food manufacture [29]

There is a very high concentration of immigrant workers in this industry in the south, for example in bakeries. The proportion of immigrant workers in food manufacture in the South-East is 15.9% compared with 9.8% in all industries and services in this region, while in the GLC area the proportion rises to 21.3% compared with 13.8%. The average hourly earnings of full-time manual men in food manufacture is 89.4% of those in manufacturing industry.


Table 5

Immigrants as % of labour force in clothing industries





GLC area


Women & Girls tailored outerwear



Lingerie, infants wear



Clothing is a labour intensive industry accounting for nearly 6% of manufacturing employment but for only about 3% of manufacturing output. It is no accident that the two sections of the labour force sought out by capitalists (often the small capitalists) are immigrants and older married women, often working part-time. Home-working, for married women with domestic responsibilities, is an additional measure used here in order to cut both capital costs and wages. The average hourly earnings are low: for full-time women manual workers they are some 89.3% of women in all manufacturing industries. A survey by the Factory Inspectorate in 1974 in the Whitechapel/Spitalfields area, around Brick Lane, showed that of the 430 clothing ‘occupiers’, some 110 came from the Indian sub-continent, and 40 were from Mediterranean countries.


In this industry there is a high proportion of Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis – 12% of these groups work in this industry compared with 4% of the general population. Some 16% of Sikhs work in vehicle manufacture. In the Midlands, 18% of black workers are in the car industry compared with 7% of the general Midlands population. In the South-East, the respective proportions are 5% and 3%. At Ford’s Dagenham factory blacks form half of the workforce, concentrated in the lowest grades.


At a group of the London Brick Company’s works near Bedford, amongst which is Stewartby Works (the largest brick works in the world), over 45% of hourly paid workers were born outside the British Isles. About half of these were New Commonwealth immigrants.

Metal manufacture[33]

Nationally immigrant workers represented 7.8% of workers in metal manufacture. Within the industry, 10% of workers in steel tubes, and copper, brass and copper alloys were immigrants, while 13.9% of workers in iron castings were immigrants. In the West Midlands, this latter proportion rose to 23.3%. The cyclical nature of foundry production has made it increasingly difficult for firms to attract and retain craft workers. Combined with mass production and the need for increased precision, production methods have changed. Moulders and coremakers – skilled workers – form 6% of the labour force, compared with 30% twenty-five years ago. ‘Employees are now predominantly engaged on short cycle jobs in very unstable work groups and doing what is essentially very unsatisfactory work in hot and noisy conditions.’ There is also a high turnover of labour.

Hotels and catering[34]

Table 6

Immigrant workers in hotels and catering



% of all workers

% of all male workers

Hotels & Catering




Restaurants, cafés and snack bars




Restaurants, cafés and snack bars




Hotels and other residential establishments




The average hourly earnings of full-time manual men is 76.8% of those for all industries and services, while full-time manual women are even worse off at 74.8%.

The hotel and catering industry is characterised by unsocial hours, bad working conditions and low pay. A Labour Research survey in 1978 showed that, in addition to employing a high proportion of immigrant labour, 59% of the workers in the hotel trade were women. Further, it showed that while 50% of men’s wages were below the TUC minimum wage of £50, 92% of women’s were below that level. As in other industries with similar conditions, it has proved difficult to attract white British labour into employment. There is some evidence that black workers are concentrated in the unskilled jobs, whilst foreign workers on work permits occupy the more skilled jobs, such as cooking or waiting. There has been a reduction in the number of work permits issued for the hotel and catering industry and employers have been urged to take ‘the maximum advantage of the present employment situation to recruit and train workers from the residential labour force.’

Immigrants and shiftwork

A second important way in which British imperialism has used immigrant workers to help maintain the rate of profit is through shift working. Discussing the working day in Capital, Marx pointed out that:

‘Constant capital ... considered from the standpoint of surplus-value, only exist to absorb labour, and with every drop of labour a proportional quantity of surplus-labour. While they fail to do this, their mere existence causes a relative loss to the capitalist, for they represent during the time they lie fallow, a useless advance of capital ... The prolongation of the working day beyond the limits of the natural day, into the night, only acts as a palliative. It quenches only in a slight degree the vampire thirst for the living blood of labour. To appropriate labour during all the 24 hours of the day is, therefore, the inherent tendency of capitalist production. But as it is physically impossible to exploit the same individual labour-power constantly during the night as well as the day, to overcome this physical hindrance, an alternation becomes necessary between the workpeople whose powers are exhausted by day, and those who are used by night’.[35]

Thus capitalist development tends to create the system of shift-working. Shift working, by increasing the rate of turnover of capital raises the annual rate of profit.[36] As the tendency of the rate of profit to fall asserts itself, we see intensified shift-working. This is precisely what has happened in Britain. The growth of inter-imperialist competition in the post-war period has seen a massive rise in shift-working (see Table 7).

Table 7[37]

Shift workers as a percentage of all workers


April 1954

October 1964

September 1968

All manufacturing industries




Food, drink and tobacco




Metal manufacturing












Bricks, pottery, glass, cement




A recent survey examined the extent of shift working by black and white workers (see Table 8).

Table 8[38]

Shift working by black and white workers

Type of shift

% of whites on shift

% of blacks on shift

Night shifts



Day shifts or not stated



Total on shifts



The occurrence of shift working is much higher amongst blacks than whites, especially on night shifts. It is clear that black workers are used to help maintain shifts which white workers are unwilling to work at current levels of pay. The concentration of black workers in shift working is very high in certain regions (see Table 9).

Table 9[39]

Shift working by region – men (%)




South East






Yorkshire & Humberside



North West



Rest of England & Wales



There are very sharp contrasts between the earnings received by black workers on shift and white workers. The survey showed that the gross weekly earnings of black workers on shifts was 90.5% of those of white workers. [40]

Clearly, the premium that has to be paid to shift workers is minimised by employing black workers. Indeed, this super-exploitation has reached a peak in the textile industry where a ‘very high proportion of employees on night shifts are Asian men doing jobs that are carried out by women during the day’.[41] Of the employers interviewed by the Department of Employment 40% explained the concentration of immigrant workers by the difficulty in recruiting other workers to work shifts.


The textile industry is a prime example of the way in which immigrant labour is exploited to enable machinery to be worked intensively. 4.5% of black male workers are employed in this industry, compared with 0.9% of all workers.

Table 10[42]

Immigrant workers share of labour force



% of all workers

% of male workers





Woollen & Worsted




Yorkshire & Humberside



Spinning & Doubling

on cotton/flax systems




North West



Average hourly earnings of full-time manual men in textiles were 80.7% of those in all manufacturing, while the night shift premium was 20% compared with 33.3% in engineering.[43]

Married women workers, up until the post-war boom, have traditionally formed the major proportion of workers in textiles. However, this proportion has declined with the introduction of continuous processes and the necessity for shift work. There is now a very high concentration of immigrants and black workers in textiles; the earnings are some 80.5% of the national average; the shift premium is substantially lower than in engineering. If we examine the woollen industry, the reasons become clear. The industry has been faced with intensified international competition. The industry generally has been in decline. Table 11 shows the dramatic decline in employment, especially of women, accompanied by the growing employment of immigrant workers.

Table 11 [44]

Employment in the woollen industry


All workers

All immigrant workers
as % of labour force


M & F


M & F



























The Department of Employmentsays it all:

‘The growth in Asians’ proportion of the labour force is associated with two technical developments. In the immediate post-war period most production employees in wool and cotton textiles were women working days, though men were employed, in particular as mule spinners in a skilled job that was learnt over a period of three to four years. With increased mechanisation in the latter part of the 1950s and early 1960s shift working became essential if expensive capital equipment were to be used economically. Restrictions on women working at night made it necessary to employ men in traditionally female jobs. ... Meanwhile mule spinning had been replaced by ring spinning which could be deskilled and taught in about six weeks.’[45]

Other industries

As Table 7 shows, it is not only the textile industry which is characterised by heavy shift working. Most bakeries work shifts, and immigrants are generally concentrated on night shifts. Other industries where shift working, or the working of unsocial hours are important and where a high proportion of immigrants are employed, include foundries, vehicle building, brick manufacture, catering, the NHS, and public transport.

Immigrants and employment in the state sector

A third way in which immigrant labour has been used to help maintain the rate of profit is through its employment in the state sector. In earlier articles we have shown that the growth of state expenditure results from and accentuates the decline in the rate of profit.[46]

More specifically, we have pointed out in connection with the social services that:

‘the State invariably assumes direct control over the “maintenance” and “training” depots of capital – the hospitals and schools – to ensure that labour expended on the workers is kept to a minimum.’[47]

This is also true, we might add, for public transport in large urban areas. In order to carry out this work, the capitalist state needs labour-power which is cheap and which will work the unsocial hours required. The expansion of expenditure by the British state has therefore gone hand in hand with an expansion of employment among the most oppressed sections of the working class – immigrants and women. In this way, during a crisis of profitability, state services can be ‘maintained’ on the cheapest possible basis.

Public transport and communications industries in London

London Transport, British Rail in the London area, and the London Postal Region have many employees in different locations, require many of them to work unsocial hours, have been faced with labour shortages, and employ substantial numbers of immigrants. In Greater London 23.4% of workers on the railways (both LT and BR) and 16.4% in road passenger transport were immigrants. [48]

The National Health Service


Amongst workers in medical and dental service in Great Britain, in 1971 12.7% were immigrants, while in Greater London 30.7% were immigrants. In 1975, doctors born outside Britain made up 18.3% of GPs and 35.2% of those in the hospital service. About 50% of overseas doctors were born in the Indian sub-continent, and about 25% in developed countries, the Old Commonwealth and South Africa. Of Junior Hospital Doctors, 52.2% were born overseas. In certain specialities, those which are under-financed and where the pressure of work is great, the proportion is very high: 83.6% in Geriatrics; 63.7% in Mental illnesses; 61.6% in Gynaecology obstetrics; 62.7% in Anaesthetics; 60.3% in Accident and Emergency. [49]

A health service census in 1973 showed that nationally, overseas-born doctors formed 33.4% of all hospital doctors, 55.6% of registrars and 60.9% of Senior House Officers. In the London Teaching hospitals, the hospital aristocracy, the respective proportions were 19.9%, 31.8% and 29.5%.[50]


In 1975, 20.5% of all student and pupil nurses were born overseas. In the four Thames Regional Health Authorities, the respective proportions were 36.5%, 45.6%, 31.0%, 35.9%.[51]

‘Overseas-born nurses tend to be over-represented in hospitals concerned with mental illness, mental handicap and geriatrics; relatively few of them are employed in prestige hospitals.’[52]

They are also concentrated in the lowest grades. A feature of nursing work is the unsocial hours worked. It is important to note at this point that 73% of all workers in the NHS are women.

Ancillary staff

In a 1968 survey, it was found that 22.3% of ancillary staff were immigrants. In the London teaching hospitals, the low employment of overseas doctors contrasted with the higher proportion of overseas born ancillary staff – 65.4%.[53] Table 12 shows the concentration of immigrant workers in certain regions of the National Health Service.

Table 12[54]

Hospital regions with high concentrations of immigrant domestic staff (%)

Regional Hospital





All immigrants

London Teaching





NW Metropolitan










SW Metropolitan





NE Metropolitan










SE Metropolitan










These figures should be compared with those showing the proportion of immigrants among the economically active: 5.9% in Britain, and 15.7% in the Greater London area.

Immigrants and state expenditure

A fourth consequence of the use of immigrant labour arises from the kind of demands it places on the social services and thus on state expenditure. These demands are lower than for the rest of the population, and thus reduce the cost to capital.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the cost of raising the immigrant worker falls upon the country of emigration.[55] Thus the costs of housing, education and welfare do not have to be borne by the British state until the worker is in Britain being exploited. Secondly, immigrant workers are younger and so their demands on social services are lower than those of the rest of the working class.[56] An estimate of immigrant demands on current expenditure concluded that:

‘the average immigrant received about 80 per cent as much as the average member of the indigenous population in 1961, and the figure seems likely to be 85 to 90 per cent by 1981’. [57]

The capital expenditure needed by the state is minimised because immigrant workers are concentrated in decaying urban areas, in poor housing, and are underrepresented in council housing. Older hospitals, schools and houses are preserved instead of being knocked down. Thus:

‘In the case of social capital, it was concluded that the capital needs of the new immigrants had been largely met not by extra capital formation, but by a postponement of scrappings.’[58]

This implies that total social capital requirements of New Commonwealth immigrants are 19 per cent below those of the indigenous population.[59]

British imperialism and immigrant labour

Immigrant labour differs from indigenous labour in several important respects which British imperialism takes advantage of in order to help maintain the rate of profit. Firstly, by the provision of cheap labour to do the worst jobs; secondly, by enabling expansion of shift working; thirdly, by reducing the cost of social services; and finally, by making lower demands on the social services. These benefits are identical with those gained by other imperialist countries,[60] and explain why British imperialism needs to maintain immigrant labour as a special and oppressed stratum within the British working class.

It is important to understand that the benefits of exploiting immigrant labour are not confined either to the capitalists who directly employ them, or to certain ‘fractions’ of capital. All capitalists benefit from the exploitation of immigrant labour in Britain, just as all capitalists in South Africa benefit from apartheid:

‘the employers do notsecure the profit created in their own industries. Rather, they share among themselves, in accordance with their total capital outlay, the profit originating in all industries. So all those with a stake in South Africa’s apartheid economy, regardless of their good or evil intentions, are, so far as profits are concerned, just so many shareholders in one large company.’[61]

Similarly the benefits from reduced state expenditure are reaped by all capitalists. This point has important political consequences. There can be no question of there being a ‘progressive’ section of British imperialism which is prepared to end the specific exploitation of immigrant labour. British capitalism is in deep crisis and the rate of profit has undergone a massive decline in the last decade. Any improvement in the condition of immigrant workers would only worsen this decline and affect all sections of British capitalism.

Immigrant labour and immigration controls

We have shown that immigrant labour is a special kind of labour, brought to Britain to be exploited in a specific way. It forms an oppressed section of the working class. One of the major ways in which this oppression is maintained is through the immigration controls by which the state manipulates and controls this section of the working class.

Why have these laws been introduced and been made increasingly restrictive? All these Acts and controls were introduced to meet the needs of capitalism. The fact that they restricted the rights of black people immigrating from the British Commonwealth was because these areas were now the main source of migrant labour. In the earlier period, the number of black workers who came from the British Empire was trivial, and the control of migrant labour was exercised over workers coming from oppressed nations outside the British Empire. After the war control already existed for non-Empire labour. If control was to be extended it could only be to labour from the Empire, and thus predominantly to black people.

The original right of people from the British Commonwealth to enter and to settle in Britain arose from the legal justification for imperial rule: that the peoples of the British Empire were British subjects. This was convenient for British imperialism in the 1950s and British capitalists were able to obtain migrant labour, to enable an extensive expansion to take place, without having to undertake the organised and systematic recruitment of labour which characterised the German system.

However, by the 1960s, capital accumulation took on a more intensive form. The growth of the productivity of labour was necessary if British capitalism was not to be undermined by foreign competition. The 1964 Labour government is the most vivid expression of this need with its euphoria about technology and planning. However, the process got under way in 1962 under a Tory Government. This was the year when the National Economic Development Council was founded, the period when Industrial Training Boards and Economic Development Committees were set up, when assistance was given to the shipbuilding and aircraft industries, and when the state increased its sponsorship of research and development.

These economic and technological changes heralded rationalisations. In future the reserve army would be generated internally, and British imperialism would not need to import unskilled labour on the scale of the earlier period. The 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act fulfilled precisely this need. It introduced a voucher system to control the movement oflabour. There were three kinds of vouchers: ‘A’ vouchers, which were issued to employers so that people with specific jobs to come to could enter; ‘B’ vouchers issued to intending immigrants with recognised skills or qualifications; and ‘C’ vouchers for unskilled immigrants. Explaining the need for the Act, the Home Secretary made clear that the purpose of the Act was to regulate the flow of immigrant labour more precisely:

‘The basic purpose of the Bill is not to stop immigration but to control it in case of need. All of us, on all sides of the House, are very conscious of the value of the contribution which the immigrants are making to our national life. We all know, or should know, that our hospitals, our public transport and some of our mills, industries and factories would be in serious difficulties were it not for the services of immigrant workers. We shall, therefore, continue to welcome immigrants to help us in a great variety of occupations and employments.

‘But in their own interests as well as ours, we do not want immigrants to come into this country at a greater rate than that at which they can be absorbed into the community. I emphasise that what we are proposing is a control of immigration and not a cessation of immigration.’[62]

Or, somewhat more frankly and cynically:

‘We need these men and women, and all that we wish to ensure is that the numbers coming in correspond so to speak, to the welcome which awaits them. The welcome will be warm, but the physical conditions must be present also.’[63]

He noted the special importance of the unskilled category:

‘It is this third category which will be subject to limits decided from time to time by the Government in the light of the employment position, economic expansion, social conditions and other factors …’[64]

In August 1965 the Labour Government published its White Paper, Immigration from the Commonwealth.[65]This stated quite frankly that the purpose of control was to match immigration to the needs of the British capitalist economy for labour. It put forward new forms of ‘control on the entry of immigrants so that it does not outrun Britain’s capacity to absorb them’. This clearly meant the capacity of the economy, for different categories of vouchers received quite different treatment. ‘C’ vouchers – for the unskilled – were abolished altogether. Those qualified to receive ‘B’ vouchers were more precisely and narrowly defined to accord with the needs of British capitalism for skilled labour. In addition, the total number of vouchers, both ‘A’ and ‘B’, which could be issued was limited to 8,500. The abolition of ‘C’ vouchers was nothing more than a formality, since their issue had in fact been halted in 1964.

The 1962 Act allowed the wife or husband of voucher holders to enter freely, together with children under 16. The Labour White Paper introduced stricter tests of eligibility on dependants. It also gave the Home Secretary the power to deport any immigrant who had been here less than five years, without a court ruling, if considered to have flouted the immigration rules. New powers to combat evasion were introduced.

From the mid 1960s, the British economy began to generate its own reserve army. Employment in manufacturing industry dropped steadily. Unemployment began to rise. British capitalism was entering a period of crisis. The expansion of the reserve army is a mixed blessing for capitalism, for while it helps to restrain the wages of the working class, it also encourages discontent and rebellion. These developments demanded restrictions on mass migration for settlement. This stage in the development of immigration control is exemplified by the 1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act.

The catalyst for the Bill was developments in Kenya. Asians living there had had the choice of taking up either Kenyan or British citizenship, and many had taken the British option. With the growth of Kenyanization of jobs, many of the Asians used their status as British citizens to enter the United Kingdom, having been forced out of jobs in Kenya. Introducing the new Bill, Callaghan echoed the fears of the ruling class:

‘The signs are that, if no action were taken, the flow would increase at an even faster rate. This sudden arrival of large numbers of people is placing a serious strain upon the services of those areas where they decide to settle ...

‘I very much regret that it is not possible for this country to absorb these persons, to whom we have given the most solemn pledges, at a pace. If we did, I fear that it would cause racial disharmony and explosions.’[66]

Ennals, speaking in the debate on the Bill, clearly linked the whole question of immigration to incipient rebellion by the super-oppressed section of the working class:

‘We are determined to avoid the situation which has developed in the United States, where patterns of prejudice and discrimination have created an under-privileged indigenous minority, many of whom react violently against what they conceive to be second-class citizenship.(!) ...

‘... it would be folly to pretend that an uncontrolled flow of immigrants, whether from East Africa or any other part of the world, in addition to immigrants coming here by right, would not greatly aggravate community problems in Britain.’[67]

The new Act removed the right of British passport holders to enter the UK unless they had a ‘substantial connection’ — ie at least one grandparent was born in the UK. In this way, East African Asians had their passports ‘ripped-up’ and were brought within the same system of control as other Commonwealth citizens.

Table 13 illustrates the trends of immigration control as it affected New Commonwealth citizens. While the detailed statistics are for vouchers issued, rather than for voucher holders entering the UK, the shift away from unskilled labour to skilled labour is obvious. So too is the steady change from immigration controltoimmigration restriction.

Table 13 [68]

Employment vouchers issued to potential immigrants from New Commonwealth






Voucher holders actually entering UK

1962 July-Dec


























































From immigration control to contract labour

It is important to understand the difference between the system of immigration of workers to Britain and that to Germany. The German system is and always has been essentially a form of contract labour, where migrant labour is ‘supplied’ for a specific period, often a year. In Britain, there was originally no such restriction on the length of employment or residence of the immigrant worker from the Commonwealth. Thus, whereas in Germany the migrant worker is explicitly a temporary worker, this was not originally the case in Britain. The contract labour system had certain advantages to capitalism:

‘the fact that in Germany the marginal workers have not been German citizens has given its labour market great flexibility while avoiding the domestic social and political tensions usually connected with labor shifts within a country. ...

‘... the evidence is strong that in Germany, hoarding of the marginal worker during slack production periods has been low ... while expansion of employment when demand first picks up has been rapid. This has meant either larger profits for the German firm and, thus, relatively higher levels of savings and investment, or lower prices for German goods vis-à-vis foreign goods.’[69]

This form of migrant labour system is ideal for capitalism: it provides a reserve army without any political disadvantages. It was precisely such a system that crisis ridden British imperialism needed. The legal measure which formalised such a system was the 1971 Immigration Act. Essentially black people from the Commonwealth can only enter Britain on the same basis as Aliens. A distinction is drawn between ‘Patrials’ and ‘Non-Patrials’. Roughly speaking, all white British, together with millions of white emigrant Commonwealth settlers, are patrials. All aliens and most non-white Commonwealth citizens are non-patrial.[70] Patrials can enter Britain without being subject to control, suffer no restrictions on employment, and cannot be deported. Non-patrials need permission and a work permit to enter the UK. They are initially admitted for one year, and permission can be renewed each year for three more years at the discretion of the Home Secretary. The powers of deportation have been extended considerably. Migration from the EEC is virtually unrestricted. However, as a source of migrant labour, the EEC is insignificant, and the number of EEC nationals with work permits for twelve months admitted to the UK fell from 18,878 in 1960 to 6,953 in 1972.[71] During this period ‘as a percentage of EEC earnings, earnings in the UK fell from 160% in 1960 to around 100% in 1972, when they were substantially below those in Germany.’[72] Workers from the only major labour exporting country in the EEC – Italy – tend to go to Germany where unemployment is lower and wages higher.

However while EEC citizens are allowed to enter Britain freely to work, this is true only if they come from imperialist nations. If EEC citizenship has been acquired by connection with French or Dutch colonies, they receive the same treatment as aliens if they attempt to enter Britain. Thus Dutch citizens

from the Moluccan Islands, and French citizens from Guadeloupe, Martinique or Algeria, are subject to immigration control.

The Act is extremely complex.[73] The most important point which must be grasped is that it introduced a Gastarbeiter system for British capitalism:

‘The immigrant was finally a migrant, the citizen an alien. There is no such thing as a “Commonwealth immigrant” anymore. There are those who came from the Commonwealth before the 1971 Act came into force (January 1973) but these are not immigrants; they are settlers, black settlers. There are others who have come after the Act; workers, black migrant workers. And the migratory mechanism — the combination of contract labour and discriminatory nationality laws — which ensures that the Gastarbeiters of Europe are no more than second-class production factors yielding surplus surplus value as well as acting as a buffer, a shock absorber, between boom and depression now applied to migrant workers from the “Commonwealth”, except that time and distance and fares and race made them less accessible to the British labour market than their European counterpart.’[74]

So far we have been discussing the control of so-called ‘primary’ immigration, that is, immigration for work. However, control is not confined to immigration for work, but also includes ‘secondary’ immigration, that is the immigration of dependants of migrant workers. The trend from control to restriction which applies to immigrant workers also applies to their dependants. This is because the immigration of dependants must inevitably help, at some future date, to expand the reserve army of labour.

While the regulation of migrant labour is controlled by a work permit system, that of dependants rests on their demonstrating that they are relatives, to the satisfaction of immigration officials. While the fate of the migrant worker is in the hands of the capitalist, that of his dependants is in the hands of the British state. The result is a system so oppressive that it bears comparison only with the pass laws used to maintain the apartheid state of South Africa.

On arrival at the port of entry, dependants are split up and subject to gruelling interviews and examination, where immigration officers attempt to trick the members of the family into contradicting one another so that they can be refused admittance. Children may be submitted to X-Ray examinations to try to prove that they are not eligible to enter, on the pretext that they lie about their age – though this test is both unreliable and dangerous. Women have been forced to undergo examinations to establish that they are mothers, or virgins. Documents may be arbitrarily dismissed as forgeries. If the dependants cannot pass this interrogation, they are put back on the aircraft or ship and sent back to where they have come from.

In 1969 the Immigration Appeals Act was passed which introduced the notorious Entry Certificate. Ostensibly this Act humanised the control of dependants by allowing vetting to take place, not at the port of entry, but at the British Embassy or High Commission in the country of departure. But although the place of refusal was now transferred overseas, any appeal against refusal still has to take place in the UK! Since the person concerned has been refused entry, this inevitably means that someone has to act on their behalf.

To obtain an Entry Certificate, a visit has to be made to the Entry Certificate Officer to prove the relationship and entitlement to join their sponsor. This may mean peasants having to travel for days. Everyone who wants to travel has to go, and more than one visit may be necessary. There may be language difficulties – in East Africa, all Asians are expected by the British High Commission to speak English. Dependants’ details have to be checked against information in the UK. This leads to mistakes, innocent discrepancies, and delay. It may prove difficult for the intending migrant to prove their relationship because documents and records are not well established in the country of migration. The procedure also ensures that there are lengthy queues of dependants who have to wait months or even years for a first interview – which is only the first step to joining their relatives, perhaps after years of separation.

Failure to hold an Entry Certificate can result in being put on the first plane back. For those rendered stateless by the 1968 Act, the phenomenon of ‘shuttlecocking’ has developed. The migrant is refused entry to Britain and sent back to the country he or she came from. Since the person is stateless, on return, they are put on another plane and sent off somewhere else. In February 1975 a sick woman with 2 children was admitted temporarily after two years spent shuttlecocking. One man has spent a total of one month actually in flight. Three brothers spent two months waiting in an airport lounge in St Cruz.[75]

If the holder of an Entry Certificate is refused admittance, and wishes to appeal, they may be released temporarily, or detained until their case is considered. Suspected illegal immigrants and certain of those suspected of violating their conditions of entry may also be detained. This detention is a form of internment without trial. Habeas Corpus does not apply — because the person has not landed in the UK (ie been admitted by the Immigration Officer), he or she is not legally in this country, and so can be detained in a jail in Britain without ever having to come to trial. This ruling was given by the same Lord Chief ‘Justice’ Widgery who was responsible for covering up the Bloody Sunday massacre. Hundreds of people are interned for months on end, often only to be deported.

The grounds for deportation have become increasingly repressive. Any migrant not yet accepted for settlement can be deported if convicted of a crime. Illegal immigrants – those who have not passed through immigration control, and those who have been refused entry and have then entered – can be taken into custody by the Police or Immigration Officers and then deported. Those who have overstayed the time allowed by their entry conditions are generally liable for deportation. Other breaches of conditions of entry can result in deportation.

These provisions have given rise to the practice of the Police conducting raids in order to find ‘illegal immigrants’ to be deported.

Appeal can be made against the refusal of an Entry Certificate to an Adjudicator. The appeal can be based on questions of fact, or on the grounds that the decision was illegal or violates rules, or that discretion exercised in one way should have been exercised in another way. The kind of treatment the appellant is likely to receive can be gauged from the remarks made by the Chief Adjudicator about some Chilean refugees:

‘The male appellant had suffered imprisonment for his communist opinions. His wife had been threatened, if not physically maltreated. Their two small children could not be forgotten. Both appellants wanted desperately to rebuild their lives in – at least for the time being – a stable society ...

‘I could see no marked compassionate circumstances special to the appellants. The male appellants had apparently played an active part in supporting the Allende Government which to any moderate minded man had not exactly tolerated its political opponents with compassion when it was in power. Sympathy for uprooted refugees from oppressive regimes whether of the Right or Left, has long been a tradition of British political life (although in recent years it seems to be reserved in leading political circumstances for those of Leftist persuasion) but I could understand that in present day circumstances there must be lines drawn ...’[76]

Or, in the ruthless and mercenary voice of Capital:

‘All three appellants describe themselves as militants of the Socialist Party of Chile, ie communist agitators ... The current all time peak level of unemployment in Scotland was nearly increased on a substantial scale when Communist agitators tried to prevent completion by Lithgow Limited and Yarrow Limited of naval contracts placed by the Chilean Government. If the trade unions had been so persuaded these shipyards would have closed. For all these reasons I would respectfully urge the Home Secretary to refuse the exercise of discretion arid to exclude all three appellants as a result of their character, conduct or associations not being conducive to the public good ...’[77]

Illegal immigrants picked up in Britain cannot appeal. This is because legally they are not here and their expulsion does not therefore constitute expulsion.

When Pakistan left the Commonwealth, the British Government passed the Pakistan Act in 1973.[78] This Act makes Pakistanis into Aliens who lose the right to acquire UK citizenship by registration, and could only seek naturalisation. However, there was a transitional period during which Pakistanis in Britain could still apply for UK citizenship by registration. Although the procedure was theoretically automatic, the exercise of administrative discretion in line with the aims of the 1971 Act has led to a high refusal rate and lengthy waiting period. However the problems do not end if registration is granted. Wives of UK citizens are automatically entitled to register as UK citizens. The Home Office has responded to applications from the wives of Pakistanis by declaring in many cases that the marriage is void because it took place in a country which permits polygamy at a time when one of the spouses was domiciled in the UK, whether or not the marriage was polygamous. Thus wives of UK citizens are declared to be Aliens. Nor are children exempt from state racism. They may apply to register as a UK citizen, but this is only granted at the discretion of the Secretary of State.

There is no formal appeal against decisions about applications for UK citizenship. Thus the legal restrictions on immigration are supplemented and intensified by apparently arbitrary administrative decisions.

In March 1977, the Labour government changed the immigration rules to restrict the rights of husbands and fiancés to enter Britain. Couples must undergo a twelve month probationary period to satisfy the Home Office that the marriage is genuine, before the husband is granted the right to settle. In marriages where the husband overstays the period allowed by his conditions of entry, the Home Office treats such marriages as marriages of convenience with the resulting danger of deportation. It has also led to the Home Office pestering couples with questions about the decor of their bedroom, whether they maintain sexual relations and what methods of birth control they employ.

Changes in the Nationality Law

The changes in immigration controls and laws in the last 30 years have created a situation where there are numerous different levels of British subjects with differing rights. An attempt is underway to replace the 1948 British Nationality Act with a new law on nationality. The main aim of the new law will be to bring nationality law into line with the immigration controls needed by British capitalism:

‘Within the next year or so, we shall define a British citizen for the first time. A British citizen will have free right of entry. Anyone else, whether a Commonwealth citizen or an alien, will have to subscribe to the immigration rules, which will be redefined so that they accord with our needs for labour and recognise family relationships. At that time this debate on immigration control that has lasted for twenty years will, I hope, be ended.’[79]

The central concern of the new nationality law is therefore to fix permanently the classes of persons to be allowed to enter the UK. A Green Paper[80] gives some indication of the form that the new law might take. The central proposal is to introduce two classes of citizens: British Citizens (BC) and British Overseas Citizens (BOC). The distinction between the two follows almost exactly the definition of patrials and non-patrials in the 1971 Immigration Act. The rights of BCs would include the right to enter the UK freely; presumably it will also include such civic rights as the right to vote, and the right to stand for public office, although the Green Paper does not make this clear. BOCs have no rights defined; the British state however will have the right to exclude BOCs from the UK. This could well mean that BOCs will not have the civic rights of BCs, and thus a new nationality law could well disenfranchise certain blacks in Britain, and curtail other civil rights, as well as tightening immigration controls. All these measures reflect the intensifying pressure exerted by the capitalist crisis and are simply the logical extension of the 1971 Immigration Act.



The 1978 Select Committee Report

In March 1978, the Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration issued a report on immigration which called for an intensified restriction on immigration and for greater repression of immigrants and blacks.[81] It proposed tightening up on control of immigration for work by reviewing and withdrawing the issue of permits and permissions to certain classes of worker, by stricter issue of long term work permits, and by ending automatic removal on the time limit to stay after four years work. The changes are comparatively small in their effect on the numbers of immigrants but represent a clear intensification of oppression. The Select Committee put considerable energy into devising ways of limiting the entry of dependants. It called for a quota for Indian dependants, that the age limit on admission of children be lowered from 18 to 12. It also called for increased harassment of immigrants. It called for strengthening the powers of the police and the Immigration Service Intelligence Unit, together with powers of sanction against employers employing illegal immigrants. It also proposed ‘that the Government should institute an independent inquiry to consider a system of internal control of immigration’.[82] For the time being the Government has decided not to implement the Select Committee proposals. However, the threat of these and even harsher measures looms large.

British immigration controls are a vicious attack on the working class. Internationally, they bear comparison only with the South African pass laws. They divide families allowing the state to shunt people around the world and into and out of Britain. The Immigration Act gives the police powers to conduct raids on black people in the same way that the British army raids Irish Republicans. Anyone who cannot produce his or her passport risks detention and deportation. Part and parcel of the passport raids is the destruction of the immigrants’ meagre belongings, and possible loss of job due to detention and subsequent suspicion. These means have been used to detain black strikers to help employers, and to harass Asian defence groups and prevent them from protecting their people against racist attacks.

There is no way in which immigration controls can be made ‘democratic’ or ‘non-racist’, because immigration controls are concerned only with regulating flows of labour ready for super-exploitation. To call for democratic immigration controls is as ridiculous as calling for democratic imperialism.

Immigrants and discrimination

The mechanism of immigration controls is only one aspect of the oppression of immigrant labour. Immigration provides this special layer of the working class. But it is not simply a matter of supplying labour to do the worst jobs at low wages under poor conditions; it is also a matter of keeping it that way. This layer of the working class has not simply to be produced; it has to be reproduced in its oppressed state. In other imperialist nations this is achieved by legal means; in Britain it has been achieved by the ruling class encouragement of discrimination.

‘In France, Switzerland, and Germany the justification advanced for limiting the rights of immigrants is their quality of being foreigners, and the main instruments are restrictive laws and regulations. In Britain, the justification is the immigrants’ racial and cultural origin, and the instrument used is discrimination.’[83]

Below we set out the evidence of discrimination. This will concentrate on the condition of blacks, because they are undoubtedly the most oppressed section.


The concentration of black workers in the worst jobs is the result of discrimination. This becomes clear when job-levels of blacks and whites are compared for different levels of education. Of those with degrees, 79% of white men and 31% of black men held professional or managerial jobs, while 21% of blacks and no whites with degrees had manual jobs. A similar pattern holds for those whose highest qualifications are ‘A’ or ‘O’ levels. We have shown elsewhere the position with regard to earnings and shift work.

A recent, series of tests used white British, West Indian, Indian, Pakistani and Greek actors to test the extent of discrimination in employment.[84] They applied for both skilled and non-skilled manual jobs. Table 14 shows the results obtained:

Table 14[85]

Incidence of discrimination


Non-skilled jobs

Skilled jobs







While all non-white non-British actors generally experienced discrimination compared to the white British actors, the black actors suffered most.

To investigate discrimination in non-manual job applicants, a series of correspondence tests was carried out.[86] An Italian actor was used in place of the Greek. The results showed that discrimination (refusal of an interview) was experienced by blacks in 30 per cent of cases and by the Italian in 10 per cent of cases.

A recent study of race relations in the Civil Service showed that there was extensive discrimination against black people in both recruitment and promotion:

‘out of 317 applications for jobs in the clerical officer grade between June and November 1976, one-third or 105 of the applications were from coloured candidates and 212 were from whites. During the sifting process the number and proportion of blacks dropped dramatically so that only ten coloured people were offered jobs, compared to 78 whites – a success rate at interview of 18 per cent and 54 per cent respectively.

‘Many more of the coloured candidates who were rejected for interview possessed the minimum educational qualifications for the clerical officer grade than did the whites – 51 coloured candidates possessed the qualifications compared to 29 whites.

‘... the survey found that far smaller proportions of candidates from minority groups applying for jobs above clerical officer grades survived the application and interview sift, and the report says that this difference cannot be explained in terms of difference in work experience or qualification.’[87]

There is discrimination in firing as well as in hiring. The share of black people amongst the unemployed tends to rise as unemployment rises (see Table 15).

Table 15[88]

Black Unemployment


Blacks as % ofall unemployed

Total unemployment rate (%)

November 1973



November 1974



November 1975



August 1976



November 1977



May 1978



It should be borne in mind that the proportion of black people amongst the economically active population in Britain is 2.2%. These gross figures understate the plight of black workers. Firstly they conceal regional differences. In August 1977, black workers formed 4.0% of the unemployed in Britain, while the proportion in the West Midlands was 9.6%, in the East Midlands 6.3%, and in the South-East 7.7%. Secondly, they conceal age differences. Thus 16.9% of West Indian males under 20 were unemployed at the time of the 1971 Census, compared with 8.6% of all males in this age group.


Black people are concentrated in poor quality housing. Their housing is usually terraced, is old, and likely to be in below average condition of repair (see Table 16).

Table 16[89]

Housing conditions of blacks and whites







Type of dwelling















Not Stated



Age of dwelling



Built before 1914



Built before 1940



While 3.8% of all households occupy shared dwellings, 30% of West Indian households and 22% of Asian households do so. Overcrowding is far more prevalent amongst all classes. The amenities available to black households are much poorer than to white households. For example, 17.9% of all households did not have exclusive use of bath, hot water and inside WC. For West Indians the proportion was 33%, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis 57% and Indians 35%.[90]

As regards tenure, blacks are under-represented in council housing and over-represented in owner occupation (see Table 17).

Table 17[91]

Housing tenure: Asians, West Indians and general population




Skilled manual

Semi-skilled manual

Unskilled manual











West Indian





General pop.





Rented from Council










West Indian





General pop.





Privately rented










West Indian





General pop.





The importance of owner occupation amongst working class blacks is striking. For Asians buying their own house is not a way of getting better housing by paying more but a way of getting poor housing cheaply.[92] To a lesser extent this is true of West Indians, who have better access than Asians to council housing, and to rented accommodation.

For reasons we shall go into shortly blacks are grossly under represented in council housing, given that they are concentrated in the most oppressed sections of the working class. The result is that they have been forced to get housing in the private sector through either renting or buying. This accommodation is inferior to that of whites. When renting the rent is generally higher: £6.39 on average for blacks; £3.93 for whites in 1974.[93] For black purchasers, their mortgage repayments are similar to those of whites, but they are paying for markedly inferior housing. There is evidence that many estate agents discriminate against black clients by offering them inferior accommodation, by directing them to particular areas, by advising them to obtain high interest loans from banks rather than a mortgage, and by outright refusal to sell in certain areas.[94]

The quality of council dwellings occupied by blacks is markedly inferior to that of whites. (See Table 18.)

Table 18[95]

Quality of housing: West Indians, Asians and general population


W. Indians


Whites/gen pop.

Households in shared dwellings




Median no. of persons per bedroom




Household with low amenity score




Households not having exclusive use of bath, hot water and inside WC




A large number of black households have to share their accommodation; they tend to be more crowded, and to have poorer amenities. 75% of white council tenants are in properties built since 1940, compared with 38% of black council tenants. Blacks are much more likely than whites to be living in flats rather than houses. This can be seen from an examination of the conditions of black tenants of the Greater London Council living in Inner Boroughs.[96] Some 5.7% of all tenants were black. However, 7.9% of tenants on high density estates were black, compared with 2.9 on low-density estates. Black tenants were also concentrated in older properties (see Table 19).

Table 19[97]

Tenants in GLC properties

Date built


















Why are blacks grossly under-represented in council housing, and why does this situation exist? The immediate cause is the lack of council housing. Because of insufficient council housing, the state housing authorities have to ration the available stock. This rationing necessitates restrictions on access to the housing stock. Many of these restrictions discriminate against black people.[98]

There are a number of examples of the way in which restrictions discriminate. Many councils operate a waiting list or minimum period of residence to qualify for council housing. This inevitably tends to discriminate against immigrants. The administration of housing may be racially biased because of the prejudices of council staff. The actual properties available may be more appropriate to the needs of whites rather than blacks. For example, black households are generally larger than white households, and need larger houses. The number of such houses available may be too few, or of low quality. Many councils include an assessment of ‘housekeeping standards’ which are used to help decide housing allocation. These are biased by the housing visitor’s prejudices.

Taxation, Child Benefits and Social Security

Many black people are separated from their families who are still in the country of emigration. Many black workers in Britain came here in order to provide for their families, and have to maintain them while they are separated. In order to do this, they may send money home, and would claim their tax relief for their children, together with family allowances. The family allowances and child tax allowances have been shown to bean inadequate system for preventing child poverty and pressure built up amongst the working class for this system to be changed and improved. The Labour government passed the Child Benefit Act in 1975, implementing a Child Benefit Scheme beginning in April 1977. Supposedly a reform, the Scheme in fact merely redistributes working class income within the family. The result left most working class families with 30p extra per week in their pocket. Those in receipt of means tested Social Security had their benefits readjusted, and therefore received nothing. The Scheme replaces family allowances with tax free Child Benefits, paid to the mother for eligible children resident in Britain. Thus immigrant workers cannot claim these benefits to support their children overseas. The Labour minister justifies this discrimination on grounds of alleged fraud by immigrants

‘That is not just a small element of abuse; it is not one to which any Government can turn a blind eye. Certainly, many times in the past I have been on record as not wishing to press excessively this question of abuse and I think one can sometimes get obsessive about it, but this is a substantial loophole which requires some check. Our view, quite simply is that at the present moment there are no effective means of doing this. That is why this particular group are here omitted.’[99]

This discrimination is part of the pressure brought to bear on immigrants as part of the move to the system of contract labour. But the discrimination goes beyond depriving the families of immigrant workers, for the new system is to be financed partly through the phasing out of child tax allowances which will be abolished in the tax year 1979-80. Immigrant workers were never able to claim the relatively small family allowances for their children overseas, but now they are having their pay cut through the phasing out of child tax allowances, while families with children in this country will receive cash benefits to support their children.

‘The immigrant parent will receive nothing towards the cost of maintaining his children whereas the united family will receive £3.30 per child by November 1978 and £4.50 by April 1979 if the proposals of the powerful TUC-Labour Party working group are adopted. This means that a united family with three children will be £9.90 per week by November and £13.50 per week by April, better off than the divided immigrant family.’[100]

A further attack on immigrants is proposed by the Department of Health and Social Security. In their review of the Supplementary Benefit scheme, they claim to standardise and simplify the scheme. In fact this review recommends a general restriction and reduction in the amount and range of benefit payable, together with the exclusion of certain categories of currently eligible claimants. It has been estimated that if the proposals are adopted, 85% of current claimants could be removed from the scheme. Amongst the various proposals is the removal of the right of sponsored immigrants to claim benefit:

‘It seems reasonable that someone who has undertaken to support a relative as a condition of his admission to this country should be under some liability to carry out that undertaking in much the same way as husbands and wives are liable to support each other, so that action could be taken against a sponsor who for no good reason failed to honour his undertaking. We suggest that the possibility should be considered of giving power to withold or recover benefit. ...’[101]

Thus dependants of immigrant workers will be forced to suffer by the state, unlike indigenous workers, if their sponsor does not support them.

Both these discriminatory measures increase the oppression of the immigrant workers, by reducing state expenditure on them. These attacks are not accidents, but are consistent with the developing attack on immigrant workers outlined earlier.


Immigrants’ health suffers from discrimination. In the first place the other forms of discrimination ensure that immigrants suffer many of the health problems suffered by the indigenous poor. Bad housing, low wages and unemployment lead to ill-health, mental stress and children at risk. The concentration of immigrant workers in certain kinds of jobs exposes them to a higher risk of industrial accidents and illnesses.

In the second place, immigrants suffer specific health problems. For example Cypriots have a high incidence of thalassaemia. West Indians may inherit sickle cell anaemia. Amongst Asians there is a high infant mortality rate and many babies are of low weight. In addition the Asian community has a high incidence of rickets and anaemia, both conditions arising from dietary deficiencies. These specific health problems need special attention and facilities, which were not provided on the necessary scale by the NHS in the post-war boom, and obviously will not be provided in a period of crisis.


The role of education is quite crucial. The educational system is a mechanism for preserving the existence of a super-oppressed stratum of the working class. The relationship with discrimination in housing and in jobs is important here. Black and immigrant children are in schools with problems such as high teacher turnover, are in the lowest streams and are over-represented in special schools. An example of the latter is the representation of immigrant children in schools for the Educationally Sub-Normal (ESN). The Select Committee report on education showed that in 1971 immigrants formed 6.5% of the pupils in ESN schools, compared with 3.3% of all pupils.[103] In London the situation is more extreme. The result of this discrimination is to maintain black people as an oppressed section of the working class as Bernard Coard points out:

‘If the children of us immigrants were to get equal educational opportunities then in one generation there would be no large labour poolfrom underdeveloped countries, prepared to do the menial and unwanted jobs in the economic system at the lowest wages and in the worst housing; for our children, armed with a good education would demand the jobs ... befitting their educational qualifications ... Thus the one way to ensure no changes in the social hierarchy and abundant unskilled labour is to adapt the educational system to meet the needs of the situations to prepare our children for the society’s future unskilled and ill-paid jobs. It is in this perspective that we can come to appreciate why so many of our Black children are being dumped in ESN

schools, secondary moderns, the lowest streams of the comprehensive schools and “bussed” and “banded” about the schools system.’[104]

The State and racist attacks

There is clear and irrefutable evidence of consistent and massive discrimination against black people and immigrants. It does not matter what the immediate cause of discrimination is; whether intentional or unintentional, accidental or the result of bureaucratic practice, all have the same result:inequality. Discrimination is the expression of capitalism’s need for a special super-oppressed section of the working class and of its need to maintain and reproduce that section. The ruling class has whipped up racial hostility to achieve its ends: this forms the basis for discrimination. The ruling class will not spontaneously end discrimination, nor make any real concessions to demands for equality because capitalism will always need this oppressed stratum.

Black people and immigrants have fought back against this massive oppression and discrimination. The state has responded by trying to crush their struggles by force, and to divert and subvert them with its community relations machinery.

There has been a direct response by black and immigrant workers to their super-exploitation in a whole series of industrial struggles during the last decade:

1968   Midland Motor Cylinder Company

1969   Newby and Son

Shotton Bros

1972    Mansfield Hosiery Mills

Crepe Sizes

Ideal Casement

Vircraft Metal Spinning

Stanmore Engineering

1973    EE Jaffe

Malmic Lace

Birmid Qualcast

Crawley Mouldings

Standard Telephone and Cable

1974    Imperial Typewriters

Art Castings

Perivale Gutterman


Punfield and Barstow

Heckmondwike Carpets

Kenilworth Components

Delta Mouldings

Barrington Products


1976  Grunwicks

1977  Garners

As we shall see, these struggles have been undermined, betrayed, or opposed by the trade unions involved. This involvement ranges from the no support of APEX’s ‘support’ for the Grunwick workers, to the District Secretary of the Dyers and Bleachers Union attacking the Intex strikers as ‘one step away from the Birmingham bombers’.

A second form of struggle has been a rebellion by the young black people against being forced into the worst jobs. They are simply not prepared to follow in their parents’ footsteps. A young black explains

‘When you leave school – you have the attitude that you are going to start at £30/40 a week. So when you go on an interview and the manager offers you £18, you sort of look at him and think this man is an idiot.

‘... They want black people to work on the underground and do certain jobs. They don’t want to see black people driving round in Rolls Royces. They make it sound that the West Indian youths have a whole heap of problems. Which problem we have that they don’t have? It’s problems that they put on us.

‘When the first lot of black people came over here they brainwash them. The first generation that came over – they brainwashed them. The times have changed now. The things my mother and father tell me – they have been through so much. I am not going to work at a place for 40 years and not have anything to show for it. After 40 years they just have a little watch. And one man owns a house and he alone lives there and the house is so big with all 200 rooms and I have to walk the streets. That’s not right because if a house has 200 rooms that means that 200 of us can stay there.’[105]

It is this section of blacks who are at the centre of concern of the ruling class, for they just will not accept the part that British imperialism expects them to play.

‘The young blacks present a critical challenge to all those working for the improvement of race relations. The alienation of some of the young blacks cannot be ignored and action must be taken before relations deteriorate further and create irreconcilable division.’[106]

It is this section of black people who are the centre of the so-called ‘bad relations’ with the police. The police systematically harass this section of black people on a massive scale. This is in addition to their general racist treatment of black people.

It is well known that the police generally discriminate against black people, attacking them, harassing them, detaining them.[107] However, the black youth suffer acutely. The police wage undeclared warfare against black youth. This war periodically erupts in massive raids and confrontations. Here is a list of important attacks by the police on black youth in the last decade:

1970  Mangrove 9

1971  Metro 4

1972  Oval 4

1973  Special Patrol Group murder 2 young Pakistanis at? India House.

Brockwell Park 3

1974  Cliff McDaniel

Clapton Park 4

Swan Disco 7

Cricklewood 12

Stockwell 10

1975  Desmond Wilson

Dallow Road 7

Spaghetti House siege

1976  Police riot at Notting Hill Carnival

Islington 18

1977  Lewisham 21[108]

Interspersed with these battles is steady harassment through questioning and arbitrary detention. One legal cover for attempting to control black youth is the police use of the 1824 Vagrancy Act – the notorious ‘sus’ law. Under this law, a person can be arrested on the grounds of being a ‘suspected person’, intending to commit an arrestable offence. Since this offence is a summary offence there is no right to jury trial. It must therefore be tried in a magistrate’s court, which is to the advantage of the police.

It is the areas with a higher proportion of black people, which have the highest proportion of people proceeded against for ‘sus’. (See Table 20.)

Table 20[109]


% of all ‘sus’

proceedings (1976)

Share of British

% population (1971)










It is obvious that ‘sus’ charges occur out of all proportion in the areas where black people are concentrated.

Apart from the use of the ‘sus’ law, the police harass, intimidate and assault black people in numerous ways.[110] In addition to this routine activity, the police maintain special squads for attacking black people. The Special Patrol Group (SPG) is a section of the Metropolitan Police deployed in black areas of London. Here are the figures for stopping and questioning and for arrests by the SPG.

Table 21[111]


Stopped and questioned

















Remember that the black population of Greater London in 1971 was about 500,000 and the scale of the harassment becomes clear. In 1975, in Lewisham whose black population is about 17,000, the SPG stopped 14,000 people and made 400 arrests. Amongst local black youth Brixton is nicknamed ‘the Front Line’.

Another unit designed to harass black people is the police Illegal Immigration Intelligence Unit. This is separate from the Immigration Service Intelligence Unit, mentioned above, although the two work closely together. The unit collects information on suspected illegal immigrants and has organised passport raids in London and elsewhere in October 1973, December 1975, February 1976, December 1977 and in the spring of 1978. As a result of its activities, a total of 5,326 people had been held in custody in prison under the 1971 Immigration Act.

The attempt to oppress black people is not confined to direct attacks by the state. It extends to toleration of racist terror attacks on black people. These include attacks on Asians in the East End in an attempt to drive them out of council housing. The recent report by Bethnal Green and Stepney Trades Council lists over 100 known racist attacks in a period of two years in the Spitalfields area. There are hundreds of others which have gone unreported. One man recently convicted of murdering a vagrant by smashing his face to pulp with a gas cylinder, confessed to over 300 racist attacks in the Tower Hamlets area. This is one man in one area. Thousands of racist attacks take place throughout Britain every year. This has been going on for years. These attacks are treated with indifference by the police.

On the other hand, if blacks attempt to defend themselves, the police attack them viciously. We have already mentioned the case of police harassment of Asian defence groups in the East End. A good example is that of the four Virk brothers. They were repairing their car when they were attacked by 5 white racists. The police let their attackers go free and arrested the Virk brothers. They had their passports taken away. They had to report to the police station every day for 18 months. They were charged with causing grievous bodily harm, and were sentenced to 3 months, 2 years, 3 years and 7 years imprisonment respectively. That the police ignore racist attacks and attack blacks who defend themselves is no accident. It is inevitable. It does not happen just because the police are racist, or just because the government is a racist government. It happens because imperialism needs to keep black and immigrant workers oppressed; to do this it needs to frighten and terrorise them. The police not only carry out vicious attacks on blacks but lend what help they can to racist irregulars by tacitly condoning racist attacks and by locking up black people who defend themselves. Thus organisations such as the National Front who thrive on racist attacks are simply an informal adjunct to the police, and gain their strength from the racism and discrimination encouraged by the ruling class.

It is a fact that force used against racists helps to stop racist attacks. In 1965, after bombs exploded at one racist MP’s house and under an electricity pylon, racist attacks declined:

‘The point was established that any violence against blacks would draw counter-violence against public property and white racialists. Threats and violence against coloured people seemed to have ceased thereafter, at least temporarily, thus proving that retaliatory violence is not always as counter-productive as many liberals, white as well as black, maintain.’[112]

Racism and racial discrimination are inherent in British capitalism. They must inevitably drive black people to rebel against their oppression. There is no way in which that oppression can be reformed away within capitalism. The British ruling class is well aware of this and has tried to contain the struggles of black people and make them ineffective by trying to channel them into Utopian attempts to reform away racism. Since 1965, the ruling class have introduced an increasingly larger and more complex series of community relations measures and Race Relations Acts. The underlying strategy has been to try to create illusions amongst blacks by pretending that the battle against racism can be won if it is funnelled through the British state. We have shown that this is impossible, because capitalism needs to maintain racial oppression. The Race Relations Acts have been utterly ineffectual in removing discrimination, fighting racist attacks, combating police brutality or ending immigration controls. The Commission for Racial Equality, and its predecessors exist only to head off black struggles, to absorb them into the state and to defuse them. In short, the race relations machinery can only create the illusion of change without making the slightest dent in the reality of racism. As Mr Patrick Murphy, New York Police Commissioner puts it:

‘I think community relations are a policeman’s principal resource. The car, the radio, the gun – they help, but they are not the most important things.’[113]

The Race Relations Acts

Race relations legislation began in 1965 with the first Race Relations Act. The then Home Secretary explained the need for the Act:

‘Overt acts of discrimination in public places intensely wounding to the feelings of those against whom these acts are practised, perhaps in the presence of many onlookers, breed the ill will which, as the accumulative result of several such actions over a period, may disturb the peace.’[114]

This made racial discrimination in ‘places of public resort’ – pubs, hotels and so on – illegal; it outlawed discriminatory clauses in leases; and introduced the offense of incitement to racial hatred. The enforcement was utterly toothless. The individual could not resort to the courts – complaint had to be made in writing to the Race Relations Board. The Board had no power to summon witnesses, subpoena documents, require answers to interrogatories, or issue orders. As one commentator remarked: ‘The result was probably the most reluctant enforcement mechanism that could be devised by the mind of man.’[115] The board had no power, just the job of conciliation. If no settlement could be achieved the board could refer the case to the Attorney General, who, if he wanted to, could start proceedings. If the court found that discrimination was being practised and would persist, it could issue an injunction restraining the defendant from repeating discrimination.

The 1968 Race Relations Act was at the centre of a tactical argument inside the ruling class about how best to control black people. Powell, in his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech saw the Bill providing ‘the means of showing that the immigrant communities can organise to consolidate their members, to agitate and campaign against their fellow-citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest with the legal weapons which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided’.[116] For Callaghan, then Home Secretary, the purpose of the Bill was ‘to protect society as a whole against actions which will lead to social disruption’.[117] Maudling, for the Tories, argued that the Act would be unworkable and ‘if it does not work in practice, it will be very serious indeed, because the immigrants who believe they will get protection from the Bill will feel that they have been deceived and will turn not only against the local population, but against the law itself.’[118] Powell, Callaghan and Maudling all agreed that something had to be done to keep black people ‘in order’. The only differences were over whether the Bill was the best way of achieving that. Callaghan believed that the Bill would undermine black struggles, while Powell and Maudling believed that it would encourage them. Despite these tactical disagreements, all agreed on one thing: the need to keep black people down.

The 1968 Act was much broader than the 1965 Act. It covered sales of goods and provisions of services, employment, housing, trade unions and professional associations and advertising. Enforcement was almost as toothless as in the 1965 Act. The Race Relations Board was as legally impotent. It could go to the courts itself, but only after conciliation attempts had been exhausted, and then only as an ordinary plaintiff: the board had to prove its case – there was no automatic enforcement. Damages could now be awarded, but only on the actual loss incurred, normally nominal. The Race Relations Board could not investigate complaints against the police, and the courts, of course, were exempt.

The Race Relations Board acted as a filter to the courts, taking forward only those complaints which had overwhelming evidence of discrimination. Unlawful discrimination was found by the courts in only a minority of these cases. Discrimination has not been reduced; it has become less open in some cases, while police brutality, racist assaults and immigration controls have intensified. The 1968 Act was clearly ineffectual. But it was not only ineffectual, but seen to be ineffectual by black people. In an attempt to shore up the deception, the Labour government introduced the 1976 Race Relations Act. The new Act is much wider in its application than the 1968 Act, while the legal rights of the individual and the legal powers of the new Commission for Racial Equality are much greater. Yet none of this makes the new Act any more effective than the old Act, for one simple reason: racism cannot be done away with under capitalism. No amount of legal juggling and tinkering can remove racial discrimination, because capitalism needs this discrimination. The real purpose of the Act had nothing to do with ending discrimination.

Why was it introduced? The state is scared stiff that black people may take the law into their own hands. As Macdonald explains in the most thorough examination of the Act:

‘In nearly every speech made in support of the 1968 legislation on its second reading in the Commons, it was stressed that these new race laws were necessary in order to prevent the kind of civil disorders seen in the USA. They were speaking of the Watts, Newark and Detroit rebellions, especially the Detroit rebellion of 1967. MPs obviously felt that if the possibility of legal redress for legitimate grievances was not available, people would sooner or later take things into their own hands. The 1968 Act was undoubtedly seen as one of the ways of heading off the then growing black power movement in Britain.’[119]

As the White Paper on Racial Discrimination puts it:

‘To abandon a whole group of people in society without legal redress against unfair discrimination is to leave them with no option but to find their own redress. It is no longer necessary to recite the immense damage, material as well as moral, which ensues when a minority loses faith in the capacity of social institutions to be impartial and fair.’[120]

The example in mind is obviously Ireland. As Sid Bidwell, the ‘left’ Labour MP tells us:

‘For fifty years British governments accepted discrimination against the deprived Catholic minority in Northern Ireland. The situation there provides a discomforting parallel with race relations problems in the United Kingdom. The six-county semi-state has blown up. Clearly if we are to avoid a similar eruption on the race relations front, we have to take measures to preserve social stability; and we must do so anyway for the sake of social justice. So far, no British government has succeeded in producing a balanced and constructive race relations policy.’[121]

Note carefully the priority in both cases – order first, justice second. Since imperialism cannot provide justice, it must necessarily drive the oppressed to rebel against it. Sooner or later, ‘order’ will confront ‘justice’ in the same open, brutal and naked form as it has in Ireland. Macdonald points to the series of strikes by Asian workers in 1972-74 and the disaffection of black youth. What, the bourgeoisie wonders, if they follow the example set by the Irish?

Community Relations Councils

Alongside the Race Relations Acts, there has grown up a system of Community Relations Councils. These had their origin in the 1965 Labour White Paper, Immigration from the Commonwealth which, alongside the tightening of restrictions on immigrants, included a section on integration. Roy Hattersley expressed the Labour philosophy concisely:

‘I believe that integration without limitation is impossible; equally I believe that limitation without integration is indefensible.’[122]

For the Tories, Thorneycroft argued both for greater controls and for devoting

‘our utmost energy to promoting the absorption of these communities within the fabric of the civilisation of which we in these islands are so proud.’[123]

Immigration control and integration were, he remarked in a revealing phrase, ‘two sides of the same medal’. In other words, the sugar on the pill, the velvet glove on the mailed fist.

The White Paper led to the establishment of a state financed National Committee for Commonwealth Immigrants. It was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Its activities were confined to providing information, education and welfare. In its guidelines on forming local committees, it made clear that it was no champion of blacks:

‘it should be emphasised at every stage that this is not a committee to serve the interests of one section of the community but a committee to promote racial harmony. It is therefore beneficial to all.’[124]

It made clear its smug, chauvinist hostility to black political organisations:

‘Fortunate indeed are the forces of extreme militancy and unreason, for to them goes the emotional satisfaction of constantly exploding with anger at the injustice seen around them. Their choice of role automatically excludes them from the hard work and assures them of a faithful if small following. This is a haven for those, black and white, who are in search of a cause rather than a solution.’[125]

In 1968 the NCCI was transformed into the Community Relations Commission, no longer a voluntary body, but responsible to the Home Office. The NCCI’s local ‘Voluntary Liaison Committees’ were transformed into Community Relations Councils, implying that the problems were not racial, but community ones.

The CRC, unlike the NCCI had to tackle the question of racial discrimination. However, there were severe limits on what was possible. The Newham CRC found the grant for its Community Relations Officer cut off after the CRO had suggested in public that the NF were responsible for arson attacks on Asian homes, had reported Maudling to the Race Relations Board for introducing the 1971 Immigration Act, and had criticised the CRC chairman’s views in The Guardian. The CRCs were intended to provide a framework for cultivating allegiance to the state in the black community. In a survey of CRCs, the immigrant members of the Executive Committees were found to be disproportionately middle-class – some 46%.[126]

The CRCs live on today under the new Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). They vary enormously in their activities, the scale of their financing, their relations with blacks and with the state. They have all been given one function to play: to attempt to give the illusions to blacks that their demands can be met by the British state, to defuse protest and to co-opt them into conning their comrades. As the White Paper on Racial Discrimination puts it:

‘it is vital to put well-being as a society to tap these reservoirs of resilience, initiative and vigour in the racial minority groups and not to allow them to lie unused or to be deflected into negative protest on account of arbitrary and unfair discriminatory practices. In any full strategy for better race relations, the voluntary initiatives of the racial minority communities and their organisations will play an indispensable part.’[127]

Or as Mr John Sturgeon, Principal of Brixton College put it:

‘People who feel there is no purpose in typing won’t fit into any kind of society ... You can’t keep people down with the police forever. I wanted to create a middle class among the West Indians in order to pacify the district.’[128]

This is of course a classic method of attempting to control popular protest. Brigadier Kitson emphasises how important it is

‘to associate as many prominent members of the population, especially those who have been engaged in non-violent action, with the government.’[129]

Indeed, Kitson recognises the value of a programme of reforms and concessions in order to undermine ‘subversion’, that is, popular protest:

‘Such a programme should include measures designed to maintain and if possible increase the prosperity of the country, as well as measures aimed at the destruction of the subversive organisation, because not only is prosperity itself a potent weapon in the struggle against those who wish to overthrow the existing order, but also there would be little point in defeating the insurgents only to be left with a ruined community. The programme should also cater for rectifying genuine grievances, especially those which the enemy are exploiting as part of their cause, and for attracting support by implementing popular projects and reforms.’[130]

We have already shown why such reforms are Utopian: British capitalism is quite unable to grant them. However, this does not prevent the state from substituting the illusion of reform for reform itself. One example of this illusory reform is the Urban Aid Programme, set up in 1968. The official statement outlining the Urban Aid Programme said:

‘The government proposed to initiate an urban programme of expenditure mainly on education, housing, health and welfare in areas of special social need. These were localised districts which bear the marks of multiple deprivation ... A substantial degree of immigrant settlement would also be an important factor, though not the only factor in determining the existence of special social need.’[131]

The responsibility for the programme was located in the same section of the Home Office which was responsible for the Community Relations Commission. The money for the programme was not extra money, but part of the already existing Rate Support Grant. What lay behind the initiatives were conscious attempts to institute social control. The race rebellions in American cities were disquieting reminders of what oppression of blacks would bring about, and the Urban Aid Programme was consciously modelled on the American poverty programme. However, the amount of money spent on Urban Aid has been trivial – less than £50m over a ten-year period – and is quite insufficient to make any real change in the areas of urban deprivation. This is not simply because the ruling class is unwilling to expand state spending, but because it is unable to do so without threatening the profitability of British capitalism.[132] British imperialism has similarly proved incapable of removing inequality between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland; it is just as incapable of removing inequality between black and white in Britain today.

The actual role of the community relations machinery becomes clear when we examine the use the British state has made of such techniques in Ireland. A bureaucratic row surfaced in 1976 when officials from the Institution of Professional Civil Servants complained that civil servants, who had no connection with Northern Ireland, were attending Psychological Operations courses at the Joint Warfare Establishment at Old Sarum, in Wiltshire. In the document which describes the courses, so-called ‘Psy-Ops’ is outlined:

‘an all-embracing term defined by NATO as “planned psychological activities in peace and war directed towards enemy, friendly and neutral audiences, in order to create attitudes and behaviour favourable to the achievement of political and military objectives”’[133]

Part of ‘Psy-Ops’ is Community Relations:

‘Community relations are a form of psychological consolidation but related to peace-time conditions. ...

‘Strategic psywar pursues long-term and mainly political objectives. ... It can be directed against the dominating political party in the enemy country, the Government and/or against the population as a whole, or particular elements of it. It is planned and controlled by the highest political authority.’[134]

The close connection between community relations and repression can be judged from the case of Sgt Barry Davies of the SAS regiment who took part in the assault on the hi-jacked Lufthansa jet at Mogadishu. Davies is the proud possessor of an MBE, a civilian award, for ‘services to community relations in Northern Ireland’. The kind of activities which Davies might have been engaged in can be seen from army document 40RM 7/11)58, Operation Playground dated11th September 1972. Major John Smith of the Royal Marine Commandoes proposes certain play facilities for the New Lodge area of Belfast, the purpose being:

‘to improve the environment for the children of the area in the short term with a view in the long term for the decent people of the area to control affairs and oust the gunmen and terrorists.’[135]

In Britain the Commission for Racial Equality liaises closely with the police:

‘We are working closely with the police at all levels ... we have been involved in training schemes for local police officers, and for police officers specialising in community relations. ... The police have welcomed the increasing attention we have paid to this area and are co-operating with the Commission in setting up local machinery to help prevent troubles before they arise.’[136]

Note that the CRE does not see its job in terms of righting wrongs, but of ‘preventing trouble’. This is simply following the precedent set in Ireland where the Royal Ulster Constabulary has some 60 Community Relations Officers:

‘They continually emphasise that they are policemen first and community relations officers second, and that the Community Relations Branch is just another specialised unit which a modern police force requires if it is to serve the community properly by reducing or preventing crime and helping to produce responsible citizens.’[137]

We can see quite clearly that the race relations machinery is not just a cosmetic, but an active tool of the ruling class in its attempts to hold down black people, as the example of Ireland shows. The new Race Relations Act will prove as ineffectual as its predecessors, and discrimination will continue unchecked. The Community Relations Councils and the CRE are simply an attempt by the state to gain control of the struggles of black people against their oppression, as the government itself says. The real struggle that has to be fought cannot be carried out through the tangled cobweb of the courts or the endless polished corridors of the CRE but only independently of the British racist state and against it to build up a united anti-racist, anti-imperialist movement in the British working class.

Racism and the labour movement

We have shown that racism and imperialism are inseparable – that racism is the form taken by national oppression in the oppressor country and how in Britain racism has served the needs of capitalist profitability both in boom and in crisis. The British capitalist class has maintained the racist oppression of black people and immigrant workers and is incapable of overcoming that oppression. The result is that black people and immigrant workers form an oppressed layer within the working class.

The analysis we have made is a vital tool for the building of an anti-racist movement. For we have established the essential political basis for an anti-racist movement. There are many people on the left today who will no doubt find the analysis we have made ‘interesting’, ‘correct’, ‘very Marxist’ etc. They will however find the political conclusions we draw from it objectionable, disagreeable and unpalatable. Such people are generally the product of British universities and have absorbed the great British tradition of being able to accept any analysis provided they do not have to draw from it conclusions which are dangerous to the ruling class.

Our analysis has shown the only possible basis for a movement to fight racism. It must be anti-imperialist. It must recognise that because racism and imperialism are inseparable the fight against racism must be a fight to overthrow the basis of racism – the British imperialist state. Any movement which claims to be anti-racist but which denies that it is the British imperialist state which must be the target of an anti-racist movement is a sham and a fraud. (As we will show there are many such shams and frauds in existence.) An anti-racist movement must not only defend black people and immigrant workers in this country but must also solidarise with and actively support all those fighting imperialism, particularly British imperialism, throughout the world. It must oppose and fight all attacks on black people and in particular must oppose all immigration controls.

This movement must be built in, and based on, the working class. Only the working class is capable of a relentless and uncompromising struggle against British imperialism, since it is the only class which has no interest in the maintenance of imperialism. Only by building such a working class movement will it be possible to unite the working class against all the attacks it will face, and for the struggle for socialism. A movement built on this basis will be capable, as the sham movements are not, of showing why it is in the interests of the white section of the working class to join the struggle against racism and thus [forge] real unity with black people and immigrant workers. On that basis it will be possible to demonstrate in practice to black people that their interests lie with the working class and in the working class struggle to overthrow capitalism.

Movements built on any other basis will drive a wedge between the black and white sections of the working class, will deepen the divisions created by and fostered by imperialism. The movements built by the British left prove this beyond doubt. What does the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) and the left’s participation in it tell white workers? The ANL has refused to oppose immigration controls, it has refused to oppose British imperialism, it has scabbed on black people, as it did on September 24th 1978 by refusing to direct its Carnival to Brick Lane where black people were being attacked by the National Front and the police. It clearly tells white workers that their interests lie not in the fight against racism and with black people but instead lie in the preservation of British imperialist democracy against the National Front. And it tells black people that the working class movement is incapable of, indeed not interested in defending them against attack. It deepens divisions. We will later show that this is the case with all movements built by the British left.

No doubt the British left will go on building such movements, covering its tracks, debating ‘tactics’ until kingdom come. So cut off from reality and from the working class are they that they live in a timeless world of their own. But there is no more time. The movement we have shown to be necessary must be built. Disaster lies ahead if it is not built.

The attack which the capitalist class and its state has launched on the working class is intensifying the racial oppression of black people. Concentrated in the low paid sector, facing disproportionately high rates of unemployment, they are experiencing this attack particularly acutely. On top of this they face the particular racist attack which the British state has launched. By its use of immigration laws, police harassment, beatings, imprisonment, the SPG etc, the British state is attempting to beat down any rebellion by black people. Every racist step by the British state has led to a strengthening of the National Front and similar organisations. And it is the British state which is acting to handcuff black people so that the National Front can attack them that [much] more easily. The British ruling class has launched its fiercest attack against this racially oppressed stratum of the working class. In doing so they wish to weaken opposition to the attacks which it is launching and must intensify on the whole working class.

Every day black people are forced to stand alone in the face of this attack. Let us refer again to the case of Abdul Azad, a 17-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant who is a textile worker and a member of the Allied Textile Workers Union in Oldham. His mother is murdered. The police are entirely uninterested in her murder. But they are interesting in taking a blood test from Abdul Azad and on the basis of this recommending him for deportation as an illegal immigrant and holding him for three months in Risley remand centre. And when the Bangladeshi community organise protest actions against this, where is his union? Where is any union? They are not there. This case is one amongst hundreds and thousands. The relentless progress of the state’s attack against black people meets no opposition from the organised working class movement.

The question facing those who wish to build an anti-racist movement is why this attack on black people has met with little opposition from the working class. The British state’s all out attack on black people has not led to the building of an anti-racist movement in the working class.

Where does the responsibility for this state of affairs lie? It lies with the British left. They have made no attempt to build a genuine anti-racist movement. Far from it, as we will now show, they have repeatedly compromised with British imperialism and with its agents in the leadership of the working class movement.

The greatest obstacle to building an anti-racist movement in the working class is the widespread view that racism can be overcome by reform, that capitalism can be forced to cease to be racist. Resolutions calling for the repeal of the 1971 Immigration Act and the strengthening of anti-discrimination legislation have been a feature of the Labour Party and Trade Union conferences in recent years. Inseparable from this view is the belief that these demands must be placed on a Labour Government, that a Labour Government can be forced to combat racism.

The motions passed, speeches made, pamphlets written onthese lines have not made the slightest difference to the situation facing black people. They continue to suffer. Nor has reality had the slightest effect on this argument. This argument is still repeated while the state’s attack on black people mounts in intensity. It continues in the face of the fact that today, the major attacker of black people is the Labour Government. The Labour Government has operated the 1971 Immigration Act for five years of the six years of the Act’s operation. It has presided over the fiercest attack by the British state on black people.

In the past few years a new factor has dominated the motions passed. It is that the National Front is a growing danger and must be combatted. Alongside this has developed a tendency to use the terms fascism and racism interchangeably. The National Front is portrayed as the major racist force in British politics. In this way attention has been diverted from the growing assault on black people by the British state, and in particular by the Labour Government. Indeed those who put forward these views inevitably call for a vote for Labour — for the return of a Labour Government.

These views have two practical consequences. They tie the working class to imperialism and they leave black people to fight alone. No anti-racist movement can be built unless a battle against this view is waged. That there has been no such battle is a testament to the bankruptcy of the British left.

Racism and imperialism: the connection broken

For those arguing that capitalism can be purged of its racism it is essential to first obscure and then break the connection between racism and imperialism. They will admit that racism exists, that it is in the interests of the capitalist class and that certain actions by the British state are racist. That is as far as they can go. After that they must demonstrate that all this need not be so. That capitalism need not necessarily be racist. That the British state need not attack black people and that therefore the anti-racist movement need not be anti-capitalist.

Thus Ben-Tovim of the Communist Party (CP) argues:

‘If racism is a simple product of capitalism, a mystique of class exploitation eliminable only in a socialist revolution – then the black and anti-racist movement must also be anti-capitalist. ... Thus Liberals, progressive Tories, Churches, middle strata, are to be excluded in favour of a narrow stratum of proletarian and socialist forces ...’[138]

It is tempting to comment on the distorted perception needed to regard churches, progressive Tories etc as a broad stratum and the proletariat a narrow one, but that would be a diversion. Nevertheless Ben-Tovim is clear on one thing: racism and capitalism are not necessarily connected since:

‘... racism has a “life of its own” which cannot simply be reduced to its economic or political conditions of existence.’[139]

Ben-Tovim has obligingly revealed the political importance of an analysis which shows the inseparable connection between imperialism and racism. Such an analysis leads to the building of a principled working class anti-imperialist, anti-racist socialist movement. It is therefore essential for those who peddle the view that racism can be whittled away leaving capitalism intact to obscure the connection.

They cannot deny outright that a connection exists. So they must instead do two things. Firstly they must relegate the connection to the past. Secondly, while admitting that the capitalist state is attacking black people they must deny that it is doing so because it is a capitalist state and because this attack is necessary for the continued survival of British imperialism.

Racism in the past: British imperialism

The CP tells us:

‘Right from the start of the capitalist system profit has been both the root and fruit of racism.’[140]

The scene then shifts to the 19th Century:

‘When Britain became the main imperialist power in the second half of the 19th Century and the Daily Telegraph map of the world showed [one quarter] of the land surface painted pink, these ideas of racial superiority received an enormous boost.’[141]

The examination of how capitalist profit lay at the root of racism in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s is studiously avoided. Imperialism ‘boosted’ racism in the 19th Century but what has been keeping it going since? Certainly not imperialism according to the CP.

Now this is obviously a sore point for the CP. They tell us:

‘It (racism) is something embodied in the law of the land and institutionalised in the way society is organised. Racism is not some kind of historical left-over.’ (our emphasis)[142]

Indeed not! So does the CP then tell us that racism exists on the basis of continuing oppression of nations by imperialism? That on this basis capitalism survives? That capitalism could not survive without the exploitation of the oppressed nations and peoples of the world and therefore without racism? Of course not. The above quote continues:

‘The ideas and the practices of racism are being developed in people’s lives from day to day, strengthened, spread – and inflicting new wounds.’[143]

This is Ben-Tovim’s ‘racism with a life of its own’. Shot from the cannon of 19th century British colonialism it has continued ‘hovering around’ ever since even to the extent that it is ‘embodied’ in British laws and ‘institutionalised’!

Racism in the present: The National Front

This explanation appears inadequate even to the CP. Since if it were so then racism should be gradually disappearing. It is obviously not. So the CP has to find something else, some other agency boosting racism. The British state, the source of racism, must be portrayed as coming under pressure to become racist. The essential feature of this agency pressuring the state, is that it should lie outside of capitalism. Thus:

‘Harassment of black people by the police and in some cases judges’ comments in court reveal a disturbing tendency in these parts of the state as well to compromise with racist attitudes.’ (our emphasis)[144]


‘We also need to take into account the effect of past capitulations to racism by British Governments, both Conservative and Labour.’ (our emphasis)[145]

British Governments have ‘capitulated’ to racist pressure. Judges have ‘compromised’ with racism. And where has this pressure come from? The National Front. The latter is:

‘... the main openly racist force in British politics.’

‘... there is the conscious fanning of racist attitudes by political forces. Over recent years, some in the Conservative Party, notably Enoch Powell, have played a major part in this – but now the fascist National Front is the main mobiliser of racism ...’[146]

By arguing this the CP can avoid the reality: that the main racist attacker today is the British state, currently presided over by a Labour Government and that it is attacking black people because the crisis of imperialism demands the intensification of racism. What for the CP are ‘capitulations’ and ‘compromises’ are nothing more than the racist measures of the racist British state. That state needs no pressures or lessons from the National Front to become racist. It has always been so.

The British state and racism: the cover-up

Having removed any concrete connection between imperialism and racism today, and having established that the imperialist state’s racism is really a concession to the National Front – the CP can then set out its programme for reforming capitalism and purging it of racism.

The resulting programme to combat racism becomes nothing more than a cover-up for British imperialism. The whole emphasis is placed on the National Front as the main racist force, and consequently the main target of the movement.

At the same time it is argued that pressure must be applied on the British state to rid it of its racist features. These being the result not of capitalism itself, but of racist pressure. Pressure therefore must be exerted the other way. With this we are back full circle to the motions passed by trade union conferences and Labour Party conferences etc. The basis has been laid for using the state to fight racism. This is to be done by extending bourgeois democracy – the bourgeois democracy that is today attacking black people because it is an imperialist democracy.

The ‘disturbing tendency’ of the state to ‘compromise’ with racism has not, according to the CP, gone beyond the point of no return. For the CP has discovered that the British state is ‘ambiguous’ in its attitude to racism.

‘On the one hand it specifically excludes its own actions from being subject to the restraints of the Race Relations Act (eg it allows itself to blatantly discriminate against overseas students in Britain) and on the other hand it aids the fight against racism.’[147]

The black people of Britain can be forgiven for failing to notice these ambiguities. They are discernible only to those, like the CP, whose standpoint has to see ambiguity where there is none, and has to see a willingness on the part of the state to fight racism when the opposite is revealed daily.

The CRCs etc are supposed to indicate the state’s willingness to fight racism. In fact they are another weapon in the British state’s armoury against black people. To cover its actions against the mass of black people the state is seeking to create a support for itself amongst the small professional section of the black population.

The ‘ambiguous’ British state is to be forced, according to the CP, to strengthen the Race Relations Act, the CRCs must be expanded, National Front marches banned. And there is also a ‘strong case’ ‘for democratising the police force’.[148]

And furthermore:

‘... the government itself must be called on to take up the fight by providing a series of anti-racist leaflets ... It should conduct a campaign against racism just as it does on safety measures.’

This democracy they wish to extend is British bourgeois democracy which is dependent on British imperialist exploitation, robbery and racism. Those arguing for its extension as a means of combating racism inevitably compromise and cover-up for imperialism and take the side of the imperialist state.

This is already clear when the CP talks of democratising the police force. Can anyone in their right mind think that the British police force, an experienced, well-armed, imperialist police force [can] be democratised? It is ridiculous, yet it serves to cover up the reality of the British state. And leaflets produced by the Government? We have already witnessed the revolting spectacle of a Labour Party political broadcast on the National Front which was well received by the CP. And no wonder. While the Labour Government is busily attacking black people it can cover this up with such broadcasts. The CP wants leaflets to be added to the cover up.[149]

This cover-up job becomes even clearer when we examine the CP’s attitude to immigration controls. British imperialism is presented as capable of operating non-racist immigration controls:

‘All sovereign states have a right to decide who enters and who leaves their territory. But to allow them to base that decision on racial grounds is surely contrary to every humanist principle including Christianity.’[150]

This is the standpoint that lies behind the fact that the CP calls for the repeal of the 1971 Immigration Act, and not the ending of all immigration controls. Imperialism is granted the right to control immigration but cautioned to direct its controls against all the oppressed (since it will scarcely be directed against anyone else!) regardless of race. They might as well say:

‘... every capitalist has the right to exploit workers but he should not exploit some more than others, at least, not on racial grounds.’

This is the essence of the position that refuses to oppose all immigration controls. It is as ridiculous as calling for non-racist pass laws in South Africa. It is nothing more than a reactionary Utopian pretence that imperialism could be non-racist, that capitalism should not oppress some sections more than others. And since imperialism inevitably will attack the oppressed, since its immigration controls will inevitably follow the same course, the result of this position is simply to cover up that reality and leave the oppressed undefended. It can lead nowhere but to compromise with, and support for the British imperialist state. It leads to this kind of racist book-keeping:

‘Some insist that immigrants should be examined upon entry and sent home if they are found to be infected. By all means give them medical examinations. ... But could anyone be so inhuman as to refuse immigrants treatment, turning them away to certain death? Treatment is the least we can offer; the profits drained from their countries would much more than cover the cost. In any case when cured, they would create by their labour here more than enough wealth to foot the bill.’[151]

This passage is from a pamphlet by Tony Chater (now Editor of the Morning Star and Executive Committee member of the CPGB) and appears under the heading: ‘Do coloured workers bring diseases into Britain?’. ‘By all means’, says Chater, subject immigrants to humiliating and degrading examinations. Let us offer them charity in the form of medical treatment. After all we have robbed and looted their countries enough to ‘cover the cost’. ‘In any case’ he adds, for the benefit of any capitalist whose heart (or wallet) has not yet been touched, we’ll make a good profit out of them. This attitude, counting the pennies for imperialism, telling it that it need not be racist, that it can well afford to be charitable to black people, is the inevitable chauvinist product of a refusal to oppose British imperialism. The CP should blush for shame when it now condemns virginity tests at Heathrow. What can they possibly say! ‘We beg your pardon, we did not mean those sorts of examinations, we mean non-racist examinations, given to all irrespective of race!’

Covering up for Labour

But there is one further stage in the CP’s cover up for British imperialism. They have argued that imperialism can be reformed out of its racism, that it can be democratised and made non-racist. Who according to the CP is going to democratise it to fight racism? A Labour Government. While the Labour Government directs the present attack by the British state on black people, the CP tells the working class that a Labour Government is going to fight racism! While black people, Irish people and other sections of the working class are increasingly asking what is the difference between Tory and Labour since Labour Governments always attack them just as hard – the CP says – as it always says ‘ah yes, but it need not be so’.

It is possible to have ‘a new type of Labour Government’. This will be ‘a Labour Government carrying out a left policy’:

‘Left governments should also take the most vigorous measures to combat racism. All racist legislation such as the 1971 Immigration Act should be repealed, and any legislation of immigration should be on a non-racial basis. The Race Relations Act should be strengthened and implemented. A programme of expanding social services, housing and education, taking account of the particular problems of minority groups, should be instituted to end the present conditions of deprivation in which so many people live.’[152]

Black people are told to wait on the production of this left government for relief from the attacks that they face. In the meantime, despite the fact that the existing Labour Government continues to attack them, they and the whole working class must continue to support Labour.

The argument that it is possible to produce a Left, anti-racist government is of great significance. British imperialism, along with imperialism throughout the world is suffering an acute crisis of profitability. It can resolve this crisis only by driving down working class living standards, and by intensifying national and racial oppression.

The British working class is now experiencing increasingly severe attacks. Black people, along with other oppressed sections such as women, are experiencing this attack most acutely. The result is that the savage nature of British imperialism and in particular of the Labour Government which has directed this attack for five years is becoming increasingly exposed.

Sections of the working class are therefore beginning to turn away from the Labour Party. Not surprisingly those suffering most acutely, the black and Irish people, are the first to break from the Labour Party. But other sections of the working class are also making the break, for example low-paid workers in NUPE. This is a significant movement for the British working class. There is enormous potential for winning these sections of the working class to socialism. Today it is impossible for the Labour Government to appeal to the working class for support on the basis of its five year record of attacks. It has been so thoroughly exposed that it can do nothing to win back those sections of the working class turning away from Labour. It is in this situation that the argument that it is possible to achieve a Left Labour Government reveals its significance. For such views are directed precisely at those sections turning away from the Labour Party and are used to lead them back into support for the Labour Government. The exponents of this view can argue to these sections that they should support a Labour Government not because of what it has done – since that is thoroughly exposed – but on the basis of what it might do in the future.

Nobody could dare to say to black people in Britain – ‘vote Labour – we have operated the 1971 Act, we have used the police against you, we locked you up and beat you up and on these grounds I urge you to vote Labour’. But the CP can say and does say ‘Vote Labour — yes it has failed you in the past, but in the future it can become a Government fighting to defend you, it can repeal the 1971 Act, stop the police attacking you etc etc.’

This argument is extremely dangerous. Its appeal to workers who are increasingly feeling the reality of imperialist crisis, lies in the fact that its exponents are able to admit that the capitalists are attacking workers, admit that existing immigration laws are racist – admit all of it – except the one important thing: that these attacks will go on and increase unless the working class destroys capitalism. That is what they cannot admit. And so they must tie the working class to imperialism – not directly but indirectly – by tying it to the Labour Party, by tying it to Labour Governments which in periods of crisis always and inevitably attack the working class and the oppressed.

Labour Governments – all of them without exception – have been racist and pro-imperialist. Labour Governments have been responsible for the decisive steps towards the introduction of the contract labour system in Britain. Labour Governments introduced the 1965 White Paper and 1968 Immigration Acts. True, it fell to the Tories to introduce the 1971 Act, but to make up for this the Labour Government has now implemented it for five out of the six years of its operation. This Labour Government is responsible for:

  1. The 300 and more detainees kept in detention at any time as illegal immigrants, prior to deportation;
  2. the virginity tests at Heathrow, for the multitude of other indignities, delays, and suffering inflicted on immigrants to this country;
  3. the splitting up of many immigrant families by denying wives and children rights to enter Britain;
  4. the use of police terror against the black people in Britain, including the use of the SPG in black areas. And the beatings, false imprisonment, harassment on sus etc;
  5. the protection of National Front marches;
  6. the imprisonment of black people who have defended themselves against racist attacks;
  7. Bringing out [a quarter]of the Metropolitan Police force to defeat the Grunwick strikers;
  8. using the police to harass the Garners pickets.

Such is the Labour Government’s record, a record showing beyond all doubt that it always serves imperialism – always attacks black people.

The dreamers of Left Governments cannot deny this reality. So they are forced to ascribe the racism of Labour Governments to the existence of right wing forces which manage somehow to always control Labour Governments. Thus for instance, when referring to immigration controls the CP always uses the expression ‘Right wing Labour’s immigration policies’. The clear implication being is that there is a left wing Labour policy that is fundamentally different.

This is nonsense. The Labour Left’s Tribune Group supports immigration controls. (Of course they oppose the 1971 Act, but like the CP wish for non-racist controls.) These Lefts have a fine record of anti-racist speeches. But do they speak and vote against the racist Labour Government in the House of Commons? Of course not. Hypocritically they all groaned and gasped when the virginity test case was revealed. But the fact is that these tests have been going on for years on end – under the Labour Government. Where is their record of exposing these? No such record exists!

So reality, the actual deeds of the lefts punctures the myth of ‘right wing’ Labour. The existence of 30 odd hacks in the House of Commons is not sufficient to cover up the reality of Labour’s racism.

Something else is therefore required, something that can divert attention from the Labour Government’s attack on black people, polish up the anti-racist image of the ‘lefts’ and by so doing regain support for the Labour Party. That something has been found. The CP (and the Labour Left as well as the whole British left) suddenly discovered that the National Front was the greatest danger to mankind since Hitler. The terms fascism and racism became interchangeable. The National Front became the main racist force in British politics. And so the struggle against racism became the struggle against the National Front.

What a gift for the Labour Government! The heat is taken off them, attention is diverted from their attacks on black people and focused on the National Front. Moreover the tired old Labour lefts, their anti-racist credentials in tatters, now parade on ANL and other ‘anti-racist’ platforms, condemning racism, condemning racist attacks ... but only when carried out by the National Front. When the same and even worse are carried out by Labour Government. ... ? Silence.

It is not concern for the lives of black people that has led to this development. The National Front is certainly responsible for many racist attacks and murders, but so too is the Labour Government. But this fact has not led the CP et al to call for a mass campaign against the Labour Government.

No, not concern for black people, but concern to delude the working class, concern to retain support for the racist Labour Party, concern to cover up for the British state’s racism, for the Labour Government’s racism – that is what has led to the campaign against the National Front.

Petit bourgeois socialism and racism

We have shown that the CP’s views on the question of racism are nothing more than an attempt to convince the working class that racism and capitalism are separable and that the struggle against racism need not be for the overthrow of British imperialism but merely for its democratisation.

We have criticised these views at length because they riddle the existing ‘anti-racist’ movement. The manifold ‘anti-racist’ committees, bodies, resolutions which put forward this view have proved, in practice, to be incapable of mobilising the working class against racism.

Nor will they ever do so. Since they represent not the revolutionary working class standpoint, not the interests of the working class and the oppressed but those of the petit bourgeoisie.

The revolutionary working class standpoint on the question of racism is very simple. The struggle for socialism is a struggle for the overthrow of the British imperialist state. In this struggle the working class must defend those suffering oppression at the hands of the British imperialist state since their oppression strengthens imperialism. Black and immigrant workers are an oppressed layer within the working class. The struggle against racism, the defence of black people must be a necessary and integral part of the struggle for socialism. The standpoint of the petit bourgeoisie is quite different. This class, stranded between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, wavers – first into one camp then into the other. It cannot have the consistent standpoint either of the ruling class which sees the necessity to crush the working class or of the revolutionary working class which sees the necessity to overthrow capitalism if it is to survive. The petit bourgeoisie sees neither view – it believes in a middle way. While the petit bourgeoisie’s privileged existence leads it to be loyal to capitalism, nevertheless it fears that the capitalists are too harsh and that their harshness will provoke a struggle which will lead to the destruction of capitalism. And so it wishes that capitalism was not imperialist, did not oppress nations, did not attack the working class, was not racist. It views these as excesses which capitalism can be persuaded to abandon. It believes that capitalism can be made more democratic and that this purification of capitalism should be the aim of the working class struggle. Not the overthrow of imperialism but its democratisation – this is the standpoint of petit bourgeois socialism.

The standpoint that dominates the existing anti-racist movement is that of petit bourgeois socialism. Racism and capitalism are separable, the struggle against racism should be a struggle for the extension of bourgeois democracy, it is possible to purge capitalism of its racism and to use the capitalist state to do so. Thus there can be non-racist immigration controls, democratic police forces and so on. Only the petit bourgeoisie could evolve such schemas. A black youth in Brixton, regularly picked up by the police on SUS, regularly beaten and abused would not conceivably think that the solution to his problem was a democratised police force.

The democracy which petit bourgeois socialism wishes to extend is, as we have shown, bourgeois democracy, ie democracy for the oppressors not for the oppressed. However the ambivalent class position of the petit bourgeoisie inevitably leads it to identify its stable peaceful existence with bourgeois democracy. Petit bourgeois socialism fears the revolutionary struggle of the working class since that would lead to an end of bourgeois democracy. Equally it fears the threat to bourgeois democracy stemming from the increasingly authoritarian measures of the capitalist state and in particular from the growth of fascism.

In no other way can the standpoint of the CP (and the ANL) towards the National Front be explained. It is summed up in this passage from ‘A Knife At the Throat of Us All’:

‘... the argument on which we should seek to mobilise mass action (against the National Front – MW) is that to allow the fascists to parade their racism through our streets is not only an attack on the black communities, which are the immediate target, but ultimately on the democratic rights of us all. On getting unity on this issue only the sky must be the limit.’ (our emphasis)[153]

It is the defence of bourgeois democracy that above all concerns the petty bourgeois socialists. The National Front is attacking black people but for the petit bourgeois socialists that is not the point. The real point is that the National Front, a fascist party, is using racism to build support for itself, to enlarge itself into a mass fascist movement. It is the latter alone which is of concern to the petit bourgeois socialist. And so all sections of the population, especially the bourgeoisie and the petit bourgeoisie must be persuaded to oppose the National Front on the grounds that it ‘threatens us all’, ie that it threatens bourgeois democracy and therefore ‘us’ the petit bourgeoisie.[154]

The views of petit bourgeois socialism are at present the greatest single obstacle to the building of an anti-racist movement in the working class. They cannot mobilise the working class and therefore for as long as these views remain unchallenged in the anti-racist movement so will black people be left to face the racist attack alone, the divisions of the working class will be deepened as a result. But more than that: the effect of these views is to tie the working class to its existing leadership, the Labour Party and the trade union leadership, and these represent, as we will now show the voice of British imperialism in the working class movement.

The leadership of the working class movement – of the Labour Party and trade unions – has proved over decades to be an invaluable ally for the British ruling class. Its actions have demonstrated over and over again that it is in the camp of British imperialism and therefore opposed to the mass of British workers and to all those oppressed by British imperialism. Its actions on the question of racism prove it to be the racist agent of British imperialism within the working class and therefore an agent of division. Before looking at their record it is necessary to explain why this is the case.

The Labour Aristocracy

The answer lies in the fact that Britain is an imperialist nation. Using a small proportion of the superprofits British imperialism has been able to bribe both materially and politically a privileged upper stratum of the working class – the labour aristocracy.[155] The Labour Party is the primary political expression of this layer. British imperialism has been able to buy off this section and has done so in order to create a pro- imperialist stratum in the working class. This stratum because its privileges depend on British imperialism acts as an agent to control the struggles of the working class and to foster and cultivate its allegiance to imperialism. As Lenin said, they are

‘The real agents of the bourgeoisie inside the working class movement, the labour lieutenants of the capitalist class, the real vehicles of reformism and chauvinism.’[156]

The mass of the British working class has no interest in the continuance of imperialism. Today in Britain 15m people live on or below the poverty line and working class living standards are falling dramatically. While the existence of imperialist superprofits gives the British ruling class more flexibility in meeting worker’s demands, it meets them only to stave off social unrest. When falling profit rates remove this flexibility as they have done today, it presents its real face to the British working class, the face it has always presented to the masses in oppressed nations – vicious and brutal repression. The interests of the British working class lie with the oppressed against imperialism. The fact that the working class has not yet begun to act politically in accordance with its interests is an indication both of the domination of the working class movement by the labour aristocracy and of the British left’s total inability to challenge this domination.

The labour aristocracy has a direct interest in the maintenance of imperialism and therefore of the oppression of nations and the resulting racist oppression of black people in Britain. This stratum maintains its privileged existence on the basis of imperialist superprofits. Not only privileged materially, it is also politically privileged.

Bourgeois democracy can only exist on the basis of superprofits. It, however, can be a safe form of capitalist rule only if the ruling class has its spokesmen and agents within the working class. Thus bourgeois democracy allows a whole section of the labour aristocracy together with the new petit bourgeoisie, to obtain comfortable, influential and lucrative posts as trade union officials, committee men, journalists, lawyers, MPs, academics, economists etc.

These people, claiming to speak for the interests of the whole working class in fact represent a privileged layer. Within the capitalist corridors of power they fight to maintain their privileges. They bargain with the capitalists for their share of the profits arising both from exploitation of the British working class and from the exploitation of the oppressed throughout the whole world. And within the working class they fight to persuade the mass of the working class that its interests are served by capitalism and should be subordinated to capitalist prosperity.

Over the period of the post-war boom this layer achieved unparalleled domination over the working class movement. Inevitably this led to a strengthening of chauvinism within the working class movement. The political result of this domination is apparent today. The British working class has yet to take action against racism.

The domination of the working class movement by the labour aristocracy must inevitably lead to a division between British workers and workers of other countries, particularly those oppressed by British imperialism. The working class movement which should be an international movement is divided because British workers have been led to identify their interests with those of British imperialism against those of the oppressed. Not only is the working class divided internationally, it is also divided nationally, a wedge is driven between the black and white sections of the working class.

Now that sections of the working class are breaking away from the openly pro-imperialist Labour Party, now that the reality of the crisis is forcing workers to break from the politics of the labour aristocracy, the real possibility exists of building a communist, anti-imperialist anti-racist vanguard in the working class movement. The full extent of the danger of petit bourgeois socialism is obvious – it is fighting to keep the working class under the dominance of the labour aristocracy. Let us look at what they want the working class to support.

The Labour Party and Imperialism

‘I am not prepared to sacrifice the British Empire because I know that if the British Empire fell ... it would mean the standard of life of our constituents would fall considerably.’ (E Bevin)[157]

These words uttered by a Labour Minister in 1946 admirably sum up the standpoint of the Labour Party towards imperialism. The ‘our constituents’ referred to was not the mass of the working class but the upper echelons, the privileged layers of the working class.

From its birth the Labour Party has represented the labour aristocracy. In consequence Labour Governments have proved as loyal to British imperialism as have Conservative ones. The Labour Party has carried out too much of the dirty work of imperialism for us to detail it all. Just some of its actions can be indicated.

In 1924 the Labour Government carried out all that was necessary to maintain the British empire – including the air bombing of Iraq. The 1929 Labour Government carried on in like manner – suppression of a national uprising in Burma, ordering the arrest of 60,000 people protesting against British rule in India. The 1945 Government – the one most lauded as an example of what a Labour Government with a majority can do – organised the suppression of an uprising on the Gold Coast, killing and injuring hundreds. It suppressed another in Uganda, killing 300 and imprisoning 1,000. It carried out the most barbaric war against the Malayan people during which it used squads of Dyak headhunters, put 7,000 in concentration camps, banned trade unions and arrested 183 trade union leaders.

The 1968 Labour Government sent troops into Ireland in the latest phase of a bloody war against the Irish people. The present Labour Government continues that war against Irish freedom using assassination gangs, torture, and concentration camps. Today it keeps 400 Irish prisoners of war naked in their cells in its aim of continuing to deny them POW status.

No one should be deluded into thinking that there is a fundamental difference between the Labour Party and Labour Governments. In 1917 the Bolsheviks sent out proposals for ending the First World War. These proposals included the right of self-determination for oppressed nations. The Labour Party’s reply stated:

‘Nobody contends that the black races can govern themselves. They can only make it known that the particular government under which they have been living is bad in some or all respects and indicate the specific evils from which they desire liberation.’[158]

As black people fought for their liberation from imperialism, the Labour Party had to change its openly racist tone. What it did not change was its desire to share in the spoils of their exploitation.

‘It is fully recognised that Western Europe cannot live by itself or as an independent economic unit ... A real reduction in our dependence on American supplies depends above all on developing the vast resources of the African continent. But such development depends on close collaboration among the Powers with responsibility in Africa.’ (Labour Party EC statement The Labour Party’s Plan for Western Europe)[159]

The language is developing its sophistication. Labour’s use of terms like the ‘family of the Commonwealth’ was fast developing. But the real message is the same, the same as Bevin’s: we must protect our privileges, we must grind down the black masses of Africa. (It is no surprise to discover as revealed in the Muldergate scandal that two Labour MPs are alleged to have been paid by the South African Government to conduct propaganda in favour of the Apartheid regime!)

The Labour Party’s unchanged attitude towards imperialism is best demonstrated today by its silence on the British state’s (and the Labour Government’s) war against the Irish people. We cannot produce quotations of its position on Ireland because neither its conference nor its NEC ever say anything. They are obviously 100% happy with the Government’s war against the Irish liberation movement.

The Labour Party and racism

Labour’s loyalty to imperialism is unquestionable. Its full support for British imperialist oppression and exploitation of nations is fully matched by its support for the oppression of black people in Britain.

The Labour Government’s record on the question has been detailed. Labour Governments took the decisive steps towards the contract labour system in Britain and now that system exists, enthusiastically enforce it.

Labour Governments have been quite open about their attitude to immigration. In 1946 Callaghan stated:

‘In a few years time we will be faced with a shortage of labour, not with a shortage of jobs; we ought to become a country where immigrants are welcomed ... Who is going to pay for the old age pensions and social services unless we have an addition to our population which only immigrants can provide in the years to come.’[160]

Notice that the super-exploitation of immigrant labour was not going to be used to stoke up imperialist profits – no, it was all going to the old age pensioners. Truly Labour imperialism has a heart of gold! To oppress half the people of the earth simply to pay the OAPs!

By 1976 Callaghan was telling the Labour Party Conference that he:

‘... had never wavered from the view that a small highly populated country like Britain had to limit the number of immigrants it could absorb.’[161]

There is no fundamental contradiction between these two quotations. In the 1950s British capitalism required the expansion of its reserve army of labour; it required labour to fill the worst jobs in the worst conditions. It could not force indigenous labour into these jobs because full employment existed. So Labour supported non-restricted Commonwealth immigration. In the 1970s it no longer requires the expansion of the reserve army by tapping the international reserve. The crisis has created a large army of nearly 2 million unemployed. What British imperialism in the 1970s requires is a system of immigration controls aimed at depriving immigrant workers of all rights. A system of control that can be used to terrorise thewhole black population.

And so Labour supports immigration controls. Obedient as ever to the requirements of British imperialism. The Labour Party’s position is summed up by S Bidwell (a sponsor of theANL):

‘There is sometimes a case for severe restrictions on entry. There is a case, in times of economic upswing, for relieving that severity.’[162]

We need only deal briefly with the Labour Party’s position on immigration controls. In 1965 when the Labour Government introduced its White Paper calling for stricter immigration controls, the Labour Party Conference rejected by 3:1 a motion calling for withdrawal of the White Paper. The Labour Party supports immigration controls. However it opposes the 1971 Act on the grounds that the patrial clause makes the Act a racist one. A Labour Party study group on immigration put forward the alternative in 1971. It is possible, they believed:

‘...to devise a coherent and acceptable immigration policy which is not based on the colour or race of the prospective migrant.’[163]

With the same degree of accuracy, the study group also believed:

‘... that when Labour is next returned to office, Britain will be able to set an example to some other nations in implementing an immigration policy which is humane, rational and non-discriminatory.’[164]

And of course they will go on believing these things are possible in the face of all proof to the contrary. No doubt on matters affecting their own interests – MPs’ pay for example – they are considerably less gullible.


In so far as the Labour Party is concerned about racist discrimination it is so merely because it fears rebellion by the black population. D Ennals looking fearfully at the USA, said in 1968:

‘We are determined as an article of faith that all citizens shall have equality not only before the law, but in opportunities for education, housing, employment, social services and the rest. We are determined to avoid the situation which has developed in the USA where patterns of prejudice and discrimination have created an underprivileged indigenous minority, many of whom react violently against what they conceive to be second class citizenship.’[165]

Of course the Labour Government would not in a million years fight racist discrimination. Not only would this be opposed to capital’s interests but it would arouse the ire of the labour aristocracy, the privileged sections of the working class who would shout loudly about ‘privileges’ being given to black people.

So what remains is Ennal’s ‘article of faith’ to avoid black people ‘reacting violently’ against racism. Labour Governments have taken two steps. First, the Race Relations legislation the point of which is to co-opt a layer amongst the black population and use it to control the rest. The second is the drive to terrorise black people into submission, into acceptance of what they seemingly only ‘conceive’, according to Ennals, to be second class citizenship.

The Trade Union Leadership and Racism

Racial oppression has forced black people to occupy the worst jobs, the lowest paid jobs, the worst conditions, shift work etc. And racial oppression is used to keep black workers in these sectors.

Capitalism has not arbitrarily developed a low paid sector, shift work etc. As we have shown these are necessary features of capitalism. And racial oppression is also an intrinsic and necessary feature of imperialism. It is therefore no accident that black and immigrant workers are concentrated in these sectors – it is a direct result of the racial oppression which they suffer.

The normal activities of the trade union struggle, for higher wages and better conditions in these sectors can marginally improve the conditions of all workers in them, including black workers. But it cannot affect the fact that these sectors will go on existing and the fact that black workers are disproportionately concentrated in them. Only a struggle against capitalism and against racial oppression can deal with this situation.

The trade union leadership has shown itself not merely to be incapable of waging such a fight but in fact to be the enemy of such a struggle. Their attitude towards black workers is summed up thus:

‘To do anything special towards integrating the workforce may only point up the differences which could lead to the very reverse of what you are hoping to happen. Everyone in our union gets the same service.’! [166]

‘The trade union movement is concerned with a man or a woman as a worker. The colour of a man’s skin has no relevance whatever to his work.’[167]

In this way the trade union leadership has persistently ignored the racial oppression suffered by black workers and said as Jackson and Feather are saying, ‘All my members are equal’. By so doing they have denied the oppression suffered by black people and so actively aided the British state in perpetuating that oppression.

Although motions opposing discrimination were passed by trade union conferences from the 1950s onwards, the trade union leadership did nothing to fight discrimination. The extent of the discrimination which black people were suffering was massive and obvious. Indeed the TUC indirectly acknowledged its support for discrimination by saying in 1962:

‘in general they (ie black and immigrant workers) have made a worthwhile contribution to the economic life of Britain and without them many services would be less easy to maintain’[168]

We have shown that these ‘many services’ which would have been ‘less easy to maintain’ were precisely the low paid, shift work sectors which racial oppression forced black people into. Against that racial oppression the trade union leadership did precisely nothing. But this leadership which was silent about the racial oppression of black workers and discrimination against them leapt into action to oppose anti-discrimination legislation. The reason for this is made clear in the following statement by the TUC General Council in 1967, opposing the introduction of a contract clause against discrimination:

‘Workpeople who were to be protected might be put in a privileged position.’[169]

That, in a nutshell, is the standpoint of the Labour bureaucracy and aristocracy. Of course they did not really think that anti-discrimination legislation would lead to the granting of a privileged position to black people. What they feared was the loss of the privileges of the labour aristocracy which would result from the lessening of the burden of oppression on black people. They directly, instinctively and quite correctly identify their privileges with the oppression of black people. That is why as black people and immigrant workers began to fight the racial oppression which forced them into the worst jobs and the lowest grades they met with not only the opposition of the British state but also of the trade union leadership. This was absolutely clear during the Grunwick strike. That strike was defeated both by the refusal of the trade union leadership to organise the blacking [blocking] of essential services to Grunwicks and also by the Labour Government’s use of massive police forces to prevent successful picketing.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s there occurred hundreds of instances of sabotage and active obstruction of black people’s struggles by the trade union leadership. In 1965 at a rubber mouldings factory called Woolfs the Indian Workers Association successfully organised a branch of the TGWU. At the factory over 500 of the 700 workers were Asians. All the foremen, chargehands were white and all the best jobs went to white workers. After the union branch was formed, management began to dismiss union activists. The local TGWU persuaded the Asians to take no action about this pending the appeal to the National Joint Industrial Council. This recommended reinstatement of 5 of the 10 dismissed workers. After this suspensions and dismissals continued until finally the Asian workers struck. The union refused to [give] any strike pay to the Asians and the strike was defeated after six weeks.

Again, at Mansfield Hosiery the same pattern emerged. There three grades existed. The top grade of knitters received £45 per week. All of these workers were white. The bottom grade – bar loaders – received £23 per week. All of these workers were Asian. When the bar loaders demanded a rise the management demanded increased productivity. The Asian workers struck against union advice. In fact the local union official promised that white workers would strike if, as he put it, white workers were ‘flushed out’ of the knitters jobs. When management agreed to train two Asian knitters, the white workers duly went on strike. Management dismissed the Asian strikers. Only after occupying the union offices did the Asian workers win official recognition for their strike.

Numerous other instances have occurred to show that unions have actively cooperated in discriminatory practices. The shipping line Cunard entered into an agreement with the National Union of Seamen (NUS) in 1972 whereby the NUS was guaranteed 103 posts on each ship if they in return agreed that other posts, kitchen hands etc could be recruited from local contractors. These workers were largely Asian and were paid no wages, having to exist on tips. The Cunard managing director put it bluntly:

‘We would have to dispose of two passenger ships fairly quickly if we had to pay national NUS seamen rates for all crew members. That is why we employ Asians.’[170]

The trade union leadership as in the case of NUS has fought to maintain privileges for certain workers at the expense of black and Asian workers. The result has been the deepening of divisions within the working class. The white workers at Mansfield Hosiery were encouraged to see their interests with the management and against black workers. Similarly at Imperial Typewriters when Asian workers went on strike against speed up and for equal pay for women, the Transport and General Workers Union refused to make this official and white workers continued to work for the duration of the strike.

In the catering industry struggles by black and immigrant workers have met active sabotage and obstruction from the Union leadership. When workers in the Wimpy chain struck against conditions and wages of £25 for a one hundred hour week, one Turkish worker commented:

‘We had a hard fight but the hardest fight was against Union officials. We are bitter we got so little after such a successful strike. The Union didn’t seem interested in us at all.’[171]

Today the Garners strikers face the same obstruction. After one year on strike they still receive only £6 per week strike pay. Far from assisting immigrant workers in the catering trade, the trade union leadership wishes to unleash an even greater attack on them. Thus the TUC Catering Committee, commenting on a Home Office scheme for the detection of ‘illegally’ employed immigrants, said:

‘the Committee also considered that if the problem was to be alleviated there would be a need for increased enforcement whatever the law and therefore it concurred with the recommendation of the Select Committee which had said that the police, the Immigration Service Intelligence Unit and other authorities should be afforded substantially more resources to trace the over-stayers and to tackle all aspects of illegal immigration.’[172]

That is the reality of the trade union leadership’s attitude to black and immigrant workers – complete support for the oppression of them and support for the state’s attack on them. It has shown itself to be in alliance with British imperialism.

At the onset of the capitalist crisis a nightmare vision began to haunt the trade union leadership – might the conditions of the British working class continue to worsen, might they become like those in the less developed capitalist nations? Might this process confront British workers with the choice that faces workers in oppressed nations – that they must fight or they would be destroyed? Something had to be done. The trade union leadership could not take the only action that would defend the mass of the British working class – lead a fight for the overthrow of capitalism. Instead they had to evolve a programme which would attempt to overcome the crisis facing British capitalism and at the same time defend the privileged sections of British workers. One side of this programme has been the attack on the mass of the British working class, the driving down of its living standards which the leadership has entirely supported and cooperated with. The other side has been ever more strident calls for immigration controls. In 1965 the TUC said that controls were required:

‘linking Commonwealth immigration more closely to job opportunities, labour requirements and the suitability of immigrants to meet these requirements.’[173]

In 1972 the TUC leadership called for lower quotas on the number of immigrant workers in the catering trade. The result has been that the number of work permits issued for the catering industry has fallen from 21,000 in 1970 to 1,500 in 1977. We have already shown how the trade union leadership wants harsher attacks on immigrant workers and at the same time sabotages their struggles for better pay and conditions. In 1976 the TUC called on the Government to cease issuing work permits altogether because of mounting unemployment.

The existence of immigrant labour has given the TUC some leeway. It has been able to argue that the getting rid of this labour will soak up some of the unemployment facing British workers. Anything, any chance, including attacking black workers is grasped at, so that the trade union leadership can prevent British workers from seeing that they have no alternative but to ally with the oppressed in a fight to overthrow British imperialism.

The standpoint and actions of the trade union leadership is chauvinist and pro imperialist. In acting to protect the privileged position of a small stratum of the British working class it perpetuates the racial oppression of black people and infects the working class with its chauvinist poison. Thus in 1972 the union SOGAT issued a pamphlet called Stop Racialism and Immigration. In this the SOGAT leadership argues that immigration should be strictly limited since:

‘... a continuous deterioration in the living conditions, inevitable with unplanned immigration, can only increase the antagonisms.’[174]

The deterioration of working class living standards is blamed on immigration. Of course they cannot admit that this position is thoroughly racist, so they say:

‘In differentiating between matters of racialism and immigration the society supports the Government measures to curtail immigration into the UK. It demands such curbs to be operated regardless of creed or colour. At the same time, based on the anti fascist record of the Society, it advises other democratic associated bodies in the Trade Union movement to be on guard against the demagogic and fascist expressions reminiscent of the emergence of the diabolical fascism of the 1930s.’[175]

This statement expresses extremely clearly the standpoint of the labour aristocracy and bureaucracy. Support for imperialist immigration controls with a pious and useless wish expressed that these be non racist. While supporting the oppression of black people they express a haunting fear of fascism. The Labour and trade union leadership since its existence depends on bourgeois democracy fears fascism because it would destroy bourgeois democracy. That is why today, while the trade union leadership is in full support of the state’s attack on black people it shouts loudly about the threat of the National Front. Not because the National Front is engaged in vicious attacks on black people but because its growth threatens the Labour and trade union bureaucracy.

The struggle to build a united working class movement against racism will confront the trade union leadership as an obstacle and an enemy. They are responsible for perpetuating the oppression of black people and for channelling racist and pro imperialist ideas into the working class movement.

The petit bourgeois Left – the thickest cover of all

We have already examined the views of one section of the petit bourgeois socialists – the CP. It is necessary also to look at the record of those sections of the British left (Socialist Workers Party (SWP), International Marxist Group (IMG)), which claim to oppose the racism of the British state, to oppose all immigration controls. It would be quite beside the point to say anything about the formal declarations of opposition to all immigration controls which these organisations make. These formal positions are empty and useless unless they are accompanied by the most ruthless war against the agents of imperialism within the working class movement. As Lenin pointed out:

‘Struggle against imperialism that is not closely linked with the struggle against opportunism is either an empty phrase or a fraud.’[176]

The British left has demonstrated its complete inability to wage that struggle. Instead it acts as the perfume to cover the stench of the Labour Party’s racism. We are already familiar with the techniques used by petit bourgeois socialism to cover up for the Labour Party. This is how the SWP and IMG do it. The SWP says:

‘Instead of tackling the racist arguments of the NF and the Tories the Labour Government attempts to win support by being almost as racist as they are.’ (our emphasis)[177]

The IMG writes:

‘... the failure of Gordon Walker, the defeated Smethwick candidate to get re-elected in Leyton, convinced Wilson that he must make some concessions to the reactionary currents in the working class’ (our emphasis)[178]

The SWP again:

‘The Labour Government condemns racialism but as we have seen it has surrendered to the racialists all along the line.’ (our emphasis)[179]

In the pamphlet from which this question is taken, ‘The Case Against Immigration Controls’ produced in 1978 after four years of the racist Labour Government, the SWP mentions the Labour Government 11 times, the National Front 8 times, Enoch Powell 13 times and the Tories. ... 27 times!

The IMG/Socialist Challenge again:

‘Because the trade union and Labour leaders have no answer to the crisis they can only tail end the racists. For them to effectively(?) fight immigration controls means a battle with their own supporters because racism is not confined to the ruling class. It also runs deep inside the British working class.’[180]

And it goes on and on, page after page after page – the words of the British left fall like snow until finally nothing is left out of Labour’s racism except ‘concessions’, ‘surrender’, ‘tail ending’ etc.

The British left are now past masters at covering up for Labour. The SWP theoretician, Paul Foot, has been doing so for 14 years. His book ‘Immigration and Race in British Polities’ originated many of the myths that the left is using to this day to cover up for the Labour Party. The greatest of all these myths is that the Labour Party capitulated to racism in the 1960s and then abandoned what had previously been a principled opposition to racism. Thus:

‘Without gaining more than a handful of votes, Labour tacticians at Smethwick lost what was far more important – a hard core of principled opposition to racialist propaganda.’[181]


‘... the chauvinist, xenophobic element in the British people is assuming control over the politicians … The anti-immigrant resentmentwhich long years of Conservative cynicism and neglect helped to create has taken its toll of the Labour Party ... It shows that the Labour Party has collapsed in the face of what it believes to be “public opinion”: that it has changed its line on immigration not because economic circumstances have changed, not because of any new problems in housing and education but, as its predecessors in 1925 acted, through fear of losing votes.’[182]

We have shown precisely the opposite to be the case. There had indeed been changes in ‘economic circumstances’ for British capitalism in the 1960s. It was moving into crisis. The resolution of that crisis for British imperialism demanded that immigration be restricted and that black people be attacked. And the Labour Party obeyed its imperialist masters. Not electoral gain but the maintenance of imperialism has been the motor of the Labour Party’s racism.

The view of the SWP and IMG that Labour has capitulated to racism is identical in all respects with that of the CP. All of them believe that it is Enoch Powell, Thatcher or the National Front which has mobilised working class racism and thus forced the Labour Party into becoming more racist. Reality is turned upside down and the working class becomes responsible for the racism of the Labour Party. According to the IMG, Harold Wilson, that most bloated and corrupt of imperialist politicians, introduced immigration controls as a result of pressure from reactionary currents in the working class! Covering up for the Labour Government thus becomes covering up for imperialism since it was to further the interests of imperialism that immigration controls were introduced.

Once the left has thus broken the connection between the needs of British imperialism and the existence of racism, once the racism of the working class is blamed for the racist acts of the state, a relentless logic is followed. The racism of the British state is relegated to the background and the main racist force to be combatted becomes whatever right wing force is attempting to mobilise working class racism. The left has variously identified this as Powell, Thatcher and the National Front.

The struggle against racism then becomes not a struggle against British imperialism and its agents in the working class movement but against the National Front, to prevent them from increasing their influence in the working class. Not a fight to convince workers that they must take up the struggle against the racial oppression suffered by black people, but a fight to maintain the existing consciousness of the working class. Thus in all recent pamphlets by the left, purporting to be on the question of racism, there is a mandatory section entitled ‘countering the National Front/Nazi/racist lies’. Thus the SWP in the ‘Case Against Immigration Controls’ deals with the following questions: Is Britain overpopulated? Aren’t black people outbreeding white people etc (remember T Chater’s ‘Do coloured immigrants bring diseases into Britain?’)? The figures are analysed and the conclusion drawn:

‘... she (Thatcher) knows perfectly well that there are only 1.9m black people in Britain — less than four blacks in every hundred people. Some big minority!’ [183]

The next question? Are immigrants bad for the economy? asks the SWP. No is its answer:

‘... immigrants are of benefit to the economy.’[184]

This so called socialist party then goes on to quote a West German ‘industrialist’ (ie a capitalist) who actually pays tribute to immigrant workers in Germany (it is probable that this was the most he ever paid these workers whose blood and toil filled his coffers with profit) for creating the economic miracle. Can anyone imagine a more revolting spectacle than so called socialists debating this and other such points and ending up quoting a capitalist about how good immigrants have been for the capitalist economies.

It almost takes the breath away to read this chauvinist outpouring of the British left. How on earth would they ‘counter’ National Front lies about the trade unions wrecking the economy? If consistent, they would have to say ‘no they are not, they are responsible bodies’ and quote the Director General of the CBI congratulating trade unions on the way in which they aid the capitalist economy.

The IMG is no different:

‘The idea peddled by racists that black people sponge off the welfare state is equally ludicrous. Large numbers of black people come to Britain as adult workers. They had already been housed, fed, clothed and educated in their country of origin which saved the British social services something like £12,000 a person. A survey done in 1971 pointed out that taking in account expenditure on health, welfare, education, social security and housing, the average immigrant takes out 20 per cent less than the average white person does.’[185]

Neither the SWP nor the IMG relate the facts that black and immigrant workers receive less from the social services, are over represented in certain sectors of employment etc, to the specific oppression suffered by black people. They simply use these facts neutrally, to reassure white workers that black people are not the cause of their problems. Such arguments since they conceal the racial oppression suffered by black people, since they fail to relate that oppression to its actual cause – British imperialism – and since they make no attempt to mobilise white workers to fight the oppression suffered by black people, cannot provide the basis for uniting the working class. Instead they can only lead to the strengthening of the hold of the politics of the Labour and trade union leadership over the working class.

Over the past period we have witnessed the SWP, IMG et al take the logical step which flows from this position. They have not attempted to build an anti-racist movement, they have not attempted to challenge the chauvinist and racist standpoint of the Labour and trade union leadership. On the contrary, they have united with the latter in the campaign against the National Front. The child of that unity is the Anti-Nazi League.

The ANL – unity with the dividers[186]

In the ANL all the forces we have analysed have united. The SWP, the IMG, the CP, and other left organisations, have united with sections of the Labour and trade union leadership. Amongst the sponsors of the ANL are S Bidwell, who recently signed the racist Select Committee report calling for even stricter controls on immigration from the Indian sub-continent. Also sponsoring the ANL is the leadership of SOGAT, who as earlier mentioned produced in 1971 the pamphlet ‘Stop Racialism and Immigration’. The steering committee of the ANL consists of Audrey Wise MP, Neil Kinnock MP, Martin Flannery MP, Dennis Skinner MP, Ernie Roberts of the Labour Party, Peter Hain of the Labour Party, Simon Hebditch, Bill Dunn of the CP, Nigel Harris of the SWP, and Paul Holborrow of the SWP.

Over the period of the ANL’s existence two things have been proved beyond any doubt. Firstly, the ANL is not concerned with the defence of black people either from the British state or the National Front.[187] Secondly, that it is has received such support from the Labour and trade union leadership because it provides them with a superb cover. Their support for the racist Labour Government, their support for immigration controls, all this covered up in a blaze of propaganda against the National Front.

That the ANL has no interest in defending black people became abundantly clear at its first conference. There the following motion was thrown out:

‘The ANL rejects the view that harmonious race relations can be constructed on the basis of immigration acts.’

The ANL refused to make opposition to the British state and its immigration laws part of its programme. The left groups such as the IMG, SWP etc had a majority of delegates at that conference. There we saw how much the left’s formal position of opposition to immigration controls was worth. Precisely nothing. Their votes defeated the above motion which would have made opposition to the state’s immigration laws part of the ANL’s platform. They knew precisely what they were doing when they voted against this motion. Paul Holborrow of the SWP said in opposing the motion:

‘The ANL is too important to drive back into the strait jacket the majority of us have come from.’

In other words, the Left decided that had they committed the ANL to the only position capable of defending black people they would have driven away the Kinnocks and the Bidwells and the SOGAT leaders. Unity with the Labour racists was too important to be placed in jeopardy for something so unimportant to the British left as defending black people.

The standpoint of the ANL is that of the Labour racists. They are loyal to British imperialism, loyal to the British state, support immigration controls and all the actions of the racist Labour Government. Thus the ANL has not been for one minute concerned to defend black people. Its sole and single purpose is to prevent the growth of the influence of the National Front over the working class. The Labour racists are frightened of this growth in influence of the National Front for two reasons neither of which have anything to do with defending black people. Firstly, the National Front in certain marginal constituencies is taking votes from Labour. The Labour racists are concerned to prevent votes going from Labour to the National Front. Secondly, the Labour and trade union leadership fear fascism. They know that fascism in destroying bourgeois democracy also destroys the social democratic hirelings of bourgeois democracy.

On both these counts the Labour leadership are concerned to stop the growth of the National Front in order to save their own skins. Thus the propaganda of the ANL is solely concerned to tell workers that the National Front is not an ordinary racist party but that it is a NAZI party:

‘The NF has far too long been able to masquerade as a “patriotic party” without its NAZI ideology and roots being exposed.’[188]

Thus the ANL attempts to mobilise working class patriotism (to British imperialism) against the National Front’s threat to British bourgeois democracy. So while warning the working class that the National Front in power would mean concentration camps, the ANL omits to mention the thousands of Irish prisoners that the British state holds in the concentration camps of Long Kesh and other prisons. It omits to mention the 300 ‘illegal’ immigrants that the British state holds in detention. It omits to mention the British state’s racist attacks on black people.

In so far as they do mention the attack which black people are suffering at the hands of the British state and the Labour Government, they do so only to point out that this attack is sufficient and that therefore the working class has no need to turn to the National Front. Thus in answer to the National Front’s claim that black people are swamping the country, the ANL replies:

‘But for every 100 white people there are only three black people. The white immigrants from Australia, Canada, New Zealand etc are three times as many as those from India, Bangladesh, Ceylon [sic] etc. Wives and children of Asians and West Indians living here cannot get in because the rules are now so strict. For example, in 1977 four out of every 10 applicants from wives and children in Bangladesh were refused.’[189]

This coming from an organisation that refuses to oppose immigration controls can only mean one thing – don’t vote National Front, controls are already strict enough.

Far from aiding the building of an anti-racist movement the ANL is yet another channel into the working class for the racist, pro-imperialist ideas of the Labour and trade union leadership. While black people face daily attack from the forces of the state, when they face harassment from the police, murderous attacks from the National Front, the ANL has done precisely nothing to defend them and indeed by strengthening the domination of patriotic Labour imperialist politics has actually impeded the building of an anti-racist movement. It has directed attention away from the real root of the oppression of black people, British imperialism. It has directed attention away from the racist Labour Government. And it has actively scabbed on the struggle to defend black people. Thus on 24 September we saw the practical result of the politics of the ANL. Black people in the East End of London appealed to the ANL to divert the Carnival from Brixton to the East End where the National Front was due to march. The ANL refused to do so.

So while black people faced attack from both the National Front and several thousand police, the ANL went ahead with its anti-NAZI carnival on the other side of London, listening to speeches, by amongst others, Tony Benn, a Cabinet Minister in the present racist Labour Government. That revealed the real nature and purpose of the ANL – strengthening the hold of the Labour racists, leaving black people to face attack alone.

And how did the British left with all its fine principles about anti-racism respond to this? Their attitude to the events of 24 September, to the ANL’s scabbing on black people, tells us all we need to know. The IMG said:

‘Were we right to go to Brixton? — Yes, yes, yes!

‘The question facing the ANL was not one of mobilising 50,000 antifascists against the NF march, it was whether the ANL was prepared to do battle with 5,000 police and SPG on duty to guard the NF march.’[190]

To have done so says the IMG would have:

‘Actually impeded the building of a mass movement against racism in this country.’

And the SWP in an article called ‘Still United’ said that had they mobilised for Brick Lane:

‘The result would have been 1) The disintegration of the ANL 2) The realisation that even such a movement on the empty streets of London facing 8,000 police might not have broken through and beaten the Nazi marchers.’[191]

This is how the British left justified its scabbing on the black people of the East End – unity with the Labour and trade union racists was too valuable to jeopardise by actually defending black people against the British state. Those who unite with the real agents of division in the working class movement inevitably end up in the camp of the British state against black people.

The politics of petit bourgeois socialism inevitably lead to covering up for the racist Labour Party leadership. Not only does the ANL prove this point but so too does the fact that all those who have united in the ANL have called for a vote for Labour in the coming election. The British left, the IMG, CP, SWP is united with the TUC and the Labour Party in calling for and working for the return of the Labour Government which has spent the last five years attacking black people and if elected will spend its next period in office intensifying that attack.

Unity and the struggle to build an anti-racist movement

We have shown that British imperialism has created a division in the working class. This is not a fictitious division to be overcome with spurious cries for black and white to unite and fight. It is a real division arising from the fact that black and immigrant workers suffer specific racial oppression over and above the normal oppression and exploitation experienced by all workers. This racial oppression means that black and immigrant workers form a distinct oppressed stratum within the working class.

It is imperialism which has created this division but it is the racist Labour Party and trade union leadership which has acted to make that division into a source of disunity in the working class. By encouraging and fostering working class allegiance to the British imperialist state they have acted to split and disunite the working class. The result is that while one section of the working class – black and immigrant workers – face discrimination, face racist assault and face the state’s attack, the other section – white workers – has not yet come to their assistance.

This means the disunity, the splitting of the working class. For there can be no struggle to throw off the common oppression suffered by all workers whilst one section of the working class allows the British imperialist state to rampage against black and immigrant workers. There can be no question of a struggle for socialism unless a working class anti-imperialist, anti-racist movement is built.

The basis for creating real political unity is the recognition that the working class [and] the oppressed people in Britain have a common interest in overthrowing the British imperialist state.

We have shown the basis for unity by proving that the root of the oppression which black people suffer lies in British imperialism and cannot be ended without the defeat of British imperialism. The British state is intensifying the oppression of black people and immigrant workers and will continue to do so. It has launched a systematic offensive against this oppressed section of the working class. To achieve success in their aim of defeating black and immigrant workers the British capitalists are relying on there being no united working class struggle against racism.

For this means that they can isolate black workers. If they succeed in that aim they will be capable of disuniting the working class struggle and so lay the basis for defeating the whole working class.

The struggle to build an anti-racist movement is an urgent task. We have shown the political basis on which that movement must be built. It must be anti-imperialist, its aim must be the overthrow of the British state. It must solidarise with and actively support all those throughout the world who are fighting imperialism. In particular it must fully support those fighting British imperialism in Ireland today since the enemy they face is also the enemy of the anti-racist movement — the British imperialist state. The anti-racist movement that must be built will understand that it must oppose all immigration controls since such controls in the hands of the British state must inevitably be used against the oppressed. It must support all struggles against discrimination and all struggles for the defence of black workers under attack. It must defend black people and immigrant workers from all the attacks which they face – be they from employers, the National Front or the British state.

Only a movement built on this basis is deserving of the name anti-racist. Only such a movement will be capable of defending black and immigrant workers and uniting the working class.

This movement will be built only through the most resolute opposition to British imperialism and its agents in the working class. No army can go into battle if its ranks are riddled with enemy agents. Equally no working class anti-racist movement can be built unless it fights to drive out and defeat the carriers of imperialist ideology within the working class.

Today there is much talk of unity. There is much congratulation that unity has been achieved as never before, in the ANL. But the unity achieved has been unity with the agents of British imperialism, giving them a disguise, rendering them even more harmful and dangerous.

Unity must be achieved but it must be unity to defend the oppressed not unity to cover up for and assist the oppressors. Those who talk of unity today without making it clear that they mean unity against imperialism and its agents are placing themselves in the camp of the British imperialist state and therefore against black people and against the working class.

The first task of those who would build a genuine anti-racist movement today is to divide – divide those who will defend the oppressed from those who cover up for and assist the oppressors. That division, that cleansing of the working class movement, will lay the basis for the real and effective defence of black people and immigrant workers and for the real and effective unity of the working class in its struggle for socialism.

Maxine Williams, Stephen Palmer, Gary Clapton

April 1979

[1] See Paul Bullock and David Yaffe ‘Inflation, the Crisis and the Post-War Boom’ Revolutionary Communist No 3/4 November 1975 pp17-20.

[2] ‘Iran’s importance to us may be judged by the facts that in 1977 she took over £650 million of British exports and supplied over a quarter of our crude oil imports.’ Dr David Owen quoted by A Ghotbi Dr Owen defends despotism in Iran CRTURI London September 1978. See also Dorcas Good and Michael Williams ‘South Africa: The Crisis in Britain and the Apartheid Economy’ Revolutionary Communist No 5 November 1976 pp49-55 and Terry Marlowe and Stephen Palmer ‘Ireland: Imperialism in Crisis 1968-78’ Revolutionary Communist No 8 July 1978 pp5-33.

[3] Karl Marx Capital Volume 1 Lawrence and Wishart London 1970 pp632, 635.

[4] Ibid pp637, 639.

[5] Ibid p640.

[6] Lenin Collected Works 19 p454.

[7] Unit for Manpower Studies The Role of Immigrants in the Labour Market Departmentof Employment London 1976 p169. This valuable report is cited below as ‘UMS’.

[8] Stephen Castles and Godula Kosack Immigrant Workers and Class Structure in Western Europe Oxford University Press 1973 pp46-48; Krystina Wrochno-Stanke Migrant Workers and Their Problems WorldFederation of Trade Unions, Chapter 1; Jonathan Power and Anna Hardman Western Europe’s Migrant Workers Minority Rights Group London May 1976 p7ff.

[9] ‘Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism’ CW22 pp282-3.

[10] For a discussion of the basis of the post-war boom, see Bullock and Yaffe p37ff.

[11] Economic Survey for 1947 Cmnd 7046 pp27-28.

[12] Castles and Kosack op cit pp138-9.

[13] See UMS pp6-7, 160-4.

[14] E J B Rose Colour and Citizenship: A Report on British Race Relations Oxford University Press for the Institute of Race Relations London 1969 p78; Castles and Kosack p29.

[15] Rose p66.

[16] Ibid p52ff.

[17] UMS p24.

[18] Ibid Table 3 p29; Table E7 p112.

 *The RCG’s analysis of women’s oppression under capitalism both domestic workers in the home and workers of inferior status employment is contained in Revolutionary Communist No 5 – O Adamson, C Brown, J Price, J Harrison ‘Women’s Oppression under Capitalism’ November 1976.

[19] J Westergaard and H Resler Class in Capitalist Society Penguin Harmondsworth 1976 p356.

[20] Terry Marlowe and Stephen Palmer op cit p12ff; also British Labour and British Imperialism RCG London 1976.

[21] Calculated from UMS Table G5, p145.

[22] Westergaard and Resler op cit fn7 p357. They give references to the book by Castles and Kosack cited above, none of which lend the slightest support to this claim.

[23] UMS p43.

[24] Peter L Wright The Coloured Worker in British Industry Oxford University Press London 1968 p42.

[25] Ibid p43.

[26] UMS p31.

[27] Peter L Wright op cit pp42-3.

[28] David J Smith Racial Disadvantage in Britain, Penguin Harmondsworth 1977, Table A27, p84. The 16-24 figures can be regarded as anomalous because they include a higher proportion of unskilled workers amongst the whites than other age ranges and include people on apprenticeships, which depress the earnings figure, while there is a high degree of shift-working amongst blacks which tends to inflate the level of earnings.

[29] UMS pp44-6.

[30] Ibid pp52-5.

[31] David J Smith The Facts of Racial Disadvantage, PEP London 1976, Tables A32, A33, pp74-75; see also Black Socialist Alliance Why Black People Should Support the Ford Strike

[32] UMS pp37, 40.

[33] Ibid pp46-9.

[34] Ibid pp66-9. Grand Metropolitan Hotels believe ‘that they could now get sufficient workers from “deprived urban areas”.’ Paul Soto and Liz Dronfield ‘Low Pay in hotels and catering’ Labour Research August 1978 p171.

[35] Capital Vol 1 op cit pp256-7.

[36] Capital Vol 2 Chapters 15 and 16; Vol 3 Chapter 4.

[37] UMS Table Hl, pl47.

[38] Smith Racial Disadvantage in Britain Table A24, p81.

[39] Smith The Facts of Racial Disadvantage Table B47 p222.

[40] Ibid Table A43 p86.

[41] UMS p5l.

[42] Ibid p49

[43] Ibid p50

[44] UMS Tables F4, F5, pl26

[45] Ibid p50. See also B G Cohen and P J Jenner ‘The Employment of Immigrants: A Case Study within the Wool Industry’ Race, X, l, pp41-56.

[46] See Bullock and Yaffe op cit p31ff.

[47] Peter Howell ‘Once Again on Productive and Unproductive Labour’ Revolutionary Communist No 3/4 November 1975 p54.

[48] UMS p55ff.

[49] Ibid Table F10 p130. The general information is from ibid p58.

[50] Ibid Table F11 pl31.

[51] Ibid Table F14 pl34.

[52] Ibid p63.

[53] Ibid Table F20 p139.

[54] Ibid Table F21 p140.

[55] Castles and Kosack pp409-11.

[56] K Jones and A D Smith The Economic Impact of Commonwealth Immigration Cambridge University Press 1970, Chapters 6 and 7.

[57] Ibid p107.

[58] Ibid p125.

[59] Ibid.

[60] See the works by Castles and Kosack, by Wrochno-Stanke, and by Power and Hardman cited in footnote 8.

[61] Dorcas Good and Michael Williams South Africa; The Crisis in Britain and the Apartheid Economy Anti-Apartheid Movement London 1976 p5; see also Marx Capital Volume 3 op cit p196-7: ‘In each particular sphere of production the individual capitalist, as well as the capitalists as a whole, take direct part in the exploitation of the total working class by the totality of capital and in the degree of that exploitation, not only out of general class sympathy, but also for direct economic reasons.’

[62] Hansard 27 February 1962 Col 1195.

[63] Ibid Col 1193.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Home Office Immigration from the Commonwealth Cmnd 2739?August 1965.

[66] Hansard 22 June 1968 Cols 659, 662.

[67] Hansard 27 March 1968 Cols 1359-60, 1361.

[68] UMS Tables B10, B13, pp100, 103.

[69] GC Schmid ‘Foreign Workers and Labour Market Flexibility’ Journal of Common Market Studies IX 3 pp253-4.

[70] See Ann Dummett Citizenship and Nationality Runnymede Trust London 1976 p44ff.

[71] UMS p20.

[72] Ibid p21.

[73] A good account of the Act is Ian A Macdonald The New Immigration Law Butterworths London 1972; a vivid account of its operation is Robert Moore and Tina Wallace Slamming the Door Martin Robertson London 1975.

[74] A Sivanandan ‘Race, class and the state: the black experience in Britain’ Race and Class XVII 4 1976 p356. Sivanandan’s facts and arguments completely contradict his final conclusion that capitalism has a tendency to rid itself of racism: ‘at a certain level of economic activity (witness the colonies) it [capital] finds it more profitable to abandon the idea of superiority of race in order to promote the idea of the superiority of capital. Racism dies in order that capital might survive.’ Ibid p367. This notion is repeated in stronger form in Sivanandan’s From Immigration Control to Induced RepatriationRace and Class pamphlet No ?5 p7: ‘For enlightened capital, the appeal to narrow nationalism and racialism is not only unnecessary but, in terms of social cost, counter-productive.’ This leads Sivanandan to discern a difference of principle between the Labour and Tory parties where there is only a difference in tactics.

[75] Moore and Wallace op cit p64.

[76] Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants Annual Report 1976-77 p7. It should be noted that these people would be as open to exclusion under the kind of non-racist immigration controls proposed by the CPGB and Labour lefts.

[77] Ibid.

[78] See Birmingham Community Development Project People in Paper Chains Final Report No 3 Oxford 1977.

[79] Alex Lyon, Minister of State at the Home Office, 4 March 1976 ?quoted in Dummett op cit p15.

[80] Home Office British Nationality Law Cmnd 6795 HMSO ?London April 1977.

[81] Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, Session? 1977-78 Immigration Volume 1, Report.

[82] Ibid plvii.

[83] Castles and Kosack op cit p114.

[84] Smith Racial Disadvantage in Britain pp105-117.

[85] Ibid Tables A34 and A35 p110.

[86] Ibid pp117-126

[87] Guardian 3 August 1978.

[88] Department of Employment Gazette. Facts about regional differences are taken from Commission for Racial Equality Ethnic Minorities in Britain: Statistical Background London 1978 Table 36, p27. Facts about youth unemployment are from Smith Racial Disadvantage in Britain Table B4, p340.

[89] Smith Racial Disadvantage in Britain Table A57, p230.

[90] Ibid pp231-233.

[91] Tables A51 and A52, pp212, 215.

[92] Ibid p213.

[93] Ibid p241.

[94] Commission for Racial Equality Estate Agents and Discrimination London 1978.

[95] Smith Racial Disadvantage in Britain Table A61 p236.

[96] See Commission for Racial Equality Research Summary 3: Race and Council Housing in London London 1978.

[97] Ibid.

[98] Smith Racial Disadvantage in Britain Chapter 11.

[99] Official Report, Standing Committee A; 26 June 1975 Col 213.

[100] John Plummer Divide and Deprive CPAG/JCW1 London 1978 ?p6.

[101] Department of Health and Social Security Social Assistance: A ?review of the supplementary benefits scheme in Great Britain DHSS London July 1978.

[102] See Community Relations Commission Evidence to the Royal Commission on the National Health Service.

[103] Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration Session? 1972-73 Education Volume 2 Minutes of Evidence p9.

[104] Bernard Coard How the West Indian Child is made Educationally Sub-Normal in the British School System New Beacon Books London 1971 pp35-6.

[105] Race Today April 1975 p80.

[106] Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration Session? 1976-77, The West Indian Community Volume 1 Report pxliv. See also Home Office Police/Immigrant Relations in England and Wales October 1973 Cmnd 5438.

[107] See Derek Humphry Police Power and Black People Panther London 1972; Stanislaus Pulle Police immigrant relations in Ealing Runnymede Trust London 1973; Islington 18 Defence Committee Under Heavy Manners London1977; Talking Blues AFFOR Birmingham 1978; Institute of Race Relations Police Against Black People IRR London 1979.

[108] From Race Today.

[109] Clare Demuth ‘Sus’ A Report on the Vagrancy Act 1824 Runnymede Trust London 1978 p37.

[110] See Institute of Race Relations op cit.

[111] Ibid p11. The information about the SPG and IIIU is taken from ibid.

[112] Dilip Hiro Black British, White British Penguin Harmondsworth 1973.

[113] Quoted by Humphry op cit.

[114] Quoted by Anthony Lester and Geoffrey Bindman Race and Law Penguin Harmondsworth 1972 p114.

[115] Louis Claiborne Race and Law in Britain and the United States Minority Rights Group London 1974 p12.

[116] Quoted by Lester and Bindman p134.

[117] Quoted ibid.

[118] Quoted ibid p136.

[119] Ian A Macdonald Race Relations: The New Law Butterworths London 1977 p5.

[120] Home Office Racial Discrimination Cmnd 6234 September ?1975 p6.

[121] Sid Bidwell Red White and Black Gordon & Cremonesi London 1976 p192.

[122] Quoted by M J Hill and R M Issacharoff Community Action and Race Relations OxfordUniversity Press London 1971 p16.

[123] Quoted by Ira Katznelson ‘The Politics of Racial Buffering in England, 1948-1968’ in E Q Campbell (ed) Racial Tensions and National Identity Vanderbilt University Press Nashville 1972 ?p76.

[124] Quoted ibid p77.

[125] Annual Report 1967 quoted by Chris Milliard Black Britain Allen and Unwin London 1973 p91.

[126] See Hills and Issacharoff p143.

[127] Home Office Racial Discrimination p31.

[128] Quoted by Race Today March 1976 p61.

[129] Frank Kitson Low Intensity Operations Faber & Faber London 1972 p87.

[130] Ibid p50.

[131] Quoted by Community Development Project Gilding the Ghetto CDP London 1977 p10.

[132] See Bullock and Yaffe op cit p33ff.

[133] Irish Times 27 October 1976.

[134] Ibid.

[135] Quoted by Workers Research Unit ‘Repression: the Velvet Glove’ Bulletin No 2 Winter 1977.

[136] Commission for Racial Equality First Report of the Commission for Racial Equality HMSO London 1978 pp27-28.

[137] Ulster Commentary May 1975, quoted by Workers Research Unit op cit.

[138] G Ben-Tovim ‘The Struggle Against Racism: Theoretical and Strategic Perspectives’ Marxism Today July 1978 p205.

[139] Ibid p204.

[140] D Cook A Knife At the Throat of Us All CPGB p4.

[141] Ibid.

[142] Ibid p6.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Ibid p14.

[145] Ibid p11.

[146] Ibid pp4 and 15.

[147] Ibid p25.

[148] Ibid p24.

[149] It is worth noting that Joe Ashton MP who introduced the Labour Party political broadcast against the National Front, voted in May 1977 in favour of further restrictions on the rights of immigrants’ dependants to enter Britain.

[150] Morning Star Editorial 13 July 1976.

[151] Anthony Chater Race Relations in Britain Lawrence and Wishart l966 p57.

[152] The British Road to Socialism Programme of the CPGB 1978.

[153] D Cook op cit p19.

[154] Thus Cook displays an anachronistic yearning for a past which, if it ever existed, did so on the basis of imperialist exploitation. He writes: ‘In place of once proud, vibrant industrial areas, often goes decay and dereliction. With this decline, so too can a sense of community easily wither and die. Warehouses where there were factories, “tinned up” houses where scrubbed doorsteps once gleamed, and wailing sirens where bobbies once walked the beat ...’ ibid p10.

[155] In the post war period the composition of the labour aristocracy has changed. The enormous expansion of the state sector over this period has meant that the labour aristocracy is increasingly drawn from the privileged sectors of white collar workers, teachers, academics, the higher grades of the Civil Service and Local Government as well as professional and managerial workers outside the state sector. See Revolutionary Communist No 7 p8.

[156] VI Lenin CW22 p193.

[157] Cited in Towards Socialism Fontana Library 1965 p194.

[158] PS Gupta Imperialism and the British Labour Movement Macmillan l975 p53.

[159] Cited in R Palme Dutt Britain’s Crisis of Empire Lawrence and Wishart 1949 p76.

[160] Cited in The Myth of Red Lion Square NUS 1974 p18.

[161] Cited in the Guardian 29September 1976.

[162] S Bidwell op cit p81.

[163] A Labour Party Report Citizenship Immigration and Integration p7.

[164] Ibid.

[165] Hansard 27 February 1968 Cols 1359-60.

[166] Cited in Race Today August 1973.

[167] Ibid.

[168] Statement of the General Council of the TUC, TUC Report 1962 p215.

[169] Comment by the General Council of the TUC on a contract clause against discrimination, TUC Report 1967 p267.

[170] Select Committee Report Race Relations and Immigration 1974 pp446-7.

[171] Cited in Race Today July 1974.

[172] TUC Catering Committee Minute 19 April 1978, cited in CARF.

[173] TUC Report p261.

[174] Stop Racialism and Immigration a SOGAT pamphlet p7.

[175] Ibid p1.

[176] VI Lenin CW23p83.

[177] The Fight Against Fascism and for Socialism SWP p8.

[178] The Socialist Challenge to Racism Red Weekly pamphlet 1976 ?p20.

[179] The Case Against Immigration Controls SWPp12.

[180] B Pennington The Socialist Challenge to Immigration Controls p11.

[181] P Foot Immigration and Race in British Politics Penguin 1965 p62.

[182] Ibid p193.

[183] The Case Against Immigration Controls op cit p5.

[184] Ibid p6.

[185] The Socialist Challenge to Immigration Controls p4.

[186] For a more detailed analysis of the Anti-Nazi League see The Anti-Nazi League and the Struggle Against Racism RCG pamphlet 1979.

[187] ANL Steering Committee member E Roberts is quite conscious of the fact that the ANL by failing to defend black people has accordingly failed to win their support. He writes: ‘The success and strength of the League is based on the old, who remember fascism and the 1939-45 war; on the young who see fascism as a menace to their freedom, culture and future, and on the women who know the inferior position which fascism forces them to accept’. The notable exception from the list is of course black people, those threatened and attacked by the National Front today.

[188] Peter Hain, ANL Steering Committee member. Cited in? The Guardian 20 September 1978.

[189] ANL leaflet Don’t be Conned by National Front Lies.

[190] Socialist Challenge 28 September 1978.

[191] Socialist Worker 30 September 1978.


Our site uses cookies to improve your browsing experience. By using the site you consent to the use of cookies.
More information Ok