The Poisonous Roots of Racism

The rise of racism throughout Europe was one of the major themes of the RCG's July Dayschool Fight Racism! Fight Capitalism! Fight Imperialism! -- By Any Means Necessary. We reprint MAXINE WILLIAMS' speech to the dayschool.

To understand racism it must be placed in its political context -- the existence of imperialism and the particular stage which capitalism has reached in the late twentieth century.

Socialism or Barbarism

Every day brings forth new evidence of the crisis that is gripping imperialism. In Europe at least 17 million people, 12 per cent of the workforce, are unemployed officially. Civil war, unleashed by imperialist interests and their local nationalist forces, rages in former Yugoslavia, leaving tens of thousands dead and millions stateless. In Europe and the USA, governments are carrying through sweeping attacks on working class social benefits, trade union rights and living standards. In Germany for example, they are cutting £8 billion from state expenditure at a time when, in what was East Germany, unemployment is raging. In Britain the income of the poorest 10 per cent of the population fell 14 per cent in real terms between 1979 and 1991. The poorest half of the population now gets only 25 per cent of national income. Amongst that half figure overwhelmingly the old, women, black people, the unemployed.

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Socialists and the fight against the British National Party

The collapse of the Labour vote in the 4 June European election has created a crisis on the left. With 15.7% of the vote (22.9% in the 2004 European election), Labour came third behind the Tories (27.7%) and UKIP (16.5%). The number voting BNP (943,500, 6.2%) was three times the number voting for the Socialist Labour Party (173,000) and for No2EU (153,000) together, and enabled it to win two seats. The Scottish Socialist Party obtained a mere 10,000 votes.

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British state terrorises Pakistani students

On 8 April, 12 young men were arrested in a high profile ‘anti-terror raid’. Their only ‘crime’ was to be students from Pakistan – the latest target of Britain’s imperialist war in the Middle East and Asia. Nicki Jameson reports.

The government claimed to have smashed a terrorist cell and prevented an ‘Easter bombing campaign’. The press was awash with headlines along the lines of ‘Al Qaeda terror plot to bomb Easter shoppers’ (Daily Telegraph). It quickly transpired that 11 out of the 12 were Pakistani nationals who had come to Britain on student visas. This in turn created its own furore: ‘Student Passport to Terror – Scandal of how Britain hands out thousands of visas to bogus students, including Al Qaeda fanatics’ (Daily Mail).

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Sonia and Delroy Lindo: Still fighting police harassment

FRFI 154 April / May 2000

When Winston Silcott was framed for the killing of PC Blakelock in the Broadwater Farm uprising of 1985, his friend Delroy Lindo was instrumental in setting up the campaign to gain justice for Winston and has continued to campaign for his freedom ever since. The response of police in north London has been continuous, systematic harassment of Delroy and his family. FRFI spoke to Delroy Lindo and his wife Sonia.

DL: The Lawrence Report highlighted the racism which we all knew about, which black people feel on the road every single day. But at the end of the day I haven't seen any change: the police continue to pick on us for nothing, stop, search and arrest us, beat us up and subject us to excessive use of force. The only difference is that it's now easier to talk about it and, when we put campaign posters up, they stay up.

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British immigration policy - institutionalised racism

FRFI 154 April / May 2000

Home Secretary Jack Straw is plumbing new depths as he seeks to remove all obstacles to implementing a policy of zero tolerance towards refugees. In March, The Independent reported that Straw would be calling for a fundamental review of the United Nations Convention on Refugees. Despite the introduction of one vicious asylum and immigration law after another over the past 30 years, the 1951 Convention, signed by 120 countries, has continued to provide some protection to asylum-seekers who could prove that they had a 'well-founded fear of persecution' in the country they were fleeing. Of course, it has not been easy proving this to a racist system, which is determined to exclude 'economic refugees' and refuses to recognise marks of torture or accept that regimes with which it has friendly relations are oppressive, but the structure for asylum claims exists.

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Racist immigration policy exposed

As Labour and the Tories alike gear up to the election by pledging harsher and harsher measures to deter or deport would-be immigrants, the government has caught itself in a trap of its own making. The obvious contradiction between ‘outlawing institutionalised racism’ and being ‘tough’ on asylum seekers has finally become visible in a way from which Labour cannot escape. Nicki Jameson reports.

The Immigration (European Economic Area) (Amendment) Regulations 2001 encapsulate the nonsense of tightening immigration laws while preserving an anti-racist facade. They state that, following the passing of the post-Lawrence Race Relations Amendment Act, there is ‘a right of appeal to a person who alleges that an authority has, in taking any decision under the Immigration Acts... racially discriminated against him’. However, once the complainant lodges such an appeal, ‘the Secretary of State may certify that appeal as manifestly unfounded. If the adjudicator agrees with the certificate, the person is prevented from appealing against the adjudicator’s decision...’

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Stop deaths in custody

FRFI 162 August / September 2001

On Friday 6 July 2001, Police Federation solicitors threatened to sue a central London cinema if it showed the documentary film Injustice about deaths in police custody in Britain and subsequent cover-ups by police, the law courts and the government, because it named the police involved in the deaths.

In response, the United Friends and Family Campaign (UFFC) decided to show the film during its public People’s Tribunal into deaths in custody, held in London’s Conway Hall, on 11-12 July. Again the venue management was threatened to prevent the film being shown in public. However, the 200-strong audience, including the loved ones of police victims featured in the film, refused to leave the hall until Injustice was shown, despite the police being called. It is planned to show Injustice around the country.

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Terrorising asylum seekers

As the Labour government gears up for war against Iraq, it has already begun to wage war in this country. The war at home is a racist war, and it is being waged both through the implementation of draconian legislation and by the use of propaganda. The legislation comes in two distinct but interlinked forms: immigration laws, targeting those seeking asylum here, and anti-terrorist laws, aimed at criminalising people already in this country, citizens or otherwise. The propaganda is disseminated on a variety of levels, official and unofficial, with the government claiming unconvincingly to be outraged by the worst excesses of the right-wing press. Many Muslims understandably view the government’s actions as a war on Islam. Nicki Jameson reports.

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Labour plans more attacks on asylum seekers

In the run-up to the imperialist attack on Iraq, the previous racist caricature of the lazy, ‘bogus’ asylum seeker has been embellished by the new caricatures of the ‘terrorist asylum seeker’, who seeks shelter in our benevolent democracy, only to spend his time plotting to poison or bomb us, and the infectious asylum seeker, who is carrying TB, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. None of this propaganda is accidental; all of it suits the Labour government, as it wages its racist war in the Middle East, and plans new measures to restrict immigration and subjugate immigrants. Nicki Jameson reports.

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Racist government spawns racist press and fascist councillors

FRFI 173 June / July 2003

There is now a sinister consensus between all political parties and virtually every section of the media, that asylum-seekers and immigrants are to blame – for everything. Immigrants have always been used as a convenient scapegoat by the British ruling class, in order to deflect criticisms by the poor and working class about lack of homes, jobs and facilities. But now they are also being held responsible for crime, terrorism, disease, and, with no hint of irony, for the rise in popularity of fascist and racist parties and ideas. NICKI JAMESON reports.

On 19 May 2003 the front-page of rabid right-wing tabloid The Sun screamed ‘Asylum exposed – Sun man posing as refugee is smuggled into Britain...and gets free home, food and travel’. Disturbing as the widespread take-up of The Sun’s view is, the front-page headline of ‘liberal’ broadsheet The Observer a day earlier was far more frightening: ‘Immigrants “behind crime wave” – police’.

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Racist Britain

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

Close Dungavel! Stop deportations!
On 8 September thousands of protesters gathered outside Dungavel detention centre in Scotland to demand its immediate closure.

Families are locked into the former prison, run by Premier Detention Services, and have to get permission to visit the centre shop. One mother was fined her entire weekly allowance of £3.50 for taking a cereal biscuit back to her room to her child. Children have limited access to play areas and education facilities are completely inadequate. They are not permitted to attend local schools and there is one teacher for one composite class.

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No justice for Yarl’s Wood detainees

On 15 August Henry Momodou and Behar Limani were convicted of violent disorder and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. They had been charged with participating in the uprising at the Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre on 14 February 2002, in which the centre was wrecked and large parts of it burned to the ground.

Aliane Ahmed and Nassem Moustaffa had earlier pleaded guilty to playing minor parts in the disturbance. The remaining seven defendants were acquitted. This did not prevent six of them being immediately re-arrested and detained under immigration law, and, in one case, summarily deported.

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Poll turns against Labour, Socialist Alliance turns against justice

FRFI 175 October / November 2003

Brent East by-election, Poll turns against Labou, Socialist Alliance turns against justice

Labour canvassers faced hostility and anger during the recent Brent East by-election. Many former Labour voters declared they could no longer support a party which had launched an illegal war in Iraq and wants to bring in private investment in hospitals and education. In a massive rejection of Labour’s policies, its 13,047 majority was overturned by the Liberals, with 8,158 votes to Labour’s 7,040. The turnout was just 36%. Brent East is a socially and racially mixed area with a large Irish and immigrant population.

There was a total lack of enthusiasm and ideas from all the establishment parties. The single event to enliven a dull campaign was the candidature of Kelly McBride, a working class mother from North Belfast. Kelly travelled to London to pursue justice for her brother Peter, who was murdered by the British Army at the age of 18.
Kelly explained her reasons for standing: ‘I don’t expect to win… but…I hope to win justice. If a major can be expelled for cheating in a game show, why should convicted murderers be kept in the army, and even promoted? My brother Peter was unarmed, posed no threat, but was shot in the back. The courts convicted the two soldiers who shot him of murder. But [they] remain in the army.’ One of Peter McBride’s killers has since been promoted while fighting in Labour’s war in Iraq.

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British police, racist police

FRFI 176 December 2003 / January 2004

At the end of October 2003, the BBC broadcast yet another documentary exposing racism in the British police. Although it contained no surprises, for the terminally naive it was the first ‘hard evidence’ of police racism. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

The Secret Policeman featured undercover journalist Mark Daly who had joined Greater Manchester Police (GMP) in January as a trainee at the Bruche national training centre in Warrington, Cheshire, where he led a double life for about seven months. During his time as a probationary constable he secretly filmed eight [out of 18] recruits expressing racist views such as that of PC Rob Pulling: ‘A dog that is born in a barn is still a dog. A Paki born in Britain is still a fucking Paki.’

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Blunkett attacks refugee families

FRFI 176 December 2003 / January 2004

On 24 October the Home Office announced it will be granting indefinite leave to remain to 15,000 refugee families who have been in Britain for more than three years. However this was not the reversal of years of progressively more vicious attacks on immigrants by successive governments, but simply a pragmatic clearing of the decks prior to the introduction of yet more attacks, particularly on families who arrived later than those covered by the amnesty. NICKI JAMESON reports.

The latest measures, announced in time for the Queen’s Speech, involve once again the withdrawal of welfare benefit. Benefits have already been withdrawn from would-be refugees who cannot prove they claimed asylum immediately on arrival in this country and from those who registered a claim but refused to then be ‘dispersed’ to far-flung parts of the UK, away from relatives or community support. Now it is asylum applicants whose initial claim has failed and who are awaiting appeal who are being targeted.

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Police continue to murder and maim

FRFI 176 December 2003 / January 2004

Roger Sylvester
On 3 October a packed coroners’ court at St Pancras, north London, heard the jury foreman deliver its verdict that Roger Sylvester, a 30-year-old black man, had been unlawfully killed while in police custody.

Roger’s father Rupert told FRFI: ‘We feel pleased with the verdict, it’s been a long and hard struggle but we finally got the result that was what we believed all along. For four and a half years we weren’t even able to get a death certificate’. He went on to say ‘The atmosphere in the court was often electrifying and often family members broke down, but now we know how Roger died’. Rupert and Sheila, Roger’s mother, have risked bankruptcy in their fight for justice due to legal costs.

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