The road to social fascism

FRFI 166 April / May 2002

David Blunkett has been Home Secretary for just nine months. His predecessor, Jack Straw had succeeded in making the last Tory Home Secretary, Michael Howard, renowned for his rabid authoritarian views, look mild. Blunkett has followed in Straw’s footsteps and built on his legacy. Labour’s Home Secretaries have always stood on the front line of Labour’s determination to force through plans for ever-intensifying control and subjugation of the working class. Once again, its first targets are refugees and immigrants. NICKI JAMESON looks at some of Blunkett’s plans for the future.

 

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Defend working class communities from racist state attack

FRFI 168 August / September 2002

Recent strikes, the move to cut union funds to the Labour Party and the defeat of right-wing Labour union leaders indicate a new mood of hostility against the Labour establishment among low-paid workers. This would be welcome after years in which low-paid workers like the Liverpool dockers and Tameside careworkers and the workers at Hillingdon Hospital and SkyChefs were betrayed by unions preferring to accumulate huge funds to pay union leaders fat-cat salaries rather than fighting for their members.

Young Asians who defended their communities from racist and police attacks last summer are again under attack (see FRFI 162). Vicious sentences are being imposed in Bradford courts against those who took part in the uprisings. Over 200 men have been charged. At the time of writing, around 160 have been sentenced, with another 50 or so cases pending or adjourned until September. Sentences of up to six and a half years in prison have been handed down. No sentence has been less than four years. The average sentence given last March to 26 white fascists responsible for starting the racist attacks in Burnley was just over two years.

 

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Asylum Act passed

FRFI 170 December 2002 / January 2003

On 7 November the government satisfactorily concluded its ritual bargaining with the House of Lords over minor amendments, allowing the Asylum Bill, which had begun life earlier this year as the Secure borders, safe havens White Paper, to pass into law.

The main sticking point for the Lords had been the construction of ‘accommodation centres’ for asylum seekers in rural areas. The government managed to assuage their fears by promising initially to construct two centres in rural areas and one in an urban location, and to appoint an ‘independent monitor’ to assess the success and appropriateness of these centres once built.

 

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Defend travellers – stop ethnic cleansing

‘About 100 riot police and 40 bailiffs arrived at 8am on 26 January at Meadowlands, near Chelmsford. They smashed and kicked everything up. My two-year-old was hysterical. I was pregnant with my fourth child...They towed my three-bedroom mobile home off the site and put it on the road...a few days later it was set alight. All the children’s toys and clothes were in there. I’ve lost everything. My mother is a Romany Gypsy and my father’s an Irish Traveller.’

Over the summer, 26 Roma Gypsies and Travellers were evicted from the Paynes Lane site, also in Essex. 700 Roma living at Dale Farm near Basildon face eviction next May. It is nothing less than ethnic cleansing. The 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act abolished the statutory duty on local authorities to provide sites for Roma and Travellers. Even before the Act, many local authorities had closed down sites in response to anti-Roma hostility. Speaking on radio in 1999 when he was Labour’s Home Secretary, Jack Straw said there was ‘too much toleration of travellers, and we want to see the police and local authorities cracking down’ on those ‘living on the margins of society’.

 

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Defend Roma rights

In the run-up to the election The Sun newspaper produced a special supplement called ‘Stamp on the camps’; the Conservative Party claimed Gypsy communities were flouting British law and called for more evictions; in some areas, the BNP campaigned on an anti-Gypsy platform; a campaign and website called Middle England in Revolt sprang up, claiming it aims to protect rural communities from illegal Traveller camps. The Labour government continues to make Travellers homeless by evicting them from their own land, and has drafted plans that will make this easier. All these attacks are a part of an organised nationwide racist campaign against the rights of Gypsy communities.

Like racism against asylum seekers, racism against Gypsies is socially accepted. In some parts of Britain you can still read signs declaring ‘no Gypsies or Travellers’. If similar racist literature were produced against Jewish or black communities there would be uproar. In a recent case a ‘bonfire society’ burned a caravan effigy bearing the number plate ‘pikey’ (a racist term for Travellers) and escaped prosecution.

 

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Terrorising Britain’s immigrant community

The British state is engaged in a systematic policy of terrorising its ethnic minority population. At a time when British terrorists are looting, torturing and murdering their way through Iraq, this domestic terror is essential, now more than ever, to maintain social control at home. Four innocent men who had been arrested with maximum hype and media panic, stood accused of a ‘ricin terror plot’. On 8 April they were acquitted of all charges at the Old Bailey.

A second trial against another four men was then quickly dropped. These eight innocent immigrants who had spent over two years in Belmarsh high security prison, were alleged to be part of an Al Qaida ‘terror network’ who conspired to ‘kill thousands of women and children’. A ninth man, Kamel Bourgass, who turned out to be armed to the teeth with nail-polish remover, cherry stones and castor beans, was then convicted of ‘conspiracy to cause a public nuisance’. This was the only conviction to come out of this £20 million trial. Bourgass had already been sentenced to life imprisonment for the killing, during one of the ‘anti-terror’ raids on a flat in Manchester, of DC Stephen Oake.

 

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The reality of capitalism’s immigration policy

The British Labour government is in the process of fine-tuning a class-based immigration policy to suit the needs of the market. Home Secretary Charles Clarke’s announcement in February of a four-tier work permit scheme was just the latest refinement in this plan. This ‘modern’, capitalist-friendly immigration system underpins all today’s spin about keeping out ‘unfounded’ asylum seekers but letting in skilled economic migrants and is no less racist than the policies that preceded it. FRFI opposes all immigration controls. Nicki Jameson reports.

 

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Dale Farm Travellers resist eviction

Residents of Dale Farm near Cray’s Hill in Essex continue to fight the attempts of the local council to forcibly evict them from their land and homes. The Travellers have won a High Court injunction which prevents their eviction by force. This injunction keeps the thugs of Constant and Co, a bailiffs’ firm which specialises in evicting Gypsies and Travellers, and Malcolm Buckley, the head of Basildon Council, temporarily at bay. The community at Dale Farm, supported by other activists, are prepared to defend their community and resist any attempt to force them from their land.

Basildon Council has allocated £2m to make these families homeless. The residents of Dale Farm bought the land at the site but have been denied planning permission. 90% of planning applications by Travellers are refused. The decision by Basildon Council to destroy around 150 homes on private land at Dale Farm is to be the subject of a judicial review.

 

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Racist attacks intensify

Racially-motivated attacks are a daily occurrence in Britain, and since the 7 July London bombings have increased sharply. In many areas, minority ethnic people, especially children and the elderly, live in constant fear, some too scared to answer the door. Stones, petrol and excrement have been put through windows and doors. Muslim women and Sikhs have had hijabs and turbans forcibly pulled off in public by vigilante racists.
The state does nothing to prevent this; indeed official racism creates a climate in which freelance racists thrive. Black and Asian people, especially youth, continue to be disproportionately targeted for stop-and-search. Asylum seekers continue to be detained, deported and are soon to be electronically tagged. Section 9 of the 2004 Asylum and Immigration Act, which forces asylum seekers into destitution by removing all benefits and threatening to take children into local authority care, has begun to be implemented in pilot areas. By October around 116 families (over 400 people) are expected to have had their benefits withdrawn. Hundreds more will suffer when the scheme becomes nationwide.

 

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Labour steps up deportations

As the government is hauled over the coals by the opposition and media for failing to meet Tony Blair’s promise that by the end of December 2005, the monthly rate of removals of ‘failed asylum seekers’ would exceed the number of applicants whose claims are rejected, the racist Labour government is stepping up its drive to increase deportations. Dawn raids, in which squads of balaclava-clad officers storm the homes of asylum seekers, kidnap families and deport them, have been occurring with alarming frequency.

Racist state attacks asylum seekers

On 20 November 2005, under cover of darkness, Britain forcibly deported 15 asylum seekers to Irbil in the northern Kurdish part of war-torn and occupied Iraq. In January the government signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with the ‘interim’ Iraqi government and in August it detained more than 70 people pending removal. Legal challenges and protests delayed the deportations, but on 28 August a high court judge refused to grant an order barring them from taking place. All the deportees were handcuffed and one, Hawar Ismail, was beaten up when he resisted.

 

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No vote for Labour racists

The last month saw the Labour government come closer to meltdown as the exposure of ministerial incompetence and incontinence coincided with local elections on 4 May. Predictably, after months of bad press, Labour did badly at the polls. Prime Minister Blair had to wring a few ministerial necks to drive the election results out of the headlines. Nevertheless, Labour’s declining vote is dominating its plans. It is this that is the impulse for new anti-working class and racist policies as Blair bids to rebuild his lead in the opinion polls.

 

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Protests and hunger strikes against immigration detention

Asylum seekers in Britain’s immigration detention centres face daily racism, constant moves and physical ill-treatment ranging from cuts and bruises to fractures, sexual abuse and serious head injuries. These are people who have committed no crime. Sick of endless detention (some asylum seekers have been held for five years) and empty promises to investigate the brutality, resistance has intensified. In April, a hunger strike in Colnbrook near Heathrow Airport spread to at least three other detention centres. This solidarity frightened the racist Labour government and its media allies who moved quickly to repress, isolate and censor the protests. Charles Chinweizu reports.

 

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Trevor Phillips: batting for Britain

Forty years ago, in April 1968, Conservative MP Enoch Powell gave a speech in Birmingham attacking immigration from the British Commonwealth into Britain. He declared, ‘We must be mad, literally mad as a nation to be permitting the annual flow of 50,000 dependants... it is like a nation busily engaged in building its own funeral pyre’. Forty years on Guyanese-born Trevor Phillips OBE, on the same date and in the same place, put forward the opposite position: immigration is what will save the British economy in today’s competitive and globalised world. Susan Davidson reports.

 

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Bully of Gleneagles to run UK Border Agency Inspectorate

Former Chief Constable of Tayside Police John Vine CBE has been appointed head of the Inspectorate of the UK Border Agency. Placed there in recognition for his services to the British ruling class, he recently awarded himself a performance bonus of £17,000 on his final salary of £123,000 at a Police Board meeting, where compliant councillors took just 10 seconds to vote to exclude the press and public from any open scrutiny of his record. Vine’s record does, however, need serious examination to forewarn us all of his likely performance in his new post.

 

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Action against deportations

Attempted deportation to ‘safe’ Iraq
On 15 September, 60 Iraqi Kurdish asylum seekers were taken from four detention centres in handcuffs, put into five coaches and driven to Stansted airport. Their mobile phones were confiscated to prevent them calling solicitors or friends. A German aircraft was waiting to take them to northern Iraq. One asylum seeker smashed a window of the plane, leading to violent beatings in retaliation. The flight was cancelled as a result; however the reprieve is certainly only temporary as the British government is desperate to effect successful deportations to northern Iraq to demonstrate that at least part of the country it has been ‘liberating’ for the past five years is ‘safe’. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees and the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq are demanding the release of all Iraqi asylum seekers, an immediate end to forcible deportation and a boycott of Royal Jordanian Airline and all other complicit companies. For more information contact: Dashty Jamal 07856 032 991; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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Brutality at Dungavel removal camp

In June, The Scotsman revealed the harrowing story of black Canadian Corellie Bonhomme. While boarding a ferry from Belfast to Scotland, she was pinned down by immigration officials and her two-year-old daughter snatched and placed in care, before being detained in Dungavel. The lack of solicitors and the unyielding bureaucracy inside the IRC left her feeling suicidal. Her case caused widespread consternation. A spokesman for the Catholic Church stated that ‘it is almost unconceivable that [such] conditions...can exist in 21st-century democratic Scotland. They display an alarming disregard of any consideration for human dignity.’

Such terrible stories have dripped out of Dungavel and other detention centres for years. However, what is increasingly difficult for the British government to deny is the systematic nature of the immigration system’s violence. In July, Birnberg Peirce solicitors, Medical Justice and the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns published Outsourcing Abuse: the use and misuse of state-sanctioned force during the detention and removal of asylum seekers. The report reveals systemic abuse by private security within the immigration removal process, including physical beatings, psychological and emotional abuse and racist attacks, the detaining of babies, children and torture victims and the denial of emergency medical treatment.

 

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Frontex – the face of Fortress Europe and Support sacked cleaners! and Sans-papiers struggle in France

‘...with external land borders of 8,000 km and sea borders of 80,000 km, migration to [Europe] is a considerable attraction for those seeking the chance of a better life, or simply trying to escape from their own countries for whatever reason. The abolition of nearly all the internal borders makes it all the more important that the external borders should be efficiently policed, and that there should be close cooperation between the border guards of the different States.’
(FRONTEX: the EU external borders agency, House of Lords Report 2007-08)

 

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Phil Woolas – front man for Labour Party racism

Newly-appointed immigration minister Phil Woolas is the current front man for a very nasty racist British Labour government that is facing a downturn in the economy and turning on the traditional scapegoat in times of domestic difficulty – the foreigner. In Phil Woolas it has found its man. Susan Davidson reports.

He is MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth which has a high Pakistani and Kashmiri population. He says, ‘It’s had a race riot, it’s had a huge British National Party (BNP) presence and it’s a marginal seat. It’s a complete crucible but we’ve never had a BNP councillor – I hope I’ve had something to do with that by getting in and getting dirty’.

 

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Migrant workers hit by capitalist crisis

Since 2000 the Labour government has been rearranging the immigration system, primarily to exclude black workers from Asia and Africa. Immigration of low-skilled workers from countries outside the EU has been shut off via the Points-Based System, while short-term immigration from the former socialist countries of eastern Europe has been encouraged. By April 2008 there were 665,000 migrants from eastern Europe living in Britain – around two-thirds from Poland.

Marx explained how capitalism relies on a ‘reserve army of labour’ and how this ‘mass of human material always ready for exploitation’ keeps wages low for the mass of the working class and maintains workers in a state of uncertainty and instability, knowing they may be hired and fired as needed.

 

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Immigration detainees fight back in Italy

As reported in the last two issues of FRFI, confrontation has grown between the reactionary, racist ruling class under the leadership of Silvio Berlusconi and those forces in Italy beginning to fight back. On 24 January up to 800 migrants and refugees escaped from the deportation centre in Lampedusa, a small island 200km south of Sicily and 100 km off the coast of Tunisia. The remaining detainees then tore down the security gates, meaning around 1,300 people were able to escape, although the majority then returned. Migrants marched on the town hall, chanting ‘Freedom! Freedom!’ and ‘Help us’.

 

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Charter flights to repression

In November 2008, Immigration Minister Phil Woolas boasted that the government is deporting immigrants at a rate of one every eight minutes. To achieve this, it is making increasing use of charter flight mass deportations. Many of these have been to northern Iraq. On 17 September 2008, 52 Kurdish asylum seekers, who had physically resisted being put on a flight two days before, were deported from Stansted airport. On 27 October, another 50 were deported. On 15 December, 46 people were deported on a Hamburg International flight via Germany. One of the deportees was taken off the plane and sent back to Britain, after wounding himself with scissors. In January 2009, another 25 people were deported.

 

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Anti-racism

Seeking asylum –  fleeing imperialism
No to deportations! Defend asylum seekers and migrant workers!

Asylum seekers and migrant workers are organising in defence of their right to remain in Britain. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supports this fight back. We understand that racism against immigrants in Britain is directly linked to Britain’s imperialist wars and plunder around the world.

Aliens, settlers, refugees, immigrants and asylum seekers

The history of Britain is the history of migration – a continual process of people moving into and out of this country. Over the centuries Romans, Vikings, Normans, Irish people, Africans, Jews, Italians, Chinese and Indian people, among others, have settled here and have contributed to forming the Britain of today.  Since the 17th century, 17 million people have left Britain to settle elsewhere in the world. Today 2.3 million British people work in the European Union.

 

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Kids are ‘Alright’

kids alright

Last August's MORI/T1IC poll suggested that 60% of 18 to 24 year-olds won't vote. According to the Treasury this is as high as 86% among young black people. In ‘contrast’ 1995’s The Kids Are Alright? survey said most cared about the NHS (66%), rights for the disabled (71%) and housing the homeless (73%). Young people endure rates of unemployment that are double the national average; three-quarters of under-24 year olds in Britain earn less than the European decency threshold. Those rich enough to make it to higher education will shortly be expected to foot the entire bill themselves; Labour pledge to get 250,000 young people off benefits.

 

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Manifesto for action

housin marc1

☭ Fight for jobs, homes, fair benefits and a living wage for all

• organise to defend the unemployed, the homeless, families threatened with homelessness, the low paid, pensioners

• fight the Jobseeker’s Allowance

• end all means-testing

• for a decent minimum pension linked to the rise in average pay

• for the restoration of full housing benefit to single people

• fight the anti-trade union laws

 

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