- Created: Wednesday, 17 February 2010 13:00
- Written by Maxine Williams
FRFI 3 March / April 1980
Black and immigrant workers in Britain suffer from a dual oppression both from racism and class exploitation. In resisting this oppression they have been forced into direct confrontation with the British state. This has placed black and immigrant workers in the vanguard of the struggle for the overthrow of the British imperialist state.
With the growing crisis of imperialism the ‘open enemies’ of the working class, the unashamed racists and pro-imperialists are increasingly being exposed. The challenge to imperialism will grow deeper as unemployment, poverty and repression become the only prospects for larger and larger sections of the working class. The continued existence of the imperialist system more and more rests on the influence of the false friends - opportunist currents within the labour movement which attempt to reconcile the working class to the capitalist system. These opportunist currents drawn from the relatively privileged layers of the working class argue that imperialism need not be violent; that the British state can act in a democratic fashion for the benefit of all classes; that the present crisis can be solved by ‘alternative’ economic plans in the interest of the working class. These opportunist layers are terrified by the revolutionary intransigence of the oppressed because such intransigence threatens to challenge the imperialist system and so undermine the basis of their secure and privileged existence.
In the last issue of this paper (Jan/Feb 1980) we showed how the newly emerging black vanguard in Britain had begun to undermine these opportunist currents in the working class movement. Sunday 25 November 1979, at a demonstration of over 20,000 people against racism, saw Manjit Singh, chairman of the Asian Youth Movement Bradford and Suresh Grover speaking on behalf of the Southall Defence Committee attack Tony Benn for the racist policies of the Labour government. This won support from thousands of black people. The petit bourgeois socialist left in Britain, faced with such a determined stand against the Labour Party, simply censored it away. Not one of the CP, SWP, IMG mentioned this important event in their newspaper reports. (see FRFI 2 Jan/Feb 1980)
Another political stand taken by this emerging black vanguard has been its consistent support for the Irish people’s war against British imperialism. On the anniversary of Bloody Sunday this year we witnessed an uncompromising call by a speaker from AYMB for the `victory of the IRA’. Again this was followed by an embarrassed silence from the petit bourgeois socialist left – the CP, SWP and the IMG, who are renowned for their attacks on the Provisional Republican Movement (and indeed all anti-imperialist movements).
The revolutionary voice of black people continues to’ be raised and is gathering strength. With the AYMB’s organisation of a Black Freedom March in June and the call for the building of a national black organisation, the petit bourgeois left can no longer simply censor such important developments. It has been forced to respond.
The publication of the IMG’s latest conference document The Struggle for Black Liberation (Socialist Challenge 21 February 1980) is their response. It reveals the intentions of the petit bourgeois left in relation to the emerging revolutionary vanguard. They are trying as we shall see to undermine it and drag it back from the revolutionary road it has taken.
The Struggle for Black Liberation marks a change in the position of the IMG. Its new position is couched in extremely revolutionary language which tries to conceal its thorough opportunism. For the first time the IMG has attempted to give a Marxist explanation of racism. Under the pressure of the revolutionary black vanguard the IMG has been forced to admit at long last: 1) Racism has its material roots in imperialism and the oppression of nations and 2) that on the basis of imperialist superprofits a labour aristocracy has been created within the British working class which identifies its interests with the continued existence of British imperialism.
But the IMG is only paying lip-service to the Marxist position on racism for they fail to draw the political conclusions from their ‘Marxist’ analysis.
What are the revolutionary conclusions?*
1 That imperialism has created a split in the working class movement between a privileged opportunist current which is tied to imperialism and an anti-imperialist movement of the oppressed intent on destroying the imperialist system.
2 That the position of black people as an oppressed layer within the working class has led to the emergence of a black vanguard which is a vanguard of the whole working class.
3 This vanguard is already leading the struggle against imperialism and its allies, the opportunists.
That the IMG cannot and dare not draw these conclusions is not surprising. The IMG sees socialism being achieved through an alliance with left opportunists in the racist Labour Party. At all times its central concern has been to defend this alliance. In the past, as today, the IMG has regarded the struggles of the oppressed as a major threat to this alliance. Look at its record.
The finest example of this was the ANL.** The ANL was an alliance of every major petit bourgeois socialist group with Labour Party and Trade Union leaders. Its function was to cover up for the Labour government which had launched a racist attack against black people, using immigration controls, the police and the courts.
Its role was shown when on 24 September 1978 the NF, under heavy police guard, marched through the East End whilst at the same time the ANL had a Carnival in Brixton, addressed by Tony Beim, minister in the racist Labour government. The week before this the IMG said:
‘It needed… the united front with social democrats in order to get the ANL where it is at the moment. After ail the fact that a Labour cabinet minister and a major trade union leader are speaking ai Hyde Park this Sunday (at the ANL Carnival) is not an unimportant fact,’ (Socialist Challenge 21 September 1978)
And after the police had attacked the black people of the East End whilst the ANL enjoyed social democratic high jinks in Brixton, what did the IMG say?
‘Were we right to go to Brixton…Yes, yes, yes.’ ‘The question…was…whether the ANL was prepared to do battle with 5,000 police and the SPG on duty to guard the march.’
This would have, said the 1MG:
‘Actually impeded the building of a mass movement against racism in this country.’ (Socialist Challenge 28 September 1978)
The IMG knew quite well that to have gone to Brick Lane would have destroyed their ‘not unimportant alliance with Tony Benn and the LP. That alliance was the altar on which the interests of black people were sacrificed.
The IMG’s fear of the revolutionary struggle of the oppressed was again shown at Southall last year when a massive attack was launched against the black people of Southall. When they fought to defend themselves what did Tariq Ali of the IMG say?
‘The fascist meeting did take place in Southall. This is an unpalatable but sad fact. It needn’t have done if some of us had been more disciplined. There are times when the brain is more useful than brawn.’ (our emphasis) (Socialist Challenge 26 April 1979)
What a disgusting betrayal of the black people of Southall! Whilst the black people of Southall were drawing the conclusion that next time they would need more than fists and stones to meet the onslaught, the oh so brainy Mr Tariq Ali wrote an article in the Guardian arguing that magistrates could be brought under control by having them elected. (Guardian 24 September 1979)
Finally, during the last election the IMG, along with every other petit bourgeois socialist grouping campaigned for the election of a Labour government, a vicious pro-imperialist government which had spent five years attacking black people in this country and prosecuting a ruthless war against the Provisional Republican Movement in the North of Ireland.
This is the record of the organisation which now proclaims itself the Marxist champion of the struggle for black liberation. Does its new position mean that the leopard has changed its spots? On the contrary. The position remains the same - only this time is covered up by terribly revolutionary phrases. Under the new guise of ‘unconditional’ support for black organisations the IMG has one aim and one aim alone to protect its alliance with the Labour Party from the challenge of the emerging revolutionary vanguard.
The IMG has thought long and hard about how to do this. Its solution is to deny the role of the black vanguard as a vanguard of the whole working class and to invent two categories – ‘the labour movement’ and ‘black people’.
It says that ‘black people’ will only be convinced of the need for socialism when the ‘labour movement’ recognises their right to determine their own future. The ‘labour movement’ must say to black people:
‘We wish to create a workers state with you so as to build a socialist society–but whether you wish to join with us in this must be your decision. We only ask that you judge us by how we act in the course of our alliance to defeat the common enemy.’
What racist and arrogant nonsense! The revolutionary leadership of Black people has already decided for socialism and against opportunism. Is that not why you censor every expression of this revolutionary movement? They have taken the revolutionary road and in doing so have already judged your alliance with the Labour Party and rejected it.
It is your racism and opportunism which prevents you from recognising the reality that this black vanguard will lead the struggle for socialism in Britain. By their example and agitation they will draw other sections of the working class onto the revolutionary road and in so doing purge the workers movement of its pro-imperialists, opportunists, and false friends.
What an appalling prospect this must be for the IMG which has always regarded itself as the most advanced embodiment of socialist thinking. A vanguard has emerged which exposes the IMG as a petit bourgeois rump in alliance with racist Labour politicians!
It is no wonder that the IMG wants to deny the role of this black vanguard and to keep this vanguard apart from the ‘labour movement’. The IMG’s sudden ‘support’ for an independent black movement is not support at all. It is an attempt to separate the vanguard from the working class and thus to preserve the ‘labour movement’ as a bourgeois, pro-imperialist, labour movement.
This explains why the IMG’s ‘unconditional’ support for an independent black movement turns out not to be unconditional at all. The IMG supports the right of black people to organise independently as long as this does not encroach on their alliance with the racist Labour Party.
What are the IMG’s conditions?
First, says the IMG, the black movement must be independent of the British state. Also independent of all alliances with capitalist parties as these would be to ‘make an alliance of the oppressed and the oppressor’.
But this black vanguard is already independent of the capitalist state and all capitalist parties including your precious Labour Party! It is you, the IMG, who have maintained the alliance with the oppressors!
Second, says the IMG, the movement must be a united black movement. It is for the black movement itself to decide what form that movement will take not the IMG.
Third, says the IMG, the movement must:
‘…challenge the strategy of the existing reformist black leaders.’
This is truly astounding! The black movement must challenge ‘black reformism’, it must not on any account challenge the reformist and pro-imperialist leadership of the working class. On the contrary. The IMG sets itself the task of showing black people:
‘...how it is possible for the black peoples to fight for united action with the labour leaders while at the same time seeking to win their followers among the white workers to giving active support to the demands and objectives of the black movement.’
Leave the struggle to build a socialist working class movement to us, shout the IMG. Hands Off our ‘Labour Movement’! We will take care of the struggle for a socialist movement and will win support for your struggle through our alliance with the racist Labour Party.
Then, the IMG reveals its stark terror at the prospect of an independent black movement. Might it not get out of hand, thinks the IMG to itself, might it not upset our social democratic applecart? Their solution is brilliant. The IMG will build the ‘independent’ black movement and will do so on…the IMG’s reformist programme. It says:
‘To say how a united black liberation movement can be built in this country we (!) must first know what sort of movement we (!) are trying to build.’
Oh ‘we’ must, must ‘we’! Well, the black vanguard has news for the IMG - you are too late! The movement is born and it is a movement which heralds the dawn of a socialist working class movement in Britain and the unmasking of the ‘false friends’. The Marxist phrases and the conditional ‘unconditional’ support represent only the IMG’s recognition of the threat the movement poses to its alliance with the Labour Party. That is why the IMG does not dare to draw revolutionary conclusions from its phoney Marxist analysis and that is why its ‘unconditional’ support is conditional. The IMG’s struggle for ‘Black Liberation’ is the same old opportunist song, only the tune has changed.
The RCG gives its unconditional support to the growing black movement. We believe that this movement will play the leading role in building a working class movement against imperialism and for socialism. We will not only defend that movement against its open enemies but against its ‘false friends’.
5 March 1980