Internationally British imperialism is increasingly being challenged as the struggle of the oppressed intensifies. British imperialist interests are spread throughout the world and therefore it is vulnerable to the revolutionary victory of oppressed peoples anywhere. However it is in Ireland and Southern Africa that the fate of British imperialism could be finally decided.
For the past 14 years the Irish people led by the Provisional IRA have fought British imperialism to a standstill. They fight on undefeated against British repression and terror, gaining increasing support amongst the nationalist working class as the struggle continues year afier year. The Irish struggle for national liberation poses the most serious external political challenge to the British imperialist state. Ireland is the key to the British revolution.
In Southern Africa British imperialism's colossal economic stake in the apartheid regime is threatened by the intensified struggle of the black masses. The ANC and SWAPO are leading the oppressed people's challenge to the racist South African apartheid state and its imperialist backers. The victory ofthe liberation forces would deal a mortal blow to British imperialism.
The greatest threat to British imperialism in the coming period is a movement which unites the struggle of the working class in Britain with the struggle against racism and national oppression both at home and abroad. The conditions for this already exist.
Imperialism has recreated an oppressed layer of the working class in the heartland of imperialism itself. Black and immigrant workers were brought into Britain to do the worst paid jobs under the worst conditions. They suffer a dual oppression both from racism and class exploitation. Suffering the brunt of the imperialist crisis, poverty, unemployment and racism, they are forced into direct confrontation with the imperialist state. They not only have no ties to imperialism but represent a political force which can unite the struggle of the working class in the imperialist countries with the anti-imperialist struggle for national liberation throughout the world.
The working class in Britain, the Irish people and the black masses in Southern Africa have a common interest -the destruction of British imperialism. Only by making common cause with oppressed people fighting British imperialism can the British working class liberate itself. By uniting with the struggles of the oppressed in Ireland and Southern Africa, the British working class not only hastens their victory but also weakens the grip ofthe opportunist and pro-imperialist Labour and trade union leadership over itself. By so doing it paves the way for the victory of communism in Britain.
IRELAND AND BRITISH IMPERIALISM
For 14 years the most direct revolutionary challenge to British imperialism has come from Ireland. The undefeated military struggle of the IRA, with its mass popular support amongst the nationalist minority, has demonstrated the ability of an oppressed people to withstand the most experienced counter-insurgency force in the world-the British imperialist army. The Irish people led by the Republican Movement, through their determined and courageous struggle for national liberation have exposed the reality of British imperialism - its moral and political corruption, its rigged laws and non-jury courts, its torture and internment, its prisons and concentration camps and its outright murder of those who dare to oppose it. By their continuing and unbroken resistance the Irish people stand as a living example to the emerging revolutionary forces in Britain.
The ruling class has long since recognised the centrality of this revolutionary challenge to their rule, their privilege, their power and the consequences should they be defeated in Ireland. T F Utley in 1975, at the time a leader writer for the Daily Telegraph, gave expression to the nightmare that haunts the British ruling class in relation to Ireland:
The instant withdrawal of British Troops...would plunge the whole of Ireland into anarchy on a scale hitherto unimagined. Whatever side emerged victorious would almost certainly be anti-British and would tend to look for support to Britain's enemies.
British security is hardly compatible with the existence of a Cuba a few miles from her Western shores .
James Prior, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has recently echoed these fears, in November 1983, when he referred to the 'danger' of Ireland becoming Britain's Cuba.
A leading Tory MP, John Biggs-Davidson, has time and again voiced the essential connection:
'What happens in Londonderry is very relevant to what can happen in London, and if we lose in Belfast, we may have to fight in Brixton or Birmingham. Just as Spain in the thirties was a rehearsal for a wider European conflict so perhaps what is happening in Northern Ireland is a rehearsal for urban guerrilla war more widely in Europe, particularly in Britain.'
When the first uprising of oppressed black youth in Britain took place in St Pauls, Bristol in 1980 the ruling class media instinctively drew a parallel with Ireland:
'It was like a scene from Belfast without bombs' (Daily Mail 3 April 1980)
'These are things that we have regarded with horror when they happen in Ulster. We never dreamed that in the England of 1980 we could have "no-go" areas like those of Londonderry. It must never, never happen again.' (Sun 5 April 1980)
It is no coincidence that as the revolutionary youth of Derry, Belfast and Dublin fought pitched battles on the streets against the British imperialist forces and their loyalist and 'Free State' puppets during the hunger strike, so the unemployed youth - black and white - rose up in 1981 throughout Britain against the British imperialist state. These are forces which will, by following the courageous lead set by Irish revolutionaries, give a lead to the mass of the British working class. Ireland remains today, as it was in Marx's day, the key to the British revolution.
THE HUNGER STRIKE AND ITS POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
In their statement announcing the end of the hunger strike in October 1981 the political prisoners in the H-Blocks drew out a number ofimportant political lessons. The first was that the prisoner campaign confirmed the necessity for revolutionary violence in the national liberation struggle.
'Despite the electoral successes, despite the hundreds of thousands at hunger strikers' funerals, despite massive and unprecedented displays of community support and solidarity, the British government adhered rigidly to the precept that "might is right" and set about hammering home the point that nothing has really changed since the fall of Stormont or from the inception of this state. That is, that nationalist Ireland must always be subjected to the British and loyalist veto.'
From this the prisoners concluded that 'nationalist pacifism in the Northern Ireland context' would condemn the nationalist population to subserviency, perpetuate partition and undermine the struggle for a just and lasting peace in Ireland.
The second lesson was the exposure of the real face of the Irish establishment. In the words of the political prisoners, the 'shallow unprincipled nature of the Irish partitionist bloc' was exposed for all to see. Not only do the Dublin governments, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael/Irish Labour Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Catholic hierarchy come under this category but also the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Everything they did was designed to undermine the hunger strike at critical points. This 'bloc' acted throughout directly and indirectly in collaboration with British imperialism.
Although the hunger strike was defeated and the political prisoners did not achieve the 'five demands', the statement, nevertheless, claimed a 'massive political victory'. This was because the courage and example of the hunger strikers had 'politicised a very substantial section of the Irish nation' and exposed the 'shallow, unprincipled nature of the Irish partitionist bloc'. A claim that was vindicated in 1982 and 1983 by the remarkable political gains made by Sinn Fein at the expense of the SDLP in the Assembly elections of October 1982 and the General Election of June 1983.
A decisive political factor in the defeat of the hunger strike was the fact that no political pressure was placed on the Thatcher government in Britain itself. While demonstrations, pickets, protests and even street fighting took place in Europe, Asia, America and Australia, the British Labour and trade union movement not only remained passive and silent but actually collaborated with the British government. The most despicable example of this was the Labour MP Don Concannon visiting Bobby Sands - close to death - in order to tell him that the Labour Party did not support him.
Demonstrations in Britain in support of the political prisoners were tiny and got smaller as the hunger strike proceeded. By the end, only a very small number of Republicans, anti-imperialists and communists were still fighting to build a campaign. The major strategy of the main organisations of the British left at the beginning of the hunger strike, if they were active at all, was to seek an alliance with a section of the Labour Party and trade union movement. To do this they adopted the demand 'Don't let Irish prisoners die'. However throughout both hunger strikes no section of the Labour Party or trade union movement did anything to oppose Thatcher's murderous policies in Ireland. In fact the parliamentary Labour Party officially supported the Thatcher government throughout. Faced with this reality the main left organisations involved in the hunger strike campaign refused to demand anything of the Labour and trade union movement and eventually were forced into a position themselves of doing nothing at all. To understand why this was so we need to know why the prisoners issue is so crucial.
The denial of political status for Irish political prisoners is central to British imperialism's overall strategy of 'Ulsterisation' adopted soon affer the fall of the 1974 'power-sharing' Executive. A whole apparatus of emergency legislation, arrest, systematic torture in police cells, forced 'confessions', long remands, Diplock (non-jury) courts, imprisonment and torture in specially built concentration camps, the H-Blocks, has been set up to deny political legitimacy to the national liberation struggle to free Ireland from British rule and 'criminalise' Irish Republicans. So critical is this 'criminalisation' policy for Britain's continued domination over Ireland that the British ruling class was prepared to slowly murder Irish political prisoners and risk undermining the stability of British rule not only in the Six Counties but over Ireland as a whole.
A victory for the prisoners in the struggle for political status would strike at the heart of British domination over Ireland. This is equally true of Irish POWs in British gaols. To recognise the legitimacy of the prison struggle is to acknowledge the legitimacy of the revolutionary struggle of the IRA to drive British imperialism out of Ireland. Such recognition would also have important consequences in Britain. It would legitimise the use of revolutionary force against British imperialism. It would give strength and example to the developing forces of revolution in Britain. Finally it would not only expose the reactionary and brutal character of British imperialism but also of the British Labour Party and official trade union movement which gave, and still gives, British imperialism consistent support in the oppression of the Irish people. Such a development is not one the British ruling class could accept. It is in this context that the failure of the campaign to win the 'five demands' was a defeat for the political prisoners and a setback for the national liberation struggle.
The defeat of the hunger strike also represented a defeat for the democratic and socialist movement in Britain. The most reactionary Tory government since the Second World War was considerably strengthened by the defeat of the prison struggle in Ireland. It gave that government increased confidence to continue with the attacks on working class living standards and with the gradual destruction of the 'welfare' state. It meant that the Thatcher government had no serious opposition in Britain to its reactionary war in the Malvinas/Falkland Islands. It encouraged the government to press on with legislation directed against fundamental trade union rights, action aimed at increasing police powers (emphasised by the appointment of Kenneth Newman, torturer-in-chief in the Six Counties of Ireland, as head of the Metropolitan Police) and racist legislation directed at the rights of immigrants and their families. All these developments are taking place with little or no opposition from the British Labour and trade union movement.
Finally in both Ireland and Britain the real allies ofthe Irish revolution began to emerge. In the Six Counties of Ireland behind the prisoners were the relatives, the Republican Movement and the nationalist working class - particularly the youth who came out on to the streets and fought the British army/RUC with stones and petrol bombs. In the 26 Counties the Republican Movement gained the support of new sections of the Irish working class and, most important of all, new supporters of the political prisoners, the dispossessed youth of Dublin, came out on the streets after the murder of Bobby Sands. In Britain while a small number of communists and anti-imperialists were fully behind the political prisoners, the most significant development was not directly related to the hunger strike. This was the uprisings of black and white youth in the major cities of Britain. These youth, taking their example from the revolutionary nationalist youth in the Six Counties, took to the streets to fight the repressive forces of the British imperialist state. These are forces of revolution in Britain and therefore potential allies of the Irish revolution.
The events ofthe hunger strike and its outcome confirm once again the main lessons of the national liberation struggle to free Ireland from British rule. At this stage it is important to summarise those lessons and what they mean for building an anti-imperialist movement in Britain today.
BRITISH IMPERIALISM CANNOT PLAY A PROGRESSIVE ROLE IN IRELAND
Ireland as a whole is an oppressed nation dominated by British imperialism. Imperialism will never voluntarily relinquish political control over an oppressed nation because such control enormously strengthens its ability to economically exploit that nation. Any movement by British imperialism to make concessions to the demands of the Irish people has, therefore, only been brought about by revolutionary force. On a number of occasions it took an insurrection or a direct threat to the stability of British rule over Ireland to force the British ruling class to move. Peaceful and constitutional methods of protest have always been ignored. Time and again British imperialism has resorted to outright terror to retain its domination over Ireland.
This can be seen throughout the events of the Easter Rising 1916 through the war of independence 1919-21, to the signing of the partition Treaty and the establishment of the reactionary loyalist police state in the Six Counties of Ireland 1921-2. The revolutionary democratic struggle of the Irish people for national self-determination has always been met with savage repression.
Britain retained its control over Ireland by signing a deal with a section of the national movement which was prepared to compromise the interests of the Irish people for limited self-government. To do this it partitioned Ireland and created and consolidated a reactionary, loyalist police state in the Six Counties of Ireland. A totally reactionary, viciously repressive loyalist statelet became the medium through which British imperialism exerted its political and, therefore, economic domination over Ireland as a whole.
In partitioning Ireland and establishing a neo-colonial Twenty-Six County 'Free State' in the south and a loyalist statelet in the north, British imperialism had the support ofthe Irish capitalist class. The Irish capitalist class, north and south of the border, has no real interest in fighting for a united Ireland. The partition of Ireland divided the Irish working class and severely weakened the opposition to capitalist rule in Ireland. The Irish capitalist class is quite prepared to play a subservient role to the British ruling class as long as it can have a share of the profits arising from imperialist exploitation of Ireland as a whole.
The Twenty-Six County ruling class has consistently used non-jury courts, censorship, torture, rigged laws and imprisonment to repress any drive to liberate Ireland from British imperialist rule. The Twenty-Six County state has become a fertile ground for imperialist exploitation offering high rates of profit to imperialist capital. The consequences for the Irish working class are today: widespread and increasing poverty; 12.5% and rising unemployment; crushing indebtedness of IR£4bn to imperialist banks; and imperialist robbery of natural resources.
The artificial statelet created by British imperialism in the Six Counties oflreland is designed to maintain loyalist dominance in that part of Ireland. The loyalist (Protestant) working class in the Six Counties is among British imperialism's most resolute supporters in the partitioning of Ireland. The loyalists are a privileged section of the working class and the maintenance of their privileges (higher wages, jobs, housing etc) depends on the union with Britain. For this reason they are the most implacable enemies ofa united Ireland. And for this reason they are opposed to any improvement in the conditions for the nationalist (Catholic) working class in the Six Counties. For any improvement in these conditions, any reform of the reactionary loyalist state is regarded as a direct threat to their own interests.
As a consequence the nationalist working class in the Six Counties suffers massive poverty; massive unemployment (today over 5O% in certain areas); systematic sectarian discrimination in housing, employment, health and all other aspects of social, political and economic life. The nationalist working class in the Six Counties is the most oppressed section of the Irish working class as a whole.
In the late 1960s the inherently reactionary character ofthe loyalist statelet was exposed for the world to see when sections of the nationalist minority took to the streets demanding basic democratic rights and were battered, beaten and shot by the paramilitary forces of the loyalist state. Once again British imperialism, through its loyalist agents, sought to drown in blood a peaceful campaign by the nationalist people for democratic rights. This response demonstrated beyond doubt that the Six County statelet could not be reformed. Faced with this brutality and intransigence, the nationalist people of Derry staged an insurrection in August 1969 and drove tbe loyalist forces out of their area. It was only at this stage that the British Labour government intervened. On 14 August 1969 British troops were sent into the Six Counties of Ireland to aid the 'civil power'. This action was designed to have one and only one effect - to support loyalist supremacy, the basis of British imperialism's rule in Ireland. By this action, the truth was exposed. Behind the RUC stood the British army. Behind the loyalist state stood British imperialism.
It now became increasingly clear that basic democratic rights for the nationalist minority could only be achieved by destroying the loyalist state, ending partition and driving British imperialism out of Ireland. The nationalist population once again was to turn to those forces which had kept alive the revolutionary struggle to reunite Ireland - the revolutionary wing of the national movement and its armed vanguard, the IRA. The British troops were necessary precisely because the state was unreformable and the nationalist minority could not be bought off. However it took the rise of the Provisional IRA, an effective modern guerrilla army with growing support amongst the nationalist minority, to force the British government to abolish Stormont and replace it with direct rule from Westminster nearly two-and-a-half years after the troops were sent in. The British government had no choice after the institutionalised terror of internment without trial (August 1971) and the Bloody Sunday massacres (January 1972) not only had failed to undermine support for the Provisional IRA but had driven hundreds of nationalist youth into its ranks. After Bloody Sunday, nationalist Ireland exploded and the British Embassy in Dublin was burned down. The Six Counties became rapidly ungovernable. The British government suspended Stormont in March 1972. No-one could have any doubts that it was the Provisional IRA which brought it down. After 50 years existence of the loyalist statelet it was the revolutionary force of the national liberation movement which destroyed Stormont.
British imperialism had some room for manoeuvre after the suspension of Stormont. The Dublin government, the SDLP and the Catholic Church welcomed direct rule from Westminster and the British government used the opportunity to try to undermine the unity of the nationalist minority and draw away support from the Provisional IRA. The period 1973-5 saw the rise and fall of the power-sharing Executive. The 'carrot' of power-sharing with the Unionists was offered to the Catholic middle class in return for them giving legitimacy to a new Stormont Assembly and accepting, for the time being, 'the status of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom'. The SDLP took the bait.
The whole venture came to the inevitable sticky end after loyalist opposition to the Executive, in the form ofthe Ulster Workers Council strike, brought the Six Counties to a standstill in May 1974. The British Labour government refused to intervene to guarantee essential services. The UWC strike had forcefully reminded it that the price of 'loyalty' to British imperialism was the preservation of loyalist privileges and loyalist supremacy in the Six Counties of Ireland. It was a price that the British Labour government was quite prepared to pay. Loyalist ascendancy, after all, was, and is, the key to British domination over Ireland as a whole.
After the fall of the power-sharing Executive the British state resorted to outright repression in a new attempt to defeat the real threat to its interests in Ireland - that from the nationalist masses led by their revolutionary army, the Provisional IRA. It took almost two years to prepare the way for this new regime of terror in the Six Counties of Ireland. The new policy was called 'Ulsterisation'. It involved the 'primacy of the police' in fighting the IRA and the 'criminalisation' of the revolutionary national struggle to free Ireland from British rule. The fundamental feature of this new period of terror was judicial internment - the 'conveyor belt' process of arrest, systematic torture in police cells, forced 'confessions', long remands, Diplock (non-jury) courts and imprisonment in specially built concentration camps in the H-Blocks. This process demanded the torture and brutalisation of political prisoners in interrogation centres and the H-Blocks. It was to culminate in the slow and brutal murder often Irish political prisoners who had gone on hunger strike to demand their rights to be treated as political prisoners.
The prison protest 1976-1980 and the hunger strikes of 1980 and 1981 confirmed the communist position. Britain cannot play any progressive role in Ireland. The Irish Free State is a neo-colonial agent of British imperialist rule in Ireland. The only path to progress for the Irish working class is the revolutionary national struggle to free Ireland from British imperialist rule. The only reliable basis for this struggle is to be found among the most oppressed Irish workers north and south. Both the Six County and Twenty-Six County states must be destroyed if Ireland is to be free.
The outcome ofthe 1981 hunger strike was a defeat for the prisoners and a setback for the national liberation movement. The demand for political status was not won despite the death of 10 heroic fighters for Irish freedom. The prison campaign originally was led by the women relatives ofthe prisoners (Relatives Action Committees (RACs)) and based directly on the nationalist working class. It called for political status in recognition of the fact that the prisoners were prisoners of war captured in the course of a war of national liberation. In the course of the campaign the RACs were replaced with the National H-Block Committee which, giving prominence to middle class non-Republican elements, changed the direction of the campaign away from the nationalist working class and towards putting pressure on bourgeois nationalist elements such as the SDLP, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Irish Labour Party, the Church and the Irish trade union leadership. The resulting strengthened influence of these elements allowed the restriction ofthe campaign to what was acceptable to these bourgeois forces.
Alongside this was the complete failure of the British Labour and trade union movement and the British middle class left to mount any serious campaign in support of the prisoners. No real pressure was placed on the Thatcher government from within Britain. It became inevitable under these conditions that the demands of the prisoners would not be achieved. At the same time the brutality of British imperialism during the hunger strike immeasurably deepened nationalist working class support for the Republican struggle. This support was confirmed in rising popular votes for Sinn Fein in the Assembly elections (1982) and the General Election (1983).
Today the repression of the nationalist minority continues unabated. A major new weapon has been added to the armoury of repression being used in the British government's war against the Irish people - the informer. There were in November 1983 350 people on remand and 55 had been convicted on the uncorroborated 'evidence' of informers. This figure compares with the internment operations of August 1971 - it is a major escalation of judicial terror against the nationalist people of the Six Counties.
The use of informers is not new. What is new is the scale of the operation. This massive use of informers reflects the successful campaign against torture in Castlereagh. The Diplock non-jury courts rely on confessions for convicting and imprisoning nationalists. However the international exposure of the use of torture and the unbroken resistance of the nationalist people has forced the imperialists to turn to the informer tactic whereby a single 'confession' can be used to imprison scores of nationalists. Raymond Gilmour's 'evidence' for example, has already led to 71 arrests; 38 nationalists were arrested on Christopher Black's 'evidence' - 22 were given prison sentences totalling over 4,000 years in all in a trial costing over £1 million; 23 were arrested on Jackie Goodman's 'evidence'. The efficiency of this tactic is clear: the maximum number of arrests on the minimum possible evidence. In non-jury Diplock courts there is no fear of the uncorroborated claims of touts being rejected. The real character of the Diplock court system stands exposed: judicial internment.
There have been a number of important victories against the informer system. Six informers have retracted their evidence. The most dramatic case was that of Robert Lean who escaped from RUC 'protective' custody and retracted his evidence at a Sinn Fein press conference. Eleven people were subsequently released.
That such methods as kidnap, brainwashing and bribery are necessary to maintain British imperialism's rule in Ireland is yet further evidence that that rule can only be maintained by terror and corruption. The history of the last 14 years, like the history of the period 1916-22, conclusively proves that British imperialism cannot play a progressive role in Ireland: that British imperialism has only made any concessions at all in the face of mass revolutionary force: that the Irish people can only be free if British imperialism is driven out of Ireland. This is why to fight in this country for the right of the Irish people to self-determination means to fight for the defeat of British imperialism in Ireland. That means to call for Victory to the Irish People and Troops Out Now!
OPPORTUNISM IN BRITAIN AND THE IRISH REVOLUTION
Since the insurrection in Derry in August 1969 the direct revolutionary challenge to British imperialism has once again come from Ireland. Far from the British labour movement 'making common cause' with the Irish people, throughout the last fourteen years the British Labour Party, backed by the official trade union movement, has played a direct role in oppressing and terrorising the nationalist minority in the Six Counties of Ireland. In 1969 the British Labour government sent troops into the Six Counties of Ireland to support loyalist supremacy, the basis of British imperialism's rule in Ireland. In 1974 a Labour government introduced the racist, anti-Irish Prevention of Terrorism Act designed to provide a legal cover for the systematic harassment of the Irish community in Britain in general, and for all, in particular, who were prepared to fight for a united Ireland. Finally, nothing has exposed the moral and political bankruptcy ofthe British Labour and trade union movement more sharply than its collaboration with the regime of terror and torture administered by the British Labour government in the Six Counties oflreland from 1976-79. It is of little surprise that the British Labour movement not only remained passive and silent but actually collaborated with the British government in the slow and brutal murder of 10 Irish political prisoners on hunger strike during 1981.
During the last 14 years, at crucial moments of rising revolutionary struggle against British rule in Ireland, the Labour Party and official trade union movement have come forward as the best defenders of British imperialist rule. In doing so they only confirm Lenin's description of these elements: 'they are better defenders ofthe bourgeoisie than the bourgeoisie itself'. Without their influence over the working class British imperialism would already be defeated in Ireland. Far from being potential allies of the Irish people, the British Labour Party and official trade union movement have proved to be their most treacherous enemies.
A working class movement from an oppressor nation which refuses to support an oppressed people fighting for the democratic right to self-determination will not be able to defend itself. It is, therefore, not surprising that, faced with the most reactionary Tory government since the war, faced with massive unemployment and growing attacks on living standards, the British Labour and official trade union movement has done next to nothing to defend the working class. By refusing to 'make common cause' with the Irish the British working class has strengthened the hold of opportunist forces over itself. The struggle for socialism in Britain has been dramatically set back.
The British Labour Party gives organised political expression to the interests ofthe upper ranks ofthe working class - the labour aristocracy. Its standpoint is bourgeois socialism. The Labour Party has always been a zealous defender of British imperialism's interests in Ireland and, when in power, has directed the oppression of the Irish people. No significant section ofthe Labour Party has or could take up a consistent fight against British imperialism's policy in Ireland without breaking with the Labour Party. This has however not stopped all the major organisations ofthe British middle class socialist left active on the Irish question from trying to find some section of the imperialist Labour Party prepared to take a 'progressive' standpoint on Ireland.
Politically the organisations of the British left have vacillated between the proletarian and bourgeois socialist standpoint on Ireland, so reflecting their class position in society. As the crisis in Ireland has deepened, and especially in periods when the revolutionary challenge to British imperialism is intensified, more and more of these organisations, in the absence of a strong anti-imperialist current, have adopted a bourgeois socialist standpoint. A few examples will suffice.
On the very day British troops were sent into Derry, on 14 August 1969, the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) decided that 'any basic constitutional changes' ie self-determination, were questions of a 'longer-term nature'. British imperialism was called upon to reform the loyalist state - to introduce a programme of democratic rights (a Bill of Rights), to end repression and discrimination and give financial and economic aid to provide jobs, housing and industrial development in Northern Ireland. Only afier this programme had been carried out would it be possible to 'overcome sectarian divisions' and withdraw British troops from Ireland allowing the Irish people to rule the whole of their country - a process to be brought about, it seems, by consent.
This is 'socialist colonial policy' with a vengeance - the plea for a 'colonial policy, which under a socialist regime [read 'left' Labour government], may have a civilising effect'. The guarantor of this was to be the British labour movement which, having consistently betrayed the Irish people's struggle for freedom over the last 100 years, was now to 'force' the 'army command to use its military power in defence of democracy'. The CPGB, needless to say, has never missed an opportunity to attack the national liberation struggle led by the Provisional IRA, arguing that its 'campaign of violence' gives a cover for British repression.
The other major organisations of the British left are a variety of Trotskyist groups which, in common with Trotsky on the Irish revolution, have a totally abstract and idealist understanding of the national question. As the pressure resulting from a very real war of national liberation in Ireland has built up most of these groups have been driven towards the bourgeois socialist camp.
The Militant Tendency in the imperialist Labour Party joined the bourgeois socialist camp as soon as the troops were sent in on 14 August 1969. It not only supported the troops being sent in, but regards those who call for withdrawal of British troops from Ireland 'as attorneys of the Provos'. It still believes that British imperialism wants to wash its hands of Ireland completely, on the grounds that the border has 'outlived its usefulness' for the British capitalist class. Thinking that you can overcome the partition of Ireland and the division of the Irish working class by ignoring it, Militant calls for an all-Ireland Labour Party and a trade union defence force to defend all working class areas, Catholic and Protestant, from sectarian attacks... All this idealist drivel is designed to cover up its very real support for British imperialism in Ireland. Militant is even more virulent in its attacks on the Provisional IRA than is the CPGB.
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) also joined the bourgeois socialist camp as soon as the troops were sent into Derry in 1969. Like the Militant Tendency and the CPGB it holds to the belief that there is a progressive side to British imperialism, expressed at that time by its view that the British troops could provide a 'vital breathing space' for the nationalist minority:
'Because the troops do not have the ingrained hatreds of the RUC and the Specials, they will not behave with the same viciousness...
'The breathing space provided by the presence of British troops is short but vital. Those who call for the immediate withdrawal of troops before the men behind the barricades can defend themselves are inviting a pogrom which will hit first and hardest at socialists...
'To say that the immediate enemy in Ulster is the British troops is incorrect... '(Socialist Worker 21 August, 11 September, 18 September 1969)
Many of the Trotskyist groups now claim to be opposed to British imperialism's presence in Ireland. All of them however consistently attack the armed struggle of the IRA - terrified that the revolutionary violence of the oppressed might create problems for their own so very 'revolutionary' political work.
In July 1982 the SWP and Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) went so far as to argue that the IRA bombing campaign in Britain against military personnel in Central London distracted British workers from fighting back against Thatcher's reactionary policies. 'The front pages were cleared of unemployment figures... 'whined Newsline (21 July 1982). And Socialist Worker had the nerve to say:
'On the very day when the depths ofthe government's callousness, hypocrisy and incompetence were laid bare, Thatcher was presented with the perfect distraction'. (24 July 1982)
Socialist Worker has gone so far as to argue that the IRA methods are opposed to those of the socialist movement:
'While the IRA have bombed factories in Northern Ireland as part of their struggle, as part of ours we campaign for workers to take over those factories -a completely different approach.' (14 August 1982)
In this the SWP only repeats the arguments ofthe 'English would-be liberators' of Ireland who limited their support for the Irish movement on the grounds that the Irish did not use the same methods as English workers. Over 100 years ago such arguments were adequately dealt with by supporters of Marx and Engels.
Because they see a progressive side to British imperialism, the British middle class left all put forward the view that the nationalist and loyalist working class can be united before British imperialism is driven out of Ireland. They only differ as to how this should be done. The Communist Party wants to unite the Irish working class from above by British imperialism reforming the loyalist statelet. The Militant grouping wants the agents of British imperialism, the Labour Party and the official trade union movement, to do it from above by creating an all-Ireland Labour Party and a non-sectarian trade union defence force. And the SWP wants to do it from below by Republicans appealing to loyalist workers on economic issues. And they all do this to cover up for their own refusal to 'make common cause' with the Irish national liberation struggle led by the IRA against the common enemy British imperialism. Today none of these organisations are active on the Irish question.
BUILDING AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST IRISH SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT
Imperialism will only be destroyed and opportunism defeated by the alliance of the British working class with the revolutionary national movement in Ireland. Ireland is the key to the British revolution.
The Republican movement is a national liberation movement conducting a revolutionary national struggle to free Ireland from British imperialist rule. It is based on the most oppressed section ofthe Irish working class. The Republican movement's struggle constitutes the most direct revolutionary challenge to British imperialism today. Precisely because imperialism can only be destroyed and opportunism defeated by an alliance of the British working class with the revolutionary national struggle in Ireland - in whatever form that struggle takes place right down to an uprising or war - communists in Britain give unconditional support to the Republican movement in the struggle to drive British imperialism out of Ireland.
Irish workers in Britain have mobilised whenever there has been a campaign organised on an anti-imperialist basis. This was true in 1972 in the 20,000 strong Bloody Sunday march in London. It was true during the Prisoners Aid Committee (PAC) prisoner campaign in 1978 in the 5000 and 6-7000 strong July and November marches. It was true in Scotland during the hunger strike campaign. Many Irish workers also showed their hatred of British imperialism and its agents by refusing to vote for the Labour Party during the 1979 and 1983 General Elections. Such workers can and will be won to an anti-imperialist movement on Ireland.
It is no accident that during the hunger strike the one force that did rise up against the racist imperialist British state was the black youth supported by white unemployed youth. The uprisings conclusively demonstrated that forces exist in Britain which are willing and able to fight British imperialism here at home. These emerging revolutionary forces have no stake in British imperialism and every interest in its destruction.
Irish POWs in England are in the forefront of the struggle against British imperialist rule in Ireland. Through their consistent defence not only oftheir own rights as political prisoners but also of the rights of all prisoners, they have been placed in the forefront of the struggle against the repressive British prison system. They, therefore, occupy a unique position uniting the struggle ofthe Irish people for national liberation with the struggle for basic democratic rights in Britain. Five Irish POWs have been murdered in English prisons. For all these reasons a campaign in support of Irish POWs in English prisons has urgently to be built. Therefore, communists will support any such campaign, which has the support ofthe POWs, and fight for the right of repatriation on demand for all Irish POWs.
The Revolutionary Communist Group has always made the question of an Irish solidarity movement the central point of its platform and its practical work. Following the end of the hunger strike in 1981 the RCG participated in and helped establish Irish Solidarity Committees in different parts of the country. Whilst most of the left stopped campaigning on the Irish question, the RCG, along with a few other organisations and individuals, redoubled their efforts. The first step in the national co-ordination of a new movement was taken on 20 November 1982 when a conference of 250 delegates founded Building an Irish Solidarity Movement (BISM). A further conference in October 1983 voted to form the Irish Solidarity Movement (ISM). The RCG has played a central part in creating the ISM which has won support from a number of POWs, other left organisations, Republican individuals, TOM and Labour Party supporters, and unaffiliated individuals. The founding policy of the ISM is to direct its work towards the most oppressed sections of the British working class as the basis for a new solidarity movement.
The left, however, has ignored these forces in favour of the organised Labour and trade union movement. For many years the main vehicle for the British left's 'solidarity' work on the Irish question, if it has been carried out at all, has been the Troops Out Movement (TOM). From the very beginning TOM's activities have been directed to building an alliance with the left of the imperialist Labour Party, thus holding to the position that British imperialism can be made to play a progressive role in Ireland. For this reason TOM has never carried out any political campaign in solidarity with the national liberation struggle led by the IRA. Nor has TOM called for the defeat of British imperialism in Ireland.
To sustain its alliance with a section of the imperialist Labour Party, TOM soon dropped the anti-imperialist demand Troops Out Now! as a campaigning slogan. It refused to give any effective political support to the 1978 anti-imperialist prisoner campaign led by the PAC and supported by Sinn Fein and the RCG, preferring to conduct an innocuous and ineffective International Tribunal on Britain's Presence in Ireland instead. By the end of the second hunger strike TOM was barely active. Faced with the fact that the so-called 'left' of the Labour Party simply refused to take any effective action on the 'five demands', TOM in alliance with various left groups took all the pressure off them by hardly campaigning at all. The hunger strike showed that the whole strategy of TOM had completely failed - the imperialist Labour Party could not be moved.
Today TOM is calling for the building of an amorphous 'British withdrawal movement'. It does not believe an anti-imperialist movement can be built in support of the Irish people's struggle for freedom. It does very little public work apart from rallies and conferences. TOM's leadership has become more and more sectarian over time as its influence has decreased.
The Irish Freedom Movement (IFM) is a front organisation of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It claims to be building an anti-imperialist solidarity movement in the organised trade union movement; however, its membership mainly consists of students. It is impossible for anyone outside the RCP to have any say in influencing policy. The RCP attacks all other sections of the solidarity movement and refuses to work with them. The IFM has no democratic structure - there appears to be no method for non-RCP supporters to join it.
Given this background it is not surprising that both TOM and the IFM fear the influence of the new broad anti-imperialist movement: the ISM. Both TOM and RCP/IFM have not only refused to collaborate on joint activities but in fact have engaged in a consistent sectarian campaign to undermine the ISM. Sinn Fein (Britain) have not so far supported the work of ISM. All three refused to support the first BISM national demonstration on 12 March 1983 and all three refused to support the unity campaign of ½ October 1983. The ISM, by contrast, has supported all national events in support of the Irish people. Practice has shown that the struggle to build a principled anti-imperialist solidarity movement cannot be separated from the fight against opportunist forces in the British working class movement. The task of the ISM therefore is to win to its ranks all those who are prepared to carry out consistent anti-imperialist work and to isolate and destroy the destructive influence of opportunism.
The revolutionary alternative is solidarity work directed at the revolutionary forces in the British working class. It is through work of this kind based on the three demands of the ISM: 'Victory to the Irish People', 'Troops Out Now' and 'The Right to Repatriation on Demand for all Irish POWs' that a new Irish solidarity movement can be built.
SOUTH AFRICA AND BRITISH IMPERIALISM
On 9 June 1983, three young black South African freedom fighters were murdered by the South African apartheid regime. They were hanged despite worldwide protest against this brutality. The Moroka 3 were captured, tortured and executed following a period when the liberation war had escalated, marked by the growing success of African National Congress (ANC) sabotage and bombing attacks on strategic installations of the apartheid economy - like SASOL and Koeburg, army and police targets. This armed liberation war is only one part of the growing militancy of black people in South Africa. Independent trade unions, women, students and children have all taken up the fight against apartheid with renewed vigour in the last ten years. The savage repression unleashed against black people in South Africa is a measure of the threat posed to the apartheid state. And it is a threat which is felt in both Johannesburg and the City of London. It is a grave threat to Britain's massive investments in South Africa and Namibia.
APARTHEID IS GOOD FOR PROFITS
Britain's involvement in South Africa is rooted in economics - in the vast profits to be made out of enslaving over 21 million black people. On the one hand South Africa is a highly industrialised country. In the 1970s it made 3O% ofthe African continent's income and produced over 40% of the continent's mineral wealth. Its economy boomed whilst the imperialist West stagnated. On the basis ofthis vast wealth the tiny white population (4.5 million) have one of the highest standards of living in the world. White South Africa developed into a minor imperialist nation in its own right. It has, for the past seventeen years, illegally occupied Namibia and stolen its mineral wealth. South Africa's army subjugates the Namibian people and wages war on the Frontline States, in particular the people's republics of Angola and Mozambique.
The total subjugation of the black population makes all this possible. In the post-war period the income of the black people has fallen in relation to white income. At the same time unemployment amongst black people has rocketed. Government statistics do not give an accurate picture because they exclude black people exiled to the bantustans. In 1982 independent research put the figure at between 21 and 24 per cent, with a figure three times higher in the bantustans. The proportion of the black population forced to live in the bantustan concentration camps has risen from 40% in 1960 to 54% in 1980 (from 4.74 million to 11.33 million). They are deprived of their citizenship, there is little work, food, education or health care. These people are discarded units of labour, the old, sick, women and children. Black workers in urban 'white' South Africa are the cheap labour which provides the luxury for the whites and super-profits for the imperialists. They are units of labour, often separated from their families, harassed from birth to death by racist laws. When they are no longer useful to capitalism they are discarded to starve in the bantustans. They have witnessed the detention, torture and murder of political and trade union leaders, indeed anyone who makes a stand against fascist apartheid. The riches and privileges of South African whites and of the imperialist world are maintained by capitalism at its most brutal and barbaric, backed up by a system of total state repression - apartheid.
Britain's investments in South Africa have been a major source of prosperity over the last 100 years. Britain fought the Boer War to expand its interests in Southern Africa - to prop up the ailing British economy. In the later part of the 19th century Britain's economy, founded on manufacture, was threatened by a declining rate of profit and growing competition in the world market. Cecil Rhodes saw the necessity to expand markets into new lands, and thereby prevent revolution at home:'My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem, ie in order to save the 40,000,000 inhabitants ofthe United Kingdom from a bloody civil war, we, colonial statesmen, must acquire new lands to settle the surplus population, to provide new markets for the goods produced by them in the tactories and mines. The Empire, as I have always said, is a bread and butter question. If you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.' (1895)
The racist South African state was nurtured into existence by Britain. The British first introduced racist laws and viciously subjugated the black population. In the period 1870-1910 Britain's stake in South Africa grew from £16m to £350m. In 1910 Britain handed over power to the white minority, safe in the knowledge that the embryonic apartheid state would secure vast profits for Britain. In 1926 97% of all commercial bank balances were held by Standard Chartered and Barclays - British banks totally dominated the South African economy alongside British capital.
Over half a century later despite the development of Afrikaner nationalism and the growth of Afrikaner capital backed by the apartheid state, Britain's investments in South Africa have continued to grow. Southern Africa is now of prime importance to British imperialism and South Africa is where British imperialism will have to make a vigorous and possibly final stand. Today the British stake in apartheid is over £11bn. Over 50% of all foreign investment in South Africa is British. In the period 1979-mid 1982 British banks were involved in lending $1.1bn to South Africa. The outstanding debts of South Africa to British banks in 1982 were $5,234m. In 1982 Standard Chartered (59.5% shares held by British parent company) had assets of Rl0bn (£5.65bn) and Barclays National (63% owned by Barclays) had assets of R 13.1 bn (£7.4bn). 32% of Standard Chartered profits in 1982 came from South Africa.
At each stage of South Africa's industrial development in the post-war period, Britain, alongside the US, has been the centre of supplying the necessary technology and skills - engineering in the 40's and 5O's; the building of a sophisticated chemicals industry; in the 60's the production of motor vehicles, automobile accessories and oil refining. Britain is involved up to its neck in the fascist apartheid state. The stability ofthe South African economy and South Africa's ability to protect imperialism's interests in the African continent are the key to Britain's political relation with the apartheid regime.
WE CONDEMN APARTHEID BUT...
Britain's political relation with South Africa is determined by its level of economic investment in apartheid. The goose which lays the golden egg has to be sustained. It is this which determines the British government's, whether Tory or Labour, policies towards South Africa. The British ambassador, in 1977, under a Labour government, best sums it up:'South Africa's friends and trading partners spend an appalling amount of time and energy in international bodies trying to achieve an image which will minimise the damage caused by these [United Nations] resolutions to internal trade, to sport, to what you will...This is because we have so many interests in common with you, which we want if possible to maintain. Because we have investments in your country - the biggest investments of any country in Southern Africa, which we hope will remain profitable and remain sound. Because we buy from you more than any other country does and we would like to go on doing this. Even because we would like once again to play international cricket and international rugby with you and, as evidence of our good will we thought it right to take a line in the United Nations and Security Council, which let me say frankly, has brought down very much criticism from the rest of the world. In particular I must remind you that the only four occasions on which my Government, Britain, has exercised the veto in the Security Council during the life of our present Government has been in favour of South Africa.' (our emphasis)
Whilst both Tories and Labour have stated that they condemn apartheid, in practice behind the scenes they both back South African interests to the hilt. Whilst few would expect anything different from the ruling class, Labour preserves a gloss of anti-apartheid activity. Labour's record in power reveals not even a difference in emphasis from the Tories. Two examples, Namibia and the arms embargo, show the nature of British perfidy.
The presence of 100,000 South African troops in Namibia is in contravention of United Nations (UN) resolution 2145 which revoked South Africa's mandate over Namibia in 1966 on the grounds that it had failed to fulfil its obligations to ensure the moral and material well-being and security of the people. In 1969 UN Security Council Resolution 435 ordered South Africa to leave immediately. South Africa refused to budge. In 1977 negotiations began for Namibian independence, supervised by five members of the UN Security Council, the Contact Group (Britain, France, West Germany, USA and Canada). Labour was in government for ten of the seventeen years South Africa has illegally occupied Namibia - yet Britain's policy has not varied. Whilst South Africa has control of Namibia, Britain can carry on with the real business of robbing the Namibian people of their mineral wealth. In 1968, two years after South Africa's mandate ended, Tony Benn signed the notorious contract with the Rossing Mine to steal 7,500 tons of uranium. Despite pledges to end the contract, in fact it was allowed to run its full course.
The Contact Group has failed to negotiate Namibian independence. It has stood by whilst South African troops have multiplied, the South West African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) (declared in 1973 by the UN as the authentic representative of the Namibian people) has been outlawed, the Namibian people are brutally oppressed, and the whole of the north of Namibia has been turned into a military camp to wage a war on Angola. The imperialists know that if free elections were held in Namibia, SWAPO would be elected to power. They cannot afford this. We now know how quickly the imperialists will act to protect their own interests - for we have witnessed the wholesale slaughter necessary to preserve 'democracy' on a rocky outcrop in the South Atlantic from the 'infidel' Argentinians. Yet for seventeen years the just right of the Namibian people to independence has counted for nothing. Imperialism's investments in apartheid count for much more.
Most recently, Reagan's and Thatcher's power politics have led to a worsening of the situation. In April 1981 a motion was put to the UN to isolate apartheid in order to force them out of Namibia. The USA, Britain and France vetoed all four motions for sanctions. Inevitably, South Africa interpreted this as the go ahead for further terror. In August 1981 South Africa invaded Angola and has continuously occupied parts of southern Angola ever since. The US vetoed a motion in the UN condemning the invasion, Britain abstained on the grounds that the resolution described the South African regime as racist!
Since 1981 the Contact Group has attempted to link the question of Cuban troops in Angola to South Africa's military presence in Namibia. They have also put forward bogus plans for 'one person - two votes' in the independence elections. Under proposals for a Constituent Assembly they have attempted to give South Africa a veto over an independent Namibia's constitution. SWAPO has rejected all these proposals and continues to fight, alongside the ANC and with the aid of the People's Republic of Angola, for real freedom in Namibia.
ARMING APARTHEID - THE ARMS EMBARGO'South Africa is a dynamic military society whose educational system must train people for war. South Africa devotes millions of rands to the development, manufacture and purchase of armaments.' (Defence Minister Botha 2 October 1976)
Arms are vital to South Africa for two reasons. 1)They are needed to deal with the rising tide of militancy against apartheid, both of the black population internally and the growing liberation war being fought by the ANC. 2) South Africa is imperialism's local representative in Southern Africa. Oppressed peoples throughout the world are prepared and able to challenge imperialism. In Southern and Central America, the USA is fully occupied unleashing its terror on the local people. British troops occupy Ireland, French troops are in Chad. Imperialist forces are in an increasing state of military readiness to intervene in the Middle Fast, and the imperialist-generated Cold War against the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries spells an escalation in NATO military activities. South Africa may have to deal with its own oppressed, and with neighbouring states, on behalf of imperialism. That is why the arms embargo has always been dodged
From 1973-1977 South Africa quadrupled its armed forces. The effect of the UN Arms Embargo (1963) has been minimal. When the embargo was introduced the British government allowed all existing contracts to continue including the supply of spares. The embargo prohibits the sale of basic items, but not more sophisticated equipment - you cannot sell guns and parachutes to apartheid but you can sell airborne radar. Hence Marconi's booming trade with South Africa. Britain grants South Africa a 'most favoured nation status' which means that many categories of goods can be sent to South Africa without a licence - there is virtually no policing by customs. Britain, under Labour and Tory governments, has always blocked UN resolutions aimed at making the arms embargo mandatory and more effective. Apartheid armed to the teeth is a weapon in the hands of imperialism.
FIGHTING AGAINST APARTHEID
By 1961 the possibility of constitutional peaceful change to liberate South Africa's black population had been ruled out. Terror had been unleashed on all those who attempted to demonstrate against apartheid. 69 people had been shot in the back at Sharpeville, the ANC was banned and the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) had been driven underground. Umkhonto we Sizwe, the people's liberation army, was formed to fight back against apartheid terror. The arrest of many of the ANC leadership at Rivonia, the detention, torture and murder of many political and trade union activists resulted, by 1964, in the end of a period of open mass opposition to apartheid.
But the South African people were not to be suppressed for long and by the mid 1970s the possibilities for renewed struggle had improved. From 1973 independent black trade unions began to be formed. These trade unions have grown and increased their influence throughout the seventies and eighties. 1980-81 saw the highest ever number of strikes amongst black workers. Unlike the government-sponsored trade unions, the independent trade unions are open to all races and they maintain complete independence from the state. For instance, the South African Allied Workers Union (SAAWU), recently banned in the Ciskei, does not see its role in narrow trade union terms, on the contrary it has taken up a much wider political struggle, including the concerns of the black community as a whole, against the apartheid regime. The unity of the liberation movement with the workers' movement is a vital component of the revolutionary anti-imperialist struggle in South Africa.
In June 1976 the youth of Soweto took to the streets to fight apartheid. Thousands were killed in the reign of terror against them. Many other black townships throughout South Africa took up the fight. These uprisings were decisive. The youth knew from their experiences on the streets, watching their brothers and sisters wielding sticks and stones against the modern technology of a police state, that organisation was essential. Many of them left South Africa to join the ANC and Umkhonto we Sizwe, the People's Army.
Since 1976 the ability of Umkhonto we Sizwe and the ANC to strike back against apartheid has risen year by year. From minor sabotage acts to the firing of SASOL, to the bombing of Airforce HQ in Pretoria in 1983, the ANC has demonstrated that it is now able to strike at the heart ofapartheid. Two main factors have been essential to this progress: 1) The independence of the neighbouring states - in particular Angola and Mozambique, has ensured that South Africa is no longer protected on its borders by a bulwark of reactionary imperialist-backed regimes. On the contrary the Frontline States are prepared to support the liberation war despite the savagery of South African military attacks across their borders. 2) The rising tide of militancy within South Africa - heralded by Soweto and the new trade union movement. What is most significant about the period since 1976 is the conjunction of militancy amongst all sections of the black population: the youth in the townships, the workers in the factories, the women in the squatter camps, the students in the colleges and universities. And all these struggles have been closely allied to the liberation struggle. Most recently this has resulted in the formation of the United Democratic Front, the first open mass organisation against apartheid since the 1950s, which pulls all sections of the community into one organisation.
The struggle of the black population in South Africa against apartheid is inseparable from the liberation war against oppression and imperialism. A leader of the ANC expressed this most clearly speaking in London on Heroes Day 1981:'The real enemy of our people are not the white settlers in South Africa. No. The real enemy is here in London. The real enemy is in New York. The white settlers in South Africa are only the caretakers of imperialist interests in South Africa.'
A neo-colonial settlement in South Africa is impossible. The imperialists have too much to lose. On the contrary they are forced to back apartheid repression to the hilt in order to protect their investments and, in a period of growing inter-imperialist rivalries and the parallel rise in the militancy of the oppressed, in order to maintain their political influence in Southern Africa. The liberation struggle against apartheid is necessarily anti-imperialist, it cannot be otherwise.
SOLIDARITY IN BRITAIN
Racism is the ideology of British imperialism. It justifies the brutality inflicted on oppressed peoples which is necessary to extract the maximum super-profits. Racism was propagated in Southern Africa by Britain, and from this the apartheid system was able to grow and thrive. In Britain itself, racism divides the working class and justifies the oppression of its black population. The oppressed in Britain and South Africa have a task in common to destroy the imperialist system which fosters racism and oppression. This common struggle against imperialism is the precondition for a united working class struggle against all oppression and exploitation. It is a precondition for the formation of a communist party in Britain which can represent and lead the whole working class against the capitalist system. It is the precondition for an international communist movement. No political party as yet exists in Britain which represents, organises and incorporates the oppressed. The building of an anti-imperialist movement in Britain, allied to the liberation movements, is our first task as communists towards that end.
South Africa's key importance to the continued existence of British imperialism means that the building of a solidarity movement in support of South African liberation is an essential task for an anti-imperialist movement in Britain. The common struggle of the oppressed in both countries against imperialism makes it possible for a solidarity movement to attack British imperialism in its heartland, to aid the freedom struggle in South Africa and weaken British imperialism at home. A solidarity movement which excludes the oppressed from its ranks cannot be an anti-imperialist movement in practice.
SOLIDARITY IN WORDS NOT DEEDS
The Anti-Apartheid Movement leadership is dominated by reformist politics. In practice it covers up for the Labour Party's hypocrisy and perfidy on the question of apartheid. All its activities are directed through Government, local government, progressive church and trade union channels. The ties of the labour aristocracy to imperialism limit the scope of solidarity action. It is therefore not in order to call for a boycott of Rowntrees products in an act of real solidarity with Rowntrees workers in South Africa. This might lead to loss of jobs in Britain. It is not permissible to draw the links between racism in Britain and South Africa today. Someone might realise that Labour's record on both questions is equally appalling and why it is not permissible to question Labour MPs on an anti-apartheid picket about their support for the Colin Roach Campaign. Deaths in detention in South Africa are inhumane - deaths in detention in Britain might rock the imperialist boat. It is no accident that Ken Gill (AUEW/TASS General Secretary) argues that apartheid is not a political issue but a question of humanity. A challenge to imperialism in Britain and South Africa would mean the end of privilege and status for trade union leaders. A Labour and trade union movement which has not only failed totally to challenge, but also fostered, the racism of the state and the racism within its own ranks will not, in any real way, challenge racism thousands of miles away in South Africa.
Likewise the CPGB, left cover for the Labour Party, whilst supporting the liberation movement in South Africa in words, in deeds backs the Labour Party charade. It has tailed the Labour Party and trade union movement throughout the post-war period - in its racism, support for import controls, immigration controls and its bogus rhetoric over apartheid.
The Trotskyist movement, including the SWP, has persistently maintained a position of criticism of the ANC as a bourgeois nationalist movement which is therefore reactionary. The arguments are familiar because they are used against all liberation movements fighting imperialism - most virulently against the Irish who are closer to home. So the SWP have argued:
- The ANC is pursuing a policy of guerrillaism isolated from the South African working class.
- The real movement will develop, not as a struggle against apartheid and imperialism, but as a pure class struggle of workers against capitalism.
- For this reason the liberation movement must be bypassed, for it seeks to mislead the working class and deprive them of their leading role. The working class must unite around economic issues to fight capitalism.
- Direct links must be established between rank and file workers in Britain and South Africa, in order to bypass the reactionary liberation movement.
- The call for the isolation of South Africa does not benefit workers in Britain (or South Africa) who will lose their jobs as a consequence. Boycotting of South African goods can only be considered when it is first of all in the interests of British workers. For example, British miners prevented the import of South African coal when Welsh pits were under threat of closure (the SWP says this is a real act of solidarity).
The Trotskyist left in reality ties itself to the interests of the labour aristocracy and thereby to imperialism itself. From this comfortable platform they are free to look down on the oppressed, ignore all calls from workers in South Africa for the isolation of apartheid, and advise them on the true path to revolution. In reality they want to tie the politically advanced trade unionists of South Africa to the politically backward trade union movement in Britain. What is interesting about their idealist view of revolution, which elevates 'pure' class struggle above the struggle against imperialism, is that it allies the left with the right wing of the Labour movement. Terry Duffy and Bill Sirs, like the Trotskyists, want direct links with the trade union movement in South Africa. They are against the oppressed taking up arms. They want a 'pure' form of class struggle unfettered by politics.
BUILDING AN ANTI-IMPERIALIST ANTI-APARTHEID MOVEMENT
An anti-imperialist anti-apartheid movement in Britain requires the oppressed in its ranks. Only from the alliance ofoppressed peoples in South Africa and Britain can solidarity become effective, not limited by self-interest, but determined by common aims. Whilst the AAM leadership is dominated by those who fear the oppressed, the level of solidarity is necessarily limited. But the AAM is now composed of different political forces and the coming period will sharpen the difference. The requirements of the future are that the section of the AAM which represents the oppressed is strengthened if solidarity with the liberation movements in southern Africa against imperialism, and the building of an anti-imperialist movement in Britain, is to be possible.
THE REVOLUTIONARY STRUGGLE OF BLACK PEOPLE
The 1981 Uprisings led by black youth were the most serious challenge faced by the British state since the onset of this crisis. That the first major revolutionary threat since the onset of the crisis should come from black people is no accident. They have faced severe racial oppression since their arrival in Britain. The present crisis of imperialism has intensified that oppression driving black people out of even the worst-paid jobs. Unemployment amongst black youth is over 70% in some areas of Britain. And whilst the black section of the working class has been driven into deeper oppression and poverty the forces of the state have concentrated repression against them. New immigration and nationality laws have made immigrant workers doubly insecure, splitting up their families and deporting thousands. Police harassment of black youth in particular has reached new heights. The police are the arm of the state used to force the oppressed to accept their lot or to attack them when they do not. The 1981 Uprisings were therefore inevitably directed against the racist British police. In fighting against their oppression black people inevitably confronted the British imperialist state. Once begun the Uprisings also involved an attack on symbols of wealth, privilege and oppression - banks, rich men's clubs, social security offices. And inevitably the lead given by black youth drew other sections of the dispossessed into the struggle. Coming at a time when the Labour Party and trade union leadership were allowing the Conservative government to freely attack the working class, the Uprisings sounded the alarm in ruling class circles. They reacted with preparations to crush such risings with brutal force. The appointment of Sir Kenneth Newman with his experience of repression in Palestine and Ireland showed their intentions clearly.
British imperialism had come full circle. It had plundered the oppressed nations leaving such poverty that black workers were forced to seek work in the imperialist nations. Once here they face and fight continuing racist oppression inevitably confronting the British imperialist state. In their insatiable drive for profits the imperialists have brought the seeds of anti-imperialist rebellion into Britain itself. The fight will not - for once - be conducted hundreds or thousands of miles from Britain, but in Brixton, Liverpool 8, Moss Side, Chapeltown, Handsworth, Bradford and elsewhere.
Imperialism has recreated an oppressed layer of the working class in the heartland of imperialism itself. Just as Irish workers in Britain in the 19th century were an oppressed layer of the working class, so today black and immigrant workers in the imperialist countries suffer a dual oppression both from racism and class exploitation. Suffering the brunt of the imperialist crisis, poverty, unemployment and racism, they are forced into direct confrontation with the imperialist state. They not only have no ties to imperialism but represent a political force which can unite the struggle of the working class in the imperialist countries with the anti-imperialist struggle for national liberation throughout the world.
The racial oppression which has led to black people playing the leading role in challenging the British state, is the inevitable product of imperialism. Racism and imperialism are inseparable. Those who pretend that the struggle against racism can be separated from the fight to destroy imperialism are only seeking to hide this reality. The black youth who took up the petrol bomb and manned the barricades of 1981 suffered no such delusion. They saw their enemy very clearly - British imperialism.
RACISM AND NATIONAL OPPRESSION
Imperialism has systematically exploited the oppressed nations creating conditions which make it impossible for them to develop economically. These underdeveloped and distorted economies mean poverty, unemployment and often outright starvation for the oppressed. Having done this the imperialists then explain the 'inevitability' of underdevelopment by blaming the oppressed nations themselves.
When British imperialism was at its unrivalled height it looted the world - from India to Africa to the Caribbean to the Middle East and China. The plunder was carried out in the name of 'civilisation'. To justify its barbaric treatment of the oppressed the British imperialists portrayed their victims as less than human. The oppressed were either 'savages' who had to be slaughtered or 'children' who had to be disciplined. Racism was used to justify imperialist oppression then just as it is today. This monstrous arrogance has characterised every imperialist operation against the oppressed - from the massacre of black people in Africa, to the killing of 1 ½ million Vietnamese people, to the British imperialist war against the Irish people.
National oppression and racism go hand in hand. Racism is not, as some opportunist ideologists claim, a vestigial remnant of the Kipling era. It has its real material foundation in the fact that a handful of wealthy imperialist nations dominate and exploit the poor and oppressed nations and use every political, economic and military device possible to prevent the peoples of these nations freeing themselves from imperialism.
Nor are the benefits to imperialism from racism confined to the extraction of super-profits from oppressed nations. Black and other immigrant workers have also been brought to imperialist nations to carry out the worst jobs at the lowest wages.
Imperialism has created an international reserve army of labour - millions of destitute people from the oppressed nations who, either on a temporary or permanent basis, will work in the rich imperialist countries. By 1983 immigrant workers and their families numbered 4.5 million in France, 4.8 million in Germany and over 3 million in Britain. Another 2 million had gone to other European countries such as Switzerland and Belgium. There they form the most oppressed layer of the working class facing both 'unofficial' discrimination and 'legal' oppression through immigration laws and other forms of institutional racism.
Super-profits obtained from exploitation of oppressed nations have enabled the imperialists to create a labour aristocracy in the imperialist nations. The use of immigrant labour has served to bolster the position of this aristocracy. Where immigrant labour has been used on a large scale the indigenous working class has not yet had to suffer the worst ravages of capitalism. In times of boom immigrant labour performs the worst-paid jobs, often in the least profitable sectors of private production or in the public sector providing health, transport and other 'welfare state' functions which the state attempts to cheapen. In times of crisis immigrant labour is the first to go, and if it is contractual 'work permit' labour, is literally forced out of the country.
In Britain, immigrant labour has performed all these functions. From their moment of arrival, black workers formed an oppressed layer of the working class. Today, 30 years later that oppression has deepened.
The role of black and immigrant labour, its political and economic status is different in each imperialist country. The political impact of black and immigrant labour will also be different. In the USA black and immigrant labour constitutes a much larger section of the working class than in the European imperialist countries. Small sections of blacks have become part of the middle classes in the USA and some have even joined the ranks of the ruling class. The political status of black and immigrant labour is different in Britain to that in Germany and France. So that while certain general points hold for all the imperialist countries others do not. What follows applies to Britain and deals with the economic and political consequences of racism in Britain,
RACISM IN BRITAIN
Finally after two world wars the imperialists had created the conditions for profitable accumulation. The post-war boom saw major shifis in the occupational pattern of the population in Britain. A massive shift from employment in the manufacturing industry to employment in the service and state sector accompanied the unprecedented growth of the state sector. Large sections of the working class saw a great change in their conditions of life as the standard of living rose and social services like health and education were developed.
The capitalists were making enormous super-profits abroad. They could afford to plough some ofthis into ensuring relative social peace in Britain. To this end they increased their collaboration with the labour aristocracy. The trade union leadership which had already played a major role in ensuring production during the Second World War was increasingly drawn into the committees and negotiating bodies of the bourgeois state. Relative full employment, rising wages and social services were the prerequisites for enabling the labour aristocracy to maintain its dominance over the working class as a whole. And to provide these, required both imperialist oppression abroad and the provision of a pool of cheap labour for those British industries and services unable to provide 'boom' wages and conditions.
In the immediate post-war years the demand for labour, especially unskilled labour in sectors such as mines, construction, textiles, foundries and health care, was satisfied by European immigration, Poles and other 'displaced' persons. However that source and even the traditional Irish reserve dried up as European economies expanded, providing employment. Hence the turn to Britain's colonies and ex-colonies. Even though the numbers of black people coming to Britain until 1951 were very small - no more than 1,000 per year - the Labour government's deep racism drove it to set up a secret committee to investigate:'means which might be adopted to check the immigration into this country of coloured people from the British colonial territories.'
Wiser imperialist counsel prevailed and the secret committee found such measures to be 'unnecessary'... for the time being.
From their arrival black workers were concentrated in specific jobs. London Transport, the British Hotels and Restaurants Association and the Ministry of Health had all gone to the West Indies to recruit labour direct. Overall black workers were concentrated in manual jobs with poor pay and dangerous or dirty conditions. In the private sector they were employed in foundries, textiles, food processing, car production and domestic work. In the Midlands for example 18% of black workers worked in the car industry compared to 7% of the Midlands population as a whole. These industries were either in decline or labour intensive, therefore requiring low wages, or were industries with high capital investment requiring shift work. Whereas 9% of white workers work night shifts, 19% of black workers do. To get white workers to do these jobs would require high wages. In the public sector wages are kept low in order to minimise the proportion of capitalist profits spent on providing services like health, education and transport. Hence in London over 23% of railway workers are black and 65% of hospital ancillary workers are black or immigrant workers.
The oppressed position of black people is shown by the fact that in the mid 1970s 40% of white male workers were in professional or white collar jobs, 42% in skilled manual and only 18% in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs. The position for West Indian male workers was that only 8% were in white collar or professional jobs, 59% in skilled manual and 32% in semi-skilled and unskilled jobs. In 1974 young black men earned only 85% ofthe wage earned by white workers. The case for women is similar: overall 29% of women workers were in semi-skilled and unskilled manual jobs. This compares with 47% of West Indian women, and 58% of Indian women.
Black workers have faced continuing discrimination which has kept them out of many jobs and occupations. For example up to 1963 the British Bus Company consistently refused to employ black people until, that is, a bus boycott was organised. Nor have the laws against discrimination altered this position. In 1978 only 6 out of 5,000 Massey Ferguson's Coventry plant workforce were black. In 1982 only 12 out of London's 6,800 firemen were black. British Leyland has been cited for discrimination on numerous occasions - the best known being an internal memo to stop and search all black people leaving the Cowley factory. This resulted in derisory payments of £50 compensation to the black workers who complained. As unemployment has grown black workers have suffered disproportionately. Even in the mid 1970s a survey found 17% of black men under 20 unemployed compared to 9% of whites, for black women it was 20% compared to 7% for whites. For young black people today even the CRE cites an unemployment rate of 59% in the poorest areas compared to 41% for white youth.
Black and immigrant workers have organised to fight employers on many occasions. They have, despite racist trade unions, a higher rate of unionisation than white workers. Their struggles at Imperial Typewriters, Mansfield Hosiery, Garners, Chix, Aire Valley and best known Grunwicks were models of militancy, solidarity and organisation. Frequently they have had to face racist trade unions which consistently refuse to back them or openly collude with racist practices by workers and management. Their strikes have faced police attack and fascist provocation but the workers have stood against this - as did the mainly Asian women workers at Grunwicks and Chix.
The fact that black workers occupy the worst and least secure jobs and suffer the highest rates of unemployment also means they suffer disproportionate poverty. Discrimination in housing, education and other social services worsens this situation. But it is the repression that is directed against them by the state which reinforces their oppression at every turn. For, as the poorest and most oppressed section of the working class they are and have been the first to fight back. Their struggles, unlike those of other sections of the working class, are not controlled by the political organisations of the labour aristocracy. The ruling class has responded to this in two ways - outright repression especially of young black people coupled with efforts to create a black middle class which could control or confine black struggles as the labour aristocracy controls trade union and other struggles.
STATE REPRESSION - THE BIG STICK
State repression against black people has taken two major forms - the introduction of immigration controls and the use of police repression. Immigration controls directed against black people began to be introduced in 1962 coinciding with the end of British imperialism's need to call on the international reserve army of labour. Major Immigration Acts were passed in 1962 by the Tories, 1968 by Labour and 1971 by the Tories. All these Acts moved towards the contract labour system in which immigrant labour can be brought in for specific jobs and expelled after its usefulness is over. Only 'patrials', ie those with a white grandparent, are allowed full rights of abode. Under the 1982 Nationality Act citizenship is only granted to patrials - even black children born in Britain to certain categories of immigrant parents will not be British citizens.
Immigration controls are racist by their very nature. Their aim is to keep out workers from oppressed nations and to remove all rights from immigrant mothers already here. The operation of immigration controls shows their racist character. Virginity tests on Asian fiancees trying to enter Britain; mass passport raids on factories and restaurants employing black workers; refusal of entry to spouses and children; bone X-rays on black children to determine their ages; detentions and deportations running to thousands annually. In addition such laws affect every black person in Britain irrespective of their immigration status. Black people suffering racist assaults are frequently asked by police to produce their passports as are black people seeking health care, social security and housing.
Police repression against black people has always taken place but as the crisis has grown and the threat of a fightback has materialised, so has repression been stepped up. Black social events, such as Notting Hill Carnival have seen major displays of police strength - rising from 1,500 police in 1976 to 11,269 in 1982. Areas with a high black population are heavily policed and have SPG or Instant Response Units stationed in them. Raids on houses are frequent as are abuse, assaults and false arrests. On the streets black youth are never free from harassment. The SUS laws were used overwhelmingly against young black people - of 2,112 people arrested on SUS in 1975, 42% were black. After a campaign the SUS laws were scrapped only to be replaced by the even more sweeping Criminal Attempts Act. The police conducted major stop and search operations such as the 1981 Swamp Operation in Brixton in which 943 were stopped - one half of them black.
The police have raided, abused, beaten and even killed with impunity. After the Brixton Uprising they conducted a raid using 176 police with crowbars and sledge-hammers, smashing up 11 homes. No action was taken against any policemen and the subsequent inquiry was suppressed by the Home Office. In 1979 5,000 police were used to attack mainly Asian youth in Southall protesting against the NF. Over 800 were arrested, 324 charged, 1,000 injured and 1 man killed. No action was taken against the police. Deaths in police and prison custody are mounting swiftly, and are always covered up. Aseta Simms, Winston Rose, Nicholas Ofusu, Colin Roach, Richard Campbell, Paul Worrell, Matthew Paul - so the list endlessly rises.
This is not the product of a few racist police, it is the conscious policy of the British state. It was shown during the Uprisings that a serious challenge to the British state would be met by repression. For the first time in Britain CS gas was used. Police now have gas, plastic bullets, riot shields and intensive riot training. Under Newman the main approach is towards greater intelligence gathering backed up by more selective repression, with large scale repression already prepared for when major rebellion occurs. But the ruling class aims to prevent this by rooting out those likely to lead protest and to politically organise. Much of this intelligence gathering, like much of the other repression, will be concentrated against black people. For it is they who have been and are in the forefront of struggle.
Black people also suffer violent attacks by racist and fascist organisations and individuals. These attacks have caused horrific injuries and deaths. In some areas black people are forced to travel in groups and many Asian families are virtually imprisoned in their homes besieged by fascist gangs.
Fascist and racist groups have steadily increased in number as a climate of racism has been fostered by the ruling class, its state, media etc. Fascist groups receive police protection for their marches and other activities. Individuals guilty of racist attacks are not arrested, nor are the attacks investigated by the police. When black people mobilise to defend themselves, it is they who are arrested. Recent years have seen cases like the Bradford 12 and Newham 8, where serious charges have resulted from the self-defence of black communities.
COMMUNITY RELATIONS - THE ROTTEN CARROT
Hand in hand with increased repression has gone a conscious effort to create a black middle class. The purpose of this strategy (which was also followed in many British colonies) is to create a layer ofthe black community which is loyal to British imperialism. This layer can then be presented as 'spokesmen' for the black community and given the resources - full-time jobs, community centres, offices etc - to act as professional moderators of the struggle. This has been the aim of government anti-discrimination and race relations legislation. Ruling class thinking is simple: without such a layer acting to channel the massive grievances of black people through existing constitutional channels, uprisings and the growth of revolutionary organisation would be inevitable.
The creation of the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE), the three Race Relations Acts, and Urban Aid were geared to this purpose. So great is the discrimination against black people in Britain that no large or influential black middle class was emerging. On the contrary highly educated black people were unable to get professional jobs and black businessmen could not get loans and other essentials. So the British state hoped to artificially create this layer, as has been done with some success in the USA.
There was never any serious intent to combat discrimination and the legislation passed is virtually useless. Hence 18 years after the first Race Relations Act, the CRE's 1982 Report cites the fact that 50% of London firms surveyed were discriminating against black people. Since the Race Relations Act came into force there have been only 132 cases against discrimination won at Industrial Tribunals. For the mass of black people facing discrimination, police and state repression, the CRE and other race relations bodies have proved totally irrelevant. Only a small stratum of black community workers, social workers, lawyers etc have benefited materially by the receipt of grants and employment. The concerns of this layer are narrow - to scale the ladder of success in bourgeois Britain and to end the discrimination which prevents this. In so far as they are involved in black people's struggles they inevitably act to stifle and hold back the real voice of discontent from the most oppressed, particularly the youth. Their own integration into the state apparatus has reinforced their social democratic outlook and it is this which they try to force on black people as a whole. For well-paid community workers to believe in 'reform' is possible, for the mass of unemployed and harassed black youth to do so is out of the question. While at times the influence of this layer is successful in destroying campaigns and disorganising the fightback, it cannot do so for any length of time.
NEW FORCES OF REVOLUTION
The 1981 Uprisings established beyond doubt that black people are a leading force opposed to the British imperialist state. Their oppressed condition and their daily experience of racist harassment by the state has given them - in advance of any other section of the working class - the ability to see the British state as an oppressive machine. In addition they have shown that they identify with oppressed peoples fighting imperialism throughout the world. 'We are the black IRA' said the St Pauls youth during their Uprising and they also show instinctive support for the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
In fighting back against racism and state oppression, black people have been the first major social force to confront the state. They have rejected the bankrupt peaceful and constitutional channels of bourgeois democracy so beloved by the British labour movement. They are playing a vanguard role and inevitably will draw other sections behind them, as when the dispossessed white youth joined the 1981 Uprisings.
Already they have taken the only serious steps towards organising in defence of democratic rights over the past period. It is from black people that campaigns against police brutality, frame-ups and fascist attacks have come. They have taken the first steps towards defending those arrested for fighting back, by setting up defence campaigns, such as the Bradford 12, Newham 8, Stoke Newington and Hackney Defence Campaign.
The state attempts to crush political opposition amongst black people by outright repression. Thus when local people marched to protest about the death of Colin Roach in Stoke Newington police station, 100 people were arrested. The ruling class recognises the revolutionary threat posed by black people organising to fight back. So do various opportunist forces see this revolutionary fightback as a threat. They react to the revolutionary struggle of black people in the same way as they react to the anti-imperialist struggle in South Africa and Ireland - by attacking it. They attempt to hold back the black youth from direct confrontation with the state and seek to divert them into the constitutional channels of bourgeois democracy. They try to tie the black youth to the organisations and political methods of the labour aristocracy. When this fails, and the black youth inevitably go beyond what is acceptable to the labour movement, the opportunists attack them. The effect of this is to politically isolate the most significant revolutionary struggle taking place in Britain today. On the one hand, the opportunists refuse to support revolutionary action by black youth and refuse to defend those arrested or attacked in the course of struggle. On the other, they discourage other sections of the working class from breaking with the bankrupt pro-imperialist forces of the labour movement and following the lead of black people.
The opportunists fall into two camps - the middle class socialists and the middle class black community leaders. The stark contrast between the militancy of revolutionary black youth and the impotence of the conservative labour movement presents grave problems for the middle class socialists. They have chosen to ally with the pro-imperialist forces of the labour movement rather than the revolutionary struggle of black youth. Hence they react with racist contempt to the struggle of the youth in order to protect their own alliance with the labour aristocracy. The CPGB thus called the St Pauls uprising 'primitive' and said:'Riots are no answer to the Tories, the inner-city communities must be helped to organise themselves for real political and social struggle.'
The IMG (now Socialist League) called the use of bricks in Southall in 1979 a 'big mistake born of anger and frustration'. With typical racist arrogance they said:'There are times when the brain is more useful than brawn.'
The SWP takes this racist line to its logical conclusion by arguing that black people are not part of the working class at all but are a 'lumpen proletariat', the 'vulnerable underbelly of the working class'.
Having thus dismissed black people as 'primitive', 'lumpen', 'brawny' but 'vulnerable' the stage is set for the middle class socialists to tell black people where the real struggle for socialism is to take place...in the labour movement. Black people have already broken from the pro-imperialist Labour Party. Only 33% said they intended to vote in the 1983 General Election. Yet the middle class socialists try to drag them back to this bankrupt and racist party. Thus the IMG tells black people they must fight for:...united action with the Labour leaders...
The CPGB that the solution to racism lies in:...defeating the Tories and securing a new type of Labour government.
And the SWP that:'In the long term however the energy displayed on the streets will be dissipated unless it moves to a terrain more favourable for the building of permanent organisation - to the workplace.'
By these means the opportunists seek to drag black people from the revolutionary path into the pro-imperialist organisations of the labour aristocracy. Additionally the middle class socialists' arguments also serve to prevent other, less advanced sections ofthe working class, taking the same path as black people.
Whilst the labour movement and its petty bourgeois left allies isolate the struggle of black youth from without, black opportunist forces isolate it from within. This layer is the product of the state's 'reforms' and is ofien funded through government agencies like the CRE. Their role is to prevent serious confrontation with the state. To maintain credibility they have, occasionally, to be seen to lead campaigns and struggles. Their role is inevitably to hold them back and foster illusions in reform and conciliation. Above all, they emphasise the 'separate' nature of the black struggle in order to isolate it and prevent it playing a vanguard role. They have played a treacherous role in the campaigns and struggles of black people and have been aided in their anti-communist stand by the fact that the middle class socialists are disgustingly racist and give a stinking racist reputation to socialism and communism.
For all their talk of separatism they are often closely allied with the racist Labour Party seeing it as a vehicle for reforms which will destroy barriers to middle class black advancement and divert black youth from revolutionary struggle. They have been able at various points to stifle campaigns and prevent organisation. They will for example desert black youth arrested during struggles. After the 1981 Uprisings this layer prevented defence of the 700 arrested. The black youth in 1981 were not able to successfully challenge the opportunists. By 1983 in Stoke Newington some were more prepared to do so and in the teeth of great opposition the Stoke Newington and Hackney Defence Campaign (SNHDC) was formed.
Objective forces are driving black people into confrontation with the British state. The fight against racism inevitably becomes a fight against British imperialism and its state. The task is to prevent this revolutionary struggle from being isolated and crushed by the British state and its opportunist allies. As the imperialist crisis deepens the working class movement in the imperialist countries can re-emerge as a revolutionary force only if it follows the lead given by black and immigrant workers. Socialists in the imperialist countries, following Lenin's prescription, must abandon their preoccupation with the privileged strata of workers and their organisations and must go down 'lower and deeper to the real masses'. They must organise alongside this newly emerging vanguard of black and immigrant workers in the struggle to destroy imperialism. For that today is 'the whole meaning and whole purport of the struggle against opportunism'.
THE BRITISH IMPERIALIST STATE - RULING CLASS STEPS UP REPRESSION
During the post-war boom the British ruling class maintained social stability by using a share of its vast super-profits to provide full employment, social services and the trappings of liberal bourgeois democracy. The pro-imperialist trade unions and Labour leadership were tied even more firmly to the ruling class and its state through a vast network of official and unofficial links. This leadership, representing the most privileged sections of the working class, completely dominated the organised working class movement in the interests of imperialism.
The crisis however is now so deep that the ruling class is forced to attack growing sections ofthe working class. Under the Tory government's monetarist policy they have allowed bankruptcies to rise and cut back state expenditure on the welfare state. The consequence is rising unemployment, particularly chronic youth unemployment, and growing poverty. Under the slogans 'freedom' and 'self-reliance', always used to justify ruling class attacks on the poor, they are viciously attacking those forced to live on social security and placing the burden of health care, geriatric care and other essential services on to the working class family. Those hardest hit by these measures are the low-paid and the unemployed, especially women, young people and black people. Already 6 million adult workers earn less than the £90 per week low-paid guideline, 7 million people have been unable to buy food at some point in the last year. Unemployment and social security payments are falling and earnings related benefit has been scrapped.
Alongside the real threat to British imperialism being posed by liberation movements in Ireland, South Africa and elsewhere there now looms the threat of serious social unrest in Britain. Millions are being forced into poverty and therefore real social forces are being created who have no interest in the continuation of capitalism and imperialism. The first serious struggle has come from the ranks of black youth. But with over 4 million unemployed and no hope of work for the majority of young people, there is now the potential for larger sections to follow their lead.
The Labour leaders frequently warn the ruling class about this and about their own inability to control this section of the working class. They do so not from any concern about the dispossessed merely for the well-being of capitalism. The Welsh TUC warned:'People will not accept change at the rate being forced upon them ...without protest, and if we have protests en masse, regularly without effect, then it will go beyond the bounds of protest and into other areas. We do not cure these problems by employing more police, or thinking of using the army.'
Labour leaders persist in the utopian belief that there is a method of overcoming the crisis without attacking the working class, creating unrest and using force to repress it. The ruling class however is acutely conscious of the depth of the crisis and knows it can only be solved by imposing intolerable levels of unemployment, poverty, homelessness and repression on the working class. It already has its strategy for dealing with the revolutionary outbursts this will bring forth.
It certainly does not fear such outbursts coming from the 'big battalions' of the labour movement. They have moved to the right as the crisis has deepened and allowed redundancies and cuts to go ahead, caring only to hang on to their own relatively well-paid jobs. A deep division is opening up between those with jobs who have suffered only small attacks on their living standards and the growing millions of unemployed and poor people. The ruling class is aware that the creation of this large pool of unemployed will inevitably have the effect of disciplining those in employment. The strike figures for July 1983 show them to be amongst the lowest in the last 20 years.
The ruling class can therefore direct its force against those who are the most immediate threat - the poor and unemployed, especially black youth. The ruling class is intent on disciplining young people. They plan to cut dole payments to young people living with their parents and scrap rent payments to young people who leave home. Either young people must be supported by their parents or they must join a government employment scheme. The Youth Training Scheme offers £25 per week often for dirty, dangerous and boring work. It aims to keep young people off the streets, break their spirit and provide a pool of cheap labour for employers. By September 1983 17 young people had been killed and 4,000 injured on these schemes. In addition they have a scheme to turn 5,200 young people into cheap cannon-fodder - paying them £25 per week for a year in the army.
The ruling class knows that eventually these measures will produce serious political opposition and uprisings on the streets. It is perfecting its state-machine - police, army, courts and prisons - to repress such opposition. The democratic trappings of the boom years are fast vanishing and in the answer to any resistance is revealed the true nature of the British state - organised force to protect private property and the power of the ruling class. Major steps have been taken to create a police force capable of unleashing concentrated repression. CS gas, plastic bullets and other riot equipment are now routinely stocked by police forces. Armed police units are common and, as was shown by the near-fatal shooting of Stephen Waldorf in January 1983, ready to kill. Riot training is regularly given to all police and special mobile squads of semi-militarised police, Instant Response Units, are concentrated in working class areas, especially black areas. The Police Bill, which is going through Parliament gives them legal powers to detain people for 96 hours, set up road blocks and fingerprint and photograph detainees. And while the police are being equipped, trained and empowered to unleash repression, the ruling class is careful to ensure their loyalty by high levels of pay, taking senior officers into the highest salary earning brackets.
The appointment of Sir Kenneth Newman as head of the Metropolitan Police showed ruling class intentions clearly. Newman was head of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the Six Counties of Ireland and implemented the government's strategy of 'criminalising' the revolutionary national struggle to drive British imperialism out of Ireland. The systematic use of torture to extract false confessions was an essential part ofthis strategy. After the 1981 Uprisings in Britain Newman was made head of London's police so that his experience of repressing revolutionary opposition in Ireland could be put into practice in Britain, particularly against black people.
It is no coincidence that at the same time Major General Frank Kitson was appointed head of the UK Land Forces of the British Army. Kitson was in Ireland from 1970-72 and was responsible for the torture of detainees which took place during internment. He is an expert in counter-insurgency having taken part in counter-revolutionary operations in Malaya, Kenya, Oman and Ireland.
His book Low Intensity Operations is designed to gather together this experience and is easily adapted for use in a crisis-ridden Britain. Kitson argues that it is necessary to ruthlessly stamp out 'subversion' that is, revolutionary opposition, whilst simultaneously strengthening 'moderate' elements who support the state. Intelligence gathering operations are an essential feature of this process to target those capable of organising serious opposition.
His method of gathering intelligence relies heavily on a 'large number of low grade sources' - small pieces of information acquired by the police and army - fed into computers to build up a total picture of the community and its inhabitants.'It is... essential that soldiers and policemen should be trained to get all the information they can by overt means and their employment, and leisure activities, if any, should be planned with this in mind.' (Low Intensity Operations)
At the same time 'psychological operations' are used in an attempt to isolate the opposition from the people. These include propaganda against the opposition cause, use of the press and media to put over the government side, government schemes to win 'moderate' opinion and support, 'dirty tricks' such as fake leaflets and eventually provocateurs and agents to masquerade as oppositionists in order to discredit the cause, and finally, if necessary, the assassination of leading oppositionists. The aim, in Kitson's words, is...'to discover and neutralise the genuine subversive element...'
and'....to associate as many prominent members of the population, especially those who may have been engaged in non-violent action with the government.'
'Intelligence gathering' and 'psychological operations', Kitson emphasised, had to take place before the emergence of subversion or an offensive phase of conflict had begun. This is the significance behind Newman's and Kitson's appointments in Britain. The ruling class is preparing for the major unrest and popular rebellion which is inevitable even here in Britain.
Newman's actions as head of London's police have shown him putting these theories into action. Under the guise of 'community policing' Newman has set up a network of consultative committees which both link 'moderate' elements in the community with the police and provide masses of intelligence for them. Whilst Labour politicians see community policing as the alternative to repression, Newman has no such illusions:'It is a pity this concept of hard and soft policing has become polarised, because they are two complementary aspects. The basic mission of the police is to preserve order and they have a range of ways to do this.'
Newman's 'range' includes intelligence units in each of London's police districts, to spy especially on black people. All the information gathered is stored on massive computer systems and enables the police to target opposition and deal with it before it takes root in the working class.
Newman is also an expert at psychological operations, including manipulation of the media. His statements in July 1983 labelling those organising against police repression as subversives and criminals were aimed at softening up public opinion to allow the police to hammer opposition. In just the same way the massive propaganda about black crime figures is used to forestall public disquiet about the brutal and vicious policing of black areas. Deaths in police custody are rising rapidly with scarcely a ripple of concern from the labour movement or liberal public figures.
It is the poor working class areas which have borne the brunt ofthis attack. Black youth are being criminalised on a huge scale with over 40% of Borstal inmates being black. Prisons too are being prepared to house growing numbers and an increasingly political population. Repression is mounting inside the gaols and an apparatus of secrecy and censorship allows the prison authorities to inflict a terrible regime on rebellious prisoners. Beatings, druggings, long periods of solitary, rapid movements from prison to prison are commonplace, especially against Irish, black and other political prisoners. And for the youth who rebel they have set up short, sharp shock centres aimed at so terrifying the youth that they will lie down as the imperialist Juggernaut rolls over them.
Alongside this greater repression has gone a systematic attack on democratic rights. The right to organise political protest is being rapidly eroded. Marches are banned as they were in Scotland during the hunger strike. Left-wing newspaper sellers are harassed and arrested. Street meetings are attacked. Marches, especially those involving black youth, are attacked by the police. The courts are used to remand 'troublesome' people for months on end, to deny legal aid to those attacked by police, to pass punitive sentences against those daring to oppose police repression. As yet this repression is concentrated against the small forces of opposition. But as soon as these forces grow then so too will this openly political policing.
It is against those who organise opposition that repression is concentrated. Thus while anti-trade union laws have been passed, no sustained opposition to them has taken place. So far unions faced with legal proceedings and heavy fines have very quickly backed down - the 1983 National Graphical Association (NGA) dispute was a case in point. When a serious struggle comes from a section of trade unionists repression is used. In 1981 the Laurence Scott factory in Manchester was the scene of a huge police operation. Helicopters were used by the employers to get into the factory and seize machinery. All police leave in Manchester was cancelled for the day. The NGA's mass picket of the Stockport Messenger in November 1983 was brutally attacked by the police. Other small strikes have met such repression especially those involving black people such as Grunwicks. For the present however the ruling class fears little from the trade union movement and that movement has not lifted a finger to counter attacks on democratic rights. This task has fallen to those on the sharp end of the state's attack and black youth have shown the spirit and determination which will be necessary in this struggle.
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