45 years of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

In this 300th edition of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, we celebrate the fact that 2024 marks our 45th year of publication. The title was chosen to express the political position we hold: that any movement for socialism in imperialist Britain cannot be built unless the fight against racism and imperialism is central to its understanding and practice. This is what we conclude from living in a period of monopoly capitalism, also known as imperialism, and this view has directed the political theory and practice of the Revolutionary Communist Group and its newspaper. Even before we published FRFI, we had cut our teeth campaigning in solidarity with the Irish liberation struggle of the 1970s. This was where we learned the centrality of fighting imperialism for a revolutionary working-class movement in Britain, and it defined the separation between our trend and the opportunism of the traditional British left.

Over 45 years, the core positions in FRFI have not significantly changed but they have been expanded and made more concrete in the light of experience and practice. Inevitably, the political outcome of struggles has often been different to what we had hoped. The progress that we fought for optimistically, organising within and initiating protest movements, has frequently been set back by sectarian forces mobilised against any militant working class or anti-imperialist movement. In confronting such setbacks, we have developed a deeper understanding of the centrality of our stand against opportunism.

FRFI is published in the world’s oldest imperialist country, where the historical course of the industrial revolution, with capital accumulated largely by the slave trade and colonisation, has decisively determined British economic and political formations and class relations. The high monopoly profits that imperialist nations derive from the super-exploitation of oppressed nations makes it possible for the ruling class to create privileged sections of workers in imperialist countries – a labour aristocracy. This upper stratum of the working class dominates the British labour movement and ties it to imperialism – the economic foundation of its status and privileges. The labour aristocracy expresses itself politically through the Labour Party and controls the trade union movement. Irrespective of whether it is in government or merely in opposition, FRFI regards the British Labour Party as a racist, imperialist party from the earliest days of its foundation to represent the interests of these better-off sections of the working class.

Over the past 45 years, FRFI has – almost alone amongst the British left – called on workers not to vote Labour, but rather to ‘go out to the people’ and organise among the most oppressed sections and their supporters. In 1997, FRFI was able to point out what a future Blair Labour government would be like before it was elected. That government’s brutal warmongering in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan, and its military offensives all over the world were evidence that Labour would ruthlessly pursue British interests at all costs. Thirteen years of an openly racist, imperialist, and warmongering Labour government showed clearly that the pre-condition for an anti-imperialist or socialist movement must be a fundamental break with the British Labour Party. This is a lesson that British left groups refuse to learn as we enter the pre-election period of 2024 and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) calls, once again, for a vote for Labour. This is despite the essential similarities between the Tories and Labour on all issues from immigration, Israeli aggression against Palestinians, courting support from big business and the City of London, restrictions on workers’ rights and the commitment to fiscal control to limit funding for social services. The mainstream parties, including the Greens, share the view that funding from the state, on health, housing, education and so forth, depends on how much of the national budget collected from taxes can be distributed without challenging private property rights and capitalist profits. Their reformist programmes are concerned with the distribution of wealth rather than the production of profit and are dependent on the success or otherwise of what they call the ‘economy’.

From 1997 to 2010, the then Labour government oversaw a massive transfer of public funds to private interests as it privatised schools, the probation service, elderly care, child fostering and outsourced health services, transport and energy supplies. It also achieved an unprecedented record on creating new criminal laws, introducing 3,600 new offences between 1997 and 2008 alone. These are designed to control and threaten working class people and include the outrageous Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) indeterminate sentence. Although abolished in 2012 to be replaced by Extended Sentences, thousands are still in prison under IPP.
Through our work in solidarity with Irish prisoners in the 1970s-80s we came to support the struggles for the rights of other prisoners. In 1990 prisoners across the system rose up against the punitive conditions and brutality they were forced to endure. Our comrades supported them on the streets and we carried their stories in the paper, culminating in the publication in 1995 of Strangeways 1990: a serious disturbance, the only book to cover this historic uprising. Every issue of FRFI since the early 1980s has carried a Prisoners Fightback page and our principled work on this issue is unique on the British left. We send the paper free to prisoners and encourage our supporters to help fund this work.

FRFI has always opposed all British immigration controls and has played a central role in many anti-racist and anti-deportation campaigns. We understand state racism as the form that national oppression takes in the imperialist country. The imperialist nations brutally exploit and impoverish the oppressed nations, then erect barriers to keep out immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers fleeing from the resulting war and poverty. Precisely because of the daily experience of their lives in Britain, of British state racism and repression, of poverty wages and unemployment, the oppressed sections of the working class have few illusions about the character of the British capitalist state or imperialism. They are therefore the key to the development of an anti-imperialist movement and socialist movement in Britain. Their struggles can begin to unify the working class against racism and imperialism as the joint enemies of justice and progress to socialism. FRFI has made this point consistently over 45 years: building a movement against the brutal occupation of Ireland throughout the 1980s, demanding an end to British support for the racist South African apartheid state; calling for British imperialism out of the Middle East in the 1990s and consistently standing against the Zionist Israeli state and in support of self-determination for the Irish people. Reporting on liberation movements around the world continues to feature in every issue of the newspaper. During the period of the imperialist wars on Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 onwards, we attempted to build an anti-imperialist current in the anti-war movement, but this movement continued to identify with the Labour Party and has since dwindled to an ineffectual Stop the War grouping.

Likewise, FRFI has met with hostility from the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) over the years because of its ties to the Labour Party and objection to us reminding readers of Britain’s long support for Zionism by all governments over the last 75 years. Today the brutal Zionist attack on Gaza has drawn in massive support from many quarters, particularly British Muslims, and the issue is increasingly recognised as an anti-imperialist struggle. As FRFI records, socialist Cuba is leading the way by mobilising its entire population in support of the Palestinian struggle as they themselves face the daily cruelties of the US blockade.

Ahead of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, FRFI argued that far from moderating imperialism’s predatory character, the collapse of the socialist bloc would remove all restraints on imperialism’s drive to carve up and divide the world. We had already had no illusions about the reactionary nature of the imperialist-backed Solidarnosc movement in Poland, and we understood the devastating effect that the collapse of the socialist bloc would have on the international working-class movement, the oppressed nations, and most people in Eastern Europe. FRFI was virtually isolated in arguing this position, just as we continue to be almost alone on the British left in our consistent support for the socialist revolution in Cuba. FRFI regularly reports on the concrete measures that the Cuban Communist Party has taken in building and advancing socialism at home, on the leading role it has played in opposing US imperialism and on its exemplary internationalism towards the oppressed nations impoverished by imperialism.

For 45 years our newspaper has published consistent political commentary and analysis from a communist, and therefore an internationalist, perspective. From our first issue to number 300 today we have argued that the main organisations of what we call the British petit bourgeois left are a major obstacle to the building of an anti-imperialist movement based on the working class and oppressed in this country. We have shown consistently how these ‘respectable’ organisations attack the resistance of the oppressed, whether liberation movements taking up arms to defend themselves, black youth fighting police on the streets of British cities, miners’ hit squads dealing with scabs breaking the strike or poll tax protesters defending themselves against police violence. While attacking all these forces for not being ‘socialist’ enough, the British left have refused to break with the racist, imperialist Labour Party. These are the voices of moderation that appear each time a campaign of working class demands emerges, whether on housing, the privatisation of health care or, as today, the call for solidarity with the Palestinian resistance. Almost invariably such opportunists are tied to the Labour Party and support voting for it in successive local and general elections.

The strength of all the articles, reports and reviews carried in FRFI is that they are based upon a secure understanding of Marx’s works on the capitalist system. In the 1970s David Yaffe was part of a movement to re-examine Marx’s writings, and his theoretical contributions from that time have stood us in good stead. Yaffe’s main theoretical contributions can be summed up as: (1) re-establishing the primary significance of Marx’s crisis theory and the emergence of monopoly capitalism; (2) developing a concrete analysis of British imperialism and, in correlation, the split in the working-class movement as the material basis for reformism and opportunism; (3) the importance of international solidarity against imperialism and the link between fighting imperialism abroad and at home where imperialism takes the form of state racism; (4) the real character of the post-1990 phenomenon known as ‘globalisation’ also labelled ‘neo-liberalism’ – as a resurgence of an imperialist onslaught and the parasitic and decaying character of British imperialism that drives it.

These principles have provided the basis for understanding concrete social relations as they unfold. So, for example, FRFI was able to locate the banking crisis of 2007-8 – which the Tories and the Labour Party ascribed to rising state expenditure on social security – as an excuse for imposing austerity on the working class. Similarly, the complexities of Brexit were explained in terms of inter-imperialist rivalries and the contradictory interests of sections of the ruling class.

The tendencies of monopoly capitalism have strengthened rapidly over the years. The worldwide polarisation of wealth and poverty has reached such a degree that it now affects the populations of the imperialist (developed) world, causing serious concern to sections of the ruling class. The impact of investment by huge monopolies like BlackRock, supported by banking conglomerates like Barclays, for the extraction of primary sources and intensive mono-agriculture is destroying land and communities and driving migration, hunger, and wars. FRFI has regular coverage of environmental issues within the context of imperialism’s drive to global exploitation to the point of extinction.

We ask our readers to support the continued production of FRFI by taking out a regular subscription and receiving copies to sell. Help us keep this unique voice of international solidarity and working-class interest alive at a crucial time of global crisis.

Susan Davidson and David Yaffe




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