Socialist Worker

‘We fought the demonising of black people then, and we need to do the same today’

by Gus John
Issue No. 2348

We had to struggle against the demonising of black people throughout Margaret Thatcher’s rule. 

She tried to introduce fear into white people. 

In 1978 she claimed people feared that Britain would be “swamped” by immigrants. That was typical of her.

She gave the police more powers to harass us, from Operation Swamp 81 in Brixton onwards. 

Those of us who lived through the period could see the entrenchment of a culture that denied fundamental rights to particular groups.

Both main political parties tended to play the immigration card before Thatcher was elected.

Elected politicians tended to use us for moral panics and ignore the contribution black people made to British society.

Thatcher continued that with a vengeance. And we faced racism on the streets from the National Front.

A strong anti-racist and anti-fascist movement that incorporated people from all backgrounds lessened its impact. 

But the racism still had an impact. There were hundreds of racist killings that the authorities did nothing about. 

Thatcher was the archangel of the whole neoliberal project, which had a terrible impact on poor people and particularly black people.

For someone who was supposed to be about deregulation, she was obsessed with centralising power and micro-managing people’s lives.

She set out to destroy the local democracy that allowed locally elected councils to safeguard the most vulnerable in society. 

The weak were despised or forgotten. But we would not simply be flung on the scrapheap.

We saw the rise of strong social currents in the working class and particularly among black people. 

We need a resurgence of that anger today.

Gus John helped organise some of the most militant black action against racism Britain has ever seen following the New Cross Fire in South London in 1981

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Tue 9 Apr 2013, 19:00 BST
Issue No. 2348
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