Socialist Worker

How we're resisting the racist poison

Anti-racist activists from across Britain talk to Socialist Worker about their hopes for the future

Issue No. 2395

Graphic to illustrate the feature

Clockwise from left to right: Glasgow Girls with Amal Azzudin; Whipps Cross hospital strikers 2006; Police stop young people going to carnival, 2008; Romani asylum seekers hold protest meeting, 2001; Young people in east London regularly see off racist threats; Manchester mental health strikers, 2007; Doreen Lawrence speaking alongside the family of Trayvon Martin; Stopping the racist EDL in Brighton, 2010; Racist EDL thugs in Manchester, 2009; Soas cleaners in London, 2014 (Pic: Jess Hurd, Guy Smallman and Socialist Worker)

Ken Olende

Socialist Worker

In some ways things look very good for anti-racists. Many of our ideas are very popular. Things that socialists have pointed to for years, such as the corruption and racism of the police, are on the front pages of our daily papers.

Most people are outraged at the treatment of the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence during the police’s corrupt investigation.

But at the same time in workplaces and schools, in pubs, colleges and high streets there is a casual acceptance of racist ideas that we haven’t seen for decades.

Hostility to immigrants has been pushed by the Tories to take the pressure off them for their austerity attacks. It has been amplified by Ukip and shamefully echoed by much of the Labour leadership.

Here we bring together a range of anti-racist activists saying what they think needs to be done to turn back this tide. 

The Stand Up to Racism and Fascism events are a great step in countering this bigotry. 

But this is only the start.

Unite Against Fascism (UAF) put out the call for the protests and the campaign to stop British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin getting re-elected to the European Parliament.

Campaigning across Britain by UAF has been central to turning back the rise of both the BNP and the English Defence League (EDL).

But there is no room for complacency. We need to argue that scapegoating one lot of people—whether Bulgarian or Roma—is as damaging to our ability to fight back as blaming black or Asian people.

The scapegoating of migrants in the run-up to the elections is a way for politicians of all hues to avoid the fact that they are not prepared to challenge the vested interests that keep us poor.

There is a nasty spiral by which the right wing anti-immigrant populism of Ukip is encouraged by mainstream parties, who it then pulls to the right.

We have to draw a line in the sand saying that migrants and ethnic minorities are not in any way responsible for the crisis.

And we have to argue that while Ukip isn’t fascist, it is a nasty racist right wing party that has nothing to offer ordinary people. 

It only manages to seem attractive because the mainstream parties offer nothing. But there is an alternative.

Workers coming together, black and white, gay and straight, can push aside the rule of old Etonians, bankers and bosses.

Amal Azzudin

Glasgow Girls campaign

You need to get involved to stop racism. Sometimes it starts just by changing one person’s mind.

We started the Glasgow Girls campaign when I was 15 in 2005 and our school friend was threatened with deportation. She is a Roma from Kosovo who was taken in a dawn raid.

We didn’t sit down and think we’ll start a campaign. We wanted to help our friend and it just sort of happened.

Most people at the school weren’t interested at first. But through the campaign people came to understand why people have come here.

There was a lot of racism in the school. I wear a headscarf and it was pulled off. But once we started we got all sorts of support and as it went on people from different groups at the school started to talk to each other.

Richard A

Lewisham Anti-Racist Action Group

We have to build on previous successes of UAF.

We stopped the rise of the BNP and the EDL by building the maximum unity and opposing, by whatever means necessary, the particular forms in which racism occurs. 

We need to confront the rise of Ukip, with its Islamophobia and scapegoating of migrants.  

There is a vital role for the whole labour movement.

The Labour Party—as the likely next government—must not concede in any way to this nasty agenda that’s growing across Europe. 

We’ve already seen the beginnings of this locally.

The Labour MP and prospective MP signed the statement for the protests in the local press. People have worked together in the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign and the local People’s Assembly.

Grattan Puxon

Campaigner for Roma rights

It’s widely recognised that Roma are among the most excluded and marginalised. We feel it through constant discrimination, racist attacks and violence.

All of this now negatively influences mainstream politicians who see votes in anti-Gypsy policies.

But Roma communities exist in every country in Europe. That makes it possible to combat racism through acts of solidarity.

London Roma Nation Day takes place this year on Monday 7 April, with a roll-out across Europe the following day.

We’ve also started a campaign to redress that fact that Roma are not represented on the Holocaust Commission set up by David Cameron, even though 500,000 Roma were victims.

Kate Hurford

BME officer, Goldsmiths College, London

We need to keep an anti-racist atmosphere. At Goldsmiths we’re holding a Love Music Hate Racism gig at the end of next term. 

It could be a chance for students to come together with the local community to send a positive message that we welcome diversity and we are proud to be a part of such a multicultural area.

Lenin Escudero

Soas Unison cleaners’ rep

I think that the best way to combat racism is to build organisation and solidarity for equal rights and respect and dignity for all workers and people.

I think that through our Justice4Cleaners campaign many people have realised the important work we migrant workers do.

It should also be noted that migrant workers pay taxes like any other worker.

Our struggle is an example of organisation, courage, solidarity, faith and optimism.

Adam Cochrane

UAF activist in Harlow, Essex

This is the beginning of bringing together those who want to do something about the poison being pumped out by the media and politicians. 

We have just two months before the local and European elections.

Parties such as Ukip will play on people’s fears and peddle myths about migrants. 

Unfortunately, it does not seem that the other parties are going to be brave enough to stand up to them.

Like most things in society it will be up to us grassroots activists.

I will look round on the coach to the demonstration. The people travelling with me will be those who can come out and leaflet and petition against Ukip.

Hesketh Benoit

Activist in Haringey, north London 

We have to keep mobilising people. We have to keep pounding at the door of parliament to say we’re not putting up with racist institutions.

When somewhere is institutionally racist it’s our taxes that pay to run it. We’re not having that!

If we don’t stop them they’ll just continue to do it—all the institutions from local authorities through to the police and the army.

Back in the day I remember attempts to create equal opportunities. But all that’s gone now and it’s easier for racism to surface.

Institutional racism is a big problem, especially in the inner cities. I’m doing work on the police and stop and search. The police need to change the way they approach young people. 

I feel what’s going on but young people feel it even more, before they’re even out of school.

Ameen Hadi

Salford Unison treasurer (pc)

Manjeet Kaur, an asylum seeker who has been fighting deportation, lives in our area. Our branch is backing the lobby of her appeal at the start of next month.

We’ve also organised three days of training on discrimination at work. Black people are still over-represented in grievances and disciplinaries. 

We need to constantly challenge the acceptance of racist ideas in the workplace. 

And once we’ve raised these things it makes it easier to get people at work out leafleting for the Griffin Must Go campaign.

Fascist BNP leader Nick Griffin only needs 7 percent of the vote to stay on in the European Parliament. Everyone needs to go out and vote to stop that happening.

People at work realise that we can’t take on austerity if we’re not united, and fascists destroy that unity.

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