Socialist Worker

Regional summits aim to kick racism out of the general election campaign

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2553

The Stand Up To Racism summit in Birmingham last Saturday

The Stand Up To Racism summit in Birmingham last Saturday (Pic: Stand Up To Racism)


The Tories and right wing press want their racist, nationalist vision for Brexit to dominate the general election campaign.

The Tory manifesto will call for slashing immigration to the “tens of thousands”.

They will attack migrants even though some ministers worry about upsetting their friends in big business who rely on migrant workers.

Theresa May is determined to ramp up racism in order to win right wing support and divide working class people.

Her government is refusing to guarantee European Union (EU) migrants’ right to remain and wants to dump freedom of movement altogether.

The pressure is on for left wing leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party to ape the right on immigration.

Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, has argued that free movement for EU migrants has to end.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) is organising to kick racism out of the general election.

A SUTR regional summit in Birmingham last Saturday brought together over 130 people from across the West Midlands.

Saira, one of the women who confronted the English Defence League in Birmingham last month, spoke to Socialist Worker.

“There is definitely an Islamophobic campaign—we saw that before with the London mayoral campaign and Sadiq Khan,” she said.

Immigration

“Around Brexit there’s a lot of talk about immigration too.

“All these organisations and individuals need to take a stand—even going into their conferences like that woman did with Ukip.”

Andrew Scattergood, FBU firefighters’ union regional chair, called on the labour movement to reject racist myths about immigration.

“It’s not migrant workers suppressing wages—it’s the profiteering bosses and politicians in Westminster,” he said.

People discussed how to take that message into every workplace, school and neighbourhood.

As Scattergood said, “I’ve seen so many times people wanting to take on the argument but they don’t have the tools in their chest. We need to put the arguments in the members’ hands.”

Workshops focused on defending EU migrants’ right to remain and free movement, fighting Islamophobia and the “Prevent” strategy, and building Love Music Hate Racism.

Anti-racists were set to campaign in Birmingham as part of SUTR’s day of action to “Kick Racism out the election” day of action this Wednesday.

Further regional summits are planned in Manchester, Bristol and Sheffield later this month.

Stand Up To Racism has launched a statement with major political, trade union and faith community figures calling on parties and candidates to keep racism out of the election.

Initial signatories include Diane Abbott, John McDonnell, Kevin Courtney of the NUT teachers’ union, Mark Serwotka of the PCS civil service workers’ union and Tony Kearns of the CWU union.

Go to bit.ly/2qSNtB0 to find details of a regional summit near you. Keep racism out of the election statement at standuptoracism.org.uk

We will resist Islamophobia

Resisting the Tories’ assault on Muslims was an important part of the Stand Up To Racism regional summit in Birmingham.

At the workshop on challenging Islamophobia people debated if workers should outright boycott the Islamophobic “Prevent” strategy.

This legally forces public sector workers, such as teachers, to spy for signs of “radicalisation”.

One Unison union member from Coventry said, “The unions have good national policy on it, but there’s no cast iron guarantee that if we challenge it we won’t be dismissed.

“The union should say we’ll bring in the big guns to defend people.” The workshop also heard about local Muslim anti-war campaigner Abu Alamgir, who has been on the receiving end of police Islamophobia.

“The police came to my house asking why I’ve been going to political meetings and what my political opinions on issues such as Palestine are,” he told Socialist Worker.

“But that’s my right to freedom of speech.”


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