Hundreds of activists from all over Britain are set to gather in central London on 21 October for the second Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) conference.
It follows last year’s 1,500-strong conference. The past 12 months have seen mass protests against US president Donald Trump and breakthroughs for far right parties in Germany and France.
SUTR co-convenor Weyman Bennett told Socialist Worker, “This conference comes at a critical moment.
“We see a resurgence of the racist populist right.
“There’s a US president that gives tacit support to the Nazis in Charlottesville, the massive growth of Islamophobia and the murder of young black people by the police.
“But we’ve also seen the most positive support for an anti-racist movement in a generation.”
Trump’s election gave a boost to racists across the world. But he provoked the biggest demonstrations the US has seen in many years.
It is essential to address this poison.
Demonstrations in Britain against plans to give him a state visit also drew in tens of thousands—and saw the plans put on ice.
Labour MP David Lammy told the SUTR fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference that if Trump does come, “We have to be on the streets—and if I have to chain myself to the door of Number 10, this black man will do it.”
The threat from the racist right is serious—so the need to build the opposition is urgent.
Weyman said, “We have the chance to build such a movement and this conference is an essential place for trade unionists and anti-racists to organise one.”
The SUTR conference will be an important opportunity to equip campaigners with the counter-arguments they need to address the racist lies.
Tories abandon refugees in Europe
Of the 135,000 refugees who crossed the sea into Europe last year, some 2,681 are estimated to have died on the way.
Hundreds face squalor and danger at Britain’s border in northern France.
Clare Moseley of the refugee charity Care4Calais told Socialist Worker, “There’s been a real effort by governments to make it appear that the problem has gone away.
“But refugees still don’t have food, shelter and access to clean running water.”
SUTR and Care4Calais are running a new autumn/winter appeal, calling both for donations and for volunteers to go to Calais after the conference.
The other priority is changing the system that shuts people out.
Clare said, “This is the biggest crisis in a generation.
“But Britain uses the Dublin Convention system to send refugees back to Italy, Greece or Bulgaria. It’s completely unfair.”
Prevent - a clampdown on Muslims
The recent conviction of Muhammad Rabbani on trumped up charges is a reminder of the clampdown on Muslims.
Rabbani is the international director of human rights group Cage.
His trial was designed to spread fear among those who have resisted the logic of the “war on terror”.
Moazzam Begg, Cage’s director of outreach, has been speaking at SUTR meetings across Britain.
He slammed the Prevent strategy which compels public service workers to spy on Muslims for signs of “radicalisation”.
Moazzam said, “Wherever you go it’s there like a shadow hanging over you. You cannot avoid it. The question mark follows you.”
The government’s Islamophobia has its echo on the streets—from acid attacks to the Football Lads Alliance’s demonstrations that attract racists and fascists.
Harassment stats show up police discrimination
Racist harassment by the police is a fact of life for many people in Britain.
Black people are four times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched by the cops.
In London even the Metropolitan Police figures show that black people are far more likely to be victims of police violence than white people.
Rashan’s father Esa Charles is among the speakers at the conference.
Racism is deeply ingrained in the police force.
Yet mass protests and civil disobedience have forced the cops onto the back foot before and can do so again.
Trade unionists say, unity will beat the racists
Trade unions are a core part of the anti-racist movement.
Graham Clough is secretary of a CWU union branch in South Yorkshire and is currently building a yes vote in the postal workers’ strike ballot.
He spoke at Rotherham’s SUTR meeting.
“It’s important for trade unionists to find time for anti?racism” he told Socialist Worker.
“And when you’re in dispute it creates unity. The employers’ attacks affect everyone—therefore everyone is welcome on the picket line.”
Unions are divided on immigration policy, with only a minority taking a principled defence of migrant rights and others regrettably calling for more restrictions.
But there is broad agreement on defending European Union migrants who are already here.
Graham said, “European workers at Royal Mail are part of the family—and that’s the way it’s going to stay.
Scapegoating is not the answer
Politicians deflect blame for everything, from low pay to the housing crisis and under-pressure public services, onto migrant workers.
The real culprits are cuts and privatisation. Many people who accept some of these arguments are also appalled by racism and committed to fighting it.
But accepting that immigration is a problem gives ground to those who want to attack immigrants.
Successful anti-racism means being able to take on the racists’ arguments.