Socialist Worker

Thatcher echo from Blunkett boosts Nazis

Issue No. 1798

HOME SECRETARY David Blunkett last week echoed one of the most disgusting speeches that Tory Margaret Thatcher ever made. In April 1978 Thatcher, then leader of the Tory opposition, said that the public were 'really afraid that this country might be swamped by people of a different culture'.

Blunkett has now said that refugee children will be ghettoised in detention centres to prevent them 'swamping the local school'. His speech was an effort to justify the harshest measures yet against refugees and their children. He says schools cannot cope with the numbers of refugee children they are now receiving. In fact most schools cope without special difficulties. The only problems are when lots of children arrive in small communities.

But such events are the result of the dispersal policy, a policy that New Labour invented. This has meant refugees are shipped out to deprived, underfunded communities around Britain and dumped. Blunkett's solution is to attack the victims of his policies. He wants to concentrate refugees in camps, segregated from local people. They will not be allowed to attend mainstream schools or use local doctors.

Feeding racism

The leader of the moderate ATL teachers' union has condemned this as creating apartheid for refugee children. Blunkett doesn't praise the contribution refugees and immigrants have made to Britain, and say they are welcome here.

New Labour ministers say that being tough on refugees will cut the ground from under parties like the BNP. In reality it will give the Nazis confidence. As BNP leader Nick Griffin said two years ago, 'It is quite fun to watch government ministers play the race card-in far cruder terms than we would ever use-but pretend not to. It legitimises us.' It has always been true that bending to the arguments of the far right only strengthens them.

In France the Socialist Party's Edith Cresson promised in 1991 to 'charter planes' to send back illegal immigrants. Such moves only helped Le Pen. In March 1968 the right wing press and Tories whipped up a scare that Asians in Kenya who held British passports might 'flood' into Britain. The Labour government rushed an immigration bill through parliament in a day and a night. It was a blatantly racist law that restricted the right of Kenyan Asians' entry into Britain.

This did not silence the racists. It encouraged them. The next month Tory MP Enoch Powell made his racist 'rivers of blood' speech. The Nazi National Front's organiser in Sheffield said, 'Powell's speech gave our membership and morale a tremendous boost.' In 1976 the media whipped up another scare over refugees. Some 250 Asian people who held British passports were expelled from the African country of Malawi.

They fled to Britain where they were dumped in a hotel without any cash or food. The Tories eagerly joined in the media hysteria over the Malawi Asians.

1970s warning

Labour gave in to the racism. The party's chief whip, Bob Mellish, made a key anti-immigrant speech in parliament in May 1976: 'I say enough is enough. This burden cannot go on being taken by our people alone. 'Let us start talking about whether we cannot pay their fares and their rehabilitation back to India.'

The Labour government rushed through tighter immigration law within days. It was based on Tory Jonathan Aitken's motion, and removed the right of British passport holders to enter Britain. The National Front seized its chance. Mellish's speech allowed them to say it was legitimate to demand repatriation of all black people. During 1976 they made substantial electoral gains. In Blackburn the National Front and another Nazi group got a combined vote of 38 percent. In a by-election in Deptford, south London, the Nazis polled 44 percent of the vote.

There was a wave of racist attacks. Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18 year old, was stabbed to death by a National Front inspired gang in Southall, west London. A 76 year old woman, Mohan Devi Gautam, died after being dragged from her home by white youths and set alight.

At least four Asians in east London were murdered by white gangs in the two years after the Malawi Asians scare. The executioners were Nazis and those influenced by them. But Mellish's speech was the death sentence.

When Thatcher made her 'swamping' speech in 1978 the Nazis were already on the decline because people had begun to fight back against them. Eight months earlier the Nazis had been humiliated by a counter-demonstration in Lewisham, south east London, despite heavy police protection. The Anti Nazi League was launched in its wake. But Thatcher's speech gave the Nazis a short term boost.

Black and white

It was not her pandering to racism which broke them. What continued their decline was the organisation of two massive Anti Nazi League carnivals and regular anti-Nazi activities in areas like east London. Then the riots in 1981 united disaffected black and white youth on the streets. The current New Labour government has given in to the racism whipped up by the right wing press and the Tories over immigration. Their concessions to the arguments of the right wing have helped the BNP.


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Sat 4 May 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1798
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