Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott, new shadow home secretary, were greeted with a standing ovation as they entered the Stand Up To Racism conference today, Saturday.
Corbyn told the conference, “I consider it an honour to be amongst people I have known for many years who have stood the test of time in standing up for a decent society that drives racism from its midst.”
Referring to Islington councillor and refugee Michelline Ngongo he said, “They’re the heroes that we should be celebrating.”
And he thanked Labour Lord Alf Dubs, who has pushed for more refugee children in Calais to be let into Britain.
Corbyn talked about the importance of fighting racism and fascism on the streets. “Tomorrow I’m going to be in the East End,” he said. “I’m going to Cable Street to remember those who stood up against the fascists coming in.
“1936 was an absolute turning point in the battle against fascism in Britain. That demonstration sealed the fate of the fascists and Mosley. We should remember them and remember the unity that helped to stop them in their tracks.”
Corbyn noted a “big spike in hate crime and abuse” since the Brexit vote.
He added, “It’s important that we confront this. Confront it by legal means. Confront it by supporting communities. But above all confront it by reaching out to all communities so that we can come together.”
And he spoke of the need for solidarity with refugees. “There are more displaced people around the world now than at any time on record,” he said. “There are desperate people dying in oceans and seas across the world.”
But he said solidarity involves seeking, “a political solution to the war in Syria and the places that are causing people to flee in the first place.”
And it also involves doing more to help refugees. “Surely somewhere there has to be the hand of humanity, the hand of support to reach out to those people,” he said. “Don’t allow those people who are so desperate to be demonised.”
Corbyn finished by saying, “Campaigning is very important. When we come together we can achieve a great deal. Think of the strength of communities together.
“Think of what they can achieve when we understand that diversity is not a problem, it’s a strength.”
There could be no more important time to hold this conference. We are going to stand up to racism”
Abbott welcomed the conference, telling the rally, “There could be no more important time to hold this conference. We are going to continue to stand up to racism.”
She attacked the Tories’ promised racist attacks on migrants at their party conference last week. “What sort of country is this becoming when senior politicians are talking about companies and businesses keeping lists of foreign workers?” she asked.
“We know that post the Brexit vote is a difficult time for this country. But however you voted everyone in this hall can agree that the rise in racism and racist attacks that we’ve seen since is utterly deplorable.”
On her move to shadow home secretary she said, “I am proud to be shadow home secretary. It is no small thing for someone who’s parents emigrated here in the 1950s.
“I will also work to uphold our rights. And I will also work to fight against racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-immigrant policies.
“I am not pretending that taking this political position will be easy. We will find weekend after weekend of smear stories in the press. I will not be put off by that.
“I, as your shadow home secretary, will be there in the struggle.”
SUTR joint convenor Sabby Dhalu opened the final plenary, announcing to cheers that “We’ve seen today the birth of a new movement against racism in Britain.”
Refugees turned Labour politicians councillor Michelline Safi Ngongo and Lord Alf Dubs hailed a successful day. Dubs said, “It’s been a fantastic day and it’s a fantastic campaign. I’m proud to be part of it. We’ll go from strength to strength and no-one can stop us.
Alex Kenny is an NUT teachers’ union national executive committee member. He attacked policy that sees teachers having to collect information on pupils’ nationality and country of birth.
Gloria Mills from the TUC general council called on people to join the Stand Up To Racism demonstration on UN Anti Racism Day on 18 March.
Malia Bouattia, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said, “When the people in power refuse to listen we have to remind ourselves, when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes our duty.”
Several speakers referred to the anti-fascist battle of Cable Street, whose 80th anniversary is to be marked with a march on Sunday. Edie Freeman of the Jewish Council or Rights and Equality said, “Cable Street is a great model for what can be achIeved when we stand together.”
Speakers from Muslim organisations Mend and the Muslim Council of Britain vowed to be part of coming SUTR initiatives.
The conference represents a real step forward for the anti-racist movement at a crucial time. It now needs to be rolled out in every city and town to repulse the toxic policies coming from those at the top of society.
We need a mass anti-racist movement and fighting socialist politics to point the finger at the rich and powerful for the problems in society. SUTR’s plans are:
Other events we encourage our supporters to attend
500 people rallied in London
Another sign of establishment crisis
Support this crucial fight
His treatment exposes the British state