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United struggle can defend free movement

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Issue 2541
Mass demonstrations can be part of a movement that defends freedom of movement
Mass demonstrations can be part of a movement that defends freedom of movement (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Defending freedom of movement and migrant workers’ rights is a key dividing line in British politics.

Poll after poll shows that a majority of people want the government to guarantee the rights of European Union (EU) migrants already in Britain.

But desperate to pressure the EU into a good deal for bosses, Theresa May is using migrants as a bargaining chip.

Socialist Worker has always supported open borders because immigration controls—based on locking up groups of people—are inherently racist.

Freedom of movement is not the same as open borders. It is the present set up that allows EU citizens to travel and reside across Europe.

When it comes to keeping freedom of movement almost every politician is falling in behind the Tories.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry casually remarked that Labour would not “die in a ditch” to defend it.

They largely accept that people who voted to leave the EU are racist and want less immigration.

A YouGov poll this week showed Labour trailing behind the Tories and Ukip among manual workers and unemployed people.

Many Labour politicians will argue this shows the party has to move to the right and ape Ukip’s scapegoating.


Racism was whipped up by both sides during the EU referendum. But the Leave vote was, as Labour’s Dianne Abbot argued, a “cry of rage against the Westminster elite”.

We have to fight to pull that anger at the establishment in a left wing and anti-racist direction.

To defend freedom of movement, we need unity no matter how people voted.

It’s the Tories and the bosses, not migrants, who slash wages, shut hospitals and schools and sack workers. To stop that assault on working class people we need to be united and resist all their attempts to divide us.

A danger is that defending migrants becomes tied to a defence of the EU’s neoliberal single market.

We have to argue for a socialist and anti-racist alternative—no to the single market, yes to free movement.

The large protests against Donald Trump and Theresa May—and the mobilisations next week—show the potential to build a mass movement against racism and in defence of migrants.

The thousands of first-time protesters weren’t just angry at Trump, but also at May for her bigotry.

The demonstrations on 18 March, called by Stand Up To Racism and backed by the TUC, will be a key part of building on that mood.

Only by building unity can we have a movement that’s big enough and strong enough to give the Tories and their ilk a kicking.

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