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Year 2009 No. 57, August 5, 2009 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Oppose the Racism of the British State! Defend the Rights of All!

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Oppose the Racism of the British State! Defend the Rights of All!

Struggles for Black Community

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Oppose the Racism of the British State! Defend the Rights of All!

Today, August 5, sees the official formation of the UK Border Agency, charged with carrying out the agenda of the current Labour government in the areas of border control, political asylum and economic migration. This is a significant landmark in the development of the reactionary and divisive programme of the British state in regard to immigration and migrants, which has seen increasingly repressive and racist legislation being introduced at regular intervals over the past 30 years and more.

            The racist policy of the British state is evident in the formation of the UK Border Agency, along with the further announcements by the government regarding measures for the “earning” of citizenship. This racist policy is guided by criteria based on 19th century conceptions of the “white man's burden”, bolstered by the chauvinist disinformation that immigration is “running out of control” because of hordes of unworthy people wanting to take advantage of Britain’s way of life, and the outlook that citizenship is a privilege. It is in contempt of the principle that rights belong to people by virtue of their being human. The British government’s racist policy of denying the human rights of immigrants and refugees must be brought to an end.

            The government, by means of this racist programme, is attacking the rights of all. The history of the state’s immigration policy demonstrates its racist agenda and how it has been used to serve the needs of the owners of capital to exploit the working class at home and continue its colonial exploitation throughout the globe. It has been used to attempt to divert the people from uniting to solve the problems facing society, as well as to recruit both cheap labour and skilled labour from abroad. When it has served it to pass racist immigration laws to prevent an “influx” of “Asian immigrants”, “non-patrial subjects” or other categories of refugees and immigrants, it has not hesitated to stoop to do so. The whole logic of an “influx” is itself a Hitlerite justification based on numbers of non-white immigrants “swamping” the country and imputes to the people as a whole the racism which actually originates from the state itself. It is evident that the immigration policy of the government and the hysteria about illegal immigrants is designed with no other purpose but to provide the owners of capital with exactly the kind of “human capital” that they need to make themselves competitive in the global marketplace. As competition is rendered more intense by the process of globalisation, so are the numbers of human beings throughout the world caught as its victims increasing. In conjunction, the immigration policies of Britain and the other EU powers are being geared increasingly to letting into the country only those who fit the criteria dictated by the monopolies.

            The Commonwealth Immigrants Bill of 1961 effectively prevented further mass immigration to Britain from parts of its former Empire, and this was followed by several further pieces of legislation which aimed to further divide the working class and was founded on a racist policy of immigration control. The propaganda for a “flood” of non-white immigration in 1968 was followed by an Act which barred Kenyan Asians from obtaining British passports and drew the distinction between “patrial” citizens of Britain and those who were not.

            The 1981 British Nationality Act was a racist and chauvinist measure which further attacked the rights of all, and which created three categories of British citizenship and further reduced the criteria for eligibility for citizenship. It violated internationally established norms and principles, conflating and deliberately mixing up the distinct categories of citizenship and nationality, and institutionalising a false notion of “British nationality”.

            The 1999 Asylum and Immigration Act placed great restrictions on political refugees, through a policy of “dispersal” throughout Britain which left refugees isolated from their communities and through the introduction of “support vouchers” rather than cash for the purchase of basic necessities.

            The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act of 2002 put in place further powers of detention and removal for asylum seekers and migrant workers, and removed the ability of this section of the working class to organise and survive by removing the right of asylum seekers to work and removing all support for those whose asylum claims were not successful.

            The Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 placed further limitations on the criteria for applying for asylum, made destroying travel or personal documentation illegal and gave Immigration Officers further powers of arrest, search and seizure in relation to “immigration offences”.

            The Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 created further exclusions from eligibility for asylum and gave the state more powers to persecute undocumented workers.

            The UK Borders Act 2007 made further changes to the criteria for citizenship and allowed for an increased use of biometrics, as well as introducing the Points Based System for migrant workers, criminalising employers of "illegal migrant workers" and passing the financial cost of application onto the workers themselves.

            This month, the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 created a “Border Force” where officers combining immigration and customs duties operate at the border, as well creating Local Immigration Teams which would see the linking of immigration and policed forces to undermine community cohesion and exploit “community concerns” on immigration.

            Such substantial moves since New Labour came to power have seen the growth of what could be called a neo-military approach to the immigration system, which will be formalised under current Conservative plans to create a Border Police force which would be led by Special Branch.

            These policies represent an attack on the rights of refugees, immigrants and workers to organise, to flee persecution, to provide for their families, to work and to live freely without detention or persecution, and are attack on the rights of all. WDIE calls on the working class and people to step up the organising of practical opposition to the government’s agenda and to defend asylum seekers and migrant workers from attack. The “one nation” politics of New Labour to rally all behind its ideology to entrench monopoly right must be challenged and opposed. Citizenship must be given a modern definition consistent with the rights which belong to all people by virtue of being human.

An Injury to One Is An Injury to All!
No to the Racist Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act!
Defend the Rights of All!

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Struggles for Black Community

Four films by Colin Prescod (Institute of Race Relations, 2008)

This is a very welcome re-issue in DVD format of four documentary films on the struggles of four “Black communities” in Cardiff, Ladbroke Grove, London, Southall and Leicester, commissioned by Channel 4 and made by Colin Prescod in 1982. Here “Black” refers to communities that were South Asian, African and Caribbean in origin and one of the key themes of the films, especially of the two focusing on Southall and Leicester, is that these “Black communities” were forged through a common struggle of resistance against racism. In this regard, the director, Colin Prescod, comments that “each film portrays the history and strength of one particular area… and emphasises a particular aspect of historical Black struggle. But the films also compliment each other – so that the series contributes to building a coherent history of Black people in British communities from the nineteenth in to the twentieth centuries.”

            Indeed perhaps the most important aspects of the four films are that they capture a history of struggle through the testimony of those who participated, without comment from the now ubiquitous talking heads. Whether in regard to the resistance to Moseley, the fascists and the police during the Notting Hill riots of the late 1950s, or the fascists and police attacks on the community in Southall in the late 1970s and early 1980s the narration is from those who were the resisters. Here too are highlighted the struggles in the workplace, the attempts to unionise, or to overcome the class collaboration and racism of union bigwigs from the 1950s to the 1980s. The activists of the Indian Workers Association recount some of that organisation’s history and the important role that it played in the struggle in the struggle to organise workers at Imperial Typewriters in Leicester in the 1970s.

            Perhaps the most interesting of the four documentaries is the one that focuses on the community that has developed in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, since the 19th century. Here African and Caribbean seamen and their families established some of the oldest Black communities in Britain. But largely forgotten today are the forms of exploitation and racist oppression they had to face in the period following World War I, in which many African and Caribbean seamen had given their lives. In 1919, spurred on by union leaders, the press and police, racist mobs attacked not just the community in Tiger Bay, but similar communities throughout the country at a time when the class struggle was intensifying and revolutionary Councils of Action were being formed. There were several fatalities and subsequently attempts to deport some Caribbean seamen. In the 1920s and 1930s, the state then introduced openly racist legislation, such as the infamous Coloured Alien Seamen’s Order, to attack the wages and working conditions of all “Coloured seamen”, and ultimately all seamen, and also to increase the profits of the ship-owners as the economic crisis worsened. It was in such circumstances that, as a veteran of that period pointed out, the communists of Caribbean origin such as Harry O’Connell came to the fore.

            The four films capture an important aspect of Britain’s recent history. There is perhaps a tendency in highlighting the particular history and struggles of these “Black communities” to allow some of them to appear as almost separate from the struggles of other working people in the country, although this is clearly not the aim of the director. This is an important and timely re-issue.

Individuals can buy the four films on one DVD at the link below for £13.

Buy / check prices - Struggles for Black Community

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