Howard attack, tip of the iceberg

The Tories’ latest attack on asylum seekers and the tightening of immigration controls is another in the round of attacks on the whole of the working class. But the Labour Party is eagerly vying for a leading position in the chauvinist league. A united working class response is urgently needed. It is therefore important to examine the gains we have made since the last TUC ‘Unite against racism’ march

THE ANTI-RACIST movement has gathered momentum over the past few years with the setting up of the Anti-Nazi League, Youth Against Racism, Anti-Fascist Action and the Anti-Racist Alliance, as well as several local defence groups. Workers have been determined to combat the growing chauvinist trend - demonstrated by the election successes of the BNP, but also evident in all the mainstream parties.

The conference season adequately demonstrated this growing reliance on national chauvinism to rally the population. Tory and Labour fought for the position of the greatest British patriot. Lacking any real economic and social solutions to poverty and decay, Labour and Tory are desperately seeking scapegoats whilst going on the attack against the whole of the working class.

The home secretary’s latest proposals include the withdrawal of £200 million of social security benefits from asylum seekers and the abolition of asylum appeal oral hearings. This is on top of plans to tighten immigration controls, to include a ‘white list’ of countries to be regarded as ‘safe’ - and therefore closed to asylum seekers - and to extend the ‘snooper society’ to include employers of ‘illegal immigrants’. All these plans will be confirmed in the Queen’s speech on November 15 - we must be ready with our reply.

The CBI and small business response to the last proposal has perhaps been the most telling. “It’s unfair and would force us to raise our wages to attract safer people,” exclaimed the manager of KC Cleaning (Financial Times October 25). Illegal immigrants are a prime source of cheap labour for the bosses and help to ensure that all wages are kept low.

Immigration controls have nothing to do with protecting ‘our’ jobs or ‘our’ services. There are two worlds in this society, and they are not defined by colour, but by class - the ruling class and the working class. The ruling class uses all means at its disposal to keep our wages low and services cut back. Cheap labour is the prime source of their ability to do this, and immigration controls ensure a constant and regulated supply of cheap labour. That is why we must stand against all immigration controls. If capital is free to move around the world, workers must have the same freedom.

Unfortunately the anti-racist movement has been sadly inadequate in fighting the growing chauvinist trend. What has happened since the last TUC ‘Unite against racism’ march? Not a lot. The collapse of the TUC-backed Anti-Racist Alliance into internal politicking and individual careerist farce. The other anti-racist groups are still incredibly stuck in their own sectarianism, unable to unite themselves, let alone other workers.

Anti-racist groups have taken up the challenge of the BNP locally on the housing estates. This has been a positive but limited campaign. The failure of the main anti-racist groups to oppose not only the BNP and the Tories, but the Labour Party and centrally the capitalist system itself, imposes these limitations.

Low wages, poverty, appalling housing, the degeneration of our local estates, crime and chauvinism cannot be solved simply by fighting the BNP or by equal opportunity commissions, let alone desperate cries of ‘Racism is evil’.

The BNP, Michael Portillo, Michael Howard are only the tip of the iceberg. Below them is the whole of the capitalist system, supported by Labour as vigorously as the Tories. It is this system itself which we must unite against if we are to eradicate the violent chauvinism of the BNP or the threat of a viciously anti-working class Labour government.

Disillusionment with Labour after an election could find expression in a violently chauvinist rightwing movement much more popular and therefore far more dangerous than the BNP. This is the very real threat if the left fails to organise workers into a positive alternative to Labour and the system it supports.

A united anti-racist, anti-fascist movement could spark this, but above all workers need their own political organisation free from the chauvinist, capitalist loyalties of both the Tories and the Labour Party.