Woolwich, unity and the far-right

On Thursday morning, people woke to the images of a bloodied man and his victim being broadcast all over the world. Watching these events unfold in Woolwich on Wednesday afternoon, I was shocked and horrified. Social media was used to send out the rallying cry for fascists and racists, calling for violence and whipping up hatred for the Muslim community. All of this was because this was ‘time to take our country back’.

‘Back from where?’ was my first thought when I saw that line on the internet. As a proud British Asian, the UK is my home, I was born here and I identify with it as much as the next person. I believe we are stronger when we are united, which is why the reaction to the events in Woolwich worry me. Seeing the pictures of the 100 or so EDL activists out on the streets throwing bottles is a clear and conscious attempt to divide our community and whip up hated for the Muslim community. The day after the attack, Nick Griffin called for a BNP demo in Woolwich further seeking to play on the tensions that are already running high in the area.

The EDL and the BNP don’t speak for me and they are no more representative of the wider British society than one man shouting, and killing in the name of Islam is of the Muslim community. Over the coming days and months, the far right will continue to ensure they capitalise on this moment and evidence from America shows that in the first week after incidents such as the Woolwich attack, crimes against minority communities increases. It’s vital therefore, that we stand united against all forms of racism and fascism. I know that the London I love is capable of doing this just as we stood united in the aftermath of the July 2005 attack.

There will come a time to explore how and why the horrific events of yesterday were able to happen but now isn’t that time. Until then, my thoughts are with Drummer Lee Rigby’s family and friends.

Confront not concede to the right on multiculturalism says Lucille Harvey

This summer i attended the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) festival in Austria as part of the UK Young Labour delegation. IUSY hold a festival every other year at which affiliated groups come together to discuss, debate and learn from each other. This year the festival took place in the shadow of the far right terrorist attack on young AUF activists in Utøya and we paid tribute to our fallen comrades through a reaffirmation of our enduring commitment to equality, social justice, democracy and international solidarity.

Delegations from the UK haven’t always received the warmest of welcomes by our European comrades (we’re affectionately referred to as ‘The Blair Witch Project’ after some allegedly bizarre antics of Labour Students). However, we were heartily embraced by comrades from the Netherlands. This was a welcome surprise until we discovered the reason. They had mistakenly assumed we were followers of the Maurice Glasman school of thought on immigration and that we shared their view that immigration be ‘regulated’ (ie prohibited). For them, Britain’s very own Baron Glasman of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill is a hero.

As the granddaughter of a West Indian immigrant, the daughter of a single mother and socialist of the internationalist feminist variety with a deep aversion for anything small ‘c’ conservative, I was never Blue Labour’s target audience. The initial murmurings, as much as I disagreed with them, I dismissed as a bunch of male, pale & stales dreaming about creating some sort of Darling Buds of May utopia. However, a line was crossed with Glasman’s comments on immigration over summer. He may have backtracked and Blue Labour distanced themselves from him but further investigation shows this was no one-off. Glasman earlier stated that migrants to Britain should not have equal footing. Before I’m accused of misquoting, here’s the full quote from Glasman’s interview with our comrades at Progress:
‘There have to be ways of honouring the common life of people who come [as immigrants],’ he believes, but it also not the case that ‘everyone who comes is equal and has an equal status with people who are here.’

At best, this is very Animal Farm.

When immigrants are bashed it’s not the rich who are targeted; not Brazilian footballers, Swiss bankers or American film stars. No, they are attacks on working class migrants. The same migrants who are forced into low paid, poorly regulated employment, live in squalid overcrowded accommodation; the victims of the harshest realities of global capitalism. These workers are the human cost of a market which venerates profit at the expense of people. It was this brutality of capitalism and the inevitable exploitation of workers that led to the creation of our party. Anyone from a left perspective condemning these same workers is absurd as it attacks our raison d’etre. Maybe Glasman could explain but when did solidarity start only extending as far as your nation’s borders?

The terrorist attacks in Norway showed that the far-right in Europe has not been defeated and still lingers on the fringes of our communities. Not only can the Left not be complacent about this threat but we cannot concede any ground on the immigration debate to the right whatsoever. This shows us how wrong Glasman’s comments were. Wrong and dangerous. Any talk denouncing immigration and de facto our vulnerable migrant communities justifies the far right’s bigotry and fuels their hate.

After the Utøya massacre the Norwegian PM, Jens Stoltenberg, asserted that “more democracy, more openness” was needed to tackle the far right. This is true. However, more solidarity is absolutely fundamental. Solidarity with those communities whose very right to exist within our society is under attack. Our response cannot be to pit communities against each other, worker against worker, neighbour against neighbour in a battle to win votes. Failure to act will allow fear will fester and hate to take hold. Labour should be proud to stand for an inclusive, tolerant, socially just, free society that has no place for bigotry or hate. There can be no ambivalence in Labour’s message on multiculturalism. We need to reiterate our commitment to a racially and religiously diverse multicultural Britain of equals. A society where “we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect” Sound familiar? It should. It’s on the back of the party membership cards we all signed up to.

It is for this reason, as a proud champion of multicultural Britain, that I am standing for the Block of 14 with the aim of becoming Anti-Racism Officer at London Young Labour’s AGM this Sunday.

If elected i pledge to put my words into action and London Young Labour will be at the heart of the fight against the far right in all communities across our city.



The far right: a threat to one is a threat to all

One month ago we saw one of the largest and most diverse rallies in defence of multiculturalism and modern Britain. The vibrant London Borough of Tower Hamlets, with its mix of many cultures living side by side together is a true anathema to the English Defence League.

On the day of the EDL’s planned march through Tower Hamlets, local community leaders including the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, lgbt communities, students, faith representatives including those from the local mosque and residents joined with the labour movement in opposing the violent thuggery of the EDL. Many different trade unions were represented and their banners held high alongside placards calling for black and white to unite against racism. The day was a success for the anti-racist movement as the EDL were denied their provocative march through the East End, which is wholly reminiscent of the defeat of Oswald Mosley and the Blackshirts on Cable street 75 years ago.

As public sector cuts and record unemployment wreak havoc on communities, there are those who seek to exploit and sow division within them in order to distract from the realities of what is a vicious right-wing government. Racism always thrives in times of economic hardship and this is evidenced in David Cameron’s statement in February, on the same day the EDL rallied in Luton; that ‘multiculturalism had failed.’ The Guardian this week held a report entitled “David Cameron launches immigration crackdown” which included details of how the public would be urged to report suspected illegal immigrants. This is a clear and open invitation for people to report anyone who looks different to them, be it colour of their skin, their place of worship, their language or the way they dress and is a turn for the worst when it comes to race relations in Britain.

The EDL may claim that they are against ‘militant Islam’, but have been known to quickly change their target to the labour movement. Recently, EDL members attacked a well-known progressive bookshop in Liverpool, known for their anti-racist activity. As the student movement revived itself last year against the rise in fees, the EDL put out a disturbing statement saying that they would ‘be there’ the next time students hold a demonstration. The EDL brutally attacked a Labour Party anti-racism meeting in Barking, leaving several people injured. Even in my own Borough of Thurrock, the EDL accosted members of Young Labour as they were about to come to campaign against the BNP – many felt so threatened that they had to abandon campaigning. This is the reality of the far-right in Britain today; where they are emboldened enough to attack Mosques, they then attack trade unionists and labour activists.

This is why it is vital that trade unionists and those on the sharp end of Islamophobia and racism ally together to celebrate modern Britain and the many communities that make it what it is. This Saturday I look forward to hearing from leading members of the Labour Party, such as Peter Hain MP, Helen Goodman MP, Jack Dromey MP and Claude Moraes MEP this weekend, alongside leading trade unionists such as Francis O’Grady the TUC Deputy General Secretary. Farooq Murad, of the Muslim Council of Britain, Edie Friedman from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Pav Akhtar from UK Black Pride and Kanja Sesay, the NUS Black Students’ Officer. This represents the progressive alliance that we need if we are to resoundingly defeat fascism.

Unite Against Fascism and One Society Many Cultures will hold their Conference on multiculturalism on the 15th October at the TUC Conference Centre.

Book online now.