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.