In recent weeks the government has unleashed a vicious new campaign against immigrant workers. This has enraged local communities, who have lived and worked in the UK for years and find themselves hassled and intimidated on their way to work for no better reason than the colour of their skin. The capitalists have used racism and discrimination to perpetuate their system for centuries. It is the duty of the Labour movement to organise and protect immigrants.
In recent weeks the government has unleashed a vicious new campaign against immigrant workers. The campaign commenced with the widely derided ‘racist van’, which drove around London emblazoned with the message ‘In the UK illegally? Go home or face arrest’, but has stepped up with the launch of a series of UK Border Agency (UKBA) raids and stop and search checks at transport hubs. The Home Office has even taken to Twitter to proclaim the success of these tactics, boasting of arresting 139 suspected illegal immigrants in one day.
The aggressive and intimidatory tactics utilised in these stop and search checks will be familiar to anyone who regularly travels on London public transport or has had the misfortune of interacting with the police on a demonstration. A large group a heavy set UKBA officers stand at the entrance to a station, often accompanied by armed police, and proceed to stop and question commuters in the hope of discovering potential illegal immigrants. Of course not everyone is stopped, only those who look ‘suspicious’, which, in the eyes of the authorities, inevitably means having non-white skin. Passers-by who have attempt to help those being questioned or inform them of their legal rights are threatened with summary arrest.
These stop and search checks take place in areas with large immigrant populations, which in some cases can mean non-white residents make up to 80% of the local population. This has enraged local communities as many of those targeted by the UKBA have lived and worked in the UK for years and find themselves hassled and intimidated on their way to work for no better reason than the colour of their skin.
Civil Liberties experts have warned that it is illegal for a UKBA officer to conduct a speculative check on your immigration status. But while we must use every tool at our disposal to defend workers, including our rights under the law, we cannot rely on a legal system designed to do little more than protect the interests of capitalism to defend us against the abuses of the state. Time and time again the state has demonstrated its willingness to do away with the law when it suits its interests. Where was the law when the Metropolitan police murdered Jean Chardles De Menezes, Ian Tomilinson or countless others over the years? No police officer has ever been successfully prosecuted for any of these deaths. So despite the illegality of their activities the UKBA operate from a position of power, safe in the knowledge that they act with impunity.
When the government begins such initiatives the question must be posed; why this and why now? British capitalism requires immigrant labor. Illegal immigrants are particularly useful as they can be paid less than the minimum wage and if they even hint at being unhappy with their hellish working conditions the boss can simply threaten to get them deported. The low wages of these workers can then be used to drive down wages and conditions across the board.
Why then would a bosses’ government seek to remove these workers against the interests of the bosses? As we have explained the before, the capitalist class are not numerous enough to propel their political representatives – in the shape of the Tories – to power on their own; therefore they require an independent social base to vote for them. This is acquired through all sorts of demagogy and divide-and-rule tactics, and racism and xenophobia have historically played a huge role in this.
At the same time, Cameron and the Tory leadership are under pressure from the backbenchers in their own party – the backwoodsmen, “hang-em and flog-em” brigade – to show a “strong stance” against immigration. Such politicians, along with UKIP, feed off of the frenzy of the middle-classes, small businessmen, self-employed workers and other de-classed elements being hit by the crisis.
At a time when British capitalism is mired in a deep crisis and the coalition’s austerity is failing to do anything but make it worse it is necessary to distract the populace from these issues, find a scapegoat to blame, and divide the working class. In this respect illegal immigrants are very useful – they can be blamed for ‘stealing jobs’ and paradoxically also for draining state resources by claiming benefits and taking up scarce housing. As we explained in the article UKIP and the Spectre of Immigration, such claims are nonsense and have no basis in fact, but when they are repeated enough times over so many years and with the full cooperation of the media they can begin to take root. The fact that the UKBA knows that thousands of white Australian, South African and Canadian citizens overstay their visas but do nothing about it demonstrates they are not really interested in dealing with illegal immigration but in promoting their racist agenda.
The capitalists have used racism and discrimination to perpetuate their system for centuries. They wish to divide our class amongst itself – setting British citizens against immigrants, white against black – but we must not fall for it! It is the duty of the Labour movement to launch a campaign to protect immigrants. We must bring immigrant workers – who are some of the most exploited workers in society – into the movement through unionisation, struggling to raise their wages and conditions, and thereby strengthening the position of ALL workers. A Labour movement with a united working class behind it, fighting for their shared interests, is the only movement can bring an end to racism and the rotten system that perpetuates it.
- Stop the racist UKBA raids!
- For the immediate and unconditional legalisation of all undocumented immigrants!
- Full rights and amnesty for immigrant workers and their families!
- End all racist immigration and asylum controls!
- No to scapegoating immigrant workers for the bosses’ crisis!
- For the unity of the working class – the labour movement must be at the forefront of the struggle to improve conditions for all workers.