Nottingham People's Assembly cover up for Labour Party racism

Nottingham demo

On 28 June RCG supporters joined more than a thousand people at a demonstration called by Nottingham People's Assembly under the banner 'Nottingham Together'. Nottingham RCG took the opportunity to raise the issue of the 2016 Immigration Act, taking a petition round the crowd that was very well received. We also organised parachute games for children to make it easier for their parents and carers to participate.

The stated aim of the event was 'to show that the vote to leave [the EU] is not an excuse for bigotry, and that any negotiations should include the right of EU citizens to stay in the UK if they wish'. It was fantastic to see so many people taking to the streets against racism. In practice, however, the event was utterly dominated by the Labour Party and dissenters were censored.

Two RCG supporters approached Tom Unterrainer, a member of the Labour Party who was running the PA system, and asked if one of our comrades could speak. Unterrainer stated that an RCG supporter would only be permitted to speak if we promised not to criticise the Labour Party. Of course we refused to accept this censorship. The Labour Party is part of the problem: just in the last few months it refused to oppose the racist Immigration Bill and every single Labour MP abstained from a vote that would have given asylum seekers the right to work.

One of our comrades stepped up to the mic and called for the platform to be opened up to anybody at the demonstration who wished to speak, because without democracy real unity is impossible. Unterrainer and other Labour Party members responded by trying to physically push comrades away from the mic, and making vague threats toward comrades' employment and union membership. In the end Unterrainer backed down and allowed our comrade to give a speech but without the microphone, forcing him to shout out to the crowd.

Many members of the demonstration heckled Unterrainer demanding that he give the mic to our comrade, but they were ignored. Labour Party member and Secretary of Nottingham People's Assembly Stewart Halforty explained that we could not be allowed to speak because this would set a precedent – this is absolutely correct, and we can assure Stewart that Nottingham RCG will continue to take every opportunity to set a precedent for democracy and against censorship. Many people at the rally approached us to ask for a copy of the speech, so we publish it in full below.

“Since the referendum result, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are having discussions about racism. EU migrants are concerned for their future, and anti-racist British people are concerned for them too. This is why we are all here. The situation is uncertain and racism is on the rise. Now is the time to start developing a truly anti-racist movement.

The result has clearly emboldened racist forces. But racism is not just the result of the referendum result: the roots are much deeper. As the capitalist crisis deepens, the British ruling class is launching yet more imperialist wars to defend its profits from abroad. The victims are Syrians, Libyans, Iraqis, Kurds, Palestinians and others, who are fleeing imperialist wars fought with British bombs, workers are coming here because ‘foreign investment’ is stripping their countries of its wealth, and the response of British racists is to ‘pull up the drawbridge’. Racism in this country reflects and is used to justify British imperialism. The other side of the ruling class response is the destruction of public services in Britain, the driving down of wages and labour protections. They call it ‘austerity’, we call it class war.

It is not just the far right who are stepping up their racism. The British government have passed another racist Immigration Act, which will turn us all into immigration police. Under the new provisions, landlords, bosses, health professionals and countless others will be harshly fined for providing services or housing etc. for ‘illegal’ immigrants. Those who are rounded up, turned in, will be sent to immigration prisons, there to await deportation. Labour refused to oppose the Immigration Act, and every single Labour MP, including Jeremy Corbyn, abstained on the amendment which would have given the right to work to asylum seekers. Labour is no opponent of racism.

The European Union, too, is maintaining its system of militarized borders: Fortress Europe. It is due to the enforcement of Fortress Europe that refugees are dying at sea. The EU is also funneling money to Turkey so that the Turkish government can build concentration camps to hold refugees. The conditions, and the brutality of the Turkish border police, are unbelievable. As the crisis deepens, the British state and the EU are, of course, doing everything they can to protect profits, at the expense of the people in the oppressed nations and the working class at home.

The Revolutionary Communist Group called for a boycott of the referendum. We saw it as a dispute between different sections of the ruling class over how to manage British imperialism. We rejected Little England and we rejected Fortress Europe. We still need to reject both of these reactionary politics. We still need to fight back against racism, austerity and imperialism.

What is needed is a working class movement on the streets, one that isn’t tied to the Labour party, whose response to increased racism was to refuse to oppose the racist Immigraton Act and to hold a free vote on the bombing of Syria, and whose response to austerity was to send round orders (a letter signed by Corbyn and McDonnell) to Labour councils to implement new cuts and refuse to set illegal budgets, and whose London councils are at the absolute forefront of the destruction of the social housing stock.

When we talk about unity, what kind of unity do we mean? It is not possible for us to be unified with both the party leading the charge in destroying London estates and the working class people thrown out of their homes by that very party. We must begin to build an organized working class movement, on the streets, on estates, in working class communities. The fact that the majority of the British left, for decades, has completely failed to engage with working class people is no small factor in the situation we find ourselves in today. The Revolutionary Communist Group is committed to this work among the mass of the working class and we want to work with any and all others who see the need to organize amongst the working class and the oppressed.

Now is the time. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

If you agree with the need for consistent anti-racist work on the streets and in communities, get in touch.

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