23/04/2018 by Ian
For a Peoples’ ‘Nuremburg tribunal’ for the Tories
The Windrush scandal is a flash of lightning that has illuminated the real face of the British ruling class and its bourgeois politics. It is racist to the core. Even within the ruling class and its cabinet, it has been acknowledged that the policies pursued by the Conservatives under David Cameron, both in coalition with the Liberal Democrats and alone under Cameron and May since 2015, owe a certain debt to the policies of Nazi Germany. Not in the sense of people being actually exterminated physically, but in terms of the systematic deprivation of civil rights to those who have the temerity to be poor migrants, or the children of such, or who have non-UK partners, or are overseas students, to mention only a sample: the persecution of vulnerable minorities.
The anti-migrant hate-campaign has been the ruling class’s answer to the near collapse of the capitalist financial system in 2007-9. In order to recover profitability from this near-death event, it went on a massive austerity drive to knock hell out of the living standards of public sector workers, benefit claimants, the sick, the disabled, you name it. The only way it has been able to sell this is with a tidal wave of anti-migrant hate-propaganda in the media, aimed at finding a scapegoat for austerity in various groups of ‘foreigners’. The result, in Britain, in the UK, and in Europe, has been manipulated waves of right-wing populism, with the rise of Trump in the US, Brexit in Britain, Marine Le Pen reaching the presidential run off in France, and similar things elsewhere in Europe.
The rise of Jeremy Corbyn to lead Labour in the aftermath of the shock Tory election victory in 2015 was the first major crack in the neo-liberal domination of politics in the Western world for a generation. Under Corbyn’s leadership, Labour has in excess of 600,000 members and is the biggest social-democratic party in Europe, pursuing a programme that, while hardly massively radical even by the standards of the Labour left, is strongly antagonistic to the post-2009 austerity.
A crack in neoliberal reaction
Now we have another potentially really important crack in this most reactionary period; the exposure of the Tory government’s despicable treatment of African-Caribbeans has blown the lid off the festering scandal of what is behind the migrant-bashing: racist barbarism. Such is the depth of anger at the base of society about this that May has had to rapidly retreat, announcing that this layer of older black citizens are to have their citizenship ‘granted’ free of charge, though they already are citizens, and the so-called citizenship test, which is now a test for permanent residency, not just citizenship, is to be waived for them. Apparently the government plan to pay compensation to the victims of this policy. This is one of the most dramatic U-turns of a government in recent history, as only just over a week earlier, May had refused to meet with heads of government of Caribbean nations at the Commonwealth summit who wanted to raise this issue with her.
This U-turn has happened despite the fact that, with the exception of the liberal Independent and sometimes liberal Guardian newspapers, the media, including the BBC has played down the scandal and tried to get May off the hook. But to no avail, such was the tremor of popular disgust. The promises of May and Rudd should be given no credence; they were given reluctantly and are primarily intended to defuse the issue. This is reminiscent of the aftermath of the Grenfell House fire, where immigrants with few rights were among those who died and the popular anger was considerable against the cynical neglect of safety and elementary rights by the state and its local agents. Many promises were made then, which have turned out to be worth virtually nothing.
The racism that drives today’s anti-migrant bigotry is partially camouflaged by a curious double-speak ideology of spin which tries to portray itself as being dictated by economics: protecting UK workers from being supposedly undercut by migrants willing to work for less. This was always complete nonsense, as under both Tory and New Labour neo-liberal governments, trade unions, which ought to be organising both ‘home-grown’ and migrant workers in a struggle for better pay and living standards for all, have been subjected to the most draconian anti-union laws in the advanced capitalist world.
The trade union bureaucracy is a separate layer in the workers movement who are tied to the capitalist system in order to defend their own privileges. They have made no real attempt to oppose these laws, most secretly welcoming the assistance in ‘disciplining’ their more militant members and cooperating in every way in imposing austerity. Workers have no class interest at all in supporting ‘controls’ on migrants; all they do is create a pariah layer of the working class that has no rights and inevitably is in no position to resist the very undercutting and super-exploitation that chauvinists always complain about. Working class people have an interest in class organisation across the lines of ‘migrant vs home-grown’, not anti-migrant repression.
Racism and Proof
Of all the horrible stories about people being denied cancer treatment, being detained and deported, people visiting relatives in the Caribbean being refused re-entry to the UK after living here for 40 or 50 years, being prevented from attending their mother’s funeral, or their daughter’s wedding, NHS workers being denied the right to treatment in the NHS, etc., one that stands out was the ‘guidance’ the Home Office gave to people being deported to Jamaica. They were told to pretend to be Jamaicans, to fit in, to imitate the local accent, etc. That alone is conclusive proof that the Home Office was 100% aware that it was engaged in racial persecution, that the people it was deporting were black Britons, not Jamaicans.
That in a microcosm is proof of racism, and racial persecution, against this government, and against everyone involved in formulating this policy. Racial persecution is the logic of anti-immigrant xenophobia, and there was no way they could ever ‘cordon off’ the repressive laws formulated against recent non-EU immigrants, from Africa, Asia etc, from the more established immigrant communities. Indeed those from the Indian subcontinent are also in danger. Abuse of one group of migrants inevitably results in abuse of all people of migrant origin. In the climate of xenophobia and racism post-financial crisis, Brexit has brought the beginning of such abuses against EU citizens also, as part of a recrudescence of the organic racism of Britain’s island-based ruling class, that ‘wogs begin at Calais’.
All the parties of neo-liberalism in Britain are complicit in these crimes. May tried to palm off responsibility for destroying the landing cards of the Windrush generation onto the previous Labour government. This was not an outrageous suggestion; everyone knows that New Labour in office, particularly after the financial crisis, carried out its own hate campaigns against some immigrants; the disgusting campaign against overseas students by Alan Johnson in 2010 was a case in point as many were detained or deported simply for being at colleges the government arbitrarily decided it disapproved of, driven by a hate campaign in the racist gutter press.
May’s attempt to deflect responsibility, when confronted by Jeremy Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions, was mendacious, as was subsequently proven; New Labour made a decision in principle to get rid of ‘surplus’ paper documents from the Home Office’s repositories, but it was clearly under the Coalition that the decision was made to override objections from case-work staff and destroy these important documents without making digital copies, after which May brought in the Immigration Act of 2014, which instituted ‘checks’ on immigration status in the NHS, in rented accommodation, of bank accounts, for benefits, which would obviously ensnare people who came here before any such documents were even necessary. That was the mechanism of the persecution and it was known at the time this would happen, as has been revealed in the aftermath of May’s debacle and ‘apology’.
Cross-Party Neoliberal Crimes
And in fact, both the Blairites in Labour, and of course the Liberal Democrats, supported May’s foul 2014 Act. It is interesting to note the real relationship of this racism to the Tory-Blairite-Zionist smear of ‘anti-Semitism’ that is currently being trumpeted by the establishment media against the Labour Party. Only a handful of Labour MP’s voted against the Act: these included Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbot and John McDonnell, along with Respect’s George Galloway.
The cowardly policy of Ed Miliband, who subsequently fought and lost a General Election with specially-made Labour mugs promising to ‘control immigration’, meant Labour deliberately abstained to allow the law to go through with minimal opposition. All the Blairite MP’s who are currently smearing Corbyn as anti-Semitic failed to oppose this racist law. And what is interesting also, since the Liberal Democrats were in coalition with the Tories at the time, and therefore bear co-responsibility for this persecution, is that two Lib-Dem MPs voted against it. One was David Ward, who was smeared as an anti-Semite and hounded out of office by Nick Clegg for outspokenly defending the Palestinians. The connection between the false anti-Semitism smear and neoliberal racism could not be clearer from this record.
In terms of its implications, this is a very far reaching scandal indeed. The racism of the Tories, and Theresa May has suddenly come into public consciousness in a way that has the Tories running scared. As one wag in the Labour Party milieu in London wryly tweeted over this: “We don’t need laws to scare people off social media, Theresa May has managed to scare every fucking Tory off social media in the past few days.”
There are contradictions in popular consciousness about this, as many delude themselves with the common adage that “it’s not racist to be concerned about immigration” and similar shallow homilies. But underlying anti-immigrant xenophobia is always racism in some mediated form, hatred and fear of the ‘other’ and this contradiction, when the racism becomes starkly visible, has now produced a wave of popular revulsion against a racist policy, the likes of which has not been seen for many years, and against the racism of a sitting Prime Minister to boot.
Windrush and the left
It is the responsibility of the left to seek to generalise and intensify this, to deepen the breach in popular consciousness. We have to raise demands that give voice to the outrage of the oppressed who have been the victims of these crimes, who have been deported or detained, who have experienced living hell, who have had loved ones die because of these crimes… We must demand that the Labour movement rejects any putative apologies, and demand that May resign, and that all her partners in crime, such as Rudd and many others, be driven from office as well. The government must fall…
But this is not enough. Enormous suffering has been caused by the actions of individuals in the government, who are known, and whose responsibility and premeditation of these crimes can be precisely calibrated. It is not just the Windrush generation that have suffered. Many other migrants from other backgrounds have suffered, been put in indefinite detention, been subjected to insecurity and fear, been put into the hands of unscrupulous people whom these racist laws have given the power and the motivation to abuse migrants.
This goes hand in hand with this government’s other murderous crimes, its cull of disabled people, its driving people to suicide, its forcing even terminally-ill cancer patients to ‘seek work’ through removing their benefits. The calculation being that many will die, and it will save on the bill for basic social benefits and allow corporate tax cuts to help raise the rate of profit.
So what should the left call for in this situation? Resignation of these scum from office is not enough. We have to demand punishment! May, Cameron, Rudd etc. are criminals, Clegg, Cable, and the Blairites in Labour who are still trying to destabilise the leadership of Corbyn, are their accomplices. This is one issue, but there are so many more that must be addressed. Obviously we demand a Labour government to overturn the specific attacks on all the oppressed who have suffered from these crimes. But what about justice for the many victims of these criminals? We have to demand a popular body, breaking with bourgeois concepts of legality, which mean legalised murder, physical and psychological torture of the oppressed, while the oppressors get off scot free.
The left should be demanding a popular, working class centred body to try and hand out sentences to the criminals, racists and murderers in the current government, irrespective of bourgeois legality. Something on the lines of a working class version of the Nuremburg tribunal that tried and executed the Nazis. It would take an extra-parliamentary working class movement of great scope to bring such a thing into being, but it is an objective necessity anyway. Socialists have to demand the imprisonment of the racist criminals, of the murderers of the sick and disabled, in the current government. Something like the demand for a ‘People’s Nuremburg for the Tories” could be fought for by class conscious militants through the Labour Party and the trade unions, alongside and in conjunction with the struggle to elect a Labour government led by Corbyn and the left. There needs to be opened up a discussion on the left as to what can be done to punish and jail the criminals of Windrush, and the Premier racist criminal that leads them. This demands action, not passive parliamentarism , of the working class movement in Britain.