Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label racism. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

"I'm not racist, but....”

Scotland’s immigrant population is 369,284 -7% of the total population. Edinburgh has the highest number of immigrants with 75,696, but Aberdeen’s 35,436 is the largest proportionately, representing 16 per cent of the population. And Glasgow has seen the largest increase in numbers, up by almost 40,000 in a decade. 55,231 Poles were living in Scotland in 2011, more than 20 times higher than in 2001.

Europe as an ethnically homogenous nation-state is just a dream, and a pretty nasty one at that.  The free movement of labour is one of the basic premises of EU membership. It is always the way with  nationalists to hide racism under a cloak of caring about social conditions and forget that these were just as bad before any influx of immigrants. As the recession continues to bite, negative attitudes towards foreigners are becoming more common. Integration is often regarded as the key factor, but immigrant advocates say the whole burden of adjustment should not be borne by migrants themselves. Integration is the Holy Grail of immigration policy, accepted and promoted by all major political parties. There is the expectation  that they have to become like us and many are against cultural diversity.

We recently had Tom Harris, Labour MP for Glasgow South, offering his tuppence-worth in the Daily Telegraph which i am sure all his constituents read. He repeats all the usual stereotypes about the Roma, such as aggressive begging, even though laws presently exist  to stop that sort of thing and plenty of other laws against  all  the other alleged anti-social behaviour from happening. But par for the course as a Labour MP he never asks why the Roma are begging, appearing to believe its a comfortable desirable occupation to walk cold, windy, wet  Scottish streets, pleading for charity. It is because Romanians and Bulgarians are stopped from working and are refused benefits, legislation brought in by his government  that many beg as an alternative to starving.
He says "my constituents become angrier and more resentful, because the lives they have worked so hard to build for themselves and their families are being impinged upon by people whose culture, way of life and attitude to authority and those around them are utterly alien" [my emphasis] Then he goes on to associate accepting different cultures with the custom of female genital mutilation. He then implies that Labour should follow the Tory policy of further cutting benefits to migrant workers because "[Cameron] is speaking to a lot more people than just his own party’s Right wing."
So, his argument is not one of let us not challenge attitudes and try to change them, but rather, let us make sure we agree with the racists because it is not nice to call them prejudiced - especially if they are voters!!

We need people who want to make things better rather than scare-mongering MPs out to court popularity. Harris tries a mealy mouthed get out that he is not being racist and a xenophobe but he conveniently forgets that almost everywhere in Europe the Roma are exposed to a growing discrimination, ranging from exclusion from education and employment to racially motivated attacks. If we keep reading and hearing all the same tired old images of beggars and poverty it reinforces the prejudices. We'll fail to see the normality that are the experience of huge swathes of Romani society who are happily integrating - not to mention the common threads that bind us all.

 What people don't understand they tend to fear. There is a cycle of suspicion and hostility that generates anti-Roma sentiment, which in turn deepens prejudice and further pushes the community from the society into which we expect them to assimilate. Groups of men and socialise in the street, noisily chatting in Romani and gesticulating while their children play in the street. You can see how that is intimidating to a society that no longer know their neighbours in the same tenement building!

 The Roma distrust of authority is understandable, given their history of persecution and attempted genocide. In Eastern Europe there have been increased instances of firebombing, shooting, stabbing, beating and other violence towards the Roma community. France, Germany and Italy have expelled thousands of Roma.

Fotis Filippou of  Amnesty International said:
"Roma across Europe are being pushed to the margins of society as a result of forced evictions; they are attacked on ethnic basis, used as a scapegoat for wider societal problems, denied access to education and basic rights. The language used by media outlets across the region when reporting stories on Roma and the stereotyping rhetoric often used by politicians and public figures could have serious repercussions for the Roma all over Europe. It may further fuel the already existing prejudices against them and lead to stigmatisation and discrimination. Amnesty International calls on national and European authorities and media outlets to refrain from intentionally or unintentionally targeting Roma as an ethnic minority – and creating the perception in doing so that ethnicity can be linked to criminality – this is directly and unambiguously discriminatory, the effects of which could be disastrous.”
There is little chance of the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express of heeding such cautionary advice but let us not be mistaken even the “liberal” media has enthusiastically joined in the scape-goating of the Roma. Malcom X said “ If you are not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing”

 "Man tae man the world o'er shall brithers be, for a' that"

Monday, December 02, 2013

One World-One People-One Class-One Struggle

Workers of the World Unite
The problems of black and brown people are not caused by whites.  It is the social system that people the world over live under, that make poverty and other miseries a part of a person's life. There is only one race, that is the human race so let us realise that we must all work together or the enemy may never be destroyed. Coloured workers, take notice, when it is a question of exploitation you are in the same position as your white brothers and sisters. Skin colour is no safeguard. Black capitalists are just as brutal as white ones. Humans can only be united by their belief in a set of principles. The colour of a man's skin can never be the basis of unity. The black liberation movement although it take different form in each country is set on the premise of the unity of black  against white and  often express the false assumption, that all white people are united against black. The truth is that any black and white capitalist, have more in common between them than all the white workers with the white capitalist, or the black workers with the black capitalist. Race have now become a very damaging factor towards working class unity. IT IS THE SOCIAL SYSTEM THAT WE LIVE UNDER AND NOT OUR RACE THAT MAKE POSSIBLE THE PROBLEMS WE FACE. Racism only serve to obscure the real enemy, world capitalism, and in fact help to keep it going that much longer. A man's economic interest determine his action. The capitalist as an individual is not our target, it is the system that we hate and want to change. The choice facing us today, is not black, against white. but whether we want to continue with this strife ridden system capitalism, or replace it with a system of common ownership socialism. The racial issue in our present time have been described as the most crucial in the world today. This view have been expressed by leaders in government, to the man in the street. To these people there will be some massive explosion sometime in the future, with the races lined up against each other.

As socialists we do not see the racial issue as the major problem in the world. We see the world divided into those who possess the means of production, the capitalist class, and those who seek work in order to live, the working class. It is because of this class division in society that give rise to racism in the first place. When capitalism goes through one of its frequent bad period, some of the workers of the dominant race usually blame their condition, on some other race. Observe how racial feeling run high in Britain during a period of high unemployment. It serve as an easy excuse for people who look around and can see nothing in their frustrating existance.

Nationalism, which serves as encouragement to racism, is preached from the highest level in society. They tell us that we should love our country. Capitalism is a system of exploitation, humiliation, and degradation for the working class. These features won’t go away because the people who administer the system are "your own kith and kin".

Look around the world and observe, how in some countries, racism is actively supported by governments. Racism only serve to divide and confuse the working class and lead them away from the important question of how they produce the wealth of the world, and share so little of it. It is our position as working class people that we should consider, and throw away the idea of race. In the words of our declaration of principles "the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Defend the Roma

When it comes to catch-all caveats "I'm not a racist" ranks alongside the most common.

No one's ever racist nowadays. But somehow racism still seems to exist and find its target. Few doubt that certain views pervade and practices persist but even fewer will own up to holding them or following them. A system of discrimination remains, yet no one, apparently, is running it. So while those who take responsibility for it are rare, those who suffer the consequences are many.

Nick Clegg, used his disclaimer. "I am a liberal,"and went on to describe the Roma as sometimes "intimidating" and "offensive".

The Guardian recently reported that South Yorkshire police say crime has not increased significantly since the Roma moved to town a few years ago.

After a chip-shop owner swore two teenagers tried to sell him a baby, the police scoured CCTV footage and records of babies born in the area and found nothing. A police spokesman said it "could have been a joke in poor taste". That didn't stop it making the front page of the Daily Express, however.

 The arrival of a large number of poor people does demand resources to facilitate their integration. Those challenges are most likely to fall on working-class communities that are least equipped to meet then, their capacity further diminished by the swingeing cuts of Clegg's government, including  the Migration Impact Fund. But the challenges are because the Roma are overwhelmingly poor, not because they're Roma.

The truth is the Roma have far more to fear from non-Roma than vice-versa. Gassed by the Nazis, forcibly sterilised by the Swedes, recently expelled by the French, they have long been persecuted. In the last six weeks, two Roma families in Ireland, accused of stealing children because they didn't sufficiently look like them, had their kids taken away from them by the state only to have them returned. In Serbia, skinheads tried to snatch a blond child from in front of his house for the same reason.

For decades the ‘Communists’ forced ‘integration’ on Roma people. They forced education on them. They forced them into guaranteed jobs. It failed. Indeed, the ‘Communists’ invented the crime of ‘Parasitism’ specifically for those Roma who refused to work under any circumstances.The plight of the Roma in eastern Europe was so bad that securing minority rights for the Roma was a precondition for countries from the region joining the EU. Polls show that 91% of Czechs had "negative views" towards them while a survey of Hungarian police officers revealed that 54% believed criminality to be a key element of the Roma identity. In the Czech Republic, 75% of Roma children were placed in schools for people with learning difficulties; in Hungary it was 44%. The mayor of Mendez, a small town in Slovakia, said: "I am no racist … but some Gypsies you would have to shoot."

Scapegoating foreigners proves easier than blaming the housing crisis on all those single mums getting purposefully pregnant to get a council house, because often than not a reader will actually have a single mother as a relation or a friend who is and they know very well it is not true. Blaming people you have little contact with is more fruitful a tactic for the divide and rule merchants. The Roma are powerless, they voiceless and  unrepresented,and now serve as our enemy within. They are defenceless against us, but we tell each other that they threaten us. The media frighten us with ancient fairy tales: they steal our children. Politicians join in, sanctioning prejudices with veiled threats of legal action and punitive restrictions. The racists have moved on from the “white pakis” - the Poles - to the Roma. Who lives here, belongs here.
The Slovak Spectator: In the UK you use the terms Roma, Gypsies and Travellers. What is the difference between them?
Arthur Ivatts: The difference is just in the name. The English Gypsies are Roma, they came from India in the 10th century in the same way as the Slovak Roma and they migrated further west to the Netherlands, Scotland and then travelled as nomadic groups in England, Ireland and Scotland since the 16th century. So they are Roma but they were called Egyptians because they said they had come from Egypt. But the word ‘Gypsy’ was seen as a bit derogatory in the UK, as here. So in the 1950s and 60s the Gypsies said they didn’t want to be called Gypsies, they said they were ‘Travellers’. But then in the 1970s the Irish travellers came to the UK in more significant numbers and many Gypsies didn’t want to be called the same, with some wanting to be called Roma, to follow the rest of Europe. Then we had Central-Eastern European (CEE) Roma coming to the UK, so the English Gypsies wanted to be distinguished from them and so now perhaps a majority say they would prefer to be known as Gypsies again. So we use the terms Roma, Gypsies and Travellers to attempt to satisfy everyone in terms of the justified sensitivities surrounding ethnic self-ascription... The Roma have been abused for over 500 years. They are the classic example of the whole continent’s racial abuse of a minority. And now, everybody stands back and says: ‘Just look at them, they are happy in their ghetto communities, they don’t want to work, they are not interested in education, they are just interested in the benefits’.
The non-Roma world is not accepting their responsibility for what they’ve done to this minority over five centuries. And when we come to pick up the pieces of this abuse, what do we do? We blame the victims. We don’t blame ourselves. This is the tragedy of Europe today. What we need is an apology to the Roma. We need an historic apology from the governments to say ‘We are sorry about what has happened to you in this society’. Because what European society has done to the Roma has included enslavement, banishment, discrimination, persecution and attempted genocide time and time again. Has any of that ever been apologised for or even publicly acknowledged? ... One well known British politician said that if they [Roma] start behaving properly we would treat them properly – such a comment shows a complete lack of understanding of the history, it blames the victims of racial abuse and suggests that human rights are a conditional commodity linked to the stereotypes of particular groups of people.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Unwanted People

"I never ever realised how much hatred there is towards me." - Noah

Katharine Quarmby’s book “No Place To Call Home” shows so clearly that there is a long and horrible history of hatred towards Gypsies and Travellers, from medieval days when they were killed, enslaved and branded in Britain to the slaughter of perhaps half of Europe's Roma in the Holocaust.

In Britain, they are our most excluded group. Gypsies and Travellers are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to education, health and housing, with lower life expectancy exacerbated by living on polluted sites.  Women die 12 years before the national average, while children are at higher risk of dying in infancy and adults more likely to kill themselves.  Travelling people are frequently victims of abuse and violence that they do not bother reporting. "Gypsies and Travellers are often victims, not perpetrators, of crime," Quarmby writes.

 She tells the story of one boy taken by officials from his family's tent in Fife and placed in children's homes, where he was sexually abused. His mother spent the rest of her life hunting for him, dying at the age of 41 without seeing her son again. Scottish authorities have never apologised for such disgraceful actions, which continued into the 1960s.

Gypsy elder Billy Welch thinks the solution lies in travellers opening up and opting in. After all, two-thirds of them now live in settled sites. Only 30 families in Britain travel all year round. Times are changing. "We live in a democracy," says Welch, "and we don't use it. We are our own worst enemy."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dare To Dream


 Fifty years since the dream Martin Luther King shared with a nation
 Of equality for all and an end to discrimination
 As we reflect fifty years later the question we must now ask
 Is what progress have we really made in the half century that’s passed?

 I have a dream of no poverty or deprivation
 An end to prejudice, injustice and discrimination
 No abuse or harassment causing devastation
 Where challenges to these are not met with confrontation

 I have a dream that we’ll rise up in unity
 Act like one strong and determined community
 Live in a world of equal opportunity
 Where progress is anticipated eagerly

 I have a dream of access to jobs and employment
 Where we are assessed on our achievement
 Where those with the power to decide don’t cast judgment
 Based on class or gender or age or skin pigment

 I have a dream that every one of us each and every day
 Will rise up to those blocking us from progressing on our way
 That we’ll expose the hypocrites and end the moral decay
 Be unrelenting in our pursuit of truth, do not just say

 I have a dream that the evil of fascism will be no more
 That peace will come and there’ll be an end to illegal war
 That the pursuit of justice is not blocked by biased law
 And in all we strive for, equality is at the core

 I have a dream that our children will be judged on merit
 Where irrespective of colour or class they’re given credit
 For their skills, ideas and talent, not broken in spirit
 That we create a legacy that they’re proud to inherit

 I have a dream of free access to education
 Where knowledge is not barred due to financial situation
 Where we can build a firm and secure foundation
 For ourselves, our kin and the next generation

 I have a dream of sufficient welfare
 Free and accessible healthcare
 Of a world that’s equal and fair
 Where those who hold the power hear

 I have a dream where we’re free to embrace
 Our colour, gender, sexuality and race
 Where we’re not made to feel out of place
 Because of disability, status or face

 I have a dream where instead of judging by skin
 We live side by side, not like enemies, but kin
 Where faith and hope, not hatred and ignorance, win
 Where we never stop believing or dreaming

 I have a dream that we will always dare
 To aspire to and dream of a better world where
 The quest for liberty outweighs the fear
 Of those who are not brave enough to share
 Our dream


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Not so red

Ideas of reaction and bigotry can often be just as powerful as those of solidarity and class unity. The celebrated Forty Hours Strike in 1919, when English tanks occupied the centre of Glasgow and which culminated at the ‘Battle of George Square’ also witnessed violent anti-black rioting. On 23 January 1919, tensions among dock workers at the Broomielaw over the ‘employment of Chinese and alien coloured seamen on British ships’ spilled over into a battle with sailors from Sierra Leone, with ‘revolvers and knifes’ used. The role of the two seamen’s unions on the Broomielaw was essentially of deep seated hostility to immigrant labour, which they saw as driving down wages and conditions. Shipping companies did exploit the differentiation in wages between white and African workers, yet it’s unclear if much attempt was made to challenge this by the organised Left or from within the labour movement. The racist riots were ignored by Forward and the Socialist Labour Party’s The Socialist.

David Kirkwood was one of the men feared by an establishment which believed him capable of igniting a Bolshevik revolution in Britain and who once famously warned that "the socialist republic would be established at the point of a bayonet'. In the “Battle of George Square” Kirkwood had a policeman crack him on the head with a baton, knocking him unconscious. As chairman of the shop stewards committee at Beardmore's Kirkwood came to be forever linked with Red Clydeside through a series of war-time strikes against the introduction (dilution) of unskilled workers to do skilled engineers jobs. Nevertheless, Kirkwood took pride in the productivity records achieved by the Beardmore's workforce. He was able to say: "What a team! There never was anything like it in Great Britain. We organised a bonus system in which everyone benefited by high production. Records were made only to be broken. In six weeks we held the record for output in Great Britain, and we never lost our premier position.''

Kirkwood was one of 29 Labour MPs elected in Scotland at the 1922 election. He remained in Parliament until 1951. He then became Baron Kirkwood of Bearsden.

Local children would sing this ditty:
“Vote, vote, vote for Davie Kirkwood,
Vote, vote, vote for all his men,
Then we'll buy a tommy gun,
And we'll make the Tories run,
And you'll never see a Tory again."

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Here to work, here to stay, here to fight !

 As the global crisis reduces living standards and conditions throughout the world the everyday reality for millions of people is to flee its effects by migration. It goes without saying that socialists are opposed to all borders and frontiers. Migration has always been a part of human history and population border controls are relatively new. Only in 1905 did the UK pass an Aliens Act, and only during the First World War were passports first introduced. Immigration controls are by their nature racist in that they always aim to exclude particular distinct groups and in doing so promotes racism. It causes massive human suffering and tragedies. The newspaper headlines that men and women would arduously travel thousands of miles, sometimes risking their lives, pay over every penny they have to the people-smugglers just to "milk" our benefits system hardly merits serious discussion. Immigration, for sure, generates problems and can strain the social services but it isn't the cause of the indigenous population's poverty.

The UK population density is 650 people per square mile, well below Japan (836), Belgium (889), the Netherlands (1259) and utterly dwarfed by places like Hong Kong or Singapore (18,000+). The issue of shortage of housing is a completely red herring. There is already a housing shortage and widespread homelessness, and there always has been, regardless of the population. This is due to housing being constructed largely for profit than for need. It is not profitable to build housing for people who can't afford it! And of course scarcity of housing is vital for the profitability of house building as it pushes prices up.

And what about jobs? The working class is global, so we can't just look at its effect in one country. Immigration is not a one-way system because an immigrant is an emigrant from somewhere else. Immigration cannot be assessed or addressed in terms of merely its impact directly on the host population. Workers in the host countries feel their wages are being devalued by immigrants but it is surely in their interests firstly to argue for full union membership and to fight for equal terms and conditions and also border controls that results in the situation where people can be made "illegal" and subjected to sweatshop conditions. Those who are criminalised in this way are forced to operate in working conditions well below legal requirements. If you threaten to start to organise against this, your employer can sack you and you have no recourse to unfair dismissal. And if you actually got anything organised, a quick call to immigration gets you jailed to await deportation.

People who say they want what's best for the working class are only thinking about the native host working class. When Algeria gained independence in 1962 - 900,000 white settlers moved back to France. Unemployment in Marseille rose to 20% within in months but was back down to 6% within a year and 4% in two years.

It is better to see immigration as a trend or contradiction developed though processes of globalisation. Any attempt to simply curtail those forces leads to a lot of hardship and draconian politics. In todays society we are told its acceptable that investment and goods can pass from poor to rich countries without burden, enriching capitalists but poor foreign people can't do likewise. Capital will move to areas where it can maximise profit. It's always done this and the capitalist of any nation or colour can live wherever they choose so, in practice. immigration is essentially a class issue. If international capital can cross borders, so too should labour.

Capital chooses when it needs one’s labor. The ruling class relies upon immigrant workers, legal and illegal, to fill low paid jobs that are not attractive to native workers, to serve as a reserve army of unemployed and underemployed workers to depress wages for the entire working class and to fill workforce shortages created by aging populations and declining native birth rates. Immigration controls currently are largely set out in the interests of businesses.  In 2011 the OECD calculate that by 2050 the ratio of working people to over 65s will be 2:1 to keep this ratio at its current level of around 4:1 Italy would need 2.2 million immigrants - Germany 3.4 million. But we should not talk about the capitalist economic benefits of immigration, because immigration can indeed have a negative economic impact. It should be about right to migrate and to live where we wish.

The people that benefit from the anti-refugee and anti-migrant campaigns are the same people that benefit from the real causes of bad housing, long hospital waiting-lists and declining education standards. It is the financiers and industrialists. They support running down public services and selling them off . They want to limit and reduce government spending. So they make scapegoats of migrants. They did the same thing in the 1900s when they blamed the Chinese, in the 20s and 30s when they blamed the Jews, in the 1970s when they blamed black and Asian people, and today, they blame asylum seekers and the influx of Eastern Europeans.

From a traditional working-class perspective, workers from another country are little different from female workers or younger and unskilled workers, or even workers from a different area of the same country. In the past, letting women into the workforce was questioned and challenged. They were accused of working for "pin-money" depriving the traditionally male provider of jobs by working for less pay. Younger workers were also accused of undermining pay since they would work for less since they had no family to support. Incomers from the countryside or another region of the country were also accused of stealing locals jobs. The point is, as socalists, we do not set the interests of one part of the working class against another. Socialists try to improve the lot of the working class as a whole. We fight against descrimination and pay differentials based on sex, age and nationality or race. We organise together to fight the bosses for better wages for all and better conditions for all. A united working class is in our own interest as opposed to one that is divided along national/gender/racial lines.

The socialist argument on immigration is always to get together with migrants to fight together for decent working conditions but we must go beyond the demand for the right to work or fair pay, but fight for the right to a decent life. We demand freedom from the market, not a free market.

The slogan is "workers of the world unite!", not "workers of the world unite unless you're a foreigner".

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Some Poetry by Langston Hughes


The ivory gods,
And the ebony gods,
And the gods of diamonds and jade,
Sit silently on their temple shelves
While the people
Are afraid.
Yet the ivory gods.
And the ebony gods,
And the gods of diamond-jade,
Are only silly puppet gods
That the people themselves
Have made.

I Dream A World

I dream a world where man
No other man will scorn,
Where love will bless the earth
And peace its paths adorn
I dream a world where all
Will know sweet freedom's way,
Where greed no longer saps the soul
Nor avarice blights our day.
A world I dream where black or white,
Whatever race you be,
Will share the bounties of the earth
And every man is free,
Where wretchedness will hang its head
And joy, like a pearl,
Attends the needs of all mankind-
Of such I dream, my world!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Red Clydeside's Racism

In previous blogs on the history of Scottish labour we have observed how religious bigotry often marred attempts to unite the working class. But racism has also existed and been exploited for sectional advantage by supposed internationalists.

In all the major sea-ports of Britain communities a non-white sea-farers arose, many marrying local women. In Glasgow they mostly settled around the harbour area, commonly known as Broomielaw.

Many Red Clydesiders have become Scottish national heroes, remembered for their fight for workers' rights. Seamen's leader, president of the Glasgow trades and labour council and chairman of the 40 hr workers’ strike committee, Emanuel – Manny – Shinwell gained fame for his part as a left-wing trades union official in 1919, finding himself thrown into jail on Bloody Friday. But Stirling University historian Dr Jacqueline Jenkinson, in her book "Black 1919", accuses Shinwell of encouraging Glasgow seamen to launch a series of attacks on black sailors. Jenkinson reveals how Shinwell's British Seafarers Union banned black members and how labour histories of the period  fail to mention this Glasgow race-riot .

Jenkinson said: "There has been a reluctance to accept that many of the Red Clydesiders promoted actions that were discriminatory and unfair to the black sailors. Manny Shinwell was one of those who campaigned to stop black sailors getting work. His radical seamen's union, the British Seafarers Union, openly banned black members. It was felt they were keeping Scots out of jobs when they returned from service in the First World War, and lowering wages. Shinwell gave what some consider inflammatory speeches in which he condemned the employment of black sailors in the merchant fleet."

Professor Elaine McFarland, a specialist in modern Scottish history at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: "Red Clydeside does have this dark, racist underbelly, and there has been a reluctance to expose it. It may be due to the political leanings of some historians, but there has been a sentimental view of those who took part in Red Clydeside."

Socialists are only too aware of the racism that can inveigle itself into the trade union movement. Our companion blog SOYMB  recently re-published an appeal from Jewish workers about the descrimination they were facing from elements within the British TUC in the 1890s

The SPGB had reason to distance itself from certain members of the Socialist Party of Canada for their anti-Chinese statements in the early 20th century.

Addressing a meeting of migrant workers in London in 1892, dockers leader Ben Tillett told them: “Yes, you are our brothers, and we will do our duty by you. But we wish you had not come.”

Keir Hardie argued: “It would be much better for Scotland if those [Scottish emigrants] were compelled to remain there [in Scotland] and let the foreigners be kept out. Dr. Johnson said God made Scotland for Scotchmen, and I would keep it so.” According to Hardie, the Lithuanians migrant workers in the mining industry had “filthy habits”, they lived off “garlic and oil”, and they were carriers of “the Black Death”. He described the typical Irish immigrant coal-miner as having "a big shovel, a strong back and a weak brain"

E.D. Morel of the Independent Labour Party and future Labour MP, could describe colonial French troops as "black savages" .

The Glasgow Evening Times were able to employ the words "sambo" and "nigger" in its articles.

The two main sailors’ union, the British Seafarers Union and the the National Sailors’ and Firemen’s’ Union, played the "race" card to attract and mobilise white members at the expense of their black co-workers. The operation of a "colour" bar by sailors’ unions heightened dockside tensions around Britain’s seaports. Prominent Glasgow labour leaders enforced and supported the "colour" bar on black and Chinese sailors. They opportunistically played on this manufactured division within the low-paid and low-skill seafaring workforce as part of the wider campaign for a 40-hour week to reduce unemployment pressures caused by demobilisation. Trade union leaders endeavoured to involve white British sailors in the general strike called in Clydeside, by tying on-going white sailors’ protests against the "unfair" competition posed by overseas labour to the 40-hours strike action. During waterfront speeches at sailors meetings, Shinwell linked the predudices among white British merchant sailors about the ‘unfair’ competition provided by overseas "Asiatic" labour, placing them into a wider industrial setting. He offered dissatisfied white British merchant seaman an opportunity to voice their concerns about workers from overseas undercutting their wages and threatening their job opportunities as part of the wider strike movement. The rioting at the harbour and the threat of more in the succeeding days drew public attention to the 40-hours campaign. The day before the general strike descended into violence on ‘Bloody Friday’ Shinwell presided over a third meeting of sailors in a week, where he ‘…urged them to take effective steps to prevent the employment of Chinese labour on British ships….’  A newspaper report reads: “...Councillor Shinwell, of the BSU, who addressed the meeting, directed attention to the large number of British seamen and firemen who were at present unemployed and the large number being demobilised who would find it difficult to secure employment aboard ship. This he attributed to the refusal of the government to exclude Chinese labour from British ships, and it was essential, he said, that action should be taken at once.”

Willie Gallacher joined with Shinwell on 28 January to address sea-going members of the BSU and other unionised sailors at the harbour to persuade them to take part in the strike action. The tenor of this meeting was no different from the ones addressed by Shinwell; again, the tactic was to import the old demand that black and Chinese crews should be expelled from British ships into the broad strike campaign. The strike committee viewed support from white sailors as useful in widening the 40-hours protest movement and were none too particular as to how such involvement was secured. Shinwell and Gallacher were simply parroting the mis-conception that it is the poor unfortunate immigrant who is responsible for wage cuts and unemployment.

Jenkinson uncovered newspaper accounts that reported Shinwell's role in a Glasgow race riot in 1919. She said:"He played a celebrated role in the protest in George Square on 31 January 1919. But just a week before, on 23 January, he also played a key role in a very violent attack on 30 African sailors. Newspaper reports tell how he spoke to 600 sailors and it was quite a rabble-rousing speech about black and what he called Asiatic, or Chinese, sailors. This led to around 30 black sailors being chased by a baying mob down James Watt Street. On 23rd January that year fighting broke out on the Glasgow waterfront between black and white sailors waiting to sign on to a ship. According to three newspaper reports, whites were being signed up in preference to blacks. A fourth report claimed that blacks were being signed up in preference to whites."

The riot on Thursday 23 January 1919 began at the signing-on hall in James Watt Street a few hours after a Shinwell speech. The black sailors, fled from the hiring yard, pursued by a much larger crowd of white sailors. Locals joined the crowd, swelling its numbers to several hundred. The mob, using guns, knives, sticks, bricks and other makeshift weapons, attacked the nearby sailors' retreat in Broomielaw in which the black seafarers had taken refuge but the mob smashed all the windows and they were turned out on to the street. The black sailors fled back to their own boarding house. When this, in turn, was attacked by the rioters, some of the black sailors fought back with guns, shooting one of the mob. One black sailor was singled out and attacked with knives, leaving him with a gaping wound in his back. The police eventually intervened, this time by taking thirty of the black sailors into 'protective custody'. All of them were charged with riot and weapons offences. Only one of the white rioters was arrested. Shinwell blamed the violence on the arrival in Glasgow of black West African sailors from Cardiff and the recent appearance of a group of Chinese sailors from Liverpool.

The 1919 Glasgow race riot proved the first of a number that spread to major ports throughout Britain such as South Shields, Salford, Hull, London, Liverpool, Cardiff, Newport and Barry. Five people were killed, dozens seriously injured, and over 250 people – usually blacks – arrested and soldiers deployed to stop the rioting. The origins of the riots in Glasgow and elsewhere lay in the policies pursued by shipowners in that national wage rates for sailors hired in Britain (who were almost certain to be white) had been  established after the 1911 seafarers’ strike but rates of pay for those hired overseas (who were almost certain to be black or Chinese) were lower by as much as 25-50%. The trade union response to shipowners using black sailors to cut their labour costs was not to campaign for an extension of the 1911 wage rates agreement to cover all sailors employed on British ships but to demand an end to the employment of foreign (black and Chinese) sailors. Instead of directing the union's wrath at the capitalist class which exploits and takes advantage of the lack of working class unity, Shinwell openly backed the idea of securing jobs for white British sailors at the expense of foreign black sailors.

Such was the perception, that when shipping companies employed foreign (black and Chinese) sailors rather than white (British) sailors, the latter saw themselves as being undercut in the jobs market by the former. This was exacerbated  by the increased unemployment of the  post-war demobilisation when white sailors who had quit the merchant navy to join the Royal Navy, or who had been conscripted to join it, demanded ‘their’ jobs back in the merchant navy. Yet  many of those jobs had already been filled by foreign seafarers. Thus, at the time of the Glasgow riot there were an estimated 400-500 unemployed white sailors in the city. The rioting was triggered by intense job competition among merchant seaman. However, a black sailor from any part of the Empire eg Sierra Leone (where the 30 sailors originated from) was just as British as a white sailor from Glasgow and would be paid the higher rate, and likewise any foreign sailors hired in Britain – because they had arrived here on another ship, or because they had settled here. While whites viewed blacks as foreign, different and inferior, blacks viewed themselves as citizens of the British Empire. The black workers attacked in Glasgow were regarded by the white crowd not as fellow Scots caught up in the same contracting post-war job market but as outsiders trying to snatch employment from white Scottish workers. Shinwell's speeches amounted to not much more than “British jobs for British workers”, scapegoating black and Chinese sailors for unemployment amongst ex-servicemen.

Colonial Britons were used as a convenient "industrial reserve army of labour" during wartime but after the war soon found their continued presence among the white British working class was resented. Black people were viewed as an "alien" element in the workforce by white rioters whose violent actions against their employment were ultimately appeased by the launch of an extended programme of repatriation for black colonial residents throughout Britain in summer 1919. By August 1921 repatriation forced two thousand black workers and their dependents out of Britain under protest. However, many others stayed put in Glasgow, continuing to live and work in the city. But the race-rioting at the docks had served its purposes, limiting the job opportunities for black sailors. Following the riot shipping employers’ were more reluctant than previously to hire black sailors in the port. The increased difficulty in finding employment provoked an organised  protest campaign as members of Glasgow’s black population worked together to publicise the growing destitution among black seafarers caused by the long-term unemployment. The African Telegraph in April 1919 reports "In Glasgow there are more than 130 British seamen walking on their uppers, down and out. They happen to be coloured men, but they are all true British-born subjects, who have served on British ships during the war."

Sylvia Pankhurst's, Workers' Dreadnought, of the Workers Socialist Federation described the sea-port race riots as by-products of capitalism and a divide and rule tactic of the employers. "Do not you know that if it pays to employ black men employers will get them and keep them even if the white workers kill a few of the blacks from time to time?"  It also wrote: "The fight for work is a product of capitalism; under socialism race rivalry disappears.” and asked "...those who have been Negro hunting: - ‘Do you wish to exclude all blacks from England?’ If so, ‘do you not think that blacks might justly ask that the British should at the same time keep out of their countries?’ "

The Socialist Labour Party's journal The Socialist commented: “It is useless to contend that coloured labour cannot be organised. If white men have approached coloured labourers in an arrogantly superior manner, it is small wonder that they have been unable to organise them. ... ‘Alien’ on the lips of one of the working class should have only one meaning – the Boss and all that is his." It bitingly explained  "The Trades Unions have prided themselves on having ousted coloured labourers from certain occupations... Black men and yellow men have been attacked for doing precisely what white men do. This, of course, is but the logical development of the Trades Unions’ policy which is prepared to strike rather than that any unskilled white worker should get a 'skilled job.' "

The temptation to blame your unemployment or wage level on foreign labour may be strong. But nevertheless such views are false. The blame lies elsewhere. You must not blame another worker for your poverty. The clash on the Broomielaw can be taken as an example of how one element of the working class can be made the scapegoat, by those supposedly protecting the interests of all workers, in order to secure a better deal for their members, at the expense of the minority.

Shinwell went on to become a Independent Labour Party then Labour Party MP, chair-person of the Labour Party, Minister of Fuel and Power in the post-war Labour government, Secretary of State for War, Minister of Defence, Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, and Baron Shinwell of Easington. It is ironic that he played a role in this campaign against black sailors when Shinwell himself was a victim of anti-semitism. After a Tory MP told Shinwell, who was Jewish, to "go back to Poland" during a debate in Parliament in 1938, Shinwell crossed the floor of the chamber and punched him.

Sources from here and here and here

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Roma discrimination

A report, commissioned by Oxfam, says members of the large Roma community in Glasgow have been systematically threatened and lied to by government employees while long delays in payments of legitimate benefits have led to high levels of child poverty.

 Evidence of discrimination and prejudice against the most marginalised ethnic group in Europe is contained in the report written by the Govanhill Law Centre (GLC), which investigated how more than 60 Roma families living in the city were dealt with by the DWP and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The lawyers who carried out the investigation said the way many Roma were treated was contrary to the UK government’s legal obligations and amounted to unlawful and unequal treatment.

 As a result of delays in payments – up to three years in some cases – 36 per cent of low-paid Roma claimants faced destitution. These included one woman with three children and a baby less than one year old who was unlawfully evicted from her home because her housing benefit had been wrongly assessed. Another woman with seven children was also evicted and had to sleep on a family member’s floor.

 Among the report’s findings are that:
Public employees made unwarranted threats to return claimants back to their home countries and wrongly stated the law; there was an unreasonable delay with decisions on benefits in 56 per cent of cases; nearly half of all Roma claims - 47 per cent - were automatically dealt with as fraudulent by the HMRC; as a result of delays in payments, one in five Roma claimants faced homelessness;70 per cent of Roma interviewees said they felt discriminated against by public officials.

 Judith Robertson, the head of Oxfam Scotland, said: “We are extremely concerned by evidence that Roma people are being treated differently from other EU citizens. Evidence of discrimination within the DWP or HMRC against any particular group should be properly investigated and acted on. We need to make sure that our benefits system treats people equally.”

 Hanzala Malik, a Labour MSP in Glasgow, called for an inquiry. He said: “I am gravely concerned if people are being pushed into destitution by the very systems meant to protect them. Many Roma people across Europe have endured a great deal of hardship in their home country, only to be met with suspicion and discrimination here in Scotland. The allegations of public authority staff wrongly stating the law and making unwarranted threats to people who do not know ‘the system’ are very serious and if proven would be totally unacceptable.The resources to support and advocate for ethnic minorities or pursue claims of racism or discrimination have diminished to practically nothing. This leaves groups such as the Roma communities even more vulnerable and people or institutions acting in a racist manner feel they will not be investigated. I fully support and call for a full inquiry as such attitudes need to be challenged.”

Socialist Courier has posted several times on the plight of the Roma 

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We are not slaves

There are those who decry migrant workers because of the fact that capitalists use imported labour to lower wages and it canot be denied that inded some employers do use that tactic . But Socialist Courier has always said that the way to fight this is not by imposing immigration bans on workers from abroad but by engaging in class struggle here in the work places to stop this exploitation of foreign workers .

Gleaned from the Polish mainstream press and reported at the Anarkismo website is this story .

Radoslaw Sawicki came to Ireland seven months ago. Grafton recruitment agency offered him work carrying boxes of goods in Tesco's largest warehouse in Dublin. The wage: 9.52 euros per hour, or about 360 euros a week.

Sawicki quickly realised that Irish people working in the same job, but employed by Tesco and not by the agency as the foreigners were, earn at least 200 euros a week more. Poles also did not receive bonuses or additions although their work quotas were continually raised. At the beginning Sawicki carried 500 boxes a shift. Lately that number has doubled (i.e. several tonnes per day). When he and several colleagues complained to the shift manager they were told: "if you don't like it you can go home: there are others willing to take your place."

The next day he came to work wearing a shirt reading [in English] "We are picking 800. No more."

"We will defend ourselves. We are not slaves," adds Sawicki.

Now Poles, with the support of the unions, are fighting for the warehouse to treat them like their own workers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Saving Britain ?

A paid-up member of the National Front, the White Nationalist Party and the British People's Party had four home-made nail bombs, as well as bullets and bladed weapons .

Gilleard was convicted of preparing for terrorist acts and possessing articles and collecting information for terrorist purposes. During the trial, he admitted having a collection of Nazi memorabilia, saying Nazism appealed to him because of the way the Nazis had "rebuilt" Germany.

Gilleard had written that he had wanted to "save" Britain from "multi-racial peril".

Save us from those type of saviors , is all we can say .

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More Migrant Misery

A report criticises the denial of rights to those dealt with by private firms on behalf of the Immigration Service.

The Border and Immigration Agency's Complaints Audit Committee's report, for 2006/07, says investigations into misconduct complaints have been "poor".

Only 8% of complainants were interviewed and 89% of investigations were "neither balanced nor thorough".

As a result, 83% of replies were "indefensible".

Some 71% of misconduct complaints were not completed within time targets.

In 95% of cases, those investigating the complaints had been from the companies under investigation.

Of those misconduct complaints received, 19% were over criminal behaviour - up from 12% in 2005/06.

The report says serious misconduct complaints remain a source of "grave concern to us because of the risks of injury or death, wrongful arrest and civil liability arising from the arrest, detention and removal of failed asylum seekers".

One asylum seeker, Apollo Okello, told the BBC he had been bundled onto a plane at Heathrow and refused permission to see his lawyer, with the security guards knowing he already had permission to stay in the UK. He struggled and was beaten up in the back of a van .