Open Letter: To His Excellency Mr Seth George Ramocan
We are individuals and families in the UK who have been suffering under this government’s racist hostile environment for years. Our fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, partners, grandparents and children have been subject to racist demonisation, torturous detention and unjust deportations.
We need you to stand up for your citizens facing racism & injustice in the UK. We need you to refuse to accept charter flight deportations and reinstate your agreement that no one who came to the UK as a child should face deportation. We are asking you to support our call for an immigration amnesty, so that we can live free and equally.
On 27th April 2022 at 4pm we will be coming to the High Commission with Movement for Justice, to speak out about these injustices, to make our voices heard. We invite you to come out and speak with us, to accept our letter in person, to listen and make a stand. (Facebook event)
There has been NO JUSTICE for our Windrush Generation, only pathetic apologies and promises that have led nowhere. People have died waiting for compensation. We are forced to jump through hoops like performing animals to prove our right to compensation, our right to be here.
The descendants of the Windrush Generation, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, brought here as children or born in the UK suffer racism at every stage of life. We face discrimination in schools, we are criminalised from childhood, we are stereotyped and degraded, we are treated as animals. The open, blatant racism and stereotypes of our community in the early 00’shave not gone away, they’ve just been absorbed into government policy.
Many of us and our children, were groomed into criminal activity in childhood, never treated as victims, only as criminals. Then we face deportation to a country that is no longer home, where we are demonised and stigmatised by hostile media coverage and where we face destitution and murder.
Our lives are here, our families are here, we are PROUD of our Jamaican heritage, we are PROUD of the role our communities have played rebuilding Britain, bringing hard work, music, culture, love and joy. We are Jamaican and we are British in all but the colour of our passport. But every day this government and the Home Office treat us as less than human.
The Jamaican people and government have taken a clear stand to further throw off the shackles of colonial rule, have demanded reparations for slavery; we praise all those who have fought for this moment for decades. This country enslaved us, stole our labour, they broke our backs then told us we were one with them that we were British. Our elders came to rescue the ‘mother country’ in its time of need, they worked hard, they faced down the racists and now this country throw their descendants out like rubbish. Enough.
The UK government keeps on with their unjust charter flights, spending tens of thousands of pounds to deport a handful of people. The charter flights are by their nature brutal and unjust. We are swept up in a racist dragnet of our communities, we are imprisoned and given just 5 days to find representation and build a case. The majority of us are not put on that plane because we have lawful grounds to remain, yet every year, twice or three times a year we are put through this torture. Immigration officers and police barging into our homes, terrorising our children who are left with nightmares and mental health difficulties.
Thousands of children across the UK go through this, the constant fear their father will be taken away from them, the despair of knowing this country does not want us, does not care for us. Then there’s those who have been deported, barely surviving in Jamaica, unable to work, at risk of exploitation and murder, living in fear. Desperately searching for working Wi-Fi so they can see their children over a shaky connection, trying to comfort their children and partner without being able to put their arms around them.
So many of us have to survive without the right to work, unable to care for our families, deepening our depression and despair. The Home Office want us to commit crime, they want us to give up hope, that’s what the racist hostile environment policies are designed to do – force people to leave. But in all this horror we have found hope and strength in each other, in organisation and community. Every time there is a charter flight we stand together; we organise with Movement for Justice and we have made the truth of this injustice known. We need our Jamaican government, our people back home, to stand with us in this struggle.
This government have shown they have no regard not only for decency and human rights but for the law. They routinely breach peoples Human Rights and when called out on that by the courts, their response is not to act more humanely, but to change the law. That is what they are doing with the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will deny us even the smallest legal protections such as trafficking/modern day slavery protections. A Bill which has been roundly condemned as breaching international law and treaties. Judicial Review is our only means of having our voices heard in the courts at these desperate moments yet this government is working on limiting those rights. They are criminalising asylum seekers and view us all as no more than “red meat’to throw to their racist voter base. Immigrants & asylum seekers are not human beings to this racist government, we are seen as scapegoats for a failing government.
We know you are aware of this injustice; we know you have stepped in to try and stand up for the people who came here as children. We know the UK government and Home Office has treated you appallingly by sending a flight even when you have explicitly called for it to be stopped because of COVID risk.
We also know that the Jamaican government CAN refuse to accept these flights, CAN make permanent the agreement that no one who came to the UK as a child should ever be deported. We know our closest neighbour; Ireland has introduced an immigration amnesty so we also know this is possible. It’s time for change.
We hope to see you on the 27th April.
All of the 51 signatories below either directly experienced detention and the risk of charter flight deportation to Jamaica or they are a family member of someone who has faced that trauma (for public release their names have been anonymised):
MFJ Statement on deaths of refugees in the Channel on Wednesday 24 November 20221
The refugees who died in the Channel on 24/11/21, whose true number may never been known, were victims of a politically motivated crime against humanity committed by the British government. Movement for Justice declares that Boris Johnson’s government is guilty of racist mass murder.
The policies and actions of this government made yesterday’s tragedy inevitable, sooner or later. Its actions have made the deaths of many smaller groups of cross-Channel refugees inevitable over the last three years. The government actually instigated a policy of pushbacks at sea whereby big Border Force boats are to physically block small refugee boats and force them out of UK waters, action so life-threateningly dangerous that even their own officials are afraid to carry it out.
Of course, they were ready with their prepared responses to Wednesday’s deaths. With solemn faces, they put the blame on ‘people smugglers’ and France. Most of the media has followed that line.
What hypocrisy! People smugglers are only in business thanks to the racist policies of Britain and other European governments. They are the offspring of Fortress Britain and Fortress Europe. As for France – the refugees were trying to seek asylum in Britain; that was their right, and they died because the UK government used every means possible to deny them that right.
Defeat the Borders Bill – Defeat the Far Right Government
These deaths came as the Government is pushing a new Nationality & Borders Bill through Parliament. This Bill takes the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee Hostile Environment policies of previous governments to new depths of barbarism. It will tear up established rights and safeguards, including the United Nations Refugee Convention. Without doubt it will lead to the deaths of many more refugees and immigrants, in Britain and trying to get here.
Johnson heads a far right government that sees this Borders Bill as the most important public, political element in a raft of repressive anti-democratic laws. It isn’t just another immigration bill, it is a move towards a more dictatorial form of government – and in reality towards fascism.
That makes the response of most liberal and charity groups to the deaths in the Channel thoroughly alarming. They are calling on this government to establish ‘safe legal routes’ for asylum seekers. The founder of the well-known refugee rights charity, Care for Calais, is even saying that the Home Office should set up a ‘screening centre’ in Calais to decide which potential asylum seekers could go on to pursue their claim in Britain.
Defend asylum rights, no to ‘safe legal routes’
Movement for Justice strongly opposes such proposals. ‘Safe legal routes’ is code for no-route at all. It effectively means ‘off-shoring’ the asylum process – a betrayal. The power to decide who can arrive would be used invisibly and entirely at the will of the political elite. There would be no opportunity for a challenge. Refugees only have a realistic chance of asserting their rights if they are in Britain, with a wider public that believes in the right of sanctuary.
The government is truly afraid of the presence of determined, bold refugees in Britain, because these are people who took the initiative to get free rather than waste away in despair, as happens to generations of refugees who are stuck in the limbo of United Nations refugee camps. They have the most to contribute and teach the anti-racist communities and the poor and oppressed in Britain.
That is why the government is so eager to off-shore the asylum process to concentration camps, where officials have dictatorial control to privately pick and choose who they deem ‘worthy’ of asylum, leaving the rest to languish for years in unseen squalor (and perhaps desperately hoping to get a place in one of the UN camp lotteries).
There would be no difference if this policy was operated by a Labour government. Any Labour leadership that implemented ‘safe legal routes’ would be a leadership committed to maintaining the same racist anti-immigrant system. Labour governments have in fact shared responsibility for this system since the 1960s.
Labour’s current shadow Home Secretary has been attacking the government, not for its racism and cruelty, but for failing to stop large numbers of refugees crossing the Channel. He proposed to work with other governments to prevent refugees getting anywhere near the Channel. Many black, Asian and anti-racist Labour Party members are unhappy with the leadership. They must openly challenge those racist policies, not only in words and conference motions, but by joining the active resistance to make the Borders Bill unworkable.
Open the Borders of Britain and Europe
Movement for Justice asserts that the only fair and progressive alternative to the persecution of cross-Channel refugees, and the government’s attempts to consolidate a Far Right racist base, is to Open the Borders.
Opening the Borders is what hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are actually doing around the world because they have no alternative. It’s what refugees are doing in the Channel, the Mediterranean, the deserts of north Africa and on the southern borders of the USA. It will continue and grow because mass migration is a global rebellion against an increasingly unequal and unjust world. It is a rebellion against tyranny, poverty, racism, imperialist wars and global heating.
Open the Borders is not an abstract demand on the British government; it is a Call to Action for a movement of immigrants, refugees, black, Asian & Muslim communities, and youth. It means building that movement on both sides of the Channel and across Europe, to counter and resist the activities of the Home Office, stop deportations, create real safe routes and build & defend real asylum communities. We must pull down the walls of Fortress Britian and Fortress Europe.
Building that movement is how we can best honour those who have sought freedom and justice and died in the Channel and around the world
Defeat the Borders Bill – Don’t cooperate with racist laws – Build Action nowto make the Bill unworkable
Justice for cross-Channel refugees – Justice for Nabil Abdulmajid – Drop the charges now
• Stop criminalising refugees – Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime • Stop arresting & prosecuting refugees who steered cross-Channel boats – drop the charges, quash the convictions, free the prisoners – Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime • No “pushbacks” in the Channel – seeking asylum is not a crime • End the policy of deporting immigrants & refugees with criminal convictions • Shut down detention centres, detention hotels & detention camps • Build homes for all – refugees, citizens, immigrants – expand social housing • Papers for all! Amnesty now! Organise community defence against immigration raids – Home Office out of our communities, workplaces, schools, universities and NHS Open the borders of Britain and Europe
The battle for our future The Movement for Justice by any means necessary (MFJ) is fighting for a New Britain that will be a nation of equality, integration and progress. Britain is already an increasingly multiracial, multi-national society. It is part of a world whose different peoples are increasingly connected. It can only develop as a truly democratic country if all of us who live here now and who come here in the future have full and equal rights. We must have those rights without any discrimination, wherever we have come from or however long we have lived here. Britain must become a country with Open Borders. It must be a society where we have those rights as the people we are – whatever our culture or religion, whatever the colour of our skins or the colour of our passports, whatever our gender or sexuality. The British government is moving rapidly in the exact opposite direction. It is establishing authoritarian rule based on racism. Its new Nationality and Borders Bill is a major part of that plan. Its policies are one long attack on democracy, on justice, on human rights, civil rights, immigrant rights and workers’ rights. It is attacking the lives of the poor and oppressed. It is taking away our right to protest against those attacks. It is introducing measures that will prevent many poor people and black and Asian people from voting (just like Donald Trump’s Republican Party in the USA). It is using its majority in Parliament to tear up constraints on government power. This government’s policies are driven by privilege – and by desperation. It is defending the privileges of the richest and most powerful capitalists. It is desperate because the system that makes them rich and powerful is in a deep historic crisis. Over several decades the ruling class shut down a huge part of its industries, or moved them abroad. That was part of its attack on the working class in Britain. Now the declining economy is dominated by financial speculators and Brexit is making the decline worse.
Britain in crisis We are witnessing the dying pains of British imperialism. This so-called ‘great power’ can’t protect the health and safety of its people. Its response to the Covid-19 pandemic is to tell people to get used to ‘living with Covid,’ so that capitalist businesses can keep making a profit. This former ‘world power’ is increasingly isolated and scorned. This government and its Brexit policy have increased the likelihood that we will see the break-up of the ‘United Kingdom’ – destroying the state that the English ruling classes put together by centuries of conquest and bribery. This government is incompetent, corrupt and reckless; those failings reflect a political system in terminal decline. Racism and the rights of immigrants and refugees are the decisive issue in the battle between two alternative futures – the New Britain MFJ is fighting for, or the crushing, racist future that this government is taking us to. History has made racism the decisive issue because the peoples of the world are increasingly interconnected and increasingly unequal. The only hope for millions of people is to move. And the British government and its supporters make racism the central issue by blaming immigrants and refugees for the consequences of their own policies: the cuts and privatisation in the public services, low pay and insecure jobs, food poverty, housing shortages etc. They make racism the central issue when they promote the false idea that human rights for immigrants and refugees, and for black and Asian people, are taking something away from white people.
Cross-Channel refugees and the government’s Borders Bill Racism and hostility to immigrants were the driving force in the campaign that led to the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit). Those policies brought Boris Johnson’s government to power with a majority of MPs, but on the votes of a minority of the people. Its new anti-immigrant law (the Nationality and Borders Bill) is the most brutal, oppressive and unjust immigration law that any British government has ever produced. The aim of this law is to stir up racism and nationalism by treating asylum seekers as criminals. Its immediate target is the most recent generation of refugees – those who have risked everything in the bold attempt to cross the Channel in small boats, because they hoped to build a new life in Britain, in freedom and safety. The government is using attacks on those refugees to slash the rights of ALL immigrants and asylum seekers. Johnson’s main advantage is not the strength of racism in British society. That is often exaggerated by politicians and journalists. His main strength is the wretched weakness of the ‘opposition’ parties and the organisations that believe change can only come from the rich and powerful and their political system. Now more than ever, we must build independent ACTION by the oppressed and exploited in order to defeat the government’s racist policies and win progressive change in British society. That action has to be led and initiated by those who are under direct racist attack from the government. It must be principally led by refugees and immigrants.
Mass migration is a rebellion against global inequality The rich and powerful regard free movement as their exclusive privilege: free movement for themselves and their money & investments. They deny the right of free movement to the poor and oppressed – the people who they exploit, impoverish and dispossess. There is a global labour market for bosses looking for cheap labour, but not for people looking for work, safety and freedom. Mass migration is a rebellion against that injustice. In an increasingly unequal world the free movement of people is the most basic human right. It is fundamental to workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right of asylum and the right to life itself. The ruling classes use their border controls, detention centres and anti-immigration laws to deny us the right of free movement. However, those same imperialist ruling classes are forcing millions of people to move: people are moving to escape the poverty caused by imperialist exploitation, the tyranny of dictators and elites who are backed by the imperialists, the endless wars caused by the imperialists and their rivalries, and the climate crisis (global heating) that imperialist corporations have created by their drive for profit. Refugees are opening borders by any means necessary because they need to solve crushing material problems in their lives. MFJ demands Open the Borders of Britain & Europe, because that is what hundreds of thousands of people are doing. The alternative to Open Borders is a world of barbarism and tyranny. The ruling classes condemn millions of people to death, drowning, torture and starvation, and they know what they are doing. That is barbarism. MFJ welcomes the refugees who risk everything when they cross the Channel. We welcome them as new members and allies in the fight for equality, justice & immigrant rights. Those who we welcome, Boris Johnson’s government fears, because their bold action is a direct challenge to its racist ideology of ‘taking back control of our borders’.
The Government’s racist build-up to the Borders Bill Since spring 2020, Home Secretary Priti Patel has used the arrival of cross-Channel refugees to build racist support for the policy of criminalising asylum seekers. The attack on people who have crossed the Channel shows clearly that anti-immigrant policies are not about numbers. The number of people immigrating to Britain or claiming asylum here is falling, despite the 26000+ who have (at the time of writing) crossed the Channel in the last two years. The Home Office has used dubious legal grounds to prosecute many cross-Channel refugees. The government’s UK Border Force arrested refugees who were steering the boats, sometimes using a photo from a drone as evidence. Then they were charged as though they were ‘people traffickers.’ In addition, the government ran an ugly racist campaign of mass deportations during summer this year. Charter flights were arranged to Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Nigeria & Ghana, and to Jamaica. These were ‘celebrated’ in articles by Patel in the Daily Mail and Daily Express – two papers with a shameful history of promoting racism. The Home Office is acting as though its new Borders Bill has already become the law, but this summer festival of racism has not been a success for the government. The number of people who were deported on those charter flights has been small. Only seven men were deported to Jamaica, out of a total list of 90. MFJ and Jamaican detainees organised inside Colnbrook detention centre and told the real stories of the men who Patel called dangerous criminals. The Home Office had to take many of them off the list; one group resisted successfully by blockading themselves in a room in the detention centre. There were only a few people deported on the flight to Nigeria & Ghana in July. It was the same on the flight to Zimbabwe. A later flight to Nigeria was cancelled. Everyone on the Home Office lists for the charter flights to Jamaica and Vietnam had the de-humanising label ‘Foreign National Offender’ (FNO). That means they have been convicted of a crime and they don’t have British citizenship. All those ‘FNOs’ had served their sentences, so deporting them was a double punishment. Most of the Jamaicans the Home Office tried to deport have families, partners or children in Britain. Many came to Britain as children and don’t know anyone in Jamaica. Most of them have suffered the racism of Britain’s police and ‘justice’ systems. Many of them experienced racism in education or from social services.Many of those on the charter flight to Vietnam were victims of trafficking. They are all likely to be in danger if they are deported. The Home Office was prepared to sacrifice them in order to reinforce white racist prejudices and racist stereotypes. The unjust and racist deportation of ‘FNOs’ must stop.
Stop the Channel “Pushbacks!” This summer’s charter flight plan was a failure, and the Home Office also suffered set-backs in its attempts to prosecute cross-Channel refugees. In March, the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of an Iranian refugee who had steered one of the small boats. After a few months the Home Office had to drop the charges of 11 ongoing cases, and a month later (in July) the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced publicly that it would not be prosecuting any more cross-Channel refugees. However, there are still people who steered boats serving prison sentences for their convictions, and the Border Force is still arresting refugees who have steered a boat; MFJ demands all convictions are quashed, the prisoners are released and the arrests are stopped. The setbacks for the Home Office, especially the failure of Patel’s charter flight plans, are victories for refugee and immigrant rights, so they have created a crisis for the government. The Home Secretary has been criticised by her own racist supporters. She has responded by increasing her racist attacks on refugees. She has announced that the UK Border Force will start to push refugee boats back into French waters, and Boris Johnson is supporting her. The Border Force has already started training exercises in the Channel. Patel is following the dangerous example of the Greek and Italian governments in the Mediterranean. The government is prepared to defy maritime law and the anger of the French government. Border Force officers have insisted that every single ‘pushback’ is personally authorised by Patel – they don’t want to take responsibility themselves. That is a clear sign of how dangerous and legally dubious this plan is. However, the government has decided to make a public show of being ‘tough’ on refugees, whatever damage it causes.
Justice for Nabil Abdulmajid! Seeking asylum is not a crime – drop the charges now The Home Office was determined to reverse the impact of the Court of Appeal decision and the CPS announcement. During the summer it started more prosecutions of cross-Channel refugees and the CPS had to fall into line. MFJ member Nabil Abdulmajid, a cross-Channel refugee from Sudan, is a victim of that policy. He was charged on 14th June, six months after his arrest and police interview. The attempt to criminalise Nabil is entirely political. All four people in the boat with Nabil were Sudanese refugees like him. Nabil was a victim of persecution in Sudan because of his ethnicity. Like many other refugees, he was enslaved and tortured in Libya. He travelled through Italy to France, but was deported back to Italy under the EU’s Dublin Agreement. He was destitute there and crossed more borders to reach Germany and claim asylum. His claim was refused, however, and the German authorities planned to send him back to persecution in Sudan. Faced with that threat Nabil made the choice to save his life and join the people crossing the Channel to Britain. He contributed to buying a boat and was doing his best to steer it and keep them all safe until they were rescued. They were crossing in the night in rough, dangerous waters. They battled for hours in the dark to keep the boat afloat while the waves crashed around them. By the time they were rescued they were soaking wet and traumatised. Months later Nabil was arrested and charged because he was steering the boat. The decision to prosecute Nabil is an attack on all cross-Channel refugees. It is part of the government’s propaganda for the Borders Bill, and so it is a threat to the right of all asylum seekers and to every immigrant without papers. That is why MFJ says We Are All Nabil. MFJ demands that the charges against Nabil are dropped and we have demonstrated at every stage in his case. If the charges are not dropped we will hold a mass demonstration at his trial before a jury in Canterbury Crown Court, currently scheduled for 30th May next year (2022).
“Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow” MFJ exists to build the independent leadership of and for the poor and oppressed. The method MFJ applies to this struggle was summed up a long while ago, in a speech by an escaped black slave, Frederick Douglass, who was the greatest leader of the struggle against slavery in the USA. Speaking clearly and forcibly he set out these principles for the struggle of the oppressed and exploited: “A man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others…. a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others.” “The poet was true… [who] said, Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.” “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions… have been born of earnest struggle…. If there is no struggle there is no progress.” “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will….” Douglass made that speech to a black audience in 1857. It was a tense and difficult time for the black anti-slavery struggle, just four years before the CivilWar that ended slavery in the US. In the speech he refers directly to white leaders who opposed slavery but looked down on black people: “We may fight, but we must fight… under white officers…. They don’t like any demonstrations whatever in which coloured men take a leading part.” This is a tense and difficult time for refugees and immigrants in Britain – and more generally for the black, Asian and Muslim communities. We have too many politicians, charities and ‘sympathisers’ who have the privilege of UK citizenship and who don’t want refugees to ‘take a leading part.’ They want to preserve their ‘peaceful co-existence’ with the established political system. They don’t want refugees taking action that might disrupt that relationship. Refugees and immigrants, especially cross-Channel refugees, are the front-line of the fight for human rights. They are in a fight against the most racist and dangerous government in the modern history of Britain. The front-line is an exposed position. We can’t afford the luxury of peaceful coexistence with those enemies.
Changing the balance of power The task facing our movement is to change the balance of power in society. We need to change the balance of power in favour of the poor, exploited and oppressed, and we need to weaken the power of the rich and powerful who control the machinery of the state (detention centres, border guards, police etc). In practice, that means we must change the balance of power in favour of those sections of the poor and oppressed who are most conscious of their oppression, who are most aware of their conflict with the state and who feel the urgent need for change. In today’s British society that means immigrants and asylum seekers, and black, Asian and Muslim communities – especially the youth of those communities. Action by those groups is the necessary force that will undermine the government’s efforts to crush them. This has been the consistent method of MFJ’s organising in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres and in our struggles for asylum rights. Similar action has also occurred ‘spontaneously’ (though resistance is never truly spontaneous). When a Kenyan detainee died as a result of neglect in the former Oakington detention centre, fellow detainees prevented a cover-up by stopping the removal of his body, taking control of the building and contacting the media. When the BBC arrived detainees broke down the doors and went outside to demonstrate. Oakington was shut down within months. Similar uprisings and exposures occurred after deaths in the former Morton Hall detention centre. In May/June 2014 hundreds of asylum seekers in Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres took part in a series of mass protests to demand that they be taken off the notorious Detained Fast Track (DFT) asylum process and released. (DFT was a system that isolated asylum seekers and rushed them through interviews and appeals in a few days or weeks.) In the 12 months after the protests a series of court decisions said DFT was illegal and it was stopped. These actions and many others shifted the balance of power in the detention centres and between the detainees and the Home Office. Cumulatively, they led to the government’s decision to reduce the use of detention. Seven detention centres were shut down between 2015 and 2020. The number of people held in the detention system is now at the lowest level since it began.
The movement we need to build – the action we need to take The current stage of our struggle is marked by that shift away from using detention centres. The policy in those that remain is for a quick turn-over of detainees and rapid deportation. Since the arrival of cross-Channel refugees the Home Office has moved to using hotels and camps as places to hold asylum seekers – especially those who came in small boats. The Home Office says the refugees are free to come and go, but without money they are not really free. Some of the places are too isolated for them to go anywhere. Each hotel needs to become a centre of organisation and resistance. Cross-Channel refugees in MFJ have already organised successful collective struggles against restrictions and bullying by managers who are appointed by Home Office contractors. Some of these refugees have spoken to journalists and got media coverage for their action. There needs to be more action inside more detention hotels. That will undermine the authority of the management companies and the Home Office. The networks of contacts between refugees in different hotels should be expanded and used to co-ordinate action. Such action can take many forms: collective action to get attention and treatment for people who are ill and being neglected; calling an ambulance if management doesn’t respond; going as a group to reception or a manager’s office to protest over any injustice, abuse or complaint, and refusing to leave until you get a satisfactory answer. None of this should be left to the individual. Refugees in hotels need to build links and support in the communities where they are located. We need to take to the streets with marches and rallies in local communities, especially in integrated communities with large black, Asian and immigrant populations. There are many detention hotels in such neighbourhoods. We need more demonstrations and rallies like the one MFJ organised in Lewisham with refugees from a local hostel. We need to show the strength of our movement and involve local communities. We need to speak to students in schools, colleges and universities now the new term has started. If you are in an English class, speak to the other students about this struggle. If you are in a student society, (for example, an anti-racist or refugee support group, a black or Muslim students society, or a law society) invite speakers from MFJ. We will win their active support because the policies and actions of this government are a real threat to the future of all young people. The more we build these connections and unite Britain’s different refugee ‘generations’ in action, the more we will shift the balance of forces and be able to defend our communities from the Home Office. The most effective way to stop deportations is to stop immigration raids. We can build on what is happening already in many communities and establish community-based defence organisations everywhere, to watch out for raids, give warnings and take collective action to block raids and chase out Immigration Enforcement vans. The more we build these forms of action the easier it will be to get workers, students and teachers to enforce a policy of non-cooperation with the Home Office.We need people refusing to ask questions about immigration status or pass information to the Home Office. We need that happening in every school, college, hospital, doctors’ surgery, local council office, university and every workplace where immigrants, with or without papers, are employed. The more we shift the balance of power the more inspired and confident people will be to defy the government.
This is a struggle we can win Most white people in Britain are not as racist as the government needs them to be, and British society (especially in the major cities and among the younger generation) is too integrated for the racist plans of the Home Office to be fully effective. From the Home Office point of view, too many white people who know a refugee or an immigrant without papers personally are likely to recognise their humanity. They are likely to sympathise with them and support them against the Home Office. In the run-up to the Borders Bill we are seeing an example of this. The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) has said publicly that it will continue to save the life of anyone who is in danger at sea. The RNLI is the charity that organises the lifeboat rescue service round the coasts of the UK. The rescue crews are all volunteers from the coastal communities, which are mainly white. They are rescuing desperate men, women and children who are in the cross-Channel boats; they see their humanity and they carry on, even in the face of abuse from anti-refugee racists. Under the Borders Bill those lifeboat crews will be liable for prosecution – but they have declared they will continue to save anyone who needs rescuing. That is part of a wider problem for the government. British society is now too integrated to make things easy for the Home Office, especially in the major cities where most people live, and among the younger generation. We recently saw that demonstrated in Glasgow, when an integrated working class community turned out, occupied the streets for eight hours, and successfully stopped the deportation of two Indian Sikh ‘over-stayers.’ If refugees and immigrants take the lead we can inspire a whole movement of such resistance. There are many people of all races who are angry, bitter about this government’s cynical approach to the Covid pandemic and alarmed by its racism. They are frustrated. They need to see an organised movement of the people who have been through the harshest struggles, who have the greatest need to fight and have the greatest need to win – they need to see a movement of refugee and immigrant leaders. This government is neither strong nor stable. It is makingup policies as it goes along. It does not have the undivided confidence of the ruling class. Many of the rich and powerful are alarmed by the chaos it is creating, or they are unhappy with the damage that Brexit has done to their trade with Europe. If our refugee and immigrant led movement continues to grow and wins more battles, we will inspire wider sections of the population to join their struggles with ours. That will change the balance of power and widen the divisions among the rich and powerful. It will create a situation of flux in which we can derail and defeat the racist agenda of Johnson and Patel. We can defeat the Borders Bill in action even if it is passed by Parliament. That will be a big step forward in the fight for a New Britain – equal, open and integrated.
First insight into new regime in Yarl’s Wood detention centre since its conversion into a short term holding facility for cross channel refugees. Report highlights lack of access to legal advice and failure to identify victims of trafficking and torture.
Since August 2020 there have been no more women detained in Yarl’s Wood and the Home Office confirmed that its small short term holding facility was expanded to process cross channel refugees.
The report we release today is the first public insight into the new regime and is the result of four weeks of discussions with 20 refugees who were detained in Yarl’s Wood during September 2020.
Over half of those we spoke to had been victims of torture or trafficking; many had been enslaved in Libya and subject to brutal torture, forced labour and rape. They spent 5-7 days in Yarl’s Wood.
During this time, no one was provided with access to a solicitor; the Detention Duty Advice Scheme (DDAS) was not functioning. Some were given a list of numbers after several days but lack of phone credit and language difficulties meant it was impossible for them to secure representation.
People are moved to other accommodation with no representation, no support, and in many cases with no phones. They are dispersed to areas where charities are overstretched and where legal aid immigration solicitors either have no capacity or are few and far between. Language difficulties and lack of phone or phone credit makes it impossible for many to find the legal advice, medical help and support they need.
Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Home Office have been vocally critical of ‘last minute legal claims’ which ‘frustrate’ removals; this report reveals the truth, that people are denied legal advice at an early stage and victims of trafficking are not being identified. For these refugees a ‘last minute claim,’ when they are taken to Brook House and given notice of a flight, is the only way to stop what would be an unlawful removal.
“The UK’s stated commitment to Human Rights is being trampled on by Priti Patel, the UK Home Office and this government. They have designed a Dover to Deportation pipeline, at every stage frustrating refugees’ ability to get the legal advice, care and support they need. Yarl’s Wood is but one link in that pipeline, but it is a crucial one. Had those asylum seekers been able to access legal representation at the earliest opportunity they would not have been subject to the further torture of detention and threat of removal, which has led to so many suicide attempts in Brook House. Karen Doyle (MFJ National Organiser)
Victims of trafficking and torture, people with families here, people with serious health conditions and mental health difficulties are being taken from their accommodation and thrown into Brook House IRC for removal on charter flights with just five days notice. When lawyers take on these cases at short notice and help their clients to access the protections available to them in law they are branded as ‘lefty lawyers’, akin to traffickers, and vilified simply for doing their job.
“This government is pursuing a relentless and dishonest campaign to vilify refugees and those who support and represent them. It has an incited an epidemic of race hatred and attacks, like the recent attempt to murder an immigration lawyer and fascists targeting places where refugees are being housed. We will fight together with refugees and immigrants to end the super-charged Hostile Environment of Boris Johnson and Priti Patel. Antonia Bright (MFJ Chair)
No NATO War with Russia! – For a free, independent Ukraine – No NATO take-over – No Russian invasion – ‘West’ or ‘East’: The Main Enemy is OUR OWN Ruling Class
Only the revolutionary struggle of workers & the oppressed can stop an imperialist war drive – Open the Borders to refugees & immigrants – Lift the sanctions that are destroying Afghanistan
18th February 2022(The following statement is by the International Trotskyist Committee for the regeneration of the fourth international (ITC). This important analysis and perspective is being distributed by MFJ in the UK and BAMN in the US)
Revolutionary, socialist and progressive forces around the world must now respond to the twin dangers of a Russian invasion of Ukraine and the US/NATO mobilisation against Russia.
The conflict between the major imperialist powers and alliances has been escalating dangerously, and with it the threat of outright war between them. The last six months have seen this conflict move beyond the decades of proxy wars that continue to devastate the ‘wider Middle East,’ from Libya to Afghanistan. It has been moving towards a direct military confrontation between the USA, with its NATO and G7 allies, and the China/Russia bloc, which now includes Iran and the central Asian republics.
Over these past six months, starting with the fiasco of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the balance of power between these rival alliances has shifted in favour of the China/Russia bloc, and the US and NATO have been adopting increasingly aggressive tactics in response. The governments of China and Russia see the situation as an opportunity to strengthen their geo-political position, in particular by dividing the ‘western powers.’ The US leadership is trying to turn it into an opportunity to re-impose its authority on NATO – and from that perspective, the US appears to have a cynical strategic interest in Putin invading Ukraine, as being preferable to making any concession to Russia.
On both sides the current Ukraine crisis is part of their wider strategy. In immediate terms it is a struggle between the NATO powers and Russia for domination in eastern Europe. However, the central issue in this inter-imperialist conflict remains the growing rivalry between the USA, which is still, for now, the world’s largest economy with the richest ruling class, but which is in decline and divided, and China, which is the second largest and fastest-growing economy in the world, and the biggest exporter of manufactured goods.
Over the past month Russia has moved more troops and armaments towards the border with Ukraine, and NATO has been stationing more military units and missiles in its eastern member countries, close to Russia, while conflicts of interest between the western powers have become more apparent. This was the context in which the Chinese and Russian regimes issued an assertion of their joint interests and aims. Following the meeting between Presidents Xi and Putin in Beijing (at the opening of the Winter Olympics – a huge prestige project for Xi’s global ambitions) the two governments published a statement that can best be described as a plan for a new world order under Chinese leadership. Russia pledged support for China’s ‘war aims’ (Taiwan, and the reversal of US military and naval policies in the Asia/Pacific region) and China pledged support for Russia over Ukraine and opposition to any NATO expansion. Both pledged their opposition to ‘Colour revolutions’ (a term for mass protests – seen as ‘western backed’ – against authoritarian regimes in former parts of the Soviet Union, e.g. Orange revolution in Ukraine, Rose revolution in Georgia).
And they both commit to “Intensifying practical cooperation for the sustainable development of the Arctic” and to the “Development and use of Arctic routes,” thus declaring their investment in a continuing climate crisis. The word ‘sustainable’ is used for the sake of appearances; it is as empty as the prayer, “God make me pure, but not yet.” In this they are no more cynical than western powers that promise Net Xero Carbon and open new coal mines and oilfields – or the western imperialists’ International Monetary Fund (IMF), that condemned China for continuing its Zero Covid policy because it was bad for business.
Whether or when war breaks out in Ukraine this confrontation is already serving its purpose for Russia and China by continuing the shift in the balance of imperialist forces and deepening divisions in NATO. That makes the threat of a new World War much more real and brings it closer.
The world is being drawn deeper into a crisis similar to that described by Leon Trotsky in 1938: Under the increasing tension of capitalist disintegration, imperialist antagonisms reach an impasse at the height of which separate clashes and bloody local disturbances… must inevitably coalesce into a conflagration of world dimensions.L D Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and Tasks of the Fourth International (The Transitional Programme).
Increasing tensions in eastern Europe
Over a hundred thousand Russian troops with armaments, including nuclear missiles, and military infrastructure were stationed along the border with Ukraine during the final months of 2021 and throughout January. During the same period Russia started reducing supplies of natural gas to European Union (EU) countries, at times shutting it down completely. Meanwhile the USA pledged to continue its arms supplies to Ukraine and threatened economic sanctions in the event of an invasion.
A series of meetings between Russia and the western powers during the second week of January ended in total stalemate. Even before those discussions ended, Putin began to move more army units and armaments from Russia’s Far East. Many of those are now in Belarus, where they are carrying out joint ‘exercises’ with the Belarussian army on its border with Ukraine.
For nearly three decades, President Lukashenko’s authoritarian, post-Soviet regime in Belarus, between Russia and Poland, maintained a rather astute balancing act between Russia and the EU, based on the support of workers in the heavy industry sector that the government kept under state ownership – unlike the regimes in other post-Soviet and East European countries. Those workers, however, joined political mass strikes against the government in August 2020, becoming the strongest force in the mass protests that shook the regime following a rigged election and the mishandling of the Covid pandemic. Lukashenko had to call on Russian support to maintain his power, and now his brutally repressive regime is Putin’s puppet and Belarus is a potential launch-pad for a Russian invasion of western Ukraine.
In January this year, Putin further strengthened his regional authority by sending troops to maintain an authoritarian capitalist regime against working class revolt in another part of the former Soviet Union, this time in mineral-rich and oil-rich Kazakhstan – a country that produces up to 40% of the world’s Uranium. The Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan reported that strikes and protests broke out following the government’s doubling of transport fuel prices; they developed as anti-government strikes and protests across the extractive industries that are the mainstay of Kazakhstan’s economy, and in the cities. The Russian intervention crushed the strikes and protests and allowed Putin to impose a settlement on the rivalries within the ruling elite.
Putin used his intervention in Kazakhstan to relaunch the dormant Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) between Russia, Kazakhstan and four other former Soviet republics (Armenia, Belarus, Kyrghizstan & Tajikistan). He did not need their assistance in Kazakhstan for military reasons, but using his displays of power there, in Belarus, and on the Ukrainian border to revive the CSTO was another step towards achieving his wider vision, one shared by his fellow Russian oligarchs. Just as the break-up of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was the mechanism for restoring capitalism in Russia, so capitalist Russia now needs to gain control of those former Soviet territories to fulfil its imperialist ambitions.
Those ambitions bring Russia into conflict with the western imperialist powers. Control of Ukraine is not just an item on Putin’s wish-list, or on NATO’s; it is necessary for an imperialist Russia to control the country, or at least to prevent the western powers controlling it (which in the end come down to the same thing) and it is equally necessary for the US/NATO plan to maintain America’s global power and thwart Russian and Chinese ambitions. Geography, capitalist economics, and the history that has shaped these states make it so.
Those same factors have brought China and Russia together in an imperialist bloc. They both need that bloc to be strong and united – thus, at the same time as the US and Russian foreign ministers held talks in Geneva on 21st January, without reaching any conclusion, the Russian, Chinese and Iranian navies held joint exercises in the Indian Ocean, and China consolidated its agreements on economic and military co-operation with Iran.
However, Russia’s capitalist and imperialist development is definitely inferior to China’s, so its assertion of power in Europe is also necessary for its balance of power with China within their alliance.
The division of the world: fact and fiction
Western politicians and their media allies proclaim their defence of freedom, democracy and the national independence of Ukraine against Russian dictatorship. Their claims are hypocritical fictions. By democracy and the national independence of Ukraine, they mean that Ukraine should be a bulwark of the western powers against Russian expansion, by freedom they mean that EU and US corporations (rather than Russian or Chinese corporations) should have a free rein to exploit the people and resources of Ukraine.
These fictions expose the cynicism of the ruling classes and politicians of the western powers who have never shown any concern for the independence of the peoples and states they have conquered and continue to exploit. What right does President Biden have to talk about democracy when it is impossible today to ensure equal voting rights in the US, when US police almost always get away with murdering black and Latino people, and when he has by and large maintained Trump’s racist anti-immigrant policies? What right does Prime Minister Johnson have to talk about freedom and democracy when he is undermining and restricting the right to vote, destroying the right of asylum and human rights in Britain, and abolishing freedom to protest?
In the same way, as we explain below, Putin’s talk of ‘The historical unity’ of Russia and Ukraine as ‘one people’ is reviving a historical fiction to justify the subjugation of Ukraine and control of its land, industry, gas and oil pipelines, and Black Sea ports.
No, these are not conflicts between democracy and dictatorship, as western governments claim, nor are they a struggle by ‘developing’ nations against the old masters, the view promoted by the Chinese government and its supporters. The ruling classes of the rival imperialist powers are in a struggle with each other. The aim on both sidesis to retain and and expand – at the expense their rivals – the regions and populations of a finite world that they are able to exploit. It is a battle for hegemony in the capitalist world economy, in Lenin’s words a struggle,
…For the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence of finance capital, etc.V I Lenin, 1920 preface to Imperialism,the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916).
The current conflict is a continuation of conflicts that have racked the world since the rise of capitalist imperialism that has dominated the global capitalist economy since the end of the nineteenth century. The context and cause of the present escalating conflicts is an increasingly precarious global economy, in which the concentration of capital and the parasitic domination of economic life by finance capital have reached monstrous proportions, where poverty and inequality are rising, along with debt and protectionism, and where investment is stagnating. While Russia and China are certainly governed by brutal dictatorships, democracy is under attack on an international scale; authoritarian regimes are basing themselves on racism and ethnic or religious nationalism, and fascism is resurgent – in the USA, in India, in Britain, France, Italy, Brazil etc.
The victims of the conflict are the world’s poor and oppressed: the working class and struggling middle classes, the impoverished neo-colonial countries, women, ethnic and religious minorities, and the millions forced to flee their homes by war, persecution, poverty, famine and the climate crisis. There is no progressive side in the conflict between the two imperialist alliances, no ‘victory’ for either side that would advance the liberation of the exploited masses of humanity.
Afghanistan: the turning point
The critical turning point in the move towards a more direct and dangerous military confrontation between the rival imperialist blocs came last August, with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which inevitably meant the simultaneous withdrawal of its allies’ much smaller forces.
For the past 43 years the people of Afghanistan have lived, suffered and died in a battleground between rival great powers. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded the country to prop up the pro-Soviet government established after the monarchy was overthrown. The US (and Saudi Arabia) backed Islamist guerrilla forces in a prolonged war that eventually led to Soviet withdrawal and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the restoration of capitalism in Russia, eastern Europe and central Asia.
Afghanistan itself was left under the control, first of rival war-lords, and then of the Taliban, until it was invaded by the US and its allies in 2001, following the attacks by Al Qaeda on New York and Washington. That organisation, and the similar groups it spawned (ISIS/Daesh etc) were the product of the Islamist groups the US and Saudi Arabia had fostered in Afghanistan.
The US-led occupation did not and could not resolve anything. The lack of a ‘victory’ and the continuing loss of American lives made it seem pointless, even to Donald Trump’s racist and nationalist base (it was, of course, the Afghan people who suffered by far the greatest death toll). In 2020, when Trump was fighting for re-election, the US negotiated a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, and President Biden committed to carrying it out.
The US government and military almost certainly did not believe their talk about a ‘pragmatic’ Taliban becoming more moderate and less brutal. They cynically agreed to hand them control of the country because it was politically convenient. If US leaders expected that would be a calm and orderly handover, or hoped to have any continuing influence in Afghanistan, they were badly mistaken. The Taliban knew they needed to eliminate any other contenders for power by completing the imposition of their control on the population, especially in the cities, demoralising and dissolving the US-backed Afghan army, and bringing down the US-backed government, before the US forces left. Moreover, the Taliban were already in talks with China and had agreed that, in return for China’s support, they would leave the heavily oppressed and persecuted Muslim Uighur population in western China to their fate. The result was a rushed and chaotic evacuation of US and allied forces in August, in the face of a rapid Taliban take-over of the whole country.
Afghanistan is now firmly in China’s sphere of influence. That has consolidated China’s role in Pakistan and Iran. China’s power is now reaching to the oil-rich Gulf states.
The Taliban have accepted abandoning the Uighurs as the price of their victory. Unlike such armed Islamist groups as Islamic State and Al Qaeda, who dream of a global Caliphate, the Taliban are first and foremost Afghan (and principally Pushtu) national Islamists with close links to Pakistan’s military intelligence agencies. The ruling Shia Muslim theocracy in Iran has acted in a similar fashion. It uses Shia Islam as a political weapon alongside its military intervention in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, but it turns a blind eye to the Taliban’s persecution of the Shi’ite Hazara community in Afghanistan. That is the price the Iranian leadership is willing to pay for the support of Russia and China against the USA, Israel and Saudi Arabia. As a bonus it is now able to sell Iranian oil to the Taliban.
The US and its allies have abandoned not merely those whom they employed in Afghanistan, but all those to whom they cynically promised more freedom and opportunities – women, religious minorities and youth. Worse! – they have imposed sanctions on Afghanistan supposedly as a move against the Taliban forces, who they agreed should take over the country. In reality, the sanctions are aimed at China, the new dominant power in the country. For its part China has done no better.
The result is a terrible humanitarian disaster: 90% of Afghans without enough food; starvation; mass malnutrition among children; no cash; no medical supplies. And those Afghans who were evacuated to NATO countries are now suffering the inhuman experience of life as asylum seekers under racist governments.
The fate of Afghanistan must stand as a grim warning to the people of Ukraine and the whole world about the inhuman cynicism of ALL imperialist rulers.
In terms of international relations, last year’s events in Afghanistan represent a major change in the balance of power, not only on a regional level but globally, because of the major powers that were involved and the strategic significance of the region. That change is all the more profound because of its impact on the relationship between the US and its allies – especially its NATO allies in Europe.
Following the Trump presidency, many allies of the US, notably France and other west European governments, were openly questioning how much they could rely on its support. This was compounded by the mass fascist attempt to take over the US Congress on 6th January last year, in order to overturn the result of the presidential election, and by the continuing strength of the Trump movement. The debacle in Afghanistan shook the confidence of US allies even more.
China and Russia have decided that this is the time to assert their advantage, and the US and its allies are desperate to regain their authority but uncertain and divided about how to act.
US manoeuvres in the Far East and China’s response
In September, within a few weeks of their debacle in Afghanistan, the US imperialists attempted to re-assert their power vis-à-vis China in the Far East / Pacific region, with the near-simultaneous announcements of the AUKUS pact and the revival of the ‘Quad.’ Under the AUKUS pact with Australia and Britain, the US agreed to share with Australia the technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, and Australia reneged on its contract to buy diesel-powered submarines from France. Nuclear-powered submarines are capable of much longer periods at sea and under-sea, and the whole force will be under US control; the US government plans to have this force as a permanent presence in the seas adjacent to China.
In one stroke Biden threatened China and further strained relations with his NATO and G7 ally, France.
The revival of the Quad (the US, Australia, Japan and India) is more than anything an attempt to draw India more tightly into an anti-China bloc as a response to the expansion of Chinese power in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The Chinese government responded swiftly, with a dramatic demonstration of its growing power and technological advances. It had already been ratcheting up its rhetoric and aggressive actions, stamping out the remaining vestiges of democracy and autonomy in Hong Kong and increasing its threats and pressure on Taiwan, the island it claims is rightfully part of China.During October and November it sent repeated detachments of jet warplanes to the airspace around Taiwan, sometimes returning day after day and some nearly 150-strong, with a range of aircraft designed for different roles, including bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
The US and Taiwan were the principal ‘audience’ for this display of airpower, but China was also sending a message to US allies Japan and South Korea, to its neighbours in south-east Asia, and to India, which has had a series of military clashes (some fatal) with Chinese forces in disputed areas on its mountainous northern border.
This show of military airpower took place just before and during the United Nations climate change conference in Glasgow and overhung the conference proceedings. Neither Xi nor Putin attended the conference in person.
The conflict moves to Europe: Russia, Ukraine and NATO
The origin of the current Russia/Ukraine conflict lies in events in eastern Europe forty years ago. In 1989/90 the Soviet-backed regimes in eastern Europe crumbled, with Soviet-backed East Germany taken over by (officially, ‘reunified’ with) capitalist West Germany. In 1991 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) broke up. Capitalism was restored in all those countries, often through ‘primitive accumulation’ (Seizing wealth in some way or another to kick-start capitalist production). In Russia Soviet bureaucrats and managers became kleptocrats – eagerly ripping up state economic plans along with the state control of foreign trade, seizing property and looting the economy while it collapsed. The most rapacious became oligarchs. Former Communist Party chiefs used their old authority to become business moguls and presidents (like Putin in Russia and Lukashenko in Belarus) crushing dissent and establishing wealthy dynasties. Meanwhile poverty, inequality and disease increased and life expectancy fell.
During the 1990s Russian leaders had very limited success in imposing their authority on the other ex-soviet republics, even though Russia dwarfed them all in size and population and though most of them joined with Russia in forming a ‘Commonwealth of Independent States.’
The western imperialists were quick to use the weak and chaotic state of the Russian Federation to recruit first Poland, and then one after another of the Baltic republics and former satellite states of the Soviet Union to membership of NATO – from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south. NATO membership was soon followed by membership of the European Union. As a result, NATO and the EU were extended to the Russian border in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and to the borders of Belarus and Ukraine further south.
The Russian regime has aimed to stop and reverse that process – aided by a stronger economy based on rising oil and gas prices – especially since Putin came to power in 1999. Reasserting Russia’s control of Ukraine has been central to that policy, which led to a direct Russian intervention in 2014 in response to protests that led to the removal of Ukraine’s Russia-backed president, Victor Yanukovich. Russian forces seized the strategically important Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea (which has a Russian majority and only became part of Ukraine in 1954). At the same time Russian ‘volunteers’ established two breakaway regions around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, on Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia. Since then there has been a constant conflict on the front line with those regions, in which thousands of Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, and there have been periodic Russian mobilisations on Ukraine’s border.
Ukraine is important to the economic, political and military power of Russia’s rulers – it is an important agricultural and industrial region, it has ports on the Black Sea with access to the Mediterranean, and its geographical position makes it a route to west and east with few natural borders.
It is important to the western powers for many of the same reasons, but with significant variations. For the US, the principal concern is to contain growing Russian power, a view shared by Poland and the Baltic states; for other EU members, especially for Germany, it is about economics – meaning both trade and investment possibilities in Ukraine, and the importance of their access to Russia’s far bigger economy. That is why, on occasions when the US has raised the issue of Ukrainian membership of NATO, and why Germany and France have stonewalled the proposal.
Putin wants to exploit those differences, as well as the doubts and divisions of NATO governments about the role and future prospects of the US. He has had some success: Germany is sending medical supplies but not arms to Ukraine; representatives of the German and French governments, seeking a ‘European solution’ to the crisis, have been meeting with Russian and Ukrainian representatives under a process they established in 2014.
The most important factors in this current phase of the struggle “…For the division of the world, for the partition and repartition of colonies and spheres of influence….” are 1) Russia’s role as a major supplier of oil and natural gas to western Europe, and 2) as noted above, Russia’s increasingly close relationship with China. These have been the drivers of Russia’s increased power, including the improvement in its government’s financial resources. Russia’s role as a major exporter of oil and natural gas has grown, in large part because global heating has made sources in the Arctic more accessible. It is a crucial supplier of energy to China as well as to Europe. Moreover, Russian co-operation is necessary for the ‘Belt’ (i.e. overland) element of China’s Belt and Road project to reach Europe.
Russia is the source of nearly half the EU’s natural gas supply and a quarter of its petroleum oil. Most of that reaches the west through pipelines that run through Ukraine and have provided it with regular revenue. Russia has put increased pressure on Ukraine through the construction of an alternative ‘South Stream’ pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and from there via Serbia to central Europe. As noted above, Russia has put pressure on the EU since the autumn by reducing and sometimes shutting down the flow of natural gas, thereby pushing up energy prices.
Russia’s elite oligarchs plan to be the rulers of a leading imperialist power, in league with the rulers of China. To achieve that aim they have to bring Ukraine into their sphere of influence and prevent it falling under NATO or EU domination. In that, the rulers of Russia and China are no different from the rulers of any of the older imperialist powers who they wish to replace.
President Biden has made it clear that the US and NATO will not send troops to Ukraine to fight against a Russian invasion, but will impose heavy economic, financial and travel sanctions on Russia if it invades. In return, Russia can be expected to shut down all natural gas and oil supplies. Western and central Europe will suffer most immediately from those measures.
But that isn’t the limit of US/NATO action. US Imperialism has been increasing the quantity and quality of Ukraine’s weaponry and the military preparedness of the Ukrainian army for several years; it will want that army to keep fighting a Russian occupation for as long as possible – along with the volunteer forces that are being prepared for guerrilla warfare. As described above, the US, Britain and other NATO countries are continuing to send arms to Ukraine as the threat of invasion has grown; a large proportion of these appear to be relatively short-range defensive armaments, suitable for small mobile units. The purpose is to tie down invading Russian forces and create more domestic problems for Putin.
At the same time NATO is moving more forces, armaments and nuclear missiles to the Baltic states, Poland, and other NATO countries close to Russia and Ukraine.
If this strategy is maintained it will lead to an escalation. Russia would be sure to respond with action beyond Ukraine, and China will exploit the western powers’ problems and take action in the Asia/Pacific region, possibly with attacks aimed at the annexation of Taiwan.
That is the threat of conflicts that “… Coalesce into a conflagration of world dimensions.”
The national question in Ukraine
The present situation of Ukraine is a special case of the experience of all the countries that emerged from the collapse of Soviet power in the 1990s. Those that have joined NATO and the EU since the 1990s, as part of the “Partition and repartition of… spheres of influence,” put themselves under the wing of one set of imperialist powers as protection against the power that had previously dominated them, Russia. The exceptions are Ukraine and Belarus.
As well as directly exploiting these countries through trade, investments that exploit cheap labour, access to raw materials etc, the western imperialist countries of the EU (which all have declining birth rates) have used them to replenish their own domestic labour forces. This has led to a general westward movement of workers – e.g. Polish workers going to Germany etc for better wages, then Ukrainian workers replacing the emigrated Poles in order to get better wages than they could at home.
This group of countries, that stretches from the Baltic Sea to the Balkans and the Black Sea, had been carved up and fought over for centuries between different powerful states: the Austrian, Turkish and Russian empires and Germany. Some (Slovakia, Slovenia, Moldova, Belarus and Ukraine) had scarcely any existence as independent states until the 1990s. Only Poland and Hungary had a previous existence as important kingdoms in their own right, and that was long gone. To varying degrees that history held back their economic development and distorted the development of nation states, compared with western Europe. In many cases it held back their cultural development and suppressed or marginalised their languages. One result of that history is the presence in many of these countries of long-established and sizeable minorities of ‘neighbouring’ nationalities: Hungarians in Slovakia and Romania, Bulgarians in Romania, Poles in Lithuania etc.
Ukraine and Belarus were part of Poland until the 18th century, when Belarus was taken over by Russia and Ukraine was divided between Austria and Russia (its western region was reconquered by the new Polish state created after World War One). The Russian Tsars followed a policy of Russification in both countries.
Trotsky, himself the son of Ukrainian Jewish farmers, described the situation in Ukraine and Belarus at the time of the Bolshevik revolution.
…. In the Ukraine and White Russia [Belarus] the landlord, capitalist, lawyer, journalist, was a Great Russian, a Pole, a Jew, a foreigner; the rural population was wholly Ukrainian and White Russian…. Being closely bound up with the ruling classes of all other countries, the landlords, industrialists and merchants in these borderlands grouped around themselves a narrow circle of Russian functionaries, clerks, teachers, physicians, lawyers, journalists, and to some extent workers also, converting the cities into centres of Russification and colonisation. …….
The Ukrainian peasantry had not made national demands in the past for the reason that the Ukrainian peasantry had not in general risen to the height of political being. The chief service of the February revolution… lay exactly in this, that it gave the oppressed classes and nations of Russia at last an opportunity to speak out. This political awakening of the peasantry could not have taken place otherwise, however, than through their own native language – with all the consequences ensuing in regard to schools, courts, self-administration. To oppose this would have been to try to drive the peasants back into non-existence. L D Trotsky History of the Russian Revolution (1930) chapter 38.
It was on that basis that the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, insisted on the right of self-determination for the oppressed nationalities in the Russian empire. The rights of smaller nations in the USSR were suppressed, however, under Stalin’s bureaucratic rule and Ukraine was additionally hard hit by his forced collectivisation of the peasants and a severe famine in the 1930s, in which it is estimated that three million Ukrainians died. Many of the Russian-speaking people in the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk (former centres of heavy industry) are descendants of workers brought in to rebuild the workforce.
It was because of this history that, in the 1930s, Trotsky demanded the right of Ukraine to secede from the Soviet Union as an independent Soviet Socialist Republic.
When Putin says that Russians and Ukrainians are ‘One people’ and that Ukraine is ‘Not a country’ he is following the example of the emperors who styled themselves ‘Tsars of All the Russias’ (and banned the use of Ukrainian in schools and even in published work). He is recycling a historical myth that was developed by the Tsarist regime in 18th century Russia.
Ukrainian is currently the language spoken by just over two-thirds of the country’s population. Russian is spoken by nearly 30%, but that includes many who define themselves as Russian-speaking Ukrainians rather than ethnic Russians. There are only a small number of districts (leaving aside Crimea) where more than 50% of the population give Russian as their first language and these are nearly all close to Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia.
Ukraine is an oppressed nation, with all the problems that includes. It has been and remains oppressed by Russia. All issues of self-determination or autonomy for regions or minorities can only be resolved on the basis of Ukraine’s right to independence as an oppressed nation – not by changing masters. In reality that can’t be achieved by any corrupt elite group, ‘pro-western’ or ‘pro-Russian.’ It can only be achieved by an independent struggle of the Ukrainian working class and its poor and oppressed masses.
War or Revolution: The main enemy is our own ruling class
It would be absurd to imagine that either Russia or the US and NATO are preparing for war over historical and linguistic issues about Ukrainian identity. On both sides, the issue at stake is the struggle for supremacy between the two opposing imperialist blocs – and whichever imperialist bloc establishes its supremacy, or if their conflict simply drags on, the divisions in Ukraine will get deeper and more bitter.
If Ukraine became part of NATO and/or the EU, it would join the ranks of the countries oppressed and exploited by the western imperialists. Most likely that would be less brutal than a Russian conquest, and it would enrich a small elite of Ukrainian capitalists and politicians – essentially the people currently in power. They would not be any less corrupt and reactionary. Ukraine would be the poorest and probably most unstable country in the EU. Its divisions would still get worse, its population would continue to decline as even more workers seek employment in the west, and it would still be on the very front line of conflict between NATO and Russia.
Ukraine can not be liberated by the war of one set of imperialists against another set of imperialists. Nobody and no organisation fighting to defeat the worldwide resurgence of authoritarianism, militarism and fascism should support either of the imperialist blocs; nor should anyone fighting poverty and racism and defending the rights of immigrants and refugees; we must oppose both sides.
An inter-imperialist war will inevitably mean more authoritarianism, more racism and poverty, and a huge increase in the numbers of refugees forced to flee. The imperialist powers – especially the European and US imperialists, and politicians in the countries dependent on them (e.g. Greece, Hungary, Poland, Mexico) – will use increasingly inhuman and deadlymeasures to turn them back. That process has already started.
For those of us living in the imperialist countries it would be a meaningless evasion to condemn all imperialism in an ‘even-handed’ fashion. In action, demands and slogans we must oppose ‘our own’ imperialists, our own ruling class and politicians, because our main enemy is at home:
All revolutionary, socialist and progressive forcesin the USA and other western imperialist countries must condemn and oppose a war against Russia, or any other military action (e.g. moving forces and armaments towards the Russian border and into the Baltic and Black Seas). That includes opposing the arming or financing of the Ukrainian military, and opposing economic sanctions against Russia – and demanding the withdrawal of all their countries’ armed forces from the Middle East, Africa etc.
All revolutionary, socialist and progressive forces in Russia must condemn Putin’s threat to Ukraine, do everything possible to oppose an invasion of that country, and support Ukraine’s right to self-determination.
All revolutionary, socialist and progressive forces in China must oppose the imperialist ambitions of its rulers and capitalists and their chauvinist repression of national and religious minorities, and oppose a forced ‘reunification’ with Taiwan.
All revolutionary, socialist and progressive forces in the imperialist countries – especially in western Europe and North America – must unite with refugees and immigrants to Open the Borders, defend the right of asylum and fight racism by any means necessary. The alternative is a world of tyranny and barbarism. In a new inter-imperialist war it will bea new Holocaust.
There is not a single imperialist power that is not facing a serious political, economic and financial crisis. There is not a single imperialist government that is not hated by millions of its own subjects. There is not a single imperialist power that is not hated by billions of poor and oppressed people in the neo-colonial countries. There isn’t a single one of the major problems facing humanity that they are not responsible for, and not one they are capable of solving.
The world faces the threat of a new imperialist World War because of the depth of the crisis of the capitalist system, just as it faces the threat of a deadly climate crisis and new pandemics. Now Trotsky’s words from 1938 ring truer than ever:
Without a socialist revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind. Everything now depends on the proletariat, i.e., in the first place, on its revolutionary vanguard. The historical crisis of mankind is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary leadership.L D Trotsky, The Death Agony of Capitalism and Tasks of the Fourth International (1938) Part 1.
A year after Trotsky wrote those words World War Two broke. It became truly a ‘World’ war, unlike the mainly European war of 1914/18. It would bring many times greater slaughter of civilians and lead to systematic genocide in the Nazi Holocaust. After that war there was a single unscathed superpower, the USA. Its vast financial resources allowed the USA to restabilise and restore the economies of the other imperialist powers, under US hegemony.
During the 1950s and ‘60s capitalism enjoyed a brief ‘golden age’ of relatively high growth, but within in a more limited geographical area. The Soviet Union took control of most of the impoverished countries of eastern Europe, in order to create a ’buffer zone;’ the Communist Party took power in China. In those regions capitalism was temporarily replaced by state ownership under Stalinist control, supposedly in endless co-existence with the far richer capitalist powers.
That would not long survive the end of the western imperialists’ ‘golden age’ and their turn to ‘neo-liberal’ economic policies, especially from 1979/80, with systematic attacks on the organised working class, and harsher exploitation of the neo-colonies. In 1989/91 the Soviet Union broke up; capitalism was restored from eastern Europe to the Far East. Over the next two decades inter-imperialist rivalries increased with the rise of two new imperialist capitalist powers, China and Russia, and a new age of wars began. The “Separate clashes andbloody local disturbances” of the last three decades have been far bloodier and more prolonged than those Trotsky referred to before World War Two, which were greater than those Rosa Luxemburg described in the lead up to World War One.
Thus the decades since World War Two have only made the resurgent death agony of capitalism more acute, the threat of world war – and nuclear war – more dangerous, and the need for revolutionary leadership more urgent.
The aim of Trotskyists, as continuators of revolutionary Marxist politics, is to build international leadership and action against ALL imperialist war plans and end imperialist rule across the planet.
 Taiwan has a Chinese population and was seized by Japan in 1894/95. After World War Two the Communist Party took power on mainland China and the pro-capitalist government of General Chiang Kai Shek moved to Taiwan, where it was protected by US forces.
 The revolution of workers and soldiers early in 1917 that overthrew the Tsar and made Russia a republic.
Quash ALL the convictions – Free the refugees from prison!
Crown Prosecution Service must drop all pending prosecutions of cross-Channel refugees and refuse any further prosecutions – SIGN & SHARE THE PETITION!
Refugees who have risked their lives crossing the Channel to seek asylum have been slandered, persecuted and politically exploited by Johnson’s racist government. Now they have won an important victory. Yesterday the Court of Appeal ruled that it is not a crime for refugees to steer small boats across the Channel, to do their best to keep themselves and fellow refugees safe so they can exercise their legal right to claim asylum in Britain.
The decision came following a special hearing last week, in which the Court of Appeal brought together four claims made separately by cross-Channel refugees. There were at least seven other refugees who were determined to fight for justice and waiting for the outcome of this hearing. They all have been or still are imprisoned for that supposed ‘crime.’ The quashed all four convictions, making it almost certain the other seven will be quashed in January.
Movement for Justice (MFJ) welcomes this decision. It is a defence of human rights and the UN Refugee Convention, made in defiance of a government that is tearing up asylum rights and human rights, and under the threat of a new Nationality & Borders Bill – the purpose of which is to change the law so that it will, automatically, be a crime for any refugee to cross the Channel or seek to enter the UK without a legal document.
Politically, yesterday’s decision is a challenge to the whole direction in which this Far Right, authoritarian government is moving – and not only on asylum and immigration policy.
Since 2019 the Home Office has used photographic evidence from drones to get the police to arrest refugees who steered boats across the Channel, and then treated them as ‘people traffickers.’ That accusation was obviously false and the Home Office knew it was false. Nevertheless, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) agreed to prosecute the refugees who the Home Office identified.
The legal principles of today’s decision were actually established by a Court of Appeal hearing in April this year – in the case of Fouad Kakaei, an Iranian asylum seeker. Over the next few months prosecutions were dropped in another eleven cases, and in July the CPS announced publicly that it would not be bringing any further prosecutions against cross-Channel refugees.
However, the Home Office has continued to target refugees who steered boats. The CPS soon fell into line and brought more prosecutions. There are still many hearings scheduled: the next one is on January 4th and the list includes the case of MFJ member Nabil Abdulmajid in May.
The plain truth is that the government and the Home Office have consciously ignored the legal decisions and acted as though the new Borders Bill was already on the statute books. The CPS has agreed to be their accomplice. Canterbury Crown Court, where every one of these cases has been heard, is a racist production line churning out guilty verdicts for the Home Office.
This is the state of affairs under a regime that despises democracy and humanity; it has no respect for us or even for the law. It sees all such concerns as obstacles to its political and economic objectives. In that context yesterday’s decision in the Court of Appeal can be described as a defence of democracy and human rights. It has fired a kind of warning shot at the development of dictatorship and fascism. It further undermines the tattered legitimacy of this government and its policies.
The full significance of this decision will become a reality if we understand the authority it will give a refugee, immigrant and youth led movement to resist the Home Office and make the Borders Bill unworkable.
We have the advantage that Britain’s ruling elite is increasingly divided – important sections of the judiciary against the Home Office, different sections of capitalist businesses against the government or against each other, and the government increasingly divided against itself. Our movement must learn how to build collective action to take advantage of these divisions in order to increase the power and unity of the poor, exploited and oppressed.
The Home Office, the Court of Appeal and the CPS are at loggerheads on many fronts. On the Borders Bill and the Home Office’s general anti-immigrant measures they are in conflict over the central public plank in the government’s political agenda. We must demand that the CPS grows a backbone and refuses to bow any longer to the government’s demands that it ignores the decisions of the courts. Specifically, we demand that the CPS immediately drops all prosecutions of refugees who have steered boats across the Channel and refuses to bring any new prosecutions.
The trade unions must be prepared to lead, organise and mobilise resistance to this bill, to support their members who will be asked to participate in facilitating concentration camps, mass deportations and racist discrimination. RESIST the Nationality & Borders Bill!
The following is an appeal drafted by MFJ chair Antonia Bright, in her capacity as UNISON Black Members Officer at SOAS. Appealing against a decision to rule out of order the SOAS motion to UNISON London Regional Council to organise resistance to the most draconian and racist immigration legislation in British history, the Nationality and Borders Bill. This appeal and the motion lays down a strategy that is essential to building the resistance to this racist legislation. The trade unions must be prepared to lead, organise and mobilise resistance to this bill, to support their members who will be asked to participate in facilitating concentration camps, mass deportations and racist discrimination. Please spread the motion, pass it in your branch, in your union. If you are a member of UNISON pass it in your branch.
Appeal for SOAS Unison’s motion Black Members Against racially divisive “Nationality and Borders Bill” to be heard at Regional Council.
To the Regional Secretary.
SOAS Branch object to the ruling to deny Regional Council the opportunity to discuss and vote on our motion ‘Black Members Against racially divisive “Nationality and Borders Bill”.’ The motion urgently tackles the dangerously racially divisive piece of proposed legislation while it is at committee stage, not yet law. We appeal the ruling. We were informed that the motion would not be included on the agenda on the grounds that:
“the union cannot support activity that is beyond the law, as referred to in the fourth action point”.
The fourth action point in question calls for London Region to
“Work with Labour Link to support those local authorities / councils that make public pledge that they will resist collaboration with the Home Office on its targeting of immigrants”.
We make the following three requests:
We request that the motion be accepted on to the agenda for the Regional Council meeting now timed for the 2nd November.
We request a copy of the legal advice on which this claim is asserted, and a list of which laws it is claimed would be breached by supporting locally elected councils that pledge to resist the targeting of our immigrant communities. What is the specific ‘activity that is beyond the law’, given that the immediate Bill referred to has not become law, and many local councils have made similar such pledges?
We request a meeting with whomever made the decision where we can make our challenge.
There is nothing in the motion to justify taking the extreme unilateral position of ruling it ‘out of order’.
Firstly, the assertion that support of local authority’s resistance to Home Office activity is equal to support of ‘activity beyond the law’ is a speculation that the decision-maker has chosen to imply – it is not what the motion actually states. Loose speculation of this kind is dangerous to our unions’ democracy; it could be applied to any motion that ever seeks to resist any of the abhorrent things the government of the day may try to impose despite there being many ways to resist and challenge such things.
In Higher Education we had resistance to “Prevent”, for example. The legally binding obligations placed on educational institutions by Prevent, did not stretch to forcing those institutions to force staff to carry out harassment of particularly Muslim students, though that was the implication. Unison HE Conference debated supporting members who refused to comply with the demands from state powers through Prevent legislation. There is always scope for resisting discriminatory practices and asserting protections, which we should be using when the objective of an activity pushed by the government is the blanket discrimination or harassment of particular oppressed groups.
But unlike with Prevent, this motion is talking about a Bill that has not even passed. It is NOT law – it can’t be ‘broken’ since it’s not even clear what it is capable of legally imposing. It can however be fought, withdrawn, amended, and delayed. The ruling against discussing this motion inherently presumes that councils will have no lawful means to resist the racist and sexist outcomes of what they might be asked to do in the furtherance of the hostile environment policies.
In fact, the Bill is already demonstrably likely to face legal challenges for years to come. That challenge could conceivably come from local authorities, or dare we say, trade unions. We are not discussing settled law, it is precarious unclear immigration law which is an area where Home Office activities have been found unlawful in lots of areas including the workplace.
Action point 4 anticipates that councils will be faced with choices and will be asked to do things that they have the power to refuse. It would mean Unison working through its Labour links to further the very resistance that is already underway against the anti-immigrant Hostile Environment policies. Councils including Hackney, Lewisham, and around 100 others have refused to assist the Home Office. That is a sign of the strength of the international, integrated communities they represent and serve.
While so many local council’s have already been resisting collaboration with the demands of the Home Office’s racist hostile policy, why are we now being told this is unsupportable? What a weak message to send a parliament as they weigh up this deplorable racist attack on refugees and Black communities, alongside major attacks on the right to protest, Judicial Review and legal aid. No wonder we have MP’s openly envisaging their path towards getting rid of the Human Right Act too.
This is the time we need to state where we stand – as the RNLI did by stating what should be obvious: that their obligation is to rescue without discrimination; and that is not compatible with any law that tries to order them to let human beings drown in the sea. The local authorities have public sector duties too and are accountable to communities; they are in a position to challenge and to resist demands on them to breach human rights.
If locally accountable councillors actually use what powers they have (the few powers central government have not yet destroyed), to resist measures that the Home Office may attempt to impose that would racially target and discriminate against immigrants, turn public services into a trap for the harassment of Black people and of non-citizens, lead to racial division and cause real damage to their community worse than what the hostile environment already has, clearly they should be supported and celebrated.
Regional Council is our voice. It is for us as members to raise debate, in this case to call for Unison to be clear where its support lies before our members, (which includes several serving as local councillors), are faced with the dilemma of how to uphold their obligations and ethics to help and serve our communities without discrimination, in the face of a political pressure to harass and stigmatise immigrants including refugees.
The meaning and necessity of ‘Resistance’.
Our motion express the strength we want to convey. Discriminatory laws get repealed or changed when oppressed communities build resistance, with no guarantee of achieving justice. Universally, resistance is a means of struggle essential to fighting oppression.
The Nationality and Borders Bill, if it passes, would not be the first time a British parliament has attempted to codify into law a set of deeply racist or bigoted ideas that opened a section of our society to legally sanctioned harassment and abuse. Look at the whole series of immigration and nationality laws that have systematically written the Black out of ‘Britishness’. Look at Section 28 that made an offence out of encouraging openness towards gay sexuality and empowered school leaders to drive out gay teachers. Had Unison been asked to declare “we support teachers and students who resist collaboration with the authorities implementing Section 28”, a motion to that effect would have shut down as ‘out of order’. What a way to prolong the misery suffered living under unjust laws.
Without resistance to unjust laws there would be no fighting racism, segregation or apartheid, there would be no defeating anti-gay laws, or the legalised oppression of women. We fight unjust and oppressive laws, or we give way to even greater oppression. Fighting unjust laws begins with resistance, the means of which is decided by the context and what power exists.
Our motion opens a legitimate debate that must be had, about the nature of the Nationality and Borders Bill, its relation to past experiences of resistance to racism and unjust legislation, and the actions of local councils and communities currently resisting the racist hostile environment for immigrants. This is a trade union issue, recognised by the TUC statement quoted in the motion.
To block this motion by claiming that a trade union should not support resistance to a proposed law which seeks to introduce concentration camps for asylum seekers among other reprehensible measures, is offensive to the very historic struggles that the organisations of the oppressed have led and which we ‘celebrate’ in words if not in deeds.
 Unison HE Conference 2012, Motion 16: “WE WON’T SPY ON OUR STUDENTS”