The following statement was put out on the fifteenth Surround YarlsWood demonstration on 1 December 2018 (pictured above):
Defend & Extend Free Movement of People – Stop Brexit!
- Shut down Yarl’s Wood – Shut down all detention centres
- Stop scapegoating of immigrants – End the racist Hostile Environment
- Amnesty Now for ALL those who don’t have secure immigration status
- Open the Borders of Britain & Europe!
Sunday 9 December, ‘No to Tommy Robinson, No to Fortress Britain’ Demonstration, 11am, Portland place
Stop the rise of Fascism & the Far-Right – Join MFJ on the ‘No to Tommy Robinson, No to Brexit’ Bloc
Build independent, integrated, youth & immigrant led mass movement against racism, fascism & poverty
Bring Down this Racist, anti-Working Class Brexit Government!
Across Europe and in the USA, immigrant workers, immigrant communities and refugees are on the frontline fighting for justice and equality, against racism, fascism and poverty. They are far more than scapegoats who get blamed for low pay, failing public services, insecure jobs etc; they are feared by the rulers as the most determined and conscious fighters.
In Britain the resistance by immigrants and asylum seekers inside detention centres is the driving force that has won a whole series of victories; detainees & ex-detainees in Movement for Justice (MFJ) are playing the leading role in this struggle. That’s why Yarl’s Wood, which has once more been a site of struggle against mass deportation in the past week, now stands half empty.
In the USA, the real leaders of resistance to Trump and his fascist allies are immigrants, Latina/o & black communities and youth, and the refugee caravan at the border with Mexico. MFJ’s American sister organisation, BAMN, has been in the frontline of these struggles for immigrant rights and shutting down the fascists. In Italy, the independent SI Cobas union, 80% immigrant workers, is the most militant section of the workers’ movement and the focus of militant political opposition, especially by youth, to the new racist Far Right government. They are demonstrating today against the reopening of a detention centre in Milan.
These powerful struggles are the basis from which we can build – internationally – an integrated mass movement to defeat the biggest growth of fascism & far-right racism since the 1930s.
We must defend and extend the free movement of people and stop Brexit
The rich and powerful regard free movement as their exclusive privilege – free movement for themselves, their money & investments, and the goods & service they buy and sell in a globalised economy with super- fast communications. They deny the same rights and benefits to the poor and oppressed, the people they exploit, impoverish and dispossess. That is divide and rule on an international scale: a global labour market for bosses looking for cheap labour, but not for people looking for work and safety. Mass migration is a rebellion against that injustice.
In an increasingly unequal world the free movement of people is the most basic human right – fundamental to workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right of asylum and to life itself. The ruling classes deny us those rights, with their borders, detention centres, immigration laws, and by condemning thousands to death and starvation.
Movement for Justice demands Open the Borders of Britain & Europe, because it is what hundreds of thousands of people are doing, by any means necessary, in order to solve crushing material problems in their lives. The alternative to Open Borders is a world of barbarism and tyranny.
And the forces of barbarism and tyranny are growing here, across Europe, in America, and elsewhere in the world: the Trump movement, the new government in Italy, the Orban government in Hungary, and their model, Putin’s de facto dictatorship in Russia. Brexit is its British form. Brexit is the biggest victory for racism and biggest attack on immigrants in Britain in the lifetime of anyone living today.
The far right racists are facing our resistance everywhere and they can be defeated. That will take a movement that’s independent of the powers-that-be – a movement with consciousness, a strategy and leadership.
Exposing the lies about Brexit
The Government and the Labour leadership say we must accept Brexit because it is democratic. That’s a lie: it’s not ‘democratic’ for a majority to take away the rights of a minority. The referendum was an exercise in lies and demagogy, not democracy. Millions of people who are part of this society were denied a vote by racist nationality and immigration laws.
Some people on the Left, including leading people in the Labour Party, say we should accept Brexit because a big part of the Leave vote expressed the anger of white people in impoverished communities who had every right to feel betrayed. That is true, but does not make it any less racist. One section of the working class was venting its anger in an attack on another section, based on race and national origin.
The same people say we should put Brexit behind us and unite on the ‘real’ practical issues that affect our lives, like housing, jobs and the NHS. They can’t or won’t see that free movement and fighting racism are real practical issues for millions of people. They can’t or won’t see that racism and immigration have a profound impact on housing, jobs and the NHS.
The fundamental belief of all such people is that you can’t shift the racism of poor and working class white people – and that is the biggest lie of all. But the basis for that belief is that racism is simply too big an issue, that it is too ingrained in the economic and political system, that overcoming it would shake things up too much. And that is true! It is too big a fight for their politics and their methods.
Racism can’t be overcome by reliance on the present system – Parliament, the courts, elections – any more than it will be overcome by moral sermons. It can only be overcome in and through the independent power of a mass movement, and it’s only on that basis that intervening in Parliament, the courts, elections etc will yield any positive results. We must not be afraid of the power of the poor and oppressed.
Building the movement – Defending free movement of people – Stopping Brexit
MFJ fights to stop Brexit in order to maintain the free movement of people and defeat anti-immigrant racism. That is central, all other considerations are secondary. Staying in the European Union while ending free movement would be a defeat; keeping free movement while being outside the EU would be a victory. The institutional and legal arrangements through which free movement is maintained are merely a matter of the mechanism that achieves our goal.
The method through which a movement can achieve these goals is the method that MFJ applies to every fight, big or small, that we are involved in: independent collective action to shift the balance of power in favour of the oppressed and exploited, and always speaking the plain truth about racism, as we have done about Brexit ever since the referendum campaign. It’s what we are doing at Yarl’s Wood today, organising inside and outside, together, to shift the balance of power against the Home Office and Serco. It takes resistance and exposure to make detention unsustainable; neither happen without organisation.
It is the same method we employed last year to drive a fascist recruiting march out of Croydon – campaigning and organising in the community, especially the black & Asian community, and among the youth, to take over the streets.
This is the method that can maintain and extend the free movement of people and stop Brexit and reverse the growth of fascism. Our aim must be to bring down this racist, anti-working class, brutal – but weak & divided – government. On 11th December Parliament votes on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which will almost certainly be defeated; the Brexit crisis enters a new and more dangerous phase, and the fascists are preparing to take advantage of it to build their movement. The notorious racist thug and former EDL leader known as ‘Tommy Robinson’ has summoned his supporters to a ‘Great Brexit Betrayal’ march in London on Sunday 9th December.
Some members of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and the left-wing anti-Brexit group ‘Another Europe Is Possible’ (AEIP) are with us at Yarl’s Wood today. MFJ welcomes the positive decision of AEIP to organise a No to Tommy Robinson! No to Brexit! bloc as part of the mobilisation against the fascists on 9th December. It is endorsed among others by David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, Manuel Cortez, leader of the TSSA union, Caroline Lucas MP of the Green Party and Peter Tatchell. They are rightly demanding ‘vote down the Brexit deal’ and ‘defend free movement,’ and point out that,
“… It is not enough to simply oppose racism in the abstract. Brexit is being used to attack migrants, end free movement, deregulate the economy, divide communities and legitimise racism in the political mainstream. It is driven at its core by the British wing of a movement that includes Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, among others…. Brexit has from its earliest days been driven by the far right, and the far right will benefit from it for decades to come unless we defeat it and the conditions on which it feeds.”
MFJ will be part of this bloc and we call on everyone here today to join us there. We will do everything we can to build the bloc.
Immigrants, black & Asian communities and youth must take the lead
This leaflet started, in its first four paragraphs, by explaining that these are the forces on the frontline of the fight for equality and justice internationally, and that are leading the fight against detention and the Hostile Environment policy in Britain.
With regard to Brexit, by far the biggest percentage of votes against this racist project came from black, Asian and Muslim voters, and from young voters – the most integrated generation, with their futures at stake. These are overwhelmingly working class communities and groups, and include some of the poorest sections of the working class. And they are a core part of Labour’s ‘traditional supporters.’ They knew from the start that Brexit is racist, and they have directly experienced its toxic impact. Recent polls indicate a further increase in opposition to Brexit among these groups.
The decision of the Labour leadership to endorse Brexit, to deny that it is racist, and to abandon free movement is a shameful insult to these communities and to the young generation. But, the most prominent anti-Brexit organisations have also been, at best, reluctant to fight on the issues of racism and free movement because they don’t want to undermine the Labour Party. As a result they isolated and undermined the very forces that most strongly rejected Brexit – while the Labour leadership continues to undermine itself anyway with its Brexit policy.
The ‘No Brexit’ bloc on the 9th December can be the start of changing that situation. Our organisers must focus on London’s multiracial schools & colleges, and the predominantly black, Asian and working class universities. We must call on David Lammy and other anti-Brexit MPs, especially black and Asian MPs and councillors, to call on their communities – on Tottenham, Lewisham, Hackney for example – to come out with us. We must call on Manuel Cortez and other anti-Brexit union activists to bring out the immigrant workers who are the most exploited and some of the most militant workers in London.
Time is short before 9th December, but we have a long fight after that because this is profound and long- running crisis in our history. We must step up our action now.
MFJ is building a movement of immigrant, black, Asian and young leaders because that is central to defeating the Far Right and overcoming the huge roadblock of racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim discrimination and prejudice that is the chief barrier to progress in British society and internationally. That is the most important task before us, Only such a leadership can awaken and inspire a new movement of united mass struggle against exploitation and poverty.