After the Election – Build a mass movement to defeat racism & Brexit

Defend & extend the free movement of people – No new immigration controls – Speak the plain truth about racism
Build an independent, integrated, youth & immigrant led movement to unite the struggles against racism and poverty  

Whatever election result awaits us on Friday, some things are certain. Firstly, there is a greater need than ever for a mass movement against the racism and anti-immigrant bigotry that have been the driving force of Brexit. The Tory election campaign has given fresh impetus to racism and xenophobia, while the other parties have stayed silent. Secondly, the election will not get Brexit ‘done.’ The Brexit crisis, and the political and economic disorders that led to Brexit, have not been resolved. Thirdly, the political system remains broken and the two main parties remain divided, while the general population, on all sides, is more disengaged from the present political system than at any time since world war two.

The chief lesson of the election is that we have to build an independent, integrated mass struggle to defend the free movement of people and stop Brexit. The current system can’t fight racism or offer a future of integration and equality. There can’t be an effective movement against poverty and inequality without a real, practical fight to overcome racism – and there can’t be such a fight without black, Asian, immigrant and youth leadership. Building that leadership and movement is the purpose of the Movement for Justice (MFJ).

Free movement banner

Brexit’s test for Labour

Brexit has been a critical test of the Left’s attempt to restore Labour’s traditional role as the party of the working class and a force for social progress. In 2015, hundreds of thousands of people joined or re-joined the Labour Party and propelled Jeremy Corbyn into the leadership. A high proportion were young people. They rallied to Corbyn’s campaign because he pledged to reverse the cutbacks and neo-liberal economic policies, supported the Palestinian struggle and had opposed Blair’s Iraq war. The following year those supporters defeated an attempted coup by right-wing Labour MPs and re-elected him with a bigger majority. They had a strong sense of their collective power to change history.

This year’s manifesto promises to build many more council houses, rebuild the NHS, extend public ownership, and abolish Universal Credit, benefit caps and student fees. It has gone beyond the party’s 2017 election manifesto and represents the party’s most significant break from the ‘neo-liberal’ economic policies of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and ‘New Labour.’ They reflect the continuing aspirations of the ‘new wave’ that rallied to Corbyn – and they are widely and rightly popular.

However, the most politically significant feature of the manifesto is that it did not repeat the language of the 2017 manifesto that gave an unconditional commitment to Brexit, with the blunt assertion that “Freedom of movement will end when we leave the European Union.” Labour’s members and supporters made those positions untenable.

Labour’s rank-and-file are to the Left of Corbyn and using their power

Since 2017 Labour’s overwhelmingly anti-Brexit and pro-free movement base has become increasingly frustrated by the leadership’s fudging, indecision, delays and parliamentary manoeuvres on Brexit. Even when the leadership finally accepted the idea of a second referendum with a ‘remain’ option, it felt like drawing teeth and was repeatedly called into doubt. Nevertheless, it was the discontent and pressure of the Labour rank-and-file that forced change and encouraged more MPs speak out.

In last May’s local government elections and the elections for the EU Parliament in June, a majority of Labour Party members and supporters felt unable to vote for their own party; a large proportion actually voted for one or other of the anti-Brexit parties. They were not generally leaving the Labour Party, but they ‘went on strike’ against the leadership and sent Corbyn a sharp warning message.

That pressure on the leadership was demonstrated again at Labour’s national conference in September, when delegates sent a strong anti-racist message to the leadership by voting almost unanimously for a motion (Composite 20), that was originally drawn up by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement, calling on Labour to include a set of policies on immigrant rights in its election manifesto. Among these were:

  • Maintain and extend free movement;
  • Ensure the unconditional right to family reunion;
  • Close all detention centres;
  • End “no recourse to public funds” policies;
  • Scrap all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access.

Not one delegate spoke against this motion; it was (and remains) a major victory for the progressive instincts of the party’s rank-and-file. Within 24 hours, however, leading front-benchers were publicly playing down the significance of this vote, and Len McCluskey – leader of Unite, the country’s biggest trade union – was soon taking every opportunity to attack it.

It made it clear that Labour’s base and its activists are to the Left of the leadership on Brexit and racism.

The election and free movement

The Movement for Justice (MFJ) brought out an Open Letter to the Labour leadership ahead of the ‘Clause 5 meeting’ where they drew up the manifesto for the current election. It called for the inclusion of the Composite 20 policies in the manifesto, and MFJ members lobbied the meeting. We said in the Open Letter that,

“There are very good reasons why the great majority of black, Asian, Muslim and other minority ethnic voters, youth and students, and significantly more women than men are opposed to Brexit – because it is racist and reactionary and driven by anti-immigrant prejudice. We are experiencing its impact and we will not be silenced while our rights and futures are destroyed by the Brexiteers’ backward-looking, chauvinist project. You, the Labour Party and trade union leadership, cannot stay silent on this. You must listen to our voices. …

“You can’t afford the illusion that Labour will unite ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ and win this election just by focussing on the NHS, public housing, Universal Credit, privatisation, the minimum wage etc, while saying as little as possible about Brexit or being neutral on it. Such a policy means being evasive, neutral and inactive on the continuing rise of racism and hostility to immigrants. It means ignoring the voices and the experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, immigrants and youth.”

The Clause 5 meeting did not make the Composite 20 policies part of the manifesto. The only direct reference to free movement in the manifesto boils down to a restatement of Labour’s pledge that EU citizens already living in the UK will be able to stay here. Only one of the ten practical demands in Composite 20 made it into the manifesto – extending the right to vote to all ‘UK residents.’ That is a welcome progressive measure, but the manifesto endorses managed migration in the interests of employers and ignores the most pressing injustices of the present immigration system.

The challenge for Labour’s pro-free movement, anti-Brexit activists

Hundreds of thousands of members who have flocked to the Labour Party since 2015 believed that Corbyn’s election as leader would reverse the history of increasingly racist immigration laws introduced by the Tories, Labour and Lib. Dems. That was the clear desire of Labour’s national conference when delegates voted for Composite 20. They will be deeply disappointed or downright angry at its exclusion from the manifesto.

Those members have, however, put their concerns aside for now and are working all out to get an anti-austerity Labour government elected, or at least to deny Johnson a majority. The general election campaign has, for a time, changed the balance of power between the leadership and the rank-and-file. Labour activists feel they must unite around the leadership when it is under a ferocious attack from the right.

MFJ understands that response, but we don’t politically support a Labour leadership that consciously refuses to take a stand for the right of free movement and against the racism of Brexit in the middle of Britain’s biggest peacetime political crisis for a century.

The issues and conflicts around immigration, free movement and Brexit will re-emerge in the Labour Party after the election, because really nothing will have been settled. Whoever is in government, Brexit means a constant crisis.

Whether Labour is in government or opposition, there will be a struggle over free movement because most Labour MPs and trade union bureaucrats think it is too difficult and dangerous to challenge racism, except in abstract moralistic terms. They are unwilling to undertake the kind of struggle that could overturn the material discrimination of racism and the divide-and-rule policies that are deeply rooted in Britain’s political and economic system. A leadership, like the present Labour leadership, that seeks ‘consensus’ among the MPs and trade union bureaucrats at the top of the party is trapped by those attitudes, whatever their own personal opinions.

MFJ therefore welcomes and supports the stand taken by 55 Labour candidates, including thirteen MPs seeking re-election, who have already issued a statement committing to continue the fight for free movement and all the policies in Composite 20[1]

The challenge for Labour’s pro-free movement, anti-Brexit activists (including the MPs who signed that statement) is to take the fight beyond Parliament and the internal politics of the Labour Party, to be part of building a mass movement to win – regardless of whether Labour is in government or opposition.

Building a fight to win

Genuine progressive change always comes from developments and struggles outside parliaments and independent of governments. The most urgent task now[2] is to overcome the toxic division of the working class based on race and attitudes to immigration, and to stop the rise of the Far Right that is based on Brexit. The Brexit crisis has broken the British political system and may yet break up the UK. It is unrealistic to rely on that system to defend and extend the free movement of people, end detention and deportation, and stop Brexit. That task requires the action of a mass movement led by immigrants, youth and the black and Asian communities.

MFJ will continue to support every struggle in the Labour Party to win free movement of people, defend immigrant rights and put Composite 20 into effect – but winning those struggles is conditional on the growth of that movement.

That comes down to building action that makes the current anti-immigrant regime unsustainable: marches and protests in and by the black, Asian, Muslim and immigrant communities and by youth, including on the demonstrations that will certainly be needed at Parliament in the coming months; weekday marches to shut down major cities; joint demonstrations inside and outside detention centres; school and college walk-outs; community organisation to prevent immigration raids; occupations and strikes in workplaces and universities to stop deportations.

This movement can win because it mobilises the social power of the most oppressed and most dynamic members of society, and that can inspire wider struggle and break down barriers, threatening the racist hierarchies that the system of divide-and-rule is based on.

This movement can’t just be wished into existence, nor can it be left to spontaneity; it has to be built and prepared. There are actually many thousands of people who can potentially be part of that work – organising meetings, building links, speaking to community and workers’ organisations, or in schools, colleges and universities. They need to be organised, whether they are in the community groups, the Labour Party, the trade unions or elsewhere.

The Movement for Justice

MFJ exists to build a movement of and for the poor and oppressed that can win a truly progressive and fulfilling future for all those struggling with the injustices of present-day society. To achieve that aim we seek to extend the struggles of the present until we win.

We call for an immediate, unconditional Amnesty for everyone who does not have a legal immigration status in the UK, because that is the only way to begin clearing up the mass of cruelty and injustice created by half a century of racist immigration and nationality laws.

We call for Opening the Borders of Britain and Europe because that is what immigrants are doing in their hundreds of thousands in order to resolve real material problems in their lives – problems that have mostly been caused by the actions of western imperialist powers. The alternative to Open Borders is an escalation of the barbarism and tyranny that we already see in the Mediterranean, in Libya, on the US/Mexican border and all around us.

We call for equal citizenship rights for everyone who lives, works and studies in the UK, because in an increasingly inter-connected world there is no democratic future for Britain, or any country, except as a multiracial, multinational society that is integrated on the basis of the equality of all its members, as the people we are.

[1] https://www.labourfreemovement.org/labour-candidates-pledge-solidarity-equality-and-free-movement-for-migrants/

[2] Of course, there are two ‘most urgent task,’ the other being the climate/ecological crisis, but these are linked in many ways and have a common enemy, and without an integrated movement against the racist scapegoating of immigrants there is no real possibility of building a movement to win action on the climate crisis.

Labour Conference policy on Free Movement & immigrant rights must be in the Election Manifesto

This election is about the future direction of our society…

Movement for Justice Open Letter to the Labour Party leadership

(sign on to this open letter here)

Dear Comrades,

This year’s Labour Party conference ended on a high note of political aspiration. On 25th September, delegate after delegate spoke in enthusiastic support of Composite 20: Free movement, equality and rights for migrants are socialist values and benefit us all. Those delegates spoke from their own experience and the experience of their black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, the communities that are battling against racist Home Office policies and the increasing racism and anti-immigrant prejudice that has dominated the campaign for Brexit. They spoke as immigrants, as the children and partners of immigrants, and as Labour councillors and activists. Nobody spoke against the motion. At the end of the debate Composite 20 was passed unanimously, to loud acclaim. That vote sent out a message of struggle and hope against the threat of a government led by Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel.

With that vote, conference delegates presented you with a huge opportunity to change the dangerous direction in which this country and its political system are moving. If you put the inspiring programme of equality set out in Composite 20 at the heart of Labour’s election campaign, you will inspire millions. It will represent a decisive break with the disastrous racist policy that has been followed by politicians of ALL the main parties for decades – the policy of scapegoating immigrants for the social problems created by government policies and capitalist greed.

There are very good reasons why the great majority of black, Asian, Muslim and other minority ethnic voters, youth and students, and significantly more women than men are opposed to Brexit – because it is racist and reactionary and driven by anti-immigrant prejudice. We are experiencing its impact and we will not be silenced while our rights and futures are destroyed by the Brexiteers’ backward-looking, chauvinist project. You, the Labour Party and trade union leadership, cannot stay silent on this. You must listen to our voices.

On Saturday you will gather to finalise the Manifesto for the forthcoming election, in the ‘Clause 5 meeting.’ It is imperative that you include the policies in Composite 20. A clear commitment to fight for those policies can only benefit Labour in this election campaign and on 12th December.

Composite 20 called for Labour to include the following 10 points in the Manifesto:

  • Oppose the current Tory immigration legislation and any curbing of rights.
  • Campaign for free movement, equality and rights for migrants.
  • Reject any immigration system based on incomes, migrants’ utility to business, and number caps/targets.
  • Close all detention centres.
  • Ensure unconditional right to family reunion.
  • Maintain and extend free movement rights.
  • End “no recourse to public funds” policies.
  • Scrap all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access.
  • Actively challenge anti-immigrant narratives.
  • Extend equal rights to vote to all UK residents.

These are the policies of hope, and Labour is nothing if can’t inspire real hope. They are the policies for Britain to move forward as a progressive, democratic society that is integrated on the basis of equality for all. For nearly a decade, British governments have ratcheted up divide-and-rule, anti-immigrant policies, while imposing poverty and insecurity on working class and struggling middle class people of all races. The Tories and the Far Right are using Brexit to spread this racist poison. They must be stopped.

You can’t afford the illusion that Labour will unite ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ and win this election just by focussing on the NHS, public housing, Universal Credit, privatisation, the minimum wage etc, while saying as little as possible about Brexit or being neutral on it. Such a policy means being evasive, neutral and inactive on the continuing rise of racism and hostility to immigrants. It means ignoring the voices and the experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, immigrants and youth

We are traditional Labour supporters if anyone is, and we will not be ignored, side-lined and taken for granted in order to appease the misplaced prejudices that Johnson and the Tories have spent their whole political careers encouraging. We will keep fighting for the progressive demands of Composite 20, and we will fight to win.

Moreover, Labour can’t win unless it challenges those divisive prejudices. The opinion polls make that clear. When asked what they regard as the most important issue in the election, most people put Brexit at the top of the list, especially among those who are not already planning to vote Labour. The NHS, the economy etc come much lower down the list of priorities. This is not surprising. At times of profound crisis – and Britain is going through its biggest peace-time crisis for a century – political direction and action become the decisive issue. It subsumes and determines the economic and social policies. It becomes a question, as many Labour supporters are saying, of what kind of country do we want this to be.

In reality, Labour will get more respect from the majority of Leave voters if you make it clear that you are taking action based on Composite 20, than you ever will by avoiding the very issues that are dividing the country. For decades, politicians of ALL the main parties have told voters that immigration is a threat. There are millions of people in impoverished, working class and struggling middle class (and predominantly white) communities that voted ‘Leave,’ who are not ideologically tied to the Far Right, and they deserve some political honesty and leadership from the Labour Party.

When you put the policies of Composite 20 at the heart of the election campaign you will send out a direct political challenge to everything the Tories and the Far Right stand for, you will inspire millions and multiply the numbers and commitment of Labour campaigners. You will encourage thousands of Labour Party members and voters to engage in a debate with their Leave voting friends, family members, neighbours and co-workers – tens of thousands of conversations that can change minds.

The stakes in this election are high. A victory for Johnson will not ‘get Brexit sorted,’ but it will establish the most reactionary British government since World War Two. It will mean an increase in racism, a deepening of the hostile environment for immigrants, greater repression, insecurity and inequality, and a bonfire of workers rights and human rights, along with tax cuts for the rich. The outcome of this election will shape the future direction of our society for years and decades to come. Labour must act boldly and without equivocation on the political issues of racism and immigration that have dominated discussion on Brexit, just as much as when you talk about the economy, public services or housing.

We urge you to seize the opportunity that the Labour conference provided you with when it unanimously backed Composite 20.

Movement for Justice

12th November 2019

MFJ Demonstrate at Labour Party Conference
MFJ at Labour Party Conference calling on the Labour Party to stand up for immigrant rights.

The left must reverse Corbyn’s commitment to campaign for Brexit

Defend the Free Movement of People – Stop racist Brexit! 
Labour must hold an Emergency National Conference    –   Bring Down the racist, anti-working class Tory Government

Betrayal! There is no other way to describe Corbyn’s blunt declaration in a Guardian interview on 21st December that, if there is an early election, Labour under his leadership would campaign for Brexit. Movement for Justice condemns this betrayal of the hopes invested in Corbyn’s leadership. Labour’s left-wing, anti-Brexit majority must support the call by Manuel Cortez – general secretary of the TSSA and the foremost trade union supporter of free movement – and demand an Emergency National Conference of the Labour Party.

Corbyn’s unequivocal support for Brexit is a direct consequence of his commitment to ending the free movement of people – which means continuing the racist policy of scapegoating immigrants. Those policies can & must be reversed. They are opposed by the great majority of Labour Party members and supporters. They are opposed by the hundreds of thousands who joined or re-joined the party because they saw Corbyn’s leadership as an opportunity to transform Labour into a democratic force to overturn capitalist-imposed austerity, fight against racism and stop imperialist wars. And those racist Brexit policies are opposed by the great majority of Labour-supporting youth and black, Asian and Muslim people, whose hostility to Brexit has only increased during the thirty months since the referendum.

In September, the Labour Party conference voted overwhelmingly for a motion on Brexit that was an attempt by the membership to push the leadership towards accepting free movement, and taking a more internationalist position towards Europe.

  • The motion called for, “A relationship with the EU that guarantees full participation in the Single Market” – ‘full participation’ means, and was understood as, maintaining the free movement of people.
  • It declared solidarity with, “All progressive and socialist forces confronting the rising tide of neo-fascism, xenophobia, nationalism and right wing populism in Europe” – in full awareness that Brexit is a major part of that ‘rising tide.’
  • It declared that if MPs defeat the government in a Brexit vote, it “Would constitute a loss of confidence in the Government,” which would be an opportunity for, “An immediate General Election that can sweep the Tories from power” – in reality a call for a motion of No Confidence to bring down the government.
  • Nowhere in the motion was there any statement that, in the event of an election, Labour would campaign to maintain Brexit – if that had been proposed in the conference it would have been defeated.

An emergency conference is needed to reaffirm, and where necessary clarify, everything that was progressive in that motion, and to commit the party to fight an early general election, or a second referendum, on a platform of defending free movement and stopping Brexit. It must explicitly reject the measures and language that present immigration as a ‘problem’ and scapegoat immigrants for the inequality, insecurity and poverty that are caused by the neo-liberal policies of the capitalists and successive governments. If Corbyn is not prepared to lead the party on that basis he must resign and make way for someone who will.

The danger of Corbyn’s Brexit policy and the responsibility of the Left

Labour can’t win an election on the basis of Corbyn’s pro-Brexit position, because its effect would be to undermine the forces on which real progressive struggle and a future of equality and integration depend. Racism and xenophobia are the most important political weapon of a ruling class that is determined to impose ongoing hardship on the poor and oppressed. Labour can’t reverse decades of neo-liberal attacks on the working class while, at the same time, continuing the anti-immigration policies that have been an integral part of those attacks.

The growing anti-Brexit Left in the Labour Party and the trade unions gets that connection; it is why they supported Corbyn in the first place. They must fight for a radical change of course now or face a Blairite take-over of the party and an upsurge of the Far Right, which would be a betrayal of historic proportions. The Left must recognise its power and its responsibility, and use that power to reverse Corbyn’s pro-Brexit, anti-free movement policy and Stop Brexit – and build the mass struggle of youth, students, immigrants and the black, Asian and Muslim communities that will unite the struggles against racism and poverty.

Corbyn tried to maintain a position of delays and ambiguity between his commitment to implement Brexit and the anti-Brexit sentiments of his base. That was always unsustainable, and on 21st December he abandoned ambiguity. The Left, identifying Corbyn’s leadership with their hopes for a more socialist direction in the Labour Party, had adopted a similar ambiguity when they built coalitions in an attempt to steer the leadership towards their own views. Now that he has rejected those attempts, the Left must replace ambiguity with clarification. An emergency conference must put the Left and the Labour Party on firm political ground.

Internationalism v. Nationalism

Across Europe, youth and immigrants are at the forefront of growing struggles against the poverty and cuts imposed by every EU government, against racism & the rise of the Far Right and fascism, against detention and deportation, attacks on workers’ rights, on immigrant communities and on the right to education. Our hopes for the future are based on the power of these struggles to defeat the governments of the rich and powerful, to open the borders of Europe and within Europe, to remove the restrictions on free movement and extend free movement to Europe’s non-citizens, with and without papers.

Brexit sets up political and physical barriers to uniting in struggle with the poor and oppressed, the immigrants and working class across Europe, in a united international movement.

Corbyn’s blunt commitment to Brexit is a nationalist betrayal of those struggles. With regard to Brexit, the central political issue facing British society, he has put himself on the right, and as a result he has provided Labour’s pro-corporate Blairite wing with an opportunity to look ‘progressive’ and ‘internationalist’ on the EU, while in reality they are just as committed to ending the free movement of people as Corbyn is, but believe they can engineer that by working with the rightward-moving ruling elites of Europe.

The left-wing supporters of the September conference motion on Brexit understood that Labour has no future except as an internationalist and anti-racist party and must assert that in an emergency conference.

Fighting racism and anti-immigrant prejudice

There is no progressive, socialist future for Britain or Europe except as integrated, multiracial & multinational societies, with full equality and justice for all who live, work and study here, as the people we are. Brexit and the rise of the Far Right pose a direct threat to that future.

The whole history of working class struggle demonstrates that defeat follows wherever and whenever people respond to poverty by relying on some real or imagined privilege – skin colour, national origin, religion, citizenship status – instead of joining with other working class, poor and oppressed people to struggle against their exploiters. That is the story of Brexit.

It is not enough to hope that voting together against austerity, or striking together against low pay will be sufficient to overcome those divisions. The privilege always has a political character – a real or imagined connection with the ruling class. That has to be fought politically. The anti-Brexit Left knows that Brexit is racist but has generally been reluctant to spell it out, for fear of undermining Corbyn. His direct and open commitment to Brexit makes it all the more urgent for the Left to declare directly and openly that Brexit must be stopped because it is racist.

Immigration and racism are the decisive, central political issues for the future direction of British society and for progressive struggles throughout the ‘western democracies.’ 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 rich and powerful regard free movement as an exclusive privilege for themselves and their money & trade. There is 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. Crushing that rebellion would mean barbarism and a resort to Fascism.

To repeat an earlier point, immigrant workers and their families, immigrant communities, refugees & asylum seekers are on the frontline across Europe and in the USA, fighting for justice, equality and human rights, against racism, fascism and poverty. They have opened borders, harbour the fewest illusions in our political system, have the greatest hopes, and have not experienced the decades of demoralising betrayals suffered by the European labour movement. Along with the youth, immigrants are feared by the rulers as the most determined and conscious fighters.

In order to build the fight against racism and Brexit, and for a progressive future, the Left and the labour movement must recognise and turn to these forces as the most important allies, fighters and leaders, because it is only the mass action of an integrated, immigrant and youth led movement that will overcome timeworn prejudices and inspire hope that another and better future is possible.

An emergency Labour conference must be the start of this turn.

Why MFJ will be joining the ‘No to Tommy Robinson, No to Brexit’ bloc on 9 December

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.

We call on EVERYONE here today to join this fight.

MFJ Motion for Labour Party Members: Labour Must Bring Down The Government this Autumn!

Conference notes:

  1. On 10 August a YouGov poll indicated that 53% would vote to remain in the EU in a new referendum, including 77% of Labour voters;
  2. On 12 August, research by Focaldata indicated there is a majority for staying in the EU in 341 constituencies out of 632 (compared with 229 in June 2016).

Conference believes:

  1. Public opinion is shifting and opposition to Brexit is growing; this is a set-back for the anti-immigrant racism that was central to the Leave campaign;
  2. Labour must encourage this development in order to take power, and must therefore end the confusion over the Party’s approach to Brexit;
  3. No-one in Labour believes immigrants and free movement of people cause cuts and poverty, but the Party’s opposition to the free movement of people legitimises that prejudice;
  4. Continuing Tory government means a disastrous Brexit fostering higher levels of racism and leading to more poverty and austerity.

Conference therefore calls on the Leadership to:

  1. Commit to maintaining free movement of people with no new restrictions;
  2. Seize the earliest opportunity to vote down Government Brexit measures that do not meet that requirement as well as Labour’s commitments to a customs union and the “Exact Same Benefits” as single market membership;
  3. Force a general Election and make those policies a key part of its campaign and its programme for a fairer, thriving and more equal Britain.

Download motion

Why MFJ is promoting this motion for the Labour Party Conference

Movement for Justice has drawn up this ‘contemporary motion’ for this year’s National Conference of the Labour Party (23-26 September). We are circulating it to MFJ supporters and others who are committed to saving and extending the free movement of people and understand the depth of the crisis posed by Brexit. We are asking you, if you are a Labour Party member, to circulate and discuss the motion among other members and get your Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to submit it for debate at the forthcoming conference (the deadline for submissions is Noon on 13 September). If you are not in the Labour Party, please discuss it with friends and relatives who are members and ask them to put it forward.

As we point out in the motion, there are clear indications of a shift in public opinion away from support for Brexit, driven by those groups that were already anti-Brexit – youth, black and minority ethnic voters, and Labour voters – but also affecting some strongly pro-Brexit areas. That is encouraging, and it’s a set-back for the racist anti-immigrant bigotry that defines Brexit. By itself, however, it won’t dispel the looming crisis. Firstly, the actual level of support for Brexit remains quite solid and Britain is still a deeply divided country. Secondly, the likes of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage are stepping up their efforts to regain ground. That was the purpose of Johnson’s racist rant against women wearing the Burka.

Instead of evasion, the refusal to call out racism and xenophobia, and the self-defeating efforts to appease irrational fears and prejudices that have dominated the discussion about Brexit on the Left, we need…

  • A bold Labour leadership that takes an uncompromising stand against the anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia that is the driving force of Brexit;
  • A Labour leadership that will fight unequivocally to maintain the free movement of people and oppose any new immigration controls;
  • A Labour leadership that will seize the initiative and take decisive, inspiring and timely action to bring down the Government that is heading fast for a Brexit disaster;

That policy can enthuse millions; it can release the dynamism of youth and black, Asian and immigrant communities. For hundreds of thousands of mainly young people it will be the leadership they dreamed of when they flocked into the Labour Party and rallied round Jeremy Corbyn, with his long history of opposition to austerity, racism and imperialist wars. A mass movement that is on its feet and fighting for what it believes can arouse hope and make it infectious – the racist politics of Brexit, after all, are the politics of despair.

What we are proposing is not ‘business as usual’ – because now is not the time for ‘business as usual! The situation is urgent, and we must not under-estimate the danger of the political crisis. It extends across the ‘western democracies’ as the result of the deep-seated problems of their economic policies and relations. Its sharpest expressions are: Donald Trump’s rapidly escalating attack on democratic government in the US, as he attempts to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and shut down the Mueller investigation before November’s congressional elections; the far-right, fascist-backed government of Salvini that is now in power in Italy, pledging to deport 600,000 immigrants, attacking Roma communities, and inspiring a deadly spike of racist and fascist violence; and here in Britain, the disintegration of the Tory government and party, and the looming prospect of a ‘No-Deal Brexit.’

This is reflected in the signs of establishment panic – the business operations moving out, the Government’s ‘public information’ notices about the eventuality of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, the talk of ‘stockpiling’ and police chiefs’ warning of coming ‘social unrest.’

If Labour continues to duck this challenge it is entirely possible that the Government will simply collapse at some point under the weight of its internal conflicts and there will be ‘civil war’ among Tory MPs. A new government with a parliamentary majority can’t be formed and there has to be a general election. Will that be the same as if Labour brings down the Government in Parliament? Absolutely Not.

If, during the autumn, Labour comes out decisively against the attacks on immigration and brings down the Government – or even makes a serious attempt to bring down the Government – over the Brexit negotiations or preparations, and fights the election on that basis, then the progressive forces have the political initiative and will have a real sense of optimism because they have come out stronger. If Labour fails to take that course and there is an election simply because of a Tory split, the situation will be more negative and confused. The Left will be weighed down by pessimism and the Far Right will feel more confident. Such an election is likely to be dominated by the Brexiteers’ rhetoric of ‘betrayal.’

Those on the Left who support a ‘People’s Vote’ on the outcome of Brexit are overwhelmingly motivated by a desire to stop Brexit, at least to stop a ‘hard’ or ‘no deal’ Brexit, and to offer a possible route to staying in the EU. They are opposed to the racism and ant-immigrant bigotry of Brexit and for the most part they are in favour of the free movement of people – that is certainly true of Another Europe Is Possible, who drew up the ‘People’s Vote’ motion that a number of constituencies are submitting to the Labour conference. It is conceived as an attempt to thwart the attempts by Corbyn’s Blairite enemies to present their pro-capitalist, corporate agenda as the ‘liberal,’ ‘progressive,’ ‘internationalist’ alternative to Brexit.

That is perfectly understandable, but because they are trying to save Corbyn from himself they are stuck in the manoeuvres of ‘business as usual.’ Since Corbyn has committed to ending the free movement of people (while he is prepared to maintain the free movement of goods, services and capital) they won’t call on him to change policy and defend it. Worse still, the first action point is to “Oppose any Brexit deal that does not satisfy Labour’s 6 tests.” They must know that the third of the six tests is “Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities.”

Of course, Labour has always claimed that its immigration laws are ‘fair’ and ‘in the interests of the community,’ ever since the 1968 Immigration Act to keep East African Asians who had British passports they fear that would ‘undermine’ his leadership. But, does the ‘Left Against Brexit’ want Labour to bloc an agreement that guarantees continued free movement? It doesn’t seem so: while the original version of their motion, given out at early ‘Left Against Brexit’ rallies, avoided any mention of free movement, the final version slipped in three word, to note that May’s Brexit is “A threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland and the NHS.”

Of course, that statement is perfectly true. The problem is that Corbyn’s Brexit is a threat to the free movement of people as well, but they don’t call on him to remedy that situation. In their eagerness to defend Corbyn’s leadership while staying true to the idea of free movement they have simply produced confusion. And how do they think calling on Corbyn to defend free movement would undermine him? It can only be that they fear calling, in the public arena of a national conference, for a vote to maintain the free movement of people would force Corbyn to come out against them, relying on the support of his right-wing enemies. What they fear is losing Corbyn’s left-wing reputation.

For the Blairites and their backers, a nebulous ‘People’s Vote’ campaign has the great advantage of hiding their unpopular policies behind a veneer of ‘democracy.’ They can afford the cynical manoeuvre; they have the establishment behind them. The Left can’t afford this manoeuvring and confusion, because it plays into the hands of the right wing by dodging the most important political fight in the present crisis, the fight against racist scapegoating which demands that we resolutely defend free movement.

These manoeuvres are simply another aspect of ‘kicking the can down the road,’ the response to the current crisis of all sides in the UK political system. We are near the end of this ‘road’ and the ‘can’ is looking more like a time-bomb. The proposals in the MFJ motion set out the only practical, progressive way forward for Labour in this increasingly urgent situation.