Organise community, youth & worker defence to stop immigration arrests & raids
Make Southwark a Sanctuary Borough, enforced by community action
Organise worker/student non-cooperation with the Home Office in schools, colleges, council offices & NHS, including strikes & walkouts
Police Out of Schools Now!
Full Amnesty Now for ALL those without papers
Support workers who are striking against pay cuts in Southwark & elsewhere – Unite the struggles against poverty and racism
Bring Down this racist, anti-immigrant, anti-working-class Government
Open the Borders of Britain & Europe – Organise sanctuary from the Home Office for cross-Channel refugees arriving in Britain
Join the Rally & Speak-Out
Saturday 20th August 2022
Assemble 12 Noon
Junction of Peckham High Street & Rye lane (SE15 5DW)
Please wear a mask on this event to protect yourself and others from COVID-19
On 11th June, Home Office officials from ‘Immigration Enforcement’ who went to Peckham and arrested a Nigerian immigrant living in Evan Cook Close were met with an instant community response. Neighbours turned out and blocked the van from leaving the street. They called their friends, Lewisham Anti-Raids Network and anti-racists in the local Labour Party. Soon, several hundred people from the local area were massed in that small street and stood their ground against police attacks for over four hours. Faced with a growing, militant mass of people the police had to release the arrested immigrant and withdraw, followed by chants of ‘Don’t come back to Peckham.’
This victory is part of Peckham’s proud history of resistance to immigration raids and the hostile environment created by Home Office vans in the area. Peckham does not stand alone. The victory on 11th June was part of a growing movement in integrated communities from London to Glasgow. Community resistance is defeating immigration raids by any means necessary, from mass mobilisations on the streets to simple actions to protect a neighbour or workmate or pass on a warning.
The victory in Peckham soon acquired a further political significance. Among the many Labour Party members who went to Evan Cook Close there were several local councillors. The leaders of the Labour Group that controls Southwark Council threatened them with disciplinary action but dropped that idea after angry protests. The next meeting of Camberwell & Peckham Labour Party voted overwhelmingly for a motion declaring that “The Labour Party has a duty to speak out against racism, injustice and violence perpetrated against any member of our community by the British state,” and agreeing to “Stand in solidarity with those opposing deportation raids” and “Organise training in resisting deportations and the hostile environment.”
The Movement for Justice (MFJ) welcomes and supports the stand taken by these Labour Party members. It is a direct and conscious challenge to the treacherous policies of Labour’s current national leadership under Keir Starmer, who ignore black & Asian communities, refuses to support the strikes of low-paid workers, and only criticises the government’s anti-refugee policies for not being effective enough.
Building on the victory in Peckham – Making Southwark a real, effective Sanctuary Borough
The victory on 11th June and the stand taken by Labour Party members are a base on which to build a more systematic community-based defense organisation to resist the Home Office presence in Southwark, uniting workers, refugees, immigrants without papers, youth, school & college students and established activist groups.
To stop immigration raids this will need to become more than an anti-raids organisation. Immigration Enforcement relies on a network of Home Office powers, connections, sources of information in council offices, hospitals, surgeries, schools and colleges, banks etc. Shutting that down requires workers, trade unions and schools refusing to co-operate with the Home Office, directly or indirectly.
For example, every hospital has an office that reports people who are denied ‘access to public funds,’ but it could not function if health unions organised a boycott throughout the hospital. Such campaigns are likely to involve demonstrations and strikes and will be sure to win community support.
In schools and colleges students are the vital force who will come forward with walkouts and occupations to defend fellow students & families threatened with arrest, detention and deportation. This has happened already, and the last few years have seen many student actions against racist school managements – like the mass protest in March at Hackney’s Petchey Academy against a racist sexual assault – the strip-search of a 15-year-old black girl by police officers who were called to the school by teachers and management.
There is no place for the police in schools. School management and the police are working together to control & repress poor, black, Asian & Muslim youth.
Building our movement will require preparation and planning in individual schools, workplaces, union groups etc. where people can discuss and pledge to take action.
A real sanctuary borough will not be an empty name, it will provide real sanctuary from the Home Office. It will be enforced by the community, by the systematic community defense organisation MFJ is proposing.
Mass migration is a global rebellion against poverty & inequality – Open the Borders of Britain & Europe
The government’s people-trafficking deal to dump cross-Channel refugees in Rwanda is not an isolated horror. It is the outcome of four decades of escalating anti-immigrant policies and the uncontrolled capitalist exploitation that imperialist governments have forced on the world.
For over twenty years, millions of people have been leaving their homes in the world’s poorest continents and regions. They are leaving in increasing numbers and risking their lives, because there is no other escape from horrific wars and political, religious or ethnic persecution, from famine, drought, and the effects of environmental destruction, from the mounting attacks on women and LGBT+ people, etc.
Mass migration is a symptom of a world in crisis. It is a global rebellion against poverty & inequality, and it is a life & death struggle against imperialism. There are no compromises to be made in this conflict. The governments of Europe & the USA have militarised their borders and condemned thousands of refugees to drown at sea or die crossing deserts. Those governments pay the UN and poorer neighbours like Libya, Mexico and Turkey to hold back refugees and ‘contain’ them for years in huge over-crowded camps.
There is a battle between humanity and barbarism at every border. Refugees are posing a central demand for human progress in our age – Open the Borders – and they are opening borders every day to resolve real, material threats to their existence.
There are no humane deportations, no humane charter flights, no humane detention centres. The liberals’ plea for “Safe & legal routes” is a trap; it will leave the racist government in control and deny fundamental human rights: the right of asylum & freedom of movement.
The government and ruling class fear refugees and other immigrants from the world’s poorest, most exploited countries. They fear the qualities those refugees and immigrants bring with them – determination, experience of struggle, commitment to freedom, hatred for the colonial and imperialist exploitation of their countries by Britain and other ‘great powers.’ Those refugees and immigrants are and will be leaders of the battle for progress and equality in Britain.
The rich & powerful minority that rules Britain tries to impose a national myth on the people they exploit & oppress – the myth that they are all united against other countries & peoples by a shared ‘national interest’ and British identity. That would mean Britain’s diverse population could never live in a society based on integration and equality. It is the basis of British racism.
Fortunately, however, British society is becoming more & more integrated every day – especially in the major cities and towns, in the working class, among the youth, and in a growing number of families. That is the basis of our strength and our fight for progress and equality. It is a nightmare for the government and the driving force of its attacks on democracy.
The government is establishing a dictatorship and moving fast towards Fascism
The current government is unlike anything this country has seen before. It is a FAR-RIGHT government – a government moving rapidly towards dictatorship and fascism. Other European countries saw such governments in the last century, and they are seeing them reappear now. The Trump movement in the USA is a similar development.
We must clear our heads of the idea that ‘it couldn’t happen here,’ and the belief that British democracy is exceptional & permanent. The creation of a dictatorship and the development of fascism are already happening here and happening fast.
One of the government’s first actions was to bring in a law that allows government bodies like the police, the Home Office, the army and the secret services to instruct their agents to commit crimes, without facing prosecution. It has effectively abolished the right of asylum and set up the ‘people trafficking’ deal to dump asylum seekers in Rwanda. It has brought in laws that give it control of how elections are run and make it more difficult for poor people, black and Asian people and young people to vote.
This government has already given the police huge powers to ban or stop protests and demonstrations. Now that workers are fighting back against growing poverty, this government is giving itself new powers to break strikes. It has already scrapped many of the legal rights people could use to challenge government decisions, and it is abolishing the Human Rights Act.
Its latest plan is to let government ministers ignore decisions of the law courts if they disagree with them, and Boris Johnson has ruled out emergency measures to support poor and vulnerable people as the price food and energy rise sharply during the coming winter. Johnson was quoted as saying in the first year of the Covid pandemic, “Let the bodies pile up in their thousands.” That is the government’s plan for the months ahead.
The fundamental weakness of this government
However, the government’s extreme plans and language cannot hide its fundamental weakness. This was the ‘Get Brexit Done’ government, and Brexit is a disaster that is getting worse by the day. Recent opinion polls and by-elections indicate a sharp fall in Conservative voters. ‘Fears’ about immigration have fallen sharply in opinion polls. More & more people see Brexit as a failure.
The government has no policies that can resolve this crisis. Its current leadership elections are exposing a party that is tearing itself apart. Its general direction is further and further to the extreme right, with more racist policies, but that is not solving its problems.
The government’s real support base is very small. Firstly, it is the financial parasites, like the private wealth funds that have taken over most of Britain’s care homes and nurseries and turned them into financial assets. This group is the main source of Conservative Party funding. It includes many government ministers and the capitalists who are benefitting directly from government corruption.
Secondly, there is the shrinking party membership (150,000 at the highest estimate) that is aging, 95% white and mostly living in rural areas and middle- class suburbs in the south of England – plus 357 MPs who are even more right-wing than the membership.
Thirdly, there is the increasingly active and violent rabble of fascists and semi-fascists, Covid deniers, anti-vaxxers, global heating deniers, followers of Nigel Farage and former members of UKIP and the EDL.
Those bases of support do not represent British society, especially not the working class, the big cities and the youth (or even most people from their ’40s and below). That is the majority of the population. It is too integrated to fall into line with the government’s policies, and it is where most white people are not racist enough to back the current government’s policies.
Resistance to immigration raids and deportation, and strikes against pay cuts & poverty, are both growing in those communities.
The government and the ruling class are divided but none of them have any solution to the economic & political crisis. They cannot go on ruling in the old ‘British democratic’ way – and the poor & oppressed are demonstrating in action that they cannot go on living in the way they are now.
Our real strength is in our communities & on the streets – We must Change the Balance of Power
The real opposition to the government is in our communities, workplaces, schools and on our streets.
We can see that in the victories in Evan Cook Close and Kenmure Street, Glasgow, and many other places where ‘Immigration Enforcement’ has been defeated. We see it in the growing strike action by low-paid workers, who include many immigrant, refugee, black, Asian & Latin American workers. We see it in the walkouts & protests by students against racist school & college management.
The women who resisted police violence to demonstrate against the police murder of Sarah Everard forced politicians to acknowledge the rampant, brutal misogyny of the police – and forced the removal of London police chief Cressida Dick.
The militant street level action against global heating (along with burning houses & fields) has focused much greater attention on a government and a system that would rather let the world burn than lose a penny of profit.
Those struggles are united by a profound loss of faith in the present system, and a growing awareness that the issues they are fighting on (racism, poverty and so on) have a common cause. To a greater or lesser extent, they imply an urgent need to get rid of this government, even if that is not explicit. These militant struggles demonstrate the potential for a movement to Bring Down the Government.
To build that movement it is necessary to bring the struggles together in on the basis that, firstly, we all need to see the end of this government, and secondly, that this can only be achieved through mass action and not through a parliamentary or legal process.
We are past the point where we can reasonably hope to get a change for the better by relying on the ballot box. A general election now will be run on the government’s anti-democratic rules. It is unlikely to happen until 2024 and by then the political and economic crisis will almost certainly be worse. Even if the government loses, we will have a Starmer-style Labour government or a weak coalition. In that situation the more openly fascist forces could become a far more serious threat.
We will bring down the government by changing the balance of power between the government, the rich & powerful and state bodies like the Home Office on one side, and the exploited, oppressed and poor majority on the other side. On a small scale that is what happened in Evan Cook Close on 11th June.
The government will fall when the movement has undermined its ability to govern, sent it into crisis, and deepened the divisions in the ruling class. Then the anti-Brexit capitalists might come out openly against the government, or the established political system will go into crisis in some other way. In the end there will be a general election – but it will be because of the power of a movement that has changed the balance of power and aroused hopes for change, not on terms set by the government.
Always Speak the Plain Truth About Racism – Fight to Win, By Any Means Necessary
Brexit was a victory for racism. That was confirmed by the surge in racist attacks and abuse that accompanied the 2016 referendum campaign and escalated after the vote. That vote was a boost to the Far Right and led the election of Johnson’s government in December 2019.
None of that was inevitable. It was the result of the confusion and failure of leadership on the Left, which principally means the Labour Party.
At the time of the referendum Labour had a new, more left-wing leadership under Jeremy Corbyn. Hundreds of thousands of new members joined the party, many of them young people. This new leadership could have taken the political high ground and led a bold anti-racist campaign against Brexit. Johnson, Farage and the right-wing Tories were unashamedly stirring up racist prejudice against immigrants and refugees. Labour could have defended immigrant rights and the free movement of people. That would have sent a clear, strong message, energised their supporters and brought dynamic new forces into Labour.
Instead, the Labour leadership made a conscious decision to avoid the issues of racism and immigrant-bashing that are the driving force behind Brexit. After the referendum, that culminated in Corbyn instructing Labour MPs to vote for ending the free movement of people.
By the first half of 2019 opinion polls consistently showed a majority against Brexit. The Labour leadership missed a second chance to change history, but by September the Far Right had taken over the Conservative Party and it was too late anyway. In the December general election the radical policies on housing, public ownership, the NHS etc, which had won Labour so much support in the 2017 election, were not enough to avoid a humiliating defeat.
Whether consciously or not, the motion passed by Camberwell and Peckham Labour Party is not only a challenge to Keir Starmer, but to the legacy of the Corbyn leadership.
Now it is the Brexit government that looks weak and incompetent, even though it has accumulated a huge assortment of dictatorial powers. Those powers seem small beside the anger it has inspired and the enemies it has accumulated, through its cruelty, its racism, its responsibility for so many deaths and so much suffering, its naked corruption and its arrogant display of entitlement.
A new and growing wave of struggles is fighting on many fronts but united against the same enemy, and by what Martin Luther King called “The fierce urgency of Now.”
A largely new, more integrated and youthful generation of struggle has come forward, ready to take militant action and fight to win by any means necessary.
We may not know each other or speak the same languages, but together we will fight this racist government and its agents – on our streets, in our schools and colleges, in our workplaces, in detention centres and crossing the Channel in small boats.
And together we will win.
To all of you, Movement for Justice sends this message: