Why a New Anti-Racist Movement is Necessary
The TUC-affiliated National Union of Journalists held a successful 40 Years of Resistance: From the Brixton Uprisings to Black Lives Matter webinar, which featured an impressive line-up of international and British speakers (see https://the-latest.com/forty-years-resistance-white-anti-racists-must-listen). It was organised by the union’s Black Members Council on the 20th of March 2021 to commemorate UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Forty years earlier, the New Cross Fire Massacre happened, claiming the lives of 14 young Black people, followed by the unprecedented Black People’s Day of Action, which saw thousands on the streets in protest. The momentous Brixton uprisings against police oppression followed in April of that year.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the historic founding of the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA). The ARA went on to become Europe’s largest black-led anti-racist movement. Among the its achievements were:
- Building the broadest-based coalition against racism in Britain, with African Caribbean and Asian people in the organisation’s leadership and trade unions at its core
- Getting laws passed to make racial violence and harassment specific criminal offences.
- Helping to get the fascist British National Party’s “nazi bunker” headquarters shut down
- Helping the parents of murdered Black teenager Stephen Lawrence set up their justice campaign, hiring their lawyer Imran Khan and introducing them to Nelson Mandela
- Mobilising thousands of people on peaceful anti-racist demonstrations
- Organising the annual ARAfest music festivals for thousands of the youth. This became the Respect and then Rise festivals, which were axed by Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor
Because of the current alarming manifestations of racism both in Britain and internationally, we need a united movement to defeat those whose aim is to divide black and white people in our communities, including in workplaces. Africans, Asians, Caribbeans and other people of colour are at the sharp end of racism, so it is they who should lead the fightback, supported by their white allies, as was seen during the Black Lives Matter protests. “Nothing about us, without us”, as the saying goes.
People of colour, who include Africans, Asians and Caribbeans, make up around 14 per cent of Britain’s population. Daily they face personal and systemic racism, including in the workplace, as evidenced by numerous reports like the milestone Macpherson one into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The government deny this at their peril. Footballer and other black public figures have faced totally unacceptable racist abuse. This and all other form of racial discrimination must be stopped.
A specific trade unions presence was absent from the Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations, the largest civil rights mobilisations ever seen in Britain. Progressive political parties were not involved either. Our new movement can put this right.
The BLM protests were mass-based mobilisation that happened day after day precisely because black, particularly the youth, organised and turned up for them, based on black self-organisation and self-determination which, in principle, are supported by the labour movement and others. Beyond police reform, BLM widened its demand to include the decolonisation of British history in general and educational curricula in particular.
Racism and inequality have never been starker in Britain and elsewhere. Grassroots Black Left, with their campaigning and pamphlets Black People Racism and the Covid-19 Pandemic and Black Workers in Health and Social Care: A Blueprint for Action, have laid bare how racism is at the heart of the pandemic. African Caribbean and Asian frontline workers and communities have disproportionately suffered as a result of Covid-19.
But despite the crisis, the government’s racist “hostile environment” continues to scapegoat migrants, refugees and the Muslim community. Asylum seekers, including children, have been put in jail-like detention centres and deportation flights, chartered by the government, have continued despite the Windrush scandal. Many victims of the extremely avoidable Grenfell tower fire, that claimed at least 72 lives four years ago, were mainly African, Caribbean, Asian, migrants, refugees and poor people.
The disproportionate use of stop and search against black people, and the disturbing number of deaths of black people in police custody, has created bitterness and distrust towards the police. This has been made worse by a new law the government wants to pass to clampdown on peaceful Black Lives Matter, environmentalist and women’s protests. We therefore support the #KilltheBill campaign. In the workplace, disparities in health and safety, pay, and conditions for African Caribbean and Asian workers are issues which the trade unions, to which they belong, are ideally placed to tackle.
The racist and fascist right are in government in some countries and are organising and growing their numbers among members of the public. British security services have said that the activities of neo-nazis and the far right pose the biggest domestic threat they have to combat.
Huge controversy was sparked by the television interview revelations of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry about racism at the very top of the British establishment and in the news media.
Trade unionists have a long record of being at the forefront of anti-racist campaigns and actions, including the Anti-Apartheid Movement, to oppose racism.
They can be most effective uniting with people of colour, including Africans, Asians and Caribbeans, to bring their anti-racist campaigning back “in-house”. United together we can defeat the growth of racism, islamophobia and antisemitism and all other forms of hatred.
Now it’s time for The Liberation Movement to be launched after 40 Years of Resistance: From the Brixton Uprisings to Black Lives Matter in October’s Black History Month.
About the Anti-Racist Alliance
Founded by Marc Wadsworth in November 1991, the ARA was Britain’s first black-led, broad-based coalition campaigning to stem the rising tide of racism, antisemitism, islamophobia and support for the extreme right.
It organised the country’s first anti-Islamophobia national demonstration, called “Trump the race card” before Trump and backed by the TUC. The ARA was supported by more than 800 organisations, including many national black and Jewish organisations. It also had the support of more than 90 MPs and MEPs from across the political spectrum, as well as thousands of individuals.
The ARA organised campaigns locally and nationally against racist murders, attacks, harassment and the far right. It staged the ARAfest music festivals that attracted thousands of youth, who were mainly black, and benefit concerts featuring stars, including Gabrielle, who was No.1 in the charts at the time. The Liberation Movement can bring people together to do it again.