Asylum seekers

In the last issue of


(March-April 2000), we exposed the hypocrisy of the bourgeois parties of European, that of Britain in particular, in the aftermath of the racist Freedom Party of Jörg Haider joining the Austrian coalition government. Further proof is now on offer in substantiation of our stance, which makes it clear that there is not much which separates ‘our’ bourgeois parties from Jö:rg Haider’s Freedom Party. They are all racist and xenophobic.

The manifesto with which the Tories are fighting the local government elections to be held on 4 May pledges, in language calculated to inflame feelings of racial hatred towards foreigners, to stop ” …

organised asylum racketeers, who are flooding our country with bogus asylum seekers”.

After this phrase in the Tory manifesto had been correctly criticised by the UN High Commission for Refugees as at attempt to exploit prejudice, government ministers accused the Tory leader, William Hague, of playing racial politics. Lib­Dems, themselves infamous for playing the race card in local elections, have reported both the Conservatives and Labour to the Commission for Racial Equality, accusing both the parties of using inflammatory language aimed at exploiting the race issue. The UN for its part has condemned all three parties on this score.

Bill Morris exposes Labour’s racism

All this would be hilarious in the extreme if it did not impinge on the lives and liberties of tens of thousands of unfortunate victims of imperialism, imperialist war and imperialist-inspired civil strife. While Labour accuses the Tories of racism and crypto­fascism, the Lib­Dems level the same accusation at the both the Tories and Labour. The truth is that all these bourgeois parties are guilty of inciting racial hatred for the sole purpose of dividing working people and diverting their attention away from the real cause of the misery of both the local majority and the asylum-seeking refugee minority. The whole debate on this question among the bourgeois parties, characterised by nauseating hypocrisy, stomach­churning insincerity and sanctimonious humbug, exploded in the Labour government’s face when Bill Morris, General Secretary of the second biggest union in Britain, the Transport and General Workers’ Union, himself a black man and hitherto one of the most loyal supporters of the Labour government, accused ministers of racism in terms most devastatingly scathing.

Writing in the


of Friday 14 April, Mr Morris pressed the charge that there was

“institutional racism at the heart of the government”.

Reserving his strongest criticism for the response of Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to the increasing number of those seeking asylum in Britain, Mr Morris went on:

The United Nations has charged the Tories with whipping up racial intolerance. But the Home Secretary and the Home Office team must accept responsibility for creating the environment where this is acceptable.

The mood music is playing a hostile tune for black Britons. But it is the Home Office and indeed ministers who are playing their part in the orchestra. By heralding measure after measure to stop people entering Britain, the Home Office has given life to racists.”

It is this institutional racism at the heart of government, says Mr Morris, which alone can explain the “

utterly insane plan to give asylum-seekers vouchers rather than money”,

the “

repugnant proposal to charge some visitors from the Indian subcontinent £10,000 as a bond

” if the immigration officials suspect that these visitors intend to stay in this country after the expiry of their visas, the proposal to restrict the right to a jury trial, “

knowing that the consequences of this change will fall disproportionately heavily on black defendants”.

He accuses Jack Straw and his department of reneging on the Macpherson report on the murder of black teenager, Stephen Lawrence. Mr Morris says that, while using the said report for public relations purposes, Mr Straw’s department has brought forward “

initiative after initiative

” having “

a negative, and in some instances, discriminatory effect upon the black community.

Citing the Home Office decision denying refugees to receipt of change in cash when spending their vouchers, Mr Morris goes on to say that “

we now have the extraordinary situation whereby a Labour government is redistributing wealth from the penniless refugees to supermarket giants such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s


It is a pity that it has taken Bill Morris this long to discover Labour’s racism and its wealth distribution policies. The truth is that Labour has always been racist and anti­poor. It has always distributed wealth in one direction only ­ from the poor to the rich.

Calling for the culture of racism, which characterises the Home Office, to be eradicated, Mr Morris concludes:

Jack Straw has said ‘Race is the key thing on which I want to be judged’. Up to today many black Britons will want to reserve judgement. But, if there isn’t a radical change of direction, then the judgement may well fall on the government as a whole.

These are strong words, coming as they do from someone shaped in the tradition of Social Democracy, whose main object of concern has been the defence of the interests of the privileged strata of the working class ­ the labour aristocracy ­ and that of British imperialism, as the former’s privileges are entirely dependent on the continued existence of imperialist superprofits. We merely wish to add that the judgement which Mr Morris fears “

may well fall on the government as a whole

” has already done so. In fact it fell long ago.

Labour’s record under scrutiny

The attack from such a loyal and highly­placed supporter as Mr Morris has blown to smithereens the Blair government’s carefully cultivated image and PR spin according to which the Tories are racist but Labour is not. Only a few weeks ago, Alastair Campbell, spokesman for Tony Blair, assured reporters:

The Prime Minister would never, ever allow the Labour Party to use that unpleasant, unfortunate phrase

[i.e., bogus asylum seekers]:

to play the race care in relation to asylum seekers

” (quoted in the

Sunday Telegraph

, 16 April 2000).

Mr Morris’s justified, if belated, outburst has brought the present Labour government’s record under scrutiny. Bourgeois newspapers have dug out at least five references to ‘bogus’ asylum seekers in Mr Blair’s most recent utterances. Robin Cook and Jack Straw, this execrable pair, frequently resort to this terminology. The Home Office Minister, the vile Barbara Roche, while accusing the Tories of “

stirring up racial hatred

“, went to the length of characterising asylum seekers who beg with their children as “


“. Lord Williams of Mostyn, now the Attorney General, has referred to “


” and “

sudden influxes

” of refugees. Not only do Labour Ministers ­ Blair, Cook, Straw, Roche ­ use racist and inflammatory terminology, Straw goes to the extent, unbelievable though it may sound, of accusing the Tories of being soft on immigrants and asylum seekers. In February this year, he taunted his Tory shadow, the contemptible Ann Widdecombe, for “

talking tough

” while opposing Labour’s crackdown on asylum seekers. In July 1998, as he unveiled his proposals curbing benefits claims by refugees, Straw made a special point of criticising the previous Tory government, which he claimed had “

enabled bogus asylum seekers to come, claim benefit, work and carry on ripping off the system

” (quoted in the

Sunday Telegraph

, 14 April 2000). Reader, can you find any difference between the allegedly anti­racist, democratic and moderate Mr Straw and the universally acknowledged racist and xenophobe, Jörg Haider? Can you not also find some justification in Haider’s claim that his party models itself after Blair’s Labour Party?

Far from shying away from inflammatory racist terminology, Labour ministers, including the prime minister, are using it on a regular basis as a means of appealing to the basest prejudices of the most ignorant sections of the population. This shameful conduct is sought to be justified by reference to Labour’s need to take on board the concerns of its core constituency, namely, the ‘Council estate voters’. There are, of course, two ways of taking on board these concerns. One is to do away with the dereliction, neglect, poverty, misery and squalor that afflict many Council estates, and thus makes everyone who lives there feel much better than is presently the case, and to do so at the expense of the billionaires, the megaprofits of the multinationals, and the overpaid flunkeys of capitalism who regularly receive million pound bonuses for getting rid of people’s jobs. The other way is to cut public expenditure even further, to deepen the misery of the residents of these estates, to inflame racial feelings and blame foreigners, refugees, asylum seekers and blacks in an effort to incite them against these unfortunate people. The way of bourgeois governments, Labour included, hell bent as they are to serve monopoly capitalism, is the section option. It costs nothing and has the advantage, from the point of view of capitalism, of setting one section of the poor against another, while capitalists laugh all the way to the bank.

Even its docile followers condemn Labour

It is a matter of pride these days for Labour to boast that it is tougher on refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants than the Tories could ever be. This heartless policy is enshrined in the glib slogan “

firm and fair


While embracing the Macpherson Inquiry’s findings concerning institutional racism and aligning themselves with the bereaved Lawrence family, Labour ministers are repeatedly making sly appeals to racist sections of the population and playing the race card. Hence Labour’s dispersal policy on refugees, its pilot scheme for a detention centre for refugees, food vouchers (instead of cash) for asylum seekers, and its £10,000 visa bond scheme (now shelved) for visitors from the Indian subcontinent.

Such is the outrageously racist behaviour of the Labour government that even the despicable Clive Soley, Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party, has accused the government of following a “

tabloid agenda

” on asylum.

John Monks, the TUC General Secretary and present­day chief priest of Mondism and class collaboration, while accusing the Tories of behaving “


“, was forced to admit that “

some of the language that Labour ministers have used from time to time has been a bit unfortunate. The assumption has tended to be that far too many of the people seeking asylum are likely to be on the fiddle rather than genuine

” (quoted in the


of 14 April 2000).

Jack Straw has been deputed to play a prominent role in Labour’s campaign for local government elections and to answer Tory criticisms. The tone for that campaign has been set by the ‘nice’ Mr Blair who is quoted in the


of 14 April as saying: “

The simple difference is this: the Conservatives are trying to exploit the issue of asylum, we are trying to deal with it.

” He went on the accuse the Tories of “


” because they had opposed government measures to deal with the problem. The message is clear: the Tories only talk but are soft on refugees, while Labour gets on with the job of putting the boot in and ‘deals with the problem’ with the required determination and toughness.

Labour wants to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. It wants to pretend that it is anti-racist, yet wants to play the race card, just as the Tories and other parties do, in order to secure the votes of those with racist prejudices. It wants to present an image of moderation while appealing to racist extremism and set workers on each other’s throats. It won’t work for, in the words of one bourgeois journalist, “

you cannot travel on both sides of the street, and still call yourself middle of the road

” (Matthew d’Ancona,

Sunday Telegraph

, 16 April 2000).


Before concluding this article, let it be stated that most of the refugees and asylum seekers come from the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iraq. Imperialism bears a huge responsibility for the plight of those fleeing these countries, for it has done everything within its power to undermine these countries, waging wars against some of them and proxy wars in others, by inciting and inspiring civil strife. One outcome of this is the forced expulsion of vast numbers of people from the countries they love, where they would prefer to stay, and their arrival in countries where they do not want to be and where they are not welcome. It is to add a huge insult to serious injury for these hapless victims to be characterised as ‘bogus’.

All the bourgeois parties ­ Tory, Lib­Dems and Labour ­ are guilty of racism. They are the initiators, inciters and abettors of racism in the service of this parasitic, decadent and moribund system ­ imperialism. It is in the class interests of the proletariat alone to fight against racism, for racism divides and weakens the working class and is, therefore, a formidable obstacle in its struggle for social emancipation. The working class must fight this cancer with determination. It must reject the bourgeois flag of narrow imperialism. It must firmly hold aloft the banner of internationalism.

Workers of all countries, unite!

Workers and oppressed peoples of all countries, unite!

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