Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/256/24729
Asylum - Why We Oppose Blair's Plans
TONY BLAIR'S 'action plan' to 'crack down' on asylum seekers might have been taken directly from Le Pen's election manifesto.
It appears that Blair and the French government could have done a deal to close the Sangatte refugee camp in Calais.
Other leaked plans include using RAF planes to provide "secure bulk removals", using the Royal Navy to intercept ships in the Mediterranean and withdrawing aid to countries which refuse to take failed asylum seekers.
The French government, with one eye on forthcoming parliamentary elections, is trying to steal some of Le Pen's clothes.
Blair is also using the arguments of the far right and exploiting the issue of asylum for electoral gain. These measures will not, as they argue, prevent refugees from seeking asylum.
New Labour, along with sections of the media, have fed an anti-asylum seekers climate which has allowed groups like the Nazi BNP to gain support. (See Who Are The Far Right?)
Blunkett talked about refugees "swamping" schools and medical centres. Blair refers to the "asylum crisis" and, according to immigration minister Lord Rooker, "most asylum seekers are single men who have deserted their families for economic gain".
Some refugees, who have the means, do flee to Britain and elsewhere in Europe because of economic catastrophe in their own countries.
They are searching for a "better life" for themselves and their families. Capitalism, and particularly the multinationals who super exploit the "neo-colonial" world are responsible for these conditions which will continue and worsen as long as capitalism is not replaced by socialism.
However New Labour spokespeople grossly exaggerate this feature of immigration which feeds a mistaken perception amongst many people in Britain that "waves of economic migrants" are "flooding" Britain.
It's no wonder that in a recent poll people overestimated the number of asylum seekers and immigrants in Britain by a factor of three!
Nowhere does New Labour deal with the real facts. A recent European Union report completely contradicts Lord Rooker, concluding that "push factors" such as war and repression of minorities far outweigh "pull factors" such as economic hardship or Europe's benefit systems.
Most of the refugees in Sangatte are from Afghanistan. The top three countries for asylum applications to Britain are Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan - all countries which have been devastated by war, conflict and economic collapse.
Blair, along with Bush, drops millions of pounds worth of bombs on Afghanistan, kills thousands of people, makes millions homeless, pulverises the country's infrastructure and then wants to deny asylum to the victims of their own barbaric war!
CLOSING SANGATTE and draconian measures will not succeed in preventing refugees from seeking asylum. War, conflict, terror and economic devastation are the inevitable consequences of this capitalist system which is based on exploitation and the pursuit of profit.
Until the system itself is changed, there will always be those fleeing war, persecution and the dislocation of countries internationally.
Capitalism is incapable of providing even the basics of life in most of the poor countries of the world.
Even in the so-called 'developed' countries, many working-class people do not have access to decent jobs, housing, education, health care etc.
Desperate people will take desperate measures. Sangatte was opened for humanitarian reasons, to give temporary relief to refugees, including children, camped out in the open with no food or shelter.
The conditions within the camp are unacceptably squalid, but if the camp closes, refugees will simply return to the more atrocious conditions they previously had to endure in the open air.
The more difficult it becomes to seek asylum through legal means, the more people will become prey to the traffickers, risk their lives travelling in sealed containers in lorries or clinging to the bottom of freight trains.
The US has drastically stepped up security measures on its border with Mexico at a huge cost to the federal budget but also at an enormous cost in lives.
The number of Mexicans trying to cross the border has not gone down. In fact it has increased. At the same time, the number dying while trying to cross has gone up from 23 in 1994 to nearly 500 in 2000.
This experience in the US proves that a harsh regime does not work. Blair's plans for a 'fortress' Britain and Europe are leading in a similar direction.
The government could build a mile high fence around Britain and it would still not stop desperate refugees entering the country.
Refugees should have the right to enter Britain by legal routes. Once here, their applications should be dealt with promptly so that they do not have to put up with the huge delays experienced at present.
Asylum seekers who have their applications refused should be able to appeal to an elected tribunal, including representatives of trade unions and community organisations.
While applications are being processed, asylum seekers should be able to work with the same employment rights as other workers and not used as cheap labour for unscrupulous bosses.
There is an acute shortage of teachers and health workers, especially in London and the south east. Many asylum seekers have the skills which could be employed to relieve the pressures in these areas.
According to the Home Office's own report, migrants actually add £2.5 billion to the British economy. If asylum seekers cannot work they should be able to receive benefits at the normal rates.
OF COURSE many people are worried that local services are already overstretched. House-building, for example, is at its lowest since 1924.
The government should provide adequate funding to councils so that they can massively increase building to provide decent housing as well as services for everyone in local areas.
This would also mean that while waiting for a decision on their application, asylum seekers and their children could be housed, educated and have access to health care in local communities, rather than segregated in isolated detention centres with second-rate facilities, as is now being proposed.
It's the profit system that creates refugees. And it's the profit system, which Blair and New Labour represent, that denies working-class people in general decent housing, jobs, education, health care etc.
New Labour and pro-capitalist politicians throughout Europe, exploit the issue of asylum to divide and rule and deflect the blame for the problems we all face from the inadequacies of their system. What is needed is a united struggle against the system and for a socialist solution.
Such a solution would release economic ownership and control internationally from the dominance of a few hundred multinational corporations.
Working-class people could then own and democratically control and plan production and the allocation of resources to meet the needs of the majority of society not just the profits of a few.
This would provide resources for economic development throughout the world and lay the basis for an end to war, conflict, repression and economic crisis.
It would also allow people real choice about where and how they should live their lives.
Who Are The Far Right?
THE GROWTH in votes for far-right parties across Europe has set alarm bells ringing amongst workers and young people who fear a return of fascism. NAOMI BYRON writes on who the far right are, what threat they pose and how to fight it.
WHAT IS the difference between a fascist organisation and a far-right party? The Socialist Party thinks it's important to be accurate when we describe far-right groups.
Far-right is a broad term which can cover both extreme populist groups like the Lisjt Fortuyn in the Netherlands - which puts forward socially liberal ideas (e.g. on gay rights) but also supports racist scapegoating of non-white immigrants - to smaller, openly neo-fascist groups like the German People's Union or Combat 18.
In order to work out the most effective strategy for combating the ideas and influence of far-right groups we need to know what type of organisation they are and in which direction they are travelling.
What is fascism?
WE USE the Marxist definition of fascism developed by Trotsky in the 1920s and 1930s. Mass fascist movements arose in Europe during this period.
After the first world war and the Russian revolution, mass revolutionary movements developed throughout Europe. Due to the mistakes and in some cases betrayals of workers' leaders, these failed to abolish capitalist exploitation.
Capitalism survived, but in a situation of economic and social crisis, the capitalist class feared the potential power of the working class.
A growing section of big business funded reactionary strike-breaking organisations like the early Nazi party, who were prepared to physically attack the Left and trade unionists. As they grew, the Nazis won support from large sections of the middle classes who had seen their living standards and savings destroyed by the economic crisis and hyper-inflation of the 1920s.
Many people drawn to the Nazi Party would have also backed a strong socialist movement led by the working class. But they were demoralised by the failures and betrayals of the workers' parties and looked for other "solutions".
As the crisis intensified, big business backed Hitler's rise to power as they had backed Mussolini in Italy in 1922.
The Nazi Party used its armed wings and its army of spies and supporters, as well as the state forces it then controlled, to murder the most militant section of workers and atomise the organised opposition to big business.
Trotsky called fascism "the distilled essence of imperialism" because classical fascist movements took the brutality and exploitation of capitalism to its most extreme form in order to safeguard the rule of big business.
Strength of workers
WE ARE not in a political or economic period now where mass fascist movements can take power in Europe and set about crushing working-class organisations. The European working class is numerically strong and has not suffered the massive defeats that workers did in the 20s and 30s.
The middle-class social base - small business people, the peasantry etc - which fascism historically rested on is extremely weak.
This has led, in the last ten years or so, to small neo-fascist groups attempting to broaden their support by appealing to sections of the working class and transforming themselves into more 'respectable' far right parties, abandoning the street-fighting image they were popularly associated with.
Where this has happened, these far-right parties have won some support electorally from some sections of workers who feel abandoned and betrayed by parties which in the past were considered workers' parties, but now openly represent the interests of big business.
By supporting the free market, these former workers' parties have not provided jobs, decent housing, security or any solutions to the problems which working-class people face. As a consequence some working-class people have been taken in by the far right's simplistic, racist scapegoating of immigrants, others have voted for them as a form of protest.
At this stage the capitalists themselves are wary of even these far-right parties coming to power.
They overwhelmingly rallied behind Chirac for example against Le Pen in the second round of the French presidential elections. They feared that his anti-Europe, anti-foreigner programme would affect trade and their profits.
They also feared that the mass demonstrations which took place after Le Pen's vote in the first round could escalate and lead to much bigger movements, including strike action by workers.
Le Pen could only muster 40,000 people on the streets of Paris, compared to 1.3 million who protested against him.
The key to opposing far right parties like the Front National in France, the Freedom Party in Austria and Pim Fortuyn's list in the Netherlands, is the building of new, mass workers' parties.
In France, the radical left received nearly three million votes in the first round of the presidential elections.
These votes and the mass street protests show the potential of building a party which can bring together workers and young people and offer a socialist alternative.
A Brief History of The BNP
THE BRITISH National Party (BNP) was founded in 1982 by ex-members of the National Front led by John Tyndall with the aim of building an openly neo-Nazi party.
The then BNP leader John Tyndall said: "Mein Kampf [Hitler's autobiography] is my bible," and described his idea of a BNP dictatorship in Britain: "Racial laws will be enacted forbidding marriage between Britons and non-Aryans: medical measures will be taken to prevent procreation on the part of all those who have hereditary defects either racial, mental or physical."
In 1989 the BNP set up its national headquarters in Welling in outer South London. As a result of their activities and presence in the area, the level of racist attacks rose dramatically. Four young Black and Asian men - Rolan Adams, Orville Blair, Rohit Duggal and Stephen Lawrence - were murdered in racist attacks in the area around the BNP's HQ between February 1991 and April 1993.
In the early 1990s the BNP was gaining support. In 1992 the BNP formed Combat 18, a paramilitary organisation designed to protect BNP events and attack their enemies. C18's neo-Nazi ideology was expressed in its name, where the 1 and the 8 stand for A and H: Adolf Hitler's initials.
C18 and BNP members carried out attacks on Mansfield National Union of Mineworkers' offices and Tower Hamlets NALGO (now UNISON) offices in 1992, as well as numerous attacks on gay pubs, anti-racist and socialist organisations and Black, Asian and Jewish people.
In September 1993 the BNP won a council seat in Millwall ward on the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets (East London), their only councillor until 2002. Derek Beackon, the BNP's councillor, won on an openly racist "rights for whites" platform, blaming local Bangladeshis for housing shortages and lack of services.
Some of his public comments were: "I don't care what the Bengalis think. We are here for the white people. They are the ones being racially attacked," and: "I am only going to represent the white people [in Millwall ward]. I will not represent Asians. I will not do anything for them. They have no right to be in my great country."
As a result of the determined movements against the BNP they lost their council seat in May 1994 and their headquarters in 1995 and were driven out of many areas of Britain by local communities.
IN SEPTEMBER 1999 Nick Griffin won the leadership of the BNP from John Tyndall. Previously Griffin had fiercely opposed any attempt to water down the BNP's neo-Nazi programme or gain a more 'respectable' image by trying to reduce the BNP's street-thug element.
However over the last three years, Griffin and the rest of the BNP leadership made a lot of changes to the BNP's public programme, aiming to "re-brand" the BNP as a respectable and credible party.
In 2001 the BNP dropped their policy of compulsory repatriation of "immigrants" - i.e. non-white people - and replaced it with one of "voluntary" repatriation.
In their local election manifesto this year the BNP said they opposed privatisation of council housing and would work to reverse any privatisations of council housing stock carried out previously. On their website they claim that they support workers' co-operatives and trade unions but oppose the union leaders.
Many of the BNP's key activists are hardened neo-Nazis, many still actively linked to organisations like C18. However they are making serious attempts to broaden their appeal and become a 'credible' far-right party rather than a small neo-Nazi group.
It is an open question whether they will succeed.
How Strong Are The Far Right?
THE BNP'S successes in this month's local elections didn't stop with the election of three councillors in Burnley.
In seven other seats BNP candidates came within one place of being elected, including in Stoke-on-Trent where they failed to get elected by only 70 votes.
In Oldham the BNP got an average of 27.3% in the five wards it contested. In Sunderland they polled 28% in Team Farm ward; 26% in Castle and Priory ward in Dudley; 24% in Princes End ward in Sandwell; and 19% and 18% in Downham ward in Lewisham.
This is a warning. The BNP, despite their small numbers, are a real threat. Their presence encourages racist attacks and tensions, particularly when they are given some kind of respectability.
In Tower Hamlets, the only place the BNP have succeeded in getting a councillor elected before, racist attacks increased by 300% within months of them being elected to the council.
These attacks were not only carried out by BNP members. In fact the majority were carried out by local people with racist ideas that had nothing to do with the BNP, but whose successes gave them the confidence to think they could get away with racist attacks.
Also, the BNP is not only a racist party. Their neo-fascist ideas oppose socialists, trade unionists, disabled people, single parents, Jews and anybody who opposes them. All these groups are open to attack from the BNP and other far-right or neo-Nazi groups, both politically and physically, if a strong enough movement to stop them is not built.
The roots of the BNP's success lie in the economic problems caused by capitalism and the free-market policies followed by all mainstream parties, which have produced huge alienation. This is reflected in the current political crisis worrying the establishment - the collapse in support for mainstream pro-capitalist parties and politicians and increased votes for both the far right and the left.
It was the Tory policies implemented by New Labour, alongside their vicious attempts to whip up racism against asylum-seekers and refugees as scapegoats, that encouraged the BNP to re-emerge after their defeats in the 1990s.
But despite the threat of the BNP it would be a mistake to think that the increase in votes for the BNP or for the far right across Europe represents a move to the right in society or is the beginning of new mass fascist movements.
The Left has also done extremely well as voters look for answers to the social and economic problems they face. In France, the combined far-left vote in the first round of the presidential elections was nearly three million (over 10%).
In England and Wales the Socialist Party has four elected councillors (more than the BNP). In Scotland the SSP has a member of the Scottish Parliament.
The votes for the far-right are a timely warning of what capitalism has in store if a powerful socialist movement is not built.
Socialists not only provide the backbone and often the strategy of the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement, but we also have the ideas that can best cut across the racism and division the BNP encourages.
Working-class unity against the attacks of big business and a socialist solution to the exploitation and injustice of capitalism are the only ways to stop the far-right threat for good.
Class Unity Strategy Can Beat the BNP
BETWEEN 1993 and 1995 the BNP lost their only council seat, their only regular public activity (a weekly 'paper sale' in East London) and their headquarters as a result of the consistent local campaigning work and mass demonstrations organised against them.
This campaign was led by Youth against Racism in Europe, among other groups. This type of movement is what's needed now to push back the BNP again.
A mass movement against the BNP should aim to cut across their support, demoralise their membership and expose their divisive, reactionary nature enough to make it impossible for them to do productive work anywhere.
How can this be achieved? Mass political education (leafletting, public activity, dialogue etc) about the real aims of the BNP and the dead end of their "solutions" to the social and economic problems people face must be combined with protests and demonstrations to help isolate and marginalise them.
Democratic and accountable community defence campaigns should be organised in local areas where there is the threat of increased racist violence due to the BNP's activities and/or fascist violence organised by the BNP against its political opponents or local Black and Asian communities.
Workers and trade unionists must discuss how best to withdraw co-operation from BNP councillors in Burnley. The BNP should be prevented from having access to information which could be used to pursue their racist agenda against council tenants or employees for example.
The trade unions must organise a national demonstration against the BNP in Burnley immediately, under the banner of "jobs, homes and services, not racism". This should be properly organised, built for and stewarded to ensure it is peaceful and well-protected. Such a demo would show the strength of opposition to the BNP and give confidence to local communities which feel under threat.
This demonstration should be followed by further national demonstrations and local protests, both in Burnley and other areas that the BNP or other far-right groups are organising.
All these demonstrations must be organised in cooperation with anti-racist and local community groups to give the movement against the BNP as broad and progressive a character as possible.
The anti-racist movement must be prepared to take up campaigns against cuts and privatisation in order to win people away from the BNP.
The establishment in Britain is desperate to be seen to be doing something against the far-right. But now, as in the past, it is only a movement built from below that can halt them.
From 1936 when 100,000 trade unionists and Communist Party supporters stopped Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists marching down Cable Street in East London to the 1990s, fascism and the far-right have been defeated by mass movements.
The Extreme Right In Europe
Austria - Jorg Haider's "Freedom Party" got 27% of the vote in the last general election and has six cabinet posts in a coalition government.
Belgium - Vlaams Blok (Flemish Bloc) won 9.9% in national elections in 1999 and became the largest political force on Antwerp Council in 2000.
Denmark - The Danish People's Party led by Pia Kjaersgaard got 12% of the vote and almost doubled its parliamentary seats in elections last November.
France - Le Pen, leader of the Front National, got 4.8 million votes (almost 18%) in the second round of the French presidential elections in May 2002.
Germany - The Law and Order Offensive party won 19% of the vote in Hamburg last September and 4% in Saxony-Anhalt this April. Schill, its leader, is now Interior Minister for Hamburg.
Italy - Fini's National Alliance and Bossi's Northern League both have senior cabinet posts in Berlusconi's right-wing coalition government.
Netherlands - Pim Fortuyn's 'Lisjt' won 26 seats in May in the wake of his assassination.
Norway - The Progress Party, who call for immigration to Norway to be capped at 1,000 per year, has held the balance of power since October 2001.
Switzerland - The People's Party won 23% of the vote in September 2001.
In The Socialist 31 May 2002: