Hugo Pierre, Socialist Party national committee

The media repeat the Tory claim that the cabinet under new Tory prime minister Liz Truss is the most diverse there has ever been. It includes Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor, James Cleverly as foreign secretary and Suella Braverman as home secretary.

But Black workers will not be fooled into believing the Tories will do anything but represent the class interests of the wealthy and powerful: that thin layer of society that aims to exploit us. Truss herself became prime minister in a ballot in which under 150,000 Conservative Party members took part. That is even less than the wealth-owning class, or the ‘1%’, who on average own £3.6 million each.

Under her policies, the Tories have already pledged to cut back on public services, to allow the rich to keep more of their wealth, and attack working-class organisations, especially to curb further the right of trade unionists to take strike action. This so-called ‘diverse’ cabinet has no plans – or even a desire – to end the discrimination that Black workers face, which keeps us disproportionately in poverty.

There is no doubt that the cabinet will pursue a right-wing agenda both at home and abroad. However, the cabinet members will also be used to attempt to portray a ‘success story’ of ‘what Blacks can achieve in the UK’, and of us now living in a ‘post-racial society’ where the colour of your skin is no longer a barrier.

This is not the first time the Tories have tried to bury racism, which has not outlived its historical legacy. It is still used as a weapon to ‘divide and rule’ by the British ruling class and their collaborators worldwide. Last year, the former prime minister, Boris Johnson, had a report published by his Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which concluded that institutional racism claims are ‘not borne out’ and that the UK should be seen as a ‘model for other white-majority countries’.

This report was published following the explosion of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK and worldwide. This mass protest movement was sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in the US. This took place at a time when deaths from Covid among Black workers in the UK were 4.2 times higher than for white workers. This movement of predominantly young people, especially young Black workers, sparked fear in the establishment and memories of riots in the centre of big cities in previous decades.

A whole new generation of Black workers now live in a period of increasing income inequality. And guess what? Black workers are even further behind. A recent ONS survey revealed that if a Black African person is the head of a household then they are four times less likely to have total personal wealth in excess of £500,000.

And on the streets, Black youth still face police harassment and intimidation – Black youth are 19 times more likely to face police ‘stop and search’. Recently released figures, following the strip search of Child Q in a Hackney school, show that 58% of boys stripped searched in London were Black. The overwhelming majority of those were aged 16 or 17, even though over half of all searches resulted in no further action.

Class enemy

Far from this Tory leadership being seen as a role model for future success, there is a high level of radicalisation amongst Black workers that will see them for what they are: our class enemy.

There was a glimpse of this in the 2017 general election. The radical election manifesto of Jeremy Corbyn, which was opposed by the majority of Labour MPs, gained the support of large sections of youth. This included often-marginalised Black youth, who campaigned for him with Grime4Corbyn. The Black voter turnout was much higher than in previous elections, as it was for youth. Over 70% of Black voters turned out to support Labour’s programme of a decent minimum wage, scrapping university tuition fees and nationalisation of the energy companies and utilities, such as the railways, water companies and Royal Mail.

Trade union action against the cost-of-living crisis is now organising that militancy in workplaces. Unite members formerly employed by private contractor Serco as cooks, domestic assistants and security staff in the Barts Health Trust led the way earlier this year. A predominantly Black workforce took strike action and won both a pay rise and a commitment to being brought back in-house onto NHS national pay and conditions.

The 2022 summer strike wave has again seen Black workers to the fore – Black workers have turned out on RMT and CWU picket lines during their national strikes. Earlier this year, strikes by Unison members alongside college lecturers in the UCU saw Black workers taking action. At City University in London, where virtually all the security staff are in the union, predominantly Black workers closed down all the buildings on the campus because they remained locked!

Many of the disputes organised at a local level have involved the active participation of Black workers. There is no doubt that future strike action at a local and national level will increasingly involve and organise more Black workers and other migrant workers.

The cost-of-living crisis is particularly driving low-paid workers into action. But all workers taking this action are starting to see who really runs society – not the rich bosses or their top managers, but those that work the shifts, deal with the equipment or clean the workplaces. This will further radicalise consciousness. However, that radicalisation is no longer reflected in any of the mainstream political parties. Truss and her cabinet’s ‘diversity’ are a world away from the aspirations of Black workers.

That radicalisation is no longer found in the Labour Party since Corbyn was replaced by Sir Keir Starmer as leader. Despite the urgent need for a programme that could meet the needs of workers and also point the way ahead to a new type of society, Starmer has turned Labour to again into a ‘second eleven’ to represent big business. His promises when elected as leader to stand by the 2019 election manifesto have been completely ditched.


A call now for the immediate nationalisation of the energy companies could be part of the solution to the huge hike in gas and electricity bills. Energy company profits are seeing a massive surge. A nationalised and democratically planned energy sector could cancel the price increases, as well as moving to green energy to secure future supply in a sustainable way.

But Starmer’s refusal to support the call for a £15-an-hour minimum wage will further distance him from Black workers. The pandemic showed how Black workers make up a major proportion of frontline workers. Workers in security, care work, cleaning and catering are predominantly on minimum wage. But Starmer does not want to be seen as a threat to business.

Even worse is the situation in local authorities. Councils up and down the country are facing financial ruin. Nearly 30 were reported to be on the brink of implementing Section 114 notices, where new council spending is frozen and political decision making is put in the hands of unelected council officers. Many of these councils will have Black councillors who have ‘sat on their hands’ as community facilities are savaged or put out to privatisation. Very few have raised a peep to object, and those that have, have faced suspension and expulsion.

These cuts are having a disproportionate impact on Black communities. These same councillors could be leading a fight for Black communities, mobilising them alongside the trade unions to win the resources they need. Instead, councillors such as ex-Birmingham city councillor Paulette Hamilton have attacked their workforce, provoking strike action, and have even been prepared to use the Tory anti-trade union legislation against them. It is no wonder that the Unite union, which organises many of these workers, is now limiting its funding to Labour. Unite also backs no-cuts budgets.

This political vacuum is leading some Black workers to draw a conclusion that they need a new party. There are calls by some to form a new Black party. Unfortunately, some of those backing this demand want a cross-class alliance. While not openly calling for an alliance with Black Tories, such as those in the cabinet, they do support a call for greater links with ‘Black-owned businesses’.

This is not a radical demand, and provides no solution to the millions working in low-paid jobs. Black-owned businesses are a tiny proportion of the economy. Black capitalism, even on an international scale, is even less capable of improving the lives of Black workers than capitalism in general is capable of improving the position of white workers!

Under different conditions, the Black Panther Party was formed in the US in the mid-1960s. While there are some common features with the UK now, the enforced segregation of Blacks from whites in large parts of the US, and the economic segregation in the rest, had a big impact on the development of the mass civil rights movement. In contrast, there is not anywhere near the same level of segregation in the UK, even though there are areas where there are high density Black communities.

The mass civil rights movement did have several elements. The Nation of Islam in effect represented that cross-class current, and initially Malcolm X was a very strong advocate for remaining separate. However, his experiences within the Nation of Islam and its lack of willingness to fight ‘by any means necessary’ for working-class Blacks, led him to break from them. The civil rights movement itself was propelled in the direction of the trade unions and workers struggles in the US.

The Black Panther Party, while organising Blacks, also attempted to form alliances with radical political parties, both electorally and in other campaigns. One of their leaders, Fred Hampton, made their position clear: “We won’t fight racism with racism, we will fight it with solidarity… You don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism, you fight capitalism with socialism”.

Trade unions

Crucially though, the trade unions are more integrated now in the UK. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) has agreed an anti-racism task force, to look at all aspects of how the trade unions can improve conditions for Black workers. A fundamental part of that work must be how racism can be eradicated in the trade unions themselves, and how Black workers can play a full role: not just organising Black workers, but throughout the whole trade union movement, at all levels. The best fighters must be at the fore of our movement, and workplace representation is key.

Research shows that Black workers fare better where there are collective bargaining arrangements with employers, reducing pay inequality and other disparities. But employers will always attempt to take away any gains made in the workplace. Just as the capitalists are intent on a so-called ‘modernisation’ strategy, which in reality is a ‘Forward to the 19th Century strategy’, with increasing casualisation, and ripping up decent working conditions such as forcing weekend working with no extra pay.

A bold, fighting strategy by the trade unions will mobilise Black workers. The call by the Socialist Party and the National Shop Stewards Network to unite the struggles and coordinate the action particularly resonates.

But the need for a new workers’ party that can organise solidarity for workers in dispute is also now the talk of the picket lines. Workers are rightly disparaging about a party leader, supposedly representing workers, who even went to the lengths of dismissing one of his shadow cabinet members who publicly supported picket lines.

Because of the position the trade unions have and the role they can play, especially those leading militant action, they could call for and take steps towards forming a new workers’ party. Because of the crisis in capitalism, and particularly UK capitalism, such a new party would need to call for the nationalisation of rail, mail, energy, water and other parts of the economy. Some of these demands are already the policy of individual unions such as the RMT and CWU. It would also have to discuss more radical proposals for ending poverty and discrimination, and look at a new type of society based on democratic socialist planning.

If this process towards a new party is protracted, it is entirely possible that Black workers will not wait, and a radical Black party, under the pressures of battles against increasing discrimination, harassment of Black youth and poverty conditions, could develop. Such a party would be a step forward, provided it took a socialist approach. As a successful struggle for socialism would require, however, working together with other sections of the working class, the need for a new workers’ party would be posed more sharply than ever.

In those circumstances, the need for such a party to have a federal approach – with different socialist and workers’ organisations, including radical Black formations, coming together in common struggle, while having the right to maintain their own identity and programme – would be particularly in important in winning Black youth and workers to its banner. No matter who is in the Tory cabinet, this will not stop a growing anger and an increased determination to fight for change in Black communities across the country, and many will move towards socialist conclusions.