Below is the Socialist Party’s Black Workers Charter, a programme for fighting racism, originally produced by the Black and Asian group of the Socialist Party in 2021 and now updated for 2023.
Black Workers Charter
Racism exists in all aspects of the lives of Black and Asian people in the UK. There are numerous statistics to back that claim. It is an issue that needs to be addressed. There have been many movements and uprisings that show the anger that exists in society and the need to smash racism.
There have been many previous waves of anti-racist struggle, including the tremendous civil rights movement of the 1950s, 60s and early 70s, which impacted the lives of Black people worldwide.
Such powerful movements led to legal improvements, such as the Race Relations Act 1968 in Britain. This was meant to stop wage inequality, and other racist discrimination. But racism still exists and affects our lives.
The global Black Lives Matter movement of 2020 was the most recent ground-shaking anti-racist movement. Since then we have also seen local and regional protests.
Race and class inequality
The Black and Asian populations in Britain have been disproportionately affected by the economic crisis of 2007-08. And figures already suggest that Black, Asian and alternative ethnic groups are being hit harder by the current economic crisis. Whether it is unemployment, low wages, lack of housing, or poverty, Black people have been to the forefront in suffering attacks on their jobs and living conditions, as well as discrimination at the hands of the police and legal system.
Covid-19 has further exposed the class and race inequality that exists within capitalism. The disproportionate effects of the pandemic on Black, Asian and alternative ethnicity people are not accidental.
Discrimination in numbers
- Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales than white people
- The prosecution and sentencing rate for Black people is three times higher than white people
- Unemployment rates were significantly higher for ethnic minorities at 12.9% compared with 6.3% for white people
- On average, Black workers who leave school with A-levels typically get paid 14.3% less than their white peers, and those with degrees earn 23.1% less than white workers
- Black African women were seven times as likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white British women
- 45% of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) children are living in poverty, compared with 26% of children in white British families
- A third of all working-age people from a black African background are key workers. In the NHS, for example, around 40% of doctors and 20% of nurses are from a BAME background
- BAME families are between two and three times more likely to be in persistent poverty than white families
Can’t have capitalism without racism
Racism and the injustice of discrimination taking place in all aspects of our lives need to be opposed. This means fighting for all the reforms and changes needed to improve the conditions facing Black, Asian and alternative ethnicity.
To fight for a society free from racism means challenging the very core of the system that we live in. Key leaders of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Huey P Newton, all travelled along the road towards believing that Black liberation and defeating racism could not be achieved under capitalism.
They all drew the conclusion of Malcolm X that “you can’t have capitalism without racism”. The Socialist Party agrees.
Who owns wealth?
Capitalism offers no hope of a decent future for the 99%. It is an unequal, oppressive, and discriminatory system, that divides us based on race, gender, sexuality, etc. It survives by keeping us divided.
Black and Asian workers, women and young people are disproportionately concentrated in low-paid jobs and are exploited further by the capitalist system. We need to build a mass movement that unites the working class around a common programme.
Globally, eight people own as much wealth as the poorest half of humanity – the greatest polarisation between rich and poor in human history. The richest 1% have pocketed £21 trillion in new wealth since 2020.
Today, a tiny group of people, in Britain and worldwide, own and control industry, science and technology, and harness them to make vast fortunes. While the majority of us have faced endless austerity and the biggest fall in real wages since 1950s, FTSE 100 chief executives are paid £3.4 million on average, which works out at 103 times the £33,000 average salary for full-time UK workers, according to Office for National Statistics figures.
But, we all know who runs society, it’s the essential and key workers. It is not the CEOs, but the workers in transport, healthcare, schools, retail, hospitality, etc. It is the vast majority of us.
The high inflation and cost-of-living crisis have seen a rapid decrease in the living standards of workers. In Britain, around £130 billion a year since 1980 has been transferred out of our pockets, and our wages in kind – public services – into the pockets of the elite.
But we are fighting back! Britain has seen the highest level of strike action in 40 years. Between June and December 2022, nearly 2.5 million days were lost, with 843,000 being lost in December alone.
Whole unions who have never been involved in action before have gone on strike. It is not an accident that more and more workers are joining a trade union and organising collectively for a pay rise and better terms and conditions.
As socialists, we say that it is the working class that is the force in society that can get rid of capitalism. Class exploitation unites workers of all backgrounds.
Together we have the power to fundamentally change this rotten system. We, as the working class, have enormous potential power through our ability to withdraw our labour and stop the flow of profits to the bosses.
Working-class political representation
We also say that the working class needs its own political representation, otherwise, it’s like fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. We want to get rid of this rotten racist Tory government, but the Labour Party is not offering a real alternative for us. The Labour Party under Sir Keir Starmer is a party of big business and corporations. The Socialist Party is pioneering the task of building a new mass workers’ party.
We are part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) and standing in elections on a 100% anti-austerity programme.
It is essential to link the fight against racism, and other forms of oppression, to the fight against class exploitation and capitalism.
It is only through this – socialist change – that we can fundamentally change society to one free of all exploitation, oppression and discrimination.
Globally we have seen the rise of the far right and a rightward shift by capitalist politicians. Trump, Bolsonaro, Modi and others have all appeared with racist campaigns to point the blame at us during this period of crisis.
In the UK, both Leave and Remain campaigns used racist rhetoric during the Brexit referendum, and attacks on migrants followed. Priti Patel whipped up fear of migrants in a desperate attempt to ensure people don’t recognise the capitalist system as the root cause of their problems. But she wasn’t the only one; other right-wing politicians also used racist language and rhetoric.
These ‘culture wars’ have had awful consequences. The racist propaganda and policies have emboldened the far right and led to violent racist attacks, but despite this we saw many working-class communities have fought back.
Hundreds have been mobilised at short notice to block deportation vans and counter-demonstrate against the far right.
But we can’t just oppose racism; we must also come armed with a programme that can win over those who are facing the poverty, unemployment and insecure housing that capitalist politicians blame on migrants.
The migrant crisis is caused by colonialism, capitalism, inequality and ongoing climate change. The number of migrants attempting to reach more stable nations but dying will surely increase. No capitalist governments are willing or able to effectively address this issue, which only heightens the suffering.
Under the Tories, Britain is a safe haven for oligarchs and capitalist politicians fleeing with the loot they have stolen from the working class in their countries. Meanwhile the poor are left to drown.
We stand in opposition to all racist immigration laws and campaign for a genuine right to asylum.
Even when migrants are given ‘safe routes’ into the country, they find themselves struggling with the poverty, lack of housing and insecure jobs that are plaguing the working class here. They are usually based in the poorest areas, in overcrowded accommodation, where public services are already overstretched. Starmer’s Labour has made clear that it will continue with the racist immigration policies and austerity; they won’t take the steps needed to resolve the issue and have even said they have “no choice” but to continue to force migrants onto barges.
The working class needs its own party that can fight for the jobs, homes and services for all. This will require taking the wealth off the super-rich and fighting for a socialist alternative.
As part of the Committee for a Workers’ International, we fight for socialism across the world. We organise the working class across the world against the imperialist war, poverty and climate destruction that force people to flee.
The long list of cases of racist police brutality, sexism, homophobia, and rape scandals have exposed the rottenness of the policing system – with the Metropolitan Police in London the worst example, showing that it’s not just a ‘few bad apples’.
These events aren’t just a coincidence but a consequence of the role the police play in serving the capitalist class, and that role has been exposed by the ‘spycops’ undercover police revelations. Officers were instructed to spy on the Steven Lawrence justice campaign, trade unionists, the Socialist Party’s predecessor, Militant, as well as other campaigns and groups – an officer even fathered children with an environmental activist that he spied on. The institution of the police represents and protects the status quo – capitalism.
This has strengthened calls to ‘abolish the police’, but we must also say what should take its place to ensure that working-class communities are safe from violence, theft, and other crime. We need a justice system with democratic workers’ control all the way through. The police must be accountable to locally elected committees composed of representatives from trade unions and community groups. They would direct all police officers in relation to operational matters as well as general policy, and be responsible for all appointments, promotions, disciplinary measures, and dismissals.
Inequality in housing
The tragedy of the Grenfell fire saw Black and Asian people disproportionately affected by continuous government neglect. Years of being ignored, sidelined and left behind saw working-class families killed.
Racial discrimination in the UK housing sector has a long history and deep roots. According to a recent study by the Human City Institute (HCI), the level of housing stress in Black, Asian, and alternative ethnicity communities are much higher than for white people. Homelessness has grown massively in these communities, from 18% to 36% in the last two decades – double the presence of ethnic minorities in the population. Black and Asian households are also far more likely to live in overcrowded, inadequate, or fuel-poor housing than white households.
A report by Inside Housing reveals that mixed white and Black-Caribbean people are 13% more likely to live in properties with damp problems than their white counterparts. Surveys found that 33% of private landlords were less likely to rent to someone that did not hold a British passport.
More than a quarter of Black, Asian and alternative ethnic working adults spend over a third of their income on housing compared to just over 1 in 10 white workers. These workers in the lowest-paid occupations are far more likely to face unaffordable housing costs than white workers in the same occupations or white workers on average.
The Socialist Party demands
The Socialist Party has a proud record in fighting against racism and all oppression. The Black and Asian group of the Socialist Party is producing this Black Workers’ Charter to aid the discussion about the demands needed to fight for the rights of Black and Asian people, and what programme is needed to end racial discrimination.
Help us to build a mass movement to smash racism. Appeal for support for the charter in your workplaces, youth organisations and amongst the wider working class.
- We demand that the trade union movement fights against the racism which remains endemic in our workplaces
- Job security – no forced redundancies. Trade union action to fight any job losses and cuts in the workforce
- End the race pay gap. A Trades Union Congress (TUC) study found that Black workers with the same qualifications as other workers are more likely to be employed at lower rates of pay. For an equal rate of pay for the job
- Fair reporting systems, free from judgement. Any type of racial abuse, verbal or physical, needs to be reported and acted on by management immediately. All incidents must be recorded, and the log of incidents to be reviewed by elected shop stewards and the trade unions. Regular public data must be made available showing the number of staff experiencing grievances, or facing disciplinary by ethnicity
- All workforces to organise anti-racism training for all staff, and mandatory ‘unconscious bias’ training for managers – overseen by elected shop stewards and trade unions
- Ensure the election of equality officers in trade union branches
- Trade union oversight of recruitment and promotion processes
- Defend the right to protest. Scrap the anti-trade union laws and anti-democratic legislation
Democratic control of the police
- End stop and search. Democratic control of policing by trade unions and communities
- End police brutality. Demilitarisation of the police – stop the use of horses, tear gas and rubber bullets. Abolish the Territorial Support Group (TSG) and all similar paramilitary units
- Independent workers’ and community inquiries into police violence
- Oppose privatisation and the selling of prisons. Instead they should be controlled democratically by workers and communities
- Reverse all privatisation. Scrap the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and cancel all PFI debts
- Massive investment into our NHS – for a fully funded National Health Service and care system, free at the point of use
- Scrap prescription charges in England, and all dental and health charges
- Stop double-taxing migrants – no to the NHS surcharge
- More mental health support and refuge centres
- Nationalise the private healthcare sector, care homes, the medical supply industry, and the pharmaceutical companies – integrate them into the NHS
- End the hostile environment – end all racist immigration laws. For community and trade union oversight of border controls
- Justice for the Windrush generation – immediate compensation for all victims
- Grant all refugees and asylum seekers the right to work
- No deportations
- Close all detention centres – these are run by profit-driven companies that further exploit detainees and use them for cheap labour
- The right to asylum – including the right of families to be reunited
- Parent, teacher, and student democratic control of the curriculum
- Teach history and gains from the struggle. Include in the curriculum working-class struggle, black history, and trade unions’ record and achievements in fighting racism
- Oppose ‘Prevent’ training and application
- Free school meals and travel
For young people
- Free education for all – scrap tuition fees, and write off all student debt
- A future for young people – establish safe youth centres and invest in their future
- End low pay – scrap zero-hour contracts and end the super-exploitation of the gig economy
- An immediate increase in the minimum wage to at least a real living wage of £15 an hour
- Grenfell never again – remove all unsafe cladding now. A community, trade union-led inquiry and action to make homes safe for all
- End all housing privatisation
- Build council homes with lifetime secure tenancies. Take over empty property for council housing
- Reverse the cuts to housing benefits – end eviction due to austerity cuts
- Rent controls that cap the levels of rent. Fair rent decisions should be made by elected bodies of tenants, housing workers and representatives of trade unions
In services and resources
- Oppose cuts and privatisation. Many reports reveal Black and Asian people are disproportionately impacted by cuts to jobs, healthcare and other vital services
- End enforced poverty – for the right to decent benefits, no to sanctions, and pensions for all
- No imprisonment for crimes of poverty. Safe communities for all. Mass investment in jobs and training
- More funding for youth services and vital services including social care, education, and the NHS
Fight for socialism
- Take the wealth off the 1%
- We can’t control what we don’t own. A democratic socialist plan of production based on the interests of the overwhelming majority of people
- A socialist foreign policy based on genuine democratic workers’ cooperation, international solidarity, and peace. No to capitalism, imperialism, colonialism and war.
- No trust in capitalist politicians. Join the fight to build a mass democratic workers’ party to represent our interests and fight for these demands
- Help us to build a mass movement to smash racism. Please appeal for support for the charter in your workplace, youth group, union, and among the wider working class