After the referendum…

United working class resistance can cut across racism

Socialist Party members protesting against the EDL in Waltham Forest in 2015 photo Sarah Wrack

Socialist Party members protesting against the EDL in Waltham Forest in 2015 photo Sarah Wrack   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Sarah Sachs-Eldridge, Socialist Party national organiser

The reports of appalling racist abuse, including signs saying “Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin” being posted through the letter boxes of Polish families, and of physical attacks since the EU referendum must be condemned and opposed.

Racism blights the lives of millions under capitalism. But the capitalist press seems to want to give the impression that it started with the referendum result. This is false.

Clearly the relentless right-wing propaganda on immigration from the leaders on both sides of the EU referendum debate is a major contributing factor. Correctly these attacks have received a lot of coverage and condemnation in the media. Victims of racism and discrimination will no doubt hope that all the injustices that exist are given adequate attention, which has not been the case previously.

The Leave vote has had a certain effect, with some workers interpreting the result as a sign that they’re not welcome. But, as the Socialist Party has asserted, the majority on the Leave side voted out as an expression of opposition to austerity and the rule of the elite.


The Socialist Party’s call for a Leave vote had nothing in common with the racists. We oppose the bosses’ EU with an anti-racist platform based on international workers’ solidarity and socialism.

And while many people voted Remain in defiance of Ukip and the Tories, a vote to stay in the EU is not a way forward for fighting racism and division. For example, the EU has withdrawn its Mare Nostrum rescue operation in the Mediterranean in favour of military deterrence, which will lead to the death by drowning of an estimated 2,500 desperate people this year.

Racism is a feature of daily life for millions of workers and young people in Britain as elsewhere. Research shows that, for example, Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers with A-level equivalents are 3.2 times more likely to be unemployed than their white counterparts. Estate agents in London routinely discriminate against black people looking for a home. A disproportionate number of those who die in all forms of detention or after contact with the police following the use of force or serious neglect are from BAME communities.

This situation has been worsened by Tory austerity. There has been a 50% increase in long-term unemployment for young black people since 2010. Only 4% of British Pakistanis say they are not worried about being harassed because of their race or religion. The resignation of Cameron will be celebrated by those on the sharp end of his anti-working class racist agenda.

Tory and Ukip Leave campaign leaders must be condemned for their outright racist and divisive referendum campaign, climaxing in that scandalous ‘Breaking Point’ poster promoted by Ukip leader Nigel Farage, showing a queue of refugees next to those two words. Ukip must be opposed.

But it is rank hypocrisy for Cameron to come forward and claim to be in opposition to racism. Cameron’s spokeswoman told journalists: “We should be absolutely clear that this government will not tolerate intolerance… intimidating migrants, telling them they need to go home”.

Intimidating migrants is exactly what the Tories have been doing both before and during the referendum campaign. Let’s remember that a central Tory appeal to voters was on the basis that Cameron had successfully attacked welfare benefits for migrants.


Just a year ago Cameron, backed to the hilt as always by the right-wing press, spent the summer whipping up anti-migrant feeling, dismissing the desperate refugees at Calais as a ‘swarm’ there to ‘seek a better life.’ Public pressure forced him to drop this crude propaganda but only temporarily. During the May election campaign Cameron echoed Tory London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith who claimed Labour’s Sadiq Khan would be soft on crime because he “provided cover for extremists.”

On the other hand it has encouraged immigration to suit the needs of big business, while at the same time fuelling division by slashing public spending on vital services.

The capitalist media has a major responsibility too. Miqdaad Versi correctly wrote: “The free hand of the print and online media to distort facts and blame entire groups of people for the troubles of our country, with almost no recourse, plays an equally important role in this spread of hatred. Let’s be clear – they are complicit in the rise of bigotry and the consequences of discrimination. A collation of front-page scare stories about migrants from the Daily Express makes for grim reading.”

But the so-called serious press has not got clean hands. If they were serious about racism, they would question the conditions that workers are forced to live in and provide space for a voice to challenge the racists and austerians on both official sides of the referendum. In reality, the big business-owned media’s “awakening” about racism has class motives and is temporary. They want to turn this against all Brexit voters. We say, stop demonising the working class. It is working class struggle that has challenged racist divisions.

Domestic staff and porters at Whipps Cross Hospital in east London show how a united struggle including migrant workers can cut across the race to the bottom by the bosses. The overwhelmingly female migrant workforce had, in some cases, been working on zero-hour contracts for up to four years. Their employer, outsourcing firm Carillion, had been paying the minimum rate. The Unite trade union branch secretary, a Socialist Party member, led the successful campaign to win a pay rise of over 20% and permanent contracts for all.

There is a huge danger in attacking all those who voted Leave as Ukip supporters and racists. In the absence of a mass independent political voice of the working class, Ukip are attempting to claim they represent those who see no solutions to their problems coming from capitalist politicians.

But Ukip really is the establishment’s anti-establishment party. Former Tory donor Arron Banks, for example, who defected to Ukip in 2014 with a £1 million donation, was a director of a company, Rock Services, which paid just £12,000 UK corporation tax in 2013-14 on gross profits of £19.7 million after ‘recharging’ services to another company based in lightly-regulated Gibraltar. Despite the rhetoric Ukip are firmly on the side of the rich.

Fighting the Blairites in Labour who are attacking Jeremy Corbyn – and have echoed Tory and Ukip anti-immigration rhetoric – is needed to build a mass anti-austerity party that can unite the 99%. That opens the way to preparing for a general election with a clear anti-austerity, anti-racist programme – opposition to all cuts, a £10 an hour minimum wage, mass council housing building and renationalisation.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, the 100% anti-austerity electoral challenge in which the Socialist Party participates, warned that the EU referendum would give a platform and state funds to the Tories and Ukip to spread the lies. In attempting to justify the brutal cuts, Cameron and co have tried to distract working class people from the real causes of falling living standards by ‘playing the migrant card’.

The real reason for the lack of homes, jobs and services is austerity and the pro-rich rigged economy. The bankers have received £100 billion in bonuses since the economic crisis began.

United struggle

If the government is allowed to falsely lay the blame for austerity on migrants, instead of the crisis-ridden capitalist system and the bankers and billionaires who benefit from it, then the Tories will succeed in destroying our living standards.

There is an urgent need for a united struggle of all workers against austerity and public sector cuts. This includes demanding resources in order to meet the needs of refugees without detriment to the existing population. The trade union movement needs to urgently mobilise both in defence of the refugees and against austerity.

The Panama Papers revealed there is no lack of money. There is no shortage of resources. Across Europe there are eleven million empty homes which could house all the homeless of Europe and the refugees forced to flee war and chaos. But these homes are largely in the hands of speculators and the 1% and are used to make profit.

To be effective the fight against racism and the far right must be linked to fighting austerity with a socialist programme. Join us in that fight – for jobs, homes and services for all and to say no to racism.