Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Credit: Stand Up to Racism

Why we need a new anti-racist movement

The Hastings District of the National Education Union are subsidising train tickets to this Saturday’s (16 March) national #StopRacism protest in London. Simon Hester, convenor of Hastings Stand Up To Racism, explains why you should take part.

How embarrassing for Hastings MP, Sally-Ann Hart. In a desperate attempt to rally her electoral base she invited her chum, Lee Anderson, to a fundraising dinner in Hastings on 3 February.

She knew what she was doing.

A sordid history

An advert for the evening ‘with Lee Anderson MO & Sally-Ann Hart MP’

Anderson has long been on the Tory right with a sordid history of anti-refugee racism. He was invited to blow his dog-whistle and throw some red meat to the diminishing band of local Tories. But Anderson was not the only one – Suella Braverman and Liz Truss have both come out with Islamophobic slurs. Now Anderson has joined the right-wing Reform UK Party and has clearly launched a new movement for racism. He is a dangerous demagogue.

Hart’s desperation in Hastings reflects the plight of the Conservative government. If the latest three by-election results were replicated at the general election the Tories could end up with just four MPs!

Such a wonderful result is highly unlikely, but it does illustrate why Sunak is focussed on culture wars and has embarked on a campaign of scapegoating refugees and migrants. The 2024 general election campaign promises to be the dirtiest and most racist in modern history.

A perverse argument

Meanwhile, Bexhill & Battle MP, Huw Merriman, called his first public meeting on 26 January to discuss the proposed Northeye detention camp, at Little Common on the edge of Bexhill. About 250 people turned out to hear….er, very little.

Merriman had nothing new to announce except to confirm that the ex-prison will be used as a detention and removal centre for people seeking asylum, rather than an accommodation centre to replace hotels. He claimed this as a ‘victory’ as inmates would be locked up, and it all was down to his hard work behind the scenes as a minister in the Tory government.

Merriman defended the Rwanda Plan and the new Migration Act as the only way to stop asylum seekers risking drowning in the Channel. This is a perverse argument. The harder it is for people seeking asylum to make it to Britain, the more the dangerous the Channel crossings will be.

The ‘hostile environment’ for refugees is the basis of the business model for people smugglers. Providing safe routes to claim asylum is the only way to prevent Channel crossings. If they can do this for Ukrainians, why not Yemenis, Sudanese, Syrians or Palestinians from Gaza?

Deflecting attention

The Tories’ increasingly divisive rhetoric is a conscious attempt to deflect attention from the social crisis they are responsible for – from failings over the pandemic, to the cost-of-living crisis, collapsing public services and the NHS.

From the Post Office to the Windrush scandals. Their tactics won’t succeed but, in the process, they embolden the far right. When the Tories take up the slogans of the fringe fascists they reinforce the racist arguments, and chancers like Farage and Anderson.

Internationally, the far right is on the rise. Look at the USA where Trump is on target to win this year’s Presidential election. June’s European elections could see a breakthrough by assorted far right and fascist parties who openly peddle Islamophobic and Antisemitic conspiracy theories. The threat of fascism is growing.

After the debacle of the parliamentary ‘debate’ about a ceasefire in Gaza British politicians have launched a new wave of Islamophobia demonising Muslims and Palestine protesters. A clear attempt to intimidate the unprecedented movement in solidarity with Palestine. They have lost the argument – opinion polls show that most of us want an immediate ceasefire to stop the genocide.

George Galloway’s win in Rochdale may have been a one-off but clearly shows that the Tory and Labour support for Israel’s genocidal attack on Gaza has dramatically altered politics in Britain. Gaza represents so much that is wrong with our world – imperialism, racism, and war.

Hastings residents join last year’s national anti-racism demo in London. Photo: Hastings Stand Up to Racism

Building unity

Politicians, of all parties, really do not like being put under pressure. Last week we celebrated International Women’s Day. It’s worth recalling that the suffragettes used far more violent tactics than anything carried out by Just Stop Oil or Palestine solidarity campaigners. We need more mass protest, not less, and they’d better get used to it. Last weekend’s tenth national march for Palestine defied Sunak with over 400,000 on the streets.

In the face of increased scapegoating the need for unity and action against racism is greater than ever. Britain has a strong tradition of opposition to racism and fascism. Mosely and his Blackshirts were knocked back by opposition on the streets in the 1930’s (not by polite lobbying).

More recently, the National Front, BNP and EDL were all defeated by huge campaigns and mass action. The inspiration then for the far right was Enoch Powell, the political equivalent of Farage or Anderson, who was pushed out and discredited. We need a new antiracist movement like the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism which took on the racists at the end of the 20th century.

Despite all the rhetoric coming from the top, all opinion polls show that the majority of people in Britain are tolerant and welcoming. We can build on the lived reality of black and white unity to defeat the racists again.

Stand Up To Racism has been campaigning locally and nationally against the racist narrative, primarily focused on the defence of people seeking asylum. We have faced down attempts by the far right to regroup.

Together with the Trades Union Congress, Stand Up To Racism has called a national #StoptheHate demonstration in London on March 16, part of a global day of action on against racism. It will assemble at the Home Office, the heart of institutional state racism, and march to Trafalgar Square for a concert from the new organisation House Against Hate.

Train tickets to London for the demonstration have been subsidised by the Hastings District of the National Education Union.

To book your cheap £5 ticket go to Eventbrite:

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Posted 21:24 Friday, Mar 15, 2024 In: Campaigns

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