Xenophobia under New Labour in Britain

This music video from Britain says about itself:

This is a clip of Steel Pulse playing “Ku Klux Klan” live at the Rainbow Theatre London, England, September 18th, 1980. This was also included in the film Urgh! A Music War.

From British daily The Independent:

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Powell‘s Rivers of Blood are back again

Monday, 10 March 2008

Back in the spring of 1968, East African Asians were adjusting to the retreat of colonialism. We were, remember, the essential middle-class buffer between whites and blacks, set up to service the empire. East African political leaders were “blackenising” the civil service and other institutions. Asians, born and bred there, found themselves jobless and hopeless.

Those with British passports made arrangements to move to their motherland, a move never imagined by those who handed them citizenship – an act of post-imperial vanity. About 13,000 Kenyan Asians entered the UK to be met by media hysteria to keep back the incoming tides of bituminous “filth”. The loyal immigrants were stunned.

The MPs Enoch Powell and Duncan Sandys launched a vicious campaign against non-white immigrants through the early months of 1968. Class snobs both, they became the gentlemen heroes of butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers. Hating the foreigner was easier than hating the toffs who had kept them down.

To curb the racist swell, on 1 March, the Government rushed through an immigration law, described by Auberon Waugh as “one of the most immoral pieces of legislation ever to emerge from any British parliament”. Only those with a parent or grandparent born in Britain were thereafter entitled to freely enter.

As Professor Zig Layton Henry wrote in his seminal book on race and politics: “The supporters of immigration controls knew they had the upper hand and they could dictate the political agenda. The temptation to escalate the issue proved irresistible.” Powell made his apocalyptic blood and damnation speech the very next month.

Forty years on exactly, I am filled with foreboding as I witness my country giving way again to those contemptible instincts of 1968. Decent Britons collectively fought against Powellian dystopia, tried to forge a nation where various histories and claims would be contested without malice, where race and class, though strong imperatives, would give way to equality and shared humanity. And, in many ways, we did achieve these goals. Britain opened up to difference, most of all at the level of pleasure – food, design, architecture, humour – and intimacy between friends and lovers. Those who came found freedoms and democracy. Other Europeans marvel at this ease of mutual adaptation.

Yet today the air smells of the bad breath of xenophobia and racist bile, on buses, Tubes, radio programmes and the internet, of course. Worse, these attitudes are now considered a valuable democratic indicator – evidence that “alien” immigrants are a disaster for the nation. Intellectuals and the media now treat bigotry with deep respect.

To flag up a BBC season on disgruntled white folk, a trailer shows a white face soiled with graffiti in “wog” languages. Our public service broadcaster is surely inciting racial hatred when it privileges whiteness and seats Nick Griffin of the BNP at the high table of Newsnight? Many of the peeved also hate smoking bans and tough benefit conditions. Those complaints don’t produce the rush of sympathy awakened by anti-immigrant invective. Our working classes include millions of black and Asian people too, ignored in this narrative.

Obsessive research into the “dangerous” Muslim men goes on and on and immigrants get trashed daily. Last week John Humphrys repeatedly mugged Liam Byrne, the Immigration minister, with the question: “Are there too many immigrants in this country, yes or no?” Does he seriously think there is such an answer or was he trying to whip up populist anxiety?

Promises made on fair employment have not delivered. Sure there are black and Asian newsreaders and the soaps have opened up but, as Meera Syal and Lenny Henry pointed out recently, British television is adamantly white. As the only non-white, female political columnist, I humbly beg for appearances on our top political programmes. There is only one non-white chief executive officer of a local authority in England – in Ealing. The top companies, criminal justice system and the arts are still unchanged, although they write diversity policies.

Outlandish claims enter the nation’s consciousness without challenge. Take the recent Royal United Services Institute report, which reads like the fantasies of a crazed, paranoid mind. Terrorism is caused by “multiculturalism” and the leadership should “lay down the line to immigrant communities”. I do believe that multicultural policies have outlived their usefulness and commonalities need to be fostered, but I am aware too that such dire warnings have become a code for Powellite rejection of the multifarious nation, a tough reminder to immigrants and mixed race families that our acceptance is always conditional.

That so many black and Asian Britons dumbly join in these assaults on their own heritage makes me sick. As Hanif Kureishi noted this week: “We have really gone back. I heard someone on the radio saying ‘they don’t integrate’. Well the Royal Family doesn’t integrate, rich people don’t integrate. Why is it only Muslims who don’t integrate? It is so racist.” National identity and welfare state debates are manipulated by influential people to validate the rise of racial resentment against us. When we complain, they say we don’t understand, misrepresent their sophisticated arguments. Small brains, I guess.

These petty patriots and narrow nationalists have successfully rebranded Powellism and made it cool, cool enough for New Labour, which of course, again surrenders its foundational principles. The Government holds 2,000 asylum and migrant children in detention, some self-harming, others going psychotic. On 15 March, go to London’s Young Vic theatre and listen to some of their stories. We deport adults to places we know to be brutal. Unlike in 1968, there are few politicians like Quintin Hogg and Archibald Fenner Brockway who protected the civil and human rights of migrants. Keith Vaz is the exception.

It is our fault too. Muslim politics have savagely wounded the anti-racist alliance. Inter-ethnic culture wars leave us no energy to confront the bigger problems together as we once did. The bombers in London blew up our hopes as well as the nation’s optimism. They enable the new racism to feel good about itself.

A Jewish friend prompted this column. She said to me: “I condemn Israeli politics and some things British Jews are up to. But when anti-Semitism seeps through the land, unseen, unacknowledged, I must stand up for my people. You must too. It is your duty. Powell’s ghost is awake. Racism is everywhere. I can feel it. Can’t you?”

Free Love Music Hate Racism carnival will rally anti-fascists: here.

Plans to make [British] schoolchildren take part in citizenship ceremonies, pledging allegiance to the Queen, and a new public holiday to celebrate “Britishness” were announced today as part of wide-ranging proposals to strengthen British citizenship: here. And here.

‘Welfare to work’ and New Labour’s war on the vulnerable: here.

Criticism of pro-capitalist Blairism, now even from (ex?)-Blairite Polly Toynbee: here.

TRANSPORT workers attacked Labour’s policy on immigration yesterday, demanding that the party stop “jumping on the bandwagon” of right-wing propaganda and help campaign against racism and Ukip-peddled myths: here.

CLEMENCY CLOWN CAR Conservative activist Dinesh D’Souza will be pardoned by Trump for a campaign finance violation he pleaded guilty to in 2014. Here are some of the racist crank’s greatest hits. [HuffPost]

17 thoughts on “Xenophobia under New Labour in Britain

  1. Tragedy of Israel and Palestine

    Here follow the March 11, 2008, press picks from what was published recently by different sources – posted by TOI-staff on Occupation Magazine. (We did the updating today, but OM is updated daily, each day of the week by a different editor. For earlier articles use the powerfull search function & view the sections.)

    Excerpts from Israeli commentators
    Ori Nir – Americans For Peace Now – “And perhaps therein lies the problem: the rigid thinking that an assassination in Gaza leads to rocket fire on Sderot, which leads to a ground operation and the death of 120 Hamas members in Gaza, which leads to the detonation of a bomb at Kissufim, which ensures the continued bombardment of Gaza, which leads to the decision by a man with the anti-profile of a suicide-terrorist to set off on a campaign of murder in the center of Jerusalem… And perhaps what we need here is a new way of thinking. To look for the crack we can use to burst forward. After all, it has been clear for a long time that it was a mistake to assume that time was working in our favor, just as it has been clear that the argument ‘when force doesn’t work use even greater force’ was misguided. [Sima Kadmon in Yedioth Ahronott, Sunday March 9]

    Tragedy of Israel and Palestine
    Mark Levine – Aljazeera – Americans have grown so accustomed to the disastrous dynamics operating between Israelis and Palestinians today that the failure to reach a peace deal amid the soaring death tolls assumes an aura of normalcy in their minds. This reflects a situation we imagine ourselves to be powerless to help change and only adds to the tragedy unfolding in the Occupied Territories and Israel as well.

    Israeli army shuts down a Radio station in Jenin
    Ali Samoudi – IMEMC – This morning Al-Majd Radio station, Jenin, was ransacked, and closed for two years – the IDF claiming that it`s a terror-linked station.

    Animals` marching in protest to UN Gaza office
    Ma`an – “Where is the world`s conscience?” Save the children of Gaza”, “Gaza is dying; end the siege,” “Is the UN an international lie?” and “The UN has to end the siege of Gaza.”

    Abbas accuses Barak of sabotaging the negotiations
    Ghassan Bannoura – IMEMC – Abbas said that talks of final Status are `ongoing` with the Israelis but are not `going forward` [quotation marks-ed]

    I am your friend, but…
    AP – Jerusalem Post – Sarkozy`s France has reacted coolly to Israel`s recent announcements that it was stepping up housing and apartment construction in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem. “Israel`s security depends on a stop to the colonization,” Sarkozy told Peres during their meeting at the Elysee Palace.

    UN chief: Israel should halt settlement expansion
    Ynet & agencies – Israeli decision to build hundreds of new homes in Jewish settlement in West Bank draws global criticism. Ban Ki-moon urges government to drop plan, reiterates that `fulfillment of Road Map obligations by both parties is an important measure.` US says move does not help peace talks

    Unwavering commitment to inequality
    Ramzy Baroud – Al-Ahram – When will the media begin to provide a context and stop manipulating terms and numbers in such a way that the Palestinians are always at fault? When will we accept that military occupation and state-sponsored terror begets violence and breeds more terror. This is the case in Palestine, as everywhere else. It will remain so until circumstances change.

    Amos Oz: Left wing can return to power in next elections, but…
    Mazal Mualem – Haaretz – Oz said that “more and more Israelis are fed up with the right wing, the settlements, and have come to the conclusion that enough is enough” but he leveled harsh criticism on Defense Minister and Labor Party Chair Ehud Barak, who he said has “abandoned the dream of peace” and calling the Labor party a “crumbling political entity.”

    Between black and grey / Barak = Milosevic
    Akiva Orr – Our attitude to Zionism must nor blind us to internal differences within the Zionist camp. Sharet was different from Ben Gurion and Eshkol was different from Golda. They have Hawks, Vultures, and also Doves. I oppose them all – including the Doves. But I do not ignore their differences. A conflict – even when inevitable – can take various forms. In the current situation in Gaza I prefer – for the sake of the Gaza people and also for the Israeli citizens in their vicinity – a milder form. This is possible. The overall conflict does not necessarily imply daily Israeli killing in Gaza.

    and a recommended article posted earlier:

    No discounts and no installments
    Akiva Eldar – Haaretz – When a terrorist from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jebel Mukaber murders yeshiva students in the west of the city, the Israeli genius proposes unilateral withdrawal from the capital`s “outer neighborhoods.” How easy and simple: Wherever they shoot, we pull out. The rest of the territories will wait patiently for convergence, Annapolis, a shelf agreement, or the next catastrophe. Whatever comes first

    Daily headlines & action alerts in English http://www.kibush.co.il and Hebrew http://www.kibush.co.il/index_h.asp


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