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Scapegoating of the ‘other’ has always been a tactic to sow division in working-class communities

Tory ministers know that while working people blame their neighbours for their troubles, they are not focusing on the real issues, says MARK SERWOTKA

PCS members will today join thousands of anti-fascists and trade unionists to mark United Nations Anti-Racism Day.
 
This mass mobilisation and march through London, organised by the TUC, Stand Up to Racism and others, comes at an important juncture in the fight to stem the rising tide of fascist and racist activities.
 
The shambles of a Tory Brexit is providing a dangerous backdrop from which extremists seek to exploit and pin the problems of working people on migrants, refugees and ethnic minorities.
 
This country is in the midst of a crisis — not just a constitutional crisis with wrangling over Brexit but a crisis of living standards, cuts in public services, increasing foodbank use, insecure employment and a lack of affordable housing.
 
This fertile ground for fascists and racists to exploit is made even riper by a government wedded to the idea of creating a hostile environment for refugees and the Windrush generation.
 
It beggars belief that Caribbean and African people who have given a lifetime’s contribution to this country were then told that because they don’t have the right paperwork they’re not welcome and must leave the country they’ve called home for 50 years in many cases.
 
As a union we opposed the Immigration Act 2014 and the “go-home” vans put on our streets by then home secretary Theresa May — the beginning of the hostile environment policy. 

PCS members in the Home Office want a well-staffed, humane immigration system, not one which demonises the most vulnerable.
 
Far-right groups have seized on this hostile environment narrative and fascists like Tommy Robinson have now become part of Ukip, which is now an unashamedly fascist and racist organisation.
 
His recent targeting of a critical journalist by going to his house and intimidating his family shows how bold racists think they can be now.
 
As well as intimidation and scapegoating, increasingly the far right is using violence as another tactic, as we have seen with the murder of Jo Cox, attacks on RMT trade unionists and recent confrontational demonstrations. Black, ethnic minority and migrant communities are under growing threat of violence.
 
The trade union movement must not shirk its responsibilities and we must be equally bold, showing working people that we will not take a backward step in this fight.
 
We have to show we are the genuine, progressive anti-Establishment force in this country, fighting tooth and nail for better pay and working conditions, explaining the real economic reasons for the plight of working people and standing shoulder to shoulder with migrant workers who are, like everyone else, simply trying to carve out a decent life for themselves and their families.
 
It is not migrants who take jobs or lower wages. It is the bosses and their friends in government and the global economy who keep wages low and create unemployment by not investing adequately in industries.
 
Refugees and asylum-seekers fleeing persecution and war should be welcome here. In many cases we have a responsibility, not just under UN conventions but a moral obligation, as it is our government and/or British weapons that have often been used in these conflicts that people are escaping.
 
We are the fifth-largest economy in the world. The idea that we cannot, with the right economic programme, have full long-term skilled employment and have the resources to support those in need is laughable.
 
But fascists and racists are peddling the false narratives that Muslims, migrants and black people are to blame for all society’s ills.
 
Recently an elderly Jewish man was severely beaten in north London on the back of a rising tide in Europe of anti-semitism.
 
The scapegoating of the “other” has always been a tactic to sow division in working-class communities — to keep us disunited so we cannot engender social change.
 
That’s why the government continues, despite its protestations to the contrary, to push a hostile environment policy.
 
Ministers know that while working people fight among themselves, blaming their neighbours for their troubles, they are not focusing on the real issues, uniting around common goals or challenging Tory policies in a meaningful way.
 
Building a strong anti-Establishment, anti-racist movement among working people and our allies must be a top priority, not only for defeating the likes of Robinson but also sowing the seeds of a new kind of society, one that is tolerant, united and socialist.

Mark Serwotka is general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union.

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