ALL THE major party manifestos are now published and there is now less than four weeks to go until the general election. And the eyes of all anti-fascists and anti-racists are turned towards Barking in Essex, where Nick Griffin, leader of the fascist British National Party, will try to take the seat of Labour’s Margaret Hodge.
It is here that the Hope Not Hate campaign, supported by dozens of trade unions and individuals is succeeding in turning out dozens and dozens of volunteers to deliver leaflets and news-sheets exposing BNP lies.
And amid all this effort Margaret Hodge herself has been knocking on doors, giving her constituents the kind of attention she has never given them before. Belatedly she has discovered that they are very concerned about housing and jobs — two issues that the BNP use to justify their racist anti-immigration policies.
Hodge has responded by promising a handful of new council homes to be built — and then promised to limit immigration from outside Europe even more than it is already.
Other Labour candidates in their election material boast that “Labour’s new Australian-style, points-based immigration system will reduce the number of people entering the country”.
Australia’s immigration policy is deeply racist and includes Yarls Woods-style camps for refugees — offshore on Christmas Island where the general public cannot see what is going on.
The immigration policies of the Tories and Liberal Democrats are no better. The policy-makers of all three of the major parties seem to think the best way to keep the BNP at bay is to try to steal their most populist, sca-remongering immigration policies.
Tory leader Cameron has been warned by his own big business supporters that the strength of his anti-immigrant policies is likely to put off the kind of highly-skilled new technology whiz kids they really want to import from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
When people are arguing over who should have priority in the housing lists — those who have lived here all their lives and been on the list for decades or the homeless newcomers — the answer is to build more homes.
We need hundreds of thousands of good quality council homes to accommodate all workers who need them, regardless of where they were born.
This of course will cause house prices in the private sector to fall. That will not affect owner-occupiers as their homes will have the same exchange value for another one. But it will hit speculators and private landlords who will lose fortunes they never earned.
The Tories will privatise what little council stock there is left after raising council rents to market levels — a policy that will put many working class families on the street if it is combined with an expected assault on housing benefit.
Many immigrants come to this country to do jobs with wages and conditions so bad that people living in this country could not subsist on them. The wages are not enough to feed, clothe and house a family and the conditions will result in serious ill-health within a few years.
The trade unions have done good work here pushing the Government into passing legislation against the most abusive and exploitative gangmasters and seeing it is implemented.
But the answer to those who claim that immigration exacerbates unemployment is firstly to stop cutting jobs and secondly to bring in stronger labour laws to protect wages, terms and conditions — such laws as prevail in most other European countries but are implemented patchily.
When every worker, no matter where they are from, has the same labour laws protection, bosses will get no advantage from luring immigrants as naïve cheap labour.
The Tories and Lib-Dems cannot fight the BNP in the best way because to do so would hit the profits of their big business backers — who benefit from housing shortages, lax labour protection laws and a working class that is divided over racist issues. So they have to take on some of the BNP’s anti-immigrant policies in order to defeat them.
The Labour Party is backed by the unions, though it is a divided party, wanting support from big business too. This is why we defeat the BNP best by backing the Hope Not Hate campaign and by fighting within the labour movement for better housing policies and better labour protection laws, by getting rid of the anti-union laws — and by voting Labour.