Monday, 25 April 2011

The attacks on multiculturalism are linked to the economic crisis

Earlier last week the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) published Understanding the European-wide assault on multiculturalism - a detailed analysis by Executive Director, Liz Fekete, of key speeches made over the past six months by leading centre-right politicians from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom.

These speeches attack multiculturalism and immigration and link them to the economic crisis. The IRR finds that:

* In singling out multiculturalism as a threat to national identity, the leaders of Europe's centre-right parties are using the same kind of rhetoric and specious arguments as Enoch Powell did forty years ago. Only this time, it is not one rogue European politician carrying the flag, but the leaders of centre-right parties now replacing race and immigration with culture and religion as the watch words.

* As multiculturalism becomes code for discussing the 'Muslim problem', the language, terms and metaphors used by centre-right politicians subtly (and in some cases crudely) convey a sense of national victimhood, of a majority culture under threat from Muslim minorities and new migrants who demand special privileges and group rights and refuse to learn the language.

In Understanding the European-wide assault on multiculturalism the IRR warns that:

* The attacks on multiculturalism are taking place at a time of economic crisis and swingeing cuts, when politicians are desperate to deflect public anger and explain societal break down. The centre Right is establishing a narrative, with some centre-left parties following suit, to justify the biggest round of spending cuts since the 1920s, blaming the current economic crisis not on the bankers and global financial crisis, but on immigration, and on Muslims.

* As the extreme Right increasingly enters national parliaments, sometimes holding the balance of power, there are dangerous signs that the centre Right is preparing for future power-sharing with the extreme Right, as well as nativist anti-immigration parties. The fact that mainstream politicians are now speaking to the fear and hatred promoted by the extremists' anti-multicultural platform, is giving legitimacy to conspiracy theories about Muslims and to anti-Muslim hatred.

Read the IRR's research Understanding the European-wide assault on multiculturalism here.

Liz Fekete, author of the IRR's research commented:

* 'Multiculturalism is being used as the whipping boy, to explain away the impact of the economic and social crisis.'

* 'A recurring theme in the debates about multiculturalism and national identity and immigrants and Muslims causing the economic crisis, is the issue of language or, more accurately 'language deficit'. Government hypocrisy is at its most blatant when immigrants are blamed for not learning the language when the same government slashes funding for language provision.'

Parliament should be recalled as Libya threatens to become the new Iraq

In 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq began, Tony Blair insisted that oil had nothing to do with it:

"...the oil conspiracy theory is honestly one of the most absurd when you analyse it...It's not the oil that is the issue, it is the weapons..."

Of course there were no weapons, just a great deal of oil.

Government papers now reveal just how much the oil industry was licking its lips at the prospects in Iraq. The Independent reports:

“The Foreign Office invited BP in on 6 November 2002 to talk about opportunities in Iraq "post regime change". Its minutes state: "Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.... Whereas BP was insisting in public that it had "no strategic interest" in Iraq, in private it told the Foreign Office that Iraq was "more important than anything we've seen for a long time".”

Yet all the time we were told this was really a humanitarian venture, motivated by the deepest of concerns about the victims of an evil dictator.

Fast forward to 2011, and the United Nations has passed another resolution authorising military action to ‘protect civilians’. Once again, this country is rich in oil and gas.

And once again, the mission that was supposed to be humanitarian becomes an attempt by former colonial powers to overthrow one government and impose another one.

As Simon Jenkins put it in The Guardian:

“Throughout the west there is a desire to relieve people in distress, but when humanitarians arrive with screaming missiles and a clear political agenda, those being attacked are understandably suspicious of motive... The first humanitarian duty to those who are suffering should be to relieve that suffering, not to fight their civil wars, suppress their dictators, partition their countries and destroy their infrastructure. Something has polluted foreign policy.”

It is quite clear that the original decision to establish a ‘no fly zone’ in Libya has become something else entirely. British ‘advisers’ are now on the ground. Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama are calling for ‘regime change’. This is not what the United Nations, nor our own parliament, decided.

Parliament should be recalled and the government held to account.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why there should be a left challenge in the GLA elections

The Respect party announced that they will be standing for the London Assembly and approaching others to form an anti-cuts slate for the May 2012 election.

Party Leader Salma Yaqoob said:

"There is a democratic deficit in London. There is a large constituency who want to see Ken beat Boris but are deeply uncomfortable with the Labour party choices for the assembly, marked as they are by a tepid opposition to the spending cuts, support for a decade long war in Afghanistan and now a new war in Libya.

There are many fronts on which this governments military wars abroad and economic war at home can be contested. The forthcoming GLA elections is one arena. We will be approaching others in the student and anti-cuts movement, those opposed to war and the tide of Islamophobia it has generated, and others on the left, to discuss standing a united slate with the aim of defeating the Tories in City Hall and putting into the assembly the strongest anti-cuts, anti-racist and pro-peace voices".

Statement from the RESPECT Party Officers Group
Why there should be a left challenge in the GLA elections

Cameron’s Enoch Powell moment

David Cameron complains about people coming to this country who don’t speak the language. It is nothing more than hypocrisy from a government that is closing the door on the very classes that help people to learn English.

From September, spending on ESOL classes (English as a second language) is being slashed. They are hugely popular, with over 180,000 students attending classes in England alone. Up to 100,000 people will now lose the chance to learn the language.

Of course, Cameron’s speech is not really directed at immigrants. It is not meant to welcome, or encourage, or point the way towards getting the language skills that people need.

No, for all his talk about integration, his words are directed at those who don’t like immigrants at all, whether or not they speak English. His speech means to press the xenophobic buttons of parts of the electorate.

As Rebecca Galbraith and Mel Cooke from Action for ESOL note:

‘From Jewish workers arriving in London’s East End in the late nineteenth century to the diverse groups of people migrating to the UK today, the ability of migrants to speak English has long been a preoccupation of politicians and the right-wing press. And blaming migrants for social and economic problems is nothing new and is always more heightened in times of economic depression”.

Three weeks before an election, with opinion poll ratings falling, the health reforms in crisis, and the economic looking ever more fragile, David Cameron has conjured up the ghost of Enoch Powell.