The following leaflet was distributed at the ‘Reclaim Brixton’ event on 25 April
Ten years ago, the working class and oppressed of Tower Hamlets, including many of Muslim/South Asian migrant descent or background, struck an important political blow at imperialism and the Iraq War. They did this by electing George Galloway as MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in the 2005 General Election, for the left-wing anti-war RESPECT party.
That was very alarming to the rulers of this country, because Galloway had been expelled from Labour for taking a heroic position on the Iraq War, effectively calling for the Arab world to resist the Bush/Blair-led imperialist invasion by force.
This was meaningful dissent against capitalism and imperialism, not the tame kind epitomised by the usual pale pinks of the Labour left, nor even today by the tame social-democratic ‘dented shield’ of Ed Miliband, which consists of little more than pleading with the bosses for less severe austerity to avoid social explosions later.
Now the bosses are seeking revenge against the electorate of Tower Hamlets. They have just overthrown the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, the first Muslim mayor to be elected in Britain, by a legal coup. Yet Lutfur Rahman was elected as an independent: unlike his opponents in Tower Hamlets, he had no national party machine behind him.
His opponents have three: Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat, as well as the power of the British state, and in addition, the input of the powerful ‘friends of Israel’ factions of all three political parties, whose political influence and international connections in importing Israeli-style attacks on people with a Muslim culture are considerable.
In a complex history intertwined with the crisis of the left, RESPECT in Tower Hamlets disintegrated, though it remains in other parts of the UK. But it left its mark, in a minority electorate that was ‘uppity’, that did not ‘know its place’ in racist capitalist Britain.
Even when RESPECT was supplanted by Labour, ‘uppity’ minorities rebelled and refused to accept ‘safe’ candidates imposed upon them, selecting their own instead. When Labour’s neocons cracked down on them in the usual way, they refused to accept it, Rahman stood as an independent and won – twice, splitting Labour in TH to create a less radical opposition than RESPECT, but still an opposition.
Now the immigrant-bashers and Muslim-baiters in the major parties have ‘legally’ overthrown this victory, declaring it fraudulent and null and void. The current General Election is the cosmetic face of democracy in Britain today. Once in every five years or so, working class people get to vote on who will administer the state machine that really serves those who exploit and oppress us.
The political space to even do this had to be fought for and produced many martyrs for basic political rights – and not just here. From the Chartists to the Suffragettes, to the movements for Civil Rights in America, Ireland, South Africa, to the Middle East today, demands for democracy are vitally important to all of us.
Capitalism and imperialism undermine democracy, and progressively do away with even the gains people have fought and died to achieve. We see that today, as even institutions like local government, which used to have some power in mitigating the worst effects of capitalism on working class people, has been hollowed out to the point of being a joke. The modern form of capitalism, known as neo-liberalism, means that more and more it is big money that calls the shots.
In Britain free speech is under attack more and more from the forces of neo-liberalism – capitalist reaction by another name. The traditional Tories and even Labourites at times have been no slouch at promoting racism to divide the working class, but in recent times they have been augmented with supporters of Zionism and Israel.
It’s no accident that Eric Pickles, the ‘Communities’ secretary who orchestrated the attack on Tower Hamlets elected representatives, is a stalwart of the ‘Conservative Friends of Israel’, and was recently heavily involved in getting a planned academic conference at Southampton University, called to discuss the implications for ‘international law’ of Israel’s founding through the mass ethnic cleansing of the Arab majority population of Palestine, called off amid a plethora of smear and threats, including from pro-Zionist fascists like the EDL.
Nor is it an accident that at the same time that prodigies of exegesis are expended by the legal system to excuse an anti-democratic coup with allegations of corruption, an establishment Zionist MP like Greville Janner, a staunch supporter of Israel, was let off scot-free on grounds of supposed dementia from allegations of numerous child rapes, for which considerable evidence exists.
When anyone gets in the way, or succeeds in cocking a snook at this system, the bosses fight back furiously. These attacks threaten all of us; what is done against Muslims today can be used against others resisting the bosses’ attacks tomorrow.
We, the working class of all colours and creeds, migrant and non-migrant, must resist this with equal, indeed stronger determination.
SOLIDARITY WITH TOWER HAMLETS! DOWN WITH THE COUP – RESTORE THE ELECTED MAYOR!