The report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has concluded that claims of institutional racism are “not borne out” and that the UK should be seen as “a model for other white-majority countries”.
The commission was set up by Boris Johnson last year following the Black Lives Matter mass movement. Predominantly young and working-class black and white people took to the streets, to demand justice for George Floyd and an end to racism and police brutality. On the protests, homemade placards declared that ‘the UK is not innocent’
This is the seventh report in the last four years looking at racial inequality in Britain. However, this 264-page report with 24 recommendations is nothing short of an insult to black and Asian workers and young people in Britain. The report caused a flurry of responses criticising it. A day after the report was published, the Tories’ adviser on race, Samuel Kasumu resigned.
How can a government commission conclude that the UK should be seen as a model when black men are 4.2 times more likely to die from Covid-19, young black men are 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, black women are four times more likely to die in childbirth, black people are nine times more likely to be imprisoned and twice as likely to be unemployed? These are just a few of the statistics. The pandemic has stripped bare the race and class inequalities that exist within capitalism.
The appointment of Dr Tony Sewell as the commission’s chairman is enough to question the motive behind this report. He is well-known for downplaying structural racism. Munira Mirza, the head of the Downing Street policy unit who oversaw the appointment of the commission panel, is a long-time and outspoken critic of government attempts to tackle structural racism.
In an interview about the report, Sewell says it’s concerned with “getting working-class people, poor people, people who have got disadvantage towards opportunities”, and that ethnic majorities are “doing better than the white majority”. In 2010 he said: “Children are undermined by poor parenting… they fail GCSE because they did not do their homework, did not pay attention and were disrespectful to their teachers”
His language, like the language in the report, is divisive. It turns one section of the community against another and places the blame on individuals and their actions, rather than the capitalist system itself that doesn’t provide opportunities for working-class and young people; that starves our schools and services of vital funding; that pushes working-class families into poverty and closes down youth centres, etc.
Parents are urged to be better parents, students to be better students, “more emphasis on the importance of individuals helping themselves to do better, rather than relying on others, or the state”.
The report does recognise the influence of class. But it does so in such a way as to try and erase the experience of racism and divert attention from how both class inequality and racism are embedded in capitalist society.
Ending racism means all working-class people uniting together against the capitalist system. Capitalist governments across the globe are already preparing to make working-class and young people pay for the pandemic and economic crises. With its emphasis on individual responsibility, this report is yet another weapon in the hands of this Tory government and the rich minority who own the wealth in society to divide us and maintain their profits and their system.
We want to get rid of all the obstacles preventing working-class people of all backgrounds from improving their lives. It is the capitalist system, based on inequalities of wealth and power, that creates those obstacles.
That’s why the Socialist Party is fighting for a socialist society where the huge wealth that exists is controlled by the working class in the interest of the majority. Such a society would unite the working class of all backgrounds, smash racism, and harness the skills and talents of everyone.
The Black and Asian group of the Socialist Party has produced a Black Workers’ Charter to start a discussion about the demands needed to fight for the rights of black and Asian people, and what programme is needed to end racial discrimination.
Report condones vigil police violence
On 13 March, Socialist Party members were among the thousands who participated in a respectful but determined act of mass defiance following the ban on the vigil for Sarah Everard. Heavy-handed policing, including arrests, ensured this became a major political event.
Shock at the images of women protesting violence against women being pinned to the ground by police was widespread.
Even vicious Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel was said to have found the Metropolitan Police Commissioner’s explanation of the use of force unsatisfactory and called for a review.
However, that report, published on 30 March, strongly defended the police’s use of force and said that in their manhandling of protesters the Met Police had “acted appropriately”. One of the vigil organisers has correctly said that the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services will further erode women’s confidence in the police.
The policing of the vigil – and its defence – are not isolated incidences but part of a ramping up of police powers against protests. The Tories know their plans to make the working class foot the corona spending bill will bring mass protests.
The vigil actually turned the spotlight on the Tory plans, specifically the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which seeks to criminalise protesting. The Tories’ hopes that this attack on democratic rights would slide into law without opposition, especially given Starmer’s Labour intended to abstain until then, have been shattered. ‘Kill the Bill’ protests are spreading across the country (see page 5).
The report confirms that mass opposition to attacks on the right to protest and a programme for the police are needed. The over six million-strong trade unions have the potential organised power to coordinate the different struggles by workers and young people, including over the right to protest and organise.
The new bill won’t stop these protests. But the report further shows that the fight to stop the attacks on workers and young people defending their rights and livelihoods needs a programme, including for the police.
At the Clapham vigil, Socialist Party members respectfully distributed leaflets – which were snapped up. As well as defending the right to peaceful protest, we called for democratic working-class and community control of policing and public safety, and a socialist alternative.