Thursday, 6 October 2016

For October 2016 see October 1936

Amber Rudd's statement at the UK Tory conference this week that the British government are planning to introduce legislation which would compel employers in Britain to keep lists of the non UK nationals it employs has understandably generated criticism and also set alarm bells ringing.The historical precedents for draconian actions like this are not very encouraging to say the least. Among them the "Ausl√§nderzentralkartei" introduced by the Government of Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1936.

While her still unelected party leader - and the still unelected british PM - Theresa May really scraped the bottom of the political barrel this week with her brazen taunting of people who voted to Remain in June's EU referendum, and her snide dig that people who are concerned with the rise of anti immigrant feelings in the UK are part of some remote and out of touch 'metropolitan elite'. Im sure it would come as news to people in places like Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Glasgow and west Belfast - where they voted heavily to Remain - that they are part of the metropolitan elite.With the large remain votes in these areas also giving the lie to fashionable misconceptions that all working class people voted for brexit and are obsessed with immigration.

Ironically in the week the Tories have been playing the 'race card' to the maximum people have been marking the 80th anniversary of the famous 'Battle of Cable Street' when on October 4th 1936 trade unionists, socialists and communists joined with the local jewish and irish communities to block an attempted march through the east end of London by Oswald Moseley's fascist blackshirts. Funnily enough the 'metropolitan elite' of the time - Theresa May's middle class daily mail reading tory predecessors were in favour of the march and argued it should be allowed to go ahead.

The rest as they say is history - and a glorious episode in working class and anti racist history it was too - as despite the protection of hundreds of truncheon wielding mounted police the blackshirts got a beating they never forgot and were forced to abandon their march for their own safety. Cable street again reminds us what can be achieved when working class people and oppressed groups join together in solidarity.

But the era in which the events of Cable street took place - a period which witnessed the rise of right wing xenophobic ideas and movements and which culminated in the mass murder of millions of human beings by the Nazis - are a reminder of what can happen when racist and far right political movements are allowed to grow and prosper. There's a very good reason why the phrase 'never again' figures so prominently in the anti fascist movement.

Speaking of fascists if Oswald Mosely was around today it's a reasonable bet he'd be a member of UKIP and it was amusing then to see that the much vaunted 'safe pair of hands' Diane James didnt make much of a fist of replacing Nigel Farage as the Kippers leader - she didnt even last as long in her post as England manager Sam Allardyce did in his.

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