As Truss and Sunak bid for most reactionary immigration policy we need a working class antiracist fightback

Both candidates for Tory leader have engaged in a farcical game of one-upmanship, with Truss proposing more “Rwanda style” deals with foreign countries and Sunak proposing offshoring of asylum seekers on cruise ships

Joshua Kelly

By Joshua Kelly, activist with Labour Against Racism and Fascism

The race to Number 10 between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss sees them pick over the carcass of Boris Johnson’s premiership, desperately discarding the elements that brought him down while fighting for the scraps of his populist project to claim as their own.

Both Sunak and Truss have scrambled to offer ways to appeal to Tory members financially. Sunak initially painted himself as a fiscal hawk but is now playing catch-up having seen Liz Truss’ promised tax cuts push her into the lead. Such expensive pledges, generally targeted to benefit the rich, show that Truss is trying a classic Boris Johnson tactic, promising the Earth to get her into office above all else.  

The leadership contenders are also scrambling for the mantle of “most reactionary immigration policies”. Clearly, they both view this as critical to the race for 10 Downing Street. Seeing as this is a vote of Tory members, it’s hard to say that they are wrong on that front.

They  have both thrown their weight behind the disastrous plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. Beyond this, both candidates have engaged in a farcical game of one-upmanship, with Truss proposing more “Rwanda style” deals with foreign countries and Sunak proposing offshoring of asylum seekers on cruise ships.

Anyone expecting that either Tory candidate would back away from these leadership pledges after this contest is likely to be disappointed. After all this is a Tory leadership election, not a Labour one.

We face the greatest challenge to capitalist orthodoxy in a generation. The long 90s is over, and a protracted period of crisis is upon us. War, inflation, pandemics, spiralling prices and rapid climate change are all current long-term challenges. Such a period demands radical action and will doom any politician that seeks mediocre “centrist” politics. The continuous crises relentlessly force huge problems that our political class cannot dent with “moderate” solutions.

Rosa Luxemburg’s famous quote “Socialism or Barbarism” is particularly apt now. Both candidates represent the route of barbarism with increasingly visceral immigration policies that are designed to direct people’s anger towards refugees, asylum seekers and to racialised minorities in general. They are fuelling a chain reaction that they cannot control, building a tsunami wave that they may ride for a while, before being consumed by it and replaced by someone worse.

The antidote is workers’ power, inspired but not restricted to the methods of the past. Trade union power is finally becoming resurgent, fuelled by the intense cost of living crisis. The past few decades have seen worker participation in unions dropping to historic lows, especially in the private sector. Trade Unions must return better and stronger than ever to fight for all workers. It will be long and difficult to rebuild the power unions once had, with ever more restricting anti Trade Union laws on the horizon. Front runner Liz Truss has already raised the prospect of minimum service levels, essentially a legal block on full strike action, for trains and other public transport.  

Trade Unions must link with anti-racist organisations in a genuine and effective way. Mick Lynch’s recent comments are welcome, declaring that ‘Black people and migrants, the people from minorities are suffering disproportionately, and we’ve got to stand up and say ‘no’ to that structural racism…  We are a rainbow – we come from all over the world. Everyone is welcome in this country who wants to earn their living. No one is illegal.’

Lynch’s antiracism is a good starting point to build trade union and labour movement solidarity with migrant communities and resist the racism of the Tories. It’s vital that as trade unionists and activists we do this anti-racist work or all workers will suffer, none more so than those from the Global Majority.

  • Joshua Kelly is an activist with Labour Against Racism and Fascism. Check their website out here.

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