Squaring anti-racist instinct with pro-Brexit policy

Submitted by AWL on 1 December, 2021 - 10:01 Author: Jim Denham
People struggling in water

To be fair to the Morning Star, the fact that it had no coverage of the Wednesday 24 November tragedy in the Channel until its Friday edition (26 November), a day later than the rest of the media, was probably due to its limited resources and inability to extend deadlines.

When it did come, the Morning Star’s coverage was mainly pretty good: a front page headline “Give Safe Routes To Refugees” and a lead story quoting refugee rights groups blaming racist border fortification policies by both the British and French governments. The editorial on Friday 26 November was headed “Britain’s inhumane immigration policy caused this tragedy in the Channel” and made the important point that the government’s focus on traffickers “doubles down on an unworkable policy of seeking to block all points of entry that demonstrably drives desperate people into the most dangerous routes.”

Apart from a bizarre digression seeking to defend Putin, Lukashenko, and Erdogan against the charge of seeking to use refugees to destabilise the EU (something all three are clearly doing), the editorial contained little that most readers of Solidarity — or, come to that, of the Guardian — would disagree with. It closed with the straightforward statement: “Our duty is to let them in”.

The next day’s editorial (27-28 November) went further, denouncing “an economic system underpinned by racism — by racist border controls, by racist migration policies and by a racist ideology...” It even denounced “capitalism’s reliance on super-exploitation and control of migration.”

The casual reader would assume from this that the Morning Star and the Communist Party of Britain that controls it, support free movement and oppose all immigration controls. But, of course, they don’t. As this column noted last week, prominent CPBer Nick Wright had a major article in the paper on 18 November praising the outspokenly anti-immigration German politician Sahra Wagenknecht and sneering at Angela Merkel’s relatively liberal policy towards migrants. The CPB states in a 2020 document (“No Racist Immigration Laws”) that “The left cannot pose as champions of EU free movement. And whilst Communists want to see a world where all can come and go without restrictions, the material conditions do not exist for this.” Scraping round for a “left wing” justification for backing immigration controls, the document comes up with an old chestnut: “We must also recognise that, as has happened within the EU and recognised by the EU Commission, free movement of labour can result in nations losing many of their skilled younger workers.”

Meanwhile, the Morning Star and CPB continue, repeatedly, to defend their pro-Brexit stance and to deny that the referendum result had anything to do with immigration — though one Morning Star contributor, Chelley Ryan gave the game away in an article on 24 January 2020, stating that Labour should have backed Brexit, “just a slightly softer version which would protect jobs, while still giving us the freedom to control immigration, a strong driver for the Brexit vote.”

I for one don’t doubt that the Morning Star editorial team and the CPB, like all decent people, were genuinely horrified by what happened in the Channel last week. Nor do I question their anti-racist instincts and intentions. What is open to question, however, is how they square their instincts and intentions with support for Brexit and a mythical, never explained or defined, policy of “non racist” immigration controls.

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