Speaking up against Racism

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2012 National Black Members' Conference
21 September 2011

Speaking up against racism

Conference welcomes another successful year where the BNP were driven back at the ballot box, thanks to the hard work of anti-racist and anti-fascist activists, many of whom are UNISON activists and members. Of the 258 candidates the BNP stood in the English local elections, only two were elected and they averaged an 8.3% share of the vote, compared to 14.5% in 2007 and the 9.5% achieved in 2010 when there was a General Election. The BNP made no gains in other parts of the UK and saw their share of the vote reduced.

These results were achieved during a time when attacks on multiculturalism and immigrants have become commonplace in our mainstream political discussions and against a backdrop of rising economic and social anxieties. It stands as a testament to the fact that organising against hatred and intolerance can be effective even at the most difficult of times.

Conference believes that the intolerant attitudes that scapegoat the most vulnerable members of society should be challenged all year round, not just at election time. Racist myths and lies divide our communities and our workplaces and prevent us from organising together. Racist lies can provide the fertile ground and encouragement for violent right wing extremism.

Groups such as the English Defence League do not contest elections but focus instead on intimidating Black communities, making provocative marches, attacking mosques and other religious buildings and physically attacking trade unionists and anti-fascist activists. Chillingly, Searchlight has revealed that Anders Breivik responsible for the tragic murders in Norway was in contact with the EDL and acclaimed their activities, saying to them that you’re a blessing to all in Europe, in these dark times all of Europe are looking to you.

Conference notes that it passed a motion in 2011 drawing attention to the rising tide of racism and intolerance in recent years and welcomes the report and deliberations of the proposed European wide seminar to be organised by UNISON.

Conference is deeply concerned that public service spending cuts to the most deprived parts of the UK, rising living costs and cuts to benefits and services have the potential to divide our communities and increase racist violence and harassment.

Conference welcomes the message that UNISON delivered to its members at the 2011 local elections that Public services depend on all of us. That’s why, as UNISON members, we believe that the fight against the BNP is a fight for public services. Conference believes the same is true of the fight against racism throughout the year and that UNISON has a powerful voice in challenging racism and bringing together different parts of our communities.

Conference calls upon the National Black Members Committee to work with the National Executive Council to ensure that:

i.the effective work challenging the far-right at election time is built upon and extended, with the production of appropriate resources;

ii.that the findings and recommendations of the seminar on ‘Challenging racism in Europe’ be taken forward in UNISON’s work;

iii.UNISON continues to raise awareness of the damaging effect on our public services of targeting migrant workers.