England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Fight detentions and deportations with solidarity and socialism

By James Kerr, Socialist Alternative London

South London has a long tradition of anti-raid networks that mobilise to monitor and attempt to stop detentions and deportations. For years, these groups were relatively small, with few major victories. However, there has been a shift in consciousness. Greater numbers of workers and young people understand the reality of the government’s racist immigration policies and how elements of the state have been strengthened to enforce them. Crucially, more see the need to show solidarity in words and deeds.

Two years ago, a mobilisation of hundreds of locals had stopped the arrest and deportation of a man from an estate in Peckham, not long after a similarly inspiring demonstration in Glasgow. This gave confidence in the idea that mass action could work. Recent anti-eviction protests by housing groups have also shown how this tactic can have power, if well organised.

The bombing of Gaza, the war in Ukraine and a constant ratcheting up of war rhetoric have brought the realities of capitalism in the Age of Disorder into the homes of billions of people worldwide. This was the background to a successful protest at the start of May, which stopped the transportation of asylum seekers from a hotel in Peckham to the notorious Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset.

The protest was organised mainly over online messenger groups, some developed during similar campaigns in nearby Greenwich. Drawing on networks of local

Palestine action groups, students and trade unions, a mobilisation of hundreds managed to block the road and prevent the bus from leaving. The coach company was lobbied by hundreds of phone calls protesting their involvement in the transportation.

Organised workers can fight back

The intervention of the Territorial Support Group, the riot police based near Peckham, cleared the road but not before the drive was postponed for the day. A rolling rota was organised online to ensure people were stationed by the hotel throughout the day and night to prevent a second attempt, and people signed up to be ‘on-call’ at various times to respond if needed.

Another feature of this developing movement is the involvement of the trade unions. A number of the main organisers of the Peckham demo were shop stewards fresh from the strike wave and have taken the fight for rights for asylum seekers, refugees and migrant workers into their unions. The National Education Union now has adopted a policy to encourage its branches to develop closer links with campaigns and networks like this, underpinned by an understanding that attacks on migrants are designed to divide and weaken the working class.

The ‘hostile environment’ and culture wars have been the go-to for the Tories as they play to a layer of their voting base in the hope that it will distract others from the reality of 14 years of austerity and corruption. Driving them out of power is essential, but Starmer’s Labour have signalled a similarly right-wing position on immigration. Building a mass movement around a programme that can unite the working class, with organised workers at its core, will be a top priority for socialists in the next period. 

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