Phillips draws back after opening Pandora’s Box

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TREVOR Phillips yesterday warned that Britain was becoming polarised and that the controversy over women wearing veils would lead to worse riots than were seen in Bradford and other northern cities in 2001.

Phillips is the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, who sparked off the current ministerial attacks on Muslim women by declaring that Labour’s previous doctrine of ‘multi-culturalism’ was leading to apartheid in Britain.

Instead of this ‘divisive outlook’ he recommended that we all become British. This is the battle cry that numerous Labour politicians led by Jack Straw have taken over.

Phillips’ prophecy yesterday was that the combination of ‘excessive criticism’ of Muslims, and Muslim ‘over-sensitivity’ could be ‘the trigger for the grim spiral that produced riots in the north of England five years ago.’ The Muslims remain the problem.

Having opened Pandora’s Box he now says that a ‘gentle, nuanced’ debate is needed, otherwise ‘This time the conflict would be much worse – we need to chill.’

He added for good measure, comparing the situation to last November’s riots in the suburbs of Paris: ‘Eventually that frustration, that exclusion boiled over into the kind of car burning we saw last year. . . I do not want that for Britain.’ In fact, the Paris November riots boiled over into a workers revolt and the defeat of the French government’s policy of cheap labour for young workers.

Historically, Phillips has taken over the role of false prophet from the Tory politician Enoch Powell. In 1968 he foresaw ‘rivers of blood’ ensuing from West Indian immigration into Britain.

Powell recounted how a constituent told him: ‘In this country in 15 or 20 years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.’

He added: ‘Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member of Parliament, that his country will not be worth living in for his children. I simply do not have the right to shrug my shoulders and think about something else.’

He declared: ‘As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see “the River Tiber foaming with much blood”.’

Almost 40 years later the West Indian community, like the Sikh community, is in many ways more British than the British. There were no rivers of blood.

However, in 1968 you had the May and June events in France and in Britain the struggles against Labour’s attempt to bring in anti-union laws, which were followed by the miners bringing down the Heath government in 1974 and the scrapping of all the Tory government’s anti-union laws.

It turns out that Powell’s call was a right wing reflex action to the class tensions that were growing in Britain and expressed the need of the ruling class to split the British working class.

He did not succeed and neither will Straw and his ilk now.

Straw’s offensive against veils comes as a direct result of Britain’s attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. It is an attempt to find a Muslim scapegoat for the threat of terrorism in Britain, whose cause sits in 10 and 11 Downing Street.

The way to fight the threat of terrorism, as well as imperialist terror, is to withdraw British troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This the government will not do since it wants to steal the oil resources of the Gulf and the Middle East.

It has opted for an offensive against Muslims, starting with women in veils and reaching into the universities and communities.

This offensive is in fact winning Labour the racist vote. On Saturday evening a woman was interviewed on Sky TV who said that she supported Straw, and it wasn’t just because she was a member of the BNP!

The situation in Britain today is many times more explosive than when Powell made his speech. In today’s Britain, millions of workers and youth are on the march against the government’s imperialist wars abroad and its campaign at home to smash the Welfare State, slash wages and export jobs.

With the class struggle rising, the government and the bosses need a scapegoat to divert attention from themselves and split the working class. They have chosen the Muslim community. The way to fight this is to unite the whole working class to bring down this government and to go forward to a workers government and socialism.