Trade unionists, anti-racism and refugee rights campaigners rallied in Market Square on 5 September in Dover to show solidarity with refugees, fleeing war and persecution, who have faced vile racist abuse from Tories and the far right in recent weeks.
Kent county council Tory leader Roger Gough had said: “Increased numbers arriving, particularly during lockdown… put an inevitable strain on Kent’s finite social care resources.”
Eric Segal, secretary of South East Kent Trade Union Council (TUC) and Socialist Party member, answered this when he spoke at the rally: “The cuts didn’t happen because handfuls of people crossed the channel fleeing from war, poverty and starvation. Austerity cuts began under Tory and Labour administrations, because capitalism doesn’t want and can’t afford to keep our services.
“Those cuts are set to continue unless we fight back. Councillor Gough was responsible for gleefully shutting down Pent Valley school in Folkstone.
“A-level students showed that when you fight back you can win. We need to build a socialist alternative to capitalism and mount an electoral challenge to councillors, whatever the colour of their rosette, who intend to carry out council cuts in next year’s elections.
“Any attempt to overhaul the asylum system must be linked to the fight against austerity, with a campaign for jobs, homes and services for all.”
Eric’s bold and clear message was interrupted with applause and cheers. After he finished speaking, he was thanked by many there.
A large number of young people joined the rally from all over Kent. Many signed the Socialist Party petition and supported our message: Don’t blame asylum seekers for Tory cuts.
Later in the day a small group of far-right racists tried to block the main road into the port to promote their divisive message. As the economic crisis worsens, these racist views must be combated politically. Union leaders, backed up with mass mobilisations, can show a clear alternative to those who fear losing their jobs, like the 600 sacked P&O workers in Dover.
The response to Eric’s final words – “a world without passports and persecution is only possible if we create a socialist world” – shows what is possible. The Socialist Party will work with all those who seek to build a democratic, mass, working-class, anti-racist movement – including standing anti-cuts candidates across Kent.
Those who bought the Socialist and signed up for more information are an encouraging sign that many others will join us in the months ahead.