Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials, 5 December 2006

5 December 2006

 Harmondsworth - it is only right to rebel against a despicable system

The riot which broke out at Harmondsworth "removal centre", last week, highlighted one of this government's most abject policies.

Like the other similar "centres" which exist across Britain, Harmondsworth is a prison in all but name. Yet, its inmates are not criminals. Or rather, their only "crime" is to be immigrants and to have been refused leave to remain in Britain by some faceless Immigration bureaucrat. In addition to being faced with forcible deportation, these immigrant workers are treated like hardened criminals and subjected to a vicious prison regime.

It is not the first time that Harmondsworth has erupted. Its last major riot took place in 2004, after a prisoner committed suicide as a result of ill-treatment by the prison administration. However, nothing was done to improve conditions. On the contrary, an official report, which was released last week by the prison inspectorate, exposes the systematic use of solitary confinement and "physical force" by the private company which runs the centre - a subsidiary of catering giant Sodexho.

By an ironic but revealing, twist, it was the prison's managers' decision to prevent inmates from hearing the findings of this report on TV, which triggered last week's riot. And, once again, the government's only response was to use more "physical force", by sending in armed squads.

The treatment which is meted out against immigrant workers in this country is a scandal. It is an insult to human dignity that every one of us should oppose. And it is all the more revolting as the only real purpose for Labour's anti-immigrant policy is to woo reactionary prejudices. Because it is a lie to claim that "we cannot afford" to welcome those immigrants who wish to come and work here, or that immigrants are an unbearable burden on the NHS and education, as some Labour ministers have said time and again. As if there was not enough wealth in this country to build enough houses, schools and hospitals for all its population.

If there is something we cannot afford, it is not the presence of hard-working immigrant workers, but the parasitism of a capitalist class which is an unbearable burden for the whole of society!

The Harmondsworth rioters deserve all the support we, workers, can give them - against a system which is geared to crush the poorest, whether British or immigrants.

 Britain's weapons of mass destruction and the city's massive profiteering

British weapons manufacturers are up in arms (no pun!). The Saudi royal family is threatening to cancel a deal for 72 BAE-made Eurofighter aircraft. That is, unless the Serious Fraud Office drops an on-going investigation into bribes paid by BAE to individuals closely related to the Saudi monarch. As a result, the heavy weights of Britain's defence industry are beginning to fear that they may also lose their share of the lucrative Saudi market.

And yet, they can hardly complain that the SFO has been too heavy-handed. Since the 2002 bill, which made it illegal for British companies to bribe foreign customers, this is the SFO's first and only investigation. And despite 2 years of enquiries, which produced compelling evidence of bribes, no charge has been brought, so far.

The truth - and the reason for such a slow pace, as well as for the complaints of British arms companies - is that the potential profits at stake are enormous. If maintenance, technical assistance and parts are included, the Eurofighter deal alone could be worth anything between £10bn and £30bn over the next decade or so. And each one of the main British defence giants has billions of pounds worth of other military contracts in the pipeline, which they could lose, should the Saudis decide to retaliate in earnest.

As if to reassure these super-rich companies, Blair chose this precise moment to announce his government's plans regarding its nuclear arsenal. In passing, by a cynical irony, the same prime minister who sent the troops into Iraq in pursuit of imaginary "weapons of mass destruction" is now championing the modernisation of Britain's own nuclear weapons of mass destruction!

So, an estimated £20bn of public money will be channelled into the coffers of the City instead of being used to fund vitally needed investment in public services, social housing, etc.. And there will not be any need for the defence giants to bribe anyone this time, since Labour is so keen to bend over backwards to boost the profits of capital!