Editorial by Claudia Jones in The West Indian Gazette, July 1962 [partial transcript; complete original unavailable]
COLOUR BAR ACT EMBOLDENS FASCISTS
It is instructive that on the very day that the Colour Bar Immigration Act came into force, the most disgraceful racialist meeting ever allowed to be held took place in Britain.
We refer to the meeting of the so-called “National Socialist Movement” in Trafalgar Square on July 1st . There, in full view of the police and the authorities who pleaded that racialism was not at heart of the Colour-bar Immigration restriction measure, Nazi slogans were shouted, Nazi salutes given and insulting anti-Semitic words were used. The voices in Trafalgar Square were those of the “National Socialists” but the ideas were Hitler’s and fascism. Hitler was the arch-architect of racialist ideas directed against Jews, and Negroes, based on the unscientific theory of “inferiority of peoples.”
The young people who were arrested, by and large expressed the views of many who hate racialism and abhor fascism. One young man who had lost his family under fascism told the court, following his arrest, that when he saw the rotten fascist display, he “lost his senses.”
Recently in the House of Commons Labour M.P.s tabled a question as to why the Government does not pass a law banning racial incitement. Fenner Brockway’s bill to outlaw racial discrimination, despite its broad support has not been able to get past the debating stage in the House of Commons or House of Lords. The major reason given by the Government is “you can’t legislate the behaviour of people.” Between this “reason” and the excuse given that free speech must remain unimpaired, every racialist and fascist is free to incite racialist ideas.
But even under present laws, as under the Metropolitan Police Act, it is an offence to use insulting words and behavior. Under the Public Order Act, it is an offence to use threatening or insulting words and behaviour in any public meeting, with an intent to provoke a breach of the peace or whereby a breach of the peace is likely to be occasioned.
Who can doubt that this was the case at Trafalgar Square on July 1st? And why didn’t the police act to protect the public from the insults instead of the other way round? Is it because those who gave them their orders are the same who allow German panzer troops of the former Hitlerite generals to train in Britain? Is it because they are the same who seek co-operation from Dr. Adenauer to get their terms for the Common Market which will allow Germans, Italians and other non-Commonwealth people to freely come and go into the U.K. while banning and restricting Coloured Commonwealth citizens under the new Act?
The day before the Act came into being, the Movement for Colonial Freedom called for more campaigning against the Government’s Immigration Act. “The life of this act is limited to one year and we call on the Labour and Liberal Parties to campaign for public pressure on the Government to ensure that it is not re-enacted next year”, it declared.
“In the meantime, this dangerous and unprincipled Act should be a dead letter from the moment it came into force,” it said.
The act had no valid basis in a situation, the statement held, where labour was scarce and there had been a virtual balance of migration into and out of Britain over the years.
Here clearly is an attempt to divert attention from Government failure to deal with the housing problem and to make political capital out of racial antagonisms which were counter to our whole concept of Commonwealth and democracy, it concluded.
The majority of West Indians, Africans, Indians and other Commonwealth citizens, as well as large sections of the British trade unions, etc., oppose this act. If there are some who think otherwise, they will quickly learn that the effect of this Act is not merely restriction of freedom of movement, but the creation of a second-class citizenship status for coloured Commonwealth citizens affecting every facet of our lives.
The slogan raised at the MCF protest march the day before the Act came into force, in which many Commonwealth citizens participated should become widespread: “Repeal the Immigration Act.”
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