The Socialist Unity Network

The value of winning

Steve Cohen

Dear Friends I am pleased that  Andy Newman has made such a comprehensive response to, critique of,  my document “Solidarity not Pity” on  the (mis)use of compassionate grounds in anti-deportation campaigns.  The document was written precisely to be provocative and to provoke responses. I don’t claim any franchise on the debate but would just like to make a few simple points in return:


First, the state itself is quite clear that it wants to confine campaigns to the political dead-end of compassionate grounds – rather than being based on opposition to all controls. This is  what the whole adverse publicity to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns was about. The Home Office (through the lottery) was prepared to fund NCADC  to launch as many campaigns as it wants – provided that it does not challenge controls themselves.


Second, Andy completely over-estimates the role of MPs in fighting deportation. In fact he seems to concur in their own self-image as being influential. MPs are simply a letter box to the Home Office. In my experience it is utterly irrelevant as to whether an MP is supportive or hostile. The idea that campaigns should be tailored to  (reformist to reactionary) politics of the local MP is  manifestly wrong


Third, it is important for all of us, Andy included, not to indulge in triumphalism. In most situations it is simply not possible to say how a case was “won”. Campaigns may or my not have a role in securing victories. Some campaigns (e.g. that of Anwar Ditta) quite clearly influence the decision. Other campaigns have no effect( e.g. many of the cyber campaigns which seem to consist simply of on-line petitions and have no public presence)


Fourth, I don’t understand the point about skilled workers. I thought we were against wage differentials – just like we should be against the hierarchy created by compassionate grounds.


Fifth, though “winning” a case is  central to a campaign it is not, as socialists, the only issue. The issue for us is to build up a movement which can challenge controls physically and ideologically . Three decades of campaigning on compassionate grounds has not  seen any such movement emerge. This is why some of us have produced the No One Is Illegal manifesto against controls. It would be good if Socialist Unity could reproduce this and throw it into the ring of debate. click here


Finally if anyone is interested a No Border group has been set up in Manchester to discuss these issues amongst many others. Our next meeting is Tuesday September 28th, 7.30pm at 24 Lever St in the city centre.



September 2004

Articles in this thread

Solidarity not pity

Steve Cohen


The value of Compassion

Andy Newman's response

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