European Action for Racial Equality

Collection Ref No.:

GB 2904 EAC

Date range:

1980s-1990s

Description

European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice (EARESJ or European Action) was an alliance of individuals and organisations engaged in the struggle against racism, fascism, nazism and xenophobia in Europe. The alliance was most active during the years 1990-1993 and brought together anti-racists and anti-fascists, irrespective of their ideologies, through forums, campaigning activities and the interchange of ideas and experiences. European Action advocated an independent, radical, democratic and non-sectarian approach (see Constitution document GB 2904 EAC/01/01/03). Campaign action was centered on the Mission to Maastricht in Dec 1991 (see GB 2904 EAC/02/01). The alliance also debated and opposed the new asylum and immigration legislation (1991-1993) and expressed solidarity with those condemning attacks on asylum-seekers, immigrants and the socially weak (see GB 2904 EAC/02/02). European Action made its strongest ties with Germany, Belgium, France and Italy, as well as with the United Kingdom. European Action was co-chaired by Ian Macdonald QC, the leading barrister and specialist in the field of immigration law and by John La Rose, political and cultural activist, poet, essayist, publisher, founder of New Beacon Books and Director of The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (see collection GB 2904 BFC).

The collection comprises:
EAC/01: Foundation, divided into five series:
EAC/01/01: Constitution
EAC/01/02: Committees
EAC/01/03: Summary Pack
EAC/01/04: Finance
EAC/01/05: Contact Details

EAC/02: Action, divided into 3 series:
EAC/02/01: Mission to Maastricht
EAC/02/02: Immigration and Asylum
EAC/02/03: Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign

EAC/03: Forums, Conferences and Interviews, divided into three series:
EAC/03/01: European Action Forums, Conferences and Interviews
EAC/03/02: External Forums and Events
EAC/03/03: TUC Black Workers Conference

EAC/04: Alliance Building, divided into five series:
EAC/04/01: Networking
EAC/04/02: Active Organisations and Movements
EAC/04/03: Information Supplied to European Action
EAC/04/04: Anti-Racist Alliance and Anti-Nazi League
EAC/04/05: Support from Trade Unions

EAC/05: Research, divided into seven series:
EAC/05/01: Europe, General
EAC/05/02: Netherlands
EAC/05/03: France
EAC/05/04: Germany
EAC/05/05: Spain
EAC/05/06: United Kingdom
EAC/05/07: America

EAC/06: Press Coverage, divided into five series:
EAC/06/01: Newspapers and Newspaper Cuttings: 1983-1988
EAC/06/02: Newspapers and Newspaper Cuttings: 1990
EAC/06/03: Newspapers and Newspaper Cuttings: 1991
EAC/06/04: Newspapers and Newspaper Cuttings: 1992
EAC/06/05: Newspapers and Newspaper Cuttings: 1993-1998

Admin history:

European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice (EARESJ or European Action) was an alliance of individuals and organisations engaged in the struggle against racism, fascism, nazism and xenophobia in Europe. The alliance was most active during the years 1990-1993 and brought together anti-racists and anti-fascists, irrespective of their ideologies, through forums, campaigning activities and the interchange of ideas and experiences. European Action advocated an independent, radical, democratic and non-sectarian approach (see Constitution document GB 2904 EAC/01/01/03). Campaign action was centered on the Mission to Maastricht in Dec 1991 (see section 2 below). The alliance also debated and opposed the new asylum and immigration legislation (1991-1993) and expressed solidarity with those condemning attacks on asylum-seekers, immigrants and the socially weak (see section 2 below). European Action made its strongest ties with Germany, Belgium, France and Italy, as well as with the United Kingdom. European Action was co-chaired by Ian Macdonald QC, the leading barrister and specialist in the field of immigration law and by John La Rose, political and cultural activist, poet, essayist, publisher, founder of New Beacon Books and Director of The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (see collection GB 2904 BFC).

1) Foundation and Constitution:

GB 2904 EAC/01

European Action was initiated after an influential workshop titled 'Racism, Nazism, Fascism and Racial Attacks: the European response' which took place on 23 March 1990 at the Ninth International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (see GB 2904 BFC/09/06/01/03). The forum highlighted the European struggle against racial inequality and social injustice at a time of increasing unrest and uncertainty following the fall of the Berlin Wall. The European Action alliance aimed to work in solidarity with other Europeans as a broad, united front of people to oppose all forms of racism, nazism, fascism and racial attacks.

The momentum behind European Action increased following participation in the Tenth International Book Fair forum 'Racism, Fascism, Xenophobia in Europe: the struggle against it' held in Manchester on 28 Feb 1991 and again in London on 6 Mar 1991 (see GB 2904 BFC/10/06/01/01). The forum included an examination of the economic impact of events within Europe. For example, diminishing support within Germany for reunification, the sharp rise in unemployment during the 1991 recession and the fear that foreign workers were taking jobs became triggers for anti-immigration attacks and increased support for far-right parties. The result was a string of violent attacks on asylum-seekers and refugees, such as those carried out at Molln, Rostock and the firebombing of the crematorium on the site of the Ravensbruck concentration camp (1992-1993) 

For more details on the participation of European Action in the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books, see section 3) Forums and Meetings below.

An Interim Organising Committee for European Action was in existence by 13 May 1990, with an Interim Secretariat by 3 June 1990. The first General Membership meetings recorded in the Collection occur during July 1990, with an anticipated launch of a European Action Constitution document in Jan 1991 (see GB 2904 EAC/01/02/01). The key aims and objectives taken from the Constitution of European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice were as follows:

"The organisation has been set up to examine and provide information on and to oppose the rising tide of racism, nazism, fascism and xenophobia in Europe and to work towards the elimination of racial and national inequality and social injustice in all its forms."

"The organisation will seek to create a European perspective towards the above objective and will seek to promote the interchange of ideas and experiences and to coordinate and initiate campaigning activities to that end in all different countries of Europe."

"The organisation will liaise with, form alliances with and support the work of those who are engaged in campaigning action aimed at the elimination of racial and national inequality and social injustice."

"The organisation will act in an independent, democratic, radical and non-sectarian way and will seek to promote the self-activity of those struggling against prejudice and discrimination, inequality and injustice, and promote these organisational principles as well as those of mutual solidarity amongst its members and other individuals and organisations working towards these ends." (GB 2904 EAC/ 01/01/03).

European Action adopted the slogan "Don't Wait Until the Ovens Begin to Burn", a quotation from Malcolm X speaking in 1965 during his visit to Britain. This allusion to the gas chambers of the Holocaust symbolised the fear felt by those engaged in the struggle against racism, fascism, nazism and xenophobia throughout Europe and also the determination that such horrors would never be repeated.

Founding Members:

The founding members of European Action included:

John La Rose, co-chair of European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice: poet, essayist, founder of New Beacon Books (1966) and co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement (see GB 2904 CAM). Also a committed social and political activist advancing initiatives such as the Black Education and Black Parents Movements (see GB 2904 BEM; GB 2904 BPM) before becoming Chairman of the New Cross Massacre Action Committee in 1981 (see GB 2904 NCM). John La Rose was Director of the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books 1982-1995 (see GB 2904 BFC). For a full biography of John La Rose see entry in the Dictionary of National Biography (www.oxforddnb.com).

Ian Macdonald QC, co-chair of European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice: the leading barrister and specialist in the field of immigration law, who headed the Macdonald Inquiry into Racism and Racial Violence in Manchester Schools in 1986 (set up after the death of Ahmed Iqbal Ullah at Burnage High School. The full report of the Committee's findings was published as Murder in the Playground.)

Gus John, Secretary of European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice: lecturer and educational consultant; Director of Education for Hackney and co-author of the Macdonald Inquiry into Racism and Racial Violence in Manchester Schools in 1986 (see above). Member of the Black Parents Movement in Manchester (see GB 2904 BPM), the New Cross Massacre Action Committee (see GB 2904 NCM) and the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (see GB 2904 BFC).

Linton Kwesi Johnson: poet, reggae artist and founder of reggae poetry. Also a committed political activist participating in the UK Black Panthers, the Black Parents Movement (see GB 2904 BPM), the Race Today Collective, the New Cross Massacre Action Committee (see GB 2904 NCM) and the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books (see GB 2904 BFC).

Mogniss Abdallah: Co-ordinator of Agence IM'media (Agence de l'Immigration et des Cultures Urbaines), an independent media organisation in France. Also an activist involved in the organisation of campaigns against racist attacks and murders in France and Europe, including the historic March pour l'Egalite et Contre le Racisme in Paris.

Said Bouamama: author, political activist and a participant in Memoire Fertile (France).

Nii Addy: a founding member of the Initiativ Schwarze Deutsche (Afro-German Movement) which was formed in 1986. Also active in other groups, including the Immigrant Political Forum.

Obi Addy: a black political activist from Berlin. Member of the Initiativ Schwarze Deutsche (Afro-German Movement) which was formed in 1986.

May Ayim (Opitz): activist, founder member of the Initiativ Schwarze Deutsche (Afro-German Movement) and in 1989 of LiteraturFrauen, an association to support and promote women writers, especially black and migrant writers. Author of Showing Our Colours: the Struggles of Afro-German Women.

Biplab Basu: a member of Antiracistische Initiativ and active in anti-racist struggles in Germany.

Tarlochan Gata-Aura: a leading defendant in the Bradford 12 trial (see GB 2904 BPM/03/01/03/04). Also a member of the Lothian Black Forum and active in campaigns against racist attacks in Scotland.

Azim Hajee, interim chairman of the London section of European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice (1993): a negotiating officer for the National Union of Civil and Public Servants and a secretary of NALGO's National Black Members Coordinating Committee. Also spokesman for the Stephen Lawrence Family.

Suresh Grover: a founder of the Southall Youth Movement, active during the Chagger uprising (4 Jun 1976), the main coordinator of the Southall Campaign and Defence Committee organised to inquire into the death of Blair Peach and to defend the people charged after the 1979 demonstration where Blair Peach was alleged to have been murdered. Chairman of the national mobilising committee for the defence of the Bradford 12 (see GB 2904 BPM/03/01/03/04). Also a founder of the Southall Monitoring Group and its coordinator since 1989.

Balwinder Gill: a member of the Southall Monitoring Group. Involved in many struggles including the Sekhon Family Campaign, the Blair Peach Campaign, against opt-out schools in Southall area and against the rise of communalism and fundamentalism.

Nirmala Rajasingham: founder of the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum and member of the South Asia Solidarity Group.

2) Campaign Action:

GB 2904 EAC/02

Mission to Maastricht: (7-11 Dec 1991)

See GB 2904 EAC/02/01

The Inter-Governmental Conference of the Twelve European Community Heads of State was held in Maastricht 9-10 Dec 1991. The European Summit was to be surrounded by demonstrations and pickets drawing attention to the perceived rise in racial attacks and murders, fascist activities, xenophobia and nationalism sweeping through Europe, particularly in Germany and France. There was concern about the increase in support for allegedly fascist groups and electoral parties such as the Vlaams Blok in Belgium and Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National in France, whilst Prime Minister John Major was arguing for the introduction of stricter immigration controls and placing restrictions on the rights of refugees. With the twelve Heads of State deliberating on economic and monetary union, political union and defence issues, it was felt that concerns over the growth of racism and fascism would be largely sidelined, suppressed or ignored completely.

Overseas Ghanaians and other Africans expressed concern about recent killings in Germany and in Oct 1991 they spoke of helping to build up some form of European solidarity movement with European Action. As a result, European Action initiated a Combined Delegation from England and Scotland to travel to Maastricht to coordinate with delegations from Germany, France and other countries. Named 'Mission to Maastricht', this campaign was supported by a number of organisations, including the following: NALGO and a number of Black Workers Groups; Southall Monitoring Group; United Revolutionary Front of Ghana (URF); New Nigeria Forum; Africa Research and Information Bureau (ARIB); Black Parents Movement (BPM);  Black Members Council National Union of Journalists; South Asia Solidarity; Refugees Ad Hoc Committee For Asylum Rights; Newham Monitoring Project; Sekhon Family Support Group; the Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLM); Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA). European Action appointed Tarlochan Gata-Aura and Gus John as Coordinators for the Mission.

Following an initial planning meeting (13 Nov 1991) it was decided that some form of picketing or demonstration should also take place within Britain. This was to compensate for the inability of some members of the alliance to travel to Maastricht. The second meeting approved a picket outside Downing Street on 7 Dec 1991 to protest against the rise in racial attacks throughout Europe and the failure of European Heads of State to act purposefully in response to the rise of racism, fascism and nazism (see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/01/01). Letters of protest were sent to Chancellor Helmut Kohl and delivered by hand to Prime Minister John Major during the picket of Downing Street (see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/05).

Travel and accommodation were arranged by contacting organisations throughout Europe and in Maastricht, the delegates arranging to stay at the Henk Schram Centrum in Houthem Valkenburg near Maastricht. A public meeting was held in Glasgow on 30 Nov 1991 organised by European Action, the Sekhon Family Support Group and also by individuals from the national black members of NALGO, with guest speakers Gus John, Balwinder Gill and Tarlochan Gata-Aura (see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/03/03). The meeting was to allow discussion and debate around the issues of racism, fascism and xenophobia. Particular emphasis was placed on people learning to work together in an open and equal way and dealing with any opposition from established community leaders. A press statement dated 3 Dec 1991 was issued by the Combined Delegation from England and Scotland prior to the commencement of the Mission to Maastricht (see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/02/03).

Picket of 10 Downing Street (7 Dec 1991):

See GB 2904 EAC/02/01/05

Action began with a picket outside 10 Downing Street on 7 Dec at 1.00pm before Prime Minister John Major left for the European Summit. The picket was organised by European Action and was supported by the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA). The group stationed themselves, with about 70 other people, on the corner of Richmond Terrace and Whitehall and a coffin was symbolically carried across the road to Downing Street, headed by Ian Macdonald QC, Irma La Rose, Yen Nyeya and Balvinder Gill (?). A letter was delivered to John Major, signed by Ian Macdonald QC and Balvinder Gill (see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/04/03). The flyer for the event carries the European Action slogan "Don't Wait Until the Ovens Begin to Burn. Act Now!" and highlights the threat of stricter immigration controls as well as the placing of restrictions on the rights of refugees.

Demonstrations in Maastricht:

See GB 2904 EAC/02/01/06

Thirteen representatives from the Combined Delegation travelled to Maastricht for the period 8-10 December 1991. Two members of the delegation, John La Rose and Tarlochan Gata-Aura, left in advance of the rest to make contact with those in Europe who had pledged their support, such as Groen Links (The Green Left) in Maastricht.

The Combined Delegation was one of only two organisations to hold pickets in the centre of Maastricht. This was due to a ban on demonstrations during the conference period. The European Summit was to take place at the MECC building, the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, newly built in the late 1980s. The Dutch referred to the Summit meeting as the 'Euro-top'; the Dutch meaning of the word 'top' means not only 'tip' or 'summit' but also 'top people'. 

The Delegation managed to hold a picket outside the Europa Pavilion (European Pavilion) in Vrijhof, Maastricht on 8 Dec 1991, where Dutch Prime Minister Rudd Lubbers was conducting an official opening ceremony. The picket received local press coverage, as well as featuring in front page articles in the newspapers de Limburger and the Limburgs Dagblad (9 Dec 1991 - see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/06/05). The Caribbean Times incorporating the African Times includes a full page article on the Mission to Maastricht, with a picture of John La Rose standing outside the Europa Pavilion (7 Jan 1992 - see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/06/06).

The Delegation also participated in local discussion forums, organised a bookstall outside the bandstand in the main square at Vrijhof and held press conferences. Press statements are included in the Collection: "To defeat racism and fascism, we must build coalitions of organisations and individuals. We take very seriously the task of building a combined front, involving all those opposed to racism and fascism, and willing to fight for social justice. Such a front must be genuinely non-sectarian and non-chauvinist. We must not repeat the mistakes of the thirties." (John La Rose speaking at a press conference in Maastricht - see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/06/06).

The Mission was to demonstrate the ability to build alliances with others intent on defeating the growth of racism and fascism in Europe and this was illustrated by the Delegation participating in a combined press conference and demonstration through the streets of Maastricht.

One week later, on 18 Dec 1991, the Delegation held a report back meeting in London to review what they had done in Maastricht, what they had accomplished and began to discuss plans for the future. The Mission to Maastricht was considered a success, the only regret being that the German organisations and supporters, such as Nii Addy and Initiativ Schwarze Deutsche, with whom European Action had built strong links, were unable to attend the demonstrations in Maastricht.

Immigration and Asylum (1988-1993):

See GB 2904 EAC/02/02

A major reform of the asylum procedures in Britain began in 1991 when the Asylum Bill 1991 was published, together with a draft of the new Immigration Rules. The Asylum Bill legislation passed through Parliament in Dec 1991 after its second reading on 13 Nov 1991. The Bill was then dropped because of the general elections in Apr 1992 before being reintroduced later the same year and was finally enacted in Jul 1993 as the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993. The Commission of the European Communities - now the European Commission - brought two communications to the Council and the European Parliament, the first on the Right of Asylum: Brussels 11 Oct 1991 and the second on Immigration: Brussels 23 Oct 1991.

Ian Macdonald QC, leading barrister and specialist in the field of immigration law and co-chair of European Action, gave a talk at the Annual Bar Conference in 1991 on the following subject: 'Problems for Immigrants of Freedom of Movement in a Europe Without Frontiers' (dated 10 Feb 1992 - see GB 2904 EAC/02/02/01/02).

European Action had similarly written in a letter to Chancellor Helmut Kohl (2 Dec 1991):

"While national frontiers are in the process of being dismantled throughout Europe, we find it unacceptable that new walls and frontiers based on race, colour, national or ethnic origin should be erected…" (GB 2904 EAC/02/01/04/02).

SCORE (the Standing Conference on Racial Equality in Europe) also launched a Mass Petition Campaign on 22 Jun 1992 for European Community legislation against racial discrimination.

In Sep 1992 letters, headed The Resurgence of Racism, Fascism and Nazism in Europe, were sent from European Action to Leaders of the European Council (see GB 2904 EAC/02/02/03/01). Letters exist for Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Prime Minister John Major. European Action were calling upon the Government and President of the Federal Republic of Germany, the President of the European Parliament, the President of the European Commission and the Current Presidency of the European Community (British Government) to support an international campaign against the resurgence of racism, fascism and nazism in Europe, especially in Germany and also urged twinned towns and cities in Europe to come together as an expression of solidarity. Similar letters were sent to Borough Councils in London, possibly to City Councils, and also to 'Chief Executives' (unidentified). 

Local and National demonstrations against the Asylum Bill escalated, including the picketing of the Home Office (7 Aug 1992) and a National Demonstration against the Asylum Bill, held in Trafalgar Square (21 Nov 1992 - see GB 2904 EAC/02/02/03/02).

Meetings in Scotland (Dec 1992):

See GB 2904 EAC/02/02/03

European Action also participated in forums and events organised by Scottish Action Against Racism and Fascism in Europe (SAARFE) in Dec 1992. This was timed to coincide with the Edinburgh Conference of Heads of State (10-12 Dec 1992). The forums were organised in memory of Ahmed Sheikh, a Somalian refugee who was murdered on 16 Jan 1989 in the Cowgate, Edinburgh. The programme included two major forums, one on Immigration Controls 1905-1992, with speakers Ian Macdonald QC and Nirmala Rajasingam, and the other on Racism, Fascism and Xenophobia in Europe -the Fight Back, with speakers Obi Addy, Gus John, Bali Gill, Liz Fekete, Ajad Rehman and Satwat Rehman (see GB 2904 EAC/02/02/03/03).

No Nazis in Hounslow Campaign (1993):

See GB 2904 EAC/02/02/04

The European Action Collection includes examples of material demonstrating the tension created by the presence of the far Right. For example, the No Nazis in Hounslow Campaign was organised by the West London Alliance against Racism and Fascism, in response to intimidation and attacks in Isleworth, allegedly by members of the National Front and the BNP (British National Party).

Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign (Apr 1993 onwards):

See GB 2904 EAC/02/03

Members of European Action offered their support to the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign and Azim Hajee became spokesman for the Stephen Lawrence Family as they sought justice following the death of their son. Stephen Lawrence, aged 18, was found stabbed to death at a bus stop in Eltham, South-East London on 22 Apr 1993.  The family soon rejected support by the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) when they saw some of the campaigners using their son's death as a "political football" (GB 2904 EAC/02/03/01/02).

3)Forums and Meetings:

See GB 2904 EAC/03

An essential part of European Action's work was allowing opportunity for discussion and debate. Meetings for members were held on a regular basis, usually once a month, although the frequency increased at times of activity, such as planning the Mission to Maastricht. Forums were also held to allow public debate of the latest issues and this reflected the birth of European Action from the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books (see collection GB 2904 BFC).

The Ninth International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books included the workshop 'Racism, Nazism, Fascism and Racial Attacks: the European response' which took place on 23 March 1990. The concerns and sentiments voiced during the workshop led to the conception of the European Action alliance. A major document in the Collection is the publication of the transcript from this workshop (23 March 1990) in the form of an orange booklet titled 'Racism, Nazism, Fascism and Racial Attacks: the European response' (see GB 2904 EAC/02/01/02/01/03). This was published jointly by European Action and the International Book Fair in Nov 1991 with a Foreword, written by Ian Macdonald QC and accompanied by the key aims and objectives taken from the Constitution document of European Action (GB 2904 EAC/01/01/03). Ian Macdonald speaks of "the enormous degree of resistance and struggle being waged by large sections of the population throughout Europe for racial equality and social justice. These struggles are largely ignored by the press and media. The publication of the proceedings of the forum is one small step to redress this balance." (Foreword to 'Racism, Nazism, Fascism and Racial Attacks: the European response'). European Action made sure that the booklet was widely distributed through New Beacon Books Ltd, at meetings, forums and to European organisations engaged in social and political struggles against national inequality and social injustice.

In 1991, members of European Action participated in the 10th Book Fair forum 'Racism, Fascism, Xenophobia in Europe: the struggle against it' (28 Feb 1991). By 1993 (the Book Fair was held biannually from 1991 onwards) the annual forum had become a Day Conference and Film, held jointly with European Action, and titled 'Bigotry, Racism, Nazism and Fascism in Europe: strategies for change (see GB 2904 BFC/11/06/01/01). This included the showing of the film 'Sweet France' directed by Mogniss Abdallah, member of Agence IM'media, France. The conference brought together cultural, social and political activists from black and migrant communities, especially from Germany, Italy, Belgium, France, England and Scotland. Speakers, such as Nii Addy and May Ayim, spoke of the rapid escalation in neo-nazi violence and the attacks on refugee hostels at Molln, Hoyesverda, Cottbus and Rostock. Other speakers included Udo Enwereuzor, co-founder of Africa Insieme, a civil rights group in Tuscany, and Jan Fermon, a lawyer and member of the Parti de Travail de Belgique (PTB), who worked with the campaign Objectif to introduce a bill into the Belgium Parliament demanding that migrants should have the automatic right to nationality after five years residence. Author and political activist Said Bouamama, from Memoire Fertile, warned that the extreme right in France was in some ways even more dangerous than in Germany because mainstream parties were beginning to incorporate their political agenda. Ian Macdonald then introduced a draft set of proposals on behalf of European Action to form the basis for discussion between British and European activists and encourage the development of a united front of people determined to combat racial inequality and social injustice.

European Action also held Open Forums and their initial 'launch' to the public came with an Inaugural Meeting on 8 March 1992. The Open Forums covered topics such as 'Mass Unemployment, Racism and Fascist Violence Across Europe - Which Way Forward in the 1990s?' (31 Oct 1992) and 'Fortress Europe, Racism and Britain's New Asylum Bill' (19 Nov 1992). These two forums were designed to coincide with and track the progress of the new Asylum and Immigration Bill that was fuelling such unrest across Britain and Europe. In the months overshadowed by the horrors of Bosnia, people were increasingly encouraged to come out and demonstrate against the new Bill, culminating in a National demonstration on 21 Nov 1992.

Black trade unionists, NALGO and members of Black Workers Groups had all lent their support to European Action and the alliance held an open forum at the 1993 TUC Black Workers Conference on 7 May 1993 (see EAC/03/03).

4) Alliance Building:

See GB 2904 EAC/04

The Constitution document for European Action states the desire to build coalitions and alliances with organisations and individuals in the struggle against racial inequality and social injustice, both in Britain and Europe. However, the document specifies that each organisation should retain its own autonomy and that European Action - and by implication any other organisation- "will act in an independent, democratic, radical and non-sectarian way…." (GB 2904 EAC/01/01/03). The collection contains several examples of such alliances and networking, including AFA (Anti-Fascist Action), founded by Unmesh Desai of the Newham Monitoring Project and the Antirassistiche Initiative, centered on the Berlin Black Community.

In an open letter from European Action to the Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) and the Anti-Nazi League (ANL) (8 Mar 1992), European Action commences:

"We are concerned about the serious divisions which have arisen in the anti-nazi, anti-fascist, anti-racist movement in Britain, since the launch of the Anti-Racist Alliance [Nov 1991] and the re-launch of the Anti-Nazi League." [Jan 1992].

The Anti-Racist Alliance (ARA) set out to create a wide alliance between black and minority organisations, trade unions, MPs and individuals in order to fight racism and the extreme right. The Anti-Nazi League was re-launched as a much narrower anti-fascist organisation, controlled by the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP). In the eyes of European Action and a number of other organisations and individuals, the result was to split the anti-racist and anti-fascist movement. Some alleged that the decision was simply to promote the SWP.

The ARA put forward its case that the ANL/SWP had been preventing the formation of a genuine anti-racist, anti-fascist movement and that the ARA would benefit from the split. The ANL felt that the two organizations would complement each other. The ARA argued that the two could not co-exist. During a demonstration against the Asylum Bill, it was alleged that the SWP used violence against the black community in order to take over the march for the ANL/SWP. On 2 Apr 1992 the ANL organised its first event on the same day as a long advertised event by the ARA.

European Action called on the ARA, the ANL and all other organisations and their supporters "to contain and abandon this sectarianism" (open letter - as above) which was preventing organisations from coalescing and concentrating on the main issues.

5-6) Research and Press Coverage:

See GB 2904 EAC/05 and EAC/06

The Collection contains a substantial amount of contextual material gathered by and circulated within European Action recording alleged racist and fascist attacks, activism, tensions and resistance both in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe. There are also direct references to European Action, for example, the Caribbean Times (7 Jan 1992) page 5 has an article titled Don't Wait Until the Ovens Begin to Burn regarding the Combined Delegation for the Mission to Maastricht, with a quotation from John La Rose speaking at a press conference (GB 2904 EAC/06/04).

Conclusion:

In a letter to Mahoma Mwaungulu (11 Jan 1992), John La Rose spoke of the success of the Combined Delegation in bringing together a network of alliances and individuals for the demonstrations in Maastricht. However, John La Rose was careful to maintain a realistic outlook throughout: "[b]oth you all in Germany and we in Britain are doing fairly well so far. We should not set ourselves too many activities which we cannot then accomplish. That demoralises people" (GB 2904 EAC/04/01/01). By acting in an independent, democratic, radical and non-sectarian way European Action was able to promote self-activity and was successful in developing a united front of people determined to combat racial inequality and social injustice.

Related material: European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice was created following influential forums held during the International Book Fairs of Radical Black and Third World Books (see collection GB 2904 BFC).

Custodial History:

The European Action for Racial Equality and Social Justice collection was gifted to the George Padmore Institute by John La Rose (1927-2006).