The UNITE chief's speech from SRtRC fringe meeting at the UNITE conference in Brighton
I ask myself the question, and I ask you the question; If not us then who? If not now then when? A stand needs to be made.
Len McCluskey, UNITE General Secretary
Len: I wanted particularly to come to this event because Show Racism the Red Card is a fantastic organisation. I remember I’ve shared a platform on a number of occasions with Leroy and with Ged. I wish Leroy would’ve been playing for us in
Leroy: So do I mate. *laughter*
Len: I keep giving him stick because it was HIS headed goal for West Ham back in 1989 that cost us the title, but we won’t go into that... *laughter*
And, I wanted to bring to your attention the work that is done by this organization, but not just to tell you that. I need you to go back to your branches and get your branches to affiliate to SRtRC. A number of branches represented here represent large workplaces with plenty of money in your branch funds. Please, please go back and advance what this organization is trying to do which, as Ged has indicated, is to tackle racism in our society by using this fantastic medium of football.
Not everybody in here will be football fans, but there are huge swathes of our nation that are committed passionately to this game, including me. It’s weird, logic goes out of the window when you’re committed to your football teams and when you are trying to support your particular team; and what this organization does is it takes that medium and it uses it with young kids. If any of you get the opportunity [to visit a SRtRC event], and Ged and his team do lots of events around the country (normally at football clubs and premier league clubs), try and go along and see what happens.
See 300 kids aged 10 and 11 years of age, engaging in the issue of racism. See them, as Ged says, who may grow up in their families and hear racist language, or are subjected to it in the streets. Hear what goes on in these debates and see how it’s coaxed out of them – that the whole issue of racism is simply wrong.
Now, there’s another organization called “Kick Racism Out” – Kick Racism Out of Football: A good organization, I wish them well, well funded by the Professional Footballers Association, and concentrating specifically on what happens in football and on football pitches etc. Here’s my belief, and I don’t want to pit one against the other, but why this organization [SRtRC] stands out is very simply this; You cannot kick racism out of football until you kick racism out of society, and it’s the issue within society that needs dealing with. I’ve witnessed, not just 10-11 year olds but older kids as well, engage in a debate and discussions, meeting their heroes, like Leroy and the others and changing their views there and then within the debate and the discussions and the little work out areas, which undoubtedly has an impact on how they think and how they with formulate going forward. I have heard kids say “I heard my Dad using that description and I told them it was wrong.” It’s that type of influence that is really making an impact. And of course Ged and Jenny have mentioned it’s never been more needed than now.
The issue of working people being divided by colour is something that the reactionary forces within our nation have been feeding on at the moment, and whenever there is issues like
Of course, as a union, we are already engaged in exactly that, and we will be mounting more arguments and more strategies to deal with it, based on the issues and concerns that affect all of our members, and indeed the vast majority of ordinary people within our nation. That deals with economic issues and all the rest; the attacks that we are going to see from this government that will reduce benefits and welfare and turn welfare into a dirty word, create a stigma, there will be less decent jobs, there will be more problems with housing that are about to be sold off to housing associations without building any houses to replace them. The problems within our society are going to get worse and worse. And low and behold, the evil of the right-wing forces will be there, feeding on the line that the only people to blame this on are migrants, immigrants, and particularly black people.
We have top be vigilant, we have to do everything we possibly can. I would urge to please go back – I want you to do me a favour: go back to your branches, get them to commit to affiliate with SRtRC, and let me know. Email me! Email me to let me know which of your branches have actually supported that, because I don’t know of anyone else, I’m sure there are others, but I don’t know any other group that works with children in this manner. And it’s such a pleasure to watch sometimes! Unite will be making certain, that, not only will Unite support Ged and his team, try to point out the error of his ways with Newcastle United, *laughter* but also increasing our financial support to you Ged – I give you that commitment here today- and making certain that anytime you want any assistance from us, anything we can do to help, we’ll be there. Because, in my opinion, there’s nothing more important in our world today than the divisions that are created by the ruling elite on the basis on people creeds and the colour of their skins. We need to stand.
I ask myself the question, and I ask you the question; If not us then who? If not now then when? A stand needs to be made. We need to be proud of our values of inclusivity. We need to be proud of our values of Fairness and equality. That’s what Unite stands for, that’s what SRtRC stands for, and together we can make a difference.