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Students Must Stand Up to Racism and Ukip's Scapegoating

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Austerity era politics is being increasingly scarred by racist scapegoating. Students are not immune from this trend.

The European election campaign is already being dominated by a race to the bottom with Ukip and the Tories trying to see who can win most votes by whipping up xenophobia and hostility to immigrants. The capitulation of the Labour front bench to the coalition's vindictive new immigration law just adds fuel to the dangerous times we confront.

Whilst the fascist groups in Britain, like the British National Party and the English Defence League, have been defeated for the moment, the continuation of austerity after 2015 will see a likely resurgent far right either in the form of a racist, populist party or a reinvigorated fascist outfit. Whatever we do to oppose racism now is not only correct today, it also strengthens our multicultural society for the challenges that lie ahead.

In stark contrast to many other European countries, Britain has successfully resisted the blight of neo-fascism becoming part of mainstream politics, mostly through the efforts of Unite Against Fascism. In Britain, fascism has hit the brick wall of our multicultural society combined with an antifascist movement which made no concessions to racism and Islamophobia.

The student movement was a key part of that resistance. When the EDL came to town trying to divide us by stirring up Islamophobia, students were part of the alliance that stood up to them. Students have also played a big role over many years in urging people to use their vote in critical elections in Barking and Oldham.

But there is much more for students to do

Although we can be proud of the progress made to increase the diversity of our colleges and universities there are still many barriers to be overcome. We need to win the argument that international students are a net contributor to the country's wealth and a national treasure, not a burden as some would have us believe. We also need to play our part in building on the heroic efforts of the Lawrence family to expose and end institutional racism wherever it exists.

We must also celebrate the key victories made by students against racism. In 2012, the student movement united to successfully prevent the government from deporting 2,500 international students. In 2013 we saw the reversal of the ban on the veil at Birmingham Met College following a huge campaign lead by the NUS Black Students campaign. The statement made by lecturers in opposition to being used as border guards was an important part of the united opposition to the government's attack on international students.

However, we also have to acknowledge that our campuses are not immune from racism. The legitimisation given to racism in the media and by far too many mainstream politicians has helped to create significant obstacles to student unity in the face of racism.

A recent National Union of Students (NUS) survey showed that "56% of students told us they thought immigration had had a negative impact on Britain, with over half stating that they felt negatively about unskilled migrant workers from the EU (only 7% told us they felt negatively about professional migrant workers from the EU)." We have also seen shocking signs of the growth of racism with an increase in the number of case of 'Blacking up'.

If we are to successfully push back the current wave of racism, we will need an unrelenting campaign in the student movement in defence of our multicultural society against those who wish to divide us.

In the short term it is also critical that the Ukip candidate for the presidency of NUS is massively defeated in the election at National Conference. This will only happen if he is confronted head on with no concessions made to Ukip's divisive agenda.

The backing by the NUS for the March 22 'Stand up to racism and fascism' rally and demonstration in London is a great example of how we need to move forward.

On that day the student movement will be seen at its best - making it clear that there is no place for racism and fascism on our campuses.

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