Here to stay, here to fight: How Asians transformed the British working class

Prasad, Yuri
Date Written:  2016-12-19
Publisher:  International Socialism
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20585

During the blisteringly hot summer of 1976 a group of Asian workers, predominantly women, walked out on strike at a small factory in north west London. Most were recently arrived migrants from Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya and were as unlikely a group of militants as you were likely to find that year. The Grunwick strikers acted spontaneously, without a union to back them and without knowing whether they could count on any wider support. Yet their determination and courage during a dispute that would last until the summer of 1978 would transform the politics of race in the labour movement—and in doing so would have huge ramifications for British society in general.


The struggle of Asian workers in post-war Britain provides many important lessons from the past. It’s the story of the fight against racist employers and their backers in the ruling class, it’s the story of a fight for and within the unions, it’s the story of overcoming the prejudices of many white workers, and it’s a story of resistance to the fascists of the National Front, racist attacks, racist policing and racist immigration controls. Ultimately, it’s a story of transformation. The struggle transformed the indigenous workers but also its transformers, the Asian workers themselves—from being outsiders to an integral part of the British working class.

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