Video and review: ‘Black Star’ | the politics and identities of Asian youth movements in 1970s and ’80s Britain

Anandi Ramamurthy’s new book, Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements (Pluto, 2013) is a fascinating account of recent history, telling the story of Britain’s Asian Youth Movements from the 1970s and 1980s, and showing their importance in creating today’s multiracial Britain.

In the 1970s and 1980s as part of a broader anti-racist movement, Asian Youth Movements emerged in many towns and cities in Britain. These were children of migrants from South Asia who had grown up in the UK. While their parents had been forced to accept menial jobs with low wages as new migrants, the next generation was not prepared to accept the life that their parents had led.

The launch event for the book took place earlier this month and you can keep track of forthcoming events via Pluto’s ‘events’ page, here. For more information click on the cover image below.

Back in 2011 The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs held a lecture and open discussion entitled: “The Politics and Identities of the Asian Youth Movements in 1970s and 1980s Britain” by Anandi Ramamurthy. Thanks to the organisers for filming it. We’ve embedded the video below.

For more amazing resources relating to the book, check out tandana.org.

Anandi’s book has also been reviewed in the Socialist Worker this week. The article can be found in full here and we’ve reproduced an extract below.

Asians were the butt of many a joke in 1970s Britain. They were variously lampooned as both dim-witted and devious—and meek to the point of absurdity.

There were even TV sitcoms that invited viewers to laugh at stupid brown-skinned characters that repeatedly apologised for failing to speak English properly.

The humorous tirade aided the growth of the fascist National Front (NF) and the gangs that made the streets increasingly dangerous. Racist youths that would taunt Asian pupils in school by day would attack them in their houses by night.

Behind all of this stood a myth that Asians did not know how to stand up for themselves. But those who believed this nonsense were to get a rude awakening.

In scores of bloody confrontations with racist gangs, NF thugs and racist police during the late 1970s and early 1980s young Asians proved they could hit back.

And out of these struggles came organisation—including the Asian Youth Movements.

They grew out of  the northern mill towns, the industrial Midlands, and areas of the south with large immigrant populations. The youth movements brought together loose knit groups that sprung up to defend their areas from attack.

Many of the founding members had spent time in the revolutionary left and were already committed socialists. While seeking to organise their communities, they wanted to win young Asians to revolutionary politics—and most believed in working with the wider anti-racist movement.

Despite being an important source of pride, and scoring some crucial victories, the movements were generally short-lived and are poorly documented. That’s why Anandi Ramamurthy’s new book, Black Star: Britain’s Asian Youth Movements, is to be warmly welcomed.

She combines interviews with leading movement figures with excerpts from movement documents, biographies and anti-racists’ histories. There are also some great posters, banners and magazine covers.

Perhaps the most impressive section deals with the defence campaign for the Bradford 12, a group of young Asians accused of conspiracy to make petrol bombs while preparing for a fascist attack in 1981.

Ramamurthy T02692

Black Star documents well the fear that gripped many black areas at that time.

Defendant Tariq Mehmood told the court, “In view of what had recently happened in Southall, London and other areas where black families had been petrol bombed and murdered.

“Where black youth as in Deptford had been kicked to death, we took the news that coachloads of skinhead thugs were coming to Bradford very seriously.”

The 12 argued that oppressed people had the right to physically defend themselves from racist attacks. They argued that the police could not be trusted to do so because they were institutionally racist.

After a nine-week trial, the jury acquitted the 12 and established the vital legal precedent that self-defence is no offence.

This precedent would later be needed by campaigns in East London for the Newham Eight in 1983 and the Newham Seven in 1985.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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