Sir Michael Dummett

Sir Michael Dummett sadly passed away on 27 December 2011 at the age of 86. He was a professor of logic and philosophy at All Souls College, Oxford University and acknowledged as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century.

Michael Dummett was a staunch campaigner for racial justice and one of the key founders of JCWI and indeed chaired the founding meeting of JCWI in 1967 at the Dominion Theatre in Southall. He served as the chair of JCWI in 1970-71 and a trustee of the Immigrants Aid Trust, a partner charity of JCWI, from its inception in 1971 until his death.

I learned from Michael that in the mid 1960s, at the time Enoch Powell delivered his infamous “rivers of blood speech” an anti racist organisation called Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) was in existence, which was a union of all the groups opposing racism in Britain. Michael was an executive committee member of CARD. JCWI was originally conceived in an informal liaison between Michael, other activists in CARD and other anti racist organisations including the late Vishnu Sharma, another leading light in JCWI.

They agreed that it would be more effective to form an alliance of anti racist organisations to combat one of the many aspects of racism, instead of trying to fight, as CARD did, simultaneously on several different fronts. They decided quickly that it had to be immigration, as that was the battle cry for all racist groups, populist media and individual propagandists from the start: “Restrict Immigration”. Their clear objective was to keep out non-white immigrants from former colonies of Britain. As pioneers in the field Michael and others rightly foresaw that British politicians would, and would continue to, pander to this racist sentiment. They realised that the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act was the first of its kind and many more would follow restricting and controlling immigration and the rights of non-white immigrants from former British colonies.

That legislative framework which has continued until today has vindicated their thinking. JCWI’s work and its existence as an independent organisation for 44 years combating discrimination and injustice in immigration, nationality and asylum law and policy is a proud legacy of Michael Dummett and his colleagues, many whom are no longer with us.

Those of us who had the good fortune of knowing Michael Dummett will remember him as an extremely compassionate person and a fierce opponent of racism in our society. He was also unpretentious and generous in character and possessed a beautiful sense of comradeship and humour. He was very eager to respect contributions of others irrespective of their background. As he reminded me on many occasions positive contributions of his inconspicuous comrades, who are not so well known to us.

After his death, on reading his obituaries published in newspapers I now realise we knew relatively little about Michael. He was truly a magnificent human being who achieved so much and contributed enormously to enrich our society. Apart from his brilliant academic career, recognitions and numerous prestigious awards that he received, most befittingly he was knighted in 1999 for his services to philosophy and racial justice. Lately, even when age-related poor health restricted his movements, he kept in touch with JCWI’s work. He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by us for his uncompromising struggle for equal rights for migrants and refugees in Britain. Michael Dummett is survived by his wife and life time partner in work, Ann, to whom JCWI extends its deepest sympathy in this difficult time.

Habib Rahman, Chief Exec.

 

Michael Dummett was an uncompromising and effective campaigner for equal rights for immigrants.  His involvement in practical anti-racist politics, and a recognition that immigration was becoming a focus of racist activity led him to co-found the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants in 1967, which he chaired in 1970 – 1971, the same year he became one of the founding trustees of the associated Immigrants Aid Trust (IAT).  This coincided with the enactment of the foundation stone of modern British immigration laws in the Immigration Act 1971, and Michael remained closely involved in immigration politics for his entire life, using his fierce intellect to promote equality for all immigrants.  In On Immigration and Refugees [2001] Michael synthesised his more abstract philosophical studies with his political work. Until his last illness he remained an active trustee of the IAT.  His was a thoughtful and vital presence at trustees’ meetings, where he was always ready to alert other trustees to important issues, being particularly exercised about the plight of refugees and Immigration Act detainees, and the importance of migrants and refugees having access to good legal advice.  His insights and kindness will be missed.

Alison Stanley, Chair, Immigrants Aid Trust

The impact Sir Michael had in this world is reflected in the number of obituaries that have appeared. Here are just a few: the Guardian, The New York Times, The Daily Telegraph.

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

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