There’s something that’s been bugging me for a while. The whole question of racism, and the connected issue of so-called “political correctness”, can be a minefield for the naïve, and careless and spurious allegations of racism can be seized upon by racists as justification for their vile views.
I noticed last night that one of my FB friends had mentioned on her wall that the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) had accused her of racism. I know she isn’t, so I started a chat to find out why. I guess that another thing that had been on my mind was the stuff about the “3 wise monkeys”, the Japanese fable that was also much-used by Gandhi, which had resulted in four good socialist trade unionists in UNISON being accused of racism, and the whole weight of that union’s bureaucracy being used to suppress four top-quality activists whose real sin was that of not toeing the party line.
Duty of Socialists
I’ve always believed that the first duty of any socialist is to stand up for the working class, be they in work, out of work, sick, old, young, black, white, and irrespective of religion, background, sex, sexual orientation and so on. Racism just confuses the issue, and so do the other prejudices. We currently have a government that wants to take from the working class and give to their rich friends. People in work are worse off, except for the very richest in society, and this applies irrespective of colour, etc. The same goes for the sick, the unemployed, people who have lived a lifetime in Britain, and those who have come in recently. We’re all getting screwed so that money can be handed to those who already have more than they could possibly need in several lifetimes. We are being governed by the rich, for the rich, make no mistake about that.
Of course they run up smokescreens. Workers (and therefore unions) who want to uphold their standards of living are greedy. The unemployed are lazy. The sick are “perfectly capable of work”, even those due for a fatal heart attack in the next few weeks. The idea is simple, to get the working class fighting amongst itself, and forgetting who is really responsible for our plight. Meanwhile the NHS gets axed, services are closed. And of course there are plenty of opportunities to blame blacks, Asians, muslims, etc.
I believe that every religion has a right to practice. Members of each religion have the right to worship with fear of being attacked. However none of them have the right to force their views on others. All but a few clerical extremists in each religion accept this too. Those who try to force their reactionary ideas on others should be opposed. And we should also oppose discrimination within each religion, whether it’s against gays, women, etc.
I suspect that this is where my friend is accused of racism. The Socialist Workers Party tried to present itself as a group of Socialists advocating policies to change society, to rid us of capitalism, and build a socialist society. So far, so good. However, they have too many members who are from upper-middle class backgrounds, who have a natural arrogance and look down on working-class people. I’m not saying you have to be working class to join a socialist party, just that if you’re not, you have to get rid of this superiority complex, and not allow it to ruin your judgement. Unfortunately, in the case of the SWP, despite there being some good class fighters within it, they get it wrong nearly every time.
So recently, in the Julian Assange case for example, they ignore the fact that he is seen by those that run the world as a dangerous opponent, one they would like to silence. Had he been accused of murder, they would probably have said he was fitted up. But make that accusation rape, and all of a sudden he must be guilty, and the state forces in the UK, Sweden and the USA suddenly become the good guys! The whole concept of the role of the state goes out of the window. I’ve written on that already, and the view taken by Women Against Rape that they do not support the use of rape laws for political purposes. An excellent article in the Guardian by the way.
Obsession with Islamophobia
But back to my friend, accused by the SWP of being racist. It seems her sin was to be part of a group that criticises the SWP’s obsession with Islamophobia. I have to say I don’t quite understand what that means. Phobia is fear, but does it mean that some people are scared of all muslims, which of course is racist and must be opposed. Or does it mean that some people are scared of Islamists, that small number of advocates of Political Islam, who must be opposed as surely as any other religious group that takes its views into the political arena and tries to impose them on the rest of us.
Racists like the BNP and EDL have traditionally used shortages as a means of propagating their hate message. Not enough housing? Blame blacks/immigrants etc, blame anyone but the real culprits: the Government and their rich backers who don’t want to be taxed for social spending so there is enough housing for all. So when the fascists try to take part in a parliamentary or council election, we take them on by explaining the real causes of these shortages, and how all working class people are being screwed irrespective of our colour, background etc., right?
“Respectable” vs Nazis
Well, no, actually. The SWP instead employ a front organisation they set up, called “Unite Against Fascism”, which drops all politics, all mention of the real causes of social problems, poses as “respectable”, and labels the BNP etc as Nazis (correct, but not enough), and tells us to vote for the same failed Labour politicians that they criticise (correctly, too) for betraying the working class. The first sign of an idiot like Griffin or Barnbrook and they are running for (respectable) cover and forgetting any mention of the socialism they supposedly advocate.
They make spurious allegations of racism, whilst at the same time keeping quiet about the root cause of racism.
You fight racism by attacking its root causes. Not by joining up with those who, while they may oppose racism as individuals, carry out policies in office that provide the breeding ground for it. This article in The Socialist is spot-on, totally different outlook to the SWP.
If you go round accusing people of being racist, just because they don’t concur with your view as to how racism should be fought, or your narrow definition of what it means, then you are providing ammunition to the racists.