The only ‘us-versus-them’ that matters is between those of us who believe in a dignified life in a fair society versus those who profit from destroying that society

Stop and search

Recent events in Britain demonstrate shocking levels of racism and prejudice from our ruling elite. The arrest of former Guantanamo Bay detainee and anti-torture campaigner Moazzam Begg for the crime of providing aid in Syria shows Islamophobia is a real threat to civil liberties.

The scandalous revelation that police infiltrated the grieving family of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence and the disgusting ‘lawful killing’ verdict in the Mark Duggan case, where police shot an unarmed man, are more examples of the racism at the heart of British institutions like the Metropolitan police.

Austerity also breeds division. Racist rhetoric about resource scarcity in tough times never holds up to scrutiny. Glib sound bites like “this country is full” are instantly exposed against actual figures about unused housing stock and hundreds of thousands of homes lying empty. Yet these divisive arguments lead to Muslims, Black people and Eastern Europeans suffering bullying, intimidation and attacks.

Minority groups, particularly Black and Asian women, are disproportionately affected by the British government’s brutal cuts, as they are more likely to work in the public than the private sector and have therefore faced four years of spending cuts, job losses and pay freezes.

The government, which inherited a National Health Service with record levels of patient satisfaction, pursued a privatisation agenda that rapidly degraded outcomes and working conditions. As ever, the least advantaged are hit hardest, both in terms of jobs and access to vital public services.

In Europe we have seen fascist groups like Greece’s Golden Dawn gain ground off the back of austerity. Amnesty International’s 2013 Annual Report explicitly linked ongoing austerity measures with a “dramatic” escalation of racially motivated attacks in Greece, noting that “more than half of the recorded incidents were connected with extremist right-wing groups that had acted in an organized and planned manner.”

The only “us-versus-them” discourse we can afford to entertain is between those of us who believe in a dignified life in a fair society versus those who profit from destroying that society.

That’s a message we should send loud and clear at the ‘stand up to racism and fascism’ demonstration on 22 March.

For more information go to