Trump is scared of the UK protest movement; let’s make sure that his fear is confirmed, writes Lindsey German
I suppose the elaborate curtsey Theresa May performed in front of Prince William (voluntary grovelling and ‘not compulsory’ according to Buckingham Palace!!) last week gives us a further insight into this unpleasant woman, who talks tough to the weak and defenceless but bows before pomp and power. Look at her handholding with Donald Trump during her White House visit last year, and consider today her refusal to condemn Trump’s barbaric child abusing policies which have caused revulsion around the world.
The spectacle of children being separated from their parents at the Mexican border because their parents are migrants trying to get in the US is horrific enough. Evidence that they have then been sent thousands of miles to detention centres and camps and may never be reunited with their parents again is even more hideous. There have been protests and demonstrations across the US and worldwide. Trump’s closest allies have been hounded in discreet Washington restaurants, and his press spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Saunders was denied service at one such, when the largely migrant staff decided they would rather not serve someone who used Biblical references to justify cruelty on such a scale.
May is welcoming Trump here in less than three weeks. She will be rolling out the red carpet, feting him in every way, with never a critical word over his policies. Trump will visit Windsor Castle for tea with the queen. The visit should be cancelled forthwith, as should the proposed state visit now slated for next year. The protest movement against Trump is growing and will result in what promises to be a huge demonstration and many other protests.
The importance of this is that Trump is a figurehead and poster boy for the hideous right-wing policies which are increasing in the developed world. He is not the only culprit of course. Theresa May’s own ‘hostile environment’ for migrants is barbaric enough. with its ‘go home’ vans, the Windrush scandal, and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in places like Yarls Wood.
Yesterday a European summit on migration underlined the race to the bottom in persecuting migrants now taking place across the EU, led by the Italian and Hungarian governments, and causing major fissures in Germany’s ruling coalition. One of the proposed solutions to the refugee ‘crisis’ is to build camps on Libya's borders - to stop the embarrassment of migrants crowding onto boats and often drowning in the Mediterranean.
One thing holding even the EU ministers back from this course of action is the civil war and two governments which now exist in Libya - the inconvenient outcome of the bombing there for regime change, in which Britain, France and Italy played a lead. As with Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and intervention in Syria, they have helped create the number of refugees, but they will not deal with the solutions.
Indeed, Trump’s visit to Britain is preceded by the Nato summit in Brussels, where Trump will demand that every Nato member commits at least 2% of GDP to defence spending – only four do at present so this would be a huge increase, cutting into welfare and education spending. In Britain, defence minister Gavin Williamson is demanding spending rises to nearly 3% - an increase of £20bn, or equal to the (inadequate) increase for the NHS announced by May last week.
War, racism, trade war, xenophobia: this is the future unless we campaign to change that agenda. Which starts with these protests over Trump. He has already postponed his visit twice. Huge protests against his visit here will send a signal around the world that there is mass opposition to Trump. And it will also send a signal to his far-right followers, whose marching in London the day after will also be met with a counter protest, that they are in a tiny minority.
Democracy’s okay, as long as you vote the right way
One group of people it would be unwise to rely on are the organisers and many of the participants on the demonstration for a ‘people’s vote’ which took place in London on Saturday. What on earth do they think the vote two years ago was about if not a vote by people? The problem for Saturday’s demo is that they want not just a vote on a deal but on a second referendum and they want people to vote the right way next time. We are told repeatedly that people didn’t know what they voted for last time. In itself this is pretty elitist: the educated and well-heeled know what they are voting for but those of ‘lower educational attainment’ don’t.
The truth is that there is always misrepresentation and misunderstanding in elections on both sides. This was certainly true of the referendum. But it is clear from the illusions that many still have in the EU as a force for good - in spite of all the evidence to the contrary which is helping to tear it apart regardless of Brexit - that the misunderstanding is not all on one side. Those who wave EU flags or even union jacks as some sign of progress really need to take a reality check.
The misrepresentation continues on both sides too, most recently as sections of big business up their threats about moving jobs if Brexit continues. These threats reflect the strong desire the vast majority of British business has to remain in or very closely tied to the EU. Two years on, and with a government whose internal divisions match its incompetence, these threats are growing louder. Working people should not be fooled by them, and they certainly should not believe that any section of the ruling class will act in their interest. The state of the economy, and the relative prosperity of its population, is not dependent on membership or otherwise of the EU, but on the organisation and combativity of working people.
The only mainstream political leader even thinking about strengthening this organisation is Jeremy Corbyn, which is a good part of the reason why so much of this march was directed at criticising him. While the march for a 'people’s vote' on Brexit was no doubt attended by many people who consider themselves on the left, it was not organised or politically dominated by the left. It was revealing to hear the Guardian’s Gaby Hinsliff say on the Andrew Marr show yesterday, that this was one of the few protest marches aimed more at the opposition than at the government.
It effectively let the government - not to mention the pathetic Tory ‘rebels’ - off the hook, yet it is only the government and its antediluvian allies in the DUP which can command a parliamentary majority. Instead, we are treated to Lib Dems and Tories, plus right-wing Labour, leading chants of ‘where’s Jeremy Corbyn?’. This is about the right of Labour and their allies who would love a pro-EU centre party doing everything that they can to attack and try to destroy Labour’s left leadership. That means more privatisation, weaker trade union rights and more attacks on the public sector.
As it happens, Jeremy Corbyn was in Jordan visiting Palestinian refugees. Had he been in Britain I hope he would have spent the afternoon on his allotment - much more productive than backing warmonger Alastair Campbell, neoliberal Vince Cable and assorted Tory MPs with an agenda of continuing with more of the same that led to the Brexit vote in the first place.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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