Capitalism always has a pre-eminent form of racism; it’s our task to identify, locate and defeat it, argues Lindsey German
The hideous attack on the Christchurch mosque has brought home yet again the very real threat of far right terrorism, inspired by an ideology that demonises and denigrates Muslims at every turn. It is hard to credit what motivates someone who deliberately sets out to kill very large numbers of people, to do so indiscriminately, and to do so while these people are at prayer on their holy day, in what they would presume was one of the safest places in which they could find themselves.
Yet it seems beyond doubt that what did motivate the killer and his potential accomplices was precisely the ideology of fascism and far right ideas, which have at their centre the scapegoating of minorities of various sorts, but also the destruction of any kind of left political presence, the eradication of the trade unions, and the promotion of ‘white culture’ as superior to any other. This ideology led him to cold-bloodedly kill 50 people, and he did so while citing Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass killer who targeted a socialist youth camp, Darren Osborne who attacked Finsbury Park Muslim House, killing one man, and many other perpetrators of racist and Islamophobic attacks. His motivation - and the words written on his weapons - referenced Rotherham (site of notorious ‘grooming’ cases) and other causes célèbres of the far right.
So this was a deliberate and highly ideologically motivated attack. It has caused shock and revulsion around the world, and an outpouring of grief and solidarity with the victims. It should also provoke our anger, however, because these attacks are becoming more frequent and more serious. And they are fuelled by the mainstream politicians and media who have spent the last decade and more attacking Muslims on a regular basis, decrying their dress and eating habits, declaring them subscribers to a uniquely violent and pro-terrorist religion, and using the horrific grooming cases to attribute blame to Muslim men in general.
In country after country, laws have been passed restricting how Muslim women dress. Politicians use scapegoating of Muslims to win support. The mass of Muslims are treated as potential terrorists and subject to surveillance, Stop and Search and the Prevent programme. Those who deliberately bait Muslims, like Rod Liddle or Melanie Philips, are given high profile media platforms to do so. Some of the most powerful politicians in the world - from Donald Trump to Boris Johnson - think it is sound politics to abuse and denigrate Muslims.
Are we surprised when all this happens that some of the filth becomes a motivator for those who are willing to use physical violence to kill Muslims, and to justify it in the name of the ‘clash of civilisations’ or ‘preserving western culture’? Are we surprised also when, having waged war on Muslim countries for close on two decades, western societies have to demonise the people whose countries they have invaded and occupied?
We should not be. The far right are dangerous and a threat - but they are boosted by the casual everyday Islamophobia which is the meat and drink of politics and media coverage across the developed world. Islamophobia is encouraged and sometimes orchestrated by states, governments, police forces, and in this sense is the major racism in Europe and North America.
Racism is a feature of capitalism and is central to dividing and ruling working people. Socialists oppose all racism, wherever it comes from and to whomever it is directed. However, we should also recognise that it takes different forms in different places and in different historical periods. In the past two decades, anti-Muslim racism has become central to social and political discourse. We need to highlight this factor, and to target this Islamophobia. The danger is that our general opposition to racism, which is completely justified, can fail to find a central focus.
That’s why we must relentlessly press our opposition to Islamophobia and to insist that it is the most central form of racism, not just one in a long list. Campaigns against racism have always been most successful when they have seen the key aspect of racism which it is right to highlight and which can mobilise large numbers of people against it. That’s why we need such a campaign focused against Islamophobia, which begins to fight back against this poisonous ideology.
Will it be third time lucky for Theresa May?
So May’s miserable deal will be dragged back before the Commons for yet another vote, despite being roundly defeated twice, by such margins that any self-respecting prime minister would have resigned already. If it passes there will be a short extension to article 50, simply to get enabling legislation through. If it falls again then May has to ask for a much longer extension - something the EU 27 may not be keen to give. What an absolute shambles it all is.
Once again, the Tories are looking for more bribes and bungs to get the DUP onside, and are desperately trying to get their own MPs to come round to a deal which, lets face it, no one much likes. It still looks likely to be defeated whereupon the likelihood is that an extension will mean elections for the European Parliament will go ahead. Results will not be good, given that the right will use this opportunity to attack backsliding on leaving the EU. Not that they are looking good across Europe, where the far right is expected to make gains.
Shouldn’t this be the time when Britain has an election to determine whether we want to continue with this lame duck prime minister, and to determine what people think about all the domestic issues piling up but being ignored by parliament? It would be the most democratic outcome and it would give Jeremy Corbyn the chance to put forward his policies without the constant media attacks or the treachery of his own MPs. It is feared by the Tories and Labour’s right, not to mention the pitiful Independent Group, who would lose their seats in such an eventuality.
So it will still be widely resisted. It would however also be much more democratic than another referendum, touted by the People’s Vote campaign who will hold another very large demonstration next weekend, headed up by those who defend the EUs neoliberal project up to the hilt.
A very British cover up
The announcement that only one British soldier is to face charges following the murder of 14 unarmed civilians on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 is the result of a very careful calculation. Following the Saville inquiry, when then Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the killings, it was clear that not charging anyone would be politically very difficult. But charging a number of soldiers would have provoked outcry from the army and the Ulster Unionists with whom they worked so closely. Remember too that the government relies on the DUP for political support. So, the solution - charge one, hope that it will be difficult to pin a conviction on him, but argue that legal process has taken its course.
The families of those killed - now themselves old but haunted by events from 47 years ago - have behaved in the most dignified way. They have had to fight for justice every step of the way and they have had to fight one of the oldest and most sophisticated ruling classes in the world. But they have done so and emerge from all this with enormous credit. Not so the people who defend the sectarian statelet which is Northern Ireland. I hope that we are seeing the beginning of the end of that statelet.
But let’s not forget the outcry over this one prosecution from the army, the MOD, and the defence minister Gavin Williamson. They refuse to hold anyone accountable for these crimes. So nothing’s changed there - the military and the Unionists have been working hand in glove to thwart Irish independence for well over 100 years. But history is not on their side.
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’.
More articles from this author
- Immigration: it’s not about statistics, it’s about racism – election briefing 15 November
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- The nasty parties unite to stop Corbyn - election briefing 12 November
- The world turned upside down - election briefing 11 November
- Why have the Greens joined an anti-Labour alliance? - election briefing 8 November
- The mask keeps slipping - election briefing 7 November