We reproduce this excellent article from Workers World with thanks.
Hollande: 'This is an act of exceptional barbarity.'
Assad: 'That's not what you say when you send them my way.'
By Sarah Flounders
How do we put in perspective the international media focus on the massacre of 12 journalists in Paris on 7 January at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, notorious for its racist anti-muslim caricatures and lack of response to the routine, daily, racist police murders of black youth in the US? Why were any protests banned in France of 15 journalists who were killed among the 2,000 deaths in the Israeli assault of Gaza this past summer? Don’t those lives matter?
The Charlie Hebdo assassinations strengthen the hand of the state, which is using them in an ideological offensive — even if the state had a role in arming and training the killers.
Why are other murders not mourned, not respected, not even reported — even the murders of other journalists? A crucial role of the corporate media is to try to shape the perception of which lives matter.
Consider the mass outpourings following several different, very public killings in the US. Hundreds of thousands of youths have been in the streets again and again in the US confronting the refusal of the state to prosecute killer cops — even when their murderous crimes have been seen on video by millions.
Hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets of Paris on 11 January. French, other European, US and Israeli politicians led the march honoring the slain journalists.
Twice, on 27 December and 4 January, thousands of police in uniform from all over the US converged on New York City for separate funerals of two police officers shot in their patrol car on 20 December. Jet Blue offered free flights to all police traveling nationally to the funeral. The US vice president, New York state’s governor and the city’s mayor attended the funerals. Roads in the areas were closed; giant outdoor TV screens were erected.
Not a free speech issue
The French government’s protection of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo had nothing to do with protecting freedom of speech. This is a deception that must be confronted. In 2012, the same government that protected this vile publication banned any demonstrations or protests or even public prayers opposing the racist publication.
French law allows for the prosecution of ‘public insults’ based on religion, race, ethnicity or national origin. But the racist, sexist, bigoted, grossly insulting cartoons in Charlie Hebdo magazine were never once a source of any successful legal action.
However, France did ban anyone from even protesting the cartoons that insulted muslims or the prophet Muhammed.
In 2012, as protests swept the muslim world in response to an anti-muslim film made in the US, French interior minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged. “There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up.” (Daily Mail, 21 September 2012)
Even prayer meetings and street prayers were banned. (CNN, 19 September 2012)
In the same week, Charlie Hebdo put out an extra run of cartoons featuring a grossly obscene caricature of a naked prophet Mohammed. The magazine was given extra police protection.
Freedom of speech and of the press is hardly sacred in France. It was punishable by a year in prison to even post on the internet a notice of a demonstration opposing the Israeli onslaught on Palestine during the Israeli 2014 summer offensive on Gaza.
France was the only country in the world to bar all demonstrations and protests in any form supporting Palestine during that time. The penalty was one year in jail and 15,000 euro fine.
It is worth noting the double standard: There is no similar crackdown against the current right-wing, fascist demonstrations against immigrants.
Role of Nazi caricature
Charlie Hebdo serves a very important purpose for French imperialism, and that is why its virulent racism has been protected at the very time that protests against it are prohibited.
Charlie Hebdo may have run cartoons to ridicule the powerful 40 years ago, when it claimed to be left wing, irreverent and nonconformist. But there is a big difference between satire ridiculing the powerful — a French tradition going back to Voltaire — and the current imagery promoting fear and loathing of the oppressed and powerless. The latter is right-wing and fascist in character.
In this period, when muslims are facing increasing, extreme right-wing attacks, and fascist mobilisations are growing in Europe, Charlie Hebdo functions as did the Nazi publication Der Sturmer, with its vehemently anti-semitic caricatures. Jewish people in Der Sturmer, as muslims in Charlie Hebdo, were depicted with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. Both publications use obscene, sexually explicit caricatures.
The Nazi newspaper’s caricatures were part of a policy to make jews an object of hatred, fear, ridicule and disdain. At the end of World War II, Julius Streicher, the editor of Der Sturmer — though he didn’t run death camps but used the press to incite hatred — was put on trial, convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.
Charlie Hebdo is protected because it hardens the population against muslim people in order to divide the population. The French government has announced a grant to Charlie Hebdo of 1 million euros, and Google donated 250,000 euros.
Charlie Hebdo is not freedom of expression and freedom of press. It is an instrument of war mobilisation. It ran cartoons demonising Serbs during the Nato campaign against Yugoslavia, and it supported Nato’s attack on Libya.
No free press
Although ‘free speech’ and ‘free press’ are being lauded and glorified in the murder of the French journalists, no such thing exists in any capitalist state. The press in France or in the US is not free, open or accessible.
The media are owned by and serve the interests of the ruling class. What can be said and who can say it is tightly controlled. The corporate media in capitalist society are owned to serve class rule. What is covered depends entirely on who can pay for publication or airtime.
A handful of multibillion-dollar media conglomerates control almost all information, culture and entertainment in the western capitalist countries — though in the past decade social media and the internet have opened a few tiny cracks in this overwhelming corporate control [just as small-scale people's printing presses did formerly].
The media industry has an enormous impact in shaping which lives have value and which deaths go unreported, unmarked or consciously covered up.
The hundreds of thousands of deaths in wars initiated by US imperialism, and with the full support of French and British imperialism, are unmarked, unmourned and callously labeled ‘collateral damage’. The media ignore or barely mention the enormous toll in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan. No mass sympathy is created when a US drone wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan or a whole village with a hellfire missile.
The assassinations of journalists in these wars are hardly noted. There were no state funerals for the 166 journalists killed in Iraq under US occupation. Chelsea Manning is in prison for releasing videos of US helicopters gunning down two Reuter’s camera operators in Iraq and then circling back to kill the family who stopped their van to try to help them.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms, 15 journalists were killed in the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza. They “were killed in civilian sites that are supposed to be safe for civilians”. Eight media centres were targeted and bombed.
US bombers targeted and destroyed the RTS, Radio TV Serbia, in the 1999 US/Nato war on Yugoslavia, killing 17 journalists.
The most dangerous country in the world for journalists is Honduras. Since the US-backed coup, 46 media and information workers have been assassinated.
The International Federation of Journalists sharply criticised Nato’s 2011 air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15. The IFJ stated that the strikes violated international law and UN resolutions.
If a free press existed, then Chelsea Manning would not be in prison or Edward Snowden and Julian Assange on the run, living in exile.
What media are even allowed coverage in imperialist countries demonstrates how little freedom of the press is respected. For example, Press TV, an Iranian news channel broadcasting in English, is banned from broadcasting via satellite throughout Europe, Canada and the US. Al-Manar, a Lebanese satellite station affiliated with Hezbollah, has also been banned by France, Germany and the US.
Both Press TV and Al-Manar have protested, to no avail, that this is a grave breach of freedom of speech. While both news channels are available via the internet in limited form, Apple and Google have removed Al-Manar mobile apps.
National oppression and racism in France cannot be ignored. There are 5.5 million residents of African origin, many of them born in France and most of them citizens. A large number are from muslim backgrounds [usually from former French colonies], although not all are practicing. They are isolated by poverty in suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing.
Just as prisons in the US, overwhelmingly imprison black and brown youth, so too do French prisons. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country’s prison system are muslim, according to muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country’s population. (Washington Post Foreign Service, 29 April 2008)
Imperialism needs hatred of targeted peoples. Western politicians have cynically used islamophobia to advance right-wing political agendas and curtail freedoms.
Regardless of whether a police conspiracy is ever exposed, we do know that the French ruling class and the corporate media are always primed to take full advantage of such acts to reinforce the repressive state apparatus and sow division among the working class.
There should not be an iota of confidence in the news stories of this massacre at Charlie Hebdo. We know only what we are being told in the corporate media by French military police and state intelligence agencies.
We do know that three men, who are now dead, were tools of imperialism in their wars of conquest in Syria and Libya. More than 1,000 French citizens of Arab and North African descent have been recruited, trained, armed and used as weapons conduits, saboteurs and terrorists in the efforts of US, France, Britain, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the government of Syria.
This leads to the fundamental question of whose policies are responsible for the massacre and who gains from the massacre?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, US imperialism, aided by the old colonial powers of Europe, has been engaged in a whole series of wars to reconquer countries that had achieved a high level of development based on sovereignty and control of their resources.
In their frantic efforts to recolonise Iraq, Syria and Libya, they have cynically whipped up sectarian divisions, organised deadly militias and promoted fanaticism and anarchy. That has aroused deep-seated rage against the US, France and Britain.
It is also highly unpopular that French imperialism is widely involved in Africa — primarily in the majority-muslim countries of Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, Ivory Coast and Djibouti, and in Abu Dhabi on the Arabian peninsula.
The French ruling class wants to divert mass attention from its expanding wars and increasingly militarised society. The mobilisations claiming to defend a free press by defending racism must be opposed and countered.
The documents showed that responsibility for torture went right to the top − sanctioned by Kenya’s governor, Evelyn Baring, and authorised at cabinet level in London by Alan Lennox-Boyd, then secretary of state for the colonies in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government.
When told that torture and abuse were routine in colonial prisons, Mr Lennox-Boyd did not order that such practices be stopped, but instead took steps to place them beyond legal sanction. “Compelling force” was allowed, but defined so loosely as to permit virtually any kind of physical abuse.
Why did the British keep these documents, instead of destroying them? Plenty else was burned, or dumped at sea, as the British left Kenya.
The answer lay in the unease of some British colonial officers. Many did not like what they saw. When the orders to torture came down, some realised the jeopardy they were in. These men worried that it was they, not their commanders, who would carry the can.
They were right to worry. Official reports from the 1950s always blamed individual officers − the “bad apples in the barrel” − for acts of abuse. But the blame lay not with junior officers forced to implement a bad policy but with the senior echelons of a colonial government that was rotten to the core.
Quoted from ‘Atoning for the sins of empire‘ by David M Anderson, New York Times, 12 June 2013.
Let’s be clear. Torture was and is standard practice for imperialists trying to hold on to their colonies. Eventually, the truth always comes out. And, of course, when they are forced to admit to past atrocities, present-day rulers always look sad and try to pretend that this sort of thing is an aberration from the long-distant past.
“Of course, it was all a long time ago. Nothing like that could ever happen now,” we are told. No, our lovely boys in Afghanistan / Iraq / Libya / Syria are perfect gentlemen, bringing peace and democracy to grateful natives, while our ‘precision’ bombs ’surgically remove’ ‘high-end targets’ to great local jubilation. It’s not imperialism, it’s a noble mission to help those poor benighted souls, who, for some strange reason, are incapable of managing their affairs without our altruistic input.
Castlereagh? All in the past. Abu Ghraib? Bad apples. Guantanamo Bay? A special case. Bagram? Nothing to see here. Over and over and over again.
Right now, though, it’s exceedingly good to see some Kenyans finally getting a small acknowledgement for the extreme brutality they suffered at British hands. Now if imperialist multinationals could stop looting the country the Kenyan people might have a fighting chance of building a decent life for themselves …
Video: ‘UK in payout talks for Mau Mau victims of torture’ (Press TV)
Article: ‘The Kenya files’ (Proletarian)
Unite statement fails to point out the racism spread by imperialism's wars or the connection between imperialist war crimes abroad and attacks such as the one on Lee Rigby at home.
In the course of a public statement commenting on the death of British soldier Lee Rigby, issued by the Greenwich branch of Unite with the stated intention of promoting “unity in the fight against racism, division and terror”, the union includes the following intriguing health warning:
“We … recognise that there will be many other groups and organisations who will wish to seek to organise against the forces of racism and division. While welcome, there will be those who may not have roots in the area.
“Our request as a large, representative trade union that organises working people in this area is that there is a recognition that the trade unions based in the borough will along with others play a lead role. Therefore, let us unite and work together against those who seek to terrorise and divide.”
What can this mean? Who are these mysterious folk without ‘roots in the area’ whose ‘welcome’ must be tempered with caution? What are the mysterious ‘other groups and organisations’ which, it is hinted, might disrupt the even flow of Unite’s campaign against racism? This we are not told.
Is the worry perhaps that someone, anyone, might actually stand up and point out the elephant in the room: the obvious connection between Rigby’s death and the death of so many millions of Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans and others at the hands of imperialism?
Or that someone, anyone, may point out that the union’s chief beneficiary, the Labour party, has itself been the architect of much of this slaughter, and now actively supports the attempted subversion of independent Syria from the opposition benches?
The absence of even the slightest reference anywhere to imperialism’s global racism – played out in an endless string of criminal wars and assassinations – is indeed remarkable in a statement intending to unite workers in a struggle against racism, and can only be explained by the pernicious influence of Labour on the union.
After scurrying in the first paragraph to “totally and without any reservation condemn the senseless and barbaric murder” of Rigby, not a peep of condemnation is to be heard of the innumerable war crimes that bloody the hands of British imperialism, and which inevitably bring in their train such individual acts of terror.
The truth is that the biggest obstacle to working-class unity in the struggle against racism is the way that social democracy keeps the proletariat tied to the war chariot of imperialism. If anything can be said to undermine Unite’s efforts to push back the tide of racist panic, it is above all the influence of the Labour party.
If ‘large, representative trade unions that organise working people’ like Unite are serious about fighting racist divisions in the working class, let them take the bold step of initiating a campaign of active non-cooperation with British imperialist war crimes. Let them instruct their own members to refuse to shift war supplies, print war propaganda or assist in any way with the imperialist war effort, and support them when they are penalised for taking this principled stand.
And let them thereby demonstrate in practice, by their own actions the superiority of collective class struggle over individual acts of revenge.
This motion was passed overwhelmingly at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
Affirming that “A nation is a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture” (JV Stalin), this congress is of the view that at the time of the 1707 union of England and Scotland, Scotland was not a nation since it lacked more than one of the essential characteristics of nationhood.
This congress notes that during the half century following the Jacobite rising and the 1746 battle of Culloden, which resulted in the suppression of the Jacobites, the destruction of the feudal system was followed by a phenomenal development of capitalism in Scotland, during which Scotland acquired all the characteristics of nationhood. However, precisely at that time, such were the dialectics of history that the Scottish people threw in their lot, along with the English people, into building a common British nation. The development of capitalism in Scotland not only bridged the gap between the highlands and the lowlands of Scotland, but it also made the Scottish economy indistinguishable from that of England. By 1815, there were no separate English and Scottish economies but only a common British economy.
Congress further notes that the Scottish people – from all classes, not just the bourgeois sections of it – played a vital role in building the British nation, of which they have been an integral part ever since. The British nation is neither an English racket nor an elitist project of the ruling circles of England and Scotland. The British nation is well and truly a historically-evolved stable community with a common language and a common territory, with a common economic life that welds the various parts of England and Scotland into an economic whole, and with a common psychological make-up.
This congress affirms that, contrary to Scottish nationalist myths, Scotland was neither an oppressed nation nor subject to English colonialism. Nor was she a junior partner of England. Far from it: the Scots played an equal, and on many occasions a leading, role in the economic, cultural and social life of Britain, as well as in the establishment of the British empire, which at one time ruled over one third of humanity.
Congress further affirms that, contrary to the myths propagated by the ‘left’ Scottish nationalists, at no time was the working-class movement in Scotland driven by separatist and nationalist sentiments. If, from time to time, the militant movement of the Scottish working class dug into Scottish history and used the names of such figures from the past as William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, it was for no other reason than to invoke figures from the past who had fought against established authority. The names of these figures, and the songs associated with them, were just as much invoked by the workers in the Lancashire mills, while, conversely, no matter how misguidedly, the Magna Carta was invoked in the struggle against the bourgeoisie not only by the workers in Lancashire and many other places in England but also by those in Scotland. Indeed, it was not uncommon for the Scottish workers at their militant demonstrations to sing ‘God Save the King’.
This congress is of the view that, historically, the workers in Scotland, just as in England, faced the British state and endeavoured either to reform it or to overthrow it. At no time did the Scottish working class hold the view that its misery could be ended through the separation of Scotland from England. Scottish workers overwhelmingly regarded themselves as British, just as did the workers in England. They were firmly of the view that they sank or swam as British proletarians.
This congress is further of the view that, notwithstanding any outward appearances of ‘independence’ that may follow a ‘Yes’ vote in the 2014 referendum, the only real separation achieved in practice would be from fellow workers in the rest of Britain. In times of crisis, nationalism, like racism, is a useful tool for our rulers in dividing our movement and stopping us from effectively fighting the system of capitalist exploitation.
This congress believes that the historically-constituted British ruling class has no intention of allowing its own unity or strength to be in any way diluted. Most especially, it has no intention of allowing its financial or military apparatus, and thus its ability to project imperial power into the world, to be broken up. The fact that the bourgeois-nationalist SNP is gradually ditching all its apparently ‘progressive’ policies as it edges closer to the possibility of taking power in a nominally independent Scotland is a clear sign of this fact. Alex Salmond and his cronies have agreed that ‘independent’ Scotland would keep the same head of state (ie, the British queen), the same currency (the British pound) and the same army regiments. SNP leaders are in the process of ditching their manifesto promise to take Scotland out of Nato, which would then clear the way to ditch the commitment to drop trident.
This congress further believes that the apparent willingness of the SNP to maintain funding for education and health services is nothing more than a short-term bribe to Scottish workers, aimed at persuading them to pin their hopes for a way out of the crisis onto capitalist politicians, while removing them from a joint fight against privatisation with their counterparts in England. In reality, they are simply allowing the ruling class to attack workers one section at a time – thus helping it achieve its aim of saving its rotten system by making the poorest pay for the crisis.
In view of the foregoing, this congress believes that the Scottish nationalist movement is a retrogressive and reactionary enterprise, whose success can only bring in its wake a catastrophic split in the unity of the historically-constituted British proletariat.
This congress therefore resolves:
- To work for a NO vote in the Scottish referendum.
- To hold at least one further party school on the subject of Scottish nationalism, with the aim of helping comrades to become confident in arguing the party’s case amongst workers who have become infected with nationalist sentiments.
- To produce two pamphlets: one based on the discussion article in Lalkar, which lays out the scientific case against Scottish nationalism, and another that uses simple language to address common questions and concerns, such as (for example) ‘Are you asking me to be proud to be British?’, ‘Aren’t you in favour of more local powers for Scottish people?’ and ‘Won’t Scottish independence lead to the weakening of British imperialism?’
A CPGB-ML member recently received this Unity statement from his local Trade Union Council:
We affirm the values of unity, tolerance and mutual respect, which have always helped people from different backgrounds to live together.
We are deeply concerned at the activity of fascist groups such as the British National Party, which use people’s fears to stir up race hate. They will attempt to use the coming general and council election to spread their poisonous message.
We reject their demonisation of Muslims, and their claim to speak for Christians, as an affront to both religions.
Islamophobia – bigotry against Muslims – is as unacceptable as any other form of racism. It divides and weakens our society by making scapegoats of one community, just as Hitler’s Nazis did by targeting Jews in the 1930s. Today the bigotry may be directed against Muslims; tomorrow it could be Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, black people, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender or Queer people, travellers or Eastern Europeans.
There should be no place for racists or fascists in South London’s multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious community.
We know that their poison is rejected by an overwhelming majority of the electorate, and so we believe that a high turnout of voters is key to marginalising them.
We urge everyone to use their vote – and give a clear signal that messages of race hatred and division are not welcome here.
Our member replied as follows:
I appreciate the hard work you put in organising the Local Trades Council.
I think this statement, though, is not worthy of your support, at least if you are genuinely seeking to promote an anti-racist line in the British working class.
The danger of this statement is that it entirely ignores the racism and islamophobia generated by leaders of the mainstream parties in order to divide workers, to whom they offer nothing but cuts in the forthcoming election.
Why should we encourage the voters to turn out in high numbers to vote for these racist, capitalist, anti-working class warmongers?
I’m afraid This UAF/SWP line is a disguised call to vote Labour. But it was Gordon Brown himself who led the chant of “British jobs for british workers” from his lectern in parliament. Even Cameron blushed at this crude racist slogan - the slogan of the BNP, made explicitly Labour.
If you have ever heard the utterances of Phil Woolas you’d realise the danger doesn’t stem from the BNP, but from Labour’s actual policies right now.
Immigrants are imprisoned indefinitely in this country, without commiting any crime and without any judicial process. Among their number are thousands of children.
Are we to ask voters - workers - to turn out in large numbers to affirm their approval for giving £850bn to banks, cutting public services, locking up foreign children, and genocide against Iraqis and Afghans because ‘otherwise the BNP will get in’??
If you had the misfortune to see that awful ‘first election debate’ on TV last night, you’ll see that all three mainstream parties, as well as UKIP and the BNP, are in a bidding war to denounce immigration as the source of “putting pressure on indigenous communities”. What a farce! What of the capitalist economic crisis?
Nick Clegg, that famous ‘liberal’, even suggested legeslation to restrict immigrants to specific administrative zones where they would be issued limited work permits.
What more could the BNP ask for than what these gentlemen propose and Gordon Brown and the Labour party actually does?
It is high time the ‘left’ gave up their unrequited love for the Labour party and actually gave the working class some leadership.
I commend this article to you for further consideration.
In response, the trade-union comrade wrote:
Thanks for your email - what I propose to do is feed this back to the local UAF and our committee for consideration.
My personal answer is for trade unionists to be involved in the Labour party - which trade unions created - and reclaim it for what it is. This is doable - just need people to turn up. That is a personal view not official TUC.
Reminder - have you joined your union?
Our comrade wrote back again:
Thanks for your reply, comrade, and for your serious consideration of the points I raised.
I would say to you that the Labour party, from its inception, has explicitly rejected socialism in the sense that this envisages working people actually holding power.
It has always been dedicated to empire, colonial oppression, the capitalist market and the supression of major working-class movements (from the 1926 general strike, to the 1984 miners’ strike and beyond, to the present day BA strikes, etc, though these are not of the same order).
It wanted to represent the interests of a privileged minority of workers in parliament, and saw the privilege as being inherently connected to the good fortunes of its own exploiting ruling class and that class’s unbridled oppression of much of the world, from Ireland to India, with the boot falling a little lighter at home. A few more pecuniary concessions for workers, to keep them ‘on board’ when times are good. That was its mission.
The abolition of Clause 4 was no more than bringing Labour’s words in line with its deeds. There is really very little to ‘reclaim’ of Labour’s heritage that can be of use to workers, and at a time of capitalist recession, an avowedly capitalist party must serve its masters - hence the banking bailout and cuts all round, with a good dose of anti-immigrant hysteria to whip workers into a mutually destructive frenzy.
We need to move on. Urgently.
People don’t ‘turn up’ until they are inspired to do so. And forced to. Why should they come to anyone who just pushes them back to the Labour party? Why would they not just stay at home, save their time and vote Labour? There’s clearly something missing from this strategy.
There has never been a better time to break links with Labour party opportunism. What crime must the party commit before you give it up as a spent force and seek a divorce?
I would ask you to put this question seriously and soberly to yourself: can you actually think of any crime that would make you think that the Labour party was not fit to lead the working-class struggle?
If not, then is your programme based more on blind faith than an insightful analysis? Can it be called a programme at all? Is that a productive way to lead any struggle? Can you envisage no other road to power than through a capitalist parliament and state set up to serve capitalism and oppress workers?
Is this not the reason almost every Labour politician ‘deserts’ any radical position as soon as they come anywhere close to office, assuming they ever carried such notions? This is a systemic failure, which goes well beyond abuse of expenses. Not just individual weakness, but inherent design.
Can you seperate the performance of the Labour party on any major issue from the other capitalist parties?
It is advanced workers such as yourself, Anton, that give real leadership and tireless effort to many aspects of the trade-union and political movement.
If you cannot make this step, how can you help others to do so? It is the Achilles’ heel of our movement, and it allows our political system to discount our views entirely - since those in charge rightly calculate that no matter what they do, you’ll just go on voting Labour, and therefore pose no real threat to capitalist interests.
Break the link! We must build unity of workers, under a basic common programme that serves to educate and organise. That will never happen until we break irrevocably with Labour opportunism and chauvanism, which seeks to lull workers to sleep or, failing all else, scapegoat immigrants and muslims and incyte workers to reactionary pogroms!
Campaigns against the BNP in this context are at best a gross neglect of our most urgent tasks, and at worst a conscious smokescreen designed to bolster Labour party imperialism.
I hope you will consider these arguments also in the comradely manner in which they are intended.
Bectu members received the following email from their union today:
I am writing to let you know about EXPOSE, a new campaign of media workers and students – journalists, technicians, designers, musicians and actors – that is dedicated to exposing the British National Party as the racists, homophobes, anti-Semites, women-haters and fascists that they are.
BECTU are working with our colleagues from the NUJ to support the launch of ‘EXPOSE’, a campaigning group set up to provide well-researched information and background briefings for reporters, news editors and others in our industry in order to challenge the BNP’s statements and spokespersons, and the racism and criminality at the heart of their organisation.
Below is how one member responded:
It’s not the BNP, but the Labour party that needs exposing. Everyone knows what the BNP is about. And it is Labour’s racism that has created the conditions in which the BNP has grown and thrived.
Labour has dehumanised and massacred millions of innocent people in the Middle East. Labour has demonised British muslims. Labour has built concentration camps for immigrants. Labour has brought in ‘anti-terror’ legislation that it uses against peaceful demonstrators and the entire muslim community. Labour has dismantled British civil liberties. Labour has given billions to the failed banks, while encouraging working people to believe that it is immigrants who are to blame for the lack of health care, child care, education, jobs, pensions and houses. Labour continues to use anti-trade union legislation to crush working peoples’ attempts at resistance to cuts in their pay and conditions.
All these things have helped the BNP to grow. Labour has the blood of millions on its hands and yet our unions try to tell us that voting Labour is the only option if we want to ‘keep the Tories out’ or ‘keep the BNP out’. This campaign has less to do with exposing the BNP, who are already fairly well exposed, than with trying to save the electoral chances of the current government of Labour war criminals. Meanwhile, the side effect is that you will give lots of publicity to the BNP!
The fact is that the capitalists are more than happy for people who feel abandoned by and disillusioned with Labour to turn to the BNP, since the BNP further encourages racism and division between working people. This division is the very thing that keeps workers weak and at the mercy of big corporations and the state. As far as the capitalists are concerned, the BNP is a perfectly acceptable ‘alternative’ vote, since it doesn’t threaten their ability to continue to plunder and exploit at home or abroad. They see it merely as a safety valve in times of economic crisis, when people are becoming more militantly disaffected.
But, despite all the publicity it receives, and the recruiting work that the Labour party and corporate media does for it, the BNP is not currently anywhere near to power. The real threat to working people right now is the Labour party. And the best way to explain that, and to keep people away from the BNP too, is to ditch Labour and become part of a real workers’ movement against the failed system of capitalism and for socialism - the only system that is capable of abolishing all forms of inequality and putting workers’ interests and needs first.
With the bank crisis fresh in people’s minds and the prospect of a fresh assault on workers’ jobs, houses, pay and pensions after the election, no matter which party of capital wins, there has never been a better time to get involved in the real struggle for workers’ rights: the anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist struggle for socialism. On the other hand, there is no better way to reveal our uselessness than to go flogging the same old dead horse of trying to bring people back into the Labour party fold, and tie them to the system that has created all the problems we see today: economic meltdown, a gap of 100 times between Britain’s richest and poorest, criminal genocidal wars, stealth privitisation of essential services, spiralling unemployment, racist and anti-immigrant hysteria, the increasing criminalisation of protest, etc.
As media workers, we should be looking a bit closer to home in our battle to fight all this. The propaganda that fuels support for criminal wars and anti-terror and anti-immigrant legislation and demonisation couldn’t be put out without our members’ cooperation. Journalists write this rubbish to order. Technicians print and broadcast it. How about a campaign to stop helping the capitalists to make us complicit in their crimes?
As capitalism descends deeper into crisis, the ruling class are getting more aggressive in their efforts to push the burdens of the slump onto workers’ backs. In these circumstances, the working class needs to be hard-headed about (a) just what they are fighting for, and (b) what grounds there are for confidence that their struggles will meet with success.
It would be comforting simply to hail the militancy of the striking construction workers, whose recent bold initiative in taking unofficial action over jobs has put the bosses and the government on the back foot, as winning a decisive victory for the British working class – comforting, but wrong.
It would be comforting to pretend that the battle lines coincided neatly with the struggle of labour against capital, and that the strikers and unions involved were free from the taint of “British jobs for British workers” chauvinism – comforting, but wrong.
It would be comforting to nod along with the New Communist Party’s line in the New Worker of 13th February 2009, under a headline blaring “Victory in Lindsey dispute”. How cosy it would be to nod sagely as Derek Simpson of Unite tells us that the Lindsey deal “establishes the principle of fair access for UK workers”, as the first stage in the battle against “employers who are excluding UK workers from even applying for work on construction projects”. How comforting it would be to pretend that the crucial issue confronting workers is not the failure of capitalism to guarantee employment to all workers but the failure of government to reserve a quota of the dwindling jobs pool for British workers.
In short, it would be far more comfortable all round to believe that workers really do now have the opportunity to unite behind the existing trade union leadership, guided by the political perspectives offered by the “left” of the Labour party and their sundry hangers-on, and that the only racist blot on the horizon is the fascist posturing of the British Nationalist Party (BNP) on the far fringes of “respectable” political life. Such illusions must indeed be comforting – but are completely false.
The BNP feeds off the racial prejudice sown amongst workers over a very long period by a labour aristocracy which has been specially groomed for this task by their imperialist masters. The natural habitat of this privileged layer of workers has throughout been the Labour party and the TUC which that party dominates. The emergence of “New” Labour has simply exposed the essentially bourgeois orientation of the party, now largely stripped of the protective colouration once provided by its proletarian membership.
The purpose of sowing racism amongst workers has been to divide and weaken organised labour. In the 19th century the scapegoat was the “Irish navvy”. In the 1930s it was primarily the “wandering Jew”, in the 1960s it was the West Indian and in the 1980s it was the “Paki”. Right now the scapegoats include migrant workers from Eastern Europe (their former socialist homelands now enduring capitalist meltdown), refugees from underdevelopment and war (both a consequence of imperialism), and just about anyone who is, or might conceivably be mistaken for, a Muslim.
This divide-and-rule use of racism is not just some random tactic happened upon by imperialism. By keeping the labour movement tied to the neo-colonial oppression meted out by the ruling class, the imperialist Labour party stands on guard on the exploiters’ behalf, ever ready to undermine the anti-capitalist efforts of the proletariat.
In the course of the latest “British Jobs for British Workers” furore, the bourgeois propaganda campaign has continued to play out through a very familiar division of labour. Whilst the angry victims of unemployment are persuaded to wrap themselves in the Union Jack and demand a “fair deal for Brits”, the “great and good” of the “left” Labour establishment present themselves as the guard dogs of “respectable” politics. On the one hand these gentry strive to pen the “wildcats” back within the legal pale, on the other they pretend to identify the BNP as the sole chauvinist threat.
By posturing as defenders of democracy against the BNP, apologists for the Labour party seek in practice to bind workers yet tighter to social democracy – the real pimp for fascism. Job done, these hypocrites can wash their own hands of any responsibility for the chauvinist panic they have helped to unleash, leaving it to the hysterical tabloids to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s in this cautionary tale of “dirty foreigners stealing our jobs”.
Meanwhile, of course, the Labour party in government is free to go on building concentration camps for asylum seekers and their children, implementing racist immigration controls, criminalising trade union resistance and stacking ever higher the “anti-terror” legislation – purportedly against “Muslim terrorists”, but in reality a gun aimed at the working class if and when it decides to kick off. BNP, eat your heart out! With social democratic friends like this, who needs fascist enemies?
So what does “victory” look like in these times of crisis, and what does “defeat” look like? “Victory” may be claimed when a deal is cut with management whereby the workforce agrees to stomach a wage cut or short-time working in exchange for a promise of no more redundancies – yet. Or “victory” may be a deal cut with management to guarantee a quota of “British” jobs. However, jobs “defended” by such means can only demoralise the work force, pit one group of workers against another – and in any case pave the way for further retrenchment and defeats. To trumpet such deals as “victories” can bring only false comfort to workers in struggle, ill preparing them for yet tougher battles still to come.
The TUC and “left” Labour riposte runs as follows:
1. The recession is inevitable. If it’s anybody’s fault it’s the bankers, so we need a few heads to roll and a bit more regulation.
2. The best “we” can all do is sit it out and share the pain out a bit more “fairly”, helped along by a dose of Keynesian anaesthesia.
3. Anyway better times are round the corner, and it’s probably time we stopped “our” spendthrift ways and welcome a brave new world of virtuous austerity, ushering in a “greener” Britain.
By this logic, workers need to demand a “fair” distribution of wage cuts (you shave off a percentage of your fat cat bonus and we’ll swallow deteriorating pay and conditions) and a “fair” distribution of the rapidly diminishing jobs supply (with first place in the queue reserved for white British – otherwise the BNP will get in!).
The crisis is indeed inevitable – that much they have got right. But the scale of the crisis is at least on a par with the two great crises of the 20th century, each of which convulsed world society, spawning wars and revolutions. What workers need to be hearing is not soothing advice on how to collaborate with capitalism so that “we British” can weather the storm together. What workers need to hear is the truth: that their class interests are in open and direct contradiction with those of the exploiters; that organisation is the only weapon the proletariat possesses in its fight against capitalism; that everything which disunites workers also blunts that weapon of organisation; that complicity with oppression abroad and racism at home are the single most potent threat to the unity of the working class; and that the single most important task with which imperialism entrusts its social democratic gendarmes is to enforce that complicity upon the British working class.
So what does “victory” or “defeat” look like in these crisis days? To trample over the union-bashing laws, say “sod the ballot” and walk off the job – that is a most welcome proof of the continued fighting spirit of the working class. But to walk off the job and into the arms of the chauvinist TUC and Labour party – that is to court the most dangerous political setbacks for the whole class.
Victory must increasingly be measured in terms of the political gains workers win for themselves. Victory must be measured by how far workers can get out from under the disorganising influence of social democracy, how far workers can draw on their reserves of class militancy to challenge capitalism itself. Along this path, many tactics and many forms of organisation may present themselves. The workers in Waterford and elsewhere have refreshed memories on the potential of the occupation and work-in as tactics in the class war. Sooner than accept the capitalist’s plaint – “the order book is empty chaps, what can I do about it?” – the workers can demonstrate that it is the commodity market that is satiated, not the consumption needs of those who labour.
Attempts to rebuild militant organisation within the unions through initiatives like the National Shop Stewards Network – itself a logical development of the RMT’s own organisational break with Labour – will only thrive to the degree that they are able to cut loose from the false comfort offered by the “old hands” of “left” Labour and get serious about uniting the class to challenge the whole system of wage slavery.
As the working class learns to break the link with the Labour party, there are excellent reasons for anticipating a victorious outcome for its struggles. It is this message, not the false comfort offered by the “left” Labour swamp, which should command the attention of class-conscious workers.
Via The Guardian
Under the banner of the EU, and without parliament’s consent, the Home Office is taking data from children entering the UK.
Two months ago, the UK Borders Agency began fingerprinting foreign
children over six years old, from outside the European Economic Area and resident in Britain. At the time Jacqui Smith was congratulated for her tough line on issuing identity cards to foreign residents and no one, not even parliament, noticed that the biometric requirements applied to children of six. And parliament didn’t know because it was never asked to approve the policy.
Nowhere in the world are you more powerless than at a border. As a foreigner you also enjoy far fewer rights than locals. Do you think these children or their parents dare to speak up against the bureaucracy of the UK Borders Agency? In fact, no one has called the Borders Agency to account. Home Office officials I have talked to outside the agency were shocked that official government policy is now to fingerprint children.
When asked why (question 226407), the Home Office itself offers a much more solid defence: that the EU requires it. What it does not admit is that the British government is almost alone in pushing the EU to ensure that the age when fingerprinting can start is so low. Home Office officials pushed the EU to establish a standard age of six, despite opposition within other European governments. The next time you hear a government official support the EU, it is not just because it is a vehicle for “peace, prosperity and freedom”, but also because it is a vehicle to push through policies that the UK government would prefer not to pursue through the legislature at home.
The Bush administration rejected the contemplation of fingerprinting children, even within the controversial US-VISIT program that fingerprints visitors to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security is prohibited from fingerprinting children under 14, though it may well consider lowering it.
The Bush administration and the UK government have both pushed bad
policies through international bodies over the last eight years. The UN was compelled by the UK and the US to adopt shared standards to monitor foreigners and travellers around the world. In turn, when the government wanted to justify ID cards, it pointed to the international obligations to adopt biometric passports. When it collects information about British citizens’ travel habits, it will use “international standards” as a justification.
The bitter irony is that when the Bush administration tried to do exactly what these international standards propose – through collecting all travel information and other data about individuals to develop a risk score that they cannot correct – there was international condemnation. When the UK government wants to push exactly the same measures, and in fact collect even more data than the US, there is absolute silence because everyone in Britain thinks the UK government is just following international obligations.
Even if the Obama administration reverses course on treating entire populations as suspected criminals, the UK government will continue to hawk bad surveillance policy. Yet some of its most invasive practices and plans will never be reviewed by parliament. Just as Britons are powerless at the border of another country, they are also powerless within their own country.
Paradoxically, the European parliament pushed back against the European governments’ attempts to lower the fingerprinting age of citizens for their passports to six years old. Instead, the European parliament gained a “victory” recently by getting the standard raised to 12. So now the EU is requiring that teenagers across the EU be fingerprinted for their passports. Indeed, the UK government will now probably argue that it has to follow suit. The government has promised, however, that ID cards (which are based on passports, which are in turn based on EU “obligations”) would only be issued to people aged 16 or over. Will that pledge hold? Or will the fact that foreign residents in Britain have been forced to accept it and international standards, of course, be used as an excuse to issue children with compulsory ID?