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.