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THERE is something sinister about Steve Bannon’s presence in the country right at the moment the government is in crisis on Brexit and the Tory right are plotting away.
Earlier this year Bannon met Michael Gove — who was and still is serving in Theresa May’s Cabinet — Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson.
Whenever Theresa May is replaced, there is little doubt her successor will be to the right of her. This, in addition to Boris Johnson’s attacks on Muslim women wearing the niqab (face veil), indicates the possibility of the Tories developing a more Trump-like character in future and why it is important to build a movement against racism.
This week the Oxford Union and Public Service Broadcasters were rightly condemned by anti-racists for giving Bannon a platform.
Justifying the platform in the name of freedom and democracy is easy to refute. First, no-one is denied freedom of speech if they are not given a platform to address the Oxford Union or any other prestigious institution.
The former White House chief political strategist, who helped Trump become US president, and the former executive chairman of Breitbart News Network can hardly claim his voice is not heard.
Second, many political movements across the globe are getting high votes and popular support but are not invited to such prestigious platforms.
Bannon was an adviser to far-right Jair Bolonaro in Brazil and the movement behind Bolsonaro is backed by those who organised a coup against democratically elected left-wing president Dilma Rousseff and imprisoned Lula da Silva.
Those giving Bannon a platform conveniently ignore his own participation in attacks on freedom and democracy.
Everyone agrees with freedom of speech, but everyone also believes that there must be necessary limitations to this. The question is where one draws the line.
The problem with giving Bannon a platform is that legitimises racism and allows him to present himself as some sort of working-class champion, at a time when racist hate crimes are increasing and the economy is stagnating. Precisely these conditions allowed far right and fascist movements to grow in the past.
Bannon is a proud racist. In fact he declared at a far-right event earlier this year: “Let them call you racist … wear it as a badge of honour.”
He also actively supported Tommy Robinson’s campaign against contempt of court charges, including funding violent fascist demonstrations.
He claims he is building a working-class movement when he is a millionaire owner of real estate properties and entertainment companies.
Bannon and the alt-right have no solutions to economic problems that are hitting the living standards of the 99 per cent hard.
In fact Bannon and billionaire Trump are the problem — they are the 1 per cent ensuring they become wealthier, while the rest of us suffer and are using people’s hardship to build support.
As reflected in the recent US midterm elections, they provide a scapegoat not a solution, deliberately stirring up racism. This has included anti-semitic conspiracy theories about George Soros, attacks on Latin American refugees, Islamophobia and attacks on black African-Americans as sharply reflected in Georgia and Florida.
This is the climate in which 11 people were killed in an anti-semitic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Such attacks do not take place in a vacuum and illustrate the precise danger of the campaign to stir up racism, Islamophobia and anti-semitism, in order to distract from and scapegoat for economic problems.
Similar trends are emerging here. The latest hate crime figures recorded by the police show an increase of 17 per cent in the 12 months up to March 2018 and a 40 per cent rise in religious hate crime, with over half directed at Muslims.
In September worshippers outside a mosque in Cricklewood, north London, were attacked by racists in a car who purposely drove into them after shouting Islamophobic abuse.
One cannot separate such attacks from the dehumanising discussion on Muslim women’s dress and the toxic campaign to link sexual abuse and exploitation with Islam as a religion and Muslim people that is whipped by some politicians and sections of the mass media.
The present government crisis is one of its own making in calling a referendum on the EU at the same time as implementing austerity, attacks on the working class and stirring up racism and Islamophobia. This government is creating more problems than it is solving.
The people should decide on how to proceed and get out of this crisis, not the Tory right or international alt-right.
It is time for a Corbyn-led Labour government that implements policies that makes people better off, not worse off, and that stands up to the vile racism of the Tories and the international alt-right. We also need a robust movement against racism and fascism.
That is why trade unions, the labour movement, liberals, socialists, communists, Christians, Muslims, Jews, African, Arab, Asian, Caribbean, Latin American, LGBT+, disabled people and those opposed to the far right and fascism, are united and marching today.
It is time to unite and build a better future.
Sabby Dhalu is co-convener of Stand up to Racism.
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