RACIST attitudes are deeply embedded in Britain. And no surprise. Our national territory, big business and banks are the base for one of the mightiest imperial powers with, unlike some larger capitalist economies, a global military reach.
The first stages in the extravagant accumulation of capital by our ruling class resulted from our dominance of the slave trade.
Britain’s colonial empire grew with the very first privatisations. It was private enterprise — the East India Company and other so-called merchant adventurers — which subjected the colonial peoples to centuries of exploitation and oppression.
Anyone who thinks this has not left a dangerous mindset among millions of people has not been paying attention.
Of course, there has always been a counter-current — from the Lancashire cotton workers who blockaded raw cotton picked by slave labour to William Morris’s stalwart defence of the anti-colonial protesters rising against British colonial rule in Sudan.
But the ruling ideas were then, and are today, the ideas of the ruling class. Contemporary politics in Britain — with the Cabinet filled with figures educated in private schools whose raison d’etre was the formation of those born to rule at home and in the colonies — is stuffed full with this privileged caste.
In a week in which the TUC Black Workers’ conference reminds us again of the continuing discrimination black workers face — the limited job opportunities, lower wages and fewer education chances — it becomes more urgent to challenge the myths propagated by sections of the mass media that the more recently arrived groups of migrant workers and refugees are somehow privileged with better access to housing and welfare.
Left unchallenged these are the ingredients of the poisonous stew in which racism fuses with anti-foreigner hatred and a wide set of grievances.
The boundary between this everyday racism and outright fascist ideas is too easily crossed, as the peculiar path traversed by Ukip shows.
The Brexit vote killed Ukip’s prospects stone dead and the moribund organisation has attempted a revival as a franchise of Tommy Robinson’s money-grubbing global enterprise.
Meanwhile that Poundshop bourgeois Nigel Farage hopes to gather the largely working-class Brexit-voting electorate behind his new vehicle.
The Brexit Party’s only hope of success hinges on the progress of the big business campaign to subvert the referendum result.
The unending bid by the cross-party coalition of unrepentant Remainers in Parliament to denigrate, dilute and destroy the most profoundly democratic expression of popular sovereignty ever seen in Britain is the fuel for Farage’s fantasy.
“The way Parliament has handled the Brexit process has deepened the poor attitude many hold towards our politicians. Sixty-eight per cent now say that there is not a political party that speaks for them and 55 per cent think the political system is broken.”
These perceptive words come from the anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate which has carried off some impressive coups against Britain’s far-right fringe.
There is a long and honourable tradition on the left of monitoring and subverting — with deep penetration — the endless proliferation of factional far-right groups.
This is vital and necessary work that supplements the broad campaigning, based on the labour movement, that is necessary to transform a widespread tradition of tolerance and fair play into an active anti-racist and anti-fascist popular movement.
All the more necessary then to avoid stigmatising the millions who voted to leave the EU as somehow irredemiably racist while idealising the smaller number who voted to remain even though that undemocratic entity’s trade relations with Europe’s former colonial peoples are deeply exploitative.
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