FORTY years ago this week, Blair Peach was murdered. He was murdered by the police for standing up to the racism and fascism of the National Front, for joining with thousands of others to prevent them from marching unopposed through Ealing.
Just like the battle of Cable Street, 43 years earlier, the police and the Establishment were on the side of the racists and fascists and their “right” to free speech, not on the side of working-class people from the communities of Ealing, Southall and the East End, who were to bear the brunt of this hatred and division.
And today, the day after the first annual Stephen Lawrence Day, Stephen’s father says he no longer expects all of his son’s killers to be brought to justice.
Following a botched and allegedly corrupt police investigation, two of the killers were finally brought to justice in 2012, but police say the ongoing investigation is shelved unless new information comes to light.
The fact is, in spite of some advances in legislation, and some moves to tackle the most explicit institutional racism, the police and the law courts cannot be relied on to fight racism. It is too deeply ingrained in our system.
From the racial bias in school exclusions, exposed by campaign group No More Exclusions, to the ongoing discrimination in pay and pensions, capitalism and racism go hand in hand.
Racism is part of the fundamental basis on which capitalism is built. The division and super-exploitation of working-class communities on the basis of “race” is a fundamental part of the capitalist social and economic model.
That means the only way to truly fight racism is to build solidarity in our communities, to take on the racists and the fascists on the streets and to fight for an alternative society, not based on divisions of class and race.
The same is true of the environmental catastrophe that faces our planet. We cannot look to capitalism to solve the crisis because the anarchic production of profit, without any thought to the future, which has caused this situation, is itself the very nature of how capitalism works.
It is no coincidence that the only country to meet its climate change targets ahead of schedule, and to be investing further in protecting its natural environment and its people against the effects of climate change is socialist Cuba.
That is because decision-making in Cuba is driven by the common good, not by the need to drive up profits for capital.
While we must fight for change under the current system, and must pressure capitalist governments to act on climate change, we should also be clear that a genuine solution to the environmental crisis will only come through socialism.
This poses and interesting dilemma for the Extinction Rebellion movement. It has been incredibly successful in mobilising people to take to the streets to defend the future of humanity. But the theory that mobilising enough of the population in a non-violent social movement will inevitably lead to change is flawed.
It is not backed up by the evidence. For example, many movements considered as examples of non-violence (Indian independence, South African anti-apartheid) were anything but.
The reality is that genuine change requires taking the movement further. It requires revolution.
So we should build in our communities against racism and the far right, and for a global response to climate change, and we should take to the streets to challenge the far right, and to press governments to act on climate change.
But ultimately, in all of this, we need to be building a movement, not to demand that governments listen to the people, but to replace them with people’s governments, to replace capitalism with socialism.
It is our job to build the revolution.
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