#ResistRacism this Saturday!


“The Tories are seeking to scapegoat those with the least power to distract from the failings of those with the most.“

Ben Hayes

By Ben Hayes

Saturday’s Resist Racism demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff come at a timely moment. Called by Stand Up To Racism and supported by a broad range of organisations, including the TUC and numerous community and faith groups, thousands will take to the streets to push back against the wave of reaction seen on various fronts.

This week’s second reading of the so-called “Illegal Migration Bill”, described as “amounting to an asylum ban” by the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, was indicative of what has become an increasingly apparent strategy of a hugely unpopular and internally fractured Conservative Party as we enter the latter stages of the current Parliamentary term. To put it simply, they are seeking to scapegoat those with the least power to distract from the failings of those with the most. As well as the direct impact of the legislation in terms of policy, its potential to embolden some of the most reactionary elements of British society has already been seen in the mobilisations by far-right groups targeting accommodation housing asylum seekers.

The Spring Budget and ongoing cost-of-living crisis also give this year’s march a particular relevance. Austerity measures have already exacerbated existing forms of inequality, with a 2019 report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur stating that government policies were “entrenching racism”. The fact that black workers and communities are amongst those hardest hit by austerity is one of the reasons that anti-racism must be a key component of the struggle against it. In addition to this, the use of divisive politics to try and undermine and confuse popular discontent is a long-established strategy in times of crisis: the labour movement has a responsibility to counter this with a message of clarity and unity.

As well as mobilsing on the issues of today, the fact that these demonstrations are being called to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination prompts reflection on an important piece of history in one of the defining battles against racism and for human progress of the past 75 years: the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, where 69 people were shot and killed by the apartheid police force of South Africa after attending a march against the “pass laws” implemented to segregate and place restrictions on black citizens. Events such as Saturday’s march are an important way to ensure that this history is acknowledged and we build a world which truly learns from it.

For all the voices of reaction are amplified in some quarters, we should not lose sight of the fact that that such viewpoints only enjoy minority support on many questions. The overwhelming rejection of attempts to use Match of the Day as a weapon against any challenge to the government’s narrative on asylum, both by prominent football pundits and the wider public, reflects a sense of humanity and decency which was also seen in the disgust of millions over the Windrush scandal. 

Last month’s Ireland For All demonstration, which brought tens of thousands onto the streets shows the kind of response needed to events such as those which took place in Knowsley. For the left in Britain, Saturday should be the start of a sustained pushback on this issue- including organising against arguments inside the Labour Party itself which give ground to toxic politics.

Wherever your nearest march is, come along to help make it as large a display of unity and defiance as possible- and keep that spirit going by working to build a mass and determined movement in the period ahead.

Featured image: Stand up to racism at the cost of living crisis demo on June 19th. Photo credit: Stand up to Racism

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