Be young and shut up

A blog about student activism.

We can’t let the riots move us to the Right

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This is a re-post from Silver Unicorn. Written by Jaye Ware. Jaye is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh. They campaign on LGBTQIA+, feminist, anti-fascist, anarchist and general lefty issues.


I, along with most people in Britain, have been appalled that the recent riots occurred, and my heart goes out to all those affected.  But I’m also deeply disturbed by the reaction to them, in media, by politicians, and by the general public at large.  We’ve gone from a situation where we were having an intelligent debate on welfare reform and social policy to a position of knee jerk reactions calling for draconian penalties for those who committed crimes in the riots, and by David Cameron for more police powers to deal with protests, which may well be used to curtail peaceful protest and freedom of speach.

I’m also deeply distressed by the racist responses that so many people have made, particularly from those who don’t usually sink to engaging in casual racism.  I’m also worried that a group called the ‘Enfield Denfence League’ was established – whilst its stated aim was to protect their community, I doubt it is a coincidence that its name is so similar to the Scottish and English Defence Leagues.

But what I want to write about is the Left’s response to all this.  We have to combat the rise in far right sentiment that’s been expressed lately, and the SDL & EDL are real threats that have to be countered.  But I fear that in responding to the far right, the left will be drawn into debating the merits and demerits of racist and draconian policies – immigrants are not welcome, more police powers, give benefits to only people we approve off, use rubber bullets and water canons.  These have to be countered, but we can’t let this become the centre of debate.  We can’t let the right determine public discourse.  We have to keep the argument about an alternative to the present society at the fore.

It is only by presenting an alternative to the Britain we live in today, that real change can occur.  If our message becomes to much about articulating the problems of todays society – the racism, the sexism, the elitism, the queerphobia, the ablism – then we will fail to deliver an alternative that will be convincing to the population at large.

Yes, we must march and protest against racism, queerphobia, sexism, ablism and elitism in all it forms.  But we must never lose sight of the fact we believe in alternative future for Britain.  One where the free market doesn’t run wild advantaging the few and widening the wealth gap.  One where all people have power in decision making, and all people have the full range of opportunities to be part of social, political and economic Britain.  One where combatting discrimination and privilige is seen as responsibility for all, and for the benefit of all.  One where power isn’t invested solely in corporations, the City, and the governments in Westminister, Cardiff, Holyrood and Belfast.  One where the family you were born into, or the school your parents could afford to send you to, doesn’t determine your opportunities in life.  One where the wealth that the countries of Britain generate is shared by all and not the few.  One where people have free access to all education to enable them to have the same opportunities in life.  One where the wealthy contribute their fair share to our countries’ wealth rather than keeping for themselves and their children.

The Left needs to continue presenting a positive and optimistic message to have appeal to the people of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England.  We don’t just need to oppose racism and xenophobia against black, minority ethnic, and immigrant communities.  We need to also present a positive alternative to unite all people – whether they be working class, black, minority, ethnic, women, queer, disabled, claimants – to create a Britain that is fair and equal for all.  We can’t let the debate be about immigration vs no immigration, or about taxpayers vs. welfare claimants, or the place of different ethnic communities.

So yes, march against the SDL and EDL, but we most prioritise convincing the general public that there is an alternative to turning against black, minority ethnic, disabled, women, queer, and/or immigrant people; and that there is an alternative to ‘dog eat dog’.  We must continue fighting and for that equal and fair society, and bring that to the foreground of public discourse.


Written by CakeCakeCakeCakeCake

August 13, 2011 at 12:21 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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