Friday, 20 March 2015

Stand Up to Racism and Fascism: Why We Need to March on Saturday 21st March

To mark UN Anti-Racism day tomorrow, Saturday 21st March, a call went out from Keefra- the Greek anti-nazi movement, which had success in tackling Golden Dawn- to hold anti-racist demonstrations. Across Europe anti-racist campaigners have rallied to the call, and in the UK demonstrations are now planned in London, Cardiff and Glasgow.

In Glasgow the March will assemble in George Square at 10.30 am and is likely to be very well attended given the range of organisations that have already pledged their support. This level of support remains essential, however, as questions of identity are currently quite high on the agenda and worryingly signs of racism are ever more present in our political discourse.

How many column inches are given over to rise of Islamic State- a repugnant and in many ways fascist organisation committing unacceptable crimes? But our press coverage doesn't just shine a light on these crimes or cover the deteriorating situation in Syria, but rather contains a sharp edge of fear and suspicion focused at the Muslim community here. This coverage has the effect that the Muslim community must stay on the gerbil wheel of repentance for crimes carried out by others, often half a world away.

This coupled with the sorts of comments that we see around incidents closer to home such as Robert Murdoch’s tweet soon after the Charlie Hebdo attacks where he said ‘Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible’ shows the growth of an unacceptable view that whole communities become responsible for the actions of a few.

This issue is mirrored in the recent rise in antisemitism, with the Community Security Trust reporting over 1,000 incidents this year - the highest they have ever recorded- and Police Scotland are also reporting a rise in incidents in Scotland. Much of this rise came during the Israeli action in Gaza- which was unacceptable and which the STUC campaigned against- but which cannot be laid at the door of the Jewish community more widely.   

Nor is it appropriate that we spend our time demanding apologies or denouncements from Muslim people or Jewish people living in the UK in response to these sorts of incidents. Yes the actions of IS and the actions of the Israeli state both have a religious dimension to them, but this does not mean that everyone who shares that religion believes in them or is responsible for their actions. Equally we get nowhere in our fight against IS or our campaign for a just peace in Israel and Palestine if we spend our time searching for the enemy within, and with that become oppressors in our own country.

With these issues in mind the March on Saturday has been billed with the tag lines: no racism, no Islamophobia, no antisemitism, no to scapegoating immigrants and yes to diversity.

With the election looming large it is important that we send a clear message around the sort of country we want to live in. Austerity politics is hurting workers and communities, but it cannot be used as a vehicle to divide us. We need to ensure that we stand together in our fight against racism and in our fight against austerity and ensure that no one is left behind and no one is demonised or sacrificed in the pursuit of a few extra votes.

The fight against racism is not an easy fight, but it can be won. In many ways, however, it is a fight that begins in ourselves, in our communities and in our workplaces. We need to ensure that we are not tempted by lazy prejudices or assumptions, nor are we prepared to stay silent when confronted with others who are. In this election we have already seen a Scottish elected representative racially abuse a Scottish Minister. These sorts of actions are not acceptable, and we must ensure that people who hold such views find no success in our democracy but we can only do that if racism finds no place in our community.

The March on Saturday cannot be considered a beginning in our fight against racism, nor will it be an end, but it does offer an opportunity to come together and find a collective voice. A voice that says clearly and loudly: No racism.    

Helen Martin STUC
For more information on the march click here  

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