We live in a society that is governed by a tiny minority. According to an Oxfam report, just 80 multibillionaires control more than half the world’s wealth – which gives them the power to dictate to governments and essentially to control the whole of the capitalist world. This minority got rich (and keeps getting richer) by exploiting the labour power of the vast majority of humanity.
Destroying workers’ power
In order to keep the insanely unequal imperialist system in place, and to preserve their tremendous wealth and power against the interests of the vast masses, the minority ruling class has become very experienced at dividing working people against one another.
Under capitalism, even quite privileged workers are worse off than they will ultimately be under socialism, and all of us are totally lacking in the security of knowing we have such basic necessities as jobs, homes, health care, education and pensions that are guaranteed for life. Racism is one of the main weapons of our rulers against all of us. It is a primary means of redirecting the anger and frustration that should be focused on the unjust capitalist system at our fellow workers.
The job of bourgeois political parties is to protect the interests of the exploiting class. This involves not only turning a blind eye to the pollution of the planet and sending working-class soldiers off to die in predatory wars to control the world’s resources and markets, but also forcing down as far as possible the wages workers receive to maintain themselves and their families.
The drive for a cheaper workforce is what is motivating the ongoing cuts to our social housing, health care, education provision, welfare safety net, and all the other services that form a part of our social wage. It is what led to the attacks on trade-union rights and pension schemes. And it also leads to the export of capital – whereby British capitalists close down enterprises in this country in order to produce more cheaply abroad (where workers receive far less both directly in wages and indirectly in benefits and services), thus boosting their profits enormously, but depriving millions of workers in Britain of our traditional occupations and decimating our local communities.
All this is done in the interests of maintaining profits, especially now in a time of crisis, when profits are harder to come by, so the role of capitalist politicians and media is to make sure that the blame for the ill effects is laid not on capitalism, which causes these problems, but on some scapegoated minority section of the working class (‘immigrants’ or ‘asylum seekers’), which is itself suffering from the attack on living standards.
That is why all bourgeois political parties in this country, especially the five main ones – Labour, LibDem, Ukip, SNP and Tory – have to be racist. Part of their role is to make sure that workers from different communities are encouraged to deride each other’s traditions and religious beliefs – implementing a strategy of divide and rule that has been used by ruling minority classes for centuries. Instead of recognising that all workers are our class brothers and sisters, the well-paid hirelings of the bourgeoisie do all in their power to encourage us to identify with our ‘own’ exploiters because of shared skin colour, language, culture and/or religious affiliation.
Racial and national prejudices are deliberately renewed and reinforced by capitalism’s servants in Westminster and Wapping on a daily basis. Only this explains why racism in capitalist society cannot simply be ‘educated’ away. For every attempt by ordinary people to prove that they can get on perfectly well, and that racism is unfounded and redundant, there are a thousand stories in the ruling-class-controlled corporate media aimed at stirring up racial tension and sowing distrust in the minds of workers.
Even the better-off white workers in the imperialist heartlands suffer as a result of racism. They suffer because our divided class is unable to organise an effective fight to replace this racist, warmongering system with a socialist society in which we can live a secure, meaningful, cultured and dignified life, free from all forms of discrimination, from poverty and from war. That is why we say that racism is a class issue and not simply a problem for those whose skin colour or ethnic background leads to them being directly victimised.
Racism and immigration
As communists, we are anti-racist not only because racism is morally and scientifically unjustifiable, but also because of racism’s effect in dividing and weakening the workers’ struggle for emancipation (freedom). Population migration has been a feature of human life as long as we have existed as a species, and it has reached its apex under imperialism, where forced and voluntary movements of people have reached seismic proportions.
Under conditions of capitalism, mass migration can no more be stopped than can wage slavery itself. From the very earliest days of capitalist society, people found themselves forced to move from the countryside to the towns in order to find work and support their families. In present-day Britain, many people are forced to leave their homes in other parts of the country and look for work in London and the South East.
Should workers demand a halt to all this kind of migration? Where would we draw the lines? Should there be border controls at the edge of every county? Of every town? Seen in this light, the argument seems absurd, yet there is essentially no difference between this kind of migration and the international kind. In both cases, people are forced to move to make a living. In both cases, contradictions arise between incoming and local populaces. In both cases, capitalism benefits from the free movement of labour.
Propelled by our rulers’ quest to expand their markets and to control vital sources of raw materials, huge numbers of ‘surplus’ (to the capitalists at home) workers were formerly sent as settlers to parts of the world where indigenous populations were ill-equipped to repulse them (for example, the whole of the Americas, Australia and New Zealand). There, they were rewarded with land and a privileged status in return for massacring native peoples and clearing them off the land, and thus opening the way for the establishment of large-scale capitalist farming and industry in their place.
Other parts of the world, where the natives could not be so easily wiped out, were conquered and ruled by colonial administrations, backed up by the devastating industrial firepower of the imperialist war machines. Here, too, the best land was often turned over to cash-crop farming for export (as in much of Africa), and profits from extracting valuable raw materials were ‘repatriated’ to banks and shareholders in London, Paris, New York and Berlin, leaving the peoples in the countries of origin to grow poorer and poorer as the imperialist billionaires grew richer and richer.
In India, formerly one of the richest countries in the world, the unfettered looting of gold and treasure by the British Raj and its refusal to allow any investment in the subcontinent’s formerly extensive network of irrigation canals, left the country a shadow of its former self, and its people prey to the regular and devastating famines that took the lives of hundreds of millions of innocent Indians.
Of course, as soon as capitalism went global, so did its contradictions. Just as capitalist exploitation and concentration of wealth formerly pushed peasants off the land and into the towns, so imperialist wars and economic superexploitation all over the planet created wave upon wave of migration, as the new conditions of life forced many millions of workers to leave their homes in the oppressed countries and move to the centres of imperialism in the hope of being better able to feed their children.
This objective reality renders all the more obscene the increasingly histrionic propaganda, not to mention the heightened repression, being directed at the desperate migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the French town of Calais and in the Mediterranean Sea.
At least eight migrants are known to have died in Calais in July alone, in the course of frantic attempts to reach the relative safety of Britain, whilst in the Mediterranean, in April, 1,200 African migrants perished in just a single boat sinking.
Countless and nameless others perish at one point or another on their dangerous journeys. Their names may be unknown, but we know what they wanted – they wanted for themselves and their families what we as British workers want for our ourselves and our own families: a decent livelihood, health care, education and safety for their children, dignity, respect and some hope for the future. These are things that every worker, every person should enjoy as of right no matter their colour or where they hail from – things we would all enjoy in abundance were it not for the expropriation of the wealth produced by urban and rural workers by the parasite classes of capitalists and landlords.
And, in looking at the reasons why so many people are prepared to risk their very lives in the hope of realising such modest objectives in the heartlands of imperialism, we find them not only in several centuries of colonial superexploitation and in continued neo-colonial pillage, but also in the ceaseless wars waged by our ruling class against those nations in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere that stand up against imperialism and seek to pursue a development path that benefits their own people.
Syria and Libya, for example, from where many of today’s refugees hail, both once provided an advanced level of social welfare (Syria still struggles heroically to maintain this in the face of a vicious and relentless war on every front). Libya, which had the highest standard of living in Africa, with free education, free health care and virtually free housing, not only provided all this to its own people, but also to millions of migrant workers from throughout Africa and elsewhere.
In destroying this beacon of hope and liberation, imperialism has also wilfully unleashed a reign of terror waged by depraved death squads – not just in Libya, but across a vast swathe of Africa, from Nigeria to Kenya. Falsely posing under a religious flag, these brutal militia are part of imperialism’s strategy to once again destabilise, divide, rule and plunder. Whereas Libya once offered a congenial and welcoming home to millions of African workers, this ruined country is now the main jumping-off point for life-and-death attempts to cross the Med – which, incidentally, is exactly what the late Colonel Gaddafi, murdered leader of the Libyan revolution, warned more than once would be the case, if the imperialist aggression prevailed.
Yet capitalism’s only answer to this terrible result of its racist wars is more racism and more war. The media may choose to give prominence to the calls by the demagogue Nigel Farage for the army to be deployed against our class brothers and sisters, our fellow workers, but in reality the stance of Labour and Tory politicians is not a jot better. The only real difference is that they have done far more than Farage, by virtue of being or having recently been, in government to create this tragic situation in the first place.
It is clear, therefore, that we cannot stop immigration under conditions of capitalism. And since that is so, we should instead turn our attention to the effect such immigration has on our movement – on workers’ struggles for pay and conditions under capitalism, and on the struggle for socialism.
Racist justifications for colonial oppression and exploitation, along with anti-immigrant legislation and propaganda, all serve to whip up racist hysteria among working people, keeping us divided and impotent. Indeed, the stories are becoming more lurid and the scapegoating more blatant as the economic crisis of capitalism deepens and more workers are trying to find out who or what is to blame for the unending attacks on our jobs, houses, pensions and public services.
And as the condition of many workers under the onslaught of cuts and austerity is becoming more desperate by the day, the main political parties are all trying to distract our attention by engaging in a diversionary auction – each one competing with the other in a bid to prove itself the most racist and the ‘toughest’ on immigration.
This is often justified as being ‘what the people want’, but the truth is that most workers’ beliefs about what needs to be done to ‘sort out’ the economy and provide us with jobs, houses etc are based on the lies we have read in the corporate media. When we examine it more closely, ‘public opinion’ itself turns out to be a set of unfounded prejudices that the capitalist state machine has painstakingly created and nurtured.
Ample proof that changing the faces can’t bring about a change in this system has been provided by the election of Barack Obama as President of the USA. Black and ethnic-minority communities turned out en masse to vote for Mr Obama, seeing in him the hope of a fairer and more equal society. But in the US, as in Britain, the crisis is leading to an increase in racism, despite the presence of a black man in the White House. Racist murders by state forces in the US are rising to epidemic proportions, huge numbers of young black men are festering in US jails, and severe poverty among black and minority-ethnic workers is rampant.
Meanwhile, here in Britain, the ruling Conservative party now has two prominent MPs of Pakistani origin, both of whom are being touted in the media as ‘rising stars’ of British politics. Can we, as a result, expect to see a softening of the government’s attitude towards dark-skinned Britons or a lessening in its drive to war?
Quite the reverse. Sajid Javid, recently appointed as the secretary of state for business, innovation and skills, made headlines in 2014 when he jumped into the immigration ‘debate’ to declare his support for all those who complain about the foreign ways of migrant communities. “I think it’s perfectly reasonable,” he said, “for British people to say, look, if you’re going to settle in Britain and make it your home, you should learn the language of the country and you should respect its laws and its culture.”
Of course, he didn’t mention that successive governments, including his own, have cut the funding that used to enable newly-arrived workers to learn English for free – classes that facilitated the very integration that politicians and media are blaming penniless refugees for failing to achieve, a move that has hit dependent women especially hard and left many of them extremely isolated. It also raises another bar to the success of their children, who will now learn English later and more slowly than they would otherwise have done, and who will spend their childhoods hampered by their parents’ lack of ability to navigate official systems or take part in wider social life.
Javid, a former banker who has been puffed as a possible candidate for the title of Britain’s First Asian Prime Minister, is also a strong supporter of the ruling class’s plans to bomb Syria into submission, and is on record as declaring the fascistic imperialist proxy state of Israel to be a bastion of freedom and democracy in the middle east and the only country in the region where he would like to bring up his children. (See Muslim Tory MP: After Britain, Israel is best by Martin Bright, Jewish Chronicle, 13 December 2012)
The many poisonous effects of racism on our class and our movement explain why communists call for the abolition of all immigration controls as a progressive step that would help to eradicate the catastrophic division that holds us back.
‘Immigrants’ are not the enemy of British working people; British capitalism is! We therefore demand full citizenship rights for all people who live and/or work in Britain. Classifying workers as ‘illegal’ leaves them prey to the most extreme exploitation and abuse, and simultaneously turns them into weapons of the capitalists to depress the wages of all.
‘The best way to stop ‘illegal’ immigrants from lowering conditions and wages for British workers is to fight for the removal of their illegal status as the first step to bringing them into the unions and other workers’ organisations so that we can demand decent pay and conditions for all. Such a step would bring in many more workers to both the trade-union and the revolutionary movements (among them, incidentally, workers who bring with them much that is revolutionary, having suffered at the sharp end of the imperialist system).’ (See CPGB-ML congress calls for an end to immigration control, Proletarian, August 2008)
As to arguments that incoming migrants put an ‘intolerable strain’ on the welfare system, and that since ‘our taxes’ pay for them, it is ‘unfair’ for people to come from abroad and ‘take advantage’, these are more of the myths put about by bourgeois media and politicians to fuel anti-immigrant racism.
It is a little-talked-of fact that the social provision that was provided in all the western imperialist countries after the second world war was the product of a very special set of circumstances – most particularly, it was a response to the threat of revolution following the devastation of Europe and the victories of, and example set by, the workers’ government of the USSR. The ruling classes of Europe were well aware that if they were not willing to grant substantial concessions and raise the living standards of workers, we were very likely to follow the example of our brothers and sisters in eastern Europe and east Asia by pushing them aside and simply taking what we needed instead. The revolutionary sentiments of workers were bought off with temporary sops, and we allowed ourselves to be lulled back to sleep with empty promises of a peaceful and gradual transition to socialism.
We also allowed ourselves to turn a blind eye to the violent and ruthless suppression and exploitation of the colonies that went hand-in-hand with the establishment of the welfare state and made a significant contribution in paying for our public services. Britain’s post-war Labour government, so famous at home for establishing the NHS, is infamous abroad for its suppression of Indian, Greek and Malayan liberation movements and for sending British troops to support the US in devastating and dividing the newly-independent republic of Korea.
Today, it is not the level of immigration but the decline in fortunes (albeit temporary) of the world communist and anti-imperialist movement that has led western governments to feel confident in attacking our social provisions. Only a strong working-class movement will have the power to reverse that trend. And, ultimately, only a working-class revolution will make decent social facilities a permanent, as opposed to a temporary, feature of life for working people.
The fact is that capitalism will never put our interests first, and will only provide the minimum that it can get away with at any particular time. Only socialism will put the needs of the people first and use society’s resources to meet those needs.
As stated above, social provision in the West – housing, health care, education, unemployment benefit etc – has ultimately been paid for out of imperialist superprofits. Just because a small part of these superprofits has found its way into the pay packets of ordinary workers and then been used, via taxation, to provide various services (health care, education, housing, benefits, pensions etc) to workers, does not change the fact that the ultimate source of the income was not only the ‘hard work’ of British workers but also the even harder work of the superexploited peoples of the rest of the world.
So how can we accuse people from those superexploited countries, impoverished by the transfer of their countries’ wealth to the financial centres of imperialism (Wall Street, the City of London etc), of ‘taking advantage’ if they find themselves forced to come here to try and make a living?
We need to recognise that it is the bourgeoisie’s insatiable urge for profit, not some ‘other’ section of the working class, that is responsible for our problems. If we don’t understand this, we can end up falling for the lies of openly fascistic hatemongers, who want to mobilise us against our own class to help save capitalism.
Those who fall for BNP-type ravings are being turned into dupes of our rulers against their own class interests, and are in danger of finding themselves well and truly on the wrong side of the fight when the bourgeoisie decides (as it most certainly will) that it is in need of mass-scale violent repression to crush the inevitable threat of revolution at some point in the future.
It is not only white British workers who are played for fools by the British bourgeoisie in this way. Non-whites and religious minorities, too, are often encouraged to keep themselves apart – to avoid ‘contamination by western culture’, or to organise themselves separately under the apparently ‘progressive’ banner of black nationalism, which is founded on the insidious lie that all white people are congenitally racist and that ‘white supremacy’ rather than the capitalist ruling class is the main enemy of ethnic-minority workers.
Racism and the police
The ruling class’s need to promote racism also explains why no amount of recruitment of black and brown people into the ranks of Her Majesty’s constabulary will change the fact that the police force is institutionally racist. Discrimination against ethnic minorities, along with the brutal oppression of the poorest and most disenfranchised people in our society, is not a question of a few ‘rotten apples’ among our good old bobbies, but an essential part of the police’s role in bourgeois society.
As agents of the capitalist state, the police have to arrest a disproportionate number of black and Asian young men. In this way, they justify all the racist rhetoric of our politicians and presstitutes and create the ‘crime statistics’ that are in turn used to justify much of the media nonsense about the ‘inherent criminality’ of young black men.
If the ruling class stopped arresting and criminalising these workers, it might have to start explaining just why it is that so many of them have failed to receive a proper education, why so many are living in poverty and why so many are unemployed. A criminal record, like being expelled from school, can be used as ‘proof’ that the individual concerned is at fault, and not the system.
Stop-and-search statistics and the number of deaths in custody demonstrate the same disgracefully racist pattern as other aspects of the state control of workers. Between 1990 and 2014, there were 82 deaths of members of the ethnic minorities at the hands of the Metropolitan Police alone, and a further 63 in the rest of the country. Not a single one of these murders has resulted in the conviction of the police killers involved.
Deaths in custody have been consistently higher for ethnic minorities than for white Britons across the country. Particularly shocking is the number of black people suffering from mental-health problems who have died in police custody, often after having suffered disproportionate and wholly unnecessary violence.
A host of recent developments and revelations have once again made it abundantly clear that institutional racism is rampant in Britain today, and that the repressive institutions of the bourgeois state do not serve the people. Practices such as cover-ups and corruption are routine – part of the very logic of their operations, not the results of ‘extraordinary’ actions by a few ‘rogue agents’.
For example, it was revealed in 2014 that the Metropolitan Police had destroyed a vast cache of documents 11 years earlier connected to an ongoing corruption investigation. The papers destroyed included documents relating to a detective involved in the investigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.
This disclosure came just weeks after a coroner’s inquest ruled that the police murder of Mark Duggan on the streets of London in August 2011 was ‘lawful’ – despite the jury agreeing that Duggan was unarmed when he was shot. The two-and-a-half years between Mark’s murder and the inquest not only saw the usual attempts at cover-up and the giving of false evidence by the officers involved, but also a sustained media smear campaign against Mr Duggan and his family.
This is just one of the most high-profile cases, which needs to be understood in the context of the daily discrimination and harassment suffered by black and Asian communities at the hands of the British police.
The response of Tottenham’s black Labour MP to the Duggan inquest’s finding is also instructive. In a comment column for the Guardian, David Lammy, whilst making a nod to possible ‘concerns’ about this institutionally-racist finding, was most keen to stress that the “process that led to this inquest conclusion should be respected” and that the “perceived lack of justice” should not be allowed to permanently destroy workers’ faith in the institutions of the state – the courts, police etc.
Mr Lammy concluded that “Public trust in the police has been shown to be fragile, and it will take time to rebuild following another setback. Yet it is imperative that it is rebuilt.” (Mark Duggan inquest: questions must be answered before police and community relations can heal, 8 January 2014)
This is a perfect illustration of how our rulers work to co-opt our community leaders, rewarding them with comfortable careers in order that they will become part of the machinery of the state instead of leading their people’s struggle against that state. This phenomenon is seen repeatedly across all our social movements, from the anti-racist and anti-war to the trade-union and women’s movements.
To this end, whole structures of official anti-racist work have been created to provide such careers, in which sincere activists gradually become pacified, diverted and cynical, focusing their attention on the vocabulary workers use when talking about each others’ skin colours (for example), or on academic careers researching and writing papers no worker will ever read, while leaving the real props and drivers of racism in place – and even reinforcing them, in the cases where part of their ‘remit’ is the active promotion of black nationalism.
Racism and war
Another important reason for racism in an imperialist country is as a justification for the economic and military domination of countries in the oppressed world. If the people of the target countries are portrayed as being incapable of managing their own affairs, and their leaders as being inherently corrupt and dictatorial, our ruling class can present its resource-grabbing banditry as being motivated by pure altruism and its barbaric bombing campaigns as ‘civilising’ and ‘liberating’ missions.
This racism also serves the important purpose of helping to brainwash Britain’s soldiers and potential soldiers by dehumanising the targets of imperialist aggression. To this end, a constant stream of war porn consisting of movies, books and computer games is created in order to teach our young people to regard their brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as ‘rag heads’; mere targets to be gunned down, without families, friends or a life that should hold any value to the working-class youths who are sent to end them.
Campaigns to demonise the targeted peoples abroad are in their turn used in turn to justify yet more racism against communities in Britain that may have familial or religious ties to the targeted countries, and the violent suppression of any protest they may make to this unjust state of affairs. It is no accident that the wars against the peoples of the Middle East in the last 15 years (motivated by imperialism’s need to control the region’s oil, and where the dominant religion happens to be Islam) have been accompanied in aggressor countries such as Britain, the US and France by an enormous wave of carefully-orchestrated islamophobia.
A recent example of how British workers can be used by the billionaires to serve imperialism’s interests has been seen in the creation of a growing movement of British jihadis going off to fight with IS and other mercenary death squads in Syria. Subjectively, these young men may imagine that they are carrying out a religious duty, and even believe they are opposing ‘the system’, but in reality they are simply being sent as cannon fodder to carry on our ruling class’s fight against a government that is standing up for its national independence against imperialist bullying.
The ruling class brainwashes, trains and funds these fighters, facilitates their departure, and then reaps a double reward. First, by being able to deny any involvement in the war it is so ruthlessly waging abroad, and second, by being able to fan the flames of racism at home – using its official ‘outrage’ at ‘muslim terrorists’ to justify further repressive anti-worker legislation (dressed up as ‘anti-terror’ measures aimed only at a minority, but in reality aimed at all working-class people) and still greater and more arbitrary police and state suppression of the British muslim population generally, all accompanied by vicious tirades from press and parliamentary pundits.
Marx famously said that “a nation that enslaves another forges its own chains”, and showed that our oppressors gain strength both from the vast increase in their plundered wealth from abroad and also from the accompanying division of workers at home. That is why communists support national-liberation struggles and resistance movements worldwide; anything that weakens British imperialism abroad is also helping us to destroy the capitalists’ power at home, and is thus bringing the day of our own freedom from exploitation a little closer.
Socialism will end racism
When we have grown up in a capitalist world, it can seem that racial tensions are somehow ‘natural’ and to be expected, but if we want proof that racism is neither inherent in human beings nor inevitable in human society, we have only to look at the experience of the socialist countries.
In 1917, the communist leaders of the October revolution in Russia declared all imperialist war and occupation, annexation and colonial seizure to be criminal. They declared all peoples of the world, no matter what their race, religion or colour, to be equal and outlawed all discrimination. By involving people from Asia, who had previously been designated as ‘too backward to rule themselves’, in the construction of socialism and the building of a new society and a new culture, the newly-formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) crushed imperialism’s racist justifications for its ruthless exploitation of the world.
The Soviet people proved that there is absolutely no justification for any kind of racism. The USSR replaced xenophobia, bigotry and fratricidal warfare with cooperation, respect and fraternal harmony, and it showed the immense contribution that all people are able to make to the building of a higher culture and a truly civilised life when given the opportunity.
Previously, the ruling classes of the various imperialist powers had been perfectly open in their racism, calling the oppressed peoples ‘childlike’ and saying that they were inherently incapable of running their own affairs. They prettified their colonial pillage of the world by dressing it up as a ‘civilising’ mission – the famous ‘white man’s burden’ to bring ‘democracy’ and ‘modern values’ to the ‘backward’ peoples of the world. But the example of what formerly subjugated peoples were able to achieve in the socialist USSR turned the prevailing supremacy myths on their heads and inspired millions of oppressed people all over the world to join the fight against imperialism.
This brought to an end the era when open racism and naked colonialism could be tolerated. An unstoppable tide of national-liberation movements was launched following the Soviet example. After the October revolution, no people would any longer resign themselves to the inevitability of foreign domination. And all this in turn inspired movements against racism at home in all the imperialist heartlands. Today, no right-thinking person would admit the idea that race was a justifiable basis for discrimination.
When Britain finally passed its first (very weak) anti-racism legislation in 1965, its existence, though puny, was an admission of moral defeat by imperialism. Previously, the imperialists trumpeted their racist ideology proudly and openly; now they have to hide it behind ‘politically-correct’ weasel words about ‘equality of opportunity’ and ‘respect for all’. Today, whether it be princes sporting swastikas, mayors denigrating ‘picaninnies’, or the deaths of half a million Iraqi children being ruthlessly dismissed by government ministers as ‘collateral damage’, the system’s politicians and spokespeople are continually being caught out in their double standards – which further underlines the absolute loss of the moral high ground by capitalism in general.
Organise the resistance
When one adds systematic mistreatment and harassment of ethnic minorities by the state to wider economic inequalities, it is quite understandable how even a single incident can spark a drastic reaction; be it the police killings that set off the Brixton and Broadwater Farm uprisings in 1981 and 1985 or the murder of Mark Duggan in north London that ignited the youth uprisings of 2011.
We see a similar pattern repeated across the imperialist world. Young people in mainly immigrant communities regularly rise up in France, while in 2013, disadvantaged youth in Sweden also took to the streets. The 2014 and 2015 uprisings in the USA were similarly sparked by an incendiary combination of institutional police racism and violence with abject poverty.
While bourgeois politicians and journalists have been united in their denunciations of such uprisings, we communists refuse to equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor, who stands over us with a gun to our head, demanding that we proclaim ourselves non-violent and trust in his tender mercy! Our task is not to disarm workers, but to combine their righteous and militant anger with a clear Marxist-Leninist understanding of the real enemy – capitalist imperialism and all its representatives.
What we need is not bourgeois pacifism but effective organisation and intensified struggle. We do not reproach those who rise up for their violence. Rather, we reproach our own movement for still being too small and weak to offer the kind of practical leadership that is capable of channelling workers’ anger into more constructive acts of destruction.
Spontaneous outpourings of rage, however justified, leave those involved isolated and subject to reprisal; they will not abolish capitalism, which is the cause of our misery. We must learn to target our enemies precisely, to be systematic and broad in the sweep of our movement, and to ally ourselves and coordinate our action with the widest possible sections of the working class in order to tackle the crucial task of overthrowing the ruling class – by any means necessary.
Capitalist imperialism has outlived its usefulness. Its greatest crimes have economic roots – the incredible waste of human potential and the millions of deaths caused by the systematic pauperisation of vast swathes of the world’s population. The imperialists are drowning the world in blood to perpetuate this system of economic slavery: more than 50 sovereign governments have been overthrown by the US alone since 1945.
For the last 200 years, working-class strikes and revolutionary movements have been ruthlessly (and undemocratically) suppressed in the US, Britain and elsewhere. Even in the rich heartlands of imperialism, there exists a large and growing class of impoverished and marginalised workers who, under capitalism, have no hope, no rights, no voice and no future. These, for example, were the youth that came onto the streets of Britain in August 2011 to confront and challenge police repression.
That we can only have true equality between nations and between the various ethnic communities in our society after classes have been abolished does not mean that the question of racism has to wait until after the revolution; quite the opposite. As some of the most disadvantaged in British society, more black people, especially the youth, should urgently be encouraged to join the revolutionary ranks.
After decades of marginalisation and demonisation, the poorest communities in Britain today are a powder keg of frustration and rage, full of revolutionary potential. What is lacking is the organisation and ideology that will turn the forest fires of our occasional uprisings into an unstoppable inferno that will ultimately burn the entire system of exploitation to the ground.
Class-conscious workers of all backgrounds need to take hold of the weapon of Marxist-Leninist education, and to use this understanding to break down the walls of suspicion between our communities, uniting them in a common fight against our oppressors, and advancing the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and for socialism.
As the old trade-union adage goes, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. Or as Karl Marx and Frederick Engels so profoundly expressed it in the Communist Manifesto:
“Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!”