In the last week we have seen those with power scapegoating those without it—over the proposed mosque in New York, the Notting Hill Carnival, the Roma expulsion in France and attacks on the welfare state in Britain.
These themes are tediously familiar and persistent. Those in need of welfare support are “scroungers”. Muslims are “terrorists”, Roma and African Caribbean people are “criminals”.
In an unstable system of war, crisis and poverty, people can look for scapegoats when feeling dispossessed and powerless against a system that strips them of their livelihood.
But as Rogers and Hammerstein point out in the musical South Pacific, “You’ve got to be taught, To hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught, From year to year, It’s got to be drummed, In your dear little ear, You’ve got to be carefully taught.”
There is a long, disgraceful history of the ruling class attempting to divide and rule workers by blaming another section of the poor for the rottenness of workers’ conditions.
The alternative lies in building a collective response, where those whose lives have been wrecked by the system act together against the rich and powerful. Building such a united upsurge of the dispossessed means exposing the scapegoating which serves only to protect our rulers.
The bosses’ ideas dominate—but workers are not just sponges who soak up ideas.
The position of workers in society—with a collective experience of exploitation and unity through struggle—means that working class people can reject these ideas.
There is a constant battle in which experience and argument can change ideas. The first step in that battle is standing out against all scapegoating—wherever it rears its ugly head.