Guardian journalist Gary Younge called for building a mass movement against racism in Britain this week.
At a Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) meeting of over 130 people in central London on Tuesday, he celebrated the “energy” of the protests and the “spirit of resistance” against Trump across the world.
“Trump is in many ways a ridiculous man, but he’s also a very dangerous man. We have very important work to do, and if we leave it at ridiculing Trump we won’t get very far,” he said.
“The principal resistance will take place in the streets or it will not happen at all.”
But he stressed that “every country has its own Trump”. “We have to think of Trump less as an individual and more as the representative of a vile current in politics.”
He explained how the same politicians whose austerity and support for the bosses had ruined lives were trying to deflect the anger into nationalism and racism.
“They set out to make the working class pay for the crisis and that’s what they did,” he said. “And not content to piss on your leg and tell you it’s raining, they then blame immigrants for the weather.
“This stuff is like arsenic in the water supply. Once it’s in there, it poisons the whole political culture.”
Younge argued for taking on racist scapegoating—and for relating to workers’ anger at the crisis in order to point it in the right direction. “We have to confront the racists on their own turf”, he said.
“If we don’t make those arguments then the notion that someone else is stealing your crumbs will gain traction. That’s what we’re up against.”
National Union of Students (NUS) vice president for welfare Shelly Asquith agreed. “Theresa May has her own wall in Calais,” she said.
Weyman Bennett from SUTR pointed out, “Theresa May was the person behind those vans that told people to ‘go home’.”
The meeting took place at the UCL university. Sayeeda Ali, BME officer at the student union, has been organising against the Tories’ Islamophobic Prevent strategy on campus. She called it “our version of the Muslim ban”.
“It targets Muslims even if they are citizens of this country, alienates them, and makes them into ‘the enemy within’,” she said.
Younge attacked Britain’s vicious immigration controls. “We live in a world where money has more rights than people,” he said. “There are no border guards for money. Money doesn’t need a visa.
“But if, because of that, someone tries to follow that money so they can feed their family or to flee a war, that’s where the guards come in.
“Our bombs and our bankers tell them to leave, then our bigotry turns them away.”
In contrast with politicians and union leaders backsliding on the idea of freedom of movement, Younge urged solidarity with migrants. He said, “If they build a 50ft wall I would build a 51ft ladder to help anyone who wanted to climb over it.”
He urged people to bring their friends to this Saturday’s demonstration against Trump—and to keep building after that.
“We have to show solidarity with people in the US—but we have to bring it home as well.”
All the speakers were optimistic about the possibility to build such a movement.
Nahella Ashraf, a SUTR campaigner from Manchester who was subjected to a racist attack last month, said she had “never felt safer” than on the demonstrations.
Asquith said, “One of the most important parts of the protests in the US was the strike by the New York taxi drivers. Trump may be president but it’s the workers—many of whom are migrants themselves—who can shut shit down.”
Younge concluded, “The enemy is clear. We’ve shown that we can demonstrate. Now we need to show that we can organise.”