Socialist Worker

LETTERS - Black History Month should not just be about ‘diversity’

Issue No. 2625

Theres no problem with remembering struggles such as the 1976 Grunwick strike as part of Black History Month. But it cant be reduced to celebrating diversity

There's no problem with remembering struggles such as the 1976 Grunwick strike (pictured) as part of Black History Month. But it can't be reduced to celebrating 'diversity' (Pic: Phil McCowan)

Does it matter what Black History Month (BHM), which runs through October, is called?

I think it does, because it shows a whole attitude towards anti-racism.

The Conservative-led borough of Hillingdon in west London ceased BHM more than decade ago.

Instead it has a programme called Culture Bite including events on south Asia, country dancing and wine tasting.

Now another Tory borough, Wandsworth, has decided to run “Diversity Month”. It is to be organised by a firm called Better which also manages Wandsworth’s libraries.

Events feature Indian, Polish, Spanish, Chinese as well as African and Caribbean cultures.

Behind this lies the notion that we don’t need to celebrate a history of black achievement and anti-racist resistance.

Instead there’s a pretence that nowadays we all live together in the melting pot of supposedly equal opportunities Britain.

It’s a new chapter in a fat book of ways to defang originally oppositional initiatives.

It separates BHM from the sense of struggle, absolves the present power structures from being interrogated, and subsumes black experience into “safe” avenues.

We shouldn’t react to this by saying that BHM should be solely about African and Caribbean experiences.

There is no problem with remembering Asian figures such as Jayaben Desai, the militant leader of the 1976 Grunwick strike.

She is a hero to all of us who want to shift focus to the strength and power of black women as well as the notable contribution of black men.

Let’s tell these Tories that they don’t represent us. Take BHM into our own hands. Let’s have meetings, social events, art and music from ourselves.

We don’t need their money. We are better off without them.

Jabulile Thomas, east London

Radical Corbyn?

By any socialist standard, the Labour Party’s domestic programme is disappointing no matter how determined the attempts to dress it up as somehow “radical”.

There is nothing in it that Labour leader Harold Wilson would have regarded as in any way dangerously left wing or radical in the early 1960s when he was campaigning to end “Tory misrule”.

What it amounts to is at best a “warmed-up Wilsonism”.

Indeed, the Labour Left of the 1960s would have condemned today’s Labour programme for its failure to take on capitalism.

What marks Jeremy Corbyn out is not Labour’s domestic programme, but rather his militant anti-racism, his anti-imperialism and his consistent support for workers’ struggles.

He is the first Labour Party leader to have such a fine record and it is this for this reason that he deserves our support.

The great test for Corbyn will be whether or not he can maintain this record once he is prime minister.

John Newsinger, Brighton

I supported the protests by Disabled People Against Cuts at the Tory party conference.

I hope they were ashamed of the suffering and deaths their cruel cuts have caused.

Labour really must commit to restoring all the benefits the Tories have stolen—and an end to the regime of sanctions, harassment and punitive assessments.

Andy Willmott, Motherwell

Lessons for the left from Rushdie affair

Socialist Worker, February 1989

Socialist Worker, February 1989 (Pic: Socialist Worker)

I enjoyed Hassan Mahamdallie’s article on the Rushdie affair and the emergence of a new form of racism—Islamophobia.

It reminded me of the debates in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) at the time, and what we learned from it.

In the days immediately after the fatwa against Rushdie was proclaimed, I can remember seeking signatures for a “Friends of Salman Rushdie” appeal supported by the party.

It stressed very much the element of opposition to censorship and much less the danger of a rise in racism.

It wasn’t the right approach.

But within a very short time this was dropped as SWP members and others saw the tide of hatred against Muslims that was being created.

Instead, while defending Rushdie’s right to publish the book, the SWP stressed much more opposition to racism, the social roots of religion and related matters.

I am glad that this was corrected so swiftly and that the SWP was, and remains, the most trenchant opponent of Islamophobia.

Mandy Crerand, south London

Yemen horror sparks mass protests in Aden

The death by starvation of an internal refugee from Hodeida in Yemen, Hend Mansoor, has sparked renewed anger. It has also seen an uprising in Aden against the Saudi-backed regime of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Hend was four years old.

The Saudi-UAE coalition forces have torn apart the Hodeida region in its war against the Houthi militia.

It imposes a blockade that includes food and medical supplies.

In response to this outrage there was a total shut-down in Aden and surrounding areas.

All shops and government offices were shut in support.

Roads were blocked by youth who burned tyres.

The Saudis are deporting thousands of Yemeni workers from their country.

Having led three years of war on Yemen, they are not putting any effort to support or rebuild areas like Aden and the South.

Mirfat Sulaiman, Birmingham

Gas guzzlers must pay more

It’s outrageous that the Tories have announced a ninth year of a freeze in fuel duty.

It’s an incentive to keep pumping out damaging emissions. It also means lost revenue of nearly £50 billion over the past eight years.

We have to steer people away from cars by using price signals and, most importantly, improving public transport.

Hannah Jarvis, Manchester

Rats leave racists’ ship

West Midlands MEP Bill Etheridge has left Ukip.

Yes, that’s the Etheridge who speaks at Democratic Football Lads Alliance events and wanted former English Defence League members in Ukip.

He says Ukip is now viewed by voters as “a vehicle of hate towards Muslims and the gay community”.

First time he’s ever been right.

Bob Davis, Birmingham

No answers from Tories

Tory MP Robert Halfon said, “If we don’t answer the growing unfairness and struggle in people’s everyday lives, Corbyn is going to sweep the board.”

The Tories don’t and can’t have an answer on those issues. And that’s why Corbyn will win.

George Templeman, on Facebook

I’m worried about polls

I read everything Socialist Worker writes about the car-crash government of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn’s popular message.

And I agree. But why isn’t Labour well ahead in the polls?

Simon Silva, Worcester

Judges and democracy

The protests against Brett Kavanaugh in the US are so necessary. It’s helpful Supreme Court judges get questioned.

What would come out if ours were?

Brenda Brown, Oxfordshire

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