Socialist Worker

Freedom comes neither through co-option by the power, nor isolation

Issue No. 1989

“Not only are whites kicking us, they are telling us how to react to being kicked.”

That’s how the great anti-apartheid fighter Steve Biko summed up the two-fold pressure on any oppressed group.

Muslims today face the same double bind. When it comes to resisting the anti-Muslim offensive, there are lessons from the long struggle against racism.

There was an immense pressure on black people in the US to accommodate to their oppression when the apartheid-style Jim Crow segregation laws were introduced in the late 19th century.

The most prominent black advocate of co-operation with the racist power structure and of “self reliance” by black people was Booker T Washington.

Some of the largest capitalists in the US funded his separate schools for black people. He was invited to the White House as a guest of the president.

He used all that influence as a “representative” of black people to undermine any militant fightback against racism. The result was that blacks were kept firmly at the bottom of the pile and racist division was entrenched.

A second reaction was symbolised by Marcus Garvey and the “back to Africa movement”. It sounded more militant and in opposition to the accommodationists.

But in accepting the racial divide to such an extent that it advocated repatriation it shared their conservatism, and also ended up dovetailing with the racists.

Gains for black people did not come through either route. They happened when there were militant movements by blacks and anti-racist whites against racism and for wider social change. That was the rallying cry of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and the mass movement of the 1960s.

It was the message of the 19th century campaigner against slavery Frederick Douglass, whose words ring true today—“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.”

Attack on Iran?

Bush and logic

It was not logical for Germany and Italy to declare war on the United States in 1941 following Pearl Harbour. But they did. In 2001 and 2002 there were those who said a US-UK attack on Iraq did not make sense.

It would not be logical for George Bush to attack Iran, but when our rulers are in a desperate fix they do not always do the logical thing.

As the US turns up the heat on Iran it is vital that we take to the streets on 18 March to oppose any further Bush wars.

‘Enlightened’ West

Who are barbarians?

There is a two word answer when George Bush talks about the US’s mission of spreading freedom and democracy – Abu Ghraib.

Never forget last week’s revelations – 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of military working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of “questionable acts”.

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What We Think
Sat 25 Feb 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1989
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