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Should we ignore certain racism?

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Should we ignore certain racism?

Should racism sometimes be ignored as part of the wider fight against it and not be given any air, social media etc. time?

Specifically, should we speak, write and share articles about the newly formed National Independent Party in Ireland, what should be our response to it?

Unfortunately (and fortunately) this question does not have a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  Furthermore, under what circumstances should racism be ignored, if at all, and not be ignored?

Racism does not have a single and simple form and style. From state racism to organized political racism to individual hate attacks on the streets; it comes in many ways and shapes. It is not always ‘what it says on the tin’ and the consequences of racist developments may not always be clear from the beginning.

All of this put together, the fight against racism and the appropriate response to racist developments require a strong political understanding of the specific current affairs and the wider objective conditions.

Ask any migrant worker, asylum seeker, Muslim, member of a minority group etc. who has been a victim of a kind of racism and you will realise that no racist incident or racist political development is insignificant in its impact and long lasting effects on the person and the wider society. This alone is an important reason why we need to be careful in answering the question of ‘when and why racism should be ignored or not?’

Let’s take two different examples:

EDL and the anti-fascist, anti-racist camp, such as the Unite Against Fascism (UFA) in Britain are an important case to study and draw political conclusions from.

The number of people attending EDL rallies has been declining over the past few years and EDL has not achieved the greater impact they were hoping for. In 2013 the two leading figures Tommy Robinson (Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) and Kevin Carroll left the EDL which has been in an ongoing crisis. One key reasons for the crisis and decline in EDL activities has been identified as the tireless response of UFA to each and every EDL demo, preventing them from marching and taking charge of the streets; practically paralysing them.  The ‘¡No pasarán!’ approach of anti-fascist/anti-racist campaign has paid off and EDL has not seen the numbers they hoped to bring onto the streets.

UK Independence Party (UKIP) is another example and it is becoming more relevant to Ireland. Founded in 1993, a small racist group has become a visible player in UK’s ultra-right-wing political scene. In 1997, UKIP’s vote for House of Commons was only 105,000 (0.3%). This increased to 900,000 (3.1%) in 2010. In European elections, UKIP increased its votes from 1994 - 155,487 votes - 1% - No seats to 2009 - 2,500,000 votes - 16% - 13 seats. Who would have guessed that from 1993 to 2009 the marginal UKIP will make such electoral gains?

Back to ‘ignoring racism’ – developments in Ireland

In Ireland, in January 2014 a new political party, The National Independent Party (NIP) has formally been registered. As a new party without any past political records the first tangible reference they made, in terms of what they stand for, was to UKIP. The founding members of NIP have defined the party as “similar to UKIP of Britain”. They are planning to run in the 2014 local and European elections and preparing to run candidates in the next Dail elections. Their draft manifesto is full of overused political waffle except in one area, the anti-immigration policies. In case of immigration, they are clearly following in the footsteps UKIP and sending out similar provocative messages. They are very clear in what they want to do against immigration and the migrants

The timing of this new party is not just a random occurrence. So far, we had 5 years of crushing austerity and cuts, job losses, emigration, reduction in all essential and important public services, an increased level of racist debate on immigration and migrants; and a population full of anger, fear and anxiety. As we know from Greece, these conditions can give rise to radical progressive movements but they can also create the environment for the ultra-right-wing racist elements to grow.

Should we ignore NIP and not write about them and not discuss their media appearances etc.?

It depends on how we see the fight against racism and how we position ourselves in this fight.

As a general rule, it would be a reasonable suggestion to ignore any attention seeking anonymous freak racist incidents such as once-off hate letters etc. where any big response may just create the publicity these cowards want.

But any repeated racist campaign/public incident, racist statements and actions from the state, organizations, political personalities, media and business circles etc. must be responded immediately to expose and trash their racist arguments. Anti-racists don’t have the choice or the time to debate whether or not to respond to such racist incidents. It is utmost critical to politically fight racism and practically respond to racist incidents at every level. We must present the progressive arguments against the reactionary hateful attacks of racists.

In the case of NIP; it has been formally launched as a ‘political party’ and claims to have 300 members. NIP has already been given big coverage on national and local media such as the Irish Times, RTE radio etc. Soon, we may see their local and European election candidates on election posters and whether we like it or not, they will be given further airtime that many great campaigns in Ireland won’t get. They may never become a big political force but they could provoke further racist debates and actions against migrants, refugees and all other minority groups in Ireland. They will for sure use the current economic and political conditions in Ireland to recruit more members. One has to remember the local elections gains by UKIP in the UK and the immediate political impact it had on the establishment. The Queen, in her speech following the elections made specific references to immigration control and since then the debate on migrants, Muslim etc. in the UK has become more high profile and it got nastier.

Conclusions

That we discuss NIP in the social media and present arguments is not only a good thing but a necessary action. That we write articles, letters etc., to expose their lies and myths is important.

These actions are not the same as newspapers and radio stations giving platform to racists to spread their lies and propaganda.

Effective anti-racists campaigns and an outward looking and progressive debate among anti-racists and the wider left is not just an academic exercise but a necessity.

That we start taking racism and anti-immigration very serious and that we are more than ever ready to fight  against these; especially at a time in Ireland when these racists views are presented with more force and with more confidence.

Debating NIP is not the same as giving them airtime or publicity. That time and publicity is already given to them.

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