Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beating the Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action by Sean Birchall (Freedom Press 2010)

This insidiously debilitating idea that racism was in "white peoples' genes", according to a National Black Caucus speaker (Black Flag, issue 203, autumn 1993), gained influence in the 1980s when it formed the basis for 'racial awareness training' (RAT) mainly used in the public sector. RAT was theoretically underpinned by the writings of an American academic, Judith Katz. She believed racism is "a psychological disorder . . . deeply embedded in white people from a very early age, on both a conscious and unconscious level" and that "being white . . . implies being racist" ('Racism, Myths and Realities', International Socialism 95, summer 2002).

From that perspective even the slightest hint of reslstance served only to confirm the original prognosis. For liberals who subscribed to the Katz theory, members of the worklng class needed to prostrate themselves completely simply ln order to be tolerated. In this world view the highest honour any whlte worklng class activist could expect would be to qualify, after serving a considerable time on probation, as a sort of 'racist anti-racist'. Not too surprisingly, militant body language was never going to be sufficiently humble to pass muster. Nor was Jasper's attltude so uncommon. Another Voice columnist, Tony Sewell, also took AFA to task for being "predominately white and male." Clearly it never crossed hls mlnd to consider what effect the common or garden prejudices regularly displayed by hlm and his fellow columnist may have had in discouraging black youth from doing their bit, thus ensuring groups llke AFA remained predominately "white man's business". Instead of any real insight, he offered up some cod psychology. "Their [AFA] deslre to meet violence with violence on behalf of oppressed black people is only an excuse for white men to have a good ruck. This type of rivalry has became a king of war game, where racism is the red rag for men to test their masculinity" (The Voice 28th February 1995).

Of course, in one way he was right. Because, for the vast majority of militants, the idea of AFA fighting are on behalf of oppressed black people would certainly have been regarded as utter nonsense. And while the casual racist comments ln the presence of any AFA activist at the time rarely went unchecked, wlth physical retribution not being an response, as an organisation AFA was at pains to make clear the underpinning for their 'war', as they saw, it had very little to do with race, and absolutely everything to do with class.

1 comment:

robert said...

There's a review of this in the latest 'Weekly Womble', er, 'Weekly Worker'.

One of the Red Actioners spoke at the CPGB's Communist University in 2000, which I attended; the room was so full of testosterone that I had a deeper voice afterwards, and stopped shaving my legs for a month!