After Clive Lewis MP publicly criticised RMT activist Eddie Dempsey for his statements at the 26 March “Full Brexit” rally, he was challenged on Twitter by Marcus Barnett of the Morning Star. What follows is a note Clive then wrote to Barnett – and gave us to publish.
My father was a trades unionist in the UK for more than 40 years. Full-time for much of it. He spent his life dealing with and fighting racists – many of them in the trades union movement itself. You’re a smart guy. You know all about race relations in the trade union and labour movement. Know that our recent trade union and labour history is laced with those who claim to be left-wing, even anti-fascist, but who still harbour racist attitudes. 400 years of racism isn’t wiped out simply by reading Das Kapital and a handful of pamphlets. Let’s also not forget many socialists supported the empire, etc, etc. Eddie Dempsey and the language he uses places him in that category. A romantic notion of the white working class with little regard for ‘liberal’ intersectional-class politics.
Let me tell you something else as a black man here in the UK. There’s a reason most of us voted against Brexit and continue to do so. Brexit isn’t going well for us. Isn’t going to go well for us. Racism and intolerance and the rise of the far right puts us on edge shall we say. That and I guess when it comes down to it many of us have doubts, especially listening to this kind of rhetoric, about the left’s ability to resist it let alone defeat it. History tells us this is a fair assessment.
So to hear ED talking about empathising with Tommy Robinson’s supporters and their hatred, yes against the so called liberal left – which given the debate was also shorthand for left Remainers – many of whom are black for the reasons stated above, and how he spoke of black people being used as pawns to subvert the (white) working class (why make a distinction of colour if not?), then I have to say my fucking alarm bells start ringing.
But oh no. My white comrades on the left – pile in on me for daring to call this ‘white working class hero’ out. That I’m out of order, and how could an antifascist be a racist?
Well, from what Ive just seen and continue to witness it’s not that difficult and as history has shown the journey not that arduous either.
True, I dont know Eddie’s mind. But I can discern a lot from his language and tone.
As for yourself and Lara [McNeill, Youth Rep on Labour’s NEC]. You’re adults. You’re responsible for your actions and who you sympathise and give succour too.
I won’t tolerate racists and racist sympathisers in our party – whatever politics they claim to have. Actions and language speak volumes. I’ll fight them everywhere and anywhere including social media.
Which side of that fight you and your mates come down on is up to you. But I won’t hesitate to call out racists and racism whenever I see it.