Sunday, November 24, 2019

Letter: "Keep Britains' slums white" (1966)

Letter to the Editors from the July 1966 issue of the Socialist Standard

Dear Sir,

In answer to your new pamphlet The Problem of Racism, although I have not read it I have read many articles on the subject.

It's my belief that a great deal of this so-called “colour prejudice" is due to the fact that they are over here in such large numbers—-“over 5,000,000"—that the British worker feels, and rightly so, that his chance of getting a house to himself today is as remote now that he is getting 4 or 5 times pre-war wages as it was before the war. Although the worker can see the coloured worker by the colour of his skin it does not mean that if all foreigners were white there would be no prejudice. I think most of the prejudice is caused by their presence over here in such large numbers, and while they are here there will be more trouble in the future as we have had in the past. Some people sympathise with the coloured people because they cannot find a job in their own country, but this is caused by the capitalist system and it is up to all coloured people to either put up with unemployment in their own country or vote for socialism, but not to overcrowd this one, which is the second most overcrowded country in the world. They know this country is over-crowded, they also know that the extra pressure drives up the rents of millions of workers in this country and perpetuates the slums for ever more. Yet they don’t care, all they think of is themselves. Look how rents have gone up since the war!

As far as colour prejudice is concerned I would say take all coloured people out of the houses where they are not wanted and put them where they are wanted, that is if you can find them. But of course that would be too "democratic" for members of parliament. Labour, Liberal or Tory. I wonder how many M.P.’s who advocate integration of coloured people into our way of life have coloured people in their houses. After all they get £3,250 a year minimum so they must have plenty of room. And all these members of the various societies for integration, how interesting to know how many coloured people are living in their houses. It’s the slum dweller that suffers most because he has no power or influence to keep these people out of his slum house like the better-off people.

To those who agree that the law should make it an offence to refuse to serve drinks in a pub, or to refuse admittance to a club or Dance Hall, or to put “No Coloureds" in advertisements in newspapers or shop windows, I would say that it should be made an offence for any landlord to put coloured people in houses where they are not wanted—and so treat rich and poor alike.
John Binder, 
Chiswick, W.4.

First let’s cut through the ignorance and prejudice to get a few facts right. It’s an exaggeration to say (not that it’s all that important) that there are five million immigrants in-Britain.

It’s an old theory that the cause of poverty and misery is “too many people.” At first sight this theory might seem to make sense, but what it ignores is that although the population of the world has increased so has its ability to produce. Productivity has increased such that now plenty for all is quite possible—when once the wealth of the world is owned in common so that the motive of production can be used.

John Binder believes this myth of overpopulation. Britain, he says, is already “overcrowded"; this drives rents up; immigration only makes matters worse. We must point out straightaway that it’s quite invalid to treat what is called Britain in isolation. The population and resources of this island are not an independent unit producing for itself in isolation from the rest of the world. Today the world is one economic unit; all the parts of the world are interdependent. But the political units into which the world is divided tend to obscure this. So if we’re discussing economic problems we can only do so validly by treating the world as a whole. In the division of productive functions in the world some parts concentrate on producing raw materials, others manufactured goods, and others workers. These productive resources are only brought together under capitalism through the workings of the market. Today Britain is one of the parts where there is work and the West Indies one of those where there is not. The tendency will thus be for workers to migrate from the West Indies to Britain. Just as if there were a demand for wheat in Germany wheat would tend to go there. This is no fancy example: under capitalism workers are commodities just like wheat, jute, cocoa or coffee.

We haven’t space here to go into housing and its relationship with migration. We suggest that John Binder reads the fourth and fifth chapters of our pamphlet on racism.

John Binder says immigrants should stay “in their own country.” But workers everywhere, save in the legal sense, have no country. The wealth of the world is monopolised by a tiny minority on whom they depend for a living. Workers from the various parts of the world have no opposed interests. They are all in the same economic position: wage and salary workers work for those who own. Their interests are the same: to end the system that degrades them by treating them as mere things.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain doesn’t advocate “integration of coloured people into our way of life." What is “our way of life" but working for the wealthy? Socialists aren’t interested in helping the owners get workers who are less used to wage-slavery to adjust, integrate or fit in with capitalism. Socialists suggest that workers everywhere organise to end the way of life capitalism imposes on them.

Nor do Socialists advocate laws to ban discrimination. The power of the state can’t stamp out the prejudices which arise out of the very system it is used to uphold.

It is only in a world where wealth is commonly owned and democratically run by the community in its interest that prejudice and antagonism between peoples will disappear. In a socialist world there won’t be the built-in generators of prejudice there are under capitalism.
Editorial Committee

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