From the July 1959 issue of the Socialist Standard
With the recent murder of a coloured man in Netting Hill, race-prejudice has once more become a subject of public interest. It is not possible to say at this stage whether or not Kelso Cochrane died as a result of racial hatred.
What can be said is that passions, hatred and sympathies have been aroused. A large crowd of mourners, both white and black, followed Cochrane’s coffin through the streets. Many organisations have had their say about Notting-Hill; some of them, such as the Union Movement, propagating racial discrimination. There is no doubt that the Union Movement is anti-coloured, and rabidly so. It considers that this country should be reserved for Englishmen. This is a “one way only” policy however. Not so many years ago a main plank in Mosley’s platform was the intensive economic development of British Africa; for the benefit of the British, of course. “Keep out the coloureds” does not mean keeping the Pinks out of South Africa, Kenya or Nyasaland. The left-wing too, have been having their little stir. They, poor souls, are in a bit of a quandary, for the Labour Government’s record does not look particularly attractive. The imprisonment of Nkrumah and the banishment of Seretse Khama must make the collection of coloured people's votes a rather difficult matter. There are, too, plenty of advocates in the Labour Party for the policy of restricting or excluding immigrants. The supporters of such views, to be logical, should exclude or restrict the movement of anybody going anywhere to look for jobs.
One form of violence has been put down officially, and with an iron hand. There are other forms of highly discriminatory violence that are encouraged, and financed with millions of dollars, pounds and roubles. Young men at Cape Canaveral in Florida, with considerable academic, scientific and technical qualifications, are busy getting ready to be very violent indeed. They are engaged in the assembly and launching of rockets that may one day destroy whole cities. The crimes against humanity planned here (and in every other weapons-development centre in the world) make the coshings and brawlings of the “Teds” look like nursery-play. Evidently people can be as violent and as discriminatory as they please—at the right place and time and against the wrong people.
The evidence shows that there is no basis whatsoever for thinking one racial or national group inferior to another; and in fact scientists even have difficulty in defining what is meant by “race.” We are one species, one people, and there is no reason why all people should not live in harmony. This will take a bit of organising but it is where we take our stand. We must organise together to throw off the shackles of class-domination. We are against racialism, nationalism and any other form of persecution and prejudice whatsoever. We want a world of human beings aware of their humanity, in place of a world of rocket-launchers and bomb-throwers. “Racialism” and “Nationalism” are social products, and will disappear along with the bomb-throwing society which gives rise to them.
Life is unsatisfactory, not only for those on the bottom rungs of the social ladder, but for those who have climbed rather higher as well; it is so much more painful if you fall. Many people, looking round for a scapegoat to blame for all their troubles, fix on the West Indian, Jew or other “outsider.” The West Indian, being rather distinctive both in colour and culture, makes a particularly choice victim. But bad housing has always been a feature of capitalism, it existed long before the recent influx of West Indians. The West Indian is in the same rotten boat as ourselves. He came here because poverty in the West Indies is particularly bad. To blame him for coming here looking for a job is like blaming one’s own relatives for moving to new towns and new employments in order to better themselves. There is nothing logical in this matter however, they are blamed because they work; they are also blamed because they don’t. They can never do anything right. They are blamed for taking houses, they are also blamed for living in overcrowded conditions. They are blamed for “lowering the tone” of the districts in which they live. There wasn’t much tone to be lowered in Brixton or Hackney, the places have been gradually falling apart for years. It is capitalism, a society that produces satellites and rockets as easy as winking that is at fault. The workers never have had enough.
Capitalism isn’t very successful at making people happy; it is not organised for that purpose, it is organised for the making of profits. Tensions and resentments are easily made, and capitalism is glad of it, particularly in time of war.
Even the “successful.” the “man who is getting on,” has little cause for real satisfaction. Society hasn’t got much to offer except the rat-race scramble for good jobs, suburban brick boxes, bigger and better television sets, and all the thousand and one gadgets that capitalism provides as a substitute for human co-operative happiness. The “go-ahead” man usually gets there by stepping on his fellows; the “crawler” is common everywhere, despised yet surreptitiously admired. Somewhere in the struggle humanity has been forgotten; somewhere part of our sympathies and emotions has been destroyed. In such a world as this, full of tensions and resentments, race-prejudice can explode as suddenly as a bomb, erupting into shrieking mob-violence. There is always the quieter, more civilised way; the finding of mock-rational, pseudo-scientific reasons for hating other human beings. Sale and Profit have deadened our humanity, dulled our sensibilities, thwarted our progress, soured our relations with our fellows, made us into hostile, suspicious “insiders” looking out of our brick-box house or tin car at a hostile world, continuously on our guard against the menace outside.
It is not the Black Man, Pink Man or Yellow Man who is the root cause of our problems, it is our arid society; never more financially solvent, yet never more emotionally bankrupt. Wage-slavery has cut-off the world from humanity, the world is the property of someone else. Socialists want the world returned to humanity, of whatever race or colour. What is even more important, we want humans to return to humanity.
F. R. Ivimey