From International Socialism, No.73, December 1974, p.30.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
A Portrait of English Racism
FEW PEOPLE know Isaac Newton as a man who worked out the calculus; to most he is known for having an apple fall on his head. Whatever thought and method Watt applied to the building of the steam engine is unimportant to the English public; he is the boy who watched a kettle boil and saw the lid bouncing up and down.
Ann Drummett states that her book is not about race relations as much, but about English people, the ways they think about themselves, the values on which they make their judgements, and the ways they think and act towards the human beings they do not regard as English. Popular national prejudice and myth tell the English all they need to know about the conventions and beliefs by which their society has been formed. Incidents and stories that are a matter for common everyday allusion bind them together, not because of the morals they illustrate and the values they uphold. This genuinely popular mythology is shared equally by kids growing up in such completely different environments as suburban Surrey and Liverpool dockland.
Some socialist readers of this book will be incensed at the idea of the working class being lumped together and branded as racist, along with the rest of English society. But most workers are fooled by all the racist claptrap put out by the eager carriers of such poison. When Enoch Powell speaks of England’s green pastures being under threat, feelings can be aroused instantly, not because what he says is taken literally but because of the powerful images that are created and which slot in with popular mythology.
The symptom of racism, of course, manifest themselves in different ways, ranging from the young fascist gangs with bicycle chains, through the ‘whole-bloody-lot-ought-to-be-sent-home’ variety, to the do-gooders with their ideology of kindness to inferiors on whose cotton-wool condescension black people choke.
Ann Drummett has produced a well documented but inconclusive book. Her last few words indicate a rather childlike faith and that things will change when she writes of ‘the new kind of world that is surely coming in which white supremacy will be used as Babylon’. Some readers will be left to ponder who is going to bring about this change. Not Harold Wilson – he and his Tiger talks with Ian Smith are debunked on page 63. There’s a suggestion that if we looked at things through magic spectacles life would be warmer and happier. ‘What we need is ... to learn how to think and how to feel.’ Actually we have to learn to fight against racism.
Last updated on 2.7.2008