Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1091/30918

From The Socialist newspaper, 17 June 2020

Oppose racist symbols and the racist system

Edward Colston's statue was toppled in Bristol, photo Bristol SP

Edward Colston's statue was toppled in Bristol, photo Bristol SP   (Click to enlarge)

Tom Baldwin, Bristol Socialist Party

Triumphant cheers filled the air as the statue of slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol was pulled down by a multiracial crowd of Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrators on Sunday 7 June. The toppling of Colston was like knocking over the first domino. Across the world there are now discussions about removing the statues of those involved in colonialism and the slave trade.

Colston was a Tory MP in Bristol and deputy governor of the Royal African Company in the late 1600s. During his time with the company it transported over 84,000 Africans to be sold as slaves in the Americas. 19,000 didn't survive the crossing, with the sick often thrown into the sea. Dropping his statue into the harbour was hugely symbolic.

It has been argued that toppling statues erases the history behind them. However, for 125 years the statue stood above a plinth proclaiming Colston as one of Bristol's "most virtuous and wise sons", without any mention of slavery.

Bristol has very few public displays that describe the real history of its central role in the transatlantic slave trade. Only tearing down the statue has allowed it to be placed in its proper historical context. It is likely that the schools, streets and buildings that also bear Colston's name will now be changed too.

Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel has described bringing down the statue as "utterly disgraceful", while Labour leader Keir Starmer said it was "completely wrong". Bristol's Labour mayor Marvin Rees has reflected local opinion and refused to criticise the action. The protesters achieved in moments what his administration has failed to do in four years.

Organisations around the world are now considering taking down their statues. This doesn't represent a sudden collective pang of conscience so much as a worry that demonstrators will do what they so far have not.

European capitalism was built on the foundation of colonial plunder and enslavement. Statues celebrating its leading figures stand across the continent. That some might be removed is a victory for the BLM movement. Others, however, will be defended. For example, to remove the statues of various British monarchs because of their role in the slave trade would be too damaging to the image of Britain's ruling class.

Removing a few 'lesser' statues, however, is an easy concession by the institutions of capitalism. They can make a public display of taking down statues without doing anything to challenge the deeper issues of racism and inequality. We oppose not just the racist symbols of the past but the racist system of the present.

The Labour mayors and councillors who are reviewing statues in their areas are the same ones that have refused to stand up to Tory cuts, have slashed spending on youth services, housing, leisure centres, and cut jobs and workers' conditions.

In a survey for local paper the Bristol Post, 61% of respondents thought protesters were right to pull down Colston's statue. Polls show a majority of people in Britain now support BLM. However, Johnson has cynically tried to whip up opposition to the movement using the issue of statues.

Crowds of mainly far-right demonstrators gathered around the cenotaphs in Bristol, London and other cities 13-14 June. This 'protection' is unnecessary. Bristol's war memorial was untouched by the 10,000 strong demonstration that brought down Colston. It's an attempt to intimidate BLM protesters and frame them all as indiscriminate vandals. The violence and the Nazi salutes showed the real nature of many of these 'counter-protestors'.

In response to the threat from racist thugs, the BLM demonstration organised for Hyde Park in central London was cancelled. However, without putting pressure on anyone to take risks by attending, any BLM protest would have massively outnumbered the presence of the far right. Properly organised stewarding and weight of numbers can protect demonstrators. The workers' movement needs to weigh in with unequivocal support for BLM and assistance in defending demonstrations. The far right cannot be allowed to organise openly without a response.

As well as defending against the right, the movement needs to advance its own demands. The fight against police brutality and systemic racism is gaining in impetus.

Demands like 'jobs and homes not racism', linking the fight against racism to the fight against the impoverishment of a generation of working class youth, are also gaining an echo. To completely rid society of these ills means we must smash the capitalist system which is based on the division and exploitation of working people.

Bringing down Colston and the ripple effects it has created are a source of pride for ordinary people in Bristol, but it is only the beginning.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation

 

Your message: 

 


In The Socialist 17 June 2020:


What we think

Which way forward for Black Lives Matter protests?

Oppose racist symbols and the racist system


News

Capitalism = inequality. Fight for socialism!

Black Lives Matter: more youth protests take aim at capitalism

Contact tracing fiasco: You can't believe a word the government tells us


Youth

Youth without a future: fight for jobs and homes - fight for socialism!


Workplace news

Resist relaxation of Sunday trading laws

Debenham's protests: Workers must not pay price of Covid-19

Battle with BT management needed to win real pay rise


Schools

Tories retreat on free school meals

Parents' protests against Welsh schools reopening

Cumbria: Teachers, parents and socialists fight reckless school reopening


Reviews

Tears and anger over the treatment of the Windrush generation

Film: Da 5 Bloods - entertaining but politically constrained


Campaigns and party news

Why we joined the Socialist Party

20 days. One town. Four domestic violence murders.

Fight for a socialist future!


Lessons from history

Reform or revolt? How was the slave trade abolished?


Scotland

Scotland and coronavirus - a catalogue of government failure


Readers' opinion

Three years on: No justice for Grenfell, no peace from BLM

Two-metre rule under 'review' - Another case of profit before safety

The Socialist inbox


 

Home   |   The Socialist 17 June 2020   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   Audio  |   PDF  |   ebook






Related links:

Black Lives Matter:

triangleBLM: Socialist alternative to racist capitalism

triangleVideo game developer attacks Black Lives Matter

triangleFight racism, Trump and capitalism

triangleBlack Lives Matter: Fighting injustice, fighting for our rights

triangleSocialism on the rise

Racist:

triangleTowards an anti-racist school curriculum

triangleReaders' opinion: Things will never be the same

triangle"We're going to fight racism and capitalism with socialism"

triangleFrance: 20,000 rally against Paris's killer gendarmes

Bristol:

triangleBristol North Socialist Party: The rise of Eastern Europe's right-wing populist movements

triangleBristol North Socialist Party: Women and Covid

triangleBristol North Socialist Party: Real jobs and training for youth

Racism:

triangleSocialist Party Wales: Capitalism = Crisis, War & Racism

triangleGrimsby Socialist Party: Solidarity with refugees - Oppose racism

Slave trade:

triangleEast London Socialist Party: Reform or Revolt - How was the slave trade abolished?

Labour:

triangleWhy we joined the Socialist Party

News and socialist analysis

News and socialist analysis

23/9/20

Housing

Extend eviction ban! Cap rents! Build council homes!

23/9/20

Coronavirus

Testing shambles: unions must fight back

23/9/20

Universities

Covid and the campuses

23/9/20

Coronavirus

North East lockdown: simmering anger at Tory incompetence

23/9/20

NHS

Fund NHS and pay rise now

23/9/20

Coronavirus

Tory Covid chaos

23/9/20

Banks

'FinCEN Files' expose rampant financial corruption: nationalise the banks!

23/9/20

Amazon

News in brief

23/9/20

Schools

Johnson's schools social-distancing lie

17/9/20

Britain

Britain's fragile Covid equilibrium is coming to an end

16/9/20

NHS

NHS workers: "We deserve a fair wage" - 15% now!

16/9/20

Covid

Capitalist profit and the race to develop a vaccine

16/9/20

Covid

Covid and the third sector: for public planning, not charity stopgaps

16/9/20

Profit

Under the microscope

16/9/20

Covid

'Covid marshalls' must be accountable to communities

triangleMore News and socialist analysis articles...


Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041

ABOUT US

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


September 2020

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020

2019

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999