- Created: Tuesday, 12 April 2011 10:09
- Written by Susan Davidson
Prime Minister David Cameron chose to make a statement about what he calls ‘state multiculturalism’ on 5 February, the same day as a much publicised English Defence League march through Luton in south east England. Cameron’s speech was a muddled mixture of clichés recycled from those of his Labour predecessor Gordon Brown promoting Britishness, but it contained nothing as specific as Brown’s suggestion that Labour’s supporters should ‘embrace the union flag’ (Union Jack). Cameron gave no indication of what he means by ‘state multiculturalism’, but made the usual attacks on behaviours ‘that run counter to our values’, throwing in terrorism and forced marriage as examples.
Cameron’s speech quite closely followed that given by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in October 2010, in which she said that her country’s attempts to create a multicultural society had ‘utterly failed’. Both leaders talked about people from different cultural backgrounds living side by side, without integrating. Neither leader showed any knowledge of the actual demographic distribution of homes, economic activity or inter-marriage of the indigenous population. Both used the language of nationalism and implied that immigrant labour threatens the sovereign identity of the host nation. Suggestive references to the disproportionate influence of minorities is frequently used to obscure population facts with the result that it is commonly believed that ethnic populations are much larger than they really are.
In Britain, for example, while public perception is often of a far higher figure, black and minority ethnic people in fact constitute 7.9% of the population.
The German ruling class has its own problems, including a resurgence of right-wing activism and ideologues hostile to the prospect of Turkey’s admission to the European Union – who of course turn part of their venom onto the million and a half Turkish citizens resident in Germany. In Britain, however, the main issue is the massive budget cuts that the ConDem government is forcing through at this time. Cameron’s posing must be seen as a defensive strategy by a ruthless ruling class that is attacking the public sector in its entirety, including the NHS, the education system and benefits.
In his first speech to the Conservative Party as Prime Minister in October 2010, Cameron spoke of the need to cut the budget deficit, saying: ‘Come on: let’s pull together. Let’s come together. Let’s work together in the national interest.’ Putting the national interest first because ‘we’re all in this together’ is the old ruling class trick of diverting energies away from class interest. The millionaires of the ConDem government have to sell the notion that the poor, the children, the elderly, the disabled and the unemployed are united with the rich and privileged under one flag. Cameron’s speech hammered home this message. Minority groups must conform to ‘a vision of society’ so that ‘common purpose can be formed as people come together and work together in their neighbourhoods’.
Unity within the working class and unity with oppressed and doubly oppressed migrant workers are threats to ruling class power. That is why Cameron, like others before him, plays the racist card to enforce, control and destroy opposition to his call ‘We’re all in this together’.
Of course, this resort to nationalism is not binding on finance capital and multinational companies. The City of London remains at the heart of international financial dealings and investments, hedge funds and overseas banks. The City is indifferent to the sources of its super-profits, looted from resources all over the world. British capitalism will extend the soft power of alliances and hard power of armed forces anywhere in the world when necessary. Employers will import cheap labour when it suits them and skilled workers and high-paying students to finance the universities when it chooses. All talk of ‘neighbourhoods’ and ‘vision’ is reserved for peace at home and exploitation throughout the world. Racist jeers and contempt are a convenience store at which the ruling class shops when necessary.
Although the term ‘multiculturalism’ has been appropriated and institutionalised by so many for their own purposes we do not have to be defensive about it. All socialists and progressive people hope for a world of harmony and variety that can reflect the diversity of the world and its
history. Racism is the reverse: narrow, limited, closed to human potential and a lethal weapon in the armoury of the ruling class.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 220 April/May 2011