Politics & Current Affairs

#BlackLivesMatter: Erasing History?

One of the more surprising consequences of the recent Black Lives Matter protests has been the sudden and passionate interest in history amongst portly, middle-aged, white men of a right-wing persuasion. This demographic, it is not unreasonable to suggest, have hitherto exhibited a knowledge of their own national history that extends no further than Two World Wars and One World Cup. Inevitably, they’ve been joined, or rather incited, by our nakedly racist Prime Minister, sundry right-wing columnists and MPs.

 A thirst for knowledge, however, and a desire to improve one’s grasp of history is to be welcomed. Indeed, a constant complaint from those of us on the left has been the abject absence of knowledge regarding Britain’s historical story. Particularly those chapters concerned with its Empire, colonialism and, yes, slave-trading. Let us, then, in a spirit of cooperation and a mutual thirst for historical knowledge render what assistance we may, using the current removal of historical statues as our medium.

Firstly, removing the statue of Edward Colston, Bristolian slave-trader and Conservative MP, now residing in the salty brine, does not equate to erasing history. Quite the opposite. The removal of the statue is itself now added to the historical record. People who had never heard of Colston and those who had passed by the statue and, quite naturally, assumed this was one of Bristol’s philanthropic sons honoured in bronze for great works are now far more well-informed.

The statue, with absolutely no accompanying information detailing Colston’s sickening crimes against humanity, was an establishment attempt to erase history; to whitewash one of its own and to deny access to history of his many thousands of black victims. Thus the statue in its original form and placement was a deceit perpetrated upon all of us. Not to mention a grotesque insult to the descendents of Coslton’s victims, still resident in Bristol. Its removal, however, has done far more in one weekend to educate British citizens in Colston’s blood-soaked legacy than in all the years combined since its erection. Odd, then, that the aforementioned portly, white, middle-aged history buffs aren’t nodding in approval, isn’t it?

But, they ask, where does it end? Do we dig up Roman roads? Do we destroy the history around us because some of it was bad? Er, no. No one is suggesting any such thing. At all. What people are objecting to is the public glorification and celebration of tyrants, racists and monsters by erecting statues in their honour. If I may invoke Godwin’s Law there are no remaining statues of Nazis left standing in Germany. Yet still the world is well-informed and aware of the Holocaust. Auschwitz, however, is preserved as a warning from history. The difference isn’t that hard to grasp, is it?

And so, with objective historical fact as our mutual desire, with the preservation of British history our passion, can we now look forward to the right-wing insisting that a full and frank disclosure of Britain’s role in the slave trade, colonialism and the Empire be added as a mandatory element to the National Education Curriculum? Don’t hold your breath, dear reader.

And, finally, what of the lawless mob responsible for these wanton acts of vandalism? For the moment lets ignore the British Empire, Britain’s most successful criminal gang, and the British Museum, one of the world’s most impressive lock-ups housing the proceeds of violent crime, and concentrate on Black Lives Matter activists and their allies. They are, quite simply, living proof that physical force protest works. Asking nicely never got women the vote. Singing Kumbya around the campfire didn’t end segregation in the United States. Strongly-worded letters to The Times didn’t abolish slavery. Peaceful protest did absolutely nothing to destroy apartheid in South Africa. The lesson from history is consistent, clear and unambiguous; it isn’t the rebels in the world that cause the trouble; it’s the trouble in the world that causes the rebels. If the establishment doesn’t want oppressed people to rebel then stop oppressing them. It really is that simple.

Politics & Current Affairs

#BlackLivesMatter: Self-Defence is Never an Offence

Self-defence is never an offence. Even a cursory glance at history, if we’d ever bother to study it and learn from it, would show the provable, demonstrable effectiveness of violent resistance.

The Chartists, Suffragettes, the Stonewallers, Freedom Riders, Black Panthers, the Levellers and every other marginalised and oppressed group, anywhere in the world, throughout the entire span of human history, only ever succeeded once all peaceful and legal means had failed. When, exhausted and all out of options, they were forced to rise up and kick off. A simple shining historical truth that, tragically, has escaped far too many of us.

Black people have marched, peacefully protested, lectured, organised, petitioned and lobbied for longer than we’ve been alive. They’ve prayed, they’ve pleaded and they’ve begged and still they are oppressed, still they are victimised, still they are murdered. Holding hands around the campfire, singing Kumbaya, never prevented a single lynching.

I cannot even start to imagine the indignity, the humiliation, the sheer outrageous injustice of having to justify my life; to fight for my right just to exist free from discrimination, abuse and violence. Year after year. Decade after decade. Generation after generation.

And when finally they explode what do we do? We presume to know better; we condescend, from the purified planes of our moral white ground, to define the limits of their resistance. We, breathtakingly, arrogantly and ignorantly, dare to tell the victims to fight their oppressors in a manner we deem acceptable.

We should be embarrassed by our historical illiteracy; discomfited by our appalling arrogance; disgusted by our wilful ignorance. And utterly ashamed of our crushing lack of empathy.

Someone once said something like those who make peaceful evolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable. Sad but true. And it looks like that “neo-fascist gangster in the White House” – to quote Cornell West – is absolutely determined to learn this the hard way. Well, he can’t say he wasn’t warned.

If you are offended by how black people are protesting, rather than why they are protesting, then you, dear reader, are part of the problem. Don’t be. Be part of the solution.


Politics & Current Affairs


I have few-to-no illusions left in progressive change any time soon in England. I have zero expectations of any sort of class-based resistance in the short and medium term. Indeed, my personal maxim is don’t give into hope; it’s the hope that kills you.

That said, even I’ve been surprised by the ignorance and racism emerging in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. ‘ALL lives matter’ is the new racist signifier, isn’t it? It’s the new ‘I’m not racist but…’

It’s surprisingly simple to grasp, fellow white folks. Not one bad thing that has ever happened to any of us, in our entire lives, has ever happened because we’re white people struggling under the burden of an institutionally and systemically racist anti-white society. Not once. Not ever.

And if you’ve yet to utter word one in protest at black people murdered by the state while you’re busy condemning ‘looting’ and ‘violence,’ well, you’re probably racist as well as ignorant.

You should really work on that.