A comment on the recent controversy aroused by Mr William Hague’s remarks
Racist outbursts by leaders of bourgeois political parties are invariably a sign of the nearness of the next election. The recent outburst by the Tory leader, William Hague, is no exception. In his speech to the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), he attacked the Macpherson report into the murder of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence – the same report that the Tories had embraced at the time of its publication in February 1999 – as having undermined police morale and contributed to a rise in street crime.
“Condescending liberal élites,”
he said, had used the report to frustrate the work of the police, who were frightened of conducting stop and search operations for fear of being labelled as racist. Using bogus statistics to back up his assertion, Mr Hague claimed that ARRESTS as a result of stop and searches had fallen by 18,752 to 11,858 during the past months, when as a fact they had merely fallen from 2,609 to 1,898. Hague’s figures related to the number of searches and NOT the number of arrests which, as a proportion of the number of stop and searches have registered an actual increase.
In his speech to the CPS he said:
“We have now had 21 months to assess the impact of the Macpherson report. In that period the use of stop and search powers by the Metropolitan police has fallen”. Hypocritically he added:
“The tragedy of the Lawrence murder and the further urgent work that needs to be done building up trust between our ethnic communities and the police do not excuse the way in which the Macpherson report has been used to brand every officer and every branch of the force as racist. It has contributed directly to a collapse of police morale and recruitment, and has led to a growing crisis on our streets.”
Following his speech, Mr Hague has been accused by his opponents of
“playing the race card,”
whereas his supporters have said that he deliberately provoked this row “
to get people to pay attention”
, since, according to one of his shadow Cabinet allies, Mr Hague felt that the Tories were being ignored by the public and, therefore, something had to be done to regain public profile after several weeks of negative publicity.
“William quite rightly felt that we had to take the initiative to get back on the front page.”
Whether Mr Hague was
“playing the race card”
or merely trying to gain a public profile is merely an academic distinction for the average black person in the street, for his outburst would be seen, and correctly so, as an encouragement to racism in general, and police racism in particular. The racists in the police force, of whom there are plenty, would feel encouraged to carry on with the very practices that the Macpherson Report criticised. That report did not say that there should be no stop and search operations, merely that these operations should not be discriminatory, which they clearly were since all the facts and evidence revealed that six times as many young black men as white were stopped.
In the face of the outcry following his remarks, William Hague, instead of withdrawing his patently wrong, clearly provocative and irrefutably stupid remarks, has clung on to them like grim death. He has even asserted that the very recent murder of the young boy, Damilola Taylor, might not have taken place had there been more police on the streets – a lie clearly exposed by the Macpherson inquiry – an inquiry instituted by the present Labour government with at least as impeccable imperialist credentials as Hague’s Tory Party – which found that Stephen Lawrence might not have died had the police, who WERE on the streets at the time, behaved in a non-racist manner. Stephen Lawrence’s father, Neville, as well as Damilola Taylor’s parents, have correctly condemned Hague, with the former saying that Mr Hague was
“playing the race card”
, and the latter accusing him of using their son’s murder as a “
Labour ministers, for their part, have weighed in and accused Hague of using
tactics. Charles Clarke, a Home Office minister, has dismissed Mr Hague’s claims as
“scurrilous political tactics”
. Undoubtedly the Tories are, according to every reliable source of available evidence, in a “
mood indeed, and are, therefore, bent upon using the most
“scurrilous political tactics”,
but this should delude no one into thinking that these gutter tactics are the sole prerogative of the Tories, as our Troto-revisionist fraternity and other apologists of the equally (as the Tories) racist and imperialist Labour Party would have us believe. For the truth is that all the bourgeois parties, either to gain popularity and win elections by appealing to the basest instincts in the human breast or, more importantly, in an effort to defend and preserve the system of exploitation of one human being by another and one nation by another, are none too scrupulous about using gutter tactics, as they never reside very far from the gutter. It is therefore refreshing to find a respectable journalist with impeccable bourgeois credentials, who cannot in the least be suspected of harbouring even an iota of sympathy for Marxism, and who, incidentally, is generally sympathetic to the Blair government, single out Tory AS WELL AS Labour racism in the following candid, if moderate, terms:
“This week’s fracas between Mr Blair and Mr Hague about the links between race, crime and policing in Britain’s inner cities is a disturbing reminder that some politicians are still more interested in grubbing for votes among an intolerant minority than in celebrating the liberal values of the majority. Mr Hague’s motive in raising the issues are perhaps the more vulgarly transparent. But Mr Blair’s government, so anxious to win tabloid headlines for its ‘tough’ stand against asylum-seekers, is on distinctly shaky ground when it accuses others of pandering to prejudice” (Philip Stephens, ‘In praise of public tolerance’,
, 22 December 2000).
Bourgeois journalist though he is, Mr Philip Stephens is far more forthright and honest in bracketing together Tory and Labour racism than are the shameful groups of revisionist renegades and Trotskyite counter-revolutionaries, especially those of the Socialist Workers Party who have brought out a leaflet recently with a picture of William Hague bearing a caption to the effect: ‘Don’t let this man incite race hatred’, and who, let it be said in passing, is the organisation running and controlling the Anti-Nazi League which, while condemning the racism of Hitlerite Nazis and the British National Party, are unwilling (in the name of unity!) to condemn either Labour’s racism in Britain or, even more importantly, Zionist racism and fascist violence against the Palestinian people, on whose stolen land and continued oppression settler Zionism and its imperialist masters continue to thrive.
As to racism in the police, the Macpherson report found the police guilty of institutional racism. At the time of publication of the report, every bourgeois party and institution, including the Tory Party and the police, accepted that conclusion. Despite some window dressing, the question of police racism, not unexpectedly, has not been tackled. The police continue to be predominantly anti-black, anti-female and anti-working class, as is shown by a string of compensation awards against the police, who do not even spare their own colleagues racial harassment, let alone black people in the street. In this regard we cannot help but mention the case of police sergeant Gurpal Virdi who was awarded a record £150,000 damages for hurt feelings and the high-handedness of the Met on 8 December by an employment tribunal, which ruled that he was discriminated against for just being an Asian. The tribunal’s judgment opens the way for Sergeant Virdi to claim compensation for unfair dismissal by the Metropolitan Police at another tribunal hearing.
Sergeant Virdi had been wrongly accused by the Met of sending himself, and twelve other officers belonging to the ethnic minorities, hate mail. These letters, delivered through the Met’s internal mail system, urged the recipients to quit and carried the signature NF – the initials of the National Front – one of several racist outfits. After an internal police disciplinary hearing, lasting four weeks, Sergeant Virdi was dismissed in March, 2000 – that is, a whole year after Macpherson had concluded that the Met was institutionally racist. NO question here, then, of the inadequacy of police numbers leading to a rise in crime, or the police being frightened to tackle crime for fear of being characterised as racist. Far from it. No such fear prevented them from treating even one from their own ranks, Sergeant Virdi, in this dreadfully racist manner, subjecting him and his family to a tortuous ordeal, and conducting a scurrilously defamatory campaign against him.
The head of the tribunal, Jessica Hill, stated that the Met had mounted a devastating publicity campaign against Mr Virdi, whose life lay in tatters. She dismissed with well-deserved contempt the public announcement by Ian Blair (no relation of Tony Blair as far as we know), Deputy Commissioner, in which the Met gave the appearance of conceding that they had been wrong and that they wished to put the matter right, describing it as
“just a publicity stunt”.
Ms Hill’s scathingly devastating observations against the Met deserve to be reproduced at some length. She said:
“Judging by the media, television, radio and newspaper interviews carried out with senior police officers, the police had no intention of apologising to Sergeant Virdi. It would appear therefore that the public announcement was not genuine”, adding that
“Sergeant Virdi was shocked and dismayed at the extent of senior management’s lack of faith and trust in him. His reaction was to feel physically sick when he discovered that his house had been under surveillance, that he had been tape recorded in a personal interview.”
Mr Virdi’s chief superintendent even went to the length of writing to local MPs and community organisations to inform them of his arrest, consequent upon which, said Ms Hill, he was ostracised by the community and his 10-year old daughter was teased mercilessly. As a result, concluded the tribunal head:
“Police Sergeant Virdi will be left with the permanent scars of these allegations having been made against him. It is a serious loss for someone with standing in a community and about whom there has been national publicity.”
Sergeant Virdi’s case is just one of many. It is indicative of the racist malady that afflicts ‘our’ police force. While condemning racism in the police, exposing it to the public glare and demanding that it be pulled out root and branch, we have a duty not to scapegoat the police for the sins of the entire imperialist establishment. ‘Our’ nice, respectable bourgeois parliamentarians from the major bourgeois parties pass racist immigration and asylum legislation. ‘Our’ bourgeois leaders and the billionaire print and electronic ‘free’ media disseminate racist propaganda – both of the crude and the most sophisticated variety – on a daily and hourly basis. And ‘our’ ‘impartial’ judiciary, with the odd honourable exception, hand out judgments based on the racist legislation by the ‘mother of parliaments’. The police have an important role to play in the entire system, which is inherently racist and inherently anti-working class. Next to the army, they are in the front line of defending the bourgeois order – this historically outmoded, oppressive and corrupt system. The only way to get a police force which serves the community and is accountable to the community, is to end the bourgeois order itself. That is what the working class, not just the ethnic minorities, need if we are to avert tragedies of the type of Stephen Lawrence and Damilola Taylor, as well as racial harassment within police ranks, brought to light by the case of Sergeant Virdi – not more bobbies on the beat. For only a socialist society, by doing away with capitalism, the exploitation of one person by another and one nation by another, and thus with all the insecurity, the stress, the violence and war-mongering, can begin to tackle in a serious way problems endemic to capitalist society, racism included, which is the nasty legacy of the whole history of slavery, colonial plunder and imperialist super-exploitation. While exposing every single injustice and every single racist outrage, the class-conscious proletariat must never for even a sigle moment forget this general truth.