Bureaucratic anti-racism

Michael Howard, after months of prevarication and with extreme reluctance, signed up last week to a common European Union plan to combat racism. This common plan will oblige member states to make it an automatic criminal offence to incite discrimination, violence or racial hatred, or to take part in groups which involve discrimination or racial, ethnic or religious hatred. In short, ‘anti-hatred’ legislation.

However Howard managed to secure an opt-out, which gives Britain the right not to criminalise certain forms of racist behaviour. Controversially - at least as far as many individuals and groups are concerned - under Howard’s opt-out, publicly denying that the Holocaust ever took place would not automatically be a crime. This is to gut the EU plan of much of its force. In Germany it has long been a criminal offence to deny the reality of the Holocaust, and the member states of the EU are increasingly looking towards Germany as a model for anti-racist or ‘anti-xenophobic’ legislation.

So, should communists cheer on the EU’s ‘anti-hatred’ laws and rush to condemn Howard for his attempts to sabotage them? After all, last November Howard completely rejected the draft plans put forward by the EU and he is the same man who has consistently opposed any notion of introducing a specific offence of racial violence.

The short answer is - no. The ‘anti-hatred’ laws now being drafted in Europe would mark a retrograde step, not a progressive one. This will be heresy for the Anti-Nazi League, the Anti-Racist Alliance and other anti-racist leftwingers, conditioned as they are to believe that the bourgeois state can be a vehicle for anti-racist action. For ‘bureaucratic’ anti-racists it is self-evident that anti-racist legislation passed by the state is a good thing and must be supported.

Revolutionary anti-racists, on the other hand, see the dangers posed by such legislation. State legislation to outlaw ‘hatred’ can easily be directed against us in the revolutionary left. Fanciful? If you think so, remember that the Turkish state also has a statute banning ‘hatred’, which is used to ban all communist organisations on the grounds that they advocate class hatred.

Closer to home, the chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sachs, told Radio Four listeners that nobody should be alarmed by the EU’s proposed ‘anti-xenophobia’ legislation, as it would only be applied to that small minority of “anti-democrats” on the far right and the far left. Sachs momentarily let the cat out of the bag and we should take note.

All communists and genuine anti-racists should never lose track of the fact that the state is our main enemy, not tiny fascist organisations. We can never combat fascism and racial violence by petitioning the state to assume even more repressive powers. Any ‘anti-Holocaust’ legislation will give the state the right to censor and the right to decide what is an acceptable political opinion. Ultimately, the bourgeoisie finds our propaganda far more unacceptable than any fascist/Nazi terror gang’s.

Eddie Ford