This article is a direct response to this article by Dundee Young Socialists as to the events in City Square on Sunday 7th of June 2020.
I will begin with a fine point before moving on to a broader and very serious problem.
The Dundee Young Socialists say this:
“It was clear from the original FB event that some people were still intending to go on Sunday to protest racism…our sole intention was to try to ensure a properly organised event with appropriate health and safety and a decent turnout.”
If this is true about having appropriate health and safety measures, then why was Mick Taylor of Fight Racism Fight Imperialism (FRFI) handing out flyers, and why was somebody else handing out SWP stickers? Or, if you like, why did Dundee Young Socialists, as organisers, not ask them to stop for the sake of health and safety? Mick Taylor was also one of the speakers on the microphone referring to Covid-19 as a pandemic, yet he was handing out flyers.
And now to the broader and very serious problem I referred to.
In their article Dundee Young Socialists have performed a subtly false separation of the point of view expressed by the young black woman who told the ‘socialists’ to fuck off, and of an anonymous person who also told them to fuck off. The article first quotes the young woman who called out the ‘socialists’:
“Towards the end of the protest one individual spoke and launched, it’s fair to say, a pointed attack on the organisers. At various points she commented that she was ‘sick of hearing white socialists say we are standing in solidarity’. And that: ‘all you socialists can fuck off.’”
Then, this is said of the anonymous person:
“While the YS member was speaking a shout was heard from the small group who had been hostile to us: ‘You can fuck off with your solidarity.’
We don’t think that such comments assist the anti-racist movement in the city. We also believe they are completely at odds with the views of the vast majority of anti-racists, black and white, in Dundee. What was clear was that these views were reflective of only a tiny minority of those at the event. We can draw this conclusion because we were thanked again and again by BAME people, young and old, who had taken part.”
Now, the article does not respond to the young black woman specifically, but it does respond to this anonymous call for them to, “fuck off with your solidarity.” What has really happened, is that this anonymous person has repeated what the young black woman already conveyed to the ‘socialists’, making what both she and the anonymous person said substantially the same. This being the case, the response from Dundee Young Socialists, and everything entailed by their response, really applies to the young black woman too. The difference is that the author did not have the conviction to say they were being critical of the young black woman, instead only addressing an anonymous person.
In their criticism of the view, Dundee Young Socialists have attempted to downplay the legitimacy of the woman’s view by dismissing it as belonging to a minority, thereby attempting to claim legitimacy for themselves by framing their view as belonging to a majority. This is the same as claiming that if the majority of people think something is right, then it must be right. This is the same structure of belief that the majority of people held about slavery. This is also the same structure of belief that allows for anything to be permissible so long as the majority of people believe in it. It is also how minorities are marginalised and their voices go unheard – a problem within the greater problem of racism. It is a structure of belief that reinforces the marginalisation of oppressed voices; Dundee Young Socialists (and all who endorse their article) have attempted to marginalise a black woman’s voice in local discourse concerning opposing racism.
This puts us in an awkward position of reminding the ‘socialists’ that all black lives matter.
But this attack on the young woman is part of the already problematic attitude shown to her by the ‘socialists’ last Sunday. As I said in my previous article, not one of these ‘socialists’, affiliated to a group or not, came to her aid when she was being shouted down by Nick Brown. They chose to sit back while she was under attack then, and now in their attempt to dismiss her in writing they are attacking her – and without saying that that is what they are doing. This is utter cowardice.
More insidiously, they also attempt to downplay the seriousness of her being verbally attacked by Nick Brown:
“She was then heckled by two individuals – which was unnecessary and not in the tradition of how anyone should conduct themselves. Although it has to be made clear that they were not members of the YS or Socialist Party Scotland. Nor indeed had they anything to do with organising the event.”
Let us be clear on the definition of heckle:
‘to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; badger.’ (dictionary.com)
‘to harass and try to disconcert with questions, challenges, or gibes : badger.’ (merriam-webster.com)
There is no part of the definition of heckle befitting of the description of Nick Brown running back into the square while shouting, throwing down his bag and marching towards the young woman while waving his hands around and shouting at her. As such, Dundee Young Socialists have also downplayed Nick Brown’s attack on the young woman. But why downplay Nick Brown’s actions? Probably because the ‘socialists’ know they are in the wrong for having not tried to diffuse the situation. This is evident in the contradiction of their downplaying Nick Brown’s actions as heckling, to only then in the next clause of their sentence declare it improper conduct. But if it was improper, then why did they make no effort to stop Nick Brown at the time? It seems they are trying to take a moral high ground by throwing Nick Brown under the bus, to distract from their own inaction at the time. Throwing Nick Brown under the bus without saying that is what they are doing.
They also created confusion about the event at the time, where they have not said who this second ‘heckler’ is. Aside from Nick Brown, the only others to make any retort to the woman were stood amongst the ‘socialists’, on the west side of the square. So Dundee Young Socialists will say that this person is no part of Young Socialists or Scottish Socialist Party, but nothing else. Does that mean it was somebody from another ‘socialist’ group? A clear account of events gives answers, rather than give rise to more questions as to what happened.
What is clear from their article is this: the author, the group and those who have publicly or privately endorsed it, are unwilling to explore the possibility that what they are doing in the name of socialism is not helping the opposition to racism the way they think it is. Very well, some people of colour responded positively to the ‘socialist’ presence. But there was at least one person of colour that strongly disagreed with what the ‘socialists’ were doing and what she had to say was immediately dismissed. By the Dundee Young Socialists article and the words and actions of the ‘socialists’ on the day, it has been made clear to us that they are only willing to accept the voices of those people of colour that agree with them, whilst those people of colour who disagree with them are unimportant. As such, they assume that as white males they know better than a young black woman what is best to fight racism, which is especially bad where anti-racism is intersectional with feminism and LGBTQ+ issues. They have already decided that if any person of colour tells them that their ‘socialism’ is invasive or unhelpful, then that person of colour is simply not important.
Whether the ‘socialists’ want it to be the case or not, by holding an anti-racism protest you immediately give primacy to the voices of those racially discriminated against. The reason for this is because it is in the essence of such events that people racially discriminated against are given a platform for their voice. We have these events in order to promote the voices of those racially discriminated against, not so that we can pick and choose which ones we wish to validate or dismiss based on what suits a political ideology. Doing so is not to hold an anti-racist event at all, but to use the spirit of opposing racism to further your own agenda – selling papers and signing petitions. And that is all that was achieved by the ‘socialists’ – selling papers and signing petitions. That is what they did it in the name of – selling papers and signing petitions.
Given the Dundee Young Socialists article, nothing has changed since the protest on Sunday the 7th except for these ‘socialists’ having made their position even more untenable. They had all week to reflect on what they had done and to consider the possibility that they have done something wrong, that there was a legitimate reason for their being opposed. They have read my previous article, the one which ended by my daring them to apologise for what they had done. They have apologised for nothing; they did not even say that they do not think there is anything to apologise for. And the longer they go without apologising the worse people in this city will think of them.
Given this, their terrible attitude towards certain people of colour, their refusal to even acknowledge the possibility that their actions do not help to oppose racism and their refusal to acknowledge the possibility that they may have something to apologise for, a line has been drawn. Everything they do next comes after this line, and whatever it is does not require commenting upon, since they refuse to acknowledge everything that has come before the line. Unless the next act of the ‘socialists’ is to apologise and accept that their thinking and actions are not infallible, anything else they do continues to be irrelevant and requires no commenting upon.