Sunday 17 March 2019

My speech from yesterday's Stand up to Racism and Fascism march, London

Sympathy and solidarity especially for the loved ones, families and community of all the victims of Christchurch and also beyond 
to all who feel sadness and fear today.

Today’s demonstration was planned months ago long before the horror and terror of Christchurch, 

but it is that horror and terror we come together today to try to anticipate and to prevent.

It is because we fear it and dread it that we fight against it.

But what is it?

I see the newspapers are busy trying to compare what happened in Christchurch with what they call other acts of terrorism.

No need for that, newspaper people. 

It is what the perpetrators say it is: white supremacism.

It’s been around for a long, long time.

It’s been used  - sometimes by you, yourselves, newspaper people - 
to mock, deride and condemn minorities.
It’s been used - sometimes by you, newspaper people, to justify invading and bombing other people’s countries.
It’s been used by people in power to justify slavery, segregation, discrimination, persecution and genocide.

This tells me that it’s dangerous to trust those in power to fight it. 

Too often, the people in power have been the perpetrators themselves. 
Too often,  it’s people in power who’ve won their power and kept their power by scapegoating and persecuting minorities.

Too often, newspaper people, you’ve helped the people in power do that scapegoating and persecuting. 

It’s people in power who sent vans round saying to migrants: ‘Go home, or face arrest’. 
It’s people in power who created what they called a ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.
It’s people in power who created the Windrush scandal.
It’s people in power who refused to treat Shamima Begum and her baby as British citizens. 

And it was people in power in 1943 who ordered 4 policemen to knock on the door of my father’s uncle’s room at 2.30 in the morning in a little village in western France.

He he had fought for France in the First World War. 
He was a French citizen. 
He had committed no crime, 
He wasn’t ever put on trial.

In a well-organised, orderly way, 
according to the laws of the  day, 
he was deported to Auschwitz 
and never came back. 

This is the kind of thing that people in power sometimes do.

This is why I wrote a warning that I’ll read in a moment. 

It’s dedicated to my parents, Connie Isakofsky and Harold Rosen - who, in the 1930s,  fought Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists on the streets of east London, right where they lived and went to school.  

The Tory government of the day gave permission to that British Union of Fascists to parade through those streets. It was only the collective action of 100s of thousands of people that stopped them. 

My parents showed me that we ourselves have to organise, and to turn up,  to stop the rise of racism and fascism,

and they taught me that we must never forget that fascism often comes disguised. 
It often appears making promises. 

The poem is called:
I sometimes fear...

"I sometimes fear...

...that people might think 
that fascism only ever arrives in fancy dress 
worn by grotesques and monsters 
as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. 

No. Not always so. 
Fascism can arrive as your friend

It can arrive saying that it will... 

restore your honour, 
make you feel proud, 
protect your house, 
give you a job, 
clean up the neighbourhood, 
clear out the venal and the corrupt

remind you of how great you once were

remove anything you feel is unlike you...

It doesn't walk in saying, 

"Our programme means:
mass imprisonments, 
and mass murder."

They don't say that. "