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50 Years Ago: Where We Stand

Socialists advocate a world where the whole of humanity is united about social relationships of equality and co-operation. The identity of the Socialist even now is not with any national grouping, brand of religion, any alleged ‘race’ or local culture. The Socialist has no loyalties to Britain or America, to Protestantism or Catholicism, to white men or brown men, to Welsh culture or African culture. By his perspective of history, by his knowledge of the economic nature of modern society, the Socialist has gone beyond the shallow allegiances that misdirect the attitudes of those who are still burdened by nationalism, religion or racism. Our argument is that if the majority were Socialists, the security of all men in material comfort in a world of harmony and freedom would at last become a reality.

It is true that the world picture of racism at present is gloomy; it is a running sore of a problem, frequently accompanied by outbursts of physical violence. Apart from its form as widespread prejudice, in some parts of the world it is still maintained as official government policy. Although it is the product of different historical conditions, and although up to now the South African Government has not begun to build gas chambers, apartheid is in direct descent from the Gestapo's ‘final solution’. Racism may be dormant in Hamburg, but its ugliness has reappeared in Smethwick and Notting Hill.

Socialists have no hesitation in taking a stand. We condemn racism. To us it is repugnant. We are opposed to any attitude that discourages the unity of the working class. Even so, our disgust is extended by an understanding of the problem. Disgust without knowledge is impotent. The racists of Johannesburg, Salisbury, Birmingham Alabama or Birmingham, England, are not inherently evil men. They are men who are moved by fear, insecurity, frustration and ignorance, all of which are attitudes conditioned by social forces. The working class of Smethwick have a social history of struggle and insecurity. They are on the defensive, they are anxious to protect jobs, a standard of living, a standard of housing, that they feel has been hard won. Mere condemnation will not help them. They have to realise that they are victims of a universal situation that impinges on members of the working class wherever they exist.

(from editorial of special issue of Socialist Standard on the Race Question, June 1965)