Old State Multiculturalism in New Beer Bottles

When the right attacks multi-culturalism it really attacks multi-racialism, when the left (those people above and others) attacks multi-culturalism its defending multi-racialism. The almost total misunderstanding of that by many people has allowed those totally valid criticisms of the wider effects of competitive multi-culturalism on w/c communities (of all colours) to be dismissed and branded as racist – leaving the ground clear for the BNP, for the edl and now for Cameron. They’ve now got the bridgehead they want to attempt to split the w/c even further on race lines – to racialise social issues.

(Butchers Apron on Urban 75)

That strikes me as a reasonable starting point for understanding Cameron’s latest attack on “state multiculturalism“.

One issue that has obviously caused controversy is the timing, the speech having taken place on the same day as an EDL demonstration.  While the EDL are claiming that Cameron is now speaking to them (in between eating bacon box masters, losing their hats and downloading child porn), they would really, wouldn’t they.  A careful reading of the situation suggests that’s highly unlikely; instead the probable audience for this argument is most prominently the Tory right (in part, to placate those currently unhappy about the coalition with the Lib Dems), with a sideways glance at the Daily Mail brigade and/or UKIP types.  The timing does, however, suggest that Cameron is incredibly fucking poorly advised by whoever handles his spin.  More interesting is the fact that, on the day of an EDL rally, he chose not to mention them directly, instead focusing solely on Islamist terrorism.  The idea he didn’t know it was on is laughable.  So that strongly suggests that he didn’t put it in because concentrating on Muslims was the message he wanted to put out to his target demographic.  That, more than anything, puts Tory protestations of not playing “dog whistle” politics with race into sharp perspective.

It also blows the argument that we see from Lib Dem apologists out the water.  Where they claim that the Lib Dems are modifying the coalition politics in a more liberal direction, instead we see a pandering to the Tory hard right, with not a peep of public protest from the Lib Dems.  They are culpable here.

One of the main thrusts of the speech is the call for “integration”.  Cameron repeats the word several times and goes onto say:

That includes making sure that immigrants speak the language of their new home

This is highly cynical.  For, in fact, the Tories are heavily cutting funding for ESOL courses. Typical Tory tactics here.  It’s very similar to the way they cut back public sector jobs, then stigmatise the unemployed for not being able to find the jobs that they’ve already destroyed.  This is an obvious sign that the speech, as opposed to being a genuine call for integration, is actually an attempt to divide and rule the working class, as part of the ongoing class war the Coalition have announced.

It’s also a weak point.  And the left should exploit this to the full (sadly I’m not entirely convinced they have the tactical sense to do this).  It’s my view, based on having lived in communities with a high level of racial diversity all my life, unlike David Cameron and his toff mates, that the vast majority of working class non-whites want to integrate.  We should demand that funds are available for this to happen.  More specifically, in any area where immigrants are going to be settled, we should demand a proportional increase in funding for local services, in order to aid voluntary integration.

We should also point out, without apology, that lack of integration is a far more substantial issue with the middle and upper classes, especially those who live in gated communities etc.  The vast majority of the working class don’t need any help to understand how to live with people from other ethnic backgrounds.  We’re already, by far, the most racially diverse class.  Our neighbours, workmates, friends, lovers are far more likely to be from a different ethnic background to us and, on the whole, this causes very little problem.  If Cameron and his ilk are serious about this, they can start by getting their own house in order.  But they aren’t.

And, if you unpack the speech, this isn’t actually a break from divisive state multiculturalism at all.  Cameron isn’t talking about stopping funding of “community leaders” etc.  He simply wants to make sure that they’re a safe pair of hands to fit it with making various ethnic groups compete on that basis, rather than uniting in a way that could challenge the status quo.  If you doubt this, there’s a simple question to ask yourself.  Do you think the police are going to stop using local Mosque elders to try and stop young Muslims turning out against the EDL?  If not, than undoubtably the state is still attempting to divide people on religious grounds.

And, if you look at the “big society” rhetoric, an important part of that is free schools.  And all evidence points to the fact that, not only will faith groups be able to set up non-secular schooling on those grounds, but that very little oversight will take place.  For Cameron to make this speech, while allowing schools to introduce creationism by the back door, is, quite frankly, taking the piss.

And, despite Cameron’s attempt to steal the language of parts of the left without crediting his source (in particular, some of his arguments are far too close to Keenan Malik’s for it to be coincidental), is what divides his anti-multiculturalism from ours.  While this is a pretty classic example of the old situ theory of recuperation, it actually is about something very different.  It’s about trying to unify people as forelock tugging peasants, behind “king and country”.  It’s about attempting to present certain groups as the “enemy within”, as a step forward from the already existing divide and rule tactic produced by state multiculturalism.

And we need to resist it, not by fighting for the status quo (which the UAF are doing, unsurprisingly considering they have Cameron on their list of supporters.  They aren’t a group with a class analysis, any more than the Women’s Iinstitute are), but by fighting for anti-racism, against multiculturalism.  The old kind, or the new kind that David Cameron is now pushing.

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    • Jenny
    • February 24th, 2011

    Question-have you come across these yet? I don’t agree with time entirely, but they’re worth pondering over:
    http://truth-reason-liberty.blogspot.com/2011/02/why-i-wont-be-signing-uafs-petition-on.html

    http://internationalworkersassociation.blogspot.com/2011/02/multiculturalism-diversity-and-equality.html

    If so, what do you think? The second piece is far better in terms of not singling out Muslims.

  1. Thanks for those. I’d seen the TRL one before, but not SolFed.

    On the former, I think it’s a bit unfair to see it as singling out Muslims, simply because of it essentially being a reply to the UAF. Who do largely frame the question of multiculturalism in terms of talking about relations with Muslims. Where I think it falls down is taking David Cameron at face value far too much. Because while it may look like Cameron is attacking “normative multiculturalism”, in actuality, if you examine it closely, he’s actually attacking how normative multiculturalism is currently being carried out in policy terms. He isn’t rejecting the approach wholesale and he certainly isn’t accepting that state policy still is causing segregation. By missing that point, I think the piece runs the risk of fitting into the right-wing narrative about the main issue being that Muslims are refusing to ‘fit in’.

    I agree the second piece is stronger on that. The only real criticism I’d have of it is that I think it falls into traditional anarchist anti-clericalism at times. It has a tendency to see religious culture per se as problematic, without recognising how varied the interpretation of that culture can be. That’s a pretty standard issue with much anarchist analysis for me. While we should be unapologetically secular, active anti-religious agitation really does strike me as a tactic well past its sell-by date.

    • Jenny
    • March 2nd, 2011

    Yeah, the second is at least a bit truthful, I ain’t british and I was only 14 in 2003-2004 but looking back at the Lenin’s Tomb archives, good god, they were defensive over Galloway when he was basically, yes, an anti war socially conservative politician.

    And as a followup, Seymour’s posted this:
    http://leninology.blogspot.com/2011/02/can-we-finally-talk-about-johann-haris.html

    Which ties into what you were talking about with anti religion condemnation above considering the news of the EDL putting on some kinda Gay pride celebration thing. Hairi’s done this before too though granted, he had a point about the Pope not using force on bishops to remove molesting priests:
    http://lattelabour.blogspot.com/2010/09/latte-vs-hari.html

    • Jenny
    • March 2nd, 2011

    P.S. you’re generally great even though you loathe Andy Warhol( I think he did make a big contribution to art, but that lecture of mine is for another day.)

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