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Year 2001 No. 211, December 10-11, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

Blunkett's Interview with The Independent on Sunday:

Reactionary Direction and Deliberate Confusions of "Social Cohesion" and "Sense of Identity"

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Blunkett's Interview with The Independent on Sunday:
Reactionary Direction and Deliberate Confusions of "Social Cohesion" and "Sense of Identity"

International News In Brief:
Russia and NATO Set Up Permanent Joint Council

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Blunkett's Interview with The Independent on Sunday:

Reactionary Direction and Deliberate Confusions of "Social Cohesion" and "Sense of Identity"

There are two major questions which arise from the Home Secretary, David Blunkett's, interview in The Independent on Sunday on the disturbances in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, reports on which are due to be released on Tuesday. One is what are the Home Secretaries answers directed towards, and the other is what are the substantive confusions on which they are based.

In his interview, David Blunkett alleged that there are "historic divisions between communities that have separated Asian from white and Afro-Caribbean from Asian" and that "it" (the divisions?) will take many years to overcome. In a non-sequitur, he went on to say that "racial prejudice is deep-seated and we need to face it head on and we need to set an example in the public services." But, he says, "we also accept that we need sensitivity rather than political correctness". This, if it can be given any meaning, seems to be saying that "racial prejudice" he has just mentioned should not in fact be faced head on but treated sensitively. David Blunkett then says, as if drawing a conclusion from the foregoing, that "we" (the government, public services, society?) "need, therefore, to lay down challenges on the back of these reports in terms of where we are going -- to build diversity not separation."

The government has, particularly since the last election campaign, been moving in the direction of identifying nation, electorate and government. What this is heading towards is the criminalisation and the illegitimatising of taking a stand against the government's policy and programme. This indeed is the import of David Blunkett's interview. It works on the level of overt racism, which is to say that the government wants all communities to adopt the "sense of belonging" which is to uphold the values that the (English, "host") government holds. And it works on the level of seeking to make illegal those stands, views and actions which challenge the merging, the identification of nation, electorate and government. This means to say, that the government is moving in the direction of further criminalising the right to conscience, as is also seen in the Anti-Terrorism Bill, which specifically criminalises motive and intent.

The argument the Home Secretary uses is to suggest that "separation" of national minority communities gives rise to racism, in other words that racism is something inherent among the people who become intolerant of other "races" if they are separated from them. What the Home Secretary appears to forget is that it is "separation" as an official state policy, that is to say "apartheid" or separate development, that is racist, in that it creates second-class, third-class, citizens based on nationality. "Multiculturalism" based on "diversity" is a fact of life, but "multiculturalism" which is based on the state attempting to create second-class citizens is what is racist and is premised on there being a "host" community, while the national minority communities are ghettoised. Its opposite pole as state policy is assimilation of the national minority communities into the "host" community. In David Blunkett's words, "If we are going to have social cohesion we have got to develop a sense of identity and a sense of belonging." This can be taken to read that the government (the "we") is going to insist that "they" (the national minority communities) adopt "British" values. As the Home Secretary says, "How do people in the Asian community help the second and third generation feel British, belong and identify with Britain, and at the same time retain the right to contribute their own culture? How do they avoid a conflict between embracing the history and identity of someone born and identifying with Britain while being able to contribute those cultural norms which go to make up the country we are today?"

The Home Secretary is, in effect, preparing the ground for attacks on the rights of national minorities and immigrants to be set out in the coming "Nationality and Immigration" White Paper. This must be set alongside the Anti-Terrorism Bill which also aims to criminalise the right to conscience and to dissent from the received values of the government and the social, economic and political system it administers. That at least part of the aim of the Home Secretary's remarks is to gamble on creating public opinion for such attacks is shown by the way the monopoly-controlled media has given prominence to it, and the Prime Minister has welcomed the initiating of a "debate" on the issues.

David Blunkett, rather than addressing the rights and duties of citizenship, is taking further the mixing up of citizenship and nationality that is enshrined in law, such as in the 1981 British Nationality Act (which codifies second-class citizenship on the basis of nationality), with the hope of making this confusion ineradicable in the minds of the people. But it could well be that he has miscalculated on this score to judge by the widespread condemnation of his remarks. David Blunkett is willing to grant national minority communities their "cultures" just so long as they adopt 19th century colonial and Eurocentric values. This is in line with the government's international programme to impose those self-same values round the globe. Thus this question is coming to the fore as one of the most important issues which must be contended.

Where not just national minority communities but all society's collectives are marginalised and ghettoised is in relation to the political life of the country, the decision-making process. The Home Secretary nowhere addresses this fundamental right of citizens, but makes the issue a "cultural" one, one of adopting "norms of acceptability". Nor does he address that defence of the rights of minorities is the duty of all, nor that a modern society should provide for the flourishing of the languages and cultures of national minority communities, on the basis of the equality of these languages and cultures.

Instead, David Blunkett identifies "cultures" with backward practices and imposes a Eurocentric, specifically English, interpretation of these "cultures". This is evident in his remark that "practices that may be acceptable in parts of Africa, are unacceptable in Britain", and this is the specific form his own racial prejudices take. It is rather laughable to think of David Blunkett adopting the "norms of acceptability" in the Indian sub-Continent and Africa as he says "we would have to do if we went elsewhere", when Britain has been resorting to aggression against Afghanistan to bring about an "acceptable" government, and when the whole history of British colonialism and imperialism has been one of subjugation and assertion of the superiority of "British" culture, and indeed leaving legacies of the imposition of such a culture in terms of its political institutions, values, and so on. As to Britain, the Home Secretary seems to be totally oblivious that his arguments on language could be turned back on him in the demand that to avoid so-called "segregation", the "host" community could also learn the languages of the national minorities. In fact, the notion that this is "our" home is evidence of nothing but the Home Secretary's chauvinism.

What the Home Secretary is preparing the ground for is not regeneration but its opposite. He may "reject entirely" such accusations as from the Council for the Welfare of Immigrants of linguistic colonialism, but talk of building a "cohesive nation" in the manner that he is putting forward is that and more.

One would be justified in saying that, rather than giving such organisations as the British National Party (known as "far-right groups") ammunition for racist propaganda and activities, the government is utilising the spectre of such organisations to divert attention from and whitewash its own state-based racism, which, at the very least, gives the green light for racist attacks. When all had been agreed that the disturbances in the north of England were not "race riots", such descriptions are again being made acceptable coinage by the government and monopoly-controlled media.

The fact is that the anti-social direction the government is trying to take society is being intensified after September 11, and reaction all along the line includes the government once again trying to make respectable racist definitions and policies.

Article Index

International News In Brief

Russia and NATO Set Up Permanent Joint Council

At a joint session of foreign ministers from Russia and the 19 NATO members in Brussels on December 6, the creation of the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council was announced, Russian and international media reported. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that the new council will not be a consultative organ, but an independent decision-making body for areas of joint concern, especially in the international fight against global terrorism, the BBC reported. However, Robertson stressed that Russian President Putin has accepted NATO's condition that it retains its right to make decisions independent from Russia in other areas.

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