On Saturday 16th March, as president of the Scottish TUC, along with an imam and local politicians, I stood before an assembled crowd that defied sleety Glasgow rain to express collective sorrow and solidarity for the victims of terrorist atrocities in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Speaking at the start of this march was the most emotionally challenging task in my year as STUC president so far.
We can take heart that across the world on 16 March people massed on the streets in unity and in strength to stand up to racism and fascism.
The murderous shooting of 50 women, men and children at prayer in mosques is a pure act of terrorism. It’s a terrible reminder where Islamophobia and far right ideas can lead.
The trade union movement is internationalist and rooted in equality and justice for all, and we stand in solidarity with our New Zealand sisters and brothers and with Muslims here in the UK.
We stand as one against fascism.
Those gathered in London, Cardiff and Glasgow as anti racists would of course rather we were organising processions and carnivals to celebrate our diversity and inclusion. But while the fascists are on our streets and in our news feeds, and running killing sprees in our places of worship we must show that we are the many and they are indeed the few, to borrow, third hand that well used but approriate quote from Shelley.
My union, PCS and the Scottish TUC support the annual Stand Up to Racism March events as part of that world wide raising of the anti racist voice.
When white supremiscists set out to shoot and kill, they are presented as lone wolves. But they are not.
We must express our deep concern over the sinister but quiet rise of far right ideas representing as “mainstream” and the normalisation of racism in work and in society as a misplaced response to austerity economics and a breakdown in trust of institutions and politics. We know that far-right organise around “anti-establishment” sentiment online, through street protest, non-party and non organisation-defined.
The Scottish trade union movement stands by workers, families and communities scarred by racist murders, racist policies and racial harassment. I am proud to have stood with:
- The Chhokar family campaign for justice
- Sheku Bayou’s family
- Kamil family hunger strike outside Brand street
- Leith Seikh temple
We oppose and call out anti-semitism and Islamophobia as two sides of the same coin.
I am proud that my PCS sisters Shavanah Taj and Zita Holborn addressed the Cardiff and London rallies respectively. As black trade union women in Britain they know the lived experience of everyday racism and the cold fear of deliberate government scapegoating of people of colour whether through racial immigration policies’ pay inequalities or a lack of justice.
Our sorrow and solidarity this weekend is with the victims of the attacks in New Zealand and we send a message of love and light and with peoples the world over committed to stamping out racism.
But as trade unionist we believe in organising – and we resolve to organise in our workplaces and in our communities against racism however it manifests itself. But our organising muscle and agitational strength will be nothing if we don’t also educate against ignorance and prejudice.
The role that unions have driving back austerity and giving all workers voice is first line of defence in anti-fascism.