Does Socialism cause Racism?

Alternatively Titled: Does Libertarianism cause Stupidity?

Sunny Hundal has demanded Labour adopt a Class War strategy. Devil’s Kitchen has decided that this is analogous to a Race War strategy. It appears I have to come out of my brief pre-2010 hibernation to settle something.

The relative merits of concentrating on the class interests of the Tories will be discussed elsewhere by others (as will DK’s total misunderstanding of what class is). What I want to turn to is why DK feels it necessary to reach for polemic where Sunny is talking about electoral strategy.

Once again, we see how the Left prefers to label people by their differences—and why? So that human beings can be kept at each others’ throats—through the generation of class envy, race hatred, religious differences. This is an old, old tactic which I call divide et impera—divide and rule—and I have written about it extensively.

It is better for people to be labelled, put into boxes and the differences between them emphasised—rather than uniting them in the realision that we are all human beings together—because that causes problems and tensions.

And then slimy political fucks like Hundal can rise up and present their solutions to the problems that they created in the first place. In short, people like Sunny want to pigeon-hole people and to create emnity between them because it allows cunts like Sunny to seize power.

Last month DK’s quote of the day from Charlotte Gore and her post inspired by Hayek’s Road To Serfdom.

It may be that the socialists are the most vocal anti-racists, but it is they who’ve created the economic conditions in which racism thrives. It’s they who’ve created a country with a growing obsession with stopping “foreigners” taking advantage of our welfare state, and it’s they who’ve spent the last 100 years telling everyone that Free Trade (which includes free movement of people) is a bad and terrible thing, it’s they who’ve told everyone that the job of the state is to pick sides and pick winners…. and they’re acting surprised, shocked and outraged when people who see themselves as losers in the current system want to use the state for their own purposes?

What exactly did they think would happen? I mean, really? The only way to stop National Socialism in the UK is to stop socialism.

For DK and Charlotte this is one of key critiques of even fairly mild state intervention. In my view it is a totally fallacious one. What Charlotte Gore, and DK, suggest is that once states (read: Socialists) have created even a modest welfare state they have set the scene for conflicts because they have been seen to pick sides and the creation of an “other” becomes central to politics.

We will look at 4 countries – US, UK, Australia and Germany – because they are the ones I have information for and because I think they provide a reasonably adequate sample. Of course, I would prefer to do more but I don’t have the resources or the time at the moment.

If DK and Charlotte Gore are correct then you would see a fairly strong correlation between the introduction of a relatively comprehensive welfare state institutions and the introduction, shortly afterwards, of restrictive immigration controls.

In Great Britain we introduced Industrial accident insurance in 1897, relatively comprehensive Healthcare and some unemployment insurance in 1911 and had a state Pension by 1908. In contrast to this the UK passed its first Aliens Act in 1905 three years before the introduction of the state pension. The controls in the act were fairly mild but it did represent a big break with the past where Britain had allowed total free movement of people, to match its free trade rhetoric. The big restrictive act was the Aliens Act of 1914, which was later augmented in 1919. This act was very restrictive and in effect barred even those claiming asylum entry. But this act was instigated by the greatest war the world had ever seen; the state whipped up hatred but this was hardly something dreamt up by those of the left. In fact, in 1948, the the year the NHS was foundered, Labour passed a law reaffirming the right of all subjects of the British Empire to settle in these isles.

A similar, although different story is evident in Germany. In many ways autocratic Germany lead the way in social insurance, it was the first state to introduce Industrial accident insurance in 1871 with healthcare following in 1883 and a pension in 1889. A relative laggard in comparison to other institutions in place. unemployment insurance was introduced in 1927. The were also early restricters of the right to migrate, passing their first law before our own 1905 Aliens Act. This part of Germany’s story (very) roughly matches DK’s and Charlotte’s view, but the post-war Federal Republic of Germany confounds it again. In the post was period Germany lacked legislation covering minimum wages and so on but possessed an advanced welfare state. However, up until 1993 German had the most liberal law on asylum in Europe and perhaps the world. Its Basic Law read “Persons persecuted on political grounds shall enjoy the right to asylum.” This no ifs and buts policy led German to become the one of the largest refugee accepting country in Europe up until 1993 when the law was changed.

Even the country most likely to follow DK and Charlotte’s picture of the world, Australia, tells a different story. Race relations in Australia have always been fairly strained, and its mistreatment of its aboriginal peoples well documented as is the unofficial “White Australia” policy that operated until the late 1960s. They introduced Industrial accident insurance in 1902, a pension in 1909 and Healthcare and Unemployment insurance in 1945. Following these reforms they followed a racist immigration policy to safeguard them. But the genesis of this policy was not in response to the above reforms, the framework was instigated by the Immigration Restrictions Act 1901.

The most interesting country to turn to is the United States, because this is one which utterly frustrates their arguments. In 1924 the US introduced an incredibly harsh immigration regime, that limited the number of immigrants who could be admitted from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the United States in 1890. However, it was not until 1930 that Industrial accident insurance was introduced, 1935 that a state pension and unemployment insurance was introduced, and 2010(?) before relatively comprehensive healthcare was introduced (lagging Germany by 127 years).

The idea that racism and religious sectarianism spring from the very people who battle against it is hardest must be appealing to the right. Everyone loves a counterintuitive insight, especially one which is so satisfying and provides a stick with which to beat one’s enemies. Sadly for the DK and Charlotte their’s is not an argument based in fact. It seems racism is a far more complicated phenomenom than they are willing to accept.

16 thoughts on “Does Socialism cause Racism?

  1. It seems racism is a far more complicated phenomenom than they are willing to accept.

    Yes, you’re right: it is. It is driven by all sorts of social and tribal attitudes too. So, trying to prove your point by measuring against specific state legislation is just as facile an argument.

    However, there are other ways in which to segment and separate peoples than purely based on race. Class, for instance.


    1. Oh I certainly agree, the point is I am rebutting a specific argument you made which argues that socialist or really liberal state intervention as described above leads to racism and discrimination against an “other.”

      You would expect this to be reflected in legislation and it is not. Moreover, the correlation seems to go the opposite to the way which you imply.

      Nice to see you describe your own argument as facile, I’ll assume that was because you rushed but that you stand by your original premise. This wasn’t aimed to discuss the whole of the race/immigration story, but simply to illuminate a small part of it.

      Going into the late 20th century things get a little more complicated but I would argue the change from small C19th state to liberal welfare state is arguably more massive than the change from liberal to social democrat activist state, so the period discussed above is most important.

      Class I would argue is a natural distinction that arise from a number of factors, whereas nationality, race, ethnicity and religion are all more or less constructed.

      The relation you have to the means of production (although not a marxist, a little marxist terminology is useful) is one way in which the vast majority are one class opposed to another, the owners of capital.

      Moreover, the position which most people find themselves in is in a position where you can exert far less power than the moral equivalencey that is that heart of democracy would imply.

      In another way people’s day to day lives are mostly determined by their class rather than religion because such a lot of our time is spent as “workers.”

      So a bit of Marx, bit Foucault, bit of Orwell all suggest that “class war” is something which is already being fought, and always will be, of the propertied class against the propertyless, and which it makes sense for Labour to (start) fighting in on the right side. This is in a way which is totally different to race would be and is a facile comparison.

  2. Oh, and…

    The relative merits of concentrating on the class interests of the Tories will be discussed elsewhere by others (as will DK’s total misunderstanding of what class is).

    Since I am so ignorant, could you please define what class is?

    As an Old Etonian on the median wage, which class do I come into?


  3. Class war and race war can be confused by Tories, as well as many liberals, since in both sets of thinking ‘class’ is as ‘natural’ as ‘race’. For yonder Tory, there are naturally-ordained and preserved social hierarchies, such that one simply has the misfortune to be born into the servant classes, or a Mohommadan, but one may, of course, better one’s self through thrift, a positive disposition, and studied emulation of one’s betters. For liberals, class differences are as innately benign as ethnic or subcultural differences. The desire to eliminate class difference is as Totalitarian as ethnic cleansing or banning hoodies in shopping malls.

    Incidentally, you’ve kind of got it the wrong way around with Australia’s White Australia policy. It wasn’t that the policy itself was ‘unofficial’, it was the first Act passed through the Parliament in 1901, as you allude to. Rather, it was unofficially progressively abandoned in practice after ww2 when large numbers of migrants were required in the post-war boom. It had largely fallen into disuse by the time it was stricken from the books by the Labor government in the mid-70s.

    O and this is an interesting article on ethnicity in US law.

  4. As an Old Etonian on the median wage, which class do I come into?

    I knew an Old Etonian & Oxbridge alum who spent some time living in a squat. I seem to recall that he wasn’t making any money at that point, either, but should we assume from this that the chap in question was in a similar social/economic situation to the types of people who commonly occupy squats? I doubt it, somehow.

    In answer to your question (and without wishing to stomp all over what I’m sure will be a more eloquent & illuminating response from this blog’s author), there’s a bunch of stuff which goes into measuring a person’s class, and social theorists have been arguing about it for as long as liberals have been arguing over what is and isn’t liberal.

    Off the top of my head, indicators of social class can include (but are not limited to): inherited wealth, occupation, earned income, property, geographic location, education & the occupations & education of family members (particularly parents or guardians).

    Then, of course, there’s class as described in many of our great works of literature; all the strange little sayings, habits, accents, slang, likes, antipathies, old wives tales & folk legends which people from similar backgrounds often share. You can’t measure this kind of class and it’s entirely useless from a socio-political point of view, but I think they can still be lodged in our psyches as symbols of who we are.

    So all these different factors, empirical and otherwise, are used by people to determine class. We give some factors a greater weighting than others, of course (education, inherited wealth & income are common among sociologists), but they’re all meant to signify something, at some level.

    It’s quite possible that in another lifetime your place at Eton could have given you the breadth of lucrative opportunities which is a big selling point for any parent wondering how best to blow thirty grand. It would’ve been easier to find yourself a nice internship, for example, or a job as a parliamentary researcher, if you attended Eton rather than Barnsley College. Evidently, you chose to do things differently to some of Eton’s more famous alumni, and appear to have found something you (a) enjoy and (b) appear to be reasonably good at. The question is: does the indicator of your higher social class (attending Eton) outweigh the indicator of being somewhere in the middle (earned income)?

    That’s a question I could train on myself, too. Do the details of family background (mining family; first Robertson to attend a university) outweigh my education & job (Cambridge; trainee teacher) when determining what class I am?

    Wouldn’t have a clue, to be honest, but it’s interesting to ponder. What I am certain about, however, is that a post about the class aspects of forthcoming electoral strategy isn’t particularly analogous to the sordid death fetishes of bilious racists.

    For what it’s worth, I think any prospect of class war died over 20 years ago at a place called Cortonwood, but at least they replaced it with a retail park.

    1. Bloody good in my book. Class is difficult before we even begin to talk about culture.

      For example, common people say “pardon” when the don’t hear you. More refined people say “sorry?” The really posh say “what?!” But put these down and you would assume it was all the other way round, yet these are the things which help define what social class you are.

      I always try to keep economic and social class in different compartments. I’m definitely a middle class, graduate, straight, white, average built male but I am very much working class when it comes to my economic situation. Complicated!

      1. These are all good points—thank you for elucidating. However, can you see my point? There is an awful lot in Neil’s excellent answer that is not down to the individual, but to how his parents acted, or his general upbringing—in other words, things that the individual has little or no control over.

        As I have since pointed out, if Sunny had talked about a war on the “undeserving rich” (as he now maintains is the case) then I would not have replied in the same way.


        1. I think we’re getting somewhere here.

          The problem in a large part probably stems from this country’s obsession with the social aspect of class. In America it is vastly different and some redneck could become an oil baron and legitimately think of himself as middle or upper class.

          In this country you can get rich and still be working class, you can own a company employing 1000s and still be though of as a “working class lad done good” but someone like you who earns the median wage [1] who may (or may not) speak with a plum in your mouth is seen as upper middle or upper class.

          In this country class is all too often discussed in terms of how one speaks, or whether one says one or I. I don’t think people on the left find it a particularly useful way to divide up the world, and you’re right, people can’t really help what social class they are brought up as (me especially, I had speech therapy when I was 3-7 as I couldn’t really talk proper so I have a slightly posher voice than I’ve any right to, and hence always seem slightly more middle class than I perhaps am? Even I find it complicated).

          So class war doesn’t fill me with dread because I quite like our weird attitude to class, [2] I don’t like our inequality; materially, with respect to power over our own lives, with respect to access to influence on the state or with respect to how I and most people I know are treated at work as “working class” drones (for want of a better word).

          However, as unpleasant as the anti-toffery can be, it can also be an accurate proxy for unearned wealth, this includes lots you wouldn’t expect as the state is now insuring the whole economy and many are reaping the benefits from that almost invisible subsidy. This may make Sunny’s Labour strategy uncomfortable but I don’t think it puts it anywhere near Race War territory. But the fact that it will lose votes from people like yourself who identify with a slightly higher social class while still being essentially “working class” as I see it is a problem.

          It seems everyone has lots to say on this subject in any case. 2010 is going to be an interesting year on the campaign trail.

          [1] Doing a job I hear you love, which is far more than I can say in my call center. Which is another reason that perhaps leads me to “feel” more working class than you on top of my dismal wage.

          [2] Quite a nice book on Englishness which has some interesting things to say about how weird the English really are.

          1. Heh! I do, indeed, love my job—I do put in ludicrous hours though. It’s rare that I work fewer than 60 hours a week. It’ll pay off in the end though, I hope.

            I must say that I have never had to work in a call centre: I’ve had a few hard times, but I’ve usually been remarkably lucky.

            Anyway, yes, class is an emotive and pretty vaguely defined term. To be honest, at least John B (on the LC thread) tried to nail down a more precise definition (i.e. taxing unearned wealth): it is important to do so.

            Personally, I dislike declaring “war” on any section of the population. We are all human beings together—yes, even you damned Lefties—and it seems much better to emphasise those things that we have in common than our differences.

            And it’s just such a bad idea. Like it or not, people with lots of money have lots of options: in the end, those who end up clobbered are not the “undeserving rich” but the middle classes.

            Now, if you are happy to hit the middle classes… well, fine. But at least have the balls to say so (ha! There’s my helpless idealism again).

            As regards working class “drones”, I think that people of all classes feel like that, to be honest (whether with justification or not). The biggest problem in this country is the lack of hope or realistic aspiration.

            Polly Toynbee once maintained that you shouldn’t give working class people aspirations as they would just end up disappointed—I think that is a very sad, and destructive, attitude to take.

            Being keen and just looking for opportunities can work wonders. Yes, I am well-spoken, well-educated and (reasonably) well-turned out, and that has helped, to be sure. But, ultimately, I possess absolutely no qualifications for the job that I do: I just worked hard and got lucky. And anyone can do that…


  5. “The idea that racism and religious sectarianism spring from the very people who battle against it is hardest must be appealing to the right. Everyone loves a counterintuitive insight, especially one which is so satisfying and provides a stick with which to beat one’s enemies.”

    It seems fairly intuitive to me that if you have an ideology that requires you to discriminate the need and ability of each individual then you’ll inevitably and inadvertently have to discriminate based upon race and class (whatever that means). Socialism requires planning and planning requires discrimination.

  6. ‘The idea that racism and religious sectarianism spring from the very people who battle against it is hardest must be appealing to the right. Everyone loves a counterintuitive insight, especially one which is so satisfying and provides a stick with which to beat one’s enemies.”

    It’s not counter-intuitive… surely the concept of the road to hell being paved with good intentions is not alien to you?

    Essentially, that’s what the right mostly sees socialism as. I personally don’t doubt that these lefty anti-racism campaigners genuinely believe in what they do. It’s just a shame they can’t see past their nose enough to realise that, effectively, with one hand they give and with the other they take away.

  7. @BenS and @Kevin Monk

    Well I guess that all depends on how you view the left.

    Although parts of the left have gone into identity politics in a big way, there’s a huge swathe that is very egalitarian. The idea that pushing for one form of egalitarianism (more material equality) could lead to an unequal (misc. prejudice e.g. racism) isn’t what you would expect. Unless you view the left as DK and Charlotte obviously do, that is, an organised attempt to divide people.

    As described in the post the hard earned freedoms and support which were won in the late C19th and early C20th were not accompanied or followed by racial prejudice and son on. That would be the intuition of the right and yet that is not what happened.

    Im not sure that the concept of the road to hell being paved with good intentions is the best example you could have thought of. What you would intuitively think the road to hell would be would be bad intentions and shitty actions; stamping on puppies and robbing old ladies. The idea that doing something nice will lead to hell is a little counter-intuitive, even if it has now become a truism.

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