Today, the petition to rescind President Trump’s state visit to Britain signed by 1.8 million people will be debated in Parliament. Stop Trump demonstrations are planned for this evening across the country and are expected to draw more than 10,000 people to stand together in solidarity with migrants and against racism and Islamophobia.
Trump’s racist, Islamophobic, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant politics are the same driving forces as those behind the Brexit vote to leave the EU. In the context of the rise of reactionary and xenophobic politics worldwide, the Stop Trump programme of opposition is a joint effort with the One Day Without Us movement, staging its first day of action today. Tens of thousands of migrants and their supporters are staging a walkout from workplaces and places of education to celebrate the contribution migrant workers make to British society. In particular, the action aims to highlight their importance to the British economy: withdrawing their labour for a day would cost the UK £328m – 4% of the country’s GDP.
The British government is not just complicit with Trump's agenda: Theresa May has been a trailblazer in ramping up anti-migrant measures for years before her ascent to the premiership in her role as Home Secretary when she notoriously brought in 'go home' vans. While it debates the terms of Brexit, the government continues to run a brutal and inhumane detention system; demonise and deport migrants; refuse refugees, and extend the border regime deeper into British society, into our hospitals, schools and workplaces.
Verso presents a reading list of books that challenge and expose right-wing narratives about migrant workers and refugees by contextualising crises rooted in the violence of capitalism, legacies of colonialism and war waged by the West. This selection includes books that provide us with histories of resistance from which we can draw strength and inspiration for the fightback ahead.
A British politics reading list
*** THE SALE HAS NOW FINISHED ***
It's been a landmark year for this rainy island. Labour coup attempts, Brexit chaos, rising poverty, thriving right-wing politics, and yet! we've seen more outrage over a potential marmite shortage than the spike in racially motivated attacks.
Beyond that, there's been an accelerated rise of the far-right throughout Europe (and, of course, the horror in the US), a refugee crisis so poorly managed that an even worse humanitarian crisis awaits us in 2017, and a global climate catastrophe that isn't going away but continues to be (largely) ignored. Capitalism is still doing it's bit for the rich, whilst failing everyone else, creating a wealth divide so large that it's hard to see where it will end.
Our British politics reading list includes books that look at these very issues, as well as the historical contexts and political conditions that have allowed them to thrive in the last year. Until Jan 1: all our print books are 50% off (with free shipping worldwide and bundled ebooks), all our ebooks are 90% off.
This piece first appeared in Truthout.
The US intellectual class has failed to understand the racism at the core of Trump's political project. The discussion is focused on two questions: Are Trump voters decent, salt-of-the-earth workers protesting their economic insecurity, or hate-filled Archie Bunkers? Are his transition appointments hateful bigots or mainstream conservatives?
What both questions obscure is that white supremacy is a social and political system, not simply a matter of individual attitudes. It is sustained not by barroom bigots but by millions of daily acts of complicity on the part of ordinary people — in New York City and San Francisco as much as in Alabama, and among wealthy elites as much as the rural poor. As Frantz Fanon wrote: "A given society is racist, or it is not." Questioning whether one region or class is more racist than another is the product of people "incapable of straight thinking."
After 40 years of neoliberal reaction, in which the utopia of perfect market justice was touted by everyone from leading economists to politicians the world over, 2016 seems to have been a watershed moment in the history of capitalism. Between the rise of populism on both the right and the left, typified by the election of Donald Trump, and the decision of voters to defy the liberal elites with the Brexit vote, 2016 has seen the revenge of the voters, in however perverted a form.
In this extract from his new book, How Will Capitalism End?, Wolfgang Streeck argues that capitalism is riven with the contradiction between the needs of the market and those of the voters. Neoliberalism, Streeck argues, saw the dominance of market logic over that of voters, but is that now changing?
Sam Kriss is a UK writer who blogs at Idiot Joy Showland and has previously written about the post-Brexit Labour coup on the Verso blog. Here he unpicks ‘immigration’ as an empty signifier in which the totality of modern life's general miserableness is encapsulated and given false explanation — yet one that now threatens the end of freedom of movement, which argues the left must defend, without illusions.
“Our policy is to end free movement: people were unhappy about the drudgery and uselessness of social life, and the ruling classes encouraged them to call that miserable situation ‘immigration’; now, to fix the situation, the same ruling class is proposing to actually end immigration. The politicians have decided that Europe means immigration, but immigration only means itself. It’d be hard to imagine a more ridiculous outcome; it’s as if someone in a restaurant was unhappy with the food, and the manager tried to fix things by tearing up the menu.”
Britain is obsessed with immigration; nastily obsessed. The vote to leave the European Union was, it’s now solemnly agreed, really a vote on open borders and freedom of movement. Apocryphal tales of people voting Leave because they thought it meant that all the migrants would be made to leave; more concrete, more harrowing instances of bigotry that have nothing to do with European migration law: assaults and attacks on black Americans and British Muslims, people who weren’t covered by any of the referendum’s overt content, but who carried the physical marks that signal migration. What does it actually mean when people talk about free movement, about unrestricted mass migration, about all these foreigners coming in?