First Published: The Forge, Vol. 6, No. 3, January 23, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In the last few months. British Columbia has witnessed a rising tide of racism – including Ku Klux Klan organizing drives and the firebombing of an East Indian family’s home.
New groups, such as the BC Organization to Fight Racism (BCOFR) and the Committee for Racial Justice have sprung up to fight racism and the Klan.
With the growing anti-racist fightback have come new questions about what the movement should focus on, how it should be united, and what orientation it should take.
“We think that the struggle against the Klan right now is the key to building the anti-racist movement,” says John Price, WCP provincial organizer.
The extreme racist and fascist philosophy of the KKK is based on the denial of rights of numerous nationalities, ethnic and religious groups, and the labour movement, he said. This makes it possible to mobilize great numbers of people against the Klan.
A broadly-based movement against the KKK already exists in BC. In a few weeks the BCOFR was able to collect over 5000 signatures on a petition to ban the Klan. Other groups, such as the Chinese Benevolent Association and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, have also called for an end to the Klan’s activities.
“This widespread hatred people have for the Klan makes people open to discussing racism in general,” says Price. “So it is possible to transform this hatred into an opposition to racism in all its forms.”
“Uniting the anti-Klan forces is important,” says Tim Stanley, a WCP member who has been active in the Chinese Canadian community in Vancouver and is on the executive of the BCOFR.
“Right now, the surest way of achieving that is with direct action that draws on the combined strength of the anti-Klan organizations, the communities targetted by the Klan’s hate literature, and the labour movement,” he says.
Price suggests a demonstration could be held in front of the provincial legislature in Victoria, jointly organized by the groups legitimately opposed to the Klan. Each group can mobilize its own members or community, making the event a huge success. A lot of people could be brought out to such a march and even more people could be educated about the dangers of the Klan.
The idea of this demonstration should be brought forward to the Committee for Racial Justice, which is a kind of coordinating committee that includes BCOFR, the Chinese Benevolent Association, the BC Teachers’ Federation and the Black Solidarity Association.
Unfortunately there are some groups, including the Coalition against Racism (CAR), which are against such actions. The CAR is heavily influenced by the views of the Communist Party of Canada (CPC) and the NDP.
The CAR has opposed the call to ban the Klan. It has argued against mass action in favor of lobbying members of the Legislature, as it did last December. In fact, CAR went so far as to criticize the BCOFR for carrying out actions against the KKK on its own before consulting the CAR!
CAR has been criticized by the BC Teachers’ Federation and other groups for claiming to have their support without getting their permission.
What are some of the other issues in the anti-racism fightback? “The need for national and ethnic minorities to be well enough organized so that they can protect themselves from racist attacks is a vital question,” Price stresses.
He says this calls for organizations that are solidly based in these communities: “In the East Indian community in particular – which is now bearing the brunt of the racist attacks – there is a burning need for a community organization which has the specific task of fighting racism.”
Among its various activities, the BCOFR has been organizing in the East Indian community. But what is required is a permanent, mass organization just for the East Indian community: it could educate East Indians through publications and meetings in their own language, quickly mobilize the community against any attacks and provide legal assistance and other services.
“Such an organization could also play a role in eliminating the presence in the East Indian community of the CPCML and its front groups, which have consistently tried to split and sabotage the community’s fight for its rights,” Price says.
Related to the need for victims of racism to protect themselves with community organizations is the question of who can be relied upon for defence. “There are those who believe that the police can be relied upon to protect national and ethnic minorities. Foremost among these is the Communist Party of Canada” says Stanley.
One CP activist even went so far as to suggest that the chief of police in Delta – the Vancouver suburb where an East Indian family’s home was fire-bombed – should organize a public meeting to discuss the incident.
“That’s ridiculous,” explains Stanley. “The Delta cops still refuse to recognize that the January 3 fire-bombing was racially-motivated. They pretend that it is only a problem of ’juvenile delinquents’ – and the CP wants to give the cops a platform to spout this nonsense.”
Rather than relying on the police, the people must rely on themselves for protection against racist attacks. They can be organized on a block-by-block basis, so that in the event of a racist attack, help can come in a few minutes.
Self defence – like other weapons including petitions, rallies and unity with labour requires solid community organizations.
Behind the different tactics put forward by the WCP and the CP or the NDP on the fight against racism lie opposing political orientations.
“We see the fight against racism not simply as a question of democratic rights, but also as a part of the movement against the capitalist system which is at the source of racism and national oppression. We point out that only socialism can guarantee an end to racism,” Price notes.
The NDP never talks about the capitalist system. It reduces the problem of racism to a question of more “human rights” legislation. Eager only to get elected, the NDP has no intention of changing the system that nurtures racism. So for it, lobbying is the only legitimate form of action.
Price explains that a correct view on the state – the parliament, police, courts, etc – is also needed. The CP proposes to work with and reform the police to fight racism. This is based on their so-called “anti-monopoly program,” which actually calls for the “democratization of the state apparatus... including the armed forces, the police.”
But the WCP points out that since the state is there to serve and protect the bosses and their system, the state must be a target rather than an ally of the anti-racist fightback.
“In the end, both the NDP’s proposals for lobbying politicians and the CP’s proposals for cooperating with the police only weaken the struggle against racism,” concludes Price.