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Anti-racist campaign takes well-trodden path

Kevin Keating

1st April 2004

A well attended meeting to establish a campaign against McDowell’s proposed referendum on citizenship was held in the ATGWU hall in Dublin on Saturday 27th March.

The existing constitution guarantees the right of any person born in Ireland to automatic citizenship rights.   The amendment would block babies born to parents from outside the EU from availing of that right – a clear example of state sponsored racism.

The meeting was organised by Residents against Racism and was attended by the left organisations, Sinn Fein, the Greens and generally by the milieu around the anti-globalisation campaigns.

Discussion was a great deal more open than the recent history of campaigns launched by the left, where manipulation to follow a policy prepared in advance had been the order of the day.  However the opposite fault, common to anti-globalisation fora, of treating every point of view as equally valid marred the discussion.  The initial debate never got to the point where a clear strategic orientation was proposed or agreed, and the meeting broke into workshops after a fairly diffuse discussion.  Agreement came down to agreement on activities which the participants believed would maximise the no vote on the day.

The weakness of this rather apolitical approach became clear at the end of the meeting when a debate broke out on whether or not the word ‘racist’ should be included in the campaign title.  The fact that the debate took place is indicative of the extent to which political clarity was sacrificed at the altar of a bland, inclusive liberalism.

Despite the fact that the majority of those in the hall would describe themselves as socialist, there was barely a mention of the class nature of the racist drive of the EU and the coalition government, of the centrality of the working class to a fight against racism or of the need for the campaign to orient to the working class movement.

There is a massive task to hand if we are to face down the forces of racism stirring in Ireland.  There is only one campaign and we should all work through it and support it. However, even at this early stage, the members of Socialist Democracy can be forgiven a sense of déjà vu.  The tendency is to adopt a deluded electoralist approach that sees the vote as the be-all and end-all.  The ability of a small left campaign to influence the outcome is massively magnified and the end result is opportunist sloganising.  The campaign collapses on the day of the vote and nothing is left.

Who really believes that the racist offensive of the EU and the Coalition will fade away on the day following the vote? Or that the need to organise and mobilise the working class will not be as great as ever?




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