On the 7th July 2018, an event was organised in Brent in preparation for Tump's visit on the 13th July in London. The event was organised by Brent Central Labour Party and supported by Brent Stop the War Coalition, Brent Stand Up to Racism, Brent Momentum, Brent Green Party and Brent Trades Council. Speakers included Cllr Muhammed Butt (Leader, Brent Council), Sabby Dhalu (National Co-Convenor, Stand up to Racism), Ian Hodson (McStrike/ President, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union), Seema Chandwani (Haringey TUC), Faisa Hassan (London Young Labour) and myself, Shaka Lish, representing Brent Green Party).
This is the full text from my speech. For more details about the protests taking place against Trump's visit in London on 13th July, please click here.
Also, a video of this address can be found here - https://youtu.be/EfORoIQEtaM
Firstly, I’d like to thank the organisers for putting on this event and for giving us an opportunity, as a community, to establish a collective position on Trump’s visit and to emphatically reject the ideals he stands for. I would also like to thank the organisers for having me along to speak.
I jumped at the chance to speak at this event as it presented me with an opportunity to talk about the political climate in which we currently find ourselves and for which Trump is a worrying emblem, among many others. My first thought was that I would like to wake us out of the inclination that we have to ‘virtue signal’ when it comes to Trump. As abhorrent as he is, if we limit our understanding of what he represents, we miss the lesson by disavowing the conditions that has collectively created his rise to power.
The reality is that Donald Trump is the logical conclusion of the last 40-50 years of economic policy in the UK and America. We as a culture, have celebrated greed as good, we have celebrated the death of society, social cohesion and a responsibility to one another, we have celebrated fervent individualism and the dominance of private, corporate interests over state and pubic ownership and ergo, the eroding of democracy. This has not only represented a giving away of economic and political power to private interests but it has also resulted in stark inequality in our society. It has also allowed candidates and parties to buy elections as we have seen here in UK, with Brexit and in America, with Trump (Look at spending in elections and see a direct correlation between spending and votes. This means there is a direct correlation between money and power that exasperates inequality and diminishes democracy).
It is easy to agree with this analysis and to distance ourselves from these factors, again to virtue signal. But this disavowal is a mistake and robs us of the opportunity to grasp root to tip what Trump represents and why, therefore robbing us of the ability to do something about this dangerous man.
Trump appears to signify the worst aspects of humanity in service to its worst quarters. He is vain, egotistic, narcissistic, racist, sexist, transphobic, greedy and quite possibly a sociopath. He thrives on, and exploits, the worst human emotions such as fear, anger, ignorance and hatred for power. His position and his existence is a symptom, not the cause, of a very sick society. That said however, he was also democratically elected and therefore represents ideas that were able to resonate with a percentage electorate in America. If you look at the figures, this percentage is actually quite small and this also highlights the dangers of having a disengaged electorate alongside a low-voter turn out.
The fact is, Hilary lost the election because she did not inspire or mobilise enough people to vote for her. She represented the ultimate ‘manager’ politician (to reference Adam Curtis), maintaining the status quo without any inspiring ideas that address the multiple crises of our time. As Ulrich Beck highlights in Risk Society, liberal society has become a complex, bureaucratic system that exists to solely maintain capitalism and avert its most extreme repercussions. It does not exist to solve or address root causes of suffering due to its excesses. Liberal society is in crisis because it has existed in a hazy, isolated world in which it believes in capitalism as progress, yet it has arrogantly hidden the human and environmental costs in poorer parts of the country and the world. For too long the poor, the marginalised and the alienated have been told to hold on a little longer, that change would come one day; that the dominant ideals of our age are right but just need to right management team. This is not to say only the poor or the marginalised voted for Trump, this simply is not the case. However, Trump trumpeted ideas that spoke to people’s worst fears. In response, we need not more of the same from the last 40-50 years we need radical change and a radical departure before we sleepwalk into fascism as a mainstream political alternative to the status quo. We need to challenge Trump’s dangerous political agenda head on by offering radical alternatives that serve the people, not the corporate agenda.
To do this, we need to be honest with ourselves and look at the record of our own country, our own back yard. As Naomi Kline says, saying ‘no’ to Trump is not enough. We need to offer an inspiring and alternative vision in opposition to management, status quo politics; an inclusive politics that does not leave people behind. That does not say in order to progress, we need to cut some people loose in order to be efficient. As a Green Party member I believe the concept of ‘left’ and ‘right’ are out of touch and not equipped for the political battles of the future. The ‘left’ has an equally extractivist relationship with the earth but merely seeks to ameliorate the worst inequalities of distribution. This ignores the environmental costs and also the costs to workers in other parts of the world who do not enjoy the same employment rights or protections. We have not erased the destructive forces of capitalism we have merely exported them.
It was recently reported that more that 200 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea in the last few days, trying to escape their own countries to find hope and shelter in one of the richest continents in the world. The Guardian identified these people merely as migrants with no impression that these are people with lives, families, hopes, dreams and fears of their own or even idea of the misery they are fleeing from and why they might be risking their lives and their children’s lives to make these journeys.
We criticise Trump for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (which was set up in 2003 before his election) yet, it has also been recently exposed by Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) that the UK government is also separating children from parents. Our own Home Office has an appalling record and has caused untold misery, confusion and suffering. Windrush, anyone? Also, remember the immigration mugs from Miliband? Remember Tony Blair’s involvement in rendition programs torturing and kidnapping people during the Iraq war?
We criticise Trump for denying climate change and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, yet over half of the Labour Party just voted with the current Tory government to approve Heathrow expansion, knowing that it will compromise our ability to meet our own climate targets.
We criticise Trump for deepening inequality (by changing legislation that will continue to enrich the wealthiest in America and that will take away healthcare for the poorest) yet we also do not confront the deepening inequality of our own country and the fact that of the fifth worst boroughs for ethnic inequality in London are all controlled by Labour MPs and Labour majority Councils. (Brent is 4th on that list, if you wanted to know).
What are we doing about that? Have we connected the dots yet? We need to recognised the way in which the so-called progressive left has validated right-wing rhetoric and allowed this beast to grow. To challenge Trump, we have to unapologetically relocate our own humanity. For the Greens, we do this by creating policy that is guided by four pillars – democracy, peace, social justice and the environment. After all, what else is there?
I am all for rightly criticising Trump and protesting against everything that he stands for, however, I also want to fight the injustices that can be found on our own doorstep; the social, political and environmental injustices that happen globally and in this country as we speak. Please let us not forget that. Let’s challenge Trump but let us also put forward and enact the ideas, policies and activism that will diminish his support and address the hypocrisies of our time. Thank you.