The world reverberated on March 15 to the horrifying news that 50 people had been murdered and scores wounded, some critically, at the Al Noor and Linwood mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
We knew immediately, without the shadow of a doubt, that this was an act of white supremacist terror, aimed specifically at Muslim people. Here in the U.S., the act called up the heart-wrenching memory of white supremacist murders of African-American people at a Bible class in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015, and of Jewish people at worship in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Attacks of white terror and white supremacy continue worldwide. To be in utmost solidarity with oppressed peoples, and to be in defense of our own lives, we must focus on what is to be done.
There has been much outrage at the role of social media and Islamophobic, racist rhetoric motivating the killer’s action. Using a head-mounted camera, the white supremacist live-streamed his brutality in real time to the world, documenting his hate-filled language and action. Someone with advance knowledge of the attack announced it, before it happened, on the right-wing forum 8chan.
But the killer’s racist language has been trumpeted for years by white supremacist U.S. politicians. A March 15 Intercept article listed the comments of elected U.S. officials who have used the exact vile phrases or sentiments of the shooter — Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham and Rep. Steve King; former Gov. Mike Huckabee and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
In his 74-page “manifesto,” the shooter said explicitly he admired U.S. President Donald Trump as a “symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Trump, having described neo-Nazis and fascists who rampaged violently in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 as “fine people,” has not condemned the Christchurch massacre as racist or terrorist.
Not an isolated event
The killer in New Zealand did not act alone. He was part of a worldwide resurgence of fascist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy organizing, not just via social media but in the parliaments of Europe. Starting with the success of a Swiss anti-immigrant political party in 1999, right-wing parties have garnered 20 to 30 percent of votes in elections in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and more. (tinyurl.com/y65htly2)
And in 2016 in the U.S. a white supremacist who boasted of his hatred for people of color and immigrants, who demonized women and LGBTQ+ people, was elected president.
A powerful, effective pushback against this surge of white supremacy requires more than answering “hate speech” with other words.
We must look unflinchingly at the fact that white supremacy is a tactic always used by the bosses of capitalism — and the politicians they elect — to divide the global multinational working class and turn us against each other.
In the U.S., laws enforcing discriminatory differences between white indentured servant workers and enslaved African workers were passed by owners as early as 1691. (tinyurl.com/yyd84vz6)
This racist division embedded in the economic system was nurtured in the South by centuries of plantation, coal mine, steel and lumber mill, and now auto factory owners — and taken national as a political strategy in the 1890s. As different waves of immigrant workers have entered the U.S., they have also been targeted by both racist laws and propaganda.
As for the Christchurch shooter, he was born in Australia, where the first colony in 1788 was made of up poor and working-class white prisoners transported there for small crimes against property. This killer was the product of English colonial racism, which went to war with the Indigenous people whose continent it was, killing them and seizing their land.
The Christchurch killer, who identified himself as “working class,” was so brainwashed by colonizing capitalism that he actually called the Muslim people he murdered “invaders … who colonize other peoples’ lands.” (tinyurl.com/y653rh7g)
His crime and his amnesia about Australia — and New Zealand — are also the history of the U.S. The fact that this country and its economy were founded on the theft of Indigenous lands, and on the unwaged, unpaid labor of people of African descent, has been blotted out from the memory, the understanding or the empathy of many white workers.
Capitalism is soaked blood-red in the tactics and beliefs of white supremacy.
We must fight this hatred — indomitably, untiringly — with every revolutionary tool we have. We must renew our struggle against racism, anti-immigrant bigotry and white supremacy. This must happen far beyond informal one-to-one conversations with friends, family or neighbors.
In every one of our unions, workplaces, community groups, religious bodies, schools from primary to university, we must be strategically, systematically organizing to push back against white supremacist ideology.
The ruling-class capitalists who now dominate the world are bent on holding together a death-dealing economic system that makes them multibillionaires. They have no compunction, and plenty of experience, turning us against each other.
We will outwit them, we will defy them, we will out-organize them. We will show our solidarity as the multinational, multigendered working class by sticking together and defending each other.
(Buffalo, N.Y., photo: Ellie Dorritie)