Workshop Talks: Bleak future if no labor solidarity

July 3, 2016

From the July-August 2016 issue of News & Letters

by Htun Lin

Just four days after 49 people, mostly Latinos, were murdered at the Gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Jo Cox, a Member of Parliament, was shot and then stabbed to death in England by a man linked to U.S. neo-Nazi propaganda. Cox, an activist for refugee rights, was murdered in the run-up to the June 23 British referendum on the UK staying in the European Union (“Remain”, which was Jo Cox’s position) or leaving in the guise of restoring sovereignty (“Brexit”) which won in an upset.

Jo Cox

Cox’s assassin was heard yelling “Britain First!” while he attacked her, the name of one of the anti-immigrant white chauvinist groups pushing a vote for Brexit. My immediate reaction was that he must want to build a Trump-like wall for Britain to keep out refugees from war-torn regions.

The nativism and narrow nationalism we’ve seen gain more prominence in the UK around the referendum echo movements like Donald Trump’s in the U.S., Marine Le Pen’s in France, and Viktor Orban’s in Hungary. Outright neo-fascism masquerades as populist demagoguery. Racists who were pushing Brexit took the open borders within the EU, and its common trade rules, labor and human rights standards and environmental regulations, and presented that to working-class British voters as, “Why should we allow foreigners to tell us what to do, and how to live?”

Pressure to exit the EU began with a large part of the ruling Tory Party, joined by the UK Independence Party and even more unsavory neo-fascist groups. A wide swath of the British Left ignored the racist foundation of the debate to campaign for Brexit.

In the U.S., grifter capitalist Trump, who has long imported his branded merchandise from China and Mexico, has framed part of his campaign as concern for U.S. workers losing jobs to China and Mexico. He ties up his jobs pitch with anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant diatribes.

The Bernie Sanders campaign also made unfair trade a key issue in the primaries against Hillary Clinton, stating that “working people understand that NAFTA and CAFTA and PNTR with China have been disastrous for working families.” Sanders himself did not blame immigrants or other ethnicities for the current ravages of chronic unemployment and increasing health problems like opioid addiction and suicide. Yet some Bernie supporters tolerated or even celebrated a campaign surrogate like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, whose virulent anti-Muslim rhetoric is based on the Hindu fundamentalism of India’s President  Narendra Modi.


In the tragic aftermath of the Orlando massacre, Trump led the way in trying to pit one demonized group, Muslims, against another, Gays. The murder of Jo Cox, a lonely voice in the Labour Party and in Parliament speaking out on behalf of the Syrian Revolution and demanding a no-fly zone even as Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad continued to rain bombs down on Syrian cities, reminded me that the smoke and ash from devastated cities of Syria and Iraq and Yemen mingle with the smoke and ash from Yemen to Orlando, from Gaza to Karachi.

The world is devastated by the increasing dehumanization of militarism and terror, as in Burma where the Rohingya Muslim minority, another people that Jo Cox had spoken out for, are still at risk of genocide from political Buddhism. Global capitalism is propped up by racism, fundamentalism and narrow nationalism.

We workers have grievances against the powers that ravage our livelihoods. As we respond to these concerns, out of the sewer of a decaying society come old alternatives which claim to offer us relief—from Trump’s version of America, to Le Pen of France, to Orban of Hungary, to Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, to Putin of Russia, to Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, to British nativism.


Ours is a time ripe for revolution.  Revolution cannot remain local, or confined to one nation, but must be international. It cannot remain just political, but universal and humanist.

The time has come at this turning point in our collective global history for all of us workers to choose. We must choose between the path of fascism and narrow nationalism, or the path of universal freedom. There is no exit from global capitalism without international labor solidarity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *