When the oppressed are oppressive too

Labour are and always have been democratic and inclusive, they won’t pander to the anti-immigration rhetoric and racism of the right. Quite properly so. Miliband is right to address the issue of exploitative employers, and promote the rights of all workers, that is what equality means.

Human rights apply to everyone, including migrants, otherwise there’s no point in having them. Labour’s Equality Act and Human Rights Act apply to all, and not just disgruntled blue collar workers. Human rights were originally a cooperative international response to the Holocaust, and they are premised on the socialist axiom that every human life has equal worth. Nationalism, Fascism and Conservatism are premised on inequality, a hierarchy of worth and Social Darwinism. 

Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats is known principally as the founder of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) but he was originally a Tory. He crossed the floor to sit as an Independent Member on the opposition side of the House of Commons. Dissatisfied with the Labour Party, Mosley founded the New Party. Its early parliamentary contests, in the 1931 Ashton-under-Lyne by-election and subsequent by-elections had a spoiler effect in splitting the left-wing vote and allowing Conservative candidates to win. 

BUF gained the endorsement of the Daily Mail  newspaper, headed at the time by Harold Harmsworth (later created 1st Viscount Rothermere). The BUF was protectionist, strongly anti-communist, nationalistic, and strongly authoritarian. In 1933, after his wife’s death, Mosley married one of his mistresses, Diana Guinness. They married in secret in Germany on 6 October 1936 in the Berlin home of Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Adolf Hitler was one of the guests.

Farage is readily comparable with Mosely, he also tried to entice the working class, and those blue collar defectors who don’t feel solidarity with anyone except their “own kind” need to ask themselves how a fascist party would better reflect their interests, because fascists aren’t just fascists when it comes to your preferred target group – in this case migrants – fascists are fascists full stop. And most migrants are working class, too.

Fascists are not known for being big on unions and worker’s rights either, Hitler smashed the unions, Mosely fought them too. But fascists do like to use the oppressed to oppress others.

Mosely was defeated by working class solidarity – Jews, communists, socialists, the labour movement, and the middle classes, who all stood side by side in Newcastle, in the Valleys, Yorkshire, at Olympia and on Cable Street. Unity and regard for the rights and well-being of others was their strength.

Those blue collar workers that are so negative towards their exploited migrant brothers and sisters are more like Thatcher’s children, with so little regard for anyone else. There’s no excuse for prejudice and blaming Labour won’t cut it. Our own principles and respect for each other are our own responsibility. Labour have always provided a framework of tolerance and equality, so there are no excuses. The Labour Party isn’t (and ought not be) about the exclusive representation of just one self-defined social group. That isn’t how democracy works.

Prejudice is politically and socially motivated and directed – there is a considerable element of political and media “duping” involved but there has to be more to it than simply socio-political process, otherwise everyone would be prejudiced in the exactly the same ways. And we are not at all.

There are some identifiable psychological characteristics that present reasons why some people may be more susceptible to adopting prejudice as a kind of defence mechanism:

Avoiding uncertainty – Prejudice allows people to avoid anxiety, anger, doubt and fear. It’s a way of choosing something easier to confront than a reality, since stigmatising a vulnerable social group is an easier option than facing a powerful government that is invariably responsible for the anxiety, anger, doubt and fear in the first place. Of course, that diversion of blame and responsibility suits the government very well, too.

Avoiding ambiguity and insecurity – Prejudice gives people tangible scapegoats to blame in times of social crisis. It offers people a simple formula – stereotypes – from which to make predictions about other people’s behaviour.

Allowing self-serving bias – Prejudice may be used to boost self-esteem. People with prejudiced attitudes tend to be those that harbour a sense of inadequacy. (See Iain Duncan Smith, and his fake qualifications and false statistics, for example)

Permitting oppressive behaviours – Prejudice legitimises discrimination because it apparently justifies hierarchical thinking, and one group’s dominance over another.

Prejudice has been linked with the tendency for over-simplification of explanations – seeing the world as black and white, and also, hierarchical thinking.

Following the Holocaust, several influential theorists came to regard prejudice as pathological, and they searched for personality syndromes associated with racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of prejudice. The most prominent of these theorists was Theodor Adorno, who had fled Nazi Germany and concluded that the key to prejudice lay in what he called an “authoritarian personality.”

In his book The Authoritarian Personality, (1950), Adorno and his co-authors described authoritarians as rigid thinkers who obeyed authority, saw the world as black and white, and enforced strict adherence to social rules and hierarchies. Authoritarian people, they argued, were more likely than others to harbour prejudices against low-status groups.

All forms of right-wing authoritarianism correlate with prejudice. Well-designed studies in South Africa, Russia, Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere have found that right-wing authoritarianism is associated with a variety of prejudices (Altemeyer, 1996; Duckitt & Farre, 1994; McFarland, Ageyev, & Abalakina, 1993). People who view the social world hierarchically are more likely than others to hold prejudices toward low-status groups. This is especially true of people who want their own group to dominate and be superior to other groups – a characteristic known as “social dominance orientation” .

Any group claiming dominance over another – including the “working class” – is displaying social dominance orientation. The oppressed can be oppressive, too.

Social dominance orientation tends to correlate with prejudice strongly and studies have linked it to anti-Black and anti-Arab prejudice, sexism, nationalism, opposition to gay rights, and other attitudes concerning social hierarchies.

So what are the answers?

Reducing Prejudice:

Research shows that prejudice and conflict among groups can be reduced if four conditions are met:

1) The groups have equality in terms of legal status, economic opportunity, and political power. This is one reason why Labour’s Human Rights Act and the Equality Act are so important.

2) Authorities advocate equal rights and are positive about diversity. We ought to be able to expect positive role modelling from a government. That will never happen with any right wing administration. They advocate measures and present narratives that heighten prejudice, Labour are currently the only party actually addressing the root causes of prejudice.

3) The conflicted groups are provided with opportunities to interact formally and informally with each other.

4) The groups cooperate to reach a common goal.

Yes, that’s the real socialist principle of cooperation, for the benefit of that elite of “purist socialists” who exclude others because they think that they are better socialists than everyone else.

The world would be a much better place if we used cooperation as our unifying foundation for inter-group process, conflict resolution and for wider social organisation.

In solidarity.

Manly P Hall
Many thanks to Robert Livingstone for his excellent pictures

11 thoughts on “When the oppressed are oppressive too

  1. I agree with you all the best, however after 30+ years of social conditioning it sees the ability for oppressed groups to work together have been diminished. We have an uphilll fight to share the bigger picture…In unity xxx


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