Tommy Robinson is back in prison and his followers are claiming that he is some kind of journalistic free speech martyr. Everyone else thinks he is a self promoting prat who jeopardised the trial of a paedophile ring. I am going to leave the excellent 12 Rules For What to fill in the details, because I am not going to be talk about that.
What I want to talk about is what Tommy Robinson is actually offering the working class people he pretends to care about, how it is all nonsense and how it prevents us from creating real solutions to our problems. I want to show that Tommy Robinson is not some kind of brave truth sayer standing up for the little guy, he is a liar and an enemy of the working class.
Tommy Robinson’s latest project has been pretending to care about “Asian Grooming Gangs”. He and his followers have been pushing the story, sometimes openly and sometimes with a nudge and a wink, that Muslims are somehow far more likely to commit acts of rape than anyone else.
But rape and paedophilia are problems that curse all parts of our society. Statistics show that most sex offences are carried out by white men simply because most sex offenders are men and most people in the UK are white. We only need to look to the constant sex scandals of the Catholic Church to know that paedophilia and rape are not just an Islamic problem.
This is not to undersell the seriousness of rape. Eleven people an hour will face some kind of sexual assault in England and Wales. But most of them will not be attacked by the kind of “evil outsider” stereotype. 90% of them will have known their attacker before the attack. They will have been a friend, a family member, or a colleague.
So what is the effect of Tommy Robinson’s crusade to pin rape and paedophilia on Muslims? To whip up hatred towards Muslims, the vast majority of which are not rapists or paedophiles. To incite violence towards innocent people based on their religion or their skin colour. This is not some brave act of truth telling, it is simply jumping on the bigotry bandwagon and pandering to peoples existing prejudices.
This is an easy card to play. I could show you a list of 40 far right sex offenders, many of them members or ex-members of Tommy Robinson’s old mob, the English Defence League. I could say that there is an epidemic of far right rapists, and that if we just got rid of them, we would be safe from sexual assault. And it would serve my political interests nicely… but it would not be true, or at least it would not be the whole story.
The whole story would be that that in the year ending in March 2017 there were 41,186 cases of rape recorded by the police and 80,001 other sexual offences, or which 6,129 were against children, and that the one group I was choosing to target was tiny compared to the vast sea of sexual violence that swamps our society.
Blaming rape and paedophilia on a group already distrusted and considered outsiders allows us to ignore the problems which British culture in general. Like the fact that many people don’t even know what counts as rape. Like the fact the British state often acts like it does not care about abuse, with only 1.5% of all rape cases even leading to anyone being charged or summonsed, regardless of the ethnicity or religion of the perpetrator. It lets us act like our shit doesn’t stink and gives us an easy target to hate, but it stops us from understanding the problem as it really exists and solving it.
Tommy Robinson has also been pushing the idea that Islam is uniquely violent or terroristic, but that idea is instantly dispelled by looking at any set of statistics relating to terrorism specifically or British death statistics in general. In terms of terrorism alone, Islamist terrorism in the UK has never even come close to the sustained death count caused by Irish terrorism. A graph I have straight up stolen from this paper illustrates my point:
Even at its most deadly, Islamist terrorists have never surpassed what would have been a peaceful year in most of the 70s and 80s. Islamist terrorism in the UK has also never achieved the kind of single incident death toll of Lockerbie. If Muslims are uniquely violent, then man they must suck at it, because they still don’t hold a candle to the level of violence deployed by groups originating from a “native” culture.
Tommy Robinson’s obsession with Islamist terrorism is even more ridiculous when compared to other causes of death. To demonstrate this I am going to take all the deaths from Islamic terror in the UK and add them up. This would be four people at Westminster, 22 in Manchester, and eight at London Bridge, for a total of 34 in 2017, the killing of Lee Rigby in 2013, and the 2005 7/7 tube bombing which killed 52 people. This totals 87 killed over the course of 12 years. All these deaths are a tragedy, but all deaths are a tragedy, so let’s get some perspective on how bad 87 deaths in 12 years really is.
There were 389 deaths dues to alcohol poisoning in England and Wales in 2017. We were more than four times as likely to literally drink ourselves to death in 2017 than die in an Islamist terror attack over a twelve year period. Hypothermia killed the same number people in 2017 as have been killed by Islamist terror between 2005 and 2017. But even more people, 5,821, committed suicide in the UK as a whole that year. You were more than 60 times as likely to kill yourself in 2017 than to be killed by an Islamic terrorist over the 2005-2017 period.
Why am I rattling off all these morbid stats? To make the point that the number of people who have died to it are a rounding error in Britain’s death statistics. That this in no way justifies the dehumanisation and incitement of hate and violence against millions of innocent people who have not done anything wrong. That it does not justify the denial of aid to refugees fleeing from war and poverty in other countries. The Islamic terror scare is pure nonsense, and your local pub is more likely to kill you than your Muslim neighbours.
We also ignore many other problems of a similar magnitude. The Grenfell fire alone is responsible for almost as many deaths by state incompetence and capitalist greed in a single event as the combined toll of Islamic terror in the UK, but the problems that lead to that tragedy have mostly been ignored.
Police failure to protect women from stalkers and abusers has probably resulted in far more deaths since Islamist terror became a thing in the UK, with at least 60 women murdered by people they had already reported to the police in the 2015-2017 period alone. This a problem than we care so little about that a third of police forces did not even bother to provide information to that study.
Of course, in many parts of the world Islamist terror is a real problem, but in this context Tommy’s self-promoting hate mongering is even more disgusting. This is because the most likely victims of terror attacks globally are themselves Muslim. Many of the refugees he attempts to cast as potential Islamist terrorists are fleeing from Islamist terror.
Tommy’s accusation that all Muslims will always support Islamist terror is also an insult to the many Muslims who have fought and died combating that terror. As just one example, more than 11,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces have died fighting the Islamic State only to be largely abandoned by the West. Tommy Robinson spits on the memory of each one of those dead men and women, and many others Muslims who have who have paid the ultimate price fighting Islamic terror, while he lives large off of slandering them.
Not that Tommy actually cares about terrorism. He is strangely silent when people take his rhetoric that Muslims are the enemy seriously and commit acts of terror against them. If the Islamophobic rhetoric of Tommy and the like keeps up, we may soon find ourselves in a situation like that of America, where far-right terrorism now kills more people than Islamist terrorism.
The fact that Tommy inspires terrorism instead of preventing it should be no surprise, as he and his followers are the mirror image of the radical Islamist preachers they oppose. Both push an idealised vision of a traditional culture laid low by outsiders. Both draw on and manipulate disillusioned young men with promises of meaning. Both promote an absolutist us verses them narrative. Both promote authoritarian leadership and a violent idea of what it is to be a man. Both treat women like shit. Both hate gay and trans people. If Tommy Robinson was a Muslim, he probably would have joined ISIS by now.
A Legacy of Grift
But what about all the other problems facing the working class? Has Tommy done anything to combat the more than 100,000 deaths linked to government austerity policies? Has he done anything about the 320,000 people who are homeless and the 73% increase in foodbank use in the last five years? What is Tommy’s stance on the fact that the poor pay far more of their income in tax than the rich, who get to hide their wealth in tax havens? What about the way wages have stagnated, even before bosses try and steal some of it back? What is the Tommy Robinson plan on global warming?
He does not care about any of that. The only thing to benefit from Tommy’s “activism” has been his wallet. He has made a lot of money and he has gotten pretty famous. Tommy has become a household name and may have made £2 million in donations from playing the martyr, and his old gig at rebel media was paying him up to £8,000 a month. If only helping people instead of spreading hate was so profitable.
Tommy Robinson is a political snake oil salesman, offering answers that are simple, easy, and wrong that promote his own fame and keep the money flowing in. But he does far more damage to the working class than simply conning some of us out of our spare change. To understand why I need to talk about what the term “working class” really means.
There is a habit of thinking about class as a cultural thing. As something to do with your accent, what you like to do with your spare time, your fashion sense, or what kind of work you do, or where you live. But this idea of class is clearly wrong if you think about who counts as “working class” under that kind of understanding.
For example, someone who owns a string of properties that they rent or a large business would count as working class if they spoke and dressed the right way. But they would not have to worry about any of the things I listed as problems affecting the working class earlier. They would not have to worry about the cost of living, or having their benefits cut, or homelessness. They do not have to worry about the boss stealing their wages. They are the boss. On the other side of this, someone who worked hard all their life just to survive, who had to give half their income to their landlord, who put up with all the shit ladled on them by their job and the benefits office, might not count as working class if they did not, for example, like football.
A better way of thinking about class is to think about a person’s position in society. Do they have to work for someone else in order to survive? When they cannot work are they dependent on benefits or charity to survive? Are their lives controlled by capitalists, landlords, or bureaucrats because they control access to the work, housing, and benefits that workers need to live? These things are the defining experience of being working class, regardless of your culture or where you are from.
And these are ultimately the cause of the problems faced by the working class. We are owned people who cannot live our lives on our own terms. We work only on the terms of capitalists, we have a home only on the terms of landlords, and we survive hardship on the terms of the benefit office. When they mistreat us we have no option but to swallow it, or at best try to find a new boss or landlord who might treat us slightly better.
And they probably won’t treat us any better, because capitalists need profits to survive and governments need obedience in order to function, so our wages and our freedom are always going to be sacrificed when they get in the way of that. The perfect worker and citizen, from the point of view of our leaders, is someone who has no life, gives everything to the job or their country, accepts the bare minimum they need to survive, and accepts their death if demanded by those above them. This is what is in their interest, and it is what they will try to make us unless we resist.
This situation can look hopeless. We do not have the economic power of the capitalists and we also have very little say in how the government is run. We supposedly live in a democracy, but everyone knows that this is a joke. Workers get a formal vote on a handful of political positions every five years, but no government can function without the support of capitalists and the civil service, who have far more say in the day to day running of this country than our occasional vote.
But while we have very little formal power when we act within the rules set for us by business and government, if we ignore those rules we have the ability to fight back. We outnumber those above us many times over, and their control over us only holds as long as we accept it. Also, without us to do all the grunt work, society would grind to a halt, and capitalists could make no profits and politicians would have no power.
But can only use our power if we work together. One worker who resists their boss gets fired. When every worker in a business disobeys their boss in a coordinated way, it is often more expensive for their boss to fire them all than it is to give in to their demands. If the entire working class could cooperate across a country, we could run it if we chose to. The global working class could run the entire world. But this is only possible if we organise.
And this is where people like Tommy get in the way. They might argue that Muslims or whoever they are trying to stir up hate against are too culturally different to work with European or Caribbean workers, but if you ask a Muslim about how work treats them, how their landlord treats them, or how the government treats them, you will find they are suffering under the same boot as you. Across the world all workers are united by the fact we want better pay, more free time, and less bullshit from our “superiors”. Tommy’s scapegoating keeps us disunited and fighting each other instead of our real enemies. His idea of working class “liberation” is for us to beg our leaders to be harder on Muslim workers so that they can throw us more table scraps. If we organised as a class we could have so much more than those scraps, but we can’t do that as long as bigotry and hatred keep us divided.
Tommy is also dangerous because of his attempts to position himself as a leader of the working class. Such leadership puts the majority of us back in the same position as we are at work and in politics; passive followers and obedient tools. This allows the same kind mistreatment and exploitation to happen. If we have to organise in order to push our joint interests, we have to organise as equals to make sure that no one working voice can dominate the others, otherwise we will end up with new bosses, same as the old bosses, as has happened so many times before.
So, to sum up; we don’t need people spreading hate between us, we don’t need leaders, and we really don’t need Tommy fucking Robinson. We need to be putting the blame for our problems on the people who really run the world, and we need to get organised so we can oppose them.