Where next for the Black Lives Matter movement?

Come to Socialist Students’ national zoom rally on Sunday October 25 at 1pm – register for zoom details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/socialist-students-and-young-socialists-national-rally-tickets-119810687993?fbclid=IwAR0ag5J4zqt1amyOIngjQ234VKnKAlHJa594j2h_GJXojdBLSP4Vja62mhM

Deji Olay, socialist and Black Lives Matter activist

This summer the Black Lives Matter movement reignited, following the police murder of George Floyd. Millions of people in the US, UK and across the world took to the streets to fight against racism and police violence.
The protests over the last several months have drawn attention to racism but, if we want change, the movement has to go beyond raising awareness. The question that needs to be asked now is – how can we turn this energy for change into effective action?

Seeing the popular support for the movement, corporate PR departments raced to tell the world that they also believed ‘Black Lives Matter’. However, these empty gestures often backfired when employees described their own experiences of racism at these companies. Never mind that these companies continued to profit from the capitalist exploitation of working class and poor black people across the globe.

The Tory government has attempted to quell the protests by launching another inquiry into racial inequality, with this one being set up by someone who doesn’t believe in institutional racism. They have also deliberately attempted to divert attention away from the real issue of police brutality and racism by stoking fears about helpless refugees. The BBC and capitalist media have supported this and created hysteria around ‘cancel culture’ – but not a single protestor or organisation called for BBC Proms to stop the singalongs of Rule Britannia!

Rather than promote the aims of the movement, as the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer called some of demands “nonsense”, a statement Nigel Farage “heartily agrees” with. Months after leaks revealed racism from some Labour Party officials towards Diane Abbott, the party has still done nothing. This is all well in line with Starmer’s aims to reverse the changes made under Jeremy Corbyn and move the party back to the right.

It’s clear that corporations – and the politicians they own – are not going to fight against racism as long as they can profit from division and imperialism. All they can offer are empty gestures. To get the changes we demand, the Black Lives Matter movement must move beyond raising just awareness and demonstrations.

Following the shooting of Jacob Blake, sports athletes and teams organised wildcat strikes in the US. This is a huge step up in the movement and a significant opportunity for the Black Lives Matter movement to increase its strength. While protests and boycotts can be ignored, the economic impact of a strike forces the ruling class to make concessions. Disappointingly, the initial strikes ended early in the NBA due to harmful advice from former President Barack Obama, but a day of action still had the billionaire owners scrambling to the negotiating table. Imagine what could be achieved if workers took strike action?

The battle needs to be continued by students and young workers organising where they are strongest.

Socialist Students demands protection for workers from racism in the workplace; however, if we want an effective way to fight racism we must be better organised at work. Trade unions are still powerful organisations. Black people and young people can no longer afford to be underrepresented in the unions, especially in this economic climate, considering that the 2010 recession resulted in half of young black men in the UK facing unemployment. We say all workers into the unions, all unions into the struggle!

The GCSE and A-level algorithm has shown that the government still wants to maintain racial and class inequality. When I speak to teachers in the education unions about the effects of racism in education, they support change. Teachers and communities need to be empowered to make changes. Socialist Students calls for democratic control by workers, unions and the community of education.

The spontaneous Black Lives Matter protests this summer were a sign of the energy and potential of the Black Lives Matter movement in the fight against racism and police brutality. However, to get substantive change students and young workers must organise at work, schools and universities.

Socialist Students fights to;

  • End discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, sexuality, age, and all other forms of prejudice. For the building of a mass movement which unites all young and working-class people around a socialist programme to end oppression and austerity.
  • End police harassment. For the democratic accountability of the police overseen by local committees, made up of democratically elected representatives of trade unionists, local community organisations, young people and local authorities.
  • A democratic socialist plan of production and distribution to meet the needs of the overwhelming majority in society and to provide a future for young workers. Nationalise the top 125 monopolies, banks and finance houses in Britain under democratic workers’ control and management so we can make the decisions about what is needed. Compensation to be paid only on the basis of proven need.

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