Editorial: sanctuary, solidarity and strategy

IssueDecember 2016 - January 2017
Comment by Milan Rai

How should we respond here in the UK to the Trump presidency? For a number of reasons, we should not focus on Trump himself – on boycotts of outlets that carry Trump-branded goods, for example.

Following Erika Thorne’s wise words elsewhere in this issue, we can focus instead on those leadership can help us turn back the dangers that confront us, those who are most threatened by Trump’s rise.

There are some inspiring things happening in the US.

I was moved when I read that Jonathan Greenblatt, Jewish head of the US Anti-Defamation League, said on 17 November: ‘If one day Muslim Americans are forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.’ (The ADL campaigns against anti-semitism – and for the policies of the Israeli state.) Countering Islamophobia will be central to what happens now.

The old revolution

For campaigners over here in the UK, we can and should extend solidarity to folk in the US, but our main work is in our own communities, our own neighbourhoods, our own families. The issues Trump raises are, as he says, very similar to the issues raised by Brexit.

Perhaps the most useful thing we can do about Trump’s assault is to re-double our work here against the oppressive forces that Trump is channelling in one way or another, some of which were encouraged by Brexit: racism, Islamophobia, classism, sexism, transphobia, nationalism.

For the British peace movement, taking on this work in a deeper way will be a challenge. It’s not just a matter of changing words we say, or adding lines to the leaflets we hand out.

It may mean changing attitudes that we didn’t know we had. It may mean working with people who disagree with us – and finding they have valid points. We may need to see our work in a whole new light.

What is the point of wrestling with these thorny and explosive issues? Does it actually make peace more attainable?

Apart from the natural justice of these causes, there is one simple truth here. In order to build a movement powerful enough to uproot militarism, the peace movement we have today will have to enlarge itself, and sink deeper roots into this society.

That means becoming a multi-racial, cross-class coalition of forces that welcomes and includes the energy and ideas and cultures of disabled people, trans folk, Muslims, working-class people, people of colour, young people and other marginalised communities.

There’s going to be discomfort for all of us along the way, including for us here at PN.

The prize, however, has to be worth it: building movements with the power to win.

See more of: Editorial