Jo Cox and the well of hatred 

Jo Cox, fifth from left. Photo: Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East

Socialist Resistance sends its sympathy and solidarity to the family, friends and comrades of Jo Cox writes Andy Stowe. We have much in common with the idealism that shone through her political commitment. She spoke movingly in parliament about migrants and how she saw her own children in the faces of babies in refugee camps; while we did not agree with her support for air strikes she raised her voice loudly in defence of Syrians attacked by jihadi butchers and Assad’s murderers; she was a friend of the Palestinian people and had no qualms about being photographed in front of Westminster holding their nation’s flag; although she didn’t support Jeremy Corbyn she nominated him for the Labour leadership ballot because she understood how crucial it was that the views he expresses were heard in the debate.  Her death at such a young age is a loss to progressive politics in Britain and an incomparably greater loss to her family.

Jo was the 59th woman to be killed by a man in Britain this year. Male violence against women is a chronic feature of British society and we cannot exclude it as one element in the killer’s motivation.

There seems to be less doubt about the other things that drove him. The man who has been arrested is reported to have had mental health problems and to have shouted something like “put Britain first” when carrying out the attack, If he’d been shouting “Allah akbar” the coverage would have been dominated by his religion rather than his mental health. It’s also reported that he has a long history of links with violent, ultra-right racist groups and had bought manuals on making weapons from them.

Whoever killed Jo Cox did it for political reasons. People with mental health problems do not live quarantined from the rest of society and political debate in Britain has been dominated by one topic for the last several months – immigration, and particularly how it’s linked to British membership of the European Union.

"I think it's legitimate to say that if people feel they have lost control completely – and we have lost control completely as members of the European Union – and if people feel that voting doesn't change anything, then violence is the next step."  Nigel Farage speaking on the BBC May 18th 2016 
“I think it’s legitimate to say that if people feel they have lost control completely – and we have lost control completely as members of the European Union – and if people feel that voting doesn’t change anything, then violence is the next step.” 
Nigel Farage speaking on the BBC May 18th 2016

The racist tabloid press has been carrying lying, sensationalist front pages relentlessly with made up stories about “swarms” of immigrants, “rapist” immigrants”, “job stealing” immigrants. And at the same time leading Brexit campaigners have been saying exactly the same things in fractionally more polite language. The exception being Farage who stood smirking in front of a poster redolent of Nazi pogrom incitement on the morning Jo Cox was murdered.

Farage, Gove, Johnson and Hoey have made the EU referendum into a plebiscite on immigration and racism. Comrades on the left who argue that working class people who vote for Brexit are expressing some anti-establishment protest are oblivious to the fact that they are actually being swept along in the slipstream of a racist, hard-right campaign. What other meaning is there to the England football fans’ chants of “f**k off Europe, we’re all voting out” or their taunting of refugee children by flinging coins at them?

But this coarsening of politics isn’t just limited to Johnson and Farage. David Cameron, Zac Goldsmith and most of the Tory leadership tried to smear Labour’s mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan as a terrorist sympathiser during the election campaign. Cameron used that very phrase to describe Jeremy Corbyn for his principled opposition to air strikes on Syria.

Corbyn described Jo Cox’s death was “an attack on democracy from a well of hatred”. He’s right. And the people who’ve been drawing from that well of hatred are all those politicians who’ve been using racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric in the referendum debate and those who seek to stigmatise dissent and principle by throwing insults.13418638_291988877801865_641704885934779187_o

We have to stand up against this.

The forces of the far right and of xenophobic hostility towards migrants have become emboldened and encouraged by the Leave campaign.  A Leave vote would be a disaster for the labour movement and for every migrant and minority in the UK.  The labour movement and left needs to understand the stakes, exemplified in the murder of a prominent Labour politician by an almost certain racist, and have the courage to challenge this carnival of reaction by advocating a massive Remain vote. Jo Cox understood this.

  1. You did not mention here her abiding passion during her time in parliament – to put Syria on the agenda. She was consumed by the necessity to protect Syrian civilians, against Assads barrel bombs and starvation sieges. One of the reasons why she became disenchanted with Corbyn was that he showed no support for her concerns for Syria – informed as they were by listening to Syrians. She said that Syria was the humanitarian test of the 21st century , which the left has failed as much as the right. That is where Jo Cox was unique. She was trying to forge a left internationalist solidarity movement, moving beyond the myths ( on both sides) of the Cold War.

  2. Clara, the article stated “she raised her voice loudly in defence of Syrians attacked by jihadi butchers and Assad’s murderers”. How is that not mentioning her position on Syria?

    We have to disagree that “the left has failed as much as the right”. Some sections of the left in Britain, Socialist Resistance included, have supported the principled opposition to Assad and the Syrian solidarity movements. There are many articles in solidarity on both the SR and Fourth International (International Viewpoint) websites, and SR and FI members have been active in protest and solidarity movements. Please don’t tar the whole of the left with the same brush.

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