[Marxism] People on the left, marginalised communities, social justice and reactionary elements.

Sayan Bhattacharyya ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com
Thu Aug 3 02:01:46 MDT 2006

"People on the left should not feel that in order to support marginalised
communities in their fight for more social justice we have to align
ourselves with their most reactionary elements."

The Guardian
August 1, 2006


Full text: <http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1834544,00.html>

Supporting marginalised communities in their
fight for social justice should not mean aligning
with reactionary forces

by Natasha Walter

Monica Ali's Brick Lane is a fine novel. As I
wrote in a review when it was first published, it
is a novel that will last - although now it seems
that it may last for the wrong reasons. After
Bengalis in Tower Hamlets succeeded in moving the
filming of the book away from their back yard
because they object to the picture it paints of
their neighbourhood, Brick Lane joined a
depressing roll call of books famous as much as
for the negative as the positive reaction they


Khadija Rahman, a teacher at Waltham Forest
College, attends a book group of Bengali women at
an arts centre off Brick Lane. When Ali's book
was discussed there, she found that women's
reactions were mixed. "Some liked it and some
didn't, but we all saw it as fiction. I was
surprised when this controversy erupted. I
thought people would be pleased for her, that her
book did so well." Khadija also doesn't feel the
protests have represented the whole community.
"The men in the community are more uneasy than
the women. Brick Lane is famous for its
restaurants, which are mainly run by men, and
they don't like the fact that Monica Ali, who
doesn't live there and doesn't care about their
opinions, has had such a success."

The opinions of people like Rabina Khan, Khadija
Rahman and Pola Uddin are not inflammatory enough
to make the news. Yet the danger is that if the
media identify the community only with its most
reactionary spokespeople, people outside the
community who sympathise with its other
grievances - lack of political representation,
say, or poor housing, or unemployment - may feel
they have to line up beside the reactionaries in
the cause of social justice.

But let's not forget that Ali, like Salman
Rushdie and Bhatti, is just as much a part of
immigrant communities as the would-be book
burners, and that if we listen out we can catch a
great range of voices from every community. From
the Bengali community, those include women who
can see the irreducible value of freedom of
expression alongside their commitment to social
justice. As Uddin told me: "The fact is that this
community has limited political representation
and very little is being done to eradicate
unemployment and poverty in the community. There
are hundreds of women working on these issues
throughout the country but no one is interested
in that kind of daily grind." People on the left
should not feel that in order to support
marginalised communities in their fight for more
social justice we have to align ourselves with
their most reactionary elements.

That's why we need not get caught up in the
rhetoric of a clash of civilisations to go on
supporting core values of tolerance and freedom
of expression. These values are supported by
people within every community, as well as by
people who understandably feel they have no
community that can speak for them, and so would
rather speak for themselves.

Full text: <http://books.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1834544,00.html>

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