Racism -- even the very concept of race -- has not always existed. Race was a term invented by the capitalist class to increase its wealth and profits. By systematically dividing workers by "race" and "nationality," the capitalist ruling class conquers us all. Black and latin workers get the most vicious treatment. That's why they are the leading forces fighting back against the bosses.
Whole generations of black and latin workers are being wiped out by crushing unemployment. The bosses' racist police work closely with gangs to make sure that workers are drugged and terrorized. Many families have at least one loved one in jail, strung out on dope, alcoholic, or caught up in the fast "profitable" life on the street that only offers an early grave. Racism cannot be defeated as long as capitalism exists.
Under communism you get up and go to work everyday, but not because your family will starve if you don't. You will go to work because the work needs to be done. Housing needs to be built. Shoes need to be made. Children need to be taught. Your work will make an impact, and society will view your efforts and your ideas as significant contributions. You will work side-by-side with people who look different from you, but you won't be taught the lie that there are different "races" of people. You will get what you need, your share of what society can produce. No group of people will get more or less than any other.
There is no room for racism in a communist society. For workers' rule to succeed, people must cooperate and care for each other, and for the common good. But it will not be easy to eliminate racism because we have been surrounded by racist ideas throughout our lives. Because racism is the lifeblood of capitalism, the only way we can eliminate racism is through communist revolution. To defeat racism we must kill capitalism -- with communist revolution. To make sure workers' rule survives and capitalism can't be revived, we'll have to stamp out races and racism once and for all.
We only see the tip of the iceberg when someone's video camera captures the brutal beating of a Rodney King by the LAPD, or Mexican immigrant workers by California Sheriff's police. Racist cops murder minority workers as part of their routine. In Chicago, a depressed black man was shot to death by cops as his mother and grandmother, handcuffed together in a squad car, watched. In Rockaway N.Y. two young black men were murdered by racist cops in the last year. Racist police terror has become the order of the day. The `Mark Fuhrmans' are the rule not the exception.
The capitalist bosses increase racism by leading white workers into the militias, the KKK and similar fascist groups, while encouraging black and latin nationalism. Certainly, bosses would much rather see us gunning each other down in the streets than have the guns turned on them by a united armed working class led by its communist party. The bosses also make billions from racist super profits paying minority workers less.
The ruling class reaps enormous profits by extracting more and more surplus value from the working class. The fact that black, latin and Asian workers are paid less than white workers amounts to about one-third of all corporate profits in the U.S., more than $240 billion dollars. This is the dividend that capitalism collects from racism. In the U.S. for example, the median income for black families is only 57% of that for white families; latin families get only 63% of what white families do. Unemployment among blacks is more than twice as high as that among whites, and the difference in joblessness is almost as great for latin workers. The bosses save billions by letting schools, hospitals, and housing for black, latin, Asian and other workers deteriorate.
U.S.-born workers are not the only victims of racist pay differentials. Immigrant workers, from Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Asia, are imported by the capitalists in huge numbers to work in sweatshops and other low-paying jobs.
The bosses also use racist and nationalist ideas to help justify their exploitation of workers in other countries, from Central America to Asia, where they pay a fraction of wages they pay in the U.S. The bosses make $66 billion per year in profits from workers in other countries.
A communist, class analysis shows that nationalism and racism are two sides of the same coin. Both are based on the idea that `my kind is better than your kind.' Both assume that there really are different `kinds' or `races' of people. Both call for people to unite with each other based on skin color, language, or country of origin, not based on class. Racist and nationalist ideas were created by the capitalists to divide us and get us to follow capitalists of our own "race" or "nationality".
"Workers' wages are lowest where divisions between workers are the greatest."
Today's garment industry in Los Angeles is surrounded by anti-immigrant racism and sexism. Wages of garment workers in L.A. are among the lowest in the country. And what is happening to the rest of L.A.'s working class? A massive assault by the bosses, jobs slashed, wages cut. Workers who fall for racism are cutting their own throats. Racism hurts everyone!
To the extent that workers are won to racist ideas, they won't take leadership from black workers, who are often the most militant. This was obvious in the response of workers to the O.J. Simpson trial and verdict. Black workers clearly saw the fight against racism and racist cops as the main issue, while many white workers were blind to this danger.
To the extent that workers let divisions such as language get in their way, they are kept from uniting. Such divisions stand in the way of the fight for a communist and egalitarian society. Until we have communism, we will continue to be wage slaves, exploited and suffering at the hands of the capitalists.
These international examples prove that nationalism is not the answer, it's racism in another form. Black nationalism, Mexican nationalism, any nationalism, really translates to black capitalism, Mexican capitalism, capitalism period. A boss is a boss is a boss: no matter what the color of their skin or the borders they live within, the boss lives to exploit the working class.
Why is it that in the 1990s, the capitalist class has been able to eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs, lower wages for millions more, bust unions, employ scab labor, force people to accept jobs with no insurance benefits, close down hospitals, raise class sizes, cut programs in working class public schools, shut down welfare, and triple the number of workers in jail - all without facing a huge uprising by the working class?
The main reason is that our class today lacks class consciousness. Instead of seeing ourselves as the working class, we see ourselves primarily as `white' or `black' or `latin' or `men' or `women'. This is the deadly effect of racist and sexist ideology which pours forth from every newspaper, movie, TV and radio, from every style of music, and from our congress and schools.
Over a million black workers came to the Million Man March in 1995 because of intense hatred of racism. Nationalist march organizer, Louis Farrakhan, took this hatred and channeled it into supporting black politicians and businesses and away from working class unity against capitalism. Nationalist politicians have made plans for a Latin March, and a Family March to continue to divide workers and divert their anger.
Until we overcome racist ideas and racial divisions, and develop an iron hard unity, we will be defenseless against the bosses' attacks on us. Racism disarms us. It keeps us from fighting for communist revolution and destroying the capitalist system.
The working class of the Soviet Union consolidated state power in the early 1920s. Workers all over the world were inspired by the Soviet example. Less than ten years later, when a major depression hit worldwide, they took on the bosses in a huge wave of class struggle. In the United States, the old communist party led a massive union organizing drive as well as a mass movement of the unemployed. For the first time since the Civil War, these movements were integrated and consciously anti-racist. Unions up until the 1930s were mainly segregated unions, organized by craft. The communists led black and white workers into industry-wide unions, which brought the bosses of steel, auto, mining, rubber, electrical and other corporations to their knees. These movements of the 1930s won many of the reforms that are being taken from us now: the forty-hour week, unemployment compensation, social security, and welfare. Workers could see what class unity produced. Tens of thousands of workers joined the communist party.
Then came the greatest anti-racist struggle of the 20th century: the defeat of the Nazis. Nazi ideology was based on the lie that one "race" of people was superior to all others. The struggle against the Nazis was led by the Soviet Red Army. Millions of workers around the world took part. The defeat of the fascists inspired anti-racist struggle around the world. In Africa, the victory against the Nazis was followed by anti-colonial revolts in one country after another. In the United States, black soldiers came home from the war ready to take up the struggle against segregation at home. The civil rights movement was born. It involved tens of thousands of workers and students in struggle against racism, especially in the form of segregation. People who were trained in the communist led union movement of the 1930s and the communist led anti-fascist fight of the 1940s helped militant youth to lead this new movement. This movement led to the elimination of some forms legal segregation, but it clearly did not succeed in eliminating racism or all forms of segregation. The civil rights movement ended without accomplishing these goals because it was led by a liberal ideology, the idea that racism could be defeated without overthrowing the capitalist system.
The key features of that ideology were anti-communism and nationalism. Nationalism was used by the ruling class to attack the black-white unity of the movement. Nothing other than communism is more terrifying to the bosses than unity of the "races." Not even "militant" black nationalism. When civil rights organizations began throwing out white workers and students in the late 1960s, it was only a few years before those organizations themselves died.
What was won by nationalism? Profits for Johnson products and other black-owned corporations. Jobs for a few highly educated, upper-middle class blacks, helping to exploit black workers for major corporations. Political victories for racist politicians like Mayor Richard Hatcher, who presided over the decline of steelworkers' standard of living in Gary, like Mayor Wilson Goode, who firebombed a black neighborhood in Philadelphia, like Mayor Tom Bradley, who supervised and defended the racist attacks on black and latin workers in Los Angeles. As expected the nationalist-based organizing against Proposition 187 in California has only produced political victories for latin politicians and businessmen. Latin workers are only losing -- jobs, health care and education. There are thousands of black and latin politicians in office across the country -- and racism is getting worse. These politicians perform a tremendously valuable service for the ruling class: they keep oppressed black and latin workers in the polling booths instead of fighting back.
The downfall of the civil rights movement happened at the same time that the entire international communist movement collapsed. The Soviet Union was already state capitalist. In China, the right wing was moving that country in the same direction. The communist party of the United States was advocating "people's capitalism," talking about a peaceful transition to socialism and encouraging anti-racists to vote for liberal ruling class politicians. The anti-colonial movements in Africa threw out the European governors, but stopped short of overthrowing capitalism, merely putting a black face on the exploiters. The misery that existed before continues now, intensified, all around the world because the old communist movement deserted its mission of smashing capitalism and establishing communism. Liberalism and nationalism lead to more racism!
Progressive Labor Party emerged during this turning point. In its short history, PLP has taken on the fight against racism in every aspect of our organizing. The Ku Klux Klan, which still plays the racist terrorist role it was founded for, can't move without confronting violent PLP opposition. In 1975, when racists organized to attack black schoolchildren in Boston during the school busing campaign, PLP organized workers to smash them. In every job and every community where we organize class struggle, racism is the key pivot point. We lead workers to resist anti-immigrant laws and racist policies in schools and hospitals.
In addition to pushing Klan-type racists and black nationalists, the rulers revived an openly racist line, led by well-known university intellectuals. These people, in the service of capitalism, published books and went on speaking tours saying they had "scientific" evidence that white people were genetically superior to black people -- basically, Hitler's line of a "superior race." For twenty-five years, this campaign has been going on; now, they are claiming that everything from intelligence to unemployment to violent behavior is racially based. This line is no more scientific than the idea of "race" as a whole. If even something as simple as skin pigment cannot be genetically determined, it is obvious that complex social behaviors aren't. Our party has organized to chase these guys off the stage and expose their fascist nature from the early 1970s until today. The fight against racist ideology is key to winning workers and students to understanding the true nature of racism as the cornerstone of capitalism.
The ideology of communism arises out of the lessons of this class conflict. Communist ideas are the most advanced ideas of the working class' struggle. The communist Progressive Labor Party is the party of the working class, which leads our class in the struggle to overthrow capitalism and end exploitation. Communist revolution will establish rule by the working class, eliminating the whole system of capitalism, the capitalist government and the capitalist class. It will replace these things with an egalitarian society, in which all aspects of life are planned by the working class for the needs of everyone, rather than for the profits of a few.
"Communism can only succeed by winning the working class to reject all racist practices and ideas."
What is the place of racism under communism? Very simply, racism and communism cannot coexist. Communism can only succeed by winning the working class to reject all practices and ideas that are based on one group of people getting better or different treatment than some other group. That is the major lesson which our party has learned from the failures of the old communist movement. Despite being the first country in which the working class took power, and the leader of the greatest anti-racist struggle of the century, the Soviet Union turned into a capitalist country once again: so did China. This is because the old communist parties did not attack inequality in all its forms. Wages continued to exist, meaning some workers had more than others; national differences continued to exist, including separate countries; discrimination against people based on nationality or language continued; women and men were not treated equally on the job or in politics.
Progressive Labor Party has taken a lesson from these mistakes of the past. When the working class takes power next time, wages and money must immediately be abolished. All forms of inequality -- whether according to race, nationality, language, sex, level of education, or whatever -- must be fought tooth and nail. The principle of communism is "from each according to their commitment; to each according to their need." This means everyone will get what they need, within the limits of what society can produce. In relationship to racism and other forms of inequality carried over from capitalism, we know that some people will need more than others. For instance, capitalism has destroyed the health of black and latin workers at a faster pace than that of white workers. Some black and latin workers under communism will need more medical services, at least at first. Racism has led to segregated neighborhoods under capitalism. Minority neighborhoods that have been systematically left to run down will need more of society's resources to fix them up. All neighborhoods will need to be integrated. All aspects of political, economic and social leadership will need to be integrated. There are many similar examples.
Some will object to this plan. All of the racist ideas that exist today will still exist after workers take power. As long as any inequality continues to exist, racist ideas will continue to have life. Every aspect of racism, from the material to the ideological, will be fought in a planned, systematic, detailed way. Obviously, racist groups like the KKK will not be allowed to exist. Anti-racist education will be an important aspect of communist life.
Ancient societies were based on slavery; however slavery in these societies, was not based on "race". A person became a slave by being defeated in war, or sometimes because of bankruptcy or punishment for certain crimes. Slaves in Rome came from what is now England, France, eastern Europe, north Africa -- wherever the Roman Empire had conquered. (In fact, the word "slave" comes from Slav -- the name given to people from eastern Europe.) Roman slaves came in all colors, from the palest to the darkest. In north Africa, black Africans were the largest group of slaves, but there were also white, Christian slaves. In those days, slaves could sometimes be set free, and if they were, they would be equal to the other free people. Racism as we know it did not exist.
During the "Middle Ages" in Europe, there was a good deal of contact with African societies. At that time, Africa was more advanced than Europe: it had large cities, universities, huge armies and a lively trade with Asia and the Mediterranean. Africa was admired as a continent of gold and riches. European churches dating back to those days have statues and paintings of black saints in them. Racism as we know it did not exist in those times, either.
When the British began to develop profitable plantations in their American colonies they faced a serious shortage of workers. They also faced the problem of labor discipline because it was easy for workers to leave the plantations or escape to the Indians.
The British tried several ways of dealing with the labor shortage. The main one, at first, was indentured servitude . Under this system, unemployed people from England were convinced to come to America or were kidnapped. They were forced to work without wages to pay off their passage to America from England, usually for seven years. People were packed like sardines into the holds of ships for two to three months. Sometimes, fewer than half of them survived the trip. When people died, they were tossed overboard. Once they arrived in America, they were auctioned off to buyers. Husbands, wives and children were separated. These were white, English people: racism had nothing to do with it. It was just plain capitalist greed.
Indentured servants were brutally exploited. The plantation owners and the colonial government violently disciplined these workers. Runaways were punished by hanging, burning, being staked in the sun or shot. It was also legal to increase their seven-year contract as punishment for various misdeeds. At this stage, most indentured servants did not even live until the end of their seven year contract.
The shipmasters and merchants who brought white laborers to the colonies also went to Africa to get laborers. Slavery of the early, pre-capitalist type existed in west Africa at that time. When different groups went to war, people who were captured became slaves -- not for life, and not without rights, but still slaves. British and other European merchants offered money to purchase captured slaves, and they found the African slave owning rulers willing to sell.
"Africans joined whites as indentured servants and went through the same hell..."
For several decades, the Africans brought to North America joined whites as indentured servants. They went through the same hell, from the boat passage to the auction block to the beatings and harsh conditions. In the colonies, they worked and lived alongside the whites. There was no barrier between white and black servants: their common enemy created an intense solidarity, which overcame the superficial differences in language and cultural habits. They lived, worked, and married together. They often ran away together, and on several occasions they rebelled together.
In the 1660s all this began to change -- drastically. England cut back on white emigration. The industrial revolution was beginning so more workers were needed in the factories at home. British capitalists also gave massive support to the African slave trade. They had made a decision to base the American economic system on human slavery, and the supply of labor from Africa was cheap and plentiful.
"British capitalists made a conscious decision to base the American economic system on human slavery."
The slave trade was immensely profitable. The profits from buying and selling African workers, combined with the rape of gold and silver from South and Central America, provided the capital to drive the engine of the industrial revolution. Europe became the top dog in the world based on the enslavement of American Indians and Africans.
At this time, the colonial ruling class (plantation owning families like the Washingtons, Jeffersons, Mathers and Byrds: the "fathers of our country") began to legalize slavery. At first, some plantation owners began to hold certain Africans for life, rather than for seven years. Then lifetime servitude for black servants became law. In 1662 came the "principal of heredity," which declared that, legally, if the mother was a black slave, the child would also be a slave from birth.
But in a society which until then had paid almost no attention to skin color, a number of questions had to be answered: what was a black person? What was a white person? What was a child whose parents were different colors? At this stage, the concept of race needed to be made up. To do this, more laws were passed. The Virginia legislature, in 1672, defined a black person: anyone with one black grandparent. (Hitler used a parallel law to define a "Jew".) This was very significant: if it was necessary to pass a law to define a "race," it is obvious that at that time, people did not think of each other as belonging to separate "races."
These laws represent the beginning of the idea of racism. The idea was that whites were superior to blacks. This idea was very profitable, so it didn't bother the capitalist rulers of the colonies that it was a blatant lie. They used the idea to justify all past, present and future exploitation and abuse of black people, Indians, and later, other "people of color."
The final step in this process was that black people lost all their rights and became the property of the slave owners. Every aspect of the trade and of slavery became even more brutal. Millions of black people were murdered by capitalism in this process.
But the colonial rulers still faced a big problem: both whites and blacks resisted the new system. Although most historians today say that racism came about because Europeans were "naturally" prejudiced against Africans because of their skin color, the truth is that skin color was an excuse for racism, not the cause of it.
"The truth is that skin color was an excuse for racism, not the cause of it."
Blacks and whites did not view each other as different races. They had to be trained to. This training was ruthless and carefully planned, and continues to this day! The legislatures, the churches, the courts and the press were all used in the campaign. The purpose was to separate whites and blacks in order to control both. This made slavery possible. It also made it possible for the ruling class to make huge profits off the backs of poor white workers and farmers who were divided from their black brothers and sisters, and confused by racism about the cause of their poverty.
Laws were passed to punish whites who had black friends, or who ran away with black people, and vice versa. Laws were passed against interracial dating and marriage -- which people ignored for more than a century. Black and white people were punished by torture, maiming and death for breaking these laws. Opponents of the system were branded, castrated, starved to death, roasted to death over fires. White and black rebels were beheaded, and their heads put on poles along the roads as warnings.
Despite all this, rebellion and unity continued. Whites in general still had not learned to be racist. They openly disobeyed the laws.
The ruling class began to offer rewards to each group to betray the other: Indians were offered bounties for betraying black runaways, blacks were given minor rewards for helping to fight Indians, whites were used against both.
The bosses eventually "persuaded" many white workers to identify with their masters instead of their black brothers and sisters. As racism came to be more accepted, conditions for whites got even worse. The plantations system grew, forcing them off any land they might farm, and out of any jobs they might get.
The truth, hidden by the bosses, is that racist ideas and practices were forced on the working class by one hundred years of violence, laws and propaganda. White workers as well as black slaves became victims of it. The capitalists who devised racism clearly knew what they were doing.
"Racist ideas were forced on the working class by one hundred years of violence and propaganda."
The capitalists made racism an essential part of their system, but they never succeeded in squashing the opposition to it. Because racism (then and now) is against the direct interests of the working class, many workers, both slave and "free," continued to unite in rebellions against slavery. Although they were defeated by the overwhelmingly superior force of the government, there were hundreds of slave revolts in the United States, a great many of which involved white workers and farmers. The event which touched off the Civil War was the Harper's Ferry raid. This carefully planned raid was intended to be the beginning of an army of escaped slaves and a guerrilla war in the south. It was an integrated raid, and one of the main organizers was John Brown, who was white.
But racism did not die along with it. Capitalists both north and south knew what a profitable thing racism was. And they were terrified by what happened immediately after the Civil War in the south.
At the end of the war, former slaves settled on the old plantation land. (The owners had been driven off during the war, or could no longer control their former slaves.) Poor white workers and farmers came to join them. These integrated forces created a mass movement which took over the plantation land, farmed it communally, set up its own, integrated schools, and elected black and white workers to the state and federal governments. Clearly, this was a no-win situation for capitalism. It had to be stopped, by any means necessary.
The former slave owning ruling class of the south sat down with the bankers to work out a plan to retake the land and bring the workers under their control. They knew it couldn't legally be slavery, but they would opt for the next best thing. To accomplish their plans, they needed a vicious, violent campaign similar to the one which, two hundred years earlier, had established slavery. In the 1870's the Ku Klux Klan was born. The bankers, plantation owners, local police and court officials, and their sons, relatives and friends, put on sheets and went out at night to terrorize the communal farmers. The northern capitalists helped out by withdrawing the anti-racist federal troops which had occupied the south since the Civil War's end.
The newly united ruling class succeeded in forcing the former slaves back to work for next-to-no wages, and in forcing a resegregation of workers. Within a few decades, a fresh crop of racist laws appeared across the south, forbidding any close relationships between black and white. (These were called the Jim Crow laws, and they remained on the books until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.) The bosses had what they wanted: a beaten down working class, divided by race. Now the northern industrial capitalists had a huge pool of workers to draw from as they expanded their production in the early 1900s. Black workers by the tens of thousands came north to work in the booming factories of Chicago, Detroit and New York. And with them, the bosses made sure, came all the ideas and institutions of racism. What had worked so well to ensure profits and a weakened, divided work force in the south, they wanted in their factories and cities as well.
Meanwhile, the same bosses continue to import undocumented workers so they can super-exploit them in the garment sweatshops. Proposition 187 is the bosses' attempt to divide immigrant workers from other workers. It is a classic example of the divide and conquer tactics of the bosses' racism.
Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam control businesses from Beverly Hills, California, to Bronwood, Georgia, to Chicago's South side. He runs a number of private security firms, soap and cosmetic companies, a publishing firm, grocery chain, fish franchises, a $5 million restaurant in Chicago, and two clothing firms. Farrakhan promises, that by contributing to his businesses, workers will be part of a billion dollar entity and reap the benefits, but there is as much chance of this than as winning the Lotto.
Two and three year old children usually do not think skin color is very significant. If they are in an integrated day care situation, they are as likely to say, "hey look at that purple kid," identifying another child by the color of a shirt rather than by skin color. It's not that the children don't see each other's skin color, it's just that it means no more than the color of their eyes, or the color of their clothes. As they grow older, they soon learn how significant skin color is in capitalist society.
As much as the capitalists want to force us to believe in race, however, there is no such thing as a race of humans. All humans are part of the same species. There are variations in the physical appearance of humans, but they are insignificant. There is no medical test that will show what so-called "race" a person belongs to. The physical differences between humans are much smaller than you would find in many other species. Think of all the distinct breeds of dogs, horses or cows, for instance.
Many people think that the differences in appearance between people is inherited -- that it's "in the genes." This is a very small part of the story. After all, somewhere between 95% and 98% of human genetic makeup is the same as chimpanzees'. If only 3% to 5% of our genes account for the huge differences between us and chimps, imagine what a tiny amount goes into the small variations in human appearance.
In fact, genes cannot code for race. Many genes code for most human physical characteristics, not just one. There is no such thing as a "black" gene or a "white" gene. All human genes exist in all populations of humans, from all parts of the world. Some appear more frequently in one area than another. There is actually more genetic variation within any given population than there is between groups of so called "races".
The average human being is brown. A smaller number of people are black or white. This is similar to other traits: for example, height. Most people fall in a middle range of height, with a smaller number very tall or very short. There are a few physical traits controlled by only one gene. They are, for example, the ability to curl your tongue, or whether your ear lobes are attached. Those traits don't correspond to the capitalists' needs to divide people into races, however. So nobody even notices them