From racial division to class unity
|For the first time in the history of our country, we have the material basis to liquidate racism. The process of accomplishing this is chaotic and confusing - as are all processes in transition. The economic foundation of society is changing. The new one, based in electronics, has the potential to provide for all people, regardless of identity. Yet, it is people that make history. They do so on the basis of ideas, their understanding of what is right, their ideology. What is ideology? It is a system of views and ideas which express and define relationships between people and reality from the point of view of one class or another. The new class of the poor holds within itself the force necessary to overturn the capitalist system, but without an ideology which expresses and reflects its interests, an ideology upon which it can act, that potential will inevitably be blunted, distorted and turned to serve the interests of the rulers.
Sometimes changing people's thinking seems impossible. Yet, as we have seen, ideas arise from material conditions and as material conditions begin to change, the old ideas begin to break down and openings are made for new ways of thinking.
Even in the embryonic beginnings of the social struggle today we can see the effects that the economic and social crisis is having on people's thinking. With the changes in the material life of society have come the changes to the social institutions, to the social relationships. Ideas which have given shape and form to society are being called into question. The old social institutions can't function the way they once did, and people's understanding of their place in the world and their relation to society has been turned upside down. Indeed, it is the collision of these "old ideas" with the rapid destruction of the world the American people have known which is causing their frustration and their questioning. The arising movement is fighting with the only tools it has - a partial sense of history and the distorted vision supplied by ruling class propaganda.
Old ideas, in different ways and to different degrees, dominate the social struggle and continue to shape political thinking despite changed conditions. What are some of these old ideas? That an individual is responsible for his or her own plight, that things can be changed by working through the system, that common interests are based on color and not on class, that social groups should organize to win points on their own separate agendas, and that the goods of society should be distributed according to who can pay for them.
These ideas did not appear out of thin air. As we have seen, they have a history and had a material foundation. They reflected and sustained a period of time when the capitalist system was expanding. Unlike today, it was then in the economic interests of the ruling class to restructure the system to accommodate demands in a limited way and to offer minimal support and services to a labor force which served the cyclical swings of the capitalist economy. Millions benefited from this social contract - that was no illusion. The illusion was that the ruling class provided these things for any reason other than the master feeds the slave or the driver waters the mule.
The ideology of the new proletarian movement - summed up as the unity of the poor regardless of color or nationality united around distribution according to need - breaks the chains of intellectual bondage and re-forms people's thinking around their real place in the world and their real interests - the program of the new class. This program is inspired by a vision of a world free from want and fear, one where all will share in the fruits of humanity. On this foundation can also flourish a new morality, one which demands the well-being of all as a right simply due to us as human beings living in this world. When the poor unite as a class around this program, no force on earth can stop them from transforming the world into the paradise of which humanity has so long dreamed.
Racism constitutes one of the most important and dangerous blocks to this new world. White supremacy in the period of slavery and segregation was different from the racism of today in that it had a solid economic foundation and as such drew all whites on the basis of privilege. Racism today has no material base. It is an ideological pathology rooted solely in the fascist ideology of the persons involved. The ruling class of this country (and other countries around the world) are moving toward fascism to protect their privilege and power. In fact, as the rulers struggle to hold on to this beleaguered and dying economic system, they and their apologists are cultivating and encouraging an increasingly vicious and pathological form of racism. As with all dying things it is most dangerous at the time of its death. Racism without a material base is the ideological keystone of fascism. It must, and can, be defeated.
Many brave and sincere people oppose racism. It is essential to do so, and every day of our lives should be spent standing against racism and its effects. Yet, to make a real change, it is not enough to simply oppose something. New ideas must be introduced and adopted that replace the old understandings, the old way of looking at things. It is the same with the ideas of race and racism. They must be replaced as ideas in society with new ideas. Today, unity of the new class of the poor united around distribution based on need is the only ideology which reflects the reality of material conditions and the potential of the new technology. It is the only ideology which truly expresses the interests and aspirations of the majority of the world as they struggle for their immediate needs.
New ideas do not arise on their own. They have to be introduced from outside of the struggle, brought into the process, struggled over and fought for. Throughout history, special organizations have been created to carry out just this task. Organizations of revolutionaries have taken as their mission to teach about the significance of the struggle underway and clarify the future direction of that struggle. Today, this means developing, popularizing and disseminating a vision of a society in harmony with the development of human civilization, a vision based on the capacity of the new means of production, electronics. It means showing that private property - the ability of one class to exploit another - lies at the root of the particular problems facing all the people. Such an organization is rooted in and takes part in every and all instances of unified struggle against the system to develop revolutionary ideology among the people and to clarify the politics of that unity.
Time was when temporary, limited objectives could be achieved through temporary organizational unity. This "we're all in the same boat, brother and sister" ideology was the best that could be achieved under former conditions. That is not enough today. The only ideology capable of advancing this new class is the idea of oneness or sameness. This demands that we learn how to shift the concept of unity across color lines to the unity of class. It will take revolutionaries who are clear about the history of racism, its purpose and its currency today to ensure that racism, and the exploitation of all people that it supports, are eliminated.
All these non-political, racial identities must be rejected for what they are - untrue nonsense created five hundred years ago to facilitate the exploitation of one human being by another. To understand this is finally to understand the history of our country. To achieve this understanding means that we must take a position and fight for the growing class struggle and revolution in this country.
©1998 Speakers for a New America Books
This book was published by Speakers for a New America,
and the People's Tribune and Tribuno del Pueblo newspapers.
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Last updated 4/27/15